"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose"
- "Song of the Open Road" by Walt Whitman
For some reason that I don't entirely understand, I started taking pictures of pathways in 2011. I just love the look of a long, straight road stretched out in front of me. I always take the photos standing on the path and staring straight down its midline. Sometimes, the paths go on for ever, pinching off in infinity, but others have a determined end with something interesting on it. I especially love breakwalls, jetties, and docks - pathways that lead into the water.
|The breakwall at Presque Isle, Marquette, MI, photographed|
at sunrise, April 2011.
It's actually kind of a game for me to find interesting pathways to photograph when I travel. I'm always on the look-out for nice, straight roads, and I take my time getting set up for the shots. In fact, I sometimes fear that I annoy my travel companions with this habit, but they usually understand. I go home with some pretty nice photos.
|A beach just outside Kiel, Germany, photographed in mid-|
afternoon, September 2011.
I've thought a lot in recent years about why I take so many photos of pathways. It's not like I could ever sell or publish them - my camera doesn't have near the resolution required for that - so the photo series is really just for me. But of all things that my sub-conscious could have chosen to fixate on, it chose paths. More than that, it chose straight paths. Clear paths. Paths that stretch into infinity.
|Motutapu Island, just offshore of Auckland, New Zealand,|
photographed at mid-day, April 2014.
Sure, I've photograped plenty of curved trails, but they always end up bugging me - mostly because I can't see where they end. I want my photos to shoot straight down the road, to see all of it, to see the end. I can't stand it if my photos aren't perfectly centered or if there are any shadows on the trail. I can actually be quite the perfectionist.
|Stavanger, Norway, photographed in mid-afternoon, August 2014.|
If you'll allow me to wax philosophical, I think the photos are an extension of the way I view my life. I wholeheartedly believe that the true artist only ever depicts himself, and if the photos are art, then the pathways are me. I've always been a perfectionist of sorts, and I've always planned my life at least 10 years ahead. It's impossible for me to live without a well-articulated goal, and my goals are often lofty and idealistic. I see my life as extending along one long, flat, well-centered, infinite trail, and I can't stand it if the path is any less than perfect.
|Harmar Bridge, Marietta, OH, photographed in the evening,|
Recently, I've been trying to let go of my own perfect plan for my life. As I consider my next steps, I'm trying to build patience and flexibility. Trust me, it's hard, especially for someone who despises uncertainty, but I'm grateful for all those who remind me to relax and take things one step at a time. My path is long. Maybe it will be curvy or have dark shadows or not be centered. Or maybe, just maybe, I'll end up in the same place I always planned - at the head of a long, flat, infinite path to the sea.
|The breakwall at OIMB beach, Charleston,|
OR, photographed in late afternoon, October 2015.