Photo and Writing by Abel Rojas
Nature was not always my refuge. In fact, for most of my life, nature brought more anxiety than peace. I was blind to the benefits because I had evolved to consider the energy emanating from cities as normal. Yet my aversion for nature would change to a deep affinity for it.
Suddenly, motivated by God’s providence, I left my entire career, house, cars and life to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and begin practicing photography. Shunning the raised eyebrows of family, friends and former coworkers, I set off for five months and listened to what nature had to say. I began shifting from an analytical mindset to an artistic one.
Anxieties and fears within me were exposed for what they were. I witnessed as nature expressed the pace our lives should travel but found my body unwilling to comply. There was conflict between the pattern of this world and nature. I took note of how nature is completely authentic all the time then saw how my mind, body and heart had to be retrained.
Nature can help heal our minds and bodies in ways that science can measure, but the most relevant benefits cannot be explained so easily. Nature is more than its sum of the parts. We engage our senses in it and it communicates something to our soul that changes us, if we let it. The miracles of nature become more incredible the more we study them with our hearts and not just our minds.
Nature calibrates you and the 2,650 miles of PCT has a special place in my heart. At Snoqualmie Pass, there is a PCT trailhead. Knowing there was snow at higher elevation brought excitement as snow covered conifers are some of my favorite things. Hiking up, you first start in a dense forest. A fog lingered in the woods and brings an ethereal contentment. Walking farther, the woods give way to a wide open scene with Guye Peak almost coming to life with the mesmerizing fog. The trail transitioned to snow and the winter’s unique silence that occurs with snow fell on the landscape. The music of a walk on the breaking snow brings a smile, and the crisp air rides on the scent of pine.
Like a hooded giant, the mountain stood. I was as still as the pines and my breath slowly broke the silence. My exhale was almost an expression of thanks. Joy pierced my heart as I find just the right angle to communicate this scene through photography.
To work, the photo must give the feeling of comfort, almost like the image is hugging you, because that’s what the scene communicated. It must also give a smooth change in scale, and as the eyes move from the bottom to the mountain the rocks and tress do just that. Above all, it must speak of the positive sentiment it broadcasts.
Nature speaks what is written upon it, and anyone who reads and acknowledges with an open heart will receive the positivity it speaks. For me, it is most helpful to see nature scenes as art, as the construction of an artist. Then these scenes not only communicate positivity; they are sustained by the knowledge of the love that produced the scenes.
Abel Rojas is a graduate student based out of Walla Walla. He can often be found in a converted van traveling through the beauty of the West Coast. You can see more of his photos and story on his website or follow him on Instagram for more updates.