Elephants, plumbs and intentionality

by Steve Brock on April 11, 2012

To get a photo like this of Bryce Canyon at dawn, you need an early start...and intentionality

Q: “How are an elephant and a plumb alike?”

A: “They’re both purple except for the elephant!”

I laughed so hard when I first heard that joke.

Then again, I was about nine years old at the time.

It may not be as funny to me now, but it does point out that some comparisons can be stretched too far to be relevant. Others, while not immediately obvious, can be highly informative.

Take the comparison between photography and travel. On the surface, the connection seems clear: we take pictures on trips. But in that one little phrase, “take pictures,” lies a clue to both good travel and good photography.

Professional photographers often refer to “making” a photo versus “taking” a photo. It’s the same with a trip: You can “take” a vacation or you can “make” a meaningful journey.

The difference can be summed up in one word: intentionality.

The more intentional you are in thinking through your shot before you release the shutter, the better the photo. Similarly, the more intentional you are in planning a trip, being open during the trip and reflecting on it later, the better your travels.

Being intentional applies to so many aspects of life. For example, I remember a talk once where the speaker mentioned something to the effect that, “It is unlikely that we will mature in our spiritual life apart from intentionality.”

Not impossible. But unlikely.

Similarly, you can take a quick snapshot or just show up in a new place and you could have a nice picture or good trip. But you increase the likelihood of either being truly special when you are intentional in your planning, your execution and your follow-through.

Over the next few entries here on The Meaningful Traveler, we’ll explore ten ways in which making a photograph and making a meaningful journey are similar and how you can increase the likelihood of improving the experience with both photography and travel.

But for now, take a moment and ask yourself how intentional you are in the things that matter most to you: your relationship with God, with loved ones and friends, with your work and with the areas of life that recreate you.

Are you just phoning it in? Living the equivalent of a snapshot? Or are you intentional about spending time in pursuing what is meaningful?

Making meaning takes time.

"Making" a photograph sometimes means spending as much or more time after it is taken. And it still requires intentionality.

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