Walking into the opening ceremonies at the Olympics was one of the most amazing moments of my life. Period.

There are no other experiences that I can even compare it to… No other pinnacle of sport (or life!) for me so far, that has been so emotional–no state championship, no world cup victory, no team or personal best, no obstacle overcome. It is hard to describe the intensity of the energy, the hopes, the dreams, and the potentiality that is contained in that stadium when all the athletes and coaches from around the world file in to the thundering applause of the fans. I took one step into Rice-Eccles stadium and burst into tears.

To me, the opening ceremonies is truly what the Olympics has long been honored to be--the world coming together in sport. And for that one night, there are no winners or losers, no contracts or prize money, no MVPs or media favorites. Instead, it is as if the whole of humanity had somehow collectively won, and I can not think of a more beautiful feeling.

(Photo Credit The Salt Lake Tribune)

To me, the opening ceremonies is truly what the Olympics has long been honored to be–the world coming together in sport. And for that one night, there are no winners or losers, no contracts or prize money, no MVPs or media favorites. Instead, it is as if the whole of humanity had somehow collectively won, and I can not think of a more beautiful feeling.

 

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Tomorrow morning at 7am mountain standard time the women’s freestyle moguls qualification runs begin in Sochi, Russia at the 22nd Olympic Winter Games. I am both excited and nervous for all of the great athletes taking part. It really hits home for me because 12 years ago I would have been there… In fact, I was there. I was one of four women mogul skiers who represented the United States in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. True story.

I was one of four women mogul skiers who represented the United States in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. True story.

(Photo Credit Lori Adamski Peek for Sports Illustrated Magazine.)

It seems like a lifetime away, but if I dig deep I remember. I know how much training, hard work, and preparation these athletes have put in; I know the pressure that they have been under to even have the opportunity to ski their first qualification run tomorrow; and I know how lucky they are to, not only be among the best in the world in their chosen sport and to be healthy, but to be among the best in the world and to be healthy on an Olympic year…

One of the four amazingly talented women that will be representing the US tomorrow is Bozeman, Montana native Heather Mcphie. Heather will be skiing in her second Olympic Games. Four years ago, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Heather on a personal photo project giving a behind the scenes look at her life and training regiment leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

You can view the full documentary story that I photographed on heather on my travel site here :

http://www.hannahhardaway.com/

It was a really wonderful experience getting to know and work with Heather on such an intimate level (she did not make the US Ski Team until after I had retired in 2003, so we actually never had the opportunity to be teammates, but I sure would have liked to have been!) Heather is an incredibly focused and driven athlete as well as a beautiful person inside and out. Good luck tomorrow Heather! I will be rooting for you!

 

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Jenny + Derek’s priceless wedding cake at their destination wedding in Mexico this past spring.

Jenny + Derek

Jenny’s adorable mom hand-decorated the cake with all their favorite things including their airstream trailer, their son Hugo and lots of bacon.  I have no idea where she was even able to find some of these things!

Needless-to-say the cake was quite the talking point at the wedding and I was a huge fan.

 

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P.S. For more thoughts on how you can personalize your wedding day check out my blog post from this fall : Red Cowgirl Boots and a Blue Suit.

I love this photo.  Every time I see it I think to myself, “Wow, I really love this photo.”

In fact, since it is the start of a new year and I have been doing a lot of reflecting the past few weeks as I set my sights on the year ahead, I think I am going to go out on a limb and say that it might be my favorite wedding photo that I took in 2013.

 

Capturing great connections in life.

And then I asked myself, “Why? What is it about this particular photo that you are so drawn to?”

Yes, Lindsay was an absolutely gorgeous bride. And yes, she had a stunning dress that she looked amazing in, but I knew it was more than that… way more than that. What I realized is that for me, it comes down to two things :

1.) I really connected with Lindsay and Alex.

It is not like it was hard to do. For starters, we have a lot of interests in common–our love of adventure, travel, and the outdoors.  But i also felt like we have similar priorities in life (valuing family, friends, and experiences) that made it feel effortless, like we were already friends when we met. That is one of the most extraordinary parts about my job. My work enables me to connect with wonderful people and be a part of one of the most exciting days of their lives.

2.) Lindsay and Alex have a great connection.

They are just one of those couples that individually are truly remarkable people–charismatic, kind, adventurous, accomplished yet humble, soft-spoken but at the same time confident, passionate about life, and grounded, very grounded. But together, wow! Together they are even more! It is like everything is amplified. I loved watching these two interact. You could just see the respect and admiration they have for one another–like they had each somehow found the most incredible partner in the world and they couldn’t believe how lucky they were.

For me, this photo captures how in love they are and that is the most beautiful thing. I am just grateful i was there to witness it :-)

 

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