Tranquility

The weather’s going to get warmer.

I’m already loading my cameras with film.

And I’m off to make those journeys.

The Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. Nikon D700 camera.  Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

There are moments in my life where, when I take a picture of an object or a skyline or a horizon or an anything, I imagine a tranquility in my life.

It’s something I’ve felt for a while now.  Any time my life has been stressed, where things have not gone as planned, I need to take a photo.  I need to travel somewhere and capture a breathtaking image.  Something that catches my eye.  Something that stops my breath.

The Pier at St. Augustine Beach. BlackBerry PRIV camera.  (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

These moments can appear out of nowhere.  Honestly, there are times when I would wake up and not even conceive what my photographic goals might be … and then, three or four hours later, I’m looking at the camera and whispering to myself, “Did I catch that?”

The Railsplitter. Nikkormat FTn camera, Kodachrome 64 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.  All rights reserved.

I’ll argue that if someone says my work is great, I’ll say I can do better.  Photos I took in 2013, for example, pale to what I’ve taken in 2018.  And I’m sure that the photos I took in 2018 won’t be as striking or as stunning as the ones taken in 2024.  But it’s the journey.  It’s the personal exploration.  And in the end, it’s the sense that what you’re creating in that very moment will inspire.

The Heavens Above, The Forest Below. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I’ve had my detractors over the years.  Those who say that I wouldn’t know one end of a camera from the other.  Or that I focus so much energy on going hundreds – thousands – of miles to get one photograph, that I ignore what is close by.

For a while, that really hurt.  I felt uncomfortable and unwanted, as if my efforts were not enough.

Then I realize that those insults were flavored with sour grapes.  That they wanted to put me down to make themselves feel better.

St. Teresa of Ávila. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

They don’t understand that the photos I’ve taken helped me get through the 40-year-long anger of my brother’s death and my family’s reactions.  They don’t understand that the photos I’ve taken helped me get through physical injuries and limitations.  They don’t understand that the photos I’ve taken helped me heal from traumatic personal experiences.

The Walkway. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, efke 100 film. Photo by Chuck Miller.

It’s as if I found the one moment where pain is replaced by production.  The one moment where ache is replaced by anticipation.  The one moment where confusion is replaced by challenge.

I’ve dealt with many things in my lifetime.  My existence on this earth wasn’t planned.  I was created by accident.  There was no deep love and commitment between my parents.  There may have been a relationship, but then I came along.

So if I was an accident … let my photos be something on purpose.

The Boreas Ponds and Adirondack High Peaks. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

I’ve dealt with abuse in my life.  I grew up with it, almost accepted it as part of my existence.  Assaults by my stepfather, group assaults by school bullies and neighborhood tough guys, I truly believed at that time that I had it all coming and there was nothing I could to change that.  It was as if I accepted my fate.  I shouldn’t have been here, and all these griefers were trying to reinforce that in my mind.

Troubled Bridge Over Water, Version 3. Leica M3 camera, Summicron 50mm lens, Kodak HIE film with R72 infrared filter. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Even today, there are moments when I think that the world would have been better had I not been born.  It’s the old demons, resurfacing and trying their old lies upon me.

And I fight back.  I fight back with Kodaks and Leicas and Nikons and AGFAs.  I fight back with star trails and infrareds and expired film and splitfilms.

I have to fight back.  Every single time.

The Saratoga and North Creek Railroad. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

You can’t let them win, Chuck.  Their entire function in life is to chase you into submission.  To force you to give up.  To make you feel helpless and hopeless and useless and worthless.

And I try not to let them win.  And even in the moments when things aren’t perfect, when I feel things slipping completely away…

I contemplate what I can achieve with my cameras.  What can I do to turn this dark image in my life into a positive image in everyone’s life?

Stone, Saltwater, Surf and Seagulls. Nikon Df camera, Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

This is my tranquility.  This is my peace.  This is where I take my darkness and pain and anger and ache, and bring it into a different exposure, shall we say.

So where is that next photograph?  Where is the new winning image?  What does it look like?  Where may I find it?

It’s out there.  I know it is.

I know it’s there because I will take that photo.

And in the end … that is truly all that matters.

I promise you that.

Morrone. Rolleiflex Automat MX camera, Kodak Aerochrome infrared slide film. Photo (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.