Guatemala…my amazing journey to Project Somos

In the middle of July I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala with a group of amazing women photographers.  This trip encompassed all the things I love…photography, travel, getting to know new people and most importantly serving women and children.  I didn’t really know what to expect…this was promoted as a photography service retreat but it ended up being so much more.  Project Somos Children’s Village is an eco-sustainable community that serves women and children at risk of poverty and very difficult life circumstances.  This was the first time a group of photographers came together at this site.  We had quite the “to do” list for the week and somehow got through it…photos of just about everything and everyone on site, family photos for the women staying in the village, time to educate the moms and their little ones about photography and using a camera, empowering these mothers and showing them how a photo can capture the “essence” of their child.  We were able to see first hand the power of photography.  It was an extraordinary week.

As a photographer this trip changed me in ways I did not expect.  I’m emotional thinking about it.  I have been doing photography for a long time but this was the first time I could truly experiment and push myself in my craft.  As you’ll see I took photos in the harsh mid-day sunlight (which made me cringe I won’t lie), I discovered macro photography and a new perspective of nature, I took photos of the night stars, erupting volcanoes, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets…and I changed.  I was patient.  I was open.  I held nothing back.  Each of the photographers on this trip was impacted but for me this was exactly what I needed right now.  A new perspective, a new energy and a new appreciation for how blessed I am.  I’m forever grateful to Heather Knox and Kellie Bieser for putting this together.

Below are a few of my favorite photos from this trip.  I took over 2000 photos so it has taken me a long time to cull through, pick favorites and finally share them.  All of the photos of the women and children have to be unidentifiable (faceless or blurred) to protect their identity and location.  I wish you could see the family session I did for one of the women…the smiles on their faces were priceless…but protecting them is very important and a harsh reality of their situation in Guatemala.  These women are beyond blessed to be living at Project Somos.  If you would like to donate to this amazing organization click here.  Thank you to those that already donated!  I know your money will have a direct impact on these women and their beautiful children.  🙂

We woke up at 5am our first morning to capture the sunrise and as you can see it was totally worth it!  These are the true colors of that beautiful sky.  Every morning it looked a little different but never as vibrant as this first day.

One of my favorite things was hearing a rumble and then wondering…is that thunder or one of the volcanoes erupting?

Not a problem we run into in Columbus, Ohio

This photo was the first time we met the women and introduced ourselves.  They were such a gracious and welcoming group.

We taught the women how to use point and shoot Canon cameras.  There was so much magic going on in this room.

First time this mother had taken a photo of her child.

The children were excited for their turn.  There were a few with natural talent and an eye for a good photo.

She had this beautiful landscape but decided to take a photo of me instead

My first trip on a traditional “chicken bus” to see the Mayan ruins.

We were there when the new chickens arrived.  The children were so excited.

I was exhausted every evening but on this particular night the sky was clear and the ladies wanted to capture the stars.  I had no idea what I was doing but somehow I captured the Milky Way.

An app told us where stars were located, we set up tripods, set our camera to a long open shutter speed and we waited like giddy kids to see if it would turn out.

And I captured a few sunbursts at sunrise or sunset…this was another early morning.

I was never disappointed when I got up early.  

Below is a collage of some of my macro work.  Macro photography was like therapy for me on this trip.  I could wonder off in God’s creation and spend this time alone with my 100mm macro lens.  Although I enjoyed being around the women and children there were days that were very emotionally draining and this time away was another unexpected blessing.  This was a new passion that was unleashed from this trip.  I can’t wait to do more macro work and see where it leads me.

This was on the last night…we had a pizza party outside so the kitchen was quiet for once.  The window and night sky were begging to be photographed.

Another photo I love…the joy on her face as another woman took her photo, the camera in tow and her beautiful Guatemalan attire.

These next few were on our day trip to Antigua on the way back the last day.  We had our driver pull off to capture this erupting volcano.





Below are the two amazing women that put this retreat together.  Kellie (left) and Heather (right)

Our group on the last day at Project Somos (photo by the talented Jim Bieser).  So grateful for each of these women!  I know others may visit Project Somos on future photography retreats but it will never be quite like this magical first adventure.  So glad I was a part of it!

I promised Lizzie I would have a photo in the fields of quinoa.  These photos are just a small glimpse of the beauty of Project Somos.  If you are local in Columbus and want to see more of my photos let me know.  I am so grateful for the support of my husband, family and friends to make this trip a reality.  I also want to thank those that supported Project Somos and made a monetary donation before I made the trip.  As I said, each dollar has a significant impact.  Please let me know if you’d like to know more about how you can help this wonderful place.