The Rad Photographers Retreat 2018


My second year attending the rad retreat

After attending the 2017 Rad Retreat, I COULD NOT WAIT to go back in 2018, and I couldn't have been happier I did! First, let's talk details... 


The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, puts together a retreat (now 3 years running) that includes opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (which this year we used for some fun bathtub boudoir photos!), a personal chef cooking us A-M-A-Z-I-N-G meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus a comfort package giveaway, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

So how was attending the rad retreat for the second year in a row? 

Before I dive in, if you'd like to check out my post on last year's retreat, here it is! 

Okay, so last year when I attended the retreat for the first time, I was in a place of deep, DEEP stress and a crippling lack of self-care. I was working myself to death (nearly literally), wasn't appropriately balancing my time with family, and was honestly pretty freaking depressed (can't imagine why). I really credit last year's retreat with helping to snap me out of that pattern of behavior, and for being the first step towards taking better care of myself emotionally, scheduling in valuable rest time, and for making it abundantly clear how much I need a community of creative women in my life. Nothing wrong with dudes, I'm pretty fond of them in fact, but I firmly believe that no one lifts women up like other women or makes you feel sane and supported like other women. 

I was in a much different (better!) place for this year's retreat, and it worked out well that there were so many lady photographers there who are also moms, and many who also have full-time jobs, because it really felt great to be with a group of people who just GET IT. Like really get it. They get the struggle to balance conflicting priorities. They get the desire to continue to show commitment to your full-time job (if you have one) and the desire to continue to be World's Best Mom (even though none of us really can be). And it was also lovely to get the perspective of so many photographers who are doing photography full-time, and to have that reminder that every full-time job, whether you work for yourself or someone else, comes with unique challenges and opportunities, and that even being a full-time photographer does not suddenly make working for a living this magical, easy thing to do. (Capitalism, man... The struggle is real.)

It was also really awesome to see the contrast between last year and this year. For one, I was in a much different mental space between the two years, but for two, the group dynamics were different, in ways that just made me so appreciative of both groups of ladies! The first year, I felt like the group opened up to each other pretty much immediately. We cracked jokes, we laughed until we cried, we legit actually cried (whew, some of those 'face your fears' Q&A sessions are TOUGH you guys, but in the best of ways) and we played Cards Against Humanity until midnight on our last night. Now, this year, it took the group a little longer to open up, we were all feeling pretty shy to begin with, but as we got to know each other, there were so many opportunities for truly deep connection, reflection, and conversation. The group dynamic was a little quieter this year, but I felt like we really connected, and the trust and camaraderie that was established over just a few days was so amazing! Our last day there, after we finished headshots, we even ended up doing boudoir bathtub photo shoots for each other (because when there is a bathtub that amazing, you MUST find a good photo op - oh, and I'll be posting most of those photos in a separate blog post, since I'm having a hard time narrowing down my favorites!) 

The most amazing thing about both years is the open sharing of ideas, techniques, and best practices between everyone, and how that helps each attendee learn, grow, and evolve in their business, and with their passion for photography (which you really see come to life during the styled shoot, which I will post in more detail in a separate blog entry!). That and all of the time for self-care, reflection, and joy that is hard to come by back in the 'real world'. 

I am so thankful to have been able to attend this awesome retreat two years running, and am really looking forward to returning next year!  

WHAT freaking awesome PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN making THE RAD RETREAT 2018 so MAGICal? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being 3 years running! She did such an amazing job on this! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Laura from Laura Zastrow Photography discussed the client experience, as well as finding the light in any situation and off-camera flash techniques 
  • Ren from Studio 29 Photography discussed Instagram strategy and getting published 
  • Angela Scheffer-Mondloch from Saffron Avenue Design discussed brand style, defining your brand style, and how to keep your style on-brand to attract your ideal clients 
  • Ashley from Midwestern Bride discussed planning styled shoots, and what collaborating vendors look for when working with a photographer on a styled shoot, as well as how to approach vendors to collaborate

Breakfast & Lunch: 


Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 


So here you are; Enjoy! And if you're a lady photographer, definitely go to this retreat next year!  



A Trip to Portland, OR


An excellent choice for my first full week vacation in more than six years...

Seriously, SIX years since I last took a full week off. I'd ask what's wrong with me, but I already know the answer, I'm a bit of a workaholic. <insert shocked face emoji here>

But... Nonetheless, I could not be more thrilled with our choice of city for my first vacation longer than a weekend in forever! We went to Portland, OR and stayed in the most amazingly gorgeous AirBnB (thanks Mike + Felicity!) We walked around downtown, went to Powell's and browsed the books, checked out the Portland Art Museum (who had an AWESOME Laika exhibit on claymation!), and visited the Planetarium at OMSI! 

We also had plenty of time for relaxing and reading and drawing, which was pretty freakin' sweet. 

Also, So. Much. Food. 

Enjoy the photos! 



A Trip To Nebraska


A long weekend in the big om'

I know no one really calls it that. Let me have this. 

We took a trip to Omaha, NE a few weeks ago for some much needed rest and a nice change of scenery. We rented the world's most awesome but still affordable AirBnB and bummed around the Henry Doorly Zoo (objectively rated as the World's Best Zoo) for hours, watched movies, ate pizza, and goofed off in our host's yard. It was so nice just to BE for a bit. I didn't answer (or even check) a single email while we were away, didn't even bring my laptop, and while I was sadly still pretty under the weather during this trip, it was great to really take some time to put aside work.

Ben even got to practice photographing moving objects, and took some great photos of Adam and I, plus the cartwheel pic! (Takes after his parents *so proud*) 

If you're looking for a neat place to visit within a day's drive (6.5 - 7 hours), Omaha is a great place to check out both for families and adults. 



A Trip to Ohio and a Family Reunion


Going Back Doesn't Always Mean Going Home... And That's Okay. 

I have mixed feelings about Ohio. On the one hand, it's where I grew up, and I have a lot of great memories from some of my formative years and my very early adulthood. On the other hand... There are concrete reasons why I felt the need to move to Wisconsin in 2006, and those reasons persist (not that Wisconsin doesn't have its own share of issues). My hometown of Dayton, Ohio was an economically depressed area before it was cool, has an incredibly high crime rate (they go hand in hand really) and does not, or at least did not, really invest in education. Boarded up buildings and houses aren't an unusual sight and you always want to lock your car doors immediately when you get in a car (a habit that I've maintained even in Madison, Wisconsin). Beyond that, my most important life events, at least in my adulthood, have all occurred in Madison, and so, really, Dayton doesn't feel like home to me anymore. It feels like a place I'm remembering from a dream, or like a glimpse of another lifetime. Someone else's lifetime, since I don't really feel like the same person I was when I moved to Wisconsin at age 21. For all its faults, Ohio does have my family (my Mom's side, and Rob's family also lives there), Bill's Donuts, and a noticeable lack of mosquitoes going for it, all of which I enjoyed while I was in town recently. 

I drove into Ohio on my birthday, with Ben in tow, and arrived super late, after running into unexpected (but also kind of expected) construction on Interstate 70, and a particularly intense summer rainstorm. Friday morning, after I had slept off the drive, and eaten a celebratory cupcake, my Mom, Ben, and I drove to Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of my favorite places in the state! We took Ben around to the local shops, including Dark Star (my all-time favorite used comic and book store), and a number of little artist shops along the town's main drag. We ate at the iconic Ha-Ha's Pizza (known for their delicious whole wheat crust and unique toppings, like falafel), and then took Ben to Young's Jersey Dairy Farm, a childhood staple if ever there was one. Ben didn't have much of an interest in building magical childhood memories by petting the goats or cows, but he was very interested in the ice cream, so that's something. Then Ben and I visited with my best friend (friends since the ripe old age of 3) and her family, our kids staying up way past my bedtime playing video games and catching up. I don't get much sleep when I'm in Ohio, since everyone stays up so much later than me there! 

Saturday was a day of rest, at least until the evening. My Mom, a licensed massage therapist, was nice enough to spend her weekend time giving me a massage, which I desperately needed (did you know driving for 9 hours is hard on your back?) and after that she and Ben and I watched Moana (I love that movie!) and then left for the little family reunion being hosted at my cousin's house. My Mom's brother, Denny, was also in town with his wife, which was great timing, since it's been 12+ years since I've seen then, and they had never met Ben, since they're in Georgia and we're in Wisconsin. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone. I went into picture-taking mode (because of who I am as a person), but luckily I eventually ran out of camera battery so I actually put the camera away and had some great catch-up conversations with family. Ben got to run around with his 2nd cousins (my cousin's kids), and we all had a rousing game of badminton (does anyone still play that? Just us?)

It was awesome to see everyone, and I simultaneously wish I could see my family more often and also have no desire to move out of Wisconsin (or back to Ohio). Kind of the catch 22 of leaving your home town or home state... You build a new home, and a new family (through marriage, birth, adoption, friends, etc.), and you get busy, and you live your life, and it gets weird, but still wonderful, to go back to your old state, your old life, every now and again. The saying you can't go home is true in a way, because it's your concept of what home is that changes. Wisconsin is home now, and I know that as much as I know anything. I love it here, and I love the life I've built. But even though Ohio isn't home anymore, it doesn't mean I can't go back, and enjoy a little time in that past life, with people I love very much. It means I'm lucky enough to have both a past I'd want to visit every now and again, and a future I'm looking forward to. 





A Trip to Kentucky


Over Memorial Day, we took a trip to visit Papaw in Kentucky

I love taking car trips with Ben, and the 8 hour drive flew by quickly, on our way to see Dad (Papaw). When we arrived at my Dad's house in Kentucky, it was warm and stormy and gorgeous. We don't get down to visit at much as I'd like, but at least the weather was nice enough that we could take a trip out to the farm to visit Dad's horses, Bella and Alvarez, and that we got to see my uncle Barry and Uncle Derek while we were there. We also spent some time at an arcade (brings out the kid in us all, right?) and in general had a great visit. Can't wait until the next one! (Also, can you tell that I love horse noses?)



The Rad Photographers Retreat 2017


3 Days of Community, Connection, and Creativity

Where can I even begin to describe such a wonderful and inspiring experience? Well, first, just the facts, ma'am... 

What is the Rad photographers Retreat? 

The Rad Photographers Retreat is a ladies only retreat for super kickass photographers, organized by the lovely Christine Dopp from Natural Intuition Photography. Christine, along with some rad co-conspirators, put together a retreat that included opportunities to connect and relax with other creatives, guest speakers and mentors from the photography (and related) industries, morning yoga, chair massages, professional hair & makeup (to get ready for some amazing headshot shenanigans), a personal chef cooking us amazing meals every day, and to top it all off, the most gorgeous styled shoot anyone ever did see! Plus some giveaways, some bubbly (or a Montana Mule or two), and the best company a girl could ask for! 

What did I really get out of it? 

You know, to be honest, it can be really easy to get stuck in the day to day. Stuck in the feeling of 'not good enough' and the over-glorification of busy-ness and hustle. I think as women in particular (and especially Moms), it can be really easy to put literally everyone else's needs ahead of ours, to minimize our own need for quiet, reflection, sanity, understanding, community, empathy, etc., and to work harder on building everyone else around us up than we work on building ourselves up. It can be easy to see nothing but our own flaws, to see only where we're falling down, only where we've failed or only what we have not yet achieved. And so to go from that all too common mindset, to a setting where women are there, creating and building community and connection, building each other up, finding common ground and inspiring one another, and actively encouraging things like rest, reflection, balance, self-care, is a breath of fresh air. 

If we're getting real here (and why not, right?) I'm in a tough place currently, stress-wise. Working too much, not appropriately balancing time with my family, and basically not scheduling in any personal reflection/self-care time. Let me just set the record straight for anyone who isn't already aware... It is not possible to do all the things perfectly. Maybe 70% if you're really really lucky and really really good. If you're like most of us then you've got 50% max of the shit you do that you're going to be really good at, and the rest of it you'll fumble through like everyone else. So, when I feel down on myself for not being the World's Best Mom, Best Wife, Best Small Business Owner, Best Photographer, Best Operations Supervisor of a Benefits Administration Company, Best at Exercise, Best at Eating Healthy, Best at Work-Life Balance, I try to remind myself that humans seriously weren't meant to do this much stuff. And I'm doing amazingly well by the standards to which we're evolved to cope with. 

Why do I bring this up? To reiterate a few things...

  1. How hard it was for me to take time off and make my own growth and learning and unplugging a priority 
  2. How easy it is to get down on myself for not basically being a perfect human (an oxymoron if one ever existed)
  3. How much I realize I'm not alone in those #1 and #2

So when I arrive at the retreat, nervous, stressed, feeling guilty, and like I shouldn't be there because I'm not good enough, and the first thing that happens is that I run into other, nervous retreat-goer arriving at the same time (love you, Kellie!) , and we're both handed glasses of sparkling wine and presents as we walk in the door, and told that no, we can't help with anything, and no, we don't need to offer our assistance, and go sit down for goodness sake and open your presents and drink this wine, it's like something clicked, and clicked hard. I spend my entire life taking care of other people (admittedly, sometimes not well) and putting others needs before my own. To be forced, even for 3 days, to put my own needs first, and indeed, to be encouraged to do so, was a novel experience. A very much needed experience that I wish more women had. 

I needed someone to pamper me for a bit, because lord knows it's the one thing I don't make time for. I needed a group of women to lift me up, and allow me to lift them up, and to smile and encourage and cheer each other on. I needed that because no one lifts women up like other women. No one makes women feel sane and supported and heard like other women. We're really freaking good at that (with everyone but ourselves). I desperately needed this, in a way I didn't even know, as is evidenced by what a hard time I'm having adjusting to 'real life' again, now that I'm home. 

I am so thankful for the experience I had, and for Christine and her team of talented friends, who put together this magical retreat, that gave me permission to slow down, breathe, reflect, grow, and connect. If you're on the fence about something like this next year, get off the fence and RUN to the nearest sign-up sheet because it is life-changing. I cannot wait to dive in next year, and I hope to see some of the friends I made this year come back again as well! 

What amazing people were involved in the rad retreat magic? 

OMG, so many! 

First, hats off to Christine Dopp, of Natural Intuition Photography, for birthing this idea and bringing it into being! She is a golden goddess, and I appreciate her so much! 

Second, here is a list of the vendors involved that all pitched in to rock this retreat like no one's business! 

Guest Speakers: 


Breakfast & Lunch: 


  • Personal Chef Services by Eric Vestegaard (we're trying to talk him into setting up an Instagram account, so hopefully more details to come!) 
  • Farewell Dinner Styling by Elevate Events
  • Adult Beverages Sponsored by Essential Edit

Styled Shoot: 

Goodie Boxes: 

And it wouldn't be a blog post without sharing some pics... 

So here you are, and here I am, daydreaming about next year's retreat! Hope to see you there! 






A New Orleans Trip


I recently traveled to New Orleans to photograph the wedding of two fantastic humans, Laura + Jereme (you can see more of their wedding here), and spent the entire time in awe of how colorful and amazing the city was. As a person who loves people watching (not in a creepy way!) as well as neat buildings and great music, it was awesome to just find a cozy place to hang out in, sit back, and enjoy the sights of the city, while eating phenomenal food, drinking some darn delicious drinks (Bourbon milk punch, anyone?) and people-watch to my heart's content.

Here are some of my favorite little details and moments from the trip! 

-- Sam