Living in Washington State during Corona is like being ruled by a capricious king who wildly changes the law of the land from one day to the next on a whim. His rules are inconsistent and nonsensical, his subjects nothing more than a faceless crowd to be briefly mentioned in a newsfeed, alongside statistics that vary wildly from one minute to the next. To this mad king, the only thing that matters is the pie chart, the graph, the infographic.

Actual people need not apply.

But the real Covid crisis is the impact the lockdown has had on the lives of working class men and women, many of whom, like me, have small businesses. Our stories are largely left untold amid the ever shifting infection rates and death tolls blasted on the daily news.

We’ve been reduced to a literal faceless crowd, stripped of individual identity. Told we’re selfish to want to open our businesses. If we’re “allowed” to open our businesses, we’re forced to comply with the mad king’s demands as to what we can and can’t do in them, under threat of massive fines.

The psychological effects of the lock down and subsequent trauma suffered by people who’ve shuttered their dreams and lost hope must be shared. Their financial lives are in ruins and many face bankruptcy. You haven’t heard much about these men and women because to highlight their pain would be to recognize them as persons and not numbers.

These steadfast Americans are more than faces covered by masks. Many of them started their businesses as side hustles, as I did, and worked seventy hour weeks for years to grow those businesses, only to now see their efforts destroyed by mandatory lockdowns. Their trauma at watching their dreams disappear like cigarette smoke on the breeze is real.

Their trauma story—my story—deserves to be told.

Merriam Webster’s online defines “trauma” as: “...a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” Does this resonate with you during these weird, upside down days of Corona Virus? I mean, it’s been an absolutely surreal, Mad Max from Thunderdome experience, complete with brawls over toilet paper and the rise of feral “Karens” writ large on the nightly news.

Do you feel like screaming at the top of your lungs?

I can’t take it anymore!”

Yeah, me too.

But let’s talk about mental health and trauma, because "traumatic" is the word I’d use to describe these past several months. Please keep in mind this disclaimer if you read further: I’m a Christian and the point of view expressed herein is mine and is absolutely God centered. Sad I have to say that, but these are the times in which we live.

So, trauma.

My “pandemic” experience has been of absolute panic, horror and near despair. Prior to the Corona Virus Meltdown, I actually had a great deal of optimism for the future. This is unusual for me because I’ve struggled quite a lot in my life. But going into 2020, I’d allowed myself to feel hopeful that the future showed signs of promise.

Perhaps, I’d thought prior to Covid, my little photography business which I’d fed and watered with love and sacrifice for several years might just make the leap from survive to thrive. Maybe I’d finally realize my lifelong dream of being a successful creative after all.

Then the Carona Virus Effect happened: life stood still and my entrepreneurial experiment stopped dead in its tracks. A part time job I’d also worked to keep my student loans paid ceased to exist. Like thousands of other unfortunate souls, I wasn’t able to get through to the unemployment department in my state and eventually gave up trying. Words like “stay at home order” and “quarantine” became part of the daily lexicon. The fear I saw all around me was palpable. So much so, that it became a real chore to interact with people at all, because their anxiety was so pronounced, it became their central reference point. And they frequently expected me to absorb their fear and validate it.

That’s not how I’m wired, however. My response to others’ need to deposit their panic at my feet was to seclude myself as much as possible. I’m not particularly timid as a general rule, but it was overwhelming for me to be confronted with all the hysteria.

For the record, I was never afraid of the virus. I was, however, terrified of people’s reaction to it, the loss of liberty because of it and the consequent financial fallout for many Americans, including me. Every minute of every day for months has been extreme anxiety about surviving the lockdown. The idea of my photography business thriving--of realizing my American Dream--seems quaint now.

That’s what this piece is about: the grief and trauma of losing hope and how to come back from that, if even just a little. A word of caution: if you feel the need to argue with me over the politics of this virus, please stop reading now and go elsewhere. I live in a state that is—five months into this thing—still locked down with no end in sight. The noose tightens every day around my neck. And the very real trauma of that, with all the related aftershocks, is, to borrow from the so-called influencers, “my truth.”

It’s clear that my life and my livelihood are of no consequence to those who control the levers of power in my state. Nor do the lives of millions of my countrymen and women who are in similar, or worse, situations than I. My business—my DREAM—is gone. I have to work every part time job I can find just to keep a roof over my head and I’m still short each month. When I finally managed to connect with those in the know about any sort of financial assistance, I learned I don’t qualify for anything because I’m still working, even though I’ve lost thousands of dollars these past months. Debt’s piling up and I’m going to have to relocate in another state and start over, on the off chance that I can salvage my future somehow.

Trauma, indeed.

The daily struggle with depression has been the most difficult part of this ordeal. For days at a time, all I could do was sit in my tiny garden and try to assimilate the cheer of the birds and flowers and butterflies around me. Let the sun recharge me somehow and settle my shattered nerves that were on constant alert, like the Starship Enterprise when it encounters a Borg cube, the inside of my head flashing red lights and a computer voice counting down the self-destruct sequence and warning that all personnel must abandon ship:


Abandon ship.


Give up?


There must be a way.

Day after day, this scenario played out in my brain. From experience, I’ve learned that trauma begins in the psyche then quickly moves to the spirit. My soul was on fire. But what to do? How was I to cope with my “new normal” of a life without forward movement? Into the garden I’d go and sit for hours, in quiet and stillness, because I was numb and in shock. I didn’t know it then, but I was grieving the loss of a future now in tatters.

And just as in every other time of trauma in my life--the death of my father, the implosion of my family, the loss of children--I instinctively sought out quiet and beauty for refuge. There among the flowers and the birds, I could find a sort of respite, a momentary comfort. I could remember when I felt whole, before all the insanity started. The wholeness existed on the other side of a great canyon, watching me with a familiar face, but at least I could see it from the opposite side of the gulf between us. It hadn’t abandoned me forever. And if I could see it, I could figure out a way to get across the canyon to it.

This time in the garden became my lifeline.

And it saved me.

Trauma tends to bring out the best or the worst in people, depending upon their disposition going into it. Chirpy, happy, happy people who want only to focus on unicorns and fairy dust are truly annoying to be around when you’re faced with terrible circumstances. But so are those who only focus on the negative. The worst are those who take the negative and blow it up like a hot air balloon and send it into your life so it can cast its massive shadow over everything it passes.

It’s exhausting.

Staying level and alert, yet open to feeling better, seems to be the most prudent course of action. But how to achieve that leveled path during traumatic times?

We know that nature is good for your mental health—a walk on the beach or in the woods is wonderfully calming when you face difficult circumstances:

Because I see nature as God’s artwork, being present in the natural world soothes me in several ways: I get the mental health benefits and healing power of nature, as well as its artistry, and enjoy the spiritual refreshment both provide.

This comes in handy as a portrait photographer and visual artist, because I see everyone and everything as a work of art, so I treat nature and the people I photograph respectfully, filled with the wonder appropriate in the presence of such magnificence. In particular, I find my work as a fine art floral photographer invigorates and illuminates at the same time.

It’s an amazing thing being almost inside a flower. A macro lens or a Lensbaby lens (I love the Muse stacked with an 8mm and 16mm macro converters) really lets me see what’s going on in there: bugs on their own little adventures for food; striations of color and textures; the tiniest breeze which flutters the fibers on the petals, and so on. Truly a universe within a very small world.

Shooting flowers always gets me thinking.

Anyone can take a walk in the woods and point out dappled sunlight on the leaves and proclaim, “It’s so pretty!” And it is. But have you ever sat down and really examined all the different hues of green on those leaves?

Could you IMAGINE a color into existence on your own? No, of course not. We didn’t invent color, we discovered it and copied it and use it for our own purposes to beautify our lives. But all color is represented in nature, somewhere. And I believe, by design.

The effects of trauma on the mind, body and soul can to some degree be repaired by exposure to beauty—that’s one of the fundamental reasons it exists, it seems to me. I had a lightbulb moment many years ago: “Aha!” I thought. “Beauty can crack the stone around the human heart.” I thought that brilliant at the time. Maybe it is. But I’ve added to that thought since then, for I’ve come to believe that beauty serves many purposes, and now in this time of trauma, its most important function seems to be to stitch the soul back together and super glue the psyche.


Because beauty, the beauty of nature, in particular, is the closest thing we have to the fingerprint of God. There are many beautiful things in our experience: family, love, friendship, travel, etc. But only the beauty of the natural world is objectively the handiwork of Someone beyond us. We yearn for it and seek it out. Think ocean side or mountain view property, for instance. Even something as mundane as Pinterest is designed to help us find ways to beautify our lives. We’re obsessed with transformations of weight, teeth and bedrooms. Our homes can have better, more beautiful, curb appeal.

You know exactly what I mean when I say we yearn for beauty. It's instinctive to us. Most of us are repelled when surrounded by chaos and tumult in our immediate environment or on a larger scale, like the chaos caused by Corona.

The creative force which makes roses smell good is THE creative force Who has painted the world with such a variety of brushes and colors and themes and imagination, that were we to live ten thousand lives, we couldn’t comprehend it all. For me, this creative force is also a healing force. The beauty of nature, even the irregularities and sometime horror of nature, brings great wisdom and humility. These things help put life into perspective. And where there’s perspective, there’s a sense of tidiness and order. And order manifests a sense of blessed control, which is the key to feeling like you own your life.

But being present in nature is just the first part of the equation. As an artist, I believe that God communicates through beauty and invites me to participate with it and Him by creating something of my own, as a sort of answer to His call. The making of something beautiful is foundational, because it allows me to offer my own work back to God in cooperation with His creative Spirit. It’s a formula for salvation and it goes something like this:

I observe beauty in the natural world and meditate on it. This takes me directly to God. He and I converse about what I can learn about Him from what I’ve seen. I then feel energized, then compelled, to take that energy and create something of my own as a responsive exercise. It’s an act of defiance against the brutality of the world, a light filled moment where art meets faith.

The beauty of nature during and after this lockdown is an invaluable gift. Fresh air, sunshine, woods, flowers, oceans, mountains, desert and plains give most of us in the US an abundance of natural beauty from which we can gain a bit of peace. Even a small pot of flowers on an apartment window sill helps us take a mental and emotional “time out” from the current lunacy. And after the Corona virus passes, there will be more trauma that we each must face in our lives. Such is the nature of being human.

But beauty—the beauty of a single flower or a planet viewed from space—has the power to save, to heal, to shift a debilitating mindset. It’s restorative. Once I was able to recharge, I found a bit of clarity. I was ready to deal with plans for my business, and I was able to pick up my camera again and shoot. I photographed my little garden of salvation and made the images you see here.

As primarily a portrait and headshot photographer, I’m not able to offer the services I did prior to the lockdown. However, as a fine art photographer with a concentration on florals, I have some options. I’m now in the process of shifting my photography business to an online order system with a focus on fine art. Although I’m devastated at the loss of my portrait work, I look forward to spending my time for the foreseeable future among the blossoms. Once I relocate to another state, hopefully within the next eight months, I’ll relaunch the portrait side of my business.

The tiniest spark of hope burns again within me, thankfully. I can trust that to guide my way along this path of uncertainty as we move into fall and 2021. I can give myself permission to imagine a way forward again and pick up the pieces of my American Dream.

The beauty of nature and the act of creating has relieved some of the trauma and lifted the thick fog of daily depression. It’s helped me get to the other side of shock and grief, to the place where the wholeness stood and looked back at me. I can now stand beside that wholeness, instead of across from it, and look back at the spot in which I stood, that’s now empty. I’m not fully healed, there’s much work to do yet, but I have reason for cautious optimism.

The school closures will one day be over, and we'll again celebrate birthdays and bury our dead as we’re accustomed. But until then, remember the positive effects nature can have on your mental well-being and go keep good company with the roses in your garden.

Stop and breathe them in.

And thank them—and God, for He made these lovely things for us to enjoy.

He made them to help us come back from the ledge, to a place of recovery, where hope can build a bridge across the canyon.

Personal branding photography helps you grow your business image with a library of custom photos that showcase who you are and what you love, so you're irresistible to your potential audience.

You're a business professional and you realize you need high quality images of yourself to use in-house and online, perhaps even in print. But you HATE stodgy, corporate looking head shots.They lack soul and don't tend to communicate your passion. What do you do?

Call me, of course. I’m thrilled the corporate head shot is being replaced by images that showcase your personality across an arc—YOU as boss lady. YOU as master gardener. YOU as dog lover. Whatever your story as a woman or man, you can more effectively convey that story with professional portrait photography that captures your life and style. You can then parlay those images to brand yourself in a polished way that enhances your business, career and personal goals.

According to the Huffington Post’s ( ) Tanya Boggs, “Investing in high-quality, authentic photography is required if you want your visuals to play a crucial role in delivering the personality of your brand. Much like eating, we shop with our eyes. We make many purchase decisions based on first impressions. And buying is often an emotional decision more than a practical one. Therefore, your branding is about influencing the way consumers think about you and your business or product. As a result, personal branding photography can have a huge impact your business and your bottom line.”

Boggs even goes so far as to entitle her piece: “9 Ways Personal Branding Photography Can Massively Grow Your Business.” No ambiguity there—she clearly believes in its importance. You can read the full piece here:

The last several years have seen an explosion of personal branding trends in the United States. Businesses of every size, kind and service are more aware now than ever that friendly branding and relatable marketing are the cornerstones of their success. Marketing budgets now commonly include professional portrait photographers whose job it is to photograph the folks behind the company and make them look approachable, like the man or woman next door. That means unpacking what makes you tick and finding ways to show that visually. Once the images are created, you have a suite of pictures to use everywhere, which saves you and your business time, money and the frustration of never having great photographs you’re proud to show off.

Again, the obvious goal is likability, because people do business with people they like. The not so obvious goal is intentionally controlling your visual image to better tell your story.

“Branding on a business-level is common, but today branding is becoming just as important on a personal level. After all, you might work for a business that works with other businesses, but it’s people working with people and that’s what makes business relationships valuable.” Quicksprout

So what’s involved with creating a personal brand that works? I call it the Step by Step Personal Branding Design. Here’s how it works in my photography business. After the initial inquiry, I meet you personally at your place of business or home. I want to see you in you own surroundings, where you're most comfortable. I take this time to observe the details: colors, furniture, art style, personal mementos, etc. I ask a lot of questions in conversational ways, because I want to establish a baseline in my mind. Unlike corporate photographers who typically set up their gear and snap away at an entire office in a day, I’m focused on one, possibly two, individuals at a time. And I want to take in everything about you--as much as you're willing to share.

We then talk about styling in great detail—wardrobe, hair and makeup, surroundings & backdrops, message. It’s my job to nail the message visually, and all those elements contribute, each in their own critical way. Finally, we discuss the ways you want to use your images. With all this information, I can plan across multiple platforms with an idea of what would work best for each and map your session accordingly.

Here’s an example from a recent personal branding session, which actually doubled as business branding. Mark Power needed fresh marketing materials for an upcoming workshop he was leading. He and his wife have a vocal coaching business which they operate on their property in the woods, in a refurbished structure with rustic finishes. The business and studio are a labor of love between them and we wanted to feature that heavily in his images.

Mark has a great personal style we highlighted in his session, and we aimed to coordinate his styling with the environment. A suit or anything other than what he wore would have looked out of place. The backdrop here is a wooden pallet wall that Mark and his wife, Kathleen, worked hard to create. It’s beautiful, weathered and perfect for these images.

Custom photographs like these can be used in unlimited ways: on websites, print materials of all kinds, reports, newsletters, social media, business cards—anything you can imagine. Mark and Kathleen opted to use theirs in a custom digital magazine I created for them, along with some custom written content I also crafted, which you can see here:

When you get to a place in your career where you say to yourself, “It’s time to build my brand,” you want to hire a photographer who will take the time to listen to you and ask the right questions about your goals. You can also hire a personal branding agency, which will likely provide the photographer. Local photographers are always best because they’re able to clue in on nuances having to do with speech patterns and clothing that someone not from the area might miss. For example, a Dallas photographer will have very different expectations of styling than someone from the Pacific Northwest. Dallas tends to be the sort of city where people dress up on a daily basis, whereas the PNW is laid back and very casual. And this gets to the most important quality of good personal branding images: being genuine.

“The more obviously a brand is a copycat, the more the audience will call out the perpetrator for it,” says Goldie Chan, contributor to Forbes online. She also says, “Creating the right personal brand will not only help you be known in your field and consistently land work but it could be the difference between ‘who are you?’ and ‘thank you for being here’ in your career.”

Read the entire article here:

Personal branding is becoming industry standard for serious professionals who want to convey focused messaging to their individual markets. They understand the best way to do that is through solid, beautiful images that are intentional and well thought out. Images that show who they are, rather than text that tells who they are.

Like I said in the beginning, when you’re ready to take that step, call me. I can’t wait to help you show your story so you, and your business, can grow.

Reach out to me at




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What's better than wallcrawling? Read on to find out.

So, it’s Friday afternoon and you’re stuck in traffic. Behind you, alongside you, as far as your eye can see, nothing but other people in their cars, going nowhere. All you and your fellow escapees from the grind want to do is GET HOME. And you wish you had some sort of superpower to eject from your seat, leap across all the cars, and land gracefully (in a killer Lycra bodysuit) at your front door. But there’s no such thing as superheroes and certainly no such thing as superpowers. Don’t be ridiculous.

Well…maybe not the sort of superpower that leaps tall buildings, but perhaps there are other superpowers. And maybe everyday folks like us have them, but don’t think of them as special, like the ability to breathe under water, a la Aquaman. But maybe we ought to.

Let me share a recent experience with you.

I’d received an invitation to talk to some kids at a local school about being a photographer. The guidelines were simple: twenty minutes, share what I liked about photography, and why I chose to pursue it. Pretty standard fare, as presentations go. The one caveat was this: the class was comprised of special needs kids so I had to be sensitive to that and tailor my talk accordingly.

Twenty minutes wasn’t enough time to get into anything complicated, so I knew I’d have to find the most immediate link between the kids and me and not meander down the gear head path. So what did we all have in common that could start a conversation about the importance of photography?

And then I realized that there’s not a soul left on earth who hasn’t heard of Superman.

Like almost every kid, I grew up watching superheroes save the world with their special powers. The idea that an ordinary looking person can do extraordinary things with hidden strengths is not new. The sentiment has been attached to the human psyche for millennia. But the concept for the Marvel universe is relatively modern and it never fails to intrigue. Batman saves Gotham City with cool tech toys while being tended to by a British butler. Clark Kent (as Superman) and Ironman save the world, too, the former disguised as a lowly reporter who’s actually the savior of the universe; the latter because his haughty ego was taught a lesson and he now wants to serve humanity rather than create weapons to destroy it.

But what do superheroes have to do with photographers?

The day of my presentation, I went armed to the class with cookies and one of the new instant cameras (link here) from Fuji, loaded with film and several extra film packs. Both are available here for purchase on Amazon. The kids were enthusiastic at my arrival, and immediately upon entering the room, I noticed one young man was wearing—if you can believe it—a Superman T-shirt and cape. My inner kid fist pumped a silent YEAH!

Because my last name is so unconventional, there was some initial debate after the hellos as to its pronunciation, with one of the girls nailing it spot on right away, which is tough to do. The niceties out of the way, I launched into my discussion.

“You guys,” I said. “Let’s talk about something interesting. Who here likes superheroes?”

The boy in the Superman T-shirt got excited, and shared a high wattage smile that lit up the room.

Everyone raised his/her hand.

“Superheroes?” the kids asked, confused about where I was going.

“Yup,” I said. “Let’s name some.”

So we ran through the popular list.

Then I asked, “What do superheroes have?”

Kids: “Superpowers.”

Me: “What’s a superpower?”

Kids: “Special stuff they can do, like climb walls.”

“Yeah, that’s a good one,” I said. “Can everyone have a superpower or only superheroes?”

There was mixed reaction. One young lady said that she thought other people besides superheroes could have superpowers. Maybe.

“Well,” I said. “I’m here to tell you that I have a superpower.”

Mixed reaction.

“Who knows what it might be?” I asked.

Some speculation ensued among the kids. The teacher, an absolutely wonderful man we’ll name Mr. C., raised his hand and said, “Freezing time.”

(Dammit. This dude stole my punchline).

“Yes,” I responded. “I freeze time. What does that mean? Anyone want to take a guess?”

Lots of heads shaking ‘no.’

“It’s like this,” I continued. “I have a dog as a kid. I love this dog. We’re best friends. Together all the time. But I grow up and the dog gets old and one day, the dog dies. And I’m heartbroken. But I remember that I have photographs of my dog. So I gather them all and spend hours every day looking at them and I recall all the special things about my dog and all the fun things we did.”

I paused to take a breath, because I got a bit choked up.

“I can see her clearly in my mind,” I continued. “Smell her wet fur after a swim, feel how soft her ears were when she came home from the groomer. I’m there with her again. And because of those photographs, my best friend isn’t really gone. And that’s why I take pictures of people. So that they’re never forgotten and so that their lives are always honored.”

Several kids offered that they, too, had dogs, and whipped out their phones to share photos. A discussion of breeds and names followed. But I needed to stick to the twenty minute rule.

“I brought some goodies with me,” I continued, to bring the conversation back on track after the photo sharing moment. “Cookies and a camera so we can take each other’s pictures and you can share my superpower with me.”

I walked to the large carton I’d brought with me which contained my props. There was a general murmur of appreciation about the cookies. The instant camera was new to them, although I grew up when they were all the rage in the seventies, and I looked forward to using one again in this context.

“Who wants to go first?” I asked.

By then, most of the kids were standing around me (I think because of the cookies), so I made sure the camera was turned on and handed it off to one of them, followed by a brief run down of how to find the light when you want to take a photograph of someone. Then I turned them loose and watched.

At first they were shy about how to use the camera, but Mr. C., helped them figure it out. They took individual photos then spread them out one by one on the desk next to me to watch them develop, laughing as the images came to life. Finally, they handed the camera back to me and I took a group photo of them all and let it do its thing on the desk alongside the others. Afterwards we talked briefly about the fact that now they had a collection of memories they could hold and look at to remember this day and cookies to make it a sweet memory.

Vintage Polaroid instant camera and prints

There were lots of giggles and I think the kids generally had a good time. It was nostalgic for me and reminded me of my own school days. As I left and said thank you to the class for having me, I was filled with a feeling of great satisfaction that I had perhaps managed to connect with the kids and given them something to think about.

I later learned that the class was quite enthusiastic about our time together, just as I’d been. In fact, it was one of the most satisfying things I’d done since starting my photography business back in 2012.

And it stayed with me for several weeks afterwards because the experience had forced me to think in ways I wasn’t used to. The entire time I’d been in business, I learned about gear, technical lighting, shadows, gradients, Photoshop, my camera specs, the art of making portraits and all the million, million things about business that make every entrepreneur crazy. And I knew in my heart why I did what I did, but I’d never been challenged to articulate it in the precise way I had for the kids in that classroom.

Photographers generally do not have a mandate to save the world. But we have superpowers that go far beyond that: we make the intangible tangible and capture it for all time. Wedding photographers photograph love, captured in moments during the most important day in many people’s lives. Other photographers capture innocence and hope through newborn photography. Still others capture ambition, via head shot photography. I photograph women and men of every age who want a high touch experience and legacy portraits, so I guess you could say I capture self-love.

“Freezing time” is not just a superpower for photographers. It’s available to anyone who picks up a camera. Photographs create a living, breathing pictorial of life that says: you were here, you were loved, you mattered. And they’re all that will be left of us once we’re gone.

Just like I said to the kids about my dog: photographs bring back loved ones. You can relive precious, even forgotten, moments by holding their image in your hands. You’ve frozen the time they were here and that you were lucky enough to be with them. You documented a legacy for all future generations.

You want to be a superhero? Take a picture.

Now, where’s my cape?

List of superpowers.

#new #superheroes #Marvel comics #fuji #photography #superpowers

Product Review: the new Fuji instant cameras are cute and fun, easy to use right out of the box.They make ideal gifts for kids who want to play with an inexpensive camera and get instant gratification while they watch the film develop. By and large, it's a pretty good little camera for that purpose and only that purpose. Great stocking stuffer, birthday gift, etc. My only complaint is the film quality, although I really had no expectations, because I purchased the camera specifically for this presentation and not for everyday use. Prints are small (about 2"x 3") and not as large as the vintage Polaroids were. And they tend to be on the blurry side, with the images rendering darker than the actual scene. But again, no expectations.

Deanna Dusbabek Photography

Bainbridge Island/Olympic Peninsula/Seattle/PNW 

(206) 779-4284

© 2020 by Deanna Dusbabek/All rights reserved