Field Notes

Photography Inspiration, Adventures and Ideas

A Story About Priorities, Determination And An Update On My Yoga Teacher Training Progress

The question first came up during an interview for a job in the paste-up department of a newspaper back in the late 90s, just before computers took over and printed news began to disappear altogether. What would I do if I missed a deadline?

With tight daily schedules, when being late by a few minutes could jeopardize an entire days' delivery, getting this seemingly simple question right could make or break my chances at being hired.

It sounded like a trick question—too easy and yet weighted with context that I could only guess about. Should I pretend I never miss deadlines? Or emphatically declare that the smallest hint of a meltdown was hardly a possibility? At the time, those options didn't even occur to me. My answer? Just keep going until the work is done.

They must have liked what I said because I got the job.

Since then I have had my share of deadlines met and deadlines missed and I still believe that if something is worth doing, I'll keep on keeping on until the work is done, no matter what.

More recently, I finished a month-long intensive yoga teacher training this past summer. We were given until the end of 2019 to complete the homework in order to graduate from the program.

It's now January, 2020 and I still have a ways to go. I may have missed my deadline but I will continue working towards my goal regardless of how long it takes because I know some things just take longer for me.

Some people say done is better than perfect. I say sanity is better than done.

So I keep going at my own pace and I make progress in my own time, guided by mind, body and spirit. As a yoga teacher in training, I only hope that my future students have the patience, determination and growing awareness of themselves to do the same.

If you want to know more about my yoga teacher training experience, I wrote about it for Tallahassee Magazine in the January/February issue.

Click here to read the full story of my yoga journey.

How we show up for each other and what you may find when you look for the deeper stories we all carry with us

Hey you, over there, looking very busy. It’s going to be a beautiful day outside and those photos aren’t going to take themselves—okay, these days they might very well take themselves—but they’ll be so much more vibrant and alive If you come too.

There’s an over-ripe field of yellow-gold grasses with no one in it, just waiting, restless, under a low winter sun. There are treasures to behold and my camera is growing cold and I want to know more about you. Any of you. All of you. Whomever is interested in roaming the rural outskirts with the lingering grasshoppers and this seeker of hidden open spaces.

We can spread a blanket or tromp around the underbrush. You can be elegant or goofy or however you please. Just be the you of today. Bring your willingness to try something different. Bring your inner child, your fur baby or your best friend. If those are all one and the same, even better.

What to wear? I have ideas! Colors that fit a mood and complement the place. But above all, wear your comfort. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Wear the thing that makes you want to show up.

The Call of the Photographer

These were my thoughts on a recent December day when I sent out a photoshoot invitation to friends on facebook.

It was short notice and during working hours since the sun sets so early this time of year and I wanted to catch magic hour—the sixty minutes or so of the most luscious, flattering light leading up to sunset. Many people were interested but either not nearby or not available within the requested timeframe.

Then Mac, a former colleague, replied she’d be happy to help a photographer out. It just so happened she had the afternoon off. Outgoing and always willing to lend a hand, this came as no surprise to me. Delighted, I sent over the location info and suggested wardrobe. Oh, and could she bring one of her rescue pups I’d seen her post about?

With no particular plan in mind other than seeing what this gem of a field I had discovered would unearth within us, I packed my gear and headed out to our rendezvous spot.

Etched in Ink and Pixels

The sign at the all but hidden driveway read L. Kirk Edwards Wildlife and Environmental Area. (Since you’ve read this far, I feel comfortable disclosing the name of our top secret location and trust you will handle it wisely.) Not even built up enough to be considered a park, there are no facilities other than a gravel driveway, a fence and a stretch of mowed grass.

I brought a step stool, a blanket and some camera gear. Mac, dressed in a flowing and brilliant combination of the three colors I suggested, brought Teddy. He wore only a collar.

We walked the five or so minutes to get to the tallest and goldenest of the grasses. Mac bravely waded in, shoulder deep. Teddy patiently perched in Mac’s arms while I worked the camera. Music played from my phone because I couldn’t pair the portable speaker I brought. The sun softened even more.

When it became obvious Teddy needed a break from modeling, the pair relaxed on the unfolded blanket next to the darkening but still glowing thicket. I noticed small tattoos on both of Mac’s arms and asked her about them.

Her left wrist tattoo read “Strength” in cursive writing, underscored with a flourish. Her right forearm tattoo, written in a more hurried and harder to read script, a signature, read “Love Dan.” She explained the meaning behind both.

Before I share what she told me I want you to know something. I truly do try to listen to people when they tell me things during a photoshoot, especially very touching, very heartfelt things. But when I have a camera in my hand, the visual part of my brain continues to whir and stir, overriding much of the listening and remembering parts of my brain. Let’s just say I’m working on it.

So, in an effort to make sure I don’t mess up the details I messaged Mac after the shoot.

I asked, “Would you mind if I shared about your tattoos? I remember you said the signature of your dad was from a letter he wrote before he passed, when you were three, but I'm trying to remember what you said about the strength tattoo. Could you refresh my memory? Any other details you want to mention about them? Also anything you want me to say about Teddy?”

Mac replied, “Of course! I got my ‘Strength’ tattoo in 2012 or so. In remembrance of my Nana whom passed in 2010 and my dad. I find strength in all the experiences I’ve gone through (good and bad). My dad’s tattoo I got in 2017 I believe. To me, my tattoos always have a message and are thought through before going to get them. Teddy was my first rescue in 2012 when I went to FSU. He’s been my little sidekick through it all.”

An Hour and Some Change

We spent a lighthearted hour together during the photoshoot and I left knowing just a little bit more about Mac than I did going in. The pictures, souvenirs from the afternoon, continue to remind me how little we often know about our friend’s and acquaintances’ stories and inner lives. They don’t just show up, birthed anew and fully formed into our own experience.

It makes me want to delve deeper and know what other cards a person might be holding. It also makes me want to give everyone a hug.

In my work as a magazine photographer, I have had the privilege of arriving at a photo session having already read expertly crafted and edited articles about the people I’m about to photograph. But not all of my shoots come with an editorial department. I wish they did.

Going into the new year, thinking about the changes I want to see in myself and in the world, I realize I want to connect with more people. I want to be the writer that comes with the photoshoot, even if the writing is a simple blog post, sans insightful editor, that may not see any eyes but my own.

Thank you, Mac, for showing me a glimpse into the greater you. Your strength is inspiring.

I intend to build on this momentum and continue growing community, one photoshoot and one blog post at a time. Please join me when you can.

The mission: Get in front of the camera in a safe, comfortable, relaxing setting. The goal: Stop being so hard on yourself.

1. Face facts, for once in your life.

As much as you try, you will never, ever fully see your own face directly through your own eyes.

Do you ever find yourself asking questions like: How did I end up here on this yoga mat, in a floor length dress, hiding behind a potted aloe plant?

Am I the only one?

Anything can happen when the camera is rolling, so to speak. You start to discover things about yourself that you never noticed before. Like, hey, I might have a thing for feet. (Toes are just so cute, aren't they? Again—just me?) And oh, my face is not symmetrical. At. All. What if I put this plant in front of it?

Next question: Why am I not completely perfect in every way, and really actually, I completely suck? And finally: Who the hello am I anyway, and why should you care about any of this?

Aaaand…the other thing that can happen when you start observing yourself through the lens of a camera is the realization that the camera has its own story to tell and there is no one truth.

So just know your uniqueness is beautiful in and of itself. The varied angles are what make you multidimensional with many facets of discovery and levels of light and dark. Your differences are part of what make you interesting. Your stories, the ones you choose to tell, are what help you connect and engage and make you relatable.

2. Make space. Defy physics.

Make a cozy space—your nest, your way.
If you build it, you will chill.

Context is everything. Or maybe, perception is everything. Location, something, something sounds familiar too…In any case, when you want to feel good, it only makes sense to set a scene where good feelings want to come hang out and stay a while.

My good feelings, in particular, really dig uncluttered open areas that are soft, cozy and color coordinated. Bonus points for green plants, light breezes, cute shoes and fizzy drinks.

So, okay, it does take moderate effort to pull it together, and I confess I don't always go the extra inch when it's just me and I just want to fix the chipped polish I've been attempting to ignore for weeks (months?) on end. But I would surely do so for someone important to me who deserves love and attention. Wouldn't you?

In my opinion, and hopefully yours, we all deserve love and attention. So why not extend it to ourselves and be our own heroes?

2. Take time. Just take it.

Take time to sink into the moment.
Now for the hardest part—do nothing.

Once you have your happy place set up just the way you like it, like I know you will, take all the time you need to take it all in and remember the many reasons why you deserve star treatment, especially from yourself—the one person most equipped to know what that might even mean for you.

Start from the ground up, with those strong, amazing tootsies that support you and get you where you need to go.

Be kind to yourself and you'll always feel cared for.

Speaking of strong feet, here's a fun thing to try that may affirm just how much get-up-and-go they really have. Next time you walk up a flight of stairs, don't just use the ball of your foot (and momentum) to hop from step to step. Put your heal down first, making sure you place the entire foot flat on the step before lifting your other foot to the next step. This shifts the weight distribution from your feet to your legs and butt and, for me anyway, makes it more difficult.

"Way to go feet, we appreciate you!" —Sincerely, Your Quadriceps.

3. Flatter yourself. I mean it.

Remember: Happiness looks good on you.
In a sea of choices, be the you you choose to see.

When in doubt about what to wear or do or be, choose the thing that makes you smile most. Feel good, be good, do good. See how this works?

If you're anything like me, you suffer from bouts of decision paralysis. It doesn't help when there's only a tiny difference between options. Specifically, Essie nail polish has a line of ballet themed pale pinks with names such as "satin slipper" and "make the cut" ranging in hues from silky champagne to nude greige—their descriptions, not mine.

After about a half hour (possibly longer) of deliberation in the store trying to figure out if I should match my skin tone or complement it, I went with "wearing hue" which I think does neither. But I love it anyway.

4. Know your worth. (Hint, it's more than a penny.)

Your favorite human most likely knows their value and isn't afraid to cash in.

Hey, it's your decision and that's all it takes.

Let me just say, I'm a professional photographer, not a Nailist. A nihilist at times, maybe. Point being, don't look too close. Just take the results of my DIY mani-pedi from a big-picture-view and it'll be fine.

The other point I want to make is to just go for it. Isn't that what your favorite human would do? Whatever it is, they would go do the thing and not second guess if it was the just-right-perfect decision forever and ever amen. Am I right?

So if, instead of back-deck DIYing, you prefer 4-star spa time in Paris, for example, then do that. I'd be happy to tag along to take photos either way (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

5. Enjoy being you. Who else is going to do it?

Give yourself two hands (and a hug.)

Multiple Choice Pop Quiz:

You just finished doing something nice for yourself, now what do you do? A) Nothing, I've done enough B) Work 80 hours non-stop to make up for lost time C) Wonder what might go wrong now D) Congratulate myself with more kindness

Answer when you get a chance. No rush.

But while you're at it, just do me a little favor and wrap yourself up in a little ball and squeeze.

6. Shake what your garden gave you.

Pick up a plant once in a while and feel the health.

When you got it, flaunt it. When you don't got it, go easy on yourself and flaunt something else.

Now, back to that potted aloe plant.

Beautiful uniqueness and accepting of differences aside, sometimes you gotta go with what works. During a photo session it might mean showcasing a particularly spectacular attribute (like pretty fingers and toes, or killer yoga shoulders) or picking up a prop that helps demonstrate your intended message. Props for the props.

It's all part of knowing and accepting your many facets. Remember those? Not always an easy thing to do, but always possible.

This aloe lives in my kitchen and reminds me of the innate health and wellness within us all. It protects my skin and soothes my many mosquito bites and occasional burns. Seemed like the perfect partner in crime for my mani-shenanigans and just happened to be there when I needed something pretty to hold. Respect.

7. Let the rest go. The end.

How do you like you now?

To sum it all up…I'm human, you're human, I'm assuming. We might not be perfect but we can be beautiful and wonderful and kind, not only for those other human people roaming around the world, but also for the puddle of imperfection we eventually find ourselves immersed in.

The reflection may ripple and warp and there may be mud. But if we quit throwing it and relax into the madness, it's possible we may find our best ally and favorite human right there with us—holding space for our nonsense and smiling, through it all, on the inside.

© 2020 by Saige Seadae, LLC