Bad Weather and Good Friends at Tremont

great smoky mountains institute at tremont - val in real life

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 trip to Georgia. Part of the time was dedicated to hanging out with Fred and George. The rest was mostly allocated to attending the spring photography workshop at my beloved Great Smoky …

Turning Misfortune into Opportunity: A Photographic Journey

Val in Real Life

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 and I love spending time with people who constantly inspire me, I also look forward to honing my photography skills when I’m there. At the Tremont workshops (both spring and …

Death Valley Super Bloom

Death Valley Super Bloom - Val in Real Life

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 Day weekend… so it was crowded and a bit before the super bloom’s peak. Given the once-in-a-lifetime nature of this event, I wasn’t going to be picky so I took …

Nevada’s Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

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 trucks hurtling by. I’m sure they see it. There’s really no way to miss it. The lush landscape is a startling contrast to the Nevada desert surrounding it. I myself …

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 northeast Nevada. I then headed south to Cathedral Gorge State Park and a vastly different landscape. Cathedral Gorge State Park… Cathedral Gorge is a popular Nevada destination for it’s dramatic, …

Foundations

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 to weather unfortunate life events. A full bucket is actually about creating a foundation. When your bucket is full or close-to-full, it means you’ve been mindfully living your life. That …

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 better and the weariness of what my life is right now. Because the progress is so gradual and grudging, I have to force myself to look back a week, two …

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 behind the scenes here at Val in Real Life HQ, I revisited one of my favorite songs of theirs, The Beauty Of Gray. And it got me thinking about the …

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 and inspired by my friends and mentors. There’s an undertone of melancholy to this one, though. While it’s only my fourth fall workshop at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at …