A Defining Moment

I was home for about five weeks and at the time it felt like an eternity. For the first time in my life I found myself without a hectic schedule. For years my usual day had consisted of about 12 hours of intense work followed by three hours of catching up with my household and family. Every August I closed my businesses and travelled to the National Parks, hiking and photographing. I considered myself an adventurer.

Having only one month a year to travel was just not cutting it. I wanted to be out in the wilderness photographing nature all the time. I wanted to see mammals interact with their young; I wanted to watch birds preen. I wanted to stare at ginormous waterfalls and walk on the beach in hopes of seeing sea stacks rising from the water. I wanted to connect with nature, I knew this feeling, I had it before, and I was becoming more and more unsettled. A need inside of me was not being fulfilled.

Every morning when I woke up I would dig into the internet and scour the web looking for inspirational images of nature. Almost everything appealed to me; I wanted to photograph everything I saw. My ambition to be out in nature photographing was getting stronger every day. I became even more restless.

I tried to get to the core of what single thing I could photograph that would satisfy this need in me; I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then one day while looking at photographs I found the image that would be my spark. It was not so much the image but more of what the image conveyed to me. I realized right then, it was not just a single subject that was beckoning me, it was so much more. The image spoke to the need inside of me to go out and challenge myself in a way that I never had before. I wanted to camp under the stars, feel the freezing wind at my back. I wanted to be out in nature exploring the unknown. I wanted to be on an expedition. That was it. That was my answer…

The expedition would begin. It started with that one photograph and would soon develop a soul. I built it up as if it were everything. I spent hours researching where and when the best times were to photograph my target. I rearranged my schedule trying to squeeze it in before having to wait another year. Knowing that I had only months to prepare, and a lot of that time was already spoken for; I would need to dig deep. I started working out and weight training; I had to drop a few pounds and regain some muscle tone and I didn’t have much time to do so.

I needed to research my gear and my clothes. Hours were spent online, digging up every tiny, relevant, detail. Then I looked for my guide. I wanted someone that had intimate knowledge of the area; someone that understood that I needed to make this journey on my own and at my own pace. I needed to see what I set out to see, experience what I needed to feel and I did not want to be deterred.

I spent my next few months climbing sand dunes in brutal East Coast winter conditions, in hopes of recreating the effects (to some degree) that I would be experiencing. Up and down for hours at a time, walking with backpacks filled to the brim with camera gear, tents and sleeping bags, only to return to the car after an eight hour day and drive back home to all my creature comforts.

I started to become disappointed in myself, surely I could push harder. I decided to set up a tent in my backyard; I would not enjoy the warmth and security that my home allowed. I’d eat the food in my rucksack and be happy with my sleeping bag and mat. Once I set my mind to it, there was no going back. There would be no sissy moment where I ran inside to grab a cup of coffee. I had to do this, I had to prepare.

After months of exhausting preparation and endless sleepless nights it was over in a flash. Everything I had worked towards slipped right through my fingertips when I heard my guide say that he had to cancel due to medical reasons. Once I was able to wrap my head around everything and breathe I was able to convince myself that everything works out for a reason and I would just wait patiently for my next opportunity. That was twelve years ago.

Looking back, it was not a single expedition that would fill that void in me. It was much more than that. It was my destiny. At the time, I am not sure that I realized the scope of things but it was calling me in such a powerful way. Instead of spending one month a year out in nature I needed to spend as much time as possible doing what inspired me. I let go of my lifetime goals of accumulating money and possessions and started focusing on my new life…it was a defining moment. I became a nature photographer, sharing my passion with the world.
In 2010 I started this blog as an extension of my photography, and so the journey continues…

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56 Responses

  1. Diane Crowe says:

    Beautifully written and lucky for us to have you around to learn and challenge ourselves with your guidance.

    Hi Diane, thank you so much, I appreciate your kind words.

  2. Rita Oakes says:

    Your photography is awe inspiring. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing an impeccable presentation of your impeccable images with us in your year in review slide show. I spent my multimedia career doing these things with great slides (at the time). Just like your prize-winner, your body of work is stunning.

    Hi Rita, thank you very much. I appreciate your kind words. They mean a lot 🙂

  3. Ramona Boone says:

    Denise…your recent blogs have opened windows into your soul. It’s very moving 1)what you’ve been thinking and 2) that you feel comfortable sharing with us. You make us all better photographers, but you give us a feeling of family. And love your new watermark. Happy New Year!

    Hi Ramona, Your words are very kind and touching, I appreciate it, they mean a lot to me.

  4. Muriel McClellan says:

    Just a beautiful story and has a great deal to do with the outcome of your inspiring photography and teaching. Wow.

    Thanks Muriel, I appreciate you taking the time to read through it and share your thoughts.

  5. mike sewell says:

    Cheryl and I are glad to have been on a workshop with you and was able to share your vision and fire for photography. I constantly look for people and mentors to keep in contact with and you are always very giving. I am thankful for the gift of having you as a friend and alway look forward to your Blogs and information that you so freely give.

    Mike and Cheryl Sewell

    Hi Mike and Cheryl,
    Thank you both very much, it means so much to me to hear this. You are both extremely talented photographers and I enjoyed our time in the Palouse very much.
    hugs, denise

  6. Denise,
    You are such an inspiration to me. I want to retire from my school psychology job and embrace professional photography full time and travel the world. I haven’t figured out how to do that. You did! Kudos to living your dream!

    Thank you Leslie, I truly appreciate the support of my work!

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