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Live, Play, Shoot, Travel

2016 and the Fine Art of Forgetting

January 12, 2016
spottyblueriver

Happy New Year, folks! I realize that I am a few weeks late to the whole annual wrap up / let’s look forward party but better late than never, right?

I’ve never been one to make resolutions. I don’t believe there is any grand significance in the flipping of a calendar year and we all know that those promises to save money/lose weight/write that novel beginning on New Years Day rarely ever stick. I feel like if you want to change your life, you should probably start it now (right now!) regardless of whether it’s January 1st or June 1st or October 19th.

But while I’m not a fan of resolutions, I do like to look at a new year as a chance to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. And sometimes I like to come up with a theme – something I’m going to work on or keep in mind in the coming months. It’s never a hard and fast goal (I make those all year long … and have a long list that I’m hammering away at as we speak) but rather an idea that I want to hang onto and use to guide my decisions and reactions to life. A theme is widespread and can creep into all aspects of life. And that’s why I like it.

My theme for this year is to forget everything I know about myself.

Wait! Hold up. HUH??

Let me explain.

I think I know myself pretty well. I’ve been living with this body and this brain for thirty-six years now and in that time I’ve learned a lot about my personality. I “know” what I like. I “know” how I enjoy spending my time. I “know” that I’m shamelessly introverted and need massive amounts of alone time. I “know” the kind of projects I like to work on – the kind of writing and photography that I think are my thing.

But I want to step back from all of that – because maybe I don’t know myself as well as I think I do.

Whether we realized it or not we spend years and years cultivating our personalities and curating our personas. As time goes by we get valuable insights into what makes us tick and what makes our hearts sing. And while this is a good thing, it can also be extremely limiting because if something falls outside of that self-imposed definition of who we are and what we do, we may be less likely to jump on the opportunity.

Which is why I’m trying to forget.

So this year, rather than turning down adventures and work activities because I think they’re not “what I do”, I’m going to embrace them. I’m going to try new things – things that fall way outside my traditional definition of what makes this old girl tick. I’m going to try to forget who I am so that maybe I can learn a little. I’m going to get myself and my ego out of my own damn way. I’m going to say yes to things when my reaction would normally be “oh hell no!”. I’m going to be open.

And I encourage you to do the same. Because maybe we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do.

Do you have resolutions or goals for the New Year? I’d love to hear them! 

Live, Play, Shoot

Hipster Barbie and the Meaning of Authenticity

September 17, 2015
momwaterfall

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you’ve probably heard about Socality Barbie, the plastic Instagram star who brilliantly parodies hipster-esque outdoorsy accounts down to the tiniest detail.

I have taken a few (but really, just a few!) of the types of photos she mocks and have consumed – and enjoyed – many more. I think she’s hilarious. We can all laugh at ourselves a little bit, right?

What I like the most about her, though, is that she has opened up a discussion about the meaning of authentic nature experiences in our highly technological and world. She has broken the ice on what has become a big trend in photography and on social media: staged photos of people who appear to be so in the moment.

When I first shared the link to Socality Barbie on my personal Facebook page, the responses ranged from “Yes! I love Instagram but this is hilarious!” to “Yes! I hate Instagram. Everything is so fake.” Responses in the blogosphere have both praised and lauded her – thanking her for making light of these oh-so-serious outdoor photos and blasting her for being a bully.

If nothing else, she has definitely gotten us talking.

I’ve had an Instagram account for a while but it wasn’t until this past year that I began to use it to follow people beyond my circle of friends. I had always thought of Instagram as a place to share pictures of your kids, dogs, and desserts and was, honestly, blown away by some of the photos I saw there. There is some insane talent on that little corner of the internet.

And when I started noticing all of the stunning and obviously staged photos of beautiful people in beautiful places? I was all in. I followed a ton of those accounts. Who doesn’t like looking at pretty pictures?

But after a while I started rolling my eyes just a tiny bit at some of the things that I saw. The most grating, to me, were the people posting serious-looking photos of themselves, staring off into the sunset, coming up with big answers to big questions …. while blatantly holding a selfie stick in their hand. Nothing about that feels authentic. It just looks silly.

I don’t mind the staged, perfectly lit photos on Instagram (or anywhere else) because I see them as art. And while they have certainly strayed from the original purpose of Instagram (yanno, the “Insta” part?), they’re beautiful to look at and can be examples of great photos made by very skilled photographers. The image that these photos show (the perfect pour over coffee made on the top of a mountain? the woman wrapped in a Pendleton blanket, gazing off at the ocean?) may not be authentic in that very moment but the feeling that the photographer is trying to create is. That’s not inauthenticity – that’s photography.

We all know that, while those moments may certainly happen, life does not look like an Instagram feed. Does anyone really believe that people spend that much time walking on train tracks in fancy wide-brimmed hats? We all know that this is rarely what life looks like. I’m ok with that.

But I’m also bored with it.

After following a ton of these accounts in my early days of Instagram, I’ve started to jump ship and put the unfollow button to use. I keep some of these accounts around because the photos really are gorgeous to look at, but I want to see something different. It’s not the staging of photos that bugs me (because, let’s be honest, most great photos ARE staged, at least to some degree), it’s the repetitiveness of it all. It’s seeing the same types of pictures taken in the same places over and over again.

Show me something different. Show me something that looks authentic – or at least doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s version of authentic.

Socality Barbie’s brilliance is in her ability to nail the tiniest details of an entire genre of photos and to make us laugh at the silliness of it all. And I’m totally on board with that.

What are your thoughts on Socality Barbie? Is she funny? Mean? Both? Tell me what you think!

Live, Play, Shoot

The Selfie Stupidity Has Got to Stop

September 14, 2015
moose

I’m a big fan of selfies, and truth be told, I take a lot of them. Sometimes it’s because I (somewhat narcissistically … ) want to document where I am. Sometimes it’s because I want a human subject in my photos and I’m all that I’ve got.

So yeah, I have no problem with selfies.

This is a selfie! No shame here.

But do you know what does get my goat (pun intended!)? The recklessness of some of the people who are taking them. Specifically, it’s the people who take way-too-close selfies with dangerous wildlife, without realizing that they are putting their lives, as well as the lives of the animals, at risk.

I know I sound like the fun police but please hear me out.

The news this summer has been full of stories of people getting injured (or worse) while trying to take pictures with large or dangerous animals. There was the guy who earned himself a $153,000 hospital bill after being bit by a rattlesnake. There was the woman who was charged by a bison in Yellowstone. And there was the guy in Spain that was gored to death by a bull (not actually wildlife … but also not cuddly!).

And then there are the bear selfies, which are apparently becoming a “thing”. The problem has gotten so that Denver Water recently closed Waterton Canyon because people were getting too close to the resident bear population in order to take pictures with them.

Look, you guys, I get it. I get the desire to take pictures of, and sometimes with, large animals. Taking selfies is fun and apparently nothing looks better in the background of a Facebook profile pic than a big ass moose or bear or bison. But it’s also a really bad idea.

Fall is here and that means a lot more than just the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. For those of us in the northern climates, it means a lot of animals are on the move. The bears are eating their weight in berries before a long winter of hibernation. Deer, elk, and moose are starting to enter the rut season when their antlers are big, their hormones are raging, and they have *ahem* more important things on their mind than posing for pictures with you. Just yesterday I read an account from a wildlife photographer who had a run-in with a bull moose while standing plenty far away from it. He was able safely scurry to safety but think about how bad it could have been if he was closer or more inexperienced. Fall is not the time to mess with these critters.

This isn’t just about keeping you safe. It’s about keeping the animals safe as well. Do you know what happens to a wild animal that gets too accustomed to being around humans or, worse, attacks one? It’s not a happy ending.

I’m not saying that all wildlife photography is bad or risky. I’m just saying that you need to be smart and that getting close to (and then turning your back on) dangerous megafauna is probably not a great idea.

If you’re hellbent on having a large and dangerous wild animal posing with you in your Facebook picture, it may be time to brush up on your Photoshop skills. Or you could do what I do and just stick to selfies with dogs and donkeys.

Happy Monday, everyone! Be safe out there!

Live, Play, Shoot

The Art of Being a Beginner

September 10, 2015
The start of my first burro race. Excited and scared.

I will never forget the day that I told my husband I was going to race donkeys.

“I called a donkey trainer,” I said. “I’m meeting him on Saturday.”

He shot me a dumbfounded look.

“You’re doing what? You’re meeting who? Do you know anything about donkeys?”

They were reasonable questions. My interest in burro racing came virtually out of nowhere and my experience with donkeys was barely more than nothing. I knew which end was the front end and which end was the back end and to avoid any flying hooves but that was about the extent of it. As I drove to the trainer’s house on that fateful Saturday afternoon I wondered what in the hell I was doing. Was I crazy? Was all of this crazy?

The answer to that question, of course, is yes. But that’s not the point of this. The point is that I was a beginner in the truest sense of the word. And it was exhilarating.

Being new at anything is hard and scary. You don’t know what you’re doing or where you’re going. You don’t speak the lingo. You hear terms like gaper and Fred and you don’t really know what they mean but you know that they’re not good. You kind of want to hide. You definitely don’t want to look like a fool.

Here’s the thing about being a beginner: There’s a really good chance that you are going to suck.

And the other thing about being a beginner? Sucking is ok.

I was at a writing class last year and the wise woman that was teaching said magical words that have stuck with me ever since: You’re never going to be worse at this than you are right now. She was talking about pitching to magazines but the principle applies to a lot of things in life. And while it sounds like a Debbie Downer of a statement, there is a lot of freedom in it.

You might suck now, but that’s ok. You’ll only get better from here.

When you’re a newb at something the expectations are set firmly at rock bottom. No one expects you to be good. No one thinks you know more than you do. This applies to things like hiking and mountain biking and climbing and skiing but it also applies to writing and photography. It relates to starting a new job or raising a family. It applies to anything that is something that you haven’t done before or haven’t been doing for long.

So embrace it. Enjoy being a goofy beginner that stumbles and falls. Go over the bars. Forget to unclip at a stop sign and topple over in front of an audience. Yard sale in the snow and then pick yourself up, make sure all appendages are intact, and then laugh your ass off. Take bad pictures. Write bad stories. Tell the voices in your head to shut the hell up (this is just Resistance) and keep soldiering on. You’ll be embarrassed and awkward. But you’ll also get better.

This conversation is relevant to me as I prepare to embark on my second year of snowboarding. I spent most of last year falling on my face (and, more often, my ass) in the snow. I crawled down green runs and suffered through those painful first days when the simple act of getting off the chairlift seemed like a Herculean task. I’m a little better now, but not by much. I have a long way to go.

And I’m embracing the awkwardness.

When was the last time you were a beginner at something? Any advice for other newbs? I want to hear your stories!

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Live, Play, Shoot, Travel

Snapshots: Hanalei Bay Sunrise

September 2, 2015
hanalei

Happy Wenesday, y’all! I’ve been laid-up for the better part of the last four days due to … a stubbed toe. Yes, a stubbed toe. It’s been a bit of a bummer. In the absence of my ability to do much of anything, I’m reminiscing about adventures past. Today I’m taking you to Hanalei. Enjoy!

There is a long list of people who probably shouldn’t go on vacation with me and near the top of that list is People Who Enjoy Their Sleep.

I know a lot of travelers see vacation as a time to sleep in, order breakfast in bed, linger over coffee. Not me. I get up early at home and earlier when I’m away. Trips are never long enough – I like to make the most of them.

My husband knows this about me and has stopped putting up much of a fight. Still, I was mildly surprised when he didn’t roll his eyes for a single second when I told him I wanted to watch the sunrise in Hanalei on our first day in Kauai. A 4 a.m. alarm had us leaving our hotel in Kapa’a in the dark and sitting with our asses planted firmly in the Hanalei sand when the sun started coming up.

That comfortable seated position? It didn’t last long.

A storm blew in, which is to be expected in this eternally damp corner of the world. We ran for the picnic shelter and hid from the rain. He drove to town to pick up coffee and breakfast while I waited out the storm. The dawn patrol crowd was trickling in, surfboards under their arms, the picture of a perfect Hawiian morning. One of the surfers looked at me as he passed, paying no mind to the dumping rain. “You know what this means, don’t you? A rainbow is coming.” He was right.

Hanalei is one of those places that is almost hard to believe exists. The crescent-shaped bay. The lush green hillsides. The rainbows that appear with such regularity that the locals can predict them with confidence.

We spent the rest of the day tired and happy. Getting out of bed in the middle of the night is never easy – but it’s always worth it.

Hope you all have a great Wednesday!