A photographer gets real about growing up and doing the work, dealing with fear and living an awesome life. Daniel Dunn is our featured 365 challenge photographer this week. His story will challenge and inspire you. It’s never too late to join the challenge with over 500 photographers. It’ll change your life forever!
Daniel Dunn: A Photographer on a Mission
My name is Daniel Dunn, I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but have lived in beautiful Breckenridge, CO for the last 12 years. I moved to the mountains for the mountain lifestyle, and to pursue all the things that I like to do. I like to play outside as much as possible. I love to mountain bike, trail run, backcountry ski, nordic ski, go camping, hiking, walking dogs, rock climbing, surfing and listening to music at outdoor venues.
On Being a Diabetic and Living a Full Life
I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and I say that because it’s a big part of my life. I participate in the DOC, which stands for Diabetic Online Community. I do this because when I became diabetic, only 9 years ago, I was an adult and very alone, and really didn’t have anywhere to turn for information. Hell, I didn’t even have health insurance. And now I had a chronic disease. I was really pretty scared and it seriously rattled me. The doctors that I went to first started treating me as a Type 2, which the treatments are very different, or can be. I needed insulin. I didn’t even know what insulin was. The thing with diabetes is, it’s all about education.
You can live a perfectly normal life, if you just know what you’re up against. I didn’t, and I didn’t have any help, or even begin to know where to start looking for help. That’s where the DOC comes in. It has been a huge blessing, and I want to give back and help. So I try to spread the good word about diabetes, and let people know that not only can you live a happy and healthy life, but you can thrive.
I’m single, no kids, no dog, and not a whole lot of commitments. I love to travel. I love road trips, but love to go international. I’m a coffee addict and elitist. I like to read and listen to music. I love good food, beer and wine. I pay the bills by working as a server in a high end restaurant. And I’m generally a pretty happy guy.
On Making Photography a Habit and Starting a 365 Project
I wanted to make photography a habit. I wanted to practice it everyday. I want it to be something that I sort of don’t even think about when I wake up, it’s just there, and that’s what I do.
There are a few reasons behind this desire to have photography be a major part of my life. I don’t want to call it a mid-life crisis, but I turn 40 in a couple months, and when I look back at my life, I realize that I’ve had a lot of fun. And I’ve been a lot of places. And I have a wonderful network of friends and family who love and support me. I have a great life, but there was always this “something” missing. I’ve always said to myself how I wanted to do “something” with my life, and I think photography is it.
I’m not sure when, but sometime in the last year I had some major, very important realizations. One was this. That I actually had an awesome life, and people were envious of my life. I don’t have a bunch of material items like cars, boats, nice clothing, or a beautiful TV that people would want. But I do stuff. I travel. I play outside a LOT!
And people who are very important to me, would tell me how much they want MY life. And it kind of surprised me a bit. That was something.
A second thing was this. I was able to purchase my own home in the last year, living this alternative, not by the book lifestyle. I didn’t get a job right out of college, and settle into it for the next twenty years. I’ve had more jobs, in more industries, and lived in more places, and owned more cars, and had more than my fair share of heartache, than most people I know. But it seemed OK to me. I set this goal about two years ago, to purchase my house. Something deep inside told me that it was time. I haven’t settled down or anything like that, I just wanted a very little place to call my own. And that’s awesome. I have it. Something said it was OK to want that be a part of my life.
On Growing Up and Doing the Work
So these things, and a few more, go together in a way that says to me that maybe I’m growing up a bit, or maybe just growing in a different way. Maybe it was time to plan a little more long term, instead of just for the upcoming weekend. And so through all of this planning, and thinking, and reflecting, I had some revelations. I had always, through all the years, been telling myself that I was going to do something big with my life. For whatever reason, I believe in Fate, and that I was given a kindly hand in life, and fate would look upon me with grace, and I just knew that cool things were going to happen. What I didn’t know, was that I would have to work my ass off to make those wonderful things happen. Yes, good things, and big things were due to me. But they weren’t going to drop out of the sky and literally fall in my lap one day. I was going to have to work for them.
I read this quote one day on Rob Haggart’s website, A Photo Editor, and since I can’t remember it exactly, I’ll paraphrase in my own words. Go to work. Get up every morning, and do the work. Practice, think, work hard. Get the camera in your hand and go and take pictures. Then come home and process those pictures, and critique those pictures. Do it every day. And when you’re tired, do it some more. You have to do it each and every day, and just make it a habit, so you don’t even think about it anymore.
That info just collided with a lot of what was rolling around in my head at the time, and that was when I decided to go for the 365 project. It was time. I needed that extra little kick to help me to go to work everyday. And the 365 was it. It’s going great, and I’m seeing the huge benefit of surrounding myself with photography all the time, in just the first two weeks. I feel like I’m doing it with a lot of intention, and I’m proud of myself for that. I’m making conscious decisions, as to how to improve my photography. It’s going really well so far.
On Dealing with Fear and Living an Awesome Life
Do I have fears? Sure I do, but honestly, they don’t relate to photography in an outright sort of way. I know my photography is well received in the community, and I’m psyched about that. My fears relate more to bigger picture type stuff, being true to myself, paying my mortgage, that sort of thing. Well, in a way, I guess photography directly results to paying my mortgage. I want to be able to support myself fully, through my photography. I want to travel. I’d like to have a family. Right now I’m not fully supporting even myself with photography, so I laugh at myself when I think about paying the mortgage and putting food on the table for two kids and a wife. So I guess that’s fear.
I want to be remembered for something. For living an awesome life. For taking incredible photos. For traveling to exotic places. For making a difference. So I feel like I have to do all that stuff in the first place, before I can be remembered for it. And I know, those are some pretty big expectations, so sometimes I get a little nervous about that way of thinking. I guess those are fears.
On Setting Goals that Scare You
Boy, this is probably a good time to come up with some sort of concrete type of goals. It’s easy to say, “I want to be better.” It’s a lot harder to say, “I want to sell 10 prints, at X amount of dollars, in 2012” But that’s exactly what you need to do to push yourself. I set an awesome goal a few years ago of buying this house, and it worked out, and it felt awesome. So yes, there is this wonderful feeling of achieving goals. I should get on it. Well, there, I just said it, that’s one goal for me. 1. I want to sell 10 of my landscape prints, at $200 (or more) in 2012
That might not seem like a lot for people, in terms of revenue, and it’s hardly sustainable in the long run, as far as supporting myself. But I need to start somewhere, and that’s a comfortable goal for me. It will have me reaching and pushing, but it’s not unachievable with the right thought and planning.
Here’s another one. I want to do 10 paid portrait sessions in 2012. I love working with people, and I really want to work on that end of my biz. Kids, senior (high school), families, I even like working with dogs, doing pet portraits. OK, another goal.
Another big goal is to get really comfortable with, and produce some photos, with artificial lighting. I actually love using strobes. I want to just be dialed with my equipment, so I don’t really have to worry about the buttons to push, and the where to put that reflector, I want to be really on it. I did get a new strobe just last week, and I’m loving using it. I’m getting ready to purchase a reflector, and I want to work with those things to produce some killer results. I want to keep it simple at first, and I know you can create awesome work with one strobe, a reflector, a model, and some creativity. I know you can, I see it all the time. So that’s a goal. Become proficient with my added light.