A Few of My Favorite Things | Chanel Coco Mademoiselle

My sister-in-law recently introduced me to what is now my favorite perfume on the planet, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle!  Of any fragrance I've ever worn, from my Bath & Body Works Sheer Freesia days in high school to Philosophy's Amazing Grace on my wedding day, the soft and clean scent is my favorite thing about this perfume!  

Read More

Friday Introductions | Shaina Lee Photography

Happy Friday, friends!  It's been a while since I've introduced myself to you, my wonderful readers!  

I entered into the wedding industry when I was in college, and instantly fell in love with it (you can imagine all of the wonderful inspiration I came across in those years leading up to my own wedding)!  I married my husband about a year and a half ago on a rainy October day.  Arturo proposed with a flash mob in Central Park (I promise to write a future blog post on this!), one of our favorite spots to visit when we spend the day in New York City.  I'm a hopeless romantic, and am a sucker for a good romcom (*cough* When Harry Met Sally *cough*).  One of my wedding couples last year reminded me of the couples in that movie, which made photographing their wedding even more exciting!  I also love it when the USA network runs a Modern Family marathon.  I mean come on, who doesn't love a good Phil Dunphy quote, or some fashion sense from Cam Tucker?!

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Big Island, Hawaii | Green Sand Beach, South Point

As much as I love traveling to NYC, my husband and I enjoy traveling to Hawaii even more!  We like to think of it as our second home, until we decide to pick up and move there!  It's unlike anything I've seen, or anywhere else I've ever traveled to.  If you haven't been there before, start making your travel plans now.  I promise, you won't want to leave!  The scenery is breathtaking, the food is delicious and the people are amazing.  On the Big Island, small business is hugely supported by locals and tourists alike, something I truly enjoy seeing.

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer

Aside from photography, I love the art of hand lettering!  I discovered this passion of mine last year, and haven't stopped since.  This year, I've started offering hand lettering and modern calligraphy services for weddings (guest escort cards, wedding signage, etc).  A good DIY project is always fun for me (another future blog post on the marquee letters I made for my wedding will soon be in the works!), which is why I have a field day anytime I walk into a craft store.  I can always count on my cat and office mascot, Goober, to come in and bat some papers around when I'm working on a project of any kind!

There you have it, a bit more about me, the photographer and designer at Shaina Lee Photography.  As a small business owner, I wear many hats, both in and out of the office!  I look forward to meeting and working with many new, wonderful, exciting people on this journey of entrepreneurship.  In the future, I hope to be fortunate enough to continue to travel to new and exciting places (Barcelona, Spain and Rome, Italy are at the top my list)!  

What are some things you enjoy doing, outside of your day job?  Where do you like to travel?  Who do you spend time with?  I'd love to hear!

Snowball Fight! | Connecticut Winter

I hope you all stayed safe and warm during this weekend's snowstorm!  Much to my excitement, Winter Storm Jonas left us with about 12" of snow here in southern Connecticut.  It was our first REAL snow of the winter season, and I couldn't have been happier to welcome it!  Yesterday, my girls were stoked to get all bundled up in their new gear to play in the snow (with a few snowballs tossed back and forth at each other).  I figured it was the perfect time for a mini family documentary session!

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Family Documentary Photography | Winterstorm Jonas
Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Family Documentary Photography | Winterstorm Jonas
Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Family Documentary Photography | Winterstorm Jonas
Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Family Documentary Photography | Winterstorm Jonas
Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer | Family Documentary Photography | Winterstorm Jonas

Friday Introductions: Meet the Chick Behind the Camera

To many of you reading this, we've only interacted via Facebook or Instagram.  Today's blog post is written for those who are looking to see what I'm up to when I'm not photographing a wedding or sitting behind my desk editing photos!  

Throughout high school, I just knew that I was going to major in graphic design, no matter where I decided to go to college.  As it turns out, I was wrong, and applied for photography programs at the beginning of my senior year. In August 2008, I started my freshman year at Western Connecticut State University.  I photographed my first wedding in the Spring of 2010, during my sophomore year of college, and instantly fell in love with the industry.   We have a cat named Lucy (who doubles as my office mascot), though she mostly goes by Goober.  My husband, Arturo, and I have a goal to relocate to Hawaii within the next ten years, where I CANNOT WAIT to photograph tropical destination weddings (as well as the lush landscapes of the Big Island)!

I also love to brag about my wonderful husband and two step daughters.  Marisa is 11, Delilah is 6, and they both keep us laughing constantly!  Marisa is a lover of books and reading.  For those of you who are fans of the television show, The Big Bang Theory, we describe her as being like Sheldon Cooper; she's very literal in her way of thinking.  Delilah is an exact replica of her father, in tiny human form.  She has Arturo's personality and sense of humor; she is definitely his little clone.  And those dimples!  They've probably gotten her out of much more trouble than we'll ever know. 

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer
Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Photographer

Arturo is my soulmate.  I admire his optimistic view on life, and his readiness to take on new challenges.  Oh, and can this guy cook (he definitely puts me to shame in the kitchen)!  For my birthday this week, he made empanadas for the first time, which couldn't have been better!  Since meeting him a few years back, he's introduced me to so many delicious Puerto Rican foods. I don't know how I lived the first two decades of my life without all of this deliciousness!  Arturo is truly one of the most motivated, hardworking people I know.  He does everything in his power to be the best he can be for the girls and me.  My husband believes in my crazy ideas, and is the one who pushed me to pursue my photography career full time last August.  He's my biggest supporter and my partner in crime.  Without this amazing man by my side, I know I wouldn't be where I am today.

So there you have it, a bit more background on the chick behind the camera.  Happy Friday!

Want to learn more?  Click here!

It's Good To Be Alive

Today is my 26th birthday, and although I'm sipping on a giant mug of hot green tea to get this post-holiday cold to back off as I write this, I couldn't have more of a sense of happiness and fulfillment as I enter my 27th year of life!  Within the last couple of months, I heard a song that Andy Grammer sings called, Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah), which I absolutely love and can relate to more than I realized.  Just over five months ago, I left my day job to pursue my photography career full time, and I'm now finally feeling like I'm making a breakthrough in this crazy adventure of creative entrepreneurship.  2016 is giving me lots to look forward to, with many wedding-related projects coming up.  I know there are still countless challenges ahead, but I'm ready, because it's good to be alive!

Hello There, 2016!

Happy New Year!  Last night, Arturo and I rang in 2016 with family and friends.  Like many others, we've talked about what we want to accomplish in this new year, both together and individually.  We talked about our businesses, goals we're setting and our travel plans for the road trip we plan to take along the California coast in October to celebrate our second anniversary!  In 2016, I want to be sure to step out of my comfort zone, and do things I more than likely wouldn't have really thought to do a year ago in 2015.  Three of my biggest goals for this year focused around my business:  

I will get to know more people in the creative industry.  
I will continue to build up the wedding photography side of my business.  
I will submit my work for the first time into a photography contest.

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Wedding Photographer | Rising Tide Society | Community Over Competition

1. Meet and network with more of my fellow creatives.
I'm part of a nationwide (which has now grown into a worldwide) group of creatives called The Rising Tide Society.  It promotes the idea of community over competition among creatives of all types: photographers, calligraphers, graphic designers, branding specialists, painters, illustrators, potters, jewelry makers and more.  I've already made several beautiful and wonderful friends from this group.  I've worked with some, and enjoyed a trip to New York City with another!  I plan to work or collaborate with other creatives in my area, especially those in the wedding industry, weather it be florists, calligraphers, other photographers and maybe even some venues!  There are thousands of us in this society of creative business owners, so why not meet with more of them over a cup of coffee and chat about life as total boss ladies (or boss dudes!)?  As a creative professional (though what I'm about to say really applies to any industry that you're in), it's so wonderful and refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people.  Think of it as being a cheer squad for each other; you're supported by others who share the same fears, joys, stresses and excitement that you do.  I can honestly say that up until I joined in on the fun and resources that The Rising Tide Society has to offer, I didn't have a true sense of success.  Now that I've found my "tribe", I feel as if I'm succeeding even more as a photographer and small business owner!  

Shaina Lee Photography | Connecticut Wedding Photographer

2. Make wedding photography my only specialty (eventually). 
Currently, I label myself as a "wedding and lifestyle photographer".  The "lifestyle" part covers the wonderful families and children I photograph.  Though I love working with families and kids to capture those tiny little moments between a brother and sister, or a mother and her daughter, my heart is in the wedding photography side of my business.  This doesn't mean that I'll phase out my lifestyle sessions completely, it just means that I'll take on fewer of those sessions. There are so many places around the Fairfield County area, as well as much of Connecticut (and beyond!) that are incredibly romantic to photograph two people in love; one of my favorites, which you'll see from my Instagram feed (@shainaleephoto), is Waveny Park in New Canaan, CT.  I look forward to the day I photograph a wedding there at the Waveny House!  I'm a romantic nut, and love every aspect about a wedding day-- I even miss planning my own wedding sometimes!  Seeing all of the newly engaged couples over the holidays and New Year's Eve weddings brought me back to all of the love and excitement I shared with my husband during his flash mob proposal in Central Park and our wedding day.  I want to focus on photographing those same emotions and moments that any couple in love enjoys.  It's these things that makes me feel so lucky and fortunate to do what I do.  There are fewer things in life that two people will share that will be bigger and more impactful than a wedding day.  Capturing the love, joy and romance that a couple shares, whether it be during their engagement session, on their wedding day, or even afterward, that's what makes my heart sing!

3. Enter the 2016 Shoot & Share Photo Contest.
In the years that I've been a photographer, I've never submitted my work into a photography contest.  Each photograph in the Shoot & Share Photo Contest is judged on its own merit, because the photographer's name is never displayed.  Additionally, the contestants are the judges!  Each photo is given equal opportunity for votes.  I'm not particularly competitive, and I'm almost positive that is why I've never entered a contest.  But like I said, this year is going to be one of change for me both personally and professionally, and I couldn't be more excited to submit my photography later this month!

So now that I've really put my heart out on my blog for the first time ever for just anyone to read, come at me 2016!  I'm more than ready to take on the exciting challenges and future achievements ahead!  Happy New Year to all, with much love, laughter and happiness.

Mr. & Mrs. Diaz | Year One

Hawaii.  If you don't know already, Arturo and I are totally obsessed with it!  We WILL be moving there (eventually).  You think I'm kidding?  Nope, I'm definitely 100% serious.  When we're there, we see the difference in the sense of family and community, something we absolutely love.  Another thing Arturo and I enjoy about the Big Island is that small business is supported BIG TIME over there; you'll see a few big box stores like Target, Macy's, or Costco in Kona, but besides that, it's pretty much local businesses!  As soon as we got back from our honeymoon to the Big Island last year, we KNEW we'd be celebrating our first anniversary there.  This time around, we brought our friends who had never experienced the beauty of Hawaii before.  

We flew into Honolulu two days before our anniversary.  After getting off an 11 hour flight from JFK, we were welcomed to Waikiki by a beautiful rainbow just outside our hotel!  You’d think that after such a greeting, we would want to enjoy some nightlife, but I think we were both passed out by 8pm—womp womp.  We’re such party animals, I know.  But to be fair, with the 6 hour time difference, it really felt like 2am for us!  And because of that time difference, we were up at 2am, Hawaiian time of course.  Because of that, we got to enjoy the beautiful sunrise over Diamond Head!  That day, we hopped on a plane to take a short flight to Kona on the Big Island.  Jasmine and Pedro arrived that evening, beaming with excitement as they stepped off the plane. 

A rainbow greeted us when we stepped onto the balcony of our hotel in Waikiki!

A rainbow greeted us when we stepped onto the balcony of our hotel in Waikiki!

Diamond Head sunrise in the Waikiki section of Honolulu.

Diamond Head sunrise in the Waikiki section of Honolulu.

The following day was our anniversary, and naturally, since we were all still on East Coast time, we were up before the crack of dawn, and ready to get some breakfast.  We took a drive up into the mountains, past Waimea, to Tex Drive-In in Honakaa.  The food was great, but nothing beat their fresh malasadas!  For those of you wondering what a malasada is, it’s a Portuguese doughnut, served plain or with your choice of jelly or cream filling.  They are SO. FREAKING. DELICIOUS!!! And hey, who doesn’t like a fresh doughnut?  Tex isn’t far from Waipio Valley lookout, which of course we HAD to go to!  And then drive into!  It was raining in the mountains that day, so the valley was muddy and flooded when we got down there.  Luckily our Jeep had no issues getting us down or up the rocky and bumpy terrain!

Waipio Valley, Big Island.

Waipio Valley, Big Island.

Later that week, we met up with my sister, brother in law, and nieces at one of our favorite little dives, Kohala Burger and Taco.  YUM!  One of the many things I LOOOOOVE about the Big Island is how fresh all the food is.  There are a ton of ranches on the island, so all the good places have support each other in local business (you know we're all about supporting small biz!).  Produce is picked fresh and fish caught that day.  I don’t eat seafood, but I love me a good burger. 

Scenic Point on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, Big Island.

Scenic Point on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, Big Island.

The scenery and plant life is amazing!  The water is beautifully blue, the clouds look like giant, puffy cotton balls, and the flowers are rich yellows, pinks and reds.  The sunrises and sunsets are like nothing you'll see anywhere else.  The color on the Big Island is mind blowing!  When you travel to other parts of the island of Hawaii, you’ll find everything from lava fields, to green pastures, to snow at the peak of Mauna Kea, to an active volcano spewing lava into the ocean!

Plant life in Kona, Big Island.

Plant life in Kona, Big Island.

That Friday, we headed toward South Point to find the Green Sand Beach (the sand got it’s olive color caused by eruptions from what was once a volcano).  Once again, it was a good thing we had our Jeep to get us there!  The bumpy (to say the least) dirt roads were no match for that sucker.  At the end of our 25 minute drive along dirt paths, we finally arrived at a beach like nothing any of us had ever seen before!  From South Point, we continued our trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where we saw the light of the lava in the crater of Kilauea.

Lava field along Mamalahoa Highway (above) and the dirt roads just before the Green Sand Beach at South Point (below), Big Island. 

Lava field along Mamalahoa Highway (above) and the dirt roads just before the Green Sand Beach at South Point (below), Big Island. 

Lucky for us, we had our Jeep to get to South Point.  For those who don't, there are locals who use their 4-wheel drive vehicles to drive tourists down the bumpy and hilly path to get there.

Lucky for us, we had our Jeep to get to South Point.  For those who don't, there are locals who use their 4-wheel drive vehicles to drive tourists down the bumpy and hilly path to get there.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach at South Point, Big Island.

Papakolea Green Sand Beach at South Point, Big Island.

Scenic views near South Point, along the way to Volcano, Big Island.

Scenic views near South Point, along the way to Volcano, Big Island.

One of my favorite drives on the Big Island is the Saddle Road.  It takes you from one side of the island to the other, winding between the two larger volcanoes on Hawaii, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  When you start your ride, you’re at sea level.  But when passing through the two volcanoes, you’re at a much higher elevation, and can feel the temperature change too!

Views of either side of the Saddle Road; Mauna Kea (above) and goats grazing along the very base of Mauna Loa.

Views of either side of the Saddle Road; Mauna Kea (above) and goats grazing along the very base of Mauna Loa.

Scenic view along Mamalahoa Highway on the way to Kona (left); One of my favorite sculptures at the Kona International Airport (right).

Scenic view along Mamalahoa Highway on the way to Kona (left); One of my favorite sculptures at the Kona International Airport (right).

On this trip, we saw everything from green sand beaches, to dolphins, and even a baby shark when we were snorkeling!  I couldn't have wished for a better trip to celebrate our first wedding anniversary with two of our favorite people in the world! It was quite a way to kick off Year Two. :)

Friends, Food + Fireworks

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day!  My family and I celebrated America's birthday with good food, good talk, and great friends.  My girls played with sparklers on the back deck, and my hubby put on a mini fireworks show for us, which you can see here.  

We are truly fortunate to live in a country with so much freedom, and to call this place our home.