Friday, December 16, 2011

Photo Shoot with Ms. Karen Custer beloved Mamacita!

by Rachel Sarah Thurston Photography

It’s hard to express how grateful I am to have my mother in my life. She has become more than that. We are sisters, best friends, travel partners and champions of each other’s passions and creative pursuits. I think it’s so much easier seeing the beauty in those we love than in ourselves. The same is true of my mother. She is radiant, stunning, strong, sensitive, supportive, creative, bright, kind, generous, funny (yes, you really are, Mama!), and overall fabulous. I don’t think she necessarily sees these things in herself all the time and I’m sure I struggle recognizing my own talents and assets. That’s what sisters are for, right? To point these out to each other all the time~

It’s been a dream photographing my mother over the years. She’s the one who gave me an artistic sense of composition. Who taught me to dance when I was only three…something which continues to be a passion of mine. She patiently taught me to sing when she thought all was lost and that I might actually be tone-deaf like my father. Turned out I wasn’t after all. To this day, singing with King Bee is a great joy in my life. She taught me that life is too short to not wear the fun, sparkly things! And she taught me to love and to support women in our journeys to a greater love for ourselves.

And she has always supported me in my artistic pursuits. She is my greatest champion. Period.

Over the years she’s learned to trust my eye and my vision when we shoot together. She’s even grown to trust me enough to change her make-up or earrings when I don’t think they’ll “jive” with an outfit.

She’s one of my favorite muses. The camera seems to drink her up like a cool glass of water on a hot summer day. She has a fierceness about her that’s cut by a deep vulnerability and innocence. And burning through it all is a bright light…her passion for life which I thankfully also inherited.

I love you, Mama.

The greatest gift from you this Christmas is to have you in my life. I’m so excited to spend the holidays with you~


Enjoy the Slideshow!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dave and Yvonne's Autumn Wedding at Yosemite National Park

Friday September 16, 2011

A Yosemite Wedding in October. One word, two syllables: STUNNING.

A few of the views in fact were almost TOO PERFECT...many people have commented that some of these photos actually look like they were greenscreened. Nope, just nature's perfection and two very happy people celebrating their marriage together with some of their closest friends and family.

If you haven't visited Yosemite or any of our mountain national parks in the fall, put it on your bucket list now. Shockingly blue skies, sweet mountain air, and aspen and cottonwood trees with leaves the color of brick gold. It's a truly beautiful place to celebrate the union of two amazing people.

I've known Yvonne for almost five years now and have never seen her so "right" with someone. It made me so happy to have the opportunity to sing in Dave and Yvonne's ceremony and to play my ukulele (first official public performance..woohoo!) and then take photos of their rehearsal, wedding, reception and celebration which lasted a couple of days. That's one of the greatest joys about away get to milk the time with your friends and family and spread the celebration out into several days.

To all of Yvonne and Dave's friends and family: It was such a joy meeting so many more of you and celebrating this great event together in one of the country's most beautiful canyons~ I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I had editing them. It was a fantastic way to revisit such a fun weekend together!

Please share this link with your friends and family. I don't have all of the emails for the guests and would love to make sure everyone gets a chance to check out the pics.

*If you are interested in ordering any prints or canvas prints, Zenfolio (where the galleries are based) only uses professional, archival-quality paper and inks. Their printers are calibrated to match the colors that professional photographers like myself use.

Happy Holidays to you all and enjoy the slideshows!



Reception and Weekend Celebration:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

*Please feel free to leave comments at the end of this entry

Friday October 7th, 2011
Cory and Chris's Magical "Wedding on the Beach"

Words cannot describe what an absolute blessing it was to photograph this wedding. From the very beginning of the morning, Chris and Cory were so relaxed, gracious, and fun. And the weather was absolutely divine....reminding me of a summer day on the Big Island of Hawaii. The magic continued throughout the day from their private time in a secluded cove along the beach to the ceremony under a crystal blue sky beneath a driftwood canopy to dancing at the reception and body surfing in the afternoon....and who doesn't love body surfing?!

Any wedding where half the bridal party ends up shedding their clothes for wetsuits and getting joyfully slammed in the surf is my kind of a party!

Chris and Cory are truly blessed with a beautiful group of friends and family. Editing these pics has only made me feel closer to so many of the guests I had the opportunity to photograph. I was sad to leave at the end of the afternoon and gave several friends and family hugs at the end on my way out.

Cory and Chris have been an inspiration to me that weddings--like love--can be relaxed, fun events and that during the best times in life--as one of their signs advertised--"If you're not barefoot, then you're overdressed!"

I'm looking forward to continuing my connection with Chris and Cory in the coming years and watching their relationship continue to flourish. I would love to approach every day of my life with the same joy that I saw Chris and Cory basking in on their wedding day!
I've put together the Five Following Fabulous! Slideshows from Chris and Cory's Wedding:
1) Getting Ready/Chris and Cory's Love Pics
2) Group Pictures
3) Ceremony
4) Reception and Dinner
5) Bouquet, Garter Toss and Money Dance Reception

Please be patient and wait a few minutes for the slideshows to load. Also make sure when you click on "play" that the music is comes on (carefully and obsessively chosen by moi!). If it doesn't, then refresh your web page and click "play" again. Enjoy!

If you'd like to purchase prints or any other items from the following pictures then follow these steps:
1) Click on "gallery" in upper left hand corner of slideshow
2) Once in gallery, select photo you'd like to purchase
3) Roll cursor over upper lefthand corner of picture and select "buy." Choose prints or other products from there.

Getting Ready/Cory and Chris's Photo Shoot Slideshow/Gallery:

Group Pictures Slideshow/Gallery:

Ceremony Slideshow/Gallery:

Reception and Body Surfing Slideshow/Gallery:

Money Dance, Bouquet and Garter Toss Slideshow/Gallery:

Thanks again~

A huge thank you to Cory and Chris's Vendors:
Catering and Rentals: DJ's California Catering, Contact: Doug. Website:
Music: Coastal Events, Contact: James. Website:
Desserts: Gift of Kate Dunbar, owner of Petite Rêve Cafe and Chocolates. Website:
Coordination, Day-Of: Debbie Echevarria. Email:
Cory's sister Lauren made her bouquet and dress. Her website for her art is here:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

*Feel free to leave your comments below~

"Mountain Climbing, Micro-Brews, and Mandolins"

My year is joyfully punctuated by a few choice events around the country: an international adventure with Mama Chihuahua, dressing up in feathers and sequins for Santa Barbara's raucous, pagan Carnival-like Summer Solstice Celebration in June, venturing back to Southern Indiana in the late summer to commune with friends and family, and a return to Arizona for the Flagstaff Film Festival in the delicious month of Aspen-turning October.

There are quite a few good reasons to go to the Film Festival (like the fact that it's one of the few places you can drink wine and watch a documentary on base jumping in the Arctic and then hob nob with some of the country's best photographers and documentary filmmakers over fajitas and a local micro-brew).

Mostly I go because the Flag Mountain Film Festival simply ROCKS.

As a few of my close friends know, it's been a challenging year in a few respects (and very fortunate in many ways as well) and this recent trip to Arizona was a tonic for my heart and spirit.

Over the years (and by virtue of the sheer number of hours we've spent in the theatre eagerly absorbing every adventure documentary we can) Mom and I have become friends with three of the festival directors--Ron Tuckman, John Tveten, and Kristi Frazier--all of whom are accomplished peeps and travelers in their own right. I only get to see my Flagstaff friends once a year but it feels like a community I slip right into effortlessly and with great affection!

This past year I had the great privilege of singing and playing my ukulele (pushing my comfort zone a little with my new instrument!) with John's band "Spontaneous Combustion." You know there are few film festivals which offer both the quality of documentaries you would expect to see at Telluride and Banff Film Festivals... as well as feature musical events where you can see the festival directors doing their music thang on stage in the after-hours. Late Friday night at one of the festival events, director John Tveten's band "Spontaneous Combustion" (Tom O'Hara on guitar/vocals and James Frazier on bass) took the stage...with exec director Ron Tuckman playing harmonica and visiting filmmaker Peter McBride (see his film below) on mandolin. The band lived up to its name that night. :)

That's truly the thing that I love about music. Wherever I go in the world, I seem to find a community of brothers and sister among fellow musicians. We're the underdog artists who have been infected with a total love for playing and celebrating music in as many ways possible during our short time here on earth. And music is a bit like dancing, it's a heck of a lot more fun to do with other people.

In short, it was a pretty good dang week. I had the blessed opportunity to play music, hang out with some truly cool folks, watch a few very powerful films about happiness, adventure, and our responsibilities as world citizens.

Mostly, it was a good reminder that I'm on the right path...that this life I've chosen as a writer, photographer, musician and adventurer is the right one. And that as long as I continue to follow the pursuits which bring me joy, I can't go too wrong. :)

After many hours spent in the theatre during the festival, Mom and I both agreed there were four top films for us this year. I recommend checking them all out when they come out in DVD, if they come to a town near you, or if they're available in the near future online:

"Family Of The Wa'a"
USA, 2011, 81 min.
Director: Alyssa Fedele
Producer: David Cumming
This one was an "11" for me. A truly beautiful tribute to the cultural and spiritual legacy of outrigger canoeing in Hawai'i. Hawaiian mover and shaker Kimokeo Kapahulehua sets out to fulfill his uncle's lifelong dream: to paddle the length of the Hawaiian islands via outrigger canoe. Beautifully shot and powerful cultural story for anyone who has felt a connection to the water or to the Pacific Island Culture.

"Chasing Water"
USA, 2011, 19 min.
Director/Producer: Peter McBride
Photojournalist and Colorado Native goes on a personal journey documenting the flow of the Colorado River from source to where it should run into the Sea of Cortez, but sadly no longer reaches. Beautifully edited and paced, the movie combines McBride's still photography along with video clips in a seamless tribute to one of the West's greatest arteries.

Watch the Trailer for "Cold" at Vimeo:

USA, 2011, 20 min.
Director: Anson Fogel
Producers: Julie Kennedy and David Burden
Okay, so I've seen A LOT of climbing and mountaineering docs over the years but this is the first one I've seen to truly address the morbid inner monologue of a climber attempting an 8,000 meter peak (from the point of view of American Climber Cory Richards in a bid with two others to be the first to summit one of Pakistan's giants mid-winter). So often climbing movies glorify and sugarcoat the experiences of climbers merely touching on the sheer misery of cold temperatures, hypoxia, and numbness that dogs climbers minute by minute.

USA, 2011, 80 min.
Director: Roko Belic
Producers: Eiji Han Shimizu and Frances Reid
Feature-length documentary that leads views on a journey across five continents in search of the keys to happiness. Definitely makes you think about what you're doing in your life to cultivate more of that much sought after Vitamin-H! ;)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Luke and Kelly's Wedding
Dos Pueblos Ranch, Gaviota Coast

So I recently had the pleasure of playing for a wedding of some long-time King Bee fans...Kelly and Luke. It was probably one of the most gorgeous wedding venues I've seen in the many years of playing with King Bee. Both Kelly and Luke lended a sweetness to the celebration that was definitely unforgettable.

Even though I was "off the clock" as a photographer I couldn't help myself (for more details read below). As the sun goes down, the place turns into a wonderland like something from "Sleepy Hollow." The only lighting comes from hundreds of votive candles, giant chandeliers made from driftwood, and sparkling white's truly a magical place at night.

The whole event was a true team effort. Tricia Fountaine Design was in charge of decorating for the event.
The bride and groom (Kelly and Luke) contributed hand-made gorgeous centerpieces made of manzanita branches and wire-wrapped glass lanterns. By candlelight, we all dined on a divine filet mignon and salmon dinner served by Country Catering based in Goleta. Their official photographer was Emily Hart-Roberts (who will be posting official pics in the near future) and their event planning was spearheaded by Danielle Laudon.

The reception was an absolute blast and I wish I could have had someone photograph "King Bee" as well but I can only do one thing at a time. Just try to sing, play cowbell, and photograph at the same time and you'll see what I mean. ;)

I'm grateful to Luke and Kelly for having included us in on such a fantastic celebration
and show of love, creativity, and magic!

*Oh yes, and they had a vintage cupcake trailer....I mean, come on! Who doesn't LOVE CUPCAKES?! Cupcakes by "Enjoy Cupcakes" which is based in Los Olivos.

Enjoy the slideshow and feel free to leave your comments below~

Monday, September 12, 2011

Goddess Pregnancy Photos

by rsthurston photography

*Feel free to leave comments below the slideshow~

September 20th, 2011

"To be pregnant is to be vitally alive, thoroughly woman, and undoubtedly inhabited."

Anne Buchanan & Debra Klingsporn

It's crazy to think that not only are some of my oldest and dearest Santa Barbara girlfriends now married and with kids but a few of them are on their second and third little ones. It's a beautiful thing to watch a fellow woman grow from who she was as a single entity to growing into a wife and mother. My dear friend (who wishes to remain unnamed but is pleased to share these artful images with others) has been in my life since the first year I moved to Santa Barbara. I was fresh off the river from years of living in a Chevy Blazer packed to the gills with most of my living possessions.

She had just moved here from Oregon and was beginning an equally exciting adventure and chapter in her life.Those were the days when we didn't know the difference from the Eastside and the Westside or the Riviera from the Mesa. We were just happy to have a roof over our heads and a little piece of green out our backdoors. I lived off of plastic plates and ate on a coffee table stitched together from plywood and bricks for the first year. My girlfriend "G" and I paddled outrigger together, partied with sailors, went to music festivals, and lived the free-spirited lifestyle of 20-something women unfettered by commitment, mortgages, or a biological clock.

In short, them were some fun days...

I look now at how much our lives have changed. I definitely couldn't fit all that I own into an SUV anymore and I'm a lot pickier about the plates I eat off of and the neighborhood I live in. She's married now to a sweet engineer with a Midwestern raising and taste for travel and good art. They're on their third child now but seem to maintain a closeness with each other as if they were just entering their first year of marriage together.

While we both acknowledge the incredible times we had here during the "good ole days," I doubt either one of us would trade where we're at now. I've discovered a serenity and blissfulness here in Santa Barbara that I never knew when I was moving every three months and living out of tupperware.

And my girlfriend has grown into this amazing, radiant, calm, and collected wise, sexy wife and mother. To see the woman who I once danced on bartops with and lost at a music festival in the High Sierras becoming this pregnant goddess is truly an unimaginable transition yet it just feels right. Girlfriends like her are blazing the way for me in the next chapter of my life...

We're blessed to be the women that we are. And as the old saying goes...."You can never step in the same river twice." But why should we? It's a magnificent, heart-wrenching, and beautiful journey this life of ours....and I wouldn't trade any of it.

The adventure of motherhood awaits....

We had fantastic timing, by the way, with this shoot. "G" gave birth only a week after these photos were taken....her precious little one was born on a Sunday morning...hence the title of the soundtrack I chose by Maroon 5 which I thought fit the mood purrfectly....Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

October 7th, 2011
Sycamore Cove Wedding on the Beach

Cory and Chris

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12, 2011

Photo Shoot with Cynthia Ziemer
Friend, Superstar, and Fellow Djun Djun Mama~

"There is just one life for each of us: our own." ~Euripides

*Feel free to leave your sweet comments at the end of this entry~

It's a dream to have the chance to photograph more girlfriends and among those a very special group of women: the Djun Djun Mamas. I've photographed both Lisa Beck, our leader, as well as Kris Oster another phenomenal woman in her own right.

Each of the women in this group are extraordinary. Accomplished. Creative. Kind. Generous. Wise beyond this life. And radiant.

Cynthia is all of these and more. I continue to learn more about her through moments together like this shoot. How she is capable of giggling and smiling most any day of the week. How she loves bringing coconut water to our Djun Djun Mama potlucks. How she adores driving her '64 Red Corvette (which has a story of its own). How she loves music concerts and volunteering locally. And how gorgeous she looks in jewel tones like purple, green, and turquoise!

We had originally planned this shoot b/c she'll be featured on the back of an upcoming issue of Casa Magazine with her company Prospect Mortgage.....but it gave us the opportunity to have way more fun with it and get a little more artsy.

And not surprisingly through the process of working with her, I learned that Cynthia is truly a beautiful woman inside and out.

And now for the slideshow...
If the music doesn't come on when you play the slideshow. Refresh your webpage and restart the slideshow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

*There's a comment "feed" at the bottom of this post as well~ Feel free to leave your comments to share with me and others! Thanks again~ Rachel

Santa Barbara Writers Conference 2011
"The Exhilaration and the Exhaustion!"

Owner Monte Schulz and Director Nicole Starczak
Founders Barnaby and Mary Conrad

I’ve had many friends over the years ask me exactly what happens at a writers conference. Do we merely sit and listen to Harry Potter readings? Do we rate our favorite classics

or compare our wish lists for our dream publishers and book tour stops? I mean, what could we possibly find to fill a week’s worth of a conference?

Writing is after all, a solitary pursuit, isn’t it?

The conference takes place for five days every year but what happens between the Saturday opening night and the closing awards dinner on Thursday is a universe unto itself. Founder Barnaby Conrad once declared on an opening night “You will begin this conference as one person and end it as another.” And indeed the conference will change your life in many unexpected ways.

The nuts and bolts of the week are this: There are morning, afternoon, and evening workshops on everything from poetry to non-fiction magazine writing to screenwriting and literary fiction. There are panels of publishers, editors, and agents, meetings with manuscript consultants and mind-blowing readings by internationally renowned writers like Clive Cussler, T.C. Boyle and in years past Ray Bradbury, James Michener, and Fannie Flagg. There’s the annual Talent Show which once began as a renegade group of writers looking to let off some steam but which has now grown into a sanctioned smorgasbord of unexpected talent (the only rule being that no one read their work). Then there are all of the social events throughout the week: the wine and cheese party, the opening and closing dinners and roaming about in the conference bookstore.

But the most indelible moments of the conference are truly the moments stolen between….that chance meeting with another kindred spirit whose feedback you truly admire in one of your favorite workshops who just happens to live in your same town and who is looking to start a writers group. Or that amazing conversation with a new friend about the latest vampire craze over carne asada burritos and a horchata for lunch on Milpas. Or it’s that shared can of Pringles with that dry-witted fiction writer from Hawaii whom you adore but you only manage to see once a year.

We manage to steal hours of sleep when we can and we remember to eat only when our blood sugar reaches dangerously low levels and we realize that filled cups from Starbucks can’t sustain a human for longer than a day or two.

I’ve found over my past seven years with the conference that writers will only surprise you. I’ve seen a young guy from the Bronx recite children’s poetry, a grandmother read surprisingly titillating erotica, and a late 40-ish schoolteacher share her horror short story to a rapt class.

There are no rules among writers. You can be any shape, shape, size, or age. We are drawn together by our love of the craft and our friendships are forged based on these connections.

In fact, I met one of my best friends (who continues to travel here for the conference from Connecticut) during a lecture at the conference many years ago. (She happened to have sat beside me at one of the public lectures many years ago and I convinced her in true Rachel-Fashion that if she truly considered herself a writer that she needed to commit to coming to the conference the following year as an attendee. She came the next year and has only missed one year since then.)

I am also quite sure that many romances have come about because of the conference. A few break-ups and strained marriages as well. ;)

By mid-week the days have begun melting into each other and the microverse of SBWC has managed to consume us completely. Sure our pets still need to be fed, our partners are beginning to feel neglected (*see above) but our bills can wait and so can those inboxes that seem to be filling up without end.

We don’t know it right away but at some point towards the end of the week when we realize we have to leave and that our world is coming to a close that we have indeed changed. Sure the caffeine, the sleep deprivation, and the copious amounts of Cheetos and Cliff Bars have taken their toll on our reserves. But something else has shifted. We’ve spent one precious week dedicated to our craft. We’ve surrounded ourselves with an incredible group of men and women—many of whom would never have met without the conference--and reminded ourselves for that short, fluid moment in time that we’re not alone and that we do have a community.

But more importantly, we are reminded of something even more precious. That we are writers. And that we are all striving for perfection….One. Word. At. A.Time.


Enjoy the Slideshow!!

*If the music doesn't come on when the slideshow begins, try "refreshing" your webpage and clicking "play" again.

If you'd like to download any of the pics for personal use follow these steps:
1) Click on "Play" for slideshow.
2) Click on upper banner of slideshow to "Visit Gallery."
3) Once in gallery, click on picture you'd like to download. In upper left corner of picture is a drop-down menu. Click on "Download" and "Original." Voila! Your computer will download the image.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

"From Ink To Internet: Honoring Visionaries In Communication"
Honorees Starshine Roshell (Award-Winning Journalist) and Lynda Weinman (Co-Founder and Executive Chair of

The Association For Women In Communication (AWC) Luncheon
Santa Barbara, CA
President, Kathleen Barry

"Sure God created man before woman. But then you always make a rough draft before the final masterpiece."
~Author Unknown

Don't be intimidated by the long title. All you need to know about the event is this: There are some truly incredible movers and shakers in this overwhelming number of which are women. This gorgeous luncheon (held at the sweet and intimate Mar Monte along the ocean) was a powerhouse of extraordinary women and men from throughout Santa Barbara. Although the main purpose of the luncheon (besides the customary networking) was to honor the multi-talented, local media celebs Starshine Roshell (award-winning journalist) and Lynda Weinman (of among many other achievements)...both of whom are incredibly warm, funny, and magnetic, the room seemed to be brimming over with talent, drive, creativity, and passion.

Former Women of Achievement Honorees, Deborah Hutchison (2008 honoree and Founder of Gutsy Gals) and Marcia Meier (2010 honoree, award-winning writer and former director of the S.B. Writer's Conference) introduced Starshine and Lynda for their awards. However, it was hard not to be awed by the extraordinary women and men throughout the room (in no particular order): Sharon Siegel, (District Director from Congresswoman Lois Capps' office), Helene Schneider (beloved mayor and awesome woman herself), Marianne Partridge (Editor-In-Chief of The Independent), Roman Baratiak (Director of UCSB Arts & Lectures Series), Patty DeDominic (Women's Festivals Founder and Founder of PDQ Careers Group), Janet Wolf (Second District Supervisor), Jerry Roberts (prize-winner journalist and former Editor and Publish of the SB News Press), Jennifer Jaqua (Founder and CEO of Jaqua Beauty)...and oh-so-many more!

As the old adage goes, "Life is short and art is long." So go to it, Ladies!

A big thank you to Lisa Angle (videographer) and Kathleen Barry for bringing me on board this year to photograph this event!

Enjoy the slideshow! *If the music doesn't come on when you begin the slideshow, please refresh your web page and click "play" again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

June 1st, 2011

Women's Economic Ventures (WEV) Fundraiser at the Montecito Country Club

It's been an absolute joy becoming involved with local non-profit WEV. Created twenty years ago by Midwestern raised (woohoo!) and Santa Barbara local Marsha Bailey, WEV has provided loans and support to thousands of men and women business owners who have flourished throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura County. Together these businesses have created countless employment opportunities throughout the area and enriched businesses with steady support in our community.

To say I'm proud to be a part of the WEV community is an understatement. During a recession, organizations like WEV are more important than ever as they play an essential role in supporting small business owners to not only survive but to thrive and prosper. This past week they held their annual fundraiser breakfast at the ever-so-posh and gorgeous Montecito Country Club. Gorgeous! The main ballroom was bursting with an extraordinary group of men and women as Marsha presented awards to two of WEV's latest stars. Gail Zannon (former Board Member, Major Donor and Entrepreneur) was honored with the Trailblazer Award and Jill-Marie and Jean-Michel Carre (owners of Chocolats du CaliBressan) were given WEV's Business of the Year Award.

My mother who was visiting from Flagstaff, Arizona for the week was blown away by the inspiring stories that many WEV alumni shared with the audience about their personal trials trying to get their businesses off the ground. Many of them would not have survived or been successful without the support of WEV.

I am grateful to Marsha Bailey for sticking it out through two recessions in the past twenty years since WEV's inception and to the many extremely hard-working staff members who have worked their butts off to provide this beacon of hope and inspiration for so many local entrepreneurs.

We are truly blessed to have WEV in our midst here in Santa Barbara!

Enjoy the slideshow! I

*If the music doesn't come on when the slideshow begins, try "refreshing" your webpage and clicking "play" again.