Camper Close Up with Katrina Kennedy

Hello Friends, 

I hope your summer is offering you expansive wide angle spaces, and that you're getting close up to many a BBQ! 

We here at Firefly Institute HQ decided to give you a close up view of several of our photo campers, starting today. We thought you'd like to learn more about what kind of person goes to photo camp, and why? 

Ready for her close up, here is Katrina Kennedy:


Would you please tell us a little about yourself? 

I am a mom, wife, gardener, business owner, photographer, writer, and lover of learning. I train trainers (the corporate kind, not the athletic kind) by day and run CaptureYour365 -- a community inspiring people to make pictures every day -- in the nooks and crannies of my life.

What inspired you to start a 365 project?

I was inspired by friends to try out a 30-day photo project. On day 31, I was hooked and just kept going. I’m a sentimental, memory hoarder, so a 365 project was made for me!

You missed one day since starting your 356 project in 2008 ... What happened that day?

I didn’t even realize I’d missed that day until much later in the year. Looking at photos from the day before and after I know that I was being mom to a toddler and cleaning house in anticipation of houseguests. Just living life.

Why did you create the CY365 community? How did that evolve?

I wanted to create a community to share ideas, inspiration, and support about everyday photography. I wanted to share my passion for capturing life with others who felt the same need. I was involved with the scrapbooking community, teaching photography classes and writing a blog. It was a natural next step to create a community focused on all things everyday photography.

How do you come up with your monthly Photo Challenge lists?

In our first years, I created the CY365 lists letting the time of the year drive my choices. I now write the theme for each week and the CY365 Creative Team add the rest of the prompts. I love the variety of perspectives the team brings.

Why did you register for Firefly Institute? What part of photo camp are you most excited about? 

As my son gets older, the focus of my photography is shifting. I signed up for Firefly Institute to reignite my love for my photography, to be reminded to see the beauty in daily life, and to slow down. I'm excited to hold my camera for myself, for the pure love of the art without deadlines or requirements. And the friends. 


Thank you, Katrina, for sharing yourself with us ... We look so forward to seeing you in person at camp! 


You can join in the everyday photography movement at CaptureYour365, with the help of Kristina's August Photo Challenge list of prompts. Happy summer shooting, everyone! 

The Firefly Story

My dad gave me my first camera at sixteen – a sturdy black Minolta. After my teenage years spent in photography
classes and studying National Geographic magazines, losing myself in daydreams of the world inside that thick yellow frame, I was hooked on photography.

After college, I attended the oldest journalism school in the country at the University of Missouri, and one of the best, most professional J-schools (they kept telling us!). It's true I received top-notch training and landed sought-after internships and jobs at newspapers. At the time, photojournalism was very competitive and male (still is), with little tolerance for weakness or fear, but I was able to thrive. I had developed a toughness to survive in that often cutthroat and very male world.

Photographing Italy vs. Brazil in the final World Cup Soccer game, Rose Bowl Stadium, 1994

Photographing Italy vs. Brazil in the final World Cup Soccer game, Rose Bowl Stadium, 1994

I got a job in Long Beach as a staff photographer -- perhaps the only photography gig with a salary and benefits. 
I loved it. Our staff was like a family and I was fortunate to work with many talented photographers, writers and editors. Our photo staff even won runner-up for a staff Pulitzer Prize while I was there. I covered the exciting Los Angeles news -- the Rose Parade, celebrities, politicians, World Cup soccer -- and had the privilege of entering into people's lives to tell their stories. But L.A. and Long Beach were also terrifying. I witnessed in person with my camera many of the horrors of urban life.

And then off-duty one evening, parked in a nice neighborhood, kissing my boyfriend in my convertible, we were held up at gunpoint by teenage boys in a gang.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so tough anymore. Several months later, I moved home to Northern California where I knew I'd be safe.
I gave up my photojournalism career. And I stopped making pictures for 10 years.

Even though I started and ran See Jane Run, a stock photography agency specializing in pictures of active women, I wasn't photographing. Somewhere along the way the joy and spontaneity of my first Minolta had been lost -- and I didn’t know where to find it again. Thinking I was ready for something new, I went back to school to become a Waldorf teacher. 

I think this happens to a lot of us. We get scared, or we get tired, or we forget why we do what we do. Places and people and ideas that used to inspire us don’t hold power anymore. Even when we love learning and growing, we can find ourselves stalled. And sometimes, we don’t know how to move forward on our own.

In 2009, on a whim, I attended Squam Art Workshop in New Hampshire at a historic family camp in the woods with cabins, an exquisite dining hall, and docks on the lake. I took mixed media and painting classes. One hundred and twenty five people, mostly women, gathered to create art and share stories and live in a gorgeous natural setting for five days. This was what I needed all along! On the flight home, my mind was soaring: How great would it be to have a similar workshop with all photography classes? I scribbled notes in a wild brainstorm -- what teachers could teach what classes, evening activities to foster connection, cool speakers … and Firefly Institute was born!

Photography came back into my life. I opened an art photography studio in an artists' building in Sausalito, CA and took a job teaching photography at the San Francisco Waldorf High School (and loving it!). And I started planning Firefly Institute.

Bay Area Shutter Sisters Chinatown photo walk, 2014

Bay Area Shutter Sisters Chinatown photo walk, 2014

I knew from running two successful businesses that creating Firefly Institute wouldn’t be easy, but I’ve marshaled experience from a lifetime of professional photography, my training as a communicator and a teacher, the inspiration I’ve drawn from amazing workshops like Squam and Camp Shutter Sisters (now defunct), and happy weeks at childhood summer camps. It took me a long six years to find the right venue. The vision kept me going, though, because at a time in my life when I needed community and restoration, I found it. Firefly Institute brings that same energy to other female photographers.

Firefly Institute is a place to recapture the fun and creativity of photography -- with a group of kindred spirit women photographers  -- in a special environment that encourages us to stretch, experiment with something new, and remember the magic of using the ephemeral forces of light and time to tell our stories.

Register soon -- Only 11 spots left!



  • November 9-13, 2016
  • Intimate group limited to 42 participants
  • Peaceful, charming setting at Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma, CA
  • Technical and creative classes
  • Top professional photography instructors, including Julieanne Kost and Pei Ketron
  • Experiential exercises, presentations, and individual and group work
  • Fun, community-building, summer-camp-style evening activities
  • Nurturing, safe setting

My Happy Place

Just a quickie to tell you I was in Sonoma yesterday seeing Westerbeke Ranch again. 
I fall deeper in love every time I visit ...

Top left: Outdoor bathroom; Top right: Outdoor deck; Bottom left: Semi-outdoor dining; Bottom right: Dinner bell

Top left: Outdoor bathroom; Top right: Outdoor deck; Bottom left: Semi-outdoor dining; Bottom right: Dinner bell

The gardens laden with flowers and succulents, butterflies flitting about. The giant oak trees protecting the entire place. The winding, magical pathways. The rustic architecture of days gone by. The feeling of old California family and history. And it is all so darned photogenic!

Westerbeke Ranch is the *perfect* venue for Firefly Institute. 

In my mind's eye, I can see us all laughing and sharing stories and printing pictures and dining and talking shop and reveling in the natural beauty of the Ranch. Hot tubbing and singing. Aha photo-learning moments. Ping pong and s'mores. Photographing. Ahhhh, I can't wait to see the photos that come out of all the campers!

Those of us who are lucky enough to get to stay there for photo camp, living there for five days and four nights ... We are very fortunate, indeed.

Whether you are coming to camp or not, my wish for you is this: That you have or find -- and get to spend time in -- a special place that makes your heart lighten, with beauty and nature and soul-filled goodness; that you find your happy place. 

When the uniqueness of a place sings to us like a melody, then we will know, at last, what it means to be at home. - Paul Gruchow



Rethinking the Retreat

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Relaxed. Rejuvenated. Refreshed.

Recently returned from a full week of self-care at Rancho La Puerta, many elements made me very happy there: the delectable organic vegetarian meals, the warmth of the Mexican air, the 6:30am hiking up sacred mountains, the daily stretch class, the laughter-filled afternoons by the pool with new friends. But THE VERY BEST part? Being offline. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.  

Off. Line. As in, no electronic communications for a full week. I admit I used my iPhone once to make one photo on the last day, quickly returning my phone to its "Cell Phone Sleeping Bag" that came with my welcome packet.

The pretty pouch came with a card that read, in part: "We invite you to use your Ranch stay to find balance in your digital life. This is the perfect week to set some boundaries. To unplug. We all have great reasons to be online all the time. But we rarely get opportunities to be mindful of how technology is ruling us -- and to make choices about its place in our lives."

When I returned home and told my friend Sophia about being offline for an entire week, she looked at me sideways, with an anxious tilt of her head. I could see her brain trying to understand how that would work, what that would look like. "An entire week?" she exclaimed! She, like most of us, could not fathom being offline. All of our lives are filled with so much "connectivity."

Why go offline? Simply, because it's good for us. Because being offline calms our nervous system, which is usually ... well ... nervous. Because instead of "connecting" with the virtual world inside our computers and devices, when we're offline we actually connect with our immediate surroundings, with the people who are actually with us, with nature, and with ourselves.

I recently saw an excellent show on technology addiction and the benefits of nature on National Geographic channel's "Call of the Wild" show, highly recommended. 

There's also a new documentary "Screenagers" that highlights the perils of screen time and how to manage them. We are ALL screenagers when it comes to our devices, texting, the Face, Pinterest, etc (and other times, too!).

So how can we "Oh, Behave!" regarding technology? How to establish healthy boundaries with our iPhone, iPad, laptop, desktop, computer games, and our wifi lives? How to digital detox?

I am patting myself heartily on the back just for changing my charging station to another room instead of right by my bed. Instead, I now greet the day with reverence and spaciousness in my soul, instead of assaulting my senses with the emails in my phone as soon as my eyes open. 

Like home meditation or yoga practices, relying on our own initiative can prove challenging. Which is why we take classes or go on retreat.

Media maven and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain and her family suggest a technology shabbat. Or perhaps attend Camp Grounded summer camp for adults for "off-the-grid fun" where technology is not allowed, at all. 

I've decided that at Firefly Institute, which is a photography camp and also a retreat, we will be offline for four days ... mostly! We will have a "Tech Corner" for those campers who absolutely must be online. And we will certainly be using our iPhone cameras and our laptops for Lightroom and Photoshop!! And of course, campers will be reachable at all times via camp staff! Yet ... Our time at camp is a place that enables learning and friendships to flourish. We'll encourage campers to take this opportunity to be offline in order to fully engage with each other, the beautiful ranch, the time, the air, the smells, the birdsong, themselves, and their creative inner worlds.

I predict that our Firefly campers will, at first, freak out! Then they will put their phones on airplane mode so they can use their phone cameras without being distracted by emails, texts and notifications. But for a few hours, they'll be jonesing for JUST ONE MORE TEXT MESSAGE! And then they will sink, slowly, in to the luxurious space that being offline offers. And I predict they'll be grateful for the experience.


On our last night at Rancho La Puerta, someone placed her phone on the dining table after making a few photos. In my imagination, her iPhone turned into a loaded gun; I felt assaulted! I asked her to put it away, wanting to luxuriate in the final hours of being free from devices.

However we can create our own space away from technology, we can be sure that it's good for us. The scarier it sounds, the more we probably need to do it. Please share with us your experiments in finding balance in your digital life!




Space for Women, in honor of International Women's Day

I believe space for women is important ... No ... Imperative. Being a lifelong photographer, I also believe a photography workshop for women is imperative.  

Why do women need this? Because like most of our world, the field of photography has been shaped by male voices, experiences, and norms. The history of photography features mostly male photographers. Coed photo conferences, retreats and workshops offer mostly male teachers and speakers.

Though this is changing. And Firefly Institute is part of this evolution.

This photography camp/workshop is one-of-a-kind with its high-caliber level of learning opportunity and intimate size fostering real and deep sisterhood. This is a workshop for women, taught by women, run by women, organized by women. Our camp is held at a family ranch passed down by the women of the family since the 1930s. This camp is a space that honors and esteems women.

In assembling a curriculum for camp, I looked for qualified women teachers. There are loads of men teaching photo workshops. While searching high and low to find the just-right teachers and classes, I considered including a male teacher or two to give us the classes I wanted to offer. And then I got very clear ...  

Women need to see other women in positions of influence. And women photographers need to learn from other women photographers. We support the "If you can see it, you can be it" philosophy. We women need role models who look like us, even, still, in 2016. So. No boys allowed.

The teachers we have gathered for the Fall 2016 camp are all experts in their field, chosen specifically for camp because they are skilled teachers, generous and kind. Our teachers want to share their knowledge with other women and lift the level of the photo sisterhood to new heights.

Today, women are the largest growing segment in photography and these women are reshaping the industry with female vision. Camera gear is finally being customized to women's needs and preferences. We are seeing more women play significant roles in the ultra-male professions of photojournalism and conflict photography, à la Lynsey Addario and her poignant, funny, terrifying memoir It's What I Do.

With the advent of the iPhone with built-in camera, a photographic revolution exploded on the worldwide scene. Everyone is a photographer nowadays. And with 50% of the population being women, that's a lot of women photographers in the world! Our visual sophistication as a culture has grown enormously and now includes female vision as a much larger part of the whole.

Firefly Institute celebrates women photographers by offering a special space created just for us. Because it's time. 






Ripples of Love

Greetings happy campers!

We love photography, women and girls, and women photographers (they're really cool). And we LOVE sharing the wealth, making a difference and giving back. Right? 


As many of you know, creating Firefly Institute is my long-held dream come true. And I always wanted there to be a non-profit, giving back aspect to this photo camp. But starting a non-profit at the same time as starting this camp was just too much in one year! After a serendipitous conversation with the talented and lovely Ami Vitale, a lightbulb went off ... Let's support the most logical, absolutely-perfect-fit-like-a-body-hugging-well-worn-pair-of-favorite-jeans, already-in-existence non-profit: Ripple Effect Images.

Annie Griffiths, one of National Geographic's first female photographers, started Ripple Effect Images in order to give back in the best way she knew how ...  With the power of images. She gathered several of her National Geographic photographer girlfriends, including Ami, and formed this collective to provide storytelling resources to groups who work to improve the lives of women and girls.

It's a ripple effect of girl power love via photography making an impact. It doesn't get any better than that!

Firefly Institute is the very proud supporter of Ripple Effect Images and we are glad to donate a portion of our proceeds to further their good work. We at Firefly want to spread the love and shout from the rooftops so that Ripple can do even more for women and girls around the world who need our help.

Since it is the season of love, now is the time to give generously. We encourage you to support Ripple and show your love in whatever way feels right and good to you. Maybe you like to make grand proclamations of love, or maybe you prefer quiet murmurs in the ear. Whatever your style, here are some ways to show your love to Ripple Effect Images:

o   Make a donation from the Firefly Institute page:

o   Make a donation from the Ripple Effect Images website: and tell them we sent you!

o   Sign up for GoodSearch or Amazon Smile which will donate a portion of the purchase price while you are doing your regular shopping, with no extra cost to you:

o   Donate specific amounts and receive gorgeous photographic gifts from Ripple (please note "Gift of Ripple" in the memo of the check):

o   Give your appreciated stock and avoid paying capital gains tax (when you donate your asset to a charity):

o   Like the Ripple Effect Images FB page:  

o   Tell your friends and social share about Ripple

Annie Griffiths / Ripple Effect Images

Annie Griffiths / Ripple Effect Images

Another cool thing: Annie is our kickoff speaker at our October 2017 photo camp!

And another funny thing: During a phone meeting with the Ripple team, I was surprised that Annie herself got on the line. I blurted out, "Annie, you're my hero!" Couldn't help myself. She is. 

So may we Firefly Institute fireflies fill the sky with our light and love! Help a woman. Help the planet. Shine your light, spread your love. Give generously. 

Happy V Day. 

Much love,