Valley of Light in hindsight: a One Year Challenge comes to an end.
Back in February, I followed a tweet by Tourism Pemberton to discover the blog, Valley of Light, a daily photo journal of our backyard from photographer Polek Rybczynksi.
A daily practice, I suspect, is a cornerstone for wellness. (How could both Rumi and Seth Godin be wrong?) I’m always fascinated by the myriad ways people might bring it into being, especially over an extended period of time. So I invited Polek to share his images once a month, in our weekly Photo Gallery. Now, the year (and his project) is coming to an end, so I invited him (in the spirit of our #50DayWellnessChallenge post-mortems) to share what he has learned.
What was it like to meet a commitment to taking one photo a day?
It is an accomplishment I am proud of but not attached to. It has given me a wonderful way of experiencing photography, but more so, how I look at and feel the environment around me. That was the nicest and most gratifying thing about this project – it forced me every day for a year to look, feel, then look deeper, then try and portray my feeling and observation into a frame. This repetition ingrained a nice pattern into my mind.
Why did you take that on in the first place?
I felt I needed to re-align myself with a form of self discipline – medium time frame, you know? Not a few weeks, nor a few years. One year seemed perfect not just because it is a number we have come up with, but more so as it is a full circle of seasons. Nice opening and closure.
I have done quite a few practices like this but in different aspects of life. Not drinking alcohol for a year (which turned into 2 years) when I was 19 was probably the best and most beneficial one I’ve done. 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat was probably the most challenging.
But yeah, for a few years prior to the Valley of Light photo journal I was floating through life, not really committing to personal practice, just what ever I felt like at the time I would do. It was nice to experience living like this but after a few years it left me a bit scattered, and lazy in some aspects.
Did you always shoot every day?
No, I would only take photographs on occasion before this photo journal. Many years ago I enjoyed shooting film, but with the digital world tidal wave that rolled through, it became more of a point and shoot indulgence rather than taking photographs. A dear friend Chad Sayers still shoots film and it is just mind-blowing whenever we get his light table out and line the slides up. Different realm, can’t compare it to a computer screen.
Did you ever cheat?
I did not miss a post, but a few times when my wife and I left Pemberton for more than a few days I had to take a few photos in advance for the days we were away. When my wife gave birth to our magical first child was one notable example, then a few family visits to Vancouver or the Sunshine Coast. This project would have been some much easier if it was of the Sea to Sky instead of Pemberton and its surrounding valleys.
The photos I chose for the days that I was out of the valley were to still capture the season, weather and mood of those days. Photographs that I could take if was in the valley that day. I wanted to capture the seasons and what they offered to the valley, this was very important to me.
A few times I felt lazy and thought of using ones from days past, but I kept that in check and got myself to pick the camera up. There were nights when I was out walking the streets or forest with headlamp in hand looking for something interesting that presented itself to me.
I stumbled upon a cool technique this way to draw more attention to certain subjects. The photographs with the black, underexposed backgrounds were the headlamp shots. I ended up using this technique quite often for flowers.
So I don’t feel that I ‘cheated’ but rather had to improvise some bendy rules to accommodate life moving on in a fluid way.
Did it ever feel like a burden?
In a sense, at times it did. More so that it was just of Pemberton and the surrounding valleys. But then again, that is what made it special to me, that it was a focus on Pemberton, of the backyard, you know? The other times it was more of a self imposed burden of not being talented enough in capturing what I had envisioned in a frame or felt with my eyes.
I guess it was more challenging than a burden. Maybe it is easier for me to say that something was a burden rather then being conflicted with a reality of lacking talent or vision. I feel that lacking talent or vision is a form of losing connection to creation. This hits me hard and at times instead of being confronted with this head on I choose softer ways of dealing with it.
How did it change the way you look at the world?
Not sure if it changed it too much. Perhaps I look at the finer things in the environment a bit more from a photographic way, or look how light travels and acts more than before. It was more of an internal exploration rather then an external one.
What is it like to look back on that now?
I love to look back on all the photographs now. They speak volumes to me. Our first son being born during the year was beyond special. The photo I took the day before he was born is powerful and moves me. February 28th, I felt drawn to go to the Pemberton waterfalls during a morning hike under Mt Currie in the cut blocks. I was looking for a photo of a tree. I left the cut blocks and went up to the waterfall and my son’s spirit spoke to me and said he was on his way. I took a photo of the ice filled waterfall to use on the day of his birth and made my way home to pack for the trip to North Vancouver. He was born March 1st at 6:30am.
We purchased our first home during the year which was a fun thing to bring into the photo journal. We moved from the magical Kula Wellness Centre in the Pemberton Meadows to family magic filled Pioneer Junction. This presented itself to me in the form of a new angle to look at the valley from. It’s so interesting, all the photographs from Corrine and Percy’s Kula property have a special feeling to me, all the photographs from our home have a uniquely different special feel to them.
I look at each photograph and they all vibrate feelings that were running through me on that day. The one line phrases and quotes that I used tended to be an expression of that feeling, not always, but a fair few times. Sometimes it was vice versa, I saw a frame and took the photograph to then have a feeling arise and phrase follow.
You’re hoping to publish the book. To what end?
Yes, I will be printing and releasing a coffee table style book of the Valley of Light photo journal. The idea arose after a few months into the journal when I looked back on the photos for the first time and thought that they would look nice bound. Then half way through the journal I thought that they wouldn’t just look nice, but that they deserved to be bound.
This kind of put pressure on me to keep the photographs to the best of my ability and expression. This helped in photographic growth and learning. It also helped in providing a platform to practice trust and acting in the present moment.
I envision releasing the book mid April 2015, but this is some what influenced by how quickly I generate and manifest the money to finance the first print run. I am looking into the possibilities of grants or crowd funding platforms. The perfect and fluid way or financing the book will present itself.
Who do you imagine it will appeal to?
I feel that it will appeal to people travelling through the valley liking to see more of it but do not have the time, or a way of remembering their travels. I feel that it will have a gift appeal to local residents looking for a way of sharing the Pemberton Valley with friends and loved ones. I also feel that it will appeal to people who like to sit and day dream, you know, get inspiration through visual stimulus.
What kind of energy or inspiration do you think it will carry with it?
I feel that it will be unique to each individual and what they are processing in their life at the time they engage with it. That is one of the magical aspects about the Valley of Light photo journal, its dynamic and expansive, in-breath out-breath, perpetual feel-will motion through time and space. It is a blink in time really, like a little brevity code holding infinite possibility and knowledge.
If I was to cast anything upon the photo journal to carry to others, it would be the inspiration to live and be an authentic, infinite, creation connected and joy-full individual at every moment.
Maybe a daily practice is something worth considering as we round the corner into 2015. What might your path be?