4 in 24: Vanessa Simpson | From the Archives

This post was originally written and photographed by me for the Mortal Muses blog, part of a new series called, From the Archives. For this entry, I was being interviewed by the amazing Holly Clark.  Source: 4 in 24: Vanessa Simpson | Mortal Muses


In the spirit of this month’s theme, Collaborations, I’m excited to be introducing a new guest feature here on Mortal Muses where we challenge a guest to shoot 4 images within 24 hours and share their story here.

Our first guest, Vanessa Simpson, is a geographer by training and trade, and a photographer, artist and mother at heart…oh yeah, she’s also a yogini and runner too! Photography is a passion for her she told me, “I need it, I have to do it.” She still owns her very first camera, a Kodak/Fisher Price 110, that she received as a birthday gift at the ripe age of 7-years old. When I asked Vanessa to share four photos taken within twenty-four hours, she requested to share images from a special roll of film taken on a  trip taken last year.

What film cameras do you shoot with? Do you have a favorite?
I have a silly number of old cameras; I take them in like abandoned puppies. But, the ones I shoot with most often are my Polaroid 100, Minolta SRT100, and my grandfather’s Yashica TLR. The pull apart Fuji film for the Polaroid is fairly inexpensive and I am particularly smitten with the color film, it is rich and vibrant and crisp.  I have promised myself to learn how to use the Yashica TLR that I inherited. It’s a beautiful piece of family history that I am honored to shoot with, it’s just a little intimidating and so different than what I am used to. The photos I am sharing today were a first roll from the Minolta (affectionately known as “Mini”) while on a visit to San Francisco last December.


8:30am, Early morning in a beautiful bed and breakfast. The sun peeking through a small window and lighting the room perfectly. I was obsessed with that wall paper pattern. I took several self-portraits in this same spot as my husband showered and got ready for the day.

What do you love most about film?
There is something very magical about film. It happens during the waiting, the point where you hold your breath and hope that you got it all right. The moment the image starts to happen-whether it’s waiting for the film to come back from the lab or the seconds before shapes start to form on the blank paper bathing in the chemicals in the dark room. The magic and the anticipation are what I love. When I shoot with the Polaroid, I get almost instant gratification, but there is still the possibility of a light leak or streaking–these imperfections that we try to mimic with digital photography are what make film, film.

Minotla_SF-310am, Walking and wandering from our bed and breakfast to Union Square. We took a path less traveled through an alleyway filled with fantastic street art.

What/Who inspires you?
Oh man, this is a really hard question to answer. I have so many inspirations–many of them I have found over the years via blogs and Flickr. Some of my favorite film shooters are Andrea Jenkins (girlhula) she is the master of Polaroid photography, and I was lucky enough to take a Polaroid class with her a couple of years ago. Kristen Perman, (acukiki) is another amazing Polaroid shooter–her images are haunting and lovely. Laura DeAngelis (lauralani) is an amazing film photographer and self-portraiture master. She has a way with space and color and repetition that blow my mind.  I love portraiture work that Lisa Macintosh (lisamac) has been putting out these past few months, and I can’t forget the master minds behind the NOW YOU Workshops, Meredith Winn (Camerashymomma) and  Kristin Zecchinelli(Mainemomma)–these two women have helped me grow and stretch in ways I didn’t know I could when it comes to my self portraiture work.


11am, I love looking into windows and imagining the worlds, stories and lives going on behind the glass.

What was your happiest/worst photographic moment & why?
That moment when you realize you don’t have your memory card in the camera–or that you didn’t load that film properly–yup, those moments suck. There are days when you don’t feel “it”. When you wonder why you keep taking frame after frame, the inspiration isn’t there, or your confidence has totally flopped because you are comparing yourself to other artists. Those are the worst moments. But, it is also the time when I find myself growing the most… I keep shooting, keep seeking the light and the patterns and the lines… and I find it all again, the NEED to photograph. There is a certain feeling when I get ‘the shot’. You know it, you feel it. You might take a few more, you know, just in case. But when you get home and sift through the images and you see what you knew all along–you got the image you had planned in your head and that is an amazing feeling.


1:30 pm, We had walked all over, visited the SFMOMA and were on our way back to our hotel. I made him stop and go in for a drink at a random bar. I love the way the light hits the highball glasses and reflects off the mirror.

Final thoughts or advice for our readers?

  • Shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more. Leave the camera at home sometimes, breathe in the world, see it outside of the view finder. It’s going to drive you crazy and make you feel like you have left your right arm laying on the bedroom floor, but be okay with it’s absence. Take notes in a journal, draw (even if you can’t draw) what you want to photograph.
  • Don’t hit the shutter of the camera for anyone else, do it for you. Break the rules, use the rules. Read your camera’s manual, seriously, there is good stuff in there. Challenge yourself with horrible light situations. Take your camera out of automatic mode.
  • Stop and turn around when you see ‘the moment’ or the “the light” flash by in the car window.
  • You see something and you feel the pull of it–honor that pull. Don’t worry about who is watching or what they are thinking about you while you shoot. Don’t worry about the equipment you have or don’t have–the best camera is the one with you.
  • Shoot, shoot, shoot, and then shoot some more.


Keep Chasing that light,


Taking a Step Back

I have been thinking a lot about when I first began playing with social media. It was well over a decade a ago, when my long dormant love of photography was fed, watered, and shown the light of day. While searching for knitting patterns online, I stumbled across blog after blog of yarn enthusiast. From there I found out that bloggers used a site called Flickr  to host and share their photography.  I was enamored and jumped in to the fun. I photographed and shared daily. First, using a small point and shoot camera Sony Cybershot, and eventually upgrading to my first DSLR. I lugged my Canon 30D around with me every day. I didn’t have children yet, but I did have light and shadow to chase, friends and events to document. And the knitting projects I was working through, oh and cooking.  Blogging gave me a place to not only share my photography, but a place to write. I have always loved to write and have kept a journal for a very long time. Now, I was able to include photos and illustrate what I was up to! I would hop from blog to blog, leaving comments on new pages. I would and gather inspiration and ideas and then share my own hoping to do the same for my followers. I made contacts and connections. Here were all these people interested in similar things as me – photography, knitting, sewing, cooking and eventually, motherhood. It was magic.  Slowly and quietly though, the social media I used started to shift. Clicks and comments on my blog and Flickr page began to fade. I couldn’t figure it out until I caught wind of where all the cool kids were hanging out these days. They were down the street at a place called Instagram. I was sharing an iPod with my husband at the time and began to snag it at almost every chance I had. We still didn’t have smart phones, so the iPod was my tool. I started to snap fuzzy images on the device and ran them through funky filters within the app before sharing them on my new Instagram feed. It was fun, and no one took themselves too seriously out there back then. You couldn’t upload images from other cameras and so it was a level playing field. My blog was still around, and I actually expanded to write on two other community blogs as well. But at some point, I didn’t feel like I had content to share for both the other blogs and my own. I realize I was ignoring my own corner of web and life, but I had a mobile app that was faster and quicker and didn’t require me to sit down and upload images anywhere and then write. The blog’s long hand form wasn’t as appealing at that point – I was a new mom and exhausted most of the time. Quick and easy was good.I could snap a photo with my (now upgraded) iPhone, run it through a couple of apps and BOOM, out to the web with a few hashtags and a witty comment. I was still connecting with photographers, and foodies as well as creatives of all sorts. New friendships were made, restaurants and yoga studios found. There was inspiration at every scroll. But recently, things have started to feel different, actually not only feel, but were different on Instagram (and social media in general).  Instagram wasn’t so instant anymore, with the inclusion of algorithms posts would appear out of order throwing me into a social media time warp of sorts… And then there are the advertisements. Adds started to pop up every third or four image driving me crazy. Scrolling through started to feel like a chore…And then there was the fact that my blog, this very website that you are reading now, it has been sitting neglected. Yet, words and stories and images were floating around in my head asking to be let out and put down in some form or another. I regularly write poems in my mind as I drive to and from work. I love to watch the light dance around and sing to me as I drive down the street. I wondering about the stories the people at each bus stop have to tell, and where the man on the corner with his shopping cart had slept at the wet night before. But I wasn’t sharing any of this. Maybe sometimes on my Instagram feed, but usually the words would be lost and forgotten as I parked the car at the office and started my day.
I attended events and parties and photographed them. I walked and hiked and camped and traveled with my family, photographing them as we went. Still documenting adventures and everyday life which in the past would have been written down and illustrated with my photographs out here on the blog. But I often dismissed these as unworthy because, “my clients don’t want to see that” or “these doesn’t fit into my business plan”…  I started to edit myself and my life to fit into what I thought others wanted to see.I started to change how I shared. And that was okay. I know I don’t need to share every moment (but I sort of was over on Instagram). What has been stirring in my mind is the fact that I have stopped telling stories.And that was okay…. but it also wasn’t.
Because you know what? I have missed having a place to come to and write. I have missed sharing little and BIG moments, even if I can’t categorize them into client based work for my photography business. I am ready to start sharing here again.  Share not only client stories- your stories, but also our stories as well. Maybe some of you will stick around for this, and maybe you won’t. Perhaps no one will read what I write and see what I see, but it really isn’t about that.  It’s about finding my voice again, finding my eye again. Finding rhythm in my own thoughts and creativity.  Will I still share client work? heck yes! but what I also want to do is share my work. Share what makes me light up. This could mean images and stories of my children. It might be images of my yoga practice (did you know I teach twice a week?),  or what I cooked last night for dinner. It might be the light out my office window or my best friend laughing with her daughter. But I wan’t to come back to this slow paced way of sharing. Will you join me?

Keep chasing that light,


A day in the life – 12 in 12

We are shaking things up again, for the new year. We tossed around ideas of a new photo project and decided on a monthly “Day in the Life”. Twelve images in roughly twelve hours. Who is this “we” I speak about? It’s the amazing group of women that I participate in a blog circle with. So when you are done here on my post, click on over to Small Roots to see what one of her days looked like.

I have to say that I had a hard time getting going on this prompt. I have done these type of challenges before, but couldn’t seem to get going. I was overthinking things and feeling like the darkness of the winter in the Pacific Northwest was not helping me out in my efforts. What I did have on my side is a new camera that I have been learning how to use and the fact that I started off with a really fantastic image on my first go, sometimes (most times), its’ the getting started that is the most difficult.

Ready to see how a typical day unfolds for me?5:20am I am up with the dog and the cat. They get let out to do their business, I start the coffee and unroll my mat to practice yoga.  6:20am I remember the full moon and step out in the blue hour to see it’s beautiful bright face.7:20am Showered, and dressed. I say goodbye and head out the car. The fog is burning off, blurring the edges of the tree branches and tops. 7:35am My commute is short, a quick up and over the hill. I love the downhill view as I make my way to cross the Foss Waterway and over to the tide flats.8:15am The fog has lifted and the golden light dances off the buildings uptown and across the waterway to my office. I don’t know if I will ever get tired of this every changing view…

9:30am Meetings and note taking. 11:45pm I return emails, document projects I am working on, answer questions and mentor my team.

2:30pm The day has flown by, I get my coworkers to go out for a walk with me to clear my head and get some fresh air. It isn’t raining, so it time to soak up some sunshine! (apparently I have a thing about power lines, but gang, the sky is showing it’s pretty blue and I have to document it!)4:30pm When I come out of the office for the day, I smile as the the paper mill stacks pump out cotton candy into the evening sky. I could watch that magic at this time of night for a very long time if it lasted. 5:45pm Taco night. The cheese is grated, lettuce chopped and the turkey has been browned. 6:20pm Diner is over and the evening antics have begun.  7:45pm She’s practicing and working hard on her reading, but it’s time to wrap things up for bed time. 8:30pm Kids are in bed and it’s time to turn off the phone, sip on my tea, snuggle into bed, and back into my book.

It was a busy but beautiful day. Having the sun out was helpful, but the fog also added so much to my early morning start, photographically. I tried to not let one bad image stop me in the path for the rest of the day. I looked for little details, slices of light. I am still learning my new camera (it’s a Fuji x100f mirrorless, and I love it!).

Keep chasing that light,


November (Yellow) Fave 5 on 5

Last month we all went red, this month we decided on yellow. What am I talking about? It’s the monthly blog post where I get to share a few of my favorite images from the previous month- with a twist of a yellow theme.

When you are all finished here, head on over to Small Roots to see where she found pops of color during her month.

November my family and I traveled almost every weekend. I was able to squeeze in both personal and a bit of client work while back in Nevada for the holiday week and that is where these images were taken.  I might be stretching our theme a little bit, but here is where I saw yellow and gold in November…

Golden afternoon light on these kiddos

And more of that autumn evening glow on this sweet family

Yellow hills above Reno during an awesome 7 mile hike that we did with the kids and some dear friends.

Yup, November gave me so much to be grateful for!

Keep chasing that light,


Find the Light | From The Archives

More often than not when traveling,  I am the one in the passenger seat. It’s not that I don’t like to drive, it’s just that the people I travel with tend to like to be behind the wheel more then I do.  This is a good thing since I would rather be soaking in the sights as the world slips past my window. I can take photos and not have to manage my camera and the steering wheel while on a road trip.  These images were taken on the way home from my Portland adventure.

I knew I wanted to share this set of photos here, but wasn’t sure what  I was going to talk about. I looked up a few books in search of quotes, but nothing was fitting with my mood. I realize all of the images are a little dark, but each has a glimmer of light shinning in the distance or flare bursting through the edges.  As I know many of my fellow American readers might be heading out on the road today to meet up with family and friends for Thanksgiving tomorrow I thought I would use the dark and light as a metaphor.
I know that this holiday (and the season in general) can either be extremely exciting or extremely stressful.  As you help in the kitchen with parents, siblings or dear friends, watch football with rowdy cousins, nieces and nephews, and then once you finally sit down around the table together; I would like to encourage you to use your photographic skills of finding the light in the everyday to find the bright spot in each of the people you are surrounded by.  Sometimes our personal and internal roads are dark, but we all have a spot in us that glows from within, or right out of our edges.  Some share the glow inside easily with those around them, while others find it much more difficult. So go on, find the light and have a wonderful and THANKfilled day tomorrow.
This post was originally written and photographed by me for the Mortal Muses photography blog, and part of a new series called, From the Archives. You can find the original post here: Find the Light | Mortal Muses

October Fave 5 on 5

This month we (the other fabulous ladies in this blog ring) decided to mix up our five on five post. We wanted to shake up what we have been doing just a bit. So we picked the color red as our theme and are each sharing where we found pops of the color throughout October.

When you are done here, make sure to click over to Adriana’s blog- she has such a great eye for color, I know she’s got something lovely going!

Red … I found the color in the clothes and accessories that my clients chose for mini-session portraits.

And look at those autumn reds in this senior portrait session! Fall in Tacoma sure is gorgeous (and holy moly do I get good looking people for clients or what?!)

Keep chasing that light,


September 2017 – Five on Five

Whoa! has it really, truly been since May that I did a Five on Five post? I guess that is what happens when you travel for almost a month straight during the summer, and then jump right back into life when you return. I am so glad that the lovely ladies who participate in this blog circle are jumping back into the fun and the rhythm of posting monthly. I know I have so much to share from our summer (and I might shamelessly post Jamaica vacation pictures when it gets really cold, damp, and dark here in the PNW) so stay tuned… And because I have taken so many months off with this, I am sharing more than the usual five images, I can’t help myself!

September is a really special month around our house. It’s a month when we have two birthdays in three days (yes, the kids are almost two years apart to the day, it’s nutty with celebration!). It’s the start of a new school year, and when the light and the energy of the summer start to wind down. The air gets crisp and the light turns golden and pink. I love summer, but autumn really has a huge piece of my heart.


The kids started school, 1st and 4th grade… 

We went to the Oregon Coast and camped at Cannon Beach for the first time. (we fell in love with the area and my Goonie heart was so happy). And because I am excited to share these galleries soon…  a few images of client work. I photographed a wedding in Seattle and senior portraits in downtown Tacoma.  I think I might have a thing for lines in my work lately because I was so drawn to these shapes on both days…It was a great month for personal and client work! Now head on over to see what Adriana has had cooking this summer…

Keep chasing that light,


A lot like Alice… | From The Archives

I don’t know if I feel smaller or bigger when I fly. Seeing the whole world in neatly organized rows and methodically placed circles. The cars, like tiny blood cells traveling from the heart center to the more rural and distant locations of this living breathing body we call Earth.

I watch the clouds pass, fluffy and mash potato like. The bumps of air, which make my tummy and head feel a little fuzzy, remind me to keep breathing. The moon rises out one side of the airplane, while the sun sets out the other oval next to me. It’s surreal, and disorienting. For an hour or more, we are placed so closely to others and at the same time, pulled apart from other as the wheels pull up and tuck neatly below. There are headphones signaling silence, nervous hands signaling fear. There are little bags of peanuts and cups of ginger ale quietly bubbling on the tray table.

I have had scary moments and tender moments while 10,000 feet in the air. And I realize again that it isn’t really the destination- it’s the journey….  If you’re traveling this weekend,be kind to those around you. They maybe rushing to see loved ones or traveling from beautifully exhausting families. I wish smooth landings and quick security lines and, may there be a rainbow of peace hugging your flight as you go.

Keep chasing that light, Vanessa

This post was originally written and photographed by me for the ViewFinders and part of a new series called, From the Archives. Source: A lot like Alice… | ViewFinders

Language of Summer | From the Archives

Summer time stretches out in front of us with waves and wishes. Backyard, air conditioning , picnics, weddings, sun screen, beaches, camping, and adventure all become part of our summer time vernacular. The following words are from a few summers past, but they still hold true this time of year. Enjoy.Summer, you are leaving me… almost gone, but I am not done tasting you yet.

I know you are going, because the evenings are more watermelon juice drips then perspiration. I can feel it in the morning air as I stir awake, you smell different this time of year, not so sticky, yet sweet.

I can see it in the gentle way you hold the velvet brown mountain silhouette. The soft, sky touch that can only be yours.

The dark comes earlier, the blue mix with peaches that hang heavy  in the tree, ripe and ready and in the blushing of the leaves in the strong sycamore that shushes in the exhale.

I still have a few things left for you, summer. Summer don’t fall too quickly away…

Keep chasing the light my friends, Vanessa Simpson


This post was originally written and photographed by me for the Mortal Muses collaborative blog, and part of a new series I am calling, From the Archives. Source: Language of Summer | Mortal Muses