Category Archives: Review

Tree Woman Project In Review

A hearty Thank You to everyone who attended the Arts In Nature Festival last weekend.

©Holli with an i photography

It was such a fun experience to not only show off a project I’ve worked so hard on over the past 10 months, but to also give a little bit of the “Tree Woman” experience by braiding hair and making crowns. Here is the first family group to get their crowns on to enjoy the festival in fashion:

Family of nature lovers!
Family of nature lovers!

The cabin exhibit was a sensory experience: I created a soundtrack from recordings during hikes this summer to capture the sounds of the forest. We added branches from our friend’s tree farm on the Olympic Peninsula to the shelves and walls of the cabin which surprised people the most: the pleasant sound of the trees! The visual part I worked the longest on for ways to display the Tree Women in a way that had variety. From tiny wood mounted prints to large canvasses and extra large prints hung from clothes pins…here are a few phone photos:

Tree Woman Project exhibit
The entrance of the cabin.
A braided flower crown.
Canvass mounted portraits.

And a few photos of me with a couple of me and the Tree Women as well as with the Art Program manager, Yeggy.




The project was a success thanks to my wonderful community. I am thankful for everyone who help me pursue my crazy idea. Each model was a friend or acquaintance. One of them I had only met through Facebook and the parent community. Another I met at a model session a month before. My Mom and cousin helped make crowns and braid hair on the second day of the festival, which was wonderful since it seems twice as busy as the day before. And, the supplies of birch branches, willow and hydrangeas were from my family and friend’s gardens. The tree branches for the cabin came from our friend’s tree farm.

– – – –

My favorite moment from the event itself was a conversation I had with a boy who I believe was about 8 years old. You see, I had imagined the show would strike a cord in the imaginations of women, but it really engaged many men and people of all ages.

Boy: “What is that smell that’s so good?”

Me: “That’s the smell of the trees.”

Boy: “But why do they smell so good?”

Me: “It might be the type of tree. (knowing they were Noble Fir “Christmas tree “branches)”

Boy: “No, I mean, why do they smell like that in there (cabin) but not out here (outside)?”

Me: “The tree smells stronger when you cut it. Out here the trees haven’t been cut. The branches in there have and that is why they smell so much stronger for us.”

Being in Seattle and surrounded by amazing programs that get city kids into nature, I never would have imagined giving a boy the first opportunity to see what a tree really smells like.

– – – – –

I wish that every Tree Woman model could have attended, and it’s difficult to find another venue that could provide another such experience. The best I can do for now is share a slideshow of the exhibit photos with the sound track…enjoy!

New Year, New Direction!

FBCover14ReviewNot all of the portraits and special events I had the pleasure of capturing in 2014 fit in this collage – but it’s a good representation of what the year has held.

Since August 2014, when I decided to pursue portraiture and not solely fine art nature photography, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for each portrait I had the pleasure of capturing.

What a year of learning and growing! I honestly love to learn so it has been a fun year, even thought those learning curves brought a lot of self-doubt. I am sure I will always be my own worst critique. But, I am proud of what I can do to capture each of you…here’s a peek at the ways I’ve grown in a year:


Onward to 2015!

Changing Focus: This will be my year of growing the Portraiture side of my business. I will keep capturing beauty in fine art photography, but will only be showing that in the Etsy shop. In an effort to hold myself accountable and actually get new work up, I will be rotating the photographs in there quarterly to match the season.

Building Business: One of the most important things I’ve learned last year was about how much I love to collaborate and help small business owners tell their story. So, while I will still be offering portraits to families, and pursuing my dream to learn non-profit photography with my Bolivia trip, I’ll also be helping local businesses.

Keep In Touch: I honestly haven’t been consistent with my email newsletter. Now, I have to confess that I will miss the art shows and craft fairs, because that was the only chance I had to connect with those of you who love my art photography. Those two things will mean that I will keep in touch more often via email!

To a brighter 2015,



Tis the Season!

It’s the time of year that may fill you with joy and warmth as you gather with friends and family to celebrate the holidays. Or it may fill you with dread and stress as you painfully figure out what to buy to express your love and appreciation. It doesn’t help that everyone, everywhere is having a sale and telling you to “buy now, don’t miss out, last chance to save big!” That can get the jolliest person to feel a bit irritable. So, let’s look at cuteness for a second…



Did that help? I hoped so! Kewpie dolls are like Gnomes – you either love them or hate them. I am hoping you love them, and that they make you smile as much as they do me!

This year, I decided to not join the masses in offering large discounts and trying to get you to “buy now” – instead I spent time with my family and have decided to just let you know that I am grateful, and tell you what’s shaking up for 2015.

Putting art on the back burner…

My fine art photography business is winding down. I have one last holiday pop-up shop on December 11th here in West Seattle. After this, I’m focusing all of my efforts on photographing people. I will keep my Etsy shop alive if you ever do want to get something fun with a photograph on it as a gift or to liven up your home. But, crunching the numbers for all of my sales so far, I have made about $22 from Etsy sales after all of my fees and costs were paid, about $70 from the art shows after booth fees and gallery portions were taken out. As I look forward to this last show, I am left hoping to sell at least enough to cover printing up some new cards and magnet sets. On average, artists take home about third of what their selling prices are listing.

Putting people first…

Last month, as I was preparing to say a final farewell to my Aunt who passed away from cancer, I took some time to go through my old film photographs. I saw how my first photographic focus was on people. Even with film costing money, I snapped hundreds of images of my family and friends. It’s really my first love, and so only natural that I return to it. The reason I started doing Fine Art photography was because my time was very limited with two small kids. The time has been well-spent as I have learned a lot about the local art scene, and met a wonderful variety of local artists.

I hope to merge the old love I have of people with a more fine art touch as I embark on photography as a service. The struggle of course will be to decided on what to focus on exactly. Most business books and experts recommend sticking to one thing. I’m not good at picking out one thing. I love people. Whether it’s capturing a laugh between two friends at a wedding or the spark that shines on someone’s face during a portrait session, I enjoy it all.

Stay tuned, dear readers, more changes as we ring in the New Year!


Holli with an i

p.s. Yes, I sell gift certificates if you should want to give someone special a portrait session.

Behind the Scenes Portraits: Studio Lighting

Almost exactly one month after taking The Lighting Challenge: Natural vs. Studio lighting course, I booked several hours at Urban Light Studio to practice what I learned. I was giddy, nervous and excited – like the first day of school or something. Part of my nervousness came from my photography posse: I had a Make Up Artist, a fellow photographer, models and my kids along for the sessions!

Erin at Studio 3 Cubed captured me in action!
©Studio 3 Cubed Erin at Studio 3 Cubed captured me in action!
JJPortraits_HolliMargell 157 (1)
Blue eyed beauties!


Getting down at baby-level...
©Studio 3 Cubed Getting down at baby-level…
JJPortraits_HolliMargell 157
I love how the black backdrop highlights their gorgeous hair and eyes.
JJPortraits_HolliMargell 158
Such sweet smiles!
©Studio 3 Cubed Behind the scenes…
Yes, that's my girl helping to make the baby smile!
©Studio 3 Cubed
Yes, that’s my girl helping to make the baby smile!

The experience was so much fun that I want to host a photographer’s playdate there sometime soon. A huge thank you to Erin at Studio 3 Cubed for being such a wonderful assistant and capturing these behind-the scenes photos!

And, I have learned that I need to work on my editing and lighting skills. I really love how these portraits turned out, but I haven’t nailed it since they don’t have the same natural light feel that my other portraits possess. I want to have consistency in my work whether in the studio or at the park.

P.S. You must check out her gorgeous beauty portraiture.

Seattle Photographers Headshot Swap

In the Seattle area there are literally hundreds of photographers. It can feel a bit competitive. And among them, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a handful that feel more like kindred spirits than competitors. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting another one.

Melanie of Rio Jean Photography met up with me at the Olympic Sculpture Park for a Head Shot Swap. We met online through a Seattle Photographers group and within minutes of meeting in person for the first time, we bonded quickly over photographing each other.

As I was photographing her, guiding her to different expressions, it was clear that not smiling is a challenge for her. And, her smile lights up the world around her.

MelanieHeadShot_HolliMargell 1 (1)

MelanieHeadShot_HolliMargell 2 (1)

MelanieHeadShot_HolliMargell 5 (1)

Her sweet little girl came along for the fun, so I had to snap a quick shot of them together too.

MelanieHeadShot_HolliMargell 3 (1)

It’s funny how nervous you can get once you step in front of the camera. Melanie is a warm, bubbly person who put my nerves at ease as she helped me pose for the camera.

I’m so thrilled with her work that I think these are my very favorite portraits of me! Please do take a peek at her side of the story and my new head shots at Rio Jean Photography.


Looking back at 2014: Thank you!

First I want to thank everyone for a busy year.

I love the idea of reflecting back, and will share how the year went for any other photographers out there or others who wonder how it works…so without further ado, I give you my 2013 Annual Review: 

1. Expansion: adding photography service

The year started out with me doing my paper work and filing taxes. All that tedious work gave me a clear picture: I made a little bit more money doing photography as a service than I did as an art form. Without advertising myself as a portrait photographer, the work appeared. So, I started the year with a desire to put more effort into honing my Portrait skills and dividing the business into art and photography services.

This was a fun year to learn more about posing people to look their best, and market my portrait photography. While I had high hopes for this new leg of the business, it again made almost the same amount of money as my Art Photography ($25 less to be specific). Despite not making as much money as I had set as a goal, I did confirm that I love working with people and capturing family memories.

2. Growth: getting my art out there

I wanted to share my art photography outside of West Seattle. And, I did! Granted it was at a one afternoon Holiday and Gift show, but still. I’m happy to have met that goal. And, not only that, but I showed it at 6 different events, which is 2 more than the previous year!  With that many “holiday” or “art” sale events under my belt, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve found the perfect fit for my work. My art photography is neither edgy or cute. It’s very modern but fun. And, while I did sell many cards, magnet sets and some calendars, my print sales were seriously lacking. Makes me wonder if people buy prints any more!

Despite not seeing much of an increase in sales of my art photography, I can say that I tried new things, and discovered some things I love. For example, I had someone want a piece for their bedroom. Since they didn’t know exactly what they wanted, I brought my portfolio and after looking at their space, suggested several pieces. They loved what they got, and I loved finding the right fit for them. And, I’m grateful for my early childhood watching as my Mom during her work interior decorating.

{Moving forward}

For 2014, I aim to grow my portrait business and the art photography so that they provide some income. Ever since I started in 2011, I’ve been working on a cash system where I don’t buy new work unless I’ve either sold enough to pay for it or have a show coming up and estimate a certain amount of sales. I haven’t earned a profit yet…and I’m declaring 2014 the year of sustainability for the business. I aim to generate $20,000.00 from a combination of my photography service and art.

I love both so much that I simply cannot pick only one to focus on – and as a result, I may be changing up the website a bit to give them dedicated space!

Here are my dream goals for the business:

– Show my art photography in a gallery

– Open a studio for my portrait photography

– Publish a photography book

Now, onward and upward! Thank you all so much for coming along and helping me grow.



Rainbow of Life Show: Thank you + Review

My Dad and Me, he gave me my first camera, a Polaroid when I was 10. Photo by Joe LeBlanc

The best part of the show was hearing from a cousin, “Wow, Holli, I didn’t know you did this!” It was fun to see so many friends and family members come out to see my work: big and pretty and up on a wall. The comments and compliments of strangers was even more delightful, because they didn’t have to like my work. Being a part of the West Seattle Art Walk was a little dream come true.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Opening Reception for The Rainbow of Life Photography Show. Thanks to all who have purchased a piece or print, we have raised $367.50 for the West Seattle Food Bank! And, those who brought non-perishable food donations – we’ve filled the donation bin up almost half way.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see the show, I’ve done my best put together a slide show of the work – at the bottom of this post. Now, onto a Review of the experience so far… Continue reading

2011 Blogging Review

The stats made my blog an annual report. It’s really fun to see what posts were most popular, where you dear readers are from and which posts yielded the most comments.

This is really fascinating considering the changes I’ve made to the direction of this blog, and encourages my efforts on!

Thanks again for reading…now for your curious eyes, the report:

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Spontaneous Raspberry Picking and Making Granola: Reviews

Last weekend we went camping. My husband’s folks, brother and sister-in law joined us in the North Cascades. I successfully tested my home-made marshmallows on them (thumbs up all around).

To my delight our trip took us right by  The Cascadian Farm (regionally local company selling berries, granola and jam). I love their jam and berries. A cute little stand sells Ice Cream made on-site, Coffee, fresh berries and snacks. They also have U-Pick berry fields. While we stopped to enjoy a smoothie (they easily obliged to omit the dairy for our little girl), I confessed to my husband, that I really wished I’d planned ahead to pick berries (at $2.25lb for Organic Raspberries it’s a deal!). He did his super-hero thinking and found an empty container from our camping supplies to use. They do supply the cardboard boxes you normally see at stores, but I wanted something to reuse.

Our kids were a lot of help, and picking went quickly (granted our daughter may have eaten more than she picked). With loads of gigantic, sun-ripened Raspberries all around us, it was hard to stop. And we only picked one row. But, we had plenty, and I didn’t to have so many that they’d smash each other. We had enough for a frozen stash, smoothies and to try a home-made Granita recipe.

The experience was so much fun, that we agreed it would be worth a day trip next year to restock our Raspberry stash.  At about an hour and a half drive from Seattle proper, it’d make a wonderful day trip.

Granola and Granola Bars Review

As I stood in line to pay for our 5.5lbs of Raspberries, I scanned the products for sale: Granola, Granola Bars, Chips, Salsa, Crackers, etc. I was curious about the Granola Bars since I had just made my very own for our trip. The ingredient list included over 7 things, including some “natural” preservatives. I understand that they are needed for a long shelf-life, but our home-made batch never lasts more than a week. And, from my experience, fresh tastes best.

Home made Granola!

I used a recipe from Kitchen Stewardship‘s eCookbook, Healthy Snacks To Go. The book cost $6.95, and so far, I think it’s paid for itself. I’ve made the Granola and Granola Bars. The Granola recipe takes all of 20 minutes to prepare. Seriously, you mix together butter/Ghee/Coconut Oil, Honey and a little water with Oats plus whatever else you want like nuts and dried fruits. You can do this while your oven pre-heats to 350 degrees. Then, you toast it for 10-15 minutes, mixing it half way during the bake time.  Granola Bars take a little more time, but are mostly the same ingredients with a slight change to the ratios. The only change I’ve made to the Granola bars is to use less sweetener.

Now, I know there are a lot of Granola recipes out there on the web. I’d even like to modify this one using Olive Oil and baking at a lower temperature. The reason why I used this recipe on my first try is because Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a long track record on the blogging scene, and I was sure this recipe had been tried many times over. I scanned all the other 20 recipes, and know I will be spending time trying them all out as we get ready for the school year. Really, I’m excited to recommend this handy book that includes gluten-free, dairy-free and other “allergy free” options, easily labeled. So, if you want to check it out and buy it, here you go: Healthy Snacks To Go (affiliate link so I make $2 if you buy it). Or you can just wait until I review each one and rave about them:)

Do you have any snack recipes I should try out? Please do share! Bonus points for dairy-free recipes.

Sprouted Mung Bean Review

Pre-soaked and dried Mung Beans

I was first introduced to Mung Beans as an ingredient in a Traditional Chinese Soup for soothing a sore throat among other things. Since then, I’ve started using it in other ways trying to integrate it into our diet. The soup calls for sprouting the Mung Beans before cooking with it, and after trying to simply cook them like regular beans, I can tell you they taste better pre-sprouted first. It isn’t very hard to let 1/2 cup of Mung beans sit in a bowl on the counter to sprout, but does require planning ahead since they need about 12 hours to do so.

When I saw Pre-Sprouted, dried Mung Beans at our local Food Co-op, I was excited. The package promised only 5 minutes to cook. And, they were from a company I already love. Their Quinoa is the least expensive around, especially since I can buy it at Costco.

Here is what I thought after trying them out:

The first try yielded a grainy, almost not done yet texture. So, I tried cooking them twice as long. Fail. None of us liked the grainy texture or lack of flavor. Mung Beans have a specific light flavor similar only slightly to Edamame. I tried again soaking them overnight. Fail. So, I give up, and am back to sprouting them myself. Plus, they are a bit cheaper. The Pre-Sprouted bag cost over $5, but would have saved hours of planning ahead. Dried Mung Beans cost slightly over $2/lb, so you get a lot for your money.

Mung beans eaten with sauteed vegetables, Olive Oil and salt.

Lesson learned: Mung Beans are best when I do the work at home (not that letting them sit on the counter is much work, but planning ahead can be).

p.s. I love cooking from scratch, but also love finding ways to cut the cooking time down.