Looking Back on 2006 (The Unabridged Version)

posted on: December 19, 2006

I have to be honest and say that this was a very difficult year for me personally, professionally, and emotionally. I'm of the belief that we are in complete control of our situation and that every outcome is a product of something we create in our life. So, when things go wrong- even if they are beyond my control- I feel as though I have personally failed. Failed to anticipate problems, failed to create backup plans, failed to succeed. I'm an eternal optimist, so even when I'm faced with challenges and failure, I believe there is an opportunity to learn and to become better.

This year started off with me working as a full-time music teacher sub and a part-time wedding photographer. As much as I loved teaching music in the best elementary school I could have asked for, I quickly realized that I spent more and more of my free time planning my life around photography. After my permanent substitute music position was complete, I decided that I was going to make wedding photography my full-time job. There was only one problem - I knew that Alex & I would be moving in Fall 2006, but we still had no idea where. The options were as broad as Australia, New York, and California - so I decided it would be in my best interest to not accept any wedding jobs for Fall of 2006 until I knew exactly where we'd be living and what the costs would be to travel back to Michigan for a wedding.

When Alex was offered the Assistant Professor of Music Education position at Indiana State University in Februrary, I had to make a serious choice about my future. I had a LOT of pressure, from both of our families, to seek a teaching position in music; after all- that's what I had dedicated the last four years of my education too. Early in the year, I had no idea what to expect, so I was taking the gifts and opportunities of life as they presented themselves.

Since I had basically cut off my steady stream of photography work by not accepting fall '06 wedding dates until I knew where we were going to live, I hastily overbooked my spring dates to supplement the loss of work that I anticipated in the fall. This is where my year started to fall apart, and where valuable lessons would soon be learned. By February, it was clear that the computer I was working on was going to be insufficient for the work load I needed it to handle. The crashes were becoming more frequent because the memory and the processor just couldn't keep up with the RAW files of my DSLR, and the memory-hungry, photo-editing power of Photoshop CS2. Despite the problems, my 6 year old G4 was still rocking in so many other ways, so I had a hard time letting go of it. Also, since I wasn't charging enough for my work at that time, I had little to no funds to support the purchase of new equipment. I decided that in order to get ahead and deliver the kind of work I was proud of, I needed a new computer that would take me into the next 3-5 years, so I made a slight change to my pricing which allowed me to purchase the new Intel iMac, which was an excellent business decision.

Another monkey wrench was thrown into the gears when in the middle of a wedding, my not-so-old 20D camera pooped out on me. The shutter button was stuck and then when I thought I got it unstuck, the auto-focus wouldn't work. Luckily I had a back-up camera, but it was loaded with film, which wasn't going to be sufficient for parts of the ceremony that required a much higher ISO than I had available in film. I quickly found a way to work around my digital camera's misbehavior and was able to finish the wedding just fine, but as soon as I got home, I learned that many of the files from the portraits were corrupted and unreadable. I had the horrible, horrible job of telling the bride that I might not be able to recover those images. Fortunately, all is not lost with digital. If you screw up a film negative, you can't go back. But luckily, digital technology is such that even a corrupted file can be recovered with the right software. I was able to fix all of the corrupted images, but not before I invested in my now, FAVORITE CAMERA EVER- the Canon 5D. I have since had the 20D repaired, which was fixed with a simple firmware upgrade, and now have two excellent DSLR Cameras that provide me with a lot of different capture options.

However, with more digital images being captured in larger file sizes and a better computer, comes new software to learn and a new workflow to figure out. I was barely up and running with my new computer before my wedding season kicked into high gear. In the span of one month's time, between May & June, I had eight weddings, back to back. To top this off, I was still processing the images from earlier in the year that I hadn't been able to finish, due to the old computer crashing so often. I had to learn the new software as I went, which took a lot longer than I had desired. However, I was still charging so little that I couldn't afford to pay someone to help me, so I was becoming my own bottleneck to progress. As I was slowly processing previous weddings during the week, I was shooting double the number of weddings on the weekends. BIG MISTAKE.

In the midst of the the work piling up, and learning a new workflow, I also had to deal with getting ready to move out of state from Rochester Hills, MI to Terre Haute, IN. Frankly, I was so overwhelmed with everything going on in my business, that moving was the LAST thing on my mind to the point which I was almost in denial, which shifted almost the entire process and responsibility for moving onto my husband - who had many of his own challenges and priorities to deal with. This was entirely unfair of me, but frankly I was more concerned about my clients happiness than anyone else's at that point, including my own. In fact, there was once an opportunity for me to go with Alex to Kuala Lumpur - a once in a lifetime opportunity, but going would've meant I'd need to find a replacement photographer for a wedding that I had been contracted for. Ultimately, I passed up the opportunity to go to Kuala Lumpur, and stayed to do the wedding instead. I don't regret my decision to stay, but it was a very tough decision to make. My love for travel supercedes my desire to do just about anything else, so I gave up a huge personal desire in order to fulfill my commitment to my clients.

Negotiating the move was probably the hardest thing we had to do. We made two trips to Terre Haute before moving, and in order to secure the apartment we wanted, we had to pay for an extra month that we would not be living there, plus the deposit, on top of the mortgage on our house in Rochester Hils. Fortunately we had anticipated that it was going to be costly to move, so we had done a good job of budgeting ourselves financially. Initially, I wanted to wait to move until Labor Day weekend- when I had left a few weekends free, but that would be much too late for Alex to get started on planning for his fall semester and attending various meetings at the university. We also thought it might be possible for Alex to move first, and then for me to follow later, but then we determined it would require twice as much time from both of us, so we compromised and decided on the first weekend of August.

On top of the financial and sheer logistical strain of moving when we were already juggling so many other things, it was a very emotional move for me. We had spent the last two years sharing our first house with my mom and my brother. The house was so large and set up in such a way that we all had our separate living, working, bathroom, and entertaining spaces which caused us to rarely see each other. Even so, there was a real comfort in knowing that family was always nearby, and that we were rarely ever alone. My mom was also a die-hard housekeeper, and though we rarely thanked her for it, her obsessive cleaning created more harmony in our lives. (Thank you mom!) In those two years, I grew closer to my family than I had ever been before, and I had developed very meaningful friendships with people whom I admire and who are very close to my heart. The thought of moving to a place where I would know absolutely no one, where I wouldn't be taking classes in a social environment, where I wouldn't be working in a place where I could meet new people, was absolutely devastating. When I decided to dedicate myself to photography full-time, it was a decision that would lead to a reclusive lifestyle editing photos behind a computer day after day. To make matters worse, the cable company in Terre Haute would not set up our internet for an entire month, which put me way behind on uploading images, and prevented me from connecting to the rest of the world from my home office. Depression quickly set in and it became harder and harder to enjoy our new home.

It took me quite a while to adjust to Terre Haute. I really didn't get the chance to spend more than a few days at a time here because I had to tavel back to Michigan for weddings, then to Chicago for meetings and a conference, and off to Indy for a day or weekend to meet new clients. I spent a lot of time enjoying everything but Terre Haute. Also, due to the amount of time I was spending on the road, away from my computer, the work I continued to bring in- continued to pile up, which forced me to spend even more time behind the computer when I actually was home. My husband could see that I was turning into a troglodyte, and he did his best to help me get out and meet people by inviting me to every university social event he could find. I never thanked him for that either, but it really meant a lot to me.

The major turning point in my self-happiness came when I joined the ISU Masterworks Chorale, where I was able to be involved in music again, and where I met a great girl named Jamie, who invited me to hang out for drinks after weekly rehearsals. Jamie is now moving to Kentucky, so my Monday nights won't be the same without her, but I'm so grateful for her presence in my life and for helping me feel like part of a community. When I look back on the times when I have been the happiest and the least happy in my life, I can see that there is a direct correlation to my invovlement in music and fine arts. Every time I have tried to live my life without participating in music, or without having an artistic outlet for expression, I have found myself feeling empty and unsatisfied; so photography and being involved in a choir that performs challenging music is a vital part my well-being. I'm really looking forward to next semester when the ISU Masterworks Chorale will be performing Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. You're all invited to Terre Haute to hear me sing in this awesome work!!

So where does all of this leave me now? Well, I still have unfinished business from 2006, but at this point I'm so brain-fried and overworked that I'm hoping my vacation to visit family and friends for the holidays will help me recharge my battery so that I can return to work happy and energized. I do have lots of exciting things happening in 2007 that I can't wait to share with everyone, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I must sleep!!! My husband misses me. ;-)

7 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Casey Chappell9:18 AM

    After having 2 people break down crying in my salon chair yesterday after just sharing hardships and struggles in my life and here I am sitting here crying over your past and current struggles, I'm becoming convinced that sharing ones burdens is so important for both the sharer and the listener.
    I told my husband that my client in tears told me that she felt like she was going crazy, Who Hasn't felt like that, but we are so good at hiding our trials and putting on a happy mask and nobody really knows how we are doing....no wonder we feel like we're crazy...I'm trying to be 2-10 people instead of just me.
    So thank you for being you and for sharing. I'm trying to balance photography and hairdressing and I LOVE both and they go kinda hand in hand. I'm not me without one of them. But Life is running away from me because I"m overwhelmed with both. Don't ever let our husbands get together, they would come up with some way to destroy our macs! :o)
    I wish we lived closer I'd love to sit over coffee and chat/help edit/just understand.

    You are truly a kindred spirit and I can't wait to meet you one day.
    Have a most merry christmas!
    Love, Casey

  2. Thank you so much Casey!!! I agree with you in so many ways. ;-)

  3. Oh Anne!!! You should've shipped some of those files over to me - I would've helped you!! You made it through! And look at all the stuff you learned! Don't look back now, you've made it throught he hard part. Keep your chin up girl!! :) Best wishes for 2007, as always, I LOVE your work!


  4. oh anne...you are always so cheerful and positive, no one would know that all of this was going on in the background!! I think your probably one of my fav. people to have met in my quest this year!

    I too hope your vacation recharges u, but if u ever need someone to oh..I dont know...go get a gallon of gas for you or something (:-p) please do not hesitate to call!

    I know 2007 will bring great things and I cant wait to see the fruits of your labor.

  5. Colleen - I totally would have if I thought I could pay you!! Actually... I lie, I probably wouldn't have because I'm such a control freak when it comes to processing. There are so many variables for me that come into play, like what they liked or didn't like about their engagement pictures, or if their personality is more in line with a soft-subdued look, or a high-impact look. It's all too subjective for me to let go of... and you're absolutely right, I learned A LOT- which would have never happened if I had given up. ;-)

  6. Tim Co.- OMG... I totally forgot about running out of gas too!!! HA!!! And you have the pictures to prove it!! What an embarassing way to meet someone for the first time! I can only imagine you guys thought I was a total ditz! (not that you'd be wrong)

    The bigger the problem, the more I learn and grow. So... I've grown a LOT this year!

    I think part of what allows me to hide my difficulties so well is that I spend so much of my time sharing the happiness of others- and really... that, in itself, makes me a very happy person every day. The problems come when I give so much of myself to others that I leave little for myself or my husband... and that's what I need to work on the most in the next year. I believe that the challenges I faced this year will help me have more freedom in my life next year... so I agree, it should be a great year!!

  7. Anne thanks for sharing! Laura and I have also had a very hard year but I always look back on the events on our lives and see that they all happen for a reason. Part of what makes us who we are.. in fact that are the major part. I wish you all the best for 2007!


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