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  • Writer's picturePayton Pan

Solace: A Photography and Mental Health Series (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Alone in the midnight mist, my mind’s incomprehension swelled atop the crashing waves. The dark ocean sprawled out into an abyss so impending it made me doubt my recollection of what the horizon used to look like. I was stumbling across mounds of wet sand, searching for some landmark to remind me of where I was, like a lost leaf sailing around an eddy. The wind’s howls were so low that I thought they might be coming from beneath the shadowy waters. I was trying to find a group of rocks that I had scouted out earlier in the day, but these Atlantic growls drove me to call off the search. I had thought that these rocks would make for a beautiful night shot of the ocean, but had overlooked one small entity: the tides. The ocean swell had gulped up the rocks entirely, making for a magician-style disappearing act. This brought me to the first of four lessons that comprise this blog series…

  1. Face Rejection with Grace

"Moonlight" Ocean City, Maryland

As you can see in the photo above, I did not let nature’s rejection of my desired shot get the best of me. Instead, I settled for a different opportunity that the adversity presented me- and got a pretty neat photo out of it. No, it was not what I was hoping to get out of my evening venture, and no, it isn’t the best shot of my career. But so often when we fear rejection, it can lead us to miss out on great opportunities. Instead, we must face adversity with grace, because often there is good that comes from it, whether it be personal growth or otherwise. After my failure, I could’ve said, “I’m not gonna waste any more sleep taking pictures at these obscure times, because I probably won’t get any good shots anyway.” But since photography has taught me a different mindset, at approximately 5:30 the next morning I was back at the beach with a camera in my hand and a tripod on my back.

Running what felt like miles along the beach just as the sun rose over the horizon, I felt like I was starring in Chariots of Fire. I had to reach the spot that had eluded me just hours earlier. Luckily for me, the tides are as reliable as they are subversive. When I finally arrived, the waves had receded perfectly, and my beloved rocks were exposed once more. All that was left to do was synchronize with my camera and perform the artful dance that is a long exposure. And after snapping one practice shot, I made what has become one of my favorite photographs: “Passing Waves.”

"Passing Waves" Ocean City, Maryland

I love this photo so much because it highlights nature’s rewards for persistence and determination. There was a stark difference between that morning and the night before, and not just because the rocks were finally showing; there was a newfound peace in the air, a morning calm blowing off the salty water and through my hair. It was as if God wanted to reward me for returning that morning by showing me the healing properties of water. Perhaps this is why I am so enthralled by the photography of water; it calms the mind by putting things in perspective.

One great example of this was my trip to the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, where the water and I became one, just in time to find "Gorilla Rock". But this, as well as the lessons that would follow, are for next time.

Until Then,

Payton Pan

Disclaimer: I am the author of this series, but the ownership belongs to

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