“Exploration comes before expression.” David duChemin, The Traveling Lens course.
How you feel about a place cannot be completely known until you have had time to explore it. Walk around it, take in it’s sounds and smells. Feel it’s rhythm. Learn its history. Sure, you can get a feeling or a vibe almost immediately but until you spend some time and peel back the layers, your initial impression is shallow and surface-level at best.
In a lesson from David’s course he talks about spending an hour or two just sitting in a place, wandering around, getting lost (my favorite), and just allowing yourself to become a part of it before you pull out your camera and just start snapping pictures. I loved the advice and decided to put it into practice the next time I went out with my camera. Now, I am one who loves to wander and get lost and spend time in a place, but doing it intentionally and paying attention to the place itself instead of focusing on what I was going to snap a shot of next was, quite honestly, completely frustrating, at first. Old habits are hard to break and so are certain mindsets.
Once I got out of my own way and just gave myself permission to relax, I started walking a little slower, stopping and staring a little longer or closing my eyes and just listening and feeling. That’s when it became amazing. My first priority was no longer about taking photos but instead became more about my surroundings, how they made me feel and what drew my attention. What inspires me and makes me want to get a closer look. That’s when I started to feel a more natural connection with my camera. I was reaching for it less but the action itself became more natural and instinctive.
This is the kind of photographer I want to be. I want my expression of a place to be more than just what I see. I want it to be what I feel. I also want it to be the kind of person I want to be. Taking time with someone, getting to know them beyond first impressions and dismissing snap judgments, I think would make great photography but also makes for a better life and a better world.
This weekend, I played in the rain. Twice. Actually three times, see picture above. This was suppose to be a weekend at the lake with family and friends. Instead, I found myself spending the entire weekend home alone with only the dog and cat and a massive migraine to keep me company. I have to mention, I am a lake girl. I love the lake!! If I could live there, I absolutely would but for now we manage a visit a couple times a year. So missing out on a trip to the lake…complete bummer but not as big a bummer as trying to ride 6 hours in a truck wishing you could remove your head from your body and heave it out the window. So, I stayed home.
Over the weekend we officially entered the month of September. One of my favorite months. Fall is starting to set in, school is back in full-swing and my world starts to come alive with color. The rainy days of fall are magical to me because the gray skies just enhance all the beautiful color. Pure gold to a photographer…well, to this photographer anyway.
Driving is not an ideal activity when you’re in the midst of a full on migraine. So, I couldn’t go to the lake, I really couldn’t get out and take photos and as I’m not much of a homebody I was going a little stir crazy. I was sitting on my bedroom floor going through a few little things left over from my closet clean out. I had the windows open so I could listen to the rain. As I reached to pick up an old pair of flip-flops I was throwing out the skies seemed to just let loose and I couldn’t help but throw on the flip-flops and run outside.
If you have never played or even stood out in the rain, a really good rain, the kind that just falls straight from the sky and soaks you through…you really need to try it. It. Was. Awesome. Soul cleansing! The only downfall (pun intended) was that it ended almost as quickly as it began. It was so good that the next day when the rain got so loud on our roof that I couldn’t hear anything else, I knew I just had to go out again.
This morning I woke up on the other side of a bridge that I’ve been crossing for…years. I have camped out…no, taken up residence on this bridge for over two decades and finally…amazingly, I’m able to turn around and see where I’ve come from.
As a young girl I was a victim. As a teenager I was a silent sufferer. In my early twenties I took all my pain and anger and created a path of self destruction. Since then I have lived in a bubble of insecurity, negativity and self-loathing but today…today I know that I can look at all the bad and see everything that I’ve overcome.
We all have trauma’s in our lives. We all lose sometimes. We all suffer shattered hearts. That’s just proof that we’re alive and finally understanding that means that I have control of how I live. I believe in God and I believe that he has given me dreams and desires for a purpose. I believe we all have a bridge to cross. It’s about learning what you’re truly capable of and discovering that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Allowing the bad to keep us stuck is simply allowing the bad to win.
I once had a very vivid dream of what my life was going to be like. It was just a short dream but it was so clear and realistic that I awoke just knowing I had caught a glimpse of my future. A few months later that dream was shattered by a simple letter. I don’t know why or how exactly but somehow I believed that I was no longer deserving, that the girl in that dream was no longer able to exist outside of it. I allowed that situation to decide who I was, or wasn’t I suppose. I was wrong! Who I am should never be dependent on someone or something else.
All the things we go through, the good and the bad, they may affect our perspective but they should never define who we are. Be you. No one else gets to.
“We are either defined by memories of our past or the vision we have for our life in the future.” Author unknown.
In the midst of summer, between the blanket of humidity and the cricket chirping induced sleep I have found direction, confidence and a little peace. Starting off the summer listening to a mantra of “I am lost” playing over and over in my mind was not a great start but when I was finally willing to just come out and admit that I was lost, I was finally able to get my bearings.
I’ve always loved heading out on unknown roads and getting lost. I love how it always gives me a different perspective and increases my need to really pay attention to my surroundings. Understanding that has helped me understand that this feeling of being lost and having no idea which direction to go is a reminder to pay closer attention; that maybe I need a new perspective. Giving voice to my “lostness” has also allowed me to be more open to possibilities and to peer a little closer into the journey that I’m on. Finding my direction has meant making difficult choices and being honest with myself in ways that I have avoided for fear of disappointing myself and others.
Another benefit of being honest and admitting I was lost is that it gave me permission to look for help. I truly believe when we are real and sincere about our needs and hurts, God opens our hearts and minds to receive exactly what we need at that time. For me it was a book written by Rachel Hollis (Girl Wash Your Face). From there I began following her on Facebook and Instagram and listening to her Podcasts. She resonated with me so much that I felt like we were friends who have just never had the pleasure of meeting.
I love this thing called photography. I love the adventure in it, the learning of it, the creative freedom it gives and I know that I want to be a photographer, I just have to stop getting in my own way. I’m still working to find my way but I now appreciate that I’m making these choices for me and no one else. That “other people’s opinions of me are none of my business” and, that I “didn’t come this far only to come this far”.*
*Quotes courtesy of Rachel Hollis’ movie ‘Made For More’.
“Fear has two meanings; ‘Forget Everything and Run’ or ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” Zig Ziglar
On Saturday, June 16th of this year, wearing my favorite shoes (see previous post) I took a step towards my fears. I entered four photos into the Iowa State Fair Salon. Standing in line, white knuckles hesitating to hand over the work that represented hundreds of miles of gravel roads and hours of preparing not just the photographs but also myself, I was just excited to be facing my fear of simply entering. Seeing the stacks of pictures already dropped off by hopeful artists, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. I appreciated the simplicity of the process at that moment. Already past the first check point, there was no turning back. I handed over the four prints, paid my fee and walked out congratulating myself on doing what I had set out to do.
To some, it may seem like no big thing, entering photos in a local photography contest. Big deal. Yes, for someone who often finds themselves paralyzed by her own fears, it really is a big deal. For someone who struggled for years to even share my photos with family and friends for fear of being laughed at, it’s a big deal. For me, it’s not just about the contest, it’s a step forward towards a dream I’ve had for years. It’s a chance to really put myself out there and win or lose, learn from the experience. And maybe even more important, right now, in this moment, as I sit here looking at the postcard that just arrived in the mail, telling me that one of my “photos has been accepted for display”, it’s a big deal to just be excited. To be proud of the work I’ve done and allow myself to celebrate a goal achieved. Every journey begins with a single step, right?
So…I just finished a book. I read lots of books but…as corny as it may sound…this book was different. This book felt as though it could have been written by me. It could have been written by my best friend. It could have been written by so many women that I know. It resonated with me so much that I often found myself cheering out loud at particular paragraphs and statements. Thankfully no one was around in those moments, but even if they had been, I don’t know that it would have stopped me.
Now that I have finished it and because it so plainly was exactly what I needed to hear I cannot help but follow through on her advice. The first of which is to write down my dream. More specifically she says…”Before you continue reading, take a few moments to focus on a specific dream. Get out a piece of paper and write it down…Come on, girl-no one is watching. There’s nobody here to judge.”** Yikes!! I had intended to write it out on paper because writing things down helps you remember and gives your conscience connection to what is being said. Though possibly foolish, I have decided to take it one step further and type it out for anyone to see. Here goes nothing.
It is my dream to wake up every morning grateful for the blessings in my life and go to bed each night knowing that I have lived my day as authentically as I can. Two things I cannot say that I have ever done, at least not for a long time. I get caught up in the everyday and forget or take for granted all the wonderful in my life. I live afraid of not being good enough, and so sure that I’m going to fail that I don’t even try. I’m a perfectionist and since I am far from perfect I’m always afraid to allow the real me to be seen. The real me is…broken but fighting. I am good enough and I know that I no longer need to depend on other people’s opinions to define my self-esteem. (Thank you Will Smith!)***
I recently completed a mid-year review of the goals I started in January for 2018. Call it what you will but me finding this book and witnessing some amazing changes of a close friend, and so many other little things have culminated to bring me to this place. I finally feel like I’m finding my own way.
I have a dream beyond just the things I mentioned here but that one I’m not quite ready share. That one I do need to write on paper and sit with awhile. These shoes pictured above are a symbol, of sorts. I’m not a shoe person but I adore these shoes. I am looking forward to all the places they are going to take me and I cannot wait to share that journey with you.
** © 2018 by Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face I highly recommend this book to anyone needing encouragement and inspiration to follow your dreams.
*** @willsmith SELF-Esteem. Instagram post.
I don’t have a bucket list. In the back of my mind I have a list of things I think I would like to do in this lifetime but I’ve had enough experiences to know that plenty of those things just simply will never happen, not because I don’t believe they can but because…well…life. I’m okay with that, most days. What I seem to struggle with most are the moments and experiences that I didn’t realize I wanted until it was too late. I was always busy rushing about life hyper-focused on what needs to be done and how others might feel or think about what wasn’t perfect. I seldom took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I thought or felt or wanted.
That’s one of the things I love about photography. For a few moments I get to really stop and focus in on one thing and in that moment I get to pay attention to what I think and how I feel about it. How does what I’m seeing affect me? Does it affect me? I sincerely appreciate when my photos catch other people’s attention but it starts with just me and my point of view. I get to decide what I like, what I appreciate, what I keep and what I crop. When I’m in that zone I get to appreciate my own unique perspective and it has taught me that I have worth and that I am capable of having and sharing my own vision.
Of course life isn’t exactly the same. I can’t go back and crop back in the parts I thought I could live without. No, I have to accept what has passed though the lens of my life. I can however take a lesson from my photography and apply it to my life. I can learn to slow down and pay closer attention, not just to those I care about around me but also to myself. I can zoom in and focus on the parts that really matter to me. I can learn to value myself and the gifts and blessings I have been given. I can embrace the imperfections and see that by trying to edit or cover them up I lose the true beauty in the pictures of my life.
Some days I wish I could just turn off the constant whirring in my own head. Just a quick little flip of a switch and all the to-do’s, plans and random musings could be replaced with…quiet, peaceful nothingness.
At the beginning of the year I started working on a process of setting specific goals. With larger dreams and plans in mind, I set monthly, weekly and daily steps to help me work towards those bigger dreams and plans. Oddly, or at least to me, I like organization but have never really been one to plan. Even when I worked as an event planner, my own life was lived pretty wide open. I just went with whatever needed to be done, when it needed to be done, which admittedly, sometimes led to things not being done and an overall feeling of discontent and frustration.
Now, after 6 months of trying to be more focused and intentional about my life and the days and minutes that make it up, I still find that I’m just as frustrated. In May I found myself so disheartened that decided to take a little break. I still set goals, I still practiced my photography a bit but I didn’t make any of it a priority. I reverted back a bit to just living each day with whatever it brought. It also helped that I work full-time at a garden center and with the late spring May was incredibly busy.
My PowerSheets that I use for goal setting has you do a review at the end of each month, so at the end of May I took a little extra time to evaluate my attitude towards the whole process and how I wanted to proceed. While it has been frustrating to be reminded each month, in my own handwriting, how many goals have gone unmet, I focused on the positive and I discovered a few things about myself. I love the process. I love thinking about and planning and writing…the process. When it comes to putting it into practice, I freeze up and avoid. I sabotage. I have become so comfortable with frustration that I actually fear accomplishing my own goals.
May was a blur of work and little sleep and quite honestly, completing only one goal on my list but May also brought some answered prayers and what I’m hoping is a more grateful attitude towards the life that I have been blessed with. I want to accomplish my goals and I want to break some long learned habits that are keeping me stuck in this comfortable frustration but I also know that I can only take one step at a time and that I need to be present and not take what I have done and do have for granted.
When I married my husband I knew I had found a great guy. Stable, capable and funny…I really felt blessed. Then I met his friends and I knew I must be the luckiest woman in the world. A lot like Chris himself, his friends are an amazing collection of big hearts, loyalty and character.
So it was a huge privilege to be asked to photograph the wedding reception of our good friends son and daughter-in-law. Unlike the weather that weekend, the Beaderstadts are just good, fun people. With ready smiles they brighten any gathering and are never short of hilarious stories. The newlyweds, Brett and Ashley, are slightly more reserved and were so sweet, graciously meeting and mingling with their guests.
The reception was a perfect representation of the couple and their families. Held at the Copper Creek Golf Club in Pleasant Hill, the decorations were beautiful and understated. It was a perfect evening spent doing what I love and hanging out with people I feel blessed to call friends.
With the crazy weather we’ve had this spring I’m dying to get out and practice all the wonderful lessons I’ve taken in over the winter. Unable to do that as quickly as I would like, I decided that the birds who visit the feeders outside our living room window might make for some interesting opportunities. So…I removed the screen from the window and at least once a day I camp out there with my camera. The crazy thing is that with the screen gone, suddenly the birds seem to have no qualms about just flying right up to, and in a couple of unfortunate incidents, smack into the window. A woodpecker has taken to clinging to the window frame and ever not-so-gently pecking at the glass. And not to be outdone, our cat has taken to tapping on the window to signal his return and “could you please let me in to eat?”
I’d like to say that I’ve been able to put all this pent up knowledge to good use, and honestly, I have actually found the exercise somewhat useful. I’m getting much better at anticipating crash landings. I’ve saved a couple small finches from death-by-cat and in all fairness, the birds are oddly entertaining. I often catch myself laughing out loud at their antics. I have been witness to what I can only describe as a nail-biting reenactment of David and Goliath when a small finch took on a bird twice its size.
I may not be perfecting my posing or exposure but I am being reminded every day that there is value in the moments of our lives when we choose to be present and appreciate even the small things.
For me, one of the best ways to cleanse your soul and clear your mind is to get a little dirty. Sitting here tonight I cannot describe how bone-aching weary I feel. Nor can I begin to relay the contentedness of my heart. I just spent the day heaving, lifting, sliding and pushing some of the prettiest potted trees and plants my eyes have seen. Now, that may seem an over exaggeration and I agree I might be looking through rose colored glasses, so to speak. Spring has not exactly made itself know yet around here, so its easy to get carried away when presented with cart after cart of beautiful, colorful plants and several hours of sunshine and a temperature that doesn’t make me want to jump into my sweats and back under the covers.
A year ago I made some huge decisions that quite honestly terrified me. I walked away from a job that offered definite financial benefits but left me drained and sad. I started my own business and took on a part-time job to help relieve some of the financial pressure. Today, that part-time job has turned into an enormous blessing and unexpected inspiration. When I made the choice to leave behind cubicle walls I promised myself that whatever else I did I would never compromise or settle. That I would be true to who I am and that my work, whether my photography or other employment, would be a true and accurate representation of me and my values and my passions.
Today, standing amid an array of arborvitae, spruce and juniper, feeling the ache in the tips of my fingers and in my feet and back, I felt amazing. I know it isn’t always possible to do work that brings you joy and I am so completely grateful for all of the people in my life who have given me the encouragement and opportunities to do what I do. I know this would not be possible nor would it be the same without my family and friends and co-workers who inspire me every single day.
Now, a word of warning. Tomorrow morning if you see me and I don’t seem so…”joyful”…bear with me…my body likes to keep me humble and remind me that I’m not a kid anymore.
I am going to just put this out there and say that even though I’m a photographer, I do not like having my picture taken. I often joke that I’m behind the camera for a reason. I do not think I’m photogenic in any way shape or form, and 99% of the time the pictures that I see of myself confirm that. So, last night when I finished my Marketing Jumpstart class by Katelyn James and realized the very first thing I really needed to do is take a more professional picture for my website and social media, I closed my browser and went to bed.
When I woke up this morning to another cloudy, cold day I was quick to make the excuse that I couldn’t possibly get the right picture on such a day! The minute I had the thought I heard a little inner voice challenge it…”Oh really?” So, I set out to prove my own self wrong! It needs a little work but honestly, if you could see my first attempt at a professional head shot about 6 years ago you’d understand just how far I’ve come. (Maybe I’ll get brave enough to share it sometime.) For now I think I’m going to take another one of Katelyn’s suggestions and share a few things you might not know about me.
I believe the smell of eucalyptus and spearmint is the bees knees. My mouth actually waters at the thought of QuikTrip ice with a little splash of pineapple papaya tea. I have broken my right wrist twice; once when I was eleven and again when I was thirty-two, both times while rollerskating. My favorite city is Chicago but in the name of full disclosure, I have not been to many big cities. I adore the soft socks from Altr’d State. All-time favorite vacation…Niagara Falls. I hate horror movies or anything violent for that matter. Gilmore Girls will forever be my go-to series. I will never get tired of the sound of rain on a metal roof and my favorite form of escape is my camera, a gravel road and good music.