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.

Weddings Are Overrated

Two years ago today, I made the best promise I will ever make. I stood under the warm May sun in Pasadena, surrounded by witnesses, and pledged to love and care for this woman no matter what.

Our wedding was a fantastic time. We laughed with friends and family. We got down on the dance floor. We ate phenomenal braised short ribs and drank coffee and ate ice cream and cake. And then we zoomed off into the night. It was an absolute party.

It pales in comparison to marriage. A wedding is one day of ALL THE EMOTIONS (!). A marriage is every day, getting to wake up next to this person who’s pretty awesome. A marriage is celebrating the emotional highs and dealing with the emotional lows. A marriage is finding out you’re not so awesome and you have issues and needing to ask for each other’s forgiveness. A marriage is a day-to-day journey of growing and learning to love actively and selflessly.

Weddings are great, but they’re overrated compared to marriage.

Also, if nothing else, my wife has learned to be a willing and patient portrait subject. She’s solid gold, that one.

Aimee, I adore you. You fill my heart with joy, you encourage me, and I am humbled by how you love me. Happy anniversary, darling.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
— Tim Keller

The moon is down.

Our lives are frequently marked by the unexpected.
Coming home on a Saturday night, I didn't know that within half an hour I'd be on dark desert roads headed to Las Vegas.
My friend hadn't known until that afternoon that his father was lying in a Nevada hospital bed, body wracked with cancer.
It must've been sometime around 2 a.m. when we got there. The halls of the ICU were hushed, dimly lit and smelling faintly of the chemical smell all hospitals have. Joseph went in to spend some time at his father's bedside while we waited down the hall. At one point, he text-messaged me, asking me to take a photo. 
It's one thing to shoot these kinds of images for a news story, when there's a certain divide between you and the story. It's another when it's of a close friend, sitting there watching a machine keep his father alive. 
And frankly, as powerful as I find this image, I wouldn't have posted it unless Joseph had asked me to, after his father passed this week.

Separation clarity

So, I've been in the process of going through image after image, culling and narrowing down my portrait and wedding portfolios as I prepare to launch the long-overdue in the next few weeks. I won't lie. There have been moments, as I've started to go cross-eyed from staring at photo after photo after photo, that I've mused "It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if I just 'accidentally' lost all the photos on my hard drives and started from scratch, would it?" It can grow wearisome, cycling through past work, trying to decide what best represents you, while functioning as your own worst critic.
And then I stumbled across this image of my friend Megan, shot more than two years ago in a fire-blackened Southern California canyon. I somehow completely bypassed this image while editing back then, and last night saw it with new eyes. A horizontal crop, a few minor adjustments, and I sat at my desk feeling better about a lot of things.

I'm finding it sometimes takes that distance, that time away from things, to provide clarity and freshness to get back on track with more vigor than we had before, when perhaps we were muddling along attempting to keep up a flagging energy. I've been feeling that a lot over the last few months, reminded that sometimes we simply need to step back, take a deep breath (literally or figuratively) and take stock of things. And just maybe, that's all it takes to find our way. I know that sounds terribly reductive, and really has nothing to do with this photo, but it's the truth.
What do you need to step back from?

At the threshold.

Winter has come to the Northeast, painting the landscape in neutral shades, and everything feels grey. Bare branches like lace against the sky. And a road winding to a warm house in a cold landscape. But there is a hushed beauty in moments such as this, and there's the knowledge all this will be bursting with lush, green vibrancy in a few months.

As the year winds down to a close, I look back on a year that was marked by highs and lows.

Expectation and disappointment.

New experiences and old fears.

The constant love of family and friends.

In other words, it was another year to be alive.

I look back on 2011 with no real regret, and I look forward to 2012 the same way I look forward to each new day: The chance to pursue something great.

Make your moments count.

(A note about the image: It was captured in northwest New Jersey with Camera+, edited in Snapseed and then run through Picture Show, to add the wear marks.)

Looking back on all of this

I was prepared to wax eloquent about the past year, about its challenges, its highs and lows. About how for all the hard moments there have been moments of joy. About how it's been a stretching experience. About how I'm not quite there yet, but I'm closer.
But you know what? This is about the images. So sit back and engage with some of my favorite images from the past 12 months (which, you'll notice is weighted heavily toward portrait work with essentially no news work, as opposed to last year's retrospective).


(My good friend, old co-worker and roomie, and great web designer Adam, of whose beard-growing prowess I'm supremely jealous.)

(One of many colorful characters in Washington, D.C.'s 2011 St. Patrick's Day parade.)

(I couldn't have asked for a better backdrop than this one on the D.C. waterfront.)

(If the sun's out, I'll always look for a way to backlight. And it never fails to make me giddy.)

(Another portrait of Channapha, an amazing cook and CEO of Legacies of War.)

(This shoot was, outside of Facebook, the first time I'd met Crystal, but we had a super relaxed and fun time walking around Eastern Market in D.C. and creating images.)

(From a headshot session Los Angeles.)

(Sometimes the old-school Hollywood look you have in your mind's eye and what you do with the camera delightfully collide.)

(If had to actually produce a favorite photos list of reasonable length, this would be on the short list.)

(Joseph is a great friend, fine musician and all-around good dude to have in front of the camera when a happy accident like this happens.)

(Sometimes, the best place to shoot for a hair and makeup portfolio is a dingy, dimly-lit back alley.)

(Or, somewhere like that.)

(My friend and former co-worker, Fran, is a great photographer and also at ease in front of the camera.)

(Another happy accident, that occurred while I was finding the light. I found it.)

(In addition to having a camera-friendly face — are you paying attention casting directors? — Scott is an all-around good dude.)

(This was the first time I'd met Michelle, who had apparently not had the greatest experience with photographers in the past, but we had a relaxed blast shooting together.)

And, capping off this section, six of my favorite images I created this month with my friend Sarah, who's supremely photogenic and ridiculously comfortable in front of a camera.)


(Shooting Sheridan and Jade's outdoor wedding was one of the last things I shot before leaving California for Washington earlier this year. It was a pleasure.)

Two months later, I documented Mario and Rachel's beautiful and all-out celebratory Malibu wedding...

Four photos that don't fit in other categories

(Joseph makes an appearance again, busting out some spacey, rockin' tones with his band A Concrete Mess.)

(The agony and the ecstasy in downtown Seattle.)

These next two... Frankly, it's pretty challenging to take a bad photo of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I mean, look at it.

The token "the iPhone is amazing" section

But in all seriousness, having an iPhone has breathed a bit of fresh air into my shooting this year. The absolute ease of always having with me a compact and powerful imaging tool cannot be understated, whether I'm using it as a visual notepad for future shoots, using it as a discreet street photography camera, or just being able to capture candid moments without carrying around a bulky SLR. (My most-used photo apps, in case you're wondering, are Hipstamatic, Instagram, and Camera+ in conjunction with a few editing apps.)

(Early morning reflections at the port of Edmonds, WA.)

(I probably waited a good 15 minutes for this shot at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport.)

(Conversely, I nearly missed this shot at Newark Int'l. Airport.)

(A rainy moment in Dupont Circle, D.C.)

(Downtown Seattle, as seen from lower Queen Anne.)

(Taking in the awesome, powerful view of Mt. Saint Helens.)

(Another moment I nearly missed along the waterfront in Edmonds, WA, as this couple stopped moving just long enough for me to pull out my phone.)

(Downtown Seattle)

That last image is from somewhere along Interstate 5 in Northern California, taken as I left behind my home of the past decade-plus and headed for WA. As I head into a new year still marked by certain uncertainty, it's an apt image.
And with that, I bid you a happy new year. When you get right down to it, the new year is just a changing of the calendar, but it's still a good time to look back, reflect, and look ahead and make the most of each new day.

Prints available for purchase

When it comes to photography, my niche and my passion is emotional portraiture and documentary coverage. That said, there's something I find soothing and reflective about capturing the occasional landscape images. So, after getting requests for prints, I've finally selected a handful of images to make available for purchase. They represent landscapes and details I've seen in my travels over the last several years. Please take a few moments to head over to my Imagekind page and peruse what's available, make a purchase if something speaks to you, and at the very least ... tell a friend.

The winter palace

This past weekend, I packed up the cameras and warm clothing and headed north, through rain and snow, to spend a weekend with two good friends in Yosemite National Park. About a foot of snow fell Friday night, and we woke Saturday to a sugar-coated valley. It was a great time of photographing, hiking and breathing pure, crisp mountain air. Here's an image of El Capitan. It doesn't do justice to El Cap's size, but it does capture a little bit of the moment. Want to see more? Click here and head over to my Flickr page.

Our breaths in winter

After several days of torrential rain in Los Angeles I flew to New Jersey, which promptly got smacked with a blizzard. While it was bad enough to shut down all three airports in the New York City metro area, the snow didn't pile up as much in the country where my family lives. But that first night, as the wind howled and the snow kept coming, I was alone in the dark for more than an hour, creating images. Capturing the mood of a snowy night meant setting a timer and using myself as a subject for this first image.

There is always a light in the darkness.

Walking up and down the road for nearly an hour and a half, I only saw one car pass by.

Often, the best images are right in front of you. I captured this bit of serenity in my parents' driveway.

A few days later, I set out for the afternoon to drive the backroads and capture some images.

I suspect watching for children at play hasn't been an issue for some time in the village of Wallpack Center, up near the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border. The few houses that are there appear to have been abandoned for a while. I spent about an hour there, and saw one car drive through "town".

When the light gets good at the end of the day, it starts moving fast. I chased the sunset down the mountain, stopping at a few vantage points to capture that golden, end-of-day light.

Like everywhere else I went on this particular afternoon, historic Millbrook Village was empty.

Last light at an old horse farm in Blairstown.

Two night scenes to cap things off, the first the old Blairstown Diner, and a gas station next door. It was actually a busy evening, with cars zipping back and forth, but I was able to capture two relatively still moments.

More portraits are on the way! In another day or so, I'll be posting some images I shot of my friend Perla during an afternoon in chilly Manhattan.

Ode to my family

It's 2011 and I'm back. Spent time with family in NJ for the holidays, and had a great time sitting fireside, walking cold country roads, photographing wintry landscapes, spending a fun afternoon in Manhattan, and of course, doing a bit of job hunting.
I've got plenty of photos on the way in the next few days, but for the moment here are just a few I didn't take.
One of the things I did while at my parents' house was take on the task of scanning a mountain of family photos dating back as early as the early 20th century. I made a small dent. But among the ones I did digitize, these three stood out: the first two of my grandmother and the third of my parents.

I never had the pleasure of knowing my grandmother Genevieve, who passed away four years before I was born, but I love the simple glamour of these two portraits. Particularly the first image. It's just a snapshot really, but it's a perfect example of making the ordinary extra-ordinary. It's something every photographer can strive for, and achieve.

Sometimes photographers get so wrapped up in trying to come up with some face-meltingly awesome new concept for a portrait that we forget there's a lot to be said for a simple tilt of the head and a smile.

I like this snapshot of my parents (taken by my photographer grandfather) from the mid-60s, mostly for its candid, relaxed nature. It makes me smile to look at it. I owe so much to my father and mother. Through the years they have continued to be thoroughly supportive and exemplary. In a world gone mad, they've been a light. Thanks, mom and dad!

dynamic symmetry

Last weekend I hitched a red-eye to Washington, D.C. for the first time in about 16 years. The mission was to help photograph what turned out to be a delightful outdoor wedding (despite the threat of rain). In reality, it was a mini-vacation, drinking in the sights, sounds and tastes of the Capitol city and spending time with friends old and new. Here, in no particular order, are some captured images from along the way...

I apparently picked the perfect time to visit Mt. Vernon. Few tourists were in sight and it was a quiet, sunny and warm afternoon as I ambled the grounds where George Washington once lived.
The streets of the district are as visually interesting by night as they are during the day.

Ben's Chili Bowl. A D.C. institution, and deliciously unhealthy.

The hallway of Hunted House, a hip vintage furnishings shop on 14th St.

My walk down the National Mall and back concluded with wonderful sunset vistas...

The Vietnam War Memorial is simple and contemplative.

The Smithsonian Institute castle, a visual delight of red stone, is almost easy to miss during a walk along the Mall.

The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

The weather on Friday was perfect, with photogenic skies, warm sun and gentle breezes. And jazz in gardens, filling the air while tourists and D.C. natives alike traversed the length of the Mall.