Catching up with Amanda Shields

Hey y’all! 

What a year, huh?
I’m excited that I continue getting asked to come back as a guest for MilspoFAN! I really love this community of artists and I’m so honored to simply be considered among them. 

Since my guest post last year quite a bit has happened, but funny enough, most of that occurred just earlier this year. The rest of 2019 continued pretty much the same (professionally anyways). I continued working for Navy MWR part-time, as well as with the Army at Ft. Eustis as an on-call photographer photographing events and studio portraits. All the while I started getting into personal branding photography with my business and I adored it. I also managed to get one of my photographs published in Analogue Magazine’s “Social” Issue for Norfolk’s 2019 Zinefest. I was admittedly surprised. I sent in my photo and had received an email asking for a larger file, but I received it in the middle of the absolute insanity that is Navy Chief season and thought I had missed the cutoff to send it in. But one afternoon, I went into Analogue Lab’s shop to get some film developed. I see the new Analogue Magazine Issue sitting on the counter as I start flipping through it, there’s my photo! I was so excited that it made it after all.

Remember that caveat above about how my professional life managed to stay pretty much the same for the rest of 2019? Well, as I mentioned, in the midst of working entirely too many jobs and obviously still trying to enjoy photography as a hobby too, my husband made Chief! And that, my friends, is where my personal life began a giant roller coaster ride because boy, was I not expecting family to be nearly as involved in Chief season as we were. And anyone who has ever been through it will concur it is a ummm…learning experience. And it tested our marriage like nothing in the almost 9 years before it. And the entire process tested both of us in very different ways. There were days I thought he might not continue, or that he *shouldn’t* continue for health reasons. But he never ceased to amaze me, and I am forever honored to have had the privilege of pinning the anchors on my Chief Petty Officer! 

I’m still trying to adventure as much as I can. Still more “stay-cations” than far away adventures, but we’re hoping the winds of change might be blowing our way in that area soon. This past December, we stayed at the Trailside Treehouse in Richmond, VA and it was SO COOL! 

And then came 2020.
It started off relatively normal. I continued my photo adventures and went on a whale watching trip with Rudee Tours. I captured the first whale breach of the season! I still say I can die happy after that one! ❤ 

Shortly after the first of the year, I saw a posting for an Events and Marketing Photographer at a local museum. It was full-time. And not only was it a great job, it was practically my dream job! I knew I would like it and with all my experience, I was pretty sure I had what they were looking for, but I have the ultimate case of imposter syndrome! I found every excuse in the book to talk myself out of applying for it. I came up with reasons why I didn’t want it and why they wouldn’t hire me. But my husband was adamant about this one. He had faith in me and my ability as a photographer and talked some sense into me. Haha! So I applied! And to my surprise, within about ten minutes my resume was viewed and I was being contacted with further questions. Then I made it to the next step. Then the next one. Then they asked me to do a final photo project. I have never fretted over something so much in my entire life! And then…I got the call saying they had picked ME!? I was officially the Events and Marketing Photographer at the Mariners’ Museum and Park!! It’s still hard to believe that I was chosen from about 90 other applicants. I feel like I have everyone fooled or something?! But shhh…don’t tell ‘em, ok? 😉 

 Above image: from Mariners’ Museum Elevation Project.

On, I think, my 3rd day at the museum, Virginia received a good dusting of snow (for us anyways) Haha! It was that day, as I drove up past the front entrance of the museum, covered in snow, the sunlight glowing behind the clouds behind it, that it really hit me – it is quite literally my job to run inside, grab the camera and go take pictures in the snow! And that snow was so pretty! I knew I was in the right place


Snow day at the Mariners’ Museum.
Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Photographer Amanda Shields.

And while at the museum, I’ll also have to learn how to handle and photograph the artifacts to be the back-up Collections Photographer. I’m so excited to get in the studio and really start learning the ropes. This whole pandemic really put a kink in that. I was only working for the museum for about three weeks before an outbreak on the Eastern Shore occurred and our president decided it was safer to start working remotely, for what we thought, was only going to be a couple weeks. But we all know how that turned out! But I will say that I am so grateful to have been where I was, when I was. One can never really know the true colors of their employer until something like this happens, and they have made keeping the team together a top priority, and have prepared long before this pandemic hit for a hard-hitting situation specifically so they could do that. 

Since working remotely, I haven’t been lacking in work though. The museum owns the Noland Trail and a 550-acre park and for awhile the park and trail remained open and about once a week I would venture out and take photos along the trail of the park, people, flora and fauna for social media and marketing,  I am also working on organizing and categorizing past event images so they can more easily be found by team members in our system. That keeps me quite busy. I’ve also received a couple of certifications in Cultural Heritage Digitization and the camera system we use to digitize our collection. And there’s always additional projects that pop up along the way. The museum just celebrated its 90th birthday, and I got to help out on a project by geeking- out over looking through some historic photos to find some of the museum in its earliest days. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it! 😉 The park will be opening back up on June 15th, and the galleries in the museum will be opening whenever Virginia enters phase III of the pandemic reopening measures. These past few months haven’t been easy, but I’m grateful to be working with such an incredible group of people. I’m looking forward to taking a whole lot more photos once again! 

It’s funny how all of my experience, interests, and knowledge culminated into this job. All my experience with event photography and with the Surf and Rescue Museum; my interests and knowledge in history, art, archaeology, anthropology; even all the marketing and branding research I did to help my personal brand photography clients helped me ask the right questions when it came to the marketing side of the photography…it all seemed to have culminated into exactly what I needed to make this incredible opportunity a reality. 

A wildlife photographer shooting in the park captured me in action.
Photo by Glenn Woodell.

As for what the future holds – coming sooner than later, it looks like the husband is going to finally be able to get medical retirement. Everything has been approved through the medical board and we’re just waiting on an official date. From there, it’ll only be a couple months before he’s out of the Navy. I’m excited for a new chapter. The waters getting here have been rough, things have smoothed a bit now, and we’re just waiting on those winds to come in! 

I don’t know if we’ll get to catch up again, but if not, just hang on for the ride wherever it takes you. And believe me, it’s never where you planned. I hope you all can find some growth and discovery in all this craziness of these past few months. 

Good luck and thanks for letting me be here again. 


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