A couple of weekends ago, I went to a ladies kayaking trip that started with a tour of Waterhole Canyon and a short hike out to the Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona. I took the picture above with my 10 or so year old, crop frame, digital SLR, and a borrowed wide angle lens from my father in law. My husband has a better camera, which I often borrow, but I felt less nervous taking my older camera down the river with me. I was really happy with the photo, even though the bend is photographed a thousand times a day, and my photo is in no way unique. I held my camera in the air high above my head in the hope of getting an even better shot. Because I did that, the horizon was pretty unlevel.
I am married to a photography professor, and he would probably never have published a photo like that. He constantly drills into his students to level their horizons when they shoot. If they miss it, it’s an easy fix in post. I have loved photography for a long time, too, and I know this about horizons. But I was in a hurry when I processed the photo. I have a job, four children, and am taking a college class this semester, so I am often in a rush when trying to do something I love. So when I corrected the horizon, it was still a little off. You can see it here:
I went ahead and posted this imperfect picture on my husband and my photo page on social media. Almost immediately one of my husband’s past students came online and started criticizing the horizon. I can understand his distress. He saw it on Alex’s page, and he knows darn well that Alex knows better. Unfortunately for me, this student did not know what an insecure emotional small child I am on the inside when it comes to my photography. His words were devastating. I made a joke about it, and he came right back with critical words again. So I deleted the post. It is embarrassing to admit how thin skinned I am.
Even worse, it reminded me of a time when I was younger and made an unappreciative comment about an incredible quilt that was very detailed. It wasn’t my style at the time, but it was still an amazing feat of craftswomanship. The quilter leaned in and politely pointed out that she reads the comments. I immediately felt terrible, but I was SO grateful to her for helping me realize that behind the screens we consume every day are real people, with real feelings. When they share something they create, it is a courageous act of vulnerability. I hope that I am wiser now, and more respectful to those who open themselves up that way.
Now that I have had time to step back and look at the big picture, I remind myself that the trip was not exclusively about the stunning beauty we were so lucky to see.
It certainly didn’t hurt to be surrounded by breathtaking sandstone and emerald water. The sun melted away all of our cares. We ate food out of cans and pouches, and some of our apples baked like they had been in a solar oven.
Glen Canyon Dam
Sure, it was grounding to feel small in contrast to the engineering feat of the dam. The natural wonder of the canyon and river gave me a healthy sense of my own insignificance. My tent mate got me up in the middle of the night to look at the milky way surrounded by the canyon. That was pretty magical.
What I really loved most about that trip, though, was not the photographs I took away. It was the stories I heard, the new friends I made, and the old friends I came to cherish even more. So, if I share a picture with a flaw, and someone doesn’t like it, I guess I’ll be okay. I have a lot of friends who will probably still let me float down the river with them another day.