After 18 years as a photographer and a lifetime as an artist, Bernadette Heath finally feels like she's happy with her accomplishments.
"It's like I'm finally there," she said. "And yet I still don't think I've created my very best."
Heath, who has been publishing her photos in Arizona Highways and other magazines and books for the last 13 years, has a storied history with drawing, glass work and woodcuts. But she "was always meant to be a photographer," she said.
"Some people know what they're supposed to do when they're 18, some people at 8 or 9," she said. "I was 45."
Heath experimented with several media, coached a track team and worked as a capital fund-raiser, but it wasn't until she found photography that she really felt at home.
With an eye for emotion, Heath believes her ability to capture the essence of a scene sets her apart in the world travel photography.
"My images have feeling first," Heath said.
Heath's photography is about freezing a moment in time. Light is ever-changing, so she shoots quickly to grab the feeling, she said.
"You know that you're part of creation when (you capture the moment you want)," Heath said. "All my job (as a photographer) is to record that creation."
Making her dream a reality wasn't always easy. Heath went to art school three times over 28 years. After her second stint in school, Heath showed drawings, woodcuts and other pieces in galleries around the Midwest from 1967-1979, and she made enough money to pay for additional expenses like art lessons for her children.
Reestablishing herself each time she moved eventually took its toll, and when she first came to Arizona in 1979 she gave up her art completely.
"I was tired of moving," she said. "Every time you move you have to start over," by making new connections with local artists and building a name in the community.
"I wasn't fulfilling what I needed to do, I was just solving other people's problems," Heath said of the volunteer work she did then. "(Art) is so deep within your very being that it is (necessary) for the soul to grow."
Seven years later she found the artistic side overwhelming, so she went to art school once more, this time to become a photographer.
"They didn't teach you anything about being a working photographer; they only taught you about the art," she said.
But Heath took what she learned, ran with it, and five years later, in 1992, published her first photo in Arizona Highways.
The 2-inch-by-2-inch photo wasn't much, but it made her "ecstatic" just the same. Today, "it's been going on for so long it doesn't phase me anymore," she said.
Heath said her newest medium, glass, is compelling because it reflects light. Glass work and photography overlap because light is the key element in both, Heath said.
"This is not a 9-to-5 occupation, this is a lifetime occupation," she said.
See Heath's photographs at Wild Brush Gallery and Framing, 405 S. Beeline Highway, in Payson. To see her glass work and photos, visit Myra's Gallery, 3824 N. Highway 87, in Pine.
Name: Bernadette Heath
Occupation: Freelance travel photographer
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minn.
Family: Husband, Bill; daughters, Monica Downey and Anita Ryan; son, Richard Heath; and twelve grandchildren.
Personal motto: Attitude is everything.
Inspiration: I'm inspired by the light of a storm.
Greatest feat: Raising three very responsible, caring and loving children.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Singing
Phrase that best describes me: A spiritual being on a journey
I don't want to brag, but ... I feel good about what I've accomplished in life.
Luxury defined: A bubble bath when I'm home, or a shower after hike through the Grand Canyon.
Dream vacation spot: Banff National Park in Canada
Why Payson? I really picked Payson because my soul was dying in the Valley. I needed wilderness, I needed wildlife and I needed to be cooler than I was. Payson was like an answer to my prayers.