A few days ago I wrote about my intention for 2017 and how it is going to be my year of letting go.  Within that post I described some of the reasons behind my choice of intention – the main one being winning a competition to attend a photography retreat in Colorado.  In the spirit of honesty and authenticity I’ll freely admit that there are other, much deeper reasons that I chose ‘letting go’ as my intention, which I didn’t go into on my last post.  I will.  I’m pretty sure that as the year progresses I won’t have much of a choice.  The words are there in my head, waiting to spill out onto the page (screen) – I just need to organise them a little first and let them out bit by bit rather than in an all-in-one-go torrent.  Ha!  There’s that control again.

When I set an intention I almost always choose a word that will support me and help me stay aligned with that intention both consciously and unconsciously throughout the year.  My intention for 2016 was to ‘follow my heart’ and the words I chose to support me in doing that were ‘love’ and ‘gratitude’.

This year, the only word I feel I can possibly choose is ‘leap’.  It came to mind instantly and insistently and it won’t go away.

In order to go on this photography retreat I’m going to have to take a literal leap of faith and let go of everything I know and everything I think I can control.  It really is going to be the ultimate challenge for me.

Leaping into the unknown is something I’ve done several times before – I’m no stranger to it.  I travelled to Australia aged 19 and spent a year exploring, sleeping in the back of a car and experiencing things I never even dreamed of.  I then hitchhiked my way around New Zealand for three months without having any real plan of where I was going, and leapt off a bridge (bungee jump) and out of an aeroplane (skydive).  I moved out of the home I’d lived in for 21 years – the home I grew up in – leaving everything and everyone behind in order to move 200 miles North to be with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and his daughter.   I had a baby with him.  And then two more in quick succession.  I’m not sure there’s any bigger leap of faith than giving life to a brand new soul and being responsible for loving that soul as hard and as deeply as possible.  I quit my job to set up as a self employed therapist.  I started this blog.

I haven’t regretted a single one of them.  Of course there will always be things I wish I had done differently or handled better, but I know that the way I chose to do things was for a reason and that I was meant to learn something from those choices.

There is absolutely no reason why this next leap won’t work out, even if there are challenges and changes along the way (and I know for sure that there will be many).

It’s no coincidence that the retreat itself is called Leap Retreat.

I’m not sure how much I believe in the power of the universe, or fate, or destiny.  One thing I am certain of though is that there is a reason I won this place – me, out of 5,000 entries.  When the remaining nine spaces were opened up for sale the following day, they sold out literally within minutes.  I feel so incredibly lucky to have been gifted this opportunity of a lifetime.  It’s going to take me in a direction that I didn’t (and still don’t fully) believe I could go in.  This three-day trip to Colorado, to a little cabin in the mountains, to immerse myself completely in soaking up anything and everything that I can learn about every aspect of photography, to bond with other like-minded women… it’s more than just a learning experience.  It’s going to help me let go of and, as much as is possible, heal from the grief of losing my Dad.  It’s going to help me let go of the insecure and anxious and unconfident version of myself that I’ve been for the last decade and find the ‘me’ that I seem to have lost sight of – the real me.  It’s the adventure I’ve been craving.  I can feel it.

The woman running Leap Retreat, Sarah Cornish, owns My Four Hens Photography.

What I love about her images is how she captures the moments; the details; the magnitude of emotion that gets felt within a single millisecond.  I love the rawness, the realness, the vulnerability.  It’s like she captures her subject’s soul, the very essence of their being and everything that makes them who they are.

A friend of mine left a comment on Facebook the other day about my images being “photos with heart” and it made me cry because really, that’s all I want to do.  I want to show someone for who they are deep inside, underneath the mask that they put on to hide their real selves from the world, to share their heart.  When I manage to do that, I feel like I’ve shared my heart too.

All of the incredible images in this post are Sarah’s (borrowed with her full permission).  They are some of my many favourite images from shoots she’s done and moments she’s shared with her family.

I absolutely adore the image above. How incredibly beautiful is this? And that light! I would have LOVED to have had some shots like this of me when I was pregnant with my girls. To be able to capture an intimate shot like this, to honour the beauty and imminent arrival of a new soul on the planet – it’s something I absolutely want to be able to do. And, incidentally, a photographer friend of mine has challenged me to do a bump shoot this year…


Likewise, this shot, so deeply private and personal, is something I would love to have as a memory of those precious moments with each of my girls. I would one day love to be able to offer this to other women as a reminder of their connection with their babies.


This shot is of Sarah’s eldest daughter. She’s 14, just a year younger than my stepdaughter, and when I look at this image I see the fragility and vulnerability felt at that age, the cusp of womanhood and yet still so childlike and innocent at the same time. I would give anything to be able to capture my girls like this.


There is something that keeps on drawing me back to this image. This mother being led by her daughters, her hands in theirs, trusting them to lead her to wherever it is they are going. I love the details of the tattoo, the delicate necklace down her back. Many of my images are faceless too – it’s easy to capture emotion when you can see people’s expressions, but capturing it without that is something else entirely. Again, I would love to have someone take shots of me with my girls like this.

My goal going to Leap Retreat isn’t to take photos like Sarah. It’s to absorb everything she (and the other women attending) can offer through their knowledge and experience and to figure out how to incorporate that into MY vision, how I can add that to the way I already pour my heart and soul into every image I take.

I don’t know yet where this is going to take me.  I don’t know whether I’m going to choose a different path as a result of this.  But if I don’t let go of the fear and try, I’ll never know.

Deep breath.  Here goes.

Let go and leap.


(Please note:  All the images in this post belong to Sarah Cornish of My Four Hens Photography)

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