Run for the Roses - A Soul Searching Trip in Charlestion

Life is about great adventures, whether they be big or small, good or bad. Life can also be compared to a race. You spend years practicing your skills and building yourself up all to what seems to culminate as one big race day where you either survive and are the first to cross the finish line or get lost in the crowd.

I just recently returned from a week long trip where I did some serious soul searching. Now, originally this was not my intention. The main reason I was going away was to continue to build myself and my photography skills up to rise above the level I was currently at. I'm a strong believer in learning new things and this trip, that was really a work trip, was no exception.

I first heard about Bob and Dawn Davis while searching for photography workshops a couple months back when I was planning a spontaneous trip to New York City. Bob is an awesome photographer and Dawn is his wife and photography business partner. They are a husband and wife team that combine their creative and technical photographic skill, personality, smart business savvy, and their kindness for others and education to create what they (and everyone else) call Bob and Dawn Davis Photography, which is based in the Chicagoland area.

I had the pleasure in New York, a couple months back, of taking Bob's "What the Flash" lighting workshop and he opened my mind's eye up to a lot of new possibilities with photography. I wanted to know more about Bob, so I visited his site. That's were I stumbled upon what could be considered my ticket to race day; a photography workshop hosted by Bob and Dawn in Charleston, SC. My adventure bell started ringing and I signed up, not knowing how I'd get there or if I'd be surrounded by a brunch of super-technical speaking photographers that I'd be intimidated by, not knowing anything, but feeling in my heart that it would be something amazing.

So this is where my recent "work trip" and soul search began.

I started pooling my resources and researching how I'd get myself down to the place where The Notebook was filmed, where Spanish Moss clings to the tree limbs, where people say "ya'll" with sweet tea, and where having a historic home was the norm. Enter my parents.

 My mom and dad.

My mom and dad.

They agreed to help me on my quest by volunteering themselves as drivers - plus they had never been to that part of the country either and were intrigued by a road trip. It turned into one big family vacation with my older sister, Katie, included too. About 5 days before the workshop, we were all loaded up in my mom's red Saturn Vue (I was literally wedged between a cooler, my laptop, camera bag, and the door) and we began the first leg of our trip stopping first in Louisville, KY.

We visited Church Hill Downs, which is famous for the Kentucky Derby, and got a backside tour (yes, that's their word not mine) of the stables and where the trainers work and live.

savannah-charleston-wedding-photographer-vacation-soul-search_0409.jpg

There were horses a plenty getting bathed, brushed, or fed (paradise) and we even spotted the 2009 Kentucky Derby Winner, "Mine That Bird", who was slated with a 50 to 1 chance of winning the Derby. My family and I thought that was pretty neat in and of itself, but "Mine That Bird" had more interest in his hay bale and licking the wall then us during our visit.

 (R) Mine That Bird, 2009 Kentucky Derby Winner - oblivious to us tourists.

(R) Mine That Bird, 2009 Kentucky Derby Winner - oblivious to us tourists.

Our car dotted across the country from Michigan to Kentucky and then to our next stop 9 hours later in Savannah, GA. There was no shortages of what one might normally expect on a trip where you're trapped in a car with you mother, father, and sister for 9 hours - someone yells angrily at a trivial problem because they're dying of hunger or legs and bodies start to cramp up in the crowded car and tensions rise because we can't escape each other - but the destination and adventure is always worth the trip! 

Savannah. Savannah. Savannah. You are my new favorite city. You are beautiful and quaint and not too busy body. You have a history and art scene that could keep me occupied for years. Savannah... I know Ray Charles was singing about the whole of Georgia hen he sang, "Georgia On My Mind," but it reminds me of you.

[PLAY Ray-Charles - "Georgia on My Mind"]

The Saturn skidded to a halt at our final destination of Charleston, South Carolina, the day following our visit to Savannah and we all burst forth from the car ready to stay in one place for three consecutive nights and I was so ready to begin learning all I could.

I still had a couple free days to explore Charleston with my family before the workshop and we started with some local southern cuisine at Jim n Nicks Bar-Bee-Que, the kind of cuisine that is full of ooy-gooy BBQ and washed down with a brew or two. We sat in a surrey "with a fringe on top" and were pulled through the French Quarter District learning a lot about the history of Charleston. We made an unplanned trip to the ER (because honestly that's our luck, but everyone is okay). Lastly, we visited Boone Hall Plantation, a relic straight out of Gone with the Wind where you'd expect to see Scarlett and Rhett traipsing across the property, and the day ended with us exploring the lush and humid Cypress Gardens together.

 Cheers! We made it!

Cheers! We made it!

 (L) Me! (R) My big sister, Katie - photo credit to my mom :)

(L) Me! (R) My big sister, Katie - photo credit to my mom :)

 Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens

 Boone Hall Plantation

Boone Hall Plantation

The rest of our time in Charleston was divided, my parents and sister out seeing the sights and I spent 3 days behind the camera lens and furiously writing down business strategies and better practices for my photography. I connected with so many great photographers from all over the country and can't wait to watch as everyone grows creatively and reshapes their businesses! I also walked away with a ton of real world photography experience and skills that I never learned in college!

 Workshop photographers - We pack light (pun intended).

Workshop photographers - We pack light (pun intended).

 Workshop photographers flexing their creative muscles.

Workshop photographers flexing their creative muscles.

 Workshop photographers - We had fun and are excited about life! :)  Photo by Pam Bell Photography

Workshop photographers - We had fun and are excited about life! :) Photo by Pam Bell Photography

I believe everything about this trip will help to push me farther in my business and to race towards the direction of my dreams. As a very wise lady from our Church Hill Downs tour said, "not many horses get a chance to compete in the Kentucky Derby . . . and those that do, well, they only have one chance, one shot to win that run for the roses. . ."

Love Always,

Courtney Carolyn