My last year of college was a whirlwind in so, so many ways. I was student teaching, working as for a professional theatre as an actress, trying to wrap up a Communications degree, oh, and competing for Miss Iowa. For those of you who know me, I like to keep myself insanely busy and that year is probably the best example of my stupidity and inability to say "NO". Within the midst of my day to day struggles I realized I needed an outlet, something seemingly simple that I could do whenever I had an extra five minutes, be that at 2am, 2pm and anytime between. My love of Pinterest introduced me to an article "Learn Photography while St.ill Having a Life" (true story, look back on my old school pins, it's there! ) and so I decided I'd put one more thing on my plate, because at that point WHY NOT.
Here's the thing, I didn't have a camera. I knew nothing about Lightroom and my only experience with Photoshop was for ad work within my Communications degree. Thank the lawd for mommas, because mine was more than happy to let me steal her 2009 Cannon Rebel. It was clunky, limited and only had one kit lens, but hey it was better than nothing! I took photos of everything in our house: the dogs, the piano, the people, food, the gardens, pretty much anything I could focus on. I'm gonna put it out there that 90% of these shots were miserable, but a few of them looked decent and those few decent shots lit a fire.
By no means did I become anything near a decent photographer for a good long while. I finished student teaching, graduated college, finished my time in Miss Iowa, and got engaged. Somewhere in between those moments of my life I slowly improved. I took headshots for my acting class, headshots for a few pageant friends & senior photos for my then soon-to-be sister in law. They were OK, but not stellar. But here's the important thing, I loved it. I bought a $400 Nikon and 2 kit lens and decided I was going to take things more seriously.
Well, I got married, started teaching, starting flipping our first home, found out my husband and I were expecting (a BIG surprise that was definitely not in our 5 year plan) and my camera sat in it's bag on the top shelf of my closet. On occasion I drug it out for family events, but really nothing. I didn't improve, didn't worry about growing, didn't think anything of it because I was busy and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.
And then my son was born early. And when I say early, I do mean EARLY, at 27 weeks. We didn't' even make it to third trimester. Within a tornado of a week our seemingly healthy pregnancy became a nightmare that left us terrified with a 2lb baby on full life support. After a few VERY scary weeks and a number of emotional breakdowns I relinquished my teaching contract and moved in full-time to the hospital to be with our son.
Full-time family rooms in the hospital are limited, so when you're offered one you jump. I got a call around 8 that morning that the room was available and rearranged all my plans for the day so that I was able to move in by 11. I scrambled to pack up enough of my life that I could feel normal and within the chaos my momma suggested I bring my camera. Sure, why not one more thing. And it became one of the best things.
Documenting our NICU journey gave me the outlet I needed to share my heart with our family & friends on the other side. It allowed me to seek out beauty in the miracle of healthcare, to take my worst days use a creative outlet to help me process my fears, and let me capture our victories along the way.
Our son came home after 4 months and by the time he reached his first birthday he was free of any extra medical equipment. And as we settled as a new family, I continued to pursue a career behind my camera. I took a marketing position that allowed me to document the day to day life of some amazing people. I volunteered my services to a Miss Iowa local as the headshot photographer (and then won the photogenic competition). In fact, I shot quite few headshots that first year for a variety of different systems. All of this on my $400 camera, by the way. My $400 camera has done me good and helped me capture multiple state titleholders who've gone on to win state & national photogenic competitions. Yes, I've got some stinkin cute clients, but I'd like to think I had a little bit to do with it.
Things continue to grow for my business and my skillset. I have finally upgraded my gear, built a studio (thank you, handyman husband) and have started expanding my client base with new families, a contract with a local theatre, and a BRAND NEW contract that I just accepted with the city. It is insane how life twists and turns to get us where we need to be. Cheers to future art, friends! I'm enjoying the ride!