Love to Explore

Many of us spend most of our days trapped inside four walls with a window, if we are lucky. While pounding away at a keyboard, we sometimes allow our minds to drift away to fantasies spending the day outside in the sun with the sounds of nature as our soundtrack. Yet, there are some who don’t have to dream of an escape because the outdoors is their office. One of these lucky individuals is Mia Anstine.

Mia Anstine

Mia grew up in a small town in southern Colorado. It was there that she learned she loved to explore the nature that surrounded her. Mia’s natural instinct to explore isn’t a surprise. She comes from a long line of hunters. Growing up her father hunted for food and her mother grew a garden and taught her how to fish. Their lives were simple and focused on the basic necessities of life. But it wasn’t until Mia and her mother moved to San Diego that she realized how fortunate she was as a child.

Many people in urban areas never notice birds, plants, or trees. But I quickly learned that looking hard enough led to finding wild places and outdoor areas to explore.

Mia Anstine

As she grew up her life began to take her further away from nature but no matter where she lived there were always places to go, explore, and learn about. Sometimes it would just take a little longer and she would have to wander a little further. Shortly after college Mia realized that she missed the country life and after moving to Texas and then Oregon she returned to her hometown in Colorado.

near Durango, Colorado

Even though she returned to her small town life in the mountains that she greatly missed she didn’t pursue a career in the outdoors.  As a highly successful salesperson for a building company, she worked tirelessly to stay in the top ranks. This left her little time to do what she loved, hunting. She was a single working mother like so many others that wanted to provide for her family. She wanted to be able to put food on the table like her father and his father before him. So, Mia began to head out on solo hunts on the weekend.  Sometimes her little girl would tag along and carry her shotgun for bird hunting.

The mother-daughter time was priceless, and the outdoors was a welcomed break from my non-stop commissioned sales job. The outdoors is good for your soul.  

Mia Anstine

It wasn’t until Mia met her now-husband, who owns an outfitting business, that she began to transition away from sales and into working in the outdoors. It all began when he was short a hunting guide.  Knowing that Mia was a good hunter he asked if she was willing to help. She agreed to fill in and that was the first step in her career as an advocate for the outdoors.


These days, I make a little less money than I did when I was the top salesperson for a large corporation, but everything I do to encourage others is empowering and brings me joy. It’s so rewarding. In all things I do, my mission is to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, cook, eat, survive, create and live life positively.

Mia Anstine

Mentoring the Future

When Connie Chang was young she didn’t know what she wanted to do. She had three great passions growing up; music, writing, and math. But through her father, who has a traditional chemical engineering background, she was always intrigued by research and science. However, it wasn’t until college where she had an influential mentor who inspired her to study biophysics in graduate school.

So with a new found focus she continued her education at UCLA where she studied soft matter science and the physics of viruses. She then went to Harvard for her postdoctoral studies in the area of experimental soft matter physics. After completing her time at Harvard in 2013 she began her career at Montana State University as an assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering. 

I love my job: teaching students, interacting with diverse colleagues, making scientific discoveries, and engaging with the scientific community and the general public

Connie Chang

Connie realized how lucky she was as a little girl to not just have one but two parents in the sciences. Her mother studied agricultural chemistry.  Like many girls, Connie knew she wanted a job that helped the world and realized that a STEM career could allow her to make a difference. Unfortunately, Connie only makes up a small percentage of women who realize this career path could fulfill them in that way.


STEM which stands for 

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Math

These fields represent one of the fastest growing industries in the US.  STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. However, women are still underrepresented in this industry. According to the National Science Board in 2018, women made up almost half of the overall workforce but are only 28% of Science and Engineering jobs. The question is why are more women not entering the STEM world? In a survey done by Microsoft of girls and young women 91% described themselves as creative but only 37% see Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as jobs that involve creativity. It has been proven that when young girls are exposed and mentored by women in a STEM field they are more likely to see that path as an option. Connie understands how important it is to go outside of the classroom and interact with the younger generation.

I am passionate about being a role model for younger women in science

Connie Chang

She takes her passion and shares it with the girls of Expanding Your Horizons. EYH network began in 1974 as the Math/Science Network. An informal group of women scientists and educators in the San Francisco Bay area who were concerned about the low female participation in Math courses. The program quickly developed the idea of conference programs in which middle and high-school girls participate in hands-on activities in STEM. Each year EYH has around 24,000 girls attend their events and more than 80 conferences each year taking place in 33 states and three countries. 

With programs like EYH and Girls for a Change, Connie hopes that we can raise greater awareness of recognizing biases and inequality in higher education. By inviting underrepresented speakers to the conferences to share their stories they are proving to young girls that, yes, there are people who look like them in the STEM fields. To improve women’s numbers in these fields we need to show them that they belong and have a place in these industries. 

Connie Chang

A cup of Joe

The best part of waking up… Who are we kidding, the only thing getting us up is COFFEE. So many of our morning routines require a cup of java before anything else can be done. The rich scent arouses our senses before the first sip

But how does the delightful brew become the caffeinated fuel running our day to day? It all starts with a tiny seed originally discovered in Ethiopia. There is a lot of skill required to take a simple bean and turn it into a delicious cup of coffee.

We had the chance to work with Leslie Mah, the roaster and head of operations for Sudden Coffee, to represent her field for our project, Women’s Work.  

Leslie Mah

Leslie’s passion for coffee has brewed since she was a child and channeled that interest into a thriving career which is quite a feat in a male-dominated industry. In 2012, “Roast” Magazine conducted a survey that found only 13 percent of professional roasters were female.

“You can’t taste the gender of who roasted the coffee. That always just made me laugh. I don’t taste a cup of coffee and go, ‘Wow. That’s a male perspective’.”

Leslie Mah

Leslie faced many challenges when she first starting her career. However, she quickly began to understand the nuance of being close to the roaster and soon was in sync with the machine.

Soon she became flexible and understood that every coffee has its own personality. A roaster helps the bean express itself through patience and a trained palate. Neither of those traits depends on gender. In 2016 Leslie proved how precise her pallet is with her 2nd place win at the US Cup Tasters Championship.

“I wanna stay in coffee. I wanna be in coffee no matter what. And I want to continue to use my palate and my love of sharing taste with the world. If I could, I would roast forever.”

Leslie Mah

We find that so many times women are denied even the chance to prove their skills. A woman’s inability to lift a 150 lb bag of coffee beans over their head doesn’t prevent them from creating a delightful cup of Joe and Leslie is proving that fact everyday.

Leslie Mah – Women’s Work

Baking with LOVE

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach and if you were armed with Georgetown cupcakes your crushes heart would be in the palm of your hands.

These undisputed delectable treats have tantalized taste buds for over a decade. Sisters and owners, Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Berman, officially opened their doors over a decade ago in Washington, DC on Valentine’s day in 2008.

Georgetown Cupcake – Washington, DC

Since then they have expanded Georgetown Cupcake to six cities, ship cupcakes nationwide, and have developed a cupcake and frosting mix baking line in partnership with Williams Sonoma. With a menu of over 100 different flavors, they now bake over 25,000 cupcakes a day and have over 300 employees across the country.

Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Berman

As an addition to our ongoing Women’s Work project we asked the sisters who inspired them to become the cupcake queens they are today. Sophie and Katherine’s love of tiny cakes started early in their lives.

Sophie and Katherine

They spent much of their early childhood with their grandmother, Katherine Ouzas, watching her bake during the holidays and special occasions.

Katherine Ouzas

Not only did they develop their passion for baking from their grandmother but learned the importance of hard work. As a non-english speaking immigrant from Greece, their grandmother created a life in the United States with her husband. She had achieved the American dream and with those skills passed down, Sophie and Katherine had the confidence to follow their dreams.

Love comes in so many forms and places. From their grandmother, Sophie and Katherine learned and experienced the joy that they could bring to others through baking – the notion that something that they made with their own hands could bring happiness to others.  And thatʼs ultimately what their business is about – spreading love, comfort, and joy to others.

When a Fire Starts to Burn

As the California wildfire season comes to the end we look back at one of the most damaging to date. The devastation that ripped through the state did the same to so many of our friends and family and at this point, the destruction from the fires can be seen from space. When thinking about our defense against the out of control havoc most only know of firefighters, but these selfless heroes arrive when damage has already begun. Now with flash floods rampaging through the fire-scarred earth, many are left to wonder what can be done to prevent such massive ruin?

A controlled burn 

It seems like a delicate match and Mary Lata has made a career striking that balance. As a Fire Ecologist Mary’s job is to observe and monitor the Tonto National Forest to decide when a fire should burn or be put out. At times she prescribes controlled burns as a  necessary strategy for the health of the area. 

Yes, sometimes fires are set for the betterment of the environment. Like most of us, Mary too didn’t realize that this was a job she could have until she was working at Badlands National Park as an Interpretive Ranger. It immediately became obvious to her that fire ecology was what she should do. She finds it hard to imagine a life that doesn’t involve working outside with fire and natural lands.

To understand how fires become out of control you must first understand the natural impact they have on the ecosystem. Fires are a necessary part of nature. It’s a disturbance just like flooding, wind-storms, and landslides. Many environments like savannahs and prairies require regular burning to allow many native plant species to germinate, establish, or to reproduce. Wildfire suppression not only limits these plants to thrive but could potentially eliminate them all together. Wildfire prevention also exacerbated the lack of control we have once a fire takes hold.

A natural wildfire will create gaps in the vegetation, which help to contain and not allow them to become massive fires.  So, when we prevent mother nature’s failsafe and allow plant life to grow uncontrolled we give a flame the fuel to thrive. Through controlled burns, we create the ability to limit the damage of fire can do. Mary, like a master chess player, watches over our terrain as if a well played board. Observing and planning her next move.


Running of the Pigs

When we heard about Stryker Farms and Nancy Poli we envisioned the next perfect Women’s Work shoot. Nestled just two hours outside of Philadelphia is where Nancy and her son, Nolan Thevenet run Stryker Farms. Unlike the traditional large pink pigs from Old McDonald’s farm, their Farm specializes in heritage pigs.

Nancy and Nolan raise a mix of 6 different breeds; Tamworth, Berkshire, Hereford, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and Large Black. These old-world breeds have a tendency to grow slower than conventional pigs resulting in a more flavorful pork. Stryker Farms takes pride in the fact that their pigs are raised outdoors and enjoy a natural diet of non-GMO grains and grasses without the use of antibiotics or hormones.

After a bit of pre-production, handled by Robert Luessen, we were ready to visit Stryker Farms on April 17th, 2016. With a sunrise call time Chris, Robert, Jared Castaldi, and Sam Green hit the road north towards Stroudsburg. 

With every mile, we drove the more the urban landscape drifted away leaving room for lush wooded landscapes. After a few music albums and several random conversations, we arrived at the dirt road of Stryker Farms.

Once at the farm we were greeted by a little shop selling their wares, such as cheeses and sausages. We drove past the shop, knowing we would return to stock up of delightful treats to take home. We continued to drive towards the buildings that housed the livestock. In a addition to pigs, Stryker farms also raises beef and dairy cows, chickens, turkeys, and goats.

I don’t know if you have ever been on a farm but you can’t visit one without experiencing a particular smell.  This time was no different and the stench was unbearable. The muck created by the animals was everywhere, as expected. We need to set gear down on the ground but had no intention of anything becoming covered in manure. So we planned ahead and added plastic bags to the gear prep list. The plastic bags were wrapped to the bottom of all stands and power packs were placed in them. Of course, this was a time before we used battery powered lights so the farm quickly became covered with cords. To make things more difficult we wanted to keep the wires above the manure-covered ground. So we strung them like festive Christmas lights throughout the space.

Robert hanging festive extension cords

Once all of the lights, extension cords, and power packs were prepped and ready to go it was time to set up the shot. Chris came to Skryker Farms with a strong image in his mind’s eye. The vision was there and it was time to make it a reality. There was a path that directed the pigs from a lower housing location to an upper feeding area. This was the space that would allow Chris’s vision come to life. To create the illusion of Nancy calmly standing in the middle of stampeding pigs we realized it needed to be two separate pictures that would be combined in post.

The composition that Chris envisioned was with Nancy centered with the pigs running on both sides of her in the path. To achieve this it would require the camera to float in the middle of the chute. We decided that we needed to create a rig. Something that would allow the camera to stay in the space while the pigs ran through. The team devised a metal bar that attached across the path where the camera would be secured.

While shooting Nancy, Chris would use the rig as a tripod but of course, he too couldn’t be in the chute once the pigs were set loose. It was decided he would use a remote to fire the camera while standing safely outside of the action.  After a few tests of the remote to ensure it would fire we were ready to begin.

We were truly lucky to have such a charming and captivating subject as Nancy. We quickly got what we need from her and were ready to move on to the unpredictable part of the day. The pig run. We only had one opportunity to get this shot. Once the lower pen door opened the pigs without direction would instinctively run up the hill for their anticipated meal. Once Chris and Nancy climbed out of chute we were ready.

Release the PIGS!

With great excitement, the pigs rampaged up the hill running underneath the excellently placed rig/camera setup. At the same time, Chris was fiercely pressing the remote to fire the camera as to capture the thrilling moment. Once all of the pigs were clear of the chute and happily eating, it was a wrap. We began to clean E V E R Y T H I N G and then did another thorough cleaning once back to the office. Our time at the farm was quick and unforgettable. Nancy and her corkscrewed tailed co-stars were a delight. They gave us everything we needed to create a beautiful photograph that focused on the moment. We found a little piece of magic on this shoot that helped us create something unique and memorable. We hope you enjoy it.

Nancy Poli, Pig Farmer, Stryker Farms, Saylorsburg, PA.

Cursed Amongst the Corn

By Noel Pattani

No one ever believes me! When I talk about what I saw everyone thinks I’m just a crazy old man who has lost his mind. I usually wouldn’t waste my breath on retelling the tale but you are here so I should just tell you what happened and you can decide for yourself.

I have lived and worked this land my whole life, the last of 7 generations. We have always been farmers and I am the only one left. We took care of the land and the land took care of us. I was born in the bedroom right off of the kitchen. The youngest of 4 siblings. From the moment I could walk I was feeding the chickens, helping any way I could. The comfortability of the routine quickly became my standard of life. My family worked together like a well-oiled machine. Each person had a specific role needed to keep the farm running smoothly. Then one night when I was 6… everything changed.

I was in bed when a sharp light struck me in the face from my window. The unusual light was something that I had never seen before. It was a light that filled the room but there wasn’t any light outside. To this day I still don’t know where it came from. Oddly enough I wasn’t afraid. Instead, I was curious, uncontrollably so. I had to know what was causing this phenomenon. I quickly put on my galoshes and coat to protect me from the late night chill as I went to explore outside. The moment I stepped out into the cold evening I felt a pull towards our fields. It literally felt like a line was attached to my pelvis and with quick forceful pulls, I was tugged along. Finally, when the need to mindlessly move ceased, I found myself surrounded by stalks of corn and silence. I quietly looked around to determine why I was in the field. There was nothing, not even a breeze. Just a still cornfield. Then the light had returned. It was harsh, relentless, and overwhelming. I was paralyzed left helpless and terrified. I could feel a foreign energy fill my tiny body. The force vibrated through me like a jolt of lightning. The intense sensation quickly became too much to handle and with a whimper, I blacked out.

The morning rooster woke me laying on top of my messy bed. I frantically searched around my room looking for evidence of what happened last night. My only evidence of last night was a piece of a blue fabric clutched in my right hand. I remember the swatch felt so important to me and radiated a comforting warmth. After dressing for the day I carried the precious piece down to breakfast. The family gathered around our large wooden kitchen table but someone was missing. My older sister, Sarah, her seat was left empty. My mother told me to investigate and I quickly sprinted up the steps to stop at Sarah’s room. I gently rubbed the soft blue fabric in my hand as I hesitated from fear of what was behind the door. I slowly opened it with a familiar creak. I would hear that noise everytime Sarah left her room and it was the first time I heard it that today. Entering the room I teased her about being late for breakfast “Sarah! Wake up sleepy head!” She was laying in her bed with her back to the door and I quietly called her name. Still she didn’t move. I walked over to the bed to shake her awake when I noticed her blue nightgown. I looked down at the fabric in my hand and knew where it came from. I reached out to touch Sarah and found her cold to the touch as if all of her warmth was in the tiny fabric in my trembling hand. I rolled her over to find an expression of open-eyed horror.

The autopsy said that Sarah died of asphyxiation but I knew the truth. It was the light. But at the time I had my doubts until the light came back when I was 13. The next day I woke with a white piece of fabric and my brother Thomas dead. Asphyxiation. The summer I turned 15 the light came back. I awoke with a gray piece of fabric in hand and Stephen, my last sibling, died. Asphyxiation. The light once again came back, I was 25. When I rose the next day with a piece of my mother’s nightgown and I knew it was just me and Pa. The only two survivors of the relentless light that had picked off my entire family for unknown reasons. The last time the light visited me was when I was 45. Unlike every time before when I would wake up in my own bed this time I found myself standing in the middle of the cornfield. In my right hand was a piece of my father’s nightshirt. It was then that I knew I was alone. My entire family was stolen and I am to blame. While watching the sun climbing up the sky I realized the truth. I am the light and the light is me.