In the second grade, my teacher asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe it was due to the fact that my biological father is an aeronautical engineer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, but I was certain I wanted to be an astronaut. But after an encounter with a tornado, up close and personal, I changed my mind. It was the combination of fear and fascination that made me want to be a storm chaser. Astronauts and storm chasers have one thing in common – science, but my dominant personality trait is artistic.
I began to study music in middle school when I learned to play the clarinet. I worked my way up to first chair and stayed there. In high school, I added the title of drum major. I competed in competitions of all kinds and won medals and trophies. Publicly, I said I was going to be a music major and become the conductor of a symphony orchestra. Secretly, I wanted to be a rock star.
For several years, I sang with a vocal group based out of a small southern Baptist church in Clemson, South Carolina. I loved singing and I am still friends with most of the ladies in that group, even today. However, we were most definitely not rock stars.
I fell in love with my best friend and not long after we were married, we added children to our family. Suddenly, I was a housewife and a stay-at-home mom. Like all parents I wanted pictures of my kids, so I asked for a camera for my birthday. I took hundreds, maybe thousands of pictures of my kids, but that wasn’t all I was taking pictures of. One weekend, a good friend came to visit from Brooklyn. I handed him my stack of photos and after thumbing through them I noticed he was pausing on the “other” pictures. He studied them intently and finally told me that my choice of composition and use of light evoked strong emotions in those images. They were artistic, and I had no idea what he was talking about.
He and my husband strongly urged me to learn, and that turned into a life long obsession with photography. I still chase storms, though not for scientific study – I photograph them, the more violent, the better. Once in a while I still day dream of performing on stage with The Eagles, or playing a guitar solo with Steve Vai. And I remember something my youngest told me once – “Mom, a professional photographer is a lot like a rock star.”