Fall Through My Eyes
This time of year, Southern Indiana becomes a fascinating tapestry of warm, rich colors that hang above and drizzle upon locals and countless visitors alike.
A particular state park near my home has been a favorite spot of mine since childhood to view these stunning displays. Each fall, I visit this park to take in the colors of the leaves. So do hundreds to thousands of other tourists, flocking to see nature’s splendor alongside of me.
And each fall, as I do almost everywhere, I bring my camera.
Each year though, I get a bit more tired of taking the same pretty-vista photos. As stunning as the views are to experience (wind rushing around my face, birds magically hovering above expansive, rolling hills of puffs of color), the photos come nowhere near to capturing the experience.
I wind up with dozens more images that are beautiful, but that feel trite and dry and remind me very little of how that year’s excursion varied from the previous year’s.
This year, I thought I’d change things up a bit. (Continue reading for photo examples)
Beyond the practicalities of being unable to find a parking spot and not wanting to deal with the crowds, I’m finally starting to understand the process of taking photography to FIRST capture my own stories and THEN connecting with the deeper, collective story.
Many previous attempts at photography started off with the intention of connecting to the collective story - e.g. finding something beautiful or some transformative moment or powerful message in a hidden corner of an alleyway - and THEN trying to add myself in. I was more interested in how someone else might see what was in front of me than how I saw it.
Doing this left me with hundreds of photos just like those beautiful but dry vista images. They may look great on a hotel wall or impressive to someone else who doesn’t see this view each year, but the images felt boring to me. This type of photography began to kill my love for taking photos at all.
This year, I wanted to point my camera where others weren’t looking - to capture photos that told the story of how those moments existed through my eyes. I wanted to focus on the stories that were happening behind the beauty.
To be certain, I still paused to experience the brilliant colors and falling leaves alongside the hundreds of other visitors. And I’ll probably still go back this week to take some photos of it all.
But that day, what was behind that everybody-look-here beauty was something even more moving. I found stories of human connection, of struggle, of silence amidst the rush of cars and crowds and camera clicks.
This is what I saw:
The parking lot was full, so people took to stopping in a “No Parking” zone. It definitely altered the usual view of a calm lake reflecting the towering trees.
Just outside of the park lodge, there is a tree stump. It’s just a chunk of wood to some, but it is a powerful memory for me. I used to climb this tree back when it was in its full glory. One fateful weekend, I jumped out of it a bit too excitedly and broke my ankle. I miss climbing it.
The kids were not as in awe of the colors around us as I was, and were finding their own ways to keep themselves entertained as we drove through the park. This included a treacherous game of last-one-with-their-hand-on-the-drink-gets-to-drink-it — which, as you can only imagine, ended quite well.
Looking up or out at the vistas, I saw golden yellows and russet reds and expansive blue sky. Looking anywhere else, I saw families ushering kids closer together for a photo and lines upon lines of cars.
There isn’t a right nor wrong way to see. But there is YOUR way and there is EVERYONE ELSE’S way.
Your unique way of seeing has such immense value, for each moment as you see and feel it will never be experienced in such a way again.