26 Sep
Ian Plant By
Posted in: Glen Canyon NRA    12 Comments

Into the West Away

“How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight  
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea  
Soars the delightful day.
To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,  
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow  
I never kept before.
Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies  
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground  
Falls the remorseful day.”
—A.E. Housman

I keep a running list of places I wish to see and photograph before I die. Some call such a tabulation a “bucket list”; I prefer to call it something less morbid: my “shot list.” Although I knock off destinations from the list with regularity, it never seems to get any shorter; in fact, my inventory grows rather than shrinks, as I add new locations faster than I can cross old ones off.

One item that has sat on my list for a few years is “kayak Lake Powell.” I made my first attempt last November, but a blast of unpleasant and unseasonably cold weather turned my plans on end. This year, I finally made it on the water for a week of adventure on Powell’s Caribbean blue waters.

I explored some remote side canyons that piqued my interest, leaving my kayak to continue on foot. In one canyon I found knee-deep mud, a long swim through a narrow slot, quicksand, an enraged beaver (I kid you not)—and exactly the kind of image I came there to make: something that hasn’t been seen thousands of times before. So I was finally able to remove one item from my list, to free up space for many more.

Housman’s poem reveals, perhaps, a profound truth about the arc of a person’s life. In youth, life itself is filled with promise, unsullied by the occasional cruelties of this world. In middle-age, when one perceives that less years lie ahead than behind, promises are made to use the remaining time wisely. In old age, those promises which remain unspent blossom into regret.

The remorseful day awaits us all, stalking like a cutthroat in the shadows, bent on mischief. A chilling thought, perhaps to some, but to me it is a call to action: there’s no time like the present to start living your dreams. No one can possibly live them all, but we should all strive to tick off as many as we can. And most important of all, never stop dreaming.

"Into the West Away" by Ian Plant

Technical details: Canon 5DIII, 14mm, ISO 100, f/11, 2.5 seconds.

Ian PlantAbout Ian Plant (414 Posts)

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.


  • My list is still long!

  • Love the image, especially the detail of the walls, and the glow at the end. I’m afraid my list is not shrinking either (it’s keeping up with my waistline!).

  • It sounds to me like you’re acutely aware of the transition zone between youth and middle age, where a peak of vitality is coupled with an increased sense of urgency. In my opinion, there’s no better time to be inspired and cross more of those places off your list. Poignant story and great image.

    BTW, “Enraged Beaver” sounds like the pandemic sequel to “Angry Birds.”

  • Nice post, Ian.

    In Hungary we say: “bakancslista” which means “boot list”. The Hungarian idiom for “kick the bucket” is “drop up the boot”. As a photographer I like the “shot list”.

    The image is really awesome. The colors and the composition are fantastic.

    • Ian Plant

      I think I prefer the Hungarian idiom!

  • Sick image dude. Don’t you always encounter enraged beavers? You should be used to it by now…

    • Ian Plant

      I guess something about me just seems to make beavers angry . . .

  • Cool image. The sliver of sky acting as a leading line is what makes it for me.

  • Awesome! Great photo and makes me want to go explore that area more. Earlier this year I kayaked into Lake Powell to watch the Annular Eclipse and it was an awesome experience: http://andylibrande.com/news/2012/08/eclipse-while-kayaking-lake-powell/

    Where was the general area that you ended up in as I have never seen a beaver in Lake Powell?

  • Ian,

    First, I’d like to thank you from my heart for sharing your contemplative essays and inspirational photos. This time, as usual, it’s a mysterious and engaging piece.

    Next, I’d like to mention that this blog entry in particular has reached me at just the right time. I’ll warn you that the following may sound somewhat dramatic or cliche, but it’s the truth:

    When I was in my teenage years, I was certain that I was meant to be a nature photographer. However, gradually as the years went by I slowly sank into the grasp of self-imposed, false limitations and disbelief in the achievability of that dream. I suffered the disheartening acceptance of my fate as an average person destined to go to their grave having utilized just a tiny fraction of their potential and having let their spirit slowly wither in pain and regret.

    Very recently, something inside me “flipped on” and I suddenly became aware of the reality that, not only is it my destiny to be a nature photographer, but also that it is quite achievable simply because I made the decision to believe it. I decided in that moment to no longer accept the fear and cynicism which had previously extinguished my spirit and passion, and which I believe the majority of people have also fell prey to. I find myself feeling more alive each day, with each step toward my photography goals bringing joy back into my life. I now have the highest standards for myself than I’ve ever had before.

    I’ll just finish by saying, once again, that your writings and images often speak to me at just the right times, thereby further affirming my certainty that I am heading down the right path.

    p.s. I recently picked up my own Kermit the frog “Awesome Meter” shirt

  • Ian, looks like you got the new 5DIII? How do you like it compared to the II?

    • Ian Plant

      Frankly, I don’t think it is much different. I “upgraded” only because my Mark II is getting pretty old and I needed to migrate it to backup camera status. So far it seems that the Mark III has better noise performance but for landscape work I really don’t see much of a difference from the Mark II overall.