How A Photo Can Make You Feel Brave

I really believe that people come into your life for a reason. And Dave Puente is one of those that showed up at exactly the right time.

I’d been a fan of his incredible photos for years, marveling at the beauty that went so far beyond a simple photograph. But when he said he wanted to work with me I was nervous. If a camera is rolling on video I have no problem being my goofy self and I love being pushed out of my comfort zone (there’s no way I would’ve gone hang gliding if three go-pros and a WCCO photog weren’t there.)

But still photography is a different story. I grew up feeling awkward in pictures, I burst into tears before a round of professional headshots when I was 23 because the makeup artist painted on so much makeup I couldn’t recognize myself and told me “this is what your face is supposed to look like.” I looked like someone pretending to be someone else in those pictures.

Meeting Dave was so different, instantly I felt like we’d known each other for years. That sort of rare connection where the conversations feel so easy, so natural.  And Dave didn’t want the made up version everyone gets on the news, the properly filtered Instagram persona. Which is good because he got the very unfiltered me who swears like a sailor and laughs about her ridiculous dating life.

I brought him first to the place I love most: Boulder, Colorado. The poor guy literally got off the plane from Minnesota and I made him start hiking! But I’m glad I did because he took one of my all-time favorite pictures of me:

There are so many things I could nit-pick about myself in this picture, but instead I fell in love with the laugh lines around my eyes, I didn’t mind my profile or thin lips because I’m smiling, really smiling. Everything about this picture was me, a me that was just starting to love herself again.

I’d gotten out of a long relationship six months before & honestly was still very much healing from the heartbreak. I went a long time not feeling beautiful or worth someone’s time, but somehow through Dave’s lens I was starting to feel like myself again. I was also seeing a side of myself I didn’t share with many.

I don’t take pictures where I’m not smiling – I’m a happy person and my go-to is a giant smile when the camera comes on.

Looking at Dave’s pictures I saw a side of myself I had hidden away. It was the first time I talked about my anxiety on social media, about the struggles behind the smile. It felt like letting out a breath I’d been holding in for years. I heard from hundreds who could relate and I felt instantly less alone.

His photos made me feel beautiful & brave, happy & sad, confident & vulnerable. I’m grateful to have these to capture a moment in time that was so painfully important. But more than anything, I’m grateful for the man behind the camera. The man who listened without judgement, whose kind words were slowly bringing me back to life. The man I’m so lucky to call a friend. An unbelievably talented, kind, beautiful friend.

Please enjoy a few more of his incredible work from those two days.

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I’m not exploring the trails, I’m a Meteorologist! You can see me every weekday morning on Fox31 KDVR from 4:30-10am! Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

More From Kylie

Mental Health Check In

Mental Health Check In

I haven’t talked about mental health publicly in a while and it’s for a couple of reasons. The first is actually pretty wonderful: this is the best I’ve felt mentally in years. I feel like after years of turbulence my life feels settled, stable and full of purpose....

Hike For A Cause

Hike For A Cause

What an amazing weekend! There's nothing better then spending time outside with wonderful people who genuinely care about making an impact in our community. When the team behind HalfDays first approached me about teaming up to do a fundraiser, I was immediately on...

Best Road Trips from Denver

Best Road Trips from Denver

1. Southwestern ColoradoFrom Crested Butte to the Black Canyon then rounding off the trip with a stay in Ouray and Telluride, southwestern Colorado is an absolute must visit! Must hike: Black Canyon of GunnisonOuray Perimeter Trail We did a mix of camping and Air...

AO’s First Fundraiser

AO’s First Fundraiser

It's been almost a year since Approachable Outdoors launched last summer as a fun side project during the Pandemic and I'm still blown away every day at what it's grown into. In the very early days I would dream about using this site as a source of good, to make an...

Weekend Getaway: Estes Park

Weekend Getaway: Estes Park

Estes Park is one of my favorite places in Colorado! It's only an hour and a half from Denver (which is a gorgeous drive) and it has so many options for a weekend away. Obviously the big focus of our trip was hiking: Hikes: Mill's Lake (4.9 Miles/886 ft. Elevation...

My First Guided Hike

My First Guided Hike

I usually find my hikes on AllTrails or through recomendations from friends and had never been on a guided hike before but the  YMCA of the Rockies offers a guided hike for free when you're staying there. One of the best parts was that I didn't have to worry about...

Road Trip To Moab

Road Trip To Moab

Moab is just over five hours from Denver so it’s perfect for a weekend adventure to another world. The gorgeous red rocks of Moab, Arches National Park and the Canyonlands are a must-see and it’s also a trip you can do over and over again and see something new...

Trunk Picnic

Trunk Picnic

Whether it’s a road trip or I’m feeling antsy in my little city apartment, trunk picnics are some of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. (Also, take note – killer date idea!) On road trips, especially through National Parks I’ll make sure I pack most of my gear...

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

I’ve been to a lot of hot springs both here in Colorado, out of state and in a few other countries but I’m not sure that any have captured my heart quite like Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat! I mean... just look at this:The scenic thermal pools are only 25...