Cynthia Viola Photography

adventurous

When Men and Mountains Meet

PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
— Mary Oliver

It is decidedly sad that Mary Oliver passed this last week, but the event did present the inclination for many of her followers and those who had never heard her words before to dive into them. Her intentionality with seeing the world and life around her as well as her acceptance of death have inspired many to do the same. I have found myself returning to her words many times on this cross country excursion. And, as I’ve paid attention, and been quite astonished, it is now my duty to tell about it.

I truly cannot get over the variety of mountains I have come across these past few weeks. Beginning of course in my hometown, with the low rolling and misty blues of the Blue Ridge on the east coast. I have photographed them often, but usually only to adjust my lighting before asking a couple or family to step in front of the lens and allow me to capture the mountains merely as a nice backdrop. When they are allowed to be front and center, the varying shades and subtle shifts of light become far more evident.

Blue Ridge Mountains, Boone NC

Next the arid, multi-colored deserts of Arizona, surrounded by cylindrical spires that look built rather than evolved. I, of course, expected to see and experience the Grand Canyon, and it was, just as magical as everyone says. Vast as far, and farther, than the eye can see, and with edges that make you wish you were a bird so you could simply run and leap off the side!

The Grand Canyon

Perhaps the unexpected nature of stumbling across Sedona on several friends’ suggestions, I think, made it a bit more magical to me, however. The spontaneous schedule shift, extra driving to an unknown location and last second scheduled sunrise yoga session on the side of a cliff is simply something I won’t soon forget. I chose to hike alone first, early in the morning in order to get to the top of the mountain before the sunrise to capture a few shots and simply sit with the cacti as the light slowly and determinedly crept across the hills altering slightly everything it kissed. When I met up with the others for the yoga session, it was only 35 degrees as the wind whipped up the face of the cliff but the air was so crisp and the light so empowering you felt the temperature more as a welcomed tingling in your bones rather than something to shy away from.

Sedona Sunrise Yoga Session

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains I’m quite accustomed to the deep deciduous and ever-greens of winter, summer and spring followed by the outrageously vibrant oranges, reds and yellows of the fall. Something I’ve never experienced in nature before this trip, however, are the lush blue pastels painting Sierra Nevada alongside these lonely, dry, salty pink hills. An unexpected shift in the weather sent me driving north through the desert before crossing the rockies into San Francisco, and I could not be more grateful for the extended reroute. I spent hours just sitting and staring at these colors. There was something so tranquil about the undisturbed quiet reflection of the mountains. I wanted to stay all day but the pending snow storm was going to trap me if I didn’t move on.

Nevada Mountains

So move I did. By the time I got to the top of the mountain in Lake Tahoe, it was snowing and my little car was starting to give me questioning looks every time I stopped to capture a photo. The Rockies were not unlike the Blue Ridge in the color and selection of trees, they were simply immense. Snowcapped evergreens blanketed the mountains in every direction making me excited to come back in a few short weeks to snowboard at Big Bear.

Rocky Mountains

The cliffs of Big Sur surrounded by its icy turquoise surf was certainly the most unique bunch of mountains I came across. A place I’ve been dreaming about seeing for years, I was a little worried when signs mentioned several closed sections (due to landslides from the storm I’d avoided a couple days prior), but I was able to see everything I’d hoped to and more. The vineyard valleys that followed provided a startling spring green compared to the rest of the trip, but only emphasized the vast beauty across the country.

Big Sur California and Monterey California

Next, the fire scorched trails through Malibu, bursting not with pain, but new life from the ashes. A first glance at such scarring almost makes you want to look away, but further inspection shows the beauty breaking through because of the pain. Most forests do better after a fire, so while it’s hard to look at (and certainly not ideal for areas near homes and businesses), it’s all a part of a healthy process of growth.

Malibu Forest Fires

Finally as I flew into Seattle I was honored with the chance to see a blanketed Mount Rainier both from above and below the mist. It’s extraordinary to experience life from multiple perspectives. From above she looks alone and lonely, from below, however, you see the multitude of trees and the city to keep her company.

Each set of mountains has had it’s own beauty and it’s own story. This world is ever changing and brimming with diversity, much like us. May we be brave enough to keep it that way, both in the forests and our cities.

Mount Rainier

If you’d like to see the entirety of the images from the trip, feel free to leave a comment here or shoot me an email. (cynthia@cynthiaviola.com) I’ll be selling digital downloads and prints if you are so inclined. Thank you for supporting this grand adventure.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable
— Mary Oliver

Choose Your Life

PersonalCynthia Viola6 Comments
An ENFP is: Body of a woman, soul of a child, mind of the free and heart of the wild
— Ashley Lemaine
#12newadventures

I don't know about you, but while I like myself as I am, I definitely don't want to stay the same forever. I thought I liked myself at 16, but looking at that arrogant know-it-all, I have to roll my eyes. She thought the world revolved around her and could not be told any differently. I thought I liked myself at 22, but looking at what a naive child I became, I cringe. She took everything given to her without question, without pause. She nearly lost herself entirely in an effort to please others. A worthy goal, perhaps, but not worth the cost.

My thirties have been full of adventure, exactly as I hope the rest of my life to be, but also a bit reckless at times, so at Thirty Four years young I want to see if I can become the best version of myself to date. I want to keep the confidence of my youth, without being callous. I want the childlike joy of my 20s without losing my intelligence. I never want to give up adventure, but also don't want to achieve it at the risk of losing people I love. There must be balance to everything.

I decided to experience twelve new things at the beginning of this year and I don't intend to stop there, for changing horizons somehow have a way of changing us.

#12newadventures

I'm not sure at my half way point I've yet discovered any grand mystery of the universe, but I feel at peace with my life choices and grateful to be afforded the opportunity TO choose them. I am grateful that I've never lost a love of learning, and grateful the world is so big and grand and full of opportunity to always experience new things. 

For example, did you know that you can drink spring water right out of the ground without filtering it on the Appalachian Trail? (Not after it's flowed for a few feet, but as it's coming, unpolluted, out of the ground) Or if you use a long straw to blow on your campfire, instead of just your mouth, the concentrated air will help the flames really burst to life. Also, hang gliding is a much more relaxing and serene form of air adventure; I was surprised to find I liked it better than skydiving, which was actually a bit painful. Diving chest deep into water that's below freezing will force your body into defense mode to warm your core. (teeth chattering, shivering etc) It will also sacrifice your extremities for the sake of your core. This makes normal functions like climbing a rope or picking up an object infinitely more difficult. 

I wouldn't say any if these individual adventures have changed the course of my life, but I would say that choosing to have them regularly will indeed continue to change me forever. And that's all I ask out of life: adventure, growth and change. 

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, go do something new. Try some escargot or take a boxing class or volunteer at a refugee organization to meet people you could never possibly share the same story with and LEARN. You never know who you're going to meet or what you're going to gain, but the chances of meeting someone new or experiencing something new while stuck in the same routine day in and day out are slim. The people we have yet to meet are the ones who bring us new opportunities, and the things we've yet to do are the things that teach us something we don't know about ourselves. It's always worth the risk. 

And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later
— Randy Komisar

Dreamy, Adventurous, Joyful

Family Portraits, Wedding Photography, Personal, Bridal PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
— Douglas Adams
Moses Cone , Blowing Rock

Moses Cone, Blowing Rock

I have often been asked how I would describe my photography and honestly, in eight years it has probably evolved more than I have. From the type of sessions I choose to take, to the locations and time of day, to the types of filters (or lack thereof), from Photoshop to Lightroom and back again.

Taking a bird's eye view of my entire collection however, I have noticed a pattern and would like to move forward more intentionally in this way. I would love for all of my images to represent one or all of the following: dreamy, adventurous and joyful. 

Durham, NC

Durham, NC

Dreamy says to me: "I've finally found the one my heart loves and I'm ready to embark on this journey."

Adventurous brings out my inner child. I grew up in the mountains exploring hidden creeks for crawdads, four wheeling as a teen, and mountain biking and snowboarding in college. I'm not sure I could name anything I won't try at least once so I love it when photo sessions take me into new territories. Many of those territories have taught me not to go back (architecture photography for example...see my friend Sterling for that) but failures only take you one step closer to success. Many new territories, like the forest above, are everything I hope for and more.

Joyful says "There is no where else I'd rather be than right here, in this moment, with these people." It says, "For just a moment I forgot about the paper due Monday, or the laundry piling up, or the cancer, and I remembered to live."

May my life's work tell a story that brings out the good in people. A story that reminds us we are all human - the same - living one moment at a time.

Fearrington Inn , Pittsboro, NC

Fearrington Inn, Pittsboro, NC

What do you hope for in your life's work? I'd love to hear your story.