Reaching Seventeen

A year ago when I turned sixteen I decided to set 17 goals for myself to accomplish before I turned seventeen (you can read more about what motivated me to do this challenge through this link). They were difficult to accomplish and I must admit that I had to replace a few of the goals with something else when I realized how impossible they had become. But nonetheless I accomplished 17 things within a year and now on my birthday I want to share with you exactly what they were and how I managed to accomplished them.

Here are the 17 goals I set out to accomplish.

1. Buy a new camera and lens

2. Write fifty letters to strangers

3. Shoot at 7 new locations

4. Read seventeen classics

5. Figure out the “why” in my photography

6. Set up my store

7. Jump into seven different bodies of water

8. Use a male model in an image

9. Shoot my first client shoot

10. Have my work in a gallery

11. Wake up at 6:00 every day for a week

12. Complete a photo series

13. Sell my first fine art print

14. Redo my website

15. Create and successfully run a teen photography group

16. Cook seven different recipes

17. Create an elaborate photoshoot


I believe that in life it is important to set and dedicate yourself to accomplishing goals. For as long as I can remember I’ve been setting goals, I would write up documents as a little girl and I would go about trying my best to accomplish the things I wrote down. Unusual perhaps but I found it to be rather enjoyable. Now I find myself setting a long list of goals every new year and now it seems every birthday. There is something so satisfying to cross something off a list and go about accomplishing the next one. To be so dedicated to something that nothing will stop you from accomplishing it is where I want to be in life. I want to be able to set my mind to something and go after it with persistence and a joyful heart. Thats what I believe my yearly goal challenge is about, dedicating myself to what I want.

So here are all 17 goals that I accomplished before I turned 17.


1. Buy a new camera and lens.

After many years, about four, I finally saved enough money up to replace my Canon Rebel T3i with a brand new and beautiful Sony camera. I had originally decided to go for a more professional Canon camera such as the 5D Mark III, but after testing a Sony I absolutely fell in love with the way they work. The colors they’re able to produce is so beautiful. I’m so happy with my Sony AR7II, it had made me incredibly happy with my photography. The lens I got to go along with it is the Sigma Art 50mm, it is absolutely stunning. I couldn’t be happier!


                                       (first image with the new camera)



2. Write 50 letters to strangers

Originally this goal was to write 50 letters and drop them where someone could find them. Little drops of encouragement for someone who might be having a bad day. And for the first couple I did that, but it began to get further on in the year and I kept forgetting to drop the letters. So I decided to write to the one stranger I would want to know everything about. The one stranger I know so well, yet won’t know at all. That stranger is myself in the future. I began to write the letters to the person I will be years down the line. How meaningful it will be when I’m older to read through these letters and get a peak into the me I used to be.



3. Shoot at 7 new locations

These locations included Buckroe Beach in Virginia, Enid, Oklahoma, an emptied College Lake, an abandoned 1830’s mansion, Bailey Spencers Hardware Store, a random field, an abandoned building near a KOA campground and many other locations. I have thus surpassed this goal and have enjoyed every step of the way. To view the images taken at each location click the highlighted text.




4. Read seventeen classics

I’ve always loved reading. Often when I was little my mom would have to tell me to stop reading rather than to read. I love being able to jump into a different world and experience things from the perspective of another person, it’s simply magical. With classics its like getting a little peek into the past and I love nothing more than to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.

Below I’ve made my favorite bold, I would highly suggest checking them out.

– Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

– Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

– Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

– Dracula by Bram Stoker 

– Lady Susan by Jane Austen

– Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

– The Jungle by Upton Sinclair 

– Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 

– The Art of War by Sun Tzu

– All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

– Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

– She Stoops to Conquer By Oliver Goldsmith

– The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

– To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee



5. Figure out the “why” in my photography

There have been times during my photography journey when I’m not exactly sure why I’m creating. In the beginning I knew exactly why I wanted to create, but it wasn’t an original idea. I created to be exactly like another photographer. This I soon realized led to unhappiness in my career choice. In 2017 I decided that I would change this and find a reason for creating. I am glad to say that I now know the why in my work.

I create to capture the stories within my mind and turn them into reality. I create to turn imagination into something tangible and to create stories with deep meaning. I create to tell the stories people can’t or won’t tell themselves. I create to release my creativity and to express myself.

I create to shine a light into the darkness.



6. Set up my store

Since I started my business, Strength Of Atlantis, in 2016 I wanted to find a way to sell my images as prints. But at the time I had no idea what went into the creation of prints and setting prices, trust me there is a ton. But after I expanded my knowledge on what it took to create prints I set up my “Store.” If you are interested in checking out the four sizes I decided on and the prices I set, click here. All of my images are available for purchasing.



7. Jump into seven different bodies of water

This goal was by far the most terrifying goal of all. I hate open bodies of water (even streams), I can’t see whats in the water with me and it literally freaks me out. This goal was to help me overcome that fear. Or so I thought.

With each new body of water I got in I began to realize this goal was either going to get rid of my fear of reinforce it. Unfortunately, I do believe it was the later, but I still faced my fear and did something I was uncomfortable doing. College Lake was the only body of water I didn’t really get into. The lake was drained so I faced more of a discomfort of getting covered in mud. Below are all the bodies of water I got in and a picture of me in them.

– The Atlantic Ocean


– Otter Creek


– Smith Mountain Lake


– College Lake


– Matts Creek

– Holliday Lake


– The James River




8. Use a male model in an image and 9. Shoot my first client shoot

Recently, I was contacted by Seth Russell, a friend who is a talented musician. He asked if I would be willing to create an album cover for his next single, “Forgive You”. Fortunately I was already traveling to Oklahoma near where he lives in July and we were able to arrange a photoshoot. With this image I was able to complete both of these goals and I couldn’t be happier with the end result. Click here to listen to “Forgive you” as well as all of Seth’s other work.





10. Have my work in a gallery

This was by far one of my favorite goals to accomplish on my list. I learned an incredible amount from being in a gallery in Orlando, Florida. Three pieces of my work were featured at the event and if you would be interested in reading more about the exhibition I’ve written two blog posts about it. Part 1 and Part 2. Since my first exhibition I have had the pleasure of my work being in two others, one was in my hometown and the other was in Paris France. Below are some photos taken from all of the shows.






11. Wake up at 6:00 every day for a week

I must say it was hard to keep this going for seven days in a row, especially on the weekends. It took several tries but I was able to complete this goal and I was surprised when I realized that it had been enjoyable. In the mornings I found I was more productive and the earlier I woke up the more I could get done. I felt dedicated to my craft and my day and that night when I got in bed I was surprised at how accomplished I felt.



12. Complete a photo series

The series. A task that was both daunting and fun to complete. And although these images are not my best work and creating them set me behind in my 52 week project, I am happy to have created a few images that go together visually and thematically. I look forward to creating a new series in 2019.





13. Sell my first fine art print

This was one of the most exciting and thrilling moments of my life. A dream had just appeared as reality in front of me and the whole thing was so surreal. I could hardly control my excitement and happiness, is is such a beautiful experience to see a dream come true right in front of you. Without the dedication to my craft that I have tried to cultivate I don’t believe I ever would have been able to reach this turning point. Everything about my photography became very real in an instant. It went from a hobby to my career, it was a stunning moment.





14. Redo my website

I transformed my old and relatively frustrating website, image below, into the one you see today. Changing from the host Wix to WordPress was the best decision of my blogging/website life. Everything is so much easier and I love the sleek and professional look I now have.



15. Create and successfully run a teen photography group

When I was little I dreamed of running a club. Any kind really. Book club, writing club, adventure club. etc. At the beginning of 2017 I began to help a photography group that very soon petered out, frustrated with how quickly everyone dispersed I decided to try building another one. One that would last longer than two months. And I did! I run a wonderful group of teenagers who come together to create. We’ve been going for almost one year now, the first meeting was September 30th, 2017 and have over 11 members. I am so thrilled to be part of a wonderfully creative group of people. We inspire and challenge one another and most importantly have fun. This image was taken at our very first meeting.




16. Cook seven different recipes

This was one of those incredibly fun and rewarding goals to accomplish. From cakes to biscuits I devoured each one readily after I had cooked it and I must say this was my dads favorite goal. Below are the seven recipes I tried, the ones in bold were my favorites.

Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake 

Garlic and Rosemary Salmon

Lofthouse Cookies

Mediterranean Salmon and Noodles

Peppermint No Bake Bars

Garlic and Parmesan Pasta







17. Create an elaborate photoshoot

Ever since I started photography I’ve wanted to create and build a set myself. I’ve tried multiple times, but it seems as if it just doesn’t work out very well. To accomplish this goal I decided that I was going to build a human sized nest. Built completely out of sticks, and in under an hour, by time it was finished the nest was monstrous. I had a lot of fun completing the set and I believe I like the image all the more because I know the nest was real and how much work went into creating it.







This year has been one whirlwind of activity but it has been an incredibly enjoyable one. I look forward to all the adventures my next year will bring and I am excited to set my 18 Before 18 goals. Thank you so much for sticking with me to the end of this blog post, I know it is long, but I feel incredibly overjoyed by looking at all the things I’ve accomplished.

I hope that this post will inspire you to set goals for the coming year. It could be one it could be a hundred, either way I encourage you to dedicate yourself to a task and see it through to completion. When you reach the end you will be grateful that you did.

Have a wonderful day!



4 thoughts on “Reaching Seventeen”

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