Priest Lake: Ringing in the new year with dogs, big plans

bella the maremma sheepdog on a snowy beach at Priest Lake, Idaho

On New Year’s Eve, I sat in front of a fireplace in Priest Lake, Idaho, with a pen and a notebook.

On that notebook, I was planning 2020 for me, Bella and Noses & Toes Pet Photography. Well, yes, the spousal unit, too.

My main focus, however, was building on the incredible year you all helped me have.

We like to think we start with a blank slate every New Year’s Day but, for me, it’s important to take lessons from mistakes, celebrate the successes and plot a path for tomorrow.

Bella the Maremma sheepdog hikes in the snowy woods near Hill's Resort in Priest Lake, Idaho

Hiking at Priest Lake

A heck of a 2019

I exceeded the number of clients I thought I would have in only Year 2 of operating this business. I read somewhere that most photography businesses take five years before they can be considered profitable.

Folks, we are well on our way.

First, though, lessons learned:

  • Be more selective about events I attend
  • Stay on top of accounting and mileage tracking
  • Consider products beyond what I offer, including digital files
  • Spend less, which makes the aforementioned spousal unit happy
  • I have enough gear

Now the celebrations:

  • Joined the pet photographers’ blog circle, which gives me fun writing prompts for this space
  • Amazing response to the launch of the rescue dogs project
  • Helped Paws on Patrol with their first fundraising calendar
  • Teamed up with my friend Tamara for Santa portraits at Laundramutt in Couer d’Alene
  • Got my favorite image yet of Bella during a wonderful trip home to Banff National Park in Alberta

And last but not least, the news I made finalist status in three categories of the Dog Writers Association of America awards.

Planning ahead

We spend every New Year’s celebration at Hill’s Resort in Priest Lake.

Our cabin has two big windows that face the lake. I have spent many a morning staring out those windows, wishing the clouds would lift and I could start the day with an epic sunrise to train my camera on.

It never happens.

We spend our days playing cards — the games of choice are eucher and rummy — and we eat, drink and be merry.

When I need time away, I bundle up Bella, grab the gear bag and hit the trails and beaches that are all around us.

Spokane dog Bella on the beach at Priest Lake, Idaho

Bella on a non-snowy beach at Priest Lake

Or I zone out with a book to read or …


I already have the year off to a good start.

Noses & Toes is sponsoring a cool event in next month. It’s the 50th annual Priest Lake Sled Dog Race and IFSS World Cup. Teams as large as eight dogs and as small as one dog will be competing in fun and competitive events on February 1 and 2.

I can’t wait to see working dogs in action!

The weekend after that, I’m off to New York City.


I know, right? I accepted an invitation from the Dog Writers Association to not only attend the awards banquet but also to be the event photographer. It tears me away from my little family for five days but how could I say no?

After that, I’m coming home to relaunch the rescue dogs project in the hope we can get enough stories to publish a book.

And a few more projects are coming down the pipeline, but I’m going to stay hush on those because you never know who could be reading.

Otherwise, I have lots of marketing to do, lots of pictures to take and, hopefully, lots of clients to help unabashedly celebrate the love they have for their dog.

In addition to all the bookkeeping and tracking I still have to do for 2019.

Pitter patter!

But first …

More from Priest Lake

Nine years and no sunrise.

Nine years and usually, we head back to Spokane on New Year’s Day.

Nine years and … wait … anyone want to stay another day?

We said yes.

We wanted a quiet day from the party chaos to just sit around and play some cards.

My husband, out of the blue, said, “Wow, look at that.”

I turned toward those big windows overlooking the lake and saw the most amazing sunset colors over the mountains to the east.

The one thing I always remind myself when I’m out doing landscape photography is to look all around me. When it comes to nightfall, you can get amazing images of the sun setting in the west.

But if you don’t turn around, you miss some pretty amazing colors behind you.

I dropped my cards and said, “Guys, I gotta …”

They all said “GO.”

I grabbed my gear and tripod and raced for the dock.

There it was.

sunset colors reflected in the clouds in the mountains east of Priest Lake

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and then remembered, “YOU’RE A DOG PHOTOGRAPHER.”

I raced back to the cabin, grabbed my strobe and barked out, “Bring me the dogs!”

Bella, by this point, had had enough and needed a day off from being a professional dog model.

Our friends’ English Labrador retriever was totally game.

English Labrador retriever Mollie on the docks at sunset at Hill's Resort in Priest Lake, Idaho.

Mollie at sunset

If this is how 2020 is starting off, it’s only up from here.

All around the circle

Whew … it seems like my slate is already full!

We were tasked with writing about our blank slate for 2020 for the blog circle, where pet photographers around the world write and show off their images.

Let’s go see how everyone else is kicking off 2020. Start with Kylee Doyle Photography, serving the greater Sacramento area. Read her post and then click the link at the bottom to get to the next one.

Travel through the circle and when you land back here, you’re home.

Right where you belong.

And if you and your dog want an epic sunset shot like Mollie’s, get started by clicking this button that takes you to my contact page.

[su_button url=”” target=”blank” background=”#ff7200″ icon=”icon: camera” id=”Book Me Now”]BOOK ME NOW[/su_button]

9 thoughts on “Priest Lake: Ringing in the new year with dogs, big plans”

  1. Pingback: Pet blogging: A challenge to look back and ahead | Spokane Dog Photography

  2. Wow, that sunset was worth the wait… not a sunrise but even better in that it appeared! A beautiful post, Angela and congratulations on a successful 2019. 2020 looks like it’s shaping up to be even more successful.

  3. Very thoughtful post, gives me pause to reflect on what I’d like to change about 2020. That location is stunning and it sounds like so much fun to be in such a quiet place that entertainment means engaging with PEOPLE and not SCREENS! Good luck in NY!

  4. Congratulations on all your accomplishments! So exciting! I’m right with you on starting out the year with keeping “accounting” in order – ugh! The sled dog race looks amazing and can’t wait to see more! Happy 2020!!!

  5. Congratulations on capturing the gorgeous image and your successful 2019! I may need to hire your to write for the magazine regardless of whether you win any awards or not, but I sure hope you do win!

  6. Well done on a great 2019! And all the best for your 2020 plans. You’ll probably exceed them given the epic start the year has given you.

  7. Kelly Middlebrooks

    I’d say your year started off with a bang! So much to be thankful for and a gift from the universe to boot. Happy 2020!

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