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Sgt. Tristeza Castellanoz is an aviation operations specialist, deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). What began as a casual interest in photography has grown into a long-term hobby, a method of expression and a potential career for the Nyssa, Ore., native.

Photo by Cpl. Rashaun X. James

Oregon Marine pursues photography passion in Afghanistan

2 Jul 2011 | Cpl. Rashaun X. James

Capturing moments in time is a passion Sgt. Tristeza Castellanoz finds great pleasure in.  What began as a casual interest in photography has grown into a long-term hobby, a method of expression and a potential career for the Nyssa, Ore., native.

Castellanoz’s interest in photography began when she was around 13. She said there was always an abundance of film rolls to be developed, full of whatever images she captured in the world around her.

Now she is a Marine Corps aviation operations specialist, deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). Castellanoz serves as the air tasking order chief for the wing, overseeing air support requests from Marines and their coalition partners operating in southwestern Afghanistan.

 Castellanoz said she has a large mission to accomplish during her yearlong Afghanistan deployment, but when a lull in her work schedule presents itself, she often grabs her professional-grade digital camera, and continues to hone her skills, finding her weaknesses and strengths. One thing she said she finds most enjoyable is photographing people.

“I enjoy taking portraits the most,” Castellanoz said. “I like seeing how a person grows over time. It’s interesting for me to see how my siblings, who all have children now, have grown up and how much their children favor them.”

Her interest in photographing people often makes the people close to her the subjects of her photos.

“I took  pictures of the Marines in my exercise class and let them have them afterwards,” said Castellanoz. “My officer in charge was telling me that he sent them to his wife as well as other Marines that work for me.”

 Having had no formal training, Castellanoz progresses her skills by experience alone, taking any opportunity to capture a unique moment.

“Since I got my new camera I’ve gotten a lot of offers from people to come and take photos for them,” said Castellanoz. “I do photography jobs on the side now, mostly for friends and family. When I went home on emergency leave I did a photo session for my best friend to give to her father on Father’s Day.”

Castellanoz said that she has received several offers to photograph events like weddings, but many of them have come along since she has been deployed to Afghanistan. However, being deployed to a foreign land yields its own set of unique opportunities.

“Being in the Marine Corps has definitely helped my photography skills,” said Castellanoz. “It’s given me a way to do things that I normally would not have the opportunity to do back in the states.

“I think that if I wouldn’t have enlisted and just stayed in Oregon I would’ve been limited on where I could travel to and what I could take pictures of,” said Castellanoz, who is deployed out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. “While I’ve been stationed on the East Coast I had the opportunity to go to New York around New Year’s and got to take pictures of Central Park.”

Castellanoz said after her career in the Corps comes to a close, she plans to pursue a career in photography, but while she remains on active service, she said she may consider changing specialties to a field with a focus on photography.

“I like my job, I like what I do, and I like being in charge,” said Castellanoz. “But, if the Marine Corps gives you the opportunity to pursue something you can do after the Marine Corps, you should take it.”

While Castellanoz said she has other passions including playing guitar, singing and cooking, photography is something that has shown her a way to express herself and relate to the emotions of others in a special way.

“Photography really inspires me and I feel like my passion for it become greater and more realized after my dad passed away,” said Castellanoz. “So much lies in a photo. It can show you emotions at times that words can. Now more than ever I want to pursue this because I never want to miss a moment that could last a lifetime for me or the people I am photographing.”

Connect with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) throughout the deployment. Stay up to date with the latest 2nd MAW (Fwd.) news, photos and videos at http://www.facebook.com/2ndmawfwd.


Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point