Jun 302017
 

From the Green River in May 2016, but representative of how I feel today. Photo courtesy Guy Tal.

I’ve been a little tired.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Those words actually came out my mouth…and now that I’ve slept for three days straight, I can explain!

As of this past Monday, I’ve completed a six-month term as the interim Executive Director with the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) following the conclusion of our 90th annual conference in Duluth, Minnesota. Juggling three businesses—OWAA and two of my own, CMS Photography and Analemma Press—during this time sometimes made me feel like I was testing the outer limits of “you can sleep when you’re dead!”

But I wouldn’t change a thing. Although my time at the helm at OWAA has come to an end, I can safely say that the organization has changed my life for the better twice now. Here’s how:

When I walked out of my unfulfilling corporate America job at Intel Corporation in February 2007, I had asked many of my photography mentors (many who had been in the outdoor photography industry for 30 or more years) what it would take to be successful as a freelance. The overwhelming feedback I received was that I would never make it as a full-time landscape photographer for two reasons: one, the photography industry had changed so much (the digital revolution had just begun) that opportunities to make a living were rapidly diminishing; and two, as a woman, I would never cut it being alone for extended periods of time in the wild.

Despite the latter being exactly what I loved to do, having five semesters of college-level photography instruction, and experiencing enough success in both the fine art and editorial outlets with outdoor photography to quit a six-figure salary, I listened to them. When I left my corporate job on February 28, 2007, I photographed everything but nature photography (and weddings…No. Just no.) I focused on shooting jewelry, trucks, yards, food, products, architecture, senior portraits, soccer, and golf (I didn’t know anything about golf!) for various commercial clients.

I made a lot of money, but after each shoot, I came home bummed out. I wasn’t having much fun, and I asked myself, “Is this really what I left Intel for?”

My phone rang in 2009. On the other line was an enthusiastic man I had never met. He introduced himself as Jim Smith. He explained he had received my name as a possible speaker for his local photography club and asked me if I would be interested in presenting an educational presentation with his members. I eagerly agreed to do so in early 2010.

After my presentation, Jim invited me to speak again. This time though, it was for an organization he was a member of and found helpful in his own profitable outdoor photography business. He also handed me a piece of paper and said, “I think you’d really like this group. You should apply.” Jim handed me an application to OWAA with his signature already on the “Sponsor” line.

I didn’t heed his advice right away. After all, the outdoors was not factoring much into my photography business at that time. I wanted it to! A few months ahead of my speaking engagement at their annual conference in June in Rochester, Minnesota, I decided, “What the hell?”

I walked into the event and saw over 400 outdoor communicators totally rocking the industry in every way—writing, photography, TV, video, books, newspapers, cartoons, you name it. I naively thought, “If they can do it, why can’t I?!”

I subsequently returned home to Arizona with an extra pep in my step and dropped all my commercial clients except one (who was a friend from my time at Intel) to focus entirely on what I loved, photographing the Great Outdoors. I pursued new editorial outlets, calendar companies, etc. I didn’t previously know about or had access to. I also left conference with crazy ideas on how to publish my own books. To be an author had been a pipe-dream for me since senior year in college. I could have never imagined having three books to my name (plus six more in the hopper!) after starting my own publishing company—Analemma Press.

Game-changer #1: I became a true outdoor photographer and writer–and publisher!–thanks to OWAA.

Fast forward five years…Jim sadly passed away in January 2015. Then, my life took an unexpected left-hand turn in April 2015 when my husband (and best friend for 22 years) and I decided to mutually separate—two weeks before our 14th wedding anniversary and four weeks before my 40th birthday. To help with sorting out the devastation and chaos, I had this wild idea to stand-up paddleboard the 141-mile length of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Utah-Arizona border. My mom and I embarked on that journey in late November 2015 but ran into an unpredicted windstorm four days into a 14-day trip, which led to an unexpected rescue and conclusion of a trip.

In the year that followed, I learned many things, including that I was not a photographer who liked to write, but rather a writer who liked to photograph—perhaps a seemingly small distinction to the outside world, but a major shift for me and my priorities. I learned more about letting go, happiness, and as the title of the book I started writing about my Lake Powell trip and life indicates, simply how to go with the flow. In reliving the memories of the separation and Lake Powell paddle trip, though, I still noodled on many things like what I was doing with my life, how I wanted to live, and what I wanted to be when (if) I grew up.

Then, in late November 2016, I received a call from Brett Prettyman, OWAA’s President, suggesting the current OWAA executive director (ED) had unexpectedly turned in his resignation. (I serve as OWAA’s Secretary, and thus the Executive Committee where these types of matters are discussed.) He mentioned the idea of possibly hiring an interim ED, requested I think of good candidates for the position, and hung up.

Was the Universe throwing me a possible answer to the questions I pondered? I needed to find out. Despite having 10 years of freelancing under my belt, I felt if I were ever to return to a desk job, this would be the one I’d pick.

I wrote Brett a lengthy email on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after hearing the news, starting with, “Soooooo I’ve given it a tremendous amount of thought since we talked (I even made up a spreadsheet about it!), and would like to formally throw my name in the hat for the interim ED position, should you decide to pursue it.  I do so with the possibility of me applying for the ED position next year.”

I was named the interim ED by the following Monday. After spending time with Tom Sadler (the resigning ED) in December to facilitate a smooth transition, I took the torch from him in January 2017 for 20 hours a week. I submitted my resume and cover letter for the permanent position.

While learning how to run a non-profit organization and enjoying the new experiences, something didn’t feel quite right. I seemed to have little time to write, photograph, and travel while trying to keep up with the demands of the different three jobs. I missed my wandering freelance life. So much so, that I withdrew my name (twice) from consideration for the permanent position—one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.

To say I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve OWAA in this capacity would be an understatement. As I look back at the six-months, the experience presented “Game-changer #2″ by helping me put four exclamation points behind what OWAA helped me declare seven years ago in 2010:

  • I’m a freelance writer, photographer, author, publisher, speaker, teacher, and more!!!!
  • I’m a wanderer of the outdoors!!!!
  • I love to help people enjoy the Great Outdoors through workshops, books, and everything I do!!!!

I’ve now passed the torch to our new ED, Brandon Shuler. When I left Intel to become a free bird in 2007, I shared what has become one of my favorite quotes with my colleagues, which I feel is equally pertinent now as I start to flap my wings and fly back into the freelancing life once again:

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”
~John A. Shedd

No matter the journey you are on or may take, may you always possess the wisdom to know the difference between “safe” and “your true self,” to know in your heart what you are made of and for. And to have the strength and courage to sail your ship out of harbor when your soul calls to you to set sail.

Many thanks to the OWAA Board of Directors for their confidence and support in me, to staff members Jessica Seitz and Kelsey Dayton for showing me the ropes and keeping me in line, and to Tom, Brett, and Bill Powell for their help throughout the transition. Finally, I am eternally thankful to OWAA and it’s inspiring and encouraging members for changing my direction in outdoor communications not once, but twice, and for helping me become exactly what I’m built for. (And I just know my late friend Jim is laughing his head off about all this from above. I can hear his voice say, “You’re such a hoot” as he often told me.)

The sea of freedom calls…and it’s a big ocean out there teeming with so much life. Lots more adventures, workshops, books, and more ahead!  Because, as the saying goes, “You can sleep when you’re dead”…and remember, I’ve just woke up from sleeping for three days straight…

Time to set sail…time for new adventures!

Jan 032017
 

I turn my TV on maybe three or four times a year (once at least, for the University of Michigan-Ohio State football game, Go Blue in 2017!). Last night, I just happened to flip to a channel playing one of my all-time favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption.

I don’t know about you, but towards the end of the movie, when Andy starts dreaming about Zihuatanejo with Red in the jail yard, I start bawling like I’m cutting a pile of onions. These two sentences suckerpunch me every time (even though I know the movie well enough to know what’s coming every time):

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

As I emptied all three of the boxes of tissue I had in my house, and considering we’ve just turned the page on another year, I internalized this and how it applies to my life right now. (Over-analyzing is my superpower, what’s yours?).

Although I’ve been a faithful subscriber to the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” mantra in the past, the hardships and lessons from a challenging 2015 helped me consciously choose to “get busy living” more so than ever in 2016. From a 30,000 foot level, I learned to be nice to myself, enjoy the journey regardless of achievement, and celebrate the waves of “up’s” and “down’s”equally (all things I’ve been exploring and writing about in great detail in my book, Going With the Flow, about our Lake Powell paddle adventure, which now stands at over 65,000 words and merely three chapters of editing work shy of my first draft…I digress…).

And awesome things transpired through new adventures with dear and new friends, personal and professional growth, and dreaming up some grand ideas. So much so, that not only will I keep on keeping on, but also encourage everyone, if they aren’t already, to “get busy living” not just on the holidays, not just on New’s Years Day, but today, and every day. 

If you’re reading this, keep in mind, you woke up, you’re alive, you’re breathing. Some were not as fortunate…so on this day, today, and every day, with this gift of more time on this Earth, what will you celebrate today?

Today, I celebrate YOU for all you do to help support my photography, writing, and teaching.  Thank you for making 2016 an incredible year of friendship, laughs, and learning in photography. And I can’t wait to see what transpires in our creative journey in 2017 for all of us!

To celebrate making the most of life in 2016, here are 16 of my favorite photographs I created last year (in chronological order, prints available – click on photo to order):

 

Winter’s Hold on Jordan Pond:Winter's Hold on Jordan Pond

 

Face of the Sun:Face of the Sun

 

Antelope Canyon Memories:Antelope Canyon Memories

 

Canyon Dreams:Canyon Dreams

 

High Alpine Serenity:High Alpine Serendipity

 

The Pulse of Life: The Pulse of Life

 

An Afternoon Dream:An Afternoon Dream

 

Autumn Afternoon Delight:Autumn Afternoon Delight

 

Bubblicious!:Bubblicious

 

Rock On!:Rock On!

 

Liquid Aurora:Liquid Aurora

 

Catch You When You Fall:Catch You When You Fall

 

Periwinkle Pearls:Periwinkle Pearls

 

Beauty Remains:Beauty Remains

 

Burning Desire:Burning Desire

 

 A Crack in Everything:A Crack in Everything

Thank you for reviewing my Favorite Photos from 2016! If you’d like to see my favorite photos from previous years, please visit:

All posts were a part of Jim Goldstein’s annual “Best Photos of the Year” blog project.  His 2016 collection–which I’d highly recommend browsing through to see some amazing photographic work–can be viewed at www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2017/01/10/photos-2016-jmggalleries-blog-readers/

May your 2017 be your best and brightest year yet!

~Colleen

Nov 222016
 
Utah_Glen Canyon National Recreation Area_00108_c

Our view at sunset from our camp in Fourmile Canyon on the first night of our paddling trip on Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area last year.

Exactly one year ago today, my Mom and I began our ambitious paddling adventure on Lake Powell from the Dirty Devil launch area in Utah. Although we aimed to reach Wahweap Marina 147-miles down the lake 14 days later, the universe and Mother Nature had other plans for us. After four fulfilling days—and three terrifying hours of paddling against towering cliffs in five-to-six-foot swells in crosswinds —our journey came to an unexpected end after 41 miles.

Oh, what a wild year it’s been! To say this challenging experience changed my life for the better would be a massive understatement. During the preparations, the trip itself, and in the 12 months that have followed, I have learned so much about myself, my family and friends, how nature can heal during difficult life circumstances, and the value of living a meaningful life. I’m so grateful things panned out exactly as they did! And for everyone who’s been a part of this incredibly enlightening and transformational time.

In hopes of helping and inspiring others, I continue to write almost every day about this personal journey with the goal of sharing this story in my first adventure travel book, currently titled, “Going With the Flow.” As of this morning (when I blasted the Powell Playlist you helped compile last year before our trip), I’ve written over 57,000 words thus far (the approximate word count for each of my published guidebooks) and 10 of the 16 chapters are in really great shape for my editor. Hoping I can have a solid draft ready for edit by the end of the year so I can publish the book in 2017.

So stay tuned! And take a minute to think about where you were just a year ago.  How much has changed for you?  No matter where you’ve been or where you are right now, remember to celebrate life and all that is good in it!

~Colleen

Jul 122016
 

Author Bruce Taubert, editor/publisher Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, and graphic designer Paul Gill marvel over the new Wild in Arizona book (we might have been a little excited but this was pre-champagne…LOL!)

IT’S HERE and IT’S STUNNING! We’re thrilled to share our newest guidebook, Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildlife by Bruce Taubert arrived yesterday afternoon.

And do you know what that means?! That’s right! Yesterday and today were our fabulous “Book Ship Days” (one of my favorite days ever). Bruce, Bruce’s wife Anne, Paul and yours truly were on hand to not only welcome the books off the truck, but also to ship you your pre-ordered, autographed copies!

We created a short behind-the-scenes video to give you an idea of what our day looked like yesterday on YouTube (direct link: https://youtu.be/O4H4cwNr09I):

Tell me Bruce’s first look at his first book isn’t totally priceless! If you pre-ordered the book: YOU MADE THAT MOMENT HAPPEN! THANK YOU!!

We couldn’t wait to get them into your hands, so all pre-ordered books have shipped as of this afternoon! Those of you living in the Phoenix area can expect to receive your books in the next day or two. For those who live outside of Phoenix but within the United States, I’d start checking the mail for your books in the next three to four days. International shipments can vary tremendously depending on the country’s customs process, so those of you living outside the U.S. will probably receive your books in the next one to four weeks.

Those who pre-ordered eBooks were super lucky. All eBooks were emailed via Analemma Press (the publishing company I run) this morning (check your inbox or your spam/junk folder if you ordered one but can’t find it) so they got an early sneak peek of what Bruce’s book looks like.

After working on for three years, we’d now love to hear what you think about the book/eBook. If you drop me an email at cms@cms-photo.com, I’ll be sure it gets to the whole team. We might even add you to our new book testimonial page too!

We cannot thank our corporate sponsors, Indiegogo fundraising supporters, and everyone who has purchased a book thus far enough for the overwhelming and generous support we’ve received to bring this book (our dream!) to fruition. Take a second to check out our awesome sponsors and those Indiegogo supporters who contributed $100 or more to our campaign at http://wildinarizona.com/sponsors_wildlife.html.

Then grab your new book and get WILD in Arizona!

P.S. If you love the book so much and want to pick up another copy for you or a friend–or you missed pre-ordering–the book/eBook is now available from http://www.wildinarizona.com so you can order additional signed copies.

Feb 212016
 
Utah_Glen Canyon National Recreation Area_00108_c

View of the sandstone monoliths from our camp in Fourmile Canyon at sunset along Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Want a taste of what our Lake Powell paddle adventure was like last November?  For those of you would like to read a very abbreviated, 1200-word account and see additional photographs from our recent paddle adventure on Lake Powell, I’m thrilled to share that the National Parks Traveler has published my “Going With the Flow” article at www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/02/going-flow.

Additional photos were also published in the online and printed version of the “Essential Guide to Paddle the Parks.” To view the guide via Issuu for free, visit www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2016/02/essential-paddling-guide-exploring-parks-canoe-kayak-raft-and-even-sup.

(By the way, if you have any inclinations or even curiosities about paddle a canoe, kayak, raft, and/or stand-up paddleboard in our nation’s parks, you’ll want to spend time reading this new insightful resource.  Just thumbing through my copy just made me want to grab my board and go float in SO many places!  So many new ideas!)

Because of the nature of the guide and article space requirements, I naturally had to leave out A LOT about our journey down the lake (including things like accidentally dumping my solar charger in water after Day 1, our scary Day 4, my significant life learnings in the aftermath, etc.).  In hopes of telling the broader story, I continue to make excellent progress on penning my adventure book about our trip (using the article’s title as my book’s current working title).  I’m up to over 36,000 words so far!  I have not yet set a publication date yet, as I’m focused right now on getting my words down on paper and starting to form the story.  But stay tuned!

In the meantime, hoping this little taste from the National Parks Traveler paddle guide whets your appetite for more to come…

Jan 022016
 

“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.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy New Year everyone!

Happy 2016! May yours be filled with many new and rich experiences! Me celebrating reaching mile 125 on Lake Powell this past November. Photograph courtesy of Jacque Miniuk

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

Sunset Serenade at Watson Lake

“Sunset Serenade at Watson Lake” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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”.

The Stone Butterfly

“The Stone Butterfly” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

 

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.

Underneath It All

“Underneath It All” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

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.”

On Becoming a Wave

“On Becoming a Wave” (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

 

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.

Frozen in Time

“Frozen in Time” (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

 

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.

On the Edge

“On the Edge” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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…!

Joy in the Little Things

“Joy in the Little Things” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

Unfurl Your Tendrils

“Unfurl Your Tendrils” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

Palm of the Earth

“Palm of the Earth” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

Stone and Lace

“Stone and Lace” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

A New Day Begins

“A New Day Begins” (Prints available – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

Splendor of the Season

“Splendor of the Season” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.”

A Whisper in the Water

“A Whisper in the Water” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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!

Sunrise Serenity at Warm Creek Bay

“Sunrise Serenity at Warm Creek Bay” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

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.

Frozen Flurries

“Frozen Flurries” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 


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.

Reverie in the Canyon

“Reverie in the Canyon” (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

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.

Aspens rustle,
Clouds cry,
Freedom stirs
In the wind’s sigh.

Obscurities melt
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!

~Colleen

Nov 222015
 

What life boils down to for the next 14-days…an iPhone snap of all the material items we’re bringing for our Lake Powell paddle trip.

Whelp, after months of planning and preparation, it’s hard to believe that the big day has finally arrived!  We depart for Utah today, and will begin our ~150-mile paddle on Tuesday morning!

As we head out, thought I’d share answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I have received about this trip from others.  If you have a question about our trip that I’ve not answered below, please leave me a comment, and I’ll be sure to address it upon our return in a future blog.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————
Why, exactly, are you doing this?
I have many reasons, including but not limited to:

  1. As George Mallory once suggested about why one would climb Mount Everest, we are paddling the length of Lake Powell, “Because it is there.”
  2. Because we can (meaning my Mom and I are physically and mentally capable of taking on such a challenge.  And let’s face it, we aren’t getting younger so we might as well do it now…)
  3. Because I want to.  It is really as simple as that.  (And it’s funny how our society doesn’t seem to accept that as a good enough answer…I digress…)
  4. Not many have attempted to do it (I know a handful of men have accomplished the same feat on stand-up paddleboards, but I have yet to find any women who have).
  5. This is my big chance to be as adventurous as Pippi Longstocking, my childhood hero!
  6. I would like to share in an unforgettable adventure with my Mom and show her what true freedom and bliss feels like.
  7. I wish to disconnect from the world long to refresh and rejuvenate my mind and spirit for all the exciting opportunities ahead.
  8. Because I wanted a physical and mental challenge.
  9. Because there is a little voice inside my head that still isn’t sure I can…but I’m going to do it anyway!
  10. Because you guessed it, you can sleep when you’re dead!

You mean, you are not doing it to make a political statement? (Note: this question is typically followed by an in-depth dissertation about how the Glen Canyon Dam drowned the Colorado River OR how we have no water in the desert.)
While I do have fairly strong opinions about the Glen Canyon Dam and our water shortage here in western United States, the magnificent sandstone walls, the undulating waters, and singing canyon wrens do not hold any political positions; I see no reason why – while I am among their beauty and in their home – I should possess one either.

If I’m to make any important statement as a result of going on this journey it would be to remind everyone tuning in that, wait for…you can sleep when you’re dead!  I do not mean literally (as in we should run around doing things 24 hours a day).  I mean that when faced with an opportunity to do something or not do something, especially your dreams – no matter how big or small – I hope you feel inspired and courageous enough to just GO FOR IT!

You only get one life, and it goes in a blink of an eye, so why not fill the time you have with much joy, meaning, curiosity, wonder, and gratitude?  I cannot come up with a good reason not to, but if you do, please, by all means, leave me it in a comment below.

How far are you going?
We are starting at the North Wash/Dirty Devil take out, which is just north of Hite, and finishing at Wahweap Marina.  If we followed the milepost/buoys exactly, we are looking at about 141 miles.  However, that does not account for the many side trips and meanderings we will likely do…in the end, I would guess we will likely finish around 150 miles.

How long will that take?
Incorporating time for paddling, rest days, wanderings, weather conditions, etc., we are hoping to complete the trip in about 14 days.  We are in no rush and will not take unnecessary risks when faced with unfavorable weather (especially high winds).

BUT fellow photographers (and patient partners and spouses) know how fast “I’ll just be 10 minutes” can turn into an entire afternoon when you’re enthralled a magical place…considering this (and possible weather delays), we’ve packed food for 20 days.

Why are you going in November?
After I decided to pursue this idea, I checked my calendar and found the only time I could commit to a chunk of time within the next 12 months fell in this November and December.  I did not want to wait – now sounded like as good of a time as ever.

Although many have and will disagree with me, I feel it offers an absolutely ideal time to complete our adventure.  It offers the prospects of the cooler temperatures (compared to scorching summer weather), a reduced chance of brutal winds (as seen in the spring), and fewer boats on the lake than most other months (so we would have the lake to ourselves).

Won’t it be cold then?
Perhaps.  Don’t care.

Weather forecasts suggest temperatures ranging from low 20’s to mid-60’s.

My Mom and I completed our recent trial run at Lake Powell in 65-degree temperatures during the day.  We were so warm from expending energy and the sun, we actually wished it was about 10-20 degrees cooler.  At night, we were on the warm side of cozy during nighttime temperatures around 40-45 degrees.

We have packed winter gear, just in case, and our sleeping bags are rated to 0-degrees (mine) and -30-degrees (my Mom’s).  I’ve bet my Dad that we will feel warm most of the time…and I only bet on things I know I will win!

Are you insane? (or alternatively, “Are you crazy?”)
Not clinically, no.  However, I did just buy a selfie-stick (for use with my new fancy GoPro) so that may affect my status.

Will you be blogging or posting your process on Facebook?
In our fast-paced society where multi-tasking is not just the norm, but also expected, I wish to jump into this experience with open hearts and minds to soak every bit of the experience in without distractions.  So, no, I will intentionally not be blogging during our trip.

That said, beginning on Tuesday morning when we start our journey, you can follow our tracks recorded by my Delorme InReach tracking device by visiting https://share.delorme.com/ColleenMiniukSperry and use the password dreambig (one word) to login.  If I have my technology properly figured out, I might post a couple of messages via my Delorme to my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/CMSPhoto (CMS Photography) and https://www.facebook.com/ColleenMiniukSperry (my personal profile).

How can we learn more about your trip once you get back?
I’ll likely write a blog upon my return, but I plan to write my first adventure travel book from this journey.  So stay tuned!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Words cannot express how grateful I am to everyone who provided a song recommendation for our Lake Powell Paddle Playlist.  What an incredible mix of music from an incredible group of people!

In addition, I’m so thankful to those who have sent notes of encouragement and wishes for a safe, happy trip.  Your kind and uplifting words mean a great deal to me, and you can be sure we will carry every single one of your sentiments with us as we paddle along.

Wish us good luck…and good weather!
Colleen

Nov 172015
 
My Mom, Jacque, kayaking in Warm Creek Bay during our recent trial run on Lake Powell in preparation for our trip next week.

My Mom, Jacque, kayaking in Warm Creek Bay during our recent trial run on Lake Powell in preparation for our trip next week (taken while standing on my SUP).

Today marks T-7 days until the start of what will no doubt be a memorable SUP/kayak trip down the 150-mile length of Lake Powell with my mom, Jacque (in case you missed my previous blog post, visit “What’s SUP? An Epic Adventure Awaits” at youcansleepwhenyouredead.com/wordpress/whats-sup-an-epic-adventure-awaits).   I can hardly sleep at night, and that’s not only due to all my last minute preparations for our two-week adventure, but rather my overwhelming excitement to get this party started!

One of those last minute details calls for me to load what I’ve called the “Lake Powell Paddle Playlist” (try saying that three times fast!) onto my iPhone.  Now, when I put out the call to all of you to provide favorite inspirational song, I had no idea what to expect (other than I know they’d all be fantastic, of course).  But, I was completely blown away by the wildly diverse and incredible ideas you sent to help us paddle to when times get tough out there on the water and we need some positive vibes.

Thanks to those of you who sent musical recommendations in, I now have over five hours (!!) of sentimental, calming, heart-pumping, thought-provoking, and inspirational music to keep paddling along.  What I loved most was seeing each of your personalities shine through in your suggestions.  I also appreciated hearing from many of you the inspirational backstories of why the song(s) meant something to you.  I appreciate all who shared their heartfelt stories and songs with me.

As promised, here’s the current playlist with the Song – Artist (and my friend who contributed it) in no particular order:

  1. Thank You – Johnny Reid (Brian Hayward)
  2. Ballad of Edward Abbey – Tom Russell (Jackson Frishman)
  3. I’m So Glad – Cream (JP Bruce)
  4. Old Man River – Paul Robson (Rick Jacobi, Mike Hayden, and Richard Penney)
  5. Watching the River Run – Loggins and Messina (Lynda Holman)
  6. The Mary Ellen Carter – Stan Rogers (John McCoy)
  7. Happy – Pharrell Williams (Toru Kawana and Sheri Skocdopole)
  8. Beautiful Day – U2 (Toru Kawana)
  9. Miss Hesitation – Jesse (Robert Rader)
  10. Ridge Top – Jesse Colin Young (Robert Rader)
  11. Astronomy – Metallica (Robert Ford)
  12. Move Along – The All-American Rejects (Jodi Stemler)
  13. Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters (Jodi Stemler)
  14. One – Creed (Jodi Stemler)
  15. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs (Jodi Stemler)
  16. If Today Was Your Last Day – Nickelback (Jodi Stemler)
  17. Wherever I May Roam – Metallica (Jodi Stemler)
  18. Every Day is a Winding Road – Sheryl Crow (Jodi Stemler)
  19. Dreams – Cranberries (Jodi Stemler)
  20. Linger – Cranberries (Jodi Stemler)
  21. Pocketful of Sunshine – Natasha Bedingfield (Jodi Stemler)
  22. The Time of My Life – David Cook, (Jodi Stemler)
  23. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – The Eurythmics, (Jodi Stemler)
  24. Carry On – FUN, (Jodi Stemler)
  25. Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz, (Jodi Stemler)
  26. Good Life – OneRepublic (Jodi Stemler)
  27. Paris – Grace Potter(Jodi Stemler)
  28. Apologies – Grace Potter (Jodi Stemler)
  29. Stars – Grace Potter (Jodi Stemler)
  30. Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls (Jodi Stemler)
  31. Outshined – Soundgarden (Jodi Stemler)
  32. Are you Ready – Creed (Jodi Stemler)
  33. Cochise – Audioslave (Jodi Stemler)
  34. Flies in the Vaseline – Smashing Pumpkins (Jodi Stemler)
  35. Come With Me Now – (Wish I Could) by Kongos (Brett Prettyman)
  36. Best Day of My Life – American Authors (Brett Prettyman)
  37. But Not Tonight – Depeche Mode (Brett Prettyman)
  38. Rolling in the Deep – Adele (Ron Niebrugge)
  39. Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – (Ron Niebrugge and Mark Berry)
  40. The Moldau – Bedrich Smetana (Paul Vang)
  41. Cheerleader –  Omi (Amy Novotny)
  42. A Thousand Miles From Nowhere – Dwight Yoakum (Stan Burman)
  43. Imagine – John Lennon (Katie Bond)
  44. Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen (Kurt Repanshek)
  45. Stronger – Kayne West (Kris Millgate’s son)
  46. I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and the Heartbreaks (Kris Millgate)
  47. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival (Monica Halveka)
  48. River Runs Red – Midnight Oil (Thomas Graham)
  49. Gooey – Glass Animals (Floris van Breugel)
  50. Feel Again – One Republic (Amy Minton)
  51. Demons – Imagine Dragons (Amy Minton)
  52. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson (Mary Gamble)
  53. We are the Champions – Queen (Mary Gamble)
  54. It’s My Life – Bon Jovi (Mary Gamble)
  55. What a Wonderful World – Louie Armstrong (Mary Gamble)
  56. Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland (Mary Gamble)
  57. 10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman (Mary Gamble)
  58. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong UNITED (Mary Gamble)
  59. Night Rider’s Lament – Jerry Jeff Walker (Tim Mead)
  60. Haiku – Doug Hammer (Carol See)
  61. Sitting on Top of the World – Amanda Marshall (Sheri Skocdopole)
  62. Where the Black Top Ends – Keith Urban (Sheri Skocdopole)
  63. Against the Wind – Bob Seger (Carlene Drake)
  64. Let it Whip – Dazz Band (Jacque Miniuk)
  65. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Proclaimers (Rob Miniuk)
  66. The Final Countdown – Europe (Rob Miniuk)
  67. The Valley Road – Bruce Hornsby and the Range (Jackie Klieger)
  68. My Sweet Lord – George Harrison (Jackie Klieger)
  69. I’ll Be There – Jackson 5 (John Penney)
  70. Con te Partiro – Andrea Bocelli (Sue Penney)
  71. Something’s Coming – Jim Bryant, Russ Tamblyn, Marni Nixon, & Natalie Wood (Sue Penney)
  72. Quiet Your Mind – Zac Brown Band (Christy Schroeder)
  73. Let it Go – Zac Brown Band (Ty Stockton)
  74. Paradise – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  75. Spanish Pipe Dream – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  76. Everybody – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  77. The Bottomless Lake – John Prine (Phil Bloom)
  78. Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti and Spearhead (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  79. The Sound of Sunshine – Michael Fronti and Spearhead (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  80. I Like to Move It – Madagascar 5 (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  81. No Scrubs – TLC (Jen and Michael Raffaeli)
  82. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show (Mark Berry)
  83. Muddy Water – Daniel Jenkins (Lynda Holman)
  84. River in the Rain – Daniel Jenkins and Ron Richardson (Lynda Holman)
  85. Got to Give it Up – Marvin Gaye (John Divan)
  86. I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash (Barbara White)
  87. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack (Dawn Gould)
  88. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo (Rebecca Wilks)
  89. Too Much Stuff – Delbet McClinton (Rebecca Wilks)
  90. The Happy Wanderer – Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller (Tom Rust)
  91. River Road – Crystal Gayle (Lindsay Guthrie)
  92. Alberta Bound – Gordon Lightfoot (Lindsay Guthrie)
  93. Arizona, I Love You – sung by Rex Allen Jr. (Lindsay Guthrie)
  94. Roar – Katie Perry (Carol Gray)
  95. Hallelujah – Justin Timberlake(Carol Gray)
  96. All I Ask of You – Phantom of the Opera (Carol Gray)
  97. If I Had a Rocket Launcher – Bruce Cockburn (Bill Rau)
  98. Hold On – Alabama Shakes (Marty and Shirley Hill)
  99. Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron (Marty and Shirley Hill)
  100. Going Up the Country – Canned Heat (Donna Drake)
  101. Down by the Water – Decemberists (Donna Drake)
  102. I’ve Got the World on a String – Frank Sinatra (Donna Drake)
  103. Seven Nation Army – White Stripes (Donna Drake)
  104. Where the Streets Have No Name – U2 (Donna Drake)
  105. America the Beautiful (Ray Turkin)
  106. The Red Tower – Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  107. River of Creation –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  108. Light from the East –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  109. Canyon Dreams –  Ah-Nee-Ma (Harald Johnsen)
  110. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (Chris Serjak)
  111. Scatterlings of Africa – Johnny Clegg (Chris Serjak)
  112. Cruel Crazy Beautiful World – Johnny Clegg (Chris Serjak and Marcia Fischer)
  113. Mighty River – Vusi Mahlasela (Chris Serjak)
  114. The Passenger – Iggy Pop (Marcia Fischer)
  115. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac (Marcia Fischer)
  116. Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen (Marcia Fischer)
  117. Ray of Light – Madonna (Marcia Fischer)
  118. Trouble Me – 10, 000 Maniacs (Marcia Fischer)
  119. Day Tripper – The Beatles  (Marcia Fischer)
  120. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (Marcia Fischer)
  121. Wave – Antonio Carlos Jobim (Marcia Fischer)
  122. If I Had A Boat by Lyle Lovett (Marcia Fischer)
  123. Time To Move On – Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  124. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  125. American Girl– Tom Petty (Kim Vandenberg)
  126. Ticks – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  127. Online – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  128. Mud on the Tires – Brad Paisley (Ena Flynn)
  129. PM’s Love Theme – Craig Armstrong (Betsy Anderson)
  130. A Wink and a Smile – Harry Connick, Jr. (Betsy Anderson)
  131. The Magnificent Seven – The City of Prague Philharmonic, Paul Bateman cond. (Betsy Anderson)
  132. The Aviators – Helen Jane Long (Betsy Anderson)
  133. We will Rock you – Queen (Lynette Tritel)
  134. Rodrigo Solo – Rodrigo Y Gabriela (Lynette Tritel)
  135. Summer album – George Winston (Lynette Tritel)
  136. The Sun in the Stream – Enya (Rick Beach)
  137. Free Ride – The Edgarwinter Group (Judy Lovelett)
  138. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake (Judy Lovelett)
  139. On The Road Again – Johnny Cash (Judy Lovelett)
  140. Running Down A Dream – Tom Petty (Judy Lovelett)
  141. Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root (Carol See)
  142. Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow (Carol See)
  143. Take on Me – Aha (Carol See)
  144. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper (Carol See)
  145. How You Live (turn up the music) – Point of Grace (Carol See)
  146. We Won’t Give Up – The Afters (Carol See)
  147. Carol of the Bells – Transiberian Orchestra (Carol See)
  148. I Found You – Louis Landon (Carol See)
  149. Family – Louis Landon (Carol See)
  150. One – Metallica (Kirk Forbes)
  151. Right Now – Van Halen (Kirk Forbes)
  152. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (Don Eden)
  153. Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits (John Murphy)
  154. Number 1-4 – Penguin Cafe Orchestra (John Murphy)
  155. Start Me Up – Rolling Stones (Rusty Pinckney)

Isn’t it an amazing list?!  Thanks again, everyone, for helping to make this trip even more special to me!

A little later in the week, I’ll post some answers to FAQ’s I’ve received about the trip so far so stay tuned!

Colleen

Me paddling during our recent trial run on Lake Powell (photo courtesy of my Mom…wouldn’t you agree she did an excellent job placing me off-centered and looking into the photograph as well as keeping the horizon low to emphasize a cool sky, even if there were a couple contrails…not to mention the awesome reflection…all while trying to keep herself from falling out of her kayak…HAHAHA! Ma, ya done good!)

Jan 032015
 

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy New Year, everyone!  Here’s hoping your 2015 has started off with a bang and ends up being your best year yet!

Almost every time I ask my Dad casually, “How’s it going?” he responds immediately with delight, “Living the dream!”  And I always nod back in agreement, “Yes, Dad, we sure are!” As we flip the calendar to another year and begin to reflect on all that was, I can’t help but smile about all that is: I’m living my dream.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping CD player, 2014 goes into the books as my most successful, most productive, and most thrilling year to date (I know, I know, I say this every year…but it’s true!!).  In my 7th year as a full time freelance photographer and writer, I increased focus on the places and subjects I love most, fulfilled aspirations for writing another book (and donating to a great cause), established new editorial connections, and thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with dear friends while meeting amazing new people in a multitude of speaking engagements and photography workshops.

I recognize, with certainty, that I would not be able to life this phenomenally fulfilling life if it were not for your continued support. Words can hardly express how grateful I am not just today, but rather every day, for your help, encouragement, friendship, and laughs along this journey.  Thank you!

In celebration of the close of 2014, I’d like to share my favorite 15 photographs from last year.  Here goes, in chronological order:

1. “Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (January 1, 2014)
As so many photographs I had previously seen of Mono Lake promised, my first visit to see the tufas here did not disappoint.  Given my ever-growing passion (obsession?) for bubbles, I was more drawn to the air bubbles rising from decaying algae along the shoreline than the iconic rock formations!

Ethereal Decay

“Ethereal Decay,” Mono Lake Tufa State Preserve, California (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

2. “Rock On!” near Page, Arizona (January 9, 2014)
Of all the rock formations in the desert southwest, I have an affinity for the cracked brown Dakota Group sandstone found around the Page area in Arizona and southern Utah.  Although I had made an image of these rocks near Studhorse Point with my large format 4×5 camera years ago, I continued to develop visualizations for new compositions in this special spot.  After multiple attempts, all the elements came together on a cold morning in January, resulting in this image I call “Rock On!”

“Rock On,” near Page, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

3. “Sailors Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 12, 2014)
After getting a delicious taste of winter in Acadia National Park as the park’s first winter Artist-in-Residence (my third residency) in February 2013, I could not wait to pack all the clothes in my closet and return to experience the snow and ice again.  During my fortunate second winter visit in February 2014, West Pond Cove quickly became one of my favorite places to photograph the fleeting ice at low tide at sunset.

Sailor's Delight at West Pond Cove, Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine

“Sailor’s Delight at West Pond Cove,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

4. “A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 28, 2014)
To celebrate the anniversary of my personal Independence Day (also known as my escape from Corporate America and the start of my 7th year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer), I snowshoed to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  Expecting epic winter views at the top, I packed my wide-angle and telephoto lenses, leaving my macro lens behind in an attempt to lighten my load for the 8-plus mile round-trip haul.  When I made it to the summit, I was shocked to see a Mecca of ice bubbles in the parking lot!  I needed my macro lens!  GAH!  Fortunately, I remembered to pack my extension tubes, which I used on my 24-105mm lens to create this composition.

A Frozen Universe

“A Frozen Universe,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

5. “A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (April 24, 2014)
Arizona’s spring wildflower bloom panned out to be a bit of a bust, but with what little rain we did get, the cactus enjoyed and put on a beautiful show.  Thanks to the recommendations from a couple of volunteers at Tohono Chul Park, I found this regal, night-blooming echinopsis cactus showing off in the early morning light.

A Single Triumph of Summer

“A Single Triumph of Summer,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

6. “Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (June 13, 2014)
After completing a presentation/book signing tour through Colorado this summer, my parents and I decided to stop at the Grand Sand Dunes National Park for our first visit.  Although we only had a short amount of time to enjoy the park, we learned enough about it to know we’ll be back soon.  I wanted to make an image that shared the expansive nature of this landscape, so I chose to create a panoramic image stitched from 11 vertical frames.

Sequential Erosion

“Sequential Erosion,” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

7. “The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (July 1, 2014)
My first (and very short) visit to Toroweap Overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon did not go exactly according to plan. In fact, it ended up costing me an additional $281 and four beers!  (Read about the entire adventure on my blog post, “My $281 (and Four Beer) Trip to Toroweap.”)  Following a nerve-wracking drive, I finally reached the rim with five minutes to spare before sundown and hastily composed this scene.  The trip – and scenery – was certainly unforgettable.

The Storm Within

“The Storm Within,” Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

8. “Where the Winds Blow,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (July 8, 2014)
In 2014, I had the great fortune of spending a month’s worth of time (over multiple trips) in my beloved state of Oregon.  Although the summer months draw hoards of visitors to the entire scenic coastline, gale force winds and threatening skies kept beachcombers away from this stretch of beach, leaving me to enjoy the windswept, ephemeral sand patterns in the late afternoon in joyous solitude.

Where the Wind Blows

“Where the Wind Blows,” Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

9. “Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (July 20, 2014)
En route home from my 22-day summer Pacific Northwest tour, I stopped at Sparks Lake to camp overnight.  Going into late afternoon, the thick clouds indicated sunset might be a grey one.  But for a few minutes after sunset, the sky surprisingly exploded into magical color.

Psychedelic Sunset Surprise

“Psychedelic Sunset Surprise,” Sparks Lake, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

10. “What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine (August 6, 2014)
During my August visit to Acadia National Park, I convinced my Mom to take a formal lesson with me from Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Frenchman Bay near Bar Harbor.  I slung my camera (secured tightly in a EWA waterproof bag) over my shoulder, in case a photogenic moment occurred during our lesson (and my Mom’s first time atop a board).  Thanks to a clearing storm, we paddled across the perfectly still and serene sea beneath rainbows and moody skies.  With much pride for my Mom’s infectious adventurous spirit, I couldn’t resist snapping this peaceful moment of her soaking in her experience.

What's SUP, Mom?

“What’s SUP, Mom?” Frenchman Bay, Maine

 

11. “The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
Thanks to a nomination by my good friend and amazing photographer, Floris van Breugel, I participated in the “Black and White Challenge” that ran wild on Facebook this year.  In preparing for the five-day project, I dug up various color photographs I thought might be more successful with a monochromatic treatment, including this one of a spider’s web at Schoodic Point.  To read how I created this image and why I chose to convert it to black and white, head to my recent my blog post, “Day 3:  The Black and White Challenge:  The Network.”

The Network

“The Network,” Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

12. “Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (August 8, 2014)
I could stand along the Acadian coastline for all of eternity and never tire of the awe and wonder this magical place offers.  Sometimes it’s stormy and fiesty; sometimes it’s quiet and tranquil.  But every time – including this past August – my soul sings in the reverie.

Schoodic Serenity

“Schoodic Serenity,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

13. “What Lies Ahead?” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 17, 2014)
Thankfully, no government shutdown (like in October 2013) prevented me from helping not one, but two, photography workshop groups enjoy and photograph the autumnal beauty of Acadia National Park this past October!  I created this image of the boardwalk on the Jesup Trail during the second trip (read more about it on my blog post, “Persistence Pays Off:  October 2014 CMS Photography’s Acadia Workshop“).

What Lies Ahead

“What Lies Ahead,” Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

14. “Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (October 25, 2014)
Immediately after my three-week stay in Acadia, I headed to southern Utah to connect with my good friends Guy Tal, Bruce Hucko, and Michael Gordon for a few days in the desert.  I also had the fortunate chance to meet and spend time with Charles Cramer and Dan Mitchell on the same outing.  In between the many laughs, we explored some of the magnificent canyons found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  And I’m pretty sure between the six of us, we photographed every inch of cracked mud along the way!  When I saw this collection on the side of a sandstone wall, I immediately thought it looked like the blocks from the video game “Tetris.”  After snapping a few frames, at Bruce’s urging, Bruce and I switched cameras and challenged each other to change something about the others composition.  He zoomed my arrangement out a little wider than I had originally composed – and I liked it!  So Bruce gets a little extra credit for helping me perfect my vision.

Mud Tetris

“Mud Tetris,” Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

15. “Winter Greetings” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (December 19, 2014)
I snuck in a few extra days along the Oregon coast before visiting with my in-laws in Montana for the holidays.  For four straight days, it relentlessly poured (as it’s prone to do during winter in Oregon).  I became so accustomed to the rain tap dancing on top of my camper that when all went suddenly silent in the early morning hours of day 3, I rushed out of bed and headed to the coast with my camera in hand to Cape Lookout.   The storm surge prevented me from walking along the beach, but I found a trail that hugged the coast that provided outstanding views of ephemeral waterfalls pouring into the stormy seas.

Winter Greetings

“Winter Greetings,” Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

 

For additional inspiration to kick off the year, head over to Jim Goldstein’s annual blog project where he’s posted his traditional and ever-growing list of other photographers’ own favorites and best from 2014.  This is my third year participating – see my collections from 2012 and 2013.

As the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above suggests, my wish for you is that every day you’re on this planet – in photography and in life – is the best day of your year.

Keep shooting!
~Colleen

 

Dec 022014
 
What Lies Ahead?

“What Lies Ahead?” Jesup Path, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

Last October, I kicked off an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to help me cover the cost of printing my guidebook, Photographing Acadia National Park:  The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How.  One of the perks I offered was a three-day photography workshop in Acadia National Park for up to four people.

Not long after the campaign went live, I received a note from a previous workshop student, Rebecca Wilks, who expressed interest in this Acadia workshop.  She had been a student on the October 2013 Arizona Highways Photography Workshop that started off as “Autumn IN Acadia” photography workshop and ended up being the “Autumn AROUND Acadia” photo workshop, thanks to the government shutdown.  The park closed a mere six days before the workshop started and lasted the entire duration.  I can’t express in words how difficult emotionally this was for me:  to have a group of twenty people eager to see and photograph the beauty of this coastal park – a place I’ve completely fallen in love with – and not be able to show them any of it.

With much assistance from my friends out there, though, we put together a wonderful new itinerary that showcased other beautiful places around Mount Desert Island like Little Long Pond, the Thuya Garden, Cooksey Overlook, and Lamoine State Park.  It was enough of a taste of Maine to convince Rebecca, as well as three other women from this first trip (Amy Minton, Gwen Williams, and Jen Bookman) to book a return trip to see and photograph Acadia National Park.  With much gratitude for their support of my book and Indiegogo campaign (why their names are in bold on page 215 under “Valued Individual Contributors” in my book), we immediately began planning their workshop for mid-October 2014.  I could not wait to show them Acadia and see what photographs they would create there given this second chance!

To kick off what ended up being a four-day workshop (three days simply wasn’t long enough!), we naturally began with the traditional stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and donuts.  We then headed directly into the park, specifically Duck Brook Bridge, where we snapped a commemorative “YES!  We’re finally IN the park!” photograph.

“We’re back! Take THAT, U.S. government!”  From L to R: Gwen, Jen, Rebecca, and Amy on Duck Brook Bridge

Over the four days, these hearty women sampled classic and off-the-beaten path spots within the park.  As we endured 50+ mph winds atop Cadillac Mountain, fog so heavy we couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us at Otter Cliff, and a glorious colorful sky over Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, I encouraged (as I do on all my workshops) mindful observations, connecting with what each person saw and responded to emotionally, refining the technical execution of personal visions, and fully exploring a scene.

We even had a tremendous amount of FUN together, as you might be able to tell from our group photo time lapse from the Otter Cliff parking lot (From left to right:  Gwen, Rebecca, Colleen, Amy, and Jen):

Their persistence paid off in the form of a fabulous experience, camaraderie, and a new portfolio of meaningful photographs at the height of fall color in Acadia.  After the trip, as I looked through some of their images, I couldn’t help but recall a quote from Maya Angelou to describe their journey: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Amy and Rebecca have graciously offered to write a Guest Blog about their experience and to share a sample of their photos from the trip, which will follow in the next two days.  I hope you enjoy, as I so very much have, seeing Acadia through their eyes (and if you do, please leave them a comment on their post!).

Keep shooting!
~Colleen