Fifty X 50 : Sabine Chorley

Sabine operates a busy wedding photography business under the name of Sterling Images. She approached this interview with the same passion and enthusiasm she brings to her own work. We met on a gloriously mild and sunny day in November, where riding motorcycles was still very possible.sabine_chorley_by_ian_mccausland3_ian_mccausland-1

I think you have a look at your life and it just feels like it went by so fast. So for me, it was like you want to slow down a little bit. Being a wedding photographer, you’re away from your family and friends every weekend, every holiday, we’re the ones photographing on Thanksgiving because that’s when all the families are together.  My husband and I have three kids between two of us. I have two and my husband has one. And we have four grandkids now. So now that I have grandkids, it’s time to slow down a little bit and enjoy that instead of being with everyone else’s families.

Trying to find that balance between work and family has been a challenge. I always feel like work pulls me in one direction and there isn’t enough time for family. And then all of a sudden, wham, you’re thrown a health issue. And then everything stops and it’s not about work anymore. It’s about really appreciating the days that you have.

It was a couple of years ago, maybe a little bit longer. It was a mini stroke scare, suddenly I am changing directions in taking care of my health, changing my work schedule. I remember the doctor saying, “You need to treat your job like just a full-time job, eight hours a day.” Well, that’s impossible with the schedule I’m on.  Again, it’s trying to find the balance. And the only time I don’t think of any of that is when I’m with my family or when I’m on my motorcycle.

 

sabine_chorley_by_ian_mccausland2_ian_mccausland-1I’ve always wanted a motorcycle, it was on my bucket list. I wanted to be riding a bike before I turned 50, so that’s kind of what I decided to do. I put it off for a couple of years because summers are crazy busy, but four years ago, a friend of mine said, “If you’re not going to do it now, you may never do it!” she said, “You just need to make the time and do it.” I sat down that afternoon, I cleared my schedule, and did my bike course.

I bought the bike first and then everything else just kind of fell into place. When I’m on my bike there’s no cellphones, no computers, no emails to check. I’m one with the road. And for me, that signifies what 50 should be like. A slower pace of life, and it’s more about experiencing the here and now versus how to do this, got to do this, running all over the place. We’ve done three, four-hour road trips, overnights up to Minaki and things like that. It’s slow and steady, but the main thing is just getting on and riding. It’s what makes me feel at peace now.

sabine_chorley_by_ian_mccausland4_ian_mccausland-1I love connecting with people. I can talk to a 20-year-old as well as I can talk to a 50-year-old, you just find a commonality there. I don’t think I need to try very hard because, in my heart, I feel like I’m still in my 30s. And I think that’s half the battle. In fact, before I turned 50, someone would say, “Well, how old are you? 40?” I’m like, “I don’t know, let me do the math,” because it didn’t matter to me. Because some days you wake up and you might feel 50 and other days you feel like you’re 25 and you’re ready to go.

When I am connecting with a young bride, they can sense I love weddings, and then instantly the difference in age falls away. But the positive side to that is I think they trust you because you’ve been around the block, you’ve done weddings. They know you’re not going to be this flakey photographer that going to take their money and then disappear. I think there is that sense of trust when you have the age behind you.

I love everything about my family, about how we are and the road that we’ve traveled to get to where we are. It’s my biggest accomplishment. Secondly, I’m really happy with the job I’ve done as a photographer. I feel like we don’t ever stop growing, and I think it’s important that we keep on that journey, and that keeps me motivated to do better and with photography, you just never stop learning. I think the industry just keeps moving, and I’m able to keep moving with it. I think that’s an accomplishment versus someone that might be stuck into an older style of photography.

You have to slow down and really experience more of things from the heart space versus the head space of being too busy and getting things done.I think if  I have one regret, it would just be that life has been about work and less about all of the things that matter. Slow down and enjoy it.