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New Beginnings

Pinnacles National Park (CA)

I had the opportunity to go to Pinnacles National Park last weekend. I went alone, which is a bit abnormal for me. I am usually eager to invite friends or go on a trip with my wife, but this time I felt the need to have some solitude and do some soul-searching. I also wanted to feel and really get to know the park, rather than rush through a checklist of sights to see.

After driving through some never-ending rush hour Bay Area traffic to get to Pinnacles, I slept in my car because I didn't want to set up my tent in the dark and in the rain. I woke up before dawn and it was still raining and overcast. There was nothing to do but start hiking!

I hiked down the Old Pinnacles Trail and as the light faded in through the gray sky I began to see a very green, vibrant, wet and glistening Pinnacles National Park. By my landscape photography standards it was not very photogenic. I think it very likely that in the past I would have had been disappointed at the lack of colorful clouds, golden light, and grandiose compositions. However, after my last few months of introspection and reading and thinking and conscious mindset changes, I found myself elated! Birdsong, a babbling creek, and groves of unfamiliar California plants glistening with dew surrounded me for miles. To my photographic eye, I found small intimate scenes everywhere - beads of water on blades of grass, tiny mushrooms jutting out of a burnt log, abstract patterns of rock and foliage in the mountainsides, swaths of wildflowers that had just sprung to life, and patterns of gorgeous trees showing the first sign of spring on their tips. I excitedly moved from subject to subject observing and taking it all in, just having a great time. I was in the zone - I had no idea what time it was or how far I'd hiked. I just kept going and going and ended up hiking much further than I'd originally planned.

Eventually I found myself hiking up and down the mountains, and all told I hiked around 13 miles that day with significant elevation change with my weighty gear on my back. At the very end of the day I perched on top of a mountain (and subsequently dropped my lens cap off it) as the sun was scheduled to go down. For a few brief minutes, it broke through the clouds and it felt like seeing an old friend I'd almost forgotten about. I hiked down the mountain in the dark with aching joints, screaming muscles, a blister forming on my toe, holes in the butt of my pants after some unintended rock scrambling, cut up hands, sweaty skin, a smile on my face, and a mind overcome with the joy of spending a great day in nature with just my thoughts and senses and camera through which to record it.

I got back to my campsite, curled up in my car with a good book, and faded away as the gentle sounds of screaming children and techno music at the campground lulled me to sleep.

This story is to be continued...

This photo was taken around halfway through that hike just as I was starting to hike into the mountains. To me it represents the new beginnings of a bit of a shift in my photography where I concentrate more on smaller scenes and a gentler side of nature. This is to reflect a shift in my mind regarding nature, art, experience, perception, and perhaps my general outlook on life. I still enjoy the large, dramatic scene as I have done a lot of in the past, but there is so much more to nature than that; so much more to life than the big events and victories. Enjoying these small moments is meditative to me and keeps the gratitude of living a good life at the forefront of my mind. I hope you enjoy them as I have.

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