Giving It a Rest

I went up to Estes Park last weekend. I’ve always considered it my home.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 1/5000, Yashica UV Filter.

I’ve been really distraught lately. I think I’ve got a case of the existentialism. It seems like I’m in this limbo of progress and regression and nothingness. Now isn’t a time for that, though, it’s just something that’s weighed on me as of late. I think a lot about life and purpose and all of those other insightful things, but sometimes it’s healthier not to. Every once in a while I like to take a break from looking inward to see what’s outside of my thoughts and troubles and worries. If I don’t, I’ll get stuck.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/3.5, ISO 800, 1/2500, Yashica UV Filter.

When I’m in and around Estes, my soul breathes. It’s like that point when you can’t hold your breath any longer. Returning to that area is the first deep breath. That little city and its surrounds are my reset button. It’s such an extensive part of who I am.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta Celtic 135mm, f/3.5 ISO 1600, 1/5000.

At one point, a herd of big horn sheep crossed the road in front of me. I hadn’t seen a big horn in years, so there was much excitement. I pulled over and watched them for a bit, taking a couple pictures as they scurried up the snow-covered granite.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/3.5, ISO 800, 1/500, Yashica UV Filter.

I love spending time in the Park. Especially at sunset. The gentle winds, the pastels, the dramatic skylines, the silence. There is something fulfilling about seeing clouds form and dissolve over a landscape.

Longs Peak is in the center of this frame. It’s obscured, but it’s there. I waited for the clouds to open up just enough for its silhouette to peek through. It was while I was waiting that I ran into another photographer; actually many passed through this lookout, but one in particular stood out.

He parked, propped his tripod and several thousand dollar Nikon rig, bundled himself up in his North Face, and stood silent for a minute or two. I looked over and told him about my hopes of the clouds opening up for us despite them taunting me for the last hour. It was just small talk, but he wasn’t amused.

In the few minutes his face was pressed to his viewfinder, he took one picture then began to disassemble, in a curt manner, with one remark.

“They’re not going to open. You’re just wasting your time.”

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/4000, Yashica UV Filter.

He was right, they didn’t open and I didn’t get a dramatic shot of Longs at sunset. But I didn’t waste my time. Maybe I’m wrong, but part of photography (and life for that matter) is making the most of what you have. There are times you have to be patient and wait for the light to hit just right. There are times when that won’t happen. You can hope, but you also have to accept that things won’t always work out how you want them to. You never quit. You do what you can. It’s more than getting that “perfect” image. It’s appreciating the land and pursuing a passion. As a photographer, you take thousands of images and if you’re lucky, you’re able to count the good ones on one hand. If you try to set an image up without just letting it happen, you’re often seeking the archetype.

I waited there until the sun descended and the land fell monochrome. I captured springtime in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Sony A7II, Sony FE 28-70mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 10″.

Good things come to those who wait. The high point on the right is Longs Peak.

I’m new to this. I’ve been taking pictures for years, but landscapes and night photography have always been my adversaries. Combining the two is such a challenge for me. I’ve read lessons on astrophotography and watched videos about how to do certain things. Even after all of that, I still have a hard time getting halfway-decent night photos. I look at all of these outstanding images on Instagram and Trekearth and I think, “why don’t mine come out like that?”

Then I realize I’m not them. Duh. My photos will come out how they come out. I have my own style. I’m just going to do my own thing. And I stop caring.

Mr. Nikon-North Face Photographer from earlier was going for the same shot every one else wanted. Yeah, there’s some good points to that argument. For one, they’re more profitable. But at the end of the day they’re all the same pictures. I don’t want to take the same picture everyone else takes. I don’t want my name on that. It’s vexing. Even if you’re not going to get the shot, enjoy the experience. I know all of this is just an inference, but I found that guy irksome.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/3.5, ISO 3200, 6″, Yashica UV Filter.

Then I realized that I was just there. Some guy adjusting little dials on a camera and pressing a button. I just wanted to reset, relax, watch the sunset, and enjoy the night. The moon was so bright, I didn’t even need a headlamp. It was beautiful. Photos were just a bonus. They’re always just a bonus. And even then, who’s to say what makes a good image? I think the stories behind them and the way they’re interpreted are what make them great. Not their resale.

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Sony A7II, FotoDiox MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200, 1/100, Yashica UV Filter.

 

With a canopy of starlight overhead, I drove around taking pictures here and there. I didn’t see another car in the Park past 10 p.m. It was a good break from the monotony of work. To me, this is the most meaningful image from my trip. It’s a reflection of my phone in my windshield. This song is incredibly pertinent to where I’m at right now in life. Sing For the Wind by Roo Panes.

For those I’m not as close to, I’ve been fervent in trying to relocate to Estes for the better part of a year. I had a job opportunity, but finding housing over the past few months has been a struggle. It’s not behind me, it’s just not my primary focus anymore. Sometimes you just have to wait for the sky to open up.

The time I spent up there put some things into perspective.

© Jordan Poole Photography

 

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Blame the Guy with the Cigarette

So I’ve been thinking again. Mostly about my age and people around my age. Prepare for this to take a turn. Not like a gradual turn, but like a hairpin turn.

The twenty-fifth was my twenty-second birthday and it was a different one. Nothing weird happened—it just wasn’t like others. I think back to the birthdays I had when I was younger. They were always so celebratory; running around, eating gluten-filled Scooby-Doo cakes, and jumping on trampolines. That progressed to friends staying the night, tossing a football around in the street, racing go-karts, and playing video games all night until our sugar intakes knocked us out. Eventually, I wouldn’t really celebrate at all. Last year’s was a special one, though—the big one. My actual birthday was spent at work with a pounding migraine, so that was eventful. Some friends of mine eased the pain by bringing me gifts and gluten-free cakes. It was incredibly thoughtful. The following week, when I felt better, I went to the bar with my friends from work, planning on only having a cider or two so I could wake up for my 8 a.m. midterm the next morning. I don’t remember that night too well and that Wednesday I was over an hour late to class—in great discomfort—to find that my instructor posted the exam online and extended its completion date. I got lucky.

 

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 1600 1/60, Yashica UV Filter.

This year was mellow in contrast, but honestly, one of my favorites. It was so simple and enjoyable. After an amazing dinner, I was headed to Cripple Creek with some friends of mine. Not to gamble or drink, but to take pictures. Honestly, I would have gone alone, but it’s just not as fun getting eaten by a mountain lion without company.

I love Cripple Creek. Even though it’s designed for adults, the majority of my memories there are from my youth. I remember walking up and down the streets, hiking around the abandoned railcars and houses outside of Victor, writing rhetorical analyses in this little coffee shop that might not actually be there anymore. I need to check on that, I liked that place. I think it’s beautiful. I love the atmosphere.

Even when it seemed like there was nothing to do, there was so much to do.

 

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Sony A7II, Sony FE 28-70mm f/5.6 ISO 1600 15″

To my surprise, many of the sculptures from the previous weekend’s ice festival were still standing. I mean, some of the figures looked like they had laid eyes upon the Ark of the Covenant, but that’s to be expected with cloudless, abnormal February warmth. I was giddy, probably more excited than I should have been over ice, but hey, I thought I missed it. And I think I got some decent shots.

 

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 1600 1/60, Yashica UV Filter

The colors were phenomenal. They were so vibrant and did wonders reflecting through the different textures of ice. I’d never seen such beautiful iridescence and fracturing. The best part was the emptiness. We had the entire stretch to ourselves, minus the occasional geriatric towing his oxygen tank outside for a smoke break. Don’t believe me? Go to Cripple Creek sometime, you’ll see.

 

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 1600 1/60, Yashica UV Filter

 

I never understood that. Why would someone who has such trouble breathing smoke? Especially in such close proximity to a compressed oxygen tank? Have they smoked their whole lives? Does it take the edge off of the free drinks and money loss? Is it an anxiety thing? Why aren’t they vaping like all the cool kids? Is it a part of their identity? Was there some event in their life that lead them to smoke? Does it bring back memories of when they were younger?

 

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 1600 1/60, Yashica UV Filter

 

And there it is. The turn. I promise I won’t do this in every post. Mostly because I don’t think I have enough emotional fuel to burn long, drawn-out, deep paragraphs. But yeah, I got to thinking again. I’m twenty-two. When my grandparents were my age, they had children. Not just babies, but children. My friends are off traveling the world, getting married, moving up in their careers. What am I doing? What have I accomplished? Initially, not much came to mind. I mean, I graduated from college, but the two job opportunities I had in my degree field weren’t feasible. I’ve adopted two dogs and paid off my truck, but that doesn’t further my career. Lately, I’ve put so much thought into my accomplishments and failures. Imagine all of the books I could have read. Or all the paintings and drawings I could have completed.

 

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 3200 1.3″, Yashica UV Filter

Look at this house. I’m sure this thing was beautiful when it was first built. It was probably a real accomplishment for someone. They housed their family, their life, their belongings. But what if that wasn’t what the person who built that house wanted? What if that’s what everyone else was doing and they surrendered to that path? He could have been a writer, an explorer, anything, really. But instead he probably settled down, worked for the mine or a casino, and left all of those pages between the start of his book and the end unfulfilled; not blank, but incomplete. Look at this house again. It’s beautiful in it’s own way and it’s foundation has endured all of these years. I’m not saying that those who are on those paths are wrong. Everyone is entitled to live their lives how they want. I’m just saying that those paths are not for me. There are some gorgeous mansions in and around Cripple Creek. But for every one of those there is one of these. Ten, or twenty, or thirty years from now, I don’t want to be found boarded up where I started. Twenty-two is old in some areas of the world. Here, it is young.

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Sony A7II, Sony FE 28-70mm f/5.6 ISO 1600 4″

I’ve realized something. I am here, alive, doing whatever it is that I’m doing now because of all the things I did and didn’t end up doing in the past twenty-two years. I’m not in jail. I haven’t hurt anybody. I haven’t hurt myself. I don’t have any addictions. If I had an opportunity to move to the other side of the world right now, I could. I’ve made some wise choices. I’ve got it good. Sure, I know people who seem to have their lives figured out and I’m proud of them, it’s a rarity. They had the courage to pursue their interests. However, I also know others who are trapped. Some of them don’t have the foresight to see the corrosiveness of their actions.

I’m going to jump back to the house metaphor. I feel it needs elaboration.

I. There are those who build their house upon a strong foundation with diligence. They do it themselves or with the help of others. Keyword: diligence.

II. There are those who have their houses built for them by others. They realize their fortune or are corrupted by the ease. Keywords: built for them.

III. There are those who want to build a house but cannot. They lack the resources or are less fortunate. Keyword: cannot.

IV. There are those who do not want to build a house ever. Keyword: hipster. Not really, but you get my meaning.

V. There are those who build houses for others. They have a house of their own or do not have one at all. Keywords: build for others.

VI. There are those who never build a house of their own, but instead are transient in the houses of others. Keyword: transient.

VII. Then, there are those who like the idea of building a house, but aren’t prudent in their approach; leaving it to collapse or be taken from them. Keywords: aren’t prudent. These are those I reference.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 1600 2.5″, Yashica UV Filter

I have no idea how my house is being built, at least not yet. I think I’m laying a foundation, but I won’t know its strength until a storm blows through. I wonder what that guy with the cigarette and oxygen tank’s house is like.

I’m twenty-two and I don’t know what I want to be doing ten, or twenty, or thirty years from now. I don’t know what I want to be doing now. I know it involves traveling, writing, and photography, but I don’t have my heart set on any particular end goals. I feel like I’m going to have to build a career for myself in order to do what I love. That is terrifying, but I’d be lying to myself if I dropped everything and committed to just one path. I think it would be limiting. I don’t know. For now, I’m just going to enjoy that I can look up at the stars, relaxed, in this moment. Some people don’t have that option.

I like the picture above this. The one of the road and all the blurriness. I took this in the middle of CO 67 looking towards the backside of Pikes Peak around 1 a.m. I relate to it. All that is in focus is the beat up road immediately in front of me, but even then I can still make out where it’s headed. It’s not clear by any means, but it’s beautiful. And there’s light on the horizon.

I’m going to leave a quote. Not John Muir, but another wise, old man. Gandalf. I’m going to quote Gandalf, or rather, J.R.R. Tolkien. These words have resonated with me for months now. Not a day has gone by that they haven’t passed through my thoughts.

“All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to you.”

© Jordan Poole Photography

Wildfire

I do this thing every once in a while. It’s kind of a therapeutic forget-about-what-is-bothering-me-type-thing. I’ll get to that.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 800 1/640, Yashica UV Filter

There’s something about solitude and isolation that is vital to who I am. As much as I enjoy being around people, I value my time alone more. I like to reflect on who I am. Or who I think I am. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m consciously thinking about that, it’s just a realization that comes when I look back on my time in seclusion. Being unattended, uninterrupted, and absent from the influence of others allows me to think on another level. Not like a “look at me on my high-horse” level, but like a “I’m thinking clearly and for myself” level. I see things more for what they are. I think my learning and personal advancement relies on this. All throughout school, elementary through college, my best work was done individually. It’s not that I can’t work in groups—I love working as part of a team, it’s part of being an adult. There is just a significant difference exhibited in the quality of work and the quality of thought produced when it is done on my own. I feel more attached, involved, and committed to projects and concepts. For me to reach my fullest potential in anything, I know that there has to be help along the way, but I have to have a sound understanding of self in order to achieve any kind of success—even in the trivial. Maybe I’m just more introspective than others. I find it hard to grow as a person when there is so much outside perspective. I don’t know how many times in my life my gut has told me to do one thing and those around me do or tell me to do another, so I concede, only for me to later wish I would have followed my gut to begin with. I appreciate the criticism and the advice I am given, it shows that people care, but there have been so many times I have come out on the losing end, at least personally, because I didn’t follow my gut. I hate that. I hate that for so many reasons. It’s such an internal conflict. It’s weakness; I see it as not being strong enough in my personal confidence to do what I want. But conversely, I don’t want to disenchant the people who choose to support me.

That took a turn I didn’t intend for it to take. I’ll cut it off before it burrows.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 800 1/640, Yashica UV Filter

Nature. Nature’s neat, right? Let’s talk about that. Nature is so essential to my well-being. I could never live in a big city; even where I live now gets to me sometimes. I love being in the remoteness of wilderness or on some high peak far from everything. However, life doesn’t always allow you the flexibility you want (at least not yet), so you have to compromise. I am fortunate enough to live in a state where beauty is around every corner. Mountains, valleys, canyons, dunes, plains; all for the taking and all so distinctive. My compromise is found in the nearby forests.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/5.6 ISO 800 1/160, Yashica UV Filter

I often think about the forest. Not necessarily a particular forest, just what a forest is. I know it’s a patch of land with a dense population of trees. I know it’s a resource. I understand its ecological functions. What I’m beginning to understand are the messages the forest offers. Bear with me. John Muir once said “the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” I relate to this guy. Not because he #livedauthentic, wore leather boots, and had a canvas backpack, but because he was a man who embraced the intrinsic qualities of the world around him, allowing it to shape his worldview and character. He saw what I am slowly beginning to see in regard to the forest.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 800 1/160, Yashica UV Filter

A forest is a collective of trees, each similar but unique. Some are copies of an original, growing in close quarters, others are more sparse. They begin as saplings; some die off young, others grow tall and old. Some are torn down by their surroundings, either naturally or deliberately. Some are more resilient than others. Some provide shelter, others provide detriment. Re-reading this, it sounds like I am referring to the trees as people and the forest as a population. The metaphor I see is that not of people, but of opportunities. Recently, I’ve spent a great deal of time in retrospect. I have been wondering about my place in the universe and all of the different paths I could be on right now, had I chosen differently. But then I got to thinking about the forest. When forests are burned, they do not go away. Burning does not change the fact that a forest is still a forest. They remain, changed from before, but still present. With wildfire comes new growth as the years advance. That concept hit me and brought so much of my doubt and mistrust into focus.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E adapter, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 800 1/640, Yashica UV Filter

 

So back to the first sentence. I do this thing. I walk alone, somewhere secluded, and I just let my mind wander. I think about life, people, nothing. It’s so rare, but it’s so calming to have nothing on my mind. I hear and feel the breeze. I’ll stop and sit sometimes, too, and just look around. It’s such a simple, reviving thing, but sometimes it’s so hard to do. Sometimes I talk things out to myself. I probably look like a lunatic, but it’s what works. It’s repairing.

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Sony A7II, FotodioX MD to E Adpater, Minolta 50mm f/2.8 ISO 800 1/640, Yashica UV Filter

I don’t usually bring my camera with me when I do this because it distracts me from the experience, but on occasion I do. These are photos I took while in Black Forest the other day as all of this ran through my head.

© Jordan Poole Photography