Northern California



When we lived in Northern California a few years ago, Tennessee Valley was my happy place.  I'd come here to hike, run, and take photos.  Fast forward to a few months ago when I happened to meet clients who are currently living in California, but are getting married in Traverse City next year!  And on top of that, everything aligned just right so that I could take their engagement photos last week during a trip that Mike and I had planned to visit his brother and family!  While we may not have hit glowy CA sun, the fog rolled in beautifully, the hills were green, the ocean was moody, and Jacquelyn & Doug have a contagious energy together.  I can't tell you how excited I am to share a peek of this session and I'm even more excited about their upcoming wedding (btw, they seriously have a dream team of fellow vendors)!!!



Our friends Rich & Holly are parents!  What?!  We are so happy that we were able to meet baby Olivia on our last trip out to California.  Huge congrats to this sweet family - we love you guys.



Our beautiful niece, Alex Leigh Kent, was born on April 19th and we were lucky enough to be able to head to California and meet her on the very same day she came home from the hospital!  The Kent family had a very relaxing week, and Alex got lots of cuddles from all of us.  Of course we had to take portraits, but we did so in a very fun and informal fashion so I threw in a couple hiking shots and one terrible group selfie for good measure.



Yesterday, I spent some time looking back through our 2014 weddings in order to update the slideshow on our wedding portfolio home page.  I'm so glad that I did, because it made me so proud of the imagery that we created this year and it made me feel happy and oh so thankful that we get to do what we do.  I'm not going to pretend that a full season of weddings every weekend with travel and non-stop editing doesn't tire me out, but looking through some of last season's highlights was truly rejuvenating.  I'm also not embarrassed to tell you that last night I sat on the couch with a glass of wine watching the slideshow on our own website scroll on repeat... and maybe I was listening to some Etta James.  Although I am NOT an advocate of music embedded in websites, if you happen to listen to this while watching you might just pick up some good vibes too.

And if that's not enough, I also curated a set of images from Nina & Joxe's wedding to appear as a featured wedding on our site.  Their Rancho Nicasio wedding this past July was one for the books.  With a blend of Italian, Mexican and Basque culture, a bilingual ceremony, colorful decor in the Northern California hills, and two of the most gorgeous people inside and out, it was truly a hard day to beat.  


Prep venue: Private residence Ceremony & Reception: Rancho Nicasio  Planning/Coordination: RSVP Events  Make Up: Sophia Coyne - Painted Ladies  Hair: Celeste Bonfiglio (Nina's Mom!)  Florist: Karen Rossi  Videography: Sean Desmond  Caterer: Rancho Nicasio  Dessert: Fat Angel  Music: Mariachi and DJ Haan Solo


I have spent my whole life around water, growing up on a lake in Northern Michigan and learning to scuba dive at age 13.  But until I moved to California, I had never seen the Pacific Ocean.  There is definitely something different about the Pacific in Northern California.  The cold water, and the dramatic way the land just kind of ends, dropping off into a huge expanse.  There are also interesting areas where the ocean meets the land, and merges with freshwater.  Tomales Bay is one of those places, and it happens to be a great place to farm oysters.  I could never get behind the whole raw oyster thing as a kid - even though my dad loved them - but as an adult living in the bay area and working at Fish. restaurant, it was only normal that I give them another shot.  Needless to say, by the time Mike and I moved back to Michigan I had developed a love of oysters - raw, barbecued, and fried - and I know they will be some of the first things on my plate during our next visit.

Before we left, I worked on a piece in Edible Marin & Wine Country with writer Maria Finn to tell the story of Hog Island Oyster Company and their efforts to raise awareness about water quality and ocean acidification.  The company is truly one to admire; family owned, with a huge fan base, and an expanding garden to supply the need for greens at their oyster bar in the SF ferry building and Napa restaurant.  For their 30th anniversary they released limited edition oyster shucking knives, t-shirts, and a special Hog Island Oyster Wine.  Continuing to do great things, John Finger and Terry Sawyer lead the way, aided by their children, wives, and good friends to build a business that celebrates a truly regional cuisine and advocates for sustainability and environmental stewardship.  Cheers to Hog Island - Live to Shuck, Shuck to Live.

To read Maria's article online, check out the link here.



I have written about our amazing trips to Yosemite on this blog before, here and here.  For Mike and I, they hold some of our favorite memories from our time living in California.  Yosemite is just an undeniably amazing place.  We took this trip almost a year ago, last May, and before moving onto blogging about 2014 (including some great stuff coming up from Honduras), I wanted to make sure I got some shots up here.  We backpacked to Ostrander Lake, spent the night, woke up to a campsite visit from entertaining yellow bellied marmots, hiked out, spent some time at the viewing areas at the end of Glacier Point Road, and on our way out even spotted some bears from a distance.  We know we will be back, we just have to figure out when!



This week on the blog we are looking back at our time in California.  With such huge changes happening over the past year, the blog has gotten very far behind.  Before we move forward with blogging about 2014 - I want to make sure we cover a few absolutely amazing experiences and projects we had in Northern California.

So for starters, we have to thank our friend J for attending Dartmouth.  It just so happens that Dartmouth has an alumni cabin in Tahoe that is the epitome of a rustic mountain getaway.  We had the chance to spend a weekend there with some of our closest friends.  To our California friends and family - thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing in a very special time in our lives.  We look forward to our future visits, and we are also excited to share the next chapter of our lives with you - both on this blog and in person.

P.S. Mike is slightly embarrassed by a few of these photos, so enjoy.




I've had the pleasure of working with Francesco Torre since my days at Fish. Restaurant in Sausalito.  Francesco opened his restaurant, Canneti Roadhouse Italiana, in Forestville, CA with so much heart and hard work.  Canneti prides itself on using the freshest local ingredients available to create a unique blend of Tuscan and Californian cuisine.  Each dish is so thoughtfully crafted, delicious, and visually beautiful.  This was a fantastic project to work on - in addition to photographing the restaurant, I also built Canneti's website.  Check it out to learn more, and if you find yourself in Northern California make sure you stop in.

"Canneti is the name of a road I used to walk to go from my parents' house to elementary school.  I had a dream for a very long time, and when I moved to California years ago, I named that dream Canneti.  Here it is alive with its custom made rustic tables and stools, refinished wood counters and a Tuscan Country flair.  My cucina is a mix of many experiences, from a Relais & Chateaux two Michelin starred restaurant to a simple Tuscan Trattoria, a Louisiana Church BBQ to Long Island country style.  As Canneti came to life, I made the decision to offer just what I experienced myself in the first place.  So you will find just Tuscan and local wines in the wine list, and you will hear a true story behind every dish and decor decision".

 -Francesco Torre



After taking some photos up in Forestville a few weeks ago - for a project I will be sharing with you soon - I headed over to Jenner to check out the coast and walk on the beach.  The Russian River converges with the ocean here, and there were seals, tons of birds, and whales.  It was amazing.  I have been a diver for 12 years, and seen all kinds of ocean life including dolphins, but I have never seen a whale, so even from far away it felt like an extraordinary experience.  It felt like a blessing.  It was bitchin'.



I have started working with a new editing style, which I am very excited to explore - so today I decided to go back and look at a few images from a wedding I shot with the wonderful Andi Hatch.  There will be a lot more wedding work from me in the near future, my own season starts so soon!  I have a great variety of locations this year: the banks of the AuSable River, an apple orchard, a renovated coast guard station on Lake Michigan, an art center, the Ann Arbor city club and more, can't wait!



If you have been following along here on my blog, or on facebook, you may know that I have been doing some work for Hog Island Oyster Co.  To see a few images from part I, look here.  I thought I would take a short break from editing to post a couple shots from a recent oyster harvest.  More to come, stay tuned.



This past weekend was my birthday weekend, so - surprise, surprise - my choice was to be outside exploring a new place.  Mike and I went up to Mendocino, CA. with his older brother, Pat, and fiance (also a Courtney).  We camped at Van Damme State Park, explored downtown Mendocino and the Mendocino Headlands, rented wooden outrigger canoes, paddled down Big River, and hit up North Coast Brewing Company.  It was pretty fantastic.

Wilderness is not - and should not be - a past and vanishing force in life. It is, as far as anyone can see into the future in our rapidly changing and uncertain world, an abiding value.
— George Marshall

Mike and I are also working on a short video about the trip, so stay tuned!  Feel free to subscribe!


I am so excited to officially post my first cover!  I have already posted this on facebook and instagram, but a couple shots need to make it to the blog as well.  I have more work inside the magazine, which you can check out here.  Iphone and Ipad apps are now available for Edible as well.  Additional dairy farming work is in my portfolio here.  And, special thanks to Gibson Thomas of Edible and Valley Ford Cheese Company!


A little shout out to my family for being my biggest fans, and especially my Aunt Alison who has always loved cows.


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I love the term "oystermen".  It sounds so strange to me.  Possibly because I am so used to hearing the word fishermen.  Oystermen sounds so different.  So much more remote.  I'm not sure what being an oysterman entails.  Maybe that's why the trip to Hog Island Oyster Co. this past week was so exciting.  I love looking behind the scenes of a process I know absolutely nothing about.   Maria Finn will be writing more about what it takes to be a successful oyster company in Northern California, as well as the future of oysters, and there are more images to come regarding the life of an oysterman.



I met Matt in 2011 when he began working part time at Fish restaurant in Sausalito.  Whenever you meet a new co-worker for the first time, it's hard not to make immediate "cover of the book" kind of impressions.  It's unfortunate, but it happens.  I wasn't sure how to place Matt... an older guy, completely bald, but not old and bald in a frail way.  Old and bald in a weathered "seen shit", lives life, kind of way (and honestly, I wasn't sure how old he really was).  I also immediately wondered, "what is he doing here"?  Up until Matt, all of my fellow co-workers had been twenty-somethings, working there while searching for the "next step".  Turnover rates were high, as kids went back to school, or went on to more conventional "careers".  I thought, "did he somehow loose his job"?  Is he going to be bitter about life or hard to work with?  All pretty terrible first judgements on my part, but I was a year out of school, so I will cut myself a little slack.

My experience with Matt - thankfully - has been just the opposite.  Matt is full of life and genuine.  He treats customers with care.  He is content and exudes joy.  As I learned more about Matt, I found out that he used to play music - as he likes to say - back when he had hair.  And in the animated way that he talks, he would gesture above his head, referring to the dark 'fro that was there at one time.  I didn't think too much of it, and I never actually searched for him online.  For over a year, I knew Matty as my great co-worker who spent every possible minute when not at work surfing on local Northern California beaches.  He would come in raving about the waves, or telling me that he really blew it that day.  After a good day of surfing he always walks in with a bounce in his step, high five-ing and fist bumping everyone on his way.


I don't actually know what it was that made me look his name up online for the first time.  But as soon as I typed in his full name, "Matthew Larkin Cassell", a Huffington Post article came up.  What?!  It realized that Matt has quite a backstory, and really an amazing story of rediscovery.  It turns out musicians and collectors - including Daniel Werman, author of the H.P. article - had been listening to a few select songs that they had gotten their hands on, some artists had begun sampling his music into their own tracks, and the DJ duo Kon & Amir was planning on featuring Matt's track "In My Life" on a compilation album of obscure music called The Kings of Diggin'.  It was years since hearing some of Matt's work for the first time before Werman was actually able to find and reach out to Matt by searching the ASCAP's website database.  Matt gave permission for "In My Life" to be used on The Kings of Diggin' and after the release, his 1977 album Pieces, became extremely sought after.  One copy was sold on ebay for over $1,300.  Matt now receives royalties from artists who sample his music, some of his work has been re-released, and Matthew Larkin Cassell: The Complete Works was released by Stones Throw Records in 2010. 

It is a pretty unique story - especially for an individual who hasn't recorded since the early '80's.  When I asked him about playing and recording again, he told me that he is honestly not that interested.  He has been writing a memoir of sorts, or at least telling his story in his own words, allowing him a different - yet related - outlet for his creativity.  Ultimately he says, "working at the restaurant is perfect".  He is content with the people around him and he has a flexible schedule allowing him to surf and write.  He trades artwork for surfboards.  He knows everyone at the parking lot at the beach and what kind of board they use.  He jokes about the "groms" - young surfers - and chats it up with people he's surfed with for years.  He covets the secret surf spots, on days when no one else has discovered the great conditions yet.  For Matt, there are no monkey suits, only wetsuits.


Matt plans on releasing an ebook in the next few weeks.  I will update you with a link to this work when it becomes available!

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It is herring season here in the Bay Area.  Fish. restaurant is serving herring grilled or pickled and it is delicious.  It is also important to create demand for these fish as food - for humans - in the local area.  A majority of the herring fishing industry actually only catches the fish for roe, which is shipped to Japan.  Herring are an important baitfish in ecosystems and their roe feeds a variety of animals including a number of bird species.    Check out the Sausalito Herring Festival this Saturday, Feb. 9th if you are in the area!



As a part of my ongoing project documenting sustainable seafood in the SF bay area, I recently photographed two fishermen, Mike and Kirk, fishing for Two x Sea.  They are using toss nets to catch surf smelt which are found along the coast from Southern California to Alaska.  The older man with the yellow jacket was there fishing with his grandson.  Looking through the photos I'm regreting that I didn't get his name or contact information to show him these shots... just maybe I can catch him out there again.