part one of the ONCE WEST back story

New state.
New house.
New marriage dynamic.
New business name.
New business model.
New perspective.

I was craving change, and change was exactly what I got.  I guess you’d have to go back two years, to 2017, for it all to make sense.  Mark & I had owned our photography business together for 13 years at that point.  We’d been successful building out our niche of specializing in photographing destination weddings at Colorado’s ski resorts.  And we were comfortable.  Too comfortable.  Comfortable in the kind of way that we’d begun to ache for change but were too afraid to rock the boat.  I’d become fed up with 8 month long winters living at 8,000’, Mark was completely burnt out on weddings and I wasn’t far behind.  But life was easy… bills could be paid, vacations could be taken…we’d be crazy to walk away from the life we’d worked so hard to build.

Come 2017 we were fed up with hearing ourselves talk rather than act.  So we sold our house, bought a tiny RV and hit the road.  We had no idea where we were going or for how long.  We simply hoped that location independence and the financial freedom of now being debt free would open us up to something, anything that would reignite our passion for life.

We’d lived on the road for nearly one year to the day when we moved in to our new house in Idaho.  Unlimited hot running water, our own washer and dryer, an address, a couch…these things felt like pure luxury after living in a 100 square feet for a year.  That year turned out to be harder than I’d expected.  Changing the view out your window doesn’t change the turmoil inside your head.  I learned that I can’t escape myself.  I learned that I could post dreamy, envy-evoking photos on instagram until I was blue in the face but that didn’t mean my life was what it looked.  (Thus kicking off my hate/hate relationship with social media).  And yet, it was also the most liberating year of my life.  To be fortunate enough to have an entire year to search my soul for the change it so desperately needed, is a gift I’ll be forever grateful for.  I learned more about myself than I ever would have within the comforts of routine and the confines of security.

We settled down in Idaho at the end of 2018 and felt as though we were finally crawling out of the dark hole of mid-life crisis that sucked us down a few years prior.  Mark had chosen a new career path.  He would now be spending his days flying bush planes around the Idaho backcountry.  And getting paid to do it.  The serendipity of it all was a head-shaker.  But we weren’t surprised by this turn of events.  Aviation had been drawing Mark in for the better part of a decade.

The excitement of it all wore off after about a month.  Then it started to sink in.  I was slated to return to Colorado the next summer and continue doing the same thing I’d been doing the past 14 years, except now it was without Mark, my bff, my partner in crime.  For 14 years Mark & I were inseparable.  We made every life and business decision together.  Our friends thought we were crazy but it worked for us.  Now I was home alone more than I wasn’t in a new state where I knew no one.  We had made a conscious choice to pursue his dream because I didn’t have one.  And now the reality of this was hitting me like a punch to the gut.  I wasn’t sure where this left my marriage or my career and winter was looming, a time of year that always led me to depression, even in the best of times.

To say I was lost in the months that followed would be a vast understatement.  In the years leading up to this point I’d grown increasingly frustrated with the wedding industry.  Wedding blogs and social media were turning weddings in to trends to aspire to rather than a sacred tradition to cherish.  I was disheartened by everyone’s attempts to keep up and impress on social media.  Everyone including me.  The constant pursuit of perfection rather than the celebration of history and humanity was sucking the life out of me.  It was starting to feel as though my career as a wedding photographer may have reached the end.  Until one unassuming day in January when everything changed.


Hi there!  I’m Michele, owner of ONCE WEST.  I photograph weddings and families in Colorado & Idaho with a mission to create authentic, joy-filled photographs honoring the simple fact that we never get the same moment twice.  When I’m not working you’re most likely to find me camping or flying with my husband (and bff) somewhere around the Mountain West.


Create photographs that will last, of the stories that matter.  My role is to see life through your eyes, not mine, to honor your story and your memory, to give you photographs that will bring you joy for a lifetime.


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