Today, I find myself thinking of the concept of “the hero’s journey.” If you’re not familiar with this, it’s basically a type of plot that you’ll commonly find in novels. The idea is that while the destination might be the goal, it’s not what makes the bones of the story. Rather, the heart of the story is in the journey—the hero’s journey, in which he or she perhaps literally journeys across the land, faces a whole lot of adversity, and in the process, undergoes an inner journey in which the hero learns, grows, and adapts.
This is perhaps a thought that is applicable to photography, too. The thing is, when we go on photography trips, most of us tend to put most or all of our emphasis on the destination. Cameras don’t always come out of bags until we’ve reached that destination.
But, isn’t the journey part of the whole? Perhaps this idea doesn’t work if you’re on a plane and your camera gear is checked, but if you’re driving to your locale, maybe it’s a wise move to ride shotgun with the camera. Maybe it might behoove you to build extra time into the travel portions of the trip so that you have time to stop and take photographs along the way.
One of the reasons I think it’s fruitful to add the trip itself into the photographic portion of the journey is because you’re already in the right mindset. Here you are, looking forward to creating photographs, so you’re already in the mood for exploration and discovery. When that happens, it makes it much easier to spot potential photographic opportunities. It’s a sort of open-mindedness that leads us to looking and seeing more easily.
It turns the whole trip into more of an adventure, too. We’ve all had those long, intensely boring drives from here to there. If you’re actively keeping an eye out for things to discover, though, it livens up the trip. It actually does feel more epic, more like a hero’s quest with various stops along the way, rather than a boring old cross country drive.
Of course, you can’t drag out the drive forever. The destination will need to be reached eventually. But even so, there are other reasons to turn the drive into part of the adventure. You may find that as you go along, even if you’ve run out of time to stop and explore, you’re still adding things to your photographic bucket list, things that someday will feature as destinations all their own. You may even find that the trip to your destination was either so filled with cool things—or so uneventful—that it alters your route on the return trip. Maybe you had planned to return a different way, but now you want to take the same route to pick up some things you missed before. Or maybe the trip had little interest, so you take a different route in order to keep on discovering.
Either way, something interesting often happens when you turn the journey into part of the photographic experience. Sometimes, when you get home, you discover that the destination itself was disappointing—and the real art came from the stops you made along the way. It makes sense if you think about it. The destination was something planned. But the stops you make along the way? Those come more from the heart because they were unintentional, undreamed of when you first began this. It was just something that excited you so much, you just had to pull the car over and take a closer look.
Aren’t photography trips a wonderful thing? There are so many ways to approach them—and no matter how you do, it’s sure to be exciting. Whether it’s hours or days, it’s time spent going on a little hero’s journey of your own, one in which the quest is to find the art.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.