This photo almost never happened. I wanted to sleep in and be lazy on this particular warm autumn morning. I knew there would be great photo opportunities in the Blue Ridge Mountains and couldn't motivate myself enough to drive over 2 hours to look for some shots after a long and tiring work week. It was the perfect sunny autumn day in October 2011 and I was going to miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
I was going back and forth between going to the mountains or staying home. It was the peak weekend to catch the fall foliage in the mountains. Then, I got a phone call from my friend Scott. He and his son wanted to go to the mountains to see the fall foliage and do a little hiking. I have to thank him for convincing me to go that day for several reasons. First, we were treated to a full day of incredible views. The leaves were indeed at their peak color. Without his motivation I never would have captured this incredible shot.
We left around mid morning. I wasn't expecting to get very many good photos because we already missed out on the "golden hour" of the morning. The plan was to just do some sightseeing, not necessarily a trip for photography. We visited various waterfalls, overlooks, and mixed in a little bit of hiking as well.
It was getting late in the afternoon so we decided to make one last stop at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. It was the Cowee Mountains overlook. We were at an elevation of 5950 feet above sea level. What is unique about this spot is that this is where the spruces mix in with the hardwood trees for a diverse and beautiful area. When we pulled into the parking area we noticed a pretty large group of about a dozen photographers with their cameras, tripods and other equipment set up. We decided to see what was so special about this place. We got out of the car and saw what everyone else there saw, heaven on earth. It was about 5 p.m. and the sun was going to set within the hour. We were facing south so the sun was slightly behind us and to the west which made for the perfect lighting. The sun was shining from an angle that allowed the reds, yellows, and greens to create an overwhelming sight for the eye.
I immediately got my camera equipment set up so I would not miss what mother earth was showing us that day. While my buddy Scott and his son Anthony were taking in the views I went to work on trying to capture the best image I could. I wanted to be able to share with others what we were witnessing.
Later that evening after getting home from the trip I started to sort through and process the photos I took earlier that day. Many great photos were taken, but it wasn't until I came across this one that I had to pause and look at it just a little longer. I immediately posted the photo on my facebook page to see if it would get a reaction from family and friends. The comments started pouring in the minute I posted the photo. I still wasn't sure if the photo was really that good since often times someone may like your photo on facebook out of obligation.
I ultimately submitted this shot to a national photo contest called, " I won't give up", put together by national recording artist Jason Mraz, Atlantic records, and CanvasPop. I knew that if the photo was good that I would find out from the contest. This was the first photo contest I entered and didn't expect for the photo to get any notice at all.
After a few weeks I got an e-mail stating that I was one of the 50 finalists out of over 10,000 photos submitted. I was surprised to say the least. I started to think that I really had a chance to have a winning photo. The photos went through one last round of decisions by the judges before the winners were announced.
Another week went by, I had just gotten home from work and my phone rang. The caller id displayed that the call was coming from New York City. I had a feeling this was the call I was waiting for. When I answered the phone it was the executives from Atlantic Records on the other end. They were in a conference room and had me on speaker to tell me I was one of the winners of the contest and invited me to come to New York City to attend an event hosted by Jason Mraz for the winners. All of the winners' photos were blown up onto a canvas gallery wrap by Canvaspop and displayed at an art gallery event in the SoHo area of N.Y.C.
During the event and even after I still felt like it was all so surreal. How could I have gone from trying to be lazy one Saturday autumn morning, to being featured as one of the winners in a photo contest event hosted by a national recording artist at an art gallery in New York City?
The theme of the photo contest was a perfect lesson that I learned that day when we ended up going to the mountains. My passion is traveling to new places and capturing various landscapes. It was very difficult to motivate that day but ultimately the lesson learned was to not give up on my passion. Opportunities may present themselves when you least expect them to. I learned to seize the moments and opportunities when you have them because that chance may not come around again.
I hope my story can inspire and motivate others to not give up on their passions and goals whatever it may be.
Thanks for reading this post and hope to write more soon.