The Needhams - Santa Clarita Family Session

My favorite kind of portrait sessions are the ones where there's zero stress and it's just a good time of documenting a moment in time. That's exactly the kind of shoot I had recently with the Needham family. 

As someone who's been married a relatively short time, it's always encouraging to see couples who've been married for years and still have obvious joy about each other. 

Fun fact: Alison is an awesome gluten-free baker who's even made a believer out of a gluten fan like me. 

Ready for a no-stress, awesome-packed portrait session? Let's talk.

The Keiths - Tenth Anniversary Session

It was a decade ago when Nathan and Christine exchanged vows on a sunny, Orange County day. It was a day spent capturing a lot of great emotions and celebration. Ten years and three kids later, to celebrate their anniversary we hopped in the truck and drove up into the mountains north of Los Angeles, where I had the opportunity to create some new portraits for them.

Friendship. That's what the two of them talked about when I asked about the past 10 years, and what has been prevalent in their marriage. They talked about how important it is to really build a strong and genuine friendship with your spouse. 

And then the hailstorm rolled in. And after 10 years of marriage and three kids, Christine, rocking her wedding dress like the day she tied the knot, was game to do some portraits as the hail came down.

It has been a pleasure to document the day these kids said "I do", to see them build a strong marriage and family, and to spend time commemorating a decade with some fun portraits. Happy anniversary you two!

Celebrating an anniversary or just ready for some awesome new portraits? Let's talk.

The Bargas Wedding - Santa Clarita, CA

" heart is so full of joy, I think it might burst."

Every opportunity to document someone's wedding is special. To know they trust you to be part of the day and capture its moments is a heartwarming thing. And when it's someone you've known for years, and you can share in their joy — well, that's something extra special.

There's something really special about when the father of the bride sees her in her dress. Probably one of my favorite moments to capture during the wedding day.

Pete and Lauren, thanks for letting me be part of your day. Here's to a life of joy together!

Getting married? Let's talk.

The Wild Places

"In God's wildness lies the hope of the world — the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware." — John Muir

The Eastern Sierras are one of my absolute favorite places. It does the mind, body, and soul to escape now and then to escape, if only for a weekend, to wild, rugged, and beautiful corners of the world. There's nothing like driving through the black of night, sleeping under the stars in the bed of a pickup truck, and in the cold chill of an October morning sipping hot, black coffee and watching as the sun paints the mountains.

I headed to the mountains with my good friend Matt, a talented landscape photographer, for a weekend of drinking in the glory of nature, starting at the Alabama Hills and making our way north along Highway 395.

I primarily shoot digital, but every so often it's fun to pull out analog gear, like this medium format beast that was used by my late grandfather.

Don't miss the small beauties in life. We often get so enamored by the big things we miss the little, beautiful details at our feet.

Thanks to Maine-based landscaper photographer Howie Motenko for being kind enough to stop for a portrait.

Our trip home included a stop at Red Rock Canyon at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada range, where I joined a family of Joshua Trees in watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in a while.

Country Love

A few weeks back, I hit the road early in the morning and headed north to central California's farm country, and spent a fantastic day and night photographing Manny and Patty's wedding and the charming Historic Seven Sycamores Ranch

I loved Patty's combo of something borrowed and something blue: her sister's socks.

This was also one of those weddings where I certainly needed to rely on being able to read a scene, because while the entire ceremony was in Spanish, my Spanish skills are, how you say, not so bueno.

Big kudos to the folks at Seven Sycamores for creating a great place to celebrate.

Manny and Patty, it was a pleasure getting to document your wedding. Here's wishing you a lifetime of happiness together!

Getting married? Let's talk. 

Beauty is in the Simple Things

The wedding is a day; the marriage is every day. The temptation can be to make the wedding day the high point, the grand spectacle, the ultimate celebration. That is why there is something so very refreshing about documenting a wedding that is beautiful and precious in its simplicity.

Earlier this year... ok, much earlier this year, like day-before-Valentine's-Day earlier — I had the opportunity to document Nicole and Eric's gorgeous Santa Barbara wedding. It was one of the more simple weddings I've had the pleasure of photographing. It was a fairly relaxed morning of the two of them getting ready, sharing a first look and a few moments exchanging heartfelt words atop the clock tower of the beautiful Santa Barbara courthouse, then filling out paperwork and being married by a clerk, with just close family watching. Then, you know, we hung out for a while and took some portraits.

If there's one thing I've found true as a photographer, it's that you can't fake genuine emotions. I couldn't set up that shot of Eric's dad looking on with such happiness. This is why you need to learn as a photographer to be present in the moment and capture emotion as it unfolds.

I love me some handwritten vows.

I could have spent all day, literally all day, shooting at the courthouse. 

There's something really wonderful about being part of a small wedding ceremony. The grandeur of large venue and a crowd of well-dressed onlookers is removed (don't get me wrong, I love those weddings, too) and you're left with just the looks of love amid the writing of a new chapter in life.

Gorgeous locations all the live long day.

Nicole and Eric, thank you for letting me be part of this day and document the start of your story as a married couple.

Ready to have your wedding documented with zero stress and extra awesomesauce?

Memories of Wild Rose Country

It's a sunny July afternoon in Alberta and we're driving the Icefields Parkway, cutting through the beautifully rugged landscape of Alberta. We pull off at a parking area above Peyto Lake, and make our way along a narrow trail through the woods to a rocky outcropping, where we survey the expanse far below us. The sun is hitting the glacier-fed lake, that stands out like a shard of turquoise. A storm is rolling in over the mountains. It is just me and my love alone here in the wild. This is a highlight to a trip defined by highlights.

It has taken me more than a year to get to this post. In July 2014, my wife and I took a bit of a belated honeymoon, spending more than a week adventuring in Alberta and British Columbia. We quickly fell deeply in love with Canada. The rugged beauty of its landscape. Its friendly people. Its gorgeous late-night sunsets. And the food. Oh, the food. 

There is something inspiring and invigorating about going new, unseen places and seeing new beauty, sharing time with the one you love and coming home recharged and refreshed.

So settle in, there's a few photos ahead.

The trail through Johnston Canyon outside Banff is in itself a delight, laced with the heavy fragrance of fresh mountain air and pine trees, every turn in the trail presenting new vistas.

Then there is the matter of the upper falls in Johnston Canyon. Standing at the end of the catwalk, the cool, misty spray in your face is like shot of adrenaline.

When it comes to long summer days of driving mountain roads and exploring new places, it's crucial to start the day with the proper fuel, and the folks at Kicking Horse Coffee in Invermere, British Columbia, roast and serve fantastic coffee and baked goods. 

The water. Can we talk about the water in Alberta? Nothing really prepares you for seeing the glacial lakes of Alberta, shining bright like turquoise in the sun. Lake Louise is a splendid place to simply walk along the shore, soak in the summer sun, and breathe crisp mountain air. 

A hike up the mountain from Lake Louise is Lake Agnes. Beautiful in its own right, it also includes a tea house built in 1905, a great place to sip fresh, hot coffee and have a snack while enjoying the mountain views.

Whether you're heading up to Lake Agnes, or making your descent to head back to Lake Louise, Mirror Lake is a nice, calm stopping point to take a rest.

I might be biased, but the gorgeous views in Canada still pale in comparison to this beauty.

In addition to seeing Lake Louise up close, taking a ski lift ride up a mountainside inhabited by grizzly bears also provides a great view.

Was it just the thrill of the entire trip, or was this 9 p.m. pizza in Invermere really that delicious?

More than a year later, I still think longingly about this trip. Alberta is one of the most beautiful places I've spent time, where the handiwork of the Creator is on full and vibrant display. These are the kind of adventures that are so good for the mind, body, and soul. The time to explore new places and be rejuvenated is priceless. 

Signing off with a photo of my cutie wife in the trusty Nissan Versa that zipped us all over the place. 

The Immensity of It All

"The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself." — John Wesley Powell

It is difficult to adequately put into words the sense of awe one feels when seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. The mind feels prepared to be amazed, but nothing compares to seeing this ...grandeur, like a neverending matte painting on display. The feeling of absolute smallness in the midst of a great world, standing on a rocky outcropping as the storm clouds clear and the wind whips around you is enlivening.

A few weeks ago, I headed out to the desert with two good friends, to ramble around the desert and, most notably for me, see the Grand Canyon with my own eyes for the first time. The few hours we spent driving through the heart of thunderstorm and walking along the edge of the South Rim were an amazing taste of its beauty, and a much-needed, invigorating break from the day-to-day busyness of life.

The Walls - Santa Clarita Family Session

"There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human, are created, strengthened and maintained."
— Winston Churchill

My favorite kind of family sessions to shoot are the ones that are laid-back and simply capture the joy in a family, especially when they have a six-month-old bundle of cuteness like Zoey here.

The best time for photos of your family is now. Let's get together.

At Long Last

As a photographer, I deeply value every opportunity someone gives me to document their lives at a certain point. It is deeply meaningful to be entrusted with creating images that will stand the test of time.
Let me tell you, this engagement session was particularly exciting to shoot. I've known Pete for nearly 15 years, when we were in college together. Before I got married, we lived together in a house and shared many laughs and conversations. Pete is a hilarious dude, but he is also a focused, responsible, godly man and is going to make a great husband. I don't Lauren very well, but I could instantly tell that they're a great match.

Marriage is a crazy, exciting, awesome, challenging chapter of life, and I can't wait to document their wedding day this fall.

Oh yeah, I can make you look this good, too.

A Moment in Time

Here in Southern California, once summer hits, it's rare to see anything resembling a cloud. Which is why when some unseasonable weather rolls in, you need to seize the moment. I had a great time creating some new portraits for Jonathan last week. He was a talented staff photographer at the paper where I used to work, who now keeps his cool as a CHP dispatcher.

Interested in an awesome, no-stress just-because portrait session? Check out my work, and send me an email.

Your Life is Your Words of Wisdom

“A father acts on behalf of his children by working, providing, intervening, struggling, and suffering for them. … It is not the isolated individual but the responsible person who is the proper agent to be considered in ethical reflection.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about my father a lot. Perhaps it just comes with a certain age. I’m now just a few years older than he was when I entered this world. At a certain point, you can look back over the miles of life you’ve traversed and see more clearly how your life has been influenced by others.
My father’s words of wisdom were a life lived by example. As a boy, it was simply a fact of life to see my dad work hard and never complain. Now, I can look back and see what a special unique quality that was, and I can see how that example imprinted itself on me. How seeds were planted unbeknownst, and how through the years they’ve taken root to grow some of those same qualities in me. And though I sometimes in the quiet moments feel I don’t quite measure up, I have not ceased in striving to be a better man.

Sometimes I feel as though I am living in the shadow of my father’s example of hard-workingness. I doubt I am the lone son who feels this. I can feel as though I should be more. And then I wonder, what were the struggles with which he dealt? What were the fears with which he grappled? What does every man who shoulders the responsibility of fatherhood feel from time to time? What challenges does every man face who would strive to achieve more and provide for those whom he loves?
In the swelter of New Jersey summers and the bitter cold of winter, I watched my father remain dedicated and faithful, doing his job, and doing it well. Learning how to work on cars and build things, I learned more than manual skills. I learned about doing things well and the value of doing something with your own two hands. Through his love for and devotion to my mother, I learned much about faithfulness.
(photo by my talented friend Savannah)

Dad, happy Father’s Day. Your life has helped make me the man I am today. In a world of so many men who can create a child but neglect the role of father, you stand out and I am proud to call you my father.
Presented as proof that dads were hipsters before hipsters.

Breathe Different Air, Feel Different Light

"We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.” — Edward Abbey

There is something almost indefinable about the desert. The quality of light and air, and the way it washes over you and soaks into you. The desert can be a harsh, unforgiving place, but it can also be a peaceful, rejuvenating place. 

After a busy week at the desk, pounding away at a keyboard under fluorescent lights and breathing conditioned air, it was enlivening to escape into the wild just a short drive away on Friday and soak in the golden light of the late afternoon. 

An added bonus was getting to catch up with my old friend Sarah, and shoot a few health-and-fitness themed portraits. I've done a bunch of shoots with both Sarah and her brother over the years, and they're good salt of the earth people.

If you're like me and spend too much time indoors working hard, do yourself a favor and get outside. Get out of town and breathe new air. Recharge, refresh, rejuvenate. Repeat. It's good for the body, mind, and soul.


Make the Most of Moments

In general, things always go better with a plan. Except when they go well without a plan.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and I knew we were in for some quality golden light at the end of the day.
Enter Oscar, Susan, Teagan and Troy. 

We met up around sunset at a field where I've been wanting to shoot for far too long, and spent an hour or so simply capturing some relaxed portraits, which I feel reflect their personality. 

On shoots like this, my only approach is to keep the stress low, make the most of the light I have, and maybe try a few new things. I drove home in the purplish post-sunset light throughly satisfied.

Want a portrait experience that's low on the stress and high on the awesome? Lets talk.

We Need to Slow Down

When is the last time you truly slowed down? I’m not talking about not being busy; when did you purposely slow yourself down from the always-on, frenetic pace at which so many of us often find ourselves?

We’ve retrained ourselves to always be busy, or feel that if we’re not busy with something we’re falling short. Work/life balance? What is that? As the business economy has continued to change in the face of technological advances, we’ve seen how the dividing lines have eroded. We check our work email at all hours. Some of us work on side projects and side jobs in our time off. Others take working vacations. Truth be told, sometimes those things are necessary and unavoidable. I work on a lot of things, and I’m not griping about that. But what is the cumulative toll of lives constantly lived with an always-on mentality?

We need to slow down.

We need to consciously take time — even if it’s just moments — to still ourselves. To drink in peace. To stand on a rocky shore at sunset and bask in the beauty of our natural world, inhale the crisp, salty air, and to feel a bit of rejuvenation.

You and I, we both need to take the time to slow ourselves down and appreciate this life we have.

“It’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape.” — Pico Iyer

The Importance of Doing

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”
— Pablo Picasso

There is great importance in the doing of things. Not simply coming up with a plan or discussing ideas, but real action. Not because there’s a payoff, but because you have no other option but to do This Thing.

Earlier this year, while in Nashville for a conference, I took a detour to visit my longtime friend Adam, who lives in Chattanooga with his wife and daughters. Adam and I were roommates back when he still lived in California and we were fighting the good fight of local journalism, working for a small daily newspaper. Since then, he’s gone on to move back into web design, and over the past few years completely dive in to the world of podcasting. Not only does Adam have a great podcast called The Gently Mad where he’s interviewed people like Seth Godin about life, work, and creativity, he’s also teaching other people how to create successful podcasts.

It’s inspiring to see how he’s had a vision for doing something, and has thrown himself into the doing of it.

But this isn’t all musings on old friends and getting stuff done. The portrait of Adam above in his office was a great chance to use one of the single-best iPhone accessories of the past few years: the Nova flash, the best handheld, “off-camera” flash for the iPhone. (Its creators providing a great example of seeing a lack, and filling the void.)

While the iPhone works fantastically for a variety of photos, it — like any other smartphone — falls short in the area of flash. Nine times out of 10, direct flash is not your friend. The Nova solves this. About the size of a credit card, about a quarter-inch thick, it has rows of LED lights under white plastic, and syncs up with its iPhone app via Bluetooth. The app allows you to adjust intensity and color temperature, and the Nova works anywhere within a 20-foot radius.

With the Moment Tele lens mounted on my phone, and the Nova set off to the side, I was able to keep Adam in that great, soft window light while still adding some fill flash to provide depth.
It helps to have great tools, especially those that don’t take up much space in your pockets.

As a gentle plug, if you’re serious about your photography and you wind up shooting a lot with your iPhone, pick up a Nova.

The Nova also came in handy for another recent portrait of someone who inspires me with his drive to do the things about which he’s passionate.

My friend Nate is a talented singer-songwriter who’s spent the past few years criss-crossing the U.S., playing for audiences small and large, sharing songs inspired by his life and experiences. He’s currently raising funds for his next album, which promises to be really good.

Recently, we had the chance to meet up for dinner while he was in Los Angeles, and I captured this portrait of him. This is another great example of the opportunities created by using the Nova. I positioned Nate in a darkened doorway and tucked the Nova on a door handle. With very minimal, helpful gear I was able to create a strong portrait.

That’s how we move forward: By the doing. And we develop personally by doing the things about which we are passionate.

What are you doing today?