Beach Week 2017

It’s been fifteen years since we began this tradition. And it’s become my favorite week of the entire year. Even more than Christmas or my birthday. It’s beach week in Ocean City with my entire family. When we started, we were a family of seven, now we are thirteen strong. The youngest grandchild was just a baby that first year, this year the oldest just graduated from high school.  With busy schedules especially during the holidays, this is the only time my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews all get together. We look at it as our Christmas (in July!).

I know it sounds trite, but the kids really grow up fast! I love comparing photos from one year to the next as you can really see how much they have grown.

For months we all countdown the days to vacation only to have it end in the blink of an eye. In so many ways, some things never change. In so many other ways, time changes everything. You can see it in our faces, in our memories, in our experiences. I'm so grateful for this time to reconnect, to make new memories, to be one family under one roof. It goes by too fast, but it gives me something to look forward to year in and year out. Here are our some of my favorite memories from beach week 2017.

Every year I always take family photos. In the last few years, I've gotten better about being in some of the photos with the kids. It feels awkward since I'm not used to being in front of the camera, but I'm always grateful for these images.

What I learned during my visit to Florida

It’s been two months since I got back from southwest FL. It was a fabulous way to spend most of the winter. This has been a dream of mine -  to spend at least a month somewhere, anywhere, down south. I'm only sorry I haven't done this sooner. I learned so much and I can't wait to share!

My husband and I were fortunate to be able to have this opportunity. Having family in the right places doesn’t hurt either!  Who could say no to seven weeks in the sunshine state over spending another dreary, gray winter in the Northeast? But this didn’t happen without lots of planning. From arranging for my staff to cover my pet sitting jobs, to putting money aside so we could afford this time off, to setting goals for what we wanted to accomplish during this time, this wasn't something we did on a whim. Nor was this about a vacation - it was about working toward making some of our dreams come true.

So here's a few things I learned:

1. There is no such thing as too much sunshine! Here in central PA, we get more cloudy days than sunny days. Day after day, week after week, it’s hard to feel happy and energetic when you don’t see blue skies and sunlight. Everyone I spoke to in FL agreed they noticed how much this affected their mental state too.

I could hear it in my voice.

I felt and sounded much happier.

I was more invigorated when I worked, more excited to get outside and move my body, and full of more energy just in general. It made the winter go by so quickly. No more being stuck inside feeling as though the walls were closing in on me. No more waking up sluggish, dragging myself out the door to go to work. I slept better and felt better, in every way.

2. We don’t need as much stuff as we have. My husband’s parents have had a home in southwest FL for over 40 years. So we were fortunate that we didn’t need to find housing. My mother-in-law might disagree though! Showing up with 2 car loads full of stuff, 2 more people and 2 dogs did cramp her style. But she was a good sport about putting up with us sharing her space. She owns a cute little bungalow on the gulf coast, right on the beach. So not only did we get to spend our time in the warmth, we also got to wake up and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping on the shore.

In order to not interfere with my mother-in-law’s lifestyle, we mostly kept to one part of the house – our bedroom, adjoining bathroom, and sunroom. Which meant we needed to pack carefully. And leave a lot of stuff behind. It turns out, we probably over packed. I brought a suitcase full of clothes and wore only about half of them. The new rave is coloring and I got a kit for Christmas and brought it down. Never touched it. Jewelry I was sure I’d miss, didn’t need to come.  I read a lot and brought several books knowing I would.

Otherwise, we spent so much time outdoors – walking, scouting locations for photo shoots, networking with other pet business owners, job hunting, spending time with our dogs and watching sunsets. In the evenings we ate dinner with my mother-in-law and watched the news together. Other than that, I didn’t watch any TV and I didn’t miss it. Instead, I read, wrote in my journal, played with my dogs, and worked on my photography business. It was so freeing not having all this stuff.

I felt I lived life more fully those seven weeks than I have since I was a kid.

When I got back home, I wanted to continue to live this way. I went through everything I own and got rid of what I don’t want, need or never use. I purged ½ my wardrobe! I donated books. I recycled magazines. I gave away stuffed animals, scrapbooking materials, party supplies, and so on and so on. It felt good. The more I threw away, the more stuff I wanted to get rid of. My closet is emptier, but I feel as though I have more to wear. My office is cleaner, neater and I feel happier working there.  My house is almost de-cluttered, and so is my brain. I feel lighter, freer, and happier.

It’s amazing how much you accumulate over the years. And how wasteful it is. Money I wish I had now. Fewer hours I could have worked. Instead, I’d rather travel. See the country. Experience the world. Meet people from all walks of life. Take photos of this great beautiful earth of ours. Those are the things that matter to me now.

3. We all need time off just to rest and relax. While I have a job I love, taking care of animals is a 365 day a year job. Even though I do take a vacation – I join my family for our yearly beach week every July – I don’t get enough down time. Which is why I’m working on making the transition from a full-time pet sitter to a pet photographer.

Taking a break is good for our souls.

It gives us a chance to break bad patterns, rejuvenate, and take time to do things we enjoy but don’t do otherwise. While a week or two week vacation is nice, it’s not enough down time to reconnect with our selves. So many of us are busy from the time we wake up until we go to bed. Naps are hard to come by. Even a full night’s sleep is rare. A week at some beautiful resort is enough time just to catch up on some much needed zzz’s before heading home and getting back into the grind. I found that not having to spend my days around pet visits meant I lived more in the moment. I was more productive knowing I didn’t have to watch the time. Even when I watched the sunsets, or took walks, I was more present. It didn’t happen the first day or even the first week. It took some time to break my usual patterns and learn to just be. And when I came home, I was more fully present at work, with friends and family. I was more aware of everything around me. I paid attention to the birds, the clouds, the music I was listening to, my dogs, etc. If I could find a way to keep this balance each and every day, this is how I would live. Because this is living life fully.



Florida recap - Week 5

It’s been a few weeks since I posted an update on how things are going here in southwest Florida. I guess that’s a good thing since it means I’ve been busy! And having fun!

I have one more week left before I head back north and I have to admit, it’s going to be hard to leave. I cannot get enough of the sun, which I know has been lacking in PA this winter – what’s new, right? But I am also looking forward to some snow as I do miss taking my dogs out for a romp in the white stuff and watching them run and play. Hopefully Mother Nature will save one more storm for me!

In the last 3 weeks, I’ve done a ton of location scouting and found some great places for photo shoots. I’ve photographed on Sanibel Island, Venice Beach, and Ft Myers. I have some more locations to check out before I go, but I feel that I’ve got a pretty good lay of the land in this part of the state.


If you’ve been following my blog, then you know I updated my website. It has a completely new look - I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’ve worked on my SEO as well, so I should start showing up in google searches both in central PA and southwest FL.  In fact, the photo shoot I did in Ft Myers was because of a google search. I can’t wait to share photos from that session – I am so impressed with the young woman who contacted me and absolutely adored her 2 fur-kids!

I’ve also enrolled in PPA’s (Professional Photographers of America) business challenge. This started the first week of Feb and will continue with weekly assignments for the next 12 months.  I’m really excited about this as it is geared toward working entirely on the business side of things.


Offering photo albums to my clients has been on my list of things to do for a while and I finally ordered a sample. My book arrived just yesterday and I love it! Perfect for my clients who want all of the images from their session or would like something for their coffee table. The quality of the album is amazing! I’ll post photos soon!

Lastly, I attended a talk from a local southwest FL photographer Clyde Butcher. He shoots landscapes and is currently doing a show featuring his National Parks images. His wife and daughter were also there for the evening and I found the family to be very delightful and down to earth. If you have not heard of Clyde, check him out. He has a fantastic instagram account and has been called the next Ansel Adams by popular photography. He has a studio in Venice, which I also visited. This is where he does all of his printing and the darkroom is on display for his visitors to see. Who said film is dead?

It’s been a busy 5 weeks and while I’ve accomplished so much, there are a few things left to do. A few more sunsets to watch, walks with the dogs on the beach, photos to take in the Florida landscape and books to finish reading. Thanks for following along with me on this journey!


Florida Recap - Week 2

Ok, so it’s been a little more than 7 days since my last Florida recap post, but it was a busy week! Last weekend I met a friend in Naples to photograph her adorable dog Abby. Abby’s family also happens to live in State College, and they’ve been very helpful with giving us advice about the southwest FL area.  If you missed my post about Abby’s session, you can see it HERE.


On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I took the CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) prep class with Al Audelman and the Bay PPA (Professional Photographers of America). It was a great class – I can’t say enough nice things about Al. He’s an excellent teacher, mixing jokes in between some dreaded mathematical lessons, but always making sure everyone in the class understood each and every concept before moving on. I wasn’t sure I knew enough to think about taking the test and passing, but was surprised to learn that I knew more than I realized. I’m still reviewing all the notes I took and reading the study guide. The group is trying to set up an exam date soon and I’ll join them if I can. It’s pretty likely I’ll be back in PA by then, so my goal is to declare my candidacy in Feb and take the exam in March. That’s fast tracking as my original goal had been to do this later in 2017.

On Thursday, I ran a facebook ad for a Southwest Florida dog model call. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’d like to photograph and I need to get out and get to know the area better. I figured why not jump in both feet first! So far, I’ve had a great response. I’m looking forward to meeting the pooches of FL!


And yes, I'm still enjoying my nightly sunsets!

Another day in paradise!

Ah! There’s nothing like a relaxing trip to the beach, is there? Especially when heading for paradise means departing in the middle of a snowstorm! But alas, all good things must come to an end. While I love Florida weather, it’s great to be back home and reunited with my fur babies. I sure have missed them!

It was wonderful catching up on some much needed zzzz’s and soaking up some Vitamin D in the warm sun. There’s just something about being able to walk around with 20 pounds less clothing than I’ve been wearing this winter and watching the sunsets while enjoying a strawberry daiquiri. After spending what seems like an eternity cooped up within the 4 walls of my home, I was ready to spend some time outdoors. Summer can’t come fast enough!

My husband is a huge New York Yankee fan so we took in a spring training baseball game in Tampa, ate at some fabulous restaurants and checked out the real estate market as well.

Of course, I never travel without my camera gear in tow. In fact, some of my favorite landscape photos were captured during previous visits to Florida. I’m also really fortunate that my mother-in-law lives on a beautiful beach on the west coast of the sunshine state. We were blessed to have some spectacular sunsets during our stay.


I also had fun creating abstract images while the sky changed from blue, to yellow, orange, red, pink and purple. It’s really easy, just slow down the shutter speed and move the camera any way you choose (usually from left to right) while pressing the shutter button.  I never know what I’m going to get, so I just keep experimenting until I get something I like.


And of course, I can't help but stop to pet (and photograph!) almost every dog I meet. This is Riley. I ran into her and her dad fishing while walking on the beach one afternoon.

Until next time!