Can You Succeed Outside Your Comfort Zone ?

Stepping outside your comfort zone can be a challenge.  What needs to happen to make progress there?  You can make a commitment outside the comfort zone, but will you shrug it off if the next step seems too challenging?  Hey Randy, did you take a meaningful step to learn enough about Photoshop to improve your Macro Photography? 

Do YOU let potential frustration keep you from working to succeed outside the comfort zone?  It can cause trouble.

In my last Blog I described the encounter I faced in the Peer Mentor Macro Theme Challenge.  I had taken several macro photos but the photo I submitted for the Peer Mentor Theme Challenge didn’t compare well to many of my fellow peer mentor’s photos.  I don’t like to admit it now, but I assumed the key criteria to a good macro photo was simply that the photo was a close-up.  The discussion at our meeting made it clear to me that a good macro photo also had to be super sharp.

My macro submission of the wasp on his nest was not very sharp.  Our peer mentor discussion taught me that with macro photography it is often critical that the photographer use focus stacking to make close-up photographs super sharp.  But I didn’t know how to use focus stacking. 

So, when the group critiqued my photo, several of my colleagues mentioned that if the photographer (that was me) had used photo stacking the photo could have been a lot better.  I realized that they were correct, but I thought that using Photoshop would be outside my comfort zone.  Time to take the risk and explore the challenge … maybe ?

My first reaction was that it would take way too much time to learn Photoshop (I hadn’t used it in 20 years).  But while I was writing the last FaA Blog and the Teton Photography Club Peer Mentor Photo Gallery I kept wondering how much time it would take to learn photo stacking.  I needed to take a risk outside my comfort zone … my colleagues had encouraged me to try even though they didn’t know it.

I must admit I wasn’t gung-ho to jump into this, so I went to to get some advice.  I discovered that my Nikon Z7 had the software to help me, and then I found out that I didn’t have a macro lens that fit my Z7 … bummer … and an excuse?  But since I had written about “Leaving My Comfort Zone” in my last Blog … the pressure was on.  I needed to dig-in and try to learn how to use a program that I thought would be frustrating.

The challenge was nowhere near as frustrating as I thought it would be.  I read a couple of PhotographyLife articles and went to YouTube to find a few videos to teach me how to use Photoshop to stack photos.  I was surprised that it seemed so easy (but I was guessing it was a lot more difficult that it seemed) so I got my camera, lens, and tripod ready and went into our yard to find a flower or two for stacking.

I found a way to attach a very old macro lens to my Nikon Z7 using my FTZ Adaptor (connecting a Z camera to an F-mount lens).  I couldn’t use the Z7 software with an old lens, but I was beginning to feel a challenge I might be able to handle.  I was motivated to handle this challenge outside my comfort zone.

So here are the photos I took to learn how to use Focus Stacking in Photoshop.  There are 5 photos where I changes the focus to gradually go from front to back of the flower.  To take a close look, click on the flower on the left and you should be able to gradually see how the focus changed BEFORE I did the focus stacking.

The difference between each of the 5 photos is fairly small but when you look at the image that has been stacked (below) it is quite sharp.


This flower image has been focus stacked in Photoshop.  I won’t say it is easy to do focus stacking in Photoshop because one of my “teaching foundations” is to avoid telling “students” that something is oh-so-easy.  When students are told something will be “easy” … and they have trouble succeeding … they are likely to refuse to get involved next time.

Soooo, Photoshop Stacking can be learned if you take the time to work with someone else who has patience.  I found Nick Page in YouTube to be very patient ‘cuz I could play his video over and over and write down the steps.  And this process helped me succeed, and feel comfortable to return to Photoshop Stacking



So, what have I learned about moving beyond my comfort zone?  Well, the most important lesson is that it is easy to SAY that you should move beyond your comfort zone, but not always so easy to learn when challenged.  At least that is too often the case for me.  I recognized that when I am confused and frustrated with a serious challenge I sometimes walk away.  And often I expect that a challenge will be more frustrating than it actually is … or maybe I have to recognize that there are resources available which can solve the challenge.

For me the “challenge” of learning focus stacking was that I was “afraid” (I hate to use that word as it sounds embarrassingly silly) that learning Photoshop would be a long frustrating problem.  Photoshop is very complicated but now with YouTube there are people out there who can help you learn it one step at a time.  I happened upon the YouTube “How to Focus Stack in Photoshop” by Nick Page and when I took it step-by-step it worked, which led me to use it on a second set of photos and now I feel comfortable using it.  The featured image at the top of this Blog has been focused stacked.  Hey, I’m ready to use it a lot.  It is almost fun to use 🙂

So what is keeping you from improving your photography.  The most powerful resource for me is my peer mentor program and the monthly theme challenge that we use each month.  The challenge gets me to step outside my comfort zone.  I don’t always actually take that step but I am learning to recognize that I’m not going to improve very much unless I DO step outside my comfort zone.  Now that my good friend Koty, our dog, is succeeding with 3 legs I feel that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks !  Koty jumped up on the bed this morning – OMG !  If he can do that I can learn how to take minimalism photos.

The Peer Mentor Monthly Theme Challenge for August is MINIMALISM !