An Unlikely Subject

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Impressive Places, Perspective, Stories & Expeditions | 1 comment

It’s a long drive from West Virginia to Connecticut. Sometimes, on our trips up there to visit family, we get off late and don’t have time to stop and take pictures at random places along the way. Other times, if we can get off early like we did this time, we do!

There arelots of places I haven’t explored yet on our normal route to Connecticut. This time, we got off close to the junction of I80 and I81 in northeastern Pennsylvania. I happened to know about a waterfall in Bear Creek Preserve. The waterfall didn’t have a very original name, Buttermilk Falls, but from the pictures I’d seen of it, it did seem like a great spot to stop. My excitement grew as we meandered off the beaten path, winding through mountain valleys along the scenic Lehigh River.

But when we arrived at the falls, I was a little disappointed. There was no nice sign. No beautiful pathways. Just a rough pull off, and a massive cliff of wet rock visible from the road.

“Hmm. Not what I was expecting. But no matter! Let’s go see what we can find here!”

I snapped a photo or two from the base of the falls.

230624_James Staddon_5325 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 24 mm, 0.8 sec at f - 11, ISO 50

230624_James Staddon_5327 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 0.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 50

I knew there had to be something better. When the sun came out, we walked around to explore a bit. We found a little trail that looked like it climbed up and around to the top of the falls. It was a beautiful, cool woodland of pine trees. Blankets of pine needles covered the forest floor, broken by islands of rocks that jutted out everywhere.

230624_James Staddon_5328 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 20 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 50

When we got to the top, Julianna excitedly pointed to the edge of a pool of water, “Look over there on that rock. Do you see that huge frog? Now that’s something to take a picture of!”

True, it was something. But I didn’t have quite the same enthusiasm as she did. I looked down at the only lens I had brought up with me. A 16-35mm. And attached to a full frame camera, at that! It was precisely the worst set up I could have had for a scenario like this. I could just imagine myself saying, “Sorry dear, I don’t have the right equipment for this. See…” (and then snap a photo like this:)

230624_James Staddon_5331 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

“…that is as far as I can zoom in. I can’t take a good picture of it. Let’s go find something else to take a picture of.”

That would be the logical response. And in many situations, the logical response is a good response.

But in this situation, down deep inside, I knew the logical response was actually a prideful response. You see, my motivation for declining her suggestion was very selfish. “I’m the photographer. I’m the one who knows how this stuff works, right? Why waste my precious time trying to photograph something that I know won’t make a nice photo?” After all, we were supposed to be heading back to the car in 5 minutes. “I’ve still got to find an epic picture! I can’t afford to waste this precious off-the-beaten-path opportunity!”

But think of all the negative things that this selfish response implies! Maybe that Julianna isn’t as smart as me? Or, that her idea is a time-waster? Or that, perhaps, what she thought could be nice had no possibility of being nice at all? And worse yet, that I didn’t have time to include her in our little excursion?

Now, you have to understand that I’m thinking all these things in probably like 1 second. And, in the moment, I actually didn’t even realize all these things. Jul and I were just making a random decision together like we do dozens of times every day. But I just knew in my spirit that in this situation, with this decision, it would be selfish to decline her suggestion.

So, I said “Great idea!” And proceeded to spend our last 5 minutes doing something fun together. Smile 

She watched in expectation as I crotched down, and slowly moved in closer to the giant frog, taking photos incrementally as I moved in.

230624_James Staddon_5332 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

230624_James Staddon_5333 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

230624_James Staddon_5334 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

I was having fun doing something fun with Jul before I got close. But the closer I got, the more I began to realize that, contrary to my initial assessment of the situation, there could actually be a really great photo here!

230624_James Staddon_5336 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

Before I knew it, my lens was only a few inches away from that big eyeball staring back at me.

230624_James Staddon_5340 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

Eventually, I ended up moving my hand too quickly while repositioning to a different angle, and the frog leapt into the water. But not after having all the time in the world to frame up multiple angles, and ensure tack sharpness!

230624_James Staddon_5344 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400230624_James Staddon_5345 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 35 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

I was amazed, and Julianna was beaming. We had made a fun memory together.

While pride might feel good at first, there’s no substitute for the genuine joy that comes from complete surrender to the will and ways of God. “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).

230624_James Staddon_5351 Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 16 mm, 1-400 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 400

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1 Comment

  1. Brieanna

    What a wonderful trip, and a powerful lesson. Thank you for sharing those precious moments.


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