The Secret Magical Ingredient

Author Recent Posts Nicole BegleyNicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She created Hair of the Dog in 2012 to empower pet photographers to turn their dreams into reality by helping them improve their craft and grow their pet photography business.Nicole has authored a book “Pet and Equine […]

Written By Nicole Begley

On July 11, 2019

Behind the Scenes at Barkzealand

I’m not crying…you’re crying.

It all started a little over 3 years ago – I boarded a plane for Barcelona to meet in-person for the first time two colleagues – Kaylee Greer and Charlotte Reeves – to teach the very first out-of-this-world pet photography retreat – Barkelona.  Walking up to these two ladies in the Barcelona airport – I had no idea what we were about to create. 

As we pulled up to Casa Felix in the Catalonian countryside, we were nervous and excited.  We were about to welcome 30 students from all over the world.  Once everyone started arriving, the nervousness subsided and we realized that these are our people.  These are people that are ready to go all in on their dreams.  These are people that literally eat sleep and breath pet photography.  These are people that rekindle my passion for this profession every single time I’m with them.

Each event is over in a blink of an eye – it’s literally impossible to fully grasp the enormity of the experience in the moment.  It’s not until you have a moment of reflection that it starts to hit you.  For me, that moment happened (for the first time) three years ago someplace over the north Atlantic – all of a sudden I had tears streaming down my cheeks.  Tears caused by the most enormous amounts of gratitude bursting from my heart in all directions. 

A random aligning of stars that created pure magic – and that magic is recreated with each new Barka.

Fast forward to March 22nd, 2019 – as soon as my plane started descending into Queenstown New Zealand – I knew that it was about to happen again.  You can actually see the magic of New Zealand from the sky.  Lakes of blue, rivers that sparkle, and mountains that rise straight to the sky – cue the gratitude tears – oh boy, now they are starting before the week even begins! 

During each week, we had even more photography sessions than usual and each location was more magical than the last!  Seriously, from mountain tops drenched in golden light to the shores of Lake Wakatipu…and everything in between. 

But what really makes each Barka magical?  Is it these fairytale locations?  Well, it doesn’t hurt – but that’s not it.  It’s the people. 

It’s people that inspire each other and lift each other up. It’s people that aren’t afraid to follow their dreams.  It’s people that realize that life is damn short and this is it.  This is our ONE life.  It’s unacceptable to us to just do the status quo and get a job – work until 65 – and then hope that we are healthy enough to enjoy a few decades of retirement.

No, we are chasing our dreams like our hair is on fire…and that looks different for everyone.  We have people that are happy in their day job but have this pet photography passion on the side, we have people that are giving it their all to build their business to leave their 9 to 5, and we have people that have made the leap and are doing pet photography full time.  What do they all have in common?  They are living a life that they have designed.  They are doing the things that they love to do and living their best life.

It is these people that inspire the hell out of me. 

It is these people that fuel my why.

If I can help just one person find the courage to not only feel that it’s ok to stick a flag into their dreams and claim them – but then to take action on them – it lights me up. 

A few of the furry faces we photographed at Barkzealand.

How f-ing lucky am I to be able to help so many people.  Honestly, this is why I do what I do.  My biggest core value is freedom.  Freedom to follow our dreams, spend our time doing what we want to do and with the people that we want to spend time with.  Our lives don’t always fit into a 40-hour workweek and two weeks of vacation.  Our lives are meant to be lived with passion and purpose. 

The irony is that at every Barka I receive so many heartfelt notes, and I treasure them – but it’s actually me that needs to thank each and every one of YOU.  You are the reason that this magic has been created. 

A Barka is a place in which you are surrounded by your people.  People that light a fire inside of you.  People that actually bring tears of joy to your eyes.  People that stir your mother fing soul.

So here I am – on yet another plane, with tears of gratitude rolling down my cheeks. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Kaylee Greer, Charlotte Reeves, Sam Haddix, Craig Turner-Bullock, Chris Turner-Bullock, my hubby Brett for holding down the home front, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON that has come through any of the previous Barkas.  My heart is an explosion of gratitude for each and every one of you.

Week One Attendees

Week Two Attendees

Every time we leave, it becomes harder and harder to leave my Barka-family – people who are now are scattered to all of the far corners of this little rock that we call earth. 

You know what makes it easier?  When we quickly get to work planning our next adventure. 

If you would like to be the first to know of upcoming Barkas – please leave your details here.  

Nicole Begley

You may also like these resources

Creating photography albums FAST with SmartAlbums

Creating photography albums FAST with SmartAlbums

Let’s dive into the world of seamless album creation with SmartAlbums by Pixellu. We can create stunning albums for our photography clients in mere minutes. Join me for a quick look on how to craft a gorgeous album with this software. You too can master the art of album design in less than 10 minutes!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hair of the Dog Pet Photography Education

Welcome to Hair of the Dog Pet Photography Resources. The #1 educational resource for aspiring and established pet photographers.

Join the Academy


Listen to Our Podcast

Check out founder Nicole Begley’s Book


Join the Hair of the Dog Community

Sign up for the Summit


Pin It on Pinterest