rideTZ | day ten

the final day of RIDETZ 2012  -- a short five hour day that brought us to the mkoma bay beach in pangani (pangani was where slaves and ivory were shipped out on the swahili dhows to the wider world). the riders biked about 400 miles, from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean, in 10 days.  pretty damn awesome!

there were plenty of dogs roaming around TZ.  seeing a dog on a leash was very rare.

on a few occasions, we put the landcruiser top up and i shot through the roof.  and i had plenty of bruises to show for it, as i bounced around while driving on the bumpy dirt roads.

traveling through paved streets in the city.

and more chapatis, soup and tea.

this guy followed the bikers for the longest time, proudly cheering as he rode past all the village spectators.

we saw quite a few children riding bikes, but never on a child-sized bike.  most of the time, they could barely reach the pedals.

barry with the crew, who worked so hard setting up our camp day after day.

making it up the last big hill before riding into the resort at mkoma bay beach.

and finally...THEY MADE IT!!

a dhow sailing by, viewed from the patio of mkomo bay tented lodge, where we stayed.

i can never thank the foundation for tomorrow enough, for giving me this most-amazing and life-changing opportunity!!! so can't wait until RIDETZ 2014. one way or another, i will be there!


rideTZ | day nine

day nine took us to the village of manyoni. we passed through lots of villages this day -- some we stopped at, others we just drove though. and to be completely honest, i was pretty ready to be done taking photos of bicycles by this point. but i kept shooting bicycles. :-) nothing like seeing an intanet' hotel as we depart mashewa.

another village that welcomed us to eat chapatis and drink tea. i don't really even like tea, but their tea was awesome. and things that are served hot in TZ are served really hot, which i love.  i have a thing about my hot stuff being really hot and my cold stuff really cold.

the women in the building thought i was pretty darn funny. the chapatis were actually cooked in that side little room.

and off we went.

AEIOU. at our lunch stop.

i loved all the footprints all over the front of this house.

you don't see all that many brick homes in TZ.

my driver, hamisi, waiting with some of the local villagers.

looking down from a bridge. washing clothes.

right after this shot, these two boys ran and hid.

crossing the bridge, where i took the two photos above from.

there were so many children around our campsite. i loved how they welcomed the riders.

mike played with the kids for hours. they loved him.

and kaitlin and marc taught the kids the macarena.

it was such a joy watching the kids have fun and play together -- kids just being kids!

they loved the beach balls we gave them.

and as we headed into camp, they crawled up as close as they were allowed and just watched and waited.

rideTZ | day eight

day eight was an exciting, bit scary, interesting, picturesque, educational, fun-filled day -- taking us from mkuzu creek to mashewa via some uphill and lots of downhill riding. WARNING:  if you are an animal lover or your children are around your computer, you might not want to proceed past the goat photo below.

leaving mkuzu creek resort, it was cloudy and drizzling, but so beautiful.

a break at one of the villages.

the boys were so interested in the changing of the flat tire.

i learned that a hotel in TZ is not the same as a hotel in america.

so often, the children carry the babies.

barry celebrated his 50th.

i think i'm going to hang this in the entryway of my house.


we had lunch at this village. and this group of kids stayed very shy and stand offish the entire time.

this amazing group of children sang to us, for quite a while. i took some video, which i'm hoping to share later (still need to download it off another drive). i can't even begin to describe how beautiful their voices were.

playing with one of the balls we left them, as we departed.

poor simon!! a cow, crossing the path, ran right into simon, knocking him hard to the ground. thankfully, he wasn't seriously injured, but he did hit his head and the doc watched him closely.  he ended up riding in the truck with me for the following two days.

heading into mashewa.

barry's first surprise.

we headed into the nearby village of mashewa to shop for food, to accompany our main dish.

marc stopped to play football with the kids for a bit.

maji is water, which this village obtained in 1972.

in TZ, they burn their garbage pretty much anywhere.


three of the riders decided to get their heads shaved.


THE goat!

the goat, which ended up being our dinner. he was killed by the village elder / councilman (isa).  it was super quick and humane -- as humane as killing a goat can get.

and last but not least, barry's 50h birthday celebration. he had no idea this was coming and it was such a wonderful surprise.  once i knew the cake was coming, i told the group that i wanted to see if i could take some photos in the dark with some of their head lamps on. :-) i can't imagine a more incredible way to celebrate a 50th birthday!


rideTZ | day seven

day seven began with a visit to an incredible orphanage, irente children's home, which is run by simon's grandmother, sister enna (simon is the 16-year-old TFFT student, who was selected to ride this year).  irente children's home is not only a most-beautiful, loving orphanage, it also manages an incredible training program for young women, who are interested in becoming matrons of orphanages. the orphanage was followed by a visit to simon's grandfather's house. simon's grandfather was a tanzania hospital administrator for over 30 years.  he's now almost blind and sadly, battling cancer. before we left, simon's grandfather gave such a moving speech about the gift that TFFT has given to his grandson.

the riders experienced lots of ups and downs this day, as they cycled through the heart of the mountain -- ending the day's ride at mkuzu creek resort.

sister enna not only provided us with a tour of her orphanage, she also served us a delicious mid-morning snack (samosas, popcorn, banana, water and tea).

we then proceeded on to visit simon's grandfather's house, where we had lunch.

the guys preparing our lunch.

most of the rest of the ride was beautiful, lush and green -- down the mountain.


our campsite at mkuzu creek resort.



rideTZ | day six

day six entailed a 30-mile bike ride, a 3-mile hike up the usambara mountains, absolutely amazing views and most of the riders beginning to feel better.

so many majestic views along the way.


along with poor eugene getting attacked by a bush.

navigating through the herd of cows.

passing children on their way to school.

lunch break. barry was still really sick this day.

most were already exhausted, pre-hike.

after lunch, the hike began. what started out as a standard hike, ended up being the absolute toughest hike i've ever done.  probably one of the toughest things i've ever done...period!! we hiked / climbed for 4-1/2 hours -- 3200 feet up hill.

with about 1-1/2 hours still to go, we stopped at this man's house on the mountainside. he carried ake's backpack and led us up the steepest part of the mountain.

his wife and children.

this was a welcome message painted on the rocks, as we neared the end of the hike.

the views were beyond words. i wish i could have taken more photographs but the climb was so challenging, i could barely breathe, let alone breathe and take photographs.

the first thing we saw at the top of the mountain.

our campsite, at irente view point.

which as a non-rider, meant a room, a bed, a toilet and a hot shower for me :-)

and a group photo at irente view point.

two of the most wonderful, kindest people i have ever met -- kaitlin and meghann, of TFFT.



rideTZ | day five

day five took us to camp 3 along the pangani river.  day five also was the start of almost everyone in camp getting sick -- fever, chills and diarrhea.  i think there were only three who didn't get the bug.  thankfully i was one of the three.  it blew my mind how diligent the riders were --  not a single person got into the truck when sick. one of the villages we stopped at for a break.

another village break point.

they were making chapatis out of this hut and served us a banana wrapped in a chapati -- so yummy!


flat tire repair, which happened many times each day.

gretchen and mike posing on a termite mound during our lunch break.

at this point, the cars had to separate from the riders. i was told that i could walk to the campsite faster than the cars could get there. since i had done so much sitting in the car over the prior four days, i was excited to walk for a bit.  little did i realize...the walk would be SIX long and hot miles.

this was after the first three miles, at which point i had a blister on my heel the size of a quarter.

ake crossing another not-so-steady bridge.

most others decided it would be best to walk across.

these two (brother and sister) walked with ake and i the last three miles.  they were walking home from school and still had farther to walk, after we arrived at our campsite.

and finally back at camp! kaitlin led a session of yoga, for anyone that wanted to join her.


rideTZ | day four

day four took us to mporomoko. along the way, the riders experienced LOTS of dirt and sand, huge dust storms and some awesome clouds. it was a short-ish ride, arriving into camp a few hours earlier than the previous days. but it was also a day that seemed to go on forever. this was leaving camp. i learned that it's very normal in TZ culture for men to hold hands. and of course, i loved the mcdonald's jacket too.

the dirty legs of denise (my tent mate), who also happens to be 57 and kicked some serious ass on the ride.

lots of stretching.

and a little dancing. loved our guides so much.

the dreaded sand. sometimes the sand was just too tough to bike through and some of the riders would have to walk.

one of my favorite bike images form the trip.

one of my favorite people images. they stayed and watched us for a bit and then moved on.

later, we caught back up with them. the wind was crazy.

making wind shields with one another -- or something like that.

decided to try it with five people.

which led to this spill.

followed by this one.

waiting for the cows to pass.

locals' shoes (made from old tires) along side one of the guide's tennis shoe.  wish i had brought a couple pairs of the tire shoes home.  next time. ;-)

ETA:  a bit about shooting in tanzania.  obviously, whenever we stopped (break or lunch spot), i was able to shoot like i always shoot. when the riders were riding, shooting was a bit more challenging. sometimes, we would drive ahead. find a place that looked interesting to shoot the riders and then we would sit and wait for the riders to ride by.  much of the time, i was hanging out of the truck window, shooting while we were driving down these crazy, bumpy dirt roads. and a couple times, towards the end of the ride, we raised the roof and i was able to shoot from rooftop.

rideTZ | day three

after 21 hours of flying, i'm back in america -- safe and sound -- and so much to think about and process. but only a few days to adjust and then i'm off to CA, NV and MN, for the month of july.  anyways, on to day three... day three took us from nyumba ya mungu to munngano, following the pangani river valley, along the same trails of early exploration and slaves alike. each morning, wake up was 5:30 AM, with a planned departure time of 7 AM. but we had a "lie-in" this day until 6:30 AM (can't remember why).  and this was the magnificent view right outside our campsite shortly before our departure.

a rocky, yet beautiful terrain, along the water welcomed the riders for a short bit. thankfully, no one fell on the rocks.

one of the break points was at this village.

when we arrived, they were making chapatis and welcomed us to eat, drink (hot tea) and dance with them. this is one of our guides helping make the chapatis.

my window view. we didn't really drive next to the riders all that much because it kicked up too much dirt.  we typically travelled ahead and waited for the riders to catch up or we drove behind them.

as i already shared, everyone fell at least once -- some bumps, scrapes, wounds and injuries worse than others.  megs had quite the hip gash on this fall, although it healed amazingly well by the end of the ride.

most of the ride this day was the same, barren terrain, which made for a rather long day.

we stopped at river pangani along the way, where we saw a crocodile and met many locals, from a variety of surrounding villages.

our tents, which included a foam sleeping pad, sleeping bag, pillow and light, powered by a small, portable solar panel. the small, green rectangle tent on the right was one of our toilets -- basically a hole in the ground with a wooden toilet seat on top of it (that i didn't dare sit on). you just zip yourself in and you're good to go. all was fine until almost the entire camp came down with diarrhea at the same time. more about that on another day.

these were our three showers. water flow was a trickle most of the time but getting to shower each day was amazing.

the cooks and their kitchen area. food was surprisingly really, really good!!

day's sample menu... breakfast: eggs, porridge, toast, peanut butter, jelly, nutella, cereal, (instant) coffee lunch: pasta dish, bread, fruit, nuts, chocolate dinner: soup, chicken, vegetable, rice, fruit or dessert

i loved the soup so much, i asked if i could get a couple of the recipes from the cooks.

my clothes washing buckets. i washed clothes this way in my hotel too.

and my clothes hanging on the line to dry.

katilin was always so good about stretching after her long day's ride.

at each campsite, we had a few guards from the nearby village, who made sure all remained well with our camp throughout the night. the guard / elder on this day invited us back to visit his village. everyone was so welcoming and we had so much fun, but were only able to stay for a short bit, as we had to head back to our camp before it got dark.

okay, maybe this little guy wasn't having so much fun at first.

taken in the last little bit of light, as we were leaving.  4000 ISO.

lastly, the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT) has only a few days left for their annual fund match. if they can raise $50,000 by midnight saturday, they will receive a $50,000 matching gift!! you can find their annual fund drive here. and if you don't see the amount you'd like to donate, feel free to visit my fundraising page here, to donate any amount you'd like.

here's a few of the beautiful and amazing children that TFFT is currently sponsoring. i can't even begin to tell you how special these children are!!

the triplets that started it all...


inspiration | leah zawadzki

most of you probably already know that leah is one of my dearest friends, but she is also such a huge inspiration to me -- not only in photography, but also in life. leah inspires me creatively.  she inspires me to be a stronger photographer.  she inspires me to be a better wife, mother and friend.  i can honestly say that i wouldn't be the photographer or person that i am today, without leah in my life.  i will forever be grateful for her friendship...and her inspiration.  i have no doubt that she and her work will inspire you too. If I remember right, you’ve been (seriously) pursuing photography since 2005. Obviously your photography has evolved over the years but has your style changed? And if so, in what ways?  It is always so hard for me to answer questions regarding my style.  I have never thought very hard about it—in terms of creating it or making it something.  I have always been asked how I found my style, but I believe style is something that finds you, evolves with you as you grow as a person and as a photographer.  Maybe it’s because I have been a student of Cheryl Jacobs since the very beginning and I’m comforted by her words and her ideals.  I have never been one to force something to happen, to stylize moments or invent myself.  I can only be myself.  To sit back and see, to observe and record, to let go and shoot freely—that’s when I do my very best work, that’s when my style grows and comes into it’s own.   So I can’t say that I think my style has changed much, no.  I think my heart has always been deeply rooted in my work and that is what defines my style. I must admit that over the years I go through periods of hiding it and other times letting it show.  Why would I hide it—because I’m scared to show it to the world, and more importantly to myself.  I think that at the heart of my life’s journey is becoming comfortable with who I am as a person and what I have to give, and crazy enough it’s photography that helps me work through that.

You recently started a ‘fifty-two portraits each’ project.  Can you share a bit about your inspiration behind the project?  I needed to do something—anything to get me shooting my family again.  It’s not that I didn’t shoot them before, but it was so hard.  It was so hard because I always put so much weight on it.  It became so important to get just the right shot because I did it so infrequently.  I also love projects where you can see growth—I can’t wait to see all the photos together at the end of the year.  I haven’t informed them yet, but this might not end.  I might just have to get a portrait a week of them until they are not mine anymore.

A great side effect of this project is what I am getting from it as a photographer.  Not only was I not taking (what I thought was) enough photos of my family, I was shooting less and less in general.  When I first went truly crazy over photography I wouldn’t put the camera down.  Last year it became increasingly harder to pick the camera up.  I have learned that the longer I go without shooting the harder it becomes.  The more I shoot, the more I grow and the more comfortable I am with it.

You also recently began to shoot weddings.  What inspired this and is this a new direction for your photography?  Honestly, I am not certain exactly where my photography will take me—I am still looking for the right fit with my work.  I felt compelled to give it a try.  As I mentioned before, I am not one to fabricate a moment—I enjoy observing and capturing moments as they unfold.  Weddings are perfect for that.  There is something so special about a wedding day, the love, the hope, the dreams—all right there in front of me, just waiting to be captured.

What artists inspire or influence you and why / how?  Oh gosh.  There are so many artists that inspire me or have at one point or another… Le Corbusier, Rothko, Mondrian, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe, Calder, Georgia OKeeffe, David Hockney, Barbara Cole, Cig Harvey, Sally Mann, Mona Kuhn, Mark Tucker, Max Wegner, Hugh Forte….

I think what draws me to these artists is that they are so grounded, so strong.  They all have a great sense of who they are and what they want to express in their art.  They don’t compromise themselves or what they believe in for anything.  And even though I have listed artists across three mediums, there is a common thread that draws me to them—line, composition, color, depth and strength.  As for some of the photographers on my list, I always find it interesting that they are so different then me—the content they shoot, the way they shoot.  Most of them have a vision and then go execute that vision, and as I mentioned I shoot very different then that.  But still, there are qualities to their work that speak to me, that move me and inspire me to create my own work in my own way.

What has been the best part of your photography journey thus far and why?  Connecting with people.  Seeing and getting know people, and not just my clients but my kids too.  As an introvert, I sometimes have a hard time connecting with people.  But when I photograph I make connections I never thought possible.  I am always amazed at how in love I am with my subjects after the process is over—not just in taking the photos, but in selecting and editing the photos from our time together.  In the end I feel so connected—I appreciate them, I feel like I understand them better.  It’s very hard to describe, but it’s like I see a little bit of their heart, and a little bit more of my own heart too.

What is the most important advice would you share with aspiring photographers?  Slow down and get it right.  Bit by bit.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  Be patient and true to yourself.  Shoot what you love.  And most importantly—read the Cheryl Jacob's interview.  Nobody says it better then her.

And last but not least, how do you envision the overall future of your photography?  I am still exploring and finding my way.  I am not sure if I can say I have a big vision of what that will look like exactly.  But I know what it will include—creating work that is honest and meaningful, and hopefully a little bit beautiful.

rideTZ | day two

day two took us from moji moto hot spring to a campsite near lake nyumba ya mungu (house of god).


along the way, we encountered this man at one of our break spots. he was a bit drunk, crazy and carrying a machete (as so many people carried along the way). while he looks a bit scary, (i think) he was pretty much harmless.

this was a church service nearby one of our break points.

at one point, we learned that one of the bridges was down because of the recent rains. so ake (our main guide) ended up having to negotiate with one of the local sugarcane farmers, to see if he would allow us to bypass the bridge via his land. it took a while, but in the end, we were able to pass through the farmer's land.

this man, from the village we stayed at while ake did his negotiating, provided drew a map in the dirt and provided directions for us.

while ake went to speak with the farmer, we were able to spend lots of time with these wonderful people.

the children so loved the beach balls we shared with them.

this was the bridge at the end of the farmer’s land.  it was a wee bit very unsteady and…scary. our landcruisers weren't allowed not the bridge so they had to take a really long way around.

entering another village district (karibu = welcome).

waiting for the cows to pass.

lots of falls. everyone crashed at least once.

our doc, who was the best sleeper and snorer. and a great doc too. :-)

our incredible guides.

the driver of the land cruiser that pulled the bike trailer.

the bike mechanic, who also took video and some photographs for adventure international.

getting our campsite ready. the guys worked so amazingly hard each and every day.

each day, the bikes were meticulously cleaned, inspected and repaired, if needed.

a few maasai men walking through our camp. you can see the batteries on the left, which were recharged daily by solar panels.

locals from the nearby maasai village…


rideTZ | day one

to say that this 10-day, 400-mile adventure was amazing, incredible, absolutely awesome, life-changing...would be an understatement. i'm not even sure how to put it all into words but i'll do my best over the coming weeks. we departed from our hotel at 10 AM and headed straight to usa river academy, where many of the TFFT-sponsored children are attending school.  there, the riders were greeted, applauded and encouraged by the children and staff -- and of course, we were equally inspired by all of the children. and then the riders were off -- biking approximately 40 miles (every day).  my 8+ hour ride was in a landcruiser with my awesome driver, hamisi (and sometimes joined by the doc and ben, who had a bad shoulder injury).

i wasn't really sure what to expect this first day or how i was going to shoot the ride, but i kept reminding myself that i'm here for a reason and i just have to do my thing and -- and so i did.

day one culminated at maji moto, where there is one of the coolest hot springs i've ever seen, imagined or dreamt of.  definitely not a tough way to end the first day. the water was warm and crystal clear blue. there were cold beers, swimming, barry jumping into the water from way-too-high in the tree, lots of swinging from the tree swing, staying up till 2 AM, learning about taking showers in dribbling water and discovering that we had some killer snorers amongst the bunch. all-in-all -- an incredible first day.

one of the things i so loved throughout the entire ride was seeing and visiting the different villages.  some we stopped at; others we just drove through.  i will share various encounters as i blog the photos, as i feel there are so many thoughts and stories i want to share.  one thing that was huge in every village was gaining their trust.  there were plenty of times when the children ran, hid and even cried.  sometimes the men and women would simply tell me no photos.

the riders, all set to depart our hotel.

kaitlin (the one who asked me to photograph RIDETZ and whom i can never thank enough) and joyce, the beautiful young lady that kaitlin's parents sponsor.

mike is a pilot and brought wings for the kids. the children couldn't get their new wings put on their sweaters fast enough.

all the students lined the road of the school, cheering on the riders, as they officially departed usa river academy. each RIDETZ, one TFFT student is selected to do the ride. this year, 16-year-old, simon, was selected (pictured below). i can't wait to hear about all the stories he has to share.

there were two land cruisers -- one that i was in and then this one, which pulled a trailer of bikes and equipment.  there also was a large truck that carried everything else (tents, kitchen, bathrooms, showers, etc.) directly from campsite to campsite.

we passed by lots of corn fields, which often were sprinkled with beautiful sunflowers.

sometimes (although not often), we had to ask for directions.  this was one of those times.

our first village stop.

this woman really wanted me to take a photo of this little boy.

the kids loved getting silly bands.

so many people came to see what the bikers were all about, as they rode by.

in most of the villages we drove through, children herded the goats and cattle. it's pretty incredible what the children do here and how free they are.  it really has had me thinking about how we raise and (over) protect our children in the US.  more on this later, after i can put my thoughts together a bit better.

the roads were often shared with others.

fixing the RIDETZ sign on our vehicle.

our first lunch stop.

another village stop.


lots and lots of dirt and dust.  and yes, you should see my camera and computer equipment.

first night's camp site -- magi moto hot spring.

and last but not least, our fearless leader, ake (sounds like orca) -- of adventure international. ake and his entire staff were so kind, hard-working and truly, truly amazing. i can't wait till my next adventure with ake and his team. ;-)

ETA:  i'm still hoping to reach my $5000 fundraising goal for TFFT.  all money raised HERE goes directly to the foundation.  maybe -- just maybe -- i can do it before heading home on the 26th.  every bit helps and is so greatly appreciated.  thank you! thank you!

also,  if you have any questions as i post, please ask in a comment.  i will do my best to answer each and every question (although might take me a bit because internet is very spotty here and often too slow).



inspiration | lori vrba

i came across lori vrba's work pretty early on, in my photography journey.  at the time, lori was a commissioned portrait photographer and -- i  absolutely fell in love with her work.  i connected with lori's photographs on a deeper level.  they were so much more than just beautiful portraits; they were raw, intimate, emotional.  then i read on her blog that she was closing her commissioned portrait business, to solely pursue a career in fine art photography.  and that's exactly what she's been wholeheartedly doing since making that decision in 2009.  it's been awesome and so inspiring to watch lori's journey of passion, hard work, dedication, letting go and trust lead to so much success in her photography career.

i knew i loved this woman's work, but after reading her most recent artist statement -- goodness, it just makes me love her (and her work) that much more...

 I was raised in a small, back-woods Southeast Texas town.  I did not grow up with an exposure to art.  I did not have an uncle with a darkroom.  I did not hold a camera until I was a grown woman.  I am a self-taught artist committed to film and traditional wet darkroom printing.  I work intuitively in every creative element of my medium with an acute awareness of what and who has come before me.  My life experiences have brought me to this place where I find myself overwhelmed with the drive to make photographs about who I am...what moves me, what I feel inside, what I believe to be sacred and enduring.  I make pictures to challenge, calm, excite and satisfy my mind and heart.  I share my work in hopes of leaving some permanent, telling mark on the world...that I Was Here.

i asked lori a bit about her photography journey and this is what she had to share...

I've watched and greatly admired your journey from commissioned portrait photographer to fine art photographer.   Can you tell us a a bit how this transition took place?

It was never really my intention to be a commissioned portrait photographer.  I was making my own pictures and other moms began to ask me to photograph their children.  It became a successful business but after several years I finally realized that for me, photography was meant to be something different.  In the beginning, I was determined to understand the camera because I was compelled to make photographs of what I felt inside.  When I closed the business and once again, opened myself up to making my personal work...all I can say is...Joy.  All Around.

What would you say took your work to the next level?   The willingness to be vulnerable.  Technical skill and good execution is important in any medium.  But I believe the photographs that are made from an honest, vulnerable place are the ones that ultimately resonate with people.  Those are the images you can't forget.

How did you come to find representation for your work?  Or did they find you?

Once I had a strong portfolio, I spent a year or two attending portfolio reviews and submitting to juried group shows.  I'm represented in Atlanta, Houston and Santa Barbara and all three found my work through the reviews or juried shows.

There's been some discussion and shall I say, controversy, regarding some of the photographs of children in your projects.  What are your thoughts on this? The short answer is...You can't please everyone all the time.  The real answer is...My three children are a huge part of my work.  My most important "job" is to protect my children and I'm very good at it.  As an artist it is not my job to predict how anyone will experience or interpret my imagery...that is not true art.  Art is self expression...it's not filtered down to satisfy anyone or everyone's psyche.  I am a good mother and an honest artist.  I sleep well at night.

What advice and / or cautions would you give to photographers wanting to take a similar leap from commissioned work to fine art work? Ha...Put on your big-girl-panties because art is not for sissies!  Know that rejection and self-doubt will always be present...no matter how good you are.  There will not be money coming in for awhile...be prepared financially.  If you continue to do both, separate the commercial work from the fine art work for websites, portfolios, etc...two entirely different audiences.

Balance seems to be a topic for so many photographers.  How do you manage to balance it all (wife, mother, photographer)? Balance is over rated.  I am never doing it all well at the same time.  Ebb and Flow.

What artists greatly inspire or influence you?  And how / why? Keith Carter has been my dear friend and mentor for several years now.  We grew up in the same part of Texas so we have similar sensibilities.  His support has been invaluable.  Sally Mann, Robert Parke Harrison, Ralph Eugene Meatyard...there are too many photographers to name.  I am also inspired by music...just about any genre.  I often get project ideas from music.  I love mixed media/assemblage work as well...Joseph Cornell,  Aldwyth.  And honestly, my peers.  Some are wildly successful, some are completely unknown or "emerging"...but to carve out time to be with like-minded people...the ultimate inspiration.

What thoughts or advice do you have for emerging photographers, launching their business within a sea of other photographers? Fine tune your own clear photographic voice.  Your work can reflect your influences but should still be uniquely your own.  It takes time.

How do you envision the future of your photography?  It has been a wild, marvelous ride over the last few years.  I'm breathing it in.  I've never been so challenged or so fulfilled.


inspiration | molly flanagan

i can't remember how i met molly (via the internet), but i do remember that from the moment i came across her blog, i not only fell in love with molly's work, but also her spirit.  not long ago, molly decided to put her photography business on hold, a decision i so deeply respected and applauded (and was sure to let her know). molly's ability to capture the beauty of life and the everyday, along with the way she sees and captures light, is absolutely breathtaking.

i asked molly a few questions and here's what she had to say.  enjoy!

How would you describe your photography style?  I always find it difficult to answer this question.  I just see stuff and take pictures of it.  I kind of feel like I am styleless-- and I don't mean that in a "classic" or "timeless" way.  I wear the same jeans pretty much every day (as long as they are not covered goldfish cracker goo). My hair is usually in a messy knot on top of my head.  And I rarely wear makeup.  I just like to feel like myself-- and I get a little freaked out if I am ever out of my wardrobe comfort zone!  I guess if I had to describe my personal style, it would be "comfortable, unassuming, and functional".  Maybe my photography could be described the same way?  I don't like to manipulate.  I want things to be real.  I don't like fake.

You have such an amazing eye for light and composition.  How did you learn to see both?  Well, for composition, it isn't really something I think much about.  But I do get bored easily and once I have shot something a certain way, I want to look for new ways to see it.  I think being comfortable moving your body around and seeing things from different perspectives is really important to finding interesting compositions.  As far as light goes, this is something I feel like I grow in every year.  It amazes me how each year I see the intricacies of the light in my home differently.  I think that is such a wonderful example of how you can never plumb the depths of creativity.  This journey is never ending-- what a beautifully exciting thing!

Balance in photography is tough and so often a struggle.  You recently decided to put your photography business on hold.  What fueled that decision?  For the last few years photography has been such a HUGE part of what I do with my time and my brain. Even when my business wasn't super busy, my mind was still reeling with ideas for packaging, pricing and products.  Figuring out taxes and budgets and html.  A chunk of my kids naptime, many of my evenings, and much of my thought life was going towards this little business.  And I feel like the things that are truly important... caring for my family, loving my husband, being physically and mentally available to them, as well as using the gifts God has given me to express myself creatively and care for others, were becoming harder and harder to put first. However, I know this talent is a gift from God, and in my heart I so want to use it to bring Him glory. Truly, that is all I want. Whether behind the camera or behind the sink, I want to be available to His call.  Finding that "balance" really IS difficult.  One thing I do know is the good things that come out of my pursuits in photography pale in comparison to the good things that come out of loving God and my family.  So, I felt like it was important for me to actively "let go" of my business.  Oddly, during this process my love for the ART of photography has increasing dramatically.  I have a passion to really have something to SAY with the pictures I take.  I have no idea what is going to happen next, and I can't say that I will never take another paying client, but I feel like I have been... "repotted"... my goals refined.  It has been good.

What artists inspire or influence you and why / how?  Jessica Todd Harper's use of light paired with seemingly boring aspects of family life inspired me to see the beauty in the mundane aspects of my own life.  She also inspired me to pursue my own work in a more fine art style.  Julie Blackmon's Domestic Vacation series gave me a great appreciation for the role details can play in photography and how important they can be to adding depth to a story.  And the composition and storytelling of her Mind Games series-- they are just amazing.  And I love Todd Selby.  His holistic approach to photo shoots influenced my approach to photographing people in a huge way! And finally, Jeremy and Ashley Parsons.  They totally shoot what they see.  When I look at their blog posts, I feel like they are able to hit all of my 5 senses through their photographs.

What has been the best part of your photography journey thus far and why?  I can't believe how much fun I have had!  I've had the chance to meet lots of interesting people and travel to new places.  And photography has been such a great way to process through all of the ups and downs of life with small children.  Really, it has ALL been the best (well, not the paying taxes part and red tape.  That part sort of stinks).

How do you envision the future of your photography?  I just want to shoot things that move me.  I doubt I will ever be a news journalist in a war torn country, but I would really like to focus deeply on some storytelling projects.

What would be your dream photo shoot?  The cast of Growing Pains circa 1987.    

What is one thing that most do not know about you, but might find interesting?  I have one blue eye and one green eye.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?  Take lots and lots of pictures.  Shoot what inspires you.  Don't spend too much time living inside your computer.



let rideTZ begin

it's raining, which should make a very interesting start. RIDETZ starts today. riders will bike about 35-45 miles each day -- from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean. so excited. can't believe the day is here. DAY THREE all the riders arrived switched to a most-amazing hotel photographed at an absolutely incredible and inspiring orphanage (see more below) RIDETZ briefings awesome dinner together, with all the riders

montonyok children's home was started by a husband and wife (now in their 60s). emi and ndemno are two of the most amazing and giving people i have ever met. it all started with bringing one child into their two-room home.  and ever since, their house and their children have continued to grow, now currently housing 40 orphans. ndemno farms for a living and their land is incredible. they have chickens and goats. they a massive rain water collector and solar panels on one of their buildings. they convert manure into methane (which they use to cook with) and fertilizer. everything is so clean, well-maintained and organized. the children all sleep in two bedrooms (a total of 8 beds). emi and ndemno know the importance of education and have hired a teacher to teach the older children and they're working to get a formal school established on their grounds. they showed us the classroom and had the children sing 'amazing grace', which was absolutely beautiful and had me in tears. emi and ndemno are such special people, as is their orphanage and all the children there!! we're heading back to matonyok after RIDETZ.  i'll be bringing them some of the donated items and taking more photographs.

this is the part of the house, where it all began

this little girl spells her name the same way i do

this little guy is four-years-old and weighs 12 kilograms. he just learned to walk four months ago.  when the orphanage received him, he was extremely malnourished weighing only four kilograms.

last but not least, getting the bikes ready yesterday evening





hello from TZ

have a bit of wireless so thought i'd take the opportunity for a quick update, from the past couple of days, here in tanzania... DAY ONE flight in tampa delayed 1 hour, 15 minutes delta wouldn't wave $200 fee on bag of donation items ran to my gate in detroit had to run much faster and farther, to my gate in amsterdam visa line long stopped by customs sweating bullets and about to cry in customs office customs man kept saying, "what do we do?" i kept replying, "i don't know, what DO we do?" had to pay customs $100 to clear my two donation bags better than the $247 that customs man calculated hotel is nice hotel and restaurant folks are super friendly visited boarding school (usa river academy), where most of the TFFT children are the kids at the boarding school are so precious (always wanting to touch (my hair, camera, etc.) and be held)

DAY TWO went into town interesting and sometimes a bit scary mobbed by people wanting to sell you something had to keep my camera in bag most of the time town locals like to call me rasta saw a family of wild monkeys this morning at my hotel cars everywhere never seen so many people crammed into a single bus (more like a van) honking all the time, which is a language all it's own -- means watch out, thank you, i'm coming, you pissed me off, etc. no stop lights people drive on the left most of the time food has been great (eggs, chicken soup, chicken masala, butter chicken) headed to lunch with a big group today (TFFT and another foundation) so excited to see and photograph one of the orphanages this afternoon

last day of wireless at my friend's hotel hopeful to have wireless on day five of RIDETZ

feeling so incredibly blessed and grateful!!

my hotel

the students at usa river academy

the 16-year-old TFFT student, who was selected to do RIDETZ

saying good-bye, for the day

a wild monkey, at my hotel

center of town

hoping to share more photos in a few days.  :-)

inspiration | cheryl jacobs

i'm excited to share a few special blog posts while i'm away in africa -- blog posts that will be featuring photographers, who have greatly inspired me over the years. first up is cheryl jacobs (CJ). i met CJ eight months after picking up my camera, when i attended one of her workshops. she encouraged me. she inspired me. she taught me that it was okay to be different...it was okay to be me. and i could never thank her enough for this gift she gave me so early on in my photography journey.

when i asked CJ if she would like to participate in my blog series, she said sure.  so i gave her some questions that she could answer, but also told her to feel free to write about whatever she wanted, if she would rather do that.  and so she did.

i'm thrilled to share these inspirational thoughts and photos from cheryl jacobs...

I got a great compliment from Freddy the sax player last night. I was hanging out at a great old jazz club here in Denver called El Chapultepec. The guys who play there are the real deal, most of them earning their living with their instruments for longer than I’ve been alive. I’ve gradually gotten to know some of them, and they’re the kind of characters who send you running for your camera. In recent months when I’ve dropped by, they’ve asked me to sit in for a song or two. Scary as hell, but not an opportunity you turn down.

Last night, Freddy invited me up to sing a great old jazz standard called Body and Soul. I love that song. I love to close my eyes and get lost in it. When it’s right, it’s magic. You can’t sing that song and not mean it. “My life’s a hell you’re making / you know I’m yours for the taking” – seriously, they don’t write them like that anymore.

And then came the compliment. He looked at me funny and said, “You just don’t sound like anyone else, do you? You got a real unusual voice.”

And now a little background information. When you grow up as I did in the world of church music, with virtually no exposure to any other genre, and with no one to teach you technique, or to give you any real feedback, you end up developing your sound according to what works to your ear. You can’t mimic anyone if there’s no one there to mimic. You can’t copy someone’s phrasing, or their delivery, or their intonation if you’ve never heard it. You learn to sing a song the way you feel it, with no idea whether it’s “right”. Regardless of whether people enjoy listening to it or not, it is honest. (Notice that Freddy didn’t say my voice was “good” or “nice”; he said it was “unusual.”)

(This has something to do with photography, right?)

The scariest thing you will ever do as an artist is to be your honest, flawed self. The one you don’t think people will understand, the one you lock away because judgment would be too painful.

It is so easy to look around us and see what others are doing. Pictures are everywhere we look, bombarding us, even in our own homes. We have the Internet, TV, billboards, packaging, magazines, advertisements, all flashing the latest cool imagery at us. And when they aren’t assaulting our eyes in the course of daily life, we photographers are seeking them out online. (We call it “inspiration.”) We involuntarily compare ourselves with other photographers, and we can’t help but notice which images are getting big public responses, what the “rockstars” are doing, what the trends are. We soak all that information up – and then we’re frustrated that our work looks like everyone else’s. And then we stop loving the process, because it feels meaningless. Because it is meaningless.

The truth is, the only thing you have that no one else has is yourself. Your collection of experiences and values, and your sense of beauty are the only things that can set you apart as an artist. Everything else can be bought, borrowed, downloaded, or stolen.

The magic, the true you or at least hints of it, can be found in the images you love that you don’t share. You know they’re special, and that’s why you guard them. If your work is truly an honest reflection of you, then criticism of your work is actually a criticism of you as a person, right? But if you’re modeling your work after what other photographers are doing, then the criticism isn’t so personal. (If I mold my voice to sound like Ella Fitzgerald’s, I don’t have to take it personally if someone doesn’t like “Ella’s” sound.) Unfortunately, insulating yourself from possible rejection also prevents you from being fulfilled as an artist. I see this all the time during critiques with other photographers; I can always tell when an artist is holding back their best and most personal work. Always.

Here is my challenge to you:

Stop looking at what others are doing. Start looking at the world around you, and the world inside you. Stop shooting with an eye on what you believe others will like, and stop judging the strength of an image by the number of comments and Facebook thumbs you receive. Start creating photographs that are vulnerable enough that they scare you, and learn to be brave enough to share them. And to stand proudly behind them. Start the long and painful process of learning to answer your own questions, and embrace the trials, errors, and frustrations you’ll experience along the way.

And learn that when someone tells you that you don’t sound like anyone else, it is a high compliment.

tanzania, here i come

yep, i'm off.  today is the day.  OMG, I REALLY AM HEADED TO TANZANIA!!

here's a little timeline of where i'll be visiting and photographing, while i'm there:

June 5th - arrive in the evening June 6th - settle in June 7th - usa river academy June 8th - matonyok and kkoaranga (two partner orphanages) June 9th - 19th - RIDETZ June 18th - end-of-ride celebration at pangani June 19th - return to arusha June 20th - office, catch-up, rest, tour arusha, etc. June 21st - back to matonyok (orphanage) June 22nd - star high (secondary school scholarship students) June 23rd - usa river academy June 24th - good hope and special needs school June 25th - nkoaranga and seeway (orphanages) June 26th - depart

to be completely honest, this is still all so surreal.  i'm not sure it's going to completely hit me until i step off the plane in tanzania.  but one thing is for sure -- this is an absolute dream-come-true and i am beyond grateful for this opportunity.

while in africa, i will have very, very little internet access; however, i have an inspirational photographer series scheduled to launch, while i'm away -- i hope you'll enjoy!

also, 'the foundation for tomorrow' will be sharing some of my tanzania photographs throughout the month, so please keep an eye on their blog. and of course, i have no doubt that i'll have so much to share once i'm back home. :-)

and a quick fundraising update:  i'm beyond thrilled to share that so far, i've raised almost $4000 for 'the foundation for tomorrow', although i'm still hoping and believing that i will reach my $5000 goal for them.  if interested, you can still donate here.  also, i will be bringing over 100 pounds of donated items to the children of tanzania -- items that were donated by people from all across the country.  truly amazing!

thank you for all your support and encouragement. i feel so incredibly blessed and grateful. thank you!  thank you!

and a special thank you to my husband, for his never-ending love, support and encouragement.  and to my mother-in-law, kate...this trip wouldn't have been possible without her kindness and support.

ETA:  i'm still a bit of an emotional mess.  wondering if i've done everything.  packed everything.  remembered everything. not only for myself, but also for my kids (the littles will be spending a month in NV and kiele will be spending two months in CA).  i try to keep reminding myself that i've done the best that i could and... everything WILL be okay!!

what _____ looks like | month ten

wow! hard to believe that it's been 10 months that i've been working on this monthly project.  beyond grateful to those who invited me to participate. without further ado, THIS is a bit of what our may looked like...

a san diego business trip, shooting portrait clients and an editorial

two of my most favorite people in the world

joey's last photo :-(

me...right before dropping my camera and smashing this lens

a gymnastics meet

hearing for the FIRST TIME, while in the water

lots of swimming

a star student

favorite color: green favorite book: hop on pop favorite movie: avengers favorite sport: soccer when i grow up, i want to be: a zoo keeper i'm special because: i am nice favorite food: popcorn i have a pet: 2 pets -- a fish and a dog the person i most admire is: my mom and dad my favorite school subject: math

a brave little girl, who got seven shots, 6 scrapings and a mole biopsy

and a bunch of everyday life, which so often revolves around our living room.

there’s a small circle of photographers participating in this what ____ looks like monthly project.  i hope you’ll check them all out [clicking link to link] -- starting with stephanie moore | tucson family photographer.


fav finds | twenty-seven

i have a thing about colored doors. one day i will have one.

love the light.

love the shadows.

going to have to try this healthier version.

make art  |  not war.

need to photograph in the water at night.

love this (glow sticks in balloons).

i'd really like these.

such a beautifully framed portrait.

i could live off of nachos.

how could you not be happy with these stairs in your house?

need to do ASAP.

so many recipes for sauces, dips and mixes.

yes you are!

breathe. let go. and remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. - oprah winfrey

the fact that he won makes my heart so happy.

i could listen to this all day...

and last but not least disconnect to connect -- and be present.

ten days

yes, ten days until i depart for africa.  and most days lately, i seem to be a bundle of emotional mess -- excited, nervous, curious, anxious, thrilled. and then sometimes my head REALLY messes with me and worry overwhelms me. i begin to question... will i be able to accurately capture the awesomeness that i am about to view? will i capture all that these people deserve to be shared? am i going to forget something important? will my equipment be okay?

yes, i seem to play the best head games with myself. and i know this worry is just not healthy. i know some might think it's downright silly. i know some might want to shake me. i know that worrying does nothing for no one. i know that my energy and thoughts need to be redirected in a positive direction. I KNOW!

when these thoughts seem to be getting the best of me, i remind myself that i have been blessed with this gift and all i have to do is use it -- use it the way i do each and every day here at home. i remind myself that i'm about to embark on the most awesome, incredible, magical journey of a lifetime -- a dream come true.  i remind myself how very blessed i am. i remind myself that i can absolutely do this!  i remind myself that right now, i simply need to breathe, trust,  believe and enjoy my family.

they have entrusted me. i need to trust myself... trust the path. trust the process. and stop worrying.

i am beyond grateful for this opportunity. many days, i still can't believe it. i'm not sure i could ever fully express the amount of gratitude that i hold in my heart.

lastly, to all those who have donated, either monetarily here or items, for me to hand-deliver to the tanzanian children -- i cannot thank you enough. your kindness and generosity overwhelms me. deeply and truly, I THANK YOU!

p.s. thank you for reading...and understanding.