It’s always amazing to me how sometimes your initial assessment of a situation can in reality be the polar opposite.
It didn’t take long after returning home from Southern Alaska before I realized that my relief at “disconnecting” from the world for a week was a total misconception. In reality it wasn’t a disconnect that I was enjoying so much as it was a total reconnect.
Planning my trip to Alaska this summer was super exciting and also more than a bit nerve-wracking. I’ve never been completely off the grid before with absolutely no potential for connection with the outside world. No cell phone, no internet, no TV, no radio. Nothing. And I’ve never been to an area that remote while sleeping in a little tent with just the absolute necessities rather than every day luxury items you quickly grow accustomed to.
Sure I’ve traveled to some out of the way locations, but even so, I have still managed a connection to friends, family and clients if needed given a little effort. This time, in this location, that simply wasn’t going to be an option.
In hindsight, I see now that I’ve never taken an actual vacation from work before, which is completely ridiculous. Regardless of my location; if I’m in Asia or Africa or in a remote mountain cabin somewhere, I’m still diligent about responding to emails or voicemail, getting back to clients, and scheduling appointments for when I return. It never donned on me how even these little arbitrary interruptions sprinkled throughout the day prevented me from being completely present to whatever experience I was having. There was always a little part of me still at work, or still at home or still somewhere that wasn’t where I physically stood.
After spending a week in a tiny remote area of Katmai National Park (the most remote national park in the US) photographing brown bears returning back home to a my “real life” in a condensed island town, with what now seemed to be constant noise, electronic interruptions and mundane tasks was a less than amazing transition. I had a heck of a time figuring out why this time acclimating to life back home was so much more gut wrenching than most.
Finally after stumbling across a fellow travelers narrative of their time in the wilderness it all clicked for me. This little getaway was so much more meaningful for me because I was forced to be completely present every minute of every day. Present to myself and my physical well-being and needs, the weather pattern around me, the animals and their patterns and schedules, and getting to know other like-minded people.
How rare it is these days to be able to be that completely present in “real life” with all the phones going off, emails coming in, traffic, deadlines, expectations, and the list goes on.
I was reminded why I began my pursuit of photography so many years ago. Loud and clear. It was because of my passion for the environment and all that entailed. To be able to capture it in the purest sense, and preserve the beauty I find in it – in all those remote nooks and crannies that others may initially overlook. The seemingly hidden macro elements of leaves, flowers, textures and of course all the amazingness that can be found in wildlife if people just have the patience to wait for it to unfold.
I’ve naturally expanded the scope of my work to include elements of commercial photography and branched out to offer portrait photography as well. I believe this offers a way of helping people to preserve those special moments in their life as keepsakes and also allows me an opportunity to connect with more people along the way to share my adventures and my love of the outdoors and all that it entails.
“Getting away from it all” clearly wasn’t what happened at all. I returned home with so much more focus and feeling like I’d found my center again. Given a chance to simply remove all the superfluous distractions just showed me the path I’d intended to follow all along. And luckily had the extra bonus of providing heaps of brown bear along the way to study and photograph and absolutely fall in love with even more than before.
I think that the general body of work I was able to capture in Katmai is the best series of work I’ve ever compiled. And it was because I was able to give it my complete attention and focus. I could be completely present. I went into this trip with a shot list I’d gone over in my head a million times, and I was able to keep focused on those goals, and check off mentally where I was, and what I’d still like to achieve before heading home. There was no pressure, no stress “what if I don’t get this, what if I don’t get that, what if ….” That is so easy to fall into when you’re having to rush through a project or be pulled in different directions.
Being there could be summed up as serene. It was easy to focus. It was easy to be grateful – every day. It was easy to appreciate all the little nuances unfolding around you with the bears, the cubs, the salmon, the chain of life. It’s something I hold dear, and hope to carry close to my heart and remind myself to apply now that I am back in the “real world” in the hopes my business will continue to grow and evolve and develop in the directions that I guide it.
And in the hopes that my images will continue to capture the emotion of the moments in which they’re shot and bring people happiness in viewing them and watching the story that unfolded in front of the lens.