Before and After, and the Work In-Between

Can we take a minute and talk about a couple of words that most people don’t like to talk about? No, not those words, you dirty-minded person. 😉  I mean those OTHER words.

Hard. Work.

I confess that there are many times when I seek out instant gratification. I can be very patient when I want to be, but sometimes I just don’t give a flip and want it done NOW. As in, like, finished yesterday. But there’s something to be said for slow and steady progress. For the satisfaction of knowing the blood, sweat and tears that was put into your craft, whatever it may be. I’ve studied many things over the years, from singing to bellydance, and there’s always been a sense of pride from the work that I’ve done in those areas.

Most recently, I finally started pursuing my passion in photography, as previously mentioned in this blog. I’d always enjoyed it to an extent, but I didn’t really start seriously studying it until about three years ago.

One of my favorite places to go is Sahalie Falls. It’s only about an hour or so from where I live, which is amazing, and it’s just a beautiful area. The McKenzie river is green and lush, with several waterfalls and pretty areas all along it. Sahalie Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with a short three-mile loop that allows you to see the waterfalls from both sides of the river. A couple weeks ago, I went there with a good friend and completed the full loop for the first time in a couple of years. When we approached what was nearly the end of the trail, I just had to stop and take a photo of the tiny little waterfall cascading near the trail. It was much fuller than it had previously been, thanks to a large amount of recent snowfall, but it was so nostalgic to me.

That tiny little waterfall was my first ever attempt and capturing a long exposure image. Basically, long exposure means your shutter-speed is set for a longer period of time, so it creates a blurred effect for things that are in motion. That’s how you get that beautiful, flowing look for things like waterfalls or rivers. I had never tried it before, but I remember the sense of pride I had when I first took photos of this place. This was how it turned out:

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I tweaked it in Photoshop, because I hadn’t yet purchased a copy of Lightroom, and even printed out a copy to hang above my bed at our old house. This was it, I had found what I wanted to do forever. I was so happy with the results that I posted it everywhere, convinced it was going to be one of my best pieces ever.

Well, it’s not necessarily bad. But I can see where I over-exposed a lot of the image and didn’t set the shutter for the right speed. Not only that, but over the last two years my style of photography has gone from bright colors and exposure to more dark and moody. When I processed the most recent photo, I used some of the go-to presets that I almost always use now.

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Same place, same water. Completely different photography styles.

I’m still proud of both of these works. But I love seeing how far I’ve come in the last couple of years. When I look back at things like this, I see the hours of labor and studying that I put into it. I see the late nights and early mornings. I see the tears of frustration over a failed attempt or yet another rejection. But I always see progress.

I know it’s been credited to many different authors, but my mother always used to quote to me that when you find the job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Oh trust me, you’ll still put in the work. But when it’s your passion, it’s worth every moment.

Love Without Fear

Boy, the holidays are already here. That’s just crazy. This last year has been a little bit of a whirlwind for me. I mean, the divorce was finalized, I moved to a completely different city, and ended up starting my own business. If you had told that me that all those things were going to take place over a year, I probably would have laughed at you.

But it’s been so good. All of it, the whole process. I have received so much healing the past several months, and it’s partly in thanks to my wonderful support system. My family has been instrumental in helping me both financially and emotionally. Seriously. I wouldn’t be anywhere without their love and stability.

This is where I have to give a shout-out to Brother specifically.

He’s been the best. We’ve been roomies for a year now, and he’s totally helped me out with rent the last couple of months while I’ve been getting this business off the ground. He’s been my number one cheerleader and often times the reason that I didn’t just give up and go back to a regular day job.

My church family has been my other support system. I’m one of the lucky ones, guys. We’re small in number, but fierce in love. And the other night, as I had a conversation with my pastor and his wife about many different things, something awesome happened. I felt a healing in my soul that I didn’t even know I needed.

I processed this over the next few days, almost testing the feeling of such peace, but it hasn’t wavered. You see, one of the unfortunately side effects of being in an abusive situation is fear. When you leave that situation, you break off one part of the fear because that person can no longer control you through it. But there are other parts of you that still feel apprehensive.

One of those things is fear of rejection. It’s something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, even before living in abuse, and part of the reason I rushed into a marriage that shouldn’t have happened. As other parts of my heart were healed, the fear of rejection still reared its ugly head. Especially when you’ve been single for a while and haven’t had any real prospects for dating.

That was the amazing thing about the other weekend. For the first time in my life, I felt freedom to love without fear. It didn’t matter if I was rejected. Didn’t matter if things didn’t turn out the way I envisioned them. I could still choose to love and know that it’s all going to be okay.

Everyone has their moments of doubt, but you can’t let fear rule your life. Live without regret, and enjoy the journey. I’ve had a couple of design inspirations come from this revelation, and I’ll be sharing them as soon as they’re finished. In the meanwhile, I leave you with my hope for your lives:

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Photo c. Hawk’s Haven Photography & Design

Be blessed! And thanks for traveling on this journey with me.

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.

A New Business Adventure (and the scoop on what happened last year)

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!