The elderly man shuffles slowly down a deserted street, fatigue weighing heavily on his shoulders. The broom he pushes falls without ceremony to the ground as he grabs to his hat. Gusting wind sends old paper wrappers and an empty can clanking down the empty street before it. Cigarette butts litter the sidewalk, mixed with confetti and slowly dying balloons. The dampness from a recent rain brings up the musty smell of wet cardboard into the air, rising from the nearby alleyway clogged with old boxes and burdened with evidence of population overload.
Two days ago it was impossible to walk this same path without being jostled about by the crowd. Not today. The holiday is passed and the parade is over. What was festive is now dull and lifeless with little to celebrate but the triumph of one more block to clean and the knowledge that another days work will be offered. The gentleman picks up his broom from where it fell, adjusts his hat and starts the repetitive motion of pushing filth once again.
Sometimes work is just that. Work. According to the Deloitte Shift Report in 2013, a whopping 89% of the workforce is not passionate about their jobs. 11% responded that they felt passionate about what they did for a living. Only 11%. Ouch.
I tried to be passionate a few times, but work got in the way. Too many people whose passion is themselves and they pay for it at the expense of others. I still hold onto promise and search regularly for the passion to make tomorrow’s work a focus of desire and not just a necessity. I need the hope. One day I hope not to need the job.
In the interim, I take pictures and reflect on the moments they capture. I use the memories of frozen pixels as a handhold to lift me from the struggles of today into the hopefulness of tomorrow. I see the storms of life and know they too shall pass, usually with a powerful sunset and the refreshing calmness that following a summer thunderstorm. I stare into the calm waters and see the reflection of clouds moving to their next adventure. I wait patiently for my next adventure as well.
The street sweeper continues to push his broom, knowing the next parade will someday come and go with celebration and fanfare. I will continue to find the reflections of optimism in the pictures I take and we will both wake tomorrow with a renewed sense of purpose.
Feeling extra ambitious the other day, I set out on an 8 mile hike to see a waterfall. I was anxious to make a trip like this before the leaves were done changing colors, and hoped to get some great autumn vibrancy captured for this year. The decision was firmed up when the temperatures dropped into a pleasant range and weather cooperated to make the trip enjoyable.
Forty miles of comfortable travel on paved roads brought me to the point of entry for my journey. Fifteen more miles of dirt road traveled slowly with muddy ruts and jarring potholes guided me to a flat spot to park the truck and started the hiking part of my adventure. The first of many choice confronted me. A number of routes were available and the wilderness trail I chose was one of the easier ones, but it connected with multiple others that could lead me astray if I didn’t stay alert.
Ahead of me, the trail started out flat; covered with a blanket of colored leaves that recently took flight from their perches and glided gently to the forest floor. A recent rain dampened the path and the familiar crunch of leaves underfoot was missing from my expected nature soundtrack. There was quiet in fact. Lots of quiet. Too far from the river to hear it even murmur, I was wrapped in the silence that descends from large trees when there is no wind to stir them on a crisp fall morning.
I walked on. The passage of time was lost to me and the weight of worldly stress lifted as the sound of the river grew louder; beating a hasty path over the rocks and trees that attempted to impede its enthusiasm. I let it lead me along until I reached the falls and watched the water yell as it jumped into the waiting pool below with a crash. Camera in hand, I wandered beside as an observer to the wet playground and took portraits of the trees and falling water; cascading poses that dancing sunlight used to build rainbows across my lens. A busy setting of active peace that surrounded me with multiple sensations.
And then it was time to leave. I made certain to find the correct trail and start back, occasionally checking my map just to be sure. I walked and listened; the soft leaves slowly beginning to dry and add character to my step. Walking around a corner, I was suddenly startled by another adventurer briskly heading by. He looked up, just as befuddled to run into someone on this otherwise lonesome trail.
We mumbled pleasantries and then he asked me in an offhand way; “how much further do I have to go?” To which I replied, “That depends on where you are going.” He laughed as he realized how vague he had been and how correct I was. More specifics were conveyed, information passed and we parted company; each going in our own direction.
As I continued on I contemplated the question that my fellow traveler asked and how it really was applicable to more than just this tree covered byway. How often do I start off on a new project before I very clearly identify the end goal? Do I take the time to make certain I’m headed in the right direction before I pick up my pace? Am I willing to stop and ask directions when I need them and when I do; am I careful to make sure the questions I ask are clear enough to get a proper response? Do I know what I want to accomplish next in this life so I can correctly figure out how much further I have to go on this leg of my travels?
I made it safely back to my truck before the sun went down and slowly started the rough ride back to reality. I left this journey with both colorful pictures and some added wisdom to take with me into my next tomorrow.
♦Photo Tip♦ I love to get the glowing, smooth picture of water as it runs over falls or down a rocky creek bed. To do this during the day requires two very important things. A tripod and a neutral density (ND) filter. The best way to get the look of blended water smoothly falling over the rocks is to use a shutter speed slower than 1/30th of a second. This is too slow to hold in your hand and keep the picture sharp. It also will cause the photo to be overexposed in daylight at most settings. The tripod gives you the steady base you need and the ND filter keeps the light down while the lens is open. The pair lets you take pictures like the one above.
I love the ocean and I love the beach, but there are times when I actually avoid both, even on those beautiful sunny afternoons. The sand is warm and the water is inviting, but the crowds that pack them have the ability to quickly wick the enjoyment from the experience.
Those same crowds will disappear during the evening hours as night moves in. The the sun drops into a distance horizon, and a quiet calm blankets the beach as the moon slides into view. Stars slowly pop out of the dark sky and a kinder, gentler mood mingles nicely with the cooler salt air.
Now I can hear myself think.
Nobody is trying to talk over the sound of the crashing waves or boisterous crowds, vying for control of the soundspace around them.
Interesting how sometimes we tend to fight for that same desire to be heard throughout the day. I used to think that the louder I spoke, the more likely I was to be heard. It wasn’t long for me to figure out a different strategy. Like the beautiful quiet of the night time coast, I have found that by stepping back and speaking softly, many times the world around will get quieter as it strains to hear what I have to say.
Next time you feel nobody is listening stand tall, speak softly and see what happens.
♦Photo Tip♦ Don’t give up on pictures because the sun goes down. All it requires is patience and a steady resting point for the camera. I took the photo above on a North Carolina Beach late one night using a tripod and a long exposure. This will smooth out the water and as you can see; bring out the light of a full moon to mimic bright sunshine with darkness surrounding.
Glass is a rather unique substance. Some debate it as a solid or a very viscous liquid (although the myth that it flows over time seems to have been debunked). That debate can go on somewhere else with the science minded crowd. For me, glass provides the lens for my camera and can provide a new perspective for a picture perfect moment.
Originally, I was admiring this old building with unique blue bricks and an aged wooden structure. As I continued to contemplated what angle I wanted to shoot, my attention slowly changed from the building and windows to the wall of trees I was really seeing in the glass. The reflection became the subject and the picture it provided became the story I wanted to tell. Large, old trees that stood and watched this building go up, live it’s life, and then go dormant and abandoned; happened on by a traveling photo-philosopher. The trees continue to stand in audience of passing time as it weathers the building they shadow.
I realize in life; some days I will focus on a problem, a challenge or an issue too long and just can’t seem to figure out what needs to change to move forward. I know from experience it is those times that I must step back and reflect on what my goal really is, not the challenge, to determine how I can adjust my actions to better see my intended outcome. I use reflection to update my perspective and it helps me to get a clearer direction.
Don’t miss the reflections. Sometimes they are the source of the answers we seek.
♦Photo Tip♦ When you are wandering around with your camera…or your phone…to take pictures, don’t forget to pay attention to the shiny things that have a reflection; water, windows, polished metal, etc. Sometimes the most interesting pictures show up as a reflection on something else when by themselves they wouldn’t necessarily make a great photo–like the trees in the picture above.