“Find Your Sunrise”
Finding the views that make a new city feel like a new home.
January 2022 has been one of the most positively memorable months of my life. If you count the number of places I’ve been or how far from home I’ve strayed and on how many occasions, it is probably in the bottom 5%. We have gotten out a couple of times within the past 10 days or so, but just for a little day trips around the region – so what makes it so memorable?
Achievement, Gratitude, Balance, Self-care, and Relationships.
Those who read the December Moment of the Month may recall that Sophie and I do not make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, we choose a word that is going to be the thing we are most mindful of improving in the year to come. It is usually a word that reflects an important value that we have become aware is an area for improvement in our lives. The goal is not to measure our improvement, it is to make every decision for the year using that as the first point of consideration.
In 2018, Sophie and I were in our first year of dating having gone from dirty broke solo vagabonds to a dirty broke couple of vagabonds. Usually when the bank was dry, I would come home to work for a few months and save everything I could, then hit the road again with whatever I had. Sophie’s life was similar. If we wanted to keep traveling together, however, it meant finding a way to make things work while traveling as neither of us could work in the others’ home country. The word of 2018 was Achievement, and it was the first time either of us truly put in a measured effort to take our love for photography and travel and to try and find a way to make it sustainable. To turn a lifestyle into a livelihood.
2019 was all about Gratitude. After a year of chasing Achievement, a year of non-stop pitching, hustling, marketing, and grinding, it became all too clear that I was too focused on what I felt we deserved and were not being given. I was feeling entitled to a level of success that we had not yet earned. I was preoccupied with followers and recognition, seeing these metrics as measures of achievement and not as human beings. That year was all about Gratitude. It was about responding to every comment and message and email as if that person was standing in our art gallery saying something nice about our work, and not just a formless “follower.” It was about being grateful for every opportunity we worked for as equally as the ones we lucked into, and everything in between. Ironically, we found far more success and “achievement” in 2019 than we did grinding constantly in 2018.
2020 turned to Balance. What we found is that once you have focused on a word for a year, it doesn’t go away. We had never stopped pouring ourselves into trying to make a livelihood from our passion and chasing achievement while traveling non-stop. 2020 was supposed to be about finding balance, but I failed miserably. Sophie continue a long battle with immigration and the separation and uncertainty of when it would be over weighed on us. The blog and photography business were just not where they needed to be to support us, forcing me to return to the hotel industry I had left behind and pick up a crappy graveyard job. I was back living with my parents in my mid-30s. And then a pandemic hit. The bill for 8 years of traveling without anything stable or any thought to the future was ready to be paid. It was the most off-balance either of us have ever felt in our life.
2021 was going to be about Self-Care; about forgiving myself for not finding the balance or success I had sought, and not allowing that to become a mental and physical burden. Then I got the Michelob Ultra job. Overnight I thought everything had changed. This was supposed to be the breakthrough, the 10 years of work to become an overnight success. It was impossible to manage expectations; my name had been called out of more than 150,000 people. This was it! And then, it wasn’t. Things started to unravel before the journey began, but continued to only get worse day by day. The impact of thinking I had won the lottery to realizing I had become shackled to a sinking ship was devastating. The toxin of this disappointment seeped into everything in my life. Self-care was out the window; sleep was impossible in that crappy gold van, I was living off of hot pockets and fast food, I was constantly tired and depressed, and they had taken all joy out of the one thing I found fulfilling in photography. Even after it ended, the bad habits and bad energy were there like a ball of yarn needing to be untangled.
January 2022: Sophie has just spent her first non-Zoom Christmas with her nieces and nephews in 3 years after being granted her biggest wish in experiencing her first White Christmas. We drive back to our first home together, our first time having our own space since meeting 4 years ago. We attend a New Year’s Eve party with friends and feel the joy in being part of a community again. We begin eating healthy together and exercising daily, while also being able to compartmentalize our work hours from the rest of our life.
We are working every day toward our goals together and it is paying off (Achievement). We are keeping gratitude journals and vocally appreciate the home and company we share and that we are finally about to be together in the same place (Gratitude). We are clocking off every day at 5pm and spending quality time together 5 nights/week, while also scheduling time with old friends and making attempts to create new friendships (Balance.) We are eating right, exercising, meditating, and even focusing on proper sleep routines (Self-Care.)
And with the word of the year “Relationships” in every decision we make, we are finding such joy in meeting new people such as neighbors to other photographers or bloggers. We are also loving having a group of old friends to do game nights and go out, as well as reaching out to old friends with who we had lost touch. January 2022 has been one of the best months of my life because we are finding adventure not just on trails, but in the relationships we build; including our own.
The following short stories show some of these adventures that culminated in photos.
SHORT STORY 1: FINDING SUNSET
Sophie and I have a sunset sickness. We cannot help but watch the sunset every single night, but are often miserable when it is incredible and we are nowhere pretty enough to capture it. We have shared this sickness since before we met and it was actually one of the things we liked best about each other way back when we were deciding whether or not to give dating a chance. Having just moved to our new home in a city, we decided we needed to find a “sunset spot” that we could get to within 30 minutes whenever it looked like it was going to be a good one.
We realized that from one exact place about a quarter-mile from our house, we could see majestic Mt Hood on a clear day. Whenever the sky looked like it might be good in that direction, we would walk to this spot and see if the mountain were visible. When it was, we would drive to Pittock Mansion for an incredible view of Mt Hood keeping watch over the entire city of Portland. The featured photo for January’s Moment of the Month was taken on our second visit to Pittock, with many more to come.
SHORT STORY 2: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
After settling in following the holidays, we decided to walk around our block to introduce ourselves to all the neighbors. Sophie wrapped each of them a calendar as a polite gesture of friendship and as another form of introduction to what brought us here.
One of our neighbors is a young man from China who works across the street at Intel. He lives there with his wife, also from China, who was not there at the time. He was incredibly kind and welcoming and we all arranged to get coffee the next week so we could meet his wife and all get to know each other. We all walked to a local cafe and had a very nice time, and they expressed their gratitude for the calendar and amazement at it.
The first sunny weekend, we got a text from them inviting us to hop in the car and go to the Columbia River Gorge for the afternoon. Sophie had yet to visit and it was a gorgeous day, but the most important thing was the word of the year, Relationships, and we were not going to pass on a chance to foster this one. On the way, they expressed how excited they were to get to photograph with us and watch us work, but it was said in a way that just felt so warm and genuine. They treated us like we were some kind of rockstars and were about to take them on stage for our concert – the childlike excitement and interest in our art was incredibly heartwarming.
We spent the day seeing some waterfalls and ended it with a spectacular sunset from Crown Point. They have become two cherished friends already and an early sign of validation from the universe of the value of prioritizing real relationships in an increasingly polarized and digital world.
SHORT STORY 3: GIRL’S TRIP
This isn’t my story to tell, so I will keep it very short. Sophie met “the group” when she arrived, but these were a couple of friends I had known a while and their partners who I was mostly just meeting myself for the first time. We thought it was important to not only get to know them as a group, but as individuals.
One of the couples lives very close to where we have moved and Sophie made a point to arrange some girl time. They became fast friends and the next sunny day that we enjoyed here in Portland, a group of girls was headed to the coast for a day on the beach with their dogs. Sophie got the invite which she joyously accepted and got to spend a beautiful sunny day surrounded by puppies and new friends while seeing Cannon Beach for the first time.
Luckily, they decided to stay for sunset and Sophie was able to capture this incredible shot of golden sunlight being chopped literally in half as it set behind Haystack Rock.
SHORT STORY 4: EXPECT THE BEST
The last short story I want to tell once again combines new friendships with photography. One of the reasons I wanted to move to Portland was that there was such a vast amount of talented photographers here and I was hoping to find or create a small community of us who could help each other improve in our craft, business, and general life. I began reaching out to photographers that I followed in the area and seeing who would be keen to meet for coffee and talk about the thing we both loved in photography.
One person that I reached out to didn’t know who I was, but had been following Sophie since 2016. He was thinking of driving from Seattle where he was now living to Portland for the weekend anyway and we invited him to stay with us. We had never met this person, but trusted that anyone who shared our love for nature and the outdoors was probably not someone who would steal a TV.
Over the weekend, we visited the coast and Abiqua Falls together. The whole time, it felt like we were out with old friends whom we had just not met yet. Better yet, I ran into a very old and dear friend randomly in Cannon Beach who invited us all for a beer at their grandparents’ house next door. What was supposed to be 30 minutes to catch up before driving back to Portland became an entire night of cheek-cramping laughter as Grandpa Roger regailed us in stories. It says a lot when a photographer considers their photos the least memorable thing about a weekend.
FEATURED PHOTOS & PRINTS
VIEW THE FEATURED PHOTOS FOR JANUARY’S MOTM
With the link above, you can browse photos from past Moments of the Month, and have the choice of printing those that speak to you on traditional photo paper or metal.
Metal prints produce more vibrant colors, deeper contrast, and a three-dimensional aesthetic that accentuates the stylistic ethos of our photography.
If you see anything you like in this Moment of the Month that you cannot find on the gallery, just send us an email at: [email protected]
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We have created a ton of guides to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Whether you are a local or planning a visit, you may want to bookmark some of our top guides:
- Ultimate Oregon Guide: 130 Best Things to do in Oregon
- Top 10 Places to Visit on the Oregon Coast
- Top 21 Waterfalls in Oregon
- Southern Oregon Photography Locations
- Southern Oregon Coast Guide
- Waterfalls of Southern Oregon Complete Guide
- Top 15 Places to Visit in Oregon
- Silver Falls State Park & Trail of Ten Falls Complete Guide
- The Complete Thor’s Well Guide
- The Complete Painted Hills of Oregon Guide
Now that we are feeling settled in and rapidly getting on top of the many neglected tasks we owed some time to, we are starting to fill out our calendar of adventures for the upcoming year. We are debating visiting Yosemite National Park for Firefall this year but that remains to be seen.
We are also doing our best to find time to meet those of you in the area for coffee without spreading ourselves too thin. If you would like to meet up sometime and are willing to come to Hillsboro, send us an email and we will find an hour to hang out and put some faces to the names!
MOMENT OF THE MONTH FAQs
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WE TRULY HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED A BEHIND-THE-SCENES, GENUINE LOOK AT THE LIFE OF TWO FULL-TIME TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHERS.
Where to Next?
Maybe Firefall in Yosemite? Adventures will begin to ramp up as we enter spring and the next Milky Way season but may simply be local excursions until then.
1 thought on “January Moment of the Month”
I so appreciate the transparency of your stories. You are more of a success than you know and your impact is far reaching. You inspire me!
I chose Balance as my word of the year. I work way too many hours and do not enjoy nature as much as I need to be to feel fulfilled. #keepreaching