TEN. AMAZING. YEARS.
My journey into photography began in the late 90's during my final years of high school. I spent several years trying to learn the craft by studying, experimenting & shooting as much as I could. It was one of the most exciting times in my life in a way; the anticipation of what was to come was exhilarating. I took so many photos on my old Minolta film camera, which I had purchased at a used camera shop close to where I lived. I spent every dollar I made for months to buy it, even though it was already 18 years old the day I purchased it. But to me it was shiny, new and full of possibilities. Developing each roll of film was the highlight of my week. I had to save every dollar to pay for the development and couldn't wait the 5-7 days it took to get the rolls back so I could see what I had captured. I'll never forget the little notebook I wrote each exposure in ("photo of large tree, 1/200 @ f/5") so I could teach myself what I did right and learn from what I did wrong. Although I'd never give up my digital cameras now, I really miss those days of film.
People often ask what caused me to become so interested in photography. The answer is simple: I grew up with it as a part of my life. Many family members & friends of my parents were avid photographers. Manual-shooting SLR's were the only way I knew photography existed from a technical standpoint. We even had a family friend who traveled the world and would visit once a year with his box of slides from what he had seen. We would all gather in our neighbor's living room at night, staring at the screen as he would narrate for hours about what each slide was. I can still remember the dancing dust particles in the stream of light, floating in the air as we listened to the stories behind each photo. The smell of the projector and the clicking/turning sound with each slide are small details that I will never forget. That particular family friend was a free spirit with a great love of life and people, and his photos took me on a journey of an outside world I was yet to see.
In November of 2004, I was hired for my first paid photo shoot. I had a small makeshift studio in a spare bedroom with one backdrop, two lights, and a barstool from my kitchen. The client was a senior girl, referred by a coworker. I took five different poses which completed my first photo shoot as a "real photographer" and fell in love with the process. Although I had spent the previous few years working both as an assistant & as a staff photographer for a high volume portrait studio, nothing compared to that first moment as my own boss. With a real paying client to boot! I still remember her name, her face, and what her mother ordered from their session.
Now, ten years later, as I begin my second decade in business, I tried to sum up this time frame in just a few words. Certainly a lot of emotions rush to the surface, but the strongest word that came to mind was:
There are so many people to thank I could never put it all into words. To all of you....
My clients who supported me, you mean the world to me
My husband, Bill, who is my silent partner, my other half, my tree roots
This community, who has always supported & welcomed my business with open arms
My Rotary club, volunteer organizations and networking groups who are all truly family to me
Our family who have always been my biggest fans from day one
My childhood, lifelong friends whom I've always considered family
People I've met halfway around the world in strange, foreign places that have become lifelong best friends
All of the past and present employees I've had along the way, who were much needed water to my growing business
The many interns over the years that each have left their impact in fresh and positive ways
Mentors of the past, present and future - you have helped me along the way in my business, life & my artistic vision
My fellow photographers, you all know who you are... you've become my sounding board for advice and support
People I've admired, the ones that inspire me to be a better artist
Facebook friends & followers, who like and share my work - your vote of confidence means a lot
My dog, who is there for me at the end of each and every day making me smile
My spiritual guides
To everyone who has touched my life these past ten years, I say:
The second word that comes to mind when I think of these last ten years is:
I can't say I ever had a moment when I wanted to quit. That thought just does not cross my mind at all, especially in business. I recently was asked by a questionnaire "What is your key to success?" I have to say its simple... just do not ever let the thought of giving up overtake you. If you are focused at all times on your goals, it is truly impossible to fail.
If I could hope for anything in the next ten years it would be to continue the great journey that's already begun.
If the next decade is as awesome as 2004 to today... I'll be a gloriously happy woman. Because although I'm currently just the young age of 32, I've learned the key to life. It is simply ... happiness.
This last decade has taken me to some amazing places, and not just in the physical sense. I've met incredible people, made fabulous life long friends, visited exhilarating places around the world - all thanks to SkySight. The phrase "work hard, play hard" has truly become my motto without even realizing it.
Each step along the way has led to the next, much like scattered breadcrumbs lining a trail. Now I look back on that pathway and smile at those little crumbs, because each and every one has had an impact on where I am today. I actually find myself surprisingly emotional about the journey. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if any one of those crumbs did not fall, or had fallen differently, how the outcome may have changed.
As each year begins and I look back on the past, I always find myself reflecting on my photography and how I've changed. Each January, for ten years now, I enter the cycle of "slow season" and spend time looking at my favorite photos accomplished during that previous year. I sometimes count the number of images, or add up the total number of clients to see how things played out. So I thought I would look at some rough numbers over the course of the last ten. It would certainly be a long process to investigate the exact numbers but I've gotten pretty close with my estimates.
400+ weddings shot
4000+ photo shoots
2 million + clicks of the shutter
Wow, those numbers still amaze me every single time. It feels like yesterday that Bill and I sat down with a piece of scratch paper writing down ideas for what to call the business, and coming up with SkySight ("a view from above" we thought; it's abstract but somehow it fits just right!) However...the real question is, how many smiles have I had the pleasure of seeing? How many happy tears have been shed? Those of course can't be answered in numbers; nor do they need to be. Because all that matters is how I feel in my heart at the end of the day, still finding myself lost in the excitement of what I got to do that day. Sometimes I pinch myself thinking about the fact that people pay me to document the happiest moments of their lives... a new baby, a marriage, a milestone for their family, etc. And I realize I have one of the best jobs in the world. Are there difficult days? You bet. Lots of them, but they never out weigh the positive impact that photography has had on my life.
Of course when reflecting on happy times, there's always the remembrance of the sad times and those lost. I can't tell you how many difficult phone calls I've had to take that started out with the person on the other line explaining that someone had passed, and they needed some photographs turned around from their session with me that included that special person. It's never an easy conversation to have, but it always ends with a sense of relief... that they did take the time to do that photo session to capture a relationship, a moment, a beautiful image of the people they loved most in life. Isn't that what photography is all about? It's a beautiful thing that will never fade away, no matter how many more technological platforms are invented. Photography will always be appreciated and loved by all of us.
I wish the gift of photography to all of you and encourage everyone to embrace it in every way that you can. Capture your life's memories, big and small. Whether you have an SLR camera or just a phone camera, click away. Embrace what an amazing process it is to freeze a moment in time forever.
Remember to stop and smell the roses too, and put the camera away. Take a "mental postcard" once in a while. Nothing can compare to holding onto a special moment or memory that only exists in your mind .... A special conversation. Holding the hand of a loved one. Watching your daughter dance on stage. Making pasta with your grandmother. Playing fetch with your dog in a field. Listening to a friend play music around a campfire. Watching as the sun slowly sets over a mountain range.
Tiny moments are the most beautiful in life. Hold on to them with all your might.
So, in closing, I have one word left that comes to mind at the end of this long decade. That word is typically introduced by raising a glass ... to the last ten years, the next ten, and the excitement of not knowing what's to come. CHEERS.
PS: I've got to send a big thanks to my friend Stacey Ross for doing this fantastic photo shoot of me! It was a special treat to get to be on the other side of the camera for once, experiencing the fun! Thanks Stacey!!! And thanks to my amazing makeup artist Jacki, for how much you have beautified me! You're both such amazing women, thank you for helping me with my "celebration photo shoot"!