Reaching for the stars | Lifestyle Fashion Photographer in Bend, Oregon


Stretch high + reach for the stars.

Who knows... you might just become one, yourself.

Truth time.

There's been a LOT of stretching + reaching.

And a lot of growth.

When I first started out as a photographer, I was HORRIBLE at posing people.

Like, deer in headlights kind of horrible.

See, I loooooove candid photos, and excel at capturing real moments.

But back in the day, I didn't realize how important it was to CREATE the moment + GIVE people a way to interact so they could express that emotion.

I was awkward.

They were awkward.

And thank GOD a friend who'd been in front of my camera finally told me just how awkward it really was.

Because then I got better.

And better.

I studied posing techniques for different body types.

I studied lighting techniques.

I learned how to make people comfortable in front of my camera.

I learned to multitask... keeping up a steady stream of conversation with my "models," while making technical calculations in my head + adjusting my equipment.

My skill set grew + I began to blossom as an artist.

And subsequently, time and time again, I've been told by those who nervously step in front of my camera that the experience was actually FUN.

They say "Wow... you made me look beautiful."

And my reply is always the same... "That beauty was already there. I just helped share it with the world."

Tomorrow, you can see for yourself.

Because tomorrow, the Fall Arts + Fashion Issue of @sourceweekly hits the stands, and one of their main pictorial stories (and the COVER) features 12 models of the zodiac signs, photographed by ME. And the "models" weren't actually models at all. They were REAL people. Which makes my heart even happier.

This was a collaboration of soooooo many awesome people here in Bend... project stylists, hair + makeup artists, jewelry artisans + more. And I can't WAIT to see our work in print.

Go grab the issue as soon as it hits stands... I'd love to hear what you think. ❤️

(Pssst... this isn't an image from that shoot. Those pics are secret till tomorrow. This image is from a past workshop, as I was working on some posing skills.)

Happy National Puppy Day from The Suitcase Studio!

As a lifestyle photographer here in Bend, Oregon, I love to capture photos of my daily life.

And if you've been following The Suitcase Studio for a while over on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that pictures of my DOG seem to pop up QUITE a bit!

That's cuz Jasper is a HUGE part of my life. He's my sidekick. My favorite little buddy. My pain in the butt and my constant clown. He's been by my side during celebratory moments, and has also licked my salty tears when I'm down.

I couldn't have asked for a better companion, and I'm so very glad he's a part of my life.

I'm sure I have thousands of photos of him from over the years, but this one is STILL one of my faves.  I mean, c'mon... who can resist a dapper little dude in a bowtie?

Dapper dachshund in bowtie, photographed by Bend, OR lifestyle photographer The Suitcasee Studio

Dapper dachshund in bowtie, photographed by Bend, OR lifestyle photographer The Suitcasee Studio

the napkin note

The lunch bell would ring, and I would race to meet my friends behind the statue in the quad. But as everyone else hugged hello (as if we hadn't seen each other in YEARS and not just a period or two ago) and started to tease and laugh and flirt, I would take a moment apart from the crowd to open my brown paper bag, excited at what I'd find within.

My dad packed my lunch each morning, so I knew I'd find the usual fare... lunchmeat + cheese sandwich cut diagonally, some pringles and maybe some oreos (ummm, yeah... the concept of a healthy diet wasn't exactly a hot topic in our household). But my FAVORITE discovery was always the daily napkin note I knew would be there.

Not an emotionally demonstrative man, my dad was never short on sharing words of love as long as he could WRITE them down instead.

So each day I received a "love note" of sorts. Written in ALL CAPS in sharpie marker on a puckered white paper napkin.

Sometimes his words would wish me luck on an upcoming test, some days I'd receive an inspirational quote, and other days he simply wrote of how proud he was to be my father. And each day I would get the warm and fuzzies, simply seeing those XOXOXOs signed at the bottom of the paper napkin.

Such a simple gesture, but one that has remained with me always.

And who knew I would become so like him in so many ways. I find it difficult to say the words aloud at times, and I write them down instead. Journals, post-it-notes, notebooks... papers scattered across my home. In my instagram posts. And now, here.

Because we could ALL use a little LOVE NOTE at times. A few words of encouragement, an inspirational quote, or simply something to say I SEE YOU and LOVE YOU no matter what.

So, carrying on the tradition, here's my first of many napkin notes to come.

And what BETTER time to start than on a Monday... when we could ALL use a little pep-talk?!

gotta love my Starbucks lovers...

20150111-192032-69632215.jpg Ever since the first time I heard the song "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift, I've been getting the words wrong.

You know the line that goes, "Got a long list of ex-lovers...?" Well, instead, I heard, "Gotta love my Starbucks lovers..."

And with that one small difference, the entire song played out differently in my head.

I saw Taylor sitting in her local Starbucks, sipping her pumpkin space latte (or whatever seasonal drink might be appropriate), and checking out the different types that wandered in the door.  Because Starbucks CAN be one of those amazing places to meet a lot of new people, right? And she picks out her new seasonal flavor (new money, suit and tie), and the "blank space" is actually that spot on the Starbucks cup where they write in the name you give them... whatever it is you want for it to be.

So, yeah... a far cry from what Taylor was probably envisioning as she originally wrote her song. But that's perfectly okay... and what art (and life) is all about... because you can have 5, 10, or 100 people listen to the same song, see the same piece of art, or even go through the same life experience, and each person will report getting something different out of it. That's how life works. It's all about where we're coming from, who we are, and how we perceive things.

That's what makes this imperfect life so damn beautiful, and what makes us all unique within it.

So, while Taylor keeps crooning about her long list of ex-lovers, I'll keep picturing that magical Starbucks where temporary dreams all come true.


let the adventure begin.

The Suitcase Studio - Adventure
The Suitcase Studio - Adventure

[one month ago]

December 5, 2014... Let the ADVENTURE Begin!

There's a great deal of rumbling beneath me. A roar of engines, then a pressure at my back... like going light-speed on Star Tours at Disneyland... only 159,982 times better. I give a quick glance out the window to my left (past the bored-looking girl already reading a magazine) and the world suddenly tilts sharply. Drastically. And there's the wing of the plane, acting as a level to indicate just how sharply we are pointed.

Going up, up, up... and I want to throw my hands up and giggle. For real. It's the best rollercoaster I've ever been on. Because this adventure is real.

And just like that, the tears prick at my eyes. Unexpectedly, but not unwelcome. Because I've still got a HUGE grin on my face.

Gaining altitude, plane shaking, and my heart soars and shakes along with it, too. Because I'm uphere... high above the ground... in one of those planes I'd watch from the ground and wistfully tell myself "someday."

That was always it. "Someday," I'd say... dreaming of a future when the timing would be right, the money would be there, I'd have a good travel companion and the stars would be aligned... then I'd "do it." Whatever "it" was. Fly to New York, Seattle, San Francisco, ITALY, or even back to Walt Disney World. Someday I would travel. I'd go, really...

I promised this to myself every day as I'd drive into work, watching the planes fly overhead... looking up and wondering where they were headed. I'd smile and wish them well on their travels, then imagine I was high above myself, in that plane right along side them.

"Someday," I'd whisper to myself on a sigh... driving to my daily drudgery. But someday never seemed to happen. Days turned to years. Same routine, same life, same issues, same promises.

Till today.

My stomach keeps dropping and tightening and the butterflies are definitely putting on a show in there... but I can't tell if it's caused by the dipping of the plane in turbulence, or because I know this is such a big step in my life, and the reality is finally hitting me a bit more.

I've talked about adventures and finding it "someday." But this is finally happening today. The twisting and turning continues, and I've still got that stupid grin plastered to my face.

Alone, but not lonely.

And incredibly excited to see where my path leads next.



(wo)man's best friend

He might be a bit too barky, and keep me up at night (grrr...), interrupt me while I'm trying to work, get into things he shouldn't, and make a few messes around the house. (I swear, at times it's like having a toddler.) But he dances with joy each time I come back home, and knows when I need a cuddle. He's always there to put a smile on my face, and has got the utmost patience when I want to practice some new photo skills. He's my exploration buddy, and helps me find my peace. He's my "happy thought."

To my precious pup, my fur-baby, and my little shadow...

Happy National Dog Day!!! My life would definitely NOT be the same without you, little Jasper.

Jasper-6.jpg Jasper-7.jpg Jasper-9.jpg Jasper-10.jpg Jasper-11.jpg Jasper-14.jpg Jasper-3.jpg Jasper-5.jpg

a new kind of online love story

Way before Facebook and Instagram was the norm, I stumbled across Ronalyn's blog and started following along. Comments led to discussions, discussions led to emails, and somehow we found ourselves as long-distance, online friends. She was in Maryland (and then moved to Alaska and later to Hawaii... they are an Air Force family), and I was here in Southern California. And then my friend became my mentor. She was a photographer, and I was considering walking that path. I took a deep breath and asked if she had advice for me, where/how I might get started, etc. And while most people might do the opposite, she laid her soul bare to me, showed me the inner workings of her business, and helped me launch my own. From pricing to templates to vendor suggestions... then to ideas and support and even MORE support, she gave everything to this person whom she'd never met in real life.

I am, and will always be, eternally grateful for that... knowing there's no way I'd be where I am today without her. (And she's a HUGE reason as to why I try my best to pay-it-forward, as well, and help those who now come to ME for advice.)

Mentoring turned into deeper friendship, and I can honestly say that she's one of my closest friends, and knows me inside out. We have come to know both the good and bad about each other. We email/text when we need to vent, when we need some support, and when we have something fabulous to share.

Finally meeting in person for the first time 3 years ago, we spent a few days together in Las Vegas for the WPPI expo, and it was as if we'd known each other a lifetime. (Seriously... it was like a 12-year old girls' slumber party... with all the giggling and gabbing we did.)

Last night, we came together in person again... and it was like a slow-motion, running towards each other, mega-hug moment. Her family had come to California for vacation, and there was NO WAY I was missing out on seeing them! With limited time together, we met up at Downtown Disney for some drinks/dessert. Her kids entertained themselves on their phones for the most part, later mentioning how they don't think any of us stopped for breath at all as we gabbed away. Ronalyn, myself, and our husbands... it was as if the four of us had been friends forever, and were just picking up where we'd last left off (even though the husbands had never met before, and we'd never met each other's husband before this night). Magic. Simply magic. And two hours just flew by!


We left with promises to see each other again, not saying goodbye, but "see you later"... and were already texting each other again within minutes.


Wanna help me CELEBRATE?! (big steps & birthday freakouts)

On the eve of my 35th birthday...

I sat in the driver's seat of my car in the parking lot; windows rolled all the way UP in the stifling heat, as to somehow create a safe space for me to think. I clutched my cell phone like the lifeline it was...  as my husband was on the other end. Tears rolled down my face, totally unchecked. My voice cracked with every syllable uttered, and sent even more tears rolling.

I was making a HUGE decision, and it was scaring the bajeezus outta me. Excitement, fear, possibility... all squeezed into this tiny suffocating car with me.

And then my husband said something to me that I've said to HIM on many an occasion... "If it doesn't scare you a bit, it's probably not big enough to be worth it."

With that, my mind was calmed, and my decision was made. The fear was still there, but I wasn't going to let it stop me. And my excitement at the possibilities grew larger and larger.

And now, on the day of my 35th birthday, I have something exciting to share with you all.

Announcing... MY NEW STUDIO SPACE!!!

The Suitcase Studio officially has a HOME now, and I can't wait for you to see it!

I'll be nestled inside the "Solo Building" located right around the corner from The Camp in Costa Mesa. (The lease is being signed as you read this...)

Not just a great place for client meetings, it's also a FANTABULOUS place for photo sessions, as well. (yeah, that's right... I said fantabulous.) I'll officially have access to both The Lab and The Camp for portrait sessions (and if you've been there, you KNOW the possibilities that those places hold). My own building also has a built-in backyard already equipped with trimmed green grass, wooden benches, and even a silver airstream trailer. It SCREAMS out for a photo session, doesn't it? And, of course, my own office has plenty of space for all those stylized mini-sessions I've been dreaming about for oh-so long.

Starting with THIS one:

CELEBRATION mini-sessions

Want to help me break in my NEW studio space??? Let's CELEBRATE!!!

I'll be taking possession of my new place on September 15th, so I've set up two days of celebration-themed mini-sessions for soon after.

Sunday, September 22nd and Saturday, September 28th

Each mini-session is 15 minutes of balloons, confetti and FUN (and a free 8x10 print) for the celebratory price of $35 (in honor of my 35th birthday). (You can see my Pinterest CELEBRATION board here, to see pieces of what you might expect.)

CLICK HERE to sign up for a Sept. 22 session and see all the details. CLICK HERE to sign up for a Sept. 28 session and see all the details. And because I really want to THANK all my family, friends and fan who have been with me so far throughout this amazing journey...

The first 5 people to sign up for a mini-session will receive theirs for FREE!

That's RIGHT. Be one of the first FIVE people to sign up for a Celebration mini-session (either day is fine), and you'll receive your session and 8x10 for FREE! Just be sure to enter code HAPPY35 upon checkout.

Here are those dates to click on again to book your mini-session ASAP:

September 22 September 28

I hope to see you all real SOON!

TheSuitcaseStudio-fun orange county portraits