Some of my images come with pretty cool stories of what all went into capturing them. With this one though, the cool story came years after...
The photo is of a small, somewhat obscure waterfall in the remote northeast corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. It's a pretty area (I mean come on... it's Rocky...) but not exactly one of the parks top or most recognizable destinations. I still thought it was a nice shot, and at the time it was taken I was mostly selling my work at the Iowa City Farmers Market and a few area art shows -and Iowa folks love to vacation in Colorado. I was getting a lot of requests for shots from RMNP, so I did a few prints of this image, and made up some note cards. I tried selling them for a season or so, but didn't have very much luck. People were after more dramatic mountain vistas, or perhaps specifics like Longs Peak, or Bear Lake... the places they'd actually been.
Three years after this shot was taken I was doing an art show in Ames. By that point I was rarely even putting this print out for display anymore. I planned to retire it completely, but still had a couple of note cards left to sell. On a whim I placed them at the bottom of my rack without much hope or expectation, and they sat there without notice for much of the day. That afternoon though a young lady was walking by my tent and stopped abruptly. She bent down, grabbed a card, and couldn't believe her eyes.
"Oh my God... is this Bridal Veil Falls?!!!"
"It is!" I answered, "have you been there?" The girl's smile started to quiver and she got teary eyed.
"Yes..." she said, "I can't believe this..." and took a few minutes to compose herself. Through happy tears and disbelief she then told me her story. Her fiancé had proposed to her there, at that waterfall. He was now away at Marine Boot Camp, and they were having a really hard time being apart- both missing each other terribly. The day was significant too, I can't remember now if it was his birthday or their anniversary, but she was struggling really bad and had come to the show to try and take her mind off of things.
She stared at the card in silence for a very long time before speaking again, and as she looked I could almost see the montage of memories flashing in her eyes.
"I just... it feels like this is a sign..." she concluded. "It feels like everything is going to be okay."
I think about that girl every time I see this picture. I think back to the day I took the photo, how I debated even setting out on the six mile hike. How I almost went elsewhere when I had trouble finding the road to the trailhead, and how construction there almost turned me back too. I think about debating if I should put the card out at the show. I think about all the people that walked past it, or who were unmoved the years prior when I offered it in response to what I had from Rocky Mountain National Park. I think about the million factors that could have changed things that day... and I think about the smile on that girls face, and how her eyes welled up with tears. It reminds me of the power of a photo, how it can mean the world to the right person, how we are all connected, and that synchronicity is real.
This isn't my most popular photo, but it now has a permanent spot in my rotation. Sales will never matter as much as giving someone a reason to smile.
Photo © copyright by Josh Meier.