Road Trips Are for Getting to Know Yourself

Cheap coffee, pristine views, and the road. The road that goes on and on... And so it lulls us into a state of blissful calm and philosophical contemplation. Introspection and exploration.


This road trip didn't go as planned. And that is not a problem but a fact of life.
I love road trips because they take you out of your habitual patterns and allow you to learn about yourself and others in drastically different circumstances: away from home, sharing long hours in the car, getting lost and found in new cities...

If it wasn't for the road trip, the discovery of who you are (or a little better understanding of it), the experience of yourself in a new situation, and the fleeting new glimpses into others faced with new circumstances would not have been so easily accessible. It is a gift - one with a price (or so it has been for me), but with a wealth that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Revelation of yourself and others, realization of certain truths, discovery and novelty that have attracted the human mind long before history was written are all here on the road, free for the taking. We are the discoverers, the truth-seekers, the dreamers and the wanderers.

But poetry aside, this particular road trip turned into an experience we did not seek to find. To put it bluntly, when our car was broken into and all my clothes packed neatly in a large suitcase were gone along with 2 sets of Anton's skis, we faced a challenge - both logistical (for him) and emotional (for me).

I'm not going to get into the details of what happened, but instead just share the key profound moments that produced a shift. When what happened had finally synced-in, I found myself crying in the middle of a shopping center, contemplating how I got here (reflecting globally on my life) and why it all happened the way it did. I was overcome with emotions, and not the best ones: regret, self-pity, shame, disappointment. I felt sorry for myself and to myself, sorry about where I am, sorry about how I got there and sorry that I disappointed myself. (more below)

 Anton did most of the driving

Anton did most of the driving

 Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

 The gems of Utah (somewhere near Salt Lake City). This moment took me back to my childhood and reminded me of my eternal love for these creatures. 

The gems of Utah (somewhere near Salt Lake City). This moment took me back to my childhood and reminded me of my eternal love for these creatures. 

 Between Nevada, Utah and Idaho

Between Nevada, Utah and Idaho

Now, you may think it doesn't make sense to feel these things considering the incident was random and unrelated to my actions. Yes, that's true. But my creative mind loves to make connections, to generalize details into greater truths, to connect the dots, and so I look for patterns, messages, greater themes, and ultimately, for opportunities to instigate inner and outer change. When something throws you out of your status quo, it becomes an opportunity to profoundly change something within yourself and adjust the course of your life. So I took this opportunity to reflect truthfully and deeply on the greater picture of how I felt about myself and my life, and I let myself experience everything that came up to the surface. 

Feeling this fully and allowing the emotions to penetrate my being, it took just a few minutes of deep, raw, untaimed emotions for me to decide to move on. Along with deciding to move on, I decided that I'll figure this out. I'll get up and go forward from here. I decided to listen to my heart more, and to make more sound decisions. I decided to try harder, live truer, and be more loving, more giving and more authentic with myself first and foremost. I decided to grow up a little more and take full responsibility for myself and my actions. I decided to take back my power.

And so the bottom line is, everything is good when it comes to personal growth and self-development. Every challenge is fertile ground for this personal work. Life is full of riches - both tangible and intangible ones. It is full of surprises, twists and turns. It is full of lessons and philosophical gems. It is ever-inspiring, challenging, stimulating. It's our choice whether to give up under the external pressures of life or to participate more fully and passionately in it instead.

And when unexpected things happen, we can put it to good use - experience the emotions full force and feel alive in our human skin, analyze and learn, make a plan for something different, adjust our strategy, and start walking. One step at a time, keep your new destination in mind, and keep driving that car of your own life to better places and beautiful new destinations!

What I Want For You in 2017

What a gift... this life is. With its good and bad, ups and downs, with its surprises and the mundane... It is definitely a ride. An adventure. An experience. And I'm grateful.

There is so much to play with here. So much to do. So much to say, feel and discover. We all have a different story. Different limitations, rules, beliefs, obstacles... But we are all human, and we all seek the same things - love, acceptance, understanding, joy, discovery, expansion... We all want to feel what feels good. I wish for us, for this new 2017th year, to feel good. To do what makes us happy, what brings us joy... To love the mundane and to accept the lessons with grace and gratitude. I wish us all to be open to each other. To let the others in. Because 'happiness is only real when shared'. And I believe that. It's true.

So make someone smile. Say the words of love. Give those hugs and mean them. Squeeze a little longer. Stay present. Encourage. Give. Show gratitude. Embrace.

And remind me to do the same. Because after all, despite it all, we are here together. Sharing this ride. And our experiences overlap. They are similar in so many ways. So let's cherish each other and share our experience with those who are in our lives. Let's remember that we are all here temporarily. And love each other. Help each other. Celebrate each other.

Happy New Year. I love you. May you feel happy & connected more often this year.

Much Love,

Natalia

The Cold Hard Truth

We're so concerned with how we are perceived that we risk losing the skill of being authentic and truthful in what we say. We're so used to seeing others fake it too, that when we feel raw honesty, we don't always know what to do with it. Sometimes we get scared of it so we point our finger and invalidate someone's authenticity, we turn away from someone's truth because it's not what we're comfortable with facing. It goes against our normal brain patterns of seeing things in pretty colors with a wrapping of humor around it and a pretty bow of sex appeal with a whiff of prestige.

It's easy to give-in to the lie - the cotton candy fairy-tale of people's self-presentations. It's easy to accept what we are shown as truth and to accept this fluorescent view of reality. If we are lazy, that's all we see because it's right in front of us. And we can close our eyes on not-so-pleasant things. But if we're not lazy, if we venture out into the unknown and decide to see behind the curtains of this performance, we can realize rather quickly how sad and ugly the truth can be and often is. We can see more than people's curated gems of info and personal life story that they choose to share with the world.

No, I get it. We're all human monkeys that want to survive, to be socially accepted, and so it's important to publicly display why we fit into society, why we should be accepted, loved and wanted. I get that, and I'm not arguing that we should deny our instincts their right to be. I'm only asking that we look beyond them into the unknown. That we accept that the truth is the 80% of the iceberg which we just don't get to see unless we dig deep and actually give a damn and get to know people under the skin. It's deep under the thin crust of what's visible on the surface that is worth looking at if we dare to know the truth. I'm just asking to stop for a moment each time we remember and to appreciate the vast world that is unknown. To put our judgments and opinions on pause and instead look the other way - the uncommon direction. Look away from our instinctual thoughts and judgments in the opposite direction of what's unlikely. To appreciate and validate the existence of the unknown. To accept our limitations in perceiving the truth. To imagine what things could really be like... Different from what we see, from what we are told and shown. Sometimes drastically opposite. 

It's easier to live a lie. Not easy, but easier than to face the hard cold truth and feel it whip you in the face like a cold wet branch in the forest on a rainy night. We don't want to be vulnerable. We don't want to feel pain, nobody does. So we put on the layers of fake attributes that we neither own nor value, to create an illusion of everything being okay. Dressed warm in this, we go out into the world. And we can even be comfortable. But when we come home at night, we must undress ourselves and face the truth of who we are, the truth of our state, of the state of our life and how we truly feel. We can only pretend for so long. 

If you are feeling lonely at night once you've undressed yourself from the fancy lies and beautiful disguises covering up who you are and where you're at in life, then know that you're not alone. In fact, it's where many of us are, a lot of the times. We all fake it to a degree. Some more, some less. But to be happy is to go through the cold dark forest of your inner demons and to come out the other side. To be happy is to survive meeting yourself in that forest and facing your ugliness, facing the fear of seeing your true self, coming close to the sleeping beast, waking it up and not running away when it starts to roar. To face it and instead of running away, to hear it out. To hear the sobs and the angry yells and the suppressed emotions that you weren't allowed to feel. To face it all and to say yes to it. Because human experience is not just sugar, treats and pretty things. It's also pain and work and ugly truth sometimes. It's in this utter acceptance of our humanness that we have a chance at finding a string of true beauty and divine happiness. 

Divine. Happiness.

What Every Woman Needs to Know...

Every woman needs to know… How beautiful she is inside and out. In today’s world we are all running so fast to places we want to get… Stumbling over details, living life vicariously through social posts and displayed successes of others… That unless we are reminded on a regular basis about the beauty of the moment and of ourselves living through that moment, it slips away, the beauty of life slips away under a mountain of to-dos and have-tos and want-tos.

YOU are beautiful. But it’s not how you are used to think about it… It’s not about how you seem to other people or how you think of yourself.. It’s your happiness that is beautiful, your energy, your joy, your bliss that is so evident to everyone around and to yourself when it is there.

What I’d like to ask of you today is this: Relax. Breathe. Let yourself experience bliss and happiness. Allow yourself to FEEL beautiful. To feel the beauty of life all around you -- the trees, flowers, bees, kids, successes, breakthroughs, art, love, families, physical strength, and anything that inspires you… It is here. It is in this world - for you to marvel at.

Well there you have it.

Allow yourself to marvel at life in all its quirky shapes and forms. It is beautiful, and so are you. We are inseparable from life. Just as diverse and magnificent as life is, so are you.

I hope that if and when we meet, you get to feel what I’m talking about. You get a glimpse of the beauty of yourself when you are happy. My quest here is simply that - to remind you. To reflect back at you what you already know. To put a mirror up in front of your most beautiful, glorious self and to have this beauty magnify with the power of your inner joy and outer smile.

May you be happy today and always,

Infinite Love,

Natalia

Giving for Good

Over the past few months, we have been cooking up an exciting event, at the heart of which lies generosity and kindness.

One day, about 4 months ago, I was lucky to receive a phone call from a lovely lady whom I knew mostly through her parents (I used to take drama classes and perform on stage at a community theatre ran by her family). She told me about her idea and asked me if I would consider donating my photography for it. The idea involved dogs & flowers, and of course me being an animal lover I quickly got excited to be involved! And from that moment on, the snowball began to roll... 

And so here we are now - introducing to you our creation - an event to honor and celebrate the beauty of all dogs, so that we can save more of them by fundraising for a local rescue - Big and Small Rescue Society.

Leana, the girl that called, told me her story. She adopted two rough-looking dogs from the rescue and they changed her life. Now she wants to change the lives of others - dogs and humans included. Hence, this Fundraiser has been a gesture of her heart - organizing and negotiating over the course of the past few months. Read the Vancity Buzz article covering her story here: http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2016/03/rescue-beauty-beasts/ (Thanks Vancity Buzz!)

As for my heart, it is in it fully too - all proceeds from ticket sales for April 23 and 30th are for Big and Small Rescue Society. That's right, 100% of proceeds from your session bookings made on those two Saturdays in April are going to the Rescue!

Let us now bring to you all the juicy details of this beautiful event not to be missed. Please tell others and let's pack our studio full so that we can save more dogs by supporting Big and Small Rescue with all the wonderful work they do for the animals.

Join us on April 23, 30th and May 14 (Saturdays) for photo sessions of your beloved dog wearing fresh flower crowns (generously made and donated by Floretta.ca) in my studio (Mount Pleasant/Olympic Village neighbourhood). Sessions run every 30 minutes from 10 am to 5 pm and the cost is $60 (photo session + 1 high-resolution retouched digital image for you to keep). Additional images will be available for a bargain of $25/each with half of those proceeds going to support the rescue as well. Book online through Big and Small Rescue website here: http://www.bigandsmallrescue.com/photo-shoot.html and let's create art for you and your furry wet-nosed friend!

I can't wait to see you and your dog there! 

With love,

Natalia

That Special Bond

The past few days a thought about that special bond has been dangling at the front of my mind...filling me with warmth and gratitude. Perhaps it is a nudge to dedicate this post to the subject of connection with my models. And in the past few days, my models have been dogs. And here's what occurred to me: 

Each photoshoot is incredibly special to me. While it is a brief encounter, it is a mini-relationship with its own intimacy and closeness. The connection a photographer and model share is unique and lasts a few hours at most, but in that time and space magic happens. And lately, this magic has been happening to me while photographing dogs. 

I've always been an animal lover, but now, I feel that love has deepened. I honor each animal I photograph and greet it like a long time friend. We form an instant connection based on warmth and mutual love. That's right, I love each soul I shoot (with my camera, of course!), and it seems to me, each one can feel my love. 

Every photoshoot, I get licks and kisses across my face from my dog models and I love every moment of it! Owners apologize for the excessive affection of their pet, but to me this is the happiest moment! It gives me so much joy to see an animal happy, enjoying itself, and treating me with trust and playfulness. There is no word to fully describe the feeling. All I can say is... Thank you. Thank you for bringing your furchild into my studio and giving me the opportunity to connect with them, get to know their character, and then capture it for you and all of us to enjoy. I feel very lucky to have these moments. It is that special bond that gives me and my work depth and meaning beyond the images I create.

Thank you to Vea & family for bringing Minka & Stirling to studio for a photoshoot with me! I adored photographing these lovebugs!

With love & gratitude always,

Natalia

Dogs have more fun!

The other day I had 3 dogs in my studio - meet Lucas, Lucia (3-year-old brother and sister), and Boss ('uncle' to the big two!). Oh the fun we had...! Jumping, playing, enjoying "couch time" (which is usually a no-no at home) and lots of cuddles!!

It was tricky to get these guys to sit still and required a lot of help from the wonderful owners, whom I've known half my life and finally got to meet their rambunctious pets that I now adore! But amongst all the running, jumping and energetic activity I had to catch moments of stillness to take a shot much like a circus performer catching objects when juggling! Armed with squeeze toys and training treats, we teamed up to get these four-legged powerhouses to behave. One of the funniest moments was when one of their owners, Oleg, was asking the dogs to get onto the couch. Obviously, the dogs have been well-trained to behave at home and NOT go on the couches, and here they were asked the opposite! It took some persistent convincing to get the dogs onto the couch and once they did they couldn't believe their luck! Jumping, playing and enjoying couch time to the max meant they definitely had a blast! And watching them enjoy themselves was such a treat for all of us.

What an enjoyable challenge - working with someone radically different! Everyone had fun, which means this experiment was a success and I am definitely doing this again! Being an animal lover from birth, I could not have imagined a better way to work & play than in the company of four-legged friends. And on that note, I have 5 doggie shoots lined up. I can't wait to meet them all and capture their characters & energy! This beginning sure is an exciting one!

 

Our First Hello

Here it is - a new blog. A new story to tell!

In a way, this marks history for me. Just days ago I made a big decision - one that may change my whole life. It's one of those moments when you find yourself standing at a huge fork in the road and knowing perfectly well that once you choose your direction, your life will be very different. And the further you go down one path, the further away becomes the other. Point of no return! And I'm excited. This direction - photography - sure feels right. It inspires me like nothing else ever has. It gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up at night. Ideas flood my mind and my hands are itching to realize them. I can't wait to share my journey here with you! I hope it will be one worth following, and may it inspire us to keep dreaming, working, and realizing our imagination!

Welcome to my new website & blog! I hope you find something inspiring here and that you visit often.

Let us begin!