great smoky mountains institute at tremont - val in real life

Bad Weather and Good Friends at Tremont

Let’s face it, life dishes out the unexpected and undesired. A lot. The only thing we’re in control of is how we respond, right? I just returned from a whirlwind […]

Value of an Image - Val in Real Life

The Value of an Image

What is the value of a photograph? In the digital age, unauthorized use of an image doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s just pixels, right? No, it isn’t. What gives an […]

Val in Real Life

Turning Misfortune into Opportunity: A Photographic Journey

Each April I return to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont for the spring photography workshop led by the fabulous Bill Lea. While it’s largely a family reunion for me […]

Death Valley Super Bloom - Val in Real Life

Death Valley Super Bloom

A few weeks ago, I got to shuttle myself out to Death Valley National Park for the Super Bloom. The timing was such that I had to be there President’s […]

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Nevada’s Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Tucked off of the very busy Highway 93, 80 miles north of Las Vegas, you’ll find Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. This Nevada oasis seems horribly overlooked by the cars and […]


Exploring Cathedral Gorge State Park

Back in May, I set out on another mega road trip to regain my Val-ness. After Overland Expo in Arizona, I mozied my way to Great Basin National Park in […]

val in real life


Back in March I wrote about why it’s important to keep your bucket full. But I realized my thoughts at the time were an incomplete picture of the tools needed […]


Healing and Joy

Right now in my life, my biggest task to address everyday is healing. Of both the physical and emotional sort. Everyday is a mental tennis match between knowing I’m getting […]


Postcards from Real Life: The Beauty of Gray

I’m a fan of black-and-white photography, particularly infrared conversions. There’s something so simple yet visually intricate about the tones. Recently jamming out to some Live while I was working away […]


Postcards from Real Life: Mentor

Today I’m back in the Great Smoky Mountains for my photographic family reunion. It’s time for the Autumn Brilliance workshop again and this is where I come to get rejuvenated […]


Postcards from Real Life: Mojo

I just returned from another whirlwind adventure… a two-parter. I spent 6 days on the Hell Hike and Raft in Idaho followed by a trip to Virginia City in Nevada. […]


Postcards from Real Life: Small Worlds

Greetings from Craters of the Moon in Idaho. I’m posting entirely from my smartphone for the first time ever due to a case of no-signal-itis so today’s postcard will be […]


Postcards from Real Life: Sanctuary

Today I’m nestled in one of my favorite places in the world. It’s spring photography workshop time again at The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and I’ll be immersed […]


Postcards from Real Life: Building Bridges

Last weekend I scooted off to the Georgia Nature Photographers Association’s annual expo at Unicoi State Park. As you can imagine, an event like this is energizing in many ways. […]


George L. Smith State Park: A Photo Essay

Last weekend, the Camp Granola crew set off for a camping adventure in George L. Smith State Park in central Georgia. It was one of many trips we’ve taken around […]


Postcards from Real Life: Contact

I’ve talked a lot lately about how much I appreciate the connections I’ve made during my life as a blogger. I’ve made some great friends in various communities and I’ve […]


Overland Expo to TBEX: Fundy National Park

I awoke in a fog on Day 27 of the Overland Expo to TBEX expedition. After a horrible, mostly sleepless night of battling technicolor food poisoning, I wasn’t exactly refreshed […]


Death Valley with David Middleton and Brenda Berry

As you know, back in November I ventured out to Death Valley for the rare delight of a kidless adventure. It was a two-part trip of camping with friends and […]


Postcards from Real Life: Finding Joy

Earlier this week as I sifted through my images from 2013, something struck me. It was disappointment. It wasn’t a soul-crushing-why-do-I-even-bother-trying kind of disappointment, just an acknowledgment that I didn’t […]


A Plea for the Everglades…

Last week I dragged the Fred and George down to South Florida. We did a great many things in my old stomping grounds and one of the places we visited was […]

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