Later in April 2018, I went to Richardson, TX to get further training as an insurance adjuster. I wasn't working at the time, and getting my rope & harness certification sounded like way more fun than continuing to do online courses and certifications.
The rope & harness cert gives me the ability to inspect & bill the extra charge for steep roofs (7/12 pitch and higher). I have something of a love/hate relationship with heights...I like getting on top of things for a better vantage point, but I don't feel very secure climbing a ladder to get to that point. So the class was good in giving me an idea of what to expect for using extension ladders (something I hadn't done before) and a climbing harness on a roof.
The class lasted 4 days. On day 3 I got a call asking if I would be able to go back to Mobile for work as a desk adjuster. I didn't really want to work on the inside again, but I agreed because I didn't know when I would get the chance to work at all again.
A few hours later one of the instructors pulled me to the side and asked if I was interested in a position working on the outside as a wind adjuster. I said yes, of course, but still had to go to Mobile to fulfill my initial obligation.
Being a desk adjuster is...not exactly my favorite. It usually involves working 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week, with very little to no time off. But it's always a temporary position, and sometimes a day off does crop up.
I did get one day to go to Dauphin Island (about 45 min south of Mobile). The beach is usually very quiet in the early morning, with lots of birds and wildlife and is one of my favorite places to visit when I have a day off.
The bird-watching is terrific (and there were maybe 3 people on the beach that morning so that was awesome too)
On this day I think I saw over 500 hermit crabs on the beach and in the water.
Also a dancing bird? It seemed happy instead of distressed
Also some kind of fishing boat
A pile of hermit crabs
Also may or may not have found a sea monster
I'm not a very beachy person (definitely prefer the mountains or woods), but I think I'll always have a soft spot for Dauphin Island.
It's been over a year since my last post, and to say 'a lot has happened' is one of the biggest understatements I could utter. I'm going to try to sum up the last 14 months in a series of posts, along with some photos that have been taken during my travels.
In September 2017, I changed careers to become an insurance adjuster. This is a move that I had been anticipating for a while, but when it actually happened everything fell together extremely fast. I did two days of training as a flood adjuster in Mobile, AL, then took 4 days to go home and shove everything I owned into storage so I could go to work down in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
(My experiences in Houston could fill a short novel...and perhaps I'll write that one day. Today is not that day.)
I ended up spending about 6 weeks in Houston, then went to Mobile again to work as a desk adjuster because the 'outside' work was pretty much done. I spent the next four months in Mobile working 10-12 hour days 7 days a week - took off a weekend for Christmas and two days in January to attend a friend's wedding in that time frame.
Being an adjuster is the very definition of crazy seasonal work (aka work your butt off for several months at insane hours and then have no work for an indeterminate amount of time). So when work was done at the end of January I be-bopped around for a couple of months, visiting family and friends and reveling in having some free time.
The end of March/beginning of April I spent in Illinois staying with my parents, starting to get a little nervous because I didn't have any work and had no idea when I would go back...but thankfully this meant that I was home during a combination of a freak snow and hoarfrost on April 1st.
Hoarfrost is one of my favorite things: it forms when fog freezes and creates ethereal ice crystals on everything it touches. I have seen it a total of maybe 4 times in my life because it requires still, calm, moist, cold weather. (As anyone who lives in Illinois can tell you, 98% of the time the wind is blowing. IT NEVER STOPS)
This day, however, the conditions were absolutely perfect.
I left the house during golden hour, and it was absolutely frigid (around 15 degrees), and it was just me tromping around the yard with the dog, and the entire experience was magical.
(See? Tromping boots. Very important for snowy days.)
This is one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken, by the way. It's like the entire embodiment of winter mornings summed up in one image.
Javert accompanied me during the first part of the snowfall.
He was unamused after the first five minutes or so.
I, on the other hand, was very amused by this robin's tenacity at declaring spring in the middle of a snowstorm.
The snow only lasted for a day or two, but I absolutely loved it while it lasted. After spending my entire winter in the deep south, where people whine if the temperature drops below 60, it was a delight to have a taste of true winter weather.
The middle of April I drove to Texas for a class through work. The class was free, for the purpose of becoming rope and harness certified so I could work on steep roofs for inspections. On day 3 out of 4 of training I was asked to go back to Mobile as a desk adjuster AND asked if I wanted to join an emergency response unit - the latter is as a salaried employee, where they send me wherever there happens to be work (especially for catastrophes) anywhere in the country.
I accepted the desk position first, so as soon as the class was over I drove back to Mobile to work for about 6 weeks. I'll be back with my next post on some of the things I enjoy(ed) about Mobile...and hopefully will be blogging again on a semi-regular basis. I make no promises, especially since I'm still working 10 hour days 7 days a week right now, but I've missed blogging and have lots of photos to post from the last year.
My friend Emily Brown is the founder of MbarM. She creates the most amazing, leather products that I've ever seen, concentrating mostly on custom-designed bags. (Seriously. If you feel like being blown away by gorgeous leather designs, go look at her website and Instagram under @mbarmleatherdesign)
A couple of weeks ago she asked me to take some 'out and about' pictures of me with the knapsack she made for me a couple of years ago. And I was thrilled to oblige. :p
The knapsack in question has something of an interesting story - I obtained the original bag from my grandfather several years ago, as a regular olive-green military bag. To my understanding it was used during his military career as a Marine. I'm not sure when it came into his possession but I do know that he was on active duty during World War II, the Korean war, and maaaaybe Vietnam? (I'll have to double-check on that last one)
I used the bag for 4-5 years, every single day, to the point that the cross-body strap disintegrated and I was reduced to using the backpack straps clipped together to carry it over my shoulder. Then those straps were starting to give, and the body of the bag was starting to disintegrate in earnest. (Dragging it all over the great outdoors of Colorado probably didn't help either)
It finally got to the point where I couldn't use the bag anymore, and I put it in my closet for several months since I didn't have the heart to throw it away. And then I had the great idea to send it to EB to see if she could recreate it for me.
Thankfully she agreed to take it on! After a few weeks, the 'Wade Knapsack' was born (named after my grandfather)
Most of the hardware is from the original bag, and she had the brilliant idea of incorporating the serial numbers in windows on the front and back. The leather is like a bomber jacket -- it took a few months to break in, and the longer I use it the softer it gets. What gets me is that I've not conditioned or treated it in any way, but it's still beautiful and lustrous.
I look forward to using this for the rest of my life....and probably passing it down to some younger relative because I fully expect it to last longer than me. :p
A last note on the actual photos: I took them all with my camera, a tripod, and a self-timer. It's been years since I attempted such a feat...as a result I'm rather proud of how they turned out.
On the first Saturday of May, concurrent with the Kentucky Derby, Equestrian Bridges had their 5th annual mini derby!
For the uninitiated: the Mini Derby is a Kentucky Derby watch party/fundraiser for an organization that provides equine therapy for children with mental and behavioral issues. I had the honor of volunteering and working with the organization for several months, and just recently stepped back down to the role of volunteer. The video below gives a pretty good idea of what they do....so if you have 15 minutes you can give it a watch.
The actual mini derby is truly a blast, featuring live music from Backroad Anthem, mini horse races, pony rides, a petting zoo area, food trucks, mint juleps, a silent auction, and lots of cute kids and their parents all dressed up to the nines.
Our therapy horses were all in an arena just outside the main event and proved highly popular with the local kiddos. (Because who wouldn't want to pet a mini horse?)
I do think that the mini racing horses (not to be confused with the therapy horses) were a huge hit, because there's nothing quite as hilarious as watching miniature horses racing each other.
This little rock star won every. single. race. Not even kidding. And she would kick the tar out of anyone who tried to pass her.
This little girl and her mother had matching hats. The cuteness overload was very nearly deadly.
Frosty (the horse) spent quite a bit of his time voluntarily allowing people to pet his face while the other horses were distracted by the hay in their pen.
A few of the therapy minis were walked around inside during the event for even more petting!
I love seeing kids' faces when they get right next to a horse (big or little).
(Was that cheesy? Probably. Do I care? Naaaah.)
I moved to Northwest Arkansas in October 2014, not knowing anyone aside from my aunt and uncle. For most of the previous year I had been in Colorado working as a wrangler on a dude ranch, riding a variety of different horses, working long hard hours, and essentially having the time of my life. (No time to go into it now...but hopefully that gives what follows a bit of context)
I spent the next couple of months settling in and staring mournfully at every horse in every pasture that I passed. (To be horse-crazy and horse-less is a terrible thing.)
Around December, I took it upon myself to fix this quandary, and turned to the first thing that I could think of: Google.
(Before you hate on Google: through it I found the ranch, the salon where I chopped my hair off in Colorado, and it has assisted me in countless measures in the past. But I digress.)
I Googled horse barns in northwest Arkansas, put together a list that seemed likely, and made a few phone calls. For brevity, let's just say that the first place was all right, but too far away. The second place wasn't quite as far, but still a fair distance (especially since I wanted to avoid having to drive much). The lady there, Diane, was super nice--I had called and asked a few questions, and she invited me out on a Saturday to help feed and get the feel of the place.
After a couple of hours opening gates and meeting horses and traveling hither and yon on the back of a 4-wheeler, Diane mentioned that one of her students might appreciate having a riding buddy. She gave me the name and the address for where she worked, and the next week I made a little side trip to meet Sabrina.
Again, for brevity: I met Sabrina and her husband Danny, we chatted for a while about what I was looking for in a place to ride, and I went out the next day to meet the horses. She and her husband had just gotten a few young horses back from the trainer, and that first evening I rode a colt named Peanut. (He only kicked out twice. XD) The next time I rode an older horse, then a younger one, then the older one again...and before I knew it, Sabrina, Danny, and I were riding horses several times a week. In addition, the second time I was over Sabrina invited me to supper. The third time I was invited to Danny's mother's for supper (she lives on the same property, in a different house). The fourth time, it was assumed that I would join them for supper.
Since then I've been over there quite a bit (it was 2-3x a week for a while there, and right now it's once or twice a month. Hoping to remedy that soon.) It blows my mind to see famous Southern hospitality in action, in addition to their generosity in allowing me to come whenever I want to play with their horses.
Anyway, through Sabrina I've been introduced to the local foxhunting club. The actual 'hunting' season is from October to the first weekend of April. I went to the opening hunt for 2015 and closing for 2016, skipped opening for 2016, and attended closing for 2017.
I've ridden a horse over there to walk hounds during the summer, but kind of prefer to take pictures during the actual hunting season. This is partially because I LOVE taking pictures of everyone in their hunting togs, and partially because I'm a little nervous to ride in such a large group.
(Before I continue: 'walking hounds' is when a few riders go on horseback to take the hounds out for exercise a couple times a week. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce a horse to the 'hunting' atmosphere.)
I have the majority of the pictures from the day listed under my Photography tab....but I'll go ahead and post a few of my favorites here.
There was a photographer and a journalist from Arkansas Life magazine doing a story on the hunt. The funny part is that I had the idea of covering the hunt in a news-story fashion, but had no idea who to contact regarding the story. (I may have been sliiiiightly jealous that someone else had the same idea :p ) I had paid to ride on the 'tally-ho wagon', but worked up the courage to ask the photographer, Wesley Hitt, if I could tag along in the truck. I'm extremely glad that I asked, because I had a blast following a 'real' photographer around.
There's SO MUCH I don't know about the business side of photography....but every day I'm learning!
Danny and Gracie
The closing hunt was fabulous as usual, and I loved tagging along to get pictures!
(Next goal is to be able to take pictures on horseback while participating in the hunt....think it's too crazy? We shall see.)
After the success with getting hired by Kyle on Thumbtack, I have kept up with the site in hopes of getting more clients. So far I've been....mediocrely successful. (Is 'mediocrely' a word? My spell-check says no....but I don't care.) I think I need more reviews and examples of what I can do....for now I'll stick with it.
Thanks to sticking with it, I was hired not long afterwards by Jeremi and Eva! This couple needed some simple headshots for Linkedin, resume, website, etc. Originally we were going to shoot at Lake Fayetteville. Thankfully I arrived first to make sure there were some good spots...I then had a panic attack because there were NO GOOD SPOTS, and then called them to suggest meeting at the Fayetteville square instead.
(At first I was worried that they would think I was flaky, but thankfully they were super easy-going about it)
Also, I canNOT get over how spectacularly gorgeous Eva is.
I love this one because right beforehand I said "Look at your husband - it makes you smile", and it got her to laugh.
I call this one 'the smoulder'
This beautifully dramatic spot was the entryway to a business on the square....I'm guessing it was black marble? The light was gorgeous too.
We played around with some couple-style poses....
All in all I had a great time meeting some new folks through Thumbtack! This business headshots gig is pretty fun too - I hope to be doing more as the opportunity arises.
When I first moved to Arkansas the only people I knew here were my aunt and uncle. Those first few months I spent a lot of time at their house...I enjoy their company but it was also because my highly introverted self had no idea how to go out and find friends. (Hilariously, one of my first NWA friends I discovered through Google - but that's another story for another time.) Obviously that has not remained the case, as I've developed friendships through work, church, and volunteer opportunities (and Google, of course).
I joined a Facebook group a few months ago sponsored by some amazing photographers, Amy and Jordan Demos, while going through their photography course...part of the reason was to improve personally, but I also was really wanting to see if there was anyone in the area who would like to meet up to toss business ideas back and forth, try out some different techniques, etc.
I've almost always been in the position of teaching other people (not saying that to brag by ANY means, it's just your average person doesn't spend hours poring over certain topics to learn more about them), so being around someone who knows more is something I really crave.
Enter Candace! (Take a second to look at her website, I'm in love with the style)
Our first meeting was in Fayetteville, when Candace had asked me if I wanted to tag along with a shoot for a couple she knew. I pounced on the opportunity to meet up AND take pictures of a beautiful couple, so after coffee at Arsaga's we walked to the University of Arkansas campus and spent about a couple hours taking pictures, trading back and forth on technique, etc.
I had never used a reflector (for bouncing light back on a subject) or the Expodisc (which creates perfect white balance), and she had both for me to play with. Life. CHANGERS. They are amazing tools and I can't believe I've never used them before!
After that first meeting we decided to meet up again at Lake Fayetteville to do some practice shooting (I was working on white balance consistency and posing ideas). I can't speak for Candace, but I certainly had a lot of fun!
You would never know that this green wall was the side of a pavilion and that there was a trash can just out of view....ahh, the magic of cropping ;)
Attempting the Expodisc in this area resulted in some VERY warm photos....but I'm still hoping to get one and figure it out for a more consistent output in the future.
I'm not sure if this is a confession or a bragging moment....but through the process of editing these pictures I learned how to 'brighten' eyes in Photoshop. The technicalities can be kind of confusing if you don't use Photoshop--suffice to say I was quite pleased with the results and hope to get better/faster at it.
After the lake we went to Tacos 4 Life (my first visit--I've already gone back once since then) and took advantage of their huge, amazing windows. I haven't seen a whole lot of the 'reflection' portraits, but they are so dreamy and mysterious-feeling that I'm sure I'll be doing more in the future.
See what I mean?
Pro-tip: make sure the sun has set or at least is not glaring across your subject's face when trying this technique.
Candace very generously gave me permission to use some of the photos she took of me for my Facebook page and website, and for that I am HUGELY grateful. I'm also looking forward to meeting up again and trading some more business ideas/working on photography ideas!
In February I joined a website called Thumbtack. It's a platform by which people who are needing a service - for example, photography - can advertise their need, and professionals can offer quotes in an attempt to meet that need. I stumbled across the site in January, and figured 'eh, can't hurt to try it out'.
After sending out several quotes (6 or 7, maybe?) I was hired by Kyle! He needed some business headshots for his new website. I've been delving more into the business headshot side of photography, and really enjoying the process/wanting to do more, so the opportunity was really an answer to prayer.
We met outside the library on the University of Arkansas campus - the day had been gloomy and rainy, but thankfully it cleared up just in time to get a few shots.
On a funny side note: I used to be extremely nervous to meet strangers in person, especially if it's through the internet. (I blame it - with good reason - on a very bad experience with an online stalker. Which is another story for another day.)
However, last year I decided to try out online dating. The process of going out with a variety of strangers really expanded my comfort level, to the point that as long as it's in a public area I have no problem meeting pretty much anyone at any time. I didn't really think about the parallels of online dating with putting forth a professional presence until after I joined Thumbtack....but it's really quite similar.
Except the pressure to follow up with clients regarding referrals/reviews/etc is NOTHING like the pressure to follow up on a date. AT ALL.
Kyle is a super nice former CPA who is branching out to become a consultant. He was easy to work with and didn't mind when I did some gymnastics to get a better angle (I was crouched on the wall for this picture).
I had Kyle do some more casual poses....it was a great way to showcase those delectable columns. (The architecture on the UofA campus is pretty amazing.....just sayin'.)
All told my first experience with an online client was a major hit! Since this session I've had another person hire me through Thumbtack, which I'll be blogging about soon.
Melissa is one of the first people who befriended me when I moved to Arkansas two and a half years ago. We met at church, and since then she has included me in dinners and outings with her family, we've served together on the worship team, started a couple of ladies' groups (one of which is going strong in its second year!), worked out together when she still lived five minutes away, and she has always 'had my back' while I've figured out this whole living on my own thing.
(She DID help to set me up with a guy, which turned out disastrously....but I forgive her. And her dad for instigating. :p )
I approached Melissa at church a few months ago about doing some headshots for my portfolio and her professional presence....and thankfully she agreed. (Not that I expected her to refuse but there's always that niggling doubt that I'm annoying people when I ask to take their picture)
It was a bit overcast on this day in particular (middle of January), but I've been doing some practice with natural diffused light and the cloud cover was PERFECT...if I do say so myself. :p
We meandered around her yard on the farm looking for some nice spots - this one you can't even tell that I had her huddled under a pine tree and I had tied a branch back so it wouldn't hit her in the face. (Ahh, the hidden secrets of setting up nice shots!)
This is one of my favorites because I caught the perfect genuine smile with the little tiny scrunch to the nose. (Did I say something funny? I don't even remember now.)
While Melissa was changing clothes I coaxed Buddy the horse over with some sweet feed....in between chewing and dribbling grain he very graciously posed for a couple of pictures with his ears forward. He's really quite photogenic as well.
One of my other favorites....a sweet little moment with a beloved pet....
(Also because I Photoshopped a pole and a bucket out of the background, and you can't even tell. But I digress.)
I LOVE this sweater.
Her folks live nearby, and they have approximately 8 million goats.
That may be a slight exaggeration. But not by much.
One goat (with babies) thought we might have some food....the rest didn't stick around to find out.
Proof that Melissa is outstanding.......in her field.
I couldn't resist, y'all. Puns are my love language.
I love this one too! Very natural and the goats are just so darned cute.
The baby goat looks like it's smiling too..... (In reality it was shivering from the new experience of being held, but it was a remarkably good sport about it all)
Melissa was a remarkably good sport for me as well, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to take her pictures. Thanks, M! :)
Sessions, life updates, and musings.