“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller
If you follow Instagram travel posts, you will be inundated with beautiful photos from iconic locations, primarily those we enjoy within our national parks here in the United States. Photographs of Delicate Arches, Maroon Bells, Horseshoe Bend and Haystack rocks of the Oregon coast are the eye candy that make us pause for a second or two and hit “Like” before scrolling to the next photo. It is no surprise that these iconic locations are among the most photographed and that people plan their travels around them.
As a nature photographer and more recently an RV traveler, I must admit that chasing icon photos is not on my radar screen when it comes to planning our travels. In fact, just the opposite is true. I rather relish in the challenge of exploring the nature of a non-iconic location and attempting to create art from it with my camera. This approach to photography started fifteen years ago in the Everglades where there are no grand waterfalls or majestic mountains to photograph. It is in the subtleness of the Everglades that I learned how to connect photography with my wilderness experience. Through my relentless pursuit of capturing nature intimately, I learned to be fully immersed and take the time to get to know the place. By doing so, I notice the little things and discover something new to photograph all the time.
Far away from the Everglades, it was in the middle of Indiana farm country that I came to appreciate the little things that we encounter on our travels. And it was all because family comes first in our travels, meaning our routes are designed to include quality time in and around Indianapolis. During our first family visit, we stayed two weeks at White River campground in Hamilton County, about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. Open fields of wild foliage and farm land dominate this area. And the muddy White River cuts through it. The prospects of catching fish or photographing spectacular nature seemed awfully dim to Vivian and me; after all, there is nothing iconic about this location. Or is there?
Spending time in Indiana surprisingly piqued my photography interest. But mostly, it helped me to connect my approach to photography with our approach to RV traveling. As we traveled and observed through our RV window, we began to devote more time to researching a location and learning its most fascinating stories as we traveled through it. And when we stopped at a location for a short time, we tried to immerse ourselves in the area’s history and ecology. Our favorite on-the-road pastime while the other one drove was iphone-research when passing through a small town. We learned that each of those obscure little towns has a compelling story to tell and it is so much fun to read about it while driving through it. Our RV travels are about discovering these unknown stories and the people that make this country what it is. In a way, I do the same with my camera by taking the time to discover nature’s story, even when there is nothing iconic to photograph.
Walking the hiking trails through the fields of Indiana where yellow wildflowers had seen better days, I became focused on the small things and thoroughly enjoyed it. Instead of resenting my two weeks spent near Indianapolis rather than a more beautiful and iconic location, I took it all in and made plans for future visits. So, thank you Indiana for helping me confirm that our RV travels are not about racking up icon points and “getting the epic shot” that so many others have done in the past; but rather, they are about enriching our lives through the discovery of the unknown and taking the time to notice the small things along the way. Perhaps icons can be found most anywhere if we choose to see it that way.