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Aug 292018
 
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Some people who read my last post about our stand-up paddleboarding experience on Snowhole Rapid on the Lower Salmon River in Idaho asked if I had any videos of other rapids from the river. I do!

Here’s one of my rides down a fun and splashy class II rapid called Packers Creek Rapids. It was the first rapid out of the Killer Goat Camp on the morning of day 2 of our “SUP Experience” rafting trip with OARS. Save for touching my hands to the board for a few seconds after that gnarly wave around 1:00, I stayed standing up the whole run! It was so fun!

(LINK: https://youtu.be/iHJUPD90ueA)

I hope that, in sharing the “Keep Paddling” story and this video, it helps inspire you to try something new and wild. As Neale Diamond Walsch said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Thanks for reading and viewing!

Aug 282018
 
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In the Pink

PHOTO CAPTION: “In the Pink,” from our Day 2 camp on the Lower Salmon River, ID while on the recent OARS “SUP Experience” river trip || Prints available! Click on photo to order yours.

“Do you see the line?” asked Liam, our guide and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) instructor.

Liam and I, along with my friend, Scott, stood on the basalt boulders high above Snowhole—the Lower Salmon River’s only class IV rapid—surveying the scene.

The sun poked through ominous clouds tinted yellow by the smoke of distant wildfires. The steep jagged cliffs of Snowhole Canyon constricted one of the last undammed, free-flowing rivers remaining in the United States into a fury of agitated water tumbling over and around house-sized rocks before disappearing around the bend. We couldn’t portage (carry our boards overland) around the rapid. We had to go through it. I stared into the froth looking for a path.

I saw two lines. The first, a pale green tongue on the far side of the river falling into a trail of white spray followed by a train of successive five-foot waves, each foaming at the mouth, each looking like it wanted to eat me. The second, the last line of a friend’s recent email flashing through my head, “…Snowhole—load your boards up in the raft for that one!”

PHOTO CAPTION: At our put-in, Pine Bar. The stand-up paddleboards we borrowed are on the far right and behind the boats.

We were two days into a four-day “SUP Experience” with OARS, a company specializing in river rafting trips, where Scott and I were learning how to SUP through whitewater rapids on a 61-mile trip (from Pine Bar on the Lower Salmon River to Heller Bar on the Snake River). Since falling in love with paddleboarding in 2013, my previous SUP experience included exclusively flatwater, rivers and lakes. Except when feisty winds kicked up. (Lake Powell, I’m looking at you.) And that one time in April 2015 when I thought I was going for a nonchalant outing with a guide on the Colorado River in Moab, UT, to celebrate my 40th birthday and ended up running three class I-II rapids (and falling the last one). But all in all, I’d been on a board enough times to stop counting how many days. This was Scott’s 10th day on a board.

Thus far, on this trip, we had uneventfully navigated the river’s class I and class II rapids, even a class III rapid called “Bodacious Bounce,” mostly while standing, some while kneeling. A mere twenty minutes earlier, though, I had taken an involuntary swim in Half-and-Half, a class III rapid named as such because, according to our guides, “Half the time you make it, half the time you don’t.”

I had entered the first big drop on Half-and-Half standing up, but fell in the water when the third wave in dumped me sideways. I managed to get back on my SUP and started paddling again from my knees, but the river’s current pushed me toward a big hole the guides had suggested we try to avoid. I panicked. When I rocked up the crest of the towering wave, it bullied the nose of my board backward. The hole sucked me in. I stopped paddling for some reason. I met the river face first.

Underwater, my board hit my helmet. At least I know which way is up, I thought. My arms flailed. I couldn’t find the surface. When I did, I gasped for air, then the current dragged me under again before I could finish inhaling.

I could hear Liam yelling, “Grab your board!” I couldn’t find it among the darkness and bubbles. I resurfaced.

“Grab my board!” I could see his board but couldn’t reach it. I went under again.

“Swim hard left!” Liam said. I spun my left arm while trying to keep myself afloat with my paddle clutched in my right hand.

Eddy out at that beach just ahead, I thought. Swim harder! Come on, swim harder!

“Swim hard right!” he said.

Swim hard right? But the beach is only five or six feet away, I thought. I should trust him. He could see the big picture. I couldn’t. I switched the paddle into my left hand and swam hard right.

The graveled shore disappeared. The current pushed me downstream toward a chiseled basalt wall to the left. “Turn your feet downriver!” Liam said.

I rolled over like an otter and smashed into a wave. And into another and another. A rugged rock jutted out of the cliff in front of me. I could get trapped here, I thought. I kicked as hard as I could against the boulder and spun backward into an eddy.

Liam stood on top of his board in the flatwater at the end of the wave train, bumping his fist on top of his helmet. At the start of the trip, the guides told us if we did not return this signal, they would assume we had broken a femur, or worse. I pulled my hand out of the water and bumped the top of my helmet. Scott pushed my board, which he had rescued mid-rapid, in front of me. I mounted my SUP and coughed uncontrollably. I had made it down Half-and-Half, and I had learned my lesson. Don’t ever enter a rapid timidly. And don’t ever stop paddling.

PHOTO CAPTION: Our guide and instructor, Liam (middle), and Scott (right) converse on a stretch of flatwater on the Lower Salmon River, ID

Now, at river mile 23.4, I pointed at Snowhole, tentatively tracing the air with my finger. “I think I see the line,” I said to Liam and Scott.

“On this one, you gotta hit the line perfect,” Liam said. “Start a little right, and build up momentum as you go straight down the tongue. Then paddle hard left to miss the rock. The next waves are HUGE and you’re gonna hit them hard, so hit the deck [drop to your knees on the board] if you haven’t already, and keep paddling through them. Whatever you do, don’t stop paddling.”

As we scouted the river’s drop, three private rafts ran Snowhole. Each took a slightly different line—left of the tongue, right of the tongue, and straight down the middle. Each tipped precariously onto its side when approaching the pyramid-shaped rock, then recovered, and disappeared over the long drop, then reappeared, and bucked wildly through the splashy wave train. Each somehow stayed upright.

“What if I run into that rock?” I asked

“I’ve tried running a raft straight into that rock,” Liam said, “Can’t do it. The current pushes you away from it, pushes you left, whether you like it or not.”

“What if I paddle too hard to the left?”

“You don’t want to do that. You’ll end up behind that next rock and hit a massive hole. Yeah… don’t do that.”

“What happens if I don’t hit the line perfectly?”

“You’ll go for a swim. But it’s way shorter than Half-and-Half,” Liam smiled.

“Is there another rapid after this like there was after Half-and-Half?”

“No, it’s just flatwater. We’ll have plenty of time to get you.”

How comforting, I thought.

“I’m gonna do it,” Scott said without any hesitation. “Are you gonna to do it?”

“I don’t think so,” I put my hands on my hips. Half-and-Half had exhausted and humbled me. I was cold, and I didn’t feel like swimming through another rapid. I had an easy out: I could hitch a ride through it on one of our group’s rafts.“I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

“I think you got this,” Liam grinned. “And you’ll be totally stoked when you get through it.”

He said “when” not “if.” Semantics are important to writers just as clients surviving is important to guides.

“When do I need to decide?” I asked.

“Let’s grab lunch first,” Liam said.

While we ate chicken curry salad wraps, we watched several more rafts stay upright through a short harrowing run. I visualized the run over and over. Start right, paddle hard left, but not too hard, then keep paddling. Seemed simple enough.

Ladybugs clung to my white shirt. A good omen, I thought. Maybe I could do this. After all, I didn’t come here to sit on a boat. I came here to learn how to paddleboard rapids.

Another half-hour passed. No one asked me again whether I intended to run the rapid on my paddleboard. And I’m not sure I ever came to a formal decision. Even a final look with Maia, the trip leader, wasn’t convincing. When lunch concluded, everyone in the group returned to their respective vessels. I got back on my board.

“You ready?” Liam asked while bending his knees on his SUP. I didn’t respond. It didn’t matter if I was ready or not, this was happening. I gave myself a short pep talk. You got this. It’s just water. Hit the line perfectly. Keep paddling.

As we crossed the river to position ourselves to start a little to the right, Liam looked back at Scott and me, and said with a smirk, “We’re gonna kill this.”

Liam disappeared into the waves. I dropped to my knees. The silky smooth tongue pulled me into a curled wave. Paddle. Then another, a bigger one. Paddle. Then another over my head. Paddle. Paddle. Rock on the right. Paddle, paddle, paddle! Hole on the left. Paddlepaddlepaddlepaddlepaddle!

I plunged over a ledge and came face-to-face with the biggest wave I’ve ever seen on a SUP. I stabbed my paddle into it, jabbing at it as if I were slaying a mythical beast with a sword. I kept swinging, wave after wave, until the rapid fizzled out.

I pulled into the eddy where Liam and two of our OARS rafts waited. I looked back at the rapid. Scott was in the water, clinging to the side of his board. He bumped his fist on top of his helmet and joined us in the eddy. I turned to Liam. He pumped his fist in the air victoriously. “That was sick!”

I raised my paddle over my head and yelled, “Whoohoo!”

I had spent almost an hour paralyzed by fear, and in about 30 seconds, it was over. I don’t know if I hit the line perfectly or not, but I had just stayed on top of my paddleboard through Snowhole. Liam was right. I was totally stoked.

When I read the line, “Learn the basics of stand-up paddleboarding, reading whitewater, & river safety” in the OARS description on their website prior to our trip, I never imagined we would face a class IV rapid, let alone run it on a SUP. In doing so, though, I learned that when a river—whether “The River of No Return” (as early explorers called the Salmon) or the river of life—drops you to your knees, don’t ever enter a rapid tentatively. And don’t ever stop paddling.

—————————————————

Authors Note: My GoPro died after being submerged in Half-in-Half with me so I sadly have no footage of our run through Snowhole. Should you wish to see an example of what the rapid looks like, though, these two Youtube videos (taken by by people not on our trip) will give you a pretty good idea of the conditions: https://youtu.be/2-e8kakcf94 and https://youtu.be/tS1piA2yvTc.

PHOTO CAPTION: One of our guides, Sean, serenades us in camp after sunset on Day 2 of our river trip with OARS on the Lower Salmon River, ID.

Nolan

 Posted by at 1:23 PM  General
Aug 052018
 
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My beloved cat, Nolan, also known as The Nolanator, King Nolan, Nolan Baby, Sweet Bear, Sweet Pea, and Cuddle Bug, passed away yesterday.

He became finicky with his food about five weeks ago, and not surprisingly, started losing weight. I found new foods he liked, though, and he seemed to be on the mend. When I left a week and a half ago for my last trip, he was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping, sleeping, running up and down the stairs, and swatting at furry toys, maybe a little slower than normal, but just fine for a ~15.5 year old cat.

My parents looked after him every other day for me and noticed a dramatic change on Thursday. He was lethargic and barely responsive. I made the first appointment with a vet I could—Saturday at 8 a.m.

Friday evening, I flew home and stayed up all night holding him. He ate chicken, ice cream, tuna, and the chicken treats he loved while listening to Norah Jones. (Oh how he LOVED Norah!) I carried him from room to room, sharing my favorite memories of him in each. I scratched his chin. I brushed him. I laid him in front of the screen door (his “Kitty TV”) so he could watch the birds and lizards in the backyard as the sun rose. I told him all the ways I loved him, specifically how grateful I was for helping me get through the last few difficult years. He purred weakly. I told him he was the handsomest cat in the multi-verse. He meowed. He’s King Nolan, he already knew that!

The vet knew immediately, cancer. It had eaten through his left jawbone which had erupted into an abscess in his mouth. The cancer likely surfaced five weeks ago when he stopped eating his regular food. The abscess likely occurred on Wednesday or Thursday. We hadn’t noticed the lump in his cheek nor his awful breath until Friday night–and we had been closely watching him for any signs of pain. The doctor confirmed there was nothing I could do to save him or provide a quality life.

Although I never thought I could bring myself to euthanize a pet, I made the difficult choice to end Nolan’s suffering. He died in my arms listening to “Sunrise” by Norah Jones, his favorite song, and with me looking into his eyes repeating with a smile, “Mama loves you. Thank you for sharing this life with me.”

I have no words to describe the pain of losing him, especially after such a rapid decline, but I hope he’s “up there” stuffing his face with an endless buffet of chicken and teaching all the other cats (including my childhood ones, Burton, Ladybug, Gizmo, and Kitty) how to turbo purr. Since we picked him out as a RESCUE in September 2013, he brought me much joy, many laughs, and lots of cuddles. My life was, and is, better because of him.

Play in Peace, my sweet Nolan. Mama loves you and misses you so very much.

May 162018
 
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Photo courtesy of Guy Tal

Recently, I had a blast chatting about landscape photography, creativity, and more with photographer Matt Payne on his F-Stop Collaborate and Listen podcast. (Anyone else dancing to “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice right now? Oh, 90s music was so awesome…)

To read the introduction to our conversation, visit www.mattpaynephotography.com/blog/2018/5/conversation-with-colleen-miniuk-sperry-on-f-stop-collaborate-and-listen.

To jump straight into the podcast, have a listen at:

I hope you gain some inspiration and new ideas for your photographic journey through our exchange!

Many thanks Matt for the opportunity to talk with you. Keep up the great work inspiring the landscape photography world through your podcasts.

Mar 282018
 
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Fogged in Obscurities

“Fogged in Obscurities” || Prints available from my website at www.cms-photo.com

Someone recently asked me if I used the app that forecasts when Mother Nature will produce “epic light” to make sure I get the “perfect shot.” Apparently, it helps you decide whether you should photograph at sunrise or sunset. I laughed, “I don’t need an app to help me decide if I should sit on the couch or go outside. I don’t care what the weather is doing–or what time it is–I’m going outside! And I’m taking my camera!”

Don’t get me wrong, I like me some pretty color at sunrise and sunset. But if the only time you photograph the landscape is during fiery light at dawn and dusk, you are selling yourself short in your photography. Way short. Does your creativity work only during those times? Do you only have something to “say” during those hours? No, of course not!

A meaningful visual expression comes from within. It originates from our knowledge, perceptions, and emotions and extends from our ability to interpret the landscapes we see in any and all conditions we experience. It incorporates, but does not depend, on external factors such as light, weather, topography, etc.

Light and weather just “is.” It’s not inherently good or bad. Those are judgments we assign based on our expectations, which are often unreasonable and detrimental to our photography pursuits. Each variation of light we might encounter carries different perceptions and meaning. For example, direct light carries more energy, creates contrast, and grabs attention. Diffused light creates the appearance of more saturated colors and can evoke subdued, stormy, and ethereal moods. It’s up to us as photographers to understand these nuances of light and make the most of the hand Mother Nature deals us every time we go outside with a camera—regardless of what’s happening in the sky.

As Alfred Steiglitz said, “Wherever there is light, one can photograph.” I made the above photograph, which I titled “Fogged in Obscurities“  at 10:23 a. m. EST.

While wandering along Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, Maine, this past February, a heavy blanket of fog hugged the shoreline. (For those who know the joke, this was definitely a “wet fog,” not a “dry fog”… :D ). Waves roared into the granite cliffs. I sat down to wonder.

As I watched the scene unfold, I contemplated the story of that rock sitting on top of the ledge some 30-feet above the ocean. How did it get there? Erosion, wind, waves, or otherwise? What has that pair of intertwined evergreen trees “seen” over the course of their lives? How does it feel to be that boulder in the water getting pounded by the storm waves every few seconds? Each of these objects had a piece of the story to tell about this scene–but none were giving away their secrets.

I knew while visualizing my composition that I wanted to show the relationship between these three key elements, the unknowable story, but importance of each to complete the narrative (at least, the one in my head). The fog only enhanced the mystery…something a bright, cheery sunrise or sunset with pinks, reds, oranges, and purples in the sky could not deliver.

————————–

If you’re interested in learning more about the value and uses of natural light, pick up a copy of my 76-page “Seeing the Light in Outdoor Photography” instructional eBook at www.thepocketinstructor.com.

Mar 232018
 
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Face to Face

“Face to Face” || Prints available from my website at www.cms-photo.com.

When you were a child, did you look up at the clouds and see shapes, objects, and maybe even faces? “It looks just like a dragon!” or “Whoa! There’s Snoopy!” Maybe you still do this? I do!

If you wish to be more expressive with your photography, I’d encourage you to see EVERYTHING—not just clouds, but trees, water, rocks, flowers—through this imaginative lens. When you spot something photogenic—landscape, macro, or something in between—ask yourself, “What else is it?”

Let your mind wander with free associations without judging them. You answers will bring your knowledge and perceptions to the forefront and will help you establish an individual meaningful connection with the natural elements that excite you. You’ll transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Mar 072018
 
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A Frozen Universe
Are you feeling stuck with your photography? Are you frustrated with always trying to “get THE shot?” Are you looking for ways to be more creative with your work?

If you said yes to any of those three questions (or maybe all of them), then my newest article for On Landscape: “Finding Your Creative Voice” is just for you: https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2018/03/finding-your-creative-voice/

It shares the story of how I transformed from a photographer who took pretty photographs of classic scenes into a visual artist with a distinctive creative voice (thanks in large part to the Acadia Artist-in-Residence program). It also provides the backstory of why, in my workshops and presentations, I emphasize playing like a 4th grader and running around declaring things like “LOOK AT THAT MUSHROOM!” (Or in my case, LOOK AT THOSE BUBBLES!!)

Along the way, it offers advice on how you too can “find” your own voice, specifically how to get new ideas, release expectations, and handle self-doubt. Hey, if this type-A, overanalytical ex-software engineer can do it, anyone can!

You’ll need a subscription to read the full article, but the inspirational content of this eMagazine is well worth the price. If you aren’t ready to commit to the annual fee, perhaps consider the bi-weekly or quarterly subscription as a taste. Fabulous, super creative photographers like Guy Tal, Rafael Rojas, Tim Parkin, Alister Benn, and others write for this online magazine. It has been–and is–a great source of ongoing inspiration for me and my photography. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed…learn more on their Subscription page: https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/subscribe

Enjoy!

(And a big thank you to the good folks at On Landscape for featuring my article!)

Feb 132018
 
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Letters from Lee's Ferry book

Last year, fellow photographer/writer Guy Tal and I teamed up to lead the inaugural “Lens and Pens” workshop in the beautiful Vermilion Cliffs and Lee’s Ferry area. This educational session was tailored for intermediate and advanced photographers who were comfortable with the technical aspects of photography, but for those who may not have had any previous writing experience. Our goal was to make attendees feel more inspired and confident in communicating their unique knowledge, passions, and experiences in photographs and words.

Participants from the workshop last September independently produced a book of their writings, titled, “Letters from Lee’s Ferry,” which you may read online or order in print form: http://www.blurb.com/b/8443037-letters-from-lee-s-ferry. (As an aside, no one–Guy, me, or the participants–make a profit from this book. The price covers simply the cost of printing and shipping.) It’s an incredible collection of what the group accomplished in the 2017 “Lens & Pens” workshop–we couldn’t be more proud of our participants!

Because our first experience was so enjoyable, Guy and I are offering a second session this year from September 11-16, 2018 once again in the Vermilion Cliffs area. We offer guidance in conveying inner thoughts through your photographs and writing, instruction in several genres of writing, and trips to locations teeming with stories, all in a quiet and intimate setting. No writing experience assumed!

For more information and to register, visit http://cms-photo.com/Workshops/2018LensandPens. Class size is limited to 10 attendees–only 4 spots remain!

We hope you’ll join us for an adventure in creativity, photography and writing, and nature!

Feb 102018
 
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You might have heard of–and even done–a snow angel before. But what happens if there’s no snow around (like where I live in the Arizona desert or where I love to photograph along the Oregon coast)?

Try a sand angel!

Now, when I mention this amazing activity with other people, I sometimes get raised eyebrows. I’m sometimes asked, “What exactly is a sand angel?”

Well, since inquiring minds want to know, I’ve made up a quick two-minute video on “How to Make a Sand Angel:” https://youtu.be/egz8Ki96_3s

You know, just in case your upcoming travels and photographic outings involve sand (or snow)…

Jan 022018
 
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“The only question in life is whether or not you are going to answer a
hearty ‘YES!’ to your adventure.”

~Joseph Campbell

Happy New Year, everyone!

As we put last year in the history books, I am feeling immense gratitude to all of you for your continued support and friendship in this journey. Thank you for all you do to help encourage and inspire my photography, writing, and teaching. As we turn into the new year and all the fresh opportunities it’ll no doubt bring, I look forward to more laughs, photographs, stories, learnings, donuts, cookies, “throwing Wendy’s,” handstands, ballet moves, sand angels, and more with you all! Keep saying “YES!”

To celebrate all that transpired in 2017, I’ve compiled 16 of my favorite photographs I created last year (in chronological order. Prints available! Just click on photo to visit my website to order or shoot me an email at cms@cms-photo.com):

Here’s Looking at You
From January to June 2017, I took on the interim Executive Director position with Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), which limited my outdoor and photography time for the first half of the year (for more on that: “Setting Sail Again“).  One morning in March, though, my friend, fellow OWAAer, and fabulous wildlife photographer, Tim Christie, invited me to photograph the burrowing owls on the west side of Phoenix with him. Now, I normally don’t shoot wildlife unless it runs into my landscape scene…in fact, I had never photographed an owl before. From the moment saw these astounding creatures through Tim’s 600mm fixed lens (a.k.a. the Hubble telescope), though, I was hooked. That trip inspired me to discover a couple locations where burrowing owls lived just 15 minutes from my house–that I’ve lived in for 16 years!!

Here's Looking at You

 

Just Bloom
When I saw these two sego lilies intertwined near the Barnhardt Trail in April, a quote by Zen Shin came to mind: “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

Just Bloom

 

So Many Flowers, So Little Time
I had no intentions of photographing while walking to the City of Rocks State Park Visitor’s Center to pay my fee for my campsite. But the camera always comes with me anyhow! You never know when a bunch of claret cup cactus blooming along the side of the parking lot will grab your attention and yell, “Make my picture please!”

So Many Flowers, So Little Time

 

River Bliss
In 2017, I introduced my new brand, Sheography™, which represents my women’s-only photography workshop offerings. And boy, did we kick things off with a bang! On the inaugural trip in May 2017, sixteen wild women (and two awesome male guides) launched on a fabulous adventure down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This was from day 4 in our 119.8 Mile Right camp, which we affectionately renamed “Tres Burrito Camp.”

River Bliss

 

The Yin to My Yang
Read about how and why I made this image in my blog post, “Patience Young Jedi

The Yin to My Yang

 

Little Bubbles on the Prairie
In July, I attended the Fishtrap Outpost, a five-day writing workshop at the Nature Conservancy’s Zumwalt Prairie in Oregon led by one of my absolute favorite authors, Craig Childs. What an incredible experience it was! While on our first hike, I saw BUBBLES!!!  In the algae along Camp Creek. I know, I know, I was supposed to be focused on my writing, and I did! After I lost all two marbles in my brain when I saw these and made a photograph of them…Can you imagine a year going by without me photographing bubbles? Yeah, me either.

Little Bubbles on the Prairie

 

Bakunawa, the Moon-Eating Dragon
When photographing this scene while at Fishtrap Outpost on the Zumwalt Prairie in Oregon, I thought of Bakunawa, the moon-eating dragon…it was 5:00 a.m., and I had not been caffeinated properly yet…

Bakunawa, The Moon-Eating Dragon

 

Worlds Collide
From my happy place, Acadia National Park in Maine, during a two-week visit I made to the Schoodic Peninsula with my parents. After spending almost 400 days in the park since my first of three Artist-in-Residencies in November 2009, Acadia still remains my “heaven on Earth.”

Worlds Collide

 

Morning Glory
I’ve spent the last eight autumn seasons in Acadia National Park, and last year’s trip was completely EPIC. Some of the best color and light I’ve ever seen in the park! Plus I had awesome workshop participants and friends from near and far to enjoy it all with. I shared this incredible sunrise along the coast with friends and fellow photographers, John Putnam and Bob Thayer. Acadia never disappoints! (Shameless self-promotional plug: join me on my Winter in Acadia and Autumn in Acadia workshops in 2018! Whoo!)

Morning Glory

 

The Point of It All (a haiku)
Hiding in shadow
Rebirth, persistence, beauty—
The point of it all.

The Point of it All

 

Songs of Serenity
At the start of my second “Autumn in Acadia” workshop, Mother Nature treated our group to an unforgettable sunrise at Little Long Pond on the Maine Land and Garden Preserve near Acadia National Park in Maine. First, we had cotton candy pinks in the sky pre-dawn. Then overcast skies and no wind (perfect for reflections!). Then the fog rolled in. Then the sun started spotlighting Penobscot Mountain through the fog. (I don’t photograph a lot on my workshops, but this was even too much for me to sit and watch without photographing!) Then the skies cleared. All in a span of about two hours. Have I mention how epic this autumn trip was? As epic as bubbles.

Songs of Serenity

 

Lighting Up My World
From the magic hour (an hour after sunrise on a clear day) at the Tarn in Acadia National Park in Maine.

Lighting Up My World

 

In the Flow
Read more about how and why I made this image during my first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee in November on my blog post, “In the Flow.”

In the Flow

 

Make a Splash
In 2017, I made a habit of saying “yes” more to new adventures and experiences, even if I didn’t know what might materialize when I did so. In this case, I said “yes” to visiting a friend of mine (another OWAAer), Tim Mead, in North Carolina for a few days after speaking at the Great Smoky Mountains Photography Summit. Not only did I get to see a beautiful part of the country I hadn’t seen before (at the height of fall colors), but I also found out Tim and I had a lot more in common than I originally knew. As we hiked around South Mountains State Park, fished in Mountain Island Lake, and drank beers on the back porch of his home, he offered loads of advice and insight into questions I had been struggling with in my life–an unexpected gift. I think I’ll keep saying “yes“…

Make a Splash

 

The Winds of Change Stirring
Full-time freelance photographers don’t get an allocated set of vacation days like people who work in Corporate America do. Some may think we’re perpetually on vacation (we aren’t…), but photographers know the eyes and brain don’t ever turn off, especially in beautiful places where many non-photographers would take their vacations. Late last year, I decided I needed some downtime, a true vacation from the crazy year that was 2017. In what was the first dedicated vacation for me in years, I booked a long weekend in one of my favorite places, Cannon Beach, Oregon, to refresh and regroup for the new year. My intent was to spend four days sitting on my hotel’s beachfront porch, drinking coffee, napping, and staring at the waves. Well, there must have been something in the ocean breeze, because I rose well before sunrise on the first morning (which, mind you, was almost 8:00 a.m.!), grabbed my camera (and coffee mug), and hit the beach. Although I hadn’t planned it, the next four days were some of my most productive and enjoyable creative times of the year. The moral of the story? Take more vacation days in 2018. That, and, you can sleep when you’re dead...

The Winds of Change Stirring

 

Heartbeat
Last year was full of beautiful surprises. Through it all, I learned how to listen to my own voice and to feel the beating of my own heart. This beach scene from Oregon reminded me of a pulse, of the beauty of life and its impermanence, and of the gift we have each and every day to create meaning through the triumphs and the struggles so long as our heart still beats.

Heartbeat

 

And that’s a wrap for 2017!

If you’d like to see my favorite photos from previous years, please visit:

The above posts were featured in Jim Goldstein’s annual “Best Photos of the Year” blog project, which not only provides endless inspiration by so many talented photographers, but also offers the chance to gain insight into how your own work and style has evolved over the years.  Check out the 130+ photographers who contributed this year at www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2018/01/10/photos-2017-jmggalleries-blog-readers.

As we look to 2018, make every new day an adventure. Make every new day meaningful. And while you’re at it, make every new day grand! Hope it’s your best year yet! And hope our paths cross during this wild adventure.

~Colleen