Reflecting on this year and its many highs and lows is a good reminder that life rarely goes the way you want it. Our trip to Yosemite in the Tuolumne Meadows region this past summer is a good example of having to readjust.
My wife, Heidi, and I planned our first backpack together in seven years for the Fourth of July weekend. It was to mark the new chapter in our lives, especially Heidi's for beating breast cancer the previous year. Our plans changed though as Heidi started experiencing significant back pain the months prior to our planned trip. She was no longer able to sleep on the ground or carry a backpack over miles of rugged terrain. So, our backpack turned into an exploration of the Tuolumne region and other points of interest in the Eastern Sierras. It was a great trip even though it didn't go as planned.
Little did we know at the time that this trip was just the beginning of our 'readjustments.' A month later we learned that the source of Heidi's back pain was the return of her cancer. It had metastasized and was now growing in her lower back. The months since have been challenging, dealing with the emotions of an illness of this magnitude and readjusting to life with cancer ... again. In the midst of it all we hold onto the hope that God is still in control of the whole situation. We have already been overwhelmed by an amazing amount of help and support from family, friends and even strangers that has been truly humbling.
Looking beyond the cancer challenge of 2015, here are my 10 best pictures from the year, in no particular order.
Bodie is a ghost town just off of highway 395 about 75 miles south of Lake Tahoe. Because of it's location in a dry cold high-altitude climate it's surprisingly well preserved. As a state park, and the Bodie foundation there is constant work to keep the structures as they were when they were abandoned.
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Looking back on our trip to Yosemite back in July it seems like a lifetime ago. We entered Yosemite from the East entrance through Tioga Pass to explore the Tuolume Meadows portion of the park. Little did we know we were going witness a very cold summer storm all weekend. Or first photo stop was at Olmstead Point where I was hoping to get a sunset shot of Half Dome. We found this fast moving storm filling the valley instead. Less than 30 minutes from when the image was shot we were completely enveloped in a cloud.
Here's another photo from our family trip to Colorado, specifically this one was taken in Steamboat Springs. While we were doing our family photoshoot with Heidi's cousin, Kel Elwood we had a pocket of sunlight break through the storm clouds that produced this moment.
Last month we had wonderful family trip driving through Colorado visiting family. We capped off the trip with a photo shoot with Heidi's cousin in Steamboat Springs on a stormy afternoon. I pulled out my camera while the girls were being photographed and caught this moment.
I can't believe it took me so long to photograph this fascinating lake. It seems like every California-based outdoor photographer has the obligatory Mono Lake images.
I have driven by it countless time on my many treks up and down highway 395, but the timing never worked out to spend any significant time there. After spending two days there and can see why it's such a popular place to photograph and explore. Definitely a must-visit if you are traveling through the Eastern Sierras.
It's crushing to hear your beautiful, courageous wife has stage IV breast cancer.
Two years ago our world stopped when she was first diagnosed. Now it feels like we are watching someone else's life unfold, not ours. I WANT this to be someone else's life. I want to wake up and realize this all one bad dream.
I know it's impossible to make sense of something like this in the heat of the moment, but I can't help but try. To question God, and to beg God to make this go away.
This week seeing the outpouring of emails, calls, Scripture and words of encouragement for Heidi, myself and our girls has been so uplifting and I am so grateful. I am humbled, I cannot express how much it means to me to have such a support network now in this very confusing time, and I thank you all, and ask for continued prayer for Heidi, myself and the girls.
All that being said this is the first time I have really been able to sit in my thoughts since we got the news last Tuesday. One of the things to come to the forefront in that time of reflection was the vast difference of my past personal pains/losses and this current storm. Specifically my teenage years, and how alone I felt in my pain and loss. I will give you the cliff notes version.
Midway through my seventh grade school year our family moved 80 miles north from Costa Mesa to Thousand Oaks, CA. Navigating this new town and school was tough, even tougher dealing with the usual brutal nature teenagers treat each other. Jump ahead three years to an intense one-year span that began with losing one of my few close friends to leukemia. That was followed by a bad concussion that knocked me out of school and kept me house-bound for two weeks, with lingering symptoms for about a year. That rough year was capped with the passing of my much-loved grandfather due to Alzheimers and lung cancer. In the midst of that intense year I felt so alone and I didn't feel like I had anyone I could trust to share that pain with.
It took me all my college years and early post-college years to develop a community of friends to come to terms with the past struggles of loneliness and hurt and confront the fact that I had felt that God had abandoned me. I vividly remember the day when I had that moment of clarity, of realizing that God had been with me even in the midst of my lowest times.
Obviously the pains of life haven't ceased but they seem much more bearable. Even reflecting on the past six years, they have been tough years, but to have a community of support in the midst of it all has been so encouraging.
I will be honest. It's hard to see the silver-lining in this current storm, but I have the assurance that I am not alone in this.
Last week while on vacation in Colorado with Heidi and the girls we had this storm cloud lingering while we waited for an official diagnosis. I had this Andrew Peterson song rolling around in my head and couldn't get it out. The context of the song doesn't exactly fit our current circumstance, but the sentiment is there.
For our most recent trip to Yosemite we chose to visit the eastern side out of Tioga Pass and the Tuolumne Meadows region of the park. One of my images on my wishlist was sunset at Olmsted Point, just northeast of Half Dome. I was eager to see a much different view point of the iconic monolith. The day we arrived at the park I thought we were going to get a spectacular stormy view as we watched the afternoon thunderstorms starting to brew. I rushed out to the point to find this:
I thought I would wait it out. But the elements got the better of me as the lightning was inching closer to my location (being on an exposed granite face is not ideal place to be during an electrical storm) so it was not meant to be.
However I did revisit Olmsted Point two days later for nice sunrise, and these great shots.