Feb 282021
 

Colorado and Paria rivers

Like many young kids, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought maybe a doctor or a lawyer. Whatever it was, I intended to pick one path and stay with it until I retired, make a lot of money, and then live happily ever after…

Out of college, I landed what many would call a dream job at a dream company. One year of long hours and stress became 2, 2 became 3, 3 became almost 10—and I couldn’t sit in a windowless, grey-walled cube anymore. On February 28, 2007, I walked out of Intel to become a freelance photographer. As I wrote in my goodbye-and-thank-you letter to my friends and colleagues, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” (a quote by John A. Shedd).

Today, I celebrate my 14th Independence Day, a day I celebrate like my birthday.

Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have believed that THIS is where I’d be. That I’d prefer sleeping in tents, under the stars, and in my camper to sleeping in my own bed. That I’d be teaching workshops, including all-women’s ones, across the U.S. That I’d be sharing the joy of photography with photographers across the country through webinars and conferences. That I’d be writing guidebooks about wildflowers and Acadia and an adventure travel memoir and running a publishing company. That I’d be writing an online column called Dear Bubbles. That I’d be serving as the Treasurer for a non-profit called the Outdoor Writers Association of America. That I’d be working with amazing partners to help progress photography and protect rivers. That I’d be prepping for a solo photography exhibit curated by a member of the Ansel Adams family. That I’d fall in love with rivers and coasts and stand-up paddleboarding and rain and ballet and BUBBLES! That the girl who grew up terrified of water when she couldn’t see her feet would be on the verge of becoming a river guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Someone pinch me!

In those 14 years, I am so fortunate that I have found what I’m built for…and I am grateful and thrilled that none of it went according to my original plan. I am also filled with immense gratitude for all of you and your support over these years, for it’s because of you that I am able to spend each of my days doing what I love and to live a meaningful life of adventure, wonder, and helping my community.

So ring the bell! Break out the bubbly and pie! Here’s to you and to freedom, sailing and paddling into the unknown, and going with the flow!

Are You Having Fun?

 Posted by at 10:24 AM  Inspiration
Feb 072021
 

About a week ago, I went camping with Jeanne Adams (Ansel Adams’ daughter-in-law). She came to Arizona to pick up a new camper van and my 16 prints for my “The Current Flow: Water in the Arid West” exhibit this June. Before she drove home, I offered to help her break in her new rig (while following all COVID social-distancing guidelines). We ended up spending a delightful three days in Marble Canyon along my beloved Colorado River. I photographed. She painted. I watched her. She suggested I should try watercolor painting sometime.

Growing up, I had little exposure to visual arts beyond finger painting and paper mache masks in elementary school. In eighth grade, I was so bad at drawing, I transferred out of an art class after the first day. (I elected to take Home Economics instead where I ended up burning bread during the baking assignment and sewing the legs on my shorts shut during sewing…). I had tried watercolor painting once and it almost made me cry. Runny paint, mixed colors, and unpredictable results were a perfectionist’s nightmare. Other than photography and one hilarious (but fun and enlightening!) attempt at painting Monet lily pads at a wine-and-paint shop down the street in 2015, I’ve steered clear of any artistic expression requiring significant hand-eye coordination…

Until last night…

When I returned home from my trip with Jeanne, I ordered a cheap watercolor set—paint, brushes, and a small booklet of watercolor paper. Last night, I gave it a try. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea how to mix colors and water and empty space. I had no idea what different brushes do. I just made up the scene as I went as I watched the paint do whatever it did on the page. I just responded to it. Now, I did tap into my growing understanding of how to depict depth in photographs to help create dimension—lines, layers, light, and even optical illusions.

Above are my results: a recovering perfectionist’s first attempt at watercolor painting.

If I could tell my younger self anything, it’s that you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it and learn from it. (I realize one could make the argument that bread tastes better, and thus is more enjoyable, when it is not burned…). If you’re having fun keep doing it. If you aren’t having fun, stop and find something else fun to do. Why spend the time you have on this planet choosing to do things you don’t like to do?

You can bet I’ll be painting with watercolors again tonight…