Archive of ‘Personal Life’ category

Personal Post: two best friends and 30 years of marriage

Southern-Door-County-Country-Anniversary-Photos-Photographer-Wisconsin-30th-LoveFor a few years after graduating, I worked in a portrait studio (one of those ten minute sittings, photo collage, six background options commercial chains). People came in, we pulled forward a matching backdrop, posed them the same as the last group, and sent them home with the coupon deal of the week. No need for names or stories. Working there helped me define what it was I wanted out of photography in a way I don’t think I would have otherwise been able to articulate.

I know how valuable images are. And I know how much more a photograph can mean if it captures who the person is, right then. It isn’t always a portrait, in fact I would argue that more often it’s a snapshot: cousins climbing an old maple tree in the front yard, grandpa in his teens laying in the grass strumming a guitar, mom on her second easter cheesing for the camera in their very first apartment. These are the photos that stick with us because they feel like the person we love.

This September my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Their story is a real story of two friends building a home, raising a family, and overcoming struggles. A vinyl backdrop and studio lights couldn’t tell that story. My outdoorsy dad and adventurous mom needed to be photographed in a place that characterized who they are and how they cherish one another.

More than anything the way they show their love it is through sharing their time and interests. The location we chose is not just a field filled with old buildings to make the world of Pinterest swoon; it is the place where together they hunt, and hike, and snowmobile once winter arrives. It is a physical place that symbolizes their love. I know this, and they know this, which means when I look at these images I see mom and dad, jeanie and rick, two best friends who decided to get married, and did, 30 years ago.

Personal Post: friends in northwoodsy places

Crivitz-Northwoods-Vacation-Friends-Cabin-Kasey-and-Ben-Travel-WisconsinBrought on by too many episodes of Friends and Sex and the City, somewhere along the line I developed this fantasy of what weekends with friends would be like when I was in my 20s. If television taught me anything, these days would be filled with mimosa brunches, perfectly curated outfits, and lots of spontaneous travel as a group. I would learn how to actually wear lipstick, pair wine with dinner, and walk gracefully in high heels.

Reality has it so that many of my closest friends live hours away and Sunday brunches together are a luxury planned weeks in advance. Still, I wouldn’t trade these real, honest, pick-up-where-we-left-off-last-month friendships for closer zip codes (or professional wardrobe styling).  There is something about the relationships you have with the people who knew you during the time you changed most – as you grew up, at your most awkward, finding your voice, testing the waters of personal style, breaking the rules, and making your first mistakes. These are the people who will be able to hear what you mean no matter what you say, and they are the people you need to reach out to when you’ve answered the same questions so many times, you’re no longer sure of your stale answers. They meet you where you’re at, and you do the same.

A few weeks ago, as summer was coming to a close, my friend Ashley planned a weekend in the northwoods to celebrate her golden birthday. There were margaritas and champagne, glamorous dinners on the summer porch, and cozy campfires at night. It was everything I imagined my friends and I would be doing at 28, but even better because it was us, and it was real. No laugh-tracks or hairdressers needed.

Personal Post: fourth of july hayrides


Fourth-of-July-Door-County-Photography-Moped-Cana-IslandIf you counted my family on your fingers we would be small in number, but if you pressed your ear to the door, you would never know it. Whether this is due to the sheer volume we achieve during scrabble matches and golf cart chases, or just a side-effect from sharing a two bedroom farmhouse on summer weekends, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that I love it.

This North Bay farmhouse that we all flock to each holiday weekend has been in the family since the 1920s (and the orchard land it sits on for years before that). As a kid it was my getaway – a place for daydreaming, climbing trees, and creating adventure out of nothing. Now it is a place to stop time – right in the midst of the busyness of summer – and just be with family.

One of the best traditions is our Fourth of July hayride. My grandpa hitches a bright red trailer to the back of the tractor, we fill it with straw bales and blankets, and everyone climbs aboard (drinks and dogs in hand). We take the tractor down past the little old cottages on North Bay Road, down to Cana Island, or around to Mud Lake. Grandpa waves at the locals he knows and the confused tourists who pass us by. Grandma tells us stories of who lived where when she was growing up, stories of what it all used to look like, stories of picking cherries and finding a dollar on the road that made her feel rich for weeks.  Sometimes we listen to music and sometimes we sing, and always we are snapping pictures trying to find a way to hold on to the feeling of being together on a summer afternoon in the place we love best: Up North.

Personal Post: paris

Paris_Photography_France_Travel_Eiffel_Tower_WanderlustI’ve been doing my best to sort through thousands of photos and think about how to share our recent travels with you. In an attempt to organize my thoughts, I am just sharing about Paris in this post, and I promise pictures from Marseille and Germany soon.

I wish there was a way I could bring with me more than the images we took – tastes, sounds, and smells too – so that I could fully describe what it was like to sit in a Parisian street cafe at night with a glass of wine people-watching.  Or maybe what it was like to walk along the Seine, espresso in hand, and be surprised by a Victory Day parade rounding the corner of Notre Dame.  There was train hopping, monument climbing, museum wandering, and lots and lots of food.

I feel like I have been waiting for Paris forever.  There was a class trip when I was 17 that was cancelled due to lack of interest (apparently my overwhelming level of interest didn’t make up for low enrollment), and a few years after that there was a holiday in England with promises of New Years celebrations in Paris (to no end).  It had evaded me, and I, like so many others, was in love with the enchanting idea of The City of Light.  When we met American expatriates in our travels, they said the same thing: they were simply drawn to Paris, lured in by the idea, in love with the reality, and decided to stay.

We rented a little apartment in the St. Germain arrond.  It was small and white with a large window that opened to a courtyard.  Outside the building, the street was lined with cafes, crepe stands, restaurants, and a short walk away was the Seine River.  I loved the museums – seeing amazing works of art that I spent so much time studying in college, and stumbling upon pieces I hadn’t seen before and adored. The symmetry of the gardens and monuments was beautiful, and nearly everything we ate was incredible.  The serenity of dinner where each part was meant to be savored (conversation included) suited us well.  We loved the hush of nearby tables chatting amongst themselves mixed with the buzz of street noise and the romance of simply having the opportunity to experience Paris.

Ben asked me what my favorite part was, and I can’t put my finger on it.  I can tell you the museum I liked best, or the dining experience that stands out most, but I can’t tell you what my favorite part of Paris was, because it was Paris. Thanks for following along with us!

Personal Post: a midwesterner’s spring

Door_County_Photography_Family_Maple_Rat_Terrier_Dog_Green_Bay_SpringThe last few weekends have been filled with outdoor adventures of every sort.  Between events and obligations we have found every little crack of time and filled them with fresh air. (I’m not even owning up to how much laundry is waiting to be done!)  Before Easter there was hiking and pussywillow hunting, the week before that was maple syrup tapping, this weekend was biking and fishing.  And you can bet that every unmentioned minute revolved around dog park walks with Pieper and downtown wandering with cameras.  I’m starting to wonder if the theme for April is “how many places can I appropriately wear my Hunter galoshes?”

I think this “spring buzz” is an exclusively midwestern thing.  If you glance through my photos, you can see that it is still cold enough to require hats and coats.  There is ice floating at the edges of the river, and other tokens to remind you that though the sun is shining and the birds are chirping, the thermometer only reads around 45.  This week is of course the exception, and after a long winter involving layer-upon-layer of clothing and stomping our feet while pumping gas (to make sure we don’t lose blood flow), the spring buzz has hit us, and we are out the door nearly forgetting our keys and shoes in the process.  We are raking our yards, trimming our trees, mulching our gardens, tuning our bikes, stringing our fishing rods, and vowing never to wear socks again.

It’s funny how we can be trapped in our homes by the negative 30 degree windchill in the dead of winter, swearing to ourselves that we will not stay in Wisconsin another year, and then that feeling can be completely erased by these first warm days of spring.  Somehow it is replaced by daydreams of campfires, parades, and summer. And that is the beauty of the midwest: there is something so much sweeter about having earned it all, (paying for it with windburned faces and icy car windows).

Happy spring, midwesterners! Time to walk my dog.

Personal Post: pieper the teddy roosevelt terrier

Pieper_Jane_Rat_Terrier_Dog_Photography_Lifestyle_Green_BayLast Saturday we volunteered to photograph the Bark of the Bay benefit for Bay Area Humane Society.  We are not generally event photographers, and turn down most event coverage requests in favor of the things we love more – weddings and portraits.  We made an exception in this case because we have close ties to our local Humane Society in the form of our big-eared, little dog, Pieper.

We adopted Pieper from the Humane Society’s former PetSmart location in January 2013.  She was 3 months old and just the tiniest thing (with floppy ears if you can even imagine it!)  Ben didn’t grow up with pets and was very unsure about the prospect of being dog owners, but the moment he held Pieper, she nestled into his arms and I knew she had to be ours.

The Humane Society received Pieper from the Rescue Waggin’ along with three siblings.  With very little to go on, and their young age, the staff had to make a guess as to her breed, and when we picked her up, we were adopting a rat terrier/husky mix.  It became clear as she got longer, chestier, and not that much bigger that she was no husky.  And the moment I heard a little hound howl from our backyard, the long tail and crooked paws added up.  People are always stopping us while we’re out walking to ask her breed, and although we don’t have any real information, the evidence points to rat terrier/beagle mix aka: Teddy Roosevelt Terrier.

Even as I’m blogging now and she lies sprawled out in the room next door, it is wonderful to have her here (giving me curious expressions and occasional deep sighs).  Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows what sweet companionship there is in simply being together.

You can find out more information about the Bay Area Humane Society and Rescue Waggin’ here: or stop by our Facebook page to see photos from the BAHS event

Personal Post: the family of over-celebrators


I come from a family of over-celebraters.  As a child I had naturally assumed every family had not only Christmas decorations, but also an array of Easter decorations, Halloween Decorations, and 4th of July paraphernalia.  It wasn’t until I grew older that I understood that Memorial Day and Labor Day are not actively celebrated holidays for most families.  In my family every holiday is an event, and every event is a party.  This means themed weekends with historical research, homemade costumes, and period-specific antiques dug up from grandma’s basement. It means multiple Birthday celebrations, because lunch with friends didn’t involve cake, and the party with family wasn’t on your actual Birthday, and if the present arrives late there should be some sort of event associated with opening it.  I’m kidding (kind of).

I think the reason I never saw this as anything extraordinary is because it is so clearly a part of who I am in this family.  I am an over celebrator.  Each Wednesday farmers market in summer, every live music event downtown, any oddity that I’ve discovered… I want to be there and I want the full experience. I’m tempted to blame the beginning of this phenomenon on my wanderlustly mother, but only a moment discussing party plans with my grandma and I know this is not the case.

These photos were taken last weekend at the Baileys Harbor Winter Carnival on Kangaroo Lake.  We spent the day on the ice eating Coyote Roadhouse chili, and watching pond hockey and snowmobile races.  As it does, the morning carnival stretched into the afternoon and became pizza at my uncle’s house, night ice skating in Sister Bay, and a family movie night… because every event is a party. 🙂

Getting Organized! my custom photography planner

Portrait_Wedding_Photographers_Photography_Planner_Calendar_OrganizationBeing a wedding photographer means I have my life planned out two years in advance (well, at least the summer weekends!)  Being a list-maker and visual person means I crave having a place for all this information to exist together – reserved dates, editing deadlines, upcoming payments, etc.  And of course… it had to be pretty. 😉  I spent a lot of time searching for a photography planner that fit the bill (a place to make goals, plan promotions, track quarterly and yearly progress) and I came up with nothing.  I’ve always been one for “if you can’t find it, make it” so here we are!  74 pages of monthly spreads with social media and blogging deadlines, monthly goals, quarterly goals, and a way to track progress specific to how our photography business works.  I’m in the process of filling in deadlines and upcoming payments as well as writing my goals and promotions for February and March – but before my scribblings took over, I thought I would share it on the blog.  Such fun designing something new, and even better when it solves a problem. Cheers to the new year!

Personal Post: my idea book and honoring your thoughts

Idea_Book_Art_Journal_Green_Bay_Collage_DrawingI was not one of those kids in school who was “such a good drawer”; I didn’t seemed destined to create perfect likenesses, I didn’t garner compliments from classmates or artwork hung in the hallway.  Instead, I was a kind of the weird kid – the one who did homework in crayon, doodled in class, and got in trouble for daydreaming and breaking project rules.  I was full of messy ideas that didn’t always make complete sense.  But, regardless of all of this, I was absolutely in love with the possibility of making things and sharing my ideas with others.  It was a way of thinking that drove me toward art rather than a skill-set founded in pencils and paint.  I loved making, and thinking about things that others had made, and I knew it was something that would always be a part of me.

Entering college as an art major meant many introductory courses focused on skills and repetition; and though I valued learning my craft, I also resented the rules that restrained what media I could use, what size I must draw, and what subject I must work from.  Amidst these classes (and all number of boring gen-eds), I had a Design Methods course taught by David Damkoehler (since retired) in which we were to spend a semester solving problems through critical thinking and artistic innovation.  The class required the purchase of a Moleskine sketchbook which I found shockingly small (just larger than my hand) and filled with smooth, bound pages.

On one of our first days in class Professor Damkoehler delivered a lecture about how each one of us was born with our our own style of drawing, and instead of raging against it, or pressuring it to conform, we should learn to appreciate it and work with it.  Our Moleskines became our idea books, and freed us from the pressure of what a sketchbook had to be.  Instead of detailed graphite and charcoal drawings, we made lists, and collages, and doodles and tiny thumbnail paintings. Any idea that came to us went into our books unedited and in ink to prevent us from erasing it out of fear that it was stupid or unimportant. We were taught to accept the mistakes and value the messiness of our own thoughts.  The pressure was off, and the result was students who trusted their gut and created more meaningful work.

I am a strong believer that rules can be a hindrance to ideas – whether these rules were set by someone else, or unconsciously set by ourselves.  Whatever your job is, wherever your interests lie, we are made of ideas.  And these ideas dare us to create solutions, think critically, chase our goals, and be honest with ourselves.  They are valuable.

Since that class I have always kept an idea book.  It travels with me, sits empty when I feel uninspired, and opens up when I remember that working is how you make inspiration.  It is a way to challenge myself, recharge my thoughts, and let go of things I can’t keep inside.  There are drawings, and journal entries, and random sleep-inspired scrawlings, and I can feel good about all of it – the madness that makes up who I am, unedited.


This summer I will be teaching a class on Discovering Your Vision for Photography in which we will be doing a lot of thought exercises, building toward understanding our ideas and brainstorming how to visually translate them. It will be a great introduction to how to begin an idea book and how to use it as a tool to create. The class will be held at Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek and requires no previous photography or art experience.  I would love to share this process with you.

Personal Post: christmas on shawano avenue and a challenge for the new year

Christmas_Downtowon_Green_Bay_Entertaining_Host_PartyA client and friend of ours once gave me a little psychology test in which you find out, at your core, your central philosophy for living daily life.  As the test begins the questions seem silly and unimportant and you answer immediately from your gut.  But as it continues, you hear your responses become serious, even defensive, because you have hit something important.  Mine came down to finding a way to connect with others – to see things from the perspective of people other than myself, to feel what they are feeling and understand what they need.  Perhaps this is true for all introverts, as we are watchers and noticers.  As I meet with clients, hear about wedding plans and session visions, as we capture moments together and I meet your families and share in your celebrations (and the occasional tough moments that life brings), I feel personally connected.  And in this relationship we have, I think it is important for me to share a little of myself in return.  This is why I post personal blogs – to invite you into my life as well.

Our Shawano Avenue Christmas this year was one with friends gathering over wine, snacks, and a rockin’ hot cocoa bar.  It was a mix of old and new friends all with exciting news (travel, engagements, and the upcoming arrival of a baby girl).  It was quieter than a Christmas party would normally be because everyone wanted to hear what the other had to say – people meeting and connecting and reconnecting.  It felt so special to have these friends close at hand and it got me thinking about value.

Christmas day with my family has always been fairly low-key; it is reserved for pajamas and chain-watching movies.  This leaves plenty of time over the long weekend for games with family, trips to the coffee shop, and free moments to reflect after a busy fall.  This Christmas, as the day was coming to a close, It’s a Wonderful Life was playing on the television and I spent the full length of the movie working in my idea book and drinking hot cocoa.  It felt good.  And I began thinking about how long it had been since I had worked creatively with my hands.  There are many things that I don’t give myself enough time for – reading, writing, daydreaming – and because they get pushed aside, I sometimes forget their value.  It is easy to fill time (I am the worst at this) with Facebook cruising and Pinterest searches, and somehow it is Monday morning again, or 11:00 at night, or the end of a Netflix series (whichever speaks to you), and we wonder where the time went and what we have to show for it.

If Christmas is a time for reflection and New Years is a time for a fresh start, I am challenging myself and others to *make the time* for what we need – whatever that means for you.

I will be sharing a few of my own resolutions over on Instagram @kaseyandben – feel free to stop over and post a few of your own!

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