My Photography Journey by Stacey Haslem

I can still remember the day when I got my first SLR camera. It was Christmas and I was thirteen. My dad sat down with me to explain the exposure triangle and I was hooked. I have always been more of numbers type of gal. This was my kind of art. My first pictures were of my sister riding her new bike. I took that camera with me everywhere including school sports where it got knocked off of a bleacher. After that camera broke I didn’t pick one up again for years and years. It sounds quite tragic, but aren’t most things when you are thirteen?

After I became a mother my story is pretty similar to many others. I purchased a digital SLR (Canon Rebel) in 2003 to preserve memories. The embarrassing part is that I never took the time to learn my camera in four years and then upgraded to a Canon 40D for no practical reasons at all. It took me a good year of having the 40D before I started to really learn the camera. I took a community college class and relearned the basics. I also started scouring the web reading all about photography. In June of 2009 I found Clickin Moms. WOW! I was so amazed with the pages of tutorials and instantly started following the serious critique section. It took me a month of lurking before I got the courage to post there. My fear was for not, I was in awe of the information that was passed my way and of the supportive, constructive criticism which I received.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

The next few months I spent learning studio lighting. I loved the idea of being able to control the light. I also permanently put my camera on manual. I knew I was going to miss some shots but I am the ‘all or nothing’ type. This worked for me.

By July of 2010, I was shooting in RAW, nailing my exposure, back button focusing, toggling my focus points, knew the basics of metering and was working on a calibrated monitor. The tutorial section and I were good friends. Between all my reading, posting in the critique section and a lot of practicing I was prepared to take my first workshop, Beyond the Basics. I was amazed by the workshop experience. I quickly found out that I thrive in that kind of environment. I loved the structure, the plethora of information, the assignments, the detailed instructor and mentor feedback and the peer-to-peer interaction. I learned to shoot in full sun, use backlighting, create a silhouette and basic processing in Lightroom.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

Some of my favorite picture shares on Clickin Moms are of newborns. Their fresh from God faces pull at my heart strings every time. In the fall of 2010, this love inspired me to start a business specializing in newborn portraits.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

After all of my paperwork was lined up, a website created, and a portfolio built, I decided business wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. As a mother of four, I feel like I have a long list of ‘must dos’. My ‘get to do’ list is quite a bit shorter. I am completely okay with that, but starting a business was moving photography from my ‘get to do’ list to my ‘must do’ list.

By the spring of 2011, I was feeling lost in my journey. I had spent the last five months developing a style, but it all revolved around newborns. Then I saw a thread with an opening for It’s Your Atmosphere. A workshop is just what I needed! It was such an eye opening experience. The first week we were asked and discussed ‘why do I take pictures?’ This is a question I constantly ask myself; when I look at a blog post with no comments, when one of my kids is running from the camera, and when I am in a funk. There are a lot of answers to why, but simply put, I. LOVE. IT! I love the creative expression, I love the technical aspect of it and I love looking at the finished image and thinking every time, ‘wow, I did that.’ The next few weeks we learned how to create a set and sequence a session. I continue to shoot using the techniques I learned in this workshop.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

After IYA, I went on a workshop frenzy. I signed up for Elements of Design even though I was scared to death. However, this workshop was a turning point in my journey. I found a path again and my work started to take on new meaning. The wealth of knowledge I had been given in this workshop gave me confidence in my work. I learned about lines, lines and more lines. Seriously, I think I was dreaming about them. Who knew color had such an impact on an image? I didn’t. One of my favorite weeks was learning about the use of space and subject placement. This workshop changed the way I shot. I started asking myself, ‘what story am I trying to tell?’ I was starting to create my own style. I was also forming meaningful relationships with peers and instructors. It was an amazing experience.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

As if I hadn’t already taken enough workshops to last the year, I decided to take Composition and Creativity with  and Creative Processing simultaneously. Creative Processing put more tools in my photography tool belt. I learned how to achieve different color tones, process backlit and beach images, cross-process, and give urban images deep color. It was exciting because I don’t feel any processing restrictions being a hobbyist. I was inspired by my peers, instructor, and mentors by their beautiful processing.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

Composition and Creativity was just as wonderful as Elements of Design. I didn’t think more information could be packed into one workshop, but Sarah managed to do it! I loved learning how compositional guides gave me more purpose instead of making me feel boxed in. My absolutely favorite week was learning about photography’s essential conflict, light versus dark. I continued to learn more about myself and solidified a style. I ended the workshop with detailed and insightful feedback, portfolio-worthy images and amazing new friends.

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

the photography journey of California natural light photographer and CMmentor Stacey Haslem

I have now been a member of Clickin Moms for over two years and I have learned so much about this medium of art and about myself. While I started this journey to capture memories of my kids, it is now an essential part of my life. Although I chose to remain a hobbyist, I have only felt love and support by Clickin Moms in this decision. I know that I can still take this art and my work seriously and others will too. I was honored to have the CMPro badge added under my name this last June. I also have the lifetime badge under my name and to me it means exactly what is says – I will always be a member. I know I wouldn’t be where I am without Clickin Moms. Who could tire of being inspired daily by the art produced in this forum, the passion of its members, or the knowledge shared by members, instructors and mentors? Not me. Thank you CM!