Beams of light and mist along the PCT near Snoqualmie Pass, Washington.
Where are my batteries?
I shuffled about, searched and researched the nooks and crannies of my car. Standing at the trailhead, my uncle waited patiently, pack loaded on his body, ready to begin our weeklong walk along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Reluctantly accepting the possibility that I somehow left them behind, I called the motel where we had spent the night. The woman at the front desk confirmed my dread. My camera batteries were at the hotel.
Last week I traveled to the Washington Cascades and hiked a section of the PCT with my uncle. Since I was a kid, we’ve been doing trips together each summer, usually backpacks on the PCT that work towards his goal of completing the entire 2,460 mile trail.
The night before we started out, I cleaned and organized my gear, jotted down some ideas and charged four batteries. I was prepared and excited to comfortably shoot an entire week on the trail. And I ended up forgetting the most crucial items to make it all happen. All I could do now was accept it and figure out a way to get the most from what power I had. I started walking.
After a day on the trail, I began to fall into a different rhythm. My shots were more deliberate, my connection and understanding of the weather, light and surroundings was keen, quiet and focused. Each time I saw something of interest, I paused and asked myself, “How does this connect to the greater scene? The story? The light? What do I want to say?” I learned to use my camera differently. I composed through the viewfinder before turning on my camera. I manually focused. I thought more. I even used my iPhone to take those must have snapshots of fun vacation moments. By the fourth day on the trail, my battery was half full; I might just make it.
The world of digital makes taking pictures easy. Technology has pushed the bounds of what cameras and post processing can see and do, so that we can document the world in every imaginable light. But photography isn’t about passively observing a scene and mindlessly recording it; we can do that with machines. Rather, it’s about listening, connecting and composing. Being limited in my capacity to photograph on the trail made me more conscious of my compositions, surroundings and how to best communicate what I felt. This brought me back to the pure, meditative essence of the art form.
Enjoying a warm meal in a nearby town after we walked out of the mountains, I reached for my camera to scan some of my trip photos. I turned it on and the screen illuminated. I had made it a week with one battery and found new energy in the process.
Final afternoon light streams through the Cascades.
Starry bed along the PCT.
Morning light breaks through storm clouds at Woptus Lake along the PCT, Washington.
Life anew. A nurse tree provides a fertile environment for the next generation.
A washed out section of trail along the PCT near Stevens Pass, Washington.