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Wanderlust In Moab

February 9, 2010

I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me.  I live in Moab.  I can be in Arches National Park in 15 minutes, Canyonlands in 45 minutes.  Indeed, life is good.  And yet, I often find myself off in LaLa Land daydreaming about places that aren’t, well…Moab.  It’s my Mom’s fault.  I inherited her wanderlust.

It leads me to wonder if all photographers have wanderlust in their hearts.  No matter how photographically awesome our hometown, are we always dreaming of life somewhere else?  Jackson, Bend, Missoula, Bishop, Taos, Bellingham…the list goes on.

In the middle of a Moab summer, with the temperature soaring, I find myself wishing we lived in Jackson or Missoula.  I’d be at the Tetons or Glacier, frolicking in wildflowers and hiking to alpine lakes.

When fall rolls around my mind wanders off to Durango, or maybe Ouray.  Yellow aspens stretch as far as the eye can see with jagged mountains towering overhead dusted in the first snow of the season.  Oh yes, I would fill memory cards daily.

If only we lived in Bishop, I’d be out photographing the Sierra’s and bouldering in the Alabama Hills.  No wait, I’d rather be in Bend.  I’d snowshoe into the Cascades every winter and photograph waterfalls in the spring.  Oh, oh, oh…Bellingham!  I could escape to the North Cascades or Mt. Rainier, where I’d backpack the Wonderland Trail and photograph The Mountain from every angle.

I lived in Phoenix for 18 years.  I moved away from the Sonoran Desert in 2002 – three years after developing a passion for photography.  How many images do you think I made of stately saguaros and rugged desert peaks during that 3 years?  Probably about a dozen.  I was too busy wandering off to the Rockies or the Cascades, or taking road trips to anywhere else.  I didn’t realize just how good I had it there in Phoenix.  The Superstitions and Picacho Peak were so close I could shoot sunset and be back home in time for dinner.  But no, I’d spend all my time at home dreaming of fabulous trips to non-Phoenix locations instead of taking advantage of all the amazing-ness that surrounded me. 

And now, I’m here in Moab.  Canyon Country.  Two national parks, a state park and over 2 million acres of wild and rugged BLM land all waiting to be explored literally right outside my door.  World class?  You bet.  I do still daydream and I do road trip elsewhere at every given opportunity.  However, I don’t take for granted that I live in Moab.  I get out regularly and when I detect that I’m getting bored, I start seeking out local places you don’t find in the tourist brochures.

What’s the moral here?  I’m really not certain.  I guess if there is one, it’s that no matter where you live, there will always be some place cooler.  And, if we keep our minds open we can always find and photograph the beauty that surrounds us.  We just need to look for it.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. karipost permalink
    February 9, 2010 9:01 am

    Awesome post Bret. I think many photographers can relate. When I did my bike trip across the country, almost every place felt new and exciting, but after being trapped in areas for longer than we wanted (thanks to traveling only 70ish miles per day on a bike), I really started to miss home. New Jersey isn’t a nature lover’s paradise by any means – its scenic views are marred by highways and every wild place you can go is heavily traveled – but it does have its own special beauty. Lately, I’ve been trying to capture a lot more local landscapes and wildlife. I feel like wild things is so under appreciated around here and most people aren’t aware of all of the amazing nature in their own backyard. Of course, in Moab, the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape may be a bit more obvious, but its unfortunately all too easy to overlook the beauty you see every day. I think its all about perspective and being able to really appreciate the little wonders of a place as well as the bigger picture. I like to say “The grass is always greenest right beneath your own two feet, as long as you choose to see it that way.”

    • February 9, 2010 8:43 pm

      Love the quote at the end of your comment, Kari! So very true. Much of how we see the world around us is attitude based. Open our minds a bit and the creativity will flow. Thanks for commenting.

  2. February 9, 2010 11:07 am

    I can certainly relate. I live outside Livingston Montana just below Yellowstone. As wonderful as this area is I still find myself looking at maps while I feed my wanderlust.

    My last shooting trip included Moab and then on down to the Four Corners Area and New Mexico. No shortage of places to dreams about and more importantly GO to.

    • February 9, 2010 8:44 pm

      Wow, you live in an amazing place Allen! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one living in a destination town who is constantly checking out maps of all the other places I could be photographing.

  3. Carlo A. Balistrieri permalink
    February 9, 2010 1:19 pm

    I’ll swap you some New Jersey for a little of that there Moab…

    • February 9, 2010 1:40 pm

      Nothin’ against New Jersey but I’ll stick with Moab. I’m definitely a western U.S. kinda guy!

  4. February 9, 2010 3:28 pm

    Amazing isn’t it? I live in Colorado yet 80% of the images in my files are from outside this wonderful state. Every year one of my photographic resolutions is to photograph more in Colorado. In keeping with that my last 3 shooting trips have been…..Skagit Valley, Moab and Bosque Del Apache, all out of state. And my upcoming trip is to…..Phoenix in March. Great dedication Bill. Way to stick to that resolution.

    • February 9, 2010 8:37 pm

      Get on the ball, Bill! Here’s some Colorado suggestions for you, not in any particular order:

      Garden of the Gods
      Rocky Mountain NP
      Great Sand Dunes NP
      San Juans! (My fave)
      Pawnee Buttes

      Here’s your assignment, should you accept it – pick one of them and visit by the end of February, even if only for a day.

      This message will never self-destruct. That would be cool, though.

      • February 9, 2010 10:15 pm

        Oh man…I hate homework but I LOVE a challenge so I’ll accept this assignment but I’ll go one better. Sometime in the next 10 days I’ll create a saleable image or at least one that I’m proud enough of to post on my blog for all the world to see and I’ll do it within 20 minutes drive time from my house. Anyone else game?

  5. February 9, 2010 5:01 pm

    Ha, that got me thinking. I’ve lived in NYC area for so long and hated it. Now that I’m in Colorado I am itching to get back to the Adirondacks and the Northeast in the fall because I never took any time to explore the area with my camera, or at least not as much as I wished. Grass is greener I guess 🙂

    • February 9, 2010 8:39 pm

      I’ve seen some might purty photos of the Adirondacks, Aleks. I’m not much of an east coast kinda guy but I’ve always wanted to visit New England in the fall and Acadia in the summer. One day…

  6. February 9, 2010 6:08 pm

    Great post, Bret. I think its human nature to be able to relate to this–familiarity breeds complacency and we develop wanderlust for other places. Another way of saying the grass is greener on the other side.

    Although I guilty of this (big time), I have been thinking a lot lately about sense of place, and whether intimacy can breed even greater creativity. Time permitting, and barring writer’s block, I’ll blog on it soon…

    Good read, thanks! Oh, and stay away from Bishop in the summer. Too hot.

    • February 9, 2010 8:42 pm

      Bishop is a little toasty in the summer, but it’s still awfully pretty. And, one can always duck into Schatt’s Bakery for super fattening sweets or Amigos for the awesome Mexican food – both of which are air conditioned, of course.

      Look forward to reading your blog on this topic, Greg. If you want, leave a link to it in a comment here when you get it posted.

  7. February 9, 2010 9:19 pm

    I’m in this same boat too. I also notice a seasonal displacement along the same lines. In the summer, I think a lot about desert areas where I can go once the weather cools off; but in the cold season, I’m always yearning to be in really big mountains.

    Maybe it’s a cognitive dissonance that comes of really loving landscapes. Just because the landscape you’re in is splendid doesn’t mean you don’t love others. Even really spectacular and unique stuff like Utah slickrock wouldn’t satisfy me forever. Plus, I’ve found that getting into a substantially different environment really kickstarts the creative impulse once I’m back home.

  8. Kent Mearig permalink
    February 12, 2010 12:42 am

    Fun post, Bret! And it’s fun for the folks who live in amazing places to get a chance to toot their location’s horn while admitting that they fall victim to this daydream mentality on occasion. Besides some partial breaks here and there (college), I’ve now lived in Juneau for 18 years. I’m happy to say, I still consider it THE perfect place to live, raise a family, and be a non-professional photographer. That being said, photography or none, I can’t stomach twelve consecutive months in this place. I consider it my routine to fly out at least twice a year.

    I was just talking to a student of mine today about how Juneau’s isolation (no roads connecting to any other city) actually provides the perfect excuse to schedule extensive travels on a regular basis. My desire to photograph influences every “vacation” (even work related), but it never gets to be the primary goal, and that’s okay with me. Actually, I bet my spot in the world could satisfy all my photographic desires if I could only come up with a way to import weather.


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