• I Almost Started Crying on the Side of the Road in New Mexico

    Cruising through New Mexico, a place I assumed there wouldn't be much to look at as the flat fields rolled by, the mountains in the distace just barely making an impression. We needed to make it to El Paso by nightfall, so there wasn't much time to check out some of the gorgeous White Sands, or much of anything really. We were on a mission, but one that did not account for what became single most beautiful moment of the entire trip, a New Mexico sunset. 

    And boy, did we get just that.

    My head was buried in my travel journal, attempting to write down each and every detail from the night before in Phoenix, when Bryan called attention to the sky. Looking up, the shades of pink faded to orange and finally to yellow, kissing the top of the now-purple mountains. I was stunned. We drove through landscapes transformed into hues of bright blue and purple, mountain passes erupting with color on each side of the road. The main event was directly behind it and neither of us could keep our eyes on the road while we kept stealing glances in the rearview mirror. 

    I was stunned. Never before had I seen so many colors, changing so very rapidly. They filled up 2/3rds of the sky, surrounding me with soft pastels and neon hues that looked as if someone took a match to the sky and set the world on fire. Those scrubby, flat lands I merely glanced at before allowed one to have the perfect, unobstructed view of this event that seemed to take about an hour from beginning to end. We quickly swerved off the road into a small breakdown lane just to be a part of the wonder that was going on in the world around us. Stepping out of the car, I felt as if I was thrown into a painting of sorts, a surreal experience one can only attempt to describe, but never capture the feeling of just being there. 

    Drinking it in for a few moments longer, I knew what I needed to do. I had yet to work up the courage to create something on the drive for my 52 Week Project, but this needed to be documented. Quickly setting up my tripod, I remembered the signs on the rest stop bathrooms indicating the area was filled with all sorts of venomous insects and creatures. This wasn't New England anymore, and my mind began to wonder if those holes in the ground near my feet were due to some furry creature, or something worse. There wasn't time to set up the proper composition, lights for fill, or even really a moment to look closely enough to see if I was going to be in focus. Bryan brushed up against something that sent him in a frenzy of itching, and we could feel the wind from the semi's passing us at 70-80 mph right near the car. Self timer, ten shots on burst. I hoped with everything in me that I got something I could use.

    The main explosion of colors had died down, the mountains began to return to a dark hue, but I was happy. Experiencing such beauty became an emotional, almost religious, experience, one that reminded me of just how beautiful America is. A place I took for granted I would be traveling through, became my favorite piece of road on this journey.

    Looking back on my geo-tag for the pictures I took on my phone, I had to laugh at the name of the town we had stopped in. Neither Bryan nor I are anything close to religious, but sometimes the universe likes to make jokes.

    Week 30 of 52- "Lordsburg, New Mexico"

    Until next time, 


  • I Got Lei'd In Hawaii- Photo Diary of 10 Days on Maui

    That was probably a bad joke, but I'm just going to run with it. 

    Bill just being Bill.

    Back in late February, one of my best friends Bill (check out his work) and I went on a 10-day excursion to a Hawaiian island. Skipping the over-hype of Big Island and the drivers that run you over in Oahu, Maui is simply one of the more beautiful places I've ever been. 

    When I first got the text from Bill that tickets were at the cheapest they've ever been, and miraculously he has family we can stay with when we go, I immediately jumped at the opportunity because to be honest, I'm not really much of a surf& sun kind of a person on my own. 

    I know what you're thinking..

    "..Wait what?"

    Black, white and tan sand in between my weird baby toes.

    So what I mean by that is, you wouldn't catch me drooling over exotic locations where the sand is white and the sun is hot because I simply prefer being surrounded by mountains with a cool breeze on my face. I decided not to go in with too many expectations and bought my ticket solely on the idea it was somewhere new and far away from what was going on in my life at the moment. I've learned you cannot run away from life, but learn how to process what is going on in a completely different environment, surrounded by a whole bunch of new people and perspectives. It ended up being exaxtly what I needed.

    But I digress.

    The plane ride(s) were from hell and I thought I was going to have to cut our trip short because my legs had become incredibly painful from sitting for so long in such a short span of time. I ended up taking a whole lot of aspirin and was left with a nasty mystery bruise on my calf and sweet cough for the duration of the trip. It was great. I made a map of all the places we ended up stopping (hint: it was only supposed to be a one-layover trip, thanks American Airlines..)


    Once we arrived on Maui, everything changed. Despite our lack of sleep and endless plane rides, the island itself was complete bliss. I don't know what it was, but the place just had me in a great mood the entire time. I absolutely loved being able to stay with people who had practically lived their entire lives on the island.

    As someone who is huge on learning about the culture and history of any place I visit, Aunt Andrea always had a story to tell behind each place we went and Aunt Cindy was quick to explain the meaning behind a lot I would have generally missed out on. The ties to the past and traditons here somewhat surprised me, Maui became less of a beach getaway and more of a place I could fully immerse myself into exploring.

    Thanks to Bill's family, we were able to have a car to cruise the island and boy did we make good use of that car, almost making a complete loop of Maui during our 10-day stay. 

    So here's a little more about our trip to the Hawaiian islands:

    What I Expected:

    1. Beaches.
    2. Grass skirts
    3. Hawaiian shirts.


What I got: 

    1.) A few (okay, A LOT) of Hawaiian shirts.

    2.) Lei'd (a real flower lei, none of those plastic flower ones!)

    3.) Beaches

    Makena Beach

    Hangin' at Hookipa Beach

    4.) Mountains-

    Exploring Iao Valley

    Somewhere along the way. 

    View from Aunt Andrea's house. Seriously.

    5.) Volcanic rock

    100% not dirt mounds and will hurt to fall on.

    La Perouse Bay

    6.) Side-of-the-road, homemade banana bread that was OUT of this world

    7.) Lessons in history, culture, and traditions of the island


    Throwing flowers into the waterfalls at Iao Valley for someone we each lost yet wanted to pay tribute to.

    8.) Most importantly, a sense of belonging. 

    Even if was only for a short while.

    I strongly recommend traveling to a place where either you or your travel companions have family, friends, college roommate, or even just someone you may have met in passing that live and breathe the place you would only scratch the surface of if you went in cold. Don't get me wrong, both methods are great for traveling as sometimes it can be better to explore a place on your own, but in this case, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. 

    Here are a few more images for you to scroll through; I'll be posting scans from my Instax Wide camera as soon as I can get my scanner up and running again, so stay on the look out for those.

    Until next time!





  • Connor | Personal Portrait Series

    Internet, meet my baby brother (who is now taller than me, life's not fair.) Connor let me drag him into the cold studio for a few hours awhile back to work on a set of portraits that held a great deal of personality. Since I've lived with the kid for the past 16 years of his life, I figured I would be able to cajole a whole range of emotions out of him. 

    Like a perpetual wallflower watching a natural-born social butterfly, it amazes me that two people who share the same blood and last name can be so different from one another. In a way it's probably a good thing, I don't know if I could handle another me. As much fun as it has been to boss him around as a kid and ultimately pass down my wealth of useless knowledge to, I can't say he hasn't taught me a thing or two along the way.

    Taking the few hours to photograph Connor also gave me a heck of a lot of insight into my brother. As he waited patiently for me to finish setting up, I realized he was no longer the peevish younger brother I fought with on a regular basis. Somewhere along the way, he had become a fiercely protective, deeply insightful, and all-around decent human being.

    I love my brother more than words I try to type out can even begin to describe. My heart always squeezes a little in my chest when I hear him talk about something I had no idea he was so passionate about and I beam with pride whenever I get the chance to mention his best qualities to someone. Hell, I even tell people he's the better looking sibling when I'm in a particularly good mood, even though that's up for debate when we mention it to our parents. 

    Connor has a bigger heart than any other person I've met and the incredible depth of it is unfathomable to me. To be so positive when it seems all the light has left a room and to feel such kindness towards those who really don't seem to deserve it, are lessons from him I've learned without either of us realizing.

    Until next time!

  • It's Time To Talk About It

    I told myself I wouldn't. At first I found it almost inappropriate to write on a blog dedicated to photography, my professional life, and tid bits of personal information carefully added every so often. I cringed at the thought of creating anything because of it, whether it be another emotional self portrait depicting how I was feeling or post laying it all out there. Plus she would have hated that, all the attention on her. Instead, I photographed a more suitable, lighter portrait and drafted up a blurb mentioning a few new, "exciting" changes coming. Figuring I could push past this and deal with it somehow, because isn't that what you're supposed to do?

    Four days after my 21st birthday this year, one of my best friends committed suicide.

    Just writing that makes me want to stop typing and start crying.

    It's become harder than I thought to convince yourself that you will never see someone tomorrow when you can feel them all around you at that very moment. All you can do is shake it off and keep moving, I've been telling myself. Even as I've surrounded myself with friends and family, you get to a point where you just can't talk about it anymore.

    Until now, I didn't know what it meant to be all talked out about something but feel as if you hadn't even scratched the surface. It's exhausting to constantly ask yourself and be asked how you're doing, feeling each pair of eyes search your face for any sort of sign of falter, of a crack beneath the facade we so carefully have to keep together for society. You can be upset about something, to a point. Crying in public is frowned upon, I would know after I tried to keep my head down as I quickly walked past the strangers staring at the girl that couldn't seem to keep it together in Target that day. I don't remember much after hearing the words, "Jana took her own life last night", but I do remember moving away from the woman standing next to me, afraid she'd overhear me repeating the same words on the phone to my family and it would ruin her day. 

    I wanted to keep the death of a friend separate from my business. I didn't want to use it as an excuse in an email, it felt wrong to mention when client inquiries became follow ups and ultimately became lost opportunities. Life was moving along as it always does, as I felt I was too, when in reality all I had been doing was treading water in my own mind.

    It's been a few weeks and I still find myself a little agitated when I receive an irate text from a friend I hadn't responded to or a client asking for something else. Didn't they understand? Don't they know how I'm feeling, how every day has become a struggle and I feel as if I cannot breathe? Of course not, how would they? Even mutual friends that experienced the same trauma, everyone grieves and heals differently. So I kept moving forward, thinking I had to balance keeping up with work, my personal life and mending myself while racing forward with everyone else.

    I found myself sitting here tonight, head in hands becoming overwhelmed with just how much I had to do before I took off to go to Vermont for the week starting tomorrow, that it's okay to take a break. To take time for yourself, to be selfish and even a little cranky every so often. Even though the planet won't stop for you, it will be there when you're ready. Opportunities may have expired, but maybe it's for the best as this world is so vast and the possibilities are endless. 

    The unexpected death of a friend or family member is tough, real tough, even when the reason is clear. Cancer, car accident, natural disaster, you name it. Suicide can and will never be explained, not even in a not a few sentences or a few pages long that was left behind. Questions will always remain unanswered. The feeling that you weren't a good enough friend or "didn't notice the signs" doesn't fade easily, guilt sticks around a lot longer than any sort of pain I've felt before. I can't promise this will be the last time I mention Jana to you guys, I needed to take the time to admit that I'm not okay and am not sure exactly when I will be. 

    So I'll apologize right now to anyone and everyone I've brushed aside knowingly or unknowingly. I have texts left without a reply, voicemails I have yet to listen to, even a handwritten letter that should have been postmarked ages ago. What I can't and have never been able to do is apologize for how I feel. And right now I'm still hurting. I'm angry. I'm confused. Most of all, I just miss her. I miss my best friend and I need to take some time to really say goodbye. 

  • 2014 Year In Review: What I Learned & Who I Pissed Off

    A year prior, my heart was broken, my head was all over the place (still is, but getting better), and I didn't know where my soul had retreated to. I vowed to turn things around for 2014, to make changes in my personal and professional life in a big way. This year felt like the year, I felt good about the upcoming months. I became more honest with the people around me, I in turn, became more honest with myself. I realized a lot of shocking and painful truths I had been hiding away.

    With this pain came self-realization. Though I experienced some of the darkest days of my life this year, I also was able to push past and overcome them. Creating a weekly portrait of the over-abundance of erratic and strange emotions I had been living became a release. The rush in feeling a fog has been lifted and looking back at the last few months wondering who that person was, there are no words to describe that. Though I have taken a short break from these portraits, I plan to continue until I reach the full 52 weeks.

    Professionally, I had one of the most life-changing phone calls this year. We talked for about an hour and within that time, he single-handedly was able to see right through any exterior I built up and straight to my very core. Things I had been so sure I had been nailing with my images, he pointed out the flaws in the argument I was having with myself. Photography has always been an incredibly personal journey for me, as it should be for anything you truly love doing. I found as I took a physical step back to frame up my subjects, I had also taken a mental step back from the character of a person I was trying to draw out from them. 

    Though it stung to finally recognize, I took it in stride because I knew it was something I could fix and translate over into 2015. With this, I also came up with some realizations that this year had brought in. So here it goes.

    Top 14 Realizations from 2014:

    1. I pissed off a lot of people. 

    Okay maybe not A LOT, but more than I would of liked in my book. As I grew up and out of certain parts of myself, I inadvertently crumbled friendships that were based around immaturity and negativity. Once the honesty train started, I lost a few passengers along the way. Looking back now, I do not miss the extra baggage. 

    2. I re-discovered the idea of eye-contact. 

    We live in a world where people walk around with their heads down and do not seem to know what to do when we're met with others that don't mimic our behavior. I made it a goal for this past year to personally thank each and every waitress, cashier, door-holder, taxi driver, and regular human being I came in contact with- all while looking them straight in the eye. The result? I saw a lot more of beautiful faces with expressions of surprise accompanied by a slight smile when I took the time to acknowledge their presence. 

    3. There's a (slight) routine to my otherwise frantic life.

    The daunting and elusive idea of a set schedule came early for me when a friend pointed out the error of my ways. "Cass, this is why you always feel busy but never get anything done. You answer emails at 2 am and don't get up around the same time each day. You gotta set a routine for yourself." (Thanks Bill, I owe you a beer, or two, for this mental smack on the forehead). As I attempted a variety of time management options, I found I was the most productive when created a to-do list the night before and set a timer for any certain length of time, during which I couldn't check any social media or roam around the house looking for excuses not to do something. Though it's still a work in progress, I feel a lot more organized.

    4. People are just that, people.

    We hold a lot of typically ordinary people on these weird platforms based on how in-love/jealous we are of their lives that they seem to portray via social media. It can be hard to ignore how fabulous Karen's (ficticuous person, I don't actually know a Karen) life is on Instagram when she posts her images from locations we've always dreamed of going or surrounded by an amazingly attractive group of friends. I was getting down on myself late one night when again, another good friend brought it to my attention that, "at the end of the day, that person is just one being going about their life that ultimately does not and will not affect yours in any way."  S/O to Zach for that one, though I'm pretty sure you had a more eloquent way of putting it.

    5. "Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you."

    Mark Cuban definitely knows what's up when it comes to this idea, being a billionaire and all. I found this quote later on in the year, but have heard it resonate in my head on the days I can't seem to get up with my alarm or have been avoiding drafting out follow-up emails. I'm lucky to have such a supportive family as well as group of people that would absolutely help out if something was to go terribly wrong, but as far as pushing the envelope, only I can do that. 

    6. People will pay for your work.

    It can be easy, especially when you're just starting out, to come across those individuals that want everything for cheap and don't really appreciate you as person, let alone as a wonderfully talented artist. I've started to say no to projects or people I find attempting this, in the end it just isn't worth the time. And since I have turned down these "opportunities", I've been able to spend more time reaching for ones that are worth it. Twice this year, I have had people tell me they've cried when they saw their images and countless that were blown away by the effort I put into crafting the idea they initially had in their head. Those people make it worth the gripe and struggle that comes with the job. 

    7. Who you surround yourself with speaks volumes about your character as well as personal happiness. 

    If you're constantly around people that have nothing nice to say, it can be easy to mimic their behavior. Same with those who have no motivation or desire to reach further. It can be stifling and downright depressing because you won't notice how you've changed until you're in the presence of happy, driven individuals. Surround yourself with positive people that won't drag you down with them. 

    8. Reading inspires, fills your heart with joy, and can destroy you all in one chapter. 

    Because everyone should experience the pain of losing your favorite character at 3 in the morning at least once. Also, no uncertainty about your life and everything in it is greater than the moments after you close a book for the final time

    9. Dating is scary & weird, but that's okay. 

    I put off trying to connect with another person for a while and when I finally did allow myself to enter back into the world of dating, I found it to be absolutely terrifying. To have another person that you're interested in see you boppin' along (okay, jamming the HELL out) to one of your favorite bands live, witnessing the extra goodness from a chili dog slide between your fingers (I don't do cute when I eat, ever), or saying everything way too fast and it coming out as one big jumble they can only respond with a, "..What?" is awful and embarassing and completely OKAY. Refer to #4, we're all human and you know they know you saw them trip over their own feet out of the corner of your eye. 

    10. While dating is cool, spending time alone is even cooler. 

    I set a personal record for the amount of solo lunches, single-person $5 movies on Tuesdays, dinners alone consisting of cheese platters with red wine at resturaunt surrounded by couples, and grabbing a beer by myself at the bar (just to have some kid spit in it, but that's a story for another day entirely) after a particularly stressful day of shooting a wedding. You learn a lot about yourself in those times and walk away happy you did it in the first place. Because really, who would of seen half the movies with me I went to by myself and loved them just as much?

    11. Pay attention to what you're saying, because other people do. 

    More than ever this year I've been told by people, far and wide, what I have said has impacted their lives. I stand by the idea that even if the truth hurts someone, I still think it's right to say because of how they may learn from it in the long-run. I try not to say things that are untrue in the heat of the moment because I personally know how damaging a few wrong words from the right mouth can be. 

    12. Say yes to the out-of-the-blue invite, make the drive up (even if it turns onto a dirt road with no street lights), and walk right in. 

    You may just find an incredible array of people, a pet peacock, and that one person that now knows you  possibly better than you know yourself. Although I was nervous as hell and wondering if what I was doing was insane, I don't regret this rare moment of spontaneity. Even though the road did say "No Facilities Ahead."

    13. It can be easy to make up excuses when you're afraid. 

    It can be hard to "get up and go" when we set our minds to doing the opposite, giving ourselves a million excuses as to why we shouldn't. We are so afraid of that one, little "NO" to the point where every step to achieve what we aspire to seems to become a mountain we must climb. My advice? Just go for it, make the phone call, stop them before they get on the elevator, and hit send on that email you've been checking & re-checking all morning. 

    14. Some of the best realizations come from small, quiet moments of reflecting inwards. 

    This year, I found my voice once more, remembered how to "just say no" and embraced opportunities for the unknown with a firm yes. I became honest, really honest. Wore my heart on my sleeve more times than I can count. Most importantly, I took time to appreciate standing in the sunshine while figuring out how to dance when the rain came. 

    Here's to 2015 being bigger and better than the last. Hopefully you're all surrounded by people you love, making resolutions that will ultimately change your life for the better, and remembering to love yourself the entire way.