I often hear people comparing photography to golf, in that one moment of brilliance keeps you coming back again and again, and while I’ve never played golf, I get the sentiment.  One solid image sets you on a course to discover more.  Two weeks ago, amid my images of summer series, I introduced my new interest in trail photography by sharing one of my later attempts at the subject.  Well, this week’s picture is from my very first outing, and the image that I guess you could say “set the hook” for me, to use a completely different analogy.  

On this particular morning, I set out in the dark to drive way up into the mountains to the trailhead of the Thomas Divide trail, at the recommendation of my friend Paul.  Funny enough, I’d seen the handful of parking spots along the road numerous times before, but had never noticed there was a trailhead there.  I thought it was just a random pull off.  Not knowing exactly what I was in for, I started walking, camera in hand.  It’s just like stream photography, I said to myself, I’ll know it when I see it.  I was hoping for moody, which in my mind at this elevation meant a foggy scene in the dense forest with nice ferns (like the shot two weeks ago!).  As luck would have it though, the morning was crystal clear, no fog in sight, the woods were open and bright… not even a fern to be found at that point! Ha!  Basically… not at all what I was hoping for.  As a photographer, this can make you do one of two things: keep trying to find that scene in your head, only to get frustrated and go home with nothing, OR, abandon the idea in your head and just go with what the world gives you.  I don’t know about anyone else, but it can be REALLY hard for me to walk away from #1 and move on to #2.  I have walked past SO MANY amazing scenes during my explorations, because I had something else in mind, only to regret later that I didn’t stop and shoot whatever it was.  I’m constantly telling photography students, “If you see it, shoot it”, and it is something I have to remind myself of too!  Well on this day, I was able to shift gears a little quicker because frankly I had started out not knowing exactly what to expect.  So, I just kept walking.  I’d setup a shot, take it… work the scene a little bit, and then walk some more.  Eventually the trail rounded a corner and flattened out, pointing me right at the sun.  The wet trail lit up like an arrow, pointing straight to the sun, and the grasses around the trail glowed in all the light.  Yep, that was it!  A quick look at the back of my camera to know that I really liked what I was getting, and I was off to the races.

It’s those moments of inspiration that really keep me coming back.  I can’t really describe it except to say that every other thought vanishes, and suddenly it’s just you, the camera, and the scene, and it’s magic.  Sometimes, you get home and pull your images into the computer and the scene wasn’t as great as you thought it was at the time, but I would offer that even that doesn’t matter as much, because it doesn’t (for me at least) diminish the experience of shooting and truly enjoying yourself.  It is really nice though, when the images DO match the feelings you were having when you were shooting, because then the people that see it get to experience the scene with you.

Well that’s it for my summer series!  As the leaves are starting to change here in East Tennessee, I’m already getting excited for what new scenes I’ll find this fall.  Next week though, we’re going to head off into the dark so that I can share some of the night images I’ve collected this year.

See you next week!

–Dan Thompson

Title Address Description
Thomas Divide
Thomas Divide Trail, Charleston, NC 28713, USA

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