Ditching A Plan That No Longer Works

How many times have you made a decision and after investing time and serious money to support your plans, later changed your mind? Did you let go and move on with ease or was it a struggle?

I’ve been wrestling with one that I couldn’t seem to make. For more than three years, I’ve let my indecision suck energy from me and felt loads of remorse over my apathetic attitude towards what I once considered a perfect career.

When I lived in the US, this vision of my future fit well into my business plan for a creative life. I invested in equipment and training designed to cover both the technical and business aspects and paid for quality in both areas.

When I felt ready to deliver a good product, I put myself into situations to prove to myself that this was a good fit. I photographed weddings, PR events, family portraits, and even a red carpet event in Times Square while in New York.

And it was good, for a while.

After a weekend workshop with Denis Reggie, who the New York Times called ” A Storyteller with a Camera,” and who Oprah Winfrey said was ” The Best in the Business, ” I set up my Linked In account and identified myself as the owner of Elizabeth Harper Photographers.

Denis Reggie advised that by using the word photographers instead of photographer or photography, I would leave room to include other photographers who might shoot weddings with me.

During a workshop with Liana Lehman Hall that focused on the business of photography, we did a bit of writing as well and Liana told me that she could see me doing something similar to Jasmine Star, a photographer who incorporates words and story into her blog posts and client images. I knew then that I could write and that I was good at encouraging people to share their stories and after a look at Jasmine Star’s website, I thought it was indeed the kind of thing I had thought of doing to use both skills. The combination seemed as if it might satisfy my desire to write while earning a living as a wedding photographer.

This might have worked had I stayed in Georgia and not met John. Moving to the UK changed many things for me one of which was my desire to work as a wedding photographer. I still love weddings and I enjoy getting the shot that defines the day or a documents a special moment, I’ve just decided that I don’t want to do it for a living.

The rhythm of days spent writing has the strongest pull now and after worrying that I was throwing away money spent on training and camera equipment by not building a career in the UK as a photographer, I decided to end my ambiguity and sell my gear.

My decision to close the door on one career path is an opportunity for someone else who may have been dreaming of something as big as a new direction, or just adding more equipment to their camera bag.

Here are few images from some of the weddings I’ve photographed along with two of a mother and child.




Now that I’ve made peace with redefining how I see myself, I’ll be heading over to “Linked In” to change how the Linked In community sees me.

I’ve contacted a business in the UK that is well-regarded for buying and selling used photography equipment and they’ve given me a quote. As is the way with companies like this one, the price is a good bit lower than can be gained by selling it myself.

Before I decide to sell it on Ebay or Amazon or make use of the company I contacted, I wanted to share it here. I am including a list of the items in case any of my readers wish to add to their gear.

Please consider forwarding this post on to anyone you know who might be interested in well cared for camera equipment.

(2) Nikon D200 Bodies
Nikon Lens ED AF-S VR-NIKKOr 70-200 2.8,
Nikon Lens AF 50 1.4,
Nikon DX AF-S NIKKOR 18-200 3.5-5.6 ED,
Nikon DX ED Fisheye,
Nikon DX AF-S 17-55 2.8 G ED
(2) Nikon Speedlights SB-600,
Nikon Speedlight SB-800
Manfrotto 3021BPRO
Manfrotto Head 3265
Quantum Turbo 2×2 Battery Pack,
4 camera batteries
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 8.0GB
1 Extreme IV Sandisk 4.0GB
(3) 4.0 Sandisk
(2) Sandisk Ultra II 1.0GB
(2) Sandisk 1.0 GB
1 Sandisk Ultra II 2.0 GB
Never Used
UV 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
C PL 77mm Crystal Optics Filter
DIgital Circular PLD 77mm
Quantaray 72mm C-PL
Quantaray 77mm QMC-UV
FLD 77mm Crystal Optics

I’m happy to provide photos of the items and answer any questions. Thanks for helping me move on and I hope this ending is a new beginning for you or someone you know.   

A Bird In The Bush

Bird In The Bush

I was hooded and in a hurry, moving quickly to avoid the rain while trying to track my husband’s movement on a hill some distance away. I’d lingered behind to take ‘ just one more picture ‘ and he’d gone on ahead as he often does when we’re out together.

Partially hidden by high bushes edging the path, I could see him waving both arms over his head like a stranded survivor signaling a rescue team for pickup. Having confirmed his general location, I returned his wave, then turned and went back down the path.

I’d almost missed the bird in my rush to catch up, but a flash of movement in the brown thicket triggered my curiosity and I went back to find a little bird eating what was left of the summer seeds. Its color was almost identical to the dried plants around it and had it not moved, I would have missed it completely.

It took some maneuvering to get this shot as the bird kept turning its back to me. It seemed unafraid and appeared to ignore me as I stepped closer and called out softly to gets its attention, ‘Hey birdie, birdie.’ Whistling had no effect either, but when I made a series of clicking sounds with my tongue, the bird turned, looked at me, and held a pose long enough for me to snap a few photos.

We did this several times before I left it to its meal in the rain.



What I Missed Today

Mist hanging over the Camel Valley 25 Oct 2011 - John Winchurch

John went out for a short walk a little while ago and I stayed in because I have to be somewhere in a few minutes and I thought it might rain.

I wanted you to see what I missed because I was worried my hair might get wet.

What a waste!

I could have gone with wet hair or taken a minute to blow it dry, but I opted to skip the walk instead. In the future, I must remember there’s always more than one option.


Hermitage Castle – Bordering On Trouble

I wanted to show you more pictures of the Scottish castle John and I saw last Saturday and I even found some excellent inside shots of Hermitage Castle on Flickr since I was too chicken to go in for a look. If you read my post yesterday, you’ll remember I got an uneasy feeling so I only photographed the exterior.

After doing a bit of research, I found that Hermitage Castle had a bloody history and some famous associations. Mary, Queen of Scots made a daring visit to Hermitage to see the man who would become her third husband while she was still married to her second one. This led to a good bit of gossip even though the two hours she spent with the Earl of Bothwall were well chaperoned.

The castle’s border location between England and Scotland made it a target for the Border Reivers and it became known as ‘The guardhouse of the bloodiest valley in Britain.’

I took the quote below from the Historic Scotland website and it gives a brief overview as to why Hermitage Castle gives off such scary energy.

‘Hermitage, in deepest Liddesdale, is a lonely spot. The feeling of foreboding is heightened by the presence of the awesome castle ruin. It has inspired colourful local legends – of the wicked Lord Soules and of a giant Englishman with impregnable armour who drowned in the nearby Hermitage Water. In truth, though, Hermitage has no need of myths. It has a history of torture, treason – and romantic trysts – sufficient for a host of castles.’

  The castle sits along a river that you can see in the shot above.

A woman with a dog is going into the entrance of the castle. It’s not as large a doorway as I would have expected especially with castle walls high enough to have held five or more floors. (Double click on any to enlarge)

The ruins of a chapel nearby.

These last two photos have nothing to do with the castle, but I thought you might find them interesting. I took them in Carlisle Cathedral. I was trying to shoot the window you see in the distance and when I downloaded my images, I was surprised to see the white shapes against the pillar.

I didn’t see them when I was taking the photographs. Things looked dark through the camera and I was worried these two shots would be worthless since I was shooting without a flash and really needed more light.

I don’t think it’s a reflection as there was no flash or window light and I’m stumped. Any ideas?

When Your Name Is Irene

Bodmin Moor (Click to Enlarge)

Even though we are a long way from the threatening fury of Irene’s arrival, it has been the topic of conversation here. Last night at the pub we shared a table with some friends from the village chatting over the week’s events with, Ian and Irene.

You may remember Irene from the photo below. It was taken at the pub back in January and she’s sitting in exactly the same place as she was last night while we talking about the hurricane that has so many Americans now running for cover.

I know Hurricane Irene has been spreading herself around and she’s caused millions of dollars in damages as she’s blown through the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas in her flight plan.

That Irene and our Irene have nothing in common, but she did share a few of the comments and jokes she’s had to endure since Hurricane Irene made the news.

Irene & Elizabeth

John is the weather watcher in the house. Most days, I barely pay attention to what’s happening weather-wise. That seems to have changed since he gave me Dora and I find myself feeling a bit grumpy lately that the weather has made it so uninviting to ride.

Living in Georgia, I took good weather days for granted. In Cornwall, we have a fair amount of rain and it’s usually not an issue for me, but it’s been cool and wet for the last week and I find that despite a long hot summer in Atlanta, I am not ready for summer to be over here.

Summer Flowers - August 2011

We’ve got a break in the clouds so I’m heading out in a few minutes to squeeze in some exercise and move my moodiness out the door. I’ve got loads to do today and no reason to whinge on about weather and inconvenience when so many are in such a scary situation.

Thank goodness we have ways to track deadly storms and prepare for them. I have friends scattered up and down the eastern coast of the US and I’ll be tracking their movement, watching as they hopefully provide updates on Facebook and Twitter or blog about their experiences with Hurricane Irene.

Here’s hoping you stay safe and dry wherever you are today.

A Family Connection – 105 Years Later

Percy Winchurch - Winchurch Brother's Bicycle Shop 1906

Bicycle parts have been arriving in various sized packages over the last few days as John decided recently to remake his favorite bike. I say favorite because we now have five. That’s right, five bicycles for two people and while we don’t have as many as in the photo above, the garage is looking a bit like a bicycle shop these days.

John’s grandfather Percy probably did a fair amount of bicycle maintenance and building himself back in 1906 when he and his brother Roland owned several bike shops in England. They switched to automobiles well before John was born and he still remembers the garage where they sold and repaired cars until a few years after Percy’s death.

When I talk to people about my new bike and what it’s like to climb the hills with three gears, the men, and it’s usually just the men, will say something like, ” You must have one with Sturmey-Archer gears? ” Not knowing much about bicycles before being gifted with Dora, I’ve found a new level of interest in the history of Sturmey-Archer and 3-speed bikes.

I asked John for a photo of his grandfather’s bike shop the other day and was delighted to see a connection to the past in a way. If you click to enlarge the photo, you can see the wording in the center of the store window advertising Sturmey-Archer 3-speed gears.

While my interest in gears will never equal John’s bicycle knowledge, the writer in me wishes she could chat with the young Percy Winchurch of 1906. I imagine he would have been interested to learn that Sturmey-Archer gears and 3-speed bikes would still be popular despite the ability to choose from more modern bikes with as many as 27 gears for hill climbing and speed.

Based on the stories John tells of the grandfather he loved and admired, I think the 24 year-old Percy would have been most interested in the lovely grandson he would have one day. A first grandchild who would be born when he was 60 and would grow up to do many things, including surprising his American born wife with a gift that would curiously resemble the 3-speed bicycles with Sturmey-Archer gears like those in his shop 105 years earlier.

Here are a few advertisements from a very interesting Sturmey-Archer website.

What Do You Mean I Can’t Drive Your Car …

Mini Driver No More - Elizabeth Harper

I’m grounded.

After 35 years of getting into a car, fastening the seatbelt, and turning the key in the ignition, I no longer can do that … at least not in this country, for now.

Moving to the UK has its challenges and some are easier to understand than others. I can understand why I should have to take a written test to prove I know the rules of the road here, but having had a valid driver’s license for 35 years in the US, I would think I might be able to skip the driving part of the exam.

I know you’re probably thinking, ” Oh good grief Elizabeth, just take the test and stop moaning about it! ” I might think the same without knowing the rest of the story.

While I was stuck in Atlanta this summer John opened the annual bill from his auto insurance company to find that it had jumped from a reasonable 180 BPS (about $295 US) to over 700 BPS which is about $1150 dollars.

Calling to discuss the huge increase, he discovered that my provisional license which is like a learner’s permit in the US had caused the rate increase. It seems after 35 years of driving I now have more in common with a teenage boy than the other 50 year-old female drivers out there.

Being a sensible man when it comes to money, John did what I would have done and took me off the policy grounding me until I can pass the test and be eligible for a more reasonable rate of insurance. I have to wonder if my 35 years of driving will be acknowledged by the insurance company when I do pass or will that part of my life be as non-existent as my credit rating.

That’s right, I have no credit rating anymore either. I still have one in the US just not over here, but that’s another post that perhaps I can combine with a one titled, ” What do you mean I’m not qualified? ” or maybe one I’ll call ” What about my university degree and years of professional work experience, doesn’t that count? ”

Sorry, I think I slipped over into the beginnings of a rant for a second. I’m back now.

Getting behind the wheel with no car insurance means hiring a driving instructor. Yes, I did say a driving instructor. Never mind that I’ve driven from Scotland to London three times in a rental car and loads of places between Cornwall and London, I can only drive on my American license for a year before being required to get a UK one and that year is long gone.

So I’m grounded for now until I hire an instructor and pay more money (my learner’s permit or provisional license) cost about $82 dollars. The test fees will be another 93 BPS or about $150 US and don’t even ask what an instructor will cost. Just know that it’s enough to go away somewhere nice for the weekend or a week depending on how many days you can squeak by with before being tested. I haven’t called yet so I don’t know if there’s a required minimum.

When you have an instructor you drive their car for the driving portion of the test and I assume that may drive the cost up a bit. I’m so unenthused about the process and the cost factor that my Highway Code Handbook is still largely unread. I move it from one place to another around the house ignoring it as I can’t help feeling a bit offended by my loss of mobility and parts of my previous identity.

It’s like being 16 again only this time I’m a high-risk teenage boy.

Today’s challenge is to read and study the book and maybe call the instructor to see when I can get back on the road again. Ugh!

Risking A Fall To Get What You Want

Elizabeth Walking Her Path - 2011

That was me yesterday standing on the edge of bridge so I could get a better shot. I felt pretty safe up there especially as it wasn’t my first time. I climbed up back in May of 2008 right after I had rented my house to strangers, quit my job, turned down another job offer, and sold my car and most of the stuff I’d spent my whole life accumulating.

You see I had a plan for a new life and there was no room for excess stuff. I was traveling light which meant hanging on to only the things and people that mattered most to me.

John and I were still a new relationship back then having only met in person three months earlier, but I knew I was doing the right thing in leaving for love like I did. Having lived a pretty full life for my then 47 years, I knew that sometimes risk was necessary even if when the outcome couldn’t be predicted.

Some folks back home in Georgia thought I was crazy for selling off my stuff and essentially moving to a country where I would be considered a visitor and only allowed to stay for six months out of the year, but I believed that no matter what happened I’d be okay.

I have always believed the Helen Keller quote that, ” Life is a grand adventure or nothing at all ” so off I went … following my heart to Cornwall all wide open with the possibility that the risk involved might yield the best possible results.

And as most of you know, it did!

If however, you’d had a window into my life and events the year before I met John you might be surprised that I had ever been willing to risk a single thing for love. What happened then is an old story with a modern twist and not one you’re likely to read here, but I’m sure it will turn up in the book I’ve been working on recently. I haven’t gotten very far with it yet. Most of it exists on index cards right now as I run through my memories mining for the events that have mattered the most.

There’s all kinds fear in writing memoir such as who might read it and get upset, who might remember it differently, and the really big one, what if revealing the past affects your present in ways you can’t control and ways you don’t like.

Having heard my stories since we first met, John has encouraged to me write them down. By stories I mean my true life stories, not the fiction ones which may have a thread of truth through them, but come mostly from my imagination.

During my recent summer of  ” Lost and Found ” a few other people echoed the same message to me. Some of them were only repeating what they’d said before encouraging me once again to put my real life into words more permanent the occasional musings over coffee or a shared meal.

My longtime friend Patrice, and newer friend Greta Jaeger are two of the people I’m referring to. Both of them not only gave me ” the talk ” about writing my story, but they paid for dinner too. Greta works as a life coach and did such a good job over appetizers that I jokingly said I felt as if I should write her a check for a session as she left me with so much to consider.

My friend Carla Johnson did the final wrap up a few months later when she asked me some pointed questions about writing and my goals. Carla can cut to the heart of something with the skill of a surgeon and after years of working with medically fragile people, she knows how to help expose the truth without leaving you bleeding.

This post finds inspiration from many people, but the biggest push came from reading the revealing email below that I received from Marianne Elliot this morning.

I subscribe to more than I can read these days so most things like this go into the trash pretty quickly. This one caught my eye because I was interested to read about an event she had to cancel, one that for whatever reason did not work out and how she choose to see it as an opportunity to try a new way rather than an excuse to dwell in the negative messages that most of us tell ourselves when we feel afraid or overwhelmed by circumstance.

I’ll leave you with her email (along with another photo of me from 2008 ) and hope you find some encouragement if you need a little today.

Marianne Elliot’s email,  Subject: Ever fallen flat on your face? I just did. And here’s how I’m dusting myself off.

” You know the Creative Flow workshop in Berkeley I’ve been telling you about for the past couple of months?

Well, it just didn’t take. 
Maybe it was the wrong workshop. Maybe it was just the wrong time. Maybe I’m terrible at marketing. Maybe no-one likes me (I know, I know. Lots of people like me. But I did wonder that for a moment. I am human after all.)
Whatever the reason, we just didn’t get the sign-ups and had to cancel. I felt like I had really put myself out there for the first time in the US by offering up an in-person workshop, and had fallen flat on my face. In front of all of you. And all my creative friends. 
I felt a bit like I used to in school when I would try a new trick with my skipping rope and end up tripping myself up, landing on my ass. Face flushed. Heart racing. Ashamed. 
But I’m not a little girl any more. Thank goodness. These days I can recognise my own shame and fear, and I know that we all share those experiences. I also know that sometimes things just don’t work out and even though you might have something to learn from it, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. 
It might just mean that you should try it a different way. 
So I’m trying this a different way. Instead of the weekend workshop I’m teaching a 90 minute Creative Flow yoga class at 10am this Saturday at the Teahouse Studio, 1250 Addison St, Ste 20, Berkeley.
I understand that an entire weekend was a lot of time, and $380 was a lot of money, to commit right now. So instead lets practice together for 90 minutes. You just need to bring $25, a yoga mat and a journal and pen. We are going to do a little bit of writing to explore how opening the creative flow in our bodies can support our creative work. But you don’t need to consider yourself a ‘writer’ to do this. I promise!
If you’d like to come do a 90 minute class with me this Saturday please RSVP to teahousestudio@gmail.com
On the other hand, we’ve had great sign-ups for the Off the Mat, Yoga in Action workshop atYoga Pearl in Portland next Wednesday. There are a few places left though, so if you were thinking of coming and just hadn’t registered yet, you do still have time. That one runs for three hours (from 5.30-8.30pm on Weds 17th) and costs $50. You can learn more about it here and register here.
And thank you – for being here to witness me as I learn these lessons and for being so encouraging along the way. 
Marianne “

Elizabeth On The Edge - May 2008

Run On Thoughts And Other Stuff

Since I mention run on thoughts in my title, I thought I might include a wild-eyed self-portrait taken in the wee hours on July 4th just before leaving to run what’s billed as ‘The largest 10K in the world.’ Truth told there has been a distinct lack of picture taking in my life over the last few months along with my barely here online presence so this photo is one of only a few recent ones I can share with you.

Both shortages are atypical behavior for me and as you might expect there are a series of reasons why I’ve neglected my normal routines. I’ve had to develop some new ones that have tested me in ways I would like to have avoided, but provided some unexpected lessons along the way. I guess I might have to begrudgingly add that some of these lessens have turned out to be ‘gifts’ in my continued journey.

I’ll be saying more over the next few days, but I’m short on time and long on errands today. My friend David has gone off to Italy and left me the kind use of his car while he’s away so I’m running around taking care of a list that seems to grow longer rather than shorter even as I cross things off as completed.

David, along with my well-traveled friend Carla, have both saved me from a no-car existence (another chapter in the story) while I’ve been here, graciously offering their cars for me to drive more than a few times while they been away this summer.

I also wanted to thank you for all of your kind comments and support on my last post. I am over the moon to have this long stay in my other ‘home’ coming to an end. It’s funny how a wait of few weeks can feel like it will take forever to get here, but also like it’s too short a time to get all the last-minute little things done before I go. I’ve been in the US since April 22 and will mark about 3.5 months away from John when I board the plane to return.

Before now, seven weeks had been our longest separation occurring in 2008 during our first year together. Thank goodness for the internet and Skype. At least we’ve been able to talk a few times a day and send each other things through email. I can’t imagine if we’d only had regular mail to depend on to stay connected. I wonder how couples do this over and over when forced to due to jobs and other circumstances. Thankfully mine will soon be at an end.

I’ll be back to share more later … I’ve got to run on now and cross a bit more off my list.

Old Photos Confirm The Ways We Stay The Same

I’ve always been attracted to old photographs that I find in thrift and antique shops. The places and people fascinate me and I can easily imagine an alternate history for the images I find. Having the ability to stand in the same place and shoot a location that another photographer recorded over 150 years earlier, as I did yesterday, helps me feel even more connected to my UK life.

I’m not sure who took this photograph or even when it was taken, but I snapped this framed image in our local pub the other day. It shows a part of our village as it looked before the pub burned down in the mid-nineteenth century. (click to enlarge)

It’s still standing in the photo above so it must have been taken before then. If you look, you can just see its thatched roof through the trees. Disease took all the trees in the 1970s and a group of people from the village later planted the ones that shade the village green today.

Cornish Village 2011

I took this photograph yesterday to show you how little our landscape has changed. The pub was rebuilt in the same place and the small square looking building that was originally a Methodist chapel is still there although the windows and its use have changed a few times.

This is the photo above as it looked before the black and white conversion. We’ve had loads of the sunshine Cornwall is famous for and I wanted you to see how our village green is greening up for spring. Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you a close up of the pub before it burned over 150 years ago and what it looks like now.

I may even have a surprise for you then.