Talk about creativity in the outdoor industry - photographer and filmmaker Gretchen Powers is on the show today!
Gretchen talks about her method of making people comfortable in front of the camera, how she found the courage to start freelancing, and the struggle of entrepreneurship while battling mental illness. This is a great listen, we hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did!
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Iris: Hello, all you outdoor industry professionals. Welcome back to Outside by Design, the podcast about the business side of creativity in the outdoor industry. I am Iris and unfortunately Lisa is out sick this week. So she will not be joining me on this podcast, but what we lack without having Lisa here and all her great jokes, we make up for in our incredible guest this week.
We have Gretchen Powers here on the show today. She is an incredible photographer and filmmaker based out of Kodiak, Alaska. She has worked with brands such as Oru Kayak, She Explores, Sherpa, Skida and she tells beautiful stories with her incredible films and photography work. Today she is here to talk about many, many things revolving around creativity and her work in the outdoor industry. Gretchen gets into her tips on making people comfortable in front of the camera, how she got started in her freelance career. Later on in the episode she talks about the word of the month, purpose, and what that means to her, especially when she's doing freelance work for brands, and she also gets into the struggle of running a business while you're dealing with mental illness, which is very fitting because today, October 10th, is World Mental Health Day. So there's some incredible topics covered in this podcast and let's get into it.
Lisa: Gretchen, thank you so much for being on our podcast. We're so excited that you're here, coming to us live from Kodiak, Alaska.
Gretchen: Good morning Lisa. I'm so glad to be here.
Lisa: The first question that we asked everyone is to describe where they are and what they're looking at.
Gretchen: All right. I am in my office the master bedroom of my house, which I claim as the office and I'm overlooking the runway on the Coast Guard base that we live on on Kodiak, Alaska. And it's a surprisingly gorgeous day out right now, roughly, maybe, 54 degrees. Brightly sunny. Requiring sunglasses for sure. And it's my favorite time of day because kids aren't outside screaming yet, so. There's a playground, also, close to where I am and no one's there. So, it's great. It's a good quiet time.
Lisa: Awesome, and you are a lifestyle filmmaker and photographer.
Gretchen: That's correct.
Lisa: And, yes, and we've never met before which is freakish and weird.
Gretchen: I know. Truly.
Lisa: But one day we will. But, you know, for me and for our audience, what's... what's your story? And how did you get to Alaska?
Gretchen: Oh gosh, goodness. My story is, I was born in Vermont, raised in Colorado, studied film at the University of Vermont where I met my now wife, and as soon as I graduated, I started my own photography/filmmaking business.
My dream was to be a filmmaker for National Geographic or Outside or any number of, kind of, outdoor recreational / storytelling avenues. I realized really quickly that you can't make a lot of money in that necessarily, when you're first starting out, so I decided to dip my toes or fingers into everything possible. So I shot a lot of weddings. I did a lot of portraits. I did a lot of commercial work and a lot of like promotional material kind of marketing stuff and I actually was working for a gear review website about four or five years ago now and that's when I first was introduced to the outdoor industry. And I didn't even realize that it was like a... you know, I had never really considered that the outdoor industry could be a place where I could also tell stories. Because telling stories was what I was most passionate about, focusing on people. And so that was about four years now that I've been primarily focused on working in the outdoor industry doing a lot of storytelling-related videography and photography.
I write a lot as well. So I do a lot of pieces for companies’ blogs. As well as creating social media content and catalog content, etc. And about two years ago my wife joined the Coast Guard and she was stationed on a buoy tender up here in Kodiak. So that's a boat that goes out and takes care of all the navigational AIDs that you'll see off the coast and I followed her up here and we've been here for... yeah, about two years now.
Lisa: That's awesome. Do you like it up there?
Gretchen: I do. I tell people that it's both, like, the most beautiful place and the hardest place I've ever lived. I experience the most dramatic highs and dramatic lows here. The first, I would say, like, 8 months to a year were pretty challenging, you know moving to a small island where there's like a really tight local community, but kind of you know building your, you know, building your group of friends building your community takes time. And my wife works on a boat, so she's gone a fair amount. And so that was kind of challenging too, to move to this island to basically live alone. I do have a dog who is the best ever, so luckily for her I have not been the loneliest. But yeah, it's spectacular, you know, you have these dramatic mountains coming right out of the ocean and boats out fishing and awesome hiking. I will never be able to compare to this place having lived here that you just have amazing hikes within like five to 20 minutes outside our door in all different directions.
And there is only about... I think it's like an hour and 20 minutes it takes you to drive the road system from one point to the other. So, you know, you can't really go that far by road, but we've had a chance to explore a lot of Alaska and I definitely... I just got back from shooting a river guide on the Kenai Peninsula and I shot a glacier guide last winter and summer and that's been a great way for me to get to see more of the state while we've been up here.
Lisa: Yeah, that sounds like a life full of adventure and change and you're rolling with it.
Gretchen: I'm trying to, I'm leaning into it, as my dad would say. [laughs]
Lisa: [laughs] So you know how with social media, life is just weird and interconnected. I've been following you for a while so I feel like I kind of already know... know that part of your story, but one of the reasons I asked you to be on the podcast is because I love how you photograph people.
Gretchen: Thank you.
Lisa: You're so good at capturing people looking so natural and joyful and I'm curious, I'd love to talk to you about how... how you get those shots. Like what do you bring behind the camera to get what you're getting in front of the camera.
Gretchen: Yeah. I refuse to believe when people say like, “oh, I'm really awkward in front of the camera.” Like, I don't know... I don't know who told them that, I don't know what led them to believe that. “I'm really unphotogenic.” I also hate to hear that. I think that so much of feeling comfortable in front of a camera is who is behind it. And so I always tell them, I'm like, well, maybe you just haven't met the right photographer yet. And… I mean my... I'm constantly maybe making fun of myself a little bit or like tripping over things. You know, I'm not... I'm a very messy person, which is why I took the master bedroom for my office because I need a lot of space to like spread out my mess and that way it doesn't infiltrate into the rest of the house. Because my wife is really tidy person. And I think that I bring that authenticity, for lack of a better word, to all the shoots that I do, of being like this is me. This is who I am. I'm going to be real with you so that you feel comfortable to be real with me.
And I also, I don't like to intrude too much onto my subjects whether I'm shooting something for you know, a catalog or web launch or if I'm shooting a wedding or if I'm, you know, just out shooting with my friends. I don’t ever really want the camera to detract from the situation. So I really try to be, you know, on my toes, paying attention to how people are interacting, paying attention to what's going on, giving people something to do or something to think about or something to talk about to really, you know, keep them from thinking too much about the fact that I'm taking pictures.
Lisa: How did you learn how to do that?
Gretchen: Oh gosh. I... I really think I learned it through experience. I think that I can really tell when someone's not looking like themself on camera. Even if I've just met them. It's pretty easy for me to see when someone is genuinely laughing or genuinely, you know, having a solitary quiet, more quiet moment. And I think I just realized that okay, if that person is putting up a front with me, if they're not letting their guard down then like, I need to figure out a way to, like, break through that wall. And so I, you know, I've built up a different number of things. Thanks to a lot of photographer friends of mine of just you know, asking them to talk about something, whether it's among the... among themselves if you have multiple people, or like giving them a real thing to do rather than be like, okay just cheers over the campfire. Because I'm looking for that really classic cheesy shot that everybody does. You know, I actually say okay who's going to give a toast right now? Someone give a toast to why October 12th is the best day of the year. And you know, what is your favorite Ben Jerry's ice cream flavor, or something, because then... then those moments are truly real and often bring about like, great laughter and make people look like they're really having a good time. And you know, I shoot pretty quickly, too, I never like to, you know, keep people in the same position or doing the same thing over and over again and I like to keep it kind of moving and I'm like, if this isn't working I don't want to keep pushing at it. You know, if a certain situation isn't necessarily making a group of people comfortable, then I'm like, okay, let's try something different and move on.
Lisa: Is that the same approach you take to weddings as well?
Gretchen: Yeah, I would say… very similar. Yeah, if I have a couple that maybe is just... it's always nerves, you know, it's nerves most of the time. People are just nervous in front of the camera, which I think is really ironic given our digital age and how often people are in front of the camera, but you pull out a real- like a, you know, DSLR and people suddenly are like, whoa, I need to like change the way I'm behaving. Bnd I think that I try really hard just to make people feel comfortable and sometimes that means not shooting.
Like I'll put my camera down a lot, at weddings, during shoots, and I just experience a moment with the people that I'm with. I'm cheersing with them or I'm laughing at you know, whatever they're talking about or I'm eating the snack that I'm having them taste or, you know, whatever it might be. I think if they're like, oh, you're a person, you're here with us, you're experiencing this day with us and whatever capacity that might look like, that oftentimes helps people mellow out and relax.
Lisa: Well, I think you're brilliant at it.
Gretchen: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. I mean, I think that when I started, back like eight years ago now, I was so passionate about telling people’s stories. And I don't know what drew me to that, but I knew that filmmaking and photography has a... has a power to tell people’s stories in a way that words can't necessarily. And I think that the fact that I truly care about these people reflects in my photographs and my films. And I think it's really easy to shoot something that's maybe more bland or just like... because if you care... if you care more about the jacket or the backpack or the pair of shoes or whatever it is you're shooting then your subject, then that's going to reflect in the images.
And I think when you truly try to share a story whether that's something really simple, you know as like someone making a cup of tea and that that's their ritual every day or if it's something a little more complex like, you know, someone's background in guiding and the effect of climate change on glaciers, like if you care, that will reflect.
Lisa: Absolutely. Absolutely. How did you just get... get in there and start freelancing and make your dream happen? A lot of times people ask us questions about like, oh, I want to become a photographer, but I don't know how. What would you tell those people?
Gretchen: I laugh because I was on... I was shooting a story for She Explores on a kayak camping trip with my mom a couple years ago, and I was trying to explain to my mom what I did for a living and the different... the different levels of engagement with brands specifically and I told her it's like dating. I was like Mom, I have brands that you know, I flirt with. Like, they don't necessarily know who I am, but I really would love to work with them because I love their... I love their messaging. I love their ethics. I love the product they make, or whatever it might be. So I shoot that product that I already own. Or that maybe I've gotten in a trade or that I've acquired in some capacity. And then I reach out to the brand and I say hey. You look good. Like, what do you think of my pictures? You know. And then there are the ones you know that you're dating more reg- and you move up this ladder to like, you know, if you're on contract or on retainer to clearly you're engaged, or you might even be married or you might even have multiple relationships. You never know what, what any given month is going to look like, but you know, don't be afraid to flirt would be my advice. Like, if there's something you see that you want, and it has to be authentic to you. Like don't don't go after, you know photographing hunting or surfing or snowboarding if you don't do those things. If those aren't things that you're passionate about. I would say like look at your own life. Look at what you're passionate about and go after it and that's how you will be able to build a portfolio that you then could approach companies with and say hey, look, like, this is what I'm capable of, I would love the opportunity to work with you.
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Iris: Wow, what great advice from Gretchen to not be afraid to flirt in business and in your personal life. Imagine what incredible things we could do in our lives if we remember to not be afraid and shoot our shot every now and then. Now we'll hear from Gretchen about training for photography and what the word purpose means to her.
Lisa: Do you ever physically have to train to lug all your camera gear up in mountains and you know, wild places, or how do you like, how do you navigate the actual weight of camera gear and having to carry the same amount of gear as everyone else plus all the camera gear?
Gretchen: Yeah, great question. [laughs] I always like to say that I am, like, a mediocre athlete at a lot of things. I was never a good enough skier in high school. I was never a good rower in... good enough rower in college. Like, I've always been good, but not good enough, necessarily. I've never been excellent. Like, I'm a good climber, but I'm not a great climber. And so for me to really get into shooting on more kind of like expedition-related or adventure-related, you know, trips or whatnot, requires, like, actually a substantial amount more training. And last summer, I knew, I had done Kilimanjaro and then I climbed Rainier last summer, both on like video trips. And I was like climbing mountains with rocks in my backpack, you know, around Kodiak just to try to like get used to that extra weight.
And even then, you like, you get there that day - and I suck at altitude. Like if anyone's listening and wants to like hire me to go do something at altitude. I'm sorry. Like, I will literally be sucking wind the whole time. I will do my best, and I really did and I'm proud of the work I did on both of those mountains, you know, given that I was like having to climb them and shoot on them at the same time.
And typically, you know, I work by myself a lot, so it’s like, just me. So I'm like, if I'm not doing it no one is. So like, you gotta get it together, Gretch. So, yeah. No, there's definitely... I try to do, like, a lot more weight training. I do a lot of yoga and a lot of like core stuff because like, I'll find that, you know, your lower back carries a lot when you're carrying cameras and just the way... like, paying attention to my posture. I'm not really good at these things. Like I said, like, I'm okay at most things but I'm striving to be more excellent at taking care of my body and making it last, you know, longer. And it definitely makes it a lot more fun and makes it so you can do a better job if you have the right level of physical fitness.
Lisa: Absolutely. We shoot a lot of mountain biking and so I find myself mountain biking with rocks in my pack as well because I want to get really good at... Yeah, I don't want to fall on my camera gear. So I have to be able to like, you know, ride technical terrain with a lot of weight.
Lisa: So I practice with rocks. Yeah, like a - like a psycho.
Gretchen: That's awesome.
Lisa: But... but it sounds like you, you have a similar tactic.
Gretchen: Yeah, you know, we have... we have a joke. I- you know, you only get one chance, one chance really to make a first impression. And when I met my wife's commanding officer, so the skipper of the boat, the captain of the boat. He asked, he heard I was going to go climb Kilimanjaro. and he's like oh, so like have you been training? And we had just moved here. It was December. We didn't have our car for a couple weeks. Our household goods hadn't made it yet, and I started to tell him, “well, I've been walking around base,” you know, because like I have to get anywhere, to get to the boat or to get to the store on base or whatever. I've been walking around base. And then we got interrupted before I got a chance to say “and I've been hiking up mountains with rocks in my bag,” you know, and and doing strength training and yoga and all these other things. So now, you know, they made a pipe over the sound system on the boat. They were under way out in the Bering Sea when I was up in Tanzania and they needed to let everyone know that Gretchen had in fact summited Kilimanjaro because based on my training of just walking around base, nobody thought that I was actually going to be able to do it. So now anytime I have a big trip coming up, he always asks, oh, Gretchen, I haven’t see you walking around base lately. So, you know, it does require more than just walking around base. I just want everyone to know, you know, you do have to put in a little more effort.
Lisa: [laughs] Oh man, that's hilarious.
So the word of the month on the podcast this month is purpose and I'm curious, we haven't hit on it yet. What does... what does the word purpose mean to you? What do you think of when you hear that word?
Gretchen: I think as someone working in a marketing industry, trying to sell things - because as a photographer who shoots for outdoor brands, that's essentially what we're doing - I find that if I don't have purpose to the stories that I'm shooting, if there's not a greater- if someone's not learning something from what I'm doing, whether that's how to be safe in the backcountry or you know, learning the history behind a certain activity or an area or learning about climate change or learning about the story behind this person, you know, that I might be... telling the story about, then what are we doing besides selling jackets? You know, like, I don't want to sell jackets. That's not... that's... there's enough jackets in the world, you know, so if I'm going to work in this industry and feel okay with myself at the end of the day it I have to be doing something more. And so I find that I really more and more am trying to focus on like, what is the purpose of what I'm doing? What is someone learning? What am I teaching someone? What am I teaching myself? You know, like what am I learning? And I also find that for me, purpose... my purpose is to authentically tell people’s stories. And, you know, share them in a way that educates and enlightens and makes the world feel a little bit smaller. Because I think that the arts, especially photography and filmmaking are ways that I've learned about far corners of the world by the great filmmakers and photographers that have come before me and exist around me. And that I'm lucky to call my peers and you know, idols if you will. And I think that's really, really special and gives me drive and makes, you know, enriches my purpose to know that like, someday I too could make a film that would educate someone or teach someone about something that otherwise, you know, living in Middle America or wherever that you might not necessarily have an opportunity to go visit that place and learn that for yourself.
Lisa: Do you prefer filmmaking or photography?
Gretchen: Oh gosh. I light up inside when I'm filmmaking in a way that I don't think I ever really will with photography. Photography will always be my second love. Filmmaking, I think there's something so magical about the way that you can pull emotions out of people, the way that you can tell stories, the way that when you match these moving pictures together. I always say it's like building a puzzle that you feel like you can see what it's supposed to end up like but they threw away the box and there's some pieces missing and you need to create those pieces and you need to figure out how it's all going to go together. And a lot of that process is really painful and hard and you know, leaves you like wanting to bang your head against your computer sometimes, but the finished the finished product that final moment when you're like, yes, I did it. Like, there is nothing that will compare to that.
I do like photography and telling stories with photos and… and essentially the ease of it, for me, to like, build a story with pictures and words is... it's just obviously you're not editing a video forever, you know editing photographs for me it doesn't take as long and is it is a kind of quicker turn project. But gosh, I love filmmaking. I really do. I would say that's definitely my favorite.
Lisa: So you enjoy writing as well? Because I feel like really having a strong, strong story arc involves so much - so much craft, and yeah, a lot of elements of writing, are you into words as well?
Gretchen: Yeah. I was an English minor in college, not that really says a lot about your ability to write like stories. I wrote a lot of essays. But I do, I do love to write. And I love... it's harder, though, for me. Writing is definitely harder for me and pushes me and also has a similar validation factor when I finish it and I'm like, yes Gretch. Good job, like, you did it. You know, it's like when you're cheering on the little kid who's like doing something for the first time and you're like, yes, you did it!
I surprise myself more with writing. You know, I know that I'm a good filmmaker. I know that I have a gift for telling stories using that medium. That's not surprising to me, when I make a great film. I'm like, oh good job Gretch, you know, you're doing what you feel like, is one of your gifts, but writing comes... writing’s a lot more challenging for me. I think in that I can always see things visually but to like describe them, I don't have a vast vocabulary. So to describe the things that I see is a lot harder, you know, using color descriptors and the way the air felt and the way the rock felt and the way, you know, the way these different things and these interactions you witnessed and what those emotions felt like, I think is really hard. But it's a challenge that I enjoy and I think it affords me opportunities to try new things within photography. And... and it definitely, I think, is an area that I continue to work on and continue to push forward in and learn more about... and yeah.
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Iris: Gretchen has a lot of expertise and wisdom to share with us on the show today and I love how passionate she is about filmmaking. So let's hear more from Gretchen about her filmmaking process and how it feels when she comes across a story she just has to tell.
Lisa: I'm curious. What's your... what's your filmmaking process? Like, maybe use a specific film you worked on or something, but I'm so curious. Everyone has their own process and I'd love to know what yours is.
Gretchen: My filmmaking process starts before I even know what story I'm trying to tell sometimes. Because I'll get a vision in my head and I am like, okay, this could be really cool. And a lot of my favourite films I've ever made have been made without attachment to a brand or even a non-profit or anything like that, where I've just said, hey, like I met this girl Cath and she worked as a glacier guide on a glacier that I happened to have a chance to visit because she saw a post of mine on Instagram and was like, oh my gosh, you're so close to me.
And then I showed up and then she took my wife and I on like a private tour of this glacier and I was like, this is the coolest... I'd never been on a glacier before, I was like, this is the coolest thing I've ever seen. Holy cow. And I knew that day like, I get... I get like, glitter in my fingers or... wow, that was good Gretch. Glitter in my fingers.
Gretchen: That's a new one. Here's the thing, okay, there's a descriptor, when you get really excited about wanting to do something that you feel like you've got butterflies in your stomach and like... I described it once as the tingly shakes in my hands which like, again, I got made fun of. So like, glitter fingers is like, even better. But there are no words really to describe this feeling as a creative, I feel like, of being like, Oh my gosh. I have to go right now. Like, I have to make this thing happen. Because you see it and you know it and you’re like, this is going to be so awesome that I need to... I need to do it. And so I told her, I was like, I know we just met, but like, I really want to make a film about you.
And she was like, okay? And then I'm like, oh gosh, I'm doing that thing, my wife’s looking at me and she's like, you're being really forward again, Gretchen, like maybe, you know, I don't know, go home first, think it over, then send her like a nice polite email or something. Be like, “it was so nice. Can I make a film about you?” I'm like no, I need to do it. I just felt this connection to the... the wild space and the... the climate... and so what came out of it though, because it was a passion project, was that I ended up going back a couple more times and in different seasons and I got to see the glacier in summer and in fall and winter and really see how it is dying and how climate change is affecting it. And the story that ended up coming from it, because I end up interviewing my subjects not necessarily knowing what the story is going to be. Just wanting to know, I always want to know like, who are you? What do you do? Why do you do it? How is it passionate to you? What do you want other people to know about what you're doing? And like what's the takeaway for me? And what came out of that for her was not so much about climate change, but it was about kids. And it was about how she's really passionate about the kids who come and see the glacier because they're the ones who really can make a change. They’re not influenced necessarily by adults opinions and media and marketing necessarily. They know, they see, it it's real, and... and they want to do something about it. They want to go home to their schools and talk about recycling and and using reusable water bottles and stuff like that. And... and so that's kind of how I love to make films.
I know that's not always the most practical way when you are working on a story, but I really, for filmmaking, try to follow my gut. And if something's... if something's like shooting off sparkles into the sea, then I'm like, I need to... I need to chase that. And maybe it'll be something that comes to fruition in a month or two years, but I always... I journal a lot. I write down ideas and I try to keep track of them and that way, maybe when there is an opportunity with a brand, then I can say, oh, here's something I'm really passionate about. Or that I know of a character who would be really cool for this story. You know, she does X Y and Z and this is why. And I think that would be really unique.
Lisa: That's awesome. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to tell our audience?
Gretchen: I would say the one thing that I would want to share or whatnot, is... a lot of… you get a lot of no’s. And I think it's really important to remember that there's... there's meaning and purpose in the process. So whether that's the process of writing the grant or that's the process of writing the pitch or that's the process of like, handling a no or handling a yes. And like recognizing that certain things, you know, I believe certain things happen for a reason. I don't know what that reason is necessarily, but I really just try to take a lot of the highs and lows in stride.
That's something I've learned, like, I have pretty bad anxiety and depression and I've recognized that it's really hard running your own business with a mental-health kind of thing and... and getting those no’s can sometimes be heartbreaking, but I've done a lot of work on myself and I've learned how to take that more in stride and recognize that like, a no from one thing means you get to say yes to a lot of other stuff.
And I think that's just really really important to remember, especially when you're starting out. That you're going to get a lot of no’s. You're always going to get more no’s, I think, then you will yeses. And you're going to get more stuff coming in your inbox that just doesn't feel right to you and you're going to have to say no to. But that no is like the most valuable word, you know, in the English language as a maker and the producer and a photographer or whatnot. That when you say no, you get to say yes. And being able to say yes, to the stuff that you really care about the stuff that really matters in the stuff that gives you purpose or that you feel there's purpose in is... is so valuable. And so now I kind of smile, sometimes, when I get no’s, I'm like, okay. Well I got to do all this other stuff instead, you know, I don't have to like drop this to go do that thing or... or all right well, you know, that just wasn't meant to be for whatever reason. And to just refocus and recognize that there is good stuff on the horizon, you know, as long as you got your purpose and your... and your meaning for what you're doing and that you're in it for the right reasons and that you truly care about the people that you work with or work for that good stuff will happen.
Lisa: Wow. Thanks for sharing that, that was a beautiful answer.
Gretchen: [laughs] You're welcome.
Lisa: That's really, yeah, that was really, really cool. And I mean, we have never had anyone on the podcast kind of talking about meant how mental health affects entrepreneurship or creativity. But do you mind answering that question? Like how does that affect entrepreneurship and creativity for you? And have you been able to turn that into a superpower? It kind of sounds like you have.
Gretchen: Yeah, you know, I... today I feel like I kind of have. It's taken a really really long time and moving here a couple years ago, you know, was like, the... like I mentioned, the first eight months was really hard. I didn't have my anxiety in control, I was very depressed, and my business... that was reflected in my business. And that was reflected in the way that I interacted with people and because when you don't feel your best, it's really hard to approach projects with the same fervor, the same enthusiasm, you know, that it's harder to get out. And I felt like a lot of the work I was creating was a little more dark in certain ways and...
And there's a time for everything, you know, and I think if you're in that period of dark that there's so much beauty in pain and there's so much as an entrepreneur and a creator that you can you can live and thrive in that, but - as someone who travels a lot for work as well, like my anxiety, my anxiety always gets worse when I travel. And, you know, I got to a point where I just was having panic attacks all the time on trips, you know, and I'm supposed to be working and I'm just... I was a mess. And you know, with a lot of support from my family and friends, I finally started, you know, getting treatment that I needed and seeing a couple different therapists and really, maintaining a regular routine has been the most important thing for me. So when I get up in the morning on a day where I'm working from home, making sure I'm scheduling in my blocks where on my computer or I'm scheduling in my shoots or I'm scheduling and making sure that you know, I take care of myself. And whether that's doing yoga or exercise or taking time away from screens and reading a book, you know, hanging out with my dog, like, making sure that... that I'm prioritizing feeling good. Betting enough sleep is huge.
And for me when I travel I avoid caffeine and alcohol and that's made the biggest difference for me. And it's little tweaks like that, and it's different for everyone, and I think you just have to figure out for yourself what works for you, but it can be something that's small that I wish someone had told me like, hey Gretch, what if you tried avoiding caffeine and alcohol? And sugar, you know, like those are things that my therapist, my most recent therapist said to me, was like... and it made it so, you know, the last couple of trips, I flew to Colorado for a shoot, Montana for a shoot, California for shoot, and no panic attacks. No anxiety attacks. And I was like good Lord. This is amazing.
And it's just kind of given me a new... new sense of direction, new drive. And then I think that, you know, if you can maintain a good routine and get... make sure you've got some good people in your corner. And make sure that that you're... you're looking for treatment if you need it. You know, I am championing using the word “getting help” less, because I think I had so many people tell me, Gretch, you just need to get help. You need help. Clearly you need help. Telling someone that over and over again makes them feel small and broken. And as someone who runs their own business, you know, I want to feel like an empowered badass all the time. And having people tell me that you need help, you need help, was just so hard. Because I was like, but I feel like I'm... I'm doing everything I can! I'm trying, I'm being independent. I'm doing everything I can.
And so I shifted, I was like, you know, if someone had said, Gretch, you really just, you've got a mental health illness and you need treatment for that, just like you would for a broken leg or just like you would for high blood pressure or just like you would for any other thing. And you know, shifting that verbiage I think is something that's really been important for me and I'm trying to kind of remind other people of that as well.
And I would say the only other word, my only other little tidbit lesson I'm going to share because I'm really passionate about right now is that I'm using... I'm like solemnly swearing… I'm up to no good. And I'm also solemnly swearing not to use the word busy anymore. Because I think everyone is using it too much right now and I think as someone who does run a business and I use like a paper planner to keep track of all the work I have to do. If I just look at every week and go, holy cow. I'm so busy. That just leads me to feeling overwhelmed, overwhelmed leads to anxiety, anxiety leads to, you know, my inside... my gut GI health going to shit. Like it's a whole thing if I let them escalate.
But if I look at it and say wow. All right. I've got a lot of work to do this week. Well, so do most people who have a job, you know, like everyone... I'm not going to say the b word, but everyone has a lot to do in their day-to-day, you know! And I think lamenting about “busy,” like, I was at a wedding last week and you're asking people like, oh, how are you? Oh, I’m busy. But good. Good. I'm good busy. Like, that tells me nothing! I know nothing about your life. Like, I don't know what you're up to. I don't know what you're doing for work right now, but you're telling me you're busy - well, everyone's busy, you know? And... and that has also made a pretty big shift in my mind for you know, my keeping my anxiety lower is looking and being like, okay. I've got a very full day today. And I'm going to get everything done. I'm going to take it, you know one step at a time. And that just keeps my anxiety level low and and keeps it so that I can keep making good work and doing good work.
Lisa: Wow. Thanks for sharing that.
Gretchen: You're welcome.
Lisa: I think it's... yeah, it's like so… creativity and photography and like, putting- bringing yourself into your work is a remarkable thing about the creative industry. And I really appreciate you sharing your story and your personal growth and struggles and life hacks for traveling, like, I really appreciate that.
Gretchen: Well, thank you for having me.
Lisa: Yeah, and I think our listeners are going to love following you as much as I have. So, can you just tell them where they can follow you online?
Gretchen: You can find me on Instagram @gpowersfilm. And if you do want to check out my professional grandmotherism, you can find that @powersprovisions.
Lisa: Cool. Well, I can't wait to meet you someday. And I know for a fact you would be…
Gretchen: Me too me too!
Lisa: ...so fun to have on a shoot.
Gretchen: Well come on up to Kodiak. You're welcome anytime. And it’s beautiful.
Lisa: Yeah, cool. Well, let's keep in touch and thanks for being here.
Gretchen: Yeah. You're very welcome.
Iris: Thank you so much for being on the show today, Gretchen. We loved having you here on Outside by Design and we can't wait to see what you're up to next.
You can find all of Gretchen's social media links and her website in the show notes as well as a link to the episode web page which includes details and transcripts. Make sure that you subscribe to Outside by Design to make sure that you don't miss more incredible episodes like this one.
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