My Scavenger Story…

Hello all!  I’m Heather Szarka from Oklahoma… although I have joined the tribe of gypsy Scavengers!  So I was one of those people who used a flip phone and refused to be on Social media back when MySpace and Facebook were the thing. But then a friend who had one of the early G+ invites convinced me to at least try, and gave me one of his invites. But I knew no one and didn’t know what to do with it.  So I circled NASA and other space related things, visiting the site maybe once a week just to peek at it and see the cool images coming in from Hubble. But I soon lost interest and was about to pull the plug. Before doing so though, I decided to actually try. So I circled up more places and people and things till one day something caught my eye… a scavenger hunt using a camera… For at least a year, I followed along from the outside, as every time a sign up would come around, I’d be out digging holes in a field somewhere (ah, the life of an archeologist…) and miss it. Finally for the 2013/14 New Year New Hunt (11th round), I made sure to schedule a day in the office so I could type “I’m in”. I was immediately hooked, and even got a second place vote from Thomas Hawk for my “careless” shot.

Suddenly I had 100s of people in circles and my G+ stream changed overnight.  I met my first live Scavenger, Melissa Beagle later that same year in 2014 when my sister and I traveled to the Colorado Springs area. She asked if we were going to Trey Ratcliff’s photowalk in a few days… I didn’t have a clue who that was, but thought why miss a once in a lifetime kind of thing, so my sister and I rearranged our schedule to head up to Denver for the event.

I then met more Scavengers when we traveled to Michigan for my sister to attend an adult art camp. Meanwhile my life was taking a turn on the roller coaster as I was facing some tough business decisions and stress related health and mental issues. God and the Hunt helped me through those tough years. My “angry” shot was a result of trying to process my business situation. I ended up going through personal bankruptcy to undo the business issues and eventually closed the business at the end of 2015.  

Because of the Hunt I joined a G+ mentorship led by Pam Boling over composition (any other Camel Compers out there?!?), which led to participating in 6 more and being a helper in several as well. Last year, my life took another drastic turn, this time for the positive and I began WWOOFing (work on small organic farms in exchange for room and board) around the United States. 

This landed me in Asheville, NC so I could attend the mini-meetup held in June.

And after getting a horrible respiratory infection, Cathy Custer Donohue came to the rescue and let me recover at their home for several days.  This year, my WWOOF travels began with heading to Orlando for the meet up, and boy am I glad I went! Despite my extreme introvertedness, I met all these wonderful people that I’ve known virtually for years now! I definitely can’t wait to attend future meet ups!

So, what does being a Scavenger mean to me? Becoming a Scavenger definitely changed my life, and possibly the trajectory of my career. My next chapter is to start my own organic farm in northern Michigan, in the meantime I’m also trying to start up a business doing personal branding photography.  The Hunt has given me a great and diverse circle of friends and family, a safe place to rant when life has kicked my rear and a place to get and give help for everything from photography to health to underwater basket weaving! Because of the Hunt I’ve learned and practiced my Photoshop skills, with “popcorn” being one of my first attempts at compositing.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few nods from the judges from time to time.  Xylophone,  from the 25th Anniversary round was the first time an image got nods from all four judges, two 1st and 2 HM’s, such a wonderful honor!

The Hunt continues to push me to work on stretching myself, not in a competitive way with others, but just to compete against myself, to know I’ve learned at least one new thing each round. I’m so fortunate to have found this group, I shudder to think how boring and normal my life would have been had I not found the Hunt!!