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?

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.

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

What's Limiting You Today?

Why do we put ourselves in a box? Why do we limit ourselves to what it is we want to achieve, but tell ourselves we can’t because we aren’t properly equipped?

Any photographer (or insert any other vocation) knows this all too well.

If only I had that lens…

If only I was shooting on that camera instead…

If only, if only, if only…

At the beginning of the year, I gave myself a personal challenge to create more portraits, constantly, no matter what gear I had at hand. After all, the best camera really is the one you have with you.

Which leads me to this portrait of Mike, a case study in using what you have at hand. A fellow coffee aficionado and news junkie, we ran into each other one Saturday at my favorite local coffee spot, and I had to create a portrait of him in that light. My gear? My trusty iPhone 5, coupled with the fantastic Moment Tele lens, and, oh, the white side of a menu I was holding just out of frame to bounce a little light back onto Mike’s face. I shot it with my go-to app, VSCO Cam, in which I applied some mild post-processing.

This was one of the earliest images I shot with the Moment lens, which I received as a Christmas present. There are a lot of iPhone photography accessories on the market, but this lens is by far one of the best and worth every penny. With high-quality craftsmanship, optical-quality glass, and ease of use (it twist-locks onto a small adhesive plate you affix to the back of your phone), it’s a great way to step your game up when shooting photos with your phone.

Here’s the thing. The skill to create a strong portrait comes from being able to see a strong portrait, not because of your gear.

Our ability to achieve, to rise above, and to succeed? It’s helped by various outside influences and resources, to be sure. But do you have within you the fire and the drive to do something in spite of circumstances?

What’s limiting you today?

"I'm not going to believe that only a few people are permitted to be gatekeepers or creators or generous leaders. I have no intention of apologizing for believing in people, for insisting that we all use this moment and these assets to create some art and improve the world around us."

Hold On

For all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light;
Looking for just one reason to get through the night;
Every long-lost believer caught in the fight;
All the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright.
In the past month, that verse from Mat Kearney’s latest album “Just Kids” (Go download it now. Seriously.) has been constantly playing over and over in my head. It is because I know the truth in those words. It is because I have seen over the past several years, while walking through some true valley periods in life, what it means to hold on to hope, to fight through heartbreak and disappointment, and come out the other side and see and know that it is going to be alright.
I don’t know what you are facing. I don’t know what anxieties keep you awake at night and what stresses are waiting for you in the morning. But I know you can make it. I know heartbreak may seem the thing that is going to win, but I am urging you: Hold on. I know the road seems long and with no end in sight, but there is a destination on that horizon.
I’m telling you this because I need to hear it myself. I constantly battle my own stresses, anxieties, fears, and hesitations over not being good enough, not talented enough, not driven enough, not successful enough. I haven’t done enough. I haven’t risked enough. I am not making enough of the precious time I have on this earth. And on and on it goes.
And then I am reminded of how much I have accomplished; how much I am truly blessed in life; and how, no matter how many seconds I have left on this earth, I have not reached the end of that road.

And so I hold fast to hope.

P.S. This blog has been languishing for far too long. That's changing. Because I'm tired of the regret I have every time I don't invest in what I say I care about. So, I'm focusing on breathing new life into it, sharing photos as much as I'm sharing my thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading.