The other day I got an email from a total stranger that truly was like a direct line of encouragement from God. But before I get to that…
For the past 12+ years, I have greatly enjoyed sharing my nature and travel photography through my social media posts. By now, many of you know my passion for photography runs deeper than just getting a lot of “likes” on Facebook or hopefully landing a shout out from a magazine or outdoor company (although that would be amazing!) However, most of you probably don’t know how or why my photography journey started. I generally do not like to write and have a hard time coming up with the right words, which is why I like letting my pictures speak for themselves — and probably why this is my first blog post since August 2018 — whoops.
2008 — when God refined a new passion within me from a season of ashes.
I was in my 4th year as a Clemson student and I still had a lot of unknowns about my future and career after college. Up to this point of my life, I was never really someone who knew exactly “what I wanted to be when I grew up”. At this time in my life, my passions were mainly preoccupied in experiencing my childhood dream of attending Clemson University and absorbed in a long dating relationship at that time. So my focus in life was very cloudy, to put it vaguely, and I wasn’t ready to grow up.
In the spring semester of 2008, I accepted a graphic design internship to Asheville, NC, mainly because of the strong draw I had for experiencing living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and I was interested in a career in graphic design.
The mountains were calling, and I had to go.
Early on during my internship, each weekend I would take the hour long drive back to Clemson because I missed my girlfriend and friends. So during the week that was all I could think about — counting down the days and hours at work until I went back to Clemson. Then one weekend there was the break-up that sent me into one of the most challenging seasons of my early life. Here I was now, living alone away from my friends in Clemson, even further away from my family in Lexington, and trying to adapt to “the real world” in a season of loneliness and depression.
But God was calling me to the mountains, and I had to go.
It was during this time that God started refining this ash pit of depression, uncertainty, and passionless part of my life into something special and meaningful. During this time, with a heavy heart, I started taking longer drives home from work through the mountains calling out to God with my worship music, and using my weekends to explore every part of the amazing scenery I was surrounded by in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then, I specifically remember on my intern computer at work, there was a bookmarked website of a photographer’s work (to this day, I still can’t remember who or what the website was) with some of the most amazing scenery I had ever seen captured. When I realized that these scenes were local, I immediately had the strong God-giving desire to want to capture these scenes myself. So one day I used pretty much all of my paycheck to buy my first ever digital SLR Canon camera (I remember my dad said “you spent how much on a camera?!”) From that point on, I was determined to teach myself how to capture these scenes in the mountains I was witnessing.
Fast forward 12+ years, I can see how God used photography to draw me closer to Him. During that time of brokenness, I was seeking answers from Him that I felt like he wasn’t giving me. But at that time, I didn’t realize — only Jesus knew — He was actually using this time and my new passion for photography to comfort me Himself through the peace that I was receiving with every sunrise/sunset, tranquil setting in the forest, and majestic mountain top view in the Blue Ridge Mountains. So, that is how I got into photography and where it has led me today in being able to use it as a profession. (Side note: a lot of people ask if I do photography full-time. My full-time profession is graphic design, but photography plays a huge role in it. Photography is my side profession, but most importantly my passion) I remember struggling when trying to come up with a name for my photography profession, but finally just decided to go with Seth Berry Photography — with the understanding and decision to not make it all about me, but to glorify Him. Hence, the essence of my tagline: Explore. Capture. Inspire.
So, with all that said, I wanted to write this blog post to not only share what God has done for me, but to be of an encouragement to you! God certainly encouraged me this week when I got this email from a total stranger:
“With Thanksgiving coming up, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this past year and thinking of things / people that I have been grateful for and I wanted to let you know that you are one of them!
This coming March will be my second year living in Lexington. I picked my life up in New Jersey and moved it because the company I work for opened its 15th location in downtown Columbia and I offered to move so I can establish our latest branch. My closest friends/family is 13 hours away! I’ve been knee deep in work getting our latest location up and running. I’m averaging 70 hrs a week so come the weekend, I found myself doing nothing but mentally preparing for the week ahead. I was planning our grand opening that we had back in March and one thing we wanted to do was hire a photographer. I was searching to find a local photographer and I had come across your website. Long story short, we ended up having to cancel everything for the public thanks to COVID. I did buy one of your photos of downtown Columbia! This is my home away from home and what better than to have a photo of the city that brought me here.
Back in June, I had come across all my notes for the grand opening and I saw your website again. I was looking at your photos in all, dreaming about being able to see the most spectacular views, then I realized how a lot were taken here in SC. Fast forward to today, Needless to say, you have changed my life and you have inspired me to do things that I’ve never done before. I started off going to state parks and as I walked into the woods, solitude, is the first word that comes to mind.
I grew up going to a Methodist church and when I moved here, I tried a few out and I just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t the same! One Sunday, I decided, I’m going to go to Pretty Place, (thanks to your photo). When I walked in, I started to cry. I finally found my place, I sat still for 3 hours just listening / watching and taking in all that was in front of me. Multiple things were running through my mind and in the end I realized that these trips I take to state parks, national parks, blue ridge parkway, etc. they have been my solitude trips, they’ve become my church! I am at such peace when I walk into the woods or sit at an overlook. That is where I am able to connect with God. To see all that he has created and for me to have the ability to go and see these breathtaking views, has changed my life in ways I don’t think I can express in words.
Thinking of all that I have seen these past few months and how much I have changed, it all comes back to you and your website. I just want to say, THANK YOU! I am grateful for all that you are able to capture and I wanted you to know how you have inspired me. Your photography has been such an inspiration for me to start hiking, It’s literally become my outlet. It’s a time for me to reflect, regroup and recharge. Growing up in New Jersey, people don’t hike. If someone from NJ says they went hiking over the weekend, they mean they walked an outside mall or walked on the sidewalk in a housing development, lol.
I’ve been thinking about writing this to you and I’ve thought, this is crazy or you will think I’m crazy. Maybe you hear this all the time, but then I thought, maybe nobody says anything. So I wanted to let you know that I am most grateful for you this year because you have introduced hiking to me, expanded my exploring horizons and all of that has allowed me to connect with God, who I’m ashamed to admit, he’s been missing in my life since my move down here. But not anymore!
Keep on doing what you're doing!”