It’s fascinating to me that many of the photographs I’ve made were composed and captured in the flat midwestern landscape. I come from a small town in the NW part of Ohio that doesn’t have much more than open and wind-swept farm land and patchy forests left over from clearing land for crops — mostly soy beans and corn.
Not necessarily a hotbed of natural beauty, but not a gray place completely devoid of character and beauty. In my first On The Road: Big Sur, I told you I love to wander and happen upon things that attract me — whether it’s color, geometry, or interesting subject matter.
Photography isn’t always about the place. Some people may consider it a ‘fly over state,’ but beauty can be found everywhere, you just have to keep your eyes open. I like to get lost here on purpose, whether I’m wandering off path in a park or walking around a city, because it brings the unexpected.
I find that the tree only bares fruit when you’re willing to climb and shake some free.
Down this Road Before
I started driving around on an overcast March day last week, and ended up on the highway driving southeast when I saw a sign I always see on my way to Columbus to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey. I got off the highway and headed toward a golden-domed statue in a park I used to practice football in.
On my way I remembered my days as a Catholic School kid when my class took a field trip to the church. It’s an out of place shrine in the middle of nowhere, but it is certainly unique. The church is famous for holding the “Miraculous Statue of Our Lady” which is said to possess the power to heal. I remember there used to be a line up of crutches against the wall where supposed miracles happened.
I pulled up to the church but there was a small group of high school kids on a tour, so I drove on and went towards the golden-domed park.
I got out and walked around for a while, took some shots, and before I was about to leave I saw the fence at the entrance of the park. I heard a photographer once say, ‘never turn your camera off until you’ve left the location.’ So I took some shots of the fence from different angles until I was satisfied. Later on I took a look at them and saw that they had potential, especially since I shoot RAW.
I drove back to the basilica and walked into the shrine and saw that the group of kids were still on tour with a Franciscan monk. As I looked around I was amazed by the brilliant lighting inside. The potential for color and monochrome shots were everywhere, so I started clicking away until I could get closer to the shrine.
I was awestruck to see all the ornamentation, statues and, stained-glass windows in the darkly lit church. Most of the light was coming in through the windows, casting light and shadows on different artworks and the altar.
I shot stained-glass windows, some nooks around the altar, until the kids left so I could get closer to the statue. The statue looks like a small doll. It seems pretty unimpressive when you get up close, but it gave me an eerie feeling like it was watching me. I got some shots of the statue and saw that a monk was coming in so I moved toward the altar to get some last shots in.
The altar was probably my favorite to shoot, and it rendered images that I think turned out quite well. It was perfect how the light cast through the windows into the church and provided the altar with amazing shadows and highlights. I decided to leave once the monk got closer. His presence kind of gave me the feeling my welcome was limited, so I grabbed a few more shots and left.
Once I took a look at what I had captured, I realized the basilica was an extraordinary find that I found again by wandering.
Getting Closer to the Peak
The first feature I wrote was about photographer Lance Warley. His feature has a lot of significance for me, not only because it was the first I wrote for Precise Moment, but he said something that stuck with me. Lance wasn’t concerned about becoming a famous photographer, instead he was more interested in being able to find beauty closer to home, and to regain the feeling and beauty of what he called ‘peaking.’
“I would say the overarching idea of my work that this peaking experience is everywhere, or it can be everywhere. It seems that the membrane between me and that experience is thinner in some places, and the membrane becomes more of a portal. Those places don’t have to be far away geographically. They can be found at the wetlands half an hour from my place, or it can be at the top of the world in the Arctic, I don’t really know. I’ll tell you where it’s not. It’s not in the middle of traffic on I-95 in South Florida. Maybe to a more highly evolved person, it’s everywhere. It’s not everywhere for me. I don’t get to go through the portal ‘on demand.’ Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does happen, it’s a bonus on top of the already cool photographic experience,” Warley said in the article.
I realized I was a photographer of the same ilk, but Lance explained the feeling better than I could have. I hope I can find these peaking moments in my own travels as I continue to venture out in hopes of finding beauty in the world, and in my life.