Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Like riding a bicycle

You know the old saying "It's like riding a bicycle: you never forget." Well, this past weekend for me was like getting back on a bicycle after being off of one for years.

I have shared in many previous posts about my passion for photography, and how I love to be in nature. To me, the two are symbiotic: I go out into nature to be inspired to create images, while at the same time I desire to create images as a means to be out in nature. 

This past weekend I loaded up my Outback and took Colin, my 16-year old son, on a trip to Death Valley. The purpose of the trip was to do some stargazing. But I took the opportunity to take my camera along, just in case I had some time to do some photographs. And the trip rewarded me in three very distinct ways.

First of all, I did take some time to do some photography. In the morning of our first full day, Colin was not quite awake, and it was daybreak, so I headed into the park, stopping at a location that gave me a tremendous view of some hills that soon would be touched with sunlight. I set up the camera and as I did, I felt something. There is, for me, a certain oneness of being out in nature. I don't have these feelings often, and when I do, they are confined to those times when I am free, and out in the open, and setting up the camera or just standing there. But while I'm out there, I feel as if the surroundings speak to me, and try to tell me things. Sometimes I feel like they're voices to help my creativity. Sometimes they're voices that tell me to listen to and trust myself. And often, I feel that they are the voice of God, speaking to me in the stillness of that time and place. And I listen, and I allow the voices to guide me to see and understand. I have, in my photographic travels, been in places of intense quiet, and have felt a presence, which I only can attribute to God. 

The second reward was the realization that even after years of absence from photography, the eye is being fine-tuned to seeing things again. Sure, we all "see" things, but do we really SEE them? One of my favorite things to do is leave the camera on its tripod and walk around, hands behind my back, looking down. I look for various things: colors contrasts between objects on the ground; graphic shapes and forms; juxtaposition of colors and textures; variations of tone and shade. All of these things can be seen by just looking, and as I walked around, I felt myself seeing things, and in seeing them, I did capture some good images. But it was that acknowledgement that I was SEEING again which gave me an intense feeling of joy. I felt I was "back". The old John. The creative John. He had not gone away. 

The final reward came in seeing Colin's reaction to Death Valley. I have to admit that as we were leaving that morning for the drive to Death Valley, I was concerned about whether he'd enjoy himself or not, or if he'd be bored. But neither of those things happened. Colin has an interest in both geology and astronomy, so seeing these vast expanses of desert, with the fascinating rock strata, volcanic cones and lava flows, and rocks strewn all over the side of the highway, were exciting for him. And as a travel companion, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed his company, because just like I was with my dad, Colin was with me. He didn't speak much (my dad only spoke when he saw something to talk about), and when we'd stop, Colin would get out of the car and explore a bit. I know a return trip is in order, but for me, it was the passing on from one generation to the next of this love of seeing and observing. 

I am glad that, because of life changes, I am returning to my passions. But I'm even more pleased that my kids wish to be a part of this as well.