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Sexy Trend: Be your own Valentine

Laura Dachenbach

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“I think my portraits are fiercely feminine, and they hold space for women to feel empowered just being themselves. They’re truthful, soft, strong, and beautiful,” says Stef Streb, owner of Stef Streb Photography, a Columbus-based photography studio, whose photos might be described as “boudoir.”

Boudoir photography, with its varying contexts and connotations, has traditionally been an opportunity for women to create a private photo collection for their partners as an engagement, wedding, or anniversary present, or perhaps as a token of remembrance before a period of separation such as a military deployment.

“I struggle with the word ‘boudoir’ a lot,” says Streb, who admits to the intimacy of her portraiture style. “But most boudoir photography feels very hyper-sexualized and unnatural to me. I think there’s this idea that boudoir photography is to make yourself look as ‘perfect’ [or] as skinny, airbrushed, and posed as possible, and there are a lot of body issues that come up for most of us in that sort of situation.”

Streb has instead chosen to refer to her work as “goddess sessions,” reflecting the increasing trend of women to have an intimate photography session as a form of self-affirmation.

“Goddess sessions are a time to embrace and celebrate your body. I really believe that women benefit from seeing our bodies in images that show how soft and strong and beautiful we are without needing to be super sexualized,” says Streb.

Streb has been behind the camera since the age of 14, when her dad first taught her how to use one. A graduate of Columbus College of Art and Design, she interned in New York City and spent five years in fashion and ecommerce while working with models and portraiture. As part of her own personal journey, she also began using herself as a photography subject and posting her work on Instagram, quickly realizing the power of the experience. It was a power she wanted others to share. A little over a year ago, she made the leap into full- time self-employment.

Women ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s have participated in goddess sessions. Streb finds most of her clients via Instagram or personal recommendations. About half are planning to give the photos as gifts, and half are scheduling the session for their own reasons: to feel good about themselves, or perhaps to document a body journey. In keeping with the spirit of integrity, self-confidence, and ownership, she does not photoshop or alter any of the images.

“I’m here to show off the real thing. Rolls, cellulite, stretch marks, all of it. Because we’ve all got ‘em, so why not flaunt ‘em? I want women to feel empowered in their bodies—not like they have anything to hide.”

The photography experience tends to be a negative one, full of flaws and bad hair and awkward facial expressions, and the nature of the goddess session can exacerbate the usual nerves. Before a shoot, most clients are unsure what to wear, how to look, and how to calm her nerves. Streb understands. Booking a session is a conversation, rather than just scheduling a calendar time, where every question a client might have is answered.

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“I’m a big believer in looking like yourself in photos,” Streb explained. “So I encourage every woman to do her hair and makeup in whatever way makes her feel the most herself—which is different for everyone— but [also] to bring things to wear that might be what she wants to feel confident in, but doesn’t yet, because our shoot is the time to change that.”

The world of portraiture is often limited to weddings or professional head shots for work. The world of the camera phone has created the “selfie,” which in Streb’s view, is more of a self-reflection—a catch in a feedback loop, rather than a documentation of the subject in the present moment.

“When you hand over that piece of the experience, where you’re not seeing yourself reflected but actually being present in having your photograph taken, it opens up a layer of vulnerability that allows you to just be yourself,” says Streb.

Goddess sessions exist for women’s personal reasons, but Streb acknowledges her work does challenge traditional ideas of boudoir and the male gaze.

“We can see a woman’s body without it becoming a sexual object,” Streb says. “We can appreciate the female form for its inherent softness and strength. And we can be honest about what that form actually looks like. It’s ever-changing. There is no right body for a woman to have. All bodies are good bodies. And they deserve to be appreciated for carrying us through life.”

Interested in a goddess session? Visit stefstrebphoto.com. Check out Stef’s Instagram @stefstreb.

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Great Apes: Two gorillas coming soon to Columbus Zoo

614now

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The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is no stranger to primo primates. Colo (RIP) who was both the first gorilla born in captivity and the oldest known gorilla in the world, called the zoo home for 60 wonderful years.

Now, two new additions from a zoo in Wisconsin will be joining the storied Columbus troop:

17-year-old Shalia and her 4 ½-year-old offspring Sulaiman will be transferred to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin sometime in the next few weeks.

When the duo arrive, it will be something of a family reunion. Two-year-old gorilla Zahra is half-sister to Sulaiman, and has been at the Columbus Zoo since 2018.

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Play like a kid at R Adventure Park in the Hocking Hills

Mitch Hooper

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Tucked away from the main road leading into Hocking Hills sits a world that rivals most theme parks you can find. Complete with a multimillion dollar ropes course, 68 miles of riding trails, a speed course, off-road vehicles, zip-lining, a paintballing arena, and a damn roller coaster, this dreamland sounds just like that—a dream. But for Karry Gimmel, owner, curator, imagineer, and engineer—R Adventure Park is every bit of his wildest dreams made into reality.

Upon arriving at the park, we drove up the long drive-way and eventually our playground was unveiled from behind the tall trees. The ropes course towered in the background as Polaris quads, side-by- sides, and three-wheeled Slingshots were scattered about near the front desk area. As gray skies filled the sky, we knew the Ohio weather was going to do its best to give us its worst.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“Don’t worry,” Gimmel assured us. “We have some of our best days when it rains.”

It didn’t take much to convince us. Gimmel has worked and continues to work as an engineer for Disney World—if anyone can be trusted as a reliable source for fun, it’s him. Combine his knowledge of theme parks from Disney World with seemingly unlimited space (thanks, unplotted land!) and a little horsepower, and you have a place where kids, mom, dad, and even grandma can participate.

He took us to the eye-grabbing rope course to begin our day. I’ve never been one to call myself an adrenaline junkie, but heights haven’t really bothered me before. Whether it be the roller coasters at Cedar Point or working summer construction on scaffolding 60+ feet off the ground, I came, I saw, and I conquered. So when I approached the first tier all strapped in my safety harness with my guide on hand, I was befuddled to find how nervous I was.

The first obstacle is an easy one: a balance beam. But to my eyes and brain, it was a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. And when I took that first step, I was sure it was a tightrope across the Grand Canyon and the slightest gust of wind would send me to my doom. Slowly and methodically, I stepped forward making sure to follow OSHA tips like always keep three points planted when at high altitudes. Turns out that summer construction job is paying off.

After making it down and back comfortably, we continued to turn the heat up. Each level higher presented more difficult obstacles—all seemingly insane until you actually complete them. Every obstacle completed might just bump your confidence to the point where you might just try a few backwards, hopping on one foot. But if you’re feeling more comfortable staying on the first tier, there’s no shame in that.

As we finished up the ropes course, the rain seemed to be moving in which made for an appropriate time to switch. We ditched our belays for helmets and safety glasses and made our way to the Polaris side-by-side vehicle. To say this vehicle was covered in dirt, mud, and dust is an understatement. Our driver went to brush some off the seat, but Gimmel quickly stopped him.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that; you’re going to get muddy,” Gimmel said. “Do you want to do the trail, or the ‘trail’ trail?”

Of course, we picked the “trail” trail.

After a crash course in how not to crash, we took off into the woods cruising through the curvy trail surrounded by trees and nature. We continued as tree branches brushed by us and the mud slinging party only grew bigger. Each dry strip of land was a chance for the mud to come free from the tires and these human-seeking dirt bombs were on a mission. Our trek through the trail eventually took us to a speed course where we could finally let loose and see how this machine works. Gimmel knew exactly where to take us: the drag strip.

On the count of three, we screamed off down the quarter-mile dirt strip like a rocket shot out of a cannon. Gimmel, leading us in a one-man side-by-side, gave us a few seconds head start and still managed to smoke us in a cloud of dust. (We’ll get him next time, though.)

All-in-all, the 30-minute adventure on the trails felt like an eternity—in a good way. The twists and turns of the trails remove all your sense of direction, making you feel as though you just traveled miles away from the park. But with a few turns here and there, we wound up right next to the ropes course where our day all started. Of the 68 miles of trails, we covered about three.

The mantra at R Adventure Park is fun for everyone with an added bonus: instant gratification. Gimmel said the park started when he would have business partners visit for various reasons and inevitably, he’d be scrambling for a way to entertain them. He always keeps vehicles nearby and he had a few ATVs on stock which quickly became the favorites for his friends—anyone who’s ever tried to rent quads before knows how much of a headache it can be just finding a rental place, let alone finding trails.

Gimmel recognized the lack of options as well as the high overhead with getting into off-roading. At R Adventure Park, he could offer both without the big investment. But he was going to need some more off-road vehicles to accommodate. After some reluctancy, he was able to work on agreements with Polaris, making R Adventure Park one of the few spots in North America where you can rent, learn, and ride ATVs without having to purchase your own.

There’s another mantra for R Adventure Park and Gimmel says its thanks to his Canadian genes: creating a community. While you’ll find adventure and excitement in nearly every corner here, you will not find lodging. And Gimmel seems like he has no plans for that in the future. Instead, he encourages visitors to look into lodging options near the park as to support his neighbors. For him, it’s not about having the entire pie, it’s about everyone getting a slice. It just helps that his slice comes served in a Polaris Slingshot that can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds.

R Adventure Park is located on 15155 Sauerkraut Road, Logan, Ohio 43138. For hours and operations, visit radventurepark.com.

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Local canine training company won’t heel until human, canine bond is created

614now

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SPONSORED

Everybody knows that dogs are mankind's best friend, but being bffs with someone who speaks a different language can prove difficult. That's where ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC comes in.

ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC was founded with one goal in mind: to deepen the human canine bond. It's a one-stop-shop for pet owners seeking professional dog training, behavior modification services for aggressive, reactive, and fearful dogs, on- and off-leash obedience coaching, boarding services, grooming, and so much more.

But what makes ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC different from all the other doggy daycares?

"ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC has cracked the code between human and dogs by learning to understand what makes us human, our genetics, how we communicate, how we learn, and knowing about sensory and emotional responses," said owner Jordan Hickle. "Canines vary from their human counterparts, greatly. Having the understanding and knowing what these differences are allows us to go above and beyond in our educational experience."

Hickle attended The Tom Rose School for Professional Dog Trainers in High Ridge, Missouri where he completed both the Professional and Master In-Residence Certification Programs, graduating with honors.

ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC teaches a fully comprehensive and practical handling course with all their Premier Dog Training Programs. These programs are tailored with your dog at the forefront of the program’s design process, explained Hickle.

And it's not called Columbus’ Premier Dog Training Company for nothing. Hickle leads his pack of experienced, well-informed, passionate professionals on a path towards singularity between you and your canine companion.

"Well behaved dogs who are knowledgeable in how to appropriately interact in our human world are able to accurately do their jobs of being a blood pressure lowering companion," said Hickle. "Not only that, their human companions can sleep peacefully at night knowing their dog is a well-behaved member of society and NOT a nuisance or liability!"

Is your dog a well-behaved member of society, or...not so much? Choosing ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC is choosing commitment, concentration, and a livelong companionship between you and your dog.

"Above all, we recognize that your dog is family!" said Hickle.

ALL PURPOSE K-9 LLC will be moving from Reynoldsburg to 510 East Main Street, Columbus in September. For more information, call (614) 623-4593, email [email protected], or visit apk-9.com

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