Do you ever knock yourself on the side of the head just to remind yourself of how good you’ve got it? Like everyone, I have my ups and downs. But today, I realized, at almost 40, I am finally walking down the career path that defines me. What’s best about it, is that I am doing it on my terms. I think I can say that I have taken the non-traditional route to becoming a photographer. I started with my little coolpix,. Then, thinking I went big time, I got a Powershot. My husband got me a truly life altering birthday gift in my Nikon d90 and I haven’t looked back since. I have slowly earned an arsenal of equipment that makes this craft possible. Today’s blog photos depict neighborhood kids sharing my excitement as I test out my new lighting equipment on their smiles. Kids piled into my 300 year old dining room and strutted their stuff in front of the camera. Chris laughed as he walked in saying the the view through the window of the dining room was so bright, it looked as though we were being abducted by aliens. He then complemented me for putting the dining room to good use. Last year, I went to a tradeshow and one of the speakers’ poked fun at moms that decide to become a “photographer” after taking some photos of their cute little cherubs. I wanted to stand up and ask him if he was a pro photographer when he took his first photo…jerk. Of course I didn’t get the guts to say it. But, I left the show feeling quite displaced among the “greats”. Since then, I decided that I will learn this skill regardless of commercial success even if I need to figure out how to progress on my own terms with no particular time frame. I find inspiration in the great Norman Rockwell, who borrowed his neighbor’s kid’s, photographed them, and masterfully transformed these images into his greatest works of art. I am fortunate enough to have a community that allows me to practice my craft on them with much encouragement and patience. Some examples: A friend named Jane at the Durham library, who orders books on photography with my education in the back of her mind. Melissa, who gave me the opportunity to photograph her wedding when I barely knew how to take the camera out of auto mode. Deb, a friend that gives me encouragement beyond measure as we have joined forces to make houses look their best. Cindy, who’s talent and mutual love for Norman Rockwell, inspires me every day. Katie at Perk, who kindly helps me get my name out there. Claudia, who has loaned me her children so often to photograph, that people may start thinking their mine. Perhaps I am most grateful to the little kids that help me build my portfolio one smile at a time. While my Oscar-like thank-you list may never lead to an Oscar, these folks among many others make me feel fortunate to live here among people that keep it real. The people around here make you feel like you were meant to be here, doing exactly what you’re doing. All that this neighborhood seems to ask for in return, is a few hours of your time helping at the Durham Fair. So whether you want to be a cake baker or renaissance dressmaker, don’t sell yourself short. The only one that holds you back is you. This place has got your back.