On Reaping The Benefits After Facing Your Fears

In Uncategorized by Brian Matiash63 Comments

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)

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  1. 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.  

  2. 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.

  3. 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…  

  4. 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

  5. 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!! ;-)

  6. 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!!!!

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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!! ;)

  9. 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. :)  

  10. 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! 

  11. 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.   

  12. +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. :)

  13. +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.

  14. 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! 

  15. +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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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