Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

To New Adventures.

About 10 years ago I was a fresh-out-of-college-graduate, living in Sacramento with my parents. I had dreams of starting a photography business, and I had dreams of starting it in San Diego where Zach had moved down t0 only months before. I knew I could make it work, so only after a few months of being out of college, I immediately set off to Southern California; with big dreams and big hopes.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve built my business from the ground up. Building my client base, working with some amazing people, and honing my craft. Living in the San Diego area (specifically Encinitas where we ended up settling) has be wonderful, and such a treat. There really is nothing like being able to walk to the ocean everyday. San Diego/Encinitas became the place where I grew into myself as a person, and the place where I began listening to my voice, and trusting my gut. The place where I found my wings as an artist and a person, and where I started to fly.

The place where the adventures began.

But even though San Diego created so many wonderful things for me (and us), it was missing something else – namely family, and the community of people we grew up with. And the trees. Man, I missed the abundance of trees up there.

So, after many hours, days & weeks of going back and forth, we came to the decision to start the next chapter in our adventure, and move back up to Northern California, specifically Sacramento where we were raised. Where our family is, and where Zach can fulfill his own dream of finishing his degree.

While I will be living in and based out of Sacramento starting January 2015, I will be serving both Sacramento & the San Francisco Bay Area for weddings, photo sessions & other photography services.  

We are sad to be leaving the relationships & life we’ve built down here, but we know that this next step in our lives is the right one. We will be closer to family, be able to accomplish more life goals, and I will be able to work with my Northern California client base to build my business and my art further.

So, farewell San Diego. Here’s to new adventures!

——————

If you’re in Sacramento or the Bay Area and are interested in inquiring or booking for a wedding or session, please email me, I would love to hear from you! I will be offering booking specials for the first few months of 2015, drop me an email to hear more!

In addition, I would love to collaborate with fellow creatives on shoots, so if you’re interested in getting some photos of something unique & creative, or have some great ideas and want to potentially get it captured, I would love to hear from you too!

 

i turn 33 today.

November 21, 2014

Often when people ask me my age, I end up not remembering what it is immediately. “I’m… thirty….. two!” I’d say, after a pause and some thinking. I just simply can’t remember how old I am off the top of my head anymore. My mom used to say something about forgetting how old you actually are after a certain age, and I felt that once I hit thirty, I have just completely forgotten how many years after thirty it’s been. I tell myself that this year, I have less of an excuse to not remember, because it’s double numbers, and as long as I can remember 3, I’ll be good to go. ;)

This year itself has been an interesting one. My year as a 32 year old started off rocky, but as I look back a year later, I am happy to say that I have come away a thousand times stronger than I was 365 days ago. It’s funny how much can happen in a year, but it’s also wonderful how much growth can happen in that timespan as well. The quote I chose for the above image captures this past year in many ways for me. Much of the year has been a lot of soul searching, a lot of figuring out who I am, and where I stand in my beliefs & values. And by doing this, I have never felt so authentic, so honest, and so me.

In addition to looking back, I am also looking forward to the coming year. There are going to be some major changes which will be announced in the coming weeks. Exciting things are in the works, and I can’t wait for this new phase in life.

In all of this, there has always been photography. Aside from Zach, who is always my rock, photography has been one of my biggest constants. It has been my medium for expression for at least the last 10 years, and in no way is that going to stop any time soon. If anything, the last year has strengthened my desire to continue to find expression through photography. Not only expression, but the need to tell stories; my story, as well as others’. Photography is my medium for storytelling, my way of sharing with others how I see the world, and how it makes me feel. I love sharing that with others, because I want people to be inspired by life and the beauty that lies in it, much the same way that I am. The beauty of the grand moments, the beauty of the special moments, and the beauty of the simple everyday moments. These are all threads in the fabric of life, and recognizing them can only enrich who we are.

So with all that said, I’ve decided a few things for my 33rd birthday. I won’t stop sharing. I won’t stop taking pictures. I won’t stop telling my story and I won’t stop telling other peoples’ stories through imagery. I won’t stop being honest. I won’t stop dreaming and I won’t stop finding wonder in life.

I hope to take you on this journey with me, as I know it’s going to be an adventure.

Photos of me by Zachary Kearns

 

A few days ago, I was going through the archives of my blog, looking over old posts, and reading old things I wrote. I was a much different blogger then than I am now, and it made me wonder, why? What changed? Why did I stop sharing so much? In all honesty, I think that is one of my favorite things about photography — sharing the way I se the world. I love sharing with people how I see life, and how I want to live it. The things that inspire me, that make my jaw drop, the tidal wave of emotions that is the human experience. That is what art is all about, right? A way to express emotion, when simple direct words fail you.

Adventure has always been something I highly value. The ability to explore new places, and to experience that magical feeling of awe — is one of my favorite things in the world. This past summer, Zach and I, along with some of our friends, took off for the Eastern Sierras on a camping trip with the goal to hike Mount Dana. This would be my first mountain summit, and it was quite the experience. I caught my first fish, and we got chased off the summit of the mountain by a sudden thunderstorm! We camped at Tioga Lake, which was always a dream of mine – to camp right next to a lake in the grass, and we canoed, fished, and enjoyed the beautiful Sierras. During our stay there, we also visited Mammoth Mountain and surrounding areas, hiking to Rainbow Falls, stopping at random places by the side of the road (like abandoned homes that overlook the mountains) and Alabama Hills, which was HOT, but beautiful.

In addition, you will also noticed more photos of me! That’s because Zach had taken a photography class this past year, and shot alongside me during this entire trip, which was awesome. :) He made some really wonderful images — like the one above, which was just before sunrise on the way to Tioga Lake (to which I was passed out in the car at the time).

All in all, a wonderful adventure, filled with good memories, and new experiences!

the importance of a photograph.

September 13, 2013

Emails like this make my heart soar, and reaffirms to me that doing what I love is the right thing to do.

Hi Susan,
I just wanted to let you know about what [this] moment you captured meant to me. I probably cried for about 2 weeks when I saw this. I couldn’t figure out if it was because Tony and I were truly happier than we had been in months in this picture. Or because I looked so much like my mom in her young black and white pictures when she married my dad. Or because I was wearing the sweater I had bought for my dad exactly the year prior in April and [had] given [it] to him in the hospital from my trip to Peru. That was one of the [most] difficult moments in my life.  He fought cancer for a quick 4 months but it felt like an eternity.  He never got to wear that sweater because he passed away on Father’s Day last year but somehow this picture captured every emotion I had last year and our movement forward for both Tony and I. You captured us in a truly happy moment and [because] that [had been] so rare for us for so long, I was filled with emotion when I saw the picture. Tony was so confused when I kept tearing up when I looked at the picture, but you are truly a talented person. I looked so much like my mom when she was young. It really reminded me of the old black and white pics I’ve seen of my parents on their wedding day and brought happiness and emotion to me at the same time.

It’s a simple picture but I loved it. To me, it reminded me of my dad, and the man I married and love so much and that life moves forward even when you don’t realize it. Feb really was a transition time for me. We passed the first holiday w/o my dad and it was just after my parents 40-something anniversary. I never thought I would see myself smiling like that for a long time. Thank you for capturing this even if you don’t realize what you captured. It was a genuine moment and means more to me than you realize. It made me happy and emotional at the same time.
Thank you.
-JK

I don’t often hear back from people whom I’ve photographed. Mostly because I think life gets the best of us all, and people become too busy to reply, or send a note. So it’s especially delightful when I do get a message like this, especially one so heartfelt & expressive. Even more delightful for me, because I honestly had no clue when I took this image that it would have as much impact as it did, but it really does go to show you that these little moments do need to be captured in our lives. And it just tells me that yes, photography is my path, and I am so grateful to be able to share with people not only what I see when I look at the world, but to give them tangible memories. Moments that allow us to reflect on our growth, and look back at where our life was, and is, going. Who we were in that very moment the image was taken. This is a powerful gift, and I an honored to be able to give it.

———-

See the blog post from this trip.

Ah, Yosemite. Few places in the world have my heart like you do. The first time I ever set foot in Yosemite, it was in the winter of 2011. I was in utter awe. There is something to be said about standing in the middle of a valley like that, with granite walls several thousand feet above you. Upon returning after that first trip, I told Zach about a month or two later — “I want to take a solo camping trip. To Yosemite.” A few months later, I did.

Now this is something I like to think about quite often. Solo trips are something I truly love to do. The first one I took was in 2009 — I drove up and down the west coast to Seattle (driving along the coast for the majority of the way up). The reason I do these solo trips are largely because I need time to myself — to mature, grow, and learn about myself. Not that I can’t do that at home, but I feel like when I’m taken out of my element, I am more daring. I learn more, and the entire time, I learn very much how to lean on myself. No longer do I have another person with me to fall back on for decision making, I have to make all the decisions. I have to trust my gut — that still, little voice within. This is actually a very big lesson that I learned on this trip, and an experience I’ll describe later in this post.

This is not to say that I’m totally alone on these trips. I am very conscious of safety, and I usually make sure that I am safe on these adventures — I just don’t have another person alongside me the entire time, which is a distinct difference. I still make connections with people that I cross paths with, which is something that is very important to me, seeing as I am a person who loves human interaction.

So, why take a trip like this? I wasn’t entirely sure, to be honest. Initially, it was tied to figuring out what I truly believed in religion & spiriturality. But in the end it became much more than that. When the idea came into my head, it was more of a gut feeling. I knew I had to do this. This was something that would be very important to me, for my growth as a person. And thankfully Zach was extremely supportive, which I am so grateful for. I simply had visions of me doing yoga in the trees, on rocks, and I knew I just had to make that happen. So just before Memorial Day weekend, a year ago, I packed all my camping year, and at 11pm, set out for the 7 hour drive to Yosemite.

Once I arrived, it the first light of dawn began spreading over the trees.

Driving through the night is absolutely NO fun alone, but once I was greeted with this view, it was so completely worth it.

After I settled into my campsite, I set out to explore, to SEE! To take AMAZING PHOTOS! Problem was, I was exhausted. And an exhausted Susan = a grumpy Susan. I had a couple of days in this amazing location alone, and I was wasting it! Or so I felt at the time. When really, I was just putting too many expectations on myself. I needed to rest, I needed to recharge. So after a looooong day, I finally slept, and woke up the next morning, refreshed and ready to tackle my newest adventure.

The first hike that I decided to do was totally on a whim. I packed all my gear, ready for a hike, with absolutely no plan at all. This is very much how the rest of my trip went — I didn’t plan a whole lot, and a lot of time, I just let my instincts guide me. So I began walking in one direction, when I stumbled upon a path for Upper Yosemite Falls. It’s early, I’ve heard this is a lovely hike — why not?

Later in the evening, I took off for Mirror Lake, and watched the sunlight fade on Half Dome, while I did yoga on a rock in the middle of the “lake” (which is totally dried up now).

The next morning, I woke up, and headed for the nearby meadow for a bit of morning yoga & contemplation.

The funny thing is, I don’t think I really did all that much yoga in the meadow that morning. I just did a few breathing exercises, and maybe some balances. It wasn’t until later into that hike that I truly dug into a yoga practice. As well as the first time I consciously heard my intuition talk to me.

As I left the meadow on the trail, I began to follow the Merced River. Once I was hiking along the river, I realized that it would be a great location for another, longer yoga session.

When this thought occurred to me, I saw the perfect location. There were a few large rocks, and it overlooked the river and Half Dome. There were people just getting up to leave. It had the view, the rocks! It should be perfect!

And then I heard it.

No.

I stopped dead in my tracks. The voice was so small, I wasn’t sure. I shrugged, thinking I was imagining things, and began to take another step towards the “perfect spot” when I heard it again.

No. Move on.

…. what?? This was all so strange. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m all alone, it won’t hurt to move on, so, I’ll move on.” I walked several hundred feet when I found the next “perfect” location, and I heard it again — this time it was a little louder.

No. Move on.

“What is going on?!” I wondered. But I decided to listen to it, and kept walking on.

The next spot that appeared to me as a potential spot had a large, flat rock. Right next to the river, with a large tree overhead. Before my brain had a moment to ask myself if this would be a good spot, my feet were already making it’s way over there. I knew this was it.

As I stood on that rock after doing some yoga (with my dirty, dirty hippie feet), I began to meditate, to which I asked myself — what the hell just happened over there?? I have never experienced something like that, or at least, I have never really been able to identify it.

After some contemplation, I realized that, that small little voice, was my intuition talking to me. The other, loud, chattery voice? That was my brain. Maybe you could say it was my head versus my heart. Either way, it was a big deal, and almost like I had tapped into a completely new source of myself. And I felt more… whole.

So, I decided that now that I could hear my intuition (at least a little bit), I would let it guide the rest of my trip. I would do my best to tell my brain to shut up, and I would let my heart guide me.

And so I did.

Later that evening, I took another hike, this time to Vernal Falls.

Along the way, I would stop and do yoga on random rocks when I felt like it. I could hear my brain going “What are you doing? People are going to see you and think you’re a weirdo. They’re going to judge you!!” And to which I simply said, shut up!

I hiked to the top of that falls, which was probably one of my most favorite hikes on the trip. They call this trail the Mist Trail, and rightfully so, because you pretty much get sprayed by the falls when you get close to it, but I thought it was lovely because it created a magical haze through the light.

The next day was the last one on that trip, so I woke up, set on spending another morning in the meadow.

That quickly became my favorite location to be when the sun rose, because it was peaceful, and I felt like the only person in the entire place.

When I first walked into the meadow, there were no clouds in the sky, but as I sat and watched, I saw clouds began to dance around the cliffs. They hugged, and looped, and ebbed and flowed. The clouds were a sure sign of what they had been warning all week — that it was going to rain, so I was glad to be leaving that day.

After enjoying a warm breakfast and packing up my campsite, I headed towards Sentinel Dome. One of my fellow campers had recommended it, because it had 360 views of the entire valley. The hike was only about 5 miles round trip and mostly flat, so it should be a relatively easy hike. So I headed off.

Before heading to the Dome, I decided to stop at Glacier Point, where you could see some great views too. The problem was that it was massively crowded, and I wasn’t a big fan of all the tourists, so I took a few photos and left. (The lower falls you see in the photo is Vernal Falls, which I had hiked to the day before)

So as I hiked out to Sentinel Dome, the weather became more and more stormy. I figured I could handle some rain, so I wasn’t worried. I had all my protective gear on, so I didn’t think it would be a problem.

(Photo above is the now dead Jeffery Pine that Ansel Adams photographed)

It was actually pretty cool out there, but after a little bit, the wind picked up, and the clouds began to cover any sort of view I had. And as I stood out there, it began to snow!

I became so massively excited that I called Zach to tell him. (Funny enough, I had full bars up there, something I totally did not even have IN the valley) Then I decided I should probably head back before it got crazy.

As I walked back, I stopped every couple of feet to take photos. I mean, of course, right? At first, the snow didn’t stick, and then it began to. First the path was easy to see, and then that began to get covered up. I began to rely on other people’s tracks after that. And then, I stopped to take a photo, and once I looked back down, I realized…

… the path was gone…

… there were no more footsteps to follow…

… I had lost the trail.

I was lost.

This would probably be no problem for people who grew up in the snow, or if the path had been marked properly in the snow (this area is usually closed off in the winter). But for me, it was bad.

Interestingly, in hindsight, this was a perfect lesson of my head vs my heart. Deep down, in my gut, I knew if I kept going left, I would hit the main road eventually. Luckily I had studied the map of the trail well enough to know that. But my head began to freak out. The snow was getting stronger, as well as the wind, and I began to panic. So I called Zach with my one bar left, and freaked out. He calmed me down, and as I kept walking, I spotted the bathrooms. Yes! So I told him I saw the bathrooms (which was next to my car, but I unfortunately left that information out), and he told me to call him once I got to  my car. Well, of course, once I got to my car, I was so shaken up that I simply wanted to leave, and I had no reception at all, so I began to drive down to Mariposa Grove, which is where I wanted to stop to next.

Of course, I had absolutely no reception for several hours after that.

I wish I could tell you I was good, and called him right away once I got to a pay phone, but I did not. I think I was still in shock, and I was dead set on going to the sequoia grove that I simply headed straight there. Once I finally emerged, I began to get reception back, and thus a zillion messages hit my phone. My heart & stomach hit the floor. Crap!

(My digital camera had died at that point, so I only had a very small amount of images from the sequoia grove on film.)

After calling Zach back and assuring him I was fine (understandably he was stressed, and angry at me at the same time — he actually called Search and Rescue on me as well, who informed him that another man had been lost on that same trail, so it wasn’t just me!), I began to head home. Stressed and tired, I saw all sorts of crazy things on the way home. Every time I saw a tall shadow (like a building) alongside the freeway, I thought it was a cliff. I totally needed to get home and be in bed!

——–

Even with all the crazy, all the getting lost, and the snow, I am so glad I took this trip. It was a large growth experience for me, seeing as it was the moment where I truly began to hear my Voice. As an artist, and a person, this is something I am constantly trying to hear and understand, especially in a society where everyone else is proclaiming their opinions on the internet. It’s hard to hear what you truly think, when you can’t help but hear the noise of other people’s voices. And I heard it best when I was alone, not under the influence of anyone else. Now that I’m back in the regular hum of life, it still gets difficult to hear, but I am always constantly striving to listen to it, especially when I am creating & taking photos. That intuition that tells me yes, or no. It guides me not only in my art, but my everyday life, and I know that as I grow as a person, that voice will not only get louder, but so much stronger. :)

 

I sat here for some time, trying to figure out what to write about this session. Not because I had nothing to say, but because I wasn’t sure how to formulate my thoughts into a cohesive manner. I could tell you about what a beautiful dancer Tara is (because she is), or I could tell you about my obsession with ballerinas and pointe shoes (give me a camera and put me in front of a ballerina and I’ll be irrationally happy).

Or I could talk about how these images were a lot of things for me.

Growth, because this was the first time I shot a dance session 90% on film. I learned so much doing this session, about the technique of photographing a dancer like this as well as how I want to approach sessions like this in the future.

And this isn’t like my Movement sessions — this was something else entirely.

This was a small seed, planted in the dirt of an idea, about capturing the beauty of a dancer. I started first with Tiffany’s session (a full blog of which is forthcoming) & Tara’s is my second. When I start projects like this, or have ideas, they usually don’t solidify until I’ve gone through and put myself in the thick of it. Had trials and errors. Experienced and seen what I truly wanted.

To be honest, this idea is still a bit like vapors to me. Capturing the beauty of a dancer? Isn’t that supposedly what photographers are supposed to do anyway? Am I offering anything truly new to the dance photography world? I want to believe I am. Deep down, I know I am.

My voice will solidify as I go, my images will hold meaning and beauty in the way that I want them to. It’ll all come in time. Right now, all I can do is create.

Styling: Susan Yee