Thoughts on the 22nd Annual T.A.P.S. National Seminar

I really am speechless. The only word that keeps coming to mind is “incredible,” but incredible just isn't big enough to describe or encompass everything I'm feeling right now. I woke up this morning on a high; feeling invigorated and excited about the task of editing the thousands of images from yesterday. Normally, I love to shoot, and editing is just a necessary chore that goes along with it. And the more images there are to edit, the worse the chore is. But I'm actually eager to edit today. I'm eager because it means I get to savor my T.A.P.S. experience a little while longer. The T.A.P.S. seminar was just that for me: an experience. I signed up as a volunteer thinking I'd be helping out a little bit. I had no idea how much I'd get in return.

And I'm not new to volunteering. I do community service through photography all the time and I have for several years now. So I already knew that you always get back more than you give when you volunteer. But what I experienced at T.A.P.S. was something on another level entirely. In investment parlance, what I experienced would be considered an obscene profit. I had SO. MUCH. FUN!!! Everybody there was awesome and completely insane. This was my first time participating and I suspect that new members aren't insane when they first join, but as they work through their grief, an unintended side-effect is they forfeit their sanity as well because I saw a hotel full of awesomely crazy people and I'm certain they didn't all start out that way.

I've never seen anything like it. The T.A.P.S. seminar really is just a big family gathering. You can't be involved and not become a part of the family. Normally, as a photographer, I'm detached from the event I'm covering because I'm focused on capturing the images I was commissioned to get. I don't endeavor to be detached, I just get focused on my task of capturing moments, which generally disallows experiencing the moment. But that wasn't the case with T.A.P.S. I realized that when the closing dinner was winding down and I was sad that the weekend was over. Normally, I'm happy the event is over so I can go home! I thought about the stories that parents had told me about how much the kids look forward to the T.A.P.S. seminar every year so they can go see all their T.A.P.S. friends. I totally get it. I know how sad those kids must be that the weekend is over because their sadness is mine. And I don't even know any of those people. I was there for only two days and those people are now family to me. That's just how incredible this event is. It's magical. All these people come together to heal and some magic happens and then something way beyond healing goes on. I went there not for healing, but to volunteer, and ended up leaving enriched in a way that I am honestly having a real challenge in describing. I don't think my words are conveying how I feel about what I experienced this weekend. T.A.P.S. is just incredible. In-cre-di-ble.

Okay, I gotta stop writing and start editing. I have a ton of images to go through. I just had to at least make an attempt at putting into words my T.A.P.S. experience. Those people are awesome. They really should rename the event to something more descriptive. It's called the T.A.P.S. Annual National Seminar or something like that. Bor-ring! And totally misrepresentative. They should call it the T.A.P.S. Annual Gathering of Magical Awesomeness and Crazy People: Come Here Grieving, Go Home Nuts.

I chose just this one image for this post because it tells the story of what a wonderland this weekend was for a photographer. I wanted so bad to be in multiple places at once because there were so many events happening all the time and so many great images to capture. Just in the trapeze school, there was more going on than I could capture. In this image, you see a lady catching air on the trampoline in the foreground and people scaling and exiting the trapeze in the background. What's not in the frame is the group of people behind me and to my left who are being taught how to use each other as a jungle gym. So much going on, all at once. And the trapeze school was just one activity. There were lots of other activities going on at the same time at other locations and it was like that all weekend. A photographer's dream and nightmare at the same time...so many shots to get that there's no way to get them all. I'll definitely be recruiting photographers for next year's Annual Gathering of Magical Awesomeness and Crazy People. There were lots of vacant slots for volunteer photographers and there wouldn't be any vacancies if people knew about the event and how much fun it is to participate. AND THEY FEED THE VOLUNTEERS!!! And feed them well! I know I'm two pounds heavier thanks to T.A.P.S.

All right, no more writing. Time to edit. Go to TAPS.org for more info on this awesome organization.