As a landscape photographer, my preferred locations are in the beautiful locations in nature. And living in the Pacific Northwest, this whole area is amazing beautiful. I am very fortunate to have so many beautiful landscape locations around me. What’s even more, just traveling around the state during normal life, I am treated to lush forests, rushing rivers, snow capped mountains….it really is a paradise. Whenever I have been out, I find a peace and serenity of being outdoors, and it is especially strong when I can slow down and get in tune with my surroundings.
We all know that life has it’s ups and downs…it’s just part of being human and having emotions and feelings and complex lives. Without the lows, there wouldn’t be any highs, life would be quite boring. Right now I happen to be in one of the down cycles, I’m at a very low point thanks to many different things going on. I’ve tried to find some solace and peace at home, doing things that typically bring me some happiness. None has really worked to snap me out of it.
I was recently driving from my home to a small town on the Oregon coast. In the days leading up to this drive, I had been walking around in a fog, a daze, not really “seeing” everything around me. As I took off on the drive, I did a little self talk to open my eyes and try to enjoy the drive. About an hour in to it, I noticed that I was appreciating the morning, seeing the land around me wake up to a glorious sunny day. Just the fact that I was noticing the beauty around me gave me optimism and positive reinforcement to keep seeing and sensing the world around me. A little further along, the road traverses the coastal range of mountains and it follows a small river as it meanders through the forest. I began noticing the fall colors and how beautiful they are. I had brought my camera along, not really thinking I’d feel the inspiration for photography, but as I travelled my mind started to look for photographic opportunities. On a couple of occasions I even tried to stop for a shot, but there was no place to park the truck and get the shot I saw without endangering myself or others.
As I continued traveling, I eventually stopped at a rest area nestled in the trees for a bio break. The stream flows behind this rest area and I wandered down to the water. Calmness was the vibe that I immediately picked up from the surroundings. I started to feel some inspiration! I went back to my truck and grabbed my camera. I went back to the river and found my initial composition. After that I moved on to the next one, then the next, then the next, working my way downstream. I only stepped in the water once, which was good enough to soak my shoes and socks! After about 40 minutes, I had exhausted the location and time pressures were weighing on me to resume the drive.
Getting back in the truck and driving the rest of the way, I realized I was happy. I was in a calming place, absorbed with creating pleasing images, focused on my natural surroundings, not concerned with my challenges in life, the cell phone, or anything else, other than being in that moment. My inner self was able to come forward and shine, able to be happy and unburdened, able to thrive in the act of creating art.
The rest of the day was a lot of tasks and work, yet the glow of that nature experience stayed with me and buoyed me up. I was aware and acknowledged the effect that that had on me and made a point to hold on to the feeling as long as I could. I finished my work before dinner and had a choice….head back and get home at a reasonable hour, or, stay and hang out for sunset and get home really late (with an early appointment planned for the next day). In the end, it was an easy choice for me and I stayed.
After a quick dinner, I made my way to a familiar location to photograph the sunset. The sounds of the ocean, the cry of gulls, the bright sun getting lower on the horizon, the crashing of the waves…..even without a camera in my hands, the setting was amazing and immediately started to creep in to my, to my soul, to heal some of the recent wounds. There was an offshore cloud bank that obscured the sun as it set, so the actual sunset was a bit anti-climatic. I shot what I could and was satisfied with my work. And, I took plenty of time not looking through the viewfinder and just being there, with the ocean and the seagulls and the starfish and the skies…soaking in the power of nature in that place. Towards the end, I wasn’t shooting at all, just enjoying being in that place, feeling a sense of peace and calm. Once it was dark I packed up my gear and climbing in to the truck for a long ride home.
I’ve often said to my friends that photography is a sort of meditation for me in that when I can connect with nature and forget about the burdensome things in life, it’s a focused experience similar to meditating. It can also be a humbling experience when you’re in an amazing place of grandeur, or a simply beautiful scene, and you realize that your petty problems are nothing in comparison to the majesty of nature. Being in these places is also conducive to getting in touch with my higher power. Not to get religious, or spiritual, but I find that nature brings a mix of humility, wonder, awe and amazement that helps me step outside myself and get in touch with powers greater than myself.
Nature, in whatever way you can experience, has an amazing power to heal us, to restore us to sanity, to enliven and brighten our minds and our souls. Practicing my craft of landscape photography is more than just taking pretty pictures, for me it is also a means to empowerment and rejuvenation…..thanks to nature and it’s amazing powers to heal and restore.