Photography and Listening to Your Inner Voice
When I started in photography, the camera was guided by my eyes. While hiking a trail for example, I’d find a beautiful scene in the distance, guide the camera with my eyes and then make a photograph. As I started spending weeks living outdoors and photographing the land, I experienced times when the camera, and I, were being guided by something else. At first, it was Nature herself in the form of animals like coyotes, mountain lions and hawks who would appear nearby and lead me long distances to amazing scenes I’d have never found on my own.
Now that I’m spending months each year photographing the land, I’m discovering times when the camera is being guided by yet something else, something unseen. You might call it an instinct, inner voice or spirit. But, whenever it happens and I follow its guidance, the experiences and photographs have been profound.
For three consecutive days I felt pulled to photograph a certain cliff dwelling. When it happened I’d hike there, spend a few hours looking for what I was feeling called upon to photograph, and then leave without capturing a single image. Yesterday it happened again. This time though, I arrived near sunset as long shadows revealed features in the rocks that were hidden in daylight and I saw instantly what had been waiting days for me to discover and photograph.
To best understand the photos I made that day, it will help to know that storytelling was of great importance to all early Native American people. Those stories were used to remember a tribe’s history, teach important lessons about values, life and spirituality, and more. One of these, a famous Blackfoot story I’ve known most of my life, helps explain the awe and excitement I felt when making the two photographs shown below.
Naapi, the Old Man, came down from his home in the Sun to help his people,
the Blackfoot. When his work was done he said to himself, “I will go up
onto the highest mountain and change myself into stone.” He then hiked to
a crevice in the mountain, laid down with only his face peeking out, and
turned himself into a rock. He is still there, watching for people to
come looking for him. ~ Blackfoot Legend of Naapi