A few thoughts about traveling...

What stirs the emotion in us to make us want to travel? For some, it's seeing loved ones or friends that they haven't seen for a long time. For others, it's an escape from the stresses of life and work. It's an excuse to leave your "normal" life for a few days, and pretend that you don't live that reality for the time being. Others travel for work, and it's far from what they would consider a "vacation." Some travel to find themselves, and take time for evaluating goals and self improvement. For me, I fall into all the above categories, with the exception of the last one. My current job doesn't really require me to travel, unless I attend a veterinary conference to earn continuing education credit. Some people are quite content to stay at home, and enjoy what is around them. Not me. I’ve always been the adventurous one. I always have to know what’s around the next bend, what lies over the next peak, and what’s on top of the summit.

As I write this, I'm currently flying 38,000 feet above the Rocky Mountains. A few years ago, this was way out of my comfort zone (stay tuned for a post about getting over fears later.) And now, travel has become a part of who I am, and also a part of my life that I'm falling in love with. I've always been adventurous, and I currently have a list a page long (and growing) of places that I would love to see and experience in person. Photography has helped feed that need. There are so many landscapes to experience and shoot, and so much nature to experience and share. But first, a brief history of my travels…

I was very fortunate to have a childhood full of travel. To this day, I’m thankful I had two parents that had the bug to travel in their blood.  Being the daughter of two parents who traveled a lot to go scuba diving, most of my childhood travel was centered around the Caribbean.. As soon as I turned 12, I became a certified scuba diver. The ocean was always a second home to me, and as other kids where playing on the beach building sand castles, I was out snorkeling, (usually out far enough to make my parents nervous). I spent my time watching sting rays, swimming with schools of fish, and finding any cute little invertebrate on the bottom that I could find. Our summers were spent diving, and I look back now and realize how fortunate I was to experience that lifestyle. Swimming with wild dolphins and sharks were the norm for me, and still some of my fondest memories. There is nothing like looking into the eyes of a wild dolphin that has chosen to swim with you, because it is as curious about you as your are of it. I spent time on the out islands where you don't find a tv or radio anywhere but the local restaurant (if you're lucky). I am forever grateful, because those experiences helped to sculpt who I am today. 

In college, I majored in geology and found my travels taking me out west. These trips gave me an eye opening experience to what the western part of the country had to offer. Up to this point, the only snow capped mountains that I had experienced were through my view master (haha, who remembers those !?)  that I had when I was a very young child. To see them in person was a life changing experience. I traveled to the southwest a few times, and spent time in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. My interest quickly turned the mountains, and I was determined to see them more frequently. As I like to say, I traded in my snorkel and fins for a backpack and hiking boots. 

Since then, I’ve traveled out west every chance that I can get. I feel at home out in nature and the mountains, and I find I do my best thinking when I am surrounded by both. One thing traveling out west has done for me, is to combine my love of geology and my love of animals. Even though my career path took me into veterinary medicine, I still enjoy some good geology. I find myself dusting off the knowledge in my head from my geology days as I hike over the rocks. I’ve always loved animals, and this has led to my love for encountering and photographing wildlife. One thing my career has taught me is how to read animals, and this carries over into the wildlife world as I’m photographing.  

I'm not really the type of person that wants to lay by a pool all day at a resort. Although very relaxing as it can be, it's just not my cup of tea. I need to feed the need in my soul to explore the landscapes around me. Hiking is very therapeutic for me, and listening to the sounds of nature around me, and feeling the elements really make you realize you are alive. I love when I can feel my heart beating in my ears after scaling some mountain side. I love those moments, because it’s these type of moments that give us clarity in our minds. When it's just you and your thoughts and no other distractions, you can truly get in touch with your inner feelings. With busy schedules and work, it can be hard to harness these moments. Everyone needs to find what makes them feel alive. For each person that's a unique experience.

According to travel website Skift, 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014. That blows my mind. That’s really a snapshot of how disturbing our society has become. 

I’m obsessed with using my vacation time. There have been times that I would rather get more vacation time than a raise. But that’s just me, and I’m not saying that everyone should feel like that. I just feel that everyone needs a healthy break to get away from their busy schedules at least once a year. 

As cliche as it sounds, (and I hate to use large companies as an example), but NorthFace's tagline “never stop exploring" really says it. Take time out of your busy life to go explore something. Visit a national park, another country or even experience another culture. It can be as simple as visiting an art gallery. Whatever makes you think outside the box, and listen to your inner workings. In the society of today, we tend to work harder and faster. We get bogged down and stressed. It makes me nauseous to see people that don’t use their vacation days. It's not healthy to not have an outlet from the stresses of everyday life. I often hear from others about how busy they are, or they have kids and a work schedule, and that makes it hard. Granted, I understand that. I just don’t like to see people use that as their excuse. It doesn't have to be a extensive, expensive getaway. Even though I’m using the word “travel,” it doesn’t have to require leaving far away to utilize the experience.Travel doesn’t always have to be a plane or a far distance. Take the family for a hike in your local state park or forest preserve. Go visit a museum or an art gallery.  Go try something you’ve never experienced. Spend the weekend somewhere. Make memories. Just make sure you're experiencing something that helps you think outside the box, and helps you to appreciate this world you live in. I feel people that travel are open to new experiences and make happier, more grounded, open minded people than those that don’t. 

 

I travel to hear an elk bugling on a cool autumn night while I'm shooting the night sky. I travel to hear a mountain stream running over rocks that are so perfectly polished from years of water. I travel to hear the wind quaking the aspen leaves above my head. These experiences call to me, and make me feel alive.

So whatever stirs up your desire for travel, get out there and explore something new and give your mind a break from life’s stresses. Life is to short to not get out there and see what the world has to offer. I wouldn’t be the person who I am today without my adventures in travel.  Don’t let excuses stop you from exploring. Just get out there!

Reflecting on the last 3 years...

3 years ago, I decided to start a website to share my photography with others. This journey into photography has been an incredible adventure, and I'm going to take some time as my first "official" blog post on here to introduce how this all came to be.

The first picture I took with my first DSLR camera.

 I have always had a passion for taking photos. I can remember camping up in northern Wisconsin with my family as a young girl. Now, that was back in the day when you loaded film into a camera, shot some photos, and hoped for the best when you developed them. In my case, my parents had given me control of the camera for the trip. We were on a fishing trip, and the intent was to use the camera to take pictures of the day's catch and people fishing. I had every intention of doing that, until I realized that there were a lot of cool creatures around our campsite. As an avid animal lover from a very young age, this was very exciting to me. I remember blowing through an entire roll of film photographing the resident chipmunk of the campsite, trying to get a perfect shot. (He was really cute, and I loved animals! What can I say? I was 10! ) I can still remember when my father came back from developing the pictures, and the expression on his face as he thumbed through them. Yep. 30 pictures of your common ground squirrel. Of course I thought some looked great, but not everyone agreed. I remember getting a lecture on the price of film, and "really, 30 pictures of 1 chipmunk?!" As my father still says to this day, "that's the most photographed chipmunk in the world." That story still gets a laugh.

In college, I had the opportunity to travel out west for the first time on a geology trip for my bachelor's degree. I had a point and shoot camera at the time (still before the digital age). I remember taking so many pictures of the landscape and mountains, and waiting on one hour photo developing (in whatever town we happened to be in) to see what I had captured. I can remember always thinking how pretty the pictures were, but also how disappointed I felt that they didn't seem to do justice to what my own eyes had seen.

Fast forward a few years later after that, and I was given my first DSLR as a gift. I was terrified of that camera. Coming from the land of point and shoot cameras, it was very scary looking. So many buttons and dials, how the heck was I to learn it all? I played with it for a few days, then got frustrated and forgot about it for awhile.

I had no formal photography training as I had never taken any classes in school. Finally, I decided I was going to learn this beast of a camera. I started traveling out west to take trips with my dad around this time, and figured now was the time to learn. I bought some books, learned from them, and did the best I could. The sound of the shutter being released and watching the LCD image pop up was amazing to me and I was hooked. Ironically, some of my first real shots with that camera were of a chipmunk in Rocky Mountain National park. Old habits die hard I guess!

I knew I wanted to capture mainly wildlife, landscapes and whatever unique nature I could find. My photography was limited to my trips out west whenever I could get out there. There was a learning curve, and it was painful at times. I found myself learning the balance between ISO, exposure, aperture and learning how to use the scary setting called "manual mode."

Sometimes I would capture what I thought was an amazing image, get all the way home to load it on the computer only to find out it was slightly out of focus, or the composition wasn't quite what I thought it had been. I would sigh and say, "maybe next trip."  There were many times I'd make it back to the same area a year later, and finally get the shot. I'd have a whole year to think about it in my mind to make sure I'd get it right.

Most of my traveling has been with my father. I don't get to see him too often, so the trips are great to reconnect.  He lives in Colorado, so it's a good central location for our journeys.  We've managed to hit many unique areas, and we've put almost 7000 miles on his FJ cruiser from our travels. He's been very patient with me as I've taken my shots. Up early for sunrise, shoot the morning light, wait for wildlife, shoot sunsets, and head out for stars. I've learned how to use new equipment, and every trip has taught me a different skill. I've learned how to read clouds and the weather, and properly stalk the light (at times.)

I've done some workshops and have met some amazing photographers and people. Along with that, I've also met very rude people and rude fellow photographers. I've learned so much from the kindness of other photographers who gave me 10 minutes of their time to help me with something, even when I hadn't asked. Some of the coolest things I've learned have been from a kind soul sharing advice on a shoot. I've also had the great experience of helping others learn something at times. Some of the best things I've learned on this journey have been in the early light of morning, or the dusk of sunset from other fellow photographers. There really is a great community out there. I've also learned a lot from the rude ones too (mostly how you don't conduct yourself on a shoot around others!) The more I've learned, the more obsessed I've gotten at getting out to shoot. I've come a long way from where I was 3 years ago, and it's been a wonderful journey that I feel is still just beginning. I don't by any means consider myself any sort of professional as I still have so much to learn.

I've always had a creative side, and photography is my outlet for that. My vision has been to share the best of what nature has to offer to others. Nature is where I go to heal, to think, and to feed my soul. Photos should stir up thoughts and emotions, while also sharing a vision.  I'm traveling more than ever now, and have so many more places that I want to shoot and see. It's an adventure every time I head out to shoot. Nothing makes me happier than sitting in a spot taking and taking in a scene. It's when I'm most relaxed, and have the most clarity in my brain. Surrounding myself in this wonderful world of Mother Nature is where I feel most at home.

Thanks to all that have been following on this journey with me! Your kind comments and support have been wonderful :)

I'll close with one of my favorite quotes...

"A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety."

-Ansel Adams