I stepped out of my comfort zone to do something I love to do: learn. I wasn’t much of a student in high school but when I took a break from schooling and then made the return to college a few years later, I had a whole new respect for it and my thirst to add more knowledge was almost insatiable. I became a straight A, honors role, Magna Cum Laude student and one who loved nothing more than being enthralled by a professor who could make you wish class was juuuuust a little bit longer.
My learning hasn’t stopped since college – actually I think it has maybe even increased – but my learning has been mostly a solo experience where my head is deep in photography books/one day talks/blogs/live broadcasted events and not in the group sense that you have in a classroom where you throw ideas back and forth a debate whether Nietzsche really did prove/disprove that there is a God. I forgot how incredible it is to be completely surrounded by like-minded people who have this desire to soak up as much as they can and who love their job just as much as you do. I forgot what it was like to go to a conference not because your boss paid for you to attend so you can stare glassy eyed at something that stirs nothing in your soul and relief is found in your hotel bed and the TV – but instead to go for something you absolutely love, something that you spend a good chunk of your hard earned money on so you can better yourself and so you can hopefully become stronger in your profession.
Even if that means stepping out of that comfort zone. That one that you love and that you have built and feel safe within.
As photographers, we primarily work alone at home or in studios that we rent by ourselves and although it provides a great environment to really learn and work exactly as you choose (because the cats can’t tell you to turn down your music and no one except yourself is going to give you a hard time if you decide to take a long lunch) but it also means that you really start to live inside your head. Your insecurities are endless because they ring in your ears constantly. Your struggles become only your struggles because no one else is around you to tell you that they too had a tough time grasping a technique until they learned this ONE awesome tool that made it all click. And your family/siblings/significant others are excited you learned how to do that cool new trick with your off camera flash, but they don’t get why it has you bouncing off the walls jubilant. When you’re working solo for a good part of the time editing, writing blog posts or researching, it’s easy to get lost inside your head and to not even know exactly why it is you feel that way. You still LOVE what you do and have those awesome familiar butterflies of excitement right before you press the shutter – but you are just needing something…something…
That something for me was more learning, but this time, I was going to learn away from my desk, my husband, my kitties, my favorite pens (who am I kidding, I took three of those with me just in case), my kitchen stocked with veggie delights… I was headed to Mystic Connecticut for my first real immersive conference where the days were from 9am – 9pm, the speakers were people I admired and had admired for quite a while, and I was going to be there for 5 days staying with three other photographers – one of which I met in person before and enjoyed a ton, one that I only talked to online but admired and another that I only recently became acquainted with (and was a guy. gross. I kid, I kid) Two beds, one bathroom, one carrot sized sleeping bag (more on that one another time), a ton of photography gear and frigid near zero temperatures that meant we lived, ate, learned and enjoyed all in the same building for the entire time.
And I loved it.
I loved it. I loved it.
Hearing the speakers talk opened my heart so much that I, along with others, were moved to tears a few times. The lessons they taught us and the way they encouraged us to look at our art made me fall completely in love with photography. Moreso than I already was.
I learned things that I know will help me grow my business and I have furthered my goals since that week in ways that I never thought of before. I didn’t go into the talk feeling negative about it by any means, but I definitely did NOT think I would walk away feeling the way I do. I was, and still am, on a legit high from that week and I am better for allowing myself to feel that way.
I have strengthened not only my photography skills but I have strengthened the relationships of the people who are my peers. People I look up to and people who champion for me just as much as I do for them. I won’t lie, I was very anxious about rooming with people I didn’t know that well but after the first few hours where we were all laughing and sharing stories and I gave in and just ignored the voices, I was completely given the reward of deepening relationships that I know will grow even more and will become people I keep close to my circle for a long time. My amazing roommates are people who I feel lucky to call my friends: Karina, an insanely magnetic and funny girl with a heart the size of the sun. Korri, the strong and fiercely independent woman and the Momma to one of the cutest kids ever to see the light of day. Zac, ohhhh Zac you little weirdo who never ceased to make the rest of us laugh at your endearing oddities and ability to not only have perfect timing for jokes on purpose, but to also have it when you didn’t even mean it.
And the list of people who I didn’t have the pleasure of cramming into a hotel room with but also have become new friends: Yaritza, Masao, Karen, Nicole, Christina, Brian, Dawn (gah, I hope I haven’t left anyone off!) – THANK YOU for making this trip that much more fun.
As for the photographers and speakers and vendors who attended who enriched my soul? Ohhhh I hope I get to do that blog post too.
So the moral of this story? If you feel like the inspiration is thinning, or the excitement has turned to worry or even if you have found yourself in a rut – get out. Get out of your home, your regular routine, your office, your same circle of people, your comfort zone, YOUR HEAD. Get out of any or all of that and allow yourself to let go. You’ll fight against it at first and it may make the anxiety bubble inside of your gut, but trust me, you will be better for it.
The photos below document me getting out of my head and out of my comfort zone, because ‘why the hell not?!’ and when else will I find a group of amazing artists who all want to wake up at 4am to go somewhere in negative degree temperature to take pictures of the sun rising? It was COLD, cold as hell on that water that morning but we all didn’t really care, it was more fun to be inspired by one another, climb over majestic sailboats and use one another as models for an impromptu photo shoot.
Man, I loved this trip.
Look for the reflection in this one.
I shall leave you with one last set of images from the Photo Booth that I purchased at the convention. This is what Sarah looks like when she is having a great time, hanging out with her buds and her idols <3
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