“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Happy New Year everyone!
During my blissful month-long break from the social media world following our harrowing, but completely amazing Lake Powell paddling adventure, I have enjoyed ample time to reflect on the many highlights—and a few challenges—that transpired over the past year in both my personal and professional life. (The time also enabled me to write over 34,000 words for the adventure travel book I wish to publish encapsulating the exhilarating experience and profound life lessons I took away from our trip…and I still have about 50 pages of handwritten notes to transcribe! I digress…)
In 2015, I celebrated my 8th year as a full-time freelance outdoor photographer/writer and relished many professional highlights, including but not limited to:
- Released the expanded second edition of Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers book, which then won three categories in the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Best Travel Book, Best Crafts/Hobby/How-to Book, and the prestigious Best Book on Arizona.
- Published my first photography instructional eBook, Seeing the Light in Outdoor Photography
- Reached over $1,600 in donations from the sale of Photographing Acadia National Park to the Schoodic Institute/Acadia National Park to help support the Schoodic Education Adventure program.
- Worked with a whole host of dear friends and new people in various photography workshops and camera club presentations across the U.S.
- Received the OWAA Outstanding Board Member award for the second year in a row.
- Introduced my poetry to the public via my blog.
Of maybe even importance to me, I had some of the most memorable experiences with my family and fabulous friends to date. Moments like these (and too many others to list) certainly enriched my life this year:
- Camping beneath the stars atop Hunts Mesa on the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops (AHPW) “Women’s Photo Retreat.”
- Getting the entire campground at City of Rocks National Reserve to howl with the coyotes.
- Camping and hiking around Lee’s Ferry with my parents during a spectacular wildflower bloom in the high desert.
- Listening to a thunderstorm pass while taking refuge in an alcove covered in ancient rock art.
- Staying up all night with my OWAA friends at the annual conference in Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Taking Lava, my favorite Denali National Park sled dog, on walks while visiting my awesome friends in the park.
- Swinging on an outdoor swing with my friends in Kananaskis Country in Alberta, Canada.
- Outrunning waves on the beach with my AHPW Oregon workshop participants.
- High-fiving my brother while catching arctic grayling.
- Discovering beautiful new locations in Acadia, thanks to my local buddy.
- Playing poker with one of my best buds while camping in a snowstorm.
- Paddling 40 incredible miles on Lake Powell with my mom.
In this vein, last year, I became much more connected with the experience of making photographs and appreciated the immense joy I found in the little (and big) things while exploring my favorite locations and seeing new ones. In honor of a wild 2015, I would like to share my favorite 16 photographs created last year. Here goes, in chronological order:
1. “Sunset Serenade at Watson Lake,” Prescott, Arizona (January 23, 2015)
Before leading an Arizona Highways Photography Workshops at Watson Lake, I managed to sneak in a free day of my own photography. The view – and Arizona’s gorgeous sunset – didn’t disappoint. Read more about this image on my “Making the Image: Sunset Serenade at Watson Lake” blog post.
2. “The Stone Butterfly,” Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada (February 17, 2015)
To see more photos from this geologically-fascinating place and hear some thoughts I had about photographing iconic places while visiting this park in February, visit my previous blog post “Icon (or Icon-not) Photograph the Icons in Valley of Fire”.
3. “Underneath It All,” Carl Washburne State Park Oregon (May 14, 2015)
Carl Washburne State Park has become one of my photographic “homes,” a completely nondescript location that speaks to me. Even though I live in Arizona, I try to make it up to the mid-Oregon coast at least once or twice a year for extended stays to explore this lovely stretch of beach. It changes constantly and I love seeing the surprises it offers, like these wind-sculpted dried sand patterns beneath the sand dunes.
4. “On Becoming a Wave,” Cannon Beach, Oregon (May 22, 2015)
As those who join me on my workshops know, I very rarely pick up a camera while I teach (so as to focus on the participants’ needs and growth). On the AHPW Oregon Sampler workshop, though, I carried my camera on our final sunrise shoot at picturesque Cannon Beach and ended up using it to help demonstrate how to get engaged with your subject so much so that you pretend that you are that subject. In this case, several in the workshop group became a wave with me as they reached the beach. The experience was so meaningful to me, I ended up taking home this image and later writing a poem about it–which you can read more about on my blog post “Making the Image and Poem: On Becoming a Wave.”
5. “Frozen in Time,” Matanuska Glacier, Alaska (June 4, 2015)
When I stepped off the plane in Anchorage, Alaska to visit my friends, Jen and Michael, Jen surprised me and drove me straight to the Matanuska Glacier (given my love of ice, how nice was that?!). I think I walked maybe 100 yards from the parking area before I completely lost my marbles upon seeing the most intriguing ice mud I’d ever seen.
6. “On the Edge,” Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
While spending time with good friends, we made an impromptu stop at Mistaya Canyon. I wasn’t initially feeling inspired to make a photograph at this popular tourist location until I sat and watched this tree watch the river rage by it. By studying it, I was able to visualize and eventually create this image.
7. Joy in the Little Things, Henry Mountains, Utah (July 19, 2015)
In hopes of escaping the heat (and to formally discuss plans for a new collaborative book…), I headed to the cooler high elevations of the Henry Mountains with my good buddy and very talented photographer/writer, Guy Tal. We stopped en route for a short break, but when I saw this beautiful yellow salsify I just had to photograph with my macro lens…so it became a very long break on the side of the dirt road…!
8. “Unfurl Your Tendrils,” Henry Mountains, Utah (July 20, 2015)
Merely one day after I made “Joy in the Little Things,” we saw ample wildflowers while exploring the mountains, including this sego lily in unique form. I tried to channel Georgia O’Keefe paintings when making this top down abstract/macro perspective.
9. “Palm of the Earth,” Cainville Badlands, Utah (July 20, 2015)
During my trip to the Henry Mountains, Guy and I decided to check out the badlands at much lower (hotter) elevations in hopes of getting a summer monsoon storm and dappled light. Instead we had mostly cloudy skies, but that did not stop me from falling in love with the area and seemingly endless compositions it offered.
10. “Stone and Lace,” Poison Springs Canyon, Utah (July 22, 2015)
Toward the end of my summer trip to southern Utah, we stopped by Poison Springs Canyon and found some gorgeous tafoni along the canyon walls. I converted this mid-day photograph to black and white to help emphasize the form, shape, and textures – the color wasn’t important to my message so I eliminated it.
11. “A New Day Begins,” Acadia National Park, Maine (October 7, 2015)
Due to warm weather and a lack of precipitation, autumn arrived to the coast of Maine almost two weeks later than normal. While waiting for fall colors (and my workshop group) to arrive, I visited some favorite old haunts, like Monument Cove.
12. “Splendor of the Season,” Acadia National Park, Maine (October 17, 2015)
And when autumn finally arrived to the coastal park, it didn’t disappoint (it never does!). With the low sweet blueberry bush glowing its characteristic lip-stick red coat for fall, I headed to Cadilliac Mountain’s summit at sunrise to celebrate the season of change.
13. “Autumn Whispers in the Water,” Acadia National Park, Maine (October 19, 2015)
On my final day in the park, I became memorized by the palette of reflected colors in Jordan Stream. To learn more about how I made this photograph, visit my blog post “Making the Image: A Whisper in the Water.”
14. “Sunrise Serenity at Warm Creek Bay,” Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (October 28, 2015)
In preparation for our longer Lake Powell adventure, my Mom and I made a three-day trial run there in late October. You might believe the reason I made this image was because of the colors in the sky, and you’d be partially right. The primary reason I photographed here, though, is this is where my mom “cowboy camped” beneath the stars without a tent for the first time in her 64-years. I rolled over in my sleeping bag the next morning and snapped this image to commemorate this proud achievement!
15. “Frozen Flurries,” my friend’s windshield after a snowstorm in southern Utah (November 12, 2015)
Photographing ice on my friend’s windshield reminded me that a personally meaningful photograph does not necessarily start with a beautiful location, but rather a photographer’s own observations, curiosity, appreciation, and confidence to visually express moments and experiences he/she deems important…even in the most unusual places.
16. “Reverie in the Canyon ,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (December 17, 2015)
Needing some downtime to process the events from our paddle on Lake Powell and the entire year as a whole, I headed up to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to photograph ice in the canyons with my friend. While we found plenty of ice, we also found beautiful iridescent biofilm floating on the creeks’ slow moving surface, which led to the creation of my final image of 2015.
But wait, there’s more! Since I introduced my poetry this year, I will throw in my favorite poem I penned last July as a bonus:
“Around the Campfire”
The back of beyond
Hunches over the maddening voices
Of yesterday. Time enough,
Cold enough to build a fire.
Tails of haunted demons whip
In the fury of the crackling flames,
Spewing embers that sear
Your cozy sweater
And singe unforgiving memories
Into your weathered and weary flesh.
A naked soul bared on stone watching,
Thirsting for answers to rise,
Rise out of the brazen ash,
Exhaling a soaring phoenix
In whorls of smoke.
In the wind’s sigh.
Into the nothingness
Of the Earth. Welcome
To your life of rapture.
So what’s on tap for 2016? I learned a whole lot about myself this year – as one often does when hardship shows up on your doorstep unexpectedly. Among many other things, I determined I’m not a photographer who likes to write, but rather a writer who loves to photograph. Also, my passion for helping others enjoy the Great Outdoors only continues to intensify. To blend those two realizations together, I am adjusting my priorities slightly to focus on some super exciting new adventures and writing/book projects. Stay tuned for more!
As we kick off 2016, I remain very grateful to you for your continued support, encouragement, friendship, and laughs through it all as allows me to continue to grow as a human being, live an incredibly fulfilling life, and keep pursuing my dreams. So thank you!
Cheers to you for a bright and joyful new year! As Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote above encourages, I hope you live 2016, “taste it, experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” And of course, keep shooting!