How to Defeat Gravity (as an Artist)
It has to be done, you know. Again and again.
I was on a long, solo motorcycle trip in southern Utah. Riding along a narrow road through a canyon in the Escalante, I was hoping to make a photo or two. As I came around a tight corner I saw it — a photo I wanted to make. But I was going too fast to stop. I don’t mean blazing fast. This is Highway 12, and ‘fast’ is a relevant term. There are places on this road where 20nph is too fast.
Of course to be able to attempt the photo meant making a U-turn to go back to make the photo.
Making a U-turn on a big motorcycle is not easy. And a mistake can mean lifting the bike off the pavement yourself (I always ride alone) and when that bad boy weighs 900 pounds it ain’t at all easy. I had to convince myself to go back to attempt the photograph.
I had to…
By turning around and heading back I risked a tricky U-turn on a narrow road. By practicing my U-turns in the Kohl’s parking lot for several Sunday mornings, I was confident enough that I took that risk. Gravity wanted me to keep going and forget that photograph. I gave myself the opportunity to defeat gravity that morning along Highway 12 south of Torrey.
Later that same morning I found myself standing next to a small stream in Utah, the Escalante River to be exact, and I wanted to jump to the other side for a different view.
With my cameras.
As I stood there making a gazillion mathematical equations in my head, I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to just stand there and leap from that spot to the other side which was probably about 4 feet away. (Yes, Bri Austin could do it, but not me.)
So I backed up a couple of steps, focused intently on the little sandy spot on the other side, got a little stride going (jog?), and easily cleared the cold water to land on the other side.
Still with my cameras. (Winning!)
Of course, I could have stood there and — knowing that it would indeed be futile — try to jump from that stationary position and landed smack in the middle of the river. It wasn’t deep, but I was wearing my Wolverine boots, and getting them soaked in the river seemed totally counterproductive to why I was wearing them in the first place.
I had several options to choose from to get over the sandy little stream without wrecking my boots.
> I could wish really hard that I was on the other side.
>I could pull out a book on river jumping and read it cover to cover… twice.
>I could find an online class in river jumping (Normally $2995, but on sale for $11).
>I could Google it for a succinct synopsis on river jumping.
>I could check YouTube. You can always check YouTube.
>I could hit Instagram to see other people jumping rivers wearing boots and hope to be as cool as they are when I jump.
>I could call my friends and ask for their advice and hope they would pick up (“Oh shit, it’s my friend the biker. He’s gonna want to know how to do something stupid. I’m not answering.”)
>I could pray.
>I could just decide to want it really really really bad. Then loudly complain when I didn’t magically appear on the other side (See TikTok)
>If there was a hotline for river jumpers, I could call that… but I don’t think there is. (Hot new idea for entrepreneurs…free!)
There were so many options.
And none of them would have gotten me farther than about halfway. If that.
But I backed up, and I took a bit of a run at it KNOWING that my weight (32#’s less than 7 months ago) and speed (OK, that word just feels wrong… how about ‘lumbering intentionally’) would help carry me over that swiftly flowing creek full of icy cold water.
In other words, I would use momentum.
the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.
2. the impetus gained by a moving object.
“the vehicle gained momentum as the road dipped”
I knew that I could leverage the speed I had (velocity) and the body mass I wore (elegantly, I may say) and create enough POWER to get over the stream easily.
Gravity wants to hold us to a static spot. Every small step is a defeat of the forces of gravity. Gravity sometimes gets especially pissed when we jump over things we were not meant to jump over. Gravity can get in our face and shout loudly while demanding corporate’s number… you know what I mean.
And that is the same as with photography and your business.
Momentum will take you farther than you can go without it.
How do you get momentum and defeat gravity?
> Constantly and consistently work on your craft and your business.
> Constantly and consistently remind others of what you do.
> Constantly and consistently be ready with new ideas and new work to show.
> Constantly and consistently be ready to supply someone with visual ideation that will help them do what they need to do.
> Constantly and consistently be constant and consistent.
And voila… you build the momentum little by little. You add to it every day, every shoot, every free minute that you can get away from yourself and let the art of photography take over. And that momentum can build up something called inertia.
1: a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force…
Once I got the speed and momentum going, inertia would have carried me to the other side dry and shouting like a teenybopper at a Maroon 5 concert.
Now if I had run right up to the edge of the stream, stopped, and then tried to jump it from that once again static position….?
This would be followed by some very colorful adult language with lots of expletives too crude to mention, but lovingly interspersed in highly imaginative ways.
The momentum (lumbering jog) that had gotten me to that point on the edge of the lovely little stream would have been canceled out by the inexplicable cessation of forward motion. Inertia would have been dampened.
The key is to be constantly and consistently moving toward your goal. It isn’t to rush for a moment, then stop for a second to rethink, reboot, refresh, take a breather, relax… I could go on. You know what I mean.
We get to the rough spots and decide to stop for whatever reason sounds good while holding a beer at a pity party.
For me, on the banks of the Escalante, at that point, it was getting to the other side of the river. At other times it may be me wanting to become a better writer, or being able to teach better.
Starting and stopping in fits of ‘creative explosions’ are not going to cut it… believe me. It cancels the momentum you had and brings things to a full stop. You have to walk back again and get in motion again and commit to the work again.
So we keep at it.
Keep shooting and writing and drawing and dancing and leaping and singing… until we are better than we were earlier (hours, days, weeks, months, years… it all adds up.)
And we use the mass and velocity of what we have created to jump ahead and go further than we could have ever believed possible.
We call that momentum.
I am a photographer, designer, and photo editor. You can find me at my self-named website or at Project 52 Pro System where I teach commercial photography online. This is our tenth year of teaching, and it is the most unique online class you will find anywhere.