Linda Baylis

Launching Linda Baylis to #SOAR!

In case you missed it on my blog…

For the rest of this week, we are going to do something very special as a community. I am so excited and yet a little sad.  Proud and full of joy.  Grieving and celebrating within.   It’s always a mix of emotions when something good has grown beyond it’s walls.  Our three SOAR! Recipients started the year surrounded by walls of doubt, fear, insecurity, unsure about their photography abilities, unsure of their dreams, the list goes on.  But this week, we recognize that they have outgrown many of those walls.

We don’t release them in the sense of losing them, but celebrate them–recognize what they’ve done.  I’m especially excited to have each of them be Sponsors/Mentors to this year’s new recipients.  These three women have become knitted into my very heart, as I know they have touched your life too with every new week of posts on the SOAR! blog.  We have laughed, cried, and cried some more.  But now, this week, it’s time to recognize their GREAT, hard earned accomplishment of completing the SOAR! year.

We are going to collectively launch our three, hardworking, beautiful SOAR! Recipients!  They have worked more hours than you would ever guess, and they deserve to be celebrated.  Will you help me celebrate each of them this week, as I show you where they’ve come from and where they are now?

Let’s start today with Linda Baylis!

Linda’s submission video struck our SOAR! panel of judges last year.  It was witty, funny, creative, heartfelt and showed us courage from the start.  In her application, she also wrote about dealing with chronic illness, and her determination to never give up no matter how tough the battle.

I don’t think any of us knew what battles we would walk through this last year.  Linda ended up needing to go back to New Zealand for a part of the year, and yet somehow, this unexpected part of her life’s journey played into perfect timing of SOAR!’s mission and support for her.  With every challenge that came Linda’s way, she faced it.  There were many times that she felt scared but there was never a time that she opted out.  I hope that she reads this post today, this celebration of all her successes, and feels great pride for herself and all her hard work.  I hope she has a quiet moment to Pause, let a sense of incredible accomplishment sink in.  She has gone from hoping and dreaming of “how to do” photography, and maybe having a small business, to launching a BEAUTIFUL website and blog.

SOAR! Partner, SmugMug,  has been working for months with all three gals on creating websites and blogs that represent each of their personalities.  Check out Linda Baylis’s NEW WEBSITE and her BLOG! They are Amazing with a Capital A!

What does Linda have to say about SOAR! for those of you who are considering the application process?  Let her tell you in this special video.

Linda has even BIGGER dreams than when we first started last January.  And this alone makes me so excited because I know this little New Zealand mama has what it takes to do WHATEVER she sets her heart too.  This year, every blog post she wrote, every assignment she did, every tear she shed, every time she laughed from total exhaustion, this year and all the above are proof that Linda Baylis is capable of all her BIG dreams.  She is capable of what she thought was impossible.  And it is a honor to release her to SOAR!

Will you help me congratulate this beautiful lady!  Will you stand with me and see Linda Baylis SOAR!

I love you Linda.



*In honor of the next few days, celebrating our three SOAR! Recipients, SmugMug is offering a 20% discount on their one year membership!  Copy and paste the special coupon code: MeRaSMUG20.  A very BIG thanks to Smug Mug for all that they gave this last year and continue to give as we prepare together for this next year!  We love you Smug Mug!

Discover. Explore. Apply (today!). SOAR!

The 2010 SOAR! Scholarship begins today ladies!  WOO-HOO!

Go to the SOAR! WEBSITE for all the juicy details!  Discover the new prizes (check out the SONY DSLR this year!!)  Explore the forum! Apply to be one of the THREE Recipients, and you may find yourself SOARING this year!

Got questions? We’ve got you covered!  Post up all your questions on the forum, and Linda, Jennifer or Lindsay will be on hand to answer them for you!  Take advantage of their wisdom and experience ladies!  They are so excited to help our new recipients SOAR!

Deadline to apply is Monday, December 20th!

Be sure to meet ALL FOUR video requirements before uploading!  (hint: see #3 thru #7 on the FAQ)

So many things to be thankful for with this year’s Thanksgiving.  SOAR! stepping into its’ second year is one of them.  I also want to give a special thanks to my amazing husband, Brian, who has been working for a couple months on all these details with a team of amazing people under him.  Babe, you make it possible for me to soar.  i love u.



*To hear from last year’s recipients, click on their name; Linda, Jennifer and Lindsay!

The men of SOAR speak out…

This week on the SOAR blog we’re mixing things up a bit. We decided it was time to give the men of SOAR a voice and an opportunity to talk about the journey we’ve all been on from their perspective. Jen came up with some great questions for the guys to consider. And I had to add a few photos so you knew who was talking to you! Now I’ve got to warn you – I think this guy is a little biased, and the truth is – without him and his unconditional love and support – I couldn’t have done any of this.

2002 – The beginning

the view

Tell us about when you found out about your wife winning SOAR?
My wife had found out that her submission had made it to the final judging round, so we were very excited about that.  They told her to expect a call concerning the final outcome that coming Saturday morning so we were on “pins and needles,” especially so for Linda.  There was so much anticipation, as the time between the submission date and the notification date was so long.  It didn’t help, that the forum on the SOAR blog was a frenzy of activity.  You would have thought these women were four year olds on the lead up to Christmas day.  So we had a children’s birthday party that Saturday morning and made sure we had the mobile phone on us at all times.  We were on our way back home after the party and the phone rang, we both knew who it was for.  Linda, after the brief introduction, was screaming with joy.  I think she scared our two little boys.  I don’t think any of us had seen mommy this happy in a long time.  I was so proud of her.  Little did we know what the coming year would have in store for all of us…

2005 – The honeymoon


From your perspective, what is the biggest thing your wife has learned this year?
The biggest thing that Linda has learned this year is that she has the confidence and ability to pursue her passions and her dreams. It has been a huge year of learning for Linda.  Her learning extended beyond the technical and business aspects of the photography industry.  It extended into learning about herself.  The SOAR scholarship is really a journey.  At the very beginning it seemed the mindset was all about the end result of having a sustainable photography business, but it quickly became about the personal journey.  The technical and business related skill sets rarely posed much difficulty for any length in time.  It was the psychological or understanding of her “self” where Linda had her biggest breakthroughs.

2006 – The first child

2006 2006_2

firstchild1 firstchild2

What is the hardest thing she’s done this year?
I don’t think she realizes this, but from my perspective is was to keep on task for the whole year.  Linda has consistently produced at a high level all year.  There is no vacation from the SOAR Scholarship and from her efforts to build her business.  She has put so much energy and passion into this experience.  Her dedication to her goals and SOAR has been monumental.  I’m very proud and happy to have Linda “in my corner.”

2007 – The second child

second_child1 Second Child 3

second child

What is one (good) thing that has surprised you about your wife this year?
She ran a half marathon this year!   On top of everything else she has going on.  Very impressive…

Has watching your wife go through this experience been of any benefit (or inspiration) to your working toward your goals?
Her experiences with the SOAR scholarship and the goal of developing her business have definitely benefited me in that it dovetails with our plan to move back to New Zealand in the future.  She wanted a career that enabled her the flexibility to spend time with our children and that she could take back with us to New Zealand.  On a more personal note, it helped inspire me to do something for myself.  So I signed up for and completed a long distance bicycle ride called the “Death Ride” – 129 miles, 15,000 feet of climbing over five mountain passes in the Sierra Mountain Range. Why?  The challenge of doing something once considered improbable.


What is an f-stop?
A what?  Seriously, I have heard it a million times, but couldn’t tell you or anyone else for that matter.

Any advice to husbands whose wives are applying for SOAR?
Good luck.  Your life will never be the same.  It is a huge commitment, but the payoff can be just as large.  You will have more weekends than you can count spent posing, searching for shoot locations, posing, moving furniture, posing, holding props/lighting apparatus, posing, brainstorming, posing, looking at images, posing, answering the phone from all the calls from the other SOAR ladies, posing, picking up household duties that become secondary to homework/blogging, posing, watching Me Ra on the Nate Berkus Show, etc.  I hope you are a patient man…

Kids, same goes for you…

Tell us one thing about your wife she wouldn’t want us to know?
Her escape from reality…Real Housewives of “insert city” and Milano cookies :-)

Setting yourself up for success…

This month’s photography exercise is titled ‘setting yourself  up for success, regardless’. Me Ra asked us to do a photo shoot in a home that we’ve never been inside of before.

Walk through the home taking quick snapshots to study the light of each room. Which room will you choose? Do you need to adjust furniture? Shoot wide angle BEFORE shots, then show us the AFTER results. This is all about stepping out in CONFIDENCE as the professional who knows best.

So here we go.. I combined this exercise with a toddler session I already had scheduled. After a quick walk through the entire house I found some great chairs I wanted to use and decided to start in the child’s room upstairs. I turned off all the artificial lights, opened the blinds and brought in one of the chairs I’d spotted in another room and positioned it facing the windows but out of the direct sunlight that was coming through.

We picked bright pink for little Miss B to contrast nicely with the zebra striped chair and tried to spray her bangs so they’d stay out of her eyes. I don’t know about you, but I find there is nothing more frustrating than trying to photoshop stray hairs out of those big beautiful eyes!


Well, nearly…. it’s also somewhat frustrating trying to get a toddler to stay still and pose on a chair for more than 10 seconds at a time – particularly a smart and sassy little toddler like Miss B! She sure had my number… what was I thinking?!!


Turned out for the best really – a little readjusting and some way more engaging images I think!




Camera settings: 50mm – ISO 400. f.1.8, 1/500

So what did I learn?

You can set everything up for the greatest potential, but at the end of the day, when working with children they are the ones calling the shots. Below are some images of another area I had lined up to use next but I quickly realized my time had run out. So we just moved on and I quietly moved all the furniture back in to place before leaving :)

Less than twelve months ago I had no idea how to find the best light and would never have dreamed of moving the furniture around! I’ll take this as another step forward. Thank goodness for Me Ra and thank goodness for SOAR!

Don’t forgot to share your own results on the SOARority forum!

See you there,

PS. I’d recommend asking your clients to open all the blinds and curtains before you arrive. It took me 5 minutes to break something :(

A time for reflection…

Karen and Fay have taught me so much this year. They have instilled in me the skills and the wisdom to meet challenges head on, the confidence to embrace who I am and be happy with that, and most powerful of all, the ability to recognize and acknowledge ‘what is so’.

I always tend to focus on what more I could achieve. How much better I could be. What new things I need to learn. Until recently I saw this as a strength. Now I question it.

The simple act of looking back on ‘what is so’, of harvesting your accomplishments, is such a powerful tool. It reminds me where I started. How much I have achieved. How much I have improved. It gives me the confidence and inspiration to dream of how much further I can go…. It helps me to be kinder to myself.

For this weeks weeks video blog, along with the exercise, I was inspired to consider ‘what is so’ with the images I’ve been capturing. Where I was a year ago and where I am right now. And how many thousands of images it took to make it here. How much practice. How much passion. How many bad images it took to learn to take better ones.

And in the process you know what I learned? My biggest confidence challenge along the way – ironically the Seattle CONFIDENCE Workshop – was the start of my biggest growth and transition period. It took this exercise for me to realize I walked away from the CONFIDENCE workshop ‘confidently’ shooting in manual. I was previously an Av shooter but I never looked back. I now shoot everything in manual and I never even think about it.

It’s so good to consider what is so…

Rain, fear and the Artist’s Way…

It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s raining and breezy here is Sacramento. A perfect day to snuggle up with hot chocolate and Chapter 9 of the Artist’s Way. I have to confess, after months of sunshine day after day, I relish the change in the weather. I find it refreshing. Strangely comforting. Incredibly cleansing.

“Let the rain come down and wash away my tears
Let it fill my soul and drown my fears
Let it shatter the walls for a new, new sun
A new day has… come”
~ Celine Dion

In this week’s Artist’s Way chapter titled ‘Recovering a Sense of Compassion’ Julia Cameron talks about fear.

“The blocked artist does not know how to begin with baby steps. Instead, the blocked artist thinks in terms of great big scary impossible tasks: a novel, a feature film, a one-person show, an opera.”

Big Punkin

Like the child who attempts to pick up the biggest ‘punkin’ in the patch!

“When these large tasks are not accomplished or even begun, the blocked artist calls that laziness. Do not call the inability to start laziness. Call it fear. Fear is the true name for what ails the blocked artist.”

Can you relate? I sure can.

This is not the first time this year I have questioned how fear might be holding me back. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not being liked. The fear of failure. The fear of success?

And what I have learned is to work on letting it go. To allow myself to fail and allow myself to learn. True confidence will follow.

“I’ve missed more than 900 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
~ Michael Jordan

As much as it all makes sense acknowledging my fears and letting them go is still a conscious choice. It’s not that simple. It’s not that easy. So when I found an exercise in this week’s Artist’s Way chapter to help with this process I wanted to share it. I’ve posted it here on the SOARORITY forum and encourage you to check it out. But be prepared, in the words of Julia Cameron: ‘this is a very powerful exercise; it can do fatal damage to a creative block.’

I hope you find it valuable!

And here’s my daily reminder on what it’s like to be fearless… he’s an accident waiting to happen, but so brave and always ready to brush himself off and do it again! It may have been our first visit to urgent care but I’m sure it’s not our last!

The big 'owie'


My Sweet Sony…

It’s video time again for me on the SOAR blog and this week it’s all about my sweet little Sony A330. I’m finding this video making takes a lot of work but the end result is so much fun. Hope you enjoy it!


Night time photo session – something’s got to give….

On Sunday my family and I had the opportunity to be models for the ladies at Me Ra Koh’s San Francisco CONFIDENCE Workshop. It was interesting to find myself on the other end of the camera especially having recently attended the very same workshop myself. I knew first hand the challenges they faced as they tried to capture images of our family and deal with two boys on a big day out who would normally be napping around this same time.  I really appreciated their energy, passion, humor and patience and for taking the boys off my hands for a while ;-)   Thank you ladies – I can’t wait to see what you captured!

After the photo session Me Ra honored me by asking me to talk to the group about the SOAR program. I know she felt bad putting me on the spot but the truth is, had she asked me earlier, it would have totally stressed me out. I suspect she probably knew this. Turns out, after a shaky start, where I totally proved my point that I can’t TALK in front of a group and THINK at the same time I actually enjoyed it. How great is it to be able to share one of the greatest experiences of my life, to encourage others to consider applying, and to honor the two people who made it possible.  What was even better was to find there were so many SOAR sister’s in the group – five beautiful and familiar faces I see on facebook every day. It was such a pleasure for me to actually get to meet Judith Isserman, Ajira Darch-Sharp, Charisse Rhodes, Nicky Peterson and Lynde Alvarez. Wish there was more time to connect and that I’d made the connection earlier!

So where am I going with this and where is this month’s photo exercise? That’s a good question and it’s coming. At the workshop Charisse asked me an interesting question. A question about how I was able to balance things now – photography, SOAR, and family.  And the truth is, I had no good answer. I guess I have finally accepted that this illusion of ‘balance’ I’ve been madly pursuing really doesn’t exist. There are times you are moving forward. There are times you are slipping back. There are times when you have the luxury to learn, to explore and to grow and times when you are just chasing your tail. When you want to scream at the top of your lungs ‘STOP THE BUS. I WANT TO GET OFF!’.

The last ten days I have been on the CRAZY bus. Last Sunday I ran my first half marathon. On Tuesday I got up at 4.30am to fly to Orange County to attend Jeff Jochum’s Business Clarity Workshop. That made my head spin. On Wednesday evening the boys and I did a spontaneous photo session with my friend Bree Hester so I had images of myself for my website. I worked on my website until midnight. On Thursday friends from New Zealand arrived and visited with us until Saturday.  In between visiting I worked on a SOAR video. In between all this was a sick child and a sick husband, laundry to do, a house to clean, blog posts to write, and other commitments. And the reality is… something had to give. Are you with me yet….?

Yes, four paragraphs later, I’m telling you the something that had to give was this month’s photo exercise: ‘Going to Extremes: Night Time Shooting for an Engagement Session’. At the last minute I realized I’d run out of time – I didn’t have models and I wasn’t prepared.

So meet my friends from New Zealand, Kathryn and Pete. They are not engaged and don’t intend on marrying. It’s not their thing. If they truly loved me and wanted me to succeed I say they would simply get married so I could book my first wedding. They’re not convinced. I managed to convince them to pretend to be engaged for the sake of this blog. They gave me five minutes at the fabulous restaurant we dined at. The fairy lights in this beautiful archway caught my eye. Their hearts just weren’t in it. Good food and good wine were waiting. My four inch heel clad feet hurt. My heart wasn’t in it.I bumped up my ISO and snapped a few shots. Something has always got to give. Can anyone relate?

Night3 Night2
ISO 3200, f/1.8, 1/40


The wall…

On Sunday I ran my first half marathon. As I crossed the five mile mark I felt a huge rush of emotion as I realized not only would I complete it, I was going to totally exceed my own time expectations. I remembered back to almost three years ago when I didn’t know if I could walk, let alone run, without pain. Along the way I shed a few tears, but they were most certainly excited and happy tears as I finally put those fears to rest.

I kept waiting to hit that wall I had heard about, when you feel you have nothing left and can’t go on, but fortunately for me it simply didn’t happen. As I crossed the finish line as strong as I started I felt so alive, like I could do absolutely anything!

So what does this have to do with photography and this month’s business exercise? Well, I feel like I crossed that five mile mark with my photography business back in August on the SOAR blog when Me Ra asked us to voice our dreams. But the thing with my photography business is that shortly after that I hit the crazy wall! What made me hit it? One word…

The Branding Wall

For the past month I have been working with our SmugMug designer on my website and blog and it’s been a slow process. Even as I write I know Billy is waiting on me for content and decisions yet I’m still somewhat blocked. I am over thinking everything, second guessing every decision, and my perfectionist is in full control. When I think about branding I think about logos, tag lines and presentation because that’s the easy part for me. Discovering my own authentic brand and the core qualities I want to embody is exactly as Karen described for me… “like walking through a dark cobweb filled room. CRAZY MAKING!”

Before this exercise arrived in my in-box I had already got to a certain point. Brainstorming with myself, a sheet of poster board and a pack of multicolored markers, I had decided on some words that I felt defined my style and a tag line that differentiated me. Here’s a sneak peak of what I came up with…

Linda Baylis Photography Splash Page

What keeps striking me is how valuable and applicable these business exercises are regardless of the stage you are at. Instead of using this month’s exercise to discover my brand, I will be using Karen’s three-step process to ensure what I have already come up with is a valid, real and genuine expression of what matters the most to me. I want to give it the wholehearted YES she encourages us all to do.

Here’s the first step…
Describe the 4-5 core qualities that you want to be known for in your business.

  • I want to be known as a professional – someone who will not compromise on service or quality.
  • A storyteller – I want to sell stories – not images.
  • Down to earth, warm and engaging – I want my clients to think of me as a friend.
  • I want to provide exceptional experiences and capture images that grab people’s hearts.

And as well as all of these values, I want the core essence of my brand to reflect my (somewhat) unique identity here as a New Zealander.

Yes – it’s quite a wall I am trying to break through but I am so thankful to our wonderful business coaches Karen Buckley and Fay Freed of the Wisdom Connection for their continued support and invaluable exercises that keep me moving forward. I am also super excited, and just a little nervous, to be flying to Orange County today where my friend Melanie Jaramillo and I are attending Jeff Jochum’s Biz Clarity Workshop.  Jeff is a straight shooter and has a totally different approach to Karen and Fay.  I’ve been warned to prepare to have my brain twisted, melted and turned upside down. Gulp.  Can’t be worse than running 13.1 miles can it?

See you on the other side of the ‘crazy’ wall!

Artist’s Way – recovering a sense of strength…

This month’s Artist’s Way chapter is titled ‘recovering a sense of strength’. I just love this title because I feel that is what this whole SOAR! year has been about – recovering my strength – creatively, mentally and physically.

Photography Exercise #2 Details Picture

SOAR! February 2010 Photography Exercise – Storytelling with Details

Julia Cameron talks about the need for blocked creatives to take small steps instead of skipping ahead to a large one for which we may not be prepared for.

Indulging ourselves in a frantic fantasy of what our life would look like if we were real artists, we fail to see the many small creative changes that we could make at this very moment. This kind of look-at-the-big-picture thinking ignores the fact that a creative life is grounded on many, many small steps and very, very few large leaps. Rather than take a scary baby step toward our dreams, we rush to the edge of the cliff and then stand there, quaking, saying, “I can’t leap. I can’t. I can’t.”


SOAR! March 2010 Photography Exercise – Capturing Conflict

I am guilty of this ‘big-picture-thinking’ that Julia Cameron describes. Prior to this whole SOAR! experience I honestly believed a successful photography career would require 3-4 years at photography school along with a substantial investment for equipment – and after that – another few years working for and learning from a ‘real’ photographer. I would never have imagined I could create well exposed, well composed professional images that people would actually want to pay for with a prosumer camera. It was too big, too scary and seemed too out of reach to even consider.

May Confidence Workshop

SOAR! May 2010 – Seattle Confidence Workshop

Well this SOAR! year has proved me wrong. With the guidance and exercises provided by the Artist’s Way, Me Ra Koh, Karen Buckley and Fay Freed it is forcing me to take daily actions instead of indulging in the big questions.Every week on the SOAR! blog we are challenged to do something we might normally not try. To think in ways we don’t normally think. To reach for dreams we don’t normally dare and each week brings us one small step closer to achieving our goals.

Shadow a Pro

SOAR! June 2010 Photography Requirement – Shadow a Professional Photographer – Wedding

When we allow ourselves to wallow in the big questions, we fail to find the small answers. What we are talking about here is a concept of change grounded in respect – respect for where we are as well as where we wish to go. We are looking not to grand strokes of change – although they may come – but instead to the act of creatively husbanding all that is in the present: this job, this house, this relationship.

Senior Photo Session

SOAR! August 2010 Photography Exercise – Senior Session with Textures

I am so incredibly blessed to be part of this first SOAR! experience and to be surrounded by such wisdom. If you haven’t been following along with the exercises and posts it’s not too late – go back and check them out. It’s an invaluable framework of small steps to success.