A Month of Birthdays | Celebrations, Reflections, & Dreams

June is my favorite month of the year for a lot of reasons - skirt weather, lightening bugs, baby sun hats, eating ice cream everyday is totally acceptable, nighttime walks around the neighborhood...the list could go on! - but more importantly, it's my birthday month :) And you better believe I celebrate from June 1st til midnight of my actual birthday on June 30th. This year, I also get to celebrate the 2nd birthdays of both my professional photography business - Heather Hall Photography & fine arts - and my blog, SIFTED!

Two years of blogging, journaling, painting, teaching, taking photos, making art, making friends, and sharing with the world. I love having a space to jot down my thoughts and life about gardening, mothering, diy-ing, and making life simple. I'm just as aware now as I was when I started that it is only because I am a stay at home mom that I get to pursue any of this. If I was working for someone else - spending my energy, creativity, and patience for someone else - I'd have none left for me or my little family. Thank you, God, that I get to wake up, take care of my kids and our home, and create in my studio!

While everyone loves a good celebration, anniversaries and birthdays are also great moments for reflecting and dreaming. We don't spend enough time thinking about where we've been, who we've been, how something has affected us, or where we want to go. While I'm fully celebrating this month, I want to take some time to meditate on how I've grown as a photographer, an artist, a writer, a person. Where do I want to go with it? Could I use it for a bigger purpose?

Over the last two years, families, friends, and clients have trusted me with capturing their lives - from weddings to senior photos to newborn photos to building a better inventory of images at a higher education institution. Every time I get my camera out, I learn something new either about my equipment, lighting, editing, or how to coax the best image from my subject. And I'm also starting to learn what type of photography I want to pursue - my niche, my specialty. I used to think that landscapes were the be-all end-all of photos. No one to mess up a shot - just nature. But as I've grown as a photographer and human being, I'm beginning to realize that it's people who matter. God's heart is for people. We all have a story to tell. We are interesting. I'm beginning to see nature as the backdrop for our stories - the context. Portrait photography - kids, families, adults - that's what I want to capture. If I could do that in other cultures, that would be a dream!, but for now right here in the Midwest is where I'll start.

While photography has allowed me to pull in a tidy little side income and alleviate some of the stress accompanied with living off a one-income family, I also have the great pleasure of making it part of my ministry - how I get to serve the people God places in my life. Every year God points out to me anywhere from a handful to a dozen families that He wants to say "I love you" to through my lens. Giving the gift of a photoshoot to a family who had either a rough year or an addition to the family is such a great joy for me!

I've been inspired lately from some mommy photographers featured in the magazine Click about using my abilities to make the invisible visible. One photographer in particular - Nancy Farese - gripped my attention and heart when she wrote: "Visual stories are a powerful way to put a face to human conditions that engage supporters, donors and audiences. ...I feel so privileged to be able to have my camera act as a passport into the intimacy of people's lives, to access personal stories, and that people are open to me." I want that! I don't know if we will wait til Alice and Milo are grown or if we should begin partnering with missions organizations now and go travel, but this landed on my heart hard. When we were in Argentina, JD and I started thinking about how we, as a duo, could come alongside a site or team and help by improving their IT systems and photographically documenting their work and message. I'm sure there are already loads of people who do this, but it's still kind of a dream of ours.

Branding is another big dream I've finally - almost - realized. I've mentioned before that I'm working with Denver graphic designer, Rickety Robot, to develop my branding and logos for both my photography and blog. I love how the blog has turned out! I reorganized and updated the look using my own images and it's sooooo much better. As for my photography business, I've decided to incorporate all of the many other types of art I do (e.g. painting commissions, private art lessons, mixed media, frame construction, etc.) by branding myself Heather Hall Photography & fine arts. Photographers at my level are a dime a dozen and while I have a good eye and great understanding of my camera, I needed to set myself a part as an artist as well as a photographer. Pretty pumped to see the final product!

I'm also saving for a new camera and lens. I don't want to add to the American consumerist mentality that I need to own the latest in technology, but truly, I'm ready to be a better photographer which also means it's time to invest in better equipment. My camera is nice, but it will only get me so far. When I look at the kind of photography I most want to be doing, I notice they're using far superior equipment. Don't get me wrong - I think I take great photos with what I've got, but they could be so much...better. Borrowing a photographer friend's full-frame camera for a week only confirmed this suspicion. The body I've got my eye on is the Canon 5D Mark III and an 85 mm lens. Of course they are, like, a million dollars but there are rumors of a Mark IV which means a price drop on the Mark III. Crossing my fingers, saving my money, and waiting!

As far as photography goes, I take photos every day. For me - not just for those who pay me. My favorite part of having a nice camera and knowing how to use it is that I can document Alice and Milo and our little life that goes on every day, which I share on my blog. And let me tell you, I adore having a space like SIFTED to corral my thoughts and photos!

This is where I commit my musings and save images so I can look back and remember. It helps me process and reflect on time with my littles. It encourages me when I see the projects I've wrapped up. It's my space for sharing some of God's wonders around our home. It's cathartic. And while this blog of mine is for me, I like that my family and friends can get a glimpse into our lives when they otherwise couldn't have.

I love where my blog space is at. No ads. No distractions. Well-organized. Striking banner heading. Thoughtful content. Do I want to get my own domain? Host more photo galleries? Not sure yet. Maybe I haven't thought about it enough, but I really don't have any aspirations for it other than keep on keepin' on. It's exactly what I need and want right now.

My blog is sifted, like the name implies. That doesn't mean I throw out the mundane (that's our life!) but celebrate it. What it does mean, though, is that for the most part I weed out the negative. While I've certainly shared struggles, on the whole, this isn't my forum for complaining. There are plenty of little hardships and mishaps that pepper my days, but I don't publish them because I don't want to dwell on them. Sure I am sleep deprived and have been running on nighttime naps for months. Yes I'm fed up with Alice's refusal to potty train. Of course it's maddening to not be able to do one. single. thing. without being interrupted - constantly. But I'm not disingenuous because I don't compile a list of gripes all the time. My life is not less real, less honest, too "happy," because I don't share everything here. Those things I share in person with my husband or close friends who encourage, support, and guide me. This space is dedicated to remembering. Yes, sometimes the bad and always the good, but especially the beautiful - and I know that can be a mix of both.

So, SIFTED and Heather Hall Photography & fine arts (eek!), here's to two years of creating and celebrating and sharing, and hopefully many, many more years and thoughts and life to come!