This past weekend my brother flew in from Iowa to join me and our brother-in-law on a hiking trip that we hoped would see us to the top of five Colorado 14ers. Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross, a close triangle of peaks in the Mosquito Range, were our goals on Friday. Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia, two peaks in the Sawatch Range, were our destinations on Saturday. An ambitious two-day hiking trip to be sure, but my brother competes in triathalons, so I didn’t think his lack of acclimatization to the altitude would be an issue. My brother-in-law is a regular runner and biker, and he lives at higher altitude, so I knew he would have no problems. And despite my athletic background, I figured somebody had to be the weak link, so I rounded out the trio of climbers set to tackle the 14ers.
The hike up Mt. Democrat went well and we made it to the top in good time. However, as we started to make our way across the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Lincoln, an early storm moved in and threatened rain and lightning. Nervously keeping an eye on the clouds moving over us, we were torn between continuing the climb with the hope the storm would move past us, and playing it safe and heading back down. About the time I decided head down the mountain, the storm provided confirmation of my decision in the form of freezing rain, wind, and thunder and lightening. Our easy gait up the mountain became a race down the exposed rock to escape the storm.
I don’t have the strongest knees to begin with, but the race down the mountain, with its extended period of pounding steps on the rocks, did a number on my left knee. For the rest of the trip, my knee vacillated between sharp pain whenever I bent it and a constant dull soreness. My hiking was done for the weekend, but the upside was that I still got to enjoy some good camping with a couple of great guys. On Saturday morning, after the guys had departed to climb Mt. Harvard, I was relaxing in camp and enjoying the view from our campground. It was during this time of quiet that I got to thinking about vision.
This year has been an exciting one as my vision for my life and photography work has come into clearer focus. I had for a while been toying with the idea of pursuing photography as a full-time vocation, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I really developed a sense of direction and vision for my photography. It has been a process for me, a process often times filled with the extremes of excitement and joy to fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt. On Saturday, as I took in the beauty of the mountains, I realized how the process of developing one’s vision is like the process of climbing a mountain.
Climbing a mountain is a hard process, and is full of dangers and unknowns. There are many obstacles to overcome, and the possibility of failure is ever present. Yet climbing a mountain is also a beautiful process, full of victories and rewards. When I commit myself to the journey and persevere to the summit, I’m rewarded with a unique perspective of the world that I couldn’t see from anywhere else. Developing my vision is no different. With a commitment to the journey and perseverance through the challenges, when I arrive at the summit I discover a unique vision that cannot be found anywhere else.
When climbing a mountain I often keep my focus on the path, making sure I don’t lose my way or step on loose rocks that might slow me down. Yet every few minutes I look up or look back from where I came, and I marvel at the view. I’m encouraged at how far I’ve come, and I celebrate the amazing view that I have never before seen. In the same way, as I develop my vision it is important to sometimes stop and look back, celebrating what has thus far been accomplished. It is helpful to see how far I’ve come, and how my vision has grown and matured compared to when I first started the journey. I haven’t arrived though. My vision will continue to grow and change as I continue climbing the mountain.</p>
<p>Sometimes when climbing a mountain the clouds will pass overhead and surround me, obstructing my view. The beautiful views I was enjoying are gone, and my concern grows over the potential storms that may strike. I wonder if I should turn back. Similarly, as I climb my mountain of vision, the clouds will inevitably surround me. My vision will be obstructed, and the self-doubt and uncertainty will begin to creep in. I’ll begin to lose sight of my vision and I’ll wonder how to move forward or if I should turn back. I have to keep pressing forward though, chasing my vision up the mountain. I have to remember that the clouds will pass, and my clarity of vision will return.</p>
<p>Through commitment, hard work, and a relentless pursuit of my vision, I will arrive at the summit. As I stand on the top with its 360 degree view of the world below, I will have a fuller appreciation not only of my artistic vision, but also the process that I went through to grow and refine my vision. My journey isn’t done though. As I look off in the distance, I can see hundreds of mountains waiting to be climbed. There are other challenges to overcome to continue growing in my vision as a photographer and as a person. I have to climb down the mountain and move on to the next one. I must keep pressing forward in my journey as I chase my vision up each mountain.</p>
<p>The mountain of vision. Hardly a perfect analogy, and a bit cliche, but it is a good reminder that our growth as photographers is a process, and a challenging one at that. I’m still early on in this journey, but with all I have learned thus far, I’m excited to keep walking this path, climbing my mountains, and growing in my vision as a photographer. Wherever you are on your journey, let’s keep pressing forward, overcoming our obstacles, and enjoying the views along the way.</p>