I'm turning into one of those old people who doesn't quite remember where or when or how I met a person, but I'm glad I did.
I know I've run into Beth at yoga. I know I've catered an event that Beth was photographing. I know I've read about her adventures in magazines and thought to myself, "I need to ask her about that the next time I see her". I know I've been meaning to sign up to the surf camp Beth hosts with her friends each summer at Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak in Empire.
But I can't for the life of me remember where I met Beth.
I just know that my former boss who I worked under at the National Park Service was listening to me talk one afternoon at lunch about how I was planning on starting a business after the funding for my position couldn't be renewed under the new administration in 2017, and she mentioned Beth's name.
She was surprised I was considering starting a wedding planning business and said so over her glasses and a sandwich at Riverfront Deli where we used to go once or twice a month.
"But you're a community planner, and a trail planner, and a parks planner", she said.
"Sort of", I replied.
I don't know if 1 year as an intern, 2 years as an associate, and 1.5 years in a fellowship makes you much of an anything, and I told her just as much. My career was finally at that point where it felt like everything was falling into place at the robust age of 27, and then admittedly, it felt like the floor dropped out from under me when we learned the Great Lakes Leadership Initiative was set to be drastically defunded per the new fiscal year budget. And with it, my projects, my job, my dream of being a parkie were tied up in some bullshit bureaucracy that left little choice to do anything but move on from.
"Well I know a photographer named Beth", Barb said. "And she's kind of like you because she loves the water and likes to be outside and does weddings too. You should email her".
And that was it. My introduction to Beth.
In the final days of work before my contract ended, Barb told me about everyone she knew up in Leelanau County and Traverse City who I should connect with in my next life. She assured me they were good people. They would become my new colleagues and creative partners and sometimes coworkers, and my friends.
The life of creative entrepreneurship has had it's freedoms. And it's challenges too. One of them is being a social person, who works largely alone most of the day until wedding season starts full steam ahead.
Over the past two years though, I've met and connected with women like Beth. Who don't exactly fit a single mold or fit my idea of what I thought the wedding industry would be.
Who are deeply a part of this place and their work and art embodies that. Who represent my Northern Michigan circle of people I am still getting to know, and still getting used to. Who refuse to be defined by what they do to make a living, because making a living takes on so many shapes and forms as the seasons change and as the economy changes and as families change and as land changes. I like that sort of adaptability and resilience.
And I love the new Northern Michigan people I've met.
I love that Northern Michigan people take a spring break. Like every single one of them goes on a spring break this week in March. I've never considered spring break a lifestyle since going to Myrtle Beach as a senior in high school in 2007.
I love that Northern Michigan people aren't that easy to reach all the time. Okay I love/hate that but from a personal perspective, I love that. We'll get back to you, but we're at the beach, or the farmer's market, or backpacking, or just holed up in our cabin for a week and we can't be reached, but we'll get back to you.
I love that Northern Michigan people bike across the Straits of Mackinac and swim in the big lake up until November and have one too many boats and build garages bigger than my house for the toys.
I love that Northern Michigan people know how to chop wood and wear too much flannel and eat really good food and recycle and seem to know more basic information about the weather and plants and animals than people south of Cadillac.
I love watching three or four generations of families line up to get a hot dog or an ice cream cone and looking for the related ones in the bunch. Sometimes it's a nose or the way they walk or the fact that they are wearing matching colors that you know who belongs to who.
I love that between October and May, we pretty much have the land to ourselves up here and I can walk almost any trail I want without seeing another soul.
I love that for the most part, people in Northern Michigan don't ever lead with "So what do you do for work?" More often I get, "So what brought you up here?" "What are you into?" and "Where do you live?"
Because place matters, and what you're into outside of work matters, and what brought you up here, to stay, is a favorite story transaction between all people born here, and every downstater who makes it their forever home.
I'm here because I wanted to be somewhere I liked to look at every day.
Beth is here because she was fortunate enough to have been born and raised on the water. We met because of fortune and chance, all tied up into one, as it were, and I'm thankful for that.
P.S., Beth is also smart. So she spends a large part of the winter down in El Salvador, catching waves, riding surf, meeting new friends, and always taking pictures. Feel free to muse at @bethpricephotography.
When the sun comes back, she'll be back in Michigan as a lifestyle, wedding, and portrait photographer
Beth Price of Beth Price Photography and Priceless Photography
You studied photography and graduated with an arts degree in photography. How has that background shaped your process and work?
My background in photography affects my work on a daily basis because I use it every day. My college, Brooks Institute, was known for its technical instruction. It was liberating as now I had the tools and a foundation I needed to launch my career.
Do you think a formal photography education is still a requirement for success in the industry?
I don’t believe, nor have I ever, that a formal education is a requirement for a successful career in the photographic industry. Currently there are resources everywhere if they are sought after – it’s the 21st century!
When I was 15 I built a makeshift darkroom in my parents’ basement. My Dad’s co-worker sold him everything I needed (including an enlarger, trays, tongs and a safelight) for $100. I had the drive and passion to seek out teaching myself.
I chose a formal education because I sought more and wanted a disciplined environment. Some of the best instruction available existed at Brooks. I also wanted the space and time to truly be a student before beginning my professional career. Regardless how it’s done I feel strongly that the principles of photography are learned.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you started your photography business, was film still the predominant medium? What was the transition to digital like?
A huge shift was occurring from film to digital capture when I graduated college in December of 1999. I took one Photoshop class and we scanned our film into the computer in order to have images to work with. Lightroom and similar editing programs didn’t exist and no one really had digital cameras yet as they were bulky and expensive.
I purchased my first digital camera body in 2004 – five years after graduating college and a year after starting my wedding and portrait business. I feel I was able to make the transition a relatively smooth one. I’m super particular about image quality so for me the toughest part was waiting for the technology to reach my standards.
I still have my film cameras and lenses and bring them out from time to time to use for nostalgic purposes as well as a creative exercise. I love shooting on my 4x5 field camera and it’s “look” that I can’t replicate with my digital process. Capturing with it tests my knowledge of photography as well as my patience.
I love how inspired by water you are. Growing up in a water lover’s community and paradise seems to be the inspiration behind so much of your work. Do more people need to get married on boats?!
Thanks for recognizing my water connection. I’m not sure why but it took me a long time to take ahold of this fact about myself, I’m fortunate for my roots and parents who raised me by near water. I’ve also never been told I can’t pursue my dreams. Yes, I’m fortunate.
Sure more people need to get married on boats – especially if they feel a connection to them. It certainly lends itself to a more intimate wedding backdrop. How about on surfboards or SUP paddleboards? Now that would be an adventure!
Beth's lifestyle photography with Ella Skrocki of Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak in Empire, Michigan.
How has your photography transitioned over the years? Are you still passionate about wedding photography, or has lifestyle photography become your new passion?
I think about my photographic journey a lot. It’s never-ending and with several transitions. I’d prefer it that way as it’s more exciting and allows for growth. I’m passionate about photography period; this I know. I work best when I juggle weddings and portraits with lifestyle, commercial and stock photography. I’m definitely shifting more towards the latter, but I wouldn’t say that makes me less passionate about wedding photography. If anything it elevates it.
One of Beth's iconic shots of a Northern Michigan summer wedding
I’ve always wondered if couples connect more with photographers who have passions outside of wedding photography, would you say so?
I wonder that myself, if people connect more with photographer who have passions outside of wedding photography. In my case I’d like to think so but honestly it should comes down to portfolio and personality. Couples should hire the person they vibe with.
I was reading about the demographics of photographers and didn’t realize that until very recently, most commercial photographers were male. Was that your experience in the early 2000’s? What shifted or happened to allow for more women to pick up photography?
That’s interesting, the reading you did on demographics. It makes sense given the recent headlines and I’m thrilled it’s being addressed.
Personally I’ve never felt interior to my peers because I’m a woman and I’m grateful it hasn’t hindered me (as I know it exists). It’s a good time to be a woman and the groundwork begun by our foresisters is moving forward with momentum globally. It’s very inspiring.
You are an avid outdoorswoman and adventurer. Two of my favorite projects you do are your paddle trip on the Au Sable and the surf camp you attend with Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak. How have these experiences shaped you and how do you think we’re doing opening up experiences for women in the outdoors?
Oh I love that you used “avid outdoors woman and adventurer” when describing me, so great! My experience on the Au Sable and with the Shred Camp has given me just that, more experience. With that I may help lead the way and open it up for other women seeking the same. I’m finding in putting myself out there it’s creating connections with like-minded women. Within our skill sets and expertises we are able to collaborate and adventure together. It’s an exciting time as it’s following and building upon the path begun by our foresisters.
Beth paddlepacking the Aus Sable River in summer 2018 for MyNorth Media.
You can find Beth over at bethpricephotography.com.