Phono Photos: Monthly Challenge

Alright, we’re here!  I’ve been thinking about starting this for a long time, and I’m super excited.  Welcome to my new monthly photo challenge!

As some of you know, in addition to being a photographer, I’m also a musician.  So I thought it would be fun to combine these two passions in a different way.

The Challenge

Here’s how it works: Each month, I will present a new song as a prompt.  You will then have approximately two weeks to go out and shoot, using that prompt as your inspiration.  You can use the lyrics, the song title, the artist, the album, or even the emotions listening to it invokes – you should have a lot of flexibility here!


I will time these challenges such that you’ll have roughly until the end of the month to complete the challenge.  I will then post the submissions here on my site on the first Wednesday of the following month.

Please send me:

  • An image that meets the challenge
  • Your website/blog post (if you have one; if not, the name you’d like attributed to your picture); I will link it with your photo
  • Optionally, tell me how the song inspired your submission, and I’ll share those stories alongside your image (I’m always curious to hear how folks interpret these challenges!)

Image requirements:

  • Please send only JPEGs
  • Please keep file sizes small (no larger than 1MB)
  • You can submit any photograph or digital art you’d like.  You can even paint something and send me a picture of it; as long as it’s visual, I want to see it!

Email your submissions to

This Week’s Prompt

“Butterflies and Hurricanes” by Muse

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best, you’ve got to be the best
You’ve got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

full lyrics

This is a powerful song, and it’s one of my favorites.  It builds through themes of overcoming adversity and finding strength and inner power despite the difficult challenges life throws at us.  It then gives way to a romantic piano interlude, giving the listener a brief respite before declaring once more that it’s up to you to be the best of yourself – that you hold the power to change the world.

Song | Album

My Response

For this song, I wanted a powerful image.  While I have several of those on-hand already, part of the “challenge” for me is presenting something new.  So here it is.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This was taken during a weekend trip out to the Gorge, and this was actually on the way to another hike (not our initial destination).  We ended up having so much fun here that we never made it to our originally planned spot.

Getting to the top of this waterfall required using ropes to scramble up steep slopes covered in lose soil.  But even the most reserved rose to the challenge and overcame the fear of heights and of falling into the pools at the top, to be rewarded with another beautiful waterfall that even fewer see.  Though we were presented with an obstacle that would stop most other passersby, we rose up and faced it head-on.

I also appreciate the symbolism.  Waterfalls often start as tiny streams, never given much thought.  But all of the individual rivulets of water join together to cascade down a cliffside, becoming a truly formidable force.  The water might rest briefly in mid-stream pools, gently tinkling in a rolling arpeggio, but it comes back stronger than ever, with the power to shape the earth around it.

Your Turn

What part of this song speaks to you?  Perhaps it’s likewise a sense of overcoming life’s obstacles.  Perhaps you like the title and would like to shoot some butterflies.  Perhaps you want to share a photo of your personal muse.  Perhaps the rolling bass line reminds you of a thundering train.

Please have all images submitted by 11:59pm, 10/30/17 (according to your timezone).

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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WC: Shrinking Your World

We’re all quite small in this vast world.  We fill our lives up with work and projects and social lives and activities.  With everything we add, we discover how much the earth has to offer, and we realize we could never experience it all, given a hundred lifetimes.  The world feels bigger and bigger, with each new interest requiring thousands of hours to master, though each never reaches the state of “done.”

What drives us to be so insanely busy all the time?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

When I was young, I remember lamenting mountains of homework, longing for the days when I was out of school, as I’d then have so much more free time.  How naive.  I simply couldn’t fathom being busier than I was then.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Now, between work and home life, I have a passion that consumes every spare moment.  Shooting and editing and marketing and blogging and learning and experimenting.  Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t dedicate so much time to my photography if I didn’t thoroughly love it.  But I sometimes miss the homework simply for the sake of remembering what it feels like to be bored.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This packed existence starkly contrasts with every other species I witness on a daily basis.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

What must it be like to be a house cat, with no responsibilities other than eating, pooping, and sleeping all day?  Their world is literally confined to the square footage of our home, but they’re content.

Deer might roam entire mountainsides, but they don’t ponder the wonders awaiting them three continents away.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Geese and sandhill cranes have much broader territories, migrating over many leagues each year, but they still focus on what’s needed to survive.  Can you imagine a crane getting a hobby?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I often wonder why we’re unique in that regard.  Have we forgotten how to do nothing?

I’m enjoying shooting wildlife, as it reminds me that life can move at a slower pace.  It doesn’t have to blaze by at the speed of sound; we can stop for a bit and simply observe.  Our world then scales down to something more manageable, we can focus on a small piece, and it’s no longer so daunting.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I personally struggle with this, as I’m a go-go-go-go-go kind of person.  But photography forces me to slow down (especially when I need a tripod), and I can actually enjoy the world I’m shooting, instead of just giving it the “drive-by shooting” treatment, remembering only the moments immortalized by the pictures that remain.

I’m starting my own musical photo challenges!  Be sure to check back on Wednesday for details on how to submit your photos!

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TWOI: 10/13/17

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!  I don’t have any spooky images for you this week, but it’s still a good day!  Historically, Friday the 13ths have always been good days for me; it’s Monday the 13ths I need to watch out for!  It’s October, Halloween is just around the corner (I sort of have a thing for costumes), and autumn is in the air! It is a good day!

Now, to the images from this week on Instagram!

This first one was from our adventure to Alaska.  This was from the train up to Denali.  Look for bear pictures coming to my site in the next few weeks!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This is much more recent – last weekend, in fact.  We went out to Sauvie Island to photograph sandhill cranes.  We were a bit far from the action for any amazing shots, but some turned out alright.  This was afterwards, as the sun was creating the horizon, illuminating the morning haze.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This is from the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  It’s pretty awe-inspiring to be so high above the clouds.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

I love this picture.  This was our Aggrevation board – our nightly pastime as we were waiting for the big day of the eclipse.  This little moth landed next to the marbles, attracted to the light.  I was drawn to the details of this unique shot, and it’s just one of the examples of the many things that inspire my photography on a daily basis.  Read all about that in my response to last week’s challenge, “pedestrian.”

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This is also from Hawaii – the entrance to our hillside rental house.  That place was incredible, with a huge lanai and spacious living room for hanging out.  I appreciated the flower-sprinkled threshold here, so beautiful in its simplicity.

This was also my submission for Leanne Cole’s “doors”-themed Monochrome Madness last week.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

I struggled to pick my favorite this week; these last two were so close.  I love remembering those misty mornings and crisp evenings in Yosemite.  It’s almost winter again, and I should find another national park to hit up… perhaps Yellowstone this time?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This last one squeaked out ahead of the rest.  Perhaps it’s the strong lines.  Perhaps it’s the unusual angle.  Perhaps it’s just my simple bias toward autumn… I like it regardless!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

What do you think?  Which is your favorite?  Keep up with my daily posts on Instagram here!

Want to see your own pictures here?  I’m starting my very own monthly photo challenges beginning next week!  Stay tuned for more details on how to submit your pictures.

Want to get the inside scoop on how I create my images?
Sign up for my monthly newsletter!


Moving on up!

This week will be a quick one, as I have been working my tail off making a few changes behind the scenes.  The good news is this should open up a lot of opportunities for both you and me, and I’m very excited to be finally rolling these out.  The bad news is you might experience a bit of digital dust as I get everything settled.

You might have noticed that my homepage has some fresh pictures!

What you might not have noticed is I have actually finally migrated my website to a self-hosted platform.  I understand this won’t mean much to most of you out there, but bottom line: it gives me a lot more flexibility with what I can offer on my site.

The one I’m most excited about is the introduction of an integrated store!  Check it out here.  As new pictures are added, you’ll notice links below, indicating images that are available for purchase.  I’m offering fine art prints and canvas, metal, and framed images.  There’s also the added bonus of free e-cards; have fun!  And for those who don’t know, I adopt monthly charities, and I donate 25% of all proceeds.  Read more about that here.

Now, aside from the exciting news, I also wanted to let you know that with a move like this, there will inevitably be a bit of growing pains.  I have done what I could to minimize the impact, and I do apologize if I’ve missed anything.

First, if you have visited my site before, you might notice a security alert upon returning with a cached URL.  Have no fear; this just means some certificates have changed on my site.  Hopefully you won’t encounter that, but if you do, clearing your browser history will fix it.  Also, make sure the URL is using “http” instead of “https.”

Secondly, you might find some images that no longer show.  I’m checking through all of my posts and fixing them as I find them, but feel free to let me know if I missed one.  I’ve been blogging for over two years now; that’s a lot of content to check!

Finally, if you follow from and if you aren’t already, I would encourage you to sign up for email alerts.  My posts will no longer appear in Reader to new readers, and this ensures you don’t miss out on anything.  You’re also welcome to sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I give sneak peeks at my upcoming adventures, provide special discounts on prints, and show you some behind-the-scenes on how I create my art.

This has been a long process, and it’s one I’ve been wanting to do for some time.  I truly appreciate all of you who follow my excursions, and thank you for your patience through this transition.  I’m excited to grow my site and provide better ways of sharing my adventures with you!

As one last carrot, I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be starting to host monthly photo challenges, and I’ll want your submissions!  Be sure to check in next week for all the details 🙂

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WC: Anything but Uninspired

What inspires you?

All too often, I hear about photographers who have simply grown bored with what they’re shooting.  It all becomes the same, and there’s no fire left to the craft.  I find that terribly sad, especially when it leads to some quitting entirely something they once loved.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Perhaps I’m the strange one (but then, I pride myself on not fitting in), but I don’t quite understand how this happens.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

For me, I’m inspired by every little thing around me.  It’s difficult to go anywhere without a camera; I want to shoot everything!  From my kitties at home to a particularly fluffy cloud.  From a reflection that catches my eye to the simple art of mere garbage.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I get strange looks from Aaron all the time, and I always tell him, “Never question a photographer’s inspiration!”  I’ve shot rocks and footprints, raindrops and bike spokes.  I’m mesmerized by reflections, and I’m giddy over colors.  Everything fascinates me, and every day is a new Christmas.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It helps that I love life and I see beauty in all things around me.  I take hundreds of bad photos and occasionally strike upon something truly remarkable.  I shy away from what everyone else shoots, and I strive to make an impact with something new.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It also helps that I’m interested in so many different things.  I find euphoria in an epic landscape, but I’m immensely entertained by candid moments that come from events.  I love the magnificence of wildlife, and I’m intrigued by details.  I could go in so many different directions, that when I tire of one area, I simply dabble in another for a while.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

One of the things I’d love to do is create a photography “bucket list” – experiments I’d love to play around with – and start trying them out.  These could include light painting and double exposures, infrared and focus stacking.  The world of photography is so vast; the possibilities are anything but pedestrian.  I could never be bored!

What inspires you?  And what do you think I should try next?

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TWOI: 10/6/17

I like the variety in this week’s set.

First is a shot from outside the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park.  I missed this on our first stop into the park, so I was determined to check it out on our way out.  Evidently, these two massive moose got locked in a battle – literally.  Unable to disentangle their antlers, they both died in the grass.  A backpacker later found the skeletons and brought them back to the park officials.  Now they’re on display for all to see.

This was also my submission for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness.

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