win a bali or canada workshop scholarship

anyone who knows me knows that i am extremely passionate about giving back. i have been blessed with this gift of photography and one of the greatest parts of this journey is the gratitude i feel when i give back! i am offering one workshop scholarship to each of my in-person workshops this year (tuition valued $2000+ each): one  scholarship to my 2-day photography workshop in ontario, canada (june 22nd - 24th) one scholarship to my 3-day photography workshop in bali (august 12th - 15th)

TO ENTER, all you need to do is this... 1. email me the following:

  • why would you like to attend my bali or canada in-person workshop?
  • and why do you believe you should receive the scholarship?

2. share (with link back to this blog post) about this opportunity on  your facebook page(s).

BOTH STEPS must be accomplished, to be considered for the scholarship. don't forget to include your name, contact information and which workshop you're interested in attending.  please limit to no more than 500 words or a 3-minute videosubmission deadline is midnight EST may 17th 2013.

a panel of three photographers will review all submissions and select the the two winning entries.  three runner-ups will receive a discount  coupon at 3 annies camera bags.  good luck!!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  scholarship provides workshop tuition (and all that is included with tuition). winners will be responsible for travel expenses to workshop location and any additional expenses outside of workshop.

in closing, i share some of the images that i've photographed over the years, as part of my giving back...

kirsten sandstrom

no limits theatre group

max mikulak & max's ring of fire

sam hutchison & team sam

the foundation for tomorrow


partner orphanages | tanzania

the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT) partners with eight orphanages in tanzania. while i was there, i had the opportunity to visit four of the eight partner orphanages -- nkoaranga orphanage, matonyok children's home, seeway tanzania and irente children's home. each orphanage has their unique aspects. each orphanage is magnificent and special. NKOARANGA ORPHANAGE houses a maximum of 30 children, ages four and younger.  the orphanage is run by two to four "mamas" -- whose constant hard work, dedication, commitment and love is beyond anything i could possibly put into words.  unfortunately i didn't have the opportunity to meet mama pendo, who has been running the orphanage for over 20 years, as she was at a computer class the day of my visit.

nkoaranga was probably the orphanage that needed assistance / volunteers the most (of the four orphanages i saw), due to ages of the children and the amount of work that the "mamas" are responsible for each day (laundry, cooking, water boiling, feedings, cleaning, diaper changing, etc.) -- the necessary tasks to simply sustain life's basic needs at the orphanage.

MATONYAK CHILDREN'S HOME houses approximately 25-35 children.  the home was started by a husband and wife team, emmy and ndemno, (now in their 60s), who are two of the most amazing and giving people i have ever met. it all started with bringing one child into their tiny two-room home.  and ever since, their house and their children have continued to expand. 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 (8 beds & a couple cribs). emmmy and ndemno know the importance of education and have hired a teacher to teach first grade in a classroom on their land. the older children (grades two - five) are currently sponsored to attend a nearby day school. emmy and ndemno hope to continue to build up their school (one grade at a time), ensuring their school provides quality education.

SEEWAY TANZANIA was founded in 2006 by two amazing, giving women, rebecca and wendy.  they have created an incredibly clean and beautiful environment for 16 vulnerable children (ages 4 and older). they not only provide a safe, loving home for their children, but also education (via funding boarding school), health care and a creative outlet through organized music lessons. on the compound, they have a large garden, a chicken project (selling eggs) and a nursery school / day care (for 40 two-to-six year olds).

IRENTE CHILDREN'S HOME is an incredible orphanage 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 impressive, loving orphanage, it also manages an amazing training program for young women, who are interested in becoming matrons of orphanages. they also have a massive garden and a cow, which supplies much of the orphanages fruits, vegetables and milk.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? a simple way to help is to donate directly to TFFT. each year TFFT sets aside a specific amount of their annual budget ($8000 this year) that goes directly to helping their partner orphanages, e.g. improving the facilities, building capacity among their staff, etc. TFFT requests that the orphanages submit ideas as to what they need, want, can use, etc.

HOW DOES TFFT DECIDE each year which children to select / sponsor into the program? over the years, they have leaned heavily on the administrators of the orphanages to assist the foundation in selecting the children. but some general guiding criteria are --

for the younger children, they base the decision on sheer need, looking at such things as: - family background - do they have any relatives? - if they do have relatives, can they possibly support the child? - if a child has no living relatives, TFFT believes that including him / her in the program is the safest bet for the child to have a viable chance of living a successful life within the tanzanian community.

for the older children, the foundation not only looks at their family circumstances, but also at their school records and their desire to be something, lead and excel.


there's an estimated 2 million-plus orphans in tanzania and only 50 (or so) orphanages (providing care to less than 3,000 of the population's orphans and vulnerable children).  it's such a painful thought!!  so many orphans, who have no other option but to live in the bush and streets of tanzania -- no home, no parents, little-to-no clothing, food and water.  so incredibly sad!

ETA:  to adopt a Tanzanian child, you have to live in the country for three years.

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 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...


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).



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





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!!

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.

remembering max

most who read my blog already know about my journey with max and his family.  the mikulak family graced and touched my life more than i could ever express. i do my best to continue to photograph the mikulak family in san diego every year. and this year, our session took place a few weeks ago...

and when our session was done, there stood hannah just like this...

with the light beaming through max's urn and hannah. and it was in that moment that i was so perfectly and beautifully reminded that max was right there with us!!

i feel so very blessed to have the mikulak family as part of my life.

and don't ever forget to live life to the max!!

my very first photograph of max, captured december 2007.

win a wallflower friends retreat seat

leah and i are thrilled to be raffling off the last seat at our upcoming, april 27th - 29th 2012, wallflower friends retreat [a $1900 value] -- to benefit the children of tanzania and the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT).   see retreat details below and on the wallflower friends website. PLEASE FOLLOW THESE QUICK STEPS TO ENTER THE RAFFLE: donate $10 HERE be sure to submit your first and last name when donating for every $10 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish

note: if you are already signed up for this retreat, you are still eligible to enter.  if randomly selected, your tuition will be refunded.

the winner will be randomly selected and announced here on monday, march 26th wednesday, march 28th.


WHEN april 27th - 29th, 2012 limited to 13 photographers

WHERE located near half moon bay, california, wallflower friends has reserved the entire seal cove inn for this retreat. set amongst a meadow of wildlflowers and towering cypress trees, this serene hideaway offers a unique and unforgettable retreat setting.

WHAT wallflower friends 2-1/2 day retreat is not your standard teaching workshop; this is a unique retreat for sharing, growing and learning -- through the discussion of photography's creative process and exploration of your unique voice and vision as an artist. some of the topics that will be covered are: being inspired finding your unique style being true to yourself in your art shooting and light workflow and processing being and staying passionate exploring your portfolio

INCLUDES two nights shared-room lodging at the spectacular 14-room seal cove inn instruction by both deb and leah a wallflower friends inspiration photo book welcome appetizers and drinks daily complimentary breakfast and lunch a few fabulous surprises and giveaways

for more information, please visit the wallflower friends website.

win a workshop seat at LAUNCH

i'm super excited to share another raffle in conjunction with my fundraising for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). RAFFLE [a $995.00 value]: a seat in stacy larsen's next LAUNCH photography workshop held april 21st and 22nd in tampa, florida

HOW TO ENTER: donate $10 HERE submit your first and last name when donating email stacy that you donated and would like to be entered into the LAUNCH raffle for every $10 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish

the winner will be announced on stacy's blog on monday, april 9th.  GOOD LUCK!

win a photo session AND digital files

i'm super excited to share a raffle that i've launched in conjunction with my fundraising for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). RAFFLE [a $3,450.00 value]: a one-hour photo session in the tampa bay area one 11x14 print 30 high-resolution digital files on CD

HOW TO ENTER: donate $20 HERE for every $20 donation, you will receive one raffle entry you can enter as many times as you wish submit your first and last name when donating email me that you would like to be entered into the raffle

PLEASE NOTE: eligible for raffle if you live in the tampa area or are willing to drive / fly to the tampa area session must take place september 1st through november 15th, 2012 session location is limited to 30-miles of 33629 tampa zip code session is for immediate family members only [parents & children]

if you're in the the tampa area, please spread the word. you can read more about my upcoming trip to tanzania here.



if you would like to join this effort by offering a similar raffle to your clients, email me for more details. also, i have some exciting raffles for photographers coming SOON!

closing with some photos from my family session this past saturday...

400 miles | tanzania

i just finished looking through the foundation for tomorrow's 400 miles  -- the book from their 2010 400-mile fund- and awareness raising bike ride in tanzania.  it pretty much took my breath away.  seriously, my eyes welled with tears.  a-mazing! if you get a chance, take a look through the book -- you won't be sorry.

i still can't believe that i'm going to be photographing this 11-day event in june.  how did this happen? to ME?  OMG!  this truly is a most-amazing gift in my life. a dream come true really!

with the event just a few months away now, i'm beginning to move forward with things [immunizations, visa AND fundraising].

if you'd like to help this these children [PLEASE!], you can donate HERE.  MY GOAL is to raise $5000 for the foundation.  and every little bit will help!!

if you'd like more information on RIDETZ 2012 [400-mile bike ride from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean, to raise funds and awareness], you can view the brochure here.

you can also follow TFFT on their blog here.

here's a few of the children that TFFT is currently sponsoring [providing tuition, housing, foster care, health care, food, clothes, shoes and school supplies]...

and the riders from RIDETZ 2010...

fight for air CLIMB 2012

i'm super excited to be participating again this year, in the american lung association's fight for air climb!! and my training has officially begun. at least this year, i'll be training for three months instead of three weeks. and my fundraising has begun... i'm raising funds for the american lung association and the fight against lung disease.  on march 26th, i'll be climbing the 42 flights of stairs (914 steps) of the bank of america plaza in downtown tampa.

my goal is to raise $200.

i hope you'll join me in my make an impact in the lives of the over 35 million americans who are living with lung disease. your donation will help in the funding of the american lung association's life saving research, education and advocacy efforts.

to donate, simply click here, to view my fundraising page.

thank you so much for your support!

someone pinch me

i couldn't think of a more amazing, incredible, magical way to start 2012... while on vacation in nevada, i decided to change up my website design a bit.  in the process, i realized that i never received a year's worth of contact messages (sent through my website).  one of those messages was sent in october -- from kaitlin, director of communications for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). she was inquiring if i'd, by any chance, be interested in photographing for TFFT. after emailing back and forth over a day-and-a-half, it was official...

i will be photographing the foundation's RIDETZ-2012 fundraiser ride in tanzania, from june 8th - 19th. it's a 400-mile bike ride from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean.


Over 46 million children in Africa never step foot in a classroom, and in Tanzania alone there are over one million orphaned children. TFFT’s mission stems from a desire to improve the quality of education while also increasing orphaned and abandoned children’s access to schooling in Tanzania.

and the story, as shared by kaitlin, on how TFTT got started, takes my breath away --

In 2004 Meghann (the executive director) spent a summer in Tanzania researching for her dissertation and volunteering at Nkoranga Orphanage. During her time at the orphanage, she became especially close with Helena, Usufu, and Matayu, orphaned triplets who were four years old at the time.

There are over one million orphaned and abandoned children in Tanzania, and, because of this staggering number, most orphanages only have the resources and capacity to care for children under the age of five. Therefore, with their fifth birthday, children who have not yet found a home "age out" of orphanages and are pushed to live on the streets.

Helena, Usufu, and Matayu were approaching their fifth birthday, and Meghann could not bear to think of what would happen to them. Feeling helpless, she sent an email to her family and friends explaining the situation and asking for contributions to send the children to boarding school in Tanzania where they would receive quality education and have a nice place to live. She received an overwhelmingly positive response, and Helena, Usufu, and Matayu became TFFT's unofficial first Scholarship Students.

The triplets are now vibrant eleven-year-old tweens--you will meet them this summer! They are thriving at Usa River Academy, the private boarding school in Tanzania where the majority of our Scholarship Students attend school. We currently have 76 children on full scholarship, and that number will increase to over 80 in 2012.

i cannot believe i'm going to have this life-changing opportunity. how did this happen? to me? i feel more than blessed. AN ABSOLUTE DREAM COME TRUE!!