This is my why

The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to live life following your true purpose. Finding your way is not always easy. We have so many voices out there telling us, prodding us or even pointing the way to the life we should be living. But the only voice that matters is the one inside your head. Are you listening? I mean, really listening and paying attention?

Are you really listening to the voice inside your head?

I believe I'm one of the lucky ones who discovered my life’s mission at a young age. And while I’ve stumbled and fallen along the way, I never lost sight of what that is. But before I talk about that, I need to dive into my childhood and share a little bit of my history. 

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher gave the class an assignment to write a paper. I don’t remember all the specifics, but I do remember that I chose to write about the panda bears. As I did my research, I learned the plight of these cuddly black and white bears - how their numbers were dwindling due to deforestation and population growth. I wrote a proposal on how I could solve this problem. In the mind of a ten year old child, it was easy. Set up a table at the base of the mountain where the panda bears live and stop anyone from further destroying the habitat and developing the land. Simple, right? 


Well, that was just the beginning of my awareness for my love of animals. Like so many adolescents, I struggled with finding my place amongst my peers. I was probably more insecure than many of my classmates, and I definitely was one of the shiest kids in my class. I struggled with fitting in and feeling like I was well liked…or even liked at all. My self-confidence was low - something I eventually outgrew, but only as a young adult. My teenage years were tough, to say the least. I know I fought depression to boot and often wondered if my life would ever get any better.

While at the time puberty seemed to be a very painful experience, looking back, I’m glad I went through everything I did. I believe it made me a more compassionate, emphatic and caring person. Getting through those years wasn’t easy though. And the single thing that probably helped me the most was a cat. Yes, a crossed-eye, loud mouth siamese named Ke-O-ke. 

She was born a year before me. I’m sure when I came along, she wondered what was this creature that cried, smelled and babbled. Then once I was crawling and could pull her tail, her ears, her fur, she probably hated me. But eventually I got bigger and calmer and we became the best of friends. Even though she was my parents' cat, the baby before me, she ended up being mine. She hung out in my room during the day, followed me everywhere and slept beside me every night. 

She was the one I told my secrets to.

She was the one I told my secrets to, who listened to my sobs whenever I cried, who made me feel like I mattered when so many days I wondered if anyone really loved me. She didn’t care that I had a face full of angry red welts otherwise known as pimples, was moody because of PMS (or just all the time!), or that all the girls, except me, had gone to the movies. She didn’t care if I was the most popular (I wasn’t) or the best dressed (I wasn’t), she still greeted me at the door with her purrs when I came home from school. 

When I doubted anyone would miss me if I ran away, I knew she would. When I felt alone, she was the one who kept me company. When I didn’t feel I had anyone to talk to, it was Ke-O-Ke who meowed at me. You see, she didn’t see me the way I saw myself. She didn’t judge me the way I judged myself. She loved me in a way I couldn’t.

And now that I’m all grown up, I still struggle with self-worth sometimes. Don’t we all? But isn’t that what we love about our furry best friends? They love us unconditionally. They stand beside us even when we make mistakes. They don’t care if we are single, married, are parents or not. It doesn’t matter if we are dressed to the nines or wearing yesterday’s dirty clothes. Or if we take them to the park in a fancy SUV or a beat up old car. They don’t care if we make an appearance at friday night’s happenings around town or stay home curled up with a good book. They make us laugh, give us purpose and make a difference in our lives. In a way we sometimes can’t do for ourselves. 

It’s no accident that dog is God spelled backwards.

I don’t think it’s an accident that dog is God spelled backwards. While I can’t say for sure there is a God, I do believe in something bigger than myself. I believe this higher power, or Supreme Being, created me. And in His or Her eyes, I am perfect in every imperfect way. 

I also believe that one of the struggles every human being faces, is the ability to see ourselves the way our Supreme Being does. The way our dogs (and cats and other pets) do. That we are worthy of life, love and human experiences. I believe that every thing happens for a reason. It all serves to get us to the point where we believe and know that we are enough. That we are all connected. That we all matter. Our life purpose is to discover who we are, to unearth the treasures hidden deep within ourselves and share them with the world. 

For some of us, the way to this truth is though the furry best friends we meet, care for and love along the way. They teach us so much about life. About ourselves. About human kind. About connection. Because in the end, the only true thing that that matters is love.

The only true thing that matters is love.

This is my why. Why I’ve made a career out of working with animals. Why I am a photographer. And a pet photographer in particular. To capture the connection, the bond we share with these creatures who play such a huge role in our lives. To show you what they see in you. And what you see in them. Your teachers, your protectors, your best friends. Because animals matter. And so do you.


This is my why

Puppies, puppies and more puppies!

When my friend and Sporty Dog daycare owner Julie announced that her girl Cantina was expecting, I can’t remember how many seconds it took before I suggested we needed to do a puppy photo session! I’ve photographed all of Julie’s dogs and have enjoyed every session with them. Because of their agility and obedience training, they are so well behaved. Which is perfect for me since I don’t need to worry about wrangling them in addition to capturing the shot I have in mind.  Granted, puppies won’t be as well behaved, but they’re puppies, and well, how is that not going be to be fun???


Julie suggested I come over and meet the litter first and so I could get to know them. It also gave me the opportunity to figure out where to set up since I planned on bringing my studio equipment for this. With eight puppies in the litter, trying to do this outdoors would be nearly impossible. We opted not to get a group photo, instead just focusing on one puppy at a time.


When we scheduled the session, the pups were six and a half weeks old. Old enough to start developing personalities, but young enough that they weren’t too rambunctious. I found this great little child’s chair that would be the perfect prop. I also have a collection of boxes and crates that I brought with me too. It had been two weeks since I met the pups, and underestimated how much they had grown. They had outgrown some of the baskets I had planned on using!


The puppies did great! Once we got them into place, Julie spotted just in case they dared to jump. If I took too long, they’d start crying. My lighting equipment didn’t bother them, nor did the paper backdrop I had set up.  Time flew by and before I knew it, I was packed up and on my way back home. It doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways…they were so delightful! With their tiny cries, adorable faces and cute playfulness, puppies have a way of making any day the best day ever! Here are a few shots from that afternoon!


Pushing myself

When I started photographing pets, I swore up and down, I would only ever work on location in natural light. To me, that made the most sense. No worries about lighting gear, props or much of anything else except my camera, a dog and a beautiful location. Except, that means being at the mercy of Mother Nature. Which, if you live in State College, you know how uncooperative she can be. It's not uncommon to have dark, cloudy conditions for days, even weeks on end. Which is probably the most undesirable weather to photograph in. 

Like many creatives, I get a lot of inspiration from looking at other artists' work, including portrait, wedding, landscape and of course pet photographers. One thing I began noticing was that I was drawn to images that had a certain quality about them, something that my images didn't have. And that was light and shadows. It actually took me a while to figure this out, but once I saw it, I couldn't help but notice it in almost every image I loved. As I went about my day, I found myself paying more attention to the sun and the shadows it cast throughout the day. I looked closely at my images and saw how they were all flat and evenly lit. Remember how I said that in State College we can get stuck in weather patterns where we don't see the sun for weeks at a time? So it's really no surprise. And that's ok. The right overcast light makes for some absolutely gorgeous light. But that also means the absence of shadows.

I wanted to shake things up. So last year I made it a goal to learn off-camera lighting, or OCF for short. Which opened a whole new world up for me. At first, it was a pain to drag all my equipment out on location. With an added anxiety about learning how to work my lighting gear, it wasn't uncommon for me to break out in a sweat. And there's the frustration of not getting my settings right, figuring out what I was doing wrong and making adjustments. But I picked up this skill pretty quickly. Seeing my images on my computer screen and knowing I had "nailed" it made me eager to keep on trying. The more I practiced, the better I got and the less time it was taking me to get "the" shot. And the less hassle I found it to pack my gear, set it up, and then tear it back down.

While I was in Florida, I wanted to practice using OCF in other lighting conditions than I had been shooting here in PA. Which was mostly during the middle of the afternoon on a partly cloudy day. So Steve and I packed up our dogs, all my gear and headed to this wonderful little park in Sarasota on a beautiful sunny evening. I set up my light and worked on balancing backlighting from a setting sun with a strobe. And got these images. 


If I hadn't added the strobe, then Steve and Izzy would have been silhouettes. Which would be fine too, except that wasn't my intention.

For the following images, I turned around so my back was to the sun and put my dogs under a tree in the shade. You can shoot in this condition without a strobe, but you'd have to crank up the ISO pretty high. Thus, I added a strobe to make my subject pop. 


I'm happy with how they turned out. Unless you are a photographer, you probably don't get as excited about this as I do. But it's fun to learn new techniques and go out and try it for myself. As any photographer will tell you, photography is all about the light. For the once stubborn photographer who was afraid to learn how to use off-camera flash, I'm so glad I pushed myself to experiment! I can't wait to get out and experiment even more!

New and updated website!

If you've checked out my website lately, then you know a few things look different. Well, actually, almost everything has changed! It's been a labor of love and took several weeks, but I finally gave my site a long overdue facelift! I started designing a new website last year, but for one reason or another, never finished it. So when I came down to Florida last month, redesigning it was one of my primary goals. And at last, it's done! If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions for what I can do to make it better or see any typos, please share it with me! My goal was to create a site that is user friendly yet also conveys how much I love what I do. I recognize that many people have not heard of pet photography, but I hope to be a part of the change. So many of us consider our pets as part of the family so why not capture those special moments you share with them? After all, isn't your pet worth it?

Frosted Pumpkin treats | State College pet photographer

October is all about Halloween, raking leaves, flannel shirts, and apple cider. And pumpkins. Pumpkins. And more pumpkins. Pumpkin spiced latte. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin donuts. Pumpkin patch. And as I baked a batch of pumpkin spice cookies, with my girls Izzy and Kita hovering hoping to be my taste testers, I felt guilty that I couldn't share my yummy treat with them. Or could I?

If you didn't already know, pumpkin is good for you and your pets. It's a great source of fiber and can help with constipation and diarrhea. Adding a tablespoon or so (depending on your pet's size) to their meal can help keep them regular. 

Pumpkin seeds are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. An excellent source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium and iron, it may even help keep cancer away.

If your dog or cat needs to lose weight, pumpkin is a great low-fat food that fills them up without adding all those extra calories. Just reduce how much food you give your pet and replace it with some pumpkin and watch the pounds fade away.

It is important that you only give them pureed, or canned pumpkin. Not the sweetened pumpkin pie filling you'll find at any grocery store. You can also feed your pet pumpkins from your garden, but be sure to cook them first!

So now your fur-kids can enjoy some of the season's best flavors alongside you! I made these frosty pumpkin treats for my pups. It's easy ~ mix 1 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup canned pumpkin. Pour the mixture into a pumpkin shaped candy mold or ice cube tray. Freeze for 3 - 4 hours or overnight.