Monday, December 30, 2019

When boy meets his dad, their road trips together shape the rest of his life

Dan and his Dodge.
My friend Nathan lives to explore with his camera, taking gorgeous photos everywhere he goes. It's a passion he said was sparked when he met his father and they began taking summer road trips together.

That was cool.

When eight-year-old Nathan became withdrawn and depressed, his mother became worried and frustrated. So when her son asked to meet his father, she agreed to try and find him.

Nathan at 8.
Soon Dan was driving across two states to meet Nathan, who doesn't remember ever being angry at his father for not contacting him earlier. "I think I always understood he was in a lot of pain."

That summer when Nathan got out of school, his father came back to take him on a road trip, first driving him to Utah to meet his grandmother, uncles and some cousins. And for the next several summers he returned to pick up Nathan, driving him to all the remote spots where he sought solitude. "He loved to find the places where others didn't go, and he taught me to appreciate nature, and the outdoors."
To keep Nathan entertained during all those hours in the car, his father bought him a disposable camera, "probably just to give me something to do. I really liked drawing, but I couldn't easily do that on the road. So taking pictures was my way of drawing, of engaging with the scenery and capturing images. "

They stopped taking road trips together when Nathan became a teenager, and as men now they have few things in common and even fewer things to talk about. But taking pictures will always bring Nathan back to those days in the car with his dad, "finding those roads no one else was on. And thirty years later, I'm still doing the same thing I did during those summers -- exploring and taking pictures."

Nathan's dad said he doesn't remember buying him that first camera, but I would still like to thank him for the pictures his son takes now, both on our newspaper assignments and hiking adventures with my dog. Because I think photographs are one of the best gifts we can give others: they are the closest humans can ever come to freezing time, forever saving a moment we'd like to live again and again. 

And Nathan has taken some of my favorite photographs, including one that captures the joy I feel being with my dog. To me this photo is magical, and I can't thank Nathan enough for freezing this moment for me.

Dodging the waves on Black Sands Beach. Photo by Nathan DeHart

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