So who exactly am I behind the lens? There are the obvious; I'm 20 years old, I'm from Wisconsin, I'm a junior at Southern Oregon University studying Cultural Anthropology and Outdoor Adventure Leadership, and I love dogs, all things anyone could find out if they spent two minutes looking into it. But that doesn't explain what compels me to walk on foreign lands and breathe in fresh air and witness the sun set in new places as often as possible. Those are the things that can't be quantified and I'll admit I don't entirely understand them myself. But I certainly try.
I love beautiful things, and for me, those beautiful things are fewer trinkets, knick-knacks, and possessions and more places, creatures, and cultures. I strive to see both the well-known places and the undiscovered spaces with my own two eyes and my own perspective. It's never been enough to simply know that they exist; I need to experience them. I need to taste the air of that space and hear the sounds that envelope it. A photograph is one-dimensional and for me, it's just an invitation into the real thing.
Over time that is what photography has become to me; an invitation. An excuse. I started out when I was about ten, with a little point-and-shoot. I photographed dandelions and leaves and I had a blast doing it. As time wore on and I got more powerful cameras and my world expanded I was able to capture ducks and deer and rivers and lakes. Occasional trips to Florida and Upper Michigan mixed with zoo outings and an awesome Wisconsin to South Carolina road trip were able to sustain me for a while but at some point the bug bit. I needed more. The world was becoming more and more visible through extremely talented photographers online and I began to see exactly how much I wasn't seeing. And so my grand plans began to form. Somewhere during this time, I realized that though I adore photography, I would give it up in a second if it somehow meant I could travel for the rest of my life. But luckily for me, the two aren't mutually exclusive; quite the opposite in fact. I can not only travel and take pictures, but I could thrive doing it.
All of a sudden I have an excuse when I tell my parents that I want to backpack around Iceland for a month by myself before I'm even twenty and before I've ever even traveled alone within the States; "I have to build my portfolio, Mom." "I have to gain experience traveling solo, why not start now?" "I promise I won't die, Dad."
Iceland happened almost immediately after I finished my freshman year of college in Wisconsin. It would start off the most exciting year of my life. Iceland itself was amazing and went off without a hitch. I'm already plotting my next trip there. I returned to Wisconsin for the rest of the summer, working and catching up with childhood friends but come August I was going to school in Colorado. I was able to do so through an awesome program called the National Student Exchange (NSE). I spent a semester in Colorado adding thousands of miles to my car and hundreds to my feet (while taking a full load of classes). And then all of a sudden it was January and I was headed to Oregon for my second semester of NSE. Before I even attended either school I knew I'd be transferring permanently to one of them. The only question was which one?
Obviously, I ended up choosing Oregon. I picked it because it was simply a smarter place to graduate from. There are somewhat few job opportunities in the middle of the Rockies for a fresh graduate. I also have extremely tentative plans to move up to the Seattle area after I graduate because the playground up there is a great mix of Colorado mountains and Oregon greenery. I don't know exactly what I'll be doing, but I'm certain it will be in some place beautiful.
So to loop back around to the beginning and to what drives me to pursue all of these experiences? The answer really ends up being very simple. It makes me happy. Living life in the way that I believe it was meant to be lived, to be experienced, makes me happy. I have a lot of favorite things. I like rainy days, early mornings, and crackling fires. Apple picking, coffee shops, and passionate people. Walking barefoot through the grass and getting muddy on long trails. I adore dappled sunlit, particularly when it comes from swaying trees and sudden blizzards that disguise the landscape in an innocent white blanket. I like winter, autumn, summer, and spring. I like oceans, forest, mountains, and deserts. I don't have just one favorite thing, but I do have a favorite thing that encompasses all of these and more and that is to travel. So if I can travel for a career and along the way experience every single one of my other favorite things, why wouldn't I pursue it with a relentless abandon?
Above Photo: Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (June 28, 2016).