Promoting Passion 2016 - Colorado Springs, CO

When I first arrived in Colorado Springs on the evening of September 26, 2016, I couldn't have possibly imagined that the next three days would be absolutely life-changing for me as a creative artist. This trip pushed me to branch out in a million ways from my first time flying on a plane by myself to my first trip out west to my first photo convention EVER. Self-reliance and a little bit of courage were my traveling companions. However, I realized how great an impact that a simple change of scenery has boosted my confidence, enriched my soul, and filled my heart with the creative rejuvenation that I was desperately in need of for quite some time - especially as a woman of faith. Not only has Promoting Passion revived my creative drive, it has awakened the very core of my spiritual being. The raw energy I gleaned on this trip has deeply reminded me of my life's purpose.

The conference presented a wide variety of creative artists, photographers, and writers hosted by fine art photographer, writer, and motivational speaker Brooke Shaden. Along with her were many other influential names - Lindsey Adler, fashion and portrait photographer from New York City; Joel Grimes, commercial portrait photographer with decades of immeasurable experience; Ksenia Anske, fantasy writer whose life story astounded me; and many, many others. 

Our schedule outlined an intensive, non-stop schedule of lectures and workshops designed to inspire (in my case reignite) passion in photography while also finding the necessary motivation to drive one's creative passion into a successful business career. 

A view of the Garden of the Gods - the mountainous, rugged, dusty red rock landscape inspired me at every turn. The desert entranced my senses.

By nature, I am introspective and soft-spoken - certainly among large gatherings of people. One of my greatest concerns on this trip was pulling myself out of my comfort zone to form relationships with people from all walks of life and different points of the globe. However, in a short time, I did indeed find friendship with a multitude of men and women with the same creative passion as I - and I discovered that, instead of burying my face behind the viewfinder for the entirety of the conference, I found myself in front of the camera eye, devoting my time and energy to collaborate with others. I cannot describe how fulfilling it was to help those around me. In the long run, it has helped me rediscover the passion I had when I picked up my first camera.

A reflective portrait of myself captured by David Perry while collaborating with Liz Ernest, who graciously gave me wise advice on modeling - simply put, she told me, " just relax."

Pictured left - a candid shot of Steph and Brooke behind the scenes from our first afternoon creative collaboration. Brooke (pictured right) provided us a variety of models in gorgeous gowns as well as props and smoke bombs for dramatic effect.

Initially, it was quite difficult for 50-75 people to photograph the same subject(s) at the same time and often from the same angle. Though everyone was anxious to capture images, there was a little give-and-take involved. However, everyone was given the chance to shoot; and, if desired, shout out directions to the models. Honestly, I still cannot believe that I was given the opportunity to photograph under Brooke's tutelage. It still seems so surreal and dreamlike. How often does one receive such a grand opportunity? 

Two images that I captured from the first afternoon creative collaboration. I was thrilled to have captured such contrasting moods from the same shoot. You can also accredit the mud-smearing to Brooke's endless imagination - the portrait on the right is more than just a pretty shot with good lighting and contrast. Model: Mikala Anaïs

The emotional energy from the first day was infectious. As a result, my motivation skyrocketed. And so, the next morning, I rose before dawn at 5:00 am to go chase the morning light and capture some images in the Garden of the Gods before the start of day two at Promoting Passion.

Below you will find snapshots of my early morning adventure. Often, solitude is my energy resource - and I could not have requested a better location to find wonder in God's creation.

The Garden of the Gods in the early morning light 

Balancing rock in the Garden of the Gods

The sun rising over the red rocks on a crisp, early autumn morning

While listening to Brooke's morning workshop, she said something that struck a chord in my mind and resonated within me. Near the end of her lecture, she advised that doing a lot of self-portraiture will greatly help in directing modelings and knowing what positions create impact. Though I was aware of this beforehand, my heart was not completely immersed in this fact. My mind was fixated on the desire to make good, perfect images. But where was my heart? Where was my theme? Where was my story? My mind and my heart were divided like oil and vinegar for years. I was a proficient technical photographer - I still am, but it was long overdue that I finally paired my technical skills with my own personal creative side in order to create impact.

The Castle at Glen Eyrie 

The view from the patio at Glen Eyrie

After another morning and afternoon of intense, eye-opening lectures, I hit the ground running again with my fellow conference-goers. I spent an evening with newfound friends collaborating and immersing myself in a combination of hands-on shooting and modeling.

Left: Shooting with Brooke - just one of the many "stations" she set up for us
Right: My capture of model Lisbeth Splawn

Before I realized it, Promoting Passion reached its third and final day. I spent the majority of the day participating in Lindsey Adler's hands-on lecture/workshop session. 

Lindsey Adler kindly modeling for a group of photographers out on the lawn at Glen Eyrie - what a larger-than-life inspirational educator!

Lindsey Adler's workshop demonstration in the Great Hall

In just few short hours after her lecture, Lindsey set up different locations for us to work hands-on, including indoor and outdoor spots. It really does take a village to create images with impact. 

Behind the scenes with model Lisbeth Splawn on one of Lindsey's sets. We also learned the term "floofing," which is a word used to describe adding "movement" to an image - just one of the many keywords Lindsey taught us! 

The day was long but an absolute thrill; however, all good things must come to an end, and I soon found myself sitting in the Great Hall at the closing ceremony. I intently listened to Brooke as she gave us a plentiful amount of thoughts, ideas, and dreams to take away and apply to our work and art. "Never believe anything easy or worthwhile will come easy or fall in your lap," she said. "Work hard for it." And suddenly, just like that, everything seemed to make sense.

Brooke (left) at the closing ceremony and Joel McKerrow (right) reciting one of his masterful poetry pieces.

In conclusion, Promoting Passion has rocked my whole universe and has greatly impacted each facet of my life and wellbeing. For years, I have been creatively asleep. My head and heart were in two separate places and something within me refused to budge. Call it a creative block or writer's block or whatever you will. I simply praise God above that whatever it was that held me back has finally been obliterated. At last I realize that my creative brain, my passionate heart, and my dreaming head are my strengths - by my faith I believe them to be my gifts from above, how God created me to be: to express myself through my art. My dear readers, I have never felt so empowered by these life-giving thoughts and wild dreams dancing around in my head. Though I have returned home to "normal" life, my eyes view everything through a different lens. I am confident now that what I learned at Promoting Passion will remain in me indefinitely; and, I smile to myself often that I am capable of creating impact not only in my work but in each area of my life.