Aldo Leopold, in his classic book, A Sand County Almanac, wrote about being warmed twice by a fallen oak tree. First by cutting it into firewood on a cold winter morning, and second by releasing its stored sunlight fuel in a cabin stove on a shivery February day.
Multiple gifts come our way in photography as well. At my best, when I make a photograph, I am completely connected to the moment. Moving with the waves, watching light stream across a forest at sunset, or following the invisible wind as it pushes through the pine branches. It is about being present. Alive in the moment. Anyone doing their thing talks about this. Musicians, writers, potters, surgeons, cooks. When you are in the zone, nothing else comes between you and your craft.
And then, weeks or months later, if that image speaks to me, I will bring it out of hard drive darkness, and into the light, by making a print. And for the second time, I will be transported back to the moment of being there. I dive in again for a complete immersion. What was I thinking in the moment, and what inspiration does the photograph give me? Will I print a literal translation of what I saw, or an emotional interpretation of what I felt? I am warmed again.
And here is the cool part. Sometimes, there is a third gift. Leaning back and closing my eyes I can bask in much more than the details of this photograph. Maybe there is a birch leaf in the foreground, or an out-of-focus wash of red, either might make me remember autumn—whatever the trigger—now my mental wanderings will take me back to paddling the canoe across the lake to get to the forest. Closing my eyes, letting go of all the chatter, I release a flood of rich moments—hearing the loon call as I drifted under the rising morning clouds, rocking the canoe back and forth, just to hear lake water splash against the aluminum, hearing the gentle scratches as I pull the canoe into the reeds just feet from the shore, a fair bit less annoying than fingernails on a blackboard. It all takes me back to the wonderful space of quiet and wild.
When I am present, photographic moments keep on giving.