I remember this trip like it was yesterday, my first time out to Wyoming. First time fishing on the snake, first time holding a trout in my hands, first time seeing the Tetons, and first time taking a photography specific trip. Little did I know this passion would soon turn into an obsession that would end up changing my life.
At the time I was in the middle of a divorce. I was lost, bordering depression and trying to figure out what truly mattered in my life. Everything had been flipped upside-down in the blink of an eye.
Like any good millennial, I thought this trip was a great attempt at running away from my problems, even if for just a moment. I was raised taking vacations in the wild. While the rest of you were enjoying laying on the beach or exploring the concrete jungle, we were camping through the tailwaters of northern Michigan, Backpacking through landscapes that rival scenes from Lord of the Rings, and sleeping under the glow of the night sky with only each other and the crackling of a fire to keep us company. So when my buddy Brent asked if I wanted to go Fly Fishing in Jackson next week, there wasn’t even a hesitation.
We booked a flight to Salt Lake City, then rented a car and drove through the beautiful yet wild Northern Utah and eastern Idaho on our way to Jackson.
As soon as we got out of the city a feeling came over me. It could have been the fresh mountain air, the altitude, or the three bourbon and ginger-ales I had on the plane starting to wear off, but regardless of what it was, it felt like home. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in a long time. If I had to describe that feeling, my best attempt would be a mixture of comfort, contentment, and hope. Later, through dozens of hours of counseling and several more trips, I learned that this feeling was my way of connecting with and remembering my dad and the love for the outdoors he instilled in my life.
Upon arriving in Jackson, we stopped for a beer at this little mountain bar overlooking the Tetons and stumbled upon a local Hootenanny before the bar closed for the season. The next hours were spent having a few too many beers, listening to locals play whatever their hearts desired, and cheering wildly every time they finished a song.
So far my plan had worked, this place ended up being the only distraction from the pain of divorce I had in four months. We left that bar and headed to our friend's house to crash on the floor before waking bright and early to make our way to the river. It was the first good night's sleep I had in a long time, and I finally allowed myself to slowly drift out of my depression induced state, that had become so comfortable, and start to live again.
The next several days include waking up early to get breakfast at the Bunnery, heading out to go fly fishing, trailblazing new paths to tiny mountain streams, more fly fishing, chasing wildlife including multiple foxes and a great gray owl, and endlessly searching for a grizzly bear named willow while enjoying a few brews.
While my skill as a photographer has since increased, and my equipment has been upgraded, some of my favorite photos were taken on this trip. It marks the place in time I began to pursue photography as more then just a passion.
I learned a ton on this trip as well. Jake Davis was kind enough to share some of his Lightroom workflows as well as take us to his favorite spots which really showed me the value of the intimate knowledge locals posses at destinations, as well as the importance of procedure in post-processing of photos.
I learned that the outdoors weren’t just something I enjoyed a few times a year, but could also be a place of healing and peace for hard emotional times.
I learned that its possible to make a living around what you love if you have enough grit and a little bit of creativity.
I learned the importance of having good men who are willing to be honest in my life.
Most importantly, I learned how God is willing to use anything you'll let him, in order to change your life. You see this trip would have never happened if it wasn’t for the several talks about faith at my buddies shop. I would have never had the opportunity to put away my fly rod on a fishing trip and wander around taking photos if it wasn’t for me pursuing some alone time to talk with God. I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the impact good men can have on me if I hadn’t gone to the Crucible retreat the month prior.
It took so many specific things happening at the right time for me to be able to go on this trip, to learn what I learned, and to pursue adventuring and photography from that point forward. Just as it has taken an immeasurable amount of “coincidences” for me to find my faith through the loss of my dad and my ex-wife.
Some of you will chock this up to coincidence, others will say it’s the mysterious energies of the universe. Hell, I’ve even had someone mention it being karma, but to me, it's all the proof I need to know there is a God who loves us regardless of our past, and is constantly pursuing an intimate relationship with us. All we have to do is get out of the way.