The Magic of Opportunity in Photography

Late last month an old friend offered me the opportunity to visit a secluded island in northern Michigan.  This place is a beautiful tourist haven in the summer, however its mere 300 year-round employees are all that inhabit the island come winter (save for the wildlife).  In fact, the only way to reach the island once the Great Lake Huron freezes over is by a 4-6 mile trek across ice, by foot or snowmobile.  This was the setting of our grand adventure, and I want to share with you why I think this was such a valuable opportunity for my growth as an artist.

I believe you should never quit and never settle.  This mindset can be very useful when paired with a spur of the moment personality!  Lately my schedule has grown ever full while trying to balance self-employment, family, friends, personal space, and more; however, I believe that an ever-changing schedule and willingness to jump at the whim of an opportunity can truly lead to the greatest experiences and growth.  Although I sometimes feel too tired to continue or want to quit, I know that always striving for the best will push me to my fullest potential, wherever that may lead!

So, back to the scene of a 4 mile trek across the ice, there were definitely moments of that bone-chilling walk that I started to question what in the world I was doing; I mean, this was basically a vacation weekend, a chance to get away from home and create, however I was probably the most uncomfortable and cold I had been all winter.  Clearly California would be a better destination later that month!  But as I walked and saw the wonder of the beauty around me, and the exasperated but excited expressions on my friends faces, I knew this weekend was going to be well worth it for many reasons, not to mention it’d be a great story for the grandkids! 

Crossing 4 miles of ice on foot!

Crossing 4 miles of ice on foot!

The goal of this trip, besides getting to share experiences with some wonderfully wild friends, old and new, was to take photos inside the glorious Grand Hotel, one of the top 10 historic hotels in the world and a place I’ve always dreamed of getting inside.   The decision to come here was entirely a personal need to create without a reason or money or outside perspective interfering.  Despite being a “busy person” I could sense that I needed a break from responsibilities to let my soul rest and breath.  As I often share with my students at workshops and mentoring, the best art is born from a healthy, reflective spirit; you have to let yourself process the world and experiences around you before you can successfully create something powerful.  My parents always told me “You can’t help others until you help yourself”, and I whole-heartedly believe that applies across the board.  I have to reflect within my own mind before I can create something worthwhile to inspire others!  So, despite the -15 degrees and cutting winds, my friends and I stopped at nothing to explore the forests, rock formations, and icy trails of Mackinac Island, leading up to our chilly day inside the winterized Grand Hotel. 

3 days into our trip it was finally time to set foot inside the Grand.  Our time was limited, and as an effort to preserve energy throughout the closed winter season, the Grand Hotel was powerless and almost as cold as the outdoors.  These factors definitely posed some limits, but we were determined not to stop for anything.  Despite the shivering, our amazing models Danielle, Zach and Michael changed into thin outfits for Jennifer Ilene, Jo Cook and myself, musing for anything we asked!  I am happy to say I was able to create a few successful images to create a short story, despite my fingers feeling like they might fall off, and the others had a blast shooting their concepts as well.  I have yet to edit the full set, but you can see the process of transforming my first image from the Grand below.

This was done using natural light! Gear used for this shot:  Canon 5d mk II ,  Canon 50mm 1.4 lens ,  Wescott 5-in-1 reflector

This was done using natural light! Gear used for this shot: Canon 5d mk II, Canon 50mm 1.4 lens, Wescott 5-in-1 reflector

I guess the point of writing this blog is to say this: never settle or quit for the sake of ease or fear, always jump into every worthwhile opportunity instead.  Life is going to be full of “busy” and “scary” and “tired”, however we have the ability to rise above that and become more than ordinary.  We each have been given gifts and talents that make us unique on Planet Earth, and the things we long to do are achievable if we work for them at all cost.  Sometimes that means taking time away for yourself or jumping at a random opportunity like this trip. 


I will continue to grasp every Grand opportunity I get, and I believe those moments are what will continue to make me a happy, successful artist and person.  So what is it that you need to push yourself towards overcoming walls in your life?  Have you taken time to reflect lately, and are there any sporadic opportunities worth pursuing this week?  Whether you can do this internally or need to write it out on paper, I encourage you to just do it.  No busy schedule or fear of committing is worth putting off your potential, only opportunity awaits!

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