Category Archives: Inspiration

Why I Started Using Luminosity Masks In Photoshop

After years of using just Lightroom to process my photos, I had decided recently that I wanted to open up and increase my photo processing capabilities.

I always prefer to capture images in my photography as close as possible to how I see them, and as I had blogged recently, I had learned how to use my histogram to capture more data in my exposures.

Once all this data was captured in my exposures, I wanted to use the additional processing power of Photoshop to bring out the detail and dynamic range that I was looking for.

So what are luminosity masks?

It is a process within Photoshop that will select a precise area of a photo, based on the lighness value. Sometimes you want to zero in on a specific area of a photo, and just add adjustments to that area, without affecting anywhere else. More on this later.

So far, I am happy that I am able to bring out the light and the highlights of these landscapes, to help these photos look more like what I really saw when I was out there enjoying the scene.

This is very exciting, and I hope to capture many more photos with this technique!

The Power of Positive Framing

Especially during tough times, I occasionally go back to review the basics on my positive framing technique.

I thought I was share my techniques I had learned about and adapted, in the chance that you may benefit from this method as well.

I had developed this technique during my self improvement phase some years back, when I had found myself unhappy in both my career and personal life.

I had finally decided I was going to live life, rather than allow life to live me.

With my new outlook, I have never been happier. I have never loved life this much since my earlier stress-free and worry-free years, and the nostalgia feels amazing.

Here are some concepts and new behaviors that I had focused in on:

Journal your thoughts – make it a daily habit to keep a journal, and write down your feelings throughout the day. It will help you zero in on where the stress and negative thoughts in your life are coming from.

Identify positive “triggers” – Track the things that give you a good feeling throughout the day. It could be a certain memory, a certain person, or a certain activity that you enjoy. Knowing these triggers will be important later in this process.

Reframe negative thoughts – In your journal, if you are writing down something negative that has happened, try to also find something positive to get out of it. Trust me, you can find it.

Be appreciative and grateful – Every morning, practice thinking about things that you appreciate in your life, and how they make you feel good. These daily positive thoughts will eventually drown out the negative voices we may find ourselves listening to.

Realize that (most) other people are simply trying their best – this helped me be more patient, and prevents me from being judgemental toward others. Oh, and for those people who are destructive and harmful to yourself and others….phase them out of your life as efficiently as you can.

These basic techniques allow me to have a realistic, mature approach to life, while automatically filtering out the anxiety, stress, and worry that I had experienced before.

I plan to explain these concepts in even more detail in future posts.

Enjoy life with your new mindset!

Can Minimalism Improve Your Photography?

Over the course of the last couple of years, I have become very interested in minimalism.

This new interest had motivated me to completely declutter my house, and I systematically got rid of things that created clutter and no longer make me happy, by either selling them on eBay, giving away, or donating.

Long story short, my house feels much more open, organized, stress-free, and I see things every day that make me happy, rather than allowing these unnecessary items to bring back memories from the past (that I occasionally would much rather keep there!).

So what does this have to do with photography?

Well, once I removed a lot of the noise and negativity from my life by leaving social media, I next zeroed in on my photography hobby.

I have volumes of photos that I have taken. on multiple drives, that I neither don’t care for, or have no future use for. These were causing me stress and anxiety as I went through my thousands of photos that I no longer needed or wanted.

Once I began to organize (and delete) all of these meaningless photos that I could part with, I started to question why I’ve been taking so many photos to begin with.

A lot of the reason, I found, was to keep up with social media. I felt like I had to keep up with the popular people, take the same compositions they are and go to the same places they have been, in order to feel like I was part of the community.

These recent changes by adapting minimalism have helped me realize my outlook has been wrong.

By applying minimalism to my photography, I could now begin to capture just the photos that have so much more meaning and creativity to me, versus the thousands of photos I had allowed to pile up on my hard drives before.

I now focus more (pun intended) on capturing meaningful memories, special events, and true creativity, versus taking photos strictly for gaining social media’s approval, simply because everyone else on my feed had been doing it.

This new outlook had made photography fun and exciting again. I had went back to the basics, and I am excited again for putting my energy into creativity, versus trying to create photos that I felt would be popular to others.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you for reading!

See you next week,

Mirek

Reversing Perspective During Challenging Times

So, how are we all adjusting to what people are calling the “new normal”?

Stores are closed, grocery stores are empty, and the local hiking trails are packed (I’m not going currently, to help comply with social distancing guidelines).

Big events we were excited for are postphoned, or even cancelled.

Dealing with an uncertain job schedule and future feels stressful.

Getting cabin fever on a daily basis.

All of these things were beginning to pile up, making it difficult to adjust to sometimes.

Then I had begun to shift my perspective.

While my first instinct was to focus on what we CANNOT do, I had decided to reverse my outlook, and begin to focus on the things that we CAN do during this health crisis…

  1. Keep in touch frequently with family, and the people we care about.
  2. Communicating with family and friends about their needs, and use my free time to help them however possible.
  3. Get that list of projects done around the house, that typically fall victim to lack of time (or procrastination!)
  4. Organize my online photo libraries (they always need some serious organization, don’t they?).
  5. Rebuild my website to the setup that I had always wanted, but seemed to have trouble finding the time (P.S. just finished, feedback is welcomed in the comments!).
  6. Go for a walk in an isolated area.
  7. Finally binge watch the shows I’ve had in my watchlists since the the birth of online streaming.
  8. Stay consistent with my workouts at home.
  9. Learn the songs on guitar I have had on my list all this time (apologies to my neighbors).
  10. Catch up on my Lightroom photo library from previous years’ adventures, and get them posted to my website pages.

You see what I mean? The list goes on and on.

From a great night out at Suntop Fire Lookout, in September 2018.

The things that I CAN do suddenly took center stage to the things I CANNOT do, then I felt my motivation and drive come back.

I began to appreciate everything I have, and less concerned about the things I don’t have, during this necessary adjustment to our lifestyles.

I just wanted to share this insight……it’s a very simple concept, but it took me some time to see it this way, and my spirits picked up almost immediately.

Hope this is inspiring in some way, I am planning to begin posting weekly updates such as this.

How are you adjusting to things? Please provide feedback in the comments below!

Photography Without Social Media…..How Is It?

A while back, I had deactivated my social media accounts. I had utilized social media extensively in the past, for sharing my passion for both the outdoors and my photography hobby.

Found this great waterfall while exploring in the Mt. Adams Wilderness.

I knew once I had deactived my social media accounts, that things would be different.

I recently realized that thing are more different that I had originally thought.

I had decided to back off from posting photos on social media mainly to avoid the negativities of posting online, as I had described in my previous blog entries. I realized that I was, to a degree, doing these things for social media, instead of simply sharing my hobby.

The unexpected thing was, my hiatus from social media also led to a hiatus in my photography.

I had really begun to enjoy being out to these amazing places, and had enjoyed not having the concern of bringing back worthwhile pictures back with me. I simply did not even want to pull my camera out of my bag.

Great weather effects out at Lake Lena, in the Olympic Mountains

No more stress from finding compositions, concern over the proper light settings, or disappointment because the lighting was not right for a shot that I wanted.

Simply put, I went back the basics.

A great night exploring the area around Mt. St. Helens. The moon and Jupiter had started to glow as the sun went down.

Now, I look for composition more from a creative sense, and I am actually turned off by going to the locations that I feel are a destination strictly to capture a photograph.

This makes the experience much more rewarding.

Here’s What I’m Learning During my Social Media Detox

Recently, I had taken a break from posting photos and hikes social media, for many reasons.

As a hiker and photographer, a lot of my processes involved getting my hiking trip reports and pictures up on social media. This had been part of my process from the beginning, and while I really enjoyed it initially, it had began to feel tedious after a while.

This process also added stress, since I was in a rush to post my photos and trip reports, and would slowly get concerned if no one liked it or commented on it enough.

Over time, I realized this had begun to add anxiety, and even stress to my routine.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good qualities about social media, but for me, the negative attributes far outweighed the good.

To me, social media had a caused a “superficial” appreciation for the outdoors…..and I felt myself losing the sincere appreciation of living for the moment. I would get concerned that I was not capturing enough “wow” photos that would fill up my notification screen. I also found myself competing with other posts, and actually having a fear of missing out when I saw posts of others going on hiking adventures while I was at home working in my yard (which really needed to be done).

This year, I had begun working on a goal of creating a better balance in my life. After reading “Digital Minimalism” and “Deep Work”, both by Cal Newport, I had taken the author’s suggestion to minimize social media. Both of these books are amazing, and they give the numerous how this change could improve your focus and passion in your craft.

Deciding I would leave the social media sites for a while has moved me tremendously toward my goal of balance, and life is already much better.

While I am out and enjoying the outdoors and finding photography compositions, I am also enjoying living in the moment. I am being more selective in my photos, which results in less work when I get home of processing and posting on social media.

I am no longer stressed or concerned with how many “likes” I am getting, or trying to keep up with comments about my hikes or my photos. I am no longer striving to be popular, since this was leading me to post unnecessarily, and sometimes excessively.

I do have friends that really like to see photography in their feed, and had commented they miss seeing my work since I had quit posting. But for the most part, I do not have any repercussions of taking a break from social media. Also, even though I had decided not to do a typical “exit speech” while beginning my social media detox, some friends have realized it and now text me about barbecues, hikes and backpacking trips that I thought I would miss out on while being offline.

This was also a big motivator for starting this blog. I still love to share my ideas, my photos, and my passion in this format, specifically for those who seek this type of information. Rather than using this method strictly for attention, it is a great outlet for creativity, and still allows me to share my work, through a more meaningful channel. I also like spending time on my tutorials, since it also works as a database from what I am learning on

Curious if others feel this same way I do……I would really like to hear about your experiences also!

So I Stopped Posting My Hikes to Social Media….and Here is What I Discovered

Some locations such as this peaceful ridge can be found while out exploring, and these amazing locations are meant to be discovered, not overrun by the masses.

You know it, and I know it…..social media is negatively impacting the land that we love, and it’s only getting worse.

The pristine areas we all know and value are being trampled….droves of visitors are coming to these areas, and we all can clearly see signs that the ecosystem cannot handle it.

Obviously, it is largely in part because the wilderness environment is no longer being respected like it should be by its visitors.

Why is this?

There has been a shift, and more often than not, now the waves of visitors to the wilderness are NOT coming out there to experience and appreciate it. They are often coming out there to obtain that perfect photo and obtain that experience strictly so they can share it on their social media accounts, their friends and strangers see it, and the cycle repeats.

Why else are trails being littered, meadows being trampled, natural features being damaged due to photo ops, and social media tags being etched into historical relics?

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, as I began my hiking and photography hobby, I would routinely post all of my hikes and landscape photos on social media like everyone else.

On the surface, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

The main idea behind social media was for us to keep in touch with distant family and friends, and so we can have a network of friends that we can share ideas and our adventures in life with.

Unfortunately, social media has evolved into the sharing of our photos and newly discovered hiking locations to literally tens of thousands of complete strangers.

The social media sites actually want this, since web traffic drives up their revenue from advertising, and this is precisely why they created the like and heart buttons, and made sharing buttons incredibly easy to use. When we get likes and comments on our posts, it gives us a boost of dopamine, and therefore fuels the need to share to even more droves of strangers.

So when you think of this overwhelming internet traffic being directed to our treasured hiking trails and pristine photography locations, it has, at least to me, become very discouraging.

So I had decided to stop using social media for the reason of sharing my hiking locations and pictures, especially to the hiking and photography groups with overwhelming member numbers.

When I do share a new hiking location or photography spot to a friend, its usually while doing a another hike together, or even over a cold beer. This is also much more personable and rewarding to me, and I feel good knowing that they may have one more great adventure to add to their list, and so do I.

This hidden spot was found off trail, and shared to me by a close friend during a hike. It is much more rewarding to discover these spots this way, rather than just rushing straight there after been given GPS coordinates to it.

So what is this discovery that I had mentioned?

As a result of this, I actually find that I appreciate these amazing adventures to these great spots even more. I see these places more as sacred, but I am far from being selfish and keeping them all to myself. I am still talking about these amazing discoveries with people whom I know will respect these places, but I am no longer sharing them to the endless wave of strangers.

It is a small step, but I at least feel really good that I am no longer contributing to the depreciation of these amazing places.

John Muir would have wanted it this way.

Discover the Benefits of Through-Hikes

Recently, some friends and I have been talking about planning out some “through-hikes” this summer, rather than the typical “destination-and-back” hikes that we have been doing all along.

A “through-hike” simply means that we have a distinct start point, and then a finish point at another area of the map. where we plan to finish our hike. This eliminates having to turn around and head back to the original trailhead when our main destination is reached.

This method does require at least 2 vehicles……the first one will be left at the finish point, and the second one will transport all the hikers to the trailhead of the start point.

This was shortly after we began our hike, we had just departed our start point. This hike was planned to take us 10 miles, mostly downhill, which was very achievable for us to complete.

While this method does require a bit more resources and planning, there are some very nice benefits to planning a hike this way…..

  1. You can plan the hike and make it a bit more comfortable (i.e. downhill vs. uphill) This can allow for more ground to be covered in the time allotted, but also keep in mind that your route can be reversed if you are wanting to challenge yourself with some incline.
  2. By covering new ground for the entire hike, you can visit more points of interest, for example, two lakes or waterfalls instead of just one.
  3. You can leave the crowds behind you, since your group will simply keep venturing on the trail, while the rest of the crowds will turn around to head back to the original trailhead.
This lake above is a destination a lot of day hikers may choose to turn around for a day hike, while we still had miles of new trail ahead of us to explore.

Caution: Using this through-hike method does require good basic navigation skills, and the ability to read a map. I also recommend you use map software, such as CalTopo, to create a map to bring along with you. You have been advised!

In advance, it’s important to know the mileage and elevation change during the planning stages of your hike, so you can ensure everyone in your group can manage this. You also want to be sure you can finish your hike in the allotted time.

Please refer to my previous post about hike planning by clicking the button below, if you would like more information about this.

Hard to believe that there were hordes of people on the trail before we crested over the ridge. They all headed back to their vehicles, while we had this amazing section of the trail to ourselves!
Another benefit of a through-hike is that you can cover many different types of views and terrain.
We were able to visit 2 awesome lakes on this through-hike, rather than just the one if we had to turn around!

Thanks for reading, and have an amazing time out there!

Find Balance In Your Photography (And I’m Not Talking About Composition)

Balance is a concept many photographers use to evenly place objects within the frame of the composition. This concept sometimes makes a photo more appealing to the eye.

So how about applying balance to your method of actually capturing the photos?

The sun rises from behind Mt. Adams during a summer 2017 backpacking trip. While I really like this photo, I wished I spent more time on this trip enjoying the experience rather than stressing over finding compositions.

What I mean is, rather than just rush out to these amazing spots for the purpose of capturing a great photo, take your time and enjoy your surroundings, and the experience of being there.

Social media has influenced the way a lot of hikers see the wilderness.

While some like to experience the wilderness for solidarity, peace, and enhancing our well-being, quite a few others may just simply rush out to these destinations for the purpose of capturing that perfect photo, and updating our social media accounts.

Found this great waterfall while exploring in the Mt. Adams Wilderness.

My method of applying balance is simple…..you can still enjoy finding the compositions you want, enjoy capturing these in your photographs, and enjoy sharing with your friends. However, you should allow photography to sometimes take a back seat, to ensure that you are also equally enjoying the other benefits that the outdoors provide, rather than just capturing your photos and leaving.

I used to rush home after a hike and immediately analyze the photos I have taken, then I would feel the stress of choosing the ones I like, and I would hurriedly post them to my social media accounts and await the feedback.

While the attention of posting my best photography to social media was initially fulfilling, I begin to wonder why I feel so stressed after an adventure, when I should be relaxing and reflecting about what I had experienced while out in the wilderness.

I would actually judge the experience based on how many comments and likes that I received, and this seemed really unnatural to me.

While I am still incredibly passionate about taking photographs, I have changed how I experience the outdoors. Instead of just seeing photography as being the priority, I allow pictures take a back seat to the actual experience of exploring and experiencing the environment. I use less time focusing on capturing the photographs, and more time on enjoying and exploring the natural wonders around me.

This thought process has also conditioned me to become more selective on my photographs. This also lightens the load of the often daunting task of photo processing on my laptop when I get back home.

It took me just a few minutes to capture this photograph, one of my favorites. Thankfully, I spent more time enjoying the sights and sounds of an amazing mountain lake below the Milky Way, and that experience was the most memorable to me.

The result……

I am more relaxed about my photography. I am no longer stressed or anxious about feedback from my photos, and I no longer feel disappointed if I missed a particular shot or if the weather did not cooperate.

I am out in the wilderness to enjoy the environment, and as a reward, I get to bring back some great photos that I took along the way.

Give this some thought next time you are out there!