It was so incredibly difficult to narrow it down, and I still have way too many. 2016 was an incredible, transformative year for me. It was the worst of life and the best, all rolled into one. It’s actually hard to believe that everything that happened took place in the space of one year. In terms of photography, I continue to be amazed and grateful that I get to do what I love every day. I regularly think about sitting at my desk in a law office, knowing I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and dreaming of the day I could pursue my dream. I was kicked out of the nest before I thought I was ready, but I set my eyes forward and didn’t look back. On days when I feel overwhelmed or like quitting (yes, that does happen sometimes, let’s be real!), I think about how 2009 me would be in awe of 2016 me, and I feel better. Perspective is what keeps us grounded! I have had the honor of photographing the most incredible people this year. Some of my families have returned several times in one year, and some come back every year on vacation and I get to see their families and babies grow. If you think you feel old watching your own kids get big, imagine that multiplied many times over! I’ve seen newborns turn into big kids and become big brothers and sisters. I’ve seen babies enter this world that are now such grown up little people! My heart is full.
2016 was also filled with loss and transformative changes – some of which did not come easily. In March, my mom’s fiance passed away suddenly, and less that 48 hours later I lost my dad to cancer at only 58 years old. He never stopped fighting to live – his zest for life and rugged determination never wavered. The last vivid memory I have of him was sitting with him at golden hour (my favorite time of day) in my aunt’s front garden. He looked around with a mixture of deep appreciation and sadness in his eyes. He had his leg propped up, but it was swelling and he knew he would have to say goodnight to the sun, to the breeze, to the flowers and birds and people with their dogs walking by. And he wanted to keep taking it all in. The perfect mirror of the bigger picture. He knew his time was short. But he didn’t want to leave. In April, my sister came in from CA for his service and we went to Myakka State Park and spread his ashes in the place he loved so much, where we fished and canoed with the gators and where he pushed us on swings. In that moment, I felt him all around me and knew he would always be with me because I am made of him, made from him – my memories, my personality, my way of seeing the world…is because of him. I’ve included some images of the last time we were together as a family, the last time he looked like himself. Losing my dad made me realize that our time is too short to live a life that is not authentically ours. That biding time in hopeless hope that things would get better was a terrible, wasteful tragedy. Within months I had made a life changing decision and ended a 7 year relationship. It was hands down, the hardest thing I have ever done. I learned that just because something hurts doesn’t mean it is bad or wrong. That the old cliche is true – “the only way around it is through it”. And when you are on the other side, it can be pretty beautiful.
Now to the happy part! One of my biggest dreams and desires is to travel, and travel I did this year! I spent some much needed time with my teenage daughters, as we became pseudo-groupies of our favorite band, The 1975. We saw them in St. Augustine, Charleston, Tampa and Orlando. After having the last 4 years of my life dictated by a nursing baby and then toddler, this was seriously what the doctor ordered for all three of us. And here I learned that taking time with your family and yourself is just as vital as working like a maniac. 😉 We also got to spend 10 days in Joshua Tree, CA with my sister’s family. That place is pure magic, and so are the photos I took there! I worked in NYC more than once – a place I had not been since 2002 (and then only for a day, with a double stroller!), and I took the kids there the week before Christmas – that was amazing. I love NYC and I would spend as much time there as I can manage! In October I went to Moab, Utah for continuing education with The Photo Rehab. There, I met a dozen or so friends I had only known online and recharged before season hit. The end of 2016 through the New Year was spent in Tromso, Norway. My first time in Europe! Seriously, a dream come true. With the guidance of some very special people, I stood underneath the Northern Lights, overcome with wonder, and photographed them. And something sweet and magical happened on New Year’s Day (check back in next month to find out what.) You know you’re crazy lucky to talk astronomy with someone when you ask a question and they say “well, once I was talking to Carl Sagan and…)! Traveling so much in the fall and winter was very challenging work-wise. I cannot thank my sweet clients enough for being so awesome during this time. It was a fitting way to end the year….learning about the universe from an expert, staring up at the multitude of stars, and contemplating our oneness with nature and with each other – for we are all made from stardust, after all.
These bones that bound us will be gone
We’ll stir our spirits ’til we’re one
Then soft as shadows we’ll become