2019 Weddings

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Know any fine folks getting married this year? I’m currently booking weddings for 2019. Part of why I separated my wedding work from my commercial work is so that I could be more specific & intentional with the couples I work with. I’m interested in weddings that are simple yet meaningful, with a focus on people vs details. I am drawn to the in-between moments: a quick hug after a ceremony, a hand squeeze or knowing look exchanged, a smile or tear from a proud parent. I’m pretty even-keeled & try to maintain a sense of peace on a wedding day (I like to say that patience is my Superpower 🦹🏼‍♀️)
My biggest desire is that when you look at my photos, you feel that they are an authentic documentation of the people & moments that occurred during your wedding. 
If you smiled & nodded in agreement while reading this, I’d love to meet you! Reach out at mikaelahamilton.love

Shoestring Adventures | Grand Canyon

I got to ring out 2018 with a final Shoestring Adventures trip in the Grand Canyon. This time around, the Canyon reminded me that most things in life are temporary- pain, joy, fear, hurt, love.  We experienced 4 seasons worth of weather in 3 days, and just when I thought it would stay rainy or cold or cloudy, the weather shifted and offered something new.  So it goes with our many seasons in life.  I wrote more about our adventure on the Shoestring blog, which you can read here.

Outside Magazine + SheisABLE

Last October, I had the opportunity to document a 5 day women's backpacking trip in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness with the Atlanta based nonprofit SheisABLE (which was founded by one of my favorite humans, Elise Knicely).  Florence Williams joined us on behalf of Outside Magazine, and I'm thrilled to say that her words & my photos are in Outside's May 2018 issue, and featured online here. 

This trip necessitated conversation within the outdoor industry on ways to structure outdoor programs for populations that have suffered long-term psychological trauma.  The outdoor education and adventure world predominantly follows the formula of putting students in harsh and physically demanding environments as a means towards self-discovery and interpersonal breakthrough.  Words like grit, endure, conquer, strength, tough, and survival are centerpieces of learning.  For certain populations, this method is fantastic- I experienced it firsthand while working at Voyageur Outward Bound last summer.  However, with other populations, different approaches have to be considered.  The women I went on the trip with are some of the most resilient, gritty, and tough people I've ever met.  They've endured pain beyond belief for horrific periods of time.  When I asked one if she had previously been camping, she responded that the closest thing to camping she experienced was homelessness.  This group didn't need to learn how to survive, they'd been surviving their whole life.  They needed comfort, empowerment, compassion, self-care, safety.  The benefits and healing that come from nature cannot begin if your population feels like their basic safety needs are not met. 

As Aleya explains it, healing trauma is complicated. That’s because the brain wants to hold on to memories of danger. “They’re separate from linear, logical thought processes,” she says, “so your nervous system acts like it’s happening now or is about to.” Simply talking about traumatic memories doesn’t fully work, because it engages only those neural pathways associated with logic and speech. Healing involves both separating fearful emotions from bad memories and bringing the nervous system back to the safer, quieter present. “Trauma healing happens not only through talking, but also through integrative nonverbal therapies,” Aleya says, referring to both movement and mindful­-ness. These happen easily in adventure sports, as long as they feel relatively safe.

So what does that look in the context of an expedition?  For our trip, it meant fewer miles, lots of verbal processing, and play.  Not only was it the women's first time camping, but we were camping in Colorado in October, where we experienced freezing temperature and a snowstorm.  For most of the women, playfulness and goofiness were emotions taken from them at a very young age.  Partnering a playful spirit with a sense of safety in a natural environment brought many moments of laughter, fun, and healing. 

Our trip ended in Toth Ranch, a retreat center in Hot Sulphur Springs that brought warmth, food, and a safe space to process their experience in the wilderness.  Hiking with heavy packs immediately grounded the women- for some, it was the first time in years that they felt aware of their bodies, and that they could claim ownership of their body once more.  

The fact that she is even feeling her body is progress, according to researchers like Julie Anne Laser-Maira, a trafficking expert and associate professor at the University of Denver. “They’ve been through so much brutality,” she says. To survive those experiences, women often dissociate from their bodies.

I hope that this article sparks conversation amongst outdoor educators, companies and outfitters to consider alternative ways of facilitating outdoor programs for other student populations.  Nature is accessible, healing, and nourishing for all, and I would love to see continued effort towards creating programs that provide powerful expeditions for populations that have suffered long-term trauma.   

Florence wrote an amazing book on the scientific ways that nature affects creativity, health, and happiness on our brain.  It's called The Nature Fix, and you can buy it here.   Outside's May Issue is available in stores now, and the online article is available here.

E, I am so proud of you.  Keep following that beautiful heart of yours. 

A thousand thank you's to E for creating SheisABLE, and to Outside & Florence for being their megaphone.

music | Rebekah Pahl

My pal Rebekah is a gifted writer/singer, and a loyal friend filled with intuition and wisdom.  This time last year, I packed up Fran the van & moved from Nashville with the west coast on my mind.  Rebekah joined Fran & I from Austin to Tucson, and along the way we took some promo photos in the eclectically bizarre town of Marfa, TX.

Listen to her tunes here.

#strongertogether

Friends & businesses in the Santa Barbara/Montecito/Carpinteria/Ventura area! Aleia Design Co is selecting 1-2 clients to receive a branding package, and I’m stoked to offer a photo shoot as one of the options.

Other donated services include: 
01. one-on-one consultation + marketing brainstorming session
02. new brand design / logo refresh
03. brand collateral package (style guide, business cards, logo suite & more)
04. new website / site refresh
05. 1 hour photography session
06. 1 hour of professional copywriting
07. social media strategy

All other submissions will receive 30% off all design services through the end of 2018. 
The last day to submit is March 15, 2018. Here's to giving back and rebuilding! #strongertogether

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Outward Bound TX Staff Invite

"As long as there are young people with the light of adventure in their eyes or a touch of wildness in their souls, rapids will be run."  -Sigurd Olson

Last October I documented a 5 day whitewater canoeing expedition on the Rio Grande with Outward Bound.  Big Bend is a magical place, and exploring a park via a river invites visitors to synchronize their bodies with the heartbeat of the land.  2018 courses are available here. 

Trip Highlights:

- nightly Star Club

- taking a massive spill out of my canoe, gaining some scratches, life lessons, and thankfully maintaining a dry camera

- losing my mind over the light in the Santa Elena Canyon during the morning

- exploring Fern Canyon's cracks and caves

- navigating the Rock Slide Rapid

- Solo sunrise time & sunset yoga