Chelsie and Ross what can I say about them? Well everything because they are one of the cutest and perfect couples I have ever met. I was actually surprised when they hired me because I had met with them at a Starbucks that literally closed 15 minutes after we got there. So I didn’t have much time to really talk with them, but I was hoping they would. They were outdoors people, like me, who love to backpack and hike and generally be outside. In fact they got engaged while hiking Horsetail Falls and their love story is magical as well.
I really loved hearing about their story because it was like something out of a movie. In this technological age it's not uncommon that they met on a dating website. Chelsie was apprehensive about meeting a guy for a date online, but decided to take the chance anyway because of what he said in his text messages. I think most of us that have tried the online dating route have had the same apprehension, sometimes the dates are great and sometimes not so much. It’s weird going out with someone you don’t already know, but obviously they hit it off.
I asked Chelsie about the best date they ever had and when she told it to me it reminded me of a Nicholas Sparks novel. They had made a day trip to Bodega Bay, which by itself is an amazing place to hang out. But literally all the cliché moments in romantic novels happened to them. She said they went to a beach where they flew a kite and played in the sand and at the same time a pod of dolphins swam past them. As the day started to wind down they sat on the beach with wine and cheese and watched the sunset. As it was setting a regal buck passed by them. When the sun disappeared the Milky Way lit up before their eyes. As they were watching the glimmer of the stars several shooting stars shot through the sky. They discovered that night was the height of a meteor shower. If that's not a Nicholas Sparks date I don't know what is.
I believe their wedding had the same romanticism that this date had. They had a small intimate wedding at Mulvaney’s B&L in downtown Sacramento. The setting was amazing! It was in courtyard between two restaurants. The space was so magical it didn’t need any decor. Brick walls lined the entire space. A full sized tree grew from one side of the space and canopied to the other side and it was wrapped in white holiday lights. The back wall had a beautiful metal sculpture of lily pads and again white lights weaved in and out of it. The perfect back drop for the perfect couple! The bar area had white lights and chili peppers hanging overhead and glowing stained glass windows. I thought it was the most beautiful backdrop for the most beautiful bride, see the first photo in the mosaic below.
The ceremony was very emotional with tears, laughter and of course lots of love, but in cute couple fashion Chelsie forgot the love letters they were supposed to read to each other. I think it might have been better that way as they can read them to each other in private. The letters will go in a wine box they had their names engraved on. They'll read the letters and share the bottle of wine on their first anniversary. Then write another letter, save it in the box and open it again on their second anniversary, so on and so forth. They plan on doing this for the rest of their lives. My heart melted when I heard this idea and I can only imagine what those letters will mean to them over time.
Their reception reminded me of a Martha Stewart magazine. They had long rectangular tables with candles, garland and fancy dinner settings. Did I mention it was perfect? They had a three course meal with lots of spirits to go around. The best man, woman and sister made some great speeches from comical to heartfelt. The love this family had for each other was undeniable and I know it will endure the test of time. The best part of the reception, I thought, was the first dance. It was truly magical underneath the canopy of the big tree while Chelsie’s brothers played “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen. Another reason I loved these two is there awesome taste in music! They were so snuggly and cute it made for the best first dance photos. A photographers dream!
I really do feel that these two are perfect for each other. Both of them have already been through a lot in their relationship as Chelsie was sick for part of the time and that’s the real test for any couple. I should know as my husband had to take care of me a lot after I had my son, when I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease. You know when someone loves you when they are willing to take care of you at your worst. I know their marriage will be filled with laughs and fun and if hardships come along they already know they can handle it. I thank them for letting me share their story and be a part of their big day! It was an honor to get to know you two!
Location: Mulvaney's B&L
Flowers: Ashley Amrit Singh
From the Willow by Watters line
I love intimate weddings! I feel like I say this all the time, but I really do. There's just something about small weddings that excite me. Maybe it's because I feel there's less fuss about them being perfect and more about the couple expressing their love. I'm not saying that big weddings aren't about love, but the bride and groom are just worrying about everyone else during big celebrations. I feel the bride and groom should be enjoying their guest's company and each other on their wedding day. That's why I was so stoked when Katie contacted me from Pennsylvania to do their intimate wedding in Tahoe.
A lot of intimate weddings I have had the privilege to photograph never do anything traditional. For Katie and Eryck's wedding I didn't do bride preparation photos or send off photos. They simply didn't want that. They just wanted something simple to document their day. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet them before their wedding, but we talked over the phone and they filled out a questionnaire about themselves as a couple. Once I spoke to them and read their responses I knew they were my kind of people.
Katie and Eryck love the outdoors and they love to travel! Katie's Instagram stories are of beautiful places in Pennsylvania where they are from. She's usually hiking with her adorable lab/collie mix. Eryck proposed to Katie on a hike in Iceland. What a perfect place to get engaged for two people who love the outdoors.
My favorite part of their story is their first date. They went to a banjo night at the Elks Lodge in their hometown. I mean anyone who does first dates that are out of the ordinary has my heart already. A banjo night is something my husband and I would totally do.
These two have also been going on "dates" all over the world. One of their favorites was traveling to Munich, Germany to visit an old college roommate. As we all know traveling can be very stressful, but it's a great way to get to know someone in stressful situations. Katie said this wasn't the most perfect trip and that it tested their relationship. Obviously, they both passed the stressful situations test.
Their wedding is a reflection of this adventurous and intimate relationship. They love Tahoe because it represented all the things they love, the outdoors, hiking, views and good food. (Oh I forgot to mention they love good food and are avid cooks.) If you have never been to The Ridge Resorts in Tahoe you have to see it to believe it. The resort literally sits on a ridge. I feel if there ever was an earthquake it would just topple over down the other side of the mountain. The wedding site looks out over a valley that Minden and Gardnerville (small cities in Nevada) lie in. Even though it's not a view of the lake it's still breathtaking as you can see the entire valley with the Pine Nut Mountain range in the background. (Side note: did you know that Nevada is the most mountainous state?) Next to the resort is part of the Tahoe Rim Trail. One of the most beautiful hikes in California that goes around the entire lake.
Even though the wedding site it small it definitely is one of the most beautiful and it's great because you don't have to jazz up the space at all with decorations. The view and surroundings are their own decorations. Katie and Eryck know the true beauty of nature and like nature they kept their ceremony simple. The vows were short and sweet and everything was simple including her dress, the wedding party and the reception. The most memorable part of the ceremony, for me at least, is that she walked down the aisle to the Jurassic Park theme song. I'm pretty sure it was intentional (I forgot to ask), but if it wasn't it'll be a great story to tell everyone! (I'm pretty positive it was intentional.)
Lastly, I just want to say thank you to Katie and Eryck for allowing me to be a part of their special day. It's such an honor to be allowed into such a tight circle of family and friends. I wish both of you a life of love and happiness although I think you already have that.
I'm a true artist at heart meaning I want to do important art work that makes an impact, plus I have always wanted to display my art in a gallery. I guess in a way I would feel validated that what I am doing is right for me. So I try and enter a lot of contests to inflate my ego (just a little), but to also give me more credibility as a photographer. Recently, I entered a contest for the Sausalito Art Festival called "Americans At Work." In a sense I knew what type of photographs they were looking for, but I felt a need to represent creatives and small business owners because I believe they have one of the hardest jobs out there.
Small business owners, especially creative ones, have the hardest job in the world. I say this because owning this photography business is the hardest thing I have ever done, other than raising a child. I am everything in my business. I am the CEO and the worker bee. I have to see the big picture along with the everyday tasks. For the most part, I do this alone. I am the marketing director, I am the photographer, I am IT and I am the customer service representative and I only have a couple hours a day to complete all of it. Sometimes even less depending on my family, who always comes first. So I feel we are not well represented in what we try to provide.
Creative small business owners really try to provide an experience. Take for example that first picture of Maria at Soulmate Skin. She built that space you are looking at. She hung the drapes, put up the light, painted and styled that space. In the second photo, the bottles behind Maria are all specialty products that she chose for her business and she labeled all of them with her logo and style to match her space. Every detail in her space is all for her customer to look uniform, calming and beautiful! And she does all of it herself. Every, single, detail. She works incredibly hard to get clients in her door and to keep them.
Unfortunately, the contest wasn't looking for this and I knew that, but I took that chance anyway. They were looking for gritty. They were looking for fast food workers, steel workers, construction crews and people they thought had "hard working" jobs, but I think they have it wrong in some way. Hard work isn't just physical or dirty it's doing a job that's difficult and keeping at it. I once heard that owning a business is like running a marathon because it take years to get established and you train what feels like forever. Most of the time the overnight successes you see on Instagram or the news are not overnight. Those successes just happen to go viral after 10 years of being in business.
We (the small business owners) keep at it for that long because we love it. The hard work feels good when we get a happy new client or we are featured in a publication or we just get to share our talents with the world and feel we are making a difference in some way. Of course, I would have loved for the "Americans at Work" contest to have picked at least one of my photos, but I am glad that I just got the opportunity to photograph Maria and her amazing business. As you have just read it taught me a lot. So if your intimated to enter a photography contest (like the Folsom Photography Contest, shameless plug here) know that just because they didn't pick you doesn't mean you didn't work hard enough. You really have nothing to lose, except maybe a couple of dollars, and then you just try again.
On the other hand, a photography contest or any kind of contest can spark new interest in projects. I would love to be able to document more creatives and small business owners in the future. I think it would be an interesting look into the American work force since "Small firms accounted for 64 percent of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2011 (or 11.8 million of the 18.5 million net new jobs)," according to SBA.gov. I mean that's a lot and that means we are not seeing these kind of jobs represented as much as they should be.
If you're interested in me documenting your work shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to meet up with you.
You are as cute as a ladybug You’re also obsessed with ladybugs. During the spring and the early summer months you absolutely love to hunt for them. We have spent hours looking and you can spot them feet away. It’s so amazing to watch your face light up with joy when you see one. You yell at me “Mom, there’s a ladybug, come look!” You are not afraid to let it crawl on your finger, on your shirt, even your head. You love them! You love to set them free!
Whenever we are at Green Acres I have to get you a tub full of ladybugs, three hundred to be exact. You’ll carry them and look at them all the way home to Placerville. When we get home to open them it’s like Christmas all over again. You’re so excited to open them up. You love to watch the thirty or so fly away when we first open them. You’re fascinated by them for hours until every single last one has found a new home in our yard. I will never forget our time spent with the ladybugs and I hope you never do too.
I am so excited to be able to photograph the wedding of Chelsie and Ross this coming weekend. Their engagement session was so much fun! We hiked an easy trail in Coloma down to the American River. The trail is called Dave Moore Nature Trail. Since they are backpackers and lovers of the outdoors (just like me) I knew they would be down for a place like this. It’s one of my favorite trails because it’s short, but it has some amazing natural features like the beautiful tree seen below. I also love the wide variety of photo opportunities. It also has a couple of beautiful beach areas that are great for more intimate moments. This is the kind of place I love finding for couples. It’s something new, adventurous, intimate and all their own.
These two are amazing together! You can tell they have so much love each other. They were engaged on a hike so it's only fitting that this is the kind of engagement session they should do. Like many couples these days they met on a dating website and I think it was love at first site. They love wine so we had a little while shooting. I mean who doesn't love to relax with a glass of wine by the water? I think the only thing that would have made this shoot more perfect are their dogs. I wish we could have incorporated them in some way.
To my son:
Every moment of every day I spend trying to figure out how to provide the best possible education for you. I'm not just talking about the best school to go to, but learning about life in general. There's so much pressure to be a certain type of mom, even from other moms. Why aren't you enrolling him in preschool? Why wouldn't you want to live in a neighborhood with other kids? How does he not know what bubblegum is? He doesn't have dessert every night? These are the questions I get asked all the time and I hope one day you'll understand why I am raising you the way that I am.
When I see you outside in nature you thrive and you are happy. You love to explore and you're not afraid of getting your hands dirty. You love to find ladybugs, gather the chicken eggs and eat fish from the ocean. I want you to understand and appreciate the natural world. I don't want you to just learn your shapes and letters. I want you to know the bigger picture, how the world operates around you and to experience it first hand. I want you to be able to just play as long as possible and I want to experience those firsts with you. Because I know one day you'll be in school every day experiencing so much without me.
Most of all I don't want you to be afraid of doing something. I don't want you to think that bugs are icky. I want you to understand where your food comes from and it's not from the grocery store. I want you to dig in the dirt and know that everything can be washed. I just want you to feel independent and capable of anything, that's why we live in a place that has so much room for you to explore on your own. It's why we take you to lakes, rivers and go on hikes. It's why we are teaching you to fish at 3. We can still understand numbers by counting bugs. We can still play with other kids at parks. Honestly, I just don't think kids should be having bubblegum at 3 and if I had dessert available every night I would just get fat. No matter what other moms think or say or question I know I am doing what's right for you. I know that you are thriving in the setting I have provided for you no matter how many times I doubt myself. So the only thing that I need to do now is grab my camera and make sure you remember everything.
What’s more fun than seeing photos of you thoroughly enjoying yourself with your significant other? Getting along with your photographer and making sure they are professional because that’s how you get amazing shots by trusting the person you hired. I have heard many times from friends and clients how awful their wedding photographer was (more stories on that later), but I am here to offer a solution. Book an engagement session. If you are a bride unsure of who to pick, hire them for an engagement session. It’s the perfect opportunity to see how the photographer operates and if you get along.
I know budgets can be tight and the photographer you hired offers one with your package already and that’s fine as long as you really like their style. But if you are unsure even after meeting them for a consultation just pay for an engagement session. It’s well worth the money knowing what you are getting before your big day. I photographed a second wedding recently and the father of the bride told me that at her first marriage he had hired what he thought was a wonderful photographer. But when the photographer came to the wedding he got drunk. When they received the photos weeks later most of them were of a guest at the wedding. A young woman who he had an infatuation with. The father never complained or asked for his money back because of the contract he had signed. If that were me I would have raised some hell! So for me it’s an easy choice, spend a little extra knowing what your getting instead of risking getting an unprofessional photographer.
With that in mind, photos are the one thing from your wedding day that last for the rest of your life. A big part of your budget should be spent researching, preserving that and knowing that the photographer is going to be professional and attentive to your needs. (I could write a whole other post of the value of a photographer over a florist and venue, etc). You should like their style and them as a person because if you can’t trust them your photos will be awkward and you'll have a horrible experience.
Here’s a little insight to how I like to do my engagement sessions. I always like to meet you first for coffee or drinks, whatever you want. We’ll talk about you, your love story and more. If you like me we book an engagement session. At the engagement session I like to bring your favorite drink (I prefer beer, but my last session, they liked wine). We start by talking and walking to the beautiful location I have picked out or we start with drinks to loosen up a bit. My style usually involves something outdoors like a hike or a day at the beach. I get you moving and keep it casual, no stiff posing, just you and your significant other having fun like you are on a date. Then I introduce more questions and intimate moments to help capture real emotions and natural body movements. I may even offer a drink in the middle and ask you to explore the landscape together. What I try to offer is less stuffy photographer and more director and friend, something more casual, adventurous and fun!
So if I haven’t convinced you already book an engagement session first before hiring a wedding photographer. See if you like them and would want to hangout with them. See if they make you feel relaxed and comfortable. The worst that will happen is you get some more photos of you and your loved one. Just remember you are never going to get a second chance at those wedding photos when the big day comes!
If you have been following along on my Instagram I am currently working on a long term project called Outdoor Adventures with my Son. The title is a work in progress. So if you have any ideas shoot them my way. These outdoor adventures derive from a list I came across on the internet titled “100 Outdoor Adventures to Do Before Your Kid Turns 10.” I am a huge advocate for getting kids outside as much as possible no matter what the weather is like. I think it has so many benefits for a child’s development physically and mentally. I also want to document it because it's a big part of our family time. We always do something outside whether it's hiking, playing at the lake, squirting each other with the hose or something else, we have the best times in nature. It also is a big part of my purpose in photography. What are your favorite things to do with your family outside?
So far these are the things we have done off the list:
15. Pick fruit off a tree or bush.
16. Climb a tree.
32. Create a paper airplane and see how far it will fly.
36. Strap on a life vest and kayak on a lake.
41. Fill your yard with bubbles.
63. Take your kids fishing. Don’t have a creek bed near you? Make your own dry creek and go fish!
This image is the type of photography I live for! I love a good portrait, but I think the details are where it's at. Why? Because I remember the details of my son as a baby more than any other part of him. I remember the way he cried, the rolls on his thighs and the way they felt squished between the tips of my fingers. I remember the way he cried and the way he laughed. I remember how the size of his head felt in the crook of my elbow. I remember his pudgy lips and the wrinkles on the bottoms of his feet. I remember tracing my finger along his chubby cheeks and over his coarse tiny eyebrows. For some reason I can't remember anything else until he was about 4 months old. Maybe it's because up until that point they just eat, sleep and poop, there's nothing monumental to note. Or I could just have a horrible memory.
Every time I do a session I try to keep those memories of my son in the back of my mind. It's not just for newborn sessions either. I like to photograph all my family sessions with the intention that the little things really do matter like an occasional embrace from a teenager or mom painting her daughters toes for the first time. It's done commonly in wedding photography too, but is often forgotten during family sessions. Kids go through changes so fast that I feel it's my duty to capture all those tiny things at every stage of life.
If you follow me on Instagram you know that I posted this image with a poem. It's a short poem and it relates to the details.
Memories are about the detail.
Many say the small things don’t matter,
But when they do they leave a trail.
Like a shooting star in the dark
And they fade from our minds
If not captured in our hearts.
I bet you didn't know you I am a wanna be poet, haha. So instead of showing you a bunch of portraits from the session I thought I'd just show you the details as a fun change of pace. I want to know if this is something you think about as a photographer or just a mom who takes pictures of her kids? Would you want these as a part of your session?
As the chair of this years Folsom Focus Photography Contest I though it would help if I came up with some tips for each category starting with Folsom Outdoors. The most popular subject photographers like you submit in this category are landscapes. There are at least 50 tips I could list for landscape photography, but I’ll just start with the basics. So here's 11 tips to master for a great landscape photo.
1. Scout out a location:
You know what they say about realty, it's all about location, location, location! When it comes to landscape photography it’s the same thing. So if you want to take a photo of your favorite lake don't just plop your camera down at your normal spot or right where you pulled your car in. Before even taking a photo get out and walk around the area. Don't even take your camera with you the first time you scout a location because you’ll have a tendency to take pictures of everything you see. Just observe the entire scene, find your favorite spots and come back when the light is right.
2. Time of day:
Keep in mind the best times of the day to take landscapes are 1 hour before and after sunrise and 1 hour before and after sunset. These times have the best light. It’s soft, provides amazing colors and creates soft shadows. (See examples for aperture for difference in mid day light and after sunset.)
*Bonus tip: If you are taking sunset photos wait until the sun is below the horizon. The sun creates the most brilliant colors after it has dipped below the horizon such as pink, deep orange, green and blue.
3. Time of year:
Photographers love weather! So summer is not the most opportune time for landscape photography, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get great photos. If you can wait until fall, winter and spring to take landscapes photos. Weather provides your photos with drama.
Take you time taking a landscape photo. Landscape photos are made over time and not in the 15 minutes you decided to go for a walk. Be patient and wait for the landscape to unfold, wait for clouds in the sky or wait for the fog to roll in. Landscapes are well thought out and planned.
4. Manual mode:
If you are just a beginner or an amateur who has been shooting automatic for awhile you really need to learn manual mode. You will not get what you are looking for on auto. Your eyes and your camera see very differently. You’ll want to adjust your settings to achieve what you are envisioning for your photo. For example landscape photography is very detailed. So you’ll want to maximize your depth of field (how much of scene you want in focus). This means you’ll want a smaller aperture (higher number like F16). To understand this better think of drawing with a Crayola marker versus a pencil. You’ll get more detail drawing with a pencil than a marker because the pencil is smaller. The small the aperture (the tinier the hole in the lens) the more detail you’ll get in your photo. Once you set your aperture then you need to know what shutter speed to use, then ISO. If you aren’t familiar with these parts of the camera than you are missing out on making spectacular landscapes.
5. Get a tripod (one with ball heads are best): If you are using your camera at F16 for the aperture most likely your shutter speed is going to be very slow. Slow shutter speeds are sensitive to movement. You may think your hands are super still, but guaranteed your photo will turn out blurry. Even breathing can cause motion blur.
*Bonus tip: For really long shutter speeds get a remote shutter release that way you won’t shake the camera when you hit the shutter release button.
6. Composition: If you don’t know what composition is in art and photography, it’s how to place objects and visual elements in your photo. There are rules to compositions, which can be broken, but should be practiced a lot before doing so. The easiest composition rule and the one that’s used the most in any photograph is the rule of thirds (see examples below). For landscapes don’t put your horizon in the middle unless the subject is reflected or symmetrical or your focal point.
7. Focal point:
The landscape is not just your focus in a photograph. You need something else to draw your viewers attention, a focal point, like a rock, person, structure, tree, etc. Otherwise your image will look boring or empty.
8. Point of view:
The best landscapes are not usually taken at eye level. You need to look at the scene in different perspectives. Get down on the ground (worms view) and get up high (birds eye view). Look through things and Frame things with foreground objects.
9. Foreground, middle ground and background:
For a great landscape photograph you need to think about elements in the foreground, middle ground and background. Have all three of those helps the viewer step into the photo. It literally looks like you can step into the scene and take a look around.
10. Wide angle lens:
Wide angle lenses are awesome for landscapes and will give you the best scope of the scene. Wide angle lenses are 35mm and under. Most likely you already have one in your repertoire that will work nicely. A lot of cameras come with a kit lens. My first Nikon camera did which was an 18-55mm. I still use the lens today and for amateur photographers this is a great lens to start with.
11. Keep learning:
As you can see in some of my photos the difference time and practice make. No matter how good you are there is always something new to learn. Also, there a ton of other tips out there for landscape photography, but you might get overwhelmed with all the possibilities. So stick with the basics first and get really good at them before trying a bunch of other new things. I hope to see your landscape photos in the Folsom Focus Photography Contest.