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Dustin Main on Being Present, Storytelling, and the Power of Vulnerability – Cracking Creativity Episode 41

Dustin Main is one of the photographers behind Lightmoves Creative and the creator of Date an Adventurer. He is also an entrepreneur, adventure photographer, and documentary film maker. In this episode, Dustin talks about being present, using storytelling in his photography, and the power of vulnerability and being open.

Here are three things you can learn from Dustin:

Be Present

Every decision we make can alter the course of our lives. We just need to be aware of them.

Some days we will follow the same old path. We fall into the routine of daily life, and don’t recognize what’s going on around us.

Dustin gives the example of our daily commutes. It’s easy to drive down the same street and not see the people who walk down it. If we just stop for a moment, we can “realize how awesome things are.”

If Dustin wasn’t open to letting life show him the way, he would never have seen a camel race. Being open to the present moment opens opportunities around you. The first step is being aware that they are there.

Use the Power of Storytelling

One of the defining characteristics of a great artist is their ability to tell a story. It’s what sets us apart. Anyone can take a photo and call it art. Great photographers use their art to tell a story.

Dustin believes TV and podcasts are a great example of this idea in action. What sets apart a good TV show from a bad TV show and a good podcast from a bad podcast is the ability to tell a good story.

Stories are one of the defining elements of humanity. Our ancestors used stories to pass down lessons to the next generation. The only way to make these lessons stick was to tell an engaging story.

Dustin uses stories to connect with people through his photography. He feels it makes the “image come alive.” He uses it to relate to his audience so they can understand what it felt like to be there in the moment.

People are Attracted to Vulnerability and Openness

We are all afraid. We are afraid of what people think of us. We are afraid that people won’t understand us. We are afraid that we don’t have everything figured out.

It is those vulnerabilities and fears that make us human. Everyone feels them. Most people just hide them away.

Putting yourself out there is scary. Dustin felt this first hand when he created Date an Adventurer. He didn’t know what people would think, how they would react.

The results, however, were unimaginable. Within a week of creating a dating profile website for himself, his site had over 600 Facebook shares, 10,000 page hits, and more than 100 emails from women who were interested in him.

By putting himself out there, Dustin received overwhelming positive results. His openness and honesty attracted the type of people he wanted to meet and talk to. If there’s a big lesson to learn it’s “when you put yourself out there, people rally around you.”


  • traveler, photographer, storyteller
  •  why he choose to work in IT and why he decided to travel
    • math/science came easy
    • was preparing ten years for university
      • within first couple of days, he realized it wasn’t for him
      • worked management for electronics company for a few years
      • had an interest in photography and IT
      • chose IT because he didn’t want to lose love for photography
      • thought he had a much better chance to make money
      • started his first company
    • travel
      • when he was younger he went camping in the summer
      • as he got older, he did more hiking trips
      • was working hard for his company for a few years (12-14 hours a day without many days off)
        • didn’t have a vacation in a while
        • went hiking in Canadian Rockies on one of the best trails
        • came back thinking “I’ve still got this” and he wanted to do more of it
        • called dad and said they should climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
          • went a year later to hike peaks in Africa
          • trip changed his outlook on life
        • walking down dirt road with dad in 20 degree C and everyone else is freezing
          • thought “There’s no reason I couldn’t be doing this by myself”
          • a year later that’s what he did

“I knew a lot about the world from books. I knew a lot about the world from magazines. I knew a lot about the world from all sorts of ways, but it’s another thing to see the world with your own eyes. To touch the dirt and to smell the air in a different place and that trip changed all of that for me.”

  • getting back in touch with the natural world during that trip
    • likes challenges, and used this as a challenge
    • much of his work takes place behind screens
      • these things feed him financially, but not at his core
  • knowing when it was time to take the journey and the difference between those who choose to make that leap and those who don’t
    • Africa experience was a reminder of what was important
    • he had financial rewards, but the other part of him wasn’t being served
    • not knowing how much time we have on the planet and only being this physically fit once
    • waiting until you have the right conditions
      • cheating ourselves by waiting
      • time being the most valuable asset
      • even if he lost all of his things, you could still regain them

“If you’re putting something off, you’re not going to get that time back. So, if you’re feeling that pull, you have to take that.  You take that and go with it, and it doesn’t have to be perfect and doesn’t have to be the best possible scenario.”

  • how he spends his time
    • how he spends his summer
      • Canada/North America
      • World Domination Summit
      • visit family and do work with his IT company
      • 2-5 months in Myanmar working on documentary project
      • goes to the part of the world that pulls you
    • how he spends the rest of the year
      • flies by the seat of his pants
      • being open to adventure (especially in Burma)
      • goes out to watch the sun rise and see what happens
      • roll with whatever comes, it’s an eye opening way to do things
      • needs a day to sit by himself to recover
      • does work in Thailand a few months a year
  • how often he works
    • oversees IT company in Canada
    • automates his own tasks through software, assistant, delegation
      • has a great staff who takes care of the company
      • deals with contracts, taxes, etc.
    • photography/writing
      • can do it from anywhere in the world
      • only needs internet and power
    • good time to be location independent
      • technology has evolved in six years since he started
      • easy to get lost in all the things internet has to offer
  • travel without making passive income and places he stays
    • when most people think of travel they think of resorts and hotels
    • hotels are giant buildings where all the rooms are the same and bland
      • they aren’t welcoming
      • they are a place to sleep
      • he avoids them
    • stays at smaller guest houses
      • people know your name and you can have conversations with them about where to eat/where to go
      • bed and breakfast and Airbnb‘s as well
    • Couchsurfing – online network of travelers
      • meeting other travelers
      • making a cultural exchange

“If you’re thinking about traveling, the first thing will be, you don’t have to stay at a hotel, there’s all sorts of other options that are really great and really amazing”

“If you can’t travel, but you’re interested in that stuff, then hosting a traveler can be a great way to feed that travel bug inside of you until you can do some traveling yourself.”

  • camel race at desert in Jordan
    • prince of UAB was going to come to watch the race which was put on for him
    • camels are equipped with radios and whips because they are too dangerous to ride
      • radios used to yell at cameras, and control used to whip them
    • once prince comes, camels start going and trucks ride along them
      • trucks are there to communicate with camels
    • race lasts about seven minutes and the prince leaves
    • be open to opportunities around you
    • be in the present moment and recognize what’s going all
  • advice for travelers
    • don’t worry about bringing everything with you
    • you can get supplies wherever you go
    • all you need is a passport, visa, and credit card
    • don’t take too much stuff

“There’s no need to sweat the small stuff.”

“It’s not as hard as you think.”

  • place that he liked more than he thought he would
    • wanting to go to Burma/Myanmar
    • noticing the massive difference between two countries across a border
    • began his obsession with Burma
    • went in thinking it would be like other countries but he realized how different it was
    • don’t go in with too many expectations
    • open yourself to something new

“We have so much amazing stuff around us… If you’re driving to work every day, it’s easy to  not even see those  buildings that you pass and those signs on the street, and the people who walk down them because you drive down that thing every day. If we stop for just a moment and realize how awesome things are, it can be a good thing to set us on the right track.”

  • getting into photography and capturing stories through it
    • started with the invention of digital photography
    • liked to play around with settings
    • was able to use it as creative outlet
    • found joy in patterns, but did not have interest in drawing/painting
    • photography has a mathematical element, a technical part
    • started with travel photography, turned into documentary filmmaking
    • has recently gotten into creating photos
      • dreamy, abstract patterns
    • having context with image and the sum is greater than the parts
    • Dustin likes to capture the feel of a place
    • TV and podcasts differentiate themselves with story
    • people wants something that engages them
    • the power of story through generations and bringing it into new mediums

“I was able to capture the world in a way that appealed to me, that was my way of looking at this world.”

“When it comes to storytelling, that’s what people connect with. People like pretty photos…. but when there’s a story that’s there, even if the photo itself doesn’t tell the whole thing… but paired up with a little bit of information… it really makes that image come alive.”

“I want to create a story with a series of images that people can relate to. They might not have been there with me, but they can understand what that felt like.”

  • learning photography
    • almost entirely self-taught
    • great number of resources available for photography: books, videos, etc.
    • once you have basics down and you understand the rules it becomes easier
    • go out and shoot, especially with other photographers
      • see how other photographers view the world
      • see the world in an entirely different way
    • interpretations of the same thing can be completely different even if we see the same thing
    • taking a different approach on well known landmarks
      • when you take the same picture as everyone else, that’s not your memory
      • when you have your own take on the landmark, it’s more deeply etched into your memory

“My pictures are in some way my memory. When I look back at images from a couple of years ago, and I look back at my notes… I’m transported back to that time and place. “

  • Lightmoves Creative
    • Lightmoves is creative photography collective
    • team up with other photographers and look at photography in a new way
    • photography as a commodity (Facebook/Instagram)
    • give each photo some time and see what impact it makes
    • on Facebook/Instagram, we just scroll through pictures and like them
    • three different photographers with different styles
    • want to show people that photography is more than a pretty blue sky, there’s more to it
    • create workshops around the world and work with companies that want different images
    • Laurence and Daniel
  • documentary on Burma
    • second trip there, he saw that every day was an adventure
    • started traveling there right before they moved towards democracy
    • was under a military dictatorship for decades and now they have access to Western economies
      • getting Coca-Cola for the first time
      • like traveling back in time
    • documented stories of the country and how the changes affected their lives

“Maybe I can do more than just go on adventures. Maybe there can be a… bigger overarching project around all the time that I’m spending there.”

  • Date an Adventurer
    • intro to Dustin came via recommendation from Josh Barad
    • as entrepreneur, it is difficult to date
      • work longer hours and businesses as your baby
    • travel makes it even more difficult
      • connecting on deeper level
      • going separate ways
      • connections have expiration date
      • when you move around, it’s hard to lay down roots
      • traveling 8-9 months is a foreign thing to people
      • online dating wasn’t going to work
    • made an online dating site all about himself to see what results he would get
      • has an amazing group of friends, but there wasn’t a connection there
      • thought his friends might have awesome friends too
      • layover on trip to Portland with stuff about himself (pie charts/pictures)
    • putting yourself out there is scary and this was pushing the edge
    • was being honest with what he was about
    • shared with private Facebook feed, and that afternoon already saw some results
    • later on in day, his email inbox was filled, site had 3,000 hits
    • felt self-conscious about it but also excited because it provided an opportunity to meet great people
    • within a week it had 600 Facebook shares, 10,000 hits, and more than 100 emails
    • felt honored that people responded so well to the results
    • met some people, Skyped some, and emailed some
    • if you want to put your first painting in a gallery, people will rally around you
      • people aren’t there to bring you down
    • found zero negativity from the project
      • got lots of amazing feedback
    • being vulnerable and open gets people on your side
    • What can you do differently to gain attention?
    • people who were seeing it were already self-selected

” If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that, when you put yourself out there, people rally around you.”

“You need to be more you.”

“You’re not everything to everyone and you don’t need to be. You’ll find those people that connect with you in a way that works for you, the way that is you.”

  • everything is meant for a certain audience
    • his photography is not for everyone
    • if it wasn’t in his style, it wouldn’t be him

“Don’t worry about how many likes you get… when you’re doing your creative work, you gotta do it for you.”

  • morning routine
    • depends on where he is and what he’s doing
    • in Canada, he doesn’t have phone/clock in the room
    • wakes up, shower, breakfast
    • then gets to the task list
      • doesn’t have to worry about what to do next
  • books, tools, resources
  • creative people
    • gets inspiration from independent film and documentaries
    • Christopher Nolan’s first film – Following
      • doing so much with few resources
      • made with $6,000
    • documentary: Collapse by Chris Smith
      • starts off being film about things falling apart
      • ways that he  tells the story is amazing
  • definition of creativity

“Creativity is making something new or thinking of something in a new way, and making it your own.”

  • how you can be more creative
    • when you’re a kid you want to know how stuff works

“Just be more like a kid… you look at things in a totally different way.”

“What would this be like if I was a kid?… That’s a good way to look at the world in general.”  |  |  |

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