My Photography Journey by Ashley Spaulding

October…my very favorite month.   October’s special to me for several reasons – for starters, I absolutely love fall, so any month that’s entirely fall is a good one in my book.  It’s also special because my son’s birthday is in October (and mine is, too, which probably explains why I love fall so much!).  On top of birthdays and the season that encompasses it, I also love October because my Clickin Moms ‘anniversary’ just happens to be this month.

I kind of laugh about this, but I actually came across Clickin Moms in October 2009 when I was trying to track down the name of a particular clothing line so that I could sell some of my daughter’s clothes online.  I saw a cute logo with two little birds and a mention of a photography forum on the sidebar of a website I was on and thought I’d check it out…and I couldn’t be happier that I did!  As many of us are, I was a little quiet when I first signed up for Clickin Moms.  I read a ton on the site without doing much posting at all, but that all changed in February 2010 when I signed up for the inaugural run of The Best Darn Beginner Course Ever.  I had absolutely no idea how much that workshop would change not only my photography but my life as well.  I signed up on a whim and really wasn’t even all that concerned about getting a spot in the workshop, but today I am so thankful that I was one of the fortunate people who got a seat in that first run, in the beginner’s workshop that sold out in just a matter of minutes!

I’ve always loved photos but had never really done much to learn about taking better ones or to learn much about photography in general until I enrolled in Shooting 101.  I had had my DSLR for about two-and-a-half years at that point and had primarily shot in Auto mode.  I had no idea what a meter was and had absolutely no clue that my camera even had one of these meter things.  And every time I attempted to shoot in Manual mode, my pictures ended up being either completely black or completely white, which had me completely convinced that Manual mode did not function correctly on my camera.

I learned otherwise with Lynne Rigby’s very first lesson in Shooting 101. Lynne is an absolutely amazing instructor who is patient, thorough, and just a ton of fun.  She has her students shooting exclusively in Manual mode from day one, so I learned rather quickly to be comfortable with my dial pointed to that M.  Lynne and the workshop gave me a rock-solid foundation for understanding the exposure triangle, metering, white balance, and so much more.  Beyond that, though, one of the biggest things the workshop gave was me the confidence to be more active on the Clickin Moms main board.  I started participating in discussions, asking for feedback on images, and answering questions as I could.  Along the way, the connections I made in the workshop deepened into closer friendships, and I got to know even more Clickin Moms’ members outside the workshop.  So in addition to everything I learned about photography from Shooting 101, the workshop helped me branch out on the board, become more active in the forums, and begin to develop truly special friendships.

I followed Shooting 101 with Lynne’s Beyond the Basics, and – again – I saw so much growth in my work after four weeks of intense, thought-provoking, and challenging shooting.  Shooting 201 helped take my shooting beyond the ‘Am I doing everything right in Manual mode?’ thinking to actually shooting with thought and purpose.  Shooting 101 gave me the foundation I needed to be able to think more creatively about my images in Shooting 201, which truly did take me beyond the basics and allowed me to shoot with a vision in mind.

With both workshops behind me, I continued to dive into Clickin Moms every chance I got.  I felt energized and excited every time I visited the forum, which made me realize that photography was not going to be another one of my ‘fleeting’ hobbies.  Clickin Moms had definitely become a part of me, and I could not have been more thrilled in the fall of 2010 when I was asked to be a Mentor.  Becoming a Clickin Moms Mentor was a dream come true for me, and so was an opportunity that came along with it – the opportunity to be one of Lynne’s assistants in Shooting 101.  I felt like everything had come full circle in that year.  In a year’s time, my understanding of photography had grown tremendously from the two workshops I took as well as from the amazing information I devoured from the board.  As a Teaching Assistant for Shooting 101 now, it makes me so happy to see photographers come through the workshop who were in the same place I was when I took it.  And it always makes me smile to see them learn a ton about photography and also become really active, contributing members on the main board after it ends.  I will always have a special place in my heart for Lynne and her Shooting 101 workshop because it was just the beginning of so many wonderful things for me on Clickin Moms, which is why it’s extremely meaningful to me to be able to help Lynne with that workshop now.

Another dream came true for me when I became one of the Administrators on Clickin Moms.  I have always had such enormous admiration for the way Clickin Moms is run, and to be a part of that team now – to be a part of something that I have such great love for – is really an indescribable feeling.  Every day I’m truly amazed by all the fantastic things happening at Clickin Moms.  I’m excited by what’s yet to come for Clickin Moms and its members.  I’m so inspired by the beautiful, diverse work our community produces.  I’m in awe of the positive, encouraging environment we all – Admin, Mentors, and members alike – work hard to maintain.  I’m eternally grateful for the true friendships I have developed.  And I’m so incredibly proud to call Clickin Moms my online photography ‘home.’