At an invitation of a family friend who knew I was interested in photography, I attended a photography convention in Kentucky. I distinctly recall sitting in a class by Tony Corbell and feeling every word he spoke being way, way, WAY over my head. While he was talking, I was attempting to interpret his alien language and failing miserably.
Defeated, I walked out of the room and decided photography clearly wasn’t for me. Food sounded like a much better idea.
As I walked out of the lecture and into the lobby, a small group had gathered around a few couches in the conference center. Someone called me over, I sat down and it was in those life changing moments that I met Stan and Nola Jones.
Stan and Nola can best be described as professional portrait photographers who are salt of the earth, sweet, down to earth, genuinely loving and good people. While Stan and Nola had a robust portrait photography business in Kentucky (and still do), Stan’s first love was nature photography.
While sitting with this group, I expressed my frustration with everything being so far above my head. Stan and Nola were hosting a photography workshop for a small number of people they knew in the Smoky Mountains and they invited me. I jumped at the chance.
I can still remember my light bulb going off in my head as Stan stood in a field and explained how to photograph in manual. And later when the group wandered towards a waterfall, something in me told me to turn around. I saw something, and for the first moment I heard God whisper through nature “capture this” and I took a picture.
Later that night at the cabin, Stan offered to work up an image of mine. I agreed and knew exactly the one that was supposed to be worked on. It was the image that had called my name. As I sat next to him, watching him click through buttons with the lightening speed of a master, I watched this picture come to life. Depth appeared, vibrant colors entered in, and movement etched it’s way from the screen to my heart. That image would become one of my earliest named prints, aptly called “Nature’s Invitation” (see above).
Much I’m sure to Stan’s dismay I started crying. I wish I could say it was a few pretty tears. It was ugly. In those precious few moments, Stan showed me what I could create when I began to listen.
While most people would stop after the workshop ended and call it a day, Stan and Nola invited me into their home, their hearts and their family. They poured into me and taught me to see. They are people who selflessly change lives.
Through Stan’s mentorship and his encouragement I entered the Kentucky State Print Competition and walked away with actual trophies. I couldn’t believe it.
He then had me enter into the South East District Competition where I received a top 10 print case.
Stan then encouraged me to enter into the International Print Competition for the Professional Photographers Association and I received Diamond Photographer Of The Year, the highest honor in the association.
And while those may have been my photos, it was just as much Stan’s accomplishment and more so. He poured into me, taught me everything he knew, and together that Diamond became ours.
While time and distance have separated us from these precious people, I often go back to that very place where Stan and I stood, and I think about those first few moments where it all began to make sense.
Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and as I look back, my heart is still overwhelmed and deeply thankful for the two people who gave of themselves, their time, and their resources all because they believed in a young girl who was too lost to dream.
Stan & Nola, if you read this: Every bit of what we have achieved is owed to you for changing my life with your mentorship, your love and your friendship.
If mentorship is something you’re craving, Keith and I have some really special news for you that will be releasing soon. As you can see (and I hope feel), mentorship and pouring into others is our core passion and something Keith and I hold sacred.
Because for me, had it not been for mentorship I wouldn’t be where I am today.