Where to begin?!
The first big jump I made in my pursuing photography was in 2013. A Seattle photographer that I followed on Instagram, Benj Haisch, posted a camera for sale. I literally didn't think twice and responded within five seconds, deciding that even if I never became a "real" photographer, at least I could use it to take pretty photos of my family. Luckily I beat out the next commenter with milliseconds to spare and that camera has taken many, many photos since then (and has now been paid forward to an art school student to learn and grow with).
Anyway, cut to 2016, I got an email saying that Benj was hosting his very first solo workshop in the Cascade Mountains. Once again, I didn't think twice and signed up immediately (I was the very first response, as it turns out). Yet another solid gut reaction, one that I am so very grateful I made! Not only did I get to visit the Pacific Northwest for the first time and learn from a photographer I've long admired, I also got to meet and bond with 20 amazing photographers from all over the US and Canada that I'm still in touch with months later. But now, back to the trip.
After a few days in Portland visiting coastal beaches and waterfalls, I drove up to Washington and into the mountains, completely overwhelmed by the beauty of views I will never get to see in Texas. I was one of the first to arrive (anyone who knows me will not be shocked by this) and I settled into the coolest lodge in Leavenworth, not really sure what to expect from my very first workshop. Plus, committing to 48 hours with a group of total strangers was definitely a few dozen steps outside of my comfort zone. Thank God, we all clicked and our time together was easy and fun!
I spent a few minutes geeking out over meeting Benj in person after all these years of following him on Instagram and tried to prepare my introverted self for the next couple of days. After the other photographers all arrived and we settled into our rooms and got some killer giveaway items (major shoutout to Hold Fast for my pretty, new Money Maker harness), we grabbed our gear and some film cameras (thanks to Indie Film Lab) went out on a walk. It was a nice, relaxed way to get to know each other and start learning what to do with the film cameras we borrowed. Full disclaimer here - none of my film turned out that great so allll of these photos are from my trusty digital Canon but it was definitely fun to try out!
The next day was a busy one full of talks with Benj and delicious meals...and lots of coffee. Benj covered everything from marketing and contracts to programs he uses and editing. But, I think I can speak for all of us attendees when I say that the one talk that stuck with us was the very first one - finding the WHY in what we do. That wedding photography isn't about perfect photographs, it is about people and moments and memories. It is about believing in love and marriage. And nothing drove that home more than Benj playing a slideshow of his favorite photographs that weren't taken on the tops of mountains and weren't styled perfectly for thousands to like on social media. They were moments of real life happening, raw emotions on display, captured for all time for those families to keep and look to years down the road when their detailed memories of that wedding day have started to fade. We didn't know these people, we didn't know their stories, we didn't have an investment in their lives, but we were all in tears by the end. And that is why we do what we do - because we love giving that gift of memories to our clients and being a part of something that makes life worthwhile - L.O.V.E. Cheesy but true.
That night, we had real life couples (and uber pretty people) come in for us to photograph in beyond gorgeous wedding dresses on loan from The Dress Theory. We separated into three groups and rotated between Suz and Jay (married 10 years), Ellie and Kurt (married two years), and Tiawna and Drew (engaged). It was great to get to see how other photographers interact with their clients but I really loved seeing how different all of our photos turned out given that we were standing in the same place at the same time with the same people. As a photographer, you want to find your own unique style that is "you" and I was able to see that, yes, I have a style that isn't the exact same as those other creatives. I was so challenged and impressed with their work but it was a good feeling to see that mine didn't look just like anyone else's. Success!
There is still so much that could be said about the trip (including my stops in Portland and Seattle) but I know this post is already bordering on novel length, at least in the world of blog posts, and I have probably lost 50% of you by this point. So I'll end with this - I walked away from the Cascade Workshop with more knowledge, more experience, more friends, and more confidence. It was an opportunity I knew in my gut was for me and, now, I get to use all of it to be even better for the clients who are trusting me with their stories, families, and moments.
And now. What you've been waiting for. Pictures of pretty people in love wearing pretty dresses in a beautiful, scenic place. Enjoy!