Chasing the Light, that's what we as photographers do right? We wake up when we should be sleeping another 6 hours in our comfy warm bed in hopes of trading that bed for who knows what. Usually a hike that most choose to do in broad daylight when they have no time limit, instead IT could be -20 and blowing winds of 40mph in hopes that the Sun will bless us that day with some amazing painted skies. The kind you see on IG and think holy crap that can't be real? Thats what its all about right? Chasing light?
What if I told you that journey has been everything to me but not for those specific reasons? Well those reasons are the reasons I get up at 2AM but why do I chase the light? I think I've came to realize that I chase the light because its this light that has brought me from the darkest part of my life. Its this light that when I'm battling those inner thoughts that tell me to quit and that I'm no good. Its the light that has brought me from the darkness that was an emptiness in my soul.
When my Mom passed away it sent me into a dark part of my life that I would love to forget, don't take that too far, I didn't do anything bad but I was far from the person I was before. I will say if it wasn't for an extremely caring group of friends and family I don't know where I would have ended up. I can about promise I wouldn't have stayed working for Stewart Haas. As every year that passed after she passed I found myself further and further from who I was, burying myself in work and things I didn't really care about. I was married to a very nice girl but one that wasn't right for me. I remember in 2014 looking in my closet, I had collared shirts, jeans, all this clothes that was like I was living out of someone else's life. I didn't own a single Hurley shirt. My racing shirts were all packed away and I had nothing that I did for myself. I didnt even know what that would have looked like.
So I took a trip, to find myself. Where it all began, for me, Colorado. I had no plans. Other than a brief list of places I have heard about all my life. I headed west hitting Glenwood Springs. I had dinner and then walked back through town past the hot springs. I had brought my Moms camera. No idea how to use it but I wanted to try it out, the thing was though I was scared/embarassed to use it. So I took mostly iPhone shots. This may have been one of the first times in my life I remember purposefully waking up for sunrise. I hiked up to where doc Hollywood was said to be buried, but all that I really remember was this beautiful stream of clouds going through the valley below me. first spark. I left Glenwood, stopped in Grand Junction at the hospital where I was born and headed south on the 50 and eventually the 550. One of the most beautiful roads I've ever drove on to where I ended up in Ouray. A little mountain town that I had heard about all my life. I stayed at the motel my Mom worked at 35 years earlier. I hiked up to some beautiful waterfalls, I went to Box Canyon, hiked along the river and came up to a house that even without asking my Aunt I knew that was where she had lived. This part of the trip was different though I did take the camera, clicking shots of everything I possibly could. Then I woke up on the third day and went for a run, as I made it past the first mile the sun was just starting to clip the tops of the massive mountains that surround Ouray. Those were and still are some of my most favorite photos I've ever taken. This was spark #2. I felt alive. I felt like that little kid that grew up loving every minute of everyday was still there. I took off and headed south to make it to Durango. I was taking pictures at every turn, literally. Parked in a snow bank to take random pictures of some old abandoned home along the road, probably belonged to some miners who knows how long ago. I stopped in Silverton, almost got the rental car ran over by a train, sorry guy, and then I made it to Durango. I barely got a hotel room, thanks to a nationwide soccer tournament, I found a train station and walked through that, the whole time trying to figure out what the hell these buttons on the camera did still. Took a picture of this beautiful train and once I got back to the hotel I noticed that the number on the train was 42, My Mom's number. It was a sign, well to me it was. She was saying hello. I tell you all of this because on this random 1100 mile trek around that state, I began to find little pieces of myself. I had bought some clothes that looked like me, that felt like me. My light was beginning to flicker.
I made it back to Denver, just barely thanks to random blizzard. It was May!! I didn't know it snowed in MAY! I sat on the plane getting ready to take off thinking, I'm going to live here one day. I don't know when but I will.
Once I got back I was different, we went onto win the championship that year, I continued to pour my heart and soul into racing. Every minute that was what my life was all about up to that point. Something inside me was different though, I started feeling this sense of what's next. I wasn't happy, I should have been but Iwasnt. Here is the part that may or may not ever get shared, I was battling this depression, I know what you're thinking oh that's totally normal you were going through a divorce, no I battle this all the time, I don't know why but I do. I thought back to my Colorado trip and the hikes I went on there, I started hiking more in NC. I found some places that seemed amazing. I bought a cheap starter camera, still afraid to take it out and use it though. Until one day in 2016 I went on hike up Hawksbill, I remember thinking I don't care who sees me holding this camera I'm going to shoot with it. Well I did, mostly with the totally wrong white balance and in Jpeg so they were junk but I did it! Thiswas the spark that lit the fire. From that Moment, I haven't gave two shits about who sees me holding a camera and you know what? I have been chasing the light ever since but more importantly that light shined on that person inside me that has been begging to be set free ever since.
It must be every time I look through that lens, the light that goes through the camera doesn't just hit the sensor, it hits my heart and fills it up. This is why I will gladly wake up at 2am to go hike in some crazy ass weather all for the hopes of getting to see that blessing of a sky we all dream about. Because when I'm holding this camera, I am me I am who Im meant to be and nothing feels better than those moments when I'm looking thorough that eye piece. The places that camera has taken me has been unbelievable. I've seen more of the world with every step in the last couple years than I had in my first 35 years.
Today though I was at one of my low points, I was at the point that all those thoughts start racing through my brain, enough to where I made myself get off my phone and stop thinking. I gave myself a 2 hour break where I couldn't look at any social media, I couldn't do anything related to it. I went and had coffee and donuts. I drove to academy to buy a new face mask that hopefully I can talk and not have to pull it uo every 7 seconds. I went to the doggy store and of course got stuff to spoil the crap out of Cramer. At 11:02 I saw a comment from Canon thought well that's cool, only to find out that they had shared one of my posts on their Instagram/Facebook feed! I have written them down every single year since 2018 when I first started thinking this WAS the path I wanted to take. Every single year. Finally todayJanuary 31st 2021 it happened. So my light may not be fully illuminated yet but I can tell you this, I know where to find the spark. I can finally look at my reflection and see myself. Not the shadow.