2007 arrived with a whirlwind of high school activities. I was in the Spring play, also known as extrovert heeeaaven! I couldn't get enough. I had always been a good student but now I was starting to see my grades slip. I was trying to juggle early admission classes at my local community college, play rehearsals, regular homework, and the monster that was AP art. My art teacher Connie called me and my mom in for a parent teacher meeting. I was horrified. I remember retracing every one of my steps trying to figure out how this happened. "I'm trying to do too much!" was the conclusion I arrived at. Connie disagreed. I wasn't doing enough. Heh, yeah. That too.

Meanwhile, I was assembling my first photo portfolio in a digital photography course at community college. But because this class was only once a week it was also five hours long. You read right, FIVE HOURS. And even with all that time we managed to spend three classes learning how to create a folder on your desktop. It was like the shark from Jaws opened his sharp, toothy mouth and ate up all my time reeeaally slowly. Of COURSE I had started a blog when I had zero time to post on it! I felt like such a loser. It's amazing how something so small can make you feel like a failure. If you go back and read my first dozen posts you'll see every other one is an apology for not posting enough. I've since learned I don't owe anyone my time online. My website is my personal business space. I either post or I don't. And I can choose what I post and when I post it. When I get too busy, I'm too busy! You are your own worst critic. If you find yourself stressed by the millions of ways you should be a better business you won't be able to change a single one of them. Take things one day at a time. 

I managed to climb through the mess that was senior year, finish my AP portfolio, my community college portfolio (samples above), and put on the cap and gown and graduate. Holy cow, it felt great!

(Top photo credit: Andy Alonso)

 I still didn't know what the future held and if I would indeed do four years of college but I was done worrying about education for now. It was the summer after senior year and the world held a million possibilities. The first presented itself in the form of my sweet, bubbly and very engaged friend Casey Tiren. 

Casey approached Kristen and I and asked if we would be interested in shooting her wedding. Whaaat! Our very first solo, non-assisted wedding! Kristen and I met Casey at Starbucks even though neither of us drank coffee. I pulled out my pen and paper and wrote down every official sounding phrase I felt a wedding photographer should jot down during a meeting. "Colors green/white…Leaving at 9:15pm….Approximately 380 guests." Kristen definitely looked like she knew what she was doing. I, on the other hand, was just naive enough to think this was a good idea - that I was really ready to shoot my first wedding.

And right there, folks, is one of the most important moments in this story. I was just foolish enough to think I was ready enough and therefore just confident enough to stick my head out there and grab it. It's a moment I can only attribute to God because I think if I were any older I would've had too much "sense" to jump in that deep the first time. But maybe foolishness is what we all need a little bit more of these days. Maybe Steve Jobs is right. We need to "stay hungry" and "stay foolish" if we want to do big things. I know I've become a lot more jaded and gun shy as I've gotten older. I'm much more aware of my weaknesses and insecurities. But little 18 year old Lydia with a wide open summer after senior year had no such fears. So, on April 29th, 2007 Kristen and I photographed Casey & David's wedding day.

It felt amazing to shoot an entire wedding with my best friend. It was exhilarating and exhausting. Not much has changed to be honest. Kristen is still my favorite person to shoot with and if you want to see how pooped I am after a wedding just call me the morning after one. Just kidding, I won't answe. I'm usually in bed until 1pm.

Fall of 2007 I enrolled full time in Montgomery College, the same community college I took the five hour photo class from. The classes were still long but they were filled with things that changed my life for the better; things I still look back fondly on. That Fall brought some of the highlights of my entire photography career. It was that semester I met darkroom photography and fell in love with the 3 Darkroom Stooges: Developer, Fixer, and Stop Bath. I still sniff negatives when I find them to get a whiff of that delicious chemical smell. I got to play around with my dad's old Minolta camera for the first time. I learned the hard way how not to open a canister of film and the punishment for when you do: a very extended period of time in a very dark closet. Shooting and developing film was like magic to me. I spent 8+ hours in the darkroom every week playing with magic and listening to Led Zeppelin. If you are a photographer and have never developed your own roll of film before, you haven't lived. I don't say this to play the role of "old-fashioned, all-knowing photographer sage". I say it because it's true. Seeing and feeling photography as it was originally meant to be seen and felt will change your entire approach to photography. It is truly extraordinary. 

My exposures were crummy, my focus was soft, but my artistic mind was alive for the first time since I began my photographic journey. Photography was were my heart was. I wanted to explore it in every direction possible. It was finally clear to me that I needed to finish my four-year degree and keep learning everything there was to know about it. But, that also meant I needed to make money at it. Weddings were the perfect solution. I could go to school and learn during the week and shoot weddings on the weekend! "That seems manageable!", I thought. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Part III tomorrow!