I Am Not A Writer.
Here’s an interesting fact: I would never, ever consider calling myself a writer… of any kind. In fact, I’ve described myself for most of my life as a terrible writer; and someone who uses images to tell a story instead of words. Several years ago I tried taking a writing class and I didn’t even make it halfway through. There’s a reason I went into finance straight out of college… numbers are so much easier than words! (Bonus: I have an odd knack for remembering numbers too!) So how did I become a blogging photographer?
The First Blog: RCI + Topsail
When I started the community blog, RCI+Topsail, in 2017, it was my goal to contribute solutions to frustrations I had seen over and over again in my community. First, living in a rural-coastal area is vastly different from living inland, in cities or even regular suburbia. Over and over I was asked “what does it mean that the town is ‘not incorporated?’ or ‘what do you do with a septic tank?’ and ‘how do I deal with my [water] well?’” On top of this, at that time, there was so little information easily available or all in one place and it seemed like our area was a black hole of information. Because I’m a photographer, and I lacked the skills to understand WordPress (websites) or to write even simple blog posts, I created a team to help me accomplish this goal of providing a community resource that explains coastal home maintenance and spotlight our area. For whatever reason, I had a deep desire to address this community need that I had witnessed for years, even though the only skill I truly had to bring to the table was that I’m a natural connector. I couldn’t even string 10 words together for a sentence!
I’m a Life-Long Learner
The more I learned and got into working on the RCI+Topsail blog, the more fascinated I became with content creation. I found it challenging and there was no limit to what you can accomplish… simply put: blogging charged me creatively. In 2018 I started a program at Duke University for Digital Media & Marketing–which was phenomenal. Being an adult that had an analog childhood, I had never really taken a computer class…not even in college! I was still a terrible writer – though my mindset had changed a bit: I thought, “well if I can learn all these new skills, certainly I can learn to be a decent writer… will probably take at least 10 years though!” Meanwhile I created a Pinterest board and read tons of articles about writing, about communications, etc.
This is not uncommon for me: I find myself drawn to things I have no skill or talent for, and that frustrates me terribly, but I still tend to give it a shot or follow the path as long as it holds my interest.
The Writing Jump Start
In 2019 I had my second major stomach surgery, and several procedures in the months leading up to it. My memory was becoming non-existent (I assume due to the illness and overall stress) and I had to start writing everything down. And I mean every little thing. It’s much better now, but it drove me absolutely crazy that I had so much trouble remembering. Just thinking about that time reminds me of the excruciatingly painful feelings associated with having to write everything down because my memory was so clouded and I couldn’t seem to reach it no matter how hard I tried. Fortunately though, Jane Johnson wrote a book called Mercy Like Morning, and I read it during the summer of 2019. On the third page of the book it goes right to the heart of Habakkuk:
“Write. Write it all down. Every single word I am about to tell you, write it down. Write it plain and clear and large and bold so that anyone running by can read it all in a cursory glance” (Habakkuk 2:1-2, my paraphrase).Jane Johnson, Mercy Like Morning page 11
…. and at a snail’s pace my mindset changed from frustration to gratitude of learning to write everything down.
Between having to learn to take extremely detailed notes, and spending more time in prayer journals and bible studies, my writing was jump started. By the time the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I had been working on this “writing habit” in all aspects of my life for a solid year.
A lot of my ideas seem to come to me when I’m floating in the pool, reading or relaxing. And in July of 2020, it was while sitting in the pool that I decided to change gears. Although I had been putting articles on photography & home staging tips on the RCI+Topsail blog, once we hit 200 articles all the different topics became confusing. I decided to pull the photography & home staging articles and revamp my rachelcarterimages.com website to include a blog to focus on photography.
It’s amazing because as I write this in January of 2021, the same woman who could barely string 5 words together into a sentence can now write a blog post of over 1,000 words in under an hour when struck by inspiration. It’s not even close to always being that easy, but the more I create content, the more the writing flows. That’s not to say I’m a great writer or that I don’t get blocked (because there are some topics that take awhile for inspiration to strike, or it’s still in my notes of topics I’d like to tackle but haven’t been able to visualize it all together yet), but I’m sharing this story to say: After all this, I can string words together and form multiple sentences, even paragraphs!!!
My Photography “Fit”
I’ve always had a difficult time figuring out where I “fit” into the photography world.
My first love is landscape photography, but I don’t love Photoshop. I don’t love spending hours editing on a computer. I don’t even love spending hours on a computer at all. But I do love scrolling through Instagram and seeing the work of amazing landscape photographers – a category I probably will never fit into.
Since I enjoy houses and design, real estate photography works well for me. I’m genuinely interested in homes, and architecture, and bonus when it’s an oceanfront vacation rental because that’s a gorgeous view that never gets old! Every once in a while I enjoy working on an architectural project, which is so needed for a creative charge! But I keep to real estate photography and haven’t dived too far into architectural / interiors photography because of the time commitment, and again, there’s a lot more editing involved.
(Side note: I have wondered if I would feel differently about the time and editing if I didn’t have another job – but as it stands I have always had a full time job in finance and that role is one that I find extremely rewarding.)
Portrait photography has just never been my thing. Sure I can take a few photos and they aren’t terrible, but it isn’t a business or career I want to pursue. Fine art photography falls into the same category (especially since there’s so much editing with that as well).
Are you noticing a theme here? I enjoy editing in Lightroom and making slight improvements and enhancements to images. And even the occasional Photoshop editing day. But I want to spend the majority of my time traveling and listening to people’s stories; snapping the photos and storytelling, not on the computer.
As long as I can remember I have been drawn to photography. Taking photography classes, to include developing in the darkroom, at age 9. Transitioning to digital was a slow one for me, and I resisted it for a long time. Of course now I’m 100% for it! And the same goes with the DSLR vs. Mirrorless vs. iPhone. I resisted using my iPhone camera for years…. I’ve resisted mirrorless… but once Lightroom mobile was a strong app on the iPhone I have come to fully embrace utilizing this camera.
I enjoy lifestyle product photography and one of my goals for 2021 is to enhance my skills in that area. Again, I’ll most likely be simplifying it for my style from the composite product photos you see regularly, but we’ll see what happens. Photography is a journey!
It must be mentioned that for years I chased sunrises and sunsets… and I’d still love to be out there before the crack of dawn if I could. There’s nothing that compares to being surrounded by peace and quiet, watching the dawn of a new day. I haven’t found sunsets to be quite so peaceful, but they are still absolutely magical. Sunsets are different in that tend to be shared with others, while sunrises I often find myself alone with my camera and coffee. I chased hundreds of more sunrises than I ever did sunsets.
Since my second surgery and now Gastroparesis (stomach paralyzing disorder) it has become much more difficult for me to be up as early in the morning to chase the sunrise. I’m still a morning person, but now I watch the clouds change color from my backyard, and hope that someone is out there capturing beautiful photos of the new day.
Why I Stopped Chasing Sunsets
I’m often asked why I stopped taking sunrise/sunset photos. Let me explain:
One of the best treatments for Gastroparesis is actually movement. When I first found out that my stomach was emptying at about half the rate it should (it’s actually probably less than that but sometimes you just need to sugarcoat things for yourself), the doctor’s advice was to walk. “The more painful or uncomfortable it is, just keep moving….the more you do not want to move around, that’s the best time to walk.” That advice was 100% accurate. Walking has become such a priority that I even base my meals on how much I can walk that day. It’s kept me off extra medication, which is a motivator, but it also lets me eat & digest more food!
Unfortunately, the time of day I end up walking is the evening… and it takes capturing sunsets with my camera off the table. Luckily I have enjoyed seeing many sunsets while walking, and am thankful to have witnessed the bold oranges and pinks of the sun setting. I also try to walk at least once a week on the beach at sunset (except in the short days of winter), and sometimes I do capture it on my phone’s camera. It’s not the same though, and sometimes I lose focus. I struggle with envy for missing photographing the golden hour, but in the end, I know that chasing sunsets had to take a back seat to my health and that’s the season I’m in right now. Hopefully this season isn’t permanent, but I’m working on being content with where I am and what I can learn while here.
Where is Here?
Sigh. That’s a great question, and one I’ve asked often.
Over the last several years I feel like I’m just along for the ride and every time I plan something, or think I’m headed in one direction, everything changes. Like a 4 day hurricane that forever changed the landscape of my community. Or a broken foot. My stomach in the wrong location. Low stomach motility. A blockage in my esophagus. A pandemic. I’ve started making monthly goals with my interests and hope that the learning and practice will all add up to something! I hear so many people say they have a vision and something specific in mind to create. That’s not me at all. I’m more like the “challenge accepted” type.
What do I really want to do? Play with all kinds of photography and continue learning. Blogging has become therapeutic for me in the most unexpected sense: I’m addicted to the feeling of accomplishment! From the smallest tweaks; implementing things I’ve just learned; or watching the blog grow; writing out and sharing my experiences; and breaking down photography into simple tips to help people try new things with their camera/photos.
Who knows where the journey is going, but for right now, I’m going to be the best Blogging Photographer I can be!