Any of you that know me know that I’m a big proponent of the philosophy “It’s not the destination it’s the journey that makes life worth living”. In my youth, I was a huge hiker and athlete. I know you wouldn’t know it by looking at me now, but it’s true. I used to dream about hiking all 2000 miles of the Appalachian trail. While I’ve never done that, I have hiked it in every state that it passes through.
Hiking for me always started by looking up to the peak from the base of the trail. That can be intimidating. Looking up, seeing the height and big sky ahead of you. There was something of an explorer’s heart in that for me. But these hikes would always start at the base of the narrow trail. Then as you would begin, especially in the summer, when the trees were full of green and the underbrush was at peak, the sky would disappear and the trees would close in around you, often just leaving a narrow path where you would follow single file, one foot in front of the other.
This mountain, whether it’s a physical mountain, or a metaphysical one is not something to be conquered, but embraced. The trail pondered upon as you take one step at a time. The goal, prize, and destination might be at the top, but the path is under your feet.
This applies to photography in both ways the metaphor and the physical. Yesterday I went with some friends to a park. It was misty, raining, at times cold, and while we had a destination in mind, we took the path one step at a time looking around and examining everything around us and stopping to photograph things along the way. An ice formation here, pine cones there, bright green moss with its color-saturated by the moist mist and rich dirt it was growing in.
But let’s not forget that meta-mountain. That mountain of knowledge we think we’ll never be able to learn. Or the quality of our images as we compare our pictures to the millions of high-quality pictures on the internet. How about the learning curve for software? I allowed Photoshop to intimidate me for years. Then there’s the biggest culprit of all, gear lust. That longing for what we don’t have, that self-imposed mentality that thinking if I only had that $15,000 f5.6 800 mm lens, then I’d really be able to see that eagles eye. The technical mastery of our chosen endeavor, photography, creativity, connection. Whatever it is for you that gets into you head that makes you think you can’t do something.
The truth is we are spurred on by the destination. Looking up once and a while to keep the goal in mind. But the truth is, it’s the little steps that give us momentum. That propel us forward, toward that goal. The goal is at the top, but the path is under our feet. We need to take one step at a time to get there. We need to see what it is that’s around us on the journey. We need to head in the direction of the goal, and celebrate when we get there. The knowledge, the technical mastery, the experience along the way all adds to who we are. Enjoy, and embrace both the journey and the destination.