Little River Gorge Road winds through the western side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Little River flows along side, a beautiful diversion from the slow traffic on the road. Safely parked at a pullout, I lock the doors and tiptoe a few feet along the shoulder of the road. Splitting a gap in the shrubs I carefully step down the rocky bank. Here in the river bed the sound of flowing water easily drowns out the sounds of the road just a few feet away.
It’s just me and the river. I close my eyes and listen to the rushing waters. I skip thin, smooth stones across the water’s surface. I capture some beautiful photographs of the braided cascades.
Refreshed and ready to move on, I collect my tripod and step towards the bank. BAM! Without warning my foot slipped to the right and I was on the ground.
Processing my situation, I feel no pain. Slippery rocks can be dangerous, and have cut short many hiking trips – thankfully this is not one of them! I carefully head back to the car to inspect my gear. My camera isn’t as lucky as me – the lens is bent, and has seized in the mount to prevent removal. I pack it away and grumble as I start the car.
Frustration clouds the beautiful mountains rising outside my windows. I knew better than to walk on river stones without protecting my camera. But I thought it would be a quick photo walk with little risk. And now I have a full day of hiking ahead without my camera to capture it! Grumble.
A bag of trail mix offers to help. I pull over and grab a handful of goodness. The chocolate and fresh air help me find a different view of the situation.
My camera is out of service and needs repairs. They will not be inexpensive. HOWEVER, there are several worse alternatives that quickly come to mind – broken bones, broken glasses, missing teeth, or calling for help as I float downstream. The cards I am holding are definitely better than those scenarios. What else is true? I get to spend another day in this beautiful park, with perfect weather, and have a lot of sm’ores waiting at the campground. My situation sounds pretty awesome.
Perspective. It changes everything.
This episode is a microcosm of my entire trip. I left home burned out and lethargic, the daily grind having worn my patience and my nerves to the end. I was going through the motions but feeling pretty crappy doing it, desperate for a spark.
Enter the mountains.
I leave behind my daily problems to navigate rocky trails and scan for bears. Things that regularly seem important take a back seat here. My eyes and my mind are free to wander, seeking out new inspirations and fresh ideas. Fresh air and expansive views reboot my brain. I feel energized and ready to be productive again.
Photography tip: perspective here works the same way. A subject looks slightly different through various lenses, a higher or lower angle, or from a different distance. Explore multiple perspectives to better understand your subject and create more intimate photos!
Back to the mountains. I hike a challenging trail without my trusty camera gear. It doesn’t take long to realize that I am faster and much more nimble, able to use both of my hands to scramble. I float along the trail, covering twice as much ground as my usual pace. I know that I can’t take professional photos, but today it doesn’t really matter. I’m on top of Brushy Mountain, and the views are spectacular.
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