Best Photo of 2015



The best photo I took of 2015 had to be the photo of daughter Savannah and all her many activities. I call Savannah ““Multipotentialite.” She has this wonderful imagination about life. She often finds the adventure in everything and has this appetite to try everything. I wanted to create a fun photo showing all that emotion and really capture her identity. We set up the backdrop in my home in San Diego, Calif. We used different types of lighting kits, but I loved using the soft boxes. Savannah helped set up the shot on what she should wear and how she should place the books on her head and her soccer ball. She wanted to make sure we got all her activities just right…. a clear sense of balance into her life. I think I just enjoyed how my daugher and I collaborated, it was special moment.

I often find it hard to print my photos for the best quality. So this year I googled and found Social Print Studio. I love their Giant Photostrips and the metal prints! I found these to be the best print for our home and easy to hang up. I also like the different parts you can write on them. I plan to  use Social Print Studio  for part of my thesis project  for graudate school, that I am currently working on with Savannah. The series is called “Are you okay?” and comes from a project that Savannah and I started about two years ago.  Savannah has her own instagram called @Sids_world_  and it captures the everyday life of a kids world, it’s called #comeplaywithme. The series was inspired by Murad Osmann‘s photographic series called #followmeto. The reason I love Social prints Giant Photostrips, because it allows Savannah to write on the photos as well. They look great on our walls and are inviting for a fun perspective on things.

We often struggle these days with raising our kids to be the best and strive to introduce them to so much. Always college prepping and over booking every single detail in their day. We have become the generation of  “helicopter parents.” We forget that they are kids, and they need to have FUN! 

But this year Savannah wanted to choose every activity in this photo. (except swim.. she wants a swim team that swims in the ocean and be FREE!!) She wants to try everything and I respect and admire that about her. She is a resilient and tenacious kid and I know that she will find her niche and love what she does, but for now, I just want her to enjoy being a kid. 🙂

Yes, she is in Soccer, swim, piano, violin, Continuing Catholic Development, paints and draws and not to mention she is a pretty awesome Fourth Grader. She is amazing and often inspire me. She is the definition of what you call a “Multipotentialite.” This photo captures that and much more. It truly captured our year of 2015!


Walnut Grove Park with my Students

The rain cleared up just in time to get my students some great experience shooting on location. The sky turned into some beautiful colors from blue to pink to purple.  I brough my camera out and took some shots for fun too! Here they are!


We Out Here Like, Whoah

The past several years as a photographer, I have always focused on pure documentary. I love the idea of telling peoples lives and stories. Even as a trained Combat Cameraman, I tend to always reveal the truths of what goes on around me, behind my camera.

However, I always love the idea of how to push myself and how to really change my perception of the things around me. One of my weakest areas is night photography. I have always struggled with it and as I grow older, my night vision isn’t that great anymore.

Last night a friend named Arthur Marqueez and I, pushed out creativeness and went on a night shoot. He has this great idea to work with long exposure and reflections of the water ponds by the beach. Instead of using lights and flashlights to write with the light, he brought in the concept of using steel wool to fire to light up the night sky. When we tried our first image, I was instantly high. We began to try different angles and different settings. With the ocean as the backdrop and the water reflection from the rocks, the images captured so much more. The steel wool, when lite, sheds light embers that just flick off into the air. It was amazing!!! I finally loved this new found idea of night photographer!!!! I am still in amazement and can not wait to do this again!

WARNING: Please do not do this alone. This can be dangerous and if not handled properly, can set fires. Make sure to have an extinguisher and water around incase of emergency. Make sure to use a tripod when trying this as well. Gloves are also a key and eye protection!

Enjoy the images!!! This will not be the last post!


Getting real in LA


Over the holiday weekend, I was able to have some new adventures with my kiddo and friends. I brought along my two friends from the Navy, Tony Coffield and Arthur Marquez, along with my two graduating students, Esteban Robinson and Adriana Guidino. They are all super creative and insightful in all that they do. I love to work off of other people and see what they come up with when we are all in the same location. They came up with some creative and insightful compositions and I was amazed!!! We ventured off to the Abandoned LA Zoo, which had some colorful boundaries. Then headed to Hollywood for lunch and the LACMA. It was free because of the holiday, which was great! But I mainly wanted to run through the Urban Lights with Savannah. We had a great time and it was great feeling to be amongst people who motivate you and help you to get out of your funk! Enjoy the fun shots!!!



2015 DC Shoot Off Visual Media Workshop


Over the weekend, (March 20-22) I participated in the DC Shoot Off, hosted by Visual Media Workshop.

Whats the Shoot Off??

Shoot Off Visual Media Workshops is a not for profit program for our military and civil service photographers.  The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this prestigious event that aligns our service members with the national press corps, industry leaders and veteran military photographers. These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development in helping to fill training gaps for our service dedicated photographers throughout the year.

Who supports the workshop? 

We have Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award winning presenters to nationally endowed speakers, visual creatives, book authors and lifetime educators who support the program.  We have legacy military photographers ensure students receive the knowledge of their own history and provide mentorship they will carry throughout their

Whats the future?

The medium is in constant rapid change and to provide the best in visual communication requires the sharing of knowledge through networking.  It involves many hours of production and resource to make these events happen and the program is open to financial support in helping staff and to offset the cost of travel and lodging expenses for key volunteers.  We have expanded the shoot off program to include an online category for forward deployed personnel in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere called Shoot Off Online, so they too can participate during the competition portion of the program online and judged separately.

Photographers are challenged to shoot or produce a still or video photo story or essay assignment within a 24-36 hour time frame.  Edit teams are on hand to help critique and mentor the students in a challenging and engaging environment.

My Perspective

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend, but I was able to participate in the online submission. This was my third time attending the workshop and I loved every minute of it! Friday is broken down to a variety of guest speakers that range from photojournalist, an ethics committee, portrait photographers, and veteran military photographers. This years speakers were amazing and I had such a great time listening. I have to say, my favorite this year was Preston Keres. Preston Keres served in the Navy for twelve years and made his foray into journalism in 1996, spending the last five years writing and photographing for the Navy. “I fell in love with photography,” remembers the native Iowan. “I found people would talk more about the photos I took than the stories I wrote.” The experience encouraged him to enroll in the Military Photojournalism Course at Syracuse University. After graduation in 2000, he started working for the Navy’s flagship publication “All Hands” in D.C. In his first two years, he won the Department of Defense’s Military Photographer of the Year for his coverage of Navy operations in Guatemala, Ground Zero rescues after the September 11th attacks, and the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake for DoD athletes. He joined the Post in 2003. ( taken from the Washington Post Website)  You can hear his presentation here:

His words were so informative and most importantly, inspirational. ” Think like a writer” when you are photographing, ” Navy Pick up the slack,” “Just as in writing, don’t be redundant.” These were some words that struck the hardest. I feel as photographers in the Navy, we continue to lack the emotion in our photos. We have gotten into this notion that we  just shoot to get the job done, but not much feeling nor creativity goes into our work these days. (personal opinion) I don’t speak for all Navy photographers, because there are certainly some great ones out there, but over the years, I have seen such a decline and it breaks my heart. Keres words made such a difference for me and it made me realize how I need to take this information from these informative workshops and keep moving forward with my own work and improve daily.

After the presentations, the theme of the Shoot off is selected and all shooters, both in-house at the workshop and online submitter’s have 24 hours to shoot the theme as a photo story, selecting in 3 to 5 photos.

This years theme was:“Juxtaposition.”


1. the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect. “juxtaposition of these two images”
My co-worker from the active duty side of Fleet Combat Camera Pacific, Antonio Coffield, an amazing videographer, was able to accompany as my partner in crime during this amazing competition. ( Check out his work: Flash Me Photography ) We set out to Hillcrest, Calif. around 11pm for a story on the double life style of two Drag Queens, Kevi Kev and Grotesqua Belladonna. We shot until about 4 am, slept and then were back at it in the morning at Oceanside, Calif. Pier. In Oceanside we concentrated on the Oceanside hostel with the lifestyle of hippies and homeless society roaming around. We had a great time and were so motivated! I loved every minute of it.
Sunday morning, we were able to stream live online for the judges and voting. The judges this year were Sharon Farmer, Stephen Brown & Larry Levin. An amazing and experienced panel.

This is where I began to draw questions about how the workshop was run. The last three times that I have participated in the workshop, the focus has always been storytelling, with a photojournalist style photography. THIS WAS NOT THE CASE this year. Most of the shots were set up, arranged and completely contradicting to the rules in the past. I was very disappointed how the judging went and their justification for the winners. I feel I completely over thought my subject and should have gone a more simpler route, so I understand why I wasn’t a winner. Overall, I was impressed by each shooters creativity and showcasing, but this went against everything I had been taught. One comment was “a photograph is a photograph, doesn’t matter what category it’s in.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? As an adjunct professor for CSUSM, there is no way I would ever teach my civilian students this! I also was extremely disappointed by the biased opinions of the judges favoring certain graduating students ( I won’t mention the school, but it’s always praised- none the less a great school ). When you are on a panel, all your emotions, connections and relationships need to be set aside. Period. You are on a judging panel to be bring your experience as a professional. BUT congratulations to all the winners, again, I was very very very impressed by everyone’s creativity and structure of their shoots. I love seeing more and more work and I am always, so glad that a group of photographers came together for this wonderful event.

My second concern, was how disappointing the lack of communication for the online-submitters. In the past years, my mentor would notify me ASAP the theme and a phone number or email where they could be reached. This was not the case this year. I didn’t hear about the theme until I logged onto Facebook, and was contacted by my mentor until a few hours later. Then I was told I had to submit my images to two completely different people, that was frustrating. I was also given word, that I had a later time line and could submit at a later time. Even though we met the east coast timeline, the lack of communication as to when my images were due was frustrating. I also found a little defeat when I received a phone call at 6am west coast time, stating that I had submitted too many photos. Oops! NOW, grant it, I completely understand how difficult it is with the online submitter and the time difference. I also know that most of the mentors are volunteers and in no way am I bashing on them. I just feel in the past, I had great communication and this year not so much. It’s hard for me to sell this workshop to my peers if the workshop isn’t what it used to be. DONT get me wrong, I still think this is a great workshop and tons of wonderful mentors and speakers. I just believe that it needs to go back to the fundamentals, purpose and background of where the workshop came from. CHECK OUT THE WINNERS HERE:

Moving forward, I would love to help out in any way and will continue to stress the importance of the workshop to my peers. I hope to provide my knowledge and any assistance that the workshop needs.

ASIDE, from positive and negative review of the workshop, here is the images I submitted. With the help and brainstorming of Antonio Coffield, I decided that my photo story of juxtaposition would be the double life of two Drag Queens living in Hillcrest, Calif. Enjoy!!! Opinions and critiques are always welcome!!!!!! Not my best shooting, but such a wonderful time getting back into this type of photography!!!

I had a great time following these two around the nightlife of Hillcrest. Check there show out if you are even in town.

Aside from the photographs I submitted for the competition, here are the additional ones from the night. Again, I had a great time challenging myself and trying to show true emotions in my photographs along with having a written a paragraph in each pictures. Enjoy and see you at the next shoot off!!


US Navy QuickShot/TFTT Training

U.S. military combat cameramen train in combat tactics

I often get asked, what I do for the U.S. Navy Reserves… I just reply with ” I take pictures.” However, after going through this training for the second time, I realize that there is more to my job. I initially started off as an active duty member training as a Naval Aircrewman and Search and Rescue swimmer. That training was cut short when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Savannah. I wasn’t allowed to finish SAR school, but still became an Aircrewman. This left me to rethink what I really wanted out of Navy career. I had initially joined to become a photographer, but was picked up for Aircrew at bootcamp. Now, pregnant, I had the opportunity to really focus on that skill. I started taking Advance Photography during my pregnancy at the local community college. I really began having an interest in documentary photography and it was then I decided that I wanted to be a combat photographer for the Navy. My journey getting there is a whole different story, but the short version was that, I started my OJT (on the job training) with Fleet Combat Camera Pacific. I took a year off after I had my daughter and went back as a reserve as a Mass Communication Specialist. I felt at home. Going back to my initial statement, “I take pictures,” I realize that yes, I take pictures, but I am a trained Combat cameraman, trained by the best of the best photographers I know.

The last two weeks I was able to experience for the second time around, this amazing training. I was able to build on my skills as a Mass Communication Specialist (Video and Photography) and my tactical firearms training. I had an amazing team leader and part of the best team anyone could ask for. Fleet Combat Camera Pacific’s Winter Quick Shot 2015 is a joint field training exercise in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa, Calif. Quick Shot is a semi-annual exercise that improves combat camera Service members’ abilities to operate in a tactical environment. West Coast COMCAM hosts two Quick Shot exercises a year. Combat photographers come from all over the military to learn small arms combat tactics from Max Joseph and his Tactical Firearms Training Team.  with my grumpy, bitchy and lack of sleep, I was able to build on team skills and amazing training. I was blessed with new friends, build on old friendships and most importantly walk away with some battlescars! Below I have included some photographs that I took over the last two weeks.

Here is a video from Brett Cote, a very talented and amazing videographer. Check out his blog, he has great tutorials on video editing as well as some amazing videos. You can check out the link below to see some great photographs from the training from all of the Photographers.

Thanks again everyone for all your help and the great learning experience. I even had a few images released and it was all because of the best team I had. Go team bravo!

#teamfour #teambravo aka #teambrown #tftt #quickshot #comcam #fccp #winterquickshot #nancycdibenedetto #dibenedettophotography


Photo Booth Projects from 2014

Photo Booth Projects from 2014

Since I started teaching as lecturer, one of my favorite assignments is the PhotoBooth Project. This project was introduced to me when I was looking into Grad Schools. A few years ago while applying to Grad school I met a wonderful young lady who was attending LSU. Her name is Mercedes Jelinek!! See her website here: mercedesjelinekphotography

She is an amazing photographer and I was so fortunate to meet her. I have been following her for quite sometime and I was fascinated by her Photo Booth Project! Check out what she had to say about the project on my blog: MERCEDES JELINEK Photo Booth Project.

The Photo Project allows my students to really engage with the community, push their comfort zones and work on there photography skills.

Here are the rules:

You pick a high volume location of people, Beach, neighborhood, campus, outdoor mall, parks, skate park, etc. You must set up a Photo Booth like area. Backdrops, camera on tripod with sign. You must record your process and the different people. You can do with with your cellular phone or videocamera and upload to the blog.  Each photo that is taken must be given to the person. (ie email or give them the link to your blog) I suggest getting a quote or some saying from the person that you photograph. You must have at least 20- 30 images.

Last semester, all the students did an exceptional job and exceeded all my expectations!!! I was so proud of my students. Check out their work! And if you have time, give them feed back!!! Thanks!



























Princess Problems


As most of you know, in our home, we don’t do the standard annual sit and pose photos, we create our own! Enjoy a sneak peak of Savannah dress up themed photos!!!

Savannah has been my little muse since the day she was born. She opened up my world into seeing the innocence of her world. Always a good sport about having fun with photos and always posing so naturally. She allows me to enter her world of imagination as she continues to grow and let me play into her world of so much love!!! Enjoy these!!!

Please pass along! Facebook it, pin it, tweet it!! ( inspiration came from Cloud Dust Art and Imagery Thanks for the cute idea!! ) #sidaroo #sandiegophotographer #sandiegophotography #princessproblems #secondgradepictures #dibenedettophotography #nancycdibenedetto #disneyphotos #disneyfun