Simply Catherine

I have an idea for a new project: Being Human.
Its premise is straightforward.
Business professionals are people, generally speaking.
They may have titles, roles, and responsibilities.
But who they are goes way beyond workplace ephemera.
And it’s not a carefully guarded secret, either.
You just have to ask the right questions.
So, meet Catherine, a communications professional.
A writer, musician, and, well, read on…

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When you grow up, what kind of person do you want to be?

I want to be that 80-year old or 90-year old who’s still riding her bicycle or running along the shoreline or hiking through redwoods as she gets older. She’s full of zest for life. She surrounds herself with people who love and inspire her. She’s radiant, humble, wise, and present — deeply present — to the hum and flow of each moment. She loves the world, in all its brokenness and heartache and still sees its glory shine through.

What is one question you would ask a fortune teller?

Am I going to be alright? Am I going to make it to 70 or 80 or 90 years old and still have my body parts working well and be cared for and surrounded in love? Am I going to be happy? Will I have done all or most of what was on my “bucket list?” Will I die a peaceful death and leave this place at least a little better than when I came in? Imagine how life could be lived if we knew that we were going to be alright no matter what. Nothing could stop us from pursuing our dreams.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Sitting in sunshine on a warm day, surrounded by giant trees or the ocean or some magical outdoor setting. The sun on my skin. The smell of the salt air or eucalyptus or thick earth surrounding me. Listening to ethereal music. Sipping a phenomenal cappuccino. And eating the most heavenly slice of pie. Mixed berry pie, with billowy whipped cream. There must be pie for it to be perfect happiness.

Contact me for kids, teens, family, and corporate photography in the Bay Area.

The Great Untried

Creativity is hard. Self-criticism is easy. And slumps are inevitable as a result.

To challenge this dynamic, I’m doing something different.

When I’m on a shoot—whether it’s corporate or family photography—I do the thing that comes easily and naturally to me. It yields predictable results in a style and aesthetic clients expect.

Like this image of an executive on Maiden Lane in the City, snapped a few weeks ago.

neilson corporate photography bay area san francisco san jose executive portrait chime maiden lane

After I’ve done the easy thing, I force myself to do the hard thing. Something I haven’t tried before. Something new. Different. This, for instance.

neilson corporate photography bay area san francisco san jose executive portrait chime maiden lane black white

Not bad. In fact, pretty good, all things considered.

You might be surprised to learn that I made the image outside. Just ten yards from the spot where I snapped the first image. Both were taken on Maiden Lane, bustling with colors, shapes, and motion.

Can I experiment, I asked my subject.

You bet, he said.

He sat in a chair in the middle of Maiden Lane at high noon.

I stopped down till ambient light went black on my camera sensor. Then I placed an off-camera flash directly in front of him. Next I slowly dialed up the flash power till his silhouette magically appeared, and I got my shot.

Will the client use the image on their company website? No, probably not. But it’s an arresting effect, which I can now produce in the future with confidence.

I eagerly await the next, great untried!

Contact me for kids, teens, family, and corporate photography in the Bay Area.


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Call him Aaron.
He hails from the Midwest.
A young, ambitious IT professional,
He’s looking for a new kind of headshot.
We meet at Crema on The Alameda.
We talk about work and life.
There’s something different about him.
He’s polite in an old-fashioned way.
He tells me he’s not photogenic,
That he doesn’t like the way he looks in photographs.
Not only is he considerate, he’s likable, too.
Quiet and introspective,
He wants his portrait to have a cool-hip-creative vibe.
I tell him about an overpass with blue circles.
Something I’ve been eyeing for months.
He’s game.
We release the Birds
And fly through downtown San Jose.
As the sun reclines in the west,
The light is paradoxical under the overpass,
Both mottled and consistently even.
We don’t overthink it.
We hang out.
We shoot.

Contact me for corporate and family photography in the Bay Area.


creative corporate photography bay area san jose los gatos executive portraits headshotsOriginality isn’t easy.
Case in point.
I’m on a corporate shoot with my client.
We’re having a blast.
Shooting like crazy.
Then this.
I want something different, she says.
You know, something unique.
Well, I like creative challenges, I say.
I pause, I ponder, I hatch a one-of-a-kind idea.
I ask for her mobile phone.
She gives it to me.
And I put it to good use.
Then I put my camera to good use.
A woman,
A woman represented,
And a woman represented is represented again.
The mind would reel if the image weren’t so straightforward.
Look at it again.
Not bad, not bad at all.
Well, later that night, after I go home,
It takes one minute of sleuthing on the web to discover that my “original” idea has been done countless times before.
Oh, well.
At least I got heart.
And I’m in good company.

Contact me for Bay Area corporate and family photography. 


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I’m a simple man.
I have few hopes and expectations.
I do my best to resist the temptation of prayer.
I’m resigned to a world that revolves around no one.
Still, I have moments of weakness.
When that happens, I bargain with fate.
I make promises in exchange for special consideration.
I vow to exercise more.
I vow to eat more vegetables,
To think more wholesome thoughts,
To treat people with kindness and respect, always.
All in the fervent hope that one day,
In my next or fourth or fifth life (I’m patient, you see),
I’ll return as a man who stands
In unshaven glory
Before a bar that’s loaded with bourbon.

Contact me for creative Bay Area corporate and candid family photography.

Call Him Anthony

Portrait photography man creative director

I call him Salty.
But his name is Anthony.
And when you’re trying capture something right and true,
It’s good to use proper names.
So this is Anthony.
One of the great gifts of photography is that, every now and then,
You witness something deep and abiding.
When that happens, it’s an incredible privilege.
The mask slips and, for a brief moment,
You catch a man reckoning with some great internal joy or pain—or both.


Meet V for Vinita.
She leads marketing for a startup in the City.
Yep, that City, the city by the Bay.
Often my favorite images don’t make the cut.
They’re off.
They’re not polished.
And they’re not worth sharing with the client.
Still, these outcast photographs mean a lot to me.
They capture fleeting moments of joy, surprise, laughter, happiness.
Which are they very things that result in photographs that do make the final cut.
Like this one.

Portrait of an executive in sf vinita