Category: Nature Photography

Permission for Passion

Permission for Passion

SimoneLipscomb (2) The sea spoke to me this morning. For the second day I visited Her to connect, to pray, to ask for a vision. As the chilly, salt water caressed my ankles and splashed my legs, blue water peace filled me and insight came.

Last night was melt-down time. The actions of the past two weeks of forward direction, financial pay-out to that forward direction and future possibilities stood around me. They were like wild flames encircling me…a lot of money has gone out of my account and it scared me.  Doubt began to rough me up and shake me. It was not a fun evening.

SimoneLipscomb (15)Arguments for proceeding through the opening echoed in my mind while voices of fears screamed. It would be safe to say that Monkey Mind was loose and gave a wild ride. Just shut the F**** up! All of you!!! Just shut up!!! 

After wrestling with some old negative messages and emotions for hours yesterday, I managed to sleep and awakened to Willie Fay cat’s insistence to go onto the screened porch. It was barely light so I hurriedly dressed and grabbed my camera and headed toward the Gulf. If the next part of my life is going to be focused on the Ocean, then I wanted to connect with Her and feel my toes in salt water. And see if answers would come.

SimoneLipscomb (10)A few weeks ago the opening doors left little doubt of the next steps in life but on this side of the events, I began to feel fear. I’ve invested a lot of money into my work, with little financial return and I felt guided to lay out more big money for gear as well as for two more books. No question about doing it. The point of struggle was the fact that former work hasn’t paid for itself even though the message is well-received and appreciated by those who read my books or see my photographs.

I started to doubt my sanity for investing further in the work that is about healing environmental and societal hurts. The money I have saved will, at some point, be used up. Wouldn’t a wise woman with no retirement plan save that money and just forget her dream of making a positive difference on the planet? That’s such a lofty goal anyway.

SimoneLipscomb (33)The message I received from the sea was this: I am breaking free of old, societal conditioning. As I take this next big step those old voices of fear arise. I don’t want to be a prisoner to them. I want to live my life dedicated fully to helping…the ocean, people, ocean creatures. I want to be a bridge between nature and humans. I can’t do that if I hide in fear.

Today I had a vague memory of myself as a child being so afraid that I had caused something to happen because I had wished for it. I recognized, even then, that we have the power to create our lives and it scared me. Now I realize that we are indeed co-creating our lives by what we dwell on, what we hold in our minds.

SimoneLipscomb (12)I came to realize that I assessed value on my work by how many books sold, how many photographic prints sold and the fact that my creative efforts were not paying the bills. Thankfully, I have savings but the work of my heart has not provided for me physically. I heard an inner voice ask: Does it matter where the money comes from if it supports your work? In that moment I realized that I had placed the value of my work in the hands of others who may or may not purchase my books, my photographs. I was contemplating allowing other people determine if I continue on with the work I feel so powerful about doing. I was, in fact, giving my power away to others. A big mistake indeed for it puts brakes on my life’s work.

SimoneLipscomb (9)With the contemplation and realizations, I decided to allow myself permission to want something…allow myself to express the passion that fills me and do the work. I love the Ocean and Her creatures. It is my desire to dedicate my life to working toward creating a connection between the saltwater environments and humans…so more people will care, so the Ocean will be valued and all creatures within it respected. This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I give myself permission to fully engage in this work and gratefully walk through open doors and follow the path that rises up to meet me. All is well…and all will be well. I know this to be true.

What passion is calling you? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Beginning today…in this moment?



Divine Madness

Divine Madness

SimoneLipscomb (4)Divine Madness: Following my heart’s vision…no matter how crazy it seems, no matter what fear whispers in my ear…daring to listen…be open to the tapping of the Ocean’s liquid fingers upon my heart…calling me….calling me home.

I recognized fear was slyly hanging out in the background with her arms crossed and her foot tapping. To move past it, I had to go through it. The steady beat of the frame drum took me deeper into my fear until I came out on the other side. There I found communion with the sea. There I found peace…and laughter–laughter derived from an open heart. I was prompted to look at my old writing to find evidence left for myself with paper and pen.

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“The silver water reflects the golden glow of the slowly fading day. Puffy white clouds hang suspended, weightless. In the distance, towering thunderheads look down on us, their anvil heads flattened in the thinning atmosphere.

Golden rays of sunlight cut through the anvils creating a golden mist through which we fly. Small, green, jungle-covered islands lie below as we follow the leeward islands to our destination. Just now, the small island below is shaped like a sperm whale. A fringing reef creates a light turquoise border and a deeper indigo leads out to sea.

SimoneLipscomb (17)Slowly we move, our propellers keeping us to a respectable, relaxed speed. I don’t want to hurry. I want to soak up this beauty.

The water is golden now, orange-tinted gold water filling me with such peace. Above this liquid light and layers of yellow mist I reflect back to my first dive trip when my mermaid self was released from her shell. She willingly and freely allowed me to pack her green iridescence among my wet dive gear as I tearfully flew home. She doesn’t care where she resides, as long as she and I are one. As long as I promise to dive and keep her home as my second home, we co-exist peacefully. She and I, mermaid and human with a cetacean soul.

My mermaid self, green and glistening scales shimmering and shaking with excitement, is smiling. Before too long we will be exploring reefs, playing once again in turquoise bliss.

SimoneLipscomb (16)As I glance back, behind my perch inside the plane, a line of intense sky-blue color pierces the cloud bank and sits atop greenish orange layers of early evening sky. Then the warmth of the golden sun breaks through layers of crazy colors and caresses my face. I am part of this magnificent moment, this blessed unfolding of darkness as it makes its way across the heavens.

Finally, the orange orb slips quietly into the waiting embrace of the mighty ocean.

In the after-sunset glow, the ocean has turned into a lavender expanse of immense potential…for peace, for power…unlimited lavender love-filled ocean. I drift along through the sky, knowing that words can no longer express this bounty of beauty spread horizon to horizon. I must be content gazing into it and allowing it to fill me, wash me clean with its power.

SimoneLipscomb (18)I close my eyes and see the goddess of the sea walking on mist-covered cloud canyons, suspended over the ocean. The ocean is her skirt, pearls drape her skin and water droplets, sparkling in the orange light of sunset reflect the magic. Her hair is long strands of seaweed, her eyes deep indigo and she raises her arm and points to me and calls me to her. Flames come from her eyes, her finger tips and mouth as she sings to me the song of my soul.

Feel your power, daughter of mine. Feel the energy of your soul coursing through your veins. Claim your self. Free yourself. Free woman, holy woman. Yours are the skirts of fire-red sunsets. Yours are the eyes of deep Earth. Your feet walk among green mountains, your soul soars in the sky. Dive among the waters but know, this is a gift of time given to you. Shape shift to your dolphin self and be with the joy that is you. Submerge in the baptism of salt water, be free in your mind and heart. You walk in two worlds, daughter. Full of promise, full of light. Let your gentle soul find expression. You have passed the test and now have earned your freedom to dance among the stars and dive in the depths of indigo. Follow your heart. Follow your creativity. Don’t worry. Don’t press. Relax and allow your creative energies to be freed. Allow….it’s your time.

She lifts a conch to her lips and blows into its spirals. She has sounded my name and I answer with happiness and gratitude.”

SimoneLipscomb (13)From a box of musings, July 2001.

“A silver moon glade rippled across the surface of the ocean. The black velvet sky was sprinkled with twinkling stars. The ocean was calm, hardly rocking the boat.

I stood on deck, gazing into the intense light reflected on the water. A slight breeze stirred my hair and kissed my bare skin. I felt the pull of the full moon and ocean in my soul like a bow being drawn across strings of a cello.

As the moon continued to rise over open ocean, the turquoise water became transparent. It was difficult to tell if the light was coming from the moon or somewhere below the water’s surface. Light bounced off the white, sand bottom and produced visions of otherworldly realms.

Nearby the exhalation of a dolphin broke my reverie and I tried to find her but she remained a mystery, hidden from view below the surface. I longed to dive in yet the moonlight held me transfixed. I could only stand in utter gratitude, feeling the elements around and within me. Joy bubbled up from deep inside of me and I laughed out loud.

When I looked into the velvet night and gazed at the twinkling diamonds floating there as stars, I felt the creative force so huge, so immense. The starlight called me and something from deep within answered and was born.

In those magic moments I saw the stars as stepping stones, lighting our path home as we move closer and closer to Source. Each star we reach fills us with more love. Each leap we make clears out more of who we are not to bring us into closer alignment with who we are–children of light.”

SimoneLipscomb (11)And one more excerpt from October 2007:

“Over the years my goals, while underwater, have changed. At first, I simply wanted to remember enough of what I was supposed to learn in my scuba class to stay alive. Gradually, I added tasks such as photography or navigation to build my skills. Now, years after my first underwater breath on scuba, I simply enjoy being still and becoming a member of the watery community.

For instance, this morning I watched minute-sized crabs, no bigger than the nail of my little finger and white as the sand, move about the bottom and eat. I have no idea what they were eating because I could barely see them, much less their food.

SimoneLipscomb (2)I also watched the rays of the sunrise penetrate the water and illuminate the white sand into moving patterns of geometric wonder. Few things in life are as precious to me as moments observing life in a salty, liquid environment.”

Through these and other bits of writing I unearthed today, I saw the strong desire to help the Ocean, to be an advocate for all life in the sea. The last line from my October 2007 trip to Bonaire was this: Follow my deep, deep love of the Ocean. Write a love story to the Ocean.

When I have doubts about the direction I’m heading, it helps to review the breadcrumbs I’ve left behind in the form of my writing. One sentence stood out among the many pages I read today: “If the Ocean is the passion that lights my heart, wouldn’t I do everything in my power to document and share the beauty of it so others might see and understand its importance and then take action to protect it.”

Of course.

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Leaping Off the Cliff

Leaping Off the Cliff

SimoneLipscombToday I wrote a friend, “I feel a nudge to fly off the cliff….my toes are hanging over the edge and I’m looking back…looking down at a faraway salt water Ocean realm….and a blue sky in front of me….and so I stand…trembling a little…excited….and grateful.”

SimoneLipscomb (2)It feels as if I’m at a huge turning point in my life that seems to have appeared suddenly but in truth it has been in process for decades. It began when I made a decision to clear out anything keeping me from doing whatever my ‘mission’ was. Sounds funny now but as a 25 year old, it was serious stuff.

SimoneLipscombLittle did I know my journey would take me through really rough times. The more I resisted inner change, the harder it became. There came a point where everything fell apart. I lost basically everything. It was a true dark time in my life. But it was a time where I was able to clear out inner debris as well. I released fears and other crippling emotions as I worked on healing. As the darkness cleared, light was exposed.

SimoneLipscomb (21)The more I surrendered to my path, the clearer the direction became. Looking back I can see those turning points and the narrowing of direction clearly but at the time it was pretty intense. Support came for my work in many forms. My first book was published by an indie company. Making ten percent in royalties on my first book, after all the work, prompted me to publish my next two books. Another book co-authored was picked up by another indie house in Kentucky. Another book was co-authored and done in E-format. That may sound exciting and it is satisfying, but being a writer and photographer has yet to create a supportive income. But thankfully the support has come in other forms as I continue to surrender to the direction of my heart.

SimoneLipscombRecently another narrowing of focus and intention occurred through a series of events that I wrote about in an earlier blog. Now that I’m on the other side of the decision-making process it’s a bit scary. Other financial commitments arise as I further the work of my heart….marine education, volunteer researcher, underwater photography at a more professional level, more writing and publishing of books on marine animals. I went away for a week and came home with a list of things that will be the next steps in my life. And amazingly, support has begun to arrive for this next phase of my work. I feel grateful for the direction and the support.

SimoneLipscomb (2)I lit my candles this morning, after a unsettled night of wrestling fear and anxiety about the upcoming opportunities and projects. I asked to be given a specific sign….”Show me if I am going in the right direction.” Late this afternoon I had two signs happen within minutes of each other. Why do I need signs? Because I dream big at times and wonder if I’m sane. And yes…that’s a joke but I want to be headed in the direction that is true to my path of service. So yes, I asked for confirmation that the direction was correct. It’s like, “Yes I know I had all of those amazing events happen a couple weeks ago but was it real? Can I trust that I correctly interpreted the experiences? Can life be that amazing?”

SimoneLipscomb (24)Yes. It can be. And yes, I’m taking the leap. I haven’t worked this hard on my life’s path to suddenly give up because a bit of fear arose. I’m standing on that cliff. I’m looking around and down. I lift my arms and realize they are wings. A warm breeze rushes past. I rise and glide over the ocean. The direction is clear. It’s a fine day for flying.


There have been so many people that have been part of the warm breeze that lifts me up.  The depth of support grows and adds strength to the wind. To each of you, I am deeply grateful.

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SimoneLipscomb (22)I sit drinking hot tea while listening to bowhead whale song. It touches that place in me where wildness resides, where instinctual wisdom is present. Deep, deep in the inner waters that remain still, untouched by external chaos, global destruction, and consistent attempts by humanoids to pave over anything if it creates profit, I find peace.

This week has been profoundly healing, immensely wonderful. It has been a time of coming home to myself and refocusing my life’s work. And it all came about because I followed my intuition and opened my heart to doors that are open and waiting for me to walk through.

SimoneLipscomb (21)The 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach gave me a nudge to make my yearly pilgrimage to visit manatees in south central Florida. Since I’d already be two hours in that direction I decided to go. But this time rather than arrange everything in advance, I allowed the entire trip to be fluid.

In the interim of trip planning and the festival, our area of Magnolia River had a manatee rescue by Sea World so I decided to ask Sea World if I could visit our gal while she is in rehab. Wouldn’t it be neat to see her and be able to report back to our community?

SimoneLipscomb (86)All plans remained open. I hadn’t received a response from Sea World but decided to leave a day early anyway and simply head south. When I weighed the two departure dates it was obvious which day would be best. And it made all the difference.

As I neared Crystal River a huge rainbow appeared. The arch was steep, a circle of rainbow light over my left shoulder. I stopped at a traffic signal and glanced at the name of the street: Follow Your Dream Parkway. At that point I knew the trip took a deep dive to other levels of experience–the realm where spirit resides.

SimoneLipscomb (97)I signed up for the early boat trip on the way down and was one of only four people on the trip. A true rarity in Crystal River during peak manatee  season. Also on the trip was a marine biologist from Australia. As we talked it felt as if we knew each other and were picking up where we left off at some other time and place. He is pursuing a PhD in Marine Education so our conversation was immediately on track to expanding ideas and sharing concern and grief over the status of our Ocean.

SimoneLipscomb (74)While the water was murky when we arrived at the site, it was for a good reason. Manatees were so thick in Three Sister’s Springs I refused to enter. They were stacked on top of each other sleeping. It’s illegal to swim over a sleeping manatee so the only option was to quietly exit without entering the main area of the springs. Well…my only option. It’s more important to allow them rest and quiet than for me to get a photograph. When I enter their realm it is with a sense of respect and awe….reverence. Their world is a cathedral, a holy place. I listen to their whistles and squeaks as holy choruses that strike deep chords of harmony within my soul.

SimoneLipscomb (8)The following day Rich, the marine biologist, and his wife Deb and their beautiful two year old daughter and I hired a guide in Homosassa to take us out on the water. While the water is greener there, the experience of absolute quiet with no other humans in the area was amazing. We all share a deep respect for wild animals and simply laid still in the water, away from each other, and allowed any curious animal a safe, respectful encounter with us.

SimoneLipscomb (2)Immediately after entering the water I had a large animal swim under me and start rolling around on the bottom. With each roll he would stop and glance at me and pause while I took video and still photographs. I could feel ripples of love and light flowing out from my heart as I remained motionless, an observer in awe.

SimoneLipscomb (14)Two juveniles played around me, coming to my camera housing and butting noses on it. They would get hungry or miss mama and would squeak and swim off to find her. I remained floating where I was and in a few minutes they would return. With the limited visibility, it was as if a phantom gradually appeared from the green depths and slowly changed from verdant algae tint to gray as it approached.

SimoneLipscomb (26)After a couple hours of floating and relaxing in the watery bliss, I grew cold. As I was thinking of heading back to the boat a very large mother manatee swam up behind me and rested her head on my left shoulder. Behind her, a juvenile rested her head on mama’s back. I glanced back and couldn’t believe the image I saw. Tears of wonder and joy flow even now as I reflect on this encounter. In stillness I laid on the water’s surface and marveled at the love I felt, prompted by this rare encounter…one of the most sacred moments in my life.

SimoneLipscomb (18)On this trip I experienced large manatees swimming up to me and laying beside me, snuggling for lack of a better word. We floated side-by-side in stillness. I dared not move as I didn’t want to kick or in any way disturb them. So in stillness, in depths of silence, I was one with animals that weighed 1000 pounds more than me. There was no separation of spirit, of love. They taught me to go deeper, deeper into myself to find that place of stillness and quiet where perfect peace abides.

SimoneLipscomb (94)I struggle about writing and sharing these experiences as I don’t want to suggest that everyone has experiences such as this. I don’t want to create even more masses of humanity descending upon these endangered animals. But for those who are quiet and still and are passive observers of these magnificent animals…they can change your consciousness, alter your perception, bring out the best that resides within you. But it only comes on their terms. You must act as a manatee….move slowly, float calmly…observe life gently…open your heart.

Rich and I were discussing manatee behaviors after our trip to Homosassa. He mentioned that as soon as he wanted to ‘manipulate’ the encounter…by wanting the light to be this way or the animal to be in a certain place….the animals that had been with him left. He didn’t move but his thoughts changed. Surrender to the encounter, let go of what ‘you’ want and magic happens. Very keen observation on his part. And how true for life.

SimoneLipscomb (25)Since we cannot stay underwater forever, the real benefit of experiences such as these is how they create lasting change within us. After years of observing people observing manatees I am more convinced than ever before that these animals are incredibly sensitive to not only human behavior, but human thoughts and emotions as well.

Yesterday I observed two permitted photographers — #1 and #12 (professional photographers apply for a permit through USFW) harass a mother and juvenile in the springs. The mother moved three times to try and find a place to sleep and rest with her calf and the photographers followed and continued their pushy behaviors. They may have images of manatees but they will never understand the spirit of these beautiful animals, never grasp their own arrogant and aggressive behaviors as being the exact opposite of how these creatures live and move and have their being in the water.

Photograph by Richard Wylie...THANK YOU!!
Photograph of me with a juvenile manatee…. by Richard Wylie…THANK YOU!!

I take away from these days with manatees a simple yet profound realization: Open heart, open doors. As I keep my heart open, the open doors will be made known. I will feel my way to them through an open heart.

Everything is getting clear on the path before me and with gratitude for the teachings they offered, I wish my manatee friends safe journeys through the waterways of life.

SimoneLipscomb (20)As I reflect on the week I remember the rainbow arching over my left shoulder, Follow Your Dream Parkway and the mother manatee and juvenile that rested on my left shoulder. The meaning isn’t lost on me. The visceral connection of the teaching is working deep within me. I remember the mother taking my right hand off of the camera housing with her flipper and holding my hand within her flippers and then directing it to her heart.  How can I not experience long-lasting and powerful change after this?


SimoneLipscomb (11)And yes…Sea World called and I got to visit Magnolia in her med pool. She is recovering nicely and being treated for deep propeller wounds along with other manatees who are injured. The rescue and rehab program at Sea World is simply amazing. Simply. Amazing!



Trust the Light

Trust the Light

simonelipscomb (3)The stage at The Frog Pond Sunday Social was filled with awesome musicians…singer/songwriters…guitar virtuosos….another cauldron of creative genius. I was there not only as a music-lover but as a photographer as well.

simonelipscomb70From my point of view the lighting for photography was great for everyone except Will Kimbrough. He was backlit with a strong late-afternoon sun. As I photographed the group, I accepted with almost certainty that I wouldn’t have any good shots of Will but kept on playing with exposure settings and playing with the light.

simonelipscomb71As the uploading of files from camera to computer began last night I began editing my work and was surprised that some of those shots I never expected to work out were some of my best shots of the afternoon. The images of Cathe Steel and Will at the mic for a Grayson Capps fantastic song, Love, turned out. The backlighting powerfully illustrated the love generated by people dedicated to promoting a better world through music.

simonelipscomb147How many times do we give up on a situation, a person, a place, our passion because we don’t think the conditions are right? How many times do we pass on opportunities because we think it’s just not a good time or situation? Sometimes when we proceed anyway, take the risk, allow the creative spirit within us to keep flowing, something wonderful results.

Grayson Capps, singer songwriter wrote a phenomenal song…Love.

This morning, as I was in my pre-writing contemplation, Mary Elizabeth, Will’s sister, messaged me about a couple of shots from yesterday. In the reply to her I said, “Will’s such a special light for our world,” and then realized the images of of Will perfectly expressed how I see him and the gifts he brings to our planet. What I originally thought of as challenging backlighting proved to illustrate exactly what I wanted to express through images of this gifted musician.

simonelipscomb (4)My intention as a photographer is to capture the essence, the heart, of the subject. Usually I am standing in the middle of a quiet mountain stream or on sunrise sands communing with light as it fills the sky or illuminates rushing water. Playing with light is really what I do. Photographing humans is a newer endeavor but it’s really the same isn’t it? Seeking out, playing with light within a person’s face, heart…music.

simonelipscomb1 (6)Creative work and spiritual path are the same in my mind. I cannot separate the two. Photography is the work of my heart, my method of choice for bringing forth more beauty, more joy. It’s never been clear where the Path will lead. Sometimes life seems like a random series of brief moments of insight. And then there are times when a glimpse into the big picture is granted, like the opening of a curtain for a short glimpse of truth, and I see…and it makes sense. All I have to do is trust the light.

simonelipscomb (5)John O’Donohue wrote a blessing for all of us bringing forth our heart’s work.

“May the light of your soul guide you. May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart. May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul. May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work. May your work never weary you. May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement. May you be present in what you do. May you never become lost in the bland absences. May the day never burden. May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises. May evening find you gracious and fulfilled. May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected. May your soul calm, console, and renew you.”