The timing was perfect, it turns out.
When Darcy Copeland was at the final Rifle High School football game of the 2008 season, she realized there was a need for someone to take photographs of the players and the games next year.
"K.C. Binger's son was going to graduate, so she wasn't going to be shooting the games anymore," Copeland recalled. "So I started studying the kinds of cameras and bought my first one two weeks later. I started shooting wrestling that fall and that's how it started."
Copeland's efforts and development as a freelance photographer over the next four years, including donating countless high school sports photos and others to the Citizen Telegram, culminated in two recent photo assignments to places many people might never visit.
The fall of 2010 was the first time Copeland didn't have at least one of her three children to home school.
"The timing was perfect," she said. "I had a friend who worked for Vista Productions, which contracts with photographers on assignments. So I sent them my portfolio and they hired me."
Copeland's first assignment was in 2011, when she traveled to Joplin, Mo., to shoot the homecoming dance for a high school that lost its school to a hurricane. David Cook, who won the seventh season of "American Idol," gave a fundraising concert to help the school rebuild, Copeland said.
A month later, she returned to shoot the reopening of a Walmart store in Joplin.
"That was really emotional for a lot of people, because there were people lost inside the store when the hurricane hit," Copeland said.
Her two trips abroad - to Hong Kong and Costa Rica - were on behalf of Sprint Mobile, a Vista customer.
Employees from different call centers with the best sales won vacation packages and were her subjects.
Six days in Hong Kong and five days in Costa Rica, all expenses paid, were otherwise very different, Copeland said.
In Hong Kong, where she shot the winners at the Disneyland amusement park, Copeland said her favorite photos were of the harbor and city at night.
"There's a lot of smog in the city, I mean a lot," Copeland said. "So you don't get many good scenic shots during the day. But the days were long, working from sometimes 7 a.m. to about midnight, so the only time I had on my own was at night."
Since Great Britain ruled Hong Kong until 1997, language wasn't a barrier for Copeland. But she said the Chinese have totally different culture and attitude towards foreign visitors.
Costa Rica and the native people there, on the other hand, were "awesome," Copeland said. The contest winners enjoyed some of the country's many zip lines over the country's green forests, plus other activities.
"The resort we stayed in was all inclusive, so we had a big selection of food styles and it was right on the beach," Copeland added.
Her trip came during the dry season, about three weeks before the rainy season started, Copeland said.
"I just loved shooting the scenery, the sunsets, the colorful roses, monkeys, iguanas, sea turtles, birds, you name it," she added.
The people were fun, kind and helpful, Copeland said.
"I didn't sense any cultural hostility at all like we felt in Hong Kong," she added. "It was just all so relaxed. We had to learn to listen carefully, though, to understand what was being said."
The contest winners with Copeland in Costa Rica were from Canada, America, Barbados and Honduras.
The Costa Rica trip turned into an extra five-day personal vacation that saw Copeland's husband of 23 years, Tony, join her beachside.
Tony Copeland is the prison chaplain at the Rifle Minimum Security Correctional Center and their three children are now 20, 18 and 17 years old.
The trips, and others Copeland hopes to take in the next few months and beyond, have definitely been a gift, she said.
"God has completely blessed me with this job and I have thoroughly enjoyed it," she said. "I would have never thought to ask for such a great job opportunity, but now that I have it, I'm running with it and I'm having a blast. I'm going to keep riding this adventure. It's been so much fun to do something I love to do."