Lori Sortino founded Essence Captured in October, 2006. 

Lori is an accomplished photographer, artist, and designer with experience in print media, landscape fine art photography, portrait photography, wedding photography, sports photography, and event photography. She joined a photography club in high school and has been developing her skills ever since. She studied art and photography at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and has a degree in Applied Art and Graphic Design.

Lori has been the official photographer for the annual Long Dance ceremony held in SLO County every September since 2007.  Lori was the Image Editor for Conejo365, a quarterly event magazine published in Westlake Village, California from 2014 - 2019.  Lori provided extensive photography services for Naam Yoga L.A. and Rootlight, Inc. for web and publication projects.

In addition to her work for clients and her freelance work, Lori photographs wild mustangs and creates fine art image prints.  Her work is often on exhibit locally.  

Lori reminds us that we see with our heart.

woman in long coat and hat standing on hillside at sunset, holding camera
Lori Sortino, on location in San Luis Obispo.                 Photo by Pat Price.

The Essence Captured Equine Photography Group

Essence Captured was the official photographer for Hunter/Jumper 'B' Shows and Schooling Shows at the Paso Robles Horse Park from 2019-2021.  Essence Captured covers some of the Arena Polo events in Los Osos at the Central Coast Polo Club.  In 2021 we were invited to cover the Combined Test and Horse Trials at the Fresno County Horse Park and the West Coast Connemara Show in Watsonville.  We became the official photographer for the Sea Breeze Schooling Shows in Watsonville in 2022.

female photographers

Partner Photographers

Deb Hofstetter, working at the Paso Robles Horse Park.           Photo by Hunter Kilpatrick
Deb Hofstetter

Deb Hofstetter

Deb Hofstetter joined Lori as an equine photography partner in 2019. Deb and Lori found so many similar interests in their photography pursuits, that the partnership made perfect sense.  Together, they stewarded the Essence Captured Equine Photography Group into being.  Deb is a skilled technical photographer, has created a home studio and has been an artist in residence at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles.  She grew up here on the Central Coast and is extremely familiar with the area.

Equipped with the tools of the trade, life's experiences, years of practice, desire, education and training, Deb has embarked on a mission to fulfill her passion and capture the highest quality images for her clients.  "Every day is filled with new possibilities in photography and I want to be part of that discovery.  I want people to feel and be in the moment with every picture I capture."  "I'm excited to be living my dream - Photography."

Deb reminds us that we all have something to contribute and together we are greater than any one of us alone.

Cathy Wallace

Cathy showed up at the Paso Robles Horse Park at one of the events we were covering, taking photos.  Lori said hello and they struck up a friendly conversation.  "Would you like to work for us?" was part of that and "send me the photos you're taking today to look at!" which Cathy did, and her photos were good and they keep getting better.  Cathy is a long time horse person.  She has ridden and competed for much of her life and knows what she's looking for with her camera, and since she no longer owns a horse, this gets her out with horses, which just makes her day.  It makes our day to have her on the team!

Cathy stepped up to the roll of Partner Photographer in 2021 and manages our photographer training and scheduling.  Considering we sometimes have a dozen photographers working a 4 day show, this is a monumental task.  Between her work ethic, her photography skills, and her horse knowledge, Cathy is an invaluable asset to the organization.

Cathy feels that when she's horseback, all is right with the world. Growing up in Ventura County, her focus was dressage and hunter/jumper events. In her younger days, she worked as a riding instructor, trail guide and pack horse wrangler before moving into a career in sales and logistics. Cathy had been intrigued by photography since she was a teenager. After retiring from her corporate career, she acquired a DSLR camera and took some classes. Photographing equine events was an obvious choice for her. When following a horse's movement with her camera, she will often times talk to the horse as though she was the rider!  Check out her web site!

Cathy reminds us that we bring our love of the horse's spirit to our photography work.

Cathy Wallace, on location at the Paso Robles Horse Park.                 Photo by Lori Sortino.
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Cathy Wallace and Lori Sortino at the Paso Robles Horse Park.                 Photo by Kyoshi Becker.

Hunter Kilpatrick

Lori met Hunter during the break-down of Whale Rock Music Festival.  Lori was taking down her art and Hunter was part of the stage set-up and take-down crew.  He made a comment about her horse photos and being a photographer himself and they exchanged cards and continued the job at hand.  Hunter had set an intention to photograph horses.  Lori had set an intention to bring new photographers on to create the ECEPG.  They were meant to meet.  

Hunter is super hard working and passionate about photography.  In 2021 Hunter assisted in manifesting our Essence Captured pop-up and art display, which you can now see at the horse shows.  His background in stage set-up and tear-down are an asset to our otherwise artsy female leadership team, and he manages the set  up and take down of our pop-up at every show.  We are grateful!!!  He also began fulfilling video services in 2021 for Essence Captured, with the first assignment to record polo games for game reviews.   Things got busy for Hunter in the fall of 2021 when he accepted a high demand seasonal position with Vina Robles, supporting their concert venue, and he let go of this work with us.  Because of his significant contribution, his bio will remain on our page.  

Hunter reminds us to pay attention to the details and be efficient.

Hunter Kilpatrick, on location at the Paso Robles Horse Park.                 Photo by Lori Sortino

Contract Photographers

Kyoshi Becker

We met Kyoshi through working sports photography together and invited him to join us in the equestrian arena.  We enjoy his laid back spirit and can do attitude.  He's got years of photography experience and excels at action photography, with motocross as one of his genres.  He lives in Southern California.  Check out his web site!

Kyoshi reminds us that it's never too far to drive for a photography adventure among friends.

Photo of Kyoshi on location at the Paso Robles Horse Park.
Hannah with Valiente                     Photo by Deb Hofstetter
woman and horse

Hannah Finder

Hannah came to us through a referral and we love her.  

Hannah grew up in the Santa Cruz mountains and moved to the central coast in 2001, graduating from Cal Poly Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. degree in Graphic Communications in 2004. While at Cal Poly she was a member of the IHSA and IDA equestrian teams. "I have had a camera in my hand since I was a kid, and have had a passion for horses my whole life," she says.  Equestrian accolades include earning her USDF Bronze and Silver medals, as well as numerous year end AQHA and USDF titles with her AQHA gelding who sadly passed away 7/2020.  She spent a year working full time in the horse industry on the east coast, managing barns and grooming for some well known upper level 3-day eventing riders.  Photography interests have been primarily equestrian related and landscape photography.  For the past 10 years Hannah has worked full time in software development as a Software Quality Engineering Lead.  She owns a horse property in Paso Robles where she's currently rehabbing her beautiful Andalusian horse Valiente.  He had a tendon injury and through intense physical therapy, he is improving and she looks forward to his full recovery.  She is hoping to have him healed and ready to compete in dressage in 2022.  Her other hobbies include hiking, playing guitar and just enjoying being out in nature. When not competing, she can be found volunteering or working with the show photographers. 

Hannah reminds us that hard work, perseverance, and dedication produce solid results.

Daniel Steed          Photo by Lori Sortino
male portrait

Daniel Steed

Daniel is Lori's son, and has had a long time interest in photography, with both his mom and dad being photographers.  He and his wife moved to San Luis Obispo in 2019 and had a son in November 2020.  While being the stay at home Dad for now, he's glad to get out and do some photography with us at the horse park.  

Daniel's bachelor's degree is in computer science.  He has built Lori's at home studio image processing computer to suit her specific needs and has also helped with post processing in addition to shooting.

He is an intuitive as well as technical photographer and we're glad to have him working for us whenever he can.  Just be aware that Daniel is Deaf, so if you try to talk to him and he doesn't hear you, that's why.  If you know sign language, definitely say hello and if you don't, just wave and smile.

Daniel reminds us to wear our sun screen (he got pretty sun burned his first full day out with us).

Bill Myers

The Rev. William Darius Myers, MMinPC, MDiv, DMin, CT (“Just call me Bill.”) became a contract photographer with Essence Captured when he responded to an announcement that Lori placed in the San Benito County Photography group on Facebook.

With a long experience as a professional photojournalist (His first front-page byline: 4 years old. Really.), Bill often coordinates group projects involving elaborately creative collaborations, and he also often sidetracks his day-job travels when seeing something “that needs its picture taken.” Other subjects include four grandchildren, architecture, and especially the cultural events of Salinas and the surrounding vicinities. In fact, when the company that hired him to serve patients and their families in Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties recently moved into their new offices, Bill’s commissioned images from all across the territory were hung there in all their massive, acrylic-and-stainless-steel glory. The fact that the centerpiece image is of the Bixby Creek Bridge might give you a hint at which hospice agency he serves as chaplain and counselor.

As an ordained minister of thirty-eight years’ experience, he still preaches occasionally, serves several seminaries as adjunct professor, and has contributed articles and papers to several popular, professional, and peer-reviewed publications. As proprietor of Fall River Photo (www.fallriverphoto.gallery), he continues to serve clients in the far reaches of California’s Northstate areas and into Southern Oregon, as well as here in the Monterey Bay and Central Coast regions as well.

But for as much as he loves to geek-out on the minutiae of photographic techniques and equipment (Pentax, through-and-through.), if you want the full-on nerd experience, just ask him about death, dying, bereavement, grief, and mourning. If you stand still long enough, he might just recite the whole dissertation for you.

Bill reminds us that life is precious, and like in a country song we know, just be humble and kind.

Bill at the Paso Horse Park                  Photo by Lori Sortino
Bill Myers

Fenn Bruns

Fenn is from Sacramento and attends Cal Poly, SLO, majoring in photography.  She was working with a dog trainer when she received our invitation to come shoot at the horse park and responded without hesitation.  While she still likes spending time in the canine world she is thrilled to be stepping into the equine world in her desire to be with animals.

Fenn joined our contract photography team in the fall of 2021.

Fenn reminds us to see the world from the animals' perspective.

Fenn at the Paso Horse Park                    Photo by Lori Sortino
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Tom Samarin

You'll recognize Tom as one of your EMT's at the horse park.  He mentioned one day that he'd be interested in shooting with us, so in fall of 2021 he stepped into that role with us and started contributing images.

Tom reminds us to keep a healthy respect for horses and stay safe.

Tom Samarin at the Paso Horse Park                    Photo by Lori Sortino
man in blue clothing

Matt Brown, Videographer

Matt joined us in 2022 as we ramped up our video service offerings.  Lori watched Matt develop his filmmaking skills and finally convinced him to come work with us after nudging him our way while he was at University.

Matt Brown is a freelance filmmaker and videographer with experience in live TV, live sporting events, narrative filmmaking, documentaries, and, most recently, music videos. Since the age of 5, he has been making films, and has been passionate about storytelling since even before that. He attended Cuesta College studying Film & TV, and transferred to Humboldt State University where he graduated in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film, and a Minor in Philosophy - Ethics & Values.

In 2021, Matt was the Co Director of the Humboldt Int'l Film Festival, and he is currently working at the SLO Int'l Film Festival as their Box Office Manager & Volunteer Coordinator where he enjoys promoting the art of filmmaking, and campaigning for social justice. He is also currently working at Cal Poly SLO - helping film and broadcast their sporting events to ESPN, and working at a video production agency filming and broadcasting government meetings for public access.

When not filming, he enjoys the outdoors, adventuring, hiking, writing screenplays, watching films, and spending time with friends and family.

Matt reminds us to tell the story.

Matt Brown, hiding behind a camera
Melissa at the Paso Robles Horse Park                     Photo by Lori Sortino
female photographer

Melissa Stigall

Melissa is from Nipomo.  She is obsessed with taking pictures and her mom noticed the volume of photos she would take with her phone and bought her her first DSLR.  From there she practiced and learned and then upgraded her camera.  She enjoys astrophotography as well as photographing in her garden and on trips.  She is friends with Amanda F. on our team and thus found her way to us.  She joined us as a contract photographer in fall of 2021.

Melissa is a stay at home mom to her little boy and loves gardening and hiking.  She has a green house and is quite knowledgeable about orchids!  She loves vacation adventures to places like Zion, the redwoods, and Yosemite where she can explore the outdoors with her family.

Melissa reminds us to take the time to do what we enjoy doing.

Amanda at the Paso Robles Horse Park                     Photo by Lori Sortino
female in striped blouse

Amanda Figueroa

Amanda is one of the most enthusiastic contract photographers to join our team.  She isn't shy about expressing how much she loves capturing images at our equestrian events!  She joined us in the Spring of 2021 and by the end of the year worked her way into handling sales in our booth.


Amanda reminds us to keep smiling and spread the love.

Edwin at the Paso Horse Park                     Photo by Lori Sortino

Edwin Mwaniki

Edwin is originally from Kenya and lives in San Jose.  He fits photography in between web development gigs.

Edwin joined our contract photography team in the fall of 2021.

Edwin reminds us to be humble and courageous in the same breath.

Angela Di Pietro

Angie Di Pietro is an award-winning Creative Director with over 25 years in interactive, branding and tv experience. In 2018, her Safari to Kenya reignited her passion for wildlife photography and inspired her full time move from San Francisco to the Central Coast of California where she lives on a 35 acre ranch and retreat center with many furry friends.


When she’s not trimming goat hooves or pitching ideas to Silicon Valley, Angie enjoys wine tasting in Edna Valley, trips to Burning Man and teaching yoga.


Angie reminds us to make a practice of gratitude and notice the beauty of nature everyday.

Angie with one of the mustangs at Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary        Photo by Lori Sortino
horse and photographer
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