#1064. Where’s your Sense of (Photographic) Adventure?

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Nov 24

In spite of Covid and mediatised conflict, life on Earth has never been as easy for as many people. And yet optimism and happiness surveys don’t reflect this. What if adventure was the missing ingredient?

On French national radio, one early morning program is devoted to positive initiatives undertaken by individuals. Every day a new idea, program, startup, personal crusade … It’s brilliant and uplifting.

A few days ago, a gentleman from Picardie (an area in France’s far North) explained his work to get more hiking tracks maintained and signposted. His postulate was that, everytime he goes hiking, he finds new little paths that aren’t indicated on the map. He then visits the cadastral plan to identify the owner and, whenever possible to obtain proper identification on maps and signposting on location.

I should have felt excited. Maps often talk to me more to me than travel books. To my eyes, they hold more potential than someone’s preconceived point of view. And hiking, when that (apparently) psychopathic exercise hadn’t yet fallen prey to our kommandantur’s axing, was one of the greatest pleasures life could offer me. So the prospect of maps with more trails on them should have made my day.

But it didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The guy meant well, I’m sure. But his action was a typical example of a sickness that is bringing this country (among many others) to its knees.

Today, it’s no longer acceptable to get lost. Taking a track with no signage on it and having to backtrack 20 minutes later is not conceivable. Discovery is no longer encouraged. Blindly following signs (and social rating, and reviews) is the normal way to behave.

It’s not like bears, or mountain lions or cobras roam the lanes of Picardie, either. It would take a massive amount of dumbf…ry poor planning to actually die in the wild in those areas. The worse that can happen to you is typically to encounter another insufferable French illness: aggressive dogs. And personal experience has shown that a solid stick and a few nightmares are sufficient to deal with those πŸ˜‰

So what’s happened to our taste for adventure? Why is “security” taking center stage over the fun and excitement of discovery and exploration? What’s wrong with making our own maps, finding our own little paths and crossing out those that lead nowhere interesting?

Are we really heading towards a country where nothing will be uncharted, everything sanitised? Will we be allowed to get mud on our shoes in 10 years time or will the potential germs be too much of a threat to let us roam freely what hasn’t been paved and bleeched every morning?

Will every corner have to be lit? Every root in the path have to be leveled?

Can you think of anything more depressing?

Human beings are born explorers, just look at toddlers. That’s how we make sense of the world, not through force-fed classes. Exploring is our natural way of learning, not just terrain, but any topic. And that kind man on the radio wants to take that away from us.

Don’t get me wrong: he’s doing amazing work, but … I’d much prefer a map and a pen. Maintaining existing paths is a wonderful service to the community. Maintaining signage so that families can roam the hills in perfect safety is extremely valuable. But, to me, that doesn’t have to extent to every corner of the world. Please leave some paths uncharted, some terrain for the imagination and joy of discovery. In France at least, that’s quite literally the final frontier, the only place you are not following the path someone else wants you to. It’s stifling to imagine that last percent of true freedom could soon disapear. Hell is paved with good intentions, as we say here …

I started the year on DS by declaring 2020 would be the year of adventure for my photography. Obviously, Covid hasn’t made that simple. But exploration and adventure aren’t about simplicity. They are about reward.

Shortly after that first post, I grabbed a grological map of an area that’s been photographed and displayed many times on DS and found this extraordinary cave. Locals know it, access is quite easy, but it’s not signposted. So, instead of seeing hords of tourists, it only gets the occasional hiker. And the sensation of achievement after finding this (easy to find) place was just sooo much more than following the signs to the more famous landmarks of this hill. In a different league altogether. Why take that away from us?

Using the same map, my wife and I searched for sinkholes. On our first attempt, we came home empty handed. On the second, we bagged three. Mere holes in the ground. And not that photographically rewarding at that πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ But the joy of “discovery”, boy, that was something else altogether.

What will remain of that joy when everything has been charted and signposted and nothing remains a challenge?

High adrenaline sports and internal adventures are what. Both exploration of ourselves, maybe.

I’ll leave adrenaline rushes to junkies. But my other photographic adventure of the year has been to work in series rather than isolated random shots. That doesn’t sound like much risk taking, right πŸ˜‰ For me it is. And risk & reward are the basis of every endeavor that hold any real value. Anything else is just a side dish.

My casual shooting just grabs interesting scenes that get post-processed individually with no arc or common idea linking one to the other. I’m good at that. Making meaningful series from these exposes me to something that doesn’t usually factor into my hobby: failure.

Mercifully, it’s unlikely some well-meaning bloke will turn up to chart my brain and implant ready-made solutions for creating the perfect series. Though AI-based solutions aspire to. Instant-photo for dummies πŸ˜‰

Instead, I’ve asked (long suffering) people who know better than me for help (sorry NR, LE, PB, JW, J-CL, you were just are the wrong place at the wrong moment πŸ˜‰ ) So, here, I don’t even have a map, but those good people are helping me build one for myself. And it’s much better that way.

We all need adventure tailored to our psyche, condition, and lifestyle. And the infinite number of ways of doing photography make it a great avenue for that. So what’s your photographic adventure? How do you find fun and reward of exploration in a secretless world?


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  • Steve Mallett says:

    Pascal, I’m with you, let’s please leave some wilderness. I like nothing better than to find myself lost for a while but it’s pretty damned hard. Love the shot of the cave – it’s just so rude!

    Whilst reading Layton joins me on the chair. “Grandpa, what are you looking at?” “Pictures from my friend Pascal.” “Grandpa, what’s that picture?” “It’s tree roots.” “No Grandpa, it’s a gazelle.” Young eyes….

    • pascaljappy says:

      Indeed, young eyes! Make sure normative schooling doesn’t wipe them clean. We need dreamers and rebels more than ever. And please tell Clayton I’m honoured he saw a gazelle here πŸ™‚ Does he see the lion-man on the left ?

      Yeah that cave, it’s just … well … πŸ˜‰

  • PaulB says:

    Oh! A request!

    I have something I am working on that fits.


  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    An inspiration to simply go where the heart leads and get lost , sounds a little like someone I know.

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Nice post, Pascal! My source of adventure has been stymied for the moment, due to COVID, of course. The last time I let my adventure flag fly I drove down a narrow dirt road in Utah which soon turned into slick muddy areas and finally into an ugly muddy quagmire which was axle deep. I was unable to turn around and had no cell service and no one knew where I was! I powered through 20 miles of horrendous roads, nearly bogging down and getting hopelessly stuck four times! It took an hour with the hose to get most of the mud off my SUV! Lots of adventure, but no photography while struggling along the road. A warning sign at the entrance might have been useful!
    Can’t wait for my next photography adventure!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Very true Nancee. This comment mirrors John’s, below. It’s in the areas that do present some risk that warnings would be precious but are nowhere to be found. Whereas in tame rural areas such as ours, it’s hard to look anywhere without seeing a sign.

      I think our next photo adventure has started. It’s still in a liminal state πŸ˜‰

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Do you REALLY think I need any more encouragement, to do as I please instead of drifting along in a crowd? I HAVE no “herd mentality”** – I’m famous for “never doing as he’s told” (mother spent the last 40-odd years of her life, freaking out, over that!).
    **(that’s why all the complaints about “lock downs” during the COVID pandemic have simply passed me by)

    I hope that when you go exploring caves & sink holes, you observe the basic rules of (a) making sure someone outside knows exactly which hole you disappeared into and (b) preferably – having someone still “up top”.

    As for AI – please, no! – I can’t cope with any more – I’m struggling to deal with whatever intelligence I’ve already got! Gazing wistfully at cameras that have shutter & aperture controls, some way of focusing the lens, and a shutter button. And some means of changing ISO (I used to do that with magazine backs, for half a century – but at least pressing an ISO button and dialling what I want still leaves me in control)

    I thought “risk & reward” was more the stuff of stock brokers – trying to talk you into leveraging your portfolio, to magnify the impact of the gains (rewards) you’d make by investing through their firm. What’s not mentioned in the fine print is how much you can lose (including the house you live in, which you mortgaged to participate in this “game”) when the market tumbles. I’m more into “risk management” – I’ve nearly managed to kill myself about 30 times already, and I think it’s about time I tried “something different”.

    But isn’t “different” what you’re suggesting?

    And where are all the bicycles? Don’t these cave holes have any? (Just kidding – I’ve done my time, exploring limestone caves – that past time included one of the aforementioned “30 times” – LOL)

    Did you really take that path to Mont Saint-Michel? Look rather narrow, slippery, and everything’s sloping the wrong way. I’m in that awful “gap period”, between bicycles and “gophers” – I don’t think I should try that!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ah … Risk and Reward are what educate us, thrill us, make us who we are. It’s how the brain functions and why AI is nowhere close to emulating a human brain. Eliminate the risk and reward in our life and we might as well be sheep in a field.

      Which is probably the intention …

  • Pascal, you are living on the wrong continent ! Plenty of opportunities to get lost down here in Australia many of them within easy driving distance of major cities. People get lost frequently and sadly some of them die as a result and some are never found. Hundreds of thousands of sq kms of unexplored country -much of it covered by only basic maps. It’s still an explorers dream.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      While I was living in Darwin, John, I often used to jump in the car, drive down the track, run off the road to one side, dump my “tinnies” in a suitable creek bed, to keep cool – and then wander around in the bush for 2-3 days.
      Disclaimer – I don’t “do” lost – I have an inbuilt GPS, like my dog does.

    • pascaljappy says:

      John, I most definitely am in the wrong continent. But my wife doesn’t want to move. We almost moved to Perth in 2004 then chickened out, not knowing whether she’d find a job (she’s a geriatric doctor, as if …) Seeing all the overlanding, mountain biking, hiking, astronomy, wildlife scene in WA, there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking I’m a wildling trapped in a city-dweller body. If it’s Karma, I must have been a bitch in the past …

      Oh well, ‘nother life maybe.

    • Cliff Neil Rossenrode says:

      Thats much the same reason I love Africa, still plenty of un-signposted routes and wilderness to get lost in, and oh so photogenic, not to mention plenty of risks too.

      If I ever leave this place, it would probably be to Australia – even though I found that the cities a bit too manicured!

  • philberphoto says:

    What an inspiring and enlightening post! I would like to add my 2 cents’ worth. Adventure, and getting lost are not (restricted to) the result of a process gone wrong, deliberately or not. It is a frame of mind. Or, one might say, the removal of a frame that says that “only right is right”. Photography and the present circs force me/us to exercise our sense of voyage and adventure on a different scale. Yet they show that it is possible to discover, explore and get lost in a subject captured mere feet away, and which might measure only fractions of an inch …. Congratulations and thanks, in whichever state and location this comment finds you….

    • pascaljappy says:

      Exactly. The frame of mind is what matters, more than the conditions. Self discovery. There’s a middle ground between staleness and high adrenaline that leads to deep satisfaction. And nothing should prevent that, in my mind, not even the good intentions of others who think different. Thanks πŸ™‚

  • John W says:

    Pascal – Great post!

    The “security” thing drives me frothing. Suddenly, in the last 20 years we’ve become security freaks to the point of fanaticism. Suddenly we need “security personnel” to direct us to hither and yon and “traffic control personnel” with every pothole repair crew ad nauseum. How did we manage the last couple of thousand years without killing everyone before the “security industry” hit town. Now the condo building I live in want’s to install video security cameras in the building for reasons I still can’t sort out. I could go on ad nauseum, but ’nuff said.

    In the last Backyard Gem I mentioned that I used to live in North Vancouver. The entire north shore of the harbour sits at the foot of a 4000′ mountain range covered in forest with three ski complexes and no end of hiking trails, canyons, ravines, cliffs, rivers and other natural hazards the can and do kill people regularly. There’s even a special North Shore Rescue Service that specializes in mountain rescue. This is heartbreakingly beautiful country but it’s possible to get lost and die from exposure with a gorgeous view of the city. Stanley Park which is right in the city has killed more than a few careless nitwits who didn’t get back to their vehicle before dark, wound up lost in the dark and died of exposure. If you like the outdoors, this is the place for you. And you wife would find a job in a heartbeat … the West Coast is the countries largest retirement colony and there’s a shortage of geriatricians.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Security freaks indeed. Possibly because everybody is under threat of damaging lawsuits (except politicians who split continents with lies and push personal agendas). And, also, I think security is being used as a pretext for surveillance, these days. But that’s something else entirely.

      I’ll tell my wife about the opportunities πŸ˜‰ But her answer will be the same as usual: “find a job there and I’ll follow you”, when she’s the one with the job every country wants. Oh well …

      Strangely, the mountains are also quite free for all in France as well. Lots of people sky outside the designated slopes and many dies every year. Still, I prefer that to a no entry sign. Freedom is also responsibility.


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