Food Photography Can Be Life Changing


by Holly on May 22, 2011

Last weekend I participated in my very first photography workshop of any kind. It was completely online with breaks built in and with my schedule, and literally tethered life, this is the only way I was ever going to be able to attend any kind of class. The class was one of CreativeLIVE‘s series and I just expected it to be about photography and how to improve my skills. The class was taught by Penny De Los Santos ( on Twitter) and I have to say, I could watch and listen to her every day and NEVER be tired of hearing what she has to say.

Luckily for me, if you participated in the class during the live broadcast you could join in the fun for free. With the crushing amounts of medical bills and drama that comes along with all three kids these days and especially Kayla with her oxygen, cardiology appointments and various testing procedures, including her recent MRI which was thankfully successful and proved to show that things are okay with her brain, needless to say, FREE was the only way I was going to be able to ‘attend’ a workshop as well right now.

That said, I got so much more than expected and would gladly sell cupcakes and cookies on the corner to earn enough to pay for the class recordings 5 times over. Really. I’m not kidding. This workshop was SO much more than I bargained for! The feeling and experience was literally life changing, and I don’t say that lightly. To start, I learned that I need to MAKE pictures… not just take them. While I have a few times from my 5 pages of scribbled notes that I want to share with you that are actually photography related, what I really want to share with you is what the experience did for my life.

I’ve noticed a difference in myself this past week, which was, not surprisingly, another hectic and stressful week. I’d like to say that the rounds of doctor appointments, hospital visits and counseling appointments and general drama seems to be winding down, but if anything it is just getting busier and more intense. There are days that I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day and don’t even want to try. It makes me feel worse to know that what we are dealing with, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t really even all that bad. The problem is that it is beyond wearisome. I don’t sleep, and I scramble each day to just get through and try not to drop any of the important balls I’m trying to juggle in my life.

There is of course Kayla, which for all intents and purposes, it would seem is the most squeaky wheel in our family – and therefore gets the most ‘grease’ or time. Though she definitely does, and causes me endless amounts of stress with her heart and various issues, she is so very sweet that she is actually quite good for me. Probably the most difficult part with Kayla is the reason I mentioned I don’t sleep. I often find myself awake and starting at her monitor and watching her heart rate and blood oxygen saturation levels to make sure that she stays where she needs to be, even though the alarm will sound and wake me up if she isn’t… I can’t seem to turn myself off. It’s a vicious cycle.

Kayla’s health is definitely a huge issue for us, but surprisingly, even more wearing than that, or perhaps not surprisingly, is dealing with Aidan’s ADHD. He is still having counseling sessions, basically so we can all try to find solutions for how to help him deal with his world, and is on medication that some days I feel like causes more problems when it runs out in the afternoons than it helped with in the first place. I was talking to April and Lindsay the other night about this and mentioned that there are days that I just want to turn in my Mom Card and say, “not today.” I hate that I feel that way. I also hate that I’m so stressed out and ‘BUSY’ that I end up being the Wonder Crusher for my kids.

That isn’t who I want to be?! I want to be a Mom who is inspired by her kids and inspired enough by life to put wonder and joy into their lives. Not brush them away when I’m stressed… which seems to be all the time. There are days that I’m good at this, and then there are days where I’m really not.

You are probably wondering, if you are still reading at this point, what on earth any of this has to do with food photography.

Here’s the thing. Penny taught so much more during the class than just photography. She discussed culture, and life, and how we relate to each other and the rest of the human race through the images we see. Food in culture is truly universal in the most basic and elemental way. She asked us to share images of what food in our culture and lives meant to us. Let’s face it, for me, it is all about my little family. They are my culture.

I think if you are hear reading a food blog, you totally get that food in our lives is so much more than just what we eat. Hearing her put into words what I’ve tried to explain to friends and family and the passion that she shared with all of us was truly inspiring. I had NO IDEA when I signed up for the class that I would end up leaving so inspired and that it would translate into how I try to look at my world and especially how it makes me react to my kids.

I found myself not just making pictures in my mind, but finding and taking the time to create joyful moments for us to enjoy. It’s something I’ve always tried to do, but that has definitely been lacking from our lives for the past several months of this endless winter. So, we made the time. Thankfully, for at least one night (Friday night after the first day of the workshop) Mother Nature smiled on us and cooperated with some gorgeous weather for once. We packed up a simple picnic of cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, frog eye salad, veggies and strawberry aqua de fresca, along with some chocolate cookies for good measure. We took our pretty dishes, a blanket, basket and soccer ball and headed over to a little stream and had a picnic on the grassy bank next to the rushing water. We laughed and talked and ran. We even dipped our feet in the very cold (melted snow!) water. We made pictures and good memories. It was awesome and I actually took the time to breath and enjoy it.

Heaven knows that with my kids we spend A LOT of time in NOT FUN places doing really NOT FUN things (you know, like blood tests, echocardiograms and MRI’s, plus waiting room time and doctor visits). If I leave the house on any given day, it is most usually wrapped up in a hospital or doctor visit. This is definitely NOT what I expected my life to be like.

I’ve been working on trying to be happy with the life I have, and not grieve as much over missing the life I expected that I miss out on the joyful and exceptional moments. They are definitely there… but sometimes, I’m in such a haze of GO GO GO and trying to remember all the details of dealing with the kids, that I completely miss out on the point.

I know I’m lucky. I have three AMAZING kids. Why can’t I see that all the time? Why can’t I see that what our family is is special in it’s own way? Well, to be honest, I do see it… I just don’t focus enough on that.

So. This is my challenge to myself, and to you if you are willing to take it. Go watch THIS VIDEO of Penny from the workshop’s final moments, and come back and tell me what you think.

Can you imagine, hearing such advice and encouragement for three days straight? I couldn’t, but now I know better.

The challenge I add is this. As you go through your life this week, try to focus your mind’s camera lens and MAKE PICTURES of your joyful moments. If you get the chance, snap a picture – with your camera, your phone, or jot down how the moment made you feel on a slip of paper. Next Sunday, I want to hear how you did. I want to see links to your pictures or posts about how refocusing yourself and living in the moments of your life and focusing on the small joyful things made a difference in how you felt this week.

How did it make you feel about yourself?

How did it make you feel about your family?

What did you learn?

I really want to know.

Next Sunday, as I have a chance to decompress a bit and review my notes, I hope to have some much improved photographs I MAKE to share with you along with a few tips from the workshop.

Honestly though, if you have any way to swing it, I can’t encourage you enough to go over to CreativeLIVE site and purchase the class. You won’t be sorry you did!

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Marsha May 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I did…..I watched the video of Penny. What a truly, inspiring lady. From the heart…from the heart she speaks and brings you with her. Thanks for sharing this clip with me. I only hope that others will take your advice and click into her video. I started taking pictures a few years ago (very amateur) and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have my camera with me. I see beauty in everything. Even today, as I was driving home from church I saw a group (large group) of seagulls going around and round in circles and right there I even saw the beauty of a bird tornado – Ha! Once again – THANKS!

Emily May 22, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Wow! Sounds so amazing and I’m SO glad you were able to take this class–a sort of mini break from reality for a bit and a refocusing of sorts. I think I need to take that challenge, and though I will probably forget to write it down and/or take a picture, I am going to mentally try to make pictures of joyful moments. Thank you for the reminder!

Barbara Bakes May 23, 2011 at 8:17 am

I was only able to tune in for bits and pieces of the class, so I did buy it. I can’t wait to watch the entire course. I’m so glad it lightened your spirits. So much in life is how we view it. If you ever just need someone to talk to call me.

Margaret May 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Holly!! You are wonderful to be able to juggle everything you do and still keep a happy smiling face. You are an inspiration.

Krista {Budget Gourmet Mom} May 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Oh Holly…gorgeous post! You are fantastic, amazing, a joy! That workshop changed my life too and I was just thinking that yesterday as I watched my boys out riding their bikes with my camera in hand. It was truly amazing. Thanks for sharing your beautiful children and your pics! xoxo

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