saltwater retreat

You know I truly believe that our photographs do tell us about the stories we carry. They reflect who we are, where we are in life, and what's important to us.  –Kim Manley Ort

I've just returned from a photography workshop for women, The Saltwater Retreat, organized by Virginia Beach photographer, Jennifer Carr – teacher, facilitator, mentor, and down-to-earth friend.

I spent five days in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in a beautiful beach house on the oceanfront with six caring and creative women. It's a wonderful thing how time away from home can give you a fresh perspective. I have a renewed sense of what photography means to me, and how making pictures is interwoven into my life.

The retreat afforded opportunities to:

  • photograph different subjects: lighthouses, fishing piers, seascapes, sunrise and sunset, sand dunes and sea grasses, nature and wildlife
  • try different techniques and gear: long exposures, panning, creative lenses, neutral density filters, photos with starbursts
  • discuss topics such as learning to observe, the value of patience and waiting, shooting from the heart, printing, digital darkroom, and social media

and, most meaningful for me,

  • connect with women who "get" it  – creative souls who share this passion for expressing what they feel through picture-making – to  be here in this world with others.

We stayed up late into the night talking about photography and life, and life and photography, and back again.

No need to impress, no comparisons, no preaching or lectures – only the sweet and simple assurance that we are  unique and each capable of some kind of greatness.

Life lessons learned and life lessons shared.

The retreat pushed me far out of my comfort zone. Mostly a homebody, travel is intimidating for me. My pictures are intimate in style. Faced with the large expanse of the ocean, miles of beach and sand dunes, I sometimes felt lost. My color palette is muted and soft so the bright hues of sunset and sunrise set me on edge. When I needed to feel grounded, I wandered to familiar scenes – dainty flowers against brick, clothespins on a line.

There is a reason for why and how I see. And there is no wishing I was different. That is what's important.

My retreat experience gave me the opportunity to practice. Not only taking pictures but also letting go of fear and self-doubt.

I was afraid I wasn't good enough.
I was afraid I'd get lost.
I was afraid my weaknesses would be revealed.
I was afraid they would think I was weird.
I was afraid my pictures wouldn't resonate with anyone.

But the practice protected me.

Taking pictures every day has taught me to reassure myself. This is one of the things I can do when I am afraid.

I can show up.

I don't have to run or hide or give up. I am still afraid, but I can withstand the fear.

The practice protects me. And when the tide threatens to pull me under, friends like Jenny, Muffin, Sharon, Joan, Nancy and Charlotte will look at me with compassion and say, There you are. I know you. I believe in you.