Trails are a big part of my life. Come winter, my choices get limited to what lies below the snow line. As a result, I find myself exploring the forest.
Part of what I do as a photographer is combine my daily trail runs with location scouting and social media posts. But in the forest there are issues; it’s dark, dank, and messy. If I shoot, I focus on the subject. Much like what I do when I actually run in the forest. I don’t look around so much as I look inside. Nevertheless, I still find myself longing for what’s around the next turn, to get above the trees where the views are big and where I’ll be able to see and do more. But is this the case? More and more, it’s in the forest that I enjoy spending my time.
So much of what we see these days supports an idea of what the perfect place is. But how often are we there versus plodding along in the forest? On social media, we’re bombarded with the figure in the magical landscape, beneath the Milky Way with northern lights shining, and a Defender parked nearby. I’m as guilty of this as any photographer of the outdoor genre. We’ve done the same thing to the outdoor experience that we did to the fashion model – define what is ideal and then repeat the image until it is the very definition of that which we think we’re seeking.
But time in the forest, I’ve learned, is where all the real magic happens. The simple places, free of distraction, are where I get things done, in my head, for my training, or just getting to where I aim to go. We have to invest some time in the forest before we can get to where we see.
It’s a simple matter of being present, always, no matter where you are or what you are doing. As a friend used to say, “When you wash the dishes, just wash the dishes.”
There’s much to be learned from that time without distraction, and there’s much to be learned from the views unworthy of photographing. Maybe we need to take those views a little more seriously and apply what we learn from them to all the many distractions that come in the big picture. Often the big picture isn’t what we think it is at all, I know this from what I see going on. But what goes on in the forest is our reality and we need to understand how it makes us feel, and what we can accomplish there.
I’d love to hear some other’s thoughts – feel free to comment.