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.

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 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.



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.

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.

let your dreams fly free

most people never run far enough on their first wind,to find out if they've got a second. give your dreams all you've got, and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you. [william james]

this is what i came home to yesterday...

KIELE:  mom, can i show you something? ME:  sure, what? KIELE:  you have to come in my room. ME: okay, what?

and she brought me into her room to see what she had drawn, cut and taped up on her wall...

sigh -- i love this child and the magical soul that she is.  she's taught me a lot over the years, that's for sure.

ETA: she told me today what she wants for her birthday (may 3rd) -- a vintage bird cage from the store down the street so that she can put it on top of her art cabinet (underneath her LET YOUR DREAMS FLY FREE).

do you want to make it happen?

watch this (regularly) for inspiration.

i loved these thoughts so much, i wrote down her ten tips for making it happen and posted them to my inspiration board.

01 | you'll figure it out strike 'i don't know what to do from your vocal

02 | life is on your side everything that you have done has brought you to this point. that's a lot of life force.

03 | start fresh beginners mind is an open mind. an open mind innovates.

04 | fear is natural fear is part of creative process. keeps you alert.

05 | make tough choices you can't have it all but you can always do great things.

06 | passion is fuel aim for passion. balance is a myth.

07 | come out declare and share your dream. you're accountable and help able.

08 | do it now don't let perfection become procrastination. launch and learn.

09 | you're growing everything is progress.

10 |integrity do what you say you're going to do. every day, do a little more of what you want to be doing.

11 |focus you CAN make it happen. [danielle laporte]

fav finds | week twenty-two

missed last week, thanks to the craziness of spring break.  but now i'm back on track. hope you enjoy a few of my favorite things i've come across this past week... love this and adore the woman behind this.

add goat cheese to anything and i might just think it's fabulous

love this office space and it's inspired me to put cabinets above my desk. lots of office inspiration here.

i love everything about this image.

happy go lucky bangle.

fun project with the kids.

such lovely words.

b/c it's that time of year.


want this chair.

b/c we all act a little crazy sometimes

wallflower friends retreat $10 raffle. 100% of the contributions go to the foundation for tomorrow.

love this pool rider photograph.

love this incredible artwork so much.

such an incredible letter written to a daughter.  write more.

i stumbled upon this on my computer the other day, which i hadn't seen since the day it was taken.  sky at 10 months.  "wooooooo!"

this is so cute, i can barely stand it.


a great way to start the week

it was a crazy week last week, with the kids on spring break and all.  lots of playing.  too much eating.  too much drinking.  and now it's time to regroup and get focused again.  and i can't think of a more better way to start the week than this... i'm a long time fan of mark tucker's. and it's posts like this one  that inspire me so much. the portraits he takes. the stories he shares. i love the way he really gets to know the people he photographs. he captures more than just a simple portrait; he captures their character...their soul.

and watching this video he linked to in his post, has tears strolling down my cheeks. i'd like to blame it on PMS, but that's not it. maybe lack of sleep. who knows? maybe it's the simple power of inspiration and sharing your gift with others.  indeed, a great and beautiful way to start the week...

Matthew Sherrill and Julie Lee from Mark Tucker on Vimeo.

thank you mark tucker!  for being you and sharing your incredible gift with all of us.

a military war hero returns home

i feel so incredibly honored to have been able to photograph a military hero's homecoming yesterday... twenty-two year old marine CPL nicholson returned home yesterday, for the first time, after being wounded last july.  CPL nicholson lost both his legs and his left arm in a hidden improvised explosive device [IED] blast, while on foot patrol in afghanistan. through his ongoing recovery over the past eight months, CPL nicholson has endured 23 surgeries.  in october, he walked for the first time with prosthetic legs. CPL nicholson will be home on leave, for the next month and then return back to bethesda, MD for continued rehabilitation. his family is hopeful that he will be home for good by the end of the year.

the community support for CPL nicholson was nothing short of beautiful, inspiring and very emotional.  hundreds greeted CPL nicholson at the airport...

friends, family and strangers lined the streets of tampa as the patriot guard riders and patrol cars escorted CPL nicholson from the airport to the welcome home ceremony location...

hundreds more attended the ceremony...

being relatively new to tampa last year, i had not heard of CPL nicholson's injuries.  it was driving by this sign [the nicholson family lives almost directly behind us] a few months ago, that i first learned of CPL nicholson. i immediately emailed the family, sharing that i'd love to help in absolutely any way that i could. i'm hopeful that i will be able to photograph the nicholson family more over the year or two, while stationed here in tampa.

a special thanks to carmen for second shooting with me and making sure i got to each location on time.  and to cliff of the patriot guard riders, for asking me if i'd like to ride on the back of his motorcycle to the church [so i didn't have to keep running there].

and here's a tampa bay times' video of CPL nicholson's return...

if you haven't seen this...

what remains:  the life and work of sally mann, i highly recommend that you should.  i rented the documentary via netflix quite a while ago, but happened upon this series, available on youtube a few weeks ago. it all makes perfect sense.

she's been such an inspiration to me, from the very beginning.  i hope that you enjoy it as much as i did.

live as if...

live with intention. walk to the edge. listen hard. practice wellness. play with abandon. laugh. choose with no regret. appreciate your friends. continue to learn. do what you love. live as if this is all there is. [mary anne radmacher]

in a weird, quiet place at the moment. reading and embracing the thoughts above.

a weekend of inspiration

to say that this past weekend was incredible and inspiring would be an understatement -- i had the awesome opportunity to spend the weekend with jock sturges in palm neach, where he was there teaching at FOTOfusion. we arrived saturday afternoon.  my kids were modeling for his ‘the meaningful portrait’ demonstration shoot. it was wonderful to hear his thoughts on shooting people and so great to see him in action. one thing that i really grasped onto is jock’s deep respect for the people he shoots.  he also stressed the importance of getting to know your subjects – something that i’ve always believed as an essential part of making a great photograph.

my kids and i also had the opportunity to visit the ‘full of grace’ exhibit at the palm beach photographic center, with jock.  the exhibition was so well put together and it was incredible to hear jock’s knowledge and thoughts on much of the displayed photographs.  he also took the time to teach and inspire my kids, who are now asking to visit museums here in tampa. if you happen to live in florida and can make the trip to palm beach, i so highly recommend the ‘full of grace’ exhibition.  i guarantee you will not be disappointed.

on sunday, jock and i spent hours talking about painters and their influences, not only on one another, but also on various photographers.  we began with cave paintings and journeyed through time – discussing artists such as sandro botitcelli, hieronymus bosch, jan vermeer, eugene delacroix, van gogh, picasso, piet mondrian and mark rothko. it was fascinating and something i plan to engross myself in, in the coming months.

we [my kids and i] then watched a slideshow of jock’s work, from the time he was a child through last summer’s work, sharing his thoughts and stories along the way.  it was impressive that jock knew every person’s name and many of them, he’s photographed for generations.

throughout the weekend, we laughed and shared.  he took the time to teach my kids – not only about photography and art, but also a few magic tricks, which of course, they thought was the best thing ever.  we left palm beach sunday evening and the first thing my kids said was, we really like him; when are we going to see him again.

jock sturges is one of the most kind, caring, giving people i have ever met.  he selflessly shared so much time, knowledge and information, asking for absolutely nothing in return. to think he’s a master photographer pretty much blows my mind.  he inspired me and encouraged me.  i'm not sure how i got so lucky, but i am beyond grateful.  he shared with me that he sees something special in my work and well, i’m not taking that lightly.  he had some recommendations for me, which i am going to see through.  one thing for sure, i’m going to make his time and energy spent worth it – i will not disappoint!

jock -- i can’t thank you enough for your friendship and the gift you have given me.  i feel more than blessed and i will make you proud.  my children and i thank you for a most-magical weekend -- a weekend we will never forget.

and a few photos from the weekend...

keep, protect, share

keep me, protect me, share me...

i will live forever.

such an awesome kodak ad, which i think and hope is going viral right now.  a video from 2005.  and now sadly, kodak files for bankruptcy. but i don't think this will be the end for kodak. or film. just as the impossible project is doing everything they can to keep instant film alive.

the video also has me thinking about the amazing opportunities we now have to capture a photograph -- film, instant, digital, phone, etc. but are yours protected? will yours have the opportunity to live forever? are your digital photographs backed up? have your images come off your phone? off your computer? something to definitely think about. something i personally am passionate about.

be present

where are you? what are you doing? do you know what you want? are you listening? pay attention. stay focused. stop looking at your phone and computer. turn them off. put them away. be here. now. in the present. be with who you're with. talk with them. live with them. take some time. think. do you understand who you are? what you were called to do? pause. take it all in. what is your community? who is your community? what does local mean to you? do you have a presence? if you left your community, would you leave a mark? lead in the place you're called to. don't worry about the past. the future will come later. it's all about now. here. go all in. be rooted. when you're home, be home. focus. look at the big picture. be present. - adapted from a 'catalyst' mailer


i received the above quote in an email the other day, from hands & voices, a non-profit deaf | hard-of-hearing organization.  and it basically stopped me in my tracks. i read it. and re-read it. and read it again. and it's had me thinking ever since. i long to be present -- i mean REALLY present -- in my life, in the lives of those i love and care about, and in all that i do. i think being truly present is such a gift. and something i will be vigorously striving for in 2012.

are you present?

i love you...

after weeks of cutting out letters and words, my kids and i made this the other night -- an 'i love you' collage on a 20x20 canvas. and i love it so!

originally inspired by this 'i love you' collage

next, i'm going to make the 'I WILL SURVIVE' pot from this post.

ETA:  i've been getting some questions regarding how i made my 'i love you' collage.  so, here's what i did...

i started with a 20x20 canvas purchased from michaels. i didn't want the background stark white so we painted it a light beige. then the kids and i spent weeks cutting out letters from magazines, junk mail, etc. -- all shapes and sizes. to place the letters, i painted a layer of modge podge and then began sticking 'i love you' letters and words. the hard part is making sure that a complete word goes all the way to the edge, so begin thinking about this when you get close. once i had a few rows done, i modge podged on top of the letters. once the entire collage was done, i did a final two layers of modge podge on the entire thing. note: we were very low on Vs and Ys and had to do some more cutting of those letters. it was quite a time consuming but worth every minute!! it was super fun seeing how creative the kids got with the letter cutting -- a dragon's tail became a letter O, an eye became a letter I.