Negative Feedback, Speaking Your Mind

You are always going to get negative feedback. As you get more and more positive feedback, you get more and more negative feedback.

For example: this month I reduced my freelance photography rate from $50 per event to $20 per hour, with a minimum of $20 plus a $10 travel fee. Editing and a CD are free, but I provide no prints. I’ve done almost no freelance photography and I don’t even care about it, but I offer it because people ask about it all the time. The people who say I’m too expensive are actually MORE vocal now. Out of the ten who have asked this month, two have said I charge way too much. I have good equipment, 5 years experience, and a gallery of portraits, so I’m charging very little, but some people still complain. If I charged $5 there would be people saying “it will only take a few minutes!” There will ALWAYS be negative feedback.

Sometimes negative feedback is valid. More often negative feedback is bogus and positive feedback is legitimate. If you are evil this will be flipped: positive feedback (“good job gassing those Jews!”) is bogus and negative feedback (“murderer!”) is legitimate. You should ignore bogus feedback and cut off the source. In your email inbox, bogus feedback makes you want to click “Delete.” Constructive criticism makes you want to click “Archive” because everyone ignores constructive criticism. Accurate negative feedback makes you want to click “Archive” quickly because you are uneasy. If you keep mulling over a comment, it has truth.

A couple years ago I believed you should always speak your mind. Now I know you have to be cautious if you want to be part of normal institutions, i.e. public school, the university, or a bureaucratic place of employment.

For example: here are my observations about the word “nigger”:

* For a long time it was used derisively against blacks and mulattos. Even President Harding was called a nigger.

* Now it is often used by blacks when talking to their black buddies in “the ‘hood.”

* Black rappers say nigger in their song lyrics all the time and their CDs are sold at Wal-Mart.

* If a white man calls a black man a nigger, there are now Draconian penalties—a tenured professor could be fired.

* Calling a white man a honkey, a cracker, or white trash is not very bad.

* If a black man calls anyone a nigger there will likely be no penalty.

* This is racist. Two wrongs never make a right—you cannot mitigate historical oppression by flipping it. When the oppressed become the oppressors they are still unjustified.

* “Nigger” should be universally offensive, but when a white man is called a nigger he brushes it off.

* Professors are afraid of their white students saying the word, even when discussing historical racism. Instead we have to say “the N-word.”

These can be objectively proven. Therefore, they are not beliefs. They are observations. However I would not dare make these statements at my job or school because there could be painful sanctions, even in history class! Most professors would not find them offensive, but white professors would strike me down, lest they themselves be labeled “racist.” It’s a sad system.

I love this website because I can say whatever I want. I own the domain name, I own the DNS name servers, and I control the server and software. I’m renting the server, but my web host has a traditional policy of non-interference. When you post on someone else’s site or you speak on someone else’s property, you are subject to their rules. You can be moderated. I am accountable only to the U.S. government, my local government, and defamation lawsuits, so I don’t have to watch what I say.

Granted, my main source of income is Google AdSense and they could cut me off, but there are always other income streams. I have a lot of freedom.

If you can’t speak your mind at your job, your school, or your social clubs, you can always opt out. Quit, leave, find your own space. How much personal autonomy are you willing to sacrifice? We all must sacrifice some amount of freedom for convenience or safety. For example, if you enjoy eating or injecting cocaine, you have no legal options in the United States. Your two legitimate options are: a.) don’t use cocaine, b.) move to Colombia and grow some Coca leaves. Moving to Colombia is very inconvenient, so most people choose option a.

Speaking your mind always has a price. Ask yourself: is this price worthwhile? Are you willing to pay it? You might get fired. Can you pay your mortgage? There are many reasons to speak your mind, but there are also many reasons to NOT speak your mind. There are shades of gray. Weigh your options. The decision is yours alone.

Photo: Duplicity


This is the sequel to Complicity, a photo of two roses I took two years ago. I’ve had the title “Duplicity” in mind for months but didn’t know what to apply it to. I chose this image.

While I’ve done many photos of roses, this is from a standing level with a rose completely out of focus. The depth of field is very shallow, so the rose in the foreground overpowers the rose just two inches behind (pictured right).

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/200, F2.5, 50mm, ISO400, 2009-05-05T06:47:21-04, 20090505-104721rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Battle for the Sun

Battle for the Sun

Pink Flowers at Lowe’s, against a blue sky with contrails out-of-focus, sun shining down.

I debated the title for a few minutes and went with it even though the flowers don’t appear to be battling for the sun; they all have plenty of light. They’re quite tall though, which is a trait of plants in crowded areas. When a tree is surrounded by other trees, it will grow straight up to get sunlight, but a tree alone will branch out because it has plenty of light. Plants are semi-intelligent.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/500, F5.6, 135mm, ISO100, 2009-03-02T14:26:54-05, 20090302-192654rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Are you a specialist or a dilettante?

In life you can choose to grow your skills horizontally or vertically. Vertical growth involves specializing in a field while ignoring others. Horizontal growth involves gaining cursory experience in a wide range of fields while remaining an amateur in them all.

We live in a society of hyper-specialization. Some astronomers study planets, others study gas giants. My college offers hundreds of majors for very specific subjects, and it gets even more specialized at the baccalaureate level. Man’s knowledge is so vast that it is a necessity to choose a narrow direction. Conversely, there are connections you will miss if you overlook history, classical literature, music, theoretical science, religion, or other fields. Don’t dabble in a dozen different trades, but if you’ve been a cooper, branch out—start a blog about barrel making.

I had a great Spanish tutor in high school (I was home-schooled by my father), but I never put forth effort and I’ve forgotten my Spanish books and everything he taught me. Because my mother is Chinese, friends suggest I learn Chinese. Employers want fluent Spanish-speakers because we have a lot of Mexicans in Florida. I’ve never learned a second language. I know English and I know it well. You could say I’m an English specialist, because I’ve written hundreds of posts on this blog, I always spell words right, and most of the time I use proper grammar. My language growth has definitely been vertical.

Students taking foreign language courses in high school often lack English skills. They are fluent in chat speak, not real words. They use “literally” in place of “figuratively,” for example: “I literally died laughing.” Apostrophes are to be used in contractions (“it isn’t so”), for possession (“Richard’s camera”), and to clarify (“12 students got A’s on the test”), yet half of America’s teenagers are dumbfounded. They resort to inserting apostrophes into their papers willy-nilly. These students should not be taking another language. If you want to learn a whole bunch of languages, it’s best to become an expert in your country’s language first. Start out with a solid base of vertical growth before expanding horizontally.

Music is another field where specialization should precede dabbling. When you become very good at the piano, it is much easier to pick up the guitar, the harpsichord, or even random string instruments. You understand sheet music, keys, chords, scales, rhythm, and tone. These skills carry over to other instruments. However, if you try learning six instruments at once as a newbie, you will fail, unless you want to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on them all.

On this blog I am a dilettante. While I am focusing on releasing new art photos, I’ve spent many hours in fields I have little experience with. I’ve written novelettes about technology, personal development, photography advice, and what I call “photography ramblings.” Even these fields are vague: for technology I’ve written about memory card readers, programming languages, computer monitors, flash drives, printers, and other items. Many of my posts cover a whole bunch of disconnected topics in a haphazard way. Not many people read them. Last month, a commenter said I “try to make too many points and [I] go into too many directions which are hard to follow.”

I pay a high price for my dabbling. While I have the advantage of having my activities under one roof (this site) rather than multiple sites, I’d be better off focusing on a narrow range of specific topics. I talked with Melody Anglin, who was hoping to find technical articles on my site because my Twitter tweets are often about computer problems or cameras. Instead she found articles like Transcending Limiting Beliefs, philosophical articles written from a position of little experience which she described as “not useful.” Unfortunately she’s right.

Old habits die hard. Even in this essay I’m all over the place. Focus! Specialize! Creativity is nothing without discipline.

Four years ago I stopped playing the piano, instead spending hours each day taking photos of mundane objects. My parents and grandparents were disappointed because they’d invested so much in my music. My Grandma used to talk of me going to Stetson University to be a concert pianist—abandoning music for photography made no sense. At 14 I gave up something I was fairly good at for something I had no talent for but which gave immediate rewards. Like many other teenagers I found piano boring and unrewarding while I could instantly share photos on deviantART and have them seen by dozens of people.

My shift worked out well. I’m playing the piano again and I’ve become good at photography. However my decision last year to write about personal development has not been so good. I’ve written posts that have value, I’ve defined myself, and I’ve gained writing experience, but I could be making good money from this site if I applied myself to marketing and technical writing instead of airy-fairy posts about beliefs and goals.

There’s a quote by Steve Jobs that I like: “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” You may have to dabble in a half-dozen careers before finding your calling. Many times you will pick a path and hit a brick wall, and you will do this again and again. The true danger is not lifelong amateurism—the true danger is never picking a path. Never taking that first step. If you want to be a composer, you have to compose music. If you want to be a writer, you must start publishing your writing, in a blog, the newspaper, a book—whatever. Just set goals and get something done. Most of us make inefficient use of our time. If you are committed you can always make progress.

But if you are a habitual dabbler, just call yourself a Renaissance man and be done with it. :grin:

Photo: Tomatoes Without Silicone

Tomatoes Without Silicone

Unlike in Publix’s ads, tomatoes can be very ugly. I shot this at the local produce market and you can see spots all over them. Granted, I added contrast, color, and vignetting, but I didn’t bother editing out all the spots like the professionals do. Normally I’d call it laziness, but today I’m calling it realism. These are tomatoes without silicone… no, that has nothing to do with boobs.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/30, F4, 44mm, ISO800, 2009-08-13T15:51:35-04, 20090813-195135rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: The Homeland

The Homeland

The red Ondura roofing Dad added to our sheds, with our house in the background. We haven’t done any work on the tar and gravel roof. It was installed right before we moved in, 16 years ago (1993-03).

Ondura roofing is widely regarded as biodegradable garbage, but it’s working well for us. Talk to me in ten years. It might disintegrate soon.

The trailer I live in and am typing from now is not visible in this shot. It’s behind the mess of buildings.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/1000, F4, 28mm, ISO200, 2009-08-15T15:50:59-04, 20090815-195059rxt

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: QUEEN


This could be a tribute to the rock band Queen, but I decided the title on the spot without thinking of them. This cat seems regal. A leader with an overbearing sense of entitlement. Instead of running away like the other cats in our neighborhood do, she stood her ground. She stared my camera down as I took many pictures from different angles. It could be a male cat—I didn’t check—but I didn’t get that impression. This is a queen cat.

I darkened her pupils and brightened the whites of her eyes. She has interesting eyes. I made them better. Photographers do that.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/100, F5.6, 135mm, ISO200, 2009-08-20T08:01:53-04, 20090820-120153rxt

Location: Nelson Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Purple Morning Glories

Purple Morning Glories

Purple Morning Glory flowers at 8 A.M. By the afternoon these all fall off. The next day, they bloom again. Definitely an interesting flower.

Instead of doing a macro, I did a wide shot characteristic of a new photographer. Newbies never get close enough. However, I like this shot because no flower is special. There are just a whole lot of them, and the viewer is an equal distance from most of them. In photography, every rule can be broken.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/200, F4, 41mm, ISO100, 2009-08-20T08:18:53-04, 20090820-121853rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Old Pink Skates

Old Pink Skates

A pair of Barbie skates at the thrift store, long outgrown.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/50, F4, 38mm, ISO800, 2009-08-17T14:00:19-04, 20090817-180019rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Photo: Flaming Hibiscus

Flaming Hibiscus

A red Hibiscus against the sun. This is an awfully gay flower so I’ve dubbed it “flaming.”

I had to remove so many dust spots from the sky. They don’t show up normally, but with a clean blue sky at 127mm and F14, they were quite prominent. They must be in the middle of my lens or on the sensor. Photoshop’s spot healing brush came in handy.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 28-135mm, 1/320, F14, 127mm, ISO400, 2009-08-17T14:53:53-04, 20090817-185353rxt

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.