“We’re going back next year!” Jeff Buege exclaimed with a smile on his face.

Buege and his wife Janet flew to Venice, Italy, for the 2019 Carnevale di Venezia. But this was not your average overseas adventure. Jeff had signed up for photography course in Venice to improve his camera skills, and he came away with an experience he will never forget.

Buege, who works as the chief financial officer for Yakima’s Kwik Lok company, became interested in photography about 10 years ago. He asked one of his golfing buddies, who was an experienced photographer, to give him advice on how to get started. Then Buege bought an entry-level Canon camera and started snapping pictures.

Over the years, his skill as a photographer has grown. Originally, he focused on family, friends and in the past few years outdoor photos. “It isn’t a cheap hobby,” he said.

His wife Janet, an artist in her own right, has encouraged her husband to pursue this new passion.

“When Jeff was first starting out, our kids joined the high school marching band and I encouraged him to take photos,” Janet said. Recently, he was enlisted to take photos for the Warehouse Theatre Company.

Motivated to become a better photographer, Jeff starting taking online classes and seminars in Seattle to learn new shooting techniques, Photoshop editing, lighting and more. “I had a job offer in San Diego after we bought our current house,” he said, “but Janet said she didn’t want to do that.” They stayed in Yakima and started making a bucket list of places they hoped to visit like Mount Rainier and Sun Valley. “I like to post my pictures online and love to see other photographer’s work,” Jeff said.

A trip to the Venice Carnival came up last year when Jeff received an email about a photo course and tour during this annual event.

“I looked at the dates, and just signed up for it,” he said.

Janet was game for an adventure and in February the couple flew off to Venice for the tour that included six nights at a local hotel near the Rialto Bridge, owned by a photographer. Jeff also upgraded his camera to a high-end digital model and was excited to take photos of this beautiful city.

The tour was run by Bobbi Lane, an accomplished American photographer, along with four instructors for the nine students, which gave participants a lot of personal attention. The group would go out before the sun came up, which Jeff’s wife found amusing because he’d never been an early riser. They toured Burano, an island in the Venetian lagoon known for colorful houses and intricate lace. The students’ assignment was to take pictures of colors and five people you don’t know. He remembered snapping a picture of a lady working in her yard and a man on a bridge. The group also took an excursion to the island of Murano to see the famous glass blowing factory.

During the Venetian Carnival, people from all over the world stroll through the city wearing flamboyant and expensive custom-made Baroque costumes and classical masks. During the festival there is a competition for the best Carnival costume and mask. Those who sign up have the opportunity to model their exquisite period attire while walking across a stage. Many contestants spend thousand of dollars on their costumes, and come every year to the Venice Carnival to win the title of best costume.

Intrigued by the Carnival’s costume tradition, Jeff hired two models for three days who agreed to be photographed in their ornate costumes with ancient Venice as their backdrop. “I’d go down before the sun came up,” Jeff said, “because by the middle of the day those wearing costumes would be surrounded by tourists.”

The last morning of the trip Jeff happened to meet three German sisters in their 70s, decked out in elegant carnival attire. They introduced themselves as the Rose Sisters and told him they come to Carnival every year and exchanged their email address with Jeff. Later, he received an email from them and it said, “Come back and we’ll let you take our picture!”

One “Aha” moment during the tour happened when Jeff and Janet were near a gondola dock and she suggested that Jeff aim his camera toward the water and the boats. He snapped the pic and came away with an extraordinary image of the boats reflected in the water, which he considers the best picture of his trip.

Since the couple’s adventure, Jeff has not left his camera on the shelf. “I’ve done two weddings,” he said with a laugh. “To help prepare, I asked for pointers from Memory Montage.” He also confirmed that the weddings would probably be his first and last.

Jeff will be the first to tell you that he learned and improved his photographic skills during his Venice Tour. He’d also like to have more time in this rich, photographic environment. “I would go a couple of days early to really see the city,” he claimed.

Jeff Buege’s passion for photography, an interest he took up later in his life, is the perfect example how taking the chance on a new hobby like yoga, golf, biking or photography can not only enhance your life, but create opportunities to broaden horizons, make new friends and make each day a new adventure.