For years I have been a girl with a camera.  A little over a year ago an extraordinary adventure changed all that.  I spent 5 nights and 4 days on Trey Ratcliff’s Photo Adventure in New Zealand and it was as if I had finally found my life’s focus ring.  This adventure and its magical mix of people, place and experiences have made it clear - I’m not just a girl with a camera. I am a photographer.


My discovery of Trey Ratcliff was serendipitous.  I “stumbled upon” his image of the Eiffel Tower one day while using the app of that name. I’d never seen HDR photography before and it stopped me in my tracks.  I had to know who created it and how.  Once I made it to the Stuck In Customs website I devoured everything I found there. 

When Trey announced plans were in the works for a photo adventure in his new homeland New Zealand, I didn’t hesitate to ask for details. I knew on a gut level this was going to be a defining experience and one I needed to be on. 

I have to admit I was nervous about meeting Trey.  He’s an incredibly smart and talented photographer, artist, teacher, visionary and thinker.  Best of all  - he’s all that plus down to earth.  Learning with him was nothing short of inspirational.  Good people like Trey draw a crowd of good folks which is why the rest of our talented coaching team of Karen Hutton, Scott Kublin and Curtis Simmons were the kindest most enthusiastic bunch you could hope for.  They created an environment where it was fun to learn and fostered a strong sense of camaraderie amongst our group of 20 participants.  Being in this group of affable photo-enthusiasts I felt at home.  This community – that feels like a family - not only helped me to hone my skills, they confirmed that I am one of them.


New Zealand’s natural beauty is legendary and I fell in love with it instantly.  As I flew from Auckland to Queenstown, my nose was pressed to the plane window like a kid at a candy shop. The mountains and valleys so high and deep are stacked one upon another in endless compact lines. This backdrop of stunning and diverse landscape provided the absolute perfect learning environment.  Trey aptly labeled it “a target rich environment” so true – many times I found it hard to walk away from the beautiful scene before me and yet when I did it was only to find another right behind me. I’ve only seen a tiny portion of New Zealand but I am smitten.  It’s carved a place in my heart and fired a passion for seeking out and creating beautiful landscape photography.


This was not an adventure for the faint of heart.  The daily schedule was intense. We were on the bus at 6am, sunrise photo shoot till 10am, breakfast, post processing instruction, lunch, more post processing, dinner, and a sunset shoot which often stretched into the night, home by 11pm. Rinse and repeat the next day.  You would think at that pace I would loose steam but the thrill of the next shoot boosted my energy to surplus levels.  Add to that – surprises! Fire dancers, sunrise and sunset shoots at exclusive and beautiful locations and the eclipsing thrill:  a boat cruise on Milford Sound complete with playful dolphins riding our boat’s bow waves.  From our welcome reception to farewell celebration the entire adventure was brilliantly crafted to inspire our creativity and it’s left me with a thirst for more photographic odysseys.

On our first night together Karen Hutton asked me, “What do you hope to get out of this adventure and how will you know if you got it?” 

 At the time I was not sure how to answer, in fact I was painfully honest and said “I’m not sure.”   I wish I had answered that I was on a journey not just to New Zealand but one of greater discovery.  At the time I had no idea that the final destination would be clarity and focus, but my gut feeling was right. Trey’s New Zealand Photo Adventure with it’s extraordinary combination of good people, inspiring places and unique experiences was key to reaching it. 

So Karen, I can answer the question now – I got everything I could hope for and more. I’ve found my tribe, confirmed my passion for beautiful landscapes and discovered my thirst for creative experiences.  All of which have clarified who I am.

I know this because when I filled out the “employment” section on my customs card coming home, without hesitation I printed in all caps

P H O T O G R A P H E R.

This was article written for and was featured in a Bonus Supplement of Extraordinary Vision Magazine - Issue No.4 .  
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