For many years I have enjoyed thrilling adventures in South and Central America. As a photographer, I was constantly inspired by and drawn to communities of rainbow-hued casitas and the emerald-toned hills that surrounded them. Over time, I accumulated yards of vibrant, psychedelic patterned fabric from the Emberá and Guna Yala Indians of Panama, and I filled my hotel rooms with the fragrant, color-infused flowers I discovered along my journeys.
Every day was a delicious assault on my senses, and I couldn’t get enough.
So, when I finally had enough of blizzards in Connecticut and crippling work days in my job as an interior designer, I naturally turned to this area of the world for my retirement.
My husband narrowed the choice of locales by insisting we live near a modern, business-savvy big city with an international airport. And so, Boquete, nestled in the Chiriqui highlands of Panama, and comfortably close to Panama City, became the perfect choice.
I wanted stirring vistas, abundant wildlife, a cool climate, and an affordable cost of living…and got it all.
After having lived here for five years I am still happily living my dream retirement, and with my new-found free time and disposable income, I have returned to writing and exploring foreign lands; photographing all I see. What a thrill to not be limited by a workday for these pursuits. I can now plan my day as I choose.
Often, I write in the peaceful early morning, go out on a hike after to photograph my lush surroundings, then end the late morning by enjoying a delicious lunch in any one of Boquete’s new, international restaurants.
In Connecticut, when time allowed, I worked as a freelancer for Tauck Travel, providing them with photos from my adventures for their Exotics catalogues. As time passed, Tauck, like so many other travel companies began soliciting their photos gratis from their travelers and my income dropped sharply. Shooting for stock agencies didn’t appeal to me, so after settling in Panama I knew it was time to find new outlets for my craft. The first step, I realized, was putting myself out there: No one will require your services if they don’t know what you do.
Boquete is a very philanthropic community and has a lot of charitable organizations. I volunteered to photo events at no charge. From my work photographing these events, which was subsequently uploaded to Facebook, I was hired to do head shots for websites and brochures as well as portrait photography. And from shooting animals for the fundraising Animales calendar (including a cover shot) I have been hired to do pet photography.
If there is a photo club in your community, this is another terrific avenue for exposure. In Boquete there is Boquete Photografia, which holds exhibitions, joint and individual, many times a year. I have exhibited my travel photos several times and always sell prints from each exhibition. As an extra I offer to accompany my clients to the framer to select mats and frames to best highlight my work, which is a bonus for both of us.
I also create coffee table books from my adventures. There are several companies online, including Shutterfly, which are user-friendly and produce lovely journals. My travel companions, who are often camera challenged, love purchasing these mementos.
Fine art photography is another outlet. Red Bubble and Fine Art America encourage you to upload your work, which can be purchased by their clients to print on t-shirts, canvas, mugs, and phone cases, while you receive a percentage of the sales and they do all the work.
My new life in Panama is picture perfect…
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