Why did it take so long for us to get here!

The Inspire photo retreat started right in our backyard in 2010. A close-knit group of New England photographers put it all together and created something special. Ashley had just entered our 3rd year of business and we had just started to get to know the community of photographers in this area. This was also the 2nd year of our engagement and we were in the midst of wedding planning.

We didn’t go to Inspire that year. Money was a bit of an issue as EVERYTHING we had went into throwing a wedding. Some of you many know what that’s like ūüėČ

Honestly,¬†we both had to shut down our social media that week… our entire internet was overrun with Inspire quotes and photos. We were just a teeny, tiny bit jealous (a lot jealous), for obvious reasons but we had other priorities with the wedding coming up and all.

2011 rolls around and guess what? Ashley’s pregnant and we were planning to move to this amazing new live-work, artist building called Appleton Mills. Again, we missed out on Inspire, but the disappointment was masked by the overwhelming stress¬†of starting a family and of course moving.

As far as 2012 and 2013 go, we have always had travel obligations to see family on the west coast so unfortunately we continued our streak of missing Inspire. It became ritual that the very day all of our friends left for Inspire we would shut down our social media to avoid all the fun everyone else was having.

From the very first one, Ashley’s been trying to get us to write a proposal for an Inspire presentation. Personally, I was always hesitant because “who am I” to be teaching people. I didn’t feel I had reached that level yet. So for 2014, Ashley and I came up with something that was not actually a class, but a fun group activity. (For obvious reasons we are not going to divulge on the details of this activity because we are hoping to use it in the future once we can master it.) Well, we didn’t get selected, which was a blessing in disguise because last year we wouldn’t have made it due to unforeseen family stuff. It would have been torture to put in all that work and have to bail at the last minute, so we were actually relieved that we didn’t get selected.

But sadly again, we did NOT attend 2014 Inspire.

This would all change this year. After we missed out on Inspire 2014, Ashley and I were determined to get there. However, I will admit that I had presentation cold feet and told Ashley that I didn’t feel like we had any solid ideas for presentation material. If you know Ashley you know that she is fearless and as I went to sleep the night before the due date, Ashley sent in a half dozen proposals. I woke up to an inbox full of “Thank Your For Your Inspire 2015 Proposal.” It’s good to have a wife and business partner that pushes you to be better and overcome your stupid little hangups. We still had to wait a few weeks, but when we got the acceptance email it was the “oh shit” moment… we were going to do this!

When we arrived in Portland, ME the night before the retreat I really did not know what to expect. I knew that I was going to be distracted by the fact that we had to give a presentation in front of 75+ people in three days time, but I did not want that to affect my experience. Although we had to spend some time tightening up the presentation, it really didn’t take anything away from enjoying the week. Our goals were to keep an open mind, meet as many people as possible and to learn from EVERYONE, not just the teachers.

We seriously could NOT have had a more positive experience.

This was so much different than the networking events that I usually see some¬†of these photographers. There, we meet up after not seeing each other for weeks/months/years and “catch up”, small talk, yada yada, make plans to connect later on and then say “goodbyes.”

This retreat was special to us. We were all in the same building¬†and we¬†weren’t going anywhere; ¬†that changes things dramatically. We all got to experience Inspire collectively and there was¬†such a sense of open camaraderie that it created a vibe that is really tough to describe. There¬†was¬†an empathetic reach that¬†made everyone feel like family.

We met so many wonderful people. Acquaintances became friends and friends became just a bit closer.

The workshops and classes were inspiring, insightful and emotional. Students were strongly¬†critiqued to the benefit of the photographer (and the audience) , presenters shared techniques and workflows, and some shared personal stories that brought tears to your eyes. But no one was a stranger at Inspire. If you didn’t know someone, it’s only because you hadn’t introduced yourself yet.

My only regret was that I didn’t get to meet everyone. There’s always next year, right?

From our perspective, Inspire Photo Retreats is about shedding the insecurity and the ego and enjoying the company of like-minded photographers.

Oh and our presentation went over well… I think. No one heckled us ūüôā —¬†And we learned that it’s way easier to present in front of dozens of people than it is to practice alone in a hotel room. If we get selected to speak again, I think at least I will be a lot less nervous.

Thanks to the hosts and alumni! Inspire 2015 will never be forgotten.

Here’s to Inspire 2016!