Archive of ‘Personal Life’ category

Personal Post: why we travel

California-Travel-Wanderlust-Big-Sur-San-Fransisco-Beach-Photographer-Road-TripIf you’re in contact with us often, you’ll find that a few times each year your email will bounce back with an out-of-office message telling you that we’re away somewhere exploring. Sometimes it’s a big trip (like our spring visit to France) and sometimes it’s a few hours north for a weekend in the land of no phone service. I’ve always had the travel bug, and, aside from blaming it on genetics, I often wonder where it comes from. What is it that drives us to travel again and again?

Let’s start with what it’s not. I know it is not dissatisfaction with where we live. I love our little downtown home in a city that’s just starting to rediscover itself, and I love where I’m from originally – the beautiful Door Peninsula with beaches 20 miles in any direction. Instead, I think it has to do with two things: curiosity and re-appreciation. Curiosity is what drives the desire to plan the trip. It’s what has us wondering, “What do the buildings look like there? What does the food taste like there? What does the weather feel like there?” It’s a sort of yearning to experience new things that aren’t a part of our day-to-day lives (which can be as simple – or as profound – as seeing mountains for the first time when you spent your whole life in the flatlands of eastern Wisconsin).

In my experience, if we give ourselves enough time with one place, these discoveries are followed by a humbling gratefulness for being more connected to the rest of the world.

The second part, re-appreciation, is harder to explain. Re-apprceiation (although it’s possible that I just made that word up) is the thing that has us coming home from a trip happier and more bonded to the people in our lives. When we travel as a family, as a couple, or as a group of friends, we are working together to overcome obstacles (language barriers, getting lost, travel anxieties) and there are moments that require skills we don’t often use at home. Partners are reminded of the wonderful characteristics and talents possessed by this person they love that are easily forgotten in our day-to-day lives where so many “conversations” revolve around how much laundry there is to do, or the leak that needs to be fixed, or the obligations that fill the weekend. We can more easily feel those skills – patience, flexibility, creative problem solving, street savviness – when we are out of our normal spaces, away from our jobs, and more open to everything around us, including each other.

This is why we travel. This is why each year includes plans of an adventure to someplace we’ve never been. It’s why my idea book comes home fuller, my film all spent and memory cards depleted, a suitcase of dirty laundry, and that feeling of happy exhaustion.

Images above are 35 mm film scans from our trip to California in late February.

Personal Post: adventures with mom

Door-County-Midwest-Ice-Fishing-Hiking-Snowshoeing-Snow-Fish-Winter-Sturgeon-Bay-Green-Bay-Wildlife-SanctuaryAfter a little over a week in California, I came home to my favorite kind of mail: film scans. There were a few family events and travels from over the last year on the various rolls, but my favorite was from just a few weeks ago. It was a day planned by my mom inspired by matching enamel camp mugs I bought for us at Christmas. The day was warm (by Wisconsin winter standards) and my mom, brother, and I spent the morning hiking the Ice Age Trail in Potawatomi Park, Door County. After a few hours we stopped in the shelter house, gathered wood, and built a fire. The flames warmed the space as mom carved toasting forks and Josh fed the fire. We made pudgy pies and hot cocoa on the open flame, and, as is true anytime you work for your food, it tasted like the best lunch ever.

My mom is a Girl Scout. I mean this beyond the simple fact that she was a Girl Scout as a child and led my troop as an adult. It is a fact exceeding membership in a club, and is more like an embodiment of the ideals of what a Girl Scout is and should be. She is courageous, empathetic, and welcoming of new ideas. She is determined when it comes to tasks and skilled at nearly everything that involves the outdoors. Each summer we pitch our little tent, develop elaborate camp menus (with at least three “fuel methods” in classic Girl Scout style), and spend a few days in a state park hiking or biking or kayaking, or playing cards as the rain pours down outside. And even when it rains, even when the canopy tent gathers gallons of water that we have to empty in torrents and the entire weekend is spent in humid ponchos and muddy shoes, it is the best. Mom is the person literally laughing in the rainstorm – eternally optimistic and ready for every kind of adventure (even the ones that don’t go as planned). And this rubs off on others, calling out the it-has-to-go-as-planned-ers (like me), opening us up to a little more exploration and a little more grace.

After our shelter house lunch was cleaned up and the fire was put out, we met Ben and dad out on the bay where they had spent the morning ice fishing. We brought along a thermos of cider, a propane stove, and all the fixings to fry up their catch right on the ice. The horizon grew hazy in that pre-sunset foggy glow as we headed back with another adventure in the books, inspired, as always, by mom.

Social Media Reality Check: why we need to stop comparing ourselves

Social-Media-Reality-Check-Comparison-Thief-of-Joy-FOMO-Instagram-Green-Bay-BlogComparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt

This quote has been around for a hundred years, but scrolling through perfectly curated Instagram accounts and idyllic blog posts, it’s more relevant than ever. Social media has an amazing power to connect us, but it can become a trap when we start to feel like others are “doing it better” (whatever “it” may be).  As a photographer, I have the “behind the scenes knowledge” to know that a casual #mornings pic of someone’s breakfast took about 20 different arrangements, standing on a chair, and some cold waffles to accomplish. And yet, knowing it doesn’t always make us feel it. I can still be completely envious of someone’s weekend plans, finished home renovations, and networking skills, even knowing all the work that went in behind the scenes and all the imperfections we aren’t privy to.

I could tell you absurd details about all the “styled” photos posted above, (including that our kitchen ceiling has a drywall hole that’s hiding just out of the frame!) Sharing things we’re proud of and taking pretty pictures isn’t the problem (we’re all entitled to a little play on Instagram). The problem is how we let these posts distort our perception of reality.

Truth is, if I shared my 8:00am #mornings pic there would be no coffee in a cute mug surrounded by tea towels and succulents, no post-workout [sweat-free] selfie, no stacks of gorgeous office supplies topped with a finished to-do list. And honestly, I’m just not sure my slippered feet, fleece robe, and make-up free face (aka: home office wardrobe) would photograph very well. But that’s okay. I do what I do because I love what I do. That’s how this little business began. Nobody is calling me up to photograph their family because of my DIY flower crown blog posts or how great I am at styling my food before I eat it. Why lament the things we don’t do well or feel obligated to the things we don’t like, when we could be spending that energy doing things we do love and pushing toward goals that bring us joy?

There is a concept I remember from my university business classes called Opportunity Cost, and it means simply, that every decision to put our resources (aka: our time) towards one activity, is a decision to skip another. I reflect on this all the time, and I often wonder what I am giving up in order to complete an obligation that gives me no satisfaction.  It really makes me think that if we spent one minute thinking on all the bragworthy things we’ve been working toward – milestones we’ve reached, moments we’ve cherished, and talents we possess – we’d be pretty impressed with ourselves (even without the glamorous white house backdrop, and silly styling props).

In this spirit, I am issuing a challenge for us to let go of the things we think we should be doing, and instead invest our resources in what we love, our greatest strengths, and the things that make us who we are.

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. 🙂

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