The Shameless Selfie


The photo challenge for this week is “the shameless selfie”. Obviously this is not my selfie, but a representation of an incredible opportunity missed! Wednesday I had the honor of experiencing a ropes course with the amazing people pictured here. I am the one taking the photo perched on top of a telephone pole. I must confess, I am no spring chicken. My 50th birthday will be celebrated this year and I am excited about this next chapter in my life! As I was preparing to make my ascent I went to put my camera away thinking I need to just be completely present for this experience. Perhaps there was a piece of me that didn’t want to create an expectation of myself or with anyone else that I would make it to the top of that perch to take this picture. A good friend and fellow photographer questioned my decision and reminded me;

“That would be one awesome shot!”

That comment somehow thrust me back in my mind to a recent photo shoot for a brief second. I remembered a moment trudging with determination through the snow and ice to capture a shot of a fly fisherman in a river feeding into a half frozen reservoir. There was this stippled light dancing from the setting sun at the northern end.  I just had to get a shot capturing the beautiful coral color reflecting against the hues of blues and green along with polar fly fisherman  I  realized how capable and fearless I am when I have my camera strapped to me. The motivation to get “that shot” pushes me to do things like nothing else in my life. I knew my camera would be an asset as I faced this challenge and with it tucked inside my jacket, I made my climb. The pole looked manageable from the ground. It is said to be 35 feet to the top and 70 feet to the bottom. This perspective is truly only appreciated from the top of the 12″x12″ perch that I found myself on.  There was purpose to this exercise. What was tiny on approach became increasingly comfortable as I had to prepare to declare something to leave behind and then leap courageously into my future. I chose to leave behind any excuse and to leap forward to a destiny that I was truly capable of determining. With a Tarzan call into the wind I took my leap into the cold southern crisp air and moved boldly towards my future.

One thing my friend reminded me to do, was to remember to take a selfie.  I am sorry to say in all my excitement I forgot.  But I have no regrets. Perhaps this can be a photo of a declaration of how I want to live my next 50 years. As I look at this photo I see the love and support of my remarkable friends. I also see that I was acknowledging them! As I live my life of passion and share my passion with others, I know I will have the support of my remarkable friends and family. I want to always acknowledge my appreciation for them and the essential part they play in my journey. I also want to remember to live a life with no more missed opportunities. Now is the time for me to fully live my life of purpose, and share my gifts, talents and joy, and accept with graciousness as others offer their support and gifts to me.DSC04667.ARW-001

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Volunteering as one of the water moms at marching band camp was a highlight of my summer.  We kept 70 gallons of filtered water available at all times along with ice.  The kids had frequent water breaks since camp was during the peak of summer heat in the dry high dessert. When our services weren’t needed at the water front, my friend Sue and I would take to the field with our cameras.  Sue was a determined photographer. With amazement I watched from the sidelines as she would get right in the middle of the formations to capture the kids in action. My approach was very different. I would play, experiment, especially with light. I rarely took pictures in the peak of the day, because the results usually weren’t worth my efforts. I was always on the hunt for the artistic shot. Sue would shoot no matter the light. There were times I would put my camera away, only to see her jumping once again right in the middle of the battle. She always had this ability to stay one step in front of them as they marched. Fear kept me comfortably shielded in the shadows of the trees on the sidelines. As the sun began to make its way towards the horizon, I would abandon my post and begin my hunt. I loved to play with light. I’d place myself directly in the path of the sun with the band members moving between me and it’s brilliance. This is when I would have my fun! I loved to shoot into the sun. Playing with flare, silhouettes and all of the strange effects that would appear delighted me. Digital photography allows this incredible freedom to adjust the settings and dial everything in and then enables us to see the results in real-time. When The settings allow me to capture an image that gives me the look and feel of an artistic piece or painting that is when I am most satisfied with my efforts. The first night as we both came in for the night and reviewed our photos Sue approached me and asked,
“What were you doing shooting into the sun? That goes against every rule I was ever taught about photography. I want to see what you were capturing.”

I turned my laptop towards her and began to share some of my photos and found myself chuckling,

“You mean there are rules? I just love to experiment with light and love to dial in the settings to use the flare to my advantage.”

I then explained to her that I had no formal training with photography. I was a graphic designer and artist and had recently become obsessed with photography.

She simply said,

” Oh that explains everything, you are an artist. I was a photo journalism graduate from college.”

Now it all made sense to me. How she could just jump in and had no boundaries. Her training taught her to have none. My training was based on my experience and I was focused on capturing the images that reflected my intentions; art. I observed more carefully her approach to shooting everything and began to expand my attempts even at high noon sun. I recognized there was always a story being told, always an image waiting to be captured and if I chose to wait until the perfect light, there would be many missed opportunities. I found myself crossing the sidelines more often, not yet with the vigor or confidence of Sue, but celebrating the freedom and new-found vantage point I found there.

That evening as the sun began to once again take its graceful place along the western horizon, I dashed across the field to find my place to have my fun with light, only to find that Sue was already there playing. I captured the photo of Sue breaking the rules as she took her pictures into the sun. I knew then we had learned from each other and was truly flattered a graduate photo journalist found something I did as an artist worth imitating.SONY DSC


Sitting in a room full of faces
all alone.
Deafening silence screaming
as their laughter
spills onto the floor.
Watching the charades continue.
No one guessing, caring.
For a moment
I wonder;
when’s it my turn
to play.

 ~Henry Ward Beecher

I wrote this poem after a conversation with a friend. Her words burned as she expressed how she never felt accepted when she went to church. As my mind replayed our conversation, I found myself sitting in a room feeling what she felt and realized, it was a familiar feeling. The questions washed over me, “Who else feels this way? Why of all places would anyone feel alone in a place of worship? Why did I sometimes feel like I didn’t belong”  Solutions finally began to flow dismissing my frustration. Selfishly perhaps; I decided to be one of the last to enter the church classroom. This way I could choose to sit next to anyone sitting by themselves. This kept me from feeling alone and helped me feel I was doing one small thing to  keep someone else from feeling the same. A simple lesson that has broadcast itself many times in my life; when we choose to serve others, our needs are met.


The picture posted above is of a young girl who was an alternate  color-guard member for my sons marching band. I watched in amazement as she tirelessly rehearsed from the sidelines, I found myself inspired as her efforts seemed constant. In contrast I saw other alternate band members who chose to simply watch from the sidelines discouraged and powerless as they waited for someone else to change their fate. I chose to illustrate their attitude the picture below. This young girl did not yet “belong” to the team, but she was doing everything in her realm of influence to prepare herself for that opportunity.I learned a lot from this young lady. Her resilient spirit was a powerful reminder to me that I have the power to choose how I feel and respond to any of life’s challenges; even if it’s just choosing to enter a room last.SONY DSC

Pure Joy

Oh the joy a puppy can bring! Yesterday I was taking some photo’s for a dear friend who’s grandchildren are moving across the country by the end of the week. Family means the world to me and to my dear friend and I know she and  her grandkids are feeling some trepidation about this grand adventure. It’s not that they fear what’s ahead so much as they fear knowing what life will be like leaving the ones they love so dearly behind. During this photo shoot the little boy’s face lit up as he saw a tiny puppy approach from across the street. I love puppies. I however never imagined how much this little boy loved puppies, but his pictures explain it all! What a great distraction for all of us from the heavy feelings of fear and loss, and a great reminder, that we can all find joy in our journey, if we take time to enjoy the small things…even puppies.

My Wild Side

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The afternoon light danced on the muddy pond, transforming it into a perfect reflection as I followed the massive bull Elk and his companions. As he turned to go into the scrub, part of me had to follow. Crashing through the amber bushes, rubbing his fierce rack against them, he paused and looked at me, then lifted his nose to investigate my scent. It was then I began to wonder if I had come too close. But his eyes relaxed as they rested on me and he turned to face the direction he would soon begin to walk and paused as if to say, ” Well aren’t you coming?” It was that photo shoot, that enlivened my spirit in a way I had never experienced before and I knew then that I was meant to do this. As he took his evenings rest in a flaxen meadow, I bid him farewell and thanked him for sharing his afternoon with me. I still thank the wildlife I photograph, because I truly perceive it as an honor and priviledge to witness them in their greatness, especially in their natural habitat. I love to share that gift, by capturing those moments through a lens. These are a few of my wildlife encounters; just the beginning of my wild side.

I Was Blind But Now I See


Feelings of inadequacy enveloped me as I unfastened the clip and reached for the camera in my bag. Sitting comfortably on the sidelines, in the shadows of the trees, was a convenient cover as I attempted to manipulate this piece of equipment that had become so foreign to me. The buttons used to make sense. The symbols next to them, that once directed me to their meaning and purpose, now took tremendous effort to even  decipher. The span of dry grass filled was with marching band students and their instruments,  but the only noise I heard was the incessant biting voices in my head.

“Who are you trying to kid?”

“You’re never going to be able to focus.”

“You’re just going to make a fool of yourself.”

Somehow amidst the clutter, there was a gentler voice;

“You’ll never know unless you try”

Thankfully it was that voice I chose to listen to that day.

I have always been a visual person. An artist, graphic designer, and my most recent passion – photography. I was really focused on becoming a professional photographer and preparing to enroll in college when a strange shadow appeared in the upper right corner of my left eye. At first my reasoning it was just a symptom of chronic dry eye was enough to calm my concerns; until the pattern of the tile on the wall of my shower revealed it wasn’t a shadow at all, but actually an absence of vision.

The Doctor had me come in right away. The realization set in as I walked into his office that I knew nothing about eye conditions. As he began to examine me, the first question he asked was, ” What did you eat this morning? I wanted to say; ” What the Sam Hill does that have to do with anything Doc?”  but his explanation made perfect sense. My retina had detached and emergency surgery was imperative. This procedure required a specialist and before I left his office he had one lined up for me. Time stood still and flew by simultaneously as my fears clashed with ignorance. As the vitreous specialist began to examine my right eye he started dictating a bunch of medical jargon regarding a detached retina in my right eye, I interrupted, ” Oh no, It’s not my right eye Dr. its my left eye.” Hesitantly he replied , “I hate to tell you, but if that’s the case, you have detached retinas in both eyes. “ I still had no idea what a retina was. I did however understand that if we didn’t get it re-attached soon, my sight loss would become more extensive and permanent.

That night I had two emergency surgical procedures. The first of 9 procedures over the course of 8 months. My eyes were filled with gases, and oils. I developed cataracts so the lenses were replaced, then a laser burned holes into the new lenses to make my vision clearer. My left eye detached twice; once into the macula, taking a good portion of my central vision with it. In an afternoon life had been altered with no clear cause, or outcome.  Remaining optimistic at times was overwhelming. There were some upsides though; I was fascinated by the way the lights looked at night. They appeared 3 dimensional, like floating orbs. It was awesome how their brightness was multiplied and the spectrum of light took on a prismatic effect.  I remember thinking this is way better than rose-colored glasses. The harder parts were losing my ability to drive,  read, and how everything really became different. Stepping off curbs or negotiating stairs in public places were surprisingly tough. It taught me a whole new appreciation for yellow and red stripes on curbs and steps and how detrimental the absence of them can be.  Each treatment left me literally with a different set of eyes.  Constantly adapting to varying degrees of blindness, and vision. Each follow up appointment or procedure there was always a next step, more hope, for my sight to return.

During a routine follow up appointment my Doctor unexpectedly told me.

Well this is it…We had hoped we could restore you to full vision, but this is probably what you’ll have to work with.”

Hopelessness washed over me as I left the office and climbed into the car where my son was waiting.

“How’d it go? ” He asked

At first I couldn’t speak. I just kept replaying what the doctor had said. Then took a deep breath and told him that the blindness was permanent in the center of my left eye and my right eye was probably as good as it will get. I tried to be strong, but my tears told him more.

“Mom I’m so sorry”

His reply was so tender. I wanted to reassure him I was going to be okay.

I felt embarrassed ,  this challenge was minor compared to what it could have been, and miniscule to what other people have faced.  I should be grateful that my vision was stabilized and now restored in my right eye to a point I could probably drive. I had peripheral vision in my left. I could “see” but the reality that everything was different now was sinking in. Constantly adjusting to the capacity of ever-changing vision was part of a healing-repairing process that was leading to my sight being restored. As I left the doctor’s office, I realized these eyes were now mine to keep and my vision was as good as it was ever going to be.

I put my double stacked readers on to read the smaller print on the panel. My backpack was filled with extra pairs since misplacing my reading glasses was a common problem. My left eye just bows out and closes so the right eye can have a fighting chance and I begin to dial in the settings. Shooting manually had always been my mode for photography. Settling for anything less would defeat my intentions entirely. Finally the settings were dialed in. I took a deep breath,  brought the eye finder to my eye, only to discover my reading glasses were of no assistance here. The beat of my heart began to quicken.

“What’s the big deal? No one’s paying you! Just take some pictures, you have nothing to lose! “

I  took that first shot,  and didn’t stop for 5 days. Funny thing, I couldn’t tell if the pictures I took were completely in focus or not by just looking through the viewfinder. It was so bright outside and difficult to really see the image on the playback screen outdoors. So each night after practice ended, I choose a dark corner and download the images to my laptop. As I  review them I was amazed at how many were clear and in focus, and quickly deleted the ones that weren’t. I preferred manual focus to control the composition of my image. That worked great when I could see clearly but was a new obstacle for me . I would switch back and forth from my left and my right eye. Sometimes the peripheral part of my left eye could determine focal point better than my right. The more comfortable I got, the more I began to play with light and aperture. At one point I decided to try to follow one of the band members as they moved across the field at sunset just to see what kind of effect I could come up with.SONY DSC

That night a spark of creativity reignited in me. As I unveiled my photographs of the day I discovered my first music in motion. Up until that moment, I didn’t know if I would have to find a new way to define myself. Instead, I realized that my eyes were allowing me to see the world, it’s beauty and my creativity all over again. It was as though I was rediscovering not only my vision, but all of my senses were being enlivened and the only limitations I would have, would be the ones I chose to put upon myself. The photograph featured above is the photo I took that evening. It’s not my finest work, but it was a new beginning. One that happened because I had a challenge with my vision, and was determined to spend 5 days on the field figuring out if I could still be a photographer.  It was the perfect place to push myself to do something hard. Watching 220 American Fork Marching Band Kids work from sun up to sun down without complaint in and of itself  a great motivator.

This photo led me to an obsession. After camp, I began to experiment with capturing the essence of music in the art of Marching Band.  I have a featured gallery called Music In Motion. I’m not sure what it is that I love most about this style. Is it the lack of focus, yet the attention to emotion? Is it because it  shows the way I saw life through my new eyes; a little out of focus, yet I discovered a new reality of beauty in it? Is it because it captures how this style of performance makes me feel? Or is it just the fun in discovering and mastering something new?

This was the beginning of acceptance for me. I was still aware of what I’d lost, and was trying to navigate my way back into a world that much like my camera had become foreign to me. That week was an opportunity to do more than just take pictures. I watched as young faces were covered in sweat, then coated in dust; yet somehow their smiles still made it through the mud. I too can find joy amidst my adversities. I saw the blisters on their feet, blood running from their noses, lips cracking from the sun. At one point a young man went off during a break to a quiet place and asked for help from God to give him strength to carry on. I too can turn to God to find strength when the burden seems to great for me to handle alone. I witnessed remarkable musicians,  carrying each others stuff, helping with equipment and even assisting the adults in their duties; all so the burdens were lighter for everyone. My eyes were seeing more and more each day, recognizing their capacity; my capacity. I want my eyes to always be open to the needs of others.  I will continue to be inspired by the example of those amazing musicians that not only saw the needs of others, but filled those needs with their own efforts. I was blind but am so blessed and now I see.

First Creative Spark Ignites New Passion

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Marching band season is always a time for pulling out the camera. This year though I had a new passion ignite. It all started with an experiment I did while at marching band camp when I chose to follow a performer as they crossed in front of the setting sun. What I captured was my first music in motion picture. It led me to experimenting more at every competition. These are just a few of those results. I love how it captures the essence of the art form. So many times they appear to look more like paintings than photographs. I have since upgraded my equipment and look forward to the next level of Music in Motion!