"capturing the beauty of nature through light and time"

"To Blog or not to Blog"

      I have read many times that the most important online platform that a photographer can use is a blog. More than once customers at art shows have asked about my blog assuming that I had one. My favorite part of showing my work is telling the stories behind the shots and sharing my experiences with others. I have even had an offer to sponsor my blog if I would just start one. So why in the past 7-8 years have I never blogged? Well the answer to this basically boils down to one thing... stage fright. It was in college that I realized just how real my fears of being publicly judged were, when I had to nervously shake my way through my public speaking class and on at least one occasion totally blanked out and could not remember my speech at all. Luckily for me I had no intentions of needing to be able to give public speeches in my career and quickly forgot about my unsatisfactory performance in front of a crowd. Until I bought my first tripod, that is. One of my biggest challenges in growing as a photographer was and is getting over that fear. The fear that no one will like your pictures, that your friends will laugh when you tell them what your doing, that you will never succeed. So for my first blog I want to share with you the story of my very first few days "out" as a landscape photographer and how scary it was for me. 

In the beginnning of my photography adventures, I had no real expectations of making money at it. For me It was really all about what made me happy, traveling the country some, and not giving up on a dream. So after purchasing my first DSLR kit complete with a bunch of junk (but that's for another blog), I made plans to spend my week long vacation that year alone in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park taking pictures. Right away my fears of what others would think about this plan came out. When most people asked where I was off to my answers would be vague or flat out lies. I would say that I was going to see friends in Asheville or that I wasn't going alone. In reality very few people knew exactly what my plans were for my 7 day trip to the mountains, but never the less I headed out as planned one autumn morning.

I had planned my trip in order to set up a camp and still have time to shoot the sunset and all was well as I drove up the scenic road to the "Newfound Gap Overlook."  I am not really sure what I was expecting upon arriving here but it was not what happened. As a I pulled up I saw a lot of people, not an insane crowd, but a crowd none the less. What I didn't see was any other photographers with tripods and there didn't appear to be any serious photographers taking pictures up here at all. That's when it started. I started asking myself, "am I in the right spot?, does this scene suck?" Immediately I was doubting my plan to wander up here alone just to take some pictures. I mean. who was I, "Ansel Adams"? And I knew that the second I stepped out of the truck, walked over to the railing, set up a tripod, and acted like I knew what I was doing, everyone in that parking lot would be thinking that exact same thing. They would say things like "aww wasn't he cute, thinking he is a photographer with his little tripod" to their husbands when they got back in their minivans. Or the younger couple would laugh out loud and say "did you see that dork?" as they drove away in their convertible. Luckily for me, I had at least an hour until the sunset so I opted to sit it out in my truck sure that the place would get less crowded or that my courage would eventually build enough to get me out of my truck. But neither happened and I did not shoot at all that night.

Surprisingly the rest of the night was great! Alone at night looking up at the stars with nothing but a campfire to see by and the wonderful sounds of the Appalachian to break my silence is still one of my favorite places to be. In fact after my family, I think the 2 things I miss most about NC are the sounds of crickets and the sight of lightning bugs. Sleep came easily over me that night and I was sure that I would have sunrise all to myself to play around and get more comfortable with my gear, my surroundings, and myself. So the next morning when I woke sweating under a beating sun and blinded upon opening my tent door, I was again feeling a little dejected, I had overslept.

All wasn't lost though I got up and headed for an area that I had read about previously where a picturesque creek was easily accessible and fun to shoot. I did indeed finally set my gear up and start shooting that day and as it would turn out I captured what would probably be considered my best shot of the trip on that afternoon, "Midnight Hole" as seen above. But I still had a sunset to shoot and tonight I was going to get my shot, I was pumped up and feeling good. So when I pulled into the parking area I and there was almost no one around I wasted no time in getting my camera and tripod out and proceeding to the best spot I could find on the overlook. I shot for about an hour on diffirent settings, moving around a little bit, taking various compositions, and even including some vertically oriented shots as well, until a man walked up beside and proceeded to set up his own gear, much nicer gear than I owned I might add. A glance over at him confirmed my worst fear, it was one of the men from the night before and I immediately started to shrink again. I tried to just hide behind my camera and not look over at him until I was thinking of leaving simply because I didn't know what else to do. But finally, the man broke the silence between us. I am not sure if it was because he was a "professional" photographer or if it was because he was a teacher too, but he immediately made me feel more comfortable. 

Over the next hour or so the nice gentleman gave me a handful of pointers and a huge boost to my confidence. As it turned out I was right about one thing, he could see right through me. One of the first things he pointed out was that my tripod was less than adequate. I think his exact words were, "you would probably have more luck with a long exposure if you set it on that bench over there." And he also told me to "keep my day job." But at the same time he told me an expression that while popular with photographers I had never heard. He said remember this "f/8 and be there," a phrase I still find myself muttering in my head today when my legs grow weak from hiking, or my get and go got up and left at 4 AM when the alarms sounds and the bed is oh so warm. He also showed me how he uses his filters and what settings he likes to use for certain shots, he even showed me numerous places on the park map that he recommended visiting. 

All in all my first trip into mother nature with my camera and a goal went very well. While I didn't get many photos that I would even show you today, I am sure it was a necessary step in my own path as photographer and as a man. As for the nice gentleman, all I really know about him is that he was from Michigan, that he liked to come to the Smokys in the fall to shoot the foliage, and that he taught photography in some sort of fashion or another. And as for my own apprehension of what others may be thinking when they see me out shooting, I don't really let it bother me anymore but every once in a while, especially if I am on a public road vs in a national park, I find myself wondering what the people driving by might be thinking?

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