I am about to do something stupid.

I am about to tell you something that may make you doubt me forever as a photographer, even as a person or friend, and I would have no argument to contradict you.

But I have to say this; to not communicate to you this one humongous emotion is akin to lying in my book.

Since August, I have been grieving the loss of a hard drive, a hard drive that carried many memories of clients, including two weddings this last summer. I am grieving my extreme foolishness in not backing up my photos. I am feeling such guilt at having lost once-in-a-lifetime memories of people I hold dear. I am trying--unsuccessfully--to believe I am still worthy of trying to continue to take pictures. Every photo taken since this happened is gut-wrenching, because I am reminded of the photos my clients (my friends) do not have.

I understand this is selfish on some level; I need to get this out, and I realize re-hashing it could hurt those others involved. But I feel false. I can't not share this anymore. Next to my love being halfway across the world, this is the most overriding pain I feel in my life at this time. There is an unquantifiable shame, a deepest desire to take away the pain from those who will not have their wedding photos. And I can't do anything more. I simply can't. That is the worst part. If there was one thing I could do, it would be done.

I have considered so many times just stopping photography altogether. Surprisingly, that possibility causes me pain, too. Horrific pain. So I am stuck, needing photography, needing so badly to express in this way, but wanting to run from the very thing that reminds me of this terrible mistake.

I know nothing I say can take away the loss. But I want those dear friends to know, I am feeling your loss. I am attempting to carry it, and I am buckling under its weight, as I am sure you are, too. On some level I know I need to let go (as there is nothing I can do) and move forward. I just feel incapable of doing that yet. I'm asking for your grace, for your kindness that I'm not even sure I deserve. I'm asking for your prayers, and I am asking you to feel my own prayers for you. I haven't stopped praying for the ability to accept (or at least process) what has happened, and the ability to keep going with my art despite my great feelings of inadequacy and guilt. I haven't stopped praying that this will not be a poison in your lives like it seems to be in mine.

I have learned some from this. Least of all, to back up every photo. At the moment, I am currently 100% backed up. Far from giving me comfort, I feel anguish over this, because I should have been able to say this from the very beginning. There's really no graceful way to end this confession of sorts, but I end by saying that I pray no one else makes my mistake. Back up your photos. Back them up now. Do it now. Do not do what I did. If you already have, you are not alone in your anguish.



This is a project near and dear to my heart--this is my brother-in-law. He had applied to a school program in Russia and missed the deadline by literal minutes because of misinformation. I have devoted a good portion of my prayers to his being able to still go to Russia and record these sounds that are so precious and rare, and for him to be able to compose using those sounds. I know his wife (my sister) is praying, too. If I could, I'd donate the entire $7,000, but I can't, so I'm spreading the word in the hopes that we can make this happen with every little bit of donation!


Kathryn and Zachary: the words

I met Kathryn a few years ago when we were both at a massage school--Kathryn for massage, and me for a position teaching Pilates. I met her so briefly, but we were instant friends. The thing about Kathryn is, she loves completely. Even better, she stays loyal. 

One day last year, Kathryn sent me a message about a man she'd met, and it was clear that this was special. Special enough that we were talking wedding dates and photography ideas. Though I didn't meet Zachary until our arrival in Alaska, I already loved him through Kathryn's description of him, and because of the woman Kathryn is with him. I couldn't wait to be there for the amazing event.

So Phill and I entrusted our babies with my sister in Oklahoma, and we made the drive to Vegas for our flights. (Long story short, we weren't thinking we would be in TX for long, and had our flights booked accordingly.) I actually love to be in the car with Phill for hours on end. It was wonderful to have time to ourselves and no interruptions. We did a little touristy-souvenir stuff and visited some family and friends along the way, which was such a gift. 

The flight from Anchorage to Kodiak was something near sacred. As we ascended, the sun was rising, and we were right above a blanket of white, marshmallowy clouds. Through the tops of the clouds rose peaks of snow-coated mountains, jagged and crystal-clear in the light. It was a short flight. (Too short.) Towards the end, the clouds parted and my quiet tears of joy that had started at the beginning only increased. Through the break in the clouds, we could see lush green forests and steel-gray waters for miles and miles. Just unending beauty. 

We arrived safely in Kodiak and the first person we met was Kathryn's mother (who gave me the biggest hug EVER and pretended I didn't smell like air-travel) and Kathryn's sister (who kindly told me I had a strand of toilet paper streaming from my shoe before I exited the bathroom--thank you so much, Molly). 

We drove to the the beach/shore where the boat came to get us, and of course I cried ugly when I saw Kathryn and her beloved Vikoda Bay waving from the boat. Then again when we came up to AlpenView Wilderness Lodge and I saw Zachary and MaeKennah on the beach, waving to us.

Before the wedding, I watched Kathryn get ready. I watched her explain to MaeKennah, her stepdaughter, the significance of the pearls they wore--from Kathryn's grandmother, who passed not too long before the wedding. I watched her cuddle up to her beautiful dog, Vikoda. I listened to her talk about Boots, their other dog, and was teary-eyed. I listened to her expound on Zachary and his goodness and listened to her silence when she couldn't find words to verbalize her love for him and MaeKennah. I noted the happy, productive air of the house, laced throughout with peace and good humor. I was moved deeply by the expression on each face when Kathryn came walking up the path with her dad. So much love, so much joy, and so much beauty. What a ceremony. What a day. What a visit.

Kathryn's family and another family (their lifelong friends) run the lodge. We were swept into the rhythm; fishing, exploring, experiencing the banya, taking photos, and getting to know everyone. My heart is still fit-to-burst over everyone I met. Such kindness, such goodness, such genuine passion for their little piece of heaven and the people who come to enjoy it.

How do I adequately explain my feelings for them? Or Kodiak, for that matter? Phill and I just kept saying, "Is this really happening?" Everywhere I turned was another breathtaking view, another incredible part of Kathryn and Zachary's circle of family. Everyone was amazing, truly. Basically, Kodiak had me hook, line, and sinker. Love at first sight. "...the deepest secret nobody knows."

Zachary and Kathryn, I will always feel immeasurable gratitude for this experience of a lifetime. I love you both--to the moon and back, then back again.

And Phill? There is no one who can partner me better. Not just in photography and traveling, not only in parenting or daily life, but in my soul. No one matches me like you do. No one can give my joy more power, lend any experience an epic nature, make my laughter come so readily, or love me with such unselfishness and loyalty like you can. Elephant shoes.

Kathryn & Zachary: the photos

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