Journey Through South Carolina; a photographer’s Love of the State
How my journeys through South Carolina led to an amazing exhibit in the South Carolina State Library.
Early Days and Military Travel
Thinking of my childhood brings back nostalgic memories of heady summer days water skiing with my brother, Jimmy, and traveling to the mountains and beach with my parents, a cousin, or a friend as playmates. Later when I was older, I went hiking, canoeing, and scuba diving with my adventurous sister Elaine and her husband, Paul. During that time, Elaine and I went on a memorable scuba trip to the Bahamas aboard a small boat called the Impossible Dream. All of these experiences fueled my desire for adventure.
At Lander University, I attended a summer school in France, stopping in England, Germany, and Switzerland.
As graduation approached, I wondered what I’d do. There ought to be adventure travel in the military, I thought. I enlisted in the South Carolina National Guard in the fall of 1977. On the delayed entry program, the Army allowed me to finish college in the spring of 1978. I headed to Basic Combat Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, home of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
After military training, my hometown of Ninety Six hired me as their first female patrol officer. I arrived on my first day of work in the same car I had as a teenager, a bright tangerine-colored Karmann Ghia. It was the same one my girlfriends and I thought we were sneaking around in during those years. But when the Sergeant saw my car arrive on my first day of work, he said, “If that car starts talking, you’ll have to get rid of it!” We were not as sneaky as we thought, and now we get lots of laughs about the fun we had in the tangerine Karmann Ghia.
You never know what twists and turns you’ll take to get to your best career. From the time that I was sixteen and for the first ten years serving part-time in the National Guard, I worked in a variety of jobs, including mill worker, waitress, short order cook, seed packer, patrol officer, jailer, and teacher. After ten years, the National Guard hired me full-time, as a maintenance officer, in the Ordnance Branch, that later combined with other occupational specialties under Logistics.
I wish that more young people knew the advantages of military life! The benefits far exceed the disadvantages.
I moved from maintenance to human resources but back to maintenance duties when I became the first female superintendent of the Combined Support Maintenance Shop in the S.C. National Guard. That assignment lined me up for a tour as the Maintenance Team Chief at National Guard Bureau in Arlington, VA. But in another couple of career twists, I completed the tour at Fort Jackson as the Deputy Chief of Staff while working as the Secretary General Staff.
I returned to the S.C. National Guard, working again in personnel, and my career moved swiftly. I was selected as the Assistant Adjutant General, followed by the Director of Joint Staff. My three-year enlistment had turned into over thirty-seven years of service, and I retired in 2015. My career covered a lot of ground in the history of women’s service in the Army.
The year I entered basic training, the Army was phasing out the Women’s Army Corps. The year I retired, the first females were entering the Army’s combat branches of service.
The military had me traveling all the time throughout the U.S. and overseas. In 1986, I went to Belgium as part of Exercise Reforger. Despite the twelve-hour work shifts, it was a lovely experience. We billeted in a youth hostel and had Belgian cooks helping in the dining facility located in the same building. I remember that no one wanted to miss the delicious meals! During the last week, with time off, a couple of us traveled the country by passenger train, enjoying the scenery and stopping to shop for Belgian lace, known worldwide for its delicate beauty.
Some places in Belgium are so beautiful; it makes you feel like “Alice slipping through the looking glass into a wonderland.” – Alice in Wonderland. Bruges, Belgium, is like that, a UNESCO world heritage site with beautiful canals and cobbled stone streets.
The following year, in 1987, I went to Okinawa, Japan, and every day after work used the local bus system to travel from one end of the island to the other. But I could also walk out the gate of Kadena Air Base and browse the shopping district of Okinawa City.
Sometimes your work in the military differs from your assigned position. That happened to me on several occasions. In 1988, I went to Panama as a Signal Officer. But instead of being assigned that work, I was appointed a VIP protocol officer. We saw the beauty of Panama from above, in a helicopter with doors off, and below, in military jeeps, visiting the places where troops were stationed. I lodged in a highrise overlooking Panama City on one side and the Gulf of Panama on the other. There was an outdoor bar on top, where the bartender made beautiful paper flowers for the guests.
We visited the black-sand beaches of Panama, where beautiful pavilions from early U.S. military days stood. I could imagine the soirées with glamorous women in evening gowns and the military men in their dress uniforms dancing to jazz and blues music.
A group of us from the Maintenance Battalion traveled to Japan for Exercise Yama Sakura, the first time on the island of Honshu and the following year on Hokkaido, a land of ice and snow. One of the most memorable experiences from those events was the “home visits,” where we dined as guests at the homes of Japanese military families. The military provided interpreters to help us with conversations during these fascinating dinner engagements.
My military career was not all luxury living. There were tough times, too, such as when the South Carolina units and support personnel conducted armor and desert training at Fort Irwin, California.
Fort Irwin is one of the Army’s most challenging places for training and living conditions, and it is meant to be that way. The t-shirts at the Post Exchange say, “Fort Irwin is not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.” Even a large sign at the gate as you’re leaving Fort Irwin says, “The best place to see Fort Irwin is in your rearview mirror.”
My husband, Eddie, served in the military for over 34 years. We met in officer’s school at the Palmetto Military Academy in 1980. We both served in the South Carolina National Guard, but the National Guard promoted Eddie ahead of most in our class. For example, he was serving as a Colonel, Deputy Brigade Commander when I was serving as a Major. Later I learned that he was assigned as a Commander or a Chief during his entire service period as an officer.
Eddie and I married on the shores of Ambergris Cay in Belize in 2007. He mobilized immediately after and left for four years. I like to tease him about getting cold feet, but at least after the wedding and not before! He served first at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., and then at the U.S. Central Command In Tampa, Florida. Eddie enjoyed serving his last tour before retirement as the Chief of Coalition Development, working with the representatives of sixty countries.
Our long careers in the National Guard have allowed Eddie and me the freedom to travel at our leisure now. That’s why I love to tell young people about Steven Covey’s saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” – Seven Habits of Highly Successful People – Steven Covey.
Travel and Photography
In my “third third” life, I wanted to gain a deeper connection to people and places. I created a travel blog and started learning photography.
Professional photography guides get you to the right places at the right time and help you learn photography. Eddie and I often travel with or hire photography guides as we’re traveling.
My first photography experience was an expedition to Jordan with award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Sindorf. I rented a long list of equipment for that trip; see the list in my story Expedition to Jordan. Jordan is second only to Isreal in its number of Biblical landmarks. With Joe Sindorf, we covered many of them, cameras attached to extended tripods, ready for the compositions of a lifetime.
Recently, I was with a handful of photographers in Bali, traveling with Lori Allen, owner of Focused Escapes. Bali is known for its cultural festivals, and Lori scheduled us exclusive access. Balinese storytelling is stunningly beautiful, with evocative dancing and colorful costumes.
Since I retired from the S.C. National Guard, I’ve traveled to more than 25 countries, including some with Leadership Women – International. With that group, I traveled to South Africa, Mexico, Scandinavia, and Canada.
Here in the U.S., Eddie and I hired photography guides on our trip through Utah’s national parks. With their assistance, we got to the canyons without getting the vehicle stuck and to the death-defying mountain peaks in Dead Horse Point State Park without losing our lives!
Journeys through South Carolina
Three things happened simultaneously over the last three years that got Eddie and me crisscrossing South Carolina. First, traveling with and learning from incredible photographers; second, the S.C.7 Expedition; and third, the S>C. Wildlife magazine retriever dog assignment. All of these inspired the images in the S.C. State Library Exhibit.
Professional Photography Guides
Chris & Cami, Photography Chris Smith helped me learn to photograph birds at the Center for Birds of Prey, Awendaw, South Carolina. See these fantastic birds at Tack Sharp Photos of Birds in Flight.
Beaufort Photography Tours Don & Ruth Lambert introduced me to Beaufort’s sunrise and sunset, astrophotography, and wildlife. Please read about my experiences with Beaufort Photography Tours at Lowcountry Photography.
Kate Silva Photography and Kenny McKeithan Photography tours helped me capture some beautiful Charleston scenes. Read about it at Why People Love to Visit Charleston in the Spring.
Phillip Jones is South Carolina Wildlife Magazine Photographer Emeritus and South Carolina National Guard Photographer, Retired. Phillip and I photographed three litters of retriever puppies, 19 total, only six weeks old. It was the most fun ever! Phillip timed the puppies running and captured the perfect shots, and I panned them running. I had hundreds of images to shift through, and Phillip had only a few great pictures. After yelling “keeper” three times, Phillip was done. See the story, Intelligent Little Gundog Puppies and a Popular Boykin Poster
The library exhibit features some of the Beaufort and Charleston photos.
Click here to go to South Carolina 7 Expedition.
Three years ago, Eddie and I joined Maj. Gen. Tom Mullikin, S.C. State Guard Retired, on the Lake Moultrie Passage of the Palmetto Trail. He started the S.C. 7 Expedition, a journey through South Carolina along the Palmetto Trail in its fourth year. I photographed my students trailing Tom as they discussed environmental issues. It became one of my favorites!
The S.C. 7 Expedition is a month-long journey through South Carolina in the outdoors. It passes through South Carolina’s majestic mountains, vibrant cities, dense forests, and coastal marshes.
Many gallery pictures are inspired by the scenes we passed along the way with the S.C. 7 Expedition. Learn more about Dr. Tom Mullikin in the documentary Higher Ground.
Click here to go to South Carolina Wildlife Magazine.
Cindy Thompson, Managing Editor at the South Carolina Wildlife Magazine, gave me an assignment about retriever dogs. The work sent me on another journey through South Carolina. It took over nine months to get pictures of retriever dogs and write three stories. Many people let me take photos of their retriever dogs. Among them is Lieutenant TJ Cockrell, S.C. National Guard. I took pictures of his labrador retriever at Lake Greenwood and in the swamps near Newberry; S.C. Kim Parkman, the owner of Pocotaligo Kennel, let me photograph her dogs at the dog trials. Doug Peake introduced me to the Deutsch-Drahthaar, a versatile hunting dog, for a story about that breed. Many others let me take pictures at dog trials and their homes or mine.
The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers were the trickiest photography subjects. They look similar to a fox and move quickly and playfully along the shore. Their seductive movements attract ducks to the area!
Family Photos and the South Carolina State Library
Hannah Majewski, Public Service Librarian at the S.C. State Library, asked if I’d be interested in a gallery exhibit. Around the same time, I’d challenged myself to do a family portrait. My friend and photographer, Colonel Pat DeMars, suggested I call Bill Barley & Associates. Dwight and Jennifer Bundrick’s family modeled what became the most beautiful family portrait. I’m grateful to Bill Barley for his assistance with lighting, final edits, and printing the family portrait and the entire S.C. State Library exhibit.