I’ve been lucky to know Janet and Mark for several years. Having cycled on many a bike ride with them through the backroads of Oakdale, I knew that they were the outdoorsy and athletic type. (If I can manage, I sometimes get to snag an easy ride by drafting off of their super-fast tandem!) So it was no surprise to me when they wanted to have their anniversary photo session in one of my favorite places in the world: Yosemite National Park.
The attraction to Yosemite was natural: Janet and Mark were married there in the little red chapel on Southside Drive, just a stone’s throw from the Merced River. Making the chapel our first stop was no question, as we wanted to begin the session by returning to the very spot where it all began. It was so special to share this moment with my good friends and see how much happiness it gave them to relive the memories of their wedding day.
An afternoon snow storm was building, giving us an amazing couple hours of dynamic, yet atmospheric light. Believe it or not, sunny clear days can make capturing the beauty of the Yosemite Valley AND your subject very difficult. Those bright granite surfaces are like big sun reflectors! A light cloud cover can work wonders to reveal the many waterfalls, cracks, and crannies that line the rugged rock walls while at the same time capturing the beautiful smiles of the happy couple in front of the camera. I was so excited to have these moments of quiet winter weather to capture Janet and Mark celebrating their special milestone.
Thank you Janet and Mark for inviting me to celebrate with you in Yosemite! And thank you Steve Tallman for your most excellent assistance with gear and lighting. Here’s to many more years of love, happiness, and ADVENTURE for us all!
There’s nothing like photographing people in one of their favorite places. Last week’s family session in Yosemite Valley with the Beels was certainly a prime example of that. Brett and Lindsay Beel share a love for Yosemite, born of their passion for rock climbing, so it was only natural that they introduce their new little man to the mountains as soon as possible!
Nolan made his first national park visit at the tender age of 1 month and 1 day. Yes!!! You heard that right. For a newborn, he weathered the outdoors unbelievably well and was quite content to be held by Mom and Dad as we played around in Cook’s Meadow. Judging by how comfortable and relaxed he was, I’m thinking this is just the first trip of many! Babies everywhere: the bar has been set, and it is HIGH. 🙂
Congratulations Brett and Lindsay on the new addition to your family. I know you’ll miss Yosemite when you move to Pennsylvania, but here’s hoping that these photos remind you of your special time in California. Thank you for inviting me to share in these memories with you.
Katie and Brent’s shared love of nature inspired them to pick Point Reyes National Seashore for their maternity session, which was just about as perfect as you can get. It may have been 100 degrees in Modesto but it was a balmy 72 on the seashore – something that any woman at 38 weeks can be thankful for!
Katie was an absolutely glowing mama, a natural beauty surrounded by the beauty of the sea. I had so much fun capturing her and Brent’s love – both for Baby B, and for each other – in some very special places within this national park. There’s nothing like the calm serenity of a quiet oak grove or the gentle lapping of the ocean waves to center us and bring out all those happy smiles! Nature is central to my photography, so I love it when I get to work with people like Katie and Brent who share the same love for the outdoors that I do.
Congratulations Katie and Brent on the upcoming arrival of your little one! I can’t wait to see him in all his cuteness. Thank you so much for inviting me to document this special event in your lives. And thank you Steve for being my assistant – you did an excellent job of keeping my gear sands-free!
A couple of weeks ago Steve and I embarked on yet another camping adventure – but with a twist! We dusted off Steve’s classic Ski Nautique, dumped all our gear into water-proof totes, and hit the road for a boat camping weekend on Lake Tahoe.
A few things to know about boat camping:
All the stuff that used to fit in the back of your truck now needs to fit in your boat.
All the stuff in your boat needs to stay dry (easier said than done).
Your boat still needs to FLOAT once loaded down with all your stuff.
People who aren’t used to seeing tiny boats loaded 4′ high with ice chests and fire pits are going to stare at you. Wave and smile, wave and smile…
Once you get to your campground, you need to unload your stuff and get it to your campsite. Enter wheelbarrows and very bumpy dirt trails.
After you unload your stuff, you have to moor your boat.
After you moor your boat, you need to get back to shore. Oops, this is where an inflatable kayak would have come in handy…
When condensed like that, boat camping can sound like a drag! But it really is a lot of fun. Especially at Emerald Bay, which is hands down one of the prettiest places in all of Lake Tahoe.
Camping at Emerald Bay gave me a good excuse to get up at dawn for sunrise photography. Actually, I had zero excuse NOT to get up, as the bay was right at my feet every morning, beautiful and serene, beckoning me with bright colors or placid waters. I had so much fun documenting its many different looks and moods in the few short days that I was there.
Sunsets, by the way, weren’t too shabby either! Although the sun sets behind the mountains that encircle Emerald Bay, afternoon storm clouds sometimes reflect the colors of a glorious sunset, giving us a window into something that we cannot see.
Boat camping at Emerald Bay is quite remote, as there are no markets or restaurants within walking distance. You can’t just casually jump in your car to head to the store to pick up some ice, or go for a tour around town. What you CAN do is jump in your boat and head to the nearest marina for food, supplies, and good ol’ lakefront entertainment.
The Beacon is known for its tropical cocktail, the Rum Runner. Perhaps señor had a few too many?
While we sipped libations in the Sand Pit and listened to live music from local bands, a rumble of thunder echoed in the distance. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and saw a storm warning for the lake for the next hour or two. A quick pitstop quickly turned into a dinner break as we waited out the weather.
I ordered the fish and chips. Yum yum yum. And waited. Midway through my third filet, I looked outside and saw light breaking on the water. My heart skipped a beat as I registered what sunlight combined with retreating storm clouds means. Steve’s heart skipped a beat too. Except what he was looking at was our boat, which had broken free of its mooring. We both ran out to the shore and got to work.
While heading out on the boat to explore the lake is fun, it’s also nice to explore Lake Tahoe from land. Good thing there are plenty of opportunities for that right from our campground. One day we hiked the Rubicon Trail, another day we walked around the south end of the bay, and one afternoon we toured the famed Vikingsholm Castle. Sometimes we just chilled on the beach and read a book while the waves lapped at our feet.
We even got treated to a 30 minute show by one of the resident osprey of the Emerald Bay. These birds build their nests in the tops of the tallest trees, close to the shore, so that they can scan the water for fish with their insanely sharp eyes. Then they swoop down and it’s like, sayonara fishie. Such is the harsh reality of life in the wild.
Those who camp with us know that, well, we don’t really “camp”, it’s kind of more like “glamp.” As in, dehydrated veggies and meals-in-a-pouch don’t even come close to our meal kit. Here’s an especially tasty 2014 Tolosa Central Coast Viognier that we paired with, I am not ashamed to say, bacon mac ‘n cheese. Chowzah!
Would I boat camp again? Absolutely. Would I do it immediately? Probably not. It’s definitely a more expensive way to travel, if you don’t already have a boat docked on the water, and you certainly aren’t as mobile as you are on land or foot. Some of the peace and quiet of the outdoors is, understandably, shattered when you combine outboard motors with alcohol-fueled party boats. But on the positive side it gets you out on the water to enjoy a new perspective, and isn’t collecting new perspectives the main reason why we travel?
Until next time…here are a few more images of water fun to whet your appetite for a lake adventure.
What we wear is such a wonderful expression of who we are as an individual! Many of us put extra effort into our appearance on the day of a photo shoot (including this photographer, haha…but that’s a subject for another post). I love helping clients style themselves, finding outfits that not just reflect their personal taste but also make them feel comfortable and beautiful.
Because most of the work I do is on location, I encourage my clients to think about where they would like their pictures taken, and how their clothing can help them harmonize with, or stand out from, the environment. I recommend selecting outfits that allow you to do both – which is easy to do with the flick of an accessory or two. Read on to learn more about this technique as well as other fun wardrobe tricks!
Jessica’s Top 10 Wardrobe Tips for Portrait Sessions
1. Start with a “solid” foundation.
In a portrait session, the focus is on YOU! Patterns and intricate details, while very nice on their own, take the spotlight off of your face, expressions, and location, all of which are important in communicating your story. I encouraged Marisa to select solid colors that complemented her hair and complexion (for a redhead, a rich green like this is a natch) and then bring accessories to add variety. For full-body shots, a neutral colored shoe is a sound choice, especially when your outfit is colorful…but don’t be afraid to go bright if that’s your style! For the best balance, just make sure that if the accessories are colorful, the clothes are neutral, and vice versa.
2. Be bold!
I’m a big fan of bright colors. When photographing clients outdoors, where hues are usually subdued, a pop of saturated color can really set my subject off from the background. It doesn’t take much…a scarlet scarf, turquoise tie, or chartreuse shirt can do it.
For Marisa’s vineyard session, I knew she wanted to feature the California state flag. To complement the flag, make her pop from the background, AND add a little patriotic flair, I encouraged her to layer this gorgeous blue coat over her white dress. You can do this too by bringing a bright accessory or two to your portrait session.
Be bold with it – and have FUN!
3. …but be prepared to be subtle.
As much as I love love LOVE color, I also understand the value of backing off on it to achieve a more nuanced look. This is another reason why starting your portrait session in a solid base (in the example below, a neutral one) can work so well. When the light started to fade into the soft, golden sunset glow, I asked Marisa to ditch the blue coat and strike some poses in just her white dress. I loved how her outfit complemented the subtle colors and warm tones all around her, really emphasizing the calm feeling in these last moments of the day.
Oh, and I got to wear her blue coat for a few minutes. Score!
4. Consider the season.
Time of year is an important variable to consider when choosing your portrait session outfit(s). What you would wear to the lake in October is probably quite different from what you would wear to the beach in June, or to a ski slope in January. Consider not just comfort when selecting your clothing, but also the seasonal colors and fabrics that are important to you.
Marisa’s San Francisco shoot was on the first day of summer, and the forecast was for sweet sunshine, so we knew that some carefree styling was in order! Her choice of a yellow sundress was right on point for the time of year. With each new setting – casual Baker Beach, formal Palace of Fine Arts – we mixed up her wardrobe to really capture the look and feel of the location. No matter how different each outfit was, the mood of each is unmistakably “summer”.
5. Consider the reason.
How do you intend to use the images?
A holiday family session might have everyone wearing matching silly sweaters or an accessory (scarf, hat, gloves) in a matching color to communicate fun and good cheer.
A spring maternity session might have mama-to-be in a pastel dress with a crown of delicate flowers in her hair, evoking the tender beauty and femininity of becoming a new mother.
A fall harvest session for a winemaker might have him in a casual shirt, jeans, and work boots as he tends to his grapes in the vineyard, speaking to his down-to-earth and hands-on approach to his career.
No matter what the reason, I really enjoy helping my clients pick just the right outfit to fit the intended use of their pictures.
For Marisa, the reason was to promote her bid for the 2016 USA National Miss title. This of course required that we feature her pageant sash and crown. Without these two key accessories her photographs, while strikingly beautiful, would not have communicated her intent as clearly. And who doesn’t like to wear a crown now and then?
6. Less is not always more.
Know this: I will NEVER judge you for packing too many clothes!! As long as you don’t judge me for packing too many cameras…it’s all about being prepared. Go ahead, I have extra trunk space. 😉
Because Marisa and I had talked ahead of time about her styling, she came to the session with a bag packed full of great outfits, and we were able to quickly generate many different looks for her. She didn’t wear everything, and that’s A-OK. Sometimes we changed her styling on the fly, and having extra clothes on hand gave us the flexibility to adapt her look to each location we were shooting in.
7. And then again…with grooming, it is.
Less is NOT more with clothes, that’s for sure. I’ve got your back on that one! But when it comes to hair and make-up, a softer hand is often better than a heavier one.
So your hair has a chance to “settle in” and you have time to practice styling it, plan to get your hair cut no less than 2 weeks before your portrait session. Whether you are a man or woman, a fresh manicure with clear or neutral polish is a nice touch, especially if we do close-ups of your hands (next to our eyes, our hands are the most expressive part of our bodies, and I feature them in most portrait sessions.) And ladies, wear the make-up you are used to and comfortable wearing. The day of your portrait session is not the time to try out purple eyeliner or coral red lipstick! Stick with what you know, and if in doubt, go natural. Lastly, don’t forget to bring some styling products along for touch-ups during the session. I’m great at holding a mirror, BTW.
8. Be comfortable!
I always advise my clients to bring layers and comfortable shoes, especially if we are traveling between locations or shooting at the end of the day. The more comfortable you are, the more relaxed you will be, and your photographs will reflect this. Marisa had some beautiful heels to wear with her dresses, but she also packed a pair of flats for walking around the city. Additionally, she had a warm blazer to put on when the San Francisco fog rolled in (as we knew it would). A comfortable client is a happy client!
9. Go with the “flow.”
And by flow, I mean fabric. As in fabric flowing in the breeze… Ah, that’s one of my favorite things! And there’s no surer way to infuse a photograph with a sense of life and energy than to capture the wind. There’s a reason why fashion photographers always have a shop fan or two on hand.
Even if there isn’t enough wind to blow a feather, the illusion of motion can be created with sheer, lightweight fabric – a silk scarf, gauzy linen pants, or chiffon dress will dance on air with just the slightest movement. These fabric choices are especially nice for beach sessions, where ocean breezes are a given, but will really work anywhere. All you need is air.
Oh, and silk scarves are about the smallest thing to pack – so go ahead, stuff a few in your bag!
10. Call your photographer.
Never underestimate the importance of a fashion consultant and confidant! That’s what every good photographer is. It’s our job to listen to your ideas, hopes, needs, and yes, even your insecurities and fears so that your photography session is an enjoyable and comfortable experience that produces photographs that you absolutely LOVE.
I repeat: it’s our J-O-B. It’s what you are paying for! So please, pick up that phone and call. Let’s talk it out. I want your images to be just as stunning as you do. 🙂
* * *
Jessica’s Top 10 Wardrobe Tips for Portrait Sessions:
Start with a solid color as your foundation,
be bold with color but…
balance it with neutrals,
match your style to the season, and…
match your style to the reason,
when selecting outfits, the more the merrier, but…
with personal grooming, less is more…
pack comfortable shoes and layers,
incorporate lightweight fabrics for energy and intrigue, and…
always feel comfortable consulting with your photographer.
* * *
Future Client: Being a creative professional, I encourage personal expression and want you to show your true self. But, I also know that things look differently behind the lens. For you to get the most out of your portrait session, I recommend you consider the aforementioned tips when selecting your wardrobe. And by all means, if you want some guidance, reach out to me! I’m here to help. And boy oh boy, do I LOVE to do it.
That’s it for me. Now don’t you have some serious shopping to do??
Last month’s trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park already feels like last year! I edited some images and then shuttered the gallery for awhile as I focused on other photography jobs. Today I dusted off the cover and dived in to my wildlife photographs – and boy, was I amazed. Not necessarily amazed at myself, even though it took some definite skill to compose and take the shots, but amazed at the lens I used to capture them. And that is why I am telling Santa…
All I want for Christmas is a 400mm lens.
A Canon 400mm f/4.0 DO IS ii, to be exact, although I know that if my accountant has anything to do with it I’ll be settling for a gently used copy of the version i lens, which I hear is just as good. And that $4K in price difference between the two (yes, we are talking G’s here) will take me on many a wildlife safari, so I think it’s a fair bargain. Ahhh, but I had to go ahead and rent the EXPENSIVE one, and many of the images you see here would not have been possible without it.
It’s true, renting lenses is the way to go if you a) can’t afford the investment yet, b) want to try before you buy, or c) both. I have rented through BorrowLenses.com many times and have always had a great experience. Renting a lens has helped me decide on which ones I need to add to my arsenal and which ones I can pass or hold off on. BorrowLenses.com even shipped the 400mm lens directly to Yellowstone, so I avoided having to pay for the rental during our travel days. Other than a slight hiccup on the part of the lodge I shipped it to (which nearly cost me my composure…oh, just nearly…), it was smooth as silk and I enjoyed all 10 days of my “vacation” with this beautiful Canon lens.
Why a 400mm lens?
There are several reasons why a 400mm lens – at least – is a MUST for wildlife photography. Probably most importantly is that it allows you to get close to the animals without disturbing them or endangering yourself. At least 25 yards is recommended, which is a distance that even a lens this long can barely cover. Another reason – and this is for THIS Canon lens in particular – is that it is incredibly lightweight for its size and has image stabilization to cancel vibration. These two things enable you to handhold your camera and still get razor sharp pictures. I was just blown away. I’m very much a “shoot when I see it” kind of wildlife photographer, and the thought that I could miss a great shot because I was setting up a tripod to hold a heavy lens pains me to my core. With this lens, a monopod or tripod might help, but it isn’t always necessary. In fact, most of the photographs here were taken without one!
Lastly, and most importantly, this 400mm lens is just a supreme piece of glass. Sharp. Saturated colors. Beautiful bokeh (blurry background). Everything you could want in a quality piece of glass, and then some.
To be honest, not all of these images were captured with the 400mm lens. Some were taken with my trusty Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS ii. Also an amazing piece of glass! I wanted to include all my wildlife images in this post. However, if you’re wondering, most of the close-up shots of birds and large game were taken with the 400mm lens.
So, should I get a 400mm lens?
You tell me. Or petition Santa. I promise I’ve been very good this year! 😀
Wishing on a star,
P.S. – If you see something you like, all images are available for purchase, starting at $15 for an 8″x10″. Message me to find out how to buy.
Last week I had the opportunity to work with Dwellworks, LLC on a Sacramento Street Photography project. My assignment? Photograph neighborhoods throughout the Sacramento metro and capture the essence of what it’s like to live and play there.
I had a bit of a home field advantage, having lived there for 2 years while I was in graduate school. Still, there was plenty of new stuff to do and see as I traversed this large and very diverse region.
As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I had a HOT time in the city (literally!). The temperature soared as high as 106 degrees some days as summer gave the city a nice, warm hug. I walked for miles through residential areas and retail centers with 25 pounds of camera equipment in tow, sleeveless shirt to keep me cool and visor tipped down to block the rays, sunglasses in place and a look of focus on my face, cameras swinging from my sides and looking every bit the part of a modern-day Mad Max(ine). IF you still think photography is all travel and glamour…enter this sweaty photographer with sticky hair and a mild case of dehydration. 😉
Nevertheless, a job like this is always waaaay more FUN than it is exhausting, and I came back with a collection of images that show the many similarities – and differences! – of these NorCal neighborhoods.
But do you want to know what the coolest thing is? No matter how hot it was outside, the people of Sacramento kept on living and doing their thing outside. Never missed a beat. Check out the pictures below to see what’s kicking in Sacramento’s hottest/coolest neighborhoods. You just might find your next road trip stop – or neighborhood!
Anchored by such icons as the State Capitol building, Tower Bridge, and Old Town waterfront, there’s not a whole lot not to like about this part of the city. It’s the heartbeat of Sacramento and on the Friday night I visited, it was definitely ticking.
The hip-i-center of night life, arts, and culture for the Sacramento area. Lots of color, food, and sometimes colorful food can be found here. Always a scene worth seeing and a favorite home base for young professionals and entrepreneurs.
With one toe tickling the East end of Midtown, culture and entertainment is easy to come by. But there’s a quieter, more old fashioned feeling to this section of Sac that makes it a place you’d want to grow up – and grow older – in.
It’s fair to say (haha, can I say that?) that Fair Oaks wears its quiet quirkiness as a badge of honor. Chickens run amok in the quaint downtown square and really, nobody cares. It’s an oasis of semi-rural charm surrounded by the hustle and bustle of urban life and the calm of river living. In Fair Oaks, life moves just a little slower…and they like it that way.
Nowhere else in Sacramento does local history, urban comforts, and excellent outdoor recreation blend better than in Folsom. Better buy a kayak and a paddle board, dust off the golf clubs, and lube up that bike chain if you move here – because out here, the people MOVE!
If all you have seen of Roseville is the Galleria (guilty as charged), then dig a little deeper. There’s a historic downtown with an impressive rail yard and plenty of mid-century architecture. Restaurants and retail options abound in this town, making it a major entertainment magnet for the Sacramento metro and Sierra foothills.
This large suburb to the south of Sacramento has a lot to offer: a tidy historic downtown with tempting restaurants, parks and plazas around every corner, family recreation options everywhere you look, and a semi-rural feel that welcomes you home after a long day downtown. It’s this All-American quality of Elk Grove that makes it a favorite for families.
To the north of Sacramento is a community that blends the best that city life and suburban living has to offer. Kids play soccer in the evenings in neighborhood parks and people pack the local library and cafes to read and socialize. The Sacramento International Airport is just a few miles away, making it the perfect landing place for business travelers. Plus, nature is right at your back door. Need I say more?