What Matters Most

I get so caught up in the competition sometimes. It is hard not to get discouraged by many things in today's world, including the art of photography. Everyone has a camera these days, and some people are really, really good with them. I remember vividly an afternoon in my favorite Red Lodge coffee shop, Honey's, I picked up a photo book about Yellowstone, created by an incredible photographer whose name has slipped my mind. The photos were beautiful, and so epic. Every one, too! I was in absolute awe as I flipped through page after page. The book was set up to follow the course of the seasons, similar to my favorite book of all time - The Outermost House. Everything was so spot on. The animals, the landscapes, even photos of snowflakes and wildflowers. I could not believe it. I was inspired for about ten minutes, until discouragement snuck its way into my head. It would not leave, and the book only got better with time. Not necessarily the combination you dream about... I eventually put the book down, finished my work and went back to my campsite.

The next couple of hours passed as I contemplated from my hammock what I could have done differently the week before. I had spent four unforgettable days with my camera beside me in Yellowstone, enjoying the experience in its entirety, but failing to create any real compelling images. I was down on myself, and my gear. Naturally, something had to change in that moment. I forget exactly what it was I said to myself, but it was probably along the lines of "Enough dude. Think about where you are!" 

Before I knew it, I was twenty miles up the pass, immersed into a herd of mountain goats, pinching myself just to be sure I had not fallen asleep in my hammock. The thoughts blew away with breeze and once again, I was reminded that the experiences are what got me here. Not the competition, not the "perfect" images or the best quality, but the subjects, the moments and the places they happen. Like this goat, missing a horn, but filled with character. And the backlight, so different and unique. Photographs only help us to relive the experience, and tell the story. This is the story of an evening that changed my life, and a not-so-perfect image to tell it with.