The force behind the lens

Sunday, January 03, 2016


Happy New Year!

There's someone I've been dying for you to meet--say hello to Cathy Trainor.  Cathy has been my best friend since high school (yikes!) and most recently my photographer for The Midlife Fashionista.

When you've got it, you've got it and Cathy has it all. She's warm, funny, caring, smart, beautiful (inside and out) and uber-talented. She's one of those people who you fall in love with instantly and feel like you've known forever.  She's also modest and humble. It took a little persuading to get her to agree to be the focus of this blog post and I'm so glad she finally said yes!

So without further ado, meet the force behind the lens and prepare to get inspired.




Susan--Tell us about yourself.

Cathy--I am a successful, single 54 year old woman who continues to “find” and “define” herself in the next chapter of my life.  I have a 24 year old daughter and 34 year old stepdaughter, courtesy of my ex-husband.  My family and friends are my world…photography is the icing on the cake! 

S--Where did your passion for photography come from and when did it start?

C--My father loved photography and had his own darkroom.  We were raised on photographs, slides and eventually 8mm film reels!  I have no doubt this was a big influence on me.

S--Where did your confidence to try something new come from?

C--Confidence is a funny thing with me.  I am extremely confident in my ability to provide for my family, give 150% at the office, tackle life’s challenges as they arise and yet, when it comes to being creative, I have allowed fear to hold me back at times.  Part of that comes from fear of failure, of not living up to my own expectations and looking silly.  As I get older, I care less what others think and look at failed attempts (not failure) as a necessary part of learning and growing.  I purchased my first “grown-up” film camera 20 years ago.  My first digital camera was a Canon Rebel xTi that eventually became my best friend (sorry Sue!) and companion for 9 years, until a recent upgrade.  Initially, my fear of failure limited my abilities and growth but when I finally realized that there was no COST to trying (it was digital after all!) and no one had to see my mistakes, my world opened up beyond my wildest dreams! 

S--How did you discover photography – or did it discover you?

C--I think the discovery was mutual!  Photography is a part of me…I can never get enough and I will always continue to learn and grow.  We all have “stress” dreams at times.   MY stress dream usually centers around me being in a location where there is something beautiful that I simply must photograph and realizing I don’t have my camera!  I can SEE the colors in my dream and I envision how I want to capture whatever it may be.  I think about the lighting and angles.  Then the disappointment creeps in when I realize I don’t have my camera with me.  It’s a sickness, I think! 

 "I like my photos to evoke or reflect emotion.  Everyone will have their own interpretation but this one conjures up an incredible sense of PEACE in me."

S--Have you always been a creative person?

C--Yes.  I’ve always loved arts and crafts and was into stained glass for several years.  I enrolled in a cake decorating class years ago and enjoy creating just the right thing for friends and family.  Even wrapping presents takes on a life of its own with me!  I take any chance I can to express myself.  

S--Why photography?

C--Photography allows me to share myself through my photographs.  I am an Introvert, even though my friends disagree with me.  I am not shy but I NEED my alone time.  There is always a LOT going on in my head but I don’t tend to share all of those thoughts with words.  I am a very visual person so much of what I experience translates into pictures in my mind.  It can be difficult for me to explain the pictures/thoughts with words.  That’s where photography comes in….I can share pieces of ME without words.

S--How do you feel when you’re shooting?

C--Alive!  I lose all track of time when I am shooting something that inspires me.  I am usually pretty exhausted when I finally call it a day.  9 times out of 10 though, I get a second wind so I begin the editing process as soon as I get home.  This has led to many late nights! 

S--Where do you find your inspiration and what inspires you?

C--When I’m shooting for me, I find inspiration in anything that evokes emotion.  Without emotion, it’s just a pretty picture.  I have found emotional inspiration in wandering the streets of NYC, capturing my daughter as she bonds with horses, decorating gingerbread houses with my stepdaughters’ children, old abandoned buildings/houses, fog, old cemeteries, beautiful natural light, trees; the list goes on…

"I remember this day well...it was cold, damp and foggy; quite depressing actually.  Instead of letting the day get the better of me, I took my camera out and drove around looking for inspiration.  Boy, did I find it!"

S--Describe your ideal shoot.

C--I would jump at the chance to shoot an abandoned castle or chateau.  Since I won’t trespass or break the law to get a photo, I don’t see this happening anytime soon, however.  I do belong to a few Urban Exploration sites on Facebook and I live vicariously through others for the time being. 

S--Are there any photographers you admire?  If so, why?

C--I am just starting to branch out and look at others’ work so I don’t have a long list yet.  I had a chance to hear Jay Maisel, Lindsay Adler and Joe McNally speak at Photo Plus in NYC.  Each one of them is so different and yet so very good at what they do.  I have to say though, that the photographer that I admire the most is Karen Bobotas.  Karen is a professional photographer in the Lakes Region of NH.  She and I have become the best of friends over the past few years as we share a passion for photography.  I admire Karen because she built her own business while simultaneously raising a family.  Her attention to detail, professionalism, warmth, enthusiasm and dedication, are a few of the qualities that lead her to success.  The Laconia Daily Sun, The Concord Monitor, The Valley News, The Stowe Reporter, and Lakes Region Tourism are just a few of her clients.  Karen doesn’t stop there, though.  She is always thinking creatively and continues to branch out in her photographic abilities.  She is a source of inspiration for me and makes me want to strive to reach further!  Karen’s website is www.karenbobotas.com.  Her blog is www.karenbobotas.blogspot.com. 

S-Describe your photography style.  Describe your personal style.  Any similarities?

C--Interesting question!  With photography, I am drawn to old, abandoned buildings with lots of history.  With clothing and jewelry, I gravitate towards vintage-style so YES, there are similarities!

S--What does your work say about you as a person?  As a woman?

C--I am proud of my work but that wasn’t always so.  Early on, I felt like I couldn’t share my photographs because they didn’t reflect the quality I aspired to achieve.  I have since learned that there is no such thing as perfection and my work achievements will always be “in progress” because I will always be learning.  This, in itself, is something of which to be proud.  As a woman, I think that giving up on perfection and even sharing some of the mistakes along the way is a huge accomplishment.  Learning to “let go” has allowed me to continue to move on to the next level.  Fear no longer holds me back. 


"Madame Sherri's Castle - all that's left of this once magnificent home in Western New Hampshire.  I can feel Madame's presence whenever I venture out there."

S--What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

C--“Don’t forget to take the lens cap off!”  Just kidding!   I’ve received so much good advice over the years but since I have to pick one thing, I will share something photography-related.  Always, ALWAYS, look behind you.  Even as you are photographing the greatest sunset ever, “LOOK behind you; if only for a moment”.  You never know what you could be missing.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been grateful I paid attention to this advice.     

S--Did it take courage to become a photographer in mid-life?  Did it give you a push to explore other things as well?

C--Yes and yes!  In order to become a better photographer, I have had to learn to get more comfortable in front of the lens.  For a true introvert, this is a very difficult thing to do.  To me, the camera lens is like an eye looking straight into my soul.  (Sounds like a nightmare to me!)  But guess what?  I am overcoming the aversion to being photographed and even practice on myself using a remote trigger.  I have also always loved to travel but photography has made me want to branch out in this area as well.  There is so much to see, explore and experience!      


"To me this represents protection...the mother bird and her nest overshadow the broken windows and noise of NYC streets below."

S--If you could capture one thing through your lens, what would it be?

C--Emotion; whether it is the person, place or thing I am photographing or whether the photograph itself evokes an emotion in the viewer.

S--Describe a Midlife Fashionista shoot and what it’s like to work with your best friend! Be nice!

C-- Where do I start??  We  have known each other for 38 years.  THIRTY EIGHT years!  As hard as that is to grasp at times, I wouldn’t trade in any of those years for anything in the world.  We’ve shared ups, downs, marriage, divorce, children, death, anniversaries, birthdays (LOTS of birthdays apparently), holidays, and chocolate. With all of that, what could be better than photographing my beautiful (inside and out) friend who is as passionate about fashion as I am about photography?  I get to play “dress up” with my childhood friend.  WHAT could be better than that?  We work hard but we have so much fun during the shoot that we don’t realize it’s work…until it’s over and we’re exhausted because we haven’t stopped or eaten in hours. 

S--What advice can you give to other midlife women who want to explore their creative side?

C--Just TRY!!  Get the self-critic out of your head and just try.  You have nothing to lose.

S--I love the photo of you (in the hat)….what does this say about you?

C--That photo actually says a lot about me!  My friend, Karen, and I have spent the past year challenging each other to bi-weekly “one word” photo projects.   One word is chosen and then we have to go out and shoot whatever that word represents to us.  We don’t share thoughts or ideas until after we are done.  That week’s word was “wind”.  I had 2 fans blowing on me and added the hat for effect.  I can only imagine what my neighbors thought!  I feel like the photo captured my spirit at the time.  I was looking straight into the lens (AGAIN…my worst nightmare!) while confidently adjusting lighting and camera settings until I got what I intended to capture.  I feel like the photo represents my confidence and courage to overcome my own insecurities.

S--Cathy you are SUCH an inspiration to us all! Thank you for allowing me to share yo!
Love you XO




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8 comments

  1. Thank you both for this interesting read. So many of Cathy's answers really resonated with me, and others felt like the wisdom I've been working towards finding out. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and what fabulous photos! I really like the idea of having a word to create around. That could be just what my creatively wandering brain needs in order to focus on one thing, haha. So thank you both again - this has made quite the impact on me!

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    1. Thank you so much for your feedback. I am smiling at the thought that this made an impact on someone. It just goes to show that we can all learn from each other!

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    2. Thank you for the lovely comment!! It's just what we need to hear! Keep the creativity flowing and let us know what you're up to! XO Susan

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  2. Thanks for the insight into your oh-so-talented photographer. Beautiful photos, love the steps to the Madame's castle... Cathy, what camera did you upgrade to from your Canon? Thanks!

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  3. great having a friend take your pictures!

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