Personal Projects: Washington State Workshop and Personal Exploration
That was my first thought when I stepped off the plane in the Seattle airport. I had barely slept the night prior because we photographed a wedding the night before that ended at 11:30pm, I stayed up to backup the wedding files and create a sneak peek for the newlyweds and pack my bags, and my flight took off from Philadelphia less than 11 hours after the wedding ended the day before..
I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve traveled alone, but it was one of the first times I just decided to just up and go somewhere by myself and meet up with a group of like-minded strangers all the way across the country.
Have you ever traveled alone? I was terrified to try it – I mean, who weirdly plans to take time off to spend with… yourself? Especially when you have so many amazing friends, family, and a husband whom also shares a passion for travel. Plan something. Execute something. Do something. sans familiar faces. And have fun while doing it.
I picked up the rental car (only my second time renting a car by myself in my life – the first time was when I had to 911 fly down to Florida to see my Dad when we found out he had cancer). Fortunately the car was easy to drive and I began my trek across Washington state to make it to Olympia National Park where the rest of my new wanderlust friends were waiting to greet me.
The first night there was fire.
And wine. But I remember mostly the smiling faces of other photographers talking about their backgrounds and what they were looking forward to the most at this workshop. We were staying in this fun home-away-from-home-cabin buried deep into the woods. I remember when everyone laughed at me when I freaked out because we were deep in the woods without Deet… and I thought the ticks would get us. Apparently angry ticks are only a Pennsylvania concern though.
I woke up the next morning and jumped out of bed. We were headed to the beach for our very first session of the day. I grew up merely moments from the east coast ocean so any day with a bit of salt in the air is a good day to me. We drove to the closest parking lot and hiked at least a mile through the most beautiful state forest before we found the white sandy beaches of Washington State and my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean.
How inspiring is this? I turned to tell someone how beautiful it was… but no one was there. Everyone was hustling to be taught and to learn from our workshop instructor, JB Sallee.
So instead, I have to laugh at my inner Disney nerd all by myself – I felt like I had landed feet first in the world of Pandora. It was absolutely breathtaking and so very very freeing. I think we walked almost 10 miles on the beach that morning photographing here, there, everywhere.
I carried my gear. I chose my shots. I got sand in my shoes. I. I. I. Yep, when you travel sans partners, it really can be all about the decisions you make. When you attend a workshop sometimes it is also all about creating your own destiny too. I’m a pretty competent photographer – so the techniques being taught were similar to how Uncorked Studios already works with clients on location with shot setup and lighting – so I focused more on the feeling of being free to create. Can I tell you how liberating that can be?
This workshop was back in June of 2017. I was dealing with many many feels in June. We photographed almost 50 weddings for the most amazing couples in 2016 – but that meant we were working 60-80 hour work weeks for most of the year. I was exhausted. I was dealing with all of the sad and lonely feelings of coming to terms with my Dad’s battle with pancreatic cancer (he became my guardian angel in January 2017). 2016 was the toughest year of my life. Then as I was dealing with all the sadness that cancer exposes a family to – we lost my fur baby, Duke, to cancer as well. They call it a sneaky cancer that you can’t detect coming until nothing can be done. They told me he had 6 weeks to live. He died a little less than 2 weeks after this diagnosis. He wasn’t even 8 years old. I’m telling you – June 2017 was full of all the feels.
If you know me well, I’m not really the chatty type when it comes to my personal feelings. My wonderful husband needs a pry-bar just to get two words out of me most days – I’m still not sure how he deals with my emotions, but he does, and he does so very well. I can tell you though, sometimes a little bit of a solo beach walk is all you need to seek a bit of inner peace.
Back to the workshop. So… fun fact…. I made the dress the model was wearing in the first set of locations. Well, I mean I didn’t MAKE MAKE the dress, but I did find the style and dye it black to go along with the stylization of the concept for the workshop shoot. I DID make the extremely long flowy veil to pair with it. I’m sure the model wanted to shred the veil and sacrifice it to the sea when the photos were over – but it really was the icing on the cake for some of the images we created as workshop attendees. If you’re a future bride reading this – take note – buy a long long long beautiful veil…. even if it is just for photos. I’ll love you forever. And ever.
I enthusiastically got to photograph in black and white. Most of the time we don’t use a ton of black and white images because no matter how beautiful they turn out, our clients typically request that our visions get put back into color. But I’m still obsessed with black and white. So enjoy some lovely black and white images on the beaches of Washington State. Remember, my mantra was I. I. I. I wanted to create some black and white imagery.
I did imagine the world in color too. We used the Profoto B1’s to create some epic light on location.
And that was just the first morning of the workshop.
I want to write about every bit of thought that crept through my head after every moment of my time in Washington State but this blog would be 70 million words long and I’d probably lose you in the thoughts my head. Which I mean, I’ve come to terms with may things since my trip to Washington. The biggest is my fear of being alone anywhere in this world. I actually enjoyed many of the quiet moments. Don’t get me wrong, I missed companionship like crazy (Travis…. I love you) – but sometimes you just need to get lost in your own head.
My few days in the state of Washington were graced with absolutely zero rain drops – which is a miracle worth mentioning. The locals were in shock at all the blue sky we experienced because it just doesn’t happen that way in Washington.
Let me summarize the rest of my trip as briefly as I can.
We reflect when we write, right? So I suppose a better word to describe my feelings when I stepped off that plane in Washington State might have to be: solo – not alone. And I’m looking forward to my next solo trip too because it opens your eyes to things that you can do and how many gifts this amazing world has to give.
Guys. I’m not going to lie – I want to go to Iceland and attend this amazing Iceland workshop lead by Grand Master JB Sallee for free… but the only way I can win the trip is with your help. Some of you haven’t gone all the way and pressed the 👍 on my original comment on this post. The person with the most likes on their comment before March 16 wins the prize of attending the workshop for free… I need to double my number of likes to have a chance of winning!
I understand if you don’t want to get involved with clicking the link or finding the page, but if you made it this far in this blog, you understand what Iceland could mean to me. Please like my comment using the link above or maybe share this post so someone else can read about my adventures..
SIDE NOTE PART DEUX:
If you felt a bit of joy reading my blog experience – consider signing up for an exploration of your own. You’ll never know what you can discover about yourself. (There are still two seats for Iceland in July!)
SIDE NOTE PART TROIS:
After this experience… I promptly booked a third workshop with the Grand Master and convinced Travis and two of our very good friends to join us in France in January 2017 – I’ll be sharing this experience soon too! What a beautiful World!
Cheers everyone! Thanks for reading