Photo Credits - Jeff O'Boyle
Wildness Photos is three years old this month. It first started out as a dream but it has now become a reality. It was with great trepidation that I took those first steps toward setting up a website. I enjoy heading out with my camera to see and record the world around me. I enjoy the art of processing the pictures as well. Now to be able to turn around and share them with you has truly been incredible. In the beginning I wondered if visitors to Wildness Photos would enjoy my work as much as I do. Would you appreciate what I see and would you know that these sights are important to me?
The positive energy I have received back has been the answer to that question. Thank you so much for those kind words both in person and through emails and messages. Because of you I have pushed the envelope of what I thought possible for me, only to find bigger and brighter areas ahead. I have experimented with different techniques looking for a style that identifies me and the vision of what I see around me. Along the way I have traveled to areas some people will never see except through my pictures. That has been incredible, every step of the way. In the last three years I have also seen my knowledge expand in ways I never thought were possible. And with each new thing learned my passion and excitement only grows stronger.
I have been able to share many of my photographs in gallery showings, art shows, restaurants, and even on a book cover. And I have met some very wonderful and interesting people along the way. I am also able to share Wildness Photos not only through my website but across the web through social media. There are links on my website to Flickr, Facebook and Pinterest. I have both a Twitter and Tumblr account (though I am still a little weak on them). And through all of these I have been able to see some of my pictures being shared around the world. It truly humbles me. Today I received a notice that “The Wilderness Society” started to follow me. This allows them to receive updates when I add pictures. To be followed by an organization that Ansel Adams was so deeply involved in….well the photographer in me was overwhelmed.
As I travel through my infancy of learning and adjusting to all these new technologies I want to thank you! Thank you for sticking it out with me on this wild ride. Thank you for being patient with me as I grow and explore new ideas and techniques. Thank you for your friendships and your encouraging words. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are all a part of the dream that started me on this incredible journey and I am looking forward to many more years of sharing my photography with you.
Ten years ago this week my daughter boarded a flight to start her trip from Michigan to Bethel Alaska. Bethel is located 400 miles west of Anchorage and it is far removed from the road system. To reach Bethel the last leg of the trip involves a flight over the Cook Inlet, two mountain ranges and a large expanse of tundra. Though Bethel has a population of roughly 6400 people it is not much more than a big village. It does have some things going for it that the smaller villages don’t. There are two major grocery stores, a hospital and a newly opened movie theater. The airport is large enough that supplies and mail for the region are funneled through it. But like many of the small Alaskan villages access is very limited....there are no roads in or out of Bethel. The weather can be fierce and cost of living is very high.
Mandy was going there to teach in the local high school. She found out about Bethel from a job fair at her college here in Michigan. The school district had sent representatives to look for new teachers. Many of these remote villages and towns have trouble keeping teachers for any length of time. Living conditions take a lot of getting used to, so teachers usually only last a few years. It is not a job for everyone.
It’s now been ten years….one decade.
As I look back over the last ten years I realize that, while Mandy is now living 4000 miles away, she is still teaching me some very valuable lessons. Not a day goes by since she was born in June of 1981 that she doesn’t teach me something. On that day so many years ago Mandy was born an extreme preemie. At birth she weighed just two pounds. Her mother lived with diabetes and we knew there would be risks involved. Mandy was born three months early and the first few months of her life we watched her weight drop before it started to rise again. We saw her struggle to breathe while hooked to so many machines. We spent long hours sitting by her incubator as she struggled to just live…..and we shed many tears. It took three long months before Mandy was ready for that first trip home in September. Two and a half weeks later her mom stopped breathing in her sleep. Mandy became my strength to carry on over the years after that.
Growing up Mandy faced all the challenges in her life with great courage, and there were many challenges to be faced. One of the biggest is that she lives with Cerebral Palsy. She has never been one to turn away from the difficulties life was dealt her. After watching her grow and becoming her best through her school years I wasn’t surprised when she came home from the job fair to tell me she was going to Alaska. That is just the person she is. Nothing and no one holds her back. After many years of struggles, disappointments and five surgeries she boarded a plane and flew into a new life.
Even though she now lives many miles away she has never stopped teaching me. One of the most important lessons she has taught me is to never give up on my dreams. It almost seems that society today is all about jumping on one bandwagon and riding it to the end with everyone else on there with you. We are constantly influenced by others who seem more than happy to tell us what we should think and who we should be. They feel entitled to tell us how we should live our life. We aren’t perfect and we never will be but that isn’t a reason to give up on the person you are. We all make mistakes and sometimes we will listen to others and do things that take us in the wrong direction but we are all able to correct that course. Don’t be afraid to live life for yourself. Live your dreams - Live your heart! The outcome in the end makes you a better person.
Mandy has taught me that sometimes it is more than OK to hit the reset button and start over.
* Some pictures from my first visit to Bethel Alaska *
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