Head and Heart
A Photo Essay
The age-old conflict between following one’s head or one’s heart also applies to the traveling photographer. After a long day of travel or other activity, my head says put away the camera and enjoy some rest, refreshment and relaxation. My heart says get out and watch the sunset. It might be spectacular. When it’s cold and rainy outside, my head says to stay comfortable and dry, to protect my equipment. My heart says wet foliage and overcast skies make near-perfect lighting conditions for nature photography. When I see a thunderstorm approaching, my head says to get inside and play it safe. My heart says find a good vantage point to photograph lightning strikes.
Great photographs are made by those photographers who follow their heart. Your head may keep you safe, but it won’t put your creativity in high gear. I try to use my head just enough to keep me from becoming lost, injured or worse, but I don’t let my head stop me from getting wet, cold, dirty, tired or a little bit scared. In fact, I hope the photographers who I will be competing with to get my images published do follow their head. That would leave me with the unique lighting as a storm passes, the fantastic sunset and the low-contrast, high color-saturation images to be had on a rainy, overcast day.
One autumn, I planned to get up early and drive to Cataloochee Cove to capture the beautiful fall colors. The rainy weather we were having was supposed to clear by morning, so I was expecting a good day of mixed light to accent the multi-colored leaves and wet foliage. I awoke to a steady rain. My head said to stay in the warm bed and get some needed rest. My heart said to get up and go for it — because I might get lucky. Reluctantly, I loaded up and headed for Cataloochee. It was so rainy, and so foggy, and so dark, and so dreary on the way over that I could barely see to drive. In fact, it was down right scary. My head told me I was insane, that I should turn back and not waste time and gasoline. My heart kept telling me I might get lucky. After over two hours of driving in horrible weather, I began to have more than a little doubt.
Well, listening to my heart paid off. As I entered the Cataloochee Cove area, the sky got lighter. I actually saw some patches of blue up in the sky. I rushed up to a high vantage point near the entrance to the cove and was presented with my reward for persevering. I was able to take images of autumn hued ridges rising up out of the fog and low lying clouds as the valley cleared. The light and the viewing conditions were changing rapidly as humid air moved into, around, then out of the ridges below and above me, creating an evolving scenic wonder. It was a feast for the eyes and a golden opportunity for image making. I had it all to myself, because I had listened to my heart.
Life is an interesting journey, full of the yin-yang of human existence. We often go when we should stop, laugh when we should cry, and talk when we should listen. At home, or on-the-road, your head will try to keep you safe and comfortable, your heart will tell you to push the limits in order to produce unique images. Which voice will you listen to? Which will you act upon? Being conscious of the almost constant conflict within me, I listen to my head, but try to follow my heart.