Hurd State Park is a very special place for me, since it is where the kernel of the idea for this series of photographs and essays started for me. I have traveled down this particular small river for almost a decade, with many memories at my side, but very few people in this hidden space. You can never change your life or yourself, if you keep doing the same comfortable things over and over. This experience of creating and maintaining this series of photographs has taught me that each of us has an amazing light burning inside, that only we can share with the world, and if you can see something in your mind, you can hold it in your hand. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to take action like we already know the outcome. So, what are you holding back from doing?
Fog After the Thaw
I had traveled along the river for sometime during the years prior to this photograph, noticing its extremes in terms of the dynamic nature of the river itself, along with the changes in the banks of the river in each season. I ventured out one cool morning in December, much farther down the river than normal, where there was a small section of water leading away from the main river and into the background. In the early morning hours, I noticed melting snow and ice within the small river bed. The warmth and humidity of the morning, combined with melting snow and ice caused a curious fog to develop throughout the background. Something I would not have seen if I had not ventured farther than normal, or tuned into that particular moment. We sometimes live our lives like they will be here tomorrow, when they may be gone today. Take a chance and journey into the unknown.
Clarity in Motion
I walked along the rocky bank of Eight Mile River on a cool and calm fall morning. I had my eye tuned in to find some fall foliage that morning, as well as the dynamic changing of the season in New England, as it always approaches that time of year. As I walked along the lower river bank that I am so familiar with, I noticed a small clearing where the river was obscured by some small plants in an interesting arrangement. As I walked closer, I noticed the perfect alignment of a small rock face between two of the bushes and it grabbed my interest. Behind a thin veil of cover, the rock seemed to call out, while also surrounded by the commotion of the river. There it stood still, symbolizing clarity, behind layers of confusion. Just because something is challenging to accomplish, does not mean that it isn’t great. It’s great because it creates a barrier for all those who don’t care as much as you do.
Risk and Uncertainty
I had traveled from my home in Middletown to the Naugatuck State Forrest many times before, exploring, and mentally cataloging an amazing small river that runs down the forrest valley. Trying to capture the essence of a dynamic place like this really takes time to first understand, and then to be able to recreate in a two dimensional space on paper. I can still remember the cool mornings with interesting and lively wildlife, the very muggy nights, walking back to the car in total darkness, and listening to the movement of the wind in the forrest. A river flows within the forrest valley that few are able to observe in its distinct levels and stages, and I felt compelled to capture its essence. Being in a somewhat desolate place, and always working alone, uncertainty had taken up a space in my mind during this time period, and I experienced during this project how sense of control in general can sometimes be subjective at best, and worse, sometimes an illusion. Life does not grant us the promise of safety, and when you face adverse conditions, you will then know that you are being called to do something greater.
Solid Rock Through Falls
Warmth was in the air on a quiet May afternoon along the river close to Seven Falls. It takes repeated visits to a space in order to fully understand what it represents, and what it wants to show you as an observer over time. This particular area with its surrounding trails is one of those places that I frequent at different times of year in order to understand the nuances. That afternoon on the far side of the river, I noticed the water level higher than in previous visits, and saw this solid rock, steady and surrounded by a current of steady water falling down and around it. I can remember crouching down to just take in the scene for a moment before setting up any of my equipment. I will usually observe a scene in silence for some time before actually trying to capture anything, since it often times shows more of a story than what you see at first glance. I often wonder if scenes like this present themselves to us based on our preconceived ideas, what we expect to see that day, what we’ve experienced in life, or the filter we apply to life with our minds. My life was personally filled with change at this particular time, pulling up roots from one area, and moving to another, trying to find something solid within myself to have the courage to move forward. I believe that if you have the courage to show your true self, you will purposefully attract what you are meant to have. Sometimes the most amazing things happen when your “Plan A” falls through.
The stream somehow finds its way forward guided by self, or guided by others willing to take on more risk, and may sometimes lose sight of itself or it’s larger place throughout the daily struggle. The stream rushes in, tumbling down and into the chaotic commotion of self discovery, while it hasn’t fully washed away impressions from its past. It is released into an unscripted darkness, the power within, and power of choice becomes overwhelming. Some may live peacefully unaware of the dark and silent undercurrent. The path forward may become unclear and diagonal at times, and courage will guide the way, it’s travelled here before. Brené Brown once said: “If you carry belonging in your heart, it’s not negotiated externally with other people.” Finding power in standing on our own, and knowing our purpose has great importance. Having the courage to live life true to ourselves, and not the life others expect of us requires the courage to be afraid, while at the same time moving forward anyhow. Our true self resonates with others when we find it and allow our core to be exposed and vulnerable. The stream never chases what anyone else wants for it, it never chases anyone else’s dream, and neither should we.
As I look back into past paths I have travelled in life, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the paths chosen throughout certain periods of my life that were ultimately driven by the surface level question of: “what should I do with my life?” When faced with a life path decision, at the crossroads of an important parallel path, I wish at that time I had the wisdom to instead ask myself: “what type of person should I be?” This can ultimately be guided by the parallel question of “who am I” which can be very difficult to answer for some. Glennon Doyle once said: “I am not what just happened to me, but I might be what I do next.” When faced with the powerful question of where to lead ourselves next, who will you become, at the risk of leaving safety and expanding your energy? The type of person you choose to become in life, and your goals are more important than your comfort. Make a commitment to get uncomfortable, do it purposefully, and make something complete, otherwise we risk leaving an unfinished canvas behind.
Stick With Perseverance
I have lived in Middletown for some time, and it is home to Wadsworth falls, a collection of large waterfalls, as well as a number of small falls and rivers throughout the local forrest. I visited these falls over a period of years, and during many different seasons and weather conditions, to fully comprehend and be able to capture their beauty. This particular day, it had just rained and I wanted to capture the unique contrast of the wet surroundings on the forrest floor. I can still feel the humidity from that day, deep into the park where I was bitten many times, while the falls presented themselves uniquely that day for the first time in many years. Perseverance was on my mind that day, since I had visited the small falls so many times over the years, fully prepared, and only to actually capture the falls on that very day right after the rainfall. I was reminded that we will never be presented with a challenge in life that we cannot handle, because with preparedness and perseverance, we will always know what to do when that challenge presents itself. When you begin to truly capture the essence of a space or idea, you don’t define it, you define yourself.
Much of our energy is consumed on the edge of discovering something new, whether it be a new creative endeavor, passion, honing a useful skill, advocating for ourselves, or saying and doing what we think is important. On that edge of pushing forward, before crossing through that new door, we tend to balance immeasurable and valuable time with risk - the risk that this new path may lead down a dead end, may harm us emotionally, or may just be a significant waste of our time and resources. Is it even worth pursuing something which has an uncertain outcome? When we decide to consciously branch out in order to discover that which fuels our internal flame, to drive us in a new and exciting direction, we may just find that we eventually create something important, instead of being fearful of always creating something perfect. Now is always the perfect time to show up each day, and bring more than just our representative, to achieve more than just fitting in, to listen to what we already know inside, and to be ourselves.
Choose Your Direction
I sometimes quietly setup my wooden camera, hoping for answers to my questions about life, would I hear back about my hope for a new dream career or not this month, and how would I map out my week in order to please everyone, and just be “enough” for the ones closest to me. This particular day, I had no preconceived notion of what I wanted to capture, but my mind was fully prepared. I was confident because I had been here so many times, comforted that I was presented with something interesting, and confident that I could capture it. This notion would become very powerful to apply to my own personal thoughts, to give some solace in not knowing what the future holds, and the confidence to choose a direction, not waiting for someone else to give us permission to do the one thing that only we can do. We prepare ourselves for that next step so we are ready when the opportunity arrives, but we sometimes lose our direction while waiting, and it helps to have the courage to take a leap of faith, to know you are ready, and the change will come when it’s supposed to. You already have everything you need to do beautiful things in this world. Find what’s inside you and make it real.
Gentle Falls Through Layers
The storm swiftly approached, attracted by a settler living a life they perhaps never wanted. The sole purpose of this storm was not complete devastation, but to create a quiet place, and clear the enlightened path forward. Soon after, the gentle hand paints the riverbed with water, its back is turned toward the sun. It doesn’t yet know that what is most shameful and unique about itself may be what is most human and universal. Brush strokes dry shortly after making their mark. Alone together, their relationship is in a vacuum, they are leaving lonely. Everything just makes sense, nothing has to be explained, celebrated or tragic, beautiful or painful. The warmth is just present. I have felt many times what Dinos Christianopoulos once wrote: “You did anything to bury me, but you forgot that I was a seed.” It symbolizes the will of a soul to fly. Standing your ground at this time, in honor of something that is important to you, will show that what you tolerate from others teaches them how to treat you.
For a decade, I had driven past Clark Creek periodically in hopes of capturing it a very specific way. It’s a relatively exposed and well known waterfall right off of a main intersection. Many who pass this waterfall on a frequent basis know that Clark Creek is very beautiful at just the right moment, but very challenging to the trained eye to capture due to the dynamic level of water, and the changing seasons and weather patterns. My anticipation grew overwhelming over the years, as I waited for the perfect day: hard rain for a week, with an overcast fall day where it had just rained lightly the night before. This may sound overly critical, but shooting large format film, and a decade of imagining this perfect scenario will do that to you. I began to think about how many times I had gotten sidetracked from this series over the years, losing perspective on my passion, perhaps even doubting myself or my skills, letting fear protect me from being exposed out on the waterfalls, or worse, possibly not following a dream because I didn’t believe in myself. I learned something important that day. Although I had a vision of capturing these falls for years, and you may have a vision of accomplishing something yourself, no one can see that vision until you have the courage to walk alone and bring it out.
This photograph represents a calm stillness during a period when great change was imminent in my life. As the seasons change, new possibilities emerge and present themselves if we only observe closely. I had spent the last two years of my life really digging deep to find meaningful work that more closely matched myself, and my true purpose, and as I waited that morning on the river bank, I had fully prepared myself to accept that challenge and privilege, to more directly be of service to others. It was imminent, but I had done all I needed to do to be prepared. It was just an intense and anxious period of waiting at that moment. Calm Stillness was made on a calm, cool, and somewhat humid fall morning. I usually leave out much of the technical detail of how I capture images, but I used a yellow filter that morning to highlight the yellow leaves, change of the season, and capture the overall mood that I wanted to replicate here. The still water reflected the depth of change in my life, and I felt that the bright and solid rock represented the kernel of an idea that started long ago, with a vision of the future built around it, reminding me that we have to feel the world, before we can be felt by it. Sometimes I wonder if we find scenes like these, or if they find us.
Vertical Twin Falls
The vertical descent of parallel twin falls closely resembles the natural complementary forces working within us to influence our own creations, views, and responses. Side by side, polar energy exists within us to create a sense of balance and wholeness. At times our ego may drive a wedge between the wholeness of our energy, revealing the contrast between light and shadow, love and hate, courage and fear, or confidence and limiting beliefs. Just as we inhale and exhale and the river divides, each of these contrasting energies contains fingerprints of the collective source, a blueprint that was perfect, but will take a lifetime of self-reflection and achievement to become complete. The parallel falls are not limited to one choice or path, they are greater than their circumstances, and know that the lake above is full, spilling over the edge and ready to give in ways that are infinitely possible. They have seen the reflection of one and other, depth of the shadow, guidance of the light, and know the value of experiencing each in the right moment, in order to express genuine empathy. The value of these polar opposite experiences becomes more clear when we realize that each works hand in hand, and can be embraced to become fully complete. Many of us keep a major life experience or aspect of ourselves in the shadows, not fully embraced or integrated into our outward personality, for fear of not being accepted. It is always better to be accepted for who you are, rather than never being accepted for anything you become. Sometimes it is not until we reveal everything, that we find a true connection.
The In Between
As I thought about this photograph from Clark Creek, seeing the sandwiched layers of light and shadow stacked together as one cohesive whole, it reminded me of the parallels we live each day. I thought of the top of each small waterfall as the beginning of a big moment or chapter in life, all the way down to the bottom where that moment or phase ends, and we fade into the next chapter of our lives. But what is in between, in the time of waiting, or in the shadow of the light? The shadow isn’t necessarily a dark period, in between the highs of our life, and I thought about it as more of the undercurrent, where we quietly dip below the surface of tension and feed off of the still energy around us. This period can also be filled with gray area and uncertainty while waiting and preparing, signs of wisdom and recovery, gaining back the inner strength to take another ride over the edge, or using light and courage from our past experiences to shine into corners of our consciousness we didn’t yet know about, or didn’t have the confidence to explore. For many, the light is a lifelong pursuit with many questions. When we are in these shadow periods in between where the outer light is less visible, looking within, and listening to your authentic self will help in finding “your” light to share, to build your next path.
I second guessed whether or not to bring my camera gear, as I quietly packed for a much needed weekend trip away with some great friends. For anyone familiar with shooting large format film, it’s an ordeal to bring a camera anywhere. I also questioned whether I needed some time away from not only the daily grind, but also the pursuit of photographing the many waterfalls I’ve visited over the years as well. At the last minute, I decided to pack my gear anyway, and it turns out that was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate myself and my love for capturing waterfalls and rivers. This small falls in Margaretville caught my eye the day I was driving up to our cabin, and the next evening I spent almost an hour down in the river just thinking about how I wanted to capture these falls. I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling of calmness and comfort. My boots were in the cold water as I setup, and I felt this sense that I knew the comfort of this place, and it knew me. I didn’t have to explain myself or my choices, we could just reconnect and be at peace. There is a large difference between that feeling, and the feeling of the daily grind sometimes, where we may unfortunately eat our souls to feed our stomach. To summarize what Les Brown has so importantly said - we sometimes need to let go of who we think we should be, and just be who we are. Sometimes that first step is just realizing that we are good enough to write and “own” our own story, and to dare to have our own voice. If you’re willing, whose life would you change?
The Depth of Sincerity
I truly believe that the universe wants each of us to succeed if we become our best selves. Often times, our fear of new and unknown experiences will prevent us from trying to succeed at what it is that aligns with our true purpose. It is almost as if the universe is waiting to test our sincerity. I have found it valuable in these moments to remember that if some new endeavor seems unattainable, that just means the challenges and barriers to this new success will keep others from achieving this goal because they don’t want it as much as you do. It is a reminder to not let your need for acceptance in this world cause you to become invisible, that we each have something unique and powerful to offer to the world. Deepak Chopra once said: “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices.” Sometimes, when you feel a change is needed, or that you are not aligned fully with what your true purpose is, it helps to remember that some choice, any choice, is better than inaction. If we can calm our fear of failure, that small choice will inevitably lead us to the next step, or be a learning experience at worst. The universe is built in such a way that some of the most beautiful and life altering experiences lay just on the other side of your next big decision. Make the path you take your own, pursue it with passion and excellence, and create a life worth living.
Leaning Into the Natural Direction
There is something unique within each of us, something that no one else can do without your particularly remarkable skill set, talent, and vision. That something is ours to give freely as we build our legacy, when we choose the path toward our natural direction, and choose to perform fearlessly. Our natural direction can sometimes be elusive, with clues often hiding somewhere within our shadow, dark past, or within an unpleasant time in our lives where we gained unique experience, perhaps above all others. Some of our greatest assets can be buried deep behind layers of sediment and noise, but often times whisper to us in the early morning before sunrise. If we have the courage to share with the world what makes us unique, leaning into our natural purpose, the current will flow in a natural direction behind us, to propel us downstream toward what it is that we were meant to have, achieve, or become. One of life’s greatest secrets is that when we want something better, we have to first become something better, and if we want something other than what we have now, the first step is to believe that is possible.
Surrounded by Rock
I frequent spaces many times a year to see if there are different qualities that catch my attention, or if something new is revealed in a different light or season. I had been struggling for some time to find a balance in life, wondering if that was even possible, wondering if I would ever be “enough” for everyone with working, being a parent, and a creative. I took this particular afternoon for myself to have some space, and I ended up at Seven Falls once again. I was setting up for an image facing in the opposite direction, when I turned and noticed this small waterfall behind me, surrounded by a diagonal rock formation. At that moment in life, when I felt surrounded by immovable objects, like a job to put food on the table that I should be doing, an insurmountable workload, and the possibility of a new career that I was very passionate about looming in the distance, this scene presented itself for some reason. Faced with many choices, we sometimes feel surrounded by the obvious and immovable choice, but don’t always take the time to see all the possibilities that could be, and this photograph represents that feeling for me. Self discovery, surrounded by the hard facts and opinions of what should be, what others thought, or what is considered normal and acceptable, and into this new and unexplored space of what could be possible if we have the courage to let go of the past, and listen to our quiet inner voice. A life less ordinary is a life lived on your own terms.
The River Within
The river is energized by rain, drops of water falling upon it, each containing information from the past, resonating with vitality from its source. The river is calmed by drought, an absence of revitalizing energy and knowledge. It has loaned its essence, that which it could not exist without, to something far from itself, with the knowledge it may someday return with new insight, tales of where it has been, reenergizing it’s purpose onward once again. The river knows we have to sometimes let go of something in order to find it once again. We never cross the same river twice, and this cycle of the transfer of energy and wisdom happens independently from our thought, or our will, and our opinion of the river does not change its determination. The river within us operates in a similar fashion. Our river was also given a purpose, and it is energized with knowledge, encouraging thoughts, love, acceptance, and giving. There is one important difference: Some of our rivers are missing waterfalls. We sometimes sense fear, disapproval of others, disbelief in ourselves, and we stop in those calm waters, just short of moving over that edge of the waterfall into the unknown, at the risk of our greatness being seen and heard by those around us. The great speaker and author Les Brown once said: “don’t ever let someone’s opinion of you become your reality.” We each have unique gifts within us, that only we can bring into this world, and it’s important to keep our direction and determination in pursuing our passion for what we believe is right, regardless of what others may think. The world needs your piece of the puzzle to be complete. What could you accomplish, and what could you uniquely bring to this world by taking that one extra step, pushing yourself over that edge, at the risk of being bold and writing your own story?
The Price of Sovereignty
Alone, I walked down a familiar path sandwiched between chaos, institution, and the few daylight hours of creation. The burning legs and harsh sound of crushed stones beneath each step served to remind me of the price of sovereignty, the price to look back and see something that belongs to just me. Frustrated, I have little time left to find something for which I’m longing, something unique that no one has ever seen. We desperately try in secrecy to pry our lives out of the jaws of mediocrity, and the secrets are powerful currency. Everyone has someplace they drown, and yet the river quietly whispers to wake up, our mind has created the pursuit of an illusion. It’s our yearning for uniqueness that makes us all the same, and yet we’re all alone together. It whispers the things we forget to pack with us, confidence to take another step forward, trust in our ability to adapt to where the journey will take us, belief that a place exists where you can manifest your uniqueness into the world, and the strength to never stop looking. Alan Watts once wrote: “To ‘know’ reality you cannot stand outside it and define it; you must enter into it, be it, and feel it.” You will be connected when you stop preparing to live.
The Path of Possibilities
You’re waiting for something but you don’t know what. The stream of creation is cold, it never ceases. You can’t stop its relentless force, the sounds echo between your ears to pull you back. ‘Follow me’ it says in a sinister but familiar and welcoming whisper, but you stand on the edge and allow yourself to slip into its path anyway. The initial chill so painful, short glimpses present themselves, and reflect into your story at the surface, lacking the energy of the depths before fading to black again. The surface is different though, the depths are cold and muted, but you can still hear the whispers. You know the framework, your life’s purpose, what you see quietly in the reflection, but it pulls with such force as attachment to the outcome is more solidified. All your energy dissipates to resist the force, a last breath and then silence, quietly the sounds echo again, wondering what’s on the other side of the chill. This reflection often doesn’t realize that it already is the change that it wants to see, it’s quietly created what’s risen behind it, and yet what’s done, a memory of the past, roars so loudly that no one can hear what it’s saying. The path moves on into darkness. The face in the reflection is the path of possibilities.
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