Fall is in the air again. This is one of my favorites for taking pictures. When the leaves get painted in reds, yellows, and sun-fire oranges the camera hardly does justice to the artwork nature creates.
Last year, as Fall colors peaked in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, with my camera in hand I did my best to find a spot to capture a small part of nature’s exhibit.
Driving along the Nantahala River in North Carolina, I took a left turn from the main road and followed a path that bordered a tributary, eventually pulling off in a quiet wooded area along a secluded stretch of flowing water.
Securing my camera to its tripod, I pulled off my shoes and rolled up my pants to wade in the crystal clear water. The surging cold encompassed my feet, and a startled brook trout protested my encroachment with a flick of tail, splashing me as it quickly chose relocation over confrontation.
Settling my equipment firmly on the polished rock foundation provided by the riverbed, I peered through the viewfinder to find the pixels I wanted to capture and started the process of stopping time.
There are few things I find more relaxing than the sound of moving water; the waves of an ocean percussion against a sandy beach or the rolling melody of a winding river.
Given the choice, I’ll take the seasonal colors of the deciduous forest paired with the symphony of falling water over fireworks and band noise any day of the week for my festive celebrations.
Put a camera in my hand and you’ll keep me focused for hours with ease.
On this occasion as I stood in the middle of this little river it occurred to me that perception can play a big part in processing what goes on around me.
Standing in the middle of the flowing water set me up in a location that was loud, with leaves falling around me and debris from the river running into my legs. The water was cold. The situation was anything but relaxing, but it was necessary to get the shot I wanted.
Stepping out of the water, walking away from the river and settling down on a smooth comfortable trunk of a fallen log provided me with a much different perspective.
The moving water was majestic. The sounds were relaxing, and the falling leaves were peaceful.
The scenario still set up a nice picture, but a different one. Not better, just different.
Changing my location allowed me to ponder progress and purpose. What appeared to be chaotic was progress in motion. Leaves completed their task for the trees and fell to nourish the roots for next year. The water moved with specific intention, guided by the boundaries of the river’s edge controlling direction.
Managing my perception and adjusting my vision allowed me to appreciate the hidden tranquility of an otherwise chaotic situation.
I need to think about this the next time I feel my world is turning upside down.
The message is simple.
What may appear to be uncontrolled chaos we might just as easily break down to find loosely organized progress after removing our own self-imposed stress and challenging our perspective. With practice, perhaps we can learn to relax in perceived turmoil to the dismay of those around us.