Dear Photographer feature by Erin Witkowski Photographer

Dear Photographer feature by Erin Witkowski Photographer
circa 2010 
A Letter to my past, present and future….

Dear Erin (past)
You don’t know it yet, but watching your dad struggle with alcohol your whole life is going to help you see the world with compassion and strip you of judgment in a glorious way. Just wait. You don’t know it yet but your baby boy born with an extra chromosome is going to help you paint the world with more color, joy, and patience. Just wait. You don’t know it yet but the pain of losing parent will catapult your heart into a state of grief that will rip open your desire to reach deeper into meaningful connections with those you photograph. Keep Listening and Just wait.

Dear Erin (present)
Vulnerability and business is a fine line, you know this well by now… but don’t stop giving it your all. Your heart is thankful you use all its pieces when you’re documenting even when its tired and raw afterward, the risk is worth the reward. Be easy on yourself and continue to seek balance always and never ever stop listening. Never stop listening to those who trust you to photograph them, to your family who needs you and your heart who leads you.

Dear Erin (future)
I am sure your greatest struggle remains to be the inner critic, your vulnerable heart and your constant pursuit of meaningful work… well I hope these are still your struggles because without struggle comes complacency and that means you’ve stopped growing. So here’s to hope you’re still struggling in all the right ways and somewhere along the way balance has found you in every way….I can’t wait to see what you are doing now.



I am traveling family photographer, visual poet, and mentor based out of Hudson Valley, NY. I’m raising up & wrangling four wild babes alongside my husband in my childhood home, rediscovering life with a side of nostalgia. My passion for art is strongest when standing alongside others in their most authentic state & when trust is handed freely to me, it’s there I am home.

W E B S I T E | F A C E B O O K | I N S T A G R A M  



Dear photographer |An artist self relection post, Feature by Melisa Gorman-Walkup of Walkuptome Photography

Dear photographer |An artist self relection post,  Feature by Melisa Gorman-Walkup of Walkuptome Photography


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Circa 2014, One of her first images.



Dear Past Self,

Oh, Mel how much you have changed. Three years ago you weren’t even a shadow of the photographer that you have become. When you bought your first camera, the Canon 6D, you were intrigued by the prospect of your first full frame camera that did well in low light. You were still under the impression that the camera had a lot to do with the photographs that you could take. Soon you discovered that the photographs that would fuel your soul, increase your heart rate, and fill you with joy, would almost never happen in that low of light. In fact, your life, and your photos would happen all day long. If I could tell you to erase everything that anyone had ever told you about photography and just shoot the beauty that you notice all around you, this is when you would grow the most. You would not have believed it. Getting your camera to see what your eyes saw was the hardest part. Who would have thought that an art book on your idol Norman Rockwell, given to you by your boss would ignite a passion in your gut that was all consuming? That and a super wide angle lens, with a bit of distortion, would get you giddy inside, and help you make a name for yourself. This would change the entire scope of your photography. You will take a class and learn all the silly “rules”. You would dispute them in your head. You would throw light to the side, in trade for the most dynamic cloud formations. You were on a mission to show people that even with the distortion of a 15mm fisheye lens, art could be created that was so vivid that you would have them feeling like they were experiencing your life from afar. You were always a different sort of story maker. While your photography crushes would consist of photographers who would create the most beautiful photos, with the softest light and even softer colors, this was not you. Your photos would be enriched with the most vibrant and lively colors that people would notice from a mile away. You couldn’t help it. You always thrived on center composition, wide, wide angles, and everyday moments that were masterpieces in your mind. You wouldn’t care what others thought. You kept telling yourself “Anybody can duplicate what you do, but nobody can duplicate who you are”. You will always continue to encourage, support, and inspire other photographers as they had done for you. The photographs that you would soon take would help you in the most desperate of times. They would be a constant reminder of all you have to be grateful for. They would bring a smile to your children’s face and start conversations with strangers at any given moment. Your photography like your children would soon become the best reflection of your life and how you see it!



Canon Mark IV, 24-70ii, 15mm fisheye are

always with me.



Melissa lives with her high school sweetheart, and three little humans in a small country suburb east of Denver. She loves capturing every moment of her babies lives and rescuing as many animals as her husband will let her. She is mesmerized by her children and believes there is so much magic in the chaos. She shoots mostly her family but can be talked into a client session every once in a while. She loves to explore, go on adventures with her family, and show her children all the beauty there is to be seen in this world.

W E B S I T E | I N S T A G R A M | F A C E B O O K 

Dear Photographer | Feature by Naomi Ovando

Dear Photographer |  Feature by Naomi Ovando

Dear Younger Me,

The one in the midst of postpartum depression and anxiety, the one filled with so much fear and feelings of failure and weakness. You are so much stronger than you think and everything is going to be okay. It’s going to be more than okay, it’s going to be extraordinary. God is always faithful and always by your side.

Somewhere along the way, while a caring day in and day out for your beautiful babies, you forgot to take care of yourself and you let a part of yourself start to die. Take care of yourself beautiful mama. Listen to the whisperings of your heart. No one else can love your family the way you can and no one else sees the world the way you do. Creativity is a part of you and when you spend time creating, it brings you so much joy. It feeds and nourishes your soul.

Go ahead and buy yourself that DSLR you’ve been wanting. The minute you look through the viewfinder, something will come to life inside of you. You’re going to notice so much beauty all around you and you’re going to see how God is saying “I love you” over and over again through the beautiful sunsets, magnificent trees, delicate flowers, amazing skies, and especially through the blessing of your family. Taking photos, capturing beautiful moments and your children’s fleeting childhood will be like a salve to your soul and will fill your heart with gratitude and healing.

It’s going to take you a while to realize that you must continually nourish your creative soul and that it makes you a better and happier woman, but you’ll learn how important it is eventually. In 2017, you’re going to commit to taking better care of yourself and making time for your art.

You’re going to keep yourself accountable by starting a 365 project and by sharing what speaks to your heart. You’re going to be scared as all get out since you feel like you still have so much to learn, but you have been feeling the nudges to share your art, your heart, and your story.

Even though you still have much to learn about the technical side of photography and you may break many rules, you’re going to be brave. You’re going to shoot with your heart. Always stay true to your heart for it is what will bring you the most joy and fulfillment. Enjoy the journey and the learning process and don’t compare yourself to others for everyone is at a different point in their journey. You’re going to learn so much from so many that inspire you on this photography journey. You’re going to find an encouraging, supportive and inspiring community that is going to help bring out the best in you and help you grow as an artist. Most importantly, remember that you have your own story to tell and no one else can tell it the way you can. God made you to shine His light, so shine on beautiful one!





Naomi lives with her husband and three children in sunny Southern California.  She is a homeschooling mama and loves spending her days with her muses.  Going on outdoor adventures with her family and capturing storytelling images is one of her favorite things to do.  She can often be found in the nearby mountains or at the beach with camera in tow.  Her goal is to continue growing as an artist and to keep seeking out and capturing the beauty in the ordinary.

I N S T A G R A M 

Dear Photographer feature by Ashley Essig of Ashley Nicole Photography

Dear Photographer feature by Ashley Essig of Ashley Nicole Photography
CIRCA 2011
Dear Photographer,
You started into photography to capture your kids as they grew and it quickly turned into a means to provide for your family.  I implore you to not get lost in that demand for provision… keep capturing the little details of your children that are so fleeting… shoot for your soul… for the art that you imagine in your heart.  travel with this gift, using it to give back in any way that you can.  help where there is need.  love fully.  allow the creative side of you loose so that you can grow as an artist.
Allow yourself the freedom to break the rules…. not just the rules of photography, but the rules of what you think people want to see…. shoot what makes your heart beat.  shoot the little things, the curls flowing in the wind, the hand being held, the moments that are less than posed… the moments that are a tender remembrance of a time quickly passed… the moments that you want to remember of your own family…. don’t be afraid to let your own heart shine through your work.  I know it’s hard to shoot that way when so much is riding on your career, but trust me, people will see something unique in your work and come anyway… and they will stay because of your heart.
lastly, remember that your family needs you… show them your passion and they will follow.  get in the frame.  let them see you there too.


Ashley Essig is a lifestyle and documentary photographer based in the South. She spent her first few years working to find her style and what set her apart as an artist..since then, she has become known for her lifestyle / photojournalistic and detail driven work. Her love of light and details lend her work to capturing the natural connections, watching families just being real with each other. Ashley has spent this year participating in a 52-week self-portrait project that has transformed her idea of self-beauty and love…. She lives in Columbia, South Caroline with her husband and 4 children, who tend to be her muses in most of her personal work!


Dear Photographer feature by Kerlyn Van Gelder

Dear Photographer feature by Kerlyn Van Gelder
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Dear Kerlyn,


You are continually cultivating raw moments of connection and love you are inspired by. It’s an amazing thing to live and feel life so intensely and emotionally. Continue to allow that to flow naturally in your life and in your art. Your dreams know no bounds! You have achieved goals, ones you didn’t even think were possible when you first started. You always find the road less travelled, even if it’s in your own backyard. Don’t lose that need to explore, to see new things, to create new memories with your loved ones.

Remember to pause. Take the moment in, let it fill you with inspiration, and create emotional, breathtaking, honest, intimate stories. You have become so inspired by your life and your wild little one! Kane gave you new eyes and don’t stop seeking the adventure in life like he does!

It took you some pretty annoying internal struggles to get to where you are, feeling happy with what you’ve created. Don’t forget that, and as time goes on and life gets a little busier, remember the little things that you appreciate so much. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your honesty in your photos. Live your life more authentically than the day before.

Listen to whispers from your soul, the ones that tell you you’re enough and you’re needed. You’ll fall down and you’ll cry but remember the One who gives you strength. Thank Him for your incredible life and sow seeds into your relationship with Him. Kiss your guys and fill them with love for every day is a new day for adventure, to create art, and to seek all the things that make your heart move.

Love, yourself.

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I’m Kerlyn! I am an autism momma to my adventurous son, wife to my high school sweetheart, adventurous traveller, and intimate storytelling photographer! I believe in the authentic storytelling of visual art and showing the vulnerable moments we feel that are unable to put into words. I am a lover of last light, intimate connections, and spontaneous memories with the ones you love!

W E B S I T E | F A C E B O O K | I N S T A G R A M 


21/31 epic summer sessions

21/31 epic summer sessions
Is this session personal work or client work?

This session was personal. I shot these while we were on vacation.

Tell us a bit about the magic of summer + the connection to your lens?

Summer really is magical for me. I take so many photographs over the summer, I’m usually still editing them during the long nights of winter. I am always immensely inspired when I travel or when am exploring the outdoors. I love to hike and discover new places, and am very fortunate that my daughters and husband also share that love of adventure. While it is hard finding time to fit work in while my girls are off from school, just being able to spend so much more precious time caught up in their wonder makes me see the world with new eyes. I find that because of my photography, I allow myself to slow down with my girls. Any other time I’m in a rush for one reason or another. Because of my camera, I let them take off their shoes and splash in the stream longer, I let them get extra muddy, I let them take the long way home, I let them pick extra flowers, I’m the one who is lagging behind and slowing up the walk because I’m taking pictures. I’m thankful everyday for that kind of magic.

What about this session makes it an Epic summer session?

I love this location. We’ve been coming here for a few years. Its on the bay which gets way less crowded than the beach side (most of the time we have the entire place ourselves) and at low tide the water pulls back so far I can really capture the vastness of it all. I love huge horizons and tiny subjects. When we are lucky, the laughing gulls are also here taking a break from the crowds.
There really is no way of directing two nine year olds over the din of the gulls, and there really, really is no way of directing the birds. Lensbaby lenses are manual focus. Can you see where I’m headed? I had to just shoot hundreds of images and hope for the best. It is never fun culling through that many images at one time, but when you start finding the gems, it makes it all worth it. I love the movement that the gulls bring into the frame, the frozen chaos. My girls are always sure that this will be the time that they will catch one. So they sneak, they run, they try surprise attacks, and each of their failures ends in hysterical giggling as birds wings are ruffling their hair while they lazily take wing and land a few yards away…where the whole capture attempt begins anew.

What else is on your summer bucket list to photograph this summer?

My bucket list is pretty much bottomless so I will save you from all of my grand dreams of travel and adventure! My girls and I have just started planning a road trip across the country, from coast to coast. It is something that I have wanted to do my entire life. It’s not going to happen this summer, but for now, we are having fun planning and researching.
Realistically this summer I just want to photograph with all of my heart. I’m taking a little hiatus from client work this year so my focus is solely on my family and my own whims. I’m exploring new techniques and ideas, being open to inspiration as it comes. We are taking advantage of some of the closer to home wonders that we have overlooked for the grander. I want to shoot more of the sea, I’ve always had a fierce connection to the ocean. I want to shoot more car trips, I love photographing from the passenger seat. I want to shoot more hiking, I love capturing my girls discovering new things in the wilds. I want to shoot more street photography…I have inane fear of photographing strangers but I see such beautiful and magnificent stories all around me.

What gear was used to achieve these?

I shot these with my Canon 6d and my Lensbaby Edge50 lens. I love the Lensbaby Edge lenses (I use both the 50 and the 80) for the freenlensed look I can achieve with them while having the security of the lens affixed to the camera. Because of that reason, I use them almost exclusively when I’m out in the elements, like at the beach or doing any hiking.

Any summer tips or photographer advice?

The only thing I can say is just have fun. Use your photography as a way to get into the moment…with your children, family, friends, significant other, or even just yourself. Just go with the flow and don’t give into the urge to amend and direct the scene. Try and use your photography as a way of slowing down and really taking note and enjoying the things that capture your heart and imagination. Make the most of the longest days of the year. Don’t even stress about perfect lighting, perfect composure, etc…if you feel it, shoot it! What you shoot with your heart will always mean more to you than what you shot with your head.

I crave the sun and I’m happiest when I’m barefoot. I am inexplicably drawn to the ocean and I love epic long car trips, finding new places, and museums. I collect vintage photographs and old books. My girls and I look for treasure everywhere we go, which almost always is found in the form of pretty rocks, funny pine cones, and gnarled feathers….most of which end up going through the wash at the end of the day. We live in a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania.
I am moved by gritty, emotive, and real photography. I tend to shoot the way I dream, blurred, surreal, and a bit dark. I love my Lensbabies and am quickly amassing a collection of vintage film lenses.

W E B S I T E | I N S T A G R A M | F A C E B O O K
E M A I L 

19/31 EPIC SUMMER SESSIONS |Feature by Mary Beth Photography

19/31 EPIC SUMMER SESSIONS |Feature by Mary Beth Photography
Is this session personal work or client work?

This session is client work.

Tell us a bit about the magic of summer + the connection to your lens?

I absolutely love summer. The dreamy effect of these images and the fact they are shot with film make me feel nostalgic. I wanted to shoot this session how it felt, not just the way it looked through my lens. The beach, the love shared, and the whimsy tones in these images all remind me of the magic of summer.

-What about this session makes it an Epic summer session?

To me the connection and the the way  these images make me feel makes this an Epic summer session. The love this couple shares paired with the tones that only film has to offer, makes them magical. I wanted to shoot these images the way the session felt, not just the way it looked through my lens. The out of focus shots were purposely shot that way for a more dreamy surreal look. And hands down shooting film in direct sunlight was the right choice.

What else is on your summer bucket list to photograph this summer?

I have so many things. I am traveling two more places this summer, Tuscaloosa, AL and Denver, CO for sessions, and I can’t wait to meet the families there and visit new places. I love to travel and with my kids out of school plan all of my travel sessions in the summer. Next summer I’d love to do sessions in SoCal and maybe even Paris, France. I’d say that would be summer bucket list for sure.

What gear was used to achieve these?

Mamiya 645afd
Mamiya 80mm
Fuji 400h Film

Any summer tips or photographer advice?

I guess my only advice as a photographer would be to shoot what you love, and say no to all the rest. Find what sets your heart on fire and go and do that. The most magical sessions, come from that fire of passion.



Mary Beth Johnson is a family & child lifestyle film photographer located in Northwest, Indiana. She loves her littles, color, all things film, and lacing up her running shoes. Capturing connection is what she strives to do.

W E B S I T E | I N S T A G R A M | F A C E B O OK | E M A I L