Looking back at 2012…the accomplishments, the challenges, my personal life, & my business.
Weddings and my photography business has been the main focus of my life for the past few years, so I’ll start there. I love all the couples that found me this year- no bridezillas, no drama, just lots of fun, laid-back & truly unique weddings. The vintage theme was popular this year, as well as all things colorful & unique. And wedding entertainment took on new meaning with burlesque dancers, tarot card readers, fire spinners, and hula hoopers. I will be doing a post soon specifically dedicated to the weddings of 2012, so subscribe to my blog for more on that and the best wedding pictures from 2012.
I was very excited this year to have been named a preferred wedding photographer by three amazing Colorado wedding venues. The incredibly gorgeous Highlands Ranch Mansion, the urban industrial Mile High Station in Denver, and the vintage Temple Events Center, also known as Pathways Church in Denver. Since this question does get asked a lot, I will just point out that these venues do not get any kickbacks for referring me, and I don’t pay to be on their preferred vendor list. Instead they all select their photographers by their talent, work ethic, experience, and professionalism. Therefore, it is an honor to be recognized by these venues amongst hundreds of wedding photographers in the Denver area.
Throughout 2012 I continued to book photo shoots during the winter months in warmer New Orleans. I am so fortunate to be from a place that is a popular wedding destination and has a wedding season opposite of Colorado, where I currently live. Most weddings in New Orleans take place October-May, truly the opposite of the Colorado wedding season which runs from May-October. I love New Orleans & I love Denver, so I’m always more then happy to travel back and forth between these two amazing cities.
Lifestyle Portraits. Over the years I have been drawn more and more to “lifestyle” photography, which captures more realistic portrayals of people in their environments (as compared to a portrait against a white backdrop and with fake props in a studio). Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fashion & boudoir photo shoots which often do work best in a studio setting. But for a documentary purpose its great to capture a person in their own home; it makes the image that much more personal and memorable. The beautiful woman below wanted beautiful portraits to celebrate her birthday. She loves to cook, paint, and photography, so we did some pictures in various parts of her house and then finished the photo session with some more risque but beautiful boudoir pictures.
And I am in love with these shots below of my new nephew Cody at my sister’s home in New Orleans. My dad happened to come over while I was taking pictures and I captured a proud grandfather smile holding his grandson for the first time. Below left is big brother Caleb doing what he does best- playing with trains on the living room floor.
Every year I tend to get a couple of commercial photo shoots through mouth to mouth referrals. Weddings and portraits will always be my passion, but if the photo shoot is interesting enough I’m always willing to take on the challenge of something completly different. So when I got a call from an oil company through a referral to do some photography for their new educational brochure I jumped at the chance. And I have to say, working with a bunch of men in an oil field is not all that different then working with a group of groomsmen during a wedding. And apparently their design team totally digged my artistic lifestyle way of shooting, kudos! Here are two of the shots from this photo shoot:
Even with the increase in referrals this year, my photography business still took a hard hit in 2012 with a lot less photo shoots than 2011. I took advantage of the slow down by working on an updated logo (do you like it??) and new website (still in process). At first I couldn’t stop analyzing and trying to pin-point why I wasn’t getting as many bookings – not enough advertising? too much competition? prices too high? prices too low? Until I finally resigned to the idea that it was just a sign to slow down and breathe. Inhale…Exhale… Since I moved to Denver 7 years ago I have been photographing weddings and portraits, or editing them, pretty much every weekend and every evening. And when I took on my business, Nicole Nichols Photography, full time in January 2009, the work piled on as I spent an average of 12hrs/day, 6 days a week, doing all that I could to beat the statistics and survive as a professional photographer. Well, 2011 proved to me that my business is not only surviving but successfully succeeding. It was a comforting realization that I needed to stop working so much and spend more of my time with the people I love. So I made the decision to stop working non-stop, enjoy the holidays, take Sundays off, and to also make every Wednesday date night with my husband. I finally had some spare time to devote to personal photography projects, and to simply enjoy life….which I certainly did this year! This was the first summer since I have lived here that I was really able to enjoy the Colorado summers with weekend road trips, camping adventures, and weekly bike rides. At first the workaholic in me had trouble shutting off my computer or turning down photo shoots for a day off. Sure its less money, but its also less stress and a lot more enjoyable life moments. And my husband, my friends, my family, and I… have all been much happier with this new free time I’ve been able to share with them.
I found a new passion for camping, biking, and all things Colorado this year, below are a few pictures from those adventures:
I’m thrilled that I still love weddings, both attending and photographing them. I had the pleasure of attending three of my closest friends’ weddings this year. They were all Southern weddings, so I traveled to Florida, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans to enjoy them. It was fun to attend a wedding just as a guest and revel in the magic of their wedding day. And while I was traveling for weddings I made a point to schedule in a few days with my family. Below is a fun Florida boat ride with my dad in central Florida.
My husband and I LOVE to travel. In fact, we recently admitted to each other that if the other did not enjoy traveling, we wouldn’t have gotten married- that’s how important it is to us! We love to explore new places, meet new people, and learn different cultures. No expensive car, fancy shoes, or Prada purse will ever replace the adventure of travel for us. And with the additional free time this year we took advantage of every weekend & holiday we had off to take as many trips as we could possibly get away with….and we got away with a lot! Below is a photo from the playa of Burming Man. If you have yet to hear about this incredible art festival in Nevada, then do some research and if it sounds like its up your alley then just do it! It’s definitely a worthwhile road trip from Colorado. We try to go every year but missed it last year due to work commitments, so we were thrilled to be able to return this year. Also below is a picture of my husband & I at a Mexican restaurant during our first road trip ever to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe is a fun artistic small city with colorful pueblo architecture, spicy foods, and great people. Beside that is a photo of my husband and I on a balcony on Frenchmen St. Mardi Gras day in New Orleans. Growing up in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is one holiday if at all possible you don’t miss! And thankfully we didnt’ miss this one, because I had a kick-ass peacock costume that I actually made myself and was dyeing to wear.
And even when we didn’t have enough time to get out of the state, we found so many fun things to enjoy around Colorado. What a great place to live…when you have the time to enjoy it!
Below Left– I took my mom on a leisurely hike around Evergreen, CO when she came in for a weekend visit.
Below Right– With Sundays off I was able to enjoy more Saints games at our local Saints bar- Stoney’s, just a short bike ride from our house. This place will make any New Orleanian feel like their home during a Saints game- with gumbo, Bloody Mary’s, New Orleans music, and even second line parades!
Below Left– Enjoying another Sunday off to march with my friends from ColoradoGayWeddings.com during Pridefest in Denver, CO.
Below Right– One of my favorite times to travel up to the mountains- closing weekend of the ski slopes when bands such as The Wailers pictured below, perform free concerts at the base of the mountain.
And with the additional free time I was able to finally get around to re-designing, and remodeling our backyard. It went from a heap of dog crap & pot holes to a beautiful relaxing outdoor extension of our home. Watch the photo below switch from the before, during, and after pictures of the extensive process:
And my biggest accomplishment for 2012….Africa! At the end of the year I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream while completing a challenging yet extremely rewarding personal project. For a decade I have been wanting and trying to travel to Africa. I have always been drawn to Africa for their unique culture and beautiful landscape. When one of my best friends from college returned home to Mauritius (a small island off the east coast of Africa) after graduating from college ten years ago, I always knew I would one day travel across the world to visit her. But I also knew to go so far around the globe I wanted to make the most of my trip and travel with more of a purpose then just drinks on the beach (not that there is anything wrong with that). After such a successful year in business in 2011, I had a strong desire to give back to the universe and to volunteer my time and services for the greater good of mankind. So when I found out two friends of mine were board members of a small grassroots organization called Friends Vision, that helps orphans in Kenya go to school and live a better life, I knew I had to go out there to help however I could. With the help of my husband and a couple other photographers we created “Photographers Vision for Africa” and traveled to Kenya to volunteer our time and our expertise. Five of us from Denver collected cameras, laptops, clothes, and toys, to donate to the children. We also spent a lot of time teaching them how to use these new toys and worked with a children’s homes, two orphanages, and an HIV/AIDS clinic during our time there. Scroll down to my previous blog post or click this link “Traveling to Africa- Part I” to read part 1 of this story and view more pictures. And please subscribe to my blog for many more upcoming stories about Africa.
After two weeks volunteering my husband & I traveled on to Mauritius to visit Thelma, one of my best friends from college whom I had not seen in ten years. The island of Mauritius is incredibly beautiful and unique. Above is a photo of the North side of the island where we were able to swim, waterski, and snorkel. I bought a colorful sari in town and Thelma and I got dressed up our last night as she took us out on the town to a great seafood restaurant and then cocktails & hooka at a five star resort on the beach. Our journey to Africa was incredible. It was soul satisfying yet heart-breaking in so many ways. The successful trip reassured my belief that anything is possible, especially witnessing firsthand the power of such a small but dedicated group of individuals committed to helping so many innocent and forgotten children. And after talking about it for years…it was great to finally be able to see Thelma’s hometown and to spend time together after being apart for so long. The trip to Africa was by far one of the most amazing adventures I have ever undertaken…and made 2012 one year I will certainly never forget.
So what’s next for 2013?
A few weddings are already on the calendar, including a destination wedding in one of my favorite places- Jamaica! Michelle & T.J. (below) are taking me with them 5-10-13 for what I’m sure will be one epic adventure.
I’m also going to continue to slow down a bit to make sure life doesn’t pass me by too fast. I may have had less clients this year, but the quality of my photography and the quality of my service & products has greatly improved because of it. And because I will never stop doing what I love, I am also going to continue working on expanding my business to include more bellies, babies, and boudoir lifestyle & artistic photography. I am also in the process of setting up an art showing to display all of the work Photographers Vision from Africa did while in Kenya. And perhaps more international travel will also be on the agenda. Only time will tell what awaits us in the New Year…..hopefully no more end of the world scares, they’re getting really old. 😉