I had first seen photos of Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia a number of years ago. I can still distinctly remember a feeling in my chest, more than a desire, but a need to go to this place after seein
g my first image of this waterfall. It seemed as though a place such as this could hardly exist in our world. Surely this photo was nothing more than a digitally rendered image, the backdrop to a fantasy movie, a video game perhaps. There was just a magic about the photo the likes of which I had never seen before.
When I finally got the chance to visit Plitvice Lakes last fall, I was of course excited. I had dreamed of visiting the park for so long that I had also begun to worry that perhaps I had built it up to be more than it could possibly deliver. While Plitvice proved to be even more than I had imagined, there was another emotion which I had not expected.
The park was incredible, filled with dozens if not hundreds of waterfalls, lakes, and streamlets. All connected via a crisscrossing network of dirt paths and wooded walkways built up over the ever running water. The problem however was that as a photographer, I saw all this wonder spread over a huge amount of land, and wondered how I could ever capture the spirit of this place. Worse still is that the park had first captured my imagination through photographs, so I felt that there was a standard to live up to. I knew the awe inspiring photo opportunity was out there, but what if I couldn't find it? What if I didn't have the right equipment to do it justice? What would that say about me as a photographer?
And so with this in mind I began my trek through the park. I will be forever thankful that I chose the route I did through the park, and came across this waterfall within the first half hour of my day. This was the scene that had called to me years ago, although the angle from the path was less than ideal. I spent 45 minutes searching the area for a better vantage point and eventually stumbled on it. When I saw the clearing in the trees and the ledge overlooking the falls I got butterflies. I knew I had found something special.
I spent almost an hour enjoying the warm autumn sun, taking photo after photo of the wondrous landscape that stretched out before me, unable to wipe the grin off of my face the whole time.
The pressure I had felt on entering the park had flowed off of me the moment I found my vantage point, and I was able to really enjoy the rest of the day. Soaking in the rest of the park with a feeling of pride that I had achieved what I had wanted when I arrived.
Looking back I realize that the pressure I put on myself was somewhat irrational. If I had been unable to find the shot of this specific spot that would by no means have meant that I was a less than competent photographer. I knew I could take good photos already, and not finding the angle on this one would certainly not have nullified the other compelling photos I had taken in the past, or would take in the future.
The funny thing is that after I had relaxed and was free to explore the park more fully, with no expectation, I was able to get a shot of a different waterfall that I like even more than this one, which I had put so much emphasis on. I now wonder if in that first half an hour I had spent hellbent on finding this scene, I had glossed over other amazing opportunities, failing to see something that could have been great.
Have you ever been in a situation photographically where you put an undue amount of pressure on yourself? How did it end? Did you get the shot, or do you think that perhaps like me, you may have missed something else?