A Look Back at 2016

This past year has been quite the whirlwind. Between work, school, photography, volunteering, dating, friends, travel, and politics, I pushed myself hard. While it’s been rewarding on many levels, it also came at a cost that caught up with me recently.
Driven by my desire to learn more about graphic design, film, website design and photography, I spent the first half of the year as a full-time student at Portland Community College (PCC) in addition to my full-time work load at ECONorthwest. I found the multimedia program fascinating and learned a lot of cool things while enrolled there including how to do more in Photoshop, shooting/editing film, how to create multimedia web-based programs, design elements, photography concepts, and more all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Meanwhile, at work, an employee’s leave of absence allowed me the opportunity to learn and take on a new role over the summer. Sadly, the demands of that role did not coincide well with my course load at PCC so I had to make the difficult decision to take a step back from the program after just two terms.
My parents in Bandon, Oregon
This summer I was surprised to learn that my parents could finally come visit me in Oregon. I planned an action packed, ten-day adventure that spanned three states. I was worried that I may wear them out with all the places I wanted to show them and things I wanted to do but I was surprised to see that they could keep up. I underestimated their energy level, perhaps I even discovered where I get my own energy from. I showed them the Oregon coast, three mountains, the Gorge, eastern Oregon and the California Redwoods not to mention all sorts of things in Portland. It has been a long-time fear that my parents may never see Oregon through my eyes. They had seen plenty of my photos but there is a huge difference between seeing something in a photo versus in-person. I feel so fortunate that I was able to spend that time with my parents this summer here in the Pacific Northwest, a place that is so special to me.
Once things calmed down at work this fall, I turned my focus back to photography. I started volunteering at two organizations: Newspace Center for Photography and Blue Sky Gallery. At Newspace I cover the front desk each Saturday and help answer phones, check out equipment, take payments, and process class registrations. A group of volunteers there gathers once a month to do a photo critique and I have found that eye-opening and insightful. Through connections at Newspace, I learned of the Portland Photographers Forum and became a member there as well. We meet once a month, share prints and listen to a different speaker each time we meet. 
Cole with the prints for the
ShelterCare art auction
One Sunday per month, I do a gallery sitting shift at Blue Sky Gallery. There I answer the phone, greet visitors, answer questions about the exhibits, and process membership, book, and art sale payments. I’ve also returned to my Meetup.com roots and now host a photographers networking group at the Blue Sky Gallery once per month and am happy to report that the group seems to be well received and growing. I think it will be hugely helpful for connecting with other local photographers in Portland. In addition to these two endeavors, I also find myself attending many of their artist talks at the gallery which have been quite eye opening as well.
Earlier this year I was introduced to the Photography Council Brown Bag series at the Portland Art Museum. Each month, a new photographer is brought in to present a body of their work. I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of the photographer’s presentations so it seemed a no-brainer to become a member of that group as well. I’m looking forward to doing more with that group in the New Year. So far, I’m rather impressed with all they are doing.
My photography endeavors had some pretty cool moments this year as well. I received wonderful feedback from an accomplished photographer/instructor at Portland Community College which was hugely encouraging. Two of my prints were accepted into an art auction for ShelterCare to benefit homelessness prevention programs in Lane County. Through my membership in the Portland Photographers Forum, I was able to show three prints at the Cedar Hills Recreation Center for almost two months. I won an honorable mention for my entry in the Wallowa Country Photo Contest. I was privileged to have the opportunity to do my first engagement photo shoot this spring. I was invited to jury my work for consideration to join the Portland Artisan’s Co-op. 
This year I moved twice, first from my home of almost two years near Union Station to a shared house in St. Johns. I quickly learned that I am not cut out for roommate living nor long commutes to and from work so I recently moved back downtown, this time right across the street from my work. The two-minute walk to work is my favorite part. It allows me to walk Cole pretty much whenever I need to with ease. It also makes getting to all my volunteer and photography meetings rather painless. The easier commutes have greatly helped me manage my stress level better.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park
What would another year in Oregon be without spending time in the beautiful outdoors? Despite my schooling and heavy work load, I was still able to squeeze in some visits to state parks, wildlife refuges, beaches, viewpoints, mountain lakes, waterfalls, and even snuck in two camping trips. I would have liked to do a lot more and feel some regret that I did not get to explore all the places I had intended this year.  
2016 has been a lot of things: stressful, busy, difficult, fun, emotional, and rewarding. I learned a lot this year in many ways. Perhaps most important, I learned that I need to prioritize my well-being. In the New Year, I want to keep things simple. First, I want to focus my energy on continuing to advance my name in the photography world and improving my craft. Second, I want to spend significantly more time exploring the Pacific Northwest and beyond with Cole by my side. I will continue to surround myself with people I look up to and who I can learn from, who inspire me to be a better person. I hope I’ll be able to be that same kind of person to others I meet as well.

I’ll be ringing in the New Year with a gathering of friends at my new apartment. I wish all of you the best in the coming year and look forward to sharing my adventures with you. I hope you’ll continue to follow along.
Prints Available

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