I am perpetually stuck behind the camera. It’s a choice I’ve made because my love for photography has grown tremendously since I hit the road over a year ago. My camera is always within arm’s reach – whether I’m in the truck, RV, hiking, biking, or just hanging out. My fingers are ready and eyes search nonstop.
Being on the move, from state to state, coast to desert, snow to bloom, I’m constantly inundated with the need to click away. There are too many moments I need to capture. It’s me trying to reflect the world I see and recreate a splendor that’s hiding.
But it turns out there’s a downside to my love affair with photography. I learned this on a hike at Coyote Buttes South. I was so excited to photograph this area and had watched the weather report to plan the perfect day to go. A permit is required and we had to drive 45 minutes one-way to attain it. It was bright and blue the day we drove into Kenab, Utah to get our permit, which was also the forecast for the next day. But the next day didn’t turn out to be as bright and blue as expected. Instead the clouds were dense and the sky was gun metal grey. My heart sank as we hiked in, holding our permit, knowing this was the only day we would hike Coyote Buttes South on this trip. The photos I’d envisioned weren’t going to happen.
I was exploring this incredible area… yet I was sulking – all because I wouldn’t get the photos I wanted.
I was sour during our hike, mad at the weather, and all around negative. Then I realized I was ruining my actual experience of the moment. I was exploring this incredible area filled with rock features that are strange and out of this world, yet I was sulking because I wouldn’t get the photos I wanted.
I was standing in front of the rocks, running my hands along their jagged edges, touching features that look like waves frozen in mid break, tip toeing around rocks that resembled fragile sleeping dragons, and then it hit me: I was defining the success of my trips only by the photos I got instead of the experience. I had it wrong. So wrong.
… I was defining the success of my trips only by the photos I got instead of the experience. I had it wrong. So wrong.
I took some time to talk sense into myself, to smooth out the wrinkles in my views that were obscuring the truth. What I’ve realized since that day is that when I look at my photographs I don’t just see the colors, shapes, lighting and shades. Instead, I remember the ache in my legs while getting there. I taste the sweat as I licked my lips. I hear my jagged breaths as I move forward and upwards. And I feel the calmness as I stood there taking in the view. It turns out photography isn’t just about capturing the beauty and strangeness. It’s about collecting everything in that moment with my camera and releasing all the senses later. There’s more to a photograph than just what I see.
It turns out photography isn’t just about capturing the beauty and strangeness. It’s about collecting everything in that moment with my camera and releasing all the senses later.
My trip at Coyote Buttes South has taught me to let go and relax when conditions aren’t ideal; after all, life isn’t always picture perfect. Those same conditions are good for other things – like focusing on exploring an area, scouting for future photography trips, and connecting with the people I’m with. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the success of my experiences is not based on how well my photographs turned out. Those are the experiences that will simply remain in my mind. Those experiences are just for me.