Soul Healing and Bucket-Listing in Sweden

 

Travel, and specifically, solo female travel, has been a passion for me for some time.   It probably stemmed from necessity after getting divorced a decade ago and finding that my friends often weren’t available or didn’t have the funds to join me on trips when I was ready to go.   I’m sure my first true vacation alone was to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I traveled for work alone on occasion, but that felt far more “acceptable” than traveling alone to a resort town. Even though I had accommodations for a week beginning on Saturday, I booked my return airfare home on Wednesday, positive that I would be bored out of my mind by being alone with myself.   Fast forward to Tuesday, and I absolutely wasn’t ready to leave my little paradise! I changed my ticket that night, and spent the rest of the week in complete relaxation and happiness.

Since then, I’ve gone on quite a few beach-y vacations by myself, even after finding myself back in a long term relationship a few years ago with my current significant other.   Even though traveling with others is fun, sometimes you just need to disconnect and be with yourself to recharge and de-stress from life.   This was extremely important for me over the years, as I had a very stressful job that consumed me. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of working long hours, fighting to find work life balance, and running off on vacations (both solo and with others), but never finding true peace and happiness. In November of this past year, I was on a long weekend with girlfriends in Mexico, complaining about the stress of my job, and they told me something life changing (and extremely simple)… That I was the only one keeping me from happiness and that I did not have to stay in a career that was no longer feeding my soul. They reminded me that my skills and experience could translate to numerous industries and that I could still be successful, but doing something I love.   So I did the unthinkable (for me) when I returned…I quit my job without having another job to go to (or any idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life!!!) and booked a trip to northern Sweden to photograph the Northern Lights. After a month of going through various stages of emotions related to walking away from my successful career…relief, fear, sadness, fear, acceptance, fear, and finally, happiness, the one thing that was unwavering was my excitement for my first adventure-type solo trip and off to Sweden I went!

Photography is something I have always enjoyed, but I didn’t get serious about it until four years ago when I purchased a really, really good camera.   Unfortunately, I could go through long periods of not taking pictures because of work and life in general getting in the way and making me “not in the mood” to go out and shoot pictures. I knew when I left my job, part of my healing process had to be enjoying two things I love…travel and photography. I started looking for photography related tours or workshops that were in December, and found a lot of them to be African safaris. I’ve already been on safari in Africa, and while I want to go back, I needed to do something different. The Northern Lights have been on my bucket list for some time, and after a little bit of searching, I stumbled upon Lights Over Lapland.   Based in the Arctic Circle town of Abisko, Sweden (population 200), I found I was in luck and they had one spot left in their four-night Northern Lights Aurora tour the first week of December. While not specifically a “photography workshop”, the company actually provides camera equipment, arctic gear, and instruction on how to capture the aurora, this actually seemed perfect as I didn’t necessarily want to be with a bunch of far more experienced photographers for my first trip like this. I told my boyfriend about the workshop, and being the super supportive person that he is, he told me to book it and enjoy this time for me and me alone. I didn’t waste any time!

I arrived in Stockholm on a Sunday evening after nearly 14 hours of flight time and additional travel hours due to a long weather delay in Frankfurt. I spend the night in the hotel in the terminal, and set out the next morning in the 1.5 hour flight to Kiruna in the far north of Sweden. From the Kiruna airport, it was another 1.5 hour drive to the hotel, the STF Touristation Abisko in Abisko.  Abisko is a tiny, tiny village, and there are only a few places to stay. The hotel accommodations were part of my package, as were the meals, which made travel planning very seamless. We were greeted by our guide, Sarah, and sent off to our rooms for a rest before our first group dinner at 5:30pm.   After dinner, we returned to our rooms to put on our layers, and meet up again at 7:30 to get our “arctic suits” and for the rest of the group to obtain and get instruction on their camera gear (I brought my own camera equipment). After this was complete, we set off for our first night of aurora hunting, which was to a location a short walk (or wobble in our suits and layers) away from the light pollution of the hotel. Within a few minutes of setting up my tripod and camera, the lights started to appear faintly in the sky. The excitement of our group was electrifying!  I suddenly felt like a little kid again. We all started snapping pictures for fear that this would be the only display we would get to see, as the aurora is never a guarantee with variable winter weather. Little did we know that we would be lucky more than once!   I stayed up late into the early morning editing photos and posting them on Facebook and Instagram, because I was so excited to share what I had just witnessed with my eyes.

Army Hut Photo

On the second night, we took a 45-minute ski lift ride to the top of Mt. Noulja, over the quiet, snowy landscape to the Aurora Sky Station. Just as the evening before, the light show began literally as I set up my camera. But this time, it was absolutely spectacular and magical. The auroras were green and pink and extremely bright, and they moved across the sky in a dazzling display.  Sarah said that this was a result of a powerful solar storm, and that this was the best aurora of the season so far. It was easy to forget that it was -14 degrees Celsius and windy on top of this moonscape-like mountain as I went between snapping as many shots as I could and staring at the sky in awe. I literally had tears in my eyes, because I realized how fortunate I was to be able to see this beautiful phenomenon that many people will never see other than in photographs. I understood in this moment that I was on the right path, even though my path isn’t clear to me yet, and that I was experiencing pure joy without a worry in the world.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I stayed up very late again editing and posting on social media, as I did on the following nights. We saw the auroras again faintly on the next evening, but the final evening was a huge snowstorm, and I ended up making a wise choice and staying in and curling up with a glass of wine and my laptop, while the group sat around a fire for hours outside that resulted in no reward.  I was surviving on very little sleep from the late nights on my laptop, and days filled with activities such as dogsledding and trips to the Ice Hotel and Norway. I was sad to leave this little arctic town, the cozy hotel, and the little group of us who came from all corners of the globe to witness the Northern Lights, most of us for the first time.

Me dogsledding
Dog sledding in Abisko (iPhone photo)
me ice hotel
Visiting the Ice Hotel in Kiruna (iPhone photo)

 

I left Abisko with my heart full of love for both nature and myself, and spent the next few days exploring Stockholm, which was already in the full swing of the Christmas season. I wandered through Gamla Stan, dined on Swedish meatballs, visited the ABBA museum, and took many, many photographs, and probably seemed like I was spamming the heck out of my followers on Instagram! But I happy that I was finally finding joy again in photography and that I had taken the time to find myself and my passion in one of the most magical countries and landscapes!

Follow more of my travel and photography adventures on Instagram at www.instagram.com/michellekenyonphoto/

Me in front of northern lights

Photo Credit: Why do I need to credit the photographer when I post my photos on social media?

While I’ve only been in business officially for a few short months, I’ve been asked this question several times already by clients and potential clients. In fact, I have already lost a client because I wouldn’t strike the clause in my portrait photography contract requiring the client to provide me with photo credit for any digital images that they share on social media. Honestly, before I became a photographer, I never really thought much about ownership of images and the art that is photography, so hopefully by writing this I will provide some insight and clarity!

In this age, photographers are being asked more and more to provide the client with digital image files as part of their sessions, rather than prints, photo albums, and other mediums that used to be popular and the norm in the days of film. That’s because images are needed for everything online…from internet dating sites, social media profiles, etc. Most of us are connected to our friends and family via social media websites like Facebook and Instagram, sharing our lives with them and the world beyond, so when we have photographs of ourselves that we love, we want to share them! Come on, you know you’ve taken a selfie or two that you’ve worked hard to get right, and once you do, you put it online for all your friends and family to see!

Back to the subject of photo credit. First of all, who owns a photograph after it has been captured either on film or digitally? When we pay a photographer to take photos of us or our families and we are given a finished product either in print or in image files, it might seem like we should own the final product, right? However, here in the US, ownership of photographs is governed by the Federal Copyright act of 1976. Photographs are actually protected at the moment they are created, and the owner of the image and the copyright is generally the person who snapped the photo, unless there is a special circumstance in which the copyright is transferred to a different person or entity through a specific legal agreement, which is described in detail by the US Copyright Office.  But wait, I’m in the image, I paid for it, and someone else owns it? Yes, this is why photographers have contracts that identify how you can use their images specifically, including providing credit to the photographer when you share images online. Keep in mind that it can be possible to purchase copyrights from the owner, but this usually comes at a hefty fee, as the owner is giving up all rights to the photographic art that they have created!

Ok, so what can you do with the photographs from your portrait session?  First of all, make sure you read your contract carefully! For a personal portrait session with me, my contracts state that the images are reserved for personal use.  That means you can have them printed and frame them in your home or place in an album.  But as I said above, this is the digital age, and most people want digital image files as part of their portrait photography package. As these digital images are copyrighted, the following simple rules apply:

  • Do not alter the photos in any way, including but not limited to cropping, adding filters, or Photoshopping on your own.  The photographer didn’t just snap a photo of you…they most likely spent a lot of time on the creative process, either during the shoot or in post processing.  The photo that you are provided with is a piece of art, and it is representative of the photographer’s work and brand.  Altering the photo from the artist’s original intent would misrepresent their work, and this could potentially be detrimental.
  • When you do share your photos on social media, make sure to credit the photographer!
  • Do not give copies of the digital image files to anyone else.  They were sold to you and you alone for your personal use.

Ok, well, now I’ve made having professional portraits sound scary!  It’s actually a lot of fun and with the right photographer, you can get amazing photographs that you will absolutely want to share!  And as a photographer, I want you to share your beautiful photos with the world!!   Sharing the photos with your social network can help me and my business grow!  Word of mouth referrals are the best marketing tools.

So, how do I give proper photo credit?  A simple way of providing photo credit is simply stating “Photo courtesy of Michelle Kenyon Photography” in the caption of your social media post.  But an even better way to provide photo credit is to tag my social media handle in the caption instead of the simple text of Michelle Kenyon Photography, because the social media tag can be clicked by viewers of the post and then they can either see more examples of my work or inquire with me directly!

Personally, my preferred photo credit on social media is tagging my social media handles associated with my business:

Facebook:  Michelle Kenyon Photography

Instagram:  michellekenyonphoto

Twitter:  Michell023

LinkedIn:  michellekenyon1

Hopefully this article provides a little clarity to the copyright and photo credit issues,  whether you use me or another professional photographer!  In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions at michelle@michellekenyon.com!

PhotoCredit on Instagram
Example of proper photo credit on Instagram post by model Azalea Jeanette