Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays

There is a persistent myth that highly creative people are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed. It doesn’t take much effort to remember individual examples across many disciplines: John Nash, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, and Woody Allen come to mind. However, despite these high profile examples, most creative people are not mentally ill and most mentally ill people do not create great art.

Personally, I believe that there can be great inspiration during the times when we are in emotional pain. I am a fan of Bob Dylan’s music and my favorite album is Blood on the Tracks which was written after the breakup with his wife Sara. While Dylan claims the songs are not autobiographical but based upon the short stories of Anton Chekhov, I don’t believe he could have captured the pain of a breaking and broken relationship so accurately if he hadn’t been feeling that pain at the time.

There is a deep seated need in most of us to experience art that shows real emotion. While it can be invigorating to share the confusion of Lady Gaga when she loses her phone or the joy that Rebecca Black feels on Friday, we long to hear from those with deeper issues.

My life has been strongly influenced by decisions made during periods of depression. Most of the time I am an expert at execution.  Set a sales target - I will find a way to hit it.  Want a new product - I can write the specs and organize the team to get it done. Ready to launch the product with a multi-channel media campaign - no problem. These tasks require far too much concentration on the how and now to leave time for asking why.

Then the questions begin to creep in.  Why am I doing this? Who is this helping?  Who is this hurting? Is this really what I want to be doing? What if I have to do this for the rest of my life? Is this what I want on my tombstone?

Now that I am past 50 and some of my parts seem to be wearing out, there are new questions. How much longer will I be here? Will I ever be able to “x” again? How much longer do I have with the people I love? What’s next?

I used to hate the questions. They were a distraction from the tasks at hand and greatly resented. I blamed external factors, usually the company where I was employed. So I changed jobs and sometimes moved to new cities. Life’s been good to me so far, so most of those decisions turned out pretty well.

I have sometimes laughed to myself that my carefully crafted resume masks the real reason behind some of the changes. In reality, in those periods of depression and reflection, I was more aware of systemic problems and where they would lead in the future. I will never know whether the depression made me more aware or the awareness made me more depressed. But it was not coincidence that the decisions turned out well.

I no longer fight the feelings. I can recognize them now and welcome them like an old friend. I let them wash over me and wonder where they will lead me. Since I have a very supportive family and a wonderful employer, it is senseless to look for external triggers. So I try to identify habits and thought patterns of my own that need adjustment.

They are my feelings.  I will take responsibility for them.

I don’t know if my experience is universal, but I suspect it is. Everyone must experience periods when they ponder the existential questions. Those are the best times to reset your compass bearings and sail off into new adventures.

What brings you down?  How has it impacted your life and your creative decisions?

While you ponder the question, I am going to strum a few chords from Tangled Up in Blue.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Dark Side of Social Media

Today I would like to identify a new form of mental illness. Although it is not currently on the list of proposed modifications to the DSM-V* scheduled for publication next year, Social Media Stress Syndrome (SMSS) is a new and pervasive disorder that could easily turn into a pandemic.

The essential feature of Social Media Stress Syndrome is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and  a need for admiration that begins upon joining Facebook and expands across a variety of social media platforms. Individuals with this Syndrome have a grandiose sense of self-importance which often shows in the superior tone of their blog posts. They may feel that they can only be understood by, and should only share posts from other people who are special or of high status.

Individuals with this order are obsessed with their Klout score, SEO rankings and monthly page views on their sites. They believe their knowledge and understanding is special and must be shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and when images are involved, Pinterest.

Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with Social Media Stress Syndrome very sensitive to “injury” from criticism or a lack of retweets. Although they may not show it outwardly, a Facebook post without any likes may haunt these individuals and leave them feeling frustrated, hollow and empty. Sustained feelings of incompetence and the attendant self-criticism may be associated with social withdrawal, depressed mood and Dysthymic or Major Depressive Disorder.

Individuals with SMSS traits are encouraged to engage employment in the field of Social Media Marketing where their symptoms can be allowed to flourish full time. Those who find that they can no longer keep up with their Twitter feeds and need to spend more than an hour a day reviewing their Facebook news feed need to take the following steps:

Remember that you will receive no hate mail if you don’t tweet today!

Turn off the podcast on Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and listen to some music!

Do not check your page views today!

Put down Steve’s biography and read some fiction!

Understand that you will never save Apple or start Facebook and that’s OK!

Keep your sense of humor about life, the universe and everything!

Don’t Panic!

Remember that:

All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy
Beg borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

Roger Waters

* Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Don't Break the Window

Stereo 3D photography requires a different approach to composition and framing than traditional two dimensional photography. Generally, the best subjects are those that have natural depth that will be highlighted by the stereo effect. However, the 3D photographer must always be aware of the stereo window and take care not to break the stereo window.

When you look at a two dimensional image, you are looking at the scene. With a 3D image, you are looking into the scene as if you were looking through a window. The edges of the image form the boundaries of that stereo window. Just like a real window, there can be things to see through the window and there can be things to see in front of the window. But if there is something at the left or right edges that projects forward, the stereo window is violated and the stereo effect no longer works.

This 3D image of an Orchid has a severe window violation.
In the stereo pair it is easier to see how the green bud on the right breaks the stereo window.
These images of orchids from the St. Paul Winter Carnival are examples of severe window violations. The green bud on the right is placed significantly in front of the viewing window but violates the window by projecting beyond the right edge. There is a significant difference between the left and right views at that edge which is confusing to the eyes and prevents a good 3D effect. There is also a window violation on the left with the yellow flower.

This 3D image of an orchid has good depth and no window violations.
In the stereo pair, you can see that no part of the orchid crosses the stereo window.
You can avoid window violations by framing scenes to keep anything that is closer than your primary subject away from the left and right edges of the image. Generally, this means shooting scenes at a wider angle than you might for a 2D image. The second set of orchid images show good 3D depth without any window violations.

Have you tried capturing any 3D images yet?  If so, please share the links.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stereo Photo Maker

Stereo Photo Maker displaying picture of Molly Brown's home.
Last week, I covered methods to capture Stereo 3D images. Once you begin creating your own 3D images, you will need Stereo Photo Maker. Stereo Photo Maker is part of a suite of free software that has been developed by Masuji Suto for viewing and editing stereo images. There are versions available for Windows and Mac OS at

The software is very helpful for viewing 3D images because it can open all of the standard 3D file formats and display images using all of the common 3D methods. All of the 3D images that I have featured in this blog were saved by my camera as .mpo files then opened in Stereo Photo Maker to be converted and saved as stereo pairs and stereo anaglyphs.

If you are capturing pairs of images using the cha cha method, Stereo Photo Maker can be used to align your separate images into a single 3D image. You can adjust the relative sizing of the images, vertical and horizontal alignment, and rotation manually, or you can allow the software to align the images automatically.

Stereo Photo Maker is particularly useful for cropping which would be quite difficult otherwise because the crop has to be applied equally to the left and right image views. I find it helpful to capture most scenes zoomed out slightly then crop down to the best composition in the software.

Next week we will cover the stereo window and composing to avoid window violations.

The Creativity Paradox is sponsored in part by Convertible Solutions which supplies specialty paper substrates to digital printersdirect marketing companies and photo book fulfillment companies.