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The Boy and the Waterfall:
A Photographer’s Story and Message of Hope


Sunlight forms a rainbow at the base of Multnomah Falls in Corbett, Oregon

A fusion of sunlight and mist forms a rainbow at the base of Multnomah Falls in Corbett, Oregon.

Though this is not an article about Chicago nature, I’d like to end the year with a message of hope by sharing this inspirational story from my experience in nature as a photographer.

There once was a little boy who I met while composing images of Oregon’s famed Multnomah Falls. I was in the zone, just doing my thing, when I noticed his intense interest in my work. It was as clear as the plummeting, crashing water that sprayed before us.

He was slender and especially lightweight for the age of five. I know this because I lifted him up and held him with ease as he peered through my camera’s viewfinder high on the tripod. This was after I asked him and his approving mother if he wanted to see what I was photographing. He was silent up to that point, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of me.

We talked as he excitedly sat on the side of my forearm that was folded like it was sprained and hanging from a sling. I was surprised at his buoyancy, as if he were supported from above. With one open eye, he took in the falling waters through the lens, and I handed him the shutter release so that he could press the button to record the images onto film.

When the photo session ended, his mother called me over. And that’s when I learned that she wasn’t his mother, after all. “Thank you for doing this,” she said. “I’m his aunt. A week ago, his parents passed away in a car accident. You’re the first person he’s spoken to, since.”

Without trying to attract attention, just by doing what I love to do, I found it possible to make a difference in the world in unexpected ways.

I wish you a new year filled with passion, possibility, and wonder! And let your passion be your gift to others.

(By the way, this moving story reminds me of the famous “Dutch girl” scene from my favorite movie “Miracle on 34th Street” that you can watch by clinking this YouTube link:.

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© 2020, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.

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