Brief Moments of Clarity (ir a la versión en español aqui)
When I decided that I'd go to Alaska I started looking at photos of its different regions on the Internet. At first I thought I would see a lot of frozen, white landscapes and pitch black scenes of huge ice caps, pretty much impossible to traverse. I must admit I was a bit surprised when I saw a lot of happy, sunny images with wood cabins surrounded by lakes and forrests. In a way the images had a "lumberjacky" feel to them more than anything else.
I had thought of Alaska as this wide, open space where one goes to get away from everything and everyone and just get lost in thought and nature. I then decided I would treat this trip as if I were an astronaut arriving into an uncharted world. A world quite similar to ours in atmosphere and scenery but pretty much deserted. If you've ever heard "Space Oddisey" by David Bowie you know that Major Tom ends up (spoiler alert) floating in space (told you), so this would be kind of the continuation to that story. I'd be Major Tom, who somehow (apparently the spaceship did know which way to go after all) reached a far away planet that seems deserted but also shows signs that it was inhabited not so long ago.
I am convinced that once you program the brain to look for something in particular it will absolutely find it, so everywhere I went I kept finding landscapes and objects that helped support this idea of "austronaut stranded in a foreign world". It was spot on too, as that was the way I was feeling at the time: a bit lost, a bit confused, it seemed like the things I had always known had changed over night and now there I was trying to figure out this huge, ovewhelming, new world before me and more importantly, my place in it.
It didn't take me long to realize that I was looking at some of the most beautiful landscapes one can ever find, on top of that I met great, friendly people and I also got plenty of time to keep to myself. Throughout the trip I kept my camera with me and when I found something that interested me I'd take a picture, some of them would be aligned to the "austronaut" subject and some wouldn't, some would just be about the great, friendly people, the amazing landscapes or the lovely beings.
After a long day on a bus I decided to go for a small walk, I followed a small trail for a few minutes and eventually got to see this: (more text below image)
Pretty, isn't it?
Well, something just clicked right there and then, I was on a small road surrounded by trees, some were in the light and some in the shadows under a partly cloudy sky. I stopped on my tracks and realized these trees are always there, in the same position, they don't ever move. The only thing that changes is the light and that makes all the difference in the world. Had this scene been brightly lit I probably wouldn't have seen anything extraodinary worth stopping for, I wouldn't have seen the orange tones on the trees and it's very likely I would have just seen a light-green wall of trees ahead of me.
On the other hand, If I had been there at night I wouldn't have been able to see anything at all, probably some shapeless branches a couple inches from my nose and that is it. I then realized that too much light and too much dark yield the same result: "blindness". It's the combination of shadows and light the one responsible for making the scene interesting, for highlighting small details like the pebbles on the road, the orange tones on the leafs, the branches on the trees; for showing layers and depth. It ocurred to me that in photography we modify exposure and play with lights to make something stand out or to blend it in with the rest of the background and then I thought that's maybe what needs be done in life as well: just focusing, lighting and exposing for the things I really want to see, not minding the rest. In the end, it's through brief moments of clarity how I'll find, shape and follow my own particular path and that's ok because that is all I need to make a cold, huge, overwhelming world into a cozy, happy home.
Read more about the Alaska Adventure