On Game Changing Life Moments and Starting A Photography Business

winter wedding at emerald lake lodge
Private vows on our wedding day, January 2017. photo courtesy of: Abby Plus Dave

Hey guys! Erin here. We’ve been busy wrapping up 2018 and getting caught up on blogging & social media posts from the last 365. I’m still almost a full year behind on blogging (EEEEEKKKK), but that’s neither here nor there. For all the 2018 couples waiting for their post, I promise, it’s coming. I just felt like I needed to take a little breather from the day to day workings of our office and write a little personal post …. and here’s why.

This week, Andrew and I celebrated two years of marriage and ten years being together. We met at the very end of 2008 (at a Halloween party in fact!) and we started dating January 2009. Last night we were reflecting back on the past ten years and all the amazing things we’ve been through. We realized how incredibly far we’ve both come. We’ve grown tremendously in our relationship, our business and on working on ourselves. When we started recalling some of the major moments, it dawned on me. Many were incredible opportunities for growth, others brought us indescribable amounts of joy but there were a few that changed our lives forever.

Waverley Train Station, Edinburgh, 2009.

Game changing moments are the kind of moment that divide your life in two. You can clearly say: “There was my life before that moment and my life after. Had I chosen the other direction, things would have turned out differently.” It’s not that the other choice would have been wrong … just vastly different. The other choice would have introduced you to different people, resulted in a different passion or a different life path entirely. Maybe one that is completely unrecognizable from the one you’re on now.

Ten years ago I experienced a game changer that put me on the life path I’m walking now. It was both painful and confusing and at the time, I had no idea how significant it would be. I felt like my life was turned upside down and I had the enormous task of putting things back together again.

Self portrait. Seattle, 2014

It was late 2008. I was on the verge of completing a Masters degree in Biochemistry. I had every intention of snatching up that degree and moving onto the next. Half way through, my life flipped upside down. The guy I thought I was eventually going to marry turned out to be a different person. To be fair, I turned out to be a different person too. That relationship ended. At the same time, I started to question if I truly wanted to pursue career in science and/or medicine. I always thought I’d go to medical school and become a doctor. But when it was time to make that call, something deep in my soul whispered that medicine wasn’t my calling. Although I wouldn’t have called it intuition then, I ended up listening to that little voice.

It was in that chaos that I met Andrew. He was a rock in the river of doubt I was swimming; his presence in my life brought me back to solid ground. My By the time I finished my Masters degree, I knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in science or medicine. I didn’t even attend the graduation ceremony. Andrew and I travelled together for a few weeks and by the end of that trip, I had fallen madly in love with him. For extra points, check out the full love story on our About Page.

Double exposure of Andrew. Captured in camera (Nikon d750) on a foggy day enroute to Lake Louise.

We moved in together, with a few roommates, and I started the 9-5 grind. I took the first job I was offered. By the time my first paycheque cleared, I had $50 to my name. I worked for two different companies for the next three years. But something just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t find my footing working a 9-5 job. After 18 months boredom would set in. I was coming home in tears every night. I couldn’t believe that this was it. This was what I spent seven years of my life studying for. Doing paperwork that could have been automated. I was used to being challenged. I was used to feeling like the work I did was meaningful. I wasn’t getting that from my job anymore.

I wasn’t happy. I was bored.

That’s when Andrew and I took matters into our own hands. If we wanted to be happy, we had to be the CEO’s of our own lives. We were in charge of our own happiness and if we couldn’t find it, we’d have to make it. And so, in June 2013 I quit my full time job and joined Andrew in our growing photography business. We had been photographing weddings for two summers by that point and I was ready to take the leap into full time self-employment. I was ready to be my own boss and I was ready to do it alongside my best friend.

Arguably, this was the definitive game changing moment in our relationship. If we were going to make it as as couple, THIS was the test. Could we spend every waking moment together? Would we be able to make important decisions when it really mattered? Could we overcome not knowing where the next month’s income would come from or how much there would be? Would we buckle under the stress or come together as a unified force?

In hindsight, I should have been terrified. What if this didn’t work? What if the business fails? What if … what if … what if?

Andrew sizing up the rock wall he’s going to climb. Thailand 2015

To be honest, starting our business was less scary than staying in the rut I was in. We didn’t have a mortgage, we had no debt and we didn’t have children. If you can’t take a risk under those circumstances, when can you? It was this commitment – of working alongside each other in building the life we dreamed of – that formed the foundation of our marriage. It was here, in the day to day battle of being the CEO’s of our own lives that our friendship forged into something more. We built a totally committed partnership working together to achieve the same goal in building a life we loved. We didn’t find joy and happiness in a conventional lifestyle, so we broke free and created our own. Honestly guys, this was the most amazing gift we could have given ourselves.

At home, 2017. Photo courtesy of Cassie Molyneux

It wasn’t all butterflies and roses. Don’t get me wrong. There were tough times. I personally went into a period of depression in late 2014 not knowing if it was all going to work out. It was a hard year but Andrew was 100% supportive through it all. He always sheds a positive light when I am unsure, he’s optimistic when I am stuck in small ways of thinking and he helps us power through the workload when everything seems overwhelming. He provides the constant reassurance I sometimes need in knowing we made the right decision to go out on our own.

Starting our business was a huge undertaking. It required a tremendous amount of teamwork, sacrifice and faith that it would all work out. There were a milion times we wanted to quit. However, our business was something tangible we could work on together. There were always problems to solve, but with enough brainpower and effort, there wasn’t much we couldn’t tackle together.

One of the very few photographs we have us together, in the same frame. Maui, 2016. Thank you Haley, of Shandro Photo

In early 2017 we were married. By then we had been together for eight years. Our wedding day was a true celebration of how far we had come. It was a moment to reflect on the relationship we built together. Many people say their wedding day was the best day of their lives, but for us it was just one of many. Having photographed as many weddings as we have, it was so wonderful to experience what we witnessed our couples experiencing on a weekly basis. We learned more about how to serve our wedding couples in the days surrounding our own wedding than we had in the years leading up to it. We finally felt the love & joy that couples feel being surrounded by everyone they love. It was a real reminder of why we do what we do and how strongly a photograph can convey the importance of family and relationship.

Our wedding day. Emerald Lake Lodge, January 2017. Photo by Abby Plus Dave.

We hear lots of people comment about how they could never work with their significant other. They couldn’t imagine spending a work day with their loved one and then switching gears to having a relationship outside of working hours. It’s not at all glamorous and I totally understand why it’s not for everyone. It takes patience, persistence and lots of admitting that you’re wrong. (I have to do that on a weekly basis FOR SURE). There may be less office politics, but if someone is pissing me off at work, it can only be one person …. and that person is hard to avoid when they sit three feet to the left of you and share the same bed.

Hey, I’m not saying it comes naturally to us, but we’ve found a way to make it work. Being in business together encouraged us to talk about finances, work through frustration and break through roadblocks very early in our relationship. We’ve had to get on the same page about pretty much everything OR talk through our differences and compromise. Our livelihood depends on it. In short, running a business has been the best prep course for marriage we can think of and being the CEO of our own lives has been the best decision we’ve ever made. We’ve built a business with three thriving brands … all while an economic crisis has rocked our little city.

I can honestly say, the last ten years have been the best of my life. Meeting Andrew and starting our photography business was a game changer I didn’t see coming. If you had told me at the start of 2009 that I’d be a full time photographer and living the life we are now, I’d never have believed you. Now that we’re here …. I wouldn’t go back to change a thing. Here’s to ten more years.

Self portrait. Seattle, 2014
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