A Walk in the Woods

A couple of days ago, I took a walk in the woods while on assignment for Woman’s World magazine. I hadn’t planned on taking such a hike. But in the process of wondering, “Why am I doing this?” and “How could I have prevented this from happening?”, I also had time to realize some valuable insights as well. First, some backstory.

Jaylynn holding Bootsie and Dipstick

Jaylynn holding Bootsie and Dipstick

I got a call last week from my client to shoot some portraits to accompany a feature story about Jaylynn Thrope, who was lost in the woods a few weeks ago for 21 hours in below-freezing conditions. He was found the next day sitting by a tree with his two puppies cuddled up next to him keeping him warm.

Although I was assured the dogs would be tied on leads to keep them around, when we arrived at his home Monday morning to photograph him with the pups, we were told “They ain’t around. They went off yesa’day an’ hain’t come back.” No pups, no photo. So we drove over to Jaylynn’s aunt’s house where the puppies were last seen. His cousins, Matthew and Jessica, said they were probably back at the pond, “just over yonder.” “Just over yonder” proved to be about a mile back in the woods through a dense thicket of briars and low saplings.

Upon arrival at the pond, with no dogs in site (but the sound of them in the distance), Matthew offered that they’d probably gone back by one of two trails, a fire road or a four-wheeler path. My assistant, Avery, and I decided to split up and cover both directions. So he took Jessica and Jaylynn back on the shorter of the two trails and I followed Matthew’s leading on the four-wheeler route. About ten minutes into another fight through brush and thicket, I could tell we weren’t even close to a trail. We were lost.

We found a fence line, which led to an open field, which led to a road that Matthew finally recognized. We were about 2.5 miles from his house. An hour and a half after heading out for the pond, we were back at the house, where the dogs were waiting, sacked out after a day and night of rambling. About 20 minutes later, Avery and his group got back from their parallel experience going the other direction. Although Avery had carried him much of the way, Jaylynn was tired, as well as the pups. But we had them together and with rain beginning to fall again, we needed to wrangle and cajole quickly. That’s where Avery saved my bacon. His attitude and spirit never flagged. We had just minutes to work before Jaylynn’s attention span was exhausted and the rain set in. The pressure of limited opportunity focuses one’s attention and creates the resolve to capture what a more open window of opportunity might not.

A number of thoughts bounced around in my head as I found my way through the woods — and later as I edited and processed the final images. A couple of them to share…

Things are usually not what they seem. What could be easier than sitting a boy

Jaylynn petting Dipstick and Bootsie

Jaylynn petting Dipstick and Bootsie

down on a log rubbing a couple of puppies and popping off a few snaps, right? In the interest of keeping budgets reigned in, I’ve found that clients on every level want to make the assignment seem as if it will only take a few minutes (it’s always going to be “real easy.”)  But experience is an effective teacher. Knowing that capable assistance is worth it’s weight in precious metals can be the difference in the job even getting done. I learned many years ago that the most straight forward-looking images often had complications and challenges that belied their apparent ease of execution.

My wandering in the woods also served as a metaphor for career intentionality. One may start out on a venture with a clear image of a destination and goal in mind. But there’s no way to adequately plan for all the “thickets” and wrong directions one may encounter. Most folks don’t care about what you have to do to get a project done for them. They just want it done. Persistence and resolve are critical. The ability to regroup emotionally (and financially?) and stay on task until the project is complete is one that is incredibly valuable these days — regardless of what field of endeavor one may be employed in.

Is there a “thicket” impeding your progress? How are you dealing with it? What are your thoughts?




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