To the Ends of the Earth

A late summer afternoon glow fills Grand Canyon as seen from Yaki Point on the South Rim. Cedar Ridge and O'Neill Butte bask in the light in the foreground. (Bill Ferris)

A late summer afternoon glow fills Grand Canyon as seen from Yaki Point on the South Rim. (Bill Ferris)

What motivates you to walk out the door with your camera? Is it the siren song of an image you’ve been wanting to capture? The desire to create something original and beautiful? The challenge of using a single, static image to create a lasting record of a moment in time? The hope of reinventing the mundane as something magnificent? All of the above? What reward are you seeking when lifting the camera and framing another shot?

I’m motivated by the idea that there are countless shots in the world that have yet to be taken. Even the most photographed subject on the planet has potential. You might chuckle at the notion that anybody could possibly take an original photograph of the Eiffel Tower, the New York City skyline or anything at Disneyland. But consider this, every first-time visitor sees these places with fresh eyes. And anytime a pair of fresh eyes looks for the first time upon something or someone, there is the potential for magic.

Now, I’m not talking about spells, witches and wands type magic. I’m talking about the magic of something happening for the first time. There is magic in a first kiss, first love or even something as simple as the first time a child tastes chocolate ice cream. And the beauty of firsts, is that they happen to everybody every day. When you walk out the door, you’re seeing the world…for the first time that day. There is magic in the promise of a new day. Yesterday may have been lousy, no better than a bag of rocks. Today offers an opportunity to make a fresh start. The headache that made you grumpy, yesterday, is gone. The co-worker who spilled coffee on you desk is out of the office for the day.

Today is new. It’s never been seen, before. It could be a day like any other or it could be something spectacular. And you play a role in deciding what kind of day today will be. You can make it happen.

One of my favorite outdoor activities is hiking. I spend an average of 30 minutes each day on the treadmill, get out and hike a local trail most weekends and make it a point to spend a couple weeks each year backpacking Grand Canyon. For me the attraction of being outdoors is multifaceted. I enjoy the physical challenge of backcountry route finding. Northern Arizona has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to stunning natural vistas. And for every inspiring scene to be easily found along the rim of Grand Canyon, there are countless gems to be discovered below the rim.

It is the potential to discover and photograph a stunningly gorgeous scene that, as much as any other reason, calls me back to Grand Canyon. And let’s be honest, if there’s anything better than capturing a lovely image of an iconic scene, it is capturing an image of a magnificent scene for the first time. I’m not talking about the first time for me kind of first time. I’m talking about the first time for anybody kind of first.

This ancient granary can be found in Stone Creek in Grand Canyon. You can get there by boot or by boat. It's a place few people every visit but is well worth the trip. (Bill Ferris)

This ancient granary can be found in Stone Creek in Grand Canyon. You can get there by boot or by boat. It’s a place few people ever visit but is well worth the trip. (Bill Ferris)

This photograph was taken in Stone Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. Stone Creek is tucked away in western Grand Canyon. It’s not reachable by car, mule or even along a maintained trail. It took me three days of hot, hard hiking to get here in October 2010. I wasn’t the first person to see this sight but, within the context of the nearly four million people who visit Grand Canyon each year, I was probably one of fewer than 100 people to visit this place that year. How many others photographed this scene? How many invested the energy in lugging a good quality DSLR to Stone Creek? How many took the time to compose an interesting shot?

Capturing a great photo of an iconic subject can be very satisfying. Taking a great photograph of an almost unknown subject can also be very satisfying but for different reasons. The notion of bringing to public attention to a place that is virtually unknown is appealing. Even if a photo does not garner public attention, there’s something pleasing about the thought of being one of the few photographers on the planet to have that picture. To be the only photographer to have that photo. Now, that’s appealing.

Get out and shoot.

Bill Ferris | August 2013

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