Stories, Thoughts, & Reflections

Landscape Photography 2019 Retrospective

December 31, 2019

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2019 Retrospective of Parenthood and Landscape Photography

In terms of images, I’ve probably taken more photographs in 2019 than any other year prior. Yet, I have very little to show in terms of nature and landscape photography. The reason is that 2019 started with having a baby which in turn meant stepping back from photography adventures. It has been a year filled with a flurry of happiness, joy, laughter, tears, frustration, and some very dark humor. Also, it has been a year of raw and honest contemplation and reflection. Do I truly want to keep building a photography business?

Even if the desire still burned brightly, how on earth can I do so with a toddler clinging to my leg? The answer is I don’t know. I don’t have it all figured out, and I doubt I will anytime soon. What I know is that it will not be easy. Sacrifices will have to be made. And my previous freedom to pick up and travel on a whim to exotic, remote locations is very much gone for the time being. Heck, it’s gone for the next decade.  2019 is the first year of my adult life that I stayed put in one place for 365 days.

Travel now seems quite daunting. Bringing the family along means an insane balancing act if I attempt to include photography.  Although everyone knows that photography and family vacations are not a good mix.  Leaving the family behind requires significant planning and a larger strain on my husband.  So what’s a Mama to do?

Despite growing up being told “you can have it all,” I missed the caveat about not having it all at the same time. Oddly enough, I’m coming to terms with that realization. And most days, I am at peace with the seesaw which will be my landscape photography and motherhood for the years to come.  The truth is that motherhood has absolutely changed how I see the world.  And in turn, it has changed how I see and feel about light, landscapes, nature, and life.

Now, I’m harnessing putting that emotion into my images, to try and make a viewer feel the sense of awe, bewilderment, and respect that I have for this world.  This first year of parenthood has been an evolution of me as a person as well as an artist despite stepping away from landscapes. I’m excited to eventually share the love I have for landscape photography years from now, even if that means listening to “are we there yet” and “my feet hurt” during an overcast day hike to a waterfall.  Okay, perhaps that daydream still has some raw realizations that need to come to the forefront. But like I said, I’m a work in progress on figuring out the balancing act of parenthood and landscape photography.

So for 2019, my favorite image is a shot from the Italian Dolomites. It wasn’t even taken in 2019, but it was processed in 2019. So it counts, right? It doesn’t have anything out of the ordinary in terms of light or conditions. However, to me, it was the determination and pure grit to get myself to this location that makes this image the one that connects to me the most this year.

Winter Landscape Photography of Dolomites In Italy by Chrissy Donadi
Favorite Landscape Photography Image of 2019 | The Uplift by Chrissy Donadi

The Story Behind My Favorite Image of 2019

In December 2017, I got an email from Erin Babnik, a truly inspirational landscape photographer. She had a cancellation for her winter Dolomites workshop, and I was next in line on the waitlist.  Wait, you take workshops? Absolutely. If I find photographers whom I think I can learn and grow from, then I categorically want to spend a few days with them in an amazing location to dig deep and understand their processes, thoughts, workflows, etc. Okay, back to the story. The workshop was with Erin Babnik and Sean Bagshaw. So I moved mountains to be ready to leave the following month, that was plenty of time back in those days. I was pumped because I even found a long layover in Brussels so I could visit with friends for a day before heading to Italy.

In true Chrissy fashion, I had my plate full and was going non-stop right up until the trip.  About a week before the trip, I got sick. I’m not talking about a cold or even a small bout of the flu. I was down and out, making promises with the person upstairs sick. The day of departure for Italy was approaching, and I knew I wasn’t going to make my flight. There was no way. My head would have exploded with the pressure changes. Physically, I could barely crawl from my bed to the fridge. I was on the mend but nowhere near back to 100%.  After researching how I could be rescued off the mountain if it came down to it, I delayed my flight to the last possible moment (that meant not seeing friends in Brussels).

Literally, I walked off the plane in Italy, picked up my checked bag, and rolled it over to meet the workshop team at the airport. Thankfully, it was a winter workshop so there was very little hiking involved.  This was a godsend. Getting my gear onto a gondola or up the stairs of a hotel felt like running a marathon. I felt insanely horrible the entire trip and desperately tried to hide my fatigue. The last thing I ever wanted would be to bring a damper to the group.

The people in the group make or break the workshop.  You can be in the most fantastic location in the world, but if Negative Nancy is standing next to you, you feel it.  Here I was in a dream scenario photographing the Dolomites and my body just couldn’t keep up.  Looking back on the story now, it wasn’t the smartest decision to go on the trip, but that’s life.  I rested during every moment of downtime (which isn’t a lot in a workshop) and pushed myself every other minute.

Thankfully, absolutely amazing and incredibly inspiring people, who happen to love photography as much as I, filled the group.  Needless to say, both Erin and Sean exceeded my expectations from an educational standpoint on photography and business.  Moreover, they are two of the most welcoming, fun, and thoughtful people whom I am happy to now call friends.  I don’t regret my decision to go at all. Moreover, I’m incredibly thankful and grateful that my body held on just until my brother picked me up from the airport before it shut down, and slept for 4 days straight.

In one of the few moments where the mountain peaks peered through their blanket of clouds, I was able to capture the image above.  At the time taken, it didn’t seem that special. There wasn’t much epic light or much color.  It was simply another shot of a mountain.

However, in 2019, when I found this image flipping through Lightroom reminiscing about my days of endless travel during an afternoon nap time, this image stopped me dead in my tracks. It was the image to perfectly describe my feelings about 2019. It is my landscape photography story for this year – a long, hard, sleep-deprived, fog of a year. But out of that atmosphere, the peaks were emerging in their grandeur.  It is the start. The start of when the storm breaks, the clouds split, and the moment when the light begins to shine, right into 2020 and is going to light up my clouds.  I booked the first photography trip for 2020. Let’s take this balancing act for a spin.

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Fine art nature and landscape photographer, speaker, and Lightroom educator.

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