Many photographers will tell you that to get the best or most unique pictures you have to get off the beaten path. They’ll say to explore something entirely new that no one else has. Capture something unique and beautiful. That may often be the case but you can find beautiful right where you’re standing, you don’t need to explore, you don’t need to take risks. Ordinary people are beautiful. Ordinary things are beautiful.
On the northern shores of Lake Erie, you don’t have to step off the beaten path to find something beautiful. This past fall I had the opportunity to explore the southern part of Niagara region. To most people, the northern shores of a lake in the fall, in Canada, would not make for good pictures of the sunset. I attempted some locations and I got exactly what would be typical, bad landscapes with trees that are too tall, or buildings or roads that just didn’t quite capture the essence of the sunset.
But, I didn’t give up all that easily on it. I started making an effort to seek out a better spot almost every day, and part way through October I was rewarded with my persistence and Google Maps. Less than five minutes off of Highway 3 and just steps away from the road, the water meets the shore on a beautiful point. Massive smooth rocks mixed in with smaller, less manageable ones, make this spot a shallow pool when there are heavy waves. Standing on large smooth rocks with my feet soaking in water and surrounded by small bushes shielding me from view of the houses nearby, I was able to spend time along with my camera, my tripod and the sunset.
This became a favourite spot for me. It was fairly close to home and I could go there on short notice, mainly when I noticed that I liked the sky enough to take photos of it. I should give a warning though. Something that is beautiful is also dangerous. It can make you feel alive, but feeling alive brings along with it other feelings. Like the feeling that you only feel alive because you know what the opposing feeling is, death. Whatever form death may take for you. The mundane, loneliness, insecurity, fear… we all seem to have a different form of death. It can be depressing, crushing, a weight that you seemingly cannot escape from under.
In Chinese philosophy, they call this balance Yin and Yang. For everything good, there is something bad. For all the light, there is dark. We are all left with a choice – choosing to allow the darkness to take control of our thoughts and feelings, or allow the light to do so. We wouldn’t see the light if not for the dark. We wouldn’t see the dark if not for the light. Both will always be present.
You don’t have to discover something new to find the beautiful part of a thing. You don’t have to go off the beaten path to feel that the light is there in your life, or that it will be back soon. I struggle with the darkness, daily, but I’m making an effort, and it’s nice to know it’s not far away.