Family and friends know I have a dangerously poor sense of direction which defies even the most sophisticated GPS units. When warned to turn left in 20 yards, I proceed to cruise past the exit while belting out carefree notes to Chesney's "The Road and the Radio". These private concerts are usually short lived however, interrupted by the increasingly aggravated sound of the navigator prodding me to make the next possible U-turn. "Recalculating" impatiently scrolls across the illuminated blue screen as my new coordinates are processed. For a moment I'm off the computer grid, void of binary code, neither a 0 or a 1, but flesh and blood. It's in this contour that I shift further into the microfiber of my seat, twist the volume knob to the right, and hurdle towards whatever lay ahead.
I'll let you in on a little secret. I believe that only when lost can one find what they're truly searching for.
I never expected to be a professional photographer. I didn't take a single photography class in High School, and my guidance counselor likely archived my folder under "lost cause". Yet, at age 23, photography entered my life, and with it, the clarity needed to focus my creative energy in a positive fashion. Late nights once dedicated to partying were replaced by sunrise wilderness treks and afternoon study sessions at the local library. With camera in hand I began to see the world around me for the very first time.
When life becomes too predictable there leaves little room for happenstance. I have tide charts that forecast the wave size, apps that detail the precise location of the sun, and books with recommended places to photograph. These are all helpful tools that I utilize frequently. Yet, I'm starting to realize how the internal compass I once considered flawed, consistently leads me in the right direction.
Undoubtedly, nagging fear and doubt occasionally surface for seemingly no other reason than to test my determination. It's a daily requirement to tame these emotions before they snowball into impassible barriers. Action has always worked to eradicate this kind of negativity for me. It rarely matters where I go, or even if the outing results in a memorable photo. It's enough just to be on the trail.
Rarely has "X" marked the spot for the best place for a photograph. Some of my favorite images happened when I least expected it. The black bears on the side of the road, the double rainbow arching across the sky, the nesting Bald Eagle's; are all reminders of why I try to keep a DSLR with me at all times. To be clear, I'm not talking about a camera phone. There's no denying these have a place in photography, but when you need a fast shutter speed, wide aperture, and a high ISO at a fast burst rate with a 640mm lens, my phone falls well short of being useful.
My former book-hardened Literature professors would cringe at this oversimplification of Hamlet, but when William Shakespeare wrote "This above all, to thine own self be true." he was really saying "follow your gut". To take action on these powerful words, one can achieve extraordinary results. In 1998 I made a small photocopy of the more poetic version of this phrase and have kept it nearby ever since. Granted, Hamlet was a tragedy where nearly everyone dies, but that one sentence shines as a daily reminder to trust your instincts and follow your heart. Even in the darkest of places, light will shine on those who are willing to be found.