Facing Fear

“Art is the absence of fear.” - Erykah Badu

I was raised with fear. Fear of danger, fear of consequences, but mostly, fear of failure. This fear only gets you so far. I was afraid of most things, of changing directions, moving, leaving, giving up but I soon realized that above fear, there was a much greater drive within me- the desire to overcome fear. I hate being afraid. It’s a process really, overcoming fear. I have learned in the past few years that one of the greatest weapons in my war against fear is, of course, art.

Be it dance, painting, poetry, writing… it’s allowed me to tap into a part of myself that I did not know existed- to channel my insecurities and hopes into something more forgiving and honest. You don’t fail in art, you are constantly in a state of creation- growing, building, learning.

Where am I going with this? Oh right, photography.

See, I appreciate the beautiful and by beautiful, I mean what is beautiful to me. Beauty is in fact, in the eye of the beholder and what is beautiful to me is by no means what is beautiful to you. That being said, when I did come across a striking image of a person, of a landscape, of an object that evoked a feeling within me I felt, for lack of a better term, less alone in the world. I felt that someone, too, had witnessed the beauty in this moment and had chosen to share it. I felt a very real connection to the person who had taken this image. There is something so wonderful about photography as a medium as it captures a moment that can never and will never be lived again. It’s a time machine. I was intimidated. I thought, “I can never be an artist, a photographer no less… I cannot harness the beauty in a moment.” So I chose not to pursue it. I was afraid of failing.

I am grateful for those around me who see through my fears, like my younger cousin, Jean. Without getting too personal, it’s enough to say that my cousin is a bad ass. Not just because he takes on physical challenges and masters them- like motorbiking, weight lifting, twerking- but because of the immense patience and generosity he shares with the people in his life. Me included. He had decided to take up photography as a hobby and it was obvious to those around him that he had a real talent for it. I would marvel at his photographs and think, “maybe I can do that…” but another voice within me said, “no you can’t… you’ll come up short.” Lucky for me, Jean is much nicer to me than my mind is. He had told me about this group that he’d joined, how diverse the people who joined were and how interesting they tended to be. He would post about their adventures and, like a bird peering out of its nest, would like the hell out of them on social media. “I’ll join you next time,” I would tell him. Well, if there’s one quality I’ve never liked in people, especially myself, is a lack of follow through. So the day finally came when I decided to tag along on a trip.

With my aunt’s Canon D60 in tow and stomach in knots, I joined Glenn and the crew to Lake Tahoe for a day of hiking and shooting.

We all met at the Target parking lot in Sacramento and I was nervous. I had not had my coffee and was quiet as hell. There were a handful of individuals there and one by one, the others trickled in. I didn’t say much. I introduced myself, but again, I wasn’t quite there yet, “what if they don’t talk to me at all” I thought. One of the attendees brought out a cooler, “Morning beer, anyone?” I think at that point I knew it was going to be alright.

I found it hilariously refreshing to listen to the way many of the individuals threw about photographical jargon the whole drive to Tahoe, “yeah but the blankety blank Canon something has blank features- I mean, do you really need that number of megapixels? The shutter speed on the Sony blank blank is wack…” I loved it.

We arrived at our first destination and I whipped out my camera. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” I thought as I turned it on and started pointing and clicking. I asked my cousin for some pointers and he provided me a few, but I didn’t want to hold him up from doing his thang. So I walked around, saw things I found interesting, and took pictures.

Then there was Glenn.

Glenn, who I later learned, is the father of five children who still takes the time to bring his wife flowers. Glenn also knows the funkiest beats from the late 80s/90s R&B and makes puns that are mediocre at best. Glenn though, is dope. He knew I was new, saw me walking around with the camera, complimented it, “it’s my aunt’s” I said, and then offered to show me a few things. He was patient, he was direct, and he was effective. I wasn’t taking NatGeo caliber photographs afterwards but I appreciated being seen and I felt more comfortable asking him questions. His attitude actually resonated with everyone. There was no person that was part of the group that didn’t offer a few words of advice to me or helped me take pictures. No person made me feel that with my lack of experience I was in their way. If anything, they gave me the right of way. Everyone was as willing to teach as they were to learn.

We made our way to a picnic area along a fenced off dock where lunch had been provided by West Shore Market. Okay. I’m not going to lie, I know food. I love food. I was raised by a family of phenomenal cooks and I had worked in the hospitality industry for three years; I can taste my way through most foods and tell you how it was cooked and in what way the flavor combination could have been improved. West Shore Market’s sandwiches are incredibly well-executed with the perfect flavor combination. Every. Single. Bite. was well-balanced from the roast beef sandwiches to the vegetarian bites, their potato salad, and ohmygod their BROWNIES. That was just the food. The collaborative energy between Glenn/ our group and the great folks at West Shore Market was fantastic. I’ll definitely make it a point to stop there any time I’m in the area.

I suppose what most resonated with me is that no one talked down to anyone else and generally just took it easy. All levels of experience were present and I felt comfortable putting my camera down to simply be present in the moment. No one called me out for that. They constantly complimented each other’s equipment or shared the images they took of things and of each other. Everyone and everything was fair game and everything was good… everyone was on their own journey and it was respected. I could go on and on about the great conversations I had with everyone or the laughs that were had, but I would rather leave those moments there.

In reality, it was a fun day of taking pictures, learning more about photography- at one’s own pace, and being in beautiful places. I also took some pretty gorgeous shots. It was my first trip with the crew, but I highly doubt it will be my last.

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