Resolution or Resolve

In Travel, Wallpapers, Within The Frame Adventures, Workshops and Events by David63 Comments

This month’s free Desktop Wallpaper. Antarctica, December 2011.
Click the image to get the full-resolution version. Speaking of resolution…


Resolution or Resolve?
I was going to let New Year’s eve come and go without using the word resolution. But then I started thinking about my own reluctance to embrace the whole topic, and I felt a sermon growing….

It’s that time of year again, when we as a culture gather our collective optimism and in one great seizure of denial we’ll make promises to ourselves that, for the most part, are mercifully short-lived, coming into this world all but stillborn and saving us from changing our lives for yet another trip around the sun. I’m weary of seeing friends making resolutions but seeing no change in their lives, lives that I know are so full of brilliance and potential; so many resolutions, so little resolve, and so very little change.

A resolution is a one-time decision. A mile-marker on our journey, on which we look back when we forget from whence we’ve come and lost sight of where we’re going. But it’s nothing more. The moment you make it, it begins to lose its momentum, and there are very few of us for whom that resolution carries much lasting strength. It’s just the way it is. It’s a strong indicator of a desire, but a poor agent of change. It may, at best, be a compass, but it’s not an engine. And waiting for the magic of January One is just silliness. Do it now. Not tomorrow. Not later.

Over this past year I’ve had greater opportunity to reflect on my life than I expected. Whether I’m “Living the dream” or not, I am unashamedly living my own dreams. But none of them come on a silver platter. They come with intention and resolve, they come rough and demand polishing, and they – all of them – extract a price. But I am amazed at how much we can accomplish when we pay that price, and stop screwing around, living our lives in such ad hoc fashion. Whatever it is you hope for this coming year, don’t stop at resolutions. Find resolve. Then map it out. How are you going to do it? Monthly, weekly, daily, what does this dream require of you? Now do it, and do it with all the strength you’ve got. You have one brief, beautiful, unique life to live, and only a limited handful of matches with which to set your world ablaze. Don’t you dare waste them.

January 2012 Desktop Wallpaper.
You knew it had to be Antarctica on this month’s wallpaper, didn’t you? 🙂 This is a 2560 x 1600 desktop wallpaper, so it’ll fit everything from iPads to 30″ displays, just click HERE for the full-resolution image.

Heading to Africa.
On New Year’s Day I’ll be on an early evening flight to Frankfurt, then on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to join Jeffrey Chapman and 8 others for the next Within The Frame Adventure. We’re heading north from Addis to the ancient town of Lalibela to join thousands of pilgrims for Orthodox Christmas. I was there 5 or 6 years ago and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. I remember at the time thinking how much I just wanted several days to explore and photograph, but our itinerary didn’t allow it. Now we’ll have that time. Can’t hardly wait. 🙂 I’ve no idea how accessible internet will be, but if I can do so, I’ll drop a line. Then on the 14th we return to Addis, head to Nairobi and get ready for the Masai Mara Within The Frame adventure, and I’ll probably be off the map until I get home from Zanzibar on/around the 1stof February. But if I can send a postcard, I will. Happy New Year, friends.


  1. Amazing photo, David. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and amazing experiences with us.

  2. “…in one great seizure of denial we’ll make promises to ourselves that, for the most part, are mercifully short-lived.” Well said. I quit making resolutions years ago — I didn’t need to wait until New Year’s Day to start something I wouldn’t finish.

    Travel safely and no jumping off walls.

  3. your thoghts on this rings so true. Paying the price for getting where you want is a big challenge, or more specific to my life.. the fear of not knowing exactly what the price or cost will be.

    Thank you for your mindclearing blogposts

  4. without resolve, i supppose there is no point to making resolutions. I seem to have the same ones every year because i keep getting distracted by the things i think i should do rather than focusing more on the things I want to do. My resolution this year is simple, i must focus, the resolve might put me on the street but its time too honestly take that risk. Thank you David!

  5. My first time here – I’m just reading “Photographically Speaking” and love it so much I went looking for your blog. I am slowly working myself through the exercises and already can tell that my view of what I see has changed.
    On a personal note, I can’t wait for the images of your travels – my husband is in Africa a lot (working for AID) and right now he’s in Addis, what a coincidence. He doesn’t photograph, though, and I would love to see the places that he sees.

    Best wishes for a joyful 2012,

  6. You’ve had quite the year, David. Thank you for sharing as much as you did with us. You’ve written some powerful words in this post… inspirational, as always.

    Hope you are having a great time on your trip, and here’s to a fantastic and creatively fulfilling 2012 for all of us!

    Take care, Aaron

  7. Hi David,

    Great post. I was making my new year’s resolutions when, as someone else said, life hit me in the head with a brick, and my father passed away in less than one week. I was watching my father dying in an hospital while outside fireworks where celebrating the new year. As you said life is short, too short, and cruel..
    I’d like to leave, take my camera and spend the rest of my life taking photos…

    Thanks David for your words and photos,they have been of great confort in these sad days.


  8. Pingback: Resolutions, Goals, and Music Practice « The Practice of Practice

  9. Pingback: Adventure Photography: Preparing for Action in 2012

  10. Pingback: Adventure Photography: Preparing for Action in 2012

  11. Thanks for the beautiful wallpaper! Speaking of resolutions, I just finished reading your book “VisonMongers” and I can whole heartedly recommend it to anyone who is interested in starting a career in Photography or who (like me) is looking to recharge and diversify into areas of passion in the new year. Powerful book!

  12. Well said David. As usual. And interesting dialogue on how our past shapes our future…I guess at least that’s how I took it. I think being picked on a child (I know that feeling, growing up poor with disabled siblings) made me a much stronger person in the long run. Seeing how hard my parents worked to keep a roof over our heads and to nurture us as people made me realize that no one it truly “entitled” and while some people have much more than I do, it doesn’t mean they are happier. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of daily life, and to put pressure on yourself. And having had children early in life, there is the constant pressure to provide for them, and not having the luxury to globe trot. BUT – that just means my time to globe trot will come later in life, when they are bigger! 🙂 In the meantime, I SO look forward to Italy in the spring, which will be my first international trip (outside of a girls trip to Mexico when I was 23) and first trip without the whole fam. In light of the fact that I am anchored to Wisconsin, you make due with what you have and make the most of it. You can find creativity in the most mundane places sometimes- like Stuart’s fantastic e-book points out…
    Hope you had a fabulous birthday and a Merry Christmas, and a most blessed New Year! 😉

  13. We can never get enough reminders to look out over the edge of the unknown and take the next step despite the uncertainty and despite the odds. Thanks for the reminder (again).

  14. I love this blog post and I absolutely love this: “You have one brief, beautiful, unique life to live, and only a limited handful of matches with which to set your world ablaze. Don’t you dare waste them.” I have followed your blog on and off for quite some time and I love your work. Thank you for all the inspiration!!

  15. David:
    Thanks for the wallpaper. It is my favorite Christmas gift this year…though, I think I now am going to NEED a signed print… 🙂

    Thanks also for your inspiration, through your blog, your books, and the life that you make visible to all of us…and for the C&V Community.
    I have never been one to make New Years resolutions, but your words and images have instilled a certain resolve that I have never before felt. Thanks for that, also.
    I hope you have an incredible year, month, day, moment…not necessarily in that order.
    In reference to Chris’s comment, I for one would like to see what would happen if everyone pursued their dreams. I think the world would ‘keep running’ but I feel that it would most certainly run in a different, possibly better direction.
    Happy New Year to all!!!!

  16. David – a true measure of a person is not the talent they have developed, nor the amount of material success they have a achieved, because that varies with everyone.

    It is the company they keep and the audience they hold. And I am certain I can speak for everyone hear (I recuse myself for the sake of “fairness”!), the quality and character of this blog and community has no peer.

    Have a great year..:)

  17. David, a timely article for me. I resolved a few years ago to travel more and hopefully learn a little about both others and myself. However last year I didn’t really travel at all and somehow fell back into the ‘life’s too busy’ routine.

    Then you went to Antarctica. I was down in the Falklands in 2010 and at the time mentally noted that I was really close to Antarctica and must go there one day. Of course, it hasn’t happened.

    But after your musings and photographs I’ve re-resolved to travel again, starting with Antarctica. Deposit’s paid and even though it’s still questionable as to whether I can get all the money together to go, even with lots of belt tightening, your point about doing things ‘now’ hit home. It’s really the only time we know we have left!

    Enjoy 2012!

  18. Looking forward to hearing about the Africa adventure…feedback on Zanzibar would be great as we’re heading out that way to shoot in March-ish next year. I hope that 2012 brings safe and exciting adventures after what you’ve been through in 2011 I reckon you deserve a little bit of smooth sailing. Looking forward to the imgages. Happy New Year!

  19. Author

    Thank you, Deborah, for both your presence here (and in other places in my world, like the C&V Community) and for the kind words you left both here and on Amazon. Grateful. Have a beautiful 2012.

  20. PS – I just checked – my review of ‘Photographically Speaking’ on Amazon is there. 🙂 My first ever Amazon review – a resolve that worked!

  21. I have a pretty old book ‘Arnold Bennet’s “How to Live on 24 hours a Day”that, while quaint in its writing, has a clear simple message that works well with this ‘sermon’. Bennet’s view is that we will never have more time than we have today, this minute. We have a constant supply of time and we cannot waste it in advance – no borrowing or repaying – just a steady flow of time for us to use as we wish each day.

    So my resolves (yes more than one! – always, although this year I have taken ‘achieve perfection’ off the list!) are to actively choose how to live those 24 hours I am given each day and to use my matches to light some candles in my world, and maybe one of those candles will light a path for me or for someone else.

    David, your matches have created many candles, possibly a torch or two, even a neon light occasionally! May you continue to lighten the darkness.

  22. Personally, I love the sermons. For me they come in second only to the inspiring photos you share on this site.
    And now I’m off to go light a match and shoot!
    Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  23. This is very interesting and wonderful blog. I am so sorry, but I do not know English very well, so I write comments very simply 😉

  24. Hey David in regards to Comment 23… I’ll send you an e-book in September. 🙂 That will be the destination for this one journey

  25. David, Thanks do much for everything you share, as always wonderful photographs and words that make me think. Have a Happy & Safe New Year.

  26. Before you head out on your upcoming trip to Africa I just wanted you to know how terrific your new book “Photographically Speaking” is. It speaks to me specifically on my personal journey in photography. Every time you referenced questions or reactions from your students you nailed mine own. I’ve been seeking such clear communication and connection. This great book will fuel my resolve in 2012.
    Enjoy Africa, travel safely but don’t be gone too long – you’ve got more great insights to share and books to write! Thanks again.

  27. I am vowing to write more reviews since I depend on them so much myself. I’ve started with an amazon review of your last book. Happy New Year from Vietnam.

  28. David, these words you wrote are so true:”You have one brief, beautiful, unique life to live, and only a limited handful of matches with which to set your world ablaze. Don’t you dare waste them.”
    I am so happy that for a while another fotography enthousiastic person showed me your existance. Following you from that moment gave me a lot of inspiration, ideas etc. THANKS…..
    For you, your family and all others as member of this ‘digital’ family I wish you the best newyear ever!
    Cheers from The Netherlands 🙂

  29. Sharing this post on Facebook. I agree David, RESOLVE is far more important than resolutions! And I truly love your ending, “You have one brief, beautiful, unique life to live, and only a limited handful of matches with which to set your world ablaze. Don’t you dare waste them.”

  30. Hi David,
    thanks for this great post 🙂
    I live in Frankfurt, if you stay over and have enough time before your next fly I would be glad to meet you for a chat and a coffee.

  31. Good One, David, thanks and all the best on your upcoming ventures. I look forward to your posts. Cheers from Germany, Harald

  32. I usually shun the resolution thing, but I like your attitude shift. I resolve…
    Have a wonderful time in Africa, I look forward to your photos. I was on the Masai Mara a few years ago and long to return. Happy New Year and Happy travels..

  33. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us again David. I totally agree with you regarding the lack of resolve in new years resolutions. Kind of ironic seeing as resolution stems from the word resolve.

    All the best in your journeys in Africa. God speed and Happy New Year!

  34. I am going to suggest that the true measure of your inspiration David comes from the actual number of folks who not only read and compliment you for these words and guidance, but, rather the number of us who follow the words to fruition… or the resolve…
    So, let me become part of the data collection…. I resolve to write and publish my first book. The book will highlight my own photo journey, beginning with my first images taken with a Kodak Hawkeye Brownie in 1964, up to and including recent images. The book will be a gift to my four boys and will be completed by September 2012. So now I need to get to work to insure the resolve is more than just a pipe dream… and the credit of course is the inspiration and encoragement received through your “sermons” and support of family and friends.

  35. I started following your blog after your injury and during your recovery. Initially I found you through the love of photography but have enjoyed the journal just as much! Thank you for a thoughtful fresh look at the yearly conundrum of the New years’s resolution! I think I have a few things to mull on this New Year 😉 and I wish you a Fabulously magical (any safe!) trip! I’m really looking forward to the photographic map of your journey 🙂

  36. In writing my plans for 2012 I’ve tried hard not to use resolution language. In a way the resolutions wrote themselves as I faced some big letdowns in September and October. And, the fact is that since I wrote my post about 2012, I’ve actually been living that plan for over six weeks.

    But, of course, those plans were painted with the ashes of failure.

    What I admire about your example (and others who have inspired me through the years), is the ability to find resolve and trust that the work will pay off (in whatever way matters to them).

    When I look back over my life I managed to find resolve again and again, but the trust thing – that’s much harder.

  37. I have just been introduced to you, David, and the timing seems perfect. Your New Year’s words encourage me to keep on growing, even in my 60’s. I, too, wish you well in your travels to Africa. I spend a portion of the year working in northern Tanzania and might even run into you one day there. Keep on inspiring, through words and photos, as you do.

  38. Inspirational words, and a great follow-up by Chris. You should consider making a pod-cast of that Vancouver conversation!
    All the best to you in 2012…

  39. I love the wallpaper but even more so the sermon! Thank you for sharing your words, photographs and even more so… your travels and thoughts. I wish you well in Africa and look forward to reading more.

  40. Author

    A very happy, belated birthday to you, Anne. May the coming year give you all you need and much of what you want as you craft your life. Lifting a happy birthday glass to you from 35,000 feet on an Air Canada flight! Cheers!

  41. Thank you for providing a verb David! I usually blow off the whole resolution thing but this year, on my birthday which is also December 24th, I felt some stirring. A kind of wanting to feel like my birthday, which coincides with a spiritual birth, really is a day of being new. New from the weariness of day-to-day energy suckers. New to explore the things I’ve never seen, understood or experienced. Without specific definitions, I was ready to say it was a passing fancy but you have given me a word, resolve, to find out what is stirring! Thank you David! I was with you on the bridge and I hope the New Year brings you continued recovery and joy!

  42. From one end of the spectrum with your travels and can’t wait to see the magic of ancient times! Until then, thank you for the fabulous wallpaper and you enjoy spitting into that wind!

  43. Author

    Chris – Thanks for the note, makes me wish we could have this conversation back in Vancouver over coffee.

    I think you raise an interesting point, on several levels. Without addressing all of them, I agree that our background makes us the unique people we are, and gives us all a unique package to offer the world. We all have influences, they just differ in detail. I had a family that, for my earliest years, did a lot of traveling. But growing up, once both my mother and father were out of the RAF and Canadian Armed Forces respectively, we no longer traveled. My parents had day jobs. You followed the pattern, I kicked against it. Similar influence different response, or it seems so anyways.

    I was a small kid, I was picked on a lot, and like many kids like that I used the strength of my words to defend myself. It became useful. And now looking back I’m grateful.

    But everyone has influences,and particular life-experiences, and it’s the resolve to make something of them that I think turns those things into either liabilities or assets. Even apparent asset – like growing up rich, which I did not (we lived in low-income housing for some lean years) can make adults that are spoiled and entitled, or adults who have extraordinary money management skills and go on to create amazing businesses. Or growing up poor – it can create adults with a so-called poverty mentality, or men and women with extreme perseverance and resolve to never again go back to that place.

    But fear? I think fear is part of the human condition. It’s probably considered a psycho-pathology to be without fear. The question is, what do we do with it. I fear I’ll repeat myself, that I’ll do assignments that result in lousy photographs, that I’ve written my last good words or made my last good photograph. My fears have driven me to tears and really long blog posts at times. But they’ve also pushed me to greater resolve. Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but an act of the will in the presence of it. Not ever easy.

    I was lucky (??) that I never seemed to fit into a mold, whether I like it or not, so life kind of prepared me for non-conformity. But try telling that to a 12-year old who just wants to fit in and not get beat-up at recess. 🙂

    Anyways, thanks, Chris. I plan to be back in Vancouver this fall, let’s get coffee.

  44. Sometimes, I wonder about the “pre-set” conditions that helped you become a success at living your dream. Obviously, there was hard work and hustle. No question. However, I think there could be other factors that contribute to being a success(living your dream).

    For instance, you have been journal-ing since you were 16? How many people journal at 16?.. especially boys. I think THAT is the reason for your great writing skills and expression. The old 10,000 hour rule. It seems in today’s market, a photographer must be a good writer. You were already ahead of the Photojournalist who lost his job to crowd-sourcing who now wants to write a photography e-book.

    Then there is your charisma. Hence the ability to be a comedian. That is probably something that you can’t teach. Hollywood has made billions exploiting charisma. Could it be your biggest asset? People are drawn to you.

    Also, your family background must be interesting. At least much different from mine. You have never really worked a 9-5 job in the rat race(or have you?). Which is what I saw my parents do. Now I do the same, sorta. I don’t know anybody personally that has ALWAYS been self employed. That is a unique position in which I am curious about the underlying reasons about how that was able to be.

    Fear. You don’t have it. At least, you don’t show it. Rather, you probably use it to motivate and challenge yourself. However, you could of used some fear in Italy about a year ago 😉 I wonder if our degree of fear is genetic or taught?

    Most of us came out of high school in a mold. Perhaps, even imprinted with certain thinking habits. You don’t fit into the mold that most people came out of. Were you ever even IN a mold?

    Truth is, if we all were successful at living our own dreams, there would probably not be any people left to keep this world running. 😉

    Once again, your post is honest, inspirational, motivational, entertaining, and reeking of fiery passion(Yes, I used the word PASSION even though it is an over used word.) It’s always a joy to read your words and give my eyes a taste of your candy.

  45. Forward is the only direction to move. No resolutions here just plans on a list to check off as they are accomplished. My wife put Photographically Speaking under the tree for me this year. She said ” I know you did not ask for it but I know you love his work”. How right she is. Thank you for the inspiration as always. I look forward to watching your adventures unfold and I’l be making a few of my own. – J.R.

  46. David,

    I don’t know if you remember Travel Photographers Network, but I do believe we used to moderate together there. If you are ever in the Nebraska Plains, or need a reason to come out to our area, I can promise a great trip up to our cabin on Lewis and Clark Lake. Just touching base and glad to see you are doing so well. Take care and safe travels. Dave

  47. Such a beautiful post and what a wonderful gift to someone ready to hear the message. May 2012 bring you even more adventures than 2011 – without the broken bones this time! Loving my new wallpaper, thank you 🙂

  48. I made a resolution at 62 years of age to start working out at a gym and now at age 69 I still go three times a week! Rec’d Photographically Speaking for Christmas and this year my wish is to read and get out and shoot a couple of times a week. Around Vancouver I should have good opportunities. Looking at the Lions with snow right now – miss them??
    Safe travels David and enjoy – look forward to any updates you can send.

  49. Great resolve David!
    That last sentence blows my mind! That is IT!
    I’m posting that on my facebook page to show the world…{Author credit given of course}
    Wishing you a proserous and successful 2012. Filled with Resolve.

  50. Great Wallpaper shot! Good sermon, though you may, unfortunately, be spitting in the wind. 🙂

    Bon Voyage! Stay Safe! Look forward to reports on your trips when you can provide them.

    Catch you on the flip flop.

    Happy New Year!

  51. David,

    Best wishes to you in your travels and I hope there are no tall walls to fall from…

    You have been and continue to be an inspiration to me and my photographic efforts.


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