“How many will be dining in your party?” the host asked a woman in front of me.
“Just me,” she said.
He looked at another woman standing directly behind her.
“Oh, I’m by myself, too.”
I snapped my head up from my phone. “Me, too,” I said.
”Oh, I’m alone, too,” said another woman behind me.
“Let’s all sit together!” I said with slightly embarrassing enthusiasm.
Everyone smiled, a little relieved. That day, four complete strangers shared a meal, a passion for photography and the beginning of new friendships.
That, my friends, is Click Away.
Eight months ago, I bought a ticket to attend the annual photography conference hosted by Clickin Moms, the online community that has helped me learn, grow and find inspiration as a photographer. If you’ve ever seen past attendees post their thoughts on Click Away, you probably read things like this:
“Magical! I learned so much and made so many new friends.
This conference is a game-changer!”
“I’ve never experienced anything like this. The talent.
The friendships. The inspiration. I can’t wait to go back!”
“What’s not to love about women sharing their passion
and supporting one another? My heart is full!”
How could I not be intrigued by this utopia of female photographers and friendship? Once Clickin Moms announced the 2019 event would be in Southern California, I knew I had to go. Not even my fear of flying could keep me from booking my plane ticket.
The baggage I packed for California was heavy—it was filled with frustrations, doubts, defeat and insecurities. I had been trudging through a winter slump that left me uninspired and unmotivated. I had begun to doubt myself as a photographer, and I wasn’t sure how to get out of my rut. I hoped Click Away would be the answer.
I felt the resistance lighten the moment the conference began. Amanda Lucidon, official White House photographer for Michelle Obama, walked onto the ballroom stage and handed out inspiration like Lindsay Lohan handing out tiara pieces in Mean Girls. She humbly shared not only the beautiful photos featured in her book, Chasing Light, but also her stories of determination, rejection and success. I left that keynote with a signed copy of her book and a new girl crush.
For the next two-and-a-half days, I was like a kid on Halloween as I raced between keynotes, classes, lunches, dinners and parties, collecting all the little treats I could. The educational sessions were a buffet of inspiration, whether you preferred to stick with the things you know and love or push yourself to try something new.
I started out at the beach with landscape guru Kristen Ryan and practiced some seascape photography, something I don’t get to do much of in Texas:
I also stepped outside my comfort zone and tried some street photography with the inspiring Denise Laurinaitis. This is not my usual genre, and photographing strangers is an intimidating task for this introvert; however, I find street photography to be a fun challenge and can’t wait to try more.
I got lost in the world of macro photography—my personal favorite—with Caroline Jensen, who has taught me, inspired me and supported me so much along the way. Shooting snails alongside her, I felt as giddy as a teenage girl at a boy band concert, but hugging her and thanking her for everything was a moment I will forever cherish.
I also took an editing workshop from Meg Loeks, whose work I have ooh’d and ahh’d over countless times. Her rich, earthy colors and consistent editing style have inspired me to infuse more cohesion into my own work. I soaked up as many of her tricks and tips as I could (when I wasn’t obsessing over her adorable boho top).
This sounds like a pretty solid lineup, right? It keeps going. Ryan Longnecker spoke about getting unstuck in your work—a talk I couldn’t have needed more than I did at that moment. I took pages and pages of notes and left his class with the inspiration I had been craving all winter. And the effervescent Jasmine Star lit a fire under me with her energy and enthusiasm for all things social media.
The most important part of the conference, though, was the camaraderie. I went by myself, but I never felt alone. I met passionate female photographers from all over the country, some I had already met online and others I had never met at all. I met people I admire and people who said they admire me, which made me feel like this:
I arrived in California feeling a bit empty, and I left with my heart feeling full. I feel recharged, refreshed and reminded of how thankful I am not only to have found this passion, but also to share it with so many uniquely talented, supportive and inspiring women. Not once during the weekend did I experience an ounce of competition, a drop of jealousy or even a pinch of negativity. It was the definition of sunshine and rainbows—literally:
I want to thank everyone involved—the organizers, the instructors and the 800+ attendees—for coming together to make this experience so special. I made genuine new friends and found the inspiration I was seeking. Now, I’m adding my voice to the chorus of positive reviews and counting the days until I can go back.
Maybe I’ll see you there!