The Never-Ending Battle: Finding Balance Between Life and Social Media

It is always a battle.  Whitney vs. Social Media, never know who's going to win.  Now, don't get me wrong, having an internet presence is one of the single most important tools in maintaining consistent work for my business.  I am grateful for it!  As you have seen in reading this blog, I want to write and share about all of the experiences.  What it's like to be a photographer.  Behind the scenes from our adventures or photos from the shoots and the seasons transition.  Engagements, weddings, portraits, landscapes, funny, dramatic, romantic...  It's all amazing and I want you to see through my lens what a beautiful world this is!  But every hour I spend shooting is followed with about 3 hours at the computer.  This makes for long days sitting in my dimly-lit "cave" staring at a computer screen.  Hence, never-ending fight to get away from technology and escape to sit on the grass in a beautiful park with the sun shining down and the wind blowing in my face...  

Why am I even telling you that this is difficult?  Well, I've seen a cycle on my blog where I don't post often, then I promise to post more, then I stop posting again, then I promise to post more.  That's my battle - the desire to share with you, my readers vs. the attempt to cut the chord to my phone/computer/social media that keeps such a strong hold on my life.  The freedom that comes from turning technology off for a few hours makes me feel weightless, like I could drift into the sky.  But also, this is life too.  Who's to say that connection online is less significant than connection to the people and things in the same room?  The power to reach out and impact a life, the ability to learn from another person, and to feel like someone else understands are all part of connection.


I won't promise to write every day this time.  That's a promise I'd break when this cycle comes back around.  I will promise, however, to remember that communication through words is valuable, that a blog post can be a real connection, and that simply living in this world at a time when technology is developed enough to share experiences worldwide is something to celebrate.  So, check back soon as I'll be catching up on countless shoots from summer and fall as well as travels - 8 National Parks, and many other places.  Please, feel free to leave comments, let me know what you'd like to see more of, or if you have any questions.  I'd love to hear from you!

Through a Child's Eyes

  I aspire to live a childlike life every day.  But what does that really mean?  I spent so many of my younger years wanting to grow up, I've consistently viewed myself as 5-10 years older than I am.  I mean, really - I was MATURE.  And everyone around me knew it. Age is still a funny thing to me, and I often get uncomfortable when people ask how old I am.  I am not too old, I am not too young, I simply don't want to be defined my age.  So, here's what it is really about: when I was 12 years old, I believed that being immature was bad.  It wasn't "cool" if I got too excited about life, or too inquisitive.  In my life now, I have definitely changed my mind - those are some of the qualities I value most.





Seeing the world through a child's eyes.  Everything is new, everything is exciting, and everything is an adventure.






I want to ask the "why" questions, explore the "what would happen if..." questions, and allow the changes all around - in nature and in people - leave an impact on me.  I want to open my eyes.  To have a sense of wonder for everything around me, an excitement to help and to share, and always unconditional love.  I love this photo of my niece looking out at a rainy day.  I want to feel what she feels.  What a perfect moment.





Watching a young soul discover the world is beautiful.  And, even more inspiring is watching an old soul see the world through young eyes again.  To live a child-like life.  To see the world through a child's eyes.  To really catch the vision of the adventure in every moment.

The Lights of Las Vegas




I have not always loved Vegas.  I used to think it was tacky.  And my opinion of its tacky-ness has not exactly disappeared.  As a photographer, though, I've learned to see it in a new light each time I visit (and I've visited often since a couple years ago when I started shooting weddings in Southern California!  It's the halfway point, made my drive much easier.)  And now I love it.  So much art, music, and people watching!  Even nature, believe it or not.  The Vegas area has a lot to offer.





So much discovery and adventure - something new every time.  My last visit was no exception.  The highlight of my trip was definitely Valley of Fire!  But I will get to that later.



First, a selfie:









And now, the lights of the Las Vegas Strip.










One of my favorite things walking through all the Casinos is looking up.  The light fixtures, the textures, the colors, there's an unbelievable amount of details that most people never even see (like the photo above, at the Encore).












And this next photo has an interesting story behind it.  It was one of my... well...  less-than-graceful moments.


Here's the boring setup to the story:  An amazing night - dancing to a jazz trio at Tuscany Suites, then a peaceful hour walk (yes, I walked alone and accidentally had to cross I-15 on foot.  But it was peaceful, I promise!) to see a funk/soul band called Sante Fe and the Fat City Horns (there will be photos tomorrow).  I was at the concert with my friend Wyatt and he offered to give me a ride back to my hotel, but I just wanted to jump out at the corner on the strip so I could do more photography that night.  The city never sleeps, right?



Well, here's where it gets interesting:  There is a railing in between the sidewalk and the street.  For good reason.  Way too many drunk tourists would be happy to take their stilettos right into the road without thinking twice about the cars or, you know, potential death.  So, dozens of cars on the road, hundred of people on the sidewalk... I hop out of the car at a red light and say goodbye, then climb through the railing to get to the sidewalk.  Yes, you can probably see where this is going.  Sigh... I forgot about my photography backpacking backpack ON MY BACK (it's a fantastic backpack, by the way.  Every photographer should have one)  as I try to climb through the railing.  Yeah, that was an oops.   After a few seconds, there's a semi circle of drunk pedestrians on the sidewalk staring at me and wondering how to help get me out of the railing.  That was my assumption, at least, I have no clue what they were really thinking!  Maybe they were seeing three cherries in a row...  And I'm wondering which side would be the least embarrassing to roll towards - back to the cars still waiting at the red light or forward to the sidewalk of people?  Eventually, I shimmied my way through and did a little summersault onto the sidewalk.  It was the strangest thing, though, they were all standing there, still staring like deer in the headlights. It was as if they were waiting for me to say something before they had permission to move on.  So I said "Well, that was graceful!"  and apparently it was sufficient direction for the masses to move forward.



To hide my embarrassment and to redeem myself and the camera gear on my back, I pulled out a tripod, tried to look as official as possible, and started working.  This (below) is the photo that came from it:







They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, I got a story AND a photo out of that one!





Check back tomorrow for photos of the concert with Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns.











I am still overcome with emotion each time I look at this photo.  And when I start to write my thoughts or the story behind this photo, I end up deleted them.  They say "a picture is worth a thousand words," and sometimes I feel that my words detract from the impact of a photo.  So, I've been thinking the last 48 hours of a title instead of a paragraph.  Finally, I'm content.  These four words and the title describe the impact of this image for me.



















"The Hands of Time"














Music and Memory - Changing Lives




Something a little different today...




My eyes have been teary all afternoon.  Happy tears.  Tears of appreciation.  I had the opportunity to photograph a dueling piano show at an assisted living care center.  What an amazing thing to see!  I've often been anxious and scared of visiting nursing homes because I didn't know what to say or do to someone there feeling sad or lonely.  Well, the answer is quite apparent now.  It's music.  I don't know the last time I saw a room so full of life, love, and gratitude as I did today at Alta Ridge Assisted Living Center in Sandy.  Music changes lives.  And more than that, music gives life.




Look at these faces.  THIS is living.





The idea of music having an impact on lives isn't a new idea, that's why musicians do what they do.  But when a documentary was featured in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, it inspired Kirk Garrett and Rich Wyman to play piano in assisted living centers.  Rich said in his newsletter, "I saw a film called "Alive Inside" about a man who visits Nursing homes and plays iPods to people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer disease. When they listen to music they are brought to life and filled with joy. That is what I want to do with these shows."







Kirk's description was "Its an an amazing experience I can hardly describe. Seeing sparks of enthusiasm in the elderly, many suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia is absolutely awe-inspiring."








And when I watched clips from the documentary a few weeks ago, I was incredibly moved.  One of my last memories of my Grandpa is him dancing around to big band music and telling me about how he used to teach swing dance lessons.  I already knew, of course, because he taught me in my kitchen when I was about 8 years old.  We smiled when he told the story, though - he had Alzheimer's and the story always stopped for a few minutes when he would ask Grandma "what was the name of my dance partner?"  And then 5 minutes later "ahhh!  Shannon.  Her name was Shannon."  And ten minutes later, still as happy as can be listening to the music "Shannon!  Yes, her name was Shannon."   While dealing with the frustration of Alzheimer's, he wasn't always happy.  I believe the music made a huge difference.  So I jumped on board to the Alive Inside movement.  I support what they are doing and I want to be involved.





There are 3 things I've decided I can do to make a difference:


1. The first was obvious - Bring music to my grandmother.  I emailed my mom to get a list of Grandma's favorite songs, and I have an ipod and headphones ready for her.


2. Take photos, videos, and share them.  If I document the look on these beautiful older faces as they light up listening to the music, then I remind anyone who sees these photos of the joy that music brings.  This became real for me today.  Looking through the photos hours later, and the spark of enthusiasm is just as apparent as it was in the room.  This is why my eyes have been teary :)


3. I can share music with the older people in my life or visit nursing homes and meet new people!  Recorded or live music - I can bring ipods, play the piano, and start a sing-a-longs.





I'm excited to meet people, and experience their excitement towards life through music with them.  One of my new friends from today is Darlene.




She is 50 years older than me, looks absolutely beautiful, and she is full of wisdom, lessons, and love.  Darlene and I talked before, during (where she sat the whole hour with that brilliant smile on her face!), and after the show, as I said goodbye, she said something that shaped my perspective on the day.  And I'm writing this quote from memory here, but it's pretty darn close. “Every night when I say my prayers I tell God if there’s a place for me in heaven now, I’m ready to go.  But I’m still here, so there must be some reason it’s not my time yet.  But this – what you’re doing here with this music – is like heaven.  A whole century of memories coming back to me.  Well, almost, three quarters of a century anyway.  I just love you.  And I hope you’ll come back.”









Click here to check out the website for Alive Inside.  But don't just read about it or think about it, share music with your parents and grandparents and see what a difference you can make.









Everyone loved the music.  Some even loved having their photo taken!  What a beautiful experience.  Incredible people.  And powerful music.  Thank you Rich and Kirk!










Ok, friends!  I've had several requests for mini sessions, and now we've got a week scheduled.  This time it's engagements-style.  Don't stop reading yet!  Now, I don't care if you are dating, engaged, married, or just love having fun together!  Any two people.







One of my favorite parts of being a wedding photographer is definitely engagement sessions.  We're all in comfortable clothes, laughing, playing, jumping...  It's a wonderful way to get to know the couple!  With summer here, there would be nothing better for me as a photographer than green grass, blue skies, and a couple smiling faces.  So, for this week, engagements is ANY TWO PEOPLE.






Younger (sibling love)..........................................................................or engaged (playful, romantic love)






Or older!! Like an anniversary (This could make a great Mother's day present!!)








Here's the deal:

$100 engagement shoots!  (this is 80% less than the usual price of $500)


45 minute sessions, during THE LAST WEEK OF MAY.  Yes, that's May 25-31.


You will also get 45 high-resolution digital files.







Email me at whitneylewisphotography@gmail.com  to reserve your spot!









Once again, $100 for a 45 minute session and 45 digital files - any time in the week of MAY 25-31.  We look forward to seeing all of you then!!









Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure - Day 4 (Arches National Park)



Soo... Something strange happened when we left Lake Las Vegas and tried to go to the Grand Canyon.  Siri didn't know how to get there.  Really.  I had no information about the Grand Canyon and it was the middle of the night.  The internet wasn't helping much with direction either!  We twiddled our thumbs for a bit, then I said "I've never been to Arches, want to try that?"  And Dan, being the perfect travel companion, said "Yes.  Let's!"  A midnight stop at Walmart to try and find camping gear failed... and we got on the road anyway.  7 hours later, we showed up at the park.  We drove the loop, hiked around a bit, tried to sleep in the car without much luck, I took a nap in this arch:







Drove into Moab when I realized 30 minutes asleep in the arch was picturesque, but not particularly restful and I got a hotel to nap through the afternoon.  A 6 o' clock wake up call (pm... 6pm wakeup!),  I threw on both lightweight jackets and whatever I could scrounge up for a hike, then headed back into Arches for the beautiful evening light and (once again!) night shots.






The destination: Delicate Arch.


The discovery of an Arches virgin:  Here's the deal.  I thought for photo purposes, we would want the lower or the upper view.  We walked to the lower view, then hiked to the upper view, and soon realized there wasn't much possibility for variety from either perspective.  Which trail to hike?  Yes, apparently a photographer must actually hike TO the arch to get a view worth shooting.


The Challenge: 20 minutes to make it to the top by sunset.  (We had wasted some time doing lower and upper views and the sun was on its way down!)  I had a shoulder bag, bad shoes, a tripod, two lightweight jackets, a couple handwarmers.  I was completely ill-equipped for hiking to Delicate Arch.   Most people were already up there, but I was going to try it.





Now, apparently Moab in March is, uh, well, cold.  At least much colder than Vegas and California (for which our wardrobes were catered...).  While Dan wrapped himself up in a huge blanket and looked like a homeless guy walking up, I was determined to get there by sunset!  Aaaaand, I discovered just how out of shape I was.  My thighs started spasming, I almost threw up... And (here's the best reason to carry a camera when you hike) sometimes I would stop and pretend to take a photo just so people wouldn't judge me for having to stop.  But I was found out.  A little 7 year old girl stopped me and said "you're going to want to take a lot of pictures at the top.  It's really pretty up there."  A 4 year old boy saw me having a tough time and threw out a "you're almost there!"  I'm still not sure if it was encouraging or humiliating, but either way, I MADE IT.  Yes, I made it to the top... about 5 minutes after the sun went down.  I finally turned the corner and saw this:




I found a spot on the rock next to a few other photographers and I almost cried (commitment to self: I am working out enough and will be in shape enough to make any photography hike I want this summer even with all the gear!)  But a few breathtaking photos and everything was worth it.







(yes, Dan made it to the top too!)





One of the most interesting parts of Delicate Arch was the culture of photographers hanging out and practicing techniques together.  If one person uses lights, it will affect everyone else there, so we work together.  This photo was painting with light - a huge flashlight!





This is with no lights (just the glow of the moon on one side):

  Then everyone cleared out except one other photographer and we took turned playing with speedlights Strobist style.  Here's the winner of the night:




Yup.  Arches is a 5 star photography resort in Whitney's book.  I will DEFINITELY be back this summer.


We grabbed breakfast at a delightful diner and drove back in the morning!  An inspiring trip, I'm excited for all the photography adventures coming up in the next couple months.  We live in a beautiful world, don't we?






See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas







Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure: Day 3 (Lake Las Vegas)


A whirlwind morning!! - I worked out, swam laps, then visited the Container Park in old downtown Vegas.  There was some crazy dirt bike convention where they blocked off several blocks and I experience a culture of people I had never experienced before! But the Container Park was pretty cool. It reminded me of a shopping center I visited in Christchurch New Zealand in 2012.  They set up the shopping area with brightly-colored containers while they were rebuilding the city from the earthquake.  A little stage in the middle with live music, an oasis in the midst of all the destruction.  Apparently the container thing has become a trend!



The one place I always go when I visit Vegas is The Beat Coffeehouse.  They have an entire building of rooms turned into an art gallery.  Each artist has a room and each room in a different style.  I never know quite what I'll find when I walk through.  My favorite this time, was a jewelry guy.  Through our conversation, he shared that after having a stroke last year, his whole life has been about family.  He quit his job and joined his wife in their jewelry making business, they sell the daughter's art on the walls also.  I love those conversations - why people do what they do.  The perspective that comes from our experiences.





And then Lake Las Vegas.  A deserted shopping area, almost a ghost town with all the buildings empty and "for lease" in the window.  But beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  We got there for sunset and went on a stroll.  No hurry, just some photos, some relaxing, and a few moments to take it all in.







  I spent an hour sitting under this bridge.  I wrote, I sang, I meditated, took pictures, and watched people walk by.  The acoustics were magical!  And I love the ripples from the ducks in the water.  It was nice to slow down, no pressure to take certain photos, not running around doing, but instead, just to be.





Sooooo.... I'm getting pretty good at these selfies!  Except no awkward arm out in front of my face.  I set the camera up, focus on the spot intend to sit, then a self timer and 9 photos in a row with 2 seconds in between.  Yes, yes, I know.  I feel a little vain and little ridiculous.  But even photographers need new profile pictures for Facebook!  Or memories.  Oh yes, that's right.  Photos are for memories, not just Facebook :)






And the amazing Dan McBride...










See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas

Day 4: Arches National Park











Dan and Whitney's Excellent Adventure: Day 2 (Red Rocks Conservation Area)


Day 2: Las Vegas



Early morning wake up call to do a video interview.  Dan was behind the camera, and I just sat and talked to this amazing artist for a few hours.  We laughed, we cried, we talked about stories, purpose, and art.  I could have stayed there all day talking to her!  Quite inspiring.






Then we met up with one of my past interns, Kristen, and went shooting (with cameras, not guns).  Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - it's my second time here, the first time I had driven up in the middle of the night on my own intending to camp but had to sleep in the car in a Costco parking lot because the gate was locked... it was a crazy story, but in the morning I saw the sunrise in a peaceful, peaceful park.  Only 4 of us in the entire area.  It was beautiful.  This trip, however, we got to see it for sunset!





These next two photos were taken within minutes of each other - it was only the camera settings that makes one look like day and one look like night.  Kind of fun to compare them side by side.






And for these next two, Dan was driving, and I was shooting out the window!  I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so I'll take any chance for a small thrill :)  He specifically wanted a photo of the one on the left because it looked like a different world, one to write stories or films about.  I love traveling and doing photography with different people because I have the opportunity to see the world through another set of eyes, another perspective.  Some say walk in their shoes, I think I prefer the analogy of seeing the world through someone else's lens.






Oh!  I forgot.  Before Red Rock Conservation Area, we got a notification that the artist in LA wouldn't be able to do the interview.  So that left 3 days with particular destination in mind.  At the beginning of the trip, Dan's said "aside from work, my one request is to go to a beach.  We'll have plenty of options in LA, so that will be awesome."  (We decided it may not be worth it to go all the way to California for a beach and instead we'd... go to the Grand Canyon - I'VE NEVER BEEN, can you believe it?)   But like magic, a sandy beach appeared at Red Rocks.  I put my toes in to say we checked that one off the list.







Dan on the left, Kristen and Trevor on the right.  Red Rocks and the Vegas lights in the background.





Well, we stayed WAY past closing time and I kept looking over my shoulder scared a ranger would show up and chastise us.  I can be rebellious, but I'm still scared of getting caught!  We saw headlights coming around the bend and leapt into the car.  This was our "high speed car chase" for the trip.  You know, where you have to drive just fast enough to get away from the guy chasing you, but not too fast in case he's a cop and will pull you over.  Ah, the joys that sleep deprivation bring.  Take a normal evening and turn it into a dramatic story!



But after we barely escaped our attacker (yes, some sarcasm included... it turned out to be another late night visitor casually exiting the park and completely unaware of us)... just outside the gate we stopped for another hour of photos after the sun went down.  It was so rewarding to see Dan's face light up as he discovered the joys of night photography.  Tripod, long exposures, lights - and STARS!   I love teaching and watching that lightbulb go on, so it inspired a plan to set up a workshop later this summer for Las Vegas Photography at Night.  Leave a comment or shoot me an email if you'd like details when we get it all set up!  We're thinking Red Rocks, Lake Las Vegas, The Strip, and Valley of Fire.



That night included a Latin band and me learning how to Salsa and other dances that I don't know the names of.  Bachata or something?  A lovely Cuban lady introduced me to everyone and got me on the dance floor every song with a new partner.  And before the Latin band, we stopped by a jazz trio - THIS was one of the highlights of the trip.  Dan wouldn't dance, so I danced alone for a few minutes, then felt awkward and sat down.  At the end of the song, the guitar player pointed to me and said "we're going to dedicate the next song to you, because we can tell you want to dance!"  (Now, it is true that one of the masks I wear is a dancer.  I learned traditional jazz dancing back in 2006.  Lindy hop, charleston, blues, and I still dance about once a week!  But it still made me a little bit uncomfortable because I didn't know what to do!)  It only took a couple moment, as if it were rehearsed, everyone cleared the dance floor for "my" song, and I walked up, closed my eyes, and let the music move me.  Wow.  It was such a surreal and emotional experience.  I traded back and forth with the saxophone player - he'd play a phrase holding eye contact with me, then I would imitate the sound through dance in the next phrase.  It was solo dance, all improv, expressing whatever I happened to feel in that moment.  And the music was great!  Afterwards, I snapped back to reality as people came over to talk with me about the dancing and give compliments.  I'm still a little speechless and overwhelmed when I think back to it.  Such an art-filled day with the painter, interview, video, photos, then music and dance.  I love the exposure to so many creative expressions!




And of course, my self portrait for my "life as a photographer" gallery.  With the look on my face here, I feel like I should be wearing a "life is good" shirt.






See the other blog posts from this Road Trip:

Day 1: Las Vegas

Day 2: Red Rock Conservation Area

Day 3: Lake Las Vegas

Day 4: Arches National Park