Cuba // 18 Years Later

I traveled to the magical country of Cuba in 1999 and then again in January of this year. Here is my letter to this country, that my heart now calls a friend. 

Dear Cuba,

Hello my old friend. How thrilling and sweet it is to sit with you. Seeing your face again makes my heart swell with all of our past memories. You are just as intriguing, exotic, captivating and confusing as ever before.

As I walk around your colorful buildings and crumbling heroic walls, I can’t help but reminisce to our first meeting.

Back in '99, visiting you was daring, almost provocative. When I saw “Havana” on my syllabus at art school in San Francisco, I grew nervous and excited that we would meet. Our professor, Tony Labat, who grew up in your neighborhoods, took 20 of us to see you for a week.

We flew out of Tijuana, Mexico. We stopped in Monterrey and had to de-board the plane to get our passports stamped, since it was illegal for Americans to visit your country and spend money there. We landed in Havana and I remember feeling nervous. The agent looked over my treasured passport, chockfull of stamps, and waived me through.  Havana was mine and I was in awe.

Hotel Inglaterra was our home for the week. From there we went to museums by day and then stayed up late drinking Cuba Libres, listening to music, and smoking cigars on the rooftop. We were an eclectic group of artists; some painted, filmed or created performance pieces. We felt saturated in the Cuban art experience, if only for a week.

Upon seeing you, the movie Buena Vista Social Club had come out. I sat in the theater, fascinated by what was to come. Everything was as surreal as the movie suggested; the cars, the architecture.  I watched men play checkers. I photographed little kids in their school uniforms.

I felt honored and changed to have this rare experience. You are resourceful, yet without resources. The resilience of your people was inspiring. I was left questioning our place in the world, and with new real estate in my heart, just for cheering you on.

And now flash forward to January 2017.

My heart had missed a beat when I learned a few years ago that President Obama would open up relations with you. Could we make peace and end the embargo? Could this country that stole my heart, finally know equality and the same advantages and disadvantages of their neighbors?

My photographer friend, Maryanne, and I jumped on a plane and made sure we had the chance to see you before the new presidency.

This time, we flew from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale to Havana. In Fort Lauderdale, I heard over the loudspeaker, “Jet Blue Flight XX to Havana”. That’s when it hit me. A profound moment that actualized in my gut. I was flying from America to see you; a dream of mine and so many others realized. I felt a surge of joy and solidarity with this small victory.

I thought of 18 years ago and the boy I gave a pencil to on the street. Of the artist Los Carpinteros. And of the college girl I once was, walking your streets with a different lens and perspective than today.

We arrived early in the morning and immediately began exploring. I soon realized so much was the same, but we both had grown up too. I have grown from a student into a professional photographer.  But, we both still have our quirks.

This time, we stayed at Casa Particular. Casas weren’t legal on my last trip and very hard to find. This change marked an acceptance of a new socialism and I’m curious to see how it evolves.

We listened to music and had coffee around the city in Plaza Viejo, at the Inglaterra and at the Nacional. The menus were larger and more varied. I remember feeling frustrated with ordering a meal on my last trip. I would ask for a cappuccino and a salad. The waiter would leave and come back 5-10 minutes later and inform me that they were out of those items. This would repeat itself several times. Eventually, I learned to ask what was available and simply order that.

This type of exchange rarely happened this time. Although napkins and toilet paper were still in short supply.

We hired a tour guide for the Art and Color Tour. Our guide Dayana was knowledgeable and indulged all of our many questions. She took us to multiple galleries and the Museum of Bellas Artes. I saw a piece of art that mentioned Los Carpinteros and felt joy at their success. I was thrilled to be in my element, hearing about the history and present culture of art in Havana. I love the familiar joy in museums, people from around the world sharing their own passion for art in many languages.

Ironically, the actual band, the Buena Vista Social Club, was playing while we were in town. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them in person. There were a couple of musicians from the original documentary there. Snippets of the movie were projected in the background. So we have changed a little, I thought. We were all a little older, wiser, and with a few more lines on our faces.

Yet here we both were, practicing our craft with energy and joy all these years later. Them on stage in a room full of approving fans, and me still walking around with my camera and artist friends, sharing all of the color and contradicting ideas in still images.

What will the next 18 years hold for us? I’m hoping my country and yours will build a beautiful friendship full of respect and admiration.

Just as we have.  

Besitos my friend, until next time.
Suzanne

4 Things // Gratitude in the Struggle

Watching : Picasso at the Lapin Agile at The Old Globe. Find out what Picasso, Einstein and Elvis have in common. - Suzanne

Loving : 9 to 5 The Musical. #yearofthewoman - Suzanne

Inspired by : John Wick : Chapter 2. I'm inspired by the character; his determination and will. I love the idea of doing anything you can to help a loved one. Also, it inspires me to be in shape, to dress well, and be prepared for whatever life brings. - Mike

Excited for : An adventure with Suzanne in Prague.  I'm excited for taking on new projects, and not being afraid, but rather embracing the struggles that come with any new chapter of life. Trying to have a family, a child, a future - this I am very excited about it. Life has kicked us around a little, and I have let it take some of my happiness through anxiety, but now I'm turning the tables. I am finding gratitude in the struggle. - Mike

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

15 Years Because of YOU

All of us at Shewanders Photography are dancing in confetti of love and gratitude for celebrating 15 years behind the lens.

15 years of gratitude. 15 years of love. 15 years because of YOU.

We’d love to take you on a little vacation down memory lane to where it all began.

In 2002, a friend asked me to shoot her big day. I very reluctantly said yes. I had never shot a wedding before and it wasn’t something I wanted to do. By the end of the day, sparks were flying, adrenaline was pumping; I was in love. A couple months later, I got laid off of my job in advertising and started Shewanders Photography.

Mike started with Shewanders in 2008 and has blown my mind with his raw talent.  He took some photo classes when he was younger, but really claimed his voice at Shewanders.  He started as a third shooter and within a couple of years was shooting his own weddings.  I admire his voice and the sense of immediacy that he captures.  I often look at his work and wonder how he puts people at enough ease for them to be so natural in front of him.

There are a few things over the last 15 years that we couldn’t have lived without.

Suzanne says....

I write in my morning pages every day. It’s how I let go of all the chatter so that I can stay focused and understand what I want. The gems are hidden amidst the words of my everyday writing. It takes putting in the work day after day; that’s where the magic happens.

I ask what if it’s magical? Instead of, what if it’s too hard or expensive? Shewanders by nature has allowed me to live an untraditional lifestyle where I get to travel and work. Work to travel, work while traveling, the whole shebang. When I travel, I know who I am. It allows me to learn, grow, challenge myself, and respond to my environment. While exploring a new place, I want to fill each day to the brim with adventures.

I listen to music to make sense of my thoughts. Sometimes an idea or a problem will be floating around in my mind. It takes the emotional quality of a song or the lyrics to help me understand what I’ve been feeling or thinking.

I always allow myself time to daydream and listen to my inner voice (even when she sounds like a drill sergeant). This gives me the freedom to dream up new concepts and ideas from within, rather than what I see on Pinterest or Instagram.

Mike says...

I believe that love and a celebration solves any problem. Regardless of the stress of a wedding day or the never-ending tasks, when I live in the moment of a beautiful celebration, everything else disappears.

I always stand true to who I am. I never try to stand out, I just try to be myself. I do what inspires me and my clients so that we have a journey together.

I find peace and recharge in fitness and nature. Outside of photography, I do martial arts, running, and bodyweight training. I love the outdoors. Hiking and survival type training is a passion and hobby of mine.

I couldn’t survive without listening to my inner voice. This is driven by reading, film, and new experiences.

Both of us say...

We have constantly been inspiring ourselves so that we can create inspired work. We go to workshops, take classes, have art adventures with friends, and always experiment with new techniques.

We attribute our success to the most amazing friends in the industry and rising together. CAKE Bakery was my first industry friend. We love those ladies like no one else. Our companies grew up together.  We had our growing pains together and all of our successes.  Did you see them win Cake Wars?

We also couldn't have done it without finding our ideal clients.  Oh my gosh we love our clients. Seriously! So many people complain about their brides and grooms and we are head over heels for ours.  Our clients tend to be warm people who are grateful to have wonderful people in their lives.

A thousand thank you’s to all of our friends, at home in San Diego, and everywhere around the globe. Because of you, we have been able to create a life we love.

Cheers to 15 more years of art making and dream chasing!

4 Things // Mentoring & Relaxing

Mentoring : I spoke at a photography class at City College this week. I took some photo classes at City when I was younger and it was so fun to give back and mentor the students. I so remember sitting in those chairs wondering if I'd get to be a photographer for my whole life or if life would get in the way. I don't love public speaking but I had to say yes for my younger self. - Suzanne

Photographing : Jen and Vlad's maternity shoot. It's physically such an unusual time in a woman's life and I love capturing the essence of this blip in her journey. - Mike

Valentine's Day : There is something so beautiful about the art of relaxing. Sometimes dinner in bed is the best while watching Walking Dead and Bob's Burgers. - Mike

Dreaming of : Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland with Vanessa. I can't wait to see Reykjavik in the winter and hopefully catch the Northern Lights. This is a big one for me. I wonder what the reality will be verses the dream inside me. - Suzanne

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

52 Weeks, 52 Dates - Come Play!

A year from now, you’ll wish you started today." - Karen Lamb

A new year doesn’t have to start January 1st. Every week is a chance to start something new. We love keeping track of our weekly adventures. It inspires us to try new things, promotes gratitude in our relationships, and it's just plain old fun to remember all of the good times! Join us in celebrating our adventures together, every week of the year!

Here is a free and fun downloadable print to keep track of all your weekly adventures. =)

Download here: 52 Weeks, 52 Dates

4 Things // Wedding + Travel Euphoria

Happy Friday friends =)

Photographing : Morgan and Adam's wedding. Morgan and Adam are a kick.  I loved their surfing engagement session and how at ease they are with each other. I knew their wedding day would be as cool as they are.  The energy on the dance floor was euphoric and everyone danced under the stars. 

Brainstorming : With Aly from @lunawild. This wandering creature is so much fun and I can't wait to dream up our next adventure.

Writing : My friends and I had a postcard writing party at Pardon My French crafting some witty replies to our representatives and letting them know what causes are close to our hearts. 

Dreaming of : I booked a ticket to Iceland on my way to Europe next month to catch the Northern Lights dance. 

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

Making Things Happen - Go!

Hi friends =)

We love sharing things that make our heart sing.

Mike and I went to Making Things Happen 6 or 7 years ago (a two day intensive designed to uncover your goals and take action). It's literally a life changing.  I've never delved so deep into my goals.  I've never done it in front of a group of people. I've never fallen in love with a group of people faster.

Hearing what people's struggles are and what they want most out of life transforms how you see them. 

I love my group, I love cheering them on, and I am so invested in their success.

Mike and I use the tools we learned at MTH all the time.  We revisit this emotional space and use it as a guide map for where we want to go.

If you are looking for a tribe and a North Star consider a seminar like this one.

Here is the link to register and learn more

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

Best of 2016 weddings

What a year.  2016 had it all and I know all that's left is to be grateful.  Grateful for Suzanne and I to still be here and to look back and say "Life is Beautiful".  The people in these pictures are the ones that make our life possible.  We are so grateful that they trusted us to tell their story and allowed us to make art for them.

Cheers,

Mike

Published : Coronado Destination Wedding for Candy and Sam

Love these two and they are on the Knot today.  You can read all about Candy and Sam's story on the Knot today.  I'll give you a hint it all started with a little office romance.  Love was in the air.  I'm so so grateful I had a chance to know these two beautiful people.  Spending the day with them made me feel so grateful to be in their presence.  

 SHE WANDERS PHOTOGRAPHY

 CAKE

 BRIGHTLY DESIGNED

 LUXE SPECIAL EVENTS

 CLASSIC PARTY RENTALS

 ISARI FLOWER STUDIO + EVENT DESIGN

 LA TAVOLA FINE LINEN RENTAL

 VARIO WEDDINGS

 SOIREE BEAUTY CONCIERGE

4 Things // Happy Sunday Friends

I wanted to share a small piece of Cuba with you and promise that there is so much to come. Instead of 4 things, today I give you 4 pictures. We had so much joy and excitement the last quarter of the year that we took an odd blog hiatus.  Well it's time to get back on track with some goodies heading your way.  Starting with the new website and blog design.  I'm head over hills in love.

xoxo Suzanne 

Inside Out {Video Edition} : More Water + Dessert

Dear Wanderers,

I've been discovering underwater photography for just about three years now. I've mostly learned through experimentation, which meant some pretty funny mistakes like not wearing goggles during my first shoot. In other news, gelato or ice cream?

More on water + dessert in my video chat below. 

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

Inside Out {Video Edition} : All About Water

Hey Wanderers,

We thought it would be fun to share some casual, behind-the-scenes video interviews about us, our process, and other important things like our favorite dessert. :) Talking about ourselves, especially in front of a camera is way out of our comfort zone. However, I think as an artist it's important to share your process with others in hopes that something along the way will spark inspiration. Discovering photography for me felt like coming home. I have never felt a better way to express myself and my vision. I hope you find your way, and I hope these little video chats give you exactly what you need; even if it's just a smile. 

Here is a video about incorporating water into our shoots. Water always seems to inspire us. Our shoots are often near it, in it or under it. Thanks for spending time with us as always. 

xoxo
Suzanne, Mike and the Wanderers

Video Experiment :: The Peyton Family

Hey Wanderers,

Suzanne started experimenting with sound and motion by creating films while she's photographing.  Clients seem to really love this new interpretation of her vision. New year, new experiment.

Here is a video snippet from her shoot with the sweet Peyton family, and their daughter who stole the show. 

She’s curious and kind,
a grin full of teeth,
curly, blonde locks framing the moment.

Wrapped up in her own little world.
Wrapped up in her imagination,
and the love of mom and dad.

She flips and twirls,
rolls and dances around.
Upside down,
right side up.

Unsure footed,
but grounded like a poppy,
wavering around with whimsy and innocence.

Bubbles and chalk art,
mom and dad can play too.
We all crave her carefree heart.

Swinging with her toes touching the clouds,
growing a moment older with every up and down.
Nourished with love,
and endless playtime.

Oh, how do we freeze her forever, right now?

- Jenna, Fellow Wanderer

A Bride's Story // Jenna + Ryan

We love hearing about our client's wedding day from their perspective. It's so fun to tell a complete story with their words and our images. Here are some snippets from a past bride, Jenna, who married her soulmate at St. Brigid Church in Pacific Beach followed by a reception at Scripps Seaside forum. 

"Our wedding was truly the best day. I am still smiling just writing and thinking about it and wish so bad we could go back and be guests at our own wedding! It felt personal and felt genuine to me and Ryan.  I loved the traditional aspect of getting married in the church and the moment of being on my dad’s arm and looking into Ryan’s eyes; they are two best men I know. I loved reading our vows and professing our love to each other in front of our best family and friends. I loved taking photos at the beach with everyone and having FUN! That was awesome. I loved that in every direction I looked all day there were family, friends and people from all different seasons of our lives. I loved just being with Ryan and looking at each other exclaiming, 'You are my husband!' and 'You are my wife!' " - Jenna

Describe the wedding, what was the style of the day? 
It was simple, natural and stunning. The weather was beautiful in the morning with a gorgeous golden sunrise and then became more overcast during photos and some light sprinkles of good luck rain in the afternoon. It was overwhelming, exciting, JOYOUS, loving - it felt like US. 

What did people wear? 
Girls wore pretty bright dresses with sweaters. Some dresses too short, some just right, some long and flowing. Navy,gray, or black suits for the guys.

Did you have a coordinator?  Was it rad?  Or if you didn't was there any moments you wish you did? 
I did everything leading up to the wedding, but having a day-of coordinator was a huge lifesaver. I didn’t have to think or worry about anything and we floated on a cloud all day.

Honeymoon?  Right away or you've got a year to do it? 
We went to Sedona, AZ for three days after the wedding. It was so nice to relax and unwind amidst the beautiful red rocks! We stayed at L’Auberge which was the perfect spot with little cottages and a creek side restaurant. We went to New Zealand for a full honeymoon a few months later which was EPIC. 

What was your first dance song? 
It was a mash-up of  "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis and "Whatever It Is" by Zac Brown Band. Our DJ/Musician Michael Tiernan was unforgettable. 

Who did your florals and what were they?  What was your favorite part of the florals? 
Plenty of Petals. They were free-flowing and natural looking, but stunning. They were pastel colored with pops of bright colors. I loved my bouquet and also the long garland of eucalyptus and bunches of flowers on our sweetheart table.

Did you do a first look or wait to meet at the end of the aisle? 
We met at the end of the isle. I could see Ryan's face when I peered through the window right before my dad and I walked down the isle. We were both so nervous, but so excited to see each other. He accidentally tried to take me away from my dad before I could hug my dad or mom!

Where did you get your shoes? 
My mom found them on sale from Nordstrom’s and I was in love with them. My favorite color is green. They had to be green.

Did you do the chicken dance? 
No, but we did a conga line to locomotion!

Did you toss the bouquet?  Any funny stories there? 
I did! My sisters friend Cassie who came from Texas caught it. She literally didn’t put it down all night, took it with her on the plane home, and then framed it. She was pretty excited.

What song got everyone dancing? 
"Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars. 

Did the flower girl/ring bearer make it down the aisle? 
Yes, but there is a baptismal font in the middle of the isle (a small barrier to getting down) and when they got to it they didn’t know what to do and started doing loops around it! Finally someone from the front called them to walk the rest of the way down. 

What is the funniest story from your day? 
One of my favorite moments was right after the Best Man’s speech. Mark (best man) had talked about how him and Ryan (groom) were pretty nerdy in high school. He mentioned a time in the car on the way home from a football game that they made up hand motions to the Tom Petty song "Running Down a Dream". Right when Mark put the mic down to end his speech, the DJ in perfect timing cued up the song and everyone cheered for them to do the hand motions! It was hilarious and totally impromptu which made it even better.

I also forgot my veil at the Crystal Pier Cottages (where we stayed) and right before it was time to get everyone together to start walking down the aisle I realized it! My sister’s husband bolted to the car, to the pier and had the veil back to the church in less than seven minutes flat. We made it.

Lastly, I got food poisoning on Thursday night before our wedding and was in the ER getting IV’s on Friday morning. The doctor told me it was his mission to get me to the church on time! Haha it was not ideal but Ryan really had to prove his vows in those last 48 hours (in sickness and in health!).

At home in Cardiff - The Peyton Family

Persephone is funny.  How can someone is such a small package be hilarious?  I had the chance to spend the afternoon with this creative family and capture some of the toddler magic.  If you keep scrolling to the bottom of the post you can see a short film as well.  Yes that's what I said, a short film!

xoxo Suzanne

[vimeo 196489278 w=640 h=352]

Tara and Jason Equestrian engagement

Tara and Jason won me over on a rainy Sunday in San Juan Capistrano.  I loved meeting their family and getting to walk the property where their wedding will take place.  Donna Urban introduced me to Tara, Jason and Tara's mom and we went to scout the ceremony and reception locations.  I loved taking the backroads on Tara's family property and getting to envision what the big day will be like.  I even got to meet Tara's grandfather.  Although it sprinkled and sometimes downright poured we made the best of it and got some beautiful images.  How cute are their dogs!  I couldn't be more excited to meet the rest of the family, see Tara in her wedding dress, and watch how Donna transforms one of the most lush green spaces into something perfect for Jason and Tara.  xoxo Suzanne

Street Photography -Copenhagen, San Miguel De Allende and Guadalajara

can't explain why these images go together.  They are a slow arc in the change of how i'm seeing things.  For so long I've lived in the beautiful watercolor world of backlighting.  It's defined me for so long that I'm struggling to find my voice and certainly how to find my new way to process images.  It takes me a while to know if I like something.  But every so often I'll find a shot and know it's just right for me.  I'm still looking for words to explain it.  I'm not sure how so many ideas can fit into one category but it seems to be really honest for me.  I wonder if I'm categorizing everything that isn't backlighting into one thing.  But I know it's more than that.  There's a certain feeling I get in my gut when I stumble upon a little gem and I feel so grateful immediately - a quiet happiness spreads and it makes me want to stay out side and shoot all day and never do paper work again.  I think in so many ways my love affair with photography is just beginning.

xoxo Suzanne

Happy Thanksgiving 2016

We are thankful for the mommas and papas out there.  Here is one of our favorite playlists from what used to be Songza and is now Google play music.  Everyone at Shewanders wishes you love and time with your loved ones this weekend.  Endless Cheer! From Suzanne, Mike, Hanna, Vanessa, and Jenna.

4 Things : Out of Office - Hawaii

Hey Wanderers,

This week, Mike has been photographing some rad parties while Suzanne headed to Hawaii with her cousin to photograph some national park beauties. #CousinTrip

Photographing and filming: Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Dreaming of: A more united country and a resurgence in the civil rights movement.

WatchingGood Girls Revolt on Amazon.  What a surprising find.  It's an inspiring gem that reminds us of how far we have come.

Gazing at: My cousin Amber loves waterfalls. She has a crazy deep love affair with them.  So we have been chasing them around the island and filling our hearts with their wild beauty and strength.

xoxo
Suzanne & Mike