Friday, October 21, 2016

Life without regret

Many years ago I took on the life philosophy of having no regrets. Up to that point I had been someone who played it too safe (I still play it safe), but I never took risks or opportunities if they presented themselves to me. This was a major step for me, and led me to both personal and professional growth. But never was it more exemplified than one late afternoon in October, 1994.

It was the last big photo trip that I was to take with my dad. Sure, we did other trips after that, but just short ones that only went to parts of California. This trip took us to Colorado, and then into Utah. We spent a full day in Moab, taking in both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. That afternoon, I decided I wanted to get some sunset photos of the famous Delicate Arch. Dad opted to stay in the room, so I did the drive to the trailhead parking lot, pulled out my big camera bag and hefty tripod, and set out on the trail. 

The trail was a mile-and-a-half long, and for a good half-mile climbed up a gentle slope of slickrock. Now, I had all my camera gear, and even though it was in a backpack, it weighed nearly 30 pounds. The tripod was heavy-duty, and added 10 pounds to the load easily. About half-way up this trail, realizing I didn't know how much further I had to go, I began to think about turning back. The sun was setting quickly (as it does in the fall), and I just felt that I would probably miss the sunset shot and be disappointed. I started to turn back.

But then I thought to myself "Hey! You have never been out here, and you really don't know if you'll ever be here again. Just go for it!". I listened to that voice, repositioned my gear on my back and placed the heavy tripod on my other shoulder, and continued on.

For those of you who have never been to the Delicate Arch, but have only seen photos of it, you should go there. The photos do not give you the correct idea of how large the Arch is. You think "oh, maybe it's 10 feet tall." But it is massive, and the natural bowl or amphitheater that you see in front of it is massive as well. 

So, here I was, coming around a corner, seeing this tall arch, and this bowl, not lit brilliantly by the setting sun, but bathed in a soft, pink glow from the clouds to the west. The light on the Arch and the other formations was surreal, and one of the most perfect serendipitous photographic situations I've ever encountered. I set up my camera, and shot a few photos of this wonderful sight, until the light was so dim that my film would not have been able to capture it anymore. 

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah, c1994 2016, John Prothero Photographer

As I hiked back to my car in the still darkness, (I did bring along a small flashlight), I realized how important my life philosophy of "no regrets" was to me. Had I listened to that whiny voice, and turned back, I would have regretted it, and have missed one of the most important images in my small library of work. 

And as I go through life, I can say I have NO regrets - well, maybe a few. But they are small regrets, not ones that were life choices regrets. And now, as I return to my passions, I will make choices without regretting anything.

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