travel

Blood, sweat and tears

 National Air + Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Annex

National Air + Space Museum, Udvar-Hazy Annex

I recently took a short trip to Washington, D.C. to kick off the summer. Our trip was a real contrast to last summer where I basically hid away in the mountains in a cabin and slept off what felt like a very long year...or few years. I was coming out of some mild depression from – well...life I guess – and hiding away in the woods was really just what I needed at the time.

This year, feeling a little more adventurous and energetic, we took flight and headed to D.C. for some culture and stimulation.  Since I was traveling with boys, there were lots of adventures planned – airplanes, sporting events, spies, and news were all on our agenda. I was happy to go along for the ride, even though the art galleries are more my jam. But on trips like this, you never know where inspiration will lurk or what new things you'll see.

As we walked through the museums and giant structures with massive planes suspended precariously from the ceilings, my mind wandered - not to the history or the information behind each one - but to their stories. I wonder: how many times did those inventors and scientists have to fail to reach their goals? How many times did they screw up or go back to the drawing board?  How many times were they SURE of something only to be proven wrong, yet again?  The Wright Brothers failed miserably before achieving their goals. But they kept going. They had bigger plans, and an even bigger belief in themselves and their ideas.

The things that strikes me most is that they didn't give up. Each person had a belief that they worked tirelessly for. They paired themselves with like-minded friends and collegues to help them achieve their wildest dreams...all while failing over and over again.

Failure was eminent in those walls of the Air and Space museums, but that's not at all what we see. What we see is an evolution of flight, a tireless display of dedication and the grit to never ever ever give up - no matter how crazy your thoughts may seem. What we see is the success, the achievements, the trophy...the end result. What you don't see is failure. You don't see frustration. You don't see the tears and long hours it takes to get a rocket ship off the ground and into orbit. 

Sometimes, life can feel like that sometimes - like a massive plane grounded by gravity and the weight of it's heavy armor to protect it from the elements. And then other times, life can feel weightless and free like you are floating gently through space, unencumbered by the gravity of it all. Just remember on the days it feels heavy that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, failure, and a whole lot of fire power to launch yourself into the future.

You just have to keep trying. It's as simple and complicated as that.

 

Waiting to bloom

LWP_0232.jpg

I have lived in fear and self-doubt for most of my life. My story is a wild ride of elements that sound like I should have packed it all in years ago. On paper, most people would have given up. But somehow, here I am, still standing.

Aside from the self doubt, there has always been a gentle undercurrent of hope in my heart. A spot that says "Keep going...you have got this." It's like a gentle hand, softly guiding me through the mud and mire of life. The hand that knows that I have it in me to bloom through it all like a delicate and brightly colored lotus flower rising from the mud.

It's the voice that says - do not give up. It's the voice that says - give it one more try. It's the voice that says - you can do this.

So I keep pushing. I keep persevering. Through the mud and the mire and the muck. Because under it all is a big, bright flowery dream that is just waiting to bloom.

Below my feet

  Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

I have always been magnetically pulled to the forest and the mountains, drawn in to their mystery, their intrigue, their strength, their magic.

I have forever been comforted by the trees, standing tall and holding out their arms, protecting me from the harsh realities of life.

As I walk down the forest paths, I hear the familiar sound of my feet hitting the ground, crunching leaves, kicking rocks and snapping twigs. It reminds me once again to be present and grounded – heart beating, lungs breathing, moving forward.

The further I get from myself, the more I need the forest to hold me up. I need it to ground me. But mostly, I need it to remind me that I am equally as overwhelmingly important and humbly insignificant as each tree, each leaf, each twig on the ground below my feet.

The summit

 Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

I just got back from a three week escape to the mountains of North Carolina, just off of Lake Toxaway in a cabin in the woods. While that may sound like a luxury to many people, I think it was completely necessary for me at this point in my life/career/year. I had reached the pinnacle of burnout. I was tired, cynical, doubtful and hurt. Being a photographer isn't for the faint of heart - especially in a market like Charleston where you can't swing a cat without hitting someone who carries the moniker around with them. It was time for a break. 

While I did break a little, I also did a lot of work. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but I did a lot of work on me...goals, dreams, values, and overall wellness. I meditated. I wrote. I thought. I slept...boy, did I sleep. And I challenged myself...physically, mentally and spiritually.

One of the most memorable moments on the trip for me was this hike to Raven Rock Falls on theToxaway River Trail. It's a special hike that takes you back and forth over the river to ultimately end up at this spectacular site - a towering 60+ foot waterfall that cascades and ends in a frigid pool by your feet. It wasn't my first time hiking this trail, but let's just say after 20 years, it felt like my first time hiking anything.

I expected to be challenged physically, but what I wasn't expecting is the emotional ways in which the hike would challenge me. I struggled, always last in line in the group. My footing was unsure. My body was cumbersome. I was sweaty and hot and hungry and nothing felt right. And to be honest, I felt downright mad about it all. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to stop...to just sit there, like a stubborn mule on the rock, refusing to move forward. I felt as frustrated as a little child in my skin.  But the group pushed me to forge ahead to the final summit.

During the second half of our hike, I noticed something shifting. With each step forward, I saw us working together as a group. We looked out for each other. We took our time. We shared stories and laughter and our water rations. Suddenly, my perspective changed. Pushing through the hard parts encouraged me more. I wasn't thinking of how miserable I felt. I was thinking of how much fun I was having, how beautiful this was, how healthy and strong I felt. I stopped worrying and started just living in the reality of the moment. I stopped fighting the currents and let it take me where it was going to.

It is said that nothing good comes easefully. And I have to agree with that. Life's greatest moments are challenging - sometimes even when you are on vacation. While I took some time off this month from work, I was still working. My "work" became checking in with myself. My hike was a reminder that while there may be challenges and slippery rocks underfoot, you just have to keep on going. You may fall. You will stumble. You will sweat and maybe even cry a little. But you have to keep going. It doesn't have to be pretty. But you do have to finish what you started. 

So as I keep climbing through life - sweating on the path, slipping on the rocks - I will remember it's not always easy. But it is always worth it in the end.

 

Into the woods

forest

I grew up with a forest for my back yard. Not a national park, but woods so deep they never seemed to end. I would get lost back there for hours, wandering and wondering about things that only I knew about in my own head.  I would lose time – examining leaves, tree bark and chasing fireflies as I quickly forgot about time and how I measured up in a world that seemed to be so limiting for me...even then.  I would stay out there until I was called back for dinner or bedtime, weary and drunk from the air that seemed so fresh and pure.  So it's no wonder that even today,  I still feel most at home in the woods.

There is a sense of embracing that envelopes my soul when I stand amongst the trees still, hearing the crunching and snapping of the twigs and leaves below my feet. I don't worry about who I will encounter or what I may come across. I feel supported - as though there is nothing to worry about but me, the breath in my lungs and the muscles in my body. I feel loved and protected. I feel safe....and understood.

I don't live near much of a forest these days. So every chance I get to be amongst the comfort of the tall trees and the quiet rustle of the ground covering is like some form of unpaid therapy to me. We travel far and wide so I can breathe in the earthiness of forest floors as I my every step seems to kick up another smell as I leave behind another worry, another issue, another problem. And nobody seems to mind as I stop to catch my breath as we climb higher and further away from every little thing that was tying me up in the first place.

And I just fit right back in - comfortably into this world without boundaries or borders to tell me what I have done wrong or right. I fit right back into to home.

 

Love

 Love. From the graffiti wall in Austin, TX.

Love. From the graffiti wall in Austin, TX.

I love lots of things. I love colorful, bold, unashamed, standout love. I love dogs and kittens and horses. I love babies and old people and everyone in between. I love you! I love my friends and my family. I love the warm sunshine and the soothing, cool rain. I love the way the world smells in the early summer in Charleston. I love berries and pineapple and home grown tomatoes. I love my home and my pets and travel. I love my son.

There are also things I don't love. I don't love heat or humidity. I don't love raw onions or melons or cucumbers much. I don't love spiders of mosquitoes or cockroaches. I don't love the little gum balls that fall out of the trees in my yard because they are spiny and hurt to step on with bare feet.

But I recognize that each of the things in the world have a place. I recognize that there is a bigger picture other than what I like or want. I know mosquitoes help feed bats. I know those spiny gumballs grow big trees that supply oxygen to the world. I know that some people actually LIKE cucumbers and melon - and that's okay with me!

I don't think about the things I don't love much. But I do spend a lot of time thinking about the things I do love. And under no circumstances do the things that I don't love in this world make me want to hurt someone or something. There has never been an occasion I wanted to kill someone because they thought differently than me. Maybe I have been frustrated by our conversation or differences. But I never want to cause harm or pain. We have enough of that.

I don't know what the answers are right now. But I can't help but think that focusing more on what we love and have in common would be a good place to start.

So let's start here. With Love. Big, colorful, standout, proud love.

The edge of things

pluff mud

For those of you unfamiliar with pluff mud, it's been described as "the slippery, shiny brown-gray, sucky mud, with a distinctive smell like none other, of the tidal flats and spartina grass salt marshes.  Unpredictable in its sucking power, when you step in it, you could sink up to your ankles, or up to your knees, or even to your hips.  And if you sink up to your knees, you can pull yourself out, but do not plan on retrieving necessarily your shoes unless they are tightly laced."

Pluff mud is designed to trap you...suck you in and not let go. It's what borders us from the solid ground we are confident from which we safely stand and the fluid waters that will whisk us swiftly away from everything safe and secure and known. If you think too much, you'll get stuck there. You will be left trapped in the in-between, struggling to free yourself from a losing battle of man vs. mud.

Like any difficult edge, pluff mud is tricky to navigate. And it's always deeper and wider than you expect it to be. The struggle seems deeper when you have sunk hip deep in the sticky, silty, sucky mess. But you can get out. There is a way. You just have to make a choice. You can crawl back to the safe, dry land or float out to the unpredictable currents of water that can whisk you away to new places...parts undiscovered by your soul.

The choice is yours.

Country Roads

  Steamboat Landing Road, Edisto Island

Steamboat Landing Road, Edisto Island

"Country roads, take me home to the place I belong..."
John Denver

Every once in a while, I grab a camera and set out for a spot I have never seen before. It seems to get harder and harder, but I keep finding hidden (to me) treasures wherever the roads lead me. Exploring has become sort of a personal project in my life as well as in my work. I seek to find things I haven't seen before. Even if they are familiar to the rest world, it's still all new to me. ANd isn't that the point of discovering and learning new things?

Somehow stumbling on a country road along these explorations makes me feel like I have found the ultimate treasure. That dirt road and the light streaming through the dripping Spanish moss tells me I have found what I was seeking all along. These country roads bring me where I always wanted to be in my heart.

They bring me home.

 

It's in the details.

bouquets

If you ask me, I think it's the details that make any photoshoot where I am telling a story complete. But this is particularly true at a wedding. Those small shots. The close ups. The tiny sidebars that tell fill in the details on the bigger picture. I always felt like they were the most interesting part. They are adjectives in the stories and the subtle punctuation at the end of each sentence you tell as you recount the day.

Other parts come into play as well...candid shots and final edits really make it complete and set a tone. But those details make you remember what the day felt like, and most importantly - how you felt in it.

I approach much of my photography like this: How will I tell this story in a photograph? Often, the job is to capture the story in one shot, one portrait. So then, a detail shot just isn't the thing. But I still try to make sure - no matter what to story I am telling - that you come away with a feeling.

Maybe then, the details are in the feeling you get from a photograph. The feeling is the theme, the adjectives and the punctuation. The feelings are hidden in the cake toppers and the colors, the little hands holding the rings and the crazy groomsmen busting a move on the dance floor. The details are hidden in the smiles and the eyes of everyone I photograph...just waiting to tell their own story.

 

Welcome home.

vineyard

I think I found heaven on earth on my little excursion to California last month. Rolling hills. Mountains. Creeks. Forests. Farms. The ocean. And wine(!). Our trip to California was lovely in so many different ways - the climate, the people, the geography, the food, the culture - even the work I was there for that didn't totally feel like work at all. I will forever try to be getting back to this very spot for the rest of my days - lingering in farm life, sipping wines, and watching sunsets paint the vineyards magical colors.

Oh California - I miss you so. Thanks for welcoming me home.

Summer

sandy feet

Summer is about sandy feet and naps on the beach. It's about long walks in the woods and long nights by the campfire. It's about sun and salt and sea air. Or fishing poles and lakeside docks. It's about kicking off those shoes and doing something different, breathing into the extra space of longer days and even longer nights.

It's summer. Live in it. Love in it. Just enjoy every bit of it.

Luck

forest clover

I don't believe much in luck. Luck leaves your fate to chance and silly superstitions laden in black cats, 4 leaf clovers and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. You are not in control of luck. It's in control of you. It chooses when and where and undermines your confidence and belief in yourself. If you believe in luck, you believe in giving your power away.

I do believe in gratitude and hard work. I know that the power of confidence and simply believing in yourself can take you to places you could never dream of and to places luck only dreams of.

You are in control of your very own destiny. You have the choice to put yourself where you choose by telling yourself a story luck doesn't understand. You have the power to make your life happen the way you see it - without the help of some random chance that a patch of clover can deliver.

I believe in the combined power of hard work and dreams. Because that is where our greatness lies.

That is where our power is. Hiding underneath it all, blocked by luck.

Giants

muir woods

It is humbling...the presence of these trees. To stand in the glory of a giant Redwood tree is to be in awe of life as I know it. Their ripened age, their sheer size, the history they have seen.... It's an incredible experience. Once that I knew on my recent trip to the West Coast I must experience again in my lifetime.

Deep in the forest there is such a silence. Yet through the quiet stillness, you feel the energy. Water runs, breezes blow, birds busily build their nests, and creatures crawl swiftly across the forest floor in search of their next meal or their next home.

And yet, there they are - these grand trees. These Redwoods. The giants of our living world. There they stand - still and stoic amongst the bustle of life all around then. There they stand, supporting us all in their quiet stillness while they provide, shelter, nourish, and nurture - never asking for a thing in return.

To me, this is where I feel alive and protected. This is where I feel safe and still. These giants can't fail me. They can only protect. I know this in my heart.

And as I walk out of the forest, I am sure I can hear their gentle voices through the breezy afternoon whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

The one shot

vineyard wedding

Last weekend, I got to shoot the most amazing wedding I have ever photographed - on an estate in the middle of vineyards in Sonoma. On every level, this day was perfect - all the details and elements just seemed to fall effortlessly into place that day (thanks to MANY busy people!) All of the delicate details of this event were perfect in every way.

For me, this shot is the defining photo of Nick and Milena's special day. The whole day seems to stand still right here in this moment. It represents all of the their beauty as individuals, all of the loveliness of their special day, and all the inspiration on their journey as a new couple and family.

For me it's this shot...the one shot. 

I guess I can give them a few more, though.

Congratulations, Nick and Meeps! I am so honored and grateful to have been a part of this.

Forest and trees.

  Taken for a client at Lake Greenwood, SC.

Taken for a client at Lake Greenwood, SC.

Sometimes I feel like I can finally see the clearing in the forest. The trees spread out, and the edge of the heavy, dark woods starts to disappear.

Then, like a blindfolded hostage, I am led back to the woods - to a new place - and left standing there trying to find my way back to the edge once again.

 

He is back.

footsie

He's back.

Gone for 5 days and what felt like an eternity on a school trip to Washington D.C., my little man is back - safe and sound. Sleeping well and just as ornery and surly as he ever was.

I wouldn't trade it for the world. The sass. The drama. The tween attitude. I really wouldn't. I am so happy for all of it here at home...sleeping soundly in bed with heavy covers over him and a battle of the wills from the moment he wakes up these days. He is safe. And he is home. And he is with me. And I couldn't ask for more.

You see, just before this trip, Graham lost a classmate unexpectedly. She was only 13 years old - far too soon to be gone. Far too soon for her parents to bury her in the ground already. We are all mourning this loss and her absence. It is a tragedy I cannot even imagine...a parent's worst nightmare altogether.

So when I say I don't mind the sass and the drama - I am not kidding. I am thinking of Lucy - her parents and her family and her classmates. I don't care about laundry or stinky feet or someone climbing in bed with me at 3 AM because they don't feel good. I don't care about the hardships that come with tweens or the struggles ahead with teenage drinking or bad grades or whatever our story may be. I don't really care about anything but this foot in my bed - safe, happy, loved, here.

So I am glad. He is back. He is here with us today. And that is something I will never take for granted.

 

#knowyourfarmer

 Mr. Lettuce - getting his bath.

Mr. Lettuce - getting his bath.

Today, I got to spend a little time on my friend Jim's farm. We are working on a project together and it makes my soul sing for many reasons that I won't go into here. I have always loved a bit of gardening. But the fantasy of having my very own small scale farm is something I have dreamed about ever since I transplanted various seedlings in the forest behind my house growing up.

I have spent some time with Jim before. Documenting him, his plantings, and parts of his life in his new venture. But, today I really got it. I mean - it clicked on a level I can't express in words. The care he has for his plants and the love he has for this craft is no joke. I can assure you that every single seed is planted with care. Every crop harvested is done meticulously by hand. Every plant is processed with love. There are no pesticides. There are no chemicals in site. Just a few guinea fowl and a lot of mushroom compost and mulch.

To give you and example, each of the farm shares he has are harvested by hand. They are then INDIVIDUALLY bathed in a gentle water bath and precariously placed in coolers until delivery - which is typically the next day. This is not done for just the lettuce, but the bok choy, the carrots, the early garlic, the herbs, the potatoes, the kale, the onions, the spinach and the rest of the share. Each share is packaged immaculately and delivered TO YOUR DOORSTEP each week.

Not only is it remarkable that they grow delicious, fresh, wholesome produce from seed and deliver it to your doorstep each week. But the process of harvesting and packaging each item is done with such care you actually can tell the difference. I promise - you can taste it in the butter lettuce and the Russian River Kale. Each bite is a unique experience that takes you beyond the refrigerated aisles of your local Publix.

So next time you reach for that bag of packaged spinach - think again. Where did it come from? Who has handled it? Was it loved? Was it treated with gentle care? Who grew it? Do they really love this food? Do they actually care about what is going into this?

Get to know that farmer. I promise, it'll be the best thing you ever did.