There’s nothing quite like walking out into the woods with everything you need for the night on your back. All of your food. The tent and sleeping bag you’ll sleep in. An extra layer of clothing. A baseball hat snapped onto the back of your pack. And then you walk. Through forest with tall trees. Over a wooden boardwalk elevated over swampy terrain. Along a cold and clear river. Through berry bushes taller than you are. Your feet get tired, but the sun is warm and you chat with each other about anything and everything. Then for some stretches it’s ok to be silent. To get into a rhythm. My short legs make me a pretty slow backpacker, so I just try to go with the flow. But trips like this provide me with little jewels in my memory. These are little glowing days that stand out compared to the rest of my year. It wasn’t because it was easy. No. It was definitely not a breeze. My body was pretty exhausted after this trip on the Jordan Valley Pathway, but a couple of days in the woods makes your mind slow down. After a trip like this I seem to be able to refocus on the things that are truly important. I can’t wait to plan our next outdoor adventure - I’m already brainstorming ideas for this Summer…
In 2015, our family spent Christmas together in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had briefly been through New Mexico on a road trip when I was 10 years old, but other than that I had no real knowledge of the area. I didn’t know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t predict that the landscape would captivate me as much as it did. I think about this trip often. I can’t even fully explain it. As I walked through Bandelier National Monument, there was just something so overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful about it. The colors of the rock and moss and cactus against the overcast Winter sky were creating the most incredible color palette. The evidence of human presence in the region that goes back at least 11,000 years. The way the rock became large scale abstract sculpture - some carved by humans and some carved by wind and rain and time. Between our time spent here, as well as exploring the food and art and textures in the area, it was a trip I’ll never forget and a place that I hope we are lucky enough to visit again.
These are just some of the images from this trip, and they make up this week’s “From the Archives” post.
If you are really, really, lucky you will have a couple friends who have been there for your whole life. Who you played power rangers with. Who you spent months with in the summer living out of your bathing suits and throwing fishing lines over the side of old pontoon boats. They grew up with you and witnessed your adolescent shenanigans and still love you. They aggressively rooted for college sports with you. And then when everyone had graduated from college and moved onto other adventures, and moved long distances, there was always that phone call, that random text, that email, just checking in. I’m so so grateful to have a couple of these people in my life, and now we’re all “grown up” and either married or about to be married.
Even though we don’t always see each other as much as we might like, when we are together it’s pretty special. Last Summer we found one weekend that worked for all of our schedules. We went camping and made meals over the fire. We passed around bottles of beer and bubbly. We ate snacks on the beach and fell asleep in the sand. I almost got hit in the face with a frisbee - instead I ended up with a welt on my collarbone. We all laughed so hard we cried. We took a kayak out into Lake Michigan and the early Summer water was crystal clear. We watched the sunset and then made our way back to the fire. The best part? We were unplugged. If you only have a couple days out of the year to spend uninterrupted with some of your favorite people, I highly, highly, recommend doing something like this. Find a place where your phones don’t work - it will be great.
This is the first post in a series that I have found myself calling “Blogging the Backlog”. There are so many fun personal projects, images from our travel, or commercial and editorial projects from the past few years that I haven’t found the time to blog. Some of them I haven’t even truly had time to edit! Yikes. During the weeks of February and March I’m going to try to have one scheduled each week. You’ll see images from Santa Fe, Summer backpacking in Northern Michigan, exploring and scuba diving in Bali, and hiking in Asheville. Those are just the things that are popping into my head that I know I’m planning to share, but I’m sure that I’ll find more to post as I delve deep into our hard drives.
Last Winter I had the great opportunity to join Kendall from Wild Banshee Adventure Co. (and The Revel Rose), Lee from Fieldguide Farmhouse, Heather from Ampersand Lettering Lab, the fine ladies of Juniper & Lace, and the one and only Sandy Michalik, i.e. my mom on a Winter Rafting trip down the Jordan River. Jordan Valley Outfitters led the trip and I would highly, highly recommend it!
Last week Michael and I volunteered to photograph a few of the events hosted by Up North Pride: a vigil honoring the lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the Pride Ride through downtown Traverse City, and a sign-making party at Rare Bird Brewpub (see the bottom of this post for a full list of contributors!). We were overwhelmed by the love we saw in this small town and felt an immense sense of joy to know that we don't need to live in a large urban area to support Pride. As people who document love for a living, our goal is to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. We want to work with loving people of all religious and non-religious backgrounds, all races, all sizes, all sexual orientations, and all gender identities. The vigil was a somber reminder that we have a long way to go to achieve peace and acceptance as a society, but the pride ride and sign-making party reminded us of how far we have come. It gave us hope for the future. One with more love and more parents teaching their little ones how to keep an open mind and open heart.
Cheers to Up North Pride!
Up North Pride & Michael Chetcuti Foundation // Vigil: Polestar LGBTQ + Community Center of Traverse City, Mom's Demand Action, Blackbird Arts, and New Waves United Church of Christ // Pride Ride: Norte! and One Up Web // Sign-Making Party: Rare Bird Brewpub, Blackbird Arts and Ampersand Lettering Lab
Our Southern Road trip at the end of March took us all the way to the Keys for some diving. If you follow along with us on Instagram you may have already seen some sneak peeks ;) We found a perfect Airbnb in Islamorada and spent three days diving through Islamorada Dive Center. It was a greatly needed getaway for us, with just the right blend of relaxation and adventure. Below are a handful of our favorite shots.
One of the reasons I am so inspired by living in Northern Michigan is the sense of possibility. There is a freedom here to make big dreams happen, to live the lifestyle you want. Our friends Kalin and Matt have taken huge steps to do exactly that. To build the life they want for themselves. With no previous farming experience, but lots of research, support from each other and their community, love for Northern Michigan, and big dreams, they bought a beautiful piece of land just outside of downtown Petoskey. This past Saturday they planted their first field of lavender with three different varieties and Sweetwater Lavender Farm was born. Instead of hiding their dreams from the world, they turned this first day of planting into a Planting Party, inviting friends and neighbors to help out for as much, or as little time as they chose. In return, they provided breakfast, lunch, beer, bubbly, and gift favors of lavender bath salts. It was so amazing to see so many people come together to spend a day outdoors lending a hand to help two very deserving, awesome people. At the beginning of the day Michael and I focused on shooting video and time lapse of the majority of the field being planted. We will share that footage later, but below are some stills I took later in the evening as the light turned golden and Kalin and Matt were able to put the last few plants in the ground. Afterwards, a number of close friends stuck around to hang out, play lawn games, and eat dinner by the campfire. I'm so happy to call Kalin and Matt friends and I can't wait to watch all of this beautiful lavender grow over the years! Cheers!
If you want to learn more about Sweetwater Lavender Farm, I would highly recommend following Kalin's blog and Facebook page. Here is one of my absolute favorite posts. And, Brides! Kalin is an amazing floral designer! Her studio for Stems & Sprigs, is also located on the property and she does amazing work.
This past winter my dear friend Dani and I had the opportunity to curate an art show at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Traverse City. We asked a group of Northern Michigan based artists to join us in the space. A huge variety of mediums were represented including photography, videography, sculpture, graphic design, embroidery, painting, and installation. Dani and I brought the amazing Erin Waineo into the mix not only as an artist, but to help create the branding for the show. She designed the logo, poster, window graphic and a number of other items including super fun custom buttons. After two great months, the show closes on May 14th, so stop in if you can!
The entry wall reads:
For this highly collaborative exhibition, emerging creative professionals and environmentally conscious artists bend convention with works of art that explore our relationship to the natural world, sense of place, seasonality, organic forms, water, and wilderness. As creative professionals we weave the natural world into our work to create a cultural legacy built on environmental stewardship, mindfulness, art, and design. These wildhearted works of art will inspire you to value and protect our land and water, with wisdom deep as Lake Michigan. Keep it wild.
A huge thank you to Crooked Tree Arts Center and all the participating artists:
Heather Gray, Erin Waineo, Dani Knoph, Aaron Dennis, Michael Kent, Nate Griswold, Nick Preneta, Katie Brines, Chelsea Dennis, Dan Shepler, Annie Lang, Jake Breed, and Deb Lanning.
As September rolls on and we start to feel hints of fall here and there, I am savoring every last minute of summer weather while also looking forward to what might be my favorite season. There is nothing quite like fall in Michigan... But there is nothing quite like summer either. Here are a few shots that Mike and I have taken throughout the summer on 35mm film. A glimpse into our non-work life (even though we are still attached to cameras all the time). A blend of different films, a blend of cameras, a blend of our families... Truly one awesome summer mash-up, ending with a glass of whiskey (duh). Cheers to summer, family and loving life!
Alex is our adorable niece. While she was here visiting us in July, I snapped a few frames with my Pentax K1000 and I am loving how they came out. Mike also captured some great shots on the boat which we will share soon with a collection of other summer film candids!
Exciting news over here! We are currently rebranding with our friend and talented designer, Erin Waineo. We have come to the conclusion that there will never really be a perfect time to officially launch everything, so we have started with our website and FB page, but the new look will really come together over the next month or so as we update our business cards, PDFs, packaging, etc. We are super excited about the new look Erin has created for us, and we think (fingers crossed) it gives the brand a more grown up style!
If you look backwards through this blog, you will probably notice a number of recent wedding, engagement, and family portrait posts. This is due to the fact that I have finally made the decision to merge my blogs. There are a number of reasons - some just for sheer convenience, but others stem from what I hope will be a better artistic decision. I want to do less of what I think I "should" be doing, and more of what I want to be doing. The goal of working for myself is freedom. Freedom to be creative and freedom to be myself. For a long time I thought I should keep everything extremely separate when it came to the two sides of my growing business. I thought I should keep wedding and portrait photography on one side, and all of the food sustainability work, art projects, personal work, underwater photography, etc. on the other. But I am increasingly feeling like I am overly complicating everything. Why am I trying to maintain TWO blogs?? And there have been so many times where I thought that some of my subject matter could easily be posted in both spaces. I have so many interests and goals for myself and my work, but I am still only one person. Now I am feeling like readers would rather see all of that. Things can be complicated and messy. I will experiment and try shooting using styles that later I might look back on and think, "WTF"? But that is the point of a blog, and I think it will make for a more interesting space and record of my growth. My portfolios will remain separate because logistically if wedding clients are searching for a photographer, I'm pretty sure they will want to easily view wedding work rather than skimming through other portfolios including fishing, underwater archaeology, and dairy farming. Hopefully they will want to stay and browse - or even be more inclined to work with me as a result of such variety.
Ultimately, I don't want to fall into this track of "wedding photography should look like X" or "wildlife photography should look like Z". Some inspiration for this can be found here, here and here. I am excited to start merging these areas of my work so that they influence each other. I don't want to be static. I want to grow, and I want there to be new challenges. I think having one unified space will help me do this. At least I hope so.
It has been a long time, but every March 1st, I think of a very special man. I love you Grandpa, and miss you so much.
This morning I stumbled upon the book Journeys to the Far North by Olaus Murie at an estate sale. I won't get into my love of estate sales just yet, but I might be posting more quotes from this book - and a few others I picked up - in the future. Just by flipping through it, I am already excited to read it and make art inspired by it. By looking up Olaus Murie online, I am told he was a naturalist, author, and wildlife biologist who did groundbreaking research on a variety of northern mammals. He is now called the "father of modern elk management" and - this is my favorite part - he spent his honeymoon with his wife, Mardy, tracking caribou through the Koyukuk River region.
I must admit this blog hasn't really been a place where I have shared too much of my personal life. I post my latest work, projects, small accomplishments, etc. But they somehow have all mysteriously lacked writing. I do feel the need to write occasionally. Usually it is when I am feeling truly inspired and fear I will forget something specific... and lately I have been wanting to write more frequently. Since writing about Yosemite trips with my boyfriend Mike, here and here, I have begun to feel a new commitment to this whole "blogging" thing. I want to give it a shot... I'm just gonna go with it. I want to write about the adventures we embark upon, however small or unusual they may be. I still want to post about my latest assignments, projects and accomplishments, but I want to see some new content as well.
One area of new content I have been rolling around in my brain is called - for lack of a better title, at this point - "the people project". I expect this name to change... and just by doing a quick google search there is already a project with this name aiming to create online communities. Maybe it will be the "people-telling project"? Maybe it will just be the 'People' category of this blog... I'm not sure, but I hope that regardless of the name it is exciting, different, inspiring, and visually wonderful.
I would like to do a short storytelling-style series based on the lives of real people. I want to celebrate seemingly 'average' people in our community who are really doing awesome and unique things, and ultimately leading the lives they want to live. You won't find celebrities here, but you will find people who have defined the notion of "success" themselves. People who are creating & making. People who revel in the outdoors or even work outside. People who are happy, despite likely being seen as unconventional in some way. Maybe they see a certain clarity about life and why they do what they do, or maybe they are still searching. Either way, they are people who show an optimism about life. Surfers, musicians, artists, boat-builders, mushroom hunters, fishermen, female sailboat captains, specialty food producers, tinkerers, hunters, philosophers, or some combination thereof. Some of these stories are in the works, and one has already been completed... it will make an appearance here soon.
I hope you find the people whose stories make there way here as interesting and special as I do. I hope you will stay tuned.
I have wanted to use an underwater housing with a digital SLR for years now. It’s been a craving really… an intense desire to combine my love of art, photography, and being in and around water. Throughout art school I constantly wished I could find some way to get my hands on one. Last week I finally had my first opportunity to use one. Thanks to Underwater Archaeology Professor Charlie Beeker from Indiana University. Charlie asked me to come down to the Dominican Republic last week and document a research project he has been working on with his students, Peace Corps volunteers, the D.R. government, and other archaeologists. I will most likely be posting about the project in more detail in the weeks (and maybe months to come), but for now I just want to show this image and talk a little bit about how important it is for me.
I took this image on the first day Charlie handed the camera and housing over to me. He basically gave me the reigns and there I was using a multi-thousand dollar tool that I have been drooling over for years. It was pure joy. And to come away with this image, on that day, is so meaningful for me. This is not a “perfect” image. There are visible droplets on the dome port, maybe the composition could be adjusted, but for me the feeling is so right. This is, for me, an image about the experience of being in water. The droplets make it great, the alignment makes it feel real… just like a snapshot should be. This is about a moment where I was in the water with this camera for the first time, feeling such incredible happiness, and so were these kids… playing and swimming towards the end of the afternoon.
So thank you Charlie and Indiana University for giving me this experience.