On Reaping The Benefits After Facing Your Fears

Let me just put it out there – I. Really. Hate. Heights. Especially when they’re presented with sheer drop offs. Vertigo sets in, a cold sweat begins to form and, well, the rest is history. It’s something that I’ve been affected by and have been trying to overcome for many years. I don’t want this neurotic fear and I think I’m slowly beating it into submission.

This past weekend, I returned to Panther Creek Falls in Washington for my third time. The first two times resulted in a panicked failure with my feeble  attempts to hike to the base of these exquisite falls. Within a minute, literally, of arriving here, +Brian Bonham was already bounding down in his Vibram foot-shoe thingies. +Jason Jakober was soon to follow after him. A few minutes went by and then +Lars Gustafson began his trek down. And then +Anna Lowry in her Converse Chucks of all shoes.

And then there was me.

I could see Brian and Jason obliterating this scene with awesome shots. Both Lars and Anna gave me play-by-plays of what this relatively mild climb down involved. I decided to go for it. Sort of.

I made it down the first set of rocks relatively quickly. After a narrow scoot down a path, the second set of rocks is what almost did me in. You see, I shut down whenever I encounter a path that I cannot see down. However, all credit goes to Anna and Lars for sticking it out and pushing me (figuratively, and partially literally) to overcome my fears in baby steps all the way to the base.

And you know what, it was totally worth it. This is just one of several images from the base that I am so happy to be able to share. I’m not saying that I’m totally over my fear of sheer heights but I do know that this experience has certainly helped. It’s a classic example of risk and reward and I’m already excited about Visit #4. :)

In terms of processing
This is a mild two-exposure blend. One exposure took care of the darker shadow areas while the other was metered for the bright, flowing water. Both exposures were taken with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 24-105mm lens with a Lee 3-stop 4×4 full ND filter mounted. Exposure blending was done in Perfect Layers by +onOne Software.

Stylization was done in Perfect Effects 3. Not much was done, though. I globally added the Green Enhancer, Deep Forest Glow, and Lighter effects. I also masked in some Tonal Contrast and Blue effects onto the rock face and water, respectively.

Final touches were applied in Lightroom 4.1

In album Pic Picks Over The Years (1 photo)

Google+: Reshared 3 times
Google+: View post on Google+

  • Felicia Renz

    definitely worth the effort!

  • William Beem

    I've learned that I'm not afraid of height.  I'm afraid of falling. Recognizing that subtle difference has helped me cope with these situations and reduces the stress.  

  • Brian Bonham

    I'm proud of you for getting down there.  Next time we go I'll push you down encourage you down to the lower falls.

  • Lindsey Boler


  • Jason Jakober

    Gorgeous image +Brian Matiash glad you made it down and back up in one piece!

    +Brian Bonham Next time I am going to the lower falls for sure!

  • Gilmar Smith

    I so wish I was there last weekend… not to just laugh at you when you fell but to see all that beauty… no I'm not talking about you +Jason Jakober! I'm talking about the falls!

  • Cliff Baise

    I too have had a history of a fear of heights stemming from a NDE on Mount Nebo in Arkansas as a youth. After deciding to become a photographer, I realized I had to quickly overcome this or I'd be missing out on some really cool stuff. So here's my method for comforting myself when I'm in the situation: I never rush onto a scene. I give myself plenty of time to get in (here's where it gets weird) "vibrational alignment" with my surroundings. For me it's the difference in having a difficult experience, or letting the universe perform it's visual symphony for me to capture in timeless bliss without fear. Great photo BTW. It is awesome.

  • Kelly-Shane Fuller

    Rockin shot +Brian Matiash, and way to kick the fear's ass!

  • Dan McCool

    I feel your pain, +Brian Matiash  It's the high skinny spines with big drops on either side that cripple me. If you decide to take a giant leap in your battle against vertigo, head on up to Angels Landing at Zion National Park. Still scares the bejesus out of me, even clinging to the safety cable…  

  • Chris Smith

    Congrats on facing your fears and winning. Lovely shot.

  • Mark Rainer

    Congrats. Great story, I've heard getting to the bottom is tricky, I've yet to go myself mostly because I tend to shoot by myself so getting stuck or falling is a concern. I don't suppose you'd like another tag along next time you go?? Moral support is a good thing. ;-)
    Wow those greens just leap out of my monitor. Nicely done

  • onnie hull

    throw in being afraid of leaving your house most days and welcome to my world … i'm so happy you were able to find the strength that lives inside and reach that beautiful destination! the image is gorgeous and a testament to your triumph!! ;-)

  • Martin Heller

    We all have our baby steps to take… Well done, +Brian Matiash 

  • Michael Hatten

    +Brian Matiash sounds like your ready for a zip line experience. :-) I think there is a place over west of Salem that allows you to literally fly through the canopy of the trees.

  • Chris Bagley

    I would say that you should keep this incredible image on your mobile devise of choice and look at it whenever you get that "I don't really need to go down there" voice in your head. Kudos for fighting the inner conflict!!!!

  • Katelyn McCallum

    I want to go to +Brian Matiash! Let me know when your next going and I might be persuaded to make the drive :)

  • Ken Zak

    Wonderful capture…

  • Chris Lazzery

    Awesome shot. Killer vibrant greens. Damn it I want to go here.

  • Brian Matiash

    Thank you, everyone, for your insightful tips and kind words…. even you, +Brian Bonham. I totally agree with what you wrote, +William Beem. I think it was +Lars Gustafson or Brian who mentioned something about not being able to see your forward motion that causes the trepidation and I believe that is correct. What I do know is that climbing back up to the top was 100% easier and faster than going down.

    Speaking of going down, +Gilmar Smith – I'm sure that if you were down there with +Jason Jakober, the waterfalls wouldn't be the only wet thing around. :P :)

  • Lars Gustafson

    Glad I could help, and yep, totally worth it even if we didn't have optimal glass with us…

  • Jason Jakober

    +Brian Matiash Next time just take your shirt off, it will make you feel invisible! 

  • Brian Matiash

    +Jason Jakober HA! Yeah……….

  • Scott Jarvie

    very nice!

  • Sandra Parlow

    Oh Brian! I would have been right there with you!  I have that same terrible fear!!  yikes!!

    It feels great when you are able to over come something like that though – each time it is a small victory!  I'm proud of you!!

    Awesome shot – it was worth it!! ;)

  • Javier Esvall

    Very nice!

  • Brian Bonham

    +Brian Matiash I've added ridding you of your fear of heights to my to do list.  :)

  • Frances Schermers

    Way to go, Brian! I have to fight vertigo every time too. I had to learn to fight it while scaling cliffs on Geology field trips in college, I know that cold sweat well!
    And you're right, this photo was worth it, and knowing you got through it and can do it again is priceless. :)  

  • Brian Matiash

    +Brian Bonham I dig it, dude. I may [read: will] scream like a little girl as you try to rid me of this fear… but I'm sure you already expected that.

  • Angie Smith

    Note to self:  Do not take +Brian Matiash with you backpacking.  He will chase away the mountian goats while screaming like a little girl.

  • cole mac

    wow butifull

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    A couple of inspirational phrases come to mind, not sure who said them but I think they apply here:

    1 – why is it that we fear what we can't see, yet we can drive across the entire country in the dark at night by only illuminating the few feet in front of our car?  If we just keep moving we'll get there

    2 – lack of fear is not what makes the worlds greatest people great.  It's lack of action in the face of fear that stops us.  Courage is not the absence of fear, it's the ability to act in spite of it. 

    Way to have courage +Brian Matiash ! I myself realized that it's not a fear of heights for me it's fear of my own abilities and balance.  As a kid I had a lot of inner ear infections which leaves me with unstable balance sometimes.  So falling off a small ledge is a real fear for me.  I haven't done that one someone else mentioned but I did make it up from Machu Picchu to Huayna Picchu.  It's about a 45 minute hike pretty much straight up.  There's a rope to hang on to and it's two way so you have to move over to let people coming the other way pass.  Coming down I went on my ass more than a couple times as the stairs carved into the mountain 100s of years ago by the inca are pretty damn steep! 

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    This is the view from the top point looking down on Machu Picchu – look at the next couple too to see what we did up there! 

  • Brian Avis

    Nice work overcoming your fears +Brian Matiash …. I'm certain that judging the Horror/Fear category for the scavenger hunt must have helped.   :P

    And your comment to +Gilmar Smith …. is one of the naughtiest comments I've seen on G+ so far.  So good work there too.   :)    Even though I think you might have had a more innocent interpretation in mind when you wrote it.   

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    It didn't sound very innocent to me! 

  • William Beem

    I can't tell you how many times I've been tagged in a comment that includes the phrase "Speaking of going down…"

  • Brian Matiash

    +Brian Avis I'd be lying through my teeth if I said that there was even a glimmer of innocence.

  • amy campbell

    I guake at the thought of a step ladder, you really rocked it facing your fears!:-)

  • Brian Avis

    All righty then +Brian Matiash …. carry on!!   

  • Brian Matiash

    Laughed out loud at that one, +William Beem! HA!

  • Kelly Morgan

    Still blows me away how easily you've shifted from subways to waterfalls — this is a sweet shot, my friend.

  • Vinod MD

    No word !

  • Brian Matiash

    +Kelly Morgan Yeah, I've been thinking about that a lot lately. It's just a matter of shooting whatever is in copious supply around where I live. A few of us have a bead on some new UrbEx locations that I'm looking forward to checkin out but in the meantime, it's all nature all the time. :)

  • Brian Bonham

    +Kelly Morgan before you know it we'll have +Brian Matiash wearing Birkenstocks and letting his hair dread.

  • Kelly Morgan

    +Brian Matiash you've been critical to my development over the past couple years, so it's especially nice to now see you express your vision of my native landscape. And since you seem to get better with each new shot, I like that +Brian Bonham is often there to make sure you remain humble.

  • Paul Johnston

    Okay, +Brian Matiash , enough of this Mickey Mouse trail tiptoeing around to try to conquer your fear of heights/falling.  Be bold!  Take one giant step and don a bat suit, a wing suit and take a giant leap off a ledge and get rid of any fears you have in one step.  

    For instructions:

  • Stephen Jones

    Wow, +Brian Matiash that shoot was well worth a little vertigo

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    +Paul Johnston is that the guy that mushed himself doing a commercial?

  • I.V.T Kitty

    everyone has to face its fears eventually

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    some people don't though, that's the point

  • Karen Hutton

    And to think we were perched on the edge of a sheer drop on Eagle Falls +Brian Matiash… and never once did I hear you peep like a little girl! BEEEYOUUUUTIFUL capture of this one – I'm with everybody else in saying it's a keeper! 

  • Brian Matiash

    +Karen Hutton Yeah, that wasn't as bad although I did get worried when you were bounding around the edge. This climb down was a bit more unnerving – not particularly difficult, just unnerving. :)

    Miss youuuuuuu!

  • Jason Jakober

    +Brian Matiash We need to hit up Palouse Falls next!

  • Karen Hutton

    Miss youuuuu morrrrre +Brian Matiash!! 

  • Brian Matiash

    +Jason Jakober Oh, hells yeah.

  • Karen Hutton

    Check your dang phone +Brian Matiash!!!

  • A.D.Wheeler

    Awesome story and shot Brian. I recently had the same situation on the back of a fire truck at an event shoot. 150ft up on a bucket lift to film a rock concert from above. Kudos to the fireman that was with me for making it fun and helping me mostly forget about being up so high. The logic side of your brain says you should be okay, but the visual side says…hey this basket is the same size but suddenly the thing holding it up is tiny…that is hard to compute at first. The hardest part was when the fireman exclaimed, swinging left and the chief radioed up, “What are you doing?”. He answered, “Swinging left”. The chief calmly replied, “We don’t want that problem with jack #1 again do we?” The fireman turns to me and says, “swinging right..”.. That made my heart drop a bit.. All in all, I am safe and the shots were worth it.

  • Angie Smith

    Yes, go perch yourself on the edge of the cliffs at Palouse Falls, on a windy day, +Brian Matiash.  :O)

  • Nate Parker

    crazy verdant lush shot Brian- worth it me thinks!

  • Darcy Michaelchuk

    Very nice!

  • Michael Riffle

    I assume there is some safer route down than the you'll-definitely-die-if-you-try-it route next to the platform? No way I'd go down there…. unless I saw you make it.

  • Brian Avis

    What's wrong with the 'you'll definitely die if you try it route'? 

  • Michael Riffle

    +Brian Avis Dunno, there's no one around to ask.  ;)

  • Cameron Siguenza

    So glad you made it down, beautiful photo. I was afraid of heights as a small child, but began climbing trees, and then climbing mountains – eventually, I just had a healthy respect for heights.