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  • Writer's picturePayton Pan

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

NOTE: This blog is the second installment in a three-part series. If you haven’t yet, consider reading Part I here: .

I was stumbling over slippery rocks to cross the raging river. Racing the setting sun towards the sounds of gushing water, I had to find the shot before I lost the warmth of the supple last light. Alone in the West Virginia backcountry after having left the group’s campsite to do some evening photography, I continued my awkward waddle upstream with all the camera gear I could convince myself to carry on a backpacking trip.

I was heading in the direction of an apparent waterfall I thought I’d glimpsed in passing on the hike in, a few hours earlier. I could hear what I thought was the waterfall just around the corner, but, speeding up, slipped off a rock into the water. Instinctively, I held my equipment upwards, and nothing got wet except for me. That’s when I looked up and saw it. What once was a small waterfall had given way to a depth of layered chutes, a cacophony of white cascades and blue holes. There I was, standing alone, soaking wet, in the middle of a raging river, watching oceans of water pour towards me. That water washed away all my cares from moments prior about lighting, framing, or my camera, and I realized a new purpose of photography: 2. Slow Down

Instead of walking past all of the small beauties that grace this world, my camera forces me to pause and appreciate the little things. Ever since I was touched by the water in “Gorilla Rock,” my pace when I’m out shooting has changed. In fact, the space photography provides me in which I can slow down has caused me to keep looking forward to the next time I can be outside taking pictures. We all need this change of pace in our lives, or else we begin to move so fast that the world around us blurs. I encourage everyone to take time outdoors, not for the sake of achieving anything, but rather to find a calm space where you can slow down and focus. I returned to the same spot a few months later, hiking through the area with some friends. The water had all but disappeared, leaving just a few dispiriting trickles where once was a grand torrent. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ways of Mother Nature. It was as if the spiritual moment was reserved for when I was by myself, just me and my lens. It’s a good thing I have the photo, or else I’m not sure anyone would even have believed me as I spoke of the majesty I had seen. The unpredictability of nature makes me even more grateful when things work out beautifully. But this gratitude, as well as the powerful natural wonders that precede it, are stories and lessons for next time, when I recall my time in the Floodplains of South Carolina. Until Then, Payton Pan Discalimer: I am the author of this blog, but the ownership belongs to

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