Sounds so dramatic and insane, but in many ways, for me, it's true.... 

This year, I had the absolute pleasure of going to my first photography conference ever when I went to Clickin' Moms first annual Click Away conference. I was asked to be a platform speaker for two topics near and dear to my heart: Capturing Childhood and Fixing it in Photoshop/Fixing in in Camera. I had done some presentations for Canon earlier last year, so I felt prepared for talking to a group and feel like I was so much more at ease during my talks! What a blast!

And while I loved teaching, what I loved even more was finally getting a chance to meet some photographers that I have known online for years. Not only that, but I made new friends with photographers I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting. And all of it was amazing.

For so many of us photographers, we have a support group of other photographers that we have met on forums or social media. They are our peeps. They have our backs. They offer support, critique, advice... about photography...and kids...and marriage...and exercise...and um, well, everything. Many of them, we will never meet. They'll "just" be our online friends. But I'm telling you: if you can find a way to meet some of those people that support you, do it. Find a way. Shoot more sessions, offer mini sessions, sell a lens, have a freaking bake sale, but FIND A WAY to meet these people. I'm telling you. It's worth it.

And so I did. I found a way. I left my family for the longest I have ever been away from my kids. I was gone for 5 days, and let me tell you: it was amazing. (Sorry, darling family, but it was....) That week changed me.

Here's what I learned:

1) There are a lot of people out there who share a passion for photography. Being around them will make you feel instantly relaxed because you have a core thing in common.

2) Some of those people with whom you share this love of photography will also spark something else in you--an excitement about friendship, an ease in talking about anything. It doesn't have to be about photography. You will realize that you could talk to them about a gazillion different things and love every conversation.

3) Laughing until you snort is priceless.

4) You are capable of way more than you think you are. Just stop being afraid.

That last lesson? Well that was a lesson I heard over and over again, from the keynote speaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, from my fabulous and talented friend Summer Murdock, from tons of other photographers as we commiserated and shared our fears. We all just need to stop being afraid.

Elizabeth Gilbert shared a saying that I had never heard before, but I'm in love with it:

Argue for Your Limitations, and You Get to Keep Them.

I am so guilty of that. I stop myself from succeeding. I make reasons why I won't succeed, why I can't succeed, why I don't even deserve to succeed. I stand there, blocking my very own path with my insecurities and fears.

Well, screw that. I'm done with that. I may not succeed in everything I hope to accomplish, but I will no longer be the one that stops me from trying.

That realization changed me. And having that realization around a group of other photographers who love and support me has made it really easy to hold onto my new resolve to kick ass in this world. I am blessed. We are all blessed.

So, here's some pictures that I took while I was there. I have a lot of favorite ones, but simply can't share them all in one blog post. So, I'll just pick some, and be prepared for me to share more. My heart is in these pictures. I still look at them 6 weeks later and my heart beats faster. I am blessed.

This night was an amazing night spent with some hilarious and talented people. From left to right, Kristen Cook, Summer Murdock, Alix Martinez, and Rachel Devine. I love them.

These selfies, which probably are the best selfies ever taken ever, OBVIOUSLY, were shot by me with my Canon 16-35L lens at 16mm. I love everything about them. Well, except for the fact that these are some of the only pictures I got of Alix's face. 

Kristen whips her hair back and forth. And yes, that's a fake sky. :) Wanna learn how to do this? Check these out.

 She really likes to whip that hair. And she is hilarious. OMG. For some reason, I didn't think that cute sweet face would be so dang hilarious. But she is. Hilarious. And cute and sweet.

 I took a lot of silhouettes that night, but I think I'll save those for another post.

I have to say a little somethin' about this beautiful lady here.

That's Taryn from Blu Hippo Photography. She is one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. I probably spent the most time with her, and I am pretty dang happy about that. She introduced me to the Avett Brothers, and so now I'm introducing you to them. Love their music, but not as much as I love her. 

Here she is again being utterly adorable. Look at that sweetest smile ever. She truly has a heart of gold. I want to explain how amazing she is, but I can't do her justice. She's just wonderful. 

This is Jennifer of Jennifer Dell Photography and her darling daughter. They are both very sweet and obviously gorgeous. Not pictured, is her amazing husband who took care of their sweet beautiful newborn while we played and took pictures. Those two are an amazing couple. OMG. Loved seeing their partnership.  

Another fake sky. Couldn't help myself...that would have been a whole lot of white sky otherwise....

Cheezmo. Look at her FACE! Such a doll.

And Liz Labianca and her perfectly delicious daughter. Liz is so down to earth and real, it's really quite awesome just being around her.

OK. I said I wasn't going to share any more silhouettes, but I have to just share one more.... I have since played with this image more, adding a giraffe (because that's normal), but here's a simplified image of Summer. I really adore Summer. She's funny and introspective and smart and talented and so dang easy to talk to. Super blessed to be able to call her a friend. She makes me happy.

I have a gazillion more, but I'm tired and need to sleep, plus looking at all of these pictures is making me a little sad. I miss my crew.

Thanks for looking. I hope you have your own crew of people that lift you up and bring you light. Friends are a beautiful thing. 


And in case you didn't get the take home message: Believe in yourself. Don't be the one who stands in the way of your awesome. Unleash that awesome, my friends.