Don’t Find Yourself

“Don’t spend all of your time trying to FIND yourself. Spend your time CREATING yourself into a person that you’ll be proud of.” – Sonya Parker

I have always thought I had to find who I wanted to be as a photographer in order to find meaning for my work or to find an avenue to provide myself with fulfillment.  Like searching for someone else’s lost item in their attic.  This is not my attic.  This is not even my lost item! 

And then, I came across this quote, “Don’t spend all of your time trying to FIND yourself.  Spend your time CREATING yourself into a person that you’ll be proud of,” a quote by Sonya Parker, an inspirational author.  And, although today is the first time I have ever come across this quote, it is EXACTLY what I’ve been doing these last two years, unknowingly, and is the reason why I am undeniably happy with who I am as a photographer and as a person.

Last year, I created a series of self-portraits.  Each month was an exploration in skill and technique, and with that came creation.  Creation of images that did not exist before.  Creation of myself as a photographer.  Creation of experiences and lessons learned.

I am forever growing, but not just in the sense of the natural growth of the body, but growing in my individuality.  With passion for the “love of myself” and the “love of photography,” deeper is the pursuit and growth.  I have come a long way from my self-portrait in January 2017!


And the remaining months…


These images are from my direction and creation, but exploration and growth is not solitary.  Without us evening noticing, we build a team, and everyone is creating something that attaches to the soul of the team and becomes part of each, individually. Caitlyn Shaw, Make Up Artist, Nizar Wogan, Photographer and Entrepreneur, Charisse Herrera-Windebank, Fabric Specialist, Rebecca Thalhammer, In-A-Stitch, Emily Bradley, Evany Franco and many more became part of my team, and I know, for some, grew in some facet of their life, as a result.

And with all of this growth, all of this enrichment, I created a stunning December portrait.  Rich.  Luscious.  Passionate.  Sultry.  The lighting is brilliant, a fortuitous gain.  The wardrobe is sumptuous (if you notice, it is the same blouse as was in my January portrait).  Not by far, because I enjoy all of my self-portraits, December’s has become my favorite self-portrait of 2017.


I will no longer waste time following the paths of others.  I will create my own path at my own pace.  Yes, it will be influenced by other inspirational artists, as we all are influenced by those around us, but ultimately, it will be my path on my own time.

With love, with passion.


Returning to Me

Seven thousand miles and two months ago, I left behind a very treasured time in my life.  It was my birth as a photographer.  This passion makes my heart rate increase.  It’s a passion that brings me thrill and excitement, joy and pain.  A passion to create and capture.

But today… Today, I struggled with myself.  I struggled with this passion.  I paused and asked if what I was doing was right for me.

Where am I going?  What am I even trying to do here?  Is it worth the effort?  There just isn’t enough time…

And then, I reached out to my friends.  Dina, Yani, you two mean the world to me.  You help me refocus my attention on ME, time and time again.  Without your support, I would not be creating what I create today.

We need support from family and friends.

Husband, you not only give me the means to create works of art, you also give me the time and space to do so.  You never question why I need more time for my art.  You even learn about photography to help understand my needs and struggles.

When I passed through the Iwakuni terminal doors to cross the flight line, I also left behind one of the most pivotal relationships in my pursuit of photography.  Caitlyn, without your influence and your talent, my art would have always fallen short.  So many tears, always laughter.

And with the pursuit of a passion, one needs advice and counseling from those who help them realize what’s important in their life.

What do you want your life to look like?  Why are you waiting for tomorrow?  Trust yourself.

Kaori, this is where you breathed life into me and my efforts to be who I want to be in life.  Your eyes always showed me faith and trust that the path I follow will always be the right one for me.

I may have left behind a beautiful time in life, but today, after a moment of weakness and a reviving conversation with friends, I begin a new one.



Working the Gels

Inspirations for my self portraits are like tides.

One minute I’m wanting to channel my inner Brooke Shaden, the next, Lindsay Adler.  November, as you can ask my fellow creative artist, Caitlyn Shaw MUA, was one of those months where I went through a slew of inspiring and emotion-driven ideas.

And just like that, an ad on Facebook popped up for some lessons available on RGG EDU by Jake Hicks.

As you know, I am a fairly new photographer in the world of fashion and editorial work, but I really love what I’m creating lately.  And now?  A sinful desire to work with color gels is brewing deep.


Caitlyn and I had so much fun creating these images last week.  Playing with color has brought us a WHOLE new understanding of how light works on the skin and what it will do to makeup when it is colored.

Thank you, Jake Hicks!  You have inspired me!  I hope December’s portrait can have some colored gel play.





To touch.

To smell.

To hear…


Enchanting me.

Bewitching me.

Temptation lures me into a world where I can be free.

To feel…




I have allowed temptation to overcome me.

And I will continue to let it captivate me.

Because my mind, my body, is still full of life…

Full of love…

For all aspects of this world.

Inspirational Music:

“Same Mistake (But Different)” by Jan Blomqvist

“Blackout Days” by Phantogram

October Self Portrait.

“Don’t Be Into Trends”

“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live.”

– Gianni Versace


I am, by no means, a fashionable person.  I share a closet with two other people:  my husband, Rudy, and my Marine, Rudy.  In the last three years, I have evicted articles of clothing that were just “squatting” in my closet and have brought my wardrobe to roughly 30 outfits for the entire year (with a quarter of that being winter clothing).

If I had more money, I have NO DOUBT I would have more clothing.  Absolutely.  For sure.  But, one clothing item/accessory that I can live without?




They are nasty bits of fashion that leave me leaning forward and feeling concerned about the health of my achilles.

Don’t get me wrong.  They are sexy as $#!t!  Thanks to a friend here in Iwakuni who let me borrow a pair for this shoot, I finally found out why they are so appealing.  I looked smoking when I was trying on outfits with those shoes in my room!

Anyway, having trendy and fashionable clothing items is no longer a priority to me (for a number of reasons). Yes, when I have items that make me feel good-looking, light is added to my life.  But I don’t have to have the closet of my dreams to be happy.  I just need my slip-on memory-foam Skechers.

2017 Iwakuni Ball Season

For MCAS IwakuniEmilyBradleyEveningWear-IMG_1758(Social)

This ball season, I’m providing my fashion and editorial style of photography to the Iwakuni Community to offer a little “spice” and excitement to your ball experience.

You’ll receive a 30-min personalized portrait session, premium photo retouching,  one (1) 8×10 matte print and a digital copy formatted for social media sharing.

This is a $150 value offered for $80*!

Get away from the awkward ball portraits and try being a fashion model with me;  Invest in a fashion-forward ball portrait for 2017.


Please contact me to setup a consultation.

*Pricing may vary depending on the needs of each client.


Trust has alway been an easy virtue for me.  My belief in myself and others’ capabilities in all aspects of life and living has always been, and is still, strong.

We are a very strong species.

However, with this easy access to trust, I used to often find myself disappointed. Whether it be in my own failure to obtain a goal or a misunderstanding of the true intentions of a new relationship, friend or lover.

Trust is delicate.

Trust makes me vulnerable.


The vulnerability comes from the mistrust in myself.

What kind of person am I if they don’t value me?

As I get older, I see life bloom in my daughter; I watch my husband become a wonderful and great man; I see my friends for who they are and not what I desire them to be. Through these miraculous observations of “life and living,” my trust in myself and those dear to me grows deeper.


And with August’s self portrait, I placed trust in myself and a dear colleague and fellow artist, Caitlyn Shaw MUA.  I trusted both of our capabilities to create something passionate. And, without seeing my makeup prior to shooting or how the images were coming out on the back of the camera, we communicated and trusted “the light.”

I trusted myself to place my body and face in the right directions.  Caitlyn had faith in herself as a makeup artist and found new confidence as a photographer.  Further, I trusted her newfound skills to utilize the tools at hand (my camera and the light) with direction from me, which in turn, was a result of my faith in being able to give her proper instruction from the other side of the camera.


Don’t worry, you’ll get to see a color image of the makeup Caitlyn created for this shoot on my Instagram and Facebook soon, so go and follow both feeds.

But for now, this is the impassioned vision of two artists who had trust in themselves, separately, yet combined.



How much does someone mean to you? How far are you willing to go? What level of discomfort are you willing to experience for their sake?

For those who know me well, I don’t often show my tenderest feelings towards my dear ones. Through good food and support, they learn to know how much they mean to me. I show my love by overcoming fears and disadvantages to ensure I can support them in any way.

Recently, a dear friend gave birth to her second son, and following through on a promise I made to her long ago, I traveled to Hawaii, hopping island to island, first on a C-12 then on a C-17, to help her continue to build a new life for her and her family.

I cooked. I cleaned. I did laundry. I entertained her oldest son. I grocery shopped and ensured the freezer had “emergency lunches” and cookies for quick-baking before I left.

But best of all, I got to burp, soothe and care for her son Zylas. As soon as she finished nursing, I was there to grab him up and throw him on my shoulder and burp him. I had some valuable training in the art of cleaning an infant boy’s bum-bum and other interesting areas, greeted with lots of farts and grunts. What a joy!

And in the quiet moments, when her husband and oldest son were away or off playing legos, Dina and I got to share how much we mean to each other.

This month has been a wonderful month of giving from me to those I love. I not only traveled to see a friend, I also researched and put together a diet plan for my husband so he can loose weight and build strength to be competitive in a cycling competition in September, which is his 2017 new year’s resolution. Super green smoothies and home-cured salmon! I setup a binder with all of his new recipes and when to eat what so he could maintain his diet while I was gone.

One more! Another dear friend is expecting her fourth child and earlier this month I wanted to bring them dinner to give them a delicious meal full of love, as she cannot even stand up half the time due to morning sickness. And, although they desired to come to my house instead (a turn of events) I welcomed them for some waterplay, water baloons, watermelon and not-so-tasty, but fulfilling dinner. (They can’t all be winners.)

Am I bragging? Absolutely. Because I’m proud to be this person. I’m proud of my friends.

Connect Through the Camera

When there is an opportunity to create something beautiful for someone special, I will absolutely jump on it!  And this is exactly what happened.  I’m not close friends with my recent client, but I do know her enough to see she has a kind soul, a gentle heart and a welcoming nature.

I introduce to you, Kelly Lamptey.  A mother, a wife, a teacher and a woman whose journey through life is taking her on an unexpected path.

Kelly Lamptey Portrait Session

And despite the unfortunate turn of events her and her family are experiencing, she has an exceptionally positive outlook.  After seeing each other at a farewell dinner for another military family, we got to talking about my recent self portraits.  “I’ve always wanted to have pictures like that done,” she mentioned.  I understood she was set to leave the country soon, due to her situation.  And with this, I knew this opportunity would never come again.  “Let’s do it.”  I casually said.  Her eyes got big, she looked as me and said, “You’re serious?!”  “YES! Let’s make you glamorous.”

A week later, my friend and teammate, Caitlyn Shaw MUA, was applying makeup, and I was throwing her from spot to spot in a nearby industrial complex. (Shown to me by the wonderful Nizar!)

I mean…. LOOK AT THIS!

Kelly Lamptey Portrait Session

This portrait has strength, confidence, sass and a bit of mischief.  I am so proud of this portrait for a number of reasons.  One, the lighting is fantabulous.  Two, the color is rich and cohesive.  Three, and most importantly, the comfort between me and Kelly is evident in her eyes and posture.

Why is the comfort between the model and the photographer most important?

As a client, you see a camera with a lens in place of the photographer’s head.  (This is how I’m explaining it, go with it.)  You get distracted with the colors reflecting off the lens, the fingers of the photographer moving around the camera, zooming in, zooming out.  The silence as the photographer observes the composition, the details, the settings.  You see something moving in the distance and you want to look but afraid the photographer is about to snap the picture, so you don’t, making your eyes start to water. And with all this distraction, your mind starts to wander.  Then, your face starts to crinkle.  Your shoulders get tense, and before you know it, you’re Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights saying, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands.”

However, if a photographer can make a connection with you through their camera, you don’t just see a camera.  You see a part of them.  You see the photographer’s third eye.  And just like any other eyeball out there, unless it’s wonky, it’s just a normal eye, albeit a very large black eye that takes up the whole face.  (That’s neither here nor there.)

Kelly Lamptey Portrait Session

And through this comfort, you can be yourself.  You can show the truth beneath the makeup and the clothes.  In the portrait above, I see stability, despite the bend in her knee (which can represent the bend in the road for her and her family).  I see a fulfilled expression, one that says life is plentiful and brings her exactly what she needs.  I see femininity and delicacy.

I am proud of who I am.  She is proud of who she is.  And together, we made a good team.

Thank you, Kelly, for allowing me to photograph you and your beautiful nature!  I wish you and yours the best.



Going Solo and Nailing It

In January, I was inspired by two persons on social media.  One, a photographer in Texas, Francisco Joel Hernandez, who has an incredible skill-base for HSS photography, especially outdoors, and shares his skills through his YouTube account, FJH Photography.  Two, a fashion blogger and model in Australia, Micah Gianneli, who has a beautifully consistent and clean Instagram feed, and has her own unique blend of fashion and photography.

Even though I’ve tried many different styles of photography since January, I still find myself in-awe of their imagery and desiring to create similar portraits.

I came across an inspiring image on Micah’s Instagram that included a grey-toned marble set of stairs, a jean jacket and a stunning set of silver thigh-high boots!  This image kickstarted my inspiration for June’s self portrait.  One idea after the next and I was able to produce this image:

June Self Portrait

What?  You can’t see the inspiration in this image?  I mean, I have the stairs…

To explain, my inspirations and ideas go through a sort of “culling” process where I go through the items in which I have access.  Okay, so I don’t have a pair of silver thigh-high boots.  What do I have?  What do my friends have?  Then, I create something surprisingly beautiful.  And even though it doesn’t look anything like the inspiring image, it’s still magnificent.

June Self Portrait

Now, let me tell you.  I have a terrible habit of planning my personal projects last minute!  Which means, for this shoot, I was all by myself.  I used a tablet tethered to my camera to focus, correct my pose and shutter release.  (Thank you husband for all of your gadgets and knowledge!)  It was a lot easier than using a remote shutter release button or the camera’s 10 second shutter release option, but it also had its complications.  Where is the focus?  Wait, did it take the picture?  Why can’t I see it?  Okay, I’ll focus on my hand, then place my face where my hand was… Yup!


And with complications, if one has a true desire to accomplish a personal goal, one finds solutions and learns valuable lessons.  My valuable lesson?  Despite the old man who lectured me in Japanese telling me to move my car (which I did), the trucker who saw me shimmying into my friend’s gown fully-clothed, the multiple out-of-focus shots, the shots where I forgot to take off my glasses and the heat threatening to melt my glamorous make up and pull down my voluptuous curls, I nailed it!  I, once again, renewed my faith in my ability to shut out the world, push through persistently and focus on myself, my goal, my intent.

June Self Portrait

Thank you, Caitlyn Shaw MUA, once again, for the fantastic make up!  Like I have told you guys before, when I come to Caitlyn with a desired look, she follows through and goes even further.  I mean, look at that highlight on my cupid’s bow!

Thank you, Elva! This look would not be what it is without those elegant curls you gave me.  Mwah!

Here’s to next month!


Milk Bath Beauty

A fellow photographer here, Adriane Nicole, setup a milk bath shootout with a photo group here in Iwakuni, and even though it’s not really my “scene,” I thought I would join to observe.

Boudoir, milk baths, excessive exposed skin, most definitely had me raising a yellow flag from time to time!  Despite my comfort with my own skin (check out my February Self Portrait) and with my friend, Caitlyn (who has definitely seen my goodies), my modesty kicked in when she started stripping her clothing off and putting on her delicates!

If it hadn’t been for Adriane pushing me past this barrier, I would have never been able to create this beautiful image.

Milk Bath Boudoir Shoot

I’m still always so impressed with myself.  My strength to push through my discomforts.  Because I trust myself.  I trust my ability to create something magnificent.

Milk Bath Boudoir Shoot

Thank you Adriane!  Thank you, beautiful and fun Caitlyn Shaw MUA.


Now, next is my June Self Portrait.  Make sure to look through my galleries for new images!

Passion Is Contagious

PhotographerCameras Don't Create Art


noun.  A person who makes a photograph.


For those who know me as a friend and as a photographer, know I constantly struggle with the same question:  “Who am I?”  This question is particular to what kind of photographer am I, more, What does my work say about me?


Currently, my work says I have fine skills as an image editor.  I know my way around Photoshop!  (Not as well as some, but I can definitely create a stunning image.)  My work says I have a good understanding of light and composition.  My images are clean and have a clear focus.








What does it say about who I am?  Where I come from?  What message do I have?  Do I even have a message?  And if I did, would anyone even want to read about it with the numerous amounts of stories out there?  Relationships between mother and daughter, drag queens and their transformations, ancient Chinese ceremonies, earthquake survivors amidst the rubble or even worse, the pain of violence and governmental turmoil.


The search for who I am as a photographer has been clouded by the lengthy lists of what society believes a photographer needs to do to “make it.”

If you want to be a successful photographer, you must do A, B and C.

Then I ask, “Well, what do you mean by img_9918-edit_myjanuaryselfportraitwebsized‘successful?'”  Make $40K+ a year?  Get published online by a distinguished group?  Win a Magnum Photography award? No?  Maybe an honorable mention in a local city competition?  Receive 1K+ likes on your Instagram posts?  Win a grant to create a series?  All these walls!  All of these boundaries you have to navigate around and over and across.



None of it is useful unless you know who you are as a photographer.  And even further, as a person.  This is where it gets personal.

I don’t think I know who I am.  I know what I like, what I’m interested in.  I know what I know, and know what I don’t know.  And lately, it has been so important to find ME.  There is a passion for…something.  Something.  I just, can’t seem to shine a light on it.

When I get close, my flashlight dims and the battery dies.

This is why I have decided to pursue ME, once again.  To find ME.  What makes me tick?  The rest of my time here in Japan will be in the pursuit of subjects that connect with me deeper than a portrait of a handsome Marine or a beautiful, young high school graduate.  These projects to come, my remaining monthly self portraits, “My Mother’s Beautiful Walls,” “Toys That Lived” will open a door to the things that move me.  The moments in my life that brought happiness and security and bring me relief and tears of joy.

Please follow along.  Why?


Because passion is contagious.

Even In Public

The weather really started to warm up this month in Iwakuni.  The cherry blossoms have come and gone and the rains have started to grace the lands around with fuel and energy.  And with warmer weather and bright sunshine, people start to open the windows of their homes and vehicles to let the fresh air in.

One day, late in April, I was walking to pick-up my daughter from the bus stop and listened to everything that was around.  You can hear conversations taking place inside homes as you walk by, and you can hear the latest hits humming through rolled-down car windows of young Marines and Sailors.  So much energy taking place when the world is still moving on as it usually does!

This was my inspiration for May’s self portrait.  I, myself, find I turn up my music louder and change genres with the turn of the season.  I’m not listening to mellow tunes from my Miles Davis or Duke Ellington stations anymore.  I have “Weak” by AJR or “HandClap” by Fitz and the Tantrums blasted from my kitchen while I am battering up my chicken to fry in the pan.  I turn up “Sunlight” by The Magician or stop everything, even put down the hairdryer, to sing along with “Blow Your Mind” by Dua Lipa.

AND I DON’T CARE WHO IS WATCHING!!!  Even in public, I’m gonna move, clap my hands and snap my fingers.  Music creates a bubbly happiness inside me and I just can’t keep still.

May Self Portrait "Even In Public"

What do you find yourself listening to when the weather starts warming up?


Special Thank You to POS Cafe in Iwakuni, Japan for allowing me to be creative!

The Blooms Have Come

Spring comes forth full-swing in April, marking new life, new growth and bringing hope of renewal in all aspects of life.  With this blooming, this renewal, came my inspiration for my latest self portrait.

My Blooming


Although this is only my fourth image this year for my Year of Self Portraits, I’m amazed at how far I am willing to take my images.

Rarely do I create the EXACT image I envision. However, I ALWAYS exceed my own expectations.

My blooming is in effect.

My team for this portrait are:

Photographer, “Trigger Woman” – Nizar Wogan of Nizar Wogan Photography

Make Up Artist, “Fellow Schemer” – Caitlyn Shaw MUA

Fabric/Crafting Specialist – Charisse Windebank of The Soul Seeker Blog

BTS Photographer – Evany Franco of VanyT Photography

Assistant – Michelle Rancloes

Art Director and Post Processing Editor – Me!

How much fun did we have at this shoot?  So much fun that I actually popped blood vessels in my left eye and walked around with red eyes for days!


Nevermind my attire or my posture!

Even the evening before the shoot, my husband assisted me in getting my lighting right.  He loves to watch me set up and troubleshoot.  Being my model?  Well…


That headband is on point, yeah?  Way to go, Charisse!

So, speaking of the headband, someone, eh-hmm, found it extremely entertaining.


Who cares what the back looks like!?!  The front was spot-on, exactly what I wanted.


And when we get things moving, the fun just starts taking shape.


One thing that I was extremely impressed with was Caitlyn’s ability to problem-solve and mix-up the perfect shade of lipstick for my “vision.”  She is always prepared with the right products to get the job done.

I had an enormous amount of fun this day, and I think everyone else did, as well.

And even though the vision is mine (heavily influenced by what I see executed by other photographers, of course) and the hours of late-night editing, against my will, are done my me, I would not be able to effectively create this final product without the team.


I hope they all know how appreciative I am for their support.

Now, let the blooming continue.