Taking the Plunge


Lighting practice for my photography school.

It’s 4 p.m. I have no idea what I’m going to feed my family of six for dinner. There are M&Ms scattered all across my kitchen. My oldest has blocked out the world with headphones while he watches a hunting show on my laptop and the two youngest (who he is supposed to be supervising) are rummaging through our candy drawer – hence the M&Ms.

Where am I?

Sprinting through my back yard with a camera strapped to my back chasing my 6-month-old puppy who has a half-eaten rat dangling from her jaws – the tail swinging back and forth.

The crazy level just got upped a notch around here.

It took me and my oldest two boys (I peeled my 10-year-old away from his show) 10 minutes to corner our black fur ball and get her to drop what was left of the rat. I gagged and nearly threw up. Twice.

Life is seldom boring at the Clemens home.


Distortion practice for my photography school. Doesn’t he look thrilled to hold this for me?

But even though we have ample crazy times I have found myself lost lately. I may not be bored, but I have felt unchallenged. I have felt like I have lost my meaning. Like I have plateaued.

I have dreams, I have goals, I have hobbies and passions, but the stay-at-home mom scene has pushed those to the back burner for more than a decade.

Until now.

I took a whim and made a last-minute decision to make one of my long-standing dreams come true.

I signed up for photography school.

I’ve been thinking about it for more than a year now but have held back for a couple of reasons. Could I handle school, homework and all of my stay-at-home responsibilities? Could I pay for the schooling? Is it all right for me to put forth so much effort for something that may be a little selfish?

All of those questions have been rattling around in my mind for months as my husband and I have thought about my future.

Maybe it was the end of a very unsettling year, maybe living in Europe for a month last summer changed my perspective, I’m certain that dealing with a disgruntled neighbor while building our treehouse did. It could be that I am having a mid-life crisis. But whatever the reason, I called and signed up for the Fotofly Academy in Salt Lake City the very last week in December.

Things fell into place and it has felt like it has all been meant to be.


Cropping practice for my photography school. If you look close enough you can see a smudge of chocolate under her bottom lip. I was bribing her to hold still.

So I took out a personal loan – my very first loan for schooling – I made it through my bachelor’s degree as a first-time college student on scholarships and hard-earned cash – and I dove right in.

I’m done watching YouTube videos and reading photography blogs, trying to teach myself what I need to know to make my photos great. I’m ready for hands-on, tell-me-what-I-need-to-work-on instruction.

Classes started Jan. 3 and I have enjoyed every minute.

These first couple of weeks have been very challenging. I’ve gone from feeling all right about my skills, to feeling like crap about my skills, to feeling all right again. Multiple times.


More lighting practice for my photography school.

Just yesterday I felt like I had no idea what I was doing while wandering my back yard with my 8-year-old looking for differing light patterns so I could try out what we learned in class. He and I both laughed when I kept turning and tilting him over and over but still couldn’t get it.

That’s when our pup ran past with the rat and distracted me from my homework.

I think that’s how my photography journey is going to be. I’m sure I’ll continue to go from, “Yeah, I can do this!” to “What was I thinking?” and back again.

My stay-at-home mom brain has been strained as I try to master the skills we’ve learned.

The first week my mind circled through f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, f-stop shutter speed, ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, over and over again.

The second week we added a new layer and I started chanting ribcage, chest height, eye level, ribcage, chest height, eye level.


F-stop practice for my photography school.

This week we are studying light. Now I have another dimension to consider and a new layer of chants: difference in light, position, turn, shift slightly to the shadows.

My mind keeps going. Over and over. I can’t stop thinking about these things. And there’s been much more to remember than these repetitious chants.

But I have learned that the things I enjoy the most in life are the things I have worked the hardest for. It’s rewarding to finally master a skill. I’m going to master photography one class session and homework practice shoot at a time. I’m going to do this if it kills me.

I am happy to say that I have made some progress these first couple of weeks. I am finally shooting in Manual mode – something that has always terrified me in the past.

And I finally modernized my editing game by downloading and learning about Lightroom.

I hesitate to post any pictures I’ve taken for homework on here because I have already learned about a dozen ways to make my early photos look even better, but we all know I’m not big on censorship. So I’m going to do it anyway. The photos with this post are some I’ve taken while trying out the skills I’ve learned.

This is a journey. I’m hoping it takes me far away and that my photos transform along the path as I internalize my studies. I’m hoping you come along with me as I post periodically about becoming a professional photographer. This is going to change my life.

Now if only I can quit cropping people into claustrophobic boxes and find short-light patterns in my surrounding circumstances, I’ll be in business.

Well, in a few months anyway.

I’ve also got to figure out how to get my roller-blading four-year-old to hold still long enough to be my practice model. And how to keep my dog occupied while I’m taking pics outside – no more rats!

Fotofly Academy has been perfect for me so far. I’ve finally paired together two of my passions – learning and photography. It’s a match made in heaven.

Now my only problem is making my other responsibilities seem interesting. For some reason I’d much rather take pictures than fold laundry or scrub toilets.

But then again, who wouldn’t?

Follow my photography journey on Instagram: @natalieclemensphotography.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wendy
    Jan 19, 2017 @ 10:38:03

    Good for you. You’ve always had an artistic eye and it looks like that is paying off.


    • Natalie
      Jan 19, 2017 @ 12:04:12

      Thank you Wendy. That means a lot coming from you. I’m still grateful that you came to Temple Square and took extra pics for me and Travis when we got married. I have some in frames at our house. 🙂


  2. talkincurly
    Jan 19, 2017 @ 13:24:21

    Yay! These are already phenomenal! I’m so glad you are doing something for YOU. You totally deserve to do something you like and makes you happy. I wish I could do that class with you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: