July 23, 2014

Fishing Widow

For almost a month straight, David has been invited to go on fishing trips with various buddies. Me being the selfless and wonderful wife I am (if I do say so myself!), happily agreed that he should go. Fishing is good for his soul. Even if he doesn't catch a fish all day, there's something about being on the river with a fly rod in his hand that is cathartic for him. And there's definitely something about hanging out with his buddies that's good for him. So I'm all for him fishing. He comes home tired but happy and ready to face the week ahead. Go fish, I tell him. Go catch those fishies!

But somewhere along the line I realized that weeks upon weeks of him being gone on fishing trips, while healthy for him, wasn't exactly healthy for me. I'm an introvert by nature, happy to spend time alone. But we all have our limits and spending 4 weekends in a row at home alone wasn't exactly good for me.

Can I just take a little sidestep here for a sec? A side effect of infertility that no one told me about was how it can completely change friendships. While all your friends are busy raising children, fighting for sleep and having playdates, you are....not doing any of that. Many of my friends aren't exactly in a position to take an entire weekend off from raising their children so they can have brunch, go for a hike and get manicures with me. Ya know? In fact, some of them have stopped being my friend all together because I'm not a mom. I actually had a "friend" tell me once that she didn't know how to be my friend anymore because I didn't have children. Like, whatever would we talk about if we didn't talk about our children? *gasp* Whatever would we do if we weren't at the park with our babies? *gasp*

Don't get me wrong. I have plenty of beautiful friends with children who I see on a regular basis. They are so good to me and I know they would be there for me if I needed them. It's just not always the easiest thing for them to drop everything they're doing at the last minute so they can come play with me. Mix that with my Cabin in the Woods Syndrome, and it just gets ugly sometimes. But I am learning to do a better job at reaching out to my friends. I have a lot to choose from, but it's up to me to let them know when I'm in need of a friend. And I'm feeling extra grateful for my faithful friends who won't leave my side, even though my life looks different from theirs.

Anyways, when David got invited on another fishing trip in Wyoming last weekend, we both thought it would be best for me to come along too. He knew that me being a fishing widow for another weekend probably wasn't what the doctor ordered. I'm thankful for an amazing husband who wants to take care of my heart as much as I want to take care of his.  And I'm thankful for guy friends who don't mind a girl tagging along on their fishing trip. ;)







 We saw like a dozen bald eagles as we floated in our raft down the river. They were so big and so cool! I didn't see this many when I was in Alaska, they were everywhere in Wyoming. So amazing! 

July 20, 2014

Snowmass

I love July!! For lots of reasons, but primarily because it is serving as a way for me to remember how faithful God has been to us. The past 12 months have been some of the happiest David and I have known in a very long time. I look back on the last 12 months and I smile, because every month has been a blessing. It's pretty remarkable how your life can change in just a few days. July 2013 was truly a turning point for us and I'd hate to forget where we came from, lest we start to think that our current state has anything to do with our own efforts.

We were in some pretty deep water last year around this time. David had lost his job. That same day we also learned of the negative results from our 6th and final IUI. We were distraught to say the least. But there was also so much to hope for. David had been invited to interview for another job. An incredibly promising job with great benefits, a raise and stability, something we had not known in 7 years.  We were in this odd holding pattern. One job was gone, a new job sitting on the horizon. 

I don't remember a time in my life where I had so earnestly sought after the Lord. I was in the Word for hours, praying without ending. I felt very strongly that God lead me to Deuteronomy during this time. I won't quote every verse that struck me as I read through chapters 5-8, but my take away was this from Deuteronomy 8:
"Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God"

I felt like the Lord was gently telling me, "I'm bringing you to a better place. Everything is going to be ok. In fact, it will be better than ok. It will be great. All I ask is that you don't forget what I've done. Remember my faithfulness."

And boy did He bring us into a better place. The call came, the job was his. And just like that, things turned around. July 22nd marks his one year anniversary of starting this new job. God is so faithful, I can hardly stand it sometimes!

We went back to Snowmass this year, as a way to celebrate this past year and remember all that God has done for us this year. We were there last year to celebrate too, so it seemed fitting to return again this year. We had a wonderful long weekend! We spent a lot of time on the river, we hiked and also got some 4-wheeling in on our way home. It was a great way to spend some time reflecting and thanking God for all He has done for us. Grateful doesn't even touch how we feel!



 Dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, which was Hunter S. Thompson's favorite hangout spots. David's a pretty big fan, so we just had to stop! :)

David is the best. He spent an entire evening with me just so I could photograph the sunset over the Elk Mountains. We didn't know the area well, so we spent quite a bit of time flying down back roads looking for the perfect spot for me to grab some photos. We finally found the perfect spot just across the valley from Snowmass. It was so pretty!



We drove to the top of Hagerman Pass, which was named after my great great great uncle who was a mining and railroad bigwig in Aspen back in the 1800s. So cool that there's remnants of my family all over this gorgeous state! And it was soooooooo fun to take the 4Runner off trail! I was definitely in my element on top of this mountain! It was the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend!

June 28, 2014

Landscape Life Lessons

When David bought me my first camera, I remember him taking me to a lake near our home so I could practice taking pictures. I had only the basics down but I remember being so excited to just get out there and try. I took this picture below and immediately decided my calling in life was to be a landscape photographer. Ha! How naive I was...
About 30 seconds later, reality set in. In order to actually make a living as a landscape photographer, you have to like...get people to buy your work and stuff. And you have to sell a lot of it. Like, a lot. So I opted for the next best thing that was actually profitable. Wedding photography.

In the years since that first Pentax K100 was in my hands, landscape photography has sort of sat on the back burner. I focused so much on growing my business and building a client base that my first love got a little neglected. But this year, since I have decided to focus more on elopements and take on less stressful weddings, I'm finding myself with more time to focus on my original passion.

I stumbled across Ben Horne's YouTube channel where he documents his landscape photography adventures throughout the west and I was immediately hooked. He's like the Bob Ross of photography. I could watch his videos for hours, they're so relaxing and inspiring. Something about watching those videos lit a little spark inside me. Made me think, "Hey, I could start pursuing this a little more seriously now that I have some time on my hands."

I don't think I'll ever consider myself a "real" landscape photographer. Let's face it, there's a lot working against me: 3am wake-up calls, hiking in the dark alone, my unwillingness to carry 50 lbs. of gear up a mountain etc. I admire the real guys too much to even pretend to be like them. Whenever I'm running out the door to catch a sunset, I yell to David "bye babe, I'm off to to be a fake landscape photographer!" I'm a total wannabe and I'm perfectly fine with that. But I'm having a lot of fun pretending. And I'm learning a lot too. I'm learning about myself, my gear, nature, light, timing, weather patterns, all sorts of stuff.

One of the biggest things I've realized is that landscape photography is quite solitary. I mean really, how often do you see a big group of landscape photographers heading out into the wilderness together? It's not really a group activity. And so you wind up sitting by yourself on top of a mountain to watch the sun set. Or you wind up hiking alone, as I've been doing frequently. Or you wind up driving around for hours trying to find the perfect spot. You've got to be good with being by yourself. Thankfully, I am. But landscape photography has brought it to a whole new level.

I'm learning a lot about patience too. You need a lot of patience to watch the weather and lighting patterns. And you have to be attentive too because sometimes the ideal shot lasts for just a few seconds. I find that I keep trying to rush things. I'm eager to get in, get the shot and get out. About a dozen times now I've set up a shot, waited a while for the light to be right and then given up because I didn't think it was going to happen, only to look in my rear view mirror 20 minutes later and see the shot I wanted. I always thought of myself as a patient person (thanks, infertility!) but landscape photography is showing me just how much room I have to grow.

I'm also learning about being ok with walking away empty handed. Take today for example. I woke up early to hike up to a waterfall I had always wanted to see. But when I got there I discovered that the lighting was really poor and it would be hours before I could get a decent photo. Plus the location was tricky and I couldn't find a decent angle to shoot from that didn't cause me to get wet or fight with willow branches. So I bailed and figured I'd catch a good sunset tonight instead. I had been watching these cute little puffy white clouds pass by all day long, our sky was full of them. I thought that they'd illuminate well at sunset tonight so I packed up my gear and drove to a spot about 30 minutes away that I had scouted out earlier. When I got to the spot, all the clouds had moved out east and nothing was coming over the western horizon. The sun set. Nothing. I waited. Nothing. I waited some more. Still nothing. The end. It was a total flop of a sunset. I drove home without a single usable picture. And I'm trying to learn to be ok with that (operative word is trying).

I half jokingly tagged one of my Instagram photos last night #landscapelifelessons as I was talking about this whole patience thing. It got me thinking about all the things landscape photography has been teaching me lately and man, there are a lot of life lessons in there. I would guess there will probably be a few more photos of mine down the road that have that hashtag! I still have a lot to learn and a lot of mistakes to make. But since I'm only pretending to be a landscape photographer, there's no pressure. I can just sit back, relax and enjoy documenting God's creation. It's a never ending supply of inspiration!
"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy. You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly."
Psalm 65:8-9






June 7, 2014

Bluegrass and Storm Clouds

This week in our Bible study, we talked about resting. We're reading Richard Foster's book called Prayer, which has been a great read so far! Chapter Nine was all about the Prayer of Rest.

Being able to turn your mind off, quiet your heart before the Lord and rest in His presence is so very important. And yet we do it so infrequently. The pace of life can be so hectic with iPhones, work schedules, after-school activities, meetings, social stuff and ministry commitments. A lot of the people in our Bible study shared how hard it was for them to simply rest and be still in God's presence.

This is something I struggled with for years.

Through most of my high school, college, grad school and early years of my business, I operated at a pace that was unsustainable. I almost always worked full-time while going to school full-time. I was always saying yes to things I really should have been saying no to. I rarely slowed down and I never stopped. And then I would wonder why I frequently crumbled under the pressure of it all.

This really started to catch up to me in 2012 and 2013. Working full-time for my business, almost full-time for my 2nd job, pursuing fertility treatments (talk about a time suck!), trying to be a good wife, friend, daughter and sister nearly destroyed me. I was stretched thinner than I had ever been stretched. I operated in "survival mode" for the majority of those years. Somehow, a 60 hour work week became the norm.

People would ask how I was doing and all I could respond with was, "crazy busy." And the funny thing is, people would affirm that response! They'd say "oh, you're so lucky to have so many weddings to photograph!" "you do such a great job at multi-tasking!" "you're fortunate to have 2 paying jobs" Yes......but. Yes to all those things, but no one ever stopped to say "hey girl, you're gonna implode soon if you keep this crazy pace up."

And I think that's because our culture glorifies busyness. We tolerate it, embrace it and equate it with success.

Think about it. 9 times out of 10, when you ask people how they have been, they respond with some version of: "I'm slammed at work, we've been super busy with the kid's schedules, crazy busy, keeping busy, I'm staying busy..." And half the time they say it with a smile on their face. As if that's the goal. As if busyness is the objective.

So it's no wonder the idea of resting in God's presence feels so foreign. Because it requires us to set aside all the distractions from our minds and just be. It feels odd to clear a whole day (or even a whole hour) and go for a hike or sit on a bench and pray or go for a drive. It feels borderline wrong...

In the past year I have made a very intentional effort to rest more. To clear my schedule, my mind, my list of things I say "yes" to. I've tried to whittle down my priorities, live simpler and leave whole days wide open for nothing but being out in God's creation. I know that I have the luxury of being self-employed and the ability to manipulate my schedule however I want, but as someone who runs their own business there also the temptation to fill every hour with things that will help grow and sustain your business. Trust me when I say I know many self-employed people who never rest and are constantly going 90mph.  I have had to be very intentional to not make myself busy.

Not being busy has been glorious. I feel like I'm making up for lost time. For all those years that I barely rested. I'm taking intentional time to go for walks, hikes, drives through the mountains. I've been reading books, watering my flower garden, enjoying a cup of coffee on the porch, meeting David for lunch and quietly watching storm clouds pass by in the afternoon. And I've been listening to a lot of bluegrass lately too. Bluegrass seems to go hand in hand with a restful outlook on life. :) It's been in these times of rest that I've felt closest to God lately. There is enough space in my heart to feel Him move. My mind is quiet enough to hear His softest whispers

It's been interesting when people ask me about my summer schedule. They typically say something like "Do you have a lot of weddings lined up this summer? This is your busy season, are you just swamped with work right now?" And I often respond with something like "I'm as busy as I want to be." Because I feel guilty saying "Actually, I'm not busy at all. Actually I don't have any weddings this month. Actually my primary objective this week is to go on a cool hike and maybe read a good book." People have no idea what to do with that kind of response haha! ;) Plus as a business owner, you run the risk of looking like your business is in the tank if you say you're not busy. After all, busyness equals success, right?

Now I know that we all have seasons in our lives where busyness isn't exactly something we choose (even now in my moments of intentional rest I find myself thrown back into feeling too busy for my own good). It just kind of happens to us. Tell the single mom who works to support her kids to stop being so busy...see how far that gets you. Tell the person trying to fund raise for their start-up ministry to stop being so busy...see what happens. I get that there are times in our lives where busyness is equated with survival, not success. Trust me, I've been there.

But I think even in the midst of busy, we can carve out time to spend resting in the peaceful presence of God. He is the Provider of rest and peace. And He very much wants to supply us with it. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."-Matt 11:28 But we can't always expect that rest when we come before Him refusing to let go of unnecessary (keyword: unnecessary) commitments, activities, schedules and preoccupations.

So, let's all just collectively let the unnecessary stuff fall away and embrace a little more rest, simplicity and peace. Shall we? You never know what good things might come out of all the running around we won't be doing.
I took this a few nights ago driving home. I just pulled over on the side of the road and watched this amazing storm for a while. 

June 6, 2014

Let's Elope!

Wedding season has officially begun! Well, kind of....

This summer is going to look quite a bit different from my last 6 summers (I say that every year, but I really mean it this time. No, really!). I have decided to completely switch the direction of my photography business after 6 years of photographing big, crazy weddings. 

10 months ago, I had a woman email me and ask me if I would be willing to photograph her family-only wedding. She said there would be about 10 people in attendance and they only wanted to hire me for 2 hours. Oh yeah, and the wedding was next week.  It was definitely not a normal inquiry for my services, but something in me told me to agree. So I said yes. 

When her wedding day arrived, I hardly knew what to do with myself. No catering managers barking orders at me? No 14 bridesmaids running late and redoing their hair? No drama? No crazy timelines and drunk uncles? No stress? Nope. None of that. Just 10 happy people sitting on top of a mountain, enjoying the views and watching 2 people they love exchange vows and rings. We took about 5 family photos and the rest of the time was spent wandering through the forest in the snow, taking pictures of the happy couple and their sweet dog. 

I left that wedding on Cloud 9. I couldn't believe what a different experience it was from the other weddings I had photographed! I was calm and relaxed the whole time (all 120 minutes ha!), I had plenty of time to execute my vision for their photos, I didn't have tons of people surrounding me while I tried to finish family pictures or wedding planners telling me to hurry up. It was an ideal day.

A fire had been lit in my heart. I knew I wanted more of this!

I did some research about the elopement industry in Colorado and it turns out that the Rocky Mountains are a huge destination for couples looking to get away and elope. I can practically hear them say "sweetheart, let's just run away to the mountains and get married. Let's elope! Just the two of us..." So I did a little search engine optimization for my website and created a portfolio for elopements and intimate weddings. I must have found God's favor because I've been blessed to book 9 elopements and intimate weddings in the last 5 months. I've photographed a handful of them already and I am absolutely 100% hooked!

Everything about them suits me. It's less stress, less drama. They're more peaceful and quiet, more about the love and commitment and less about the details. They have all been in the mountains or somewhere with a natural setting, which makes my heart so happy. And I feel like I've been able to be even more creative with how I photograph them, which helps with the quality of the final images.

In photographing a few of these in the last few weeks, I've come to realize that really, this is what I am meant to be doing with my business. And so I decided that I'm going to solely focus on these intimate weddings and elopements. I'll be referring most of my "big" wedding inquiries to my associate photographer and then I'll be able to focus on what my heart really wants.

It's a risky move financially because elopements don't bring in nearly what big weddings do, but I will trust God to provide the clients I need, when I need them. Money is secondary to doing something that makes me happy. Plus, one of the best things about elopements is how last minute they often are. Sometimes, I get just a few days notice before a shoot. So if I ever start to worry about money, you just never know who is going to call and say "hey, we're eloping tomorrow...can we hire you to photograph it?" :)


My favorite image from an elopement I shot this week


May 29, 2014

Zion

Oh Zion, where to even begin.....

We had an incredible trip to this beautiful desert oasis. The entire time, we felt God's hand on our plans. We encountered His favor everywhere we went. From keeping us safe in the backcountry to allowing us to see some of Zion's most spectacular and popular locations all by ourselves. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it. This was easily one of the best backpacking trips we've ever done.

All in all, we hiked just over 32 miles. At least 16 of those miles were spent hiking in water. If my feet never get wet again, I'll be happy! :) I reaalllly debated whether or not to bring my professional camera equipment. I so badly wanted to photograph this area with my camera. But ultimately I decided it wasn't worth the risk to carry thousands of dollars worth of gear through so much water. I would be beside myself if anything were to get damaged. So I'll have to settle with iPhone photos and pictures from our point and shoot. 

My only complaint is that we didn't spend enough time there. There were just too many things I wanted to see and do. But I feel like I have unfinished business with Zion and it's compelling me to go back. I doubt I'll have to twist David's arm to make that happen ;)

I feel so lucky that this beautiful area is just a day's drive away from where we live. It's a long drive, but still doable in a day. We opted to drive halfway there on Tuesday and stay in a hotel that night to help shorten the drive on Weds. Our arrival on Wednesday was nothing short of spectacular. We spent the afternoon setting up camp, hopping on and off the park shuttle (the only way they'll let people see Zion canyon), doing little hikes to see some of the main attractions, taking pictures, eating at Zion Lodge and watching the stars come out at our campsite. Not a bad first day if you ask me!
The beginning of The Narrows, one of the many reasons we want to go back is to explore this area more. We simply didn't have time to do more in this area. I need to see more of this place!

Cruising on the shuttle bus



Our second day was one that we had been anticipating ever since we won a spot in the lottery for The Subway hike. It's a gorgeous 9 mile hike starting at the top of a canyon. The trail descends at a very steep rate down to the Left Fork Creek. The trail stops there! The creek becomes the trail. So it's kind of like choose your own adventure as you navigate all the obstacles in your path. There are waterfalls to circumvent, logs to cross and flood debris to cross over. You hike upstream for several miles until you reach The Subway. It is a beautiful narrow area that looks just like a subway tunnel. The tunnel is full of pools of deep water and a waterfall at the end. We were brave and went swimming all the way to the end at the waterfalls. You only live once right?!

9 miles took the better part of 8 hours for us to hike due to the amount of zig zagging around you do in the canyon with all the obstacles in your way. On your way out, you have to climb back up the canyon. I'd say it's probably 1000 ft. elevation gain in less than a mile. Steeeep! It was brutal, we were so tired by the end!
 

Our swimming hole for the afternoon :)
 

 After getting to the car, we ate a quick dinner in the parking lot, packed up our backpacks and headed into the Wildcat Canyon area to set up camp for the night. We found a nice spot in a meadow beneath some pretty sandstone and called it a night. We were soooo incredibly tired. We had moments while packing where we were so tired we could hardly form a fluid sentence.
 Friday morning we set out on a longer backpacking trek through Hop Valley into the Kolob Canyon area of the park. This area is a bit more remote and less visited by people because it's on the north end of the park, away from the main areas people visit. It takes a lot of effort to get into the canyon, which weeds out a lot of day hikers and leaves the area for backpackers and crazy people who don't mind a 15 mile day hike. 
 
The trail descends into a beautiful valley with a stream running through it. You follow the stream for about 2 miles until you reach the canyon edge and then the trail descends into the Kolob Canyon area. We got rained on but we didn't mind because it made for a beautiful, mystical setting. We half expected to see dinosaurs roaming around, it felt so otherworldly.
 
Eventually we made it to La Verkin Creek, which runs through the bottom of the canyon and parallels the trail. We knew that our campsite was nearby! We saw a sign that pointed to our backcountry site on the north side of the river and so and we began to set up camp. It was a small site, but doable. After about 15 minutes, David looked around and saw a sign across the river pointing to the real backcountry site on the other side of the river. Arg! David decided that rather than break down the tent, he'd just carry it across the creek :)
The new site was even better, with a great view of the river and the canyon walls. It was the perfect place to spend the next 3 days! 
Our camp was half a mile away from Kolob Arch, which is the world's largest freestanding arch. After we set up camp, we took a quick little hike up to see it. Pretty cool!
Saturday was probably my favorite day. We did a day hike up La Verkin Creek into Beartrap Canyon to see Beartrap Falls. The entire hike was gorgeous. The falls were so peaceful! I could have stayed there all day. 
 
 

He could't seem to help himself :)

We got back to camp and spent the rest of our afternoon hanging out in our camping hammock, which was maybe our best purchase yet. This thing is awwwweeesome! We just snuggled together, spying on people hiking, watching the sunset on the canyon walls, listening to the creek. It was perfect!
Against his better judgement, David decided that it would be worth carrying the extra weight in order to have a couple beers with us on our trip. I have to admit, it tasted pretty good after all our hiking. The creek was nature's perfect beer cooler!

Sunday, we woke up with the sun. Had a vanilla latte (yep, we keep it classy in the backcountry) and packed up. The hike out was much tougher than it was coming into the canyon. We had almost a 1,000 foot elevation gain on the way back to the trailhead. It was slow going at times with our heavy packs on, but we made it to the car. Then we packed up and headed back to CO with happy hearts.
David saying his goodbyes to Zion
This was me celebrating my last few steps of walking through water. I was so happy to have dry feet again! With as much water hiking that you do in Zion, footwear is pretty tricky. It's tough to wear normal hiking boots because they don't drain water very well. I opted for open Keen sandals, which drain water pretty well but aren't quite as sturdy as hiking boots. David did about 14 miles of hiking in his Chaco sandals, I was so impressed!

My sister happened to be in Moab for the weekend, so we took a quick detour to say hi to her before a torrential rain storm settled in. The rain was intense but quick, leaving for some really beautiful cloud formations in Castle Valley as we drove through on our way back to Colorado.

We made it to Grand Junction for the night, got pizza delivered to our hotel room, enjoyed hot showers and crashed. Monday morning we headed back home and managed to avoid the holiday traffic. It's good to be home for sure, but I'm pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Zion. I'm already plotting our return trip ;)

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Hi friends, my name is Becky and this is my journey through running a photography business, being a loving wife, 4+ years infertility, traveling and adventuring with my dear husband, following hard after Jesus and seeking out joy in every area of my life. I'm glad you're here!

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