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The Fun of Photography

I really appreciate all of the support that I’ve received in starting my own business, and that includes from readers of this blog. My amazing friends and family are already spreading the word, and every time I see that my page is shared on FB, I get a happy feeling. 😀

So why photography? Don’t get me wrong, writing is still one of my primary passions in life. But photography and graphic design is incredibly rewarding in its own right. When you learn how to post-process photos and add your own creative flair to them, you get amazing results. As I’ve played around with settings over the years, I’ve had fun watching my own personal style grow and transform. That’s part of your marketing strategy. Yes, there might be a ton of other pictures out there of the mountains or forests, but what makes yours unique? I guess my ultimate goal is that someday, people will be able to look at one of my photos and automatically know that it’s mine because it will be different enough from all the others.

While I still have a lot to learn (like night/astral photography for one), I’ve been fortunate to have access to the works of certain photographers who have helped give me some great advice. For example, I can now take a variety of pictures and know how to post-process them in a way that I never could before. I mean, I can take a photo like this:

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This was taken up at Smith Rock State Park, practically in my little city’s backyard. It’s one of the most visited tourist spots in our area.

And I can make it into something ethereal, almost other-worldly with its colors and effects:

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Does it look surreal? Sure it does. But that’s the beauty of photography. We are able to take something that seems too good to be true and bring people happiness whenever they get to see it. I think that’s part of what really drives me as a landscape/nature photographer. I love the idea of being able to capture an image for someone who might never get the chance to see that place in real life. And for the locals here who have gotten to hike this thing multiple times, it’s fun for them to recognize their own landscape on a greeting card or in a calendar.

To me, this is what makes both writing and photography such great professions. When I write a story, I want to take my readers to a whole different world, where they can forget their everyday life and enjoy seeing what my characters will do next. When I take a photo, I want to let people imagine what that place must be like and give them a little bit of peace every time that they look at it hanging on their wall.

Life is amazing, guys. After the hardships that I endured for so many years, I never thought that I could experience this kind of happiness in doing what I love for a living. It’s hard work. But it is oh so rewarding.

Follow your dreams. Do what you love. Never give up.

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Well, Hawaii was a blast. I mean, like there’s any other way to describe something so close to paradise. I will say, however, as much as I thought that I was going to be fine in the heat and humidity, I was actually a little overheated a few times. When I had gone there before, it was at Oahu, and it rained a lot. Not a very hard rain, of course, but enough that it actually cooled me down quite a bit.

This time we were at Kona, and while it was still a ton of fun, the side of the island we were on really doesn’t get much more rain than we do in Central Oregon. (Which isn’t much at all.) The muggy humidity and lack of rain got to me a few times, but thankfully it wasn’t too bad overall. I guzzled water like a freaking camel and never went anywhere without my trusty 32 oz. HydroFlask.

We packed a lot into just a few short days, so Brother and I were pretty tired by the time we got home. But we got to see the tallest waterfall on the island, watch a live volcano, and go inside the oldest church on the island. We drove all around and saw a lot of different scenery. Plus our last day there, we got to spend the whole day at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. We made definite plans to go back someday, and now we have a better idea of what to do there and where we want to spend more time.

I didn’t get quite as many photos as I had hoped for, but I was still able to get some decent ones. Even a few that I will be able to use for marketing purposes.

Which brings me to my announcement.

I’m super excited (and a little bit scared) to introduce my latest project, Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. Any of you who have read my book, Prince of Light, might recognize the name Hawk’s Haven. It’s actually a family name. My grandparents used to own this little one-bedroom cabin by a lake. There was no running water, no electricity, and nothing but a wood stove for warmth. But multiple members of the family used it for vacations (and even a couple of honeymoons). I was quite young when we used to go there, but I still have fond memories of it. We went there to get away from the stress of everyday life and just enjoy nature. Thus when I decided to pursue landscape/nature photography and use my photos for home decor, it felt like a fitting tribute to the name.

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Photo taken at the top of Black Crater in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Design by yours truly.

I’m so excited for this, guys. I’m still a writer and always will be. I’m also still working hard on book two of the Prince of Light series.

But there were a series of hardships I had to endure before I could continue working on that particular series. I know some of my followers have been here for a little while, and while I’m not sure exactly how many read my blog on a regular basis, they might have noticed some changes over the last year or so. I won’t go into details for the sake of the people involved, but last summer, I ended my marriage. In fact, this month has been a bit surreal for me, because the paperwork was finalized last October. It’s been almost one year exactly.

Believe me, you never think that you’re going to contribute to that statistic until you do. I never imagined that I would end up divorced. I mean, it’s not like you go into marriage with that mindset. I certainly didn’t. But the situation was an abusive one, and it wasn’t changing despite many efforts and time in counseling. Needless to say, writing a romantic storyline wasn’t exactly number one on my priorities, which is why the Prince of Light series had to take a hiatus.

For the most part, I feel strong. I don’t hate men, and I don’t hate my ex. I forgave him a long time ago. Unfortunately, this was the necessary path for both of us, but I believe we will both be better for it. I have amazing family support and a brilliant church family that I can’t praise enough. I am BLESSED. It’s hard to work through some of the emotional things that come from enduring something like this. Yes, I have moments where I feel like a failure. Moments where I feel like damaged goods. Anyone who has been through this can attest to that. But they’re just moments. I know who I am, and I know what I’ve been called to do. And I’m ready to start writing again.

Part of my healing has come from starting Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. I’m narrowing down exactly which products I enjoy working on the most, and I’m always looking to improve my craft. This has been my dream since I was in my early twenties, and to finally be able to make it a reality is amazing.

And the best part? It’s a brand-new season and a fresh start.

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Sneak peek at a design not yet available on my site. Lucky you!

Thanks for all the support, dear readers. I’m still going to post on a regular basis, but hopefully you won’t mind seeing some occasional pic-spam from my other projects. Plus, I’m always looking for good quotes that are public domain, so if you think of any that would look good as a print or greeting card, leave a comment.

Be blessed!

Comic Con (Part 2)

Another day, another cosplay! Yes, it’s the exciting conclusion to my first post regarding our recent trip to Rose City Comic Con. As promised, I will reveal the genius costume idea that my brother came up with.

After toiling long and hard about who the heck he wanted to be, Brother had just about given up on finding a decent costume. He played around with the thought of going as Titus from Final Fantasy, since that was a character that he somewhat looked like, but the costume ended up being far more complicated than it should have been. (Not to mention pretty expensive.)

He hemmed and hawed over this decision until finally — at last! — inspiration struck him. You see, a good majority of his favorite characters just to happened to be female, which initially made him rule them out. Then he finally thought, “What the heck? I’ll just do a gender-swap of my favorite DC character of all time.”

Thus I bring you gender swap Harley (or “Harvey”) Quinn:

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Not bad, eh? He opted for the Suicide Squad version of Harley, since he really enjoyed Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the character. (I won’t lie, I thoroughly enjoyed that movie, and I personally thought it was by far the best live-action version of Harley Quinn that I’ve seen.)

He got a lot of compliments on his outfit. I’d told him how I had seen MANY Harleys the last Comic Con, but no gender swaps. So you can imagine my surprise when we ran into two of them almost right away. Go figure. While we only got a picture with one, they were definitely a fun couple to hang out with:

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And of course, we couldn’t resist posing with another DC character, which was this Batgirl cutie:

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And we got REALLY excited when we found two other Suicide Squad cosplays:

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I love how Brother is totally in character. The other two are appropriately serious, and he’s grinning like the Quinn he is. 😉

But the best part was when we found a legit, absolutely fantastic Batman. So of course, Brother had to ask if Batsy would be willing to play the part of his nemesis for a photo op. Being the gracious guy that he is, Batman was more than willing to comply:

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But I promise, he really was just a nice guy overall. And probably one of the best Batmans that I’ve seen, to be honest.

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See? Just a nice guy.

So that was our overall Comic Con experience. I managed to snag a few more things for my Lord of the Rings collection, which made me happy. (Even though they weren’t nearly as epic as Karl Urban’s autograph would have been.)

All in all, a great time.

In other news, I am SUPER stoked for this week. My parents, brother and I are going to head over to the island state of Hawaii! Woot! This will only be the second time that I’ve ever gotten to go, and it’s going to be nice to see something other than the tourist trap of Honolulu. Not that I’m really complaining about the last trip, mind you. Heck, any time in Hawaii is good, in my book. But this time around, I’ll be able to do a lot more hiking and exploring and picture-taking. It’s going to be superb.

I’ll be posting photos and sharing about our adventures when I return. Plus I’m going to finally share a little more about my latest project. It’s not really writing-centered, but it’s still creative and very fun.

Until then, aloha!

Comic Con (Part 1)

Another year, another Comic Con in the books! I’m a little late in posting, but it’s been surprisingly busy since the weekend of Comic Con. (You would think being able to work from home would mean that I have all kinds of time on my hands, but it’s amazing how quickly you can fill up those time slots when they’re available…)

Anyway, Comic Con was once again very enjoyable. I haven’t yet received the photos that my brother took, so I’m splitting my post into two parts. I know, you’re on the edge of your seats. While this year’s Con was a *little* disappointing to me, it wasn’t without good points as well. My primary reason for feeling let down was because the two actors that I was actually really looking forward to meeting both had to cancel. One was Jason Isaacs, whom I utterly adore because can you say CAPTAIN HOOK, but he had another commitment that prevented him from attending. Since he’s going to be the new captain in Star Trek: Discovery, it’s no wonder that his schedule is crazy busy.

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Rowr.

But seriously. Major disappointment at his not being there. I’ve had a fangirl crush on him for more years than I care to count, and I by far consider him to be the hottest Captain Hook in existence. Yes, even compared to Once Upon a Time, though I confess that version of Hook is also quite dashing. Actually, he just makes an epic villain in general, from Dragonheart to The Patriot.

My other sad face came when Karl Urban had to cancel. I was really hoping for his autograph to add to my Lord of the Rings collection, but unfortunately he had a family emergency and had to stay in New Zealand. We weren’t offered details on what was going on, but suffice to say I hope all is well with him and his loved ones.

So I didn’t really meet any major celebrities this year, apart from the one and only Weird Al. My friend was actually the one who paid for the photo, but you’re allowed to have a friend with you if you choose, so I got to be the friend, yay!

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He is actually rather tall in real life. I mean, I know I’m only 5’2″, but sheesh.

But he was very nice for the brief moment that we got to spend with him. My main focus this time around was getting to enjoy the always excellent cosplay available. I mean, people get so dang creative. (I can’t wait to show you my brother’s cosplay. It was super fun.)

I got to meet one of my favorite Disney princesses, Belle:

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I stuck with Black Widow this year, since my budget didn’t entirely allow a second costume. Next year, I hope to be able to plan ahead and cosplay Merida from Brave. But back to this year.

I found the most legit David Tennant version of the Doctor that I’ve ever seen in my life. For reals. The moment I saw him, I ran up yelling, “TAKE ME WITH YOU.”

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Also legit? This excellent cosplay of Barf, from one of my favorite Mel Brooks films of all time:

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It’s like John Candy never left us.

My two other favorites were also incredibly authentic, starting with our other favorite pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow:

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This guy entered the costume contest and actually made his own costume by hand. Combine that with the fact that his face is eerily similar to Johnny Depp’s, and you have one excellent pirate.

Last, but not least, was this fantastic Samus:

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The intricacies of her costume were AMAZING. Best Samus that I’ve seen thus far.

So there’s part one! Stay tuned for part two, in which you will see my brother face one of his mortal enemies, hehehehe…..

A Slight Rant

I try not to rant very often on this blog, because I believe in positivity and making the world a better place.

However.

Even I have to shake my head sometimes and take a moment to say, “What the *bleep* were they THINKING?”

Today’s moment of stupidity comes directly from my home state. It’s one of the states that happens to be on fire at the moment. (Half the country is flooded, the other half wishes we could pipeline that water directly onto our forests.) Every year, Oregon gets a few wildfires. It’s just what happens. We’re a part of the high desert, which means that it’s extremely hot and dry. We get very little rain here, unlike the small pocket of our state up by Portland. Most of us have common sense when it comes to that. You take proper precautions when you go camping, always use safety when dealing with any sort of fires, and don’t go driving on grassy lands.

And up until a few days ago, all of the major fires that happened here were of natural causes. We had some decent thunderstorms come rolling through, and dry lightning sparked the huge ol’ wildfires that quickly took control of our beautiful state.

Then this happened. (Pardon the bits of language in it. Unfortunately, in this case I’m inclined to agree with the author.) Yeah. Some teenager decided to set off fireworks in the middle of the forest. FIREWORKS.

In. The. FOREST.

I feel like there’s a life lesson in this somewhere. Our words (and actions) do affect other people, whether we realize it or not. One person caused 153 hikers to be put into danger because they became stranded due to the sudden flames. (Thankfully, all hikers were accounted for and able to make it to safety.) Our poor firefighters, who are already so tired from trying to contain the other thousands of acres of burning forest now have another fire to wrestle.

People’s homes are being evacuated and threatened. And the trickle-down effect continues to even people like me. Not only are we having to deal with ash and smoke choking us, but actions like this still can cause damage to people in my new line of work. I’m focusing on becoming a landscape and nature photographer. I rely on being able to get out and get pictures in order to have an income. Sure, it’s small change compared to the poor people who are losing their homes, but the point is that it affects everyone and there are a ton of people who have to deal with the aftermath of this.

Now, I’m sure the kid who started this whole thing feels pretty darn bad about it. At least, I would HOPE he does. That’s a tough way to learn life right there. Yes, son, your actions do cause a reaction. Because science.

However, getting back to my other point, I kind of feel like our words and how we live are the same way. One negative comment or action can cause a wildfire of emotions in someone else. One spark was all it took for the forest to burn. A few words might be all it takes to send someone over the edge. We need to stay positive. Speak life. The world is already full of death. Bring it to life instead.

See? I managed to make it a mostly positive post after all. 😀

The ApocEclipse

So if you live in the United States, chances are pretty good that you heard about the Big Thing that happened earlier this week. That’s right. I’m talking about that fan-flipping-tastic eclipse.

Or, as we here in Central Oregon like to call it, the ApocEclipse.

Funny thing? It kind of ended up being Y2K all over again. You remember that, right? It was that moment where all the computers and electronics all over the world were going to die because the year was turning 2000 and suddenly life as we knew it was going to end. So everyone stock-piled their food, water and other rations like they would need to survive for months on end because the stores were going to be unavailable and … yeah. Nothing shut down, life went on as normal and we thought we learned our lesson. Well, this was pretty much the same thing.

We Central Oregonians were told to expect as many as 1 million people coming our way because we just so happened to be in the path of totality. So I dutifully did my shopping ahead of time, filled up my car before all the stations ran out of gas, got a couple of cases of water and felt pretty prepared. Only my little city ended up getting bypassed by most of the traffic, so we pretty much prepared for a bunch of nothing. Everyone hunkered down, expecting the worst, so stores were empty, restaurants sat open doing nothing, and the highways were clear apart from a few flurries.

We got a little traffic around the main days of the event, but nothing compared to my little hometown just a few miles away. Turns out, that’s where everyone was going, not here.

So to give a little visual of my area, my current city, Redmond, is surrounded by several other towns and one large-ish city. The town that I was raised in (and where most of my family still lives) is an easy 18 miles away. The population of that town, Prineville, is less than 10,000 people. (What, did you think I was kidding when I said it was small?) The cool thing about Prineville is that it’s just an hour or so away from some of the most beautiful forest Oregon has to offer, the Ochoco Mountains. While most of the forest is BLM property, there’s still some privately owned ranches out that direction. One of those ranches contains a HUGE grassland called Big Summit Prairie.

It’s beautiful out there. When the wildflowers are in bloom, it’s a sea of purple and yellow. Well, the owner of the ranch at Big Summit Prairie decided to make a bit of a profit from this whole eclipse thing, and got a permit that allowed him to rent out his property to an event called Symbiosis. I really don’t know much about Symbiosis other than it looks like basically a modern-day Woodstock. They planned for roughly 30,000 people to show up, and last I heard, the final numbers were closer to 50,000. What does that look like? This:

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That’s a lot of people. And unfortunately, there is literally only one way to get to the Ochocos – straight through Prineville. The good news is that most everyone coming through seemed to be pretty respectful, and it did help local businesses boost their profits a bit. It also provided for some hilarious memes:

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I could link to some of the pictures of random cars and buses that were rolling through my hometown, but there are too many to choose from. And while traffic in my neck of the woods wasn’t bad at all, Prineville was a whole different story.

As for me? Well, I suppose the photographer in me really wanted to get an epic shot of the eclipse. But I don’t have that kind of equipment yet, and quite frankly, I wanted to just enjoy the experience. So I sat in my backyard, put on my eclipse glasses and joined the cheers of my neighbors when the moment of totality was reached.

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Super cool.

And it really was amazing. I’d never gotten to experience anything like it before, so I felt privileged that I could just walk outside my house and get to see something like that. It is most certainly something that you never forget. I think one of the most important things that I’m learning is when to capture a moment and when to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s okay to put down the camera or cell phone and just be content with life. So yes, I didn’t get an epic shot of the eclipse. That’s okay. I still have memories of it, and I probably enjoyed it a lot more because I wasn’t stressed about getting it just right.

Enjoy life, friends. You only get one here on earth.

Don’t Wait

I told you that you all would get sick of me once I quit my day job. Now I’m like, “Woohoo! I can actually write down all the random crap that’s in my head!” Sorry, friends. You were warned.

So keeping with a bit of a music theme, I’m posting one of my all-time favorite songs EVAR. When I walk in the mornings, I like to listen to music. Spotify has become my main music source, and I recently was introduced to this song (and singer). Not only do I love Laura Brehm’s voice, but this song sort of became my anthem over the last year or so. It’s been a series of ups and downs emotionally, some of which I’m still working through.

The heart of this song and the positive message behind it often ran through my mind when I made the decision to finally pursue my passion instead of forcing myself to fit into a job that I just didn’t enjoy. I knew that if I didn’t take the plunge now, I probably never would.

It’s scary and exciting all at once, but ultimately, I know that this is what I was called to do. Things have felt more “final” these last few months, allowing me to break off some of the last pieces of hurt and brokenness that had remained.

I’m still working on some final decisions before I reveal what I’ve been playing around with for the last…well, couple of years if I’m honest. Financially I have to make sure I’m doing I think is going to be best, which involves a lot of research. *le sigh* Obviously you just never know until you actually get started, but I feel like being somewhat prepared never really hurt anyway. And I’m a natural born planner, so…yeah. I’m gonna research and probably over-research.

But I’ll keep you guys posted as I do! As the song says, “The story has not come to an end, it now begins.”