We had the good fortune of connecting with Cassandra Guerra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cassandra, how do you think about risk?
From the outside, I probably come off as a risk taker. In recent years, I’ve really shaken things up. Does being risky mean being unprepared for the outcome? I’d like to think the answer is “no” in my case. I’m an over-thinker by nature and seeing the punch line coming is what I’m good at. Over-thinking doesn’t always mean over-complicating things. For instance, when you see a problem with your situation, knowing the solution is the easy part. It’s the steps in between point A and point B that really test your abilities. Much of my confidence comes from being tested in the early years of parenting. I embraced being a stay-at-home mom, all the while planning for a photography career that I knew my life wouldn’t be complete without. Adjacently, we planned on packing up our life and becoming full-timers in our travel trailer. Of course, this didn’t come without a lot of raised eyebrows amongst our family and friends, but their support was there and that is what mattered the most. We had felt that there was a whole world out there that we were missing out on, and so we decided to set out and find it. We ended up finding a lot of direction in our lives from those wanderlust years. While on the road, I was able to really hone in on my landscape photography skills. I’d post pictures on social media of bears I photographed in the Yellowstone wilderness and everyone thought I had become delirious in my new naturalistic lifestyle. However, I embraced this new side of myself and knew I was changed forever. When we settled in Colorado, I began making preparations to start a wedding photography business. I knew the risks were high in this field of photography, because you only get one shot to get it right. So, I made it my business to turn my weaknesses into my strengths. I learned as much as I could about technique and how to photograph indoors, outdoors, in near darkness, in bright sunlight, in the rain, and how to make the most of the 30 seconds you get to photograph a moment before it passes. If that wasn’t enough, I decided to teach myself to become a hybrid wedding photographer. Noticing a lack of videographers in my area, I devoured every educational manual on the subject and practiced constantly, until I could start offering films to my clients. On many wedding days, you can find me holding two cameras, shooting video and still photography simultaneously. Let me tell you- that’ll will really get your adrenalin pumping. My career as a photographer is ever-evolving, which to me, is exciting. I like to think that I thrive in chancy situations, as they keep me prepared for all the possible outcomes. I’ve really learned to value the decisions I’ve made, because they have gotten me where I am today. Life is an odds game, the more backup plans you have in place, the better your odds are of success. Change is necessary, risks are necessary, and when they pay off, then you know you’ve found one more thing you’re good at.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Torn between multiple career paths in college, I decided to take some photography classes in the art department. I didn’t realize how much of myself I’d find in those courses. Life wasn’t very easy for me during that time and I knew that I was lucky to be enrolled in college at all. The more I was able to express through my art, the better I got to know myself. My life became less of what I was missing, and more of what I have. I learned that I had a natural talent for measuring light and finding unique perspectives. I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and always felt rewarded with the final product. I knew that if I made photography my profession, that I’d get to be creative and always feel centered to an idea that felt true to me. I am a forever-student of photography, always learning new lessons and never settling until I find just the right balance in my editing techniques. The hardest leap I had to make in my business is listening to my inner voice. I knew I could get the “safe/traditional” shots, but those weren’t always the images that spoke to me in the final cut. It was the images that I took a risk on. It was a camera angle or a striking contrast that I’d end up swooning over. I learned that I needed to trust my instincts, lean on my experience, and go for the emotionally-charged images. As it turns out, those were the images that my couples found to represent them the best. The more I listened to myself, the better my images became and the more enjoyment I got out of my career. After advertising these images, I started appealing to the kind of couples that I always wanted to work with. It was a win-win decision.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First off, a week isn’t a long enough time to spend in northern Colorado. There is something exciting to do around every corner. Old Town Fort Collins is where we’d hit first. With its rich historical buildings and picturesque neighborhoods, it’s the perfect backdrop to enjoy all the cozy restaurants and vibrant nightlife scene. Breakfast spots like Lucille’s, set in a home built in the early 1900’s transports you through it’s creole dishes and Mardi Gras-themed artwork on the walls. If it’s lunchtime in Fort Collins, then it’s late enough to starting drinking a pint a locally brewed beer from one of the hottest beer scenes in the US. Some may even call it the Brewery Capitol. After grabbing a bite from a local food truck and an exciting game of cornhole on the New Belgium lawn, we’d probably head down the Poudre River Trail. Biking and hiking are some of the most popular pastimes in Fort Collins, and the Poudre River never disappoints. After fun in the sun, deciding on a restaurant for dinner becomes a hard decision. With nearly every genre of food choices, it won’t be easy to pick just one. Next Door Eatery is hip and casual at the same time, all while embracing an eclectic menu. Little on Mountain Ave. is where you go to impress your guests. Don’t forget to book a reservation because they don’t call it little for a reason. After a busy day in Old Town, I’d take my good friends 45 minutes up the canyon to Estes Park. There we’d head into Rocky Mountain National Park and take in all the incredible views and wildlife sightings. A week could get pretty full, if live music was on the itinerary. Some favorite spots I’d take out-of-towners would be The Mishawaka, Swing Station, and The Forge. I wouldn’t forget about one of my favorite picnic spots either, and that’s at Horsetooth Reservoir. Renting a kayak and catching some sun on the lake sounds like a great afternoon to me. Fort Collins, and Northern Colorado in general is an impressive city with so much to offer everyone!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My sister was to be rowed in a canoe towards her wedding aisle by our father. She asked me what color canoe she should take, and I replied, “The blue one, of course!” As the wedding rituals go, it was her “something blue”. When it came time for me to give a name to my wedding photography business, I thought back to that day and knew that there was only one name I wanted to represent my business: Blue Canoe Photography. My sister is my muse, and her love and support helps drive me to be more. My husband and my kids are always in my corner, and making them proud makes all the hard work worth it. I am lucky enough to have many people in my life that have helped me grow emotionally and professionally. Lastly, a huge thank you to all the couples who have inspired me to be creative, and for that reason, I have a career that brings me an enormous amount of joy!
Blue Canoe Photography