In Pursuit of Wonderland

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography

In Pursuit of Wonderland

There comes a point in every person’s life when you start questioning the whys of the world. Our purpose. The meaning of life. The finality of our time on this beautiful planet. At some point it happens to all of us.

When I was younger, I had that sense of self discovery. I struggled to understand who I was, what I liked, what I enjoyed. A series of trials, errors and failures mixed with a few lucky guesses, some right answers and a little success. I thought I could rule the world. Nothing could stop me. At that point, I hadn’t experienced any true setbacks or failures to bitter the experience. All the roads were paved with gold. The land of the me. Overrun with enough hormones and emotions to set off a nuclear time bomb…at least that’s how it was for me.

Now some 20 years later the questioning begins. What is the true meaning of life? Why am I here and what the hell are we all doing? There must be more to it than answering a thousand emails, surfing social media, watching shows about doctors or zombies…only to fall asleep and do it all over again the next day. I mean, really.

Now the line of thinking becomes much more introspective and less egocentric.

I suppose we are all put here on this earth with specific gifts and talents. We are drawn toward paths that suit our interests and desires. To find something greater than ourselves. Do we follow the signs or follow our instincts on that never ending search for happiness. The pursuit of a dream. To love. And if we are lucky enough, we find that one thing that truly makes us happy and we hold on to it…tight. For the rare is precious and should not go un-cherished.

Is it really that simple?


“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” 
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning


© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In Pursuit of Wonderland
Sometimes when I’m feeling lost or a bit stuck in a rut I go digging through my photo library in search of hidden gems. On most occasions, my photographs need time to rest and breathe before they properly come to life…which is to say that I also have to be in the proper mindset or mood for conceptual creation. Honestly, when I first photographed this idea I thought it was a complete bust…set for redo on a later date.

Discovery of this specific “hole” took place 5 months earlier while out with Kory and Tom, then newly friended after a trip to France forever sealing our fate as Fromagis. That already seemed like a lifetime ago as if I’ve known these boys for ages… Anyhow, this cried a Tori Amos moment. I can sing it now….”Rabbit, where’d you put the keys, girl?” But despite the yearning to, ahem, pull a rabbit out of a hat on this one, Tom had already pointed out a snake. It was June at the time, and there appeared to be a baby snake (rattlesnake, was it?) sleeping down inside one of those holes, it’s scaly tail sticking out of the cracks as if to whisper…come along if you dare. No thank you, I’ll save that concept for another day. One that is snake free.

Fast forward to October. This time out with the Wild Ones Tour from 2014, almost exactly a year ago. The cool autumn air kept the snakes at bay. Take 2. Kory kindly placed himself into position so I could test the angle and upon confirming my vision, Leah stepped in to play my version of Alice. Thank you, Leah!

So why an almost redo? For one, despite the snakeless hole I crouched into happened to contain a small puddle of water. Trying to find the proper balance to not land myself squarely into said puddle was rather challenging. Also, the coolness of the air and the humidity fogged my lens creating issues with finding the proper focus. That topped off with an overcast day, a back lit subject, a high ISO and a low shutter speed…all the odds were stacked against me. So when in doubt, put away and save for a rainy day.

Revisiting with fresh eyes always yields possibilities and for that I am thankful.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In Pursuit of Wonderland

I Can’t Put This Day Back

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - I Can

I Can’t Put This Day Back

I was reading an article the other day talking about how spending money on experiences makes you happier than spending money on things. And while therapy shopping can provide some immediate relief to whatever all consuming emotional ailment is taking control, the medicine where’s off rather quickly. But experiences have more of a long last effect. There’s the joy of actually participating in the event, adventure, journey, mind blowing conversation, long awaited concert and/or the passionate kiss after a lengthy separation. Then comes the after effect…or the time spent lost in reverie with your head in the clouds remembering every last detail of said experience.

The high can last for days. Months even.

And it’s so easy to recall. All one has to do is time travel back to a memory at will and submit to the faraway beckoning for your return.

So on days like today, with Capt Awesome several states out of sight and a gloomy cloud fighting with the sun, I revisit the favorite parts of my past…like a good book.

I love how the camera records those in between moments…the sly look, the honest laugh, the silliness of the situation, and capture it perfectly frozen in time. It’s those little things that are often forgotten as the mind continues to catalog new experiences. It’s those little things that are truly the best part of the ride.

So I hand you silly moments from that day while attempting to photograph this concept at Assateague Island over a year ago. This beautiful girl will turn 16 tomorrow. Her red hair now cut short and blonde in certain places. But I will remember you exactly as you were on this day. Standing in the water, completely agreeable to my absurd requests. With love. Happy Birthday.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - I Can

In My Wake, A Trail of Fear

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - In My Wake A Trail of Fear

In My Wake, A Trail of Fear

There are benefits to working at an organization that engages leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow. You get access to strategies, ways to continually improve yourself, create actionable goals and set forth a plan to properly execute. The other day I was instructed to create a personal MAP (Measurable Accountability Plan) for myself. One focused on my own personal goals.

The task was difficult to complete, as I had to dive deep to understand what I really wanted, what success looked like to me and then follow up with a list of actions to perform on a weekly, monthly basis in order to reach those goals. Admittedly, it was a little scary to see everything on paper. Yet at the same time, I felt a cloud lift and drift on wards emitting a ray of light over my intentions.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it….you have to set goals for yourself. What do you want to do with your life? Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years? Blah blah blah. I told myself this rhetoric was meant for those who couldn’t remember everything they needed to do. Or perhaps they were so anal in their daily lives they enjoyed being controlled by a piece of paper…but not me! Yes, that was the naïve me talking. The younger me who might have been a little unsure of myself and want I really wanted out of life. Or even worse, lazy(!) as creating a road map actually meant following it!

But now that all the bread crumbs lay out before me, I know the way. It’s a relief, not confinement.

The strangest thing happened with this epiphany of sorts. The fear that’s always sat high and mighty on my left shoulder took a back seat. Now that’s not to say that I don’t still confront this evil beast with concerns over rejection or failure (wouldn’t that be nice!), but they no longer sit in the fore front of my mind. I’ve removed the emotion from the tasks at hand. It’s now not about the fear of being rejected or ignored by a gallery, but about trying to reach my quota on contacts a month. That simple mind jerk paradigm shift has released me, to a degree, from my internal prison of thinking.

How freakin’ liberating is that!

Now with the road map tucked firmly in my grasp, in my wake, a trail of fear I leave behind me.

Side note: I still expect resistance to rise up in an attempt to wear me down. That’s the one thing within that never really truly disappears. It’s learning to ignore those dangerously sweet nothings whispered in your ear (encouraging you to beach on the couch binge watching the latest show). Understanding that your passion outweighs the fear of failure or regret. It’s good to have a few mentors that can pluck you from the depths of mental despair. But when you’re sitting quietly in bed, alone with your thoughts pick up one of these.

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon

and my favorite….

Art and Fear by David Bayles

These will keep you warm at night.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In My Wake A Trail of Fear

These fields called for nakedness. There was something about the undulating curves molded by lava and the coolness of the air that mimicked the contours of the human body. It wasn’t the first time clothing magically disappeared from these courageous bodies…and most certainly won’t be the last.

After all, the human body is a work of art in its own right.

The rawness of the landscape dictated a nude form and KD was kind enough to model in this scene…with Jen close by to hand her clothes once the scene lay captured.

So easily, all it takes is a  moment to close my eyes and instantly I am transported back to that day. The scent of the landscape. The briskness of the air. The feel of the shaggy carpet beneath our feet… My friends, a few rocks over smiling, laughing and doing what they do best.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In My Wake A Trail of Fear

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In My Wake A Trail of Fear

Be weary of the 6 foot drops between the crevasses.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS - In My Wake A Trail of Fear

Exhale After Intermission

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

Exhale After Intermission

It’s been an ongoing game of hi’s and goodbye’s for several weeks now as Capt Awesome takes to the commuting skies. Long quiet days that allow for a little latitude in how messy the house remains after a meal. Vials and bottles litter the counter in the bathroom. Then comes Friday and it’s a dash to run the dishwasher, sweep up the week’s unkempt display of laziness…or shall we say a shift in priorities. Yes, that sounds better.

We came to this situation with high hopes and a sense of resolve despite the urgings from everyone else. The rewards towered high above ringing with promise, sparkling in such a way we couldn’t resist. Yes, it would be hard, but we can do it. We can do anything.

And we have.

But this sucks! BIG TIME.

Yes, to you all. You were right!! I concede. The sparkles could never outweigh the presence, the space between, the energy or the touch.


But something has changed. Time. 48 hours becomes a treasure. No longer a routine, wasted or something to take for granted. We look to fill those hours with purpose and intent. To make up for the time in between when we are apart.

And Fridays…they are a tall glass of water on a hot day. The butterflies before a first date. The smile that can take your breath away. The long exhale after intermission before the next act.

 It started off as a seriously gloomy day. The kind that makes you grateful you decided to bring your raincoat on an epic adventure. To make matters slightly more bitter, it was the last day on the Ring Road. The evening would close in Reykjavik with a departure the following day. We needed to soak in as much glory to last us through the next several months. So the rain needed to move on out!

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission
I took Capt Awesome to Dyrolahey…a word I still cannot pronounce no matter how hard I try. The basalt rock cuts displayed itself in jagged patterns across the terrain, showing off some teeth in certain places.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

Especially here. A wonder of physics and time. I would swear you could sit here and watch the current drift in and out while time stood still. Your senses mesmerized by the crashing of the waves, the strength of water flinging itself against the rock sending a shock of coolness to the already cool air, the colors shifting from cerulean blue to white to blue again. It was hypnotizing.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

Capt. Awesome hit the shutter on this one. Then I let him sit, pondering the whys of the world while I headed out to explore the rest of this incredible place. After he returned, he said something that hit home. That he was minding his own business watching the water break upon the rocks after each sweep of the tide, lost in his thoughts. And then come the tourists, quick to whip out their cameras, take their snapshot and move on without really taking in the scene. Guilty am I of this as well. We view so much of our world behind our camera or phone these days that rarely do we stop to actually experience what is right in front of us.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission

Then something magical happened, the clouds separated revealing the heavens above. The sun made it’s first appearance of the day. Oh, the colors. A beautiful ending to a beautiful trip.

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Exhalation After Intermission


© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Somersault


When I first met Capt Awesome, I had all these rules in my head. What I could and couldn’t do, how long I needed to date a man before I would consider marrying him, etc. I mean really, after several long term relationships that ended in heart break, it must take an adequate amount of time for one’s heart to recognize the truth. Logically, a few dates couldn’t truly determine such a dramatic change in my life as I knew it. That’s just crazy talk!

So I lived in a momentary state of denial, awe and excitement while my heart made every effort to convince my brain of what existed right before my very eyes. Never mind the butterflies, my stomach doing a thousand somersaults at a simple thought, a smile, a comment…as fluttered memories thwarted every effort at productivity. What work…none of that happening over her! It wasn’t long before the surrender ended in pure acceptance. And soon my sister took one look at me and said, “You really need not pay attention to those rules you’ve created for yourself.”

She was right and I knew it. Imagination and reality walked a parallel line of agreement and there was no mistaking that path any longer. No crossroads, just a straight line in one direction. Clarity. Sweet, blissful clarity.

I remember looking back on the time before that moment, almost 6 years ago outside of a Border’s Bookstore. Slightly jaded at the string of past exes, mistakes, errors of judgement, etc. ad nauseam. Wondering with skeptical hope if Disney movies had ruined me for the rest of my days. Seeing numerous people in my life married, then divorced. Or worse, married and miserable. Skeptical. But hopeful. Then there he was. Smiling at me with a crinkle in his eye and an all knowing glance as if he had a magic ball in his back pocket.

I can still picture it perfectly today.

So glad am I that I didn’t run screaming for the hills after that amazing first date. That I let the wonder and excitement of it all lead me by the hand in eager anticipation of tomorrow.

How aptly, Sia’s Chandelier decides to sing through my speakers at this very moment…

I’m going to live like tomorrow doesn’t exist.

This one is for you, my beautiful friend. May your heart calm any apprehensions and allow you to live in the moment.


It was the second to last day with these beautiful people as we caravan-ed through this crazy landscape. Each turn in the road bringing us to a new plot of eye candy. The menu offered up lava fields; remnants of the last volcano on this side of the island, the cooled lava curved and undulated across the Earth weaving a fabric of moss and lichen through time. It was soft to the touch and surprisingly warm considering the briskness in the air. And since we took off our shoes to play in the folds, it tickled our toes.

This particular spot turned out to be a popular one as that deep cut in the lava rock set for an peculiar backdrop. I’m interested to see what creations came out of the other personal visions that day.

So Kory and Bonnie get into position as I direct them to the edge, tell them my concept and prepare to take the shot.

Then this happened….

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - Somersault Gif

All I can say is I love my friends!

© Marisa S White - White Sparks Photography - BTS Somersault

Proper cloud placement is very important and takes many trys…especially when one is balancing precariously atop a rock. Never a dull moment.

I’ve determined Iceland to be one of my happy places. One which will beckon again and again until my return.

Sep 2, 2015 - 11:03 pm

Bonnie Caton - <3