Someone I know who I greatly respect wrote this message on their white-board… a message worth sharing with others, as it’s quite an inspiring way to look at things.
“Difficult Roads Often Lead to Beautiful Destinations”
This could just be one of those poetic type of sayings that get a bunch of head nods and you move on, but this quote made me pause and think about my own journey. No, this is not the moment of autobiography per say, so, no need to click off and go elsewhere.
Thinking on my journey into photography, there have been difficult moments that could have crushed my spirits. There have definitely been amazing moments and amazing friendships built from this journey. This quote basically says that no matter what you’re doing and what road you’re on, there is a destination. The challenges often hide the best locations
From a visual perspective, there is always that super romantic beautiful scenery at the end of a difficult path of hiking. That place that draws your breath away, that makes you forget the stress of life. The slice of heaven on earth. So beautiful a landing that you tend to forget the hardship of the hike to get there.
In my early days of doing photos, it was tough financially because I didn’t have a proven track record to fall back on. I was a rookie in all the ways one can be a rookie. Your customers/clients are trusting you with their memories and hoping you’ll deliver what you said you would. It is not easy. It is not without risk. Often, if you get it wrong, you might even burn bridges you didn’t even know you could have crossed.
One of my hardest memories was the day I set out to shoot a big wedding for a popular young couple. They felt I had a decent work ethic and an reasonable price. Later, I would find it was a very cheap price. I did my best. I had a lot of fun. I also greatly annoyed the matron of honor. She knew how a photographer was supposed to set up photos. I hadn’t looked into what stock wedding photos were supposed to even look like. You can probably imagine the looks I got and the comments I heard as she tried to get me to do the right job without alarming the bride. It was a very difficult day while at the same time a fun day of discovery.
Now, imagine having taken photos all day long and then getting to the end of the reception to discover your camera settings not only were wrong, but almost all the photos came out black. How do you deliver a wedding when you don’t even have photos worth saving. Man, it was intense. I couldn’t ask them to return to the church and start over. I couldn’t ask them to step outside and redo the whole reception. They were about to leave for the night and start their honeymoon.
I did what any ambitious young man who feels invincible would do. I spun. I gave the best spin I could about why I was not letting the bride preview the photos, why I had to take a few additional experimental shots before they left. I gave it the best PR spin I could muster. While doing so, I was frantically negotiating and dealing with anyone who had a camera that day to get as much photos as I could into my email inbox. At one point, someone felt bad for me and brought out their work laptop to download photos from those who didn’t want to bother with email. One guy was promoting his photo company at the reception and I agreed to give him money if he gave me a third of his photos and kept his company logo on them.
I can’t stress how much this was a very difficult road for me. I had many other prospective brides lined up for that year who were counting on the results of this set of photos so they would have both testimonials and proof that I was not just a kid with a camera but a professional who just happened to be very young.
Long story short, I did deliver an album that the bride loved. Sometimes when she sees me today, she tells me that I’m going to be the one who does her 25th year anniversary photos. I did learn a lot about what not to do. Not all the photos were lost, because unbeknownst to me, at one point in the event, my hand had slipped on a setting and that little change allowed me to get some of the key points necessary for the album… like the kiss and vow exchange.
The man who let me use his laptop was gracious enough to give me a memory stick full of guest photos they had taken. He was also a photographer, it turned out, and was geared up way more than I was. The brides who depended on the testimonial were delighted to hear a favorable report about my work. I occasionally see some of those photos passing by on Facebook as the years tick by.
The destination was years of amazing photo shoots. While it currently feels like I have arrived, like all good roads, there are forks in the journey and tough decisions to make. One of them was to go into semi-retirement and focus on life. I do miss greatly taking photos. I miss the action. I’m now at a place in my life that going back on the hustle circuit doesn’t make perfect sense even if my gut yearns for it. I have other bigger projects that need nurturing.
As sad as that may sound, I’m still taking photos. I even coach others how to do their art. I’ve toyed with doing classes and giving lessons based on what I’ve learned. Some of the feedback still blows my mind to this day. Many have enjoyed my work in a manner I didn’t think was possible. Yes, I am coming out of semi-retirement soon. I can’t wait.
The other greater more beneficial upside to this story and the experiences from that chapter of my life is that it paved the way for the projects I’m working on now. Projects I had no idea I would undertake now. Projects that I’m even more passionate about than doing little party events and small weddings. I’ve got my eyes on much bigger things that will give me the chance to do even more creative photos and other things related.
The point I’m trying to drive at is this, the journey is just as important as the destination. It shapes you, builds you, and helps you better appreciate the results of the travel. Just like a hike makes your legs feel tired initially, in time, that hike will give you more strength, endurance, and stamina. That growth and boost allows you to better saver the sweet view upon arriving. Just like many who hike and are thirsty, you better savor that spring fresh cold water after the hike then if it was in a refrigerated bottle at home with no effort to get.
In current times, the journey has led me to blogging. Never would I have believed it possible. Never. However, I sure am enjoying the learning of the art of blogging. In fact, knowing how hard journeys can often be and how rocky roads can challenge you, this experience is helping me navigate the many challenges that comes with building a site, let alone avoiding writer’s block.
Dear reader, what journey are you on? What lessons can you transfer from one challenge to the next? When it feels impossible to continue, just remind yourself how great the beautiful destination will be… and keep pressing forward. It is worth the effort. Even if the results may appear to be a failing. You’ve gained knowledge, wisdom, and expertise someone else doesn’t have.
Whatever you do, keep in mind today that difficult roads often do lead to beautiful destinations. The key word is often. It’s worth the travel. Have a beautiful safe journey to your destination.
the IG photo shared is from someone I follow who has a ton of inspirational quotes and tips…a different take on roads to travel…encouraging us to enjoy along the way
the photos were taken many many years ago in my super early days of wedding photography. while I still cringe at the memories, hadn’t I stuck out this wedding photo shoot, I wouldn’t have had years of photography experience to even write about. start where you’re at and plow ahead as you get better… it’s well worth the hardship of learning.