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San Francisco Engagement Photographer | Julie + Michael

Julie and Michael are getting married here in Lake Tahoe in August and I’m so excited to be their Tahoe wedding photographer.  They kept meaning to sneak away from the city for a weekend getaway up here so that we could shoot engagement photos, but things conspired against them.  Instead, I decided that it would be super fun to have a city getaway myself, so I drove down to San Francisco for a Monday Fun Day with the pair.  We started with drinks in Union Square and then meandered through the city, up through Chinatown, where we stumbled upon one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite haunts, to eat Italian in Little Italy and eventually, through Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, where we capped our evening off with one last drink at the recently moved Gold Dust Lounge.

We had such a blast on our photo session scavenger hunt through the city that I want to go back and be their San Francisco engagement photographer all over again!

 

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Amador County Wedding Photographer | Rebeca plus Ryan Sneak Peek

Previously unknown fact about this most amazing couple in the world: they went to prom together.

I had such an amazing time as their Amador County Wedding Photographer and felt so welcomed by the two of them, their friends and their family, that I stayed and partied until the stroke of midnight.

More to come from Rebeca and Ryan’s super rad laid back wedding at Rancho Cicada Retreat in Amador County.

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Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
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Berkeley Wedding Photographer | SSquared Day 1

The first time I spoke to Sarah, I felt totally at ease with her.

You see, Sarah and her husband to be, Suman, had been together for 10 years.  There was no doubt in their minds, she explained, that they were committed to a lifetime together but they had seen no reason to formalize it.  I get that.  

So when Sarah told me the story of her relationship, their history and her wonderfully fun and totally informal wedding plans, I was sold.

It was the Best. Wedding. Ever.

Here is a little bit of info about this couple and their totally informal, off the beaten path three day extravaganza that they called their wedding.  Fist off, the whole weekend was a huge party of the best kind.  They had their own twitter handle.  Their friends and family are not only hilarious, but insanely intelligent.  They love wine as much as I do.  They are self-depreciating, sarcastic and witty.  They hosted a trivia night.  SERIOUSLY.  Even better, the trivia night involved a New Orleans themed restaurant.  Stop my beating heart.  By the end of the weekend, I felt like a guest.

I loved every minute of this wedding weekend and every one of their family members.  I’m sad I don’t get to hang out with them all the time.  I feel so honored they choose me as their Berkeley Wedding Photographer.  I am super excited to share the photos from the weekend and in the same fashion as the weekend, I’ll break it up into the three days of events.

So, without further adieu, I present to you SSquared Day 1: a gorgeous celebration and party at the Berkeley Alumni House on the UC campus with unbelievable food from Bistro Liason, a Lauren Lindley photo booth, a “This is Your Life” retelling by Sarah and Suman that introduced each and every person in the room and their relationship to the couple and ultimately, a dance party so epic thanks to DJ Wayne that I couldn’t bear to leave when my contracted time was up.

Venue: Berkeley Alumni House | Catering: Bistro Liason | DJ: Golden State Productions | Photo Booth: Lauren Lindley Photography 

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Tahoe Event Photography | Women’s Wellness Weekend at Granlibakken

I had such an inspiring and educational weekend accompanied by wine and amazing food at the Granlibakken Resort’s Women’s Wellness Weekend.

The Women’s Wellness Weekend focuses on providing the fusion of Western practices with Eastern philosophy to provide women with information, inspiration, activities,  and great female company.  This is an awesome opportunity for any woman, but especially for those in the medical field.  For an additional $75, healthcare professionals can earn nine hours of CE credit at this amazing weekend getaway in the stunning Tahoe basin.

Granlibakken is a gorgeous resort.  Conveniently located in picturesque Tahoe City, CA, it offers tons of trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer, a tree-top Adventure Park, a spa, and, in the winter, nordic skiing.  There is a plethora of rooms, units, condos and even large houses available for everyone from the single occupant to an entire family to come stay and enjoy the Tahoe area.

Although I was there to photograph the event, I learned so much from the presenters and I found more than a few of them to be fascinating.  Tahoe City based nutritionist, dietician, and triathlete Jill Whistler specializes in sports nutrition and really reinforced my own personal thoughts regarding nutrition and the best eating habits to fuel your body.  Nueropsychologist Suzanne Aberasturi, Ph.D provided us with a hilarious guide to how your brain develops and grows with age.  Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM is a family practitioner and the ice President of Medical Affairs and the Medical Director of Las Vegas Recovery Center.  His presentation on the disease of addiction was enthralling, surprising and peppered with humor.  I had the pleasure of dining with who is now going to be my new dermatologist: Dr. Jennifer Janiga.  She was a refreshing, gorgeous person who gave a fantastic presentation on healthy skin.

My favorite presentation of the weekend came from Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Ed. D, RN, FNP, MSN, a marathon runner and triathlete, who survived a sudden death in 1990 requiring 22 minutes of CPR.  She released a book, Turning Tragedy into Triumph MetaHabilitation: A Contemporary Model of Recovery which presents her system of rehabilitation.  Mrs. Mikal-Flynn spoke about what happens to people when they suffer life changing events and why some are able to turn their tragedies into triumph when others cannot.   I found her presentation to be particularly inspiring.  As an athlete myself, I wonder how I would react if faced with a similar circumstance.

In addition to the lectures and presentations, the weekend also offered various physical activities such as yoga, zumba and ki gong, as well as, social hours, lots of wine, a health expo, and shopping from local artisans.

The 2014 Women’s Wellness Weekend will be held on November 8 and 9, 2014.  If you register before the end of 2013, you can lock in this year’s super reasonable rate which includes all the Women’s Wellness Weekend Activities, one night lodging, hot buffet breakfasts, 2 lunches, and use of the pool/sauna/hot tub.

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Destination Wedding in Temecula | Haley + Dave

My best mate Haley and I have been friends for over ten years now I think.  We’ve never lived in the same city.  If one of us suddenly gets the feeling that it’s been too long, then we make a point to meet up.  We call them our “rendezvous.”  In 2006 we travelled to Coachella together.  Sometimes we each go half way to San Franciscosometimes I fly to LA.  When Haley and Dave became engaged, I felt honored to be asked to take their engagement portraits.

Though we’re often far apart and sometimes go months without catching up, when we’re together, we’re just the same as always.  I love her to death and I’m so honored to have been able to travel to Temecula Wine Country to witness her marriage to the man she loves.  It should go without saying that I also approve of him.  He drinks great wine.

Haley rented a beautiful house on the top of a hill over looking the wine orchards of Temecula for her venue, which the groomsmen and bridesmaids also stayed in during the week.  It was very much so a family affair – we cooked together, decorated together, puffed up puffy lanterns together, drank wine, laughed and danced and joked together.  Haley’s family and friends all pitched in to arrange flowers and fill ice buckets.  It was a whirlwind of activity and a truly DYI wedding, right up until the point that her amazing wedding coordinator showed up and took over for us.  In the end, it all came together in the most beautiful of ways.

I was not the photographer for the wedding and I was more than happy to put away my camera and dance my butt off all. night. long.  I did photograph most of our week and getting ready photos before the photographer arrived, so that’s what you’ll see here.  Haley and Dave hired the uber-talented, super fun, really adorable Caroline Fontenot and eventually their photos will grace the pages of her blog.  You should go check out her work, it’s fantastic: energy and fun exudes from the very page when you look at her photos.

Haley’s wedding was nothing short of a spectacularly good time: beautiful but relaxed, stylish but informal.  We were paraded around by mariachis, ate street corn and tacos, drank wonderful wine and beer that went down all too easy from Stone Brewing Co, took silly photos in a photobooth, and danced long after the sun went down until we had blisters on our feet.

Temecula was such a great place to visit and if you are in the southern CA area, it would make a great weekend get-away.  I wrote about our adventures wine tasting the other day.  Temecula also has an adorable main street called Old Town, filled with bars and restaurants, hotels and tiny shops.  I stayed in The Palomar Inn, an amazing European (read: shared baths) style hotel right on the main street of Old Town.  The 10 room historic inn is family run, was built in 1927 and is supposedly haunted, though their ghost didn’t show his face to me.  Right around the corner from my Inn every Saturday is an awesome farmer’s market where I sampled amazing hot sauce from Vera’s Tamales Express and then filled my belly before the wedding with a blue crab burrito from Street Foods Co.  I needed it because I’d woken up at 6 AM to run 10 miles with the Temecula Running Club!

Photographer: Caroline Fontenot | Violinists: La Libradolce | Mariachis: Los Salazar | Dress: JLM Couture | Flowers: The Empy Vase | Decor: West Elm | Caterer: M&L Taco Catering | Wedding Cake: Hotcakes Bakes | Popsicles: Front Porch Pops | Bartenders: Always a Happy Hour Bartending | Rentals: Temecula Party Rentals | Wedding Coordinator:  Vanessa Vargess | DJ/Lighting: Brett Elliott | Vacation Home Rental: Eva Woodsmall

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Personal Project: The Adventurers

The Adventurers

is a personal project consisting of portraits of people I meet in my own adventures who, in some way, inspire me, strike me, or surprise me.

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Kayden

Photographed at: my house, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Lives in: Cape Town, South Africa

Occupation: Adventurer

Job Responsibilities include: cycle touring, beer drinking.

“Do you have a beer, man… no, not water, I need a beer!”

Kayden came to stay with us though WarmShowers, a website for reciprocal hosting of touring cyclists.  Kayden is one of the founding members and trustees of Global Wheeling, a South African based charity that focuses on bicycle empowerment and community greening projects in disadvantaged communities.  Kayden’s journey is supported by corporate donors and 100% of all other donations go to the cause.

When Kayden rolled into Tahoe, he had just cycled over Tioga pass to visit Yosemite, Monitor and Luther, as well as spent an afternoon riding through Death Valley at 120 degrees.

Kayden spent three very special, very memorable days with us in total.  He is the Adventurer that trumps all other adventurers.  After years touring the globe on his bike, Kayden will deliver a journal from South Africa to the Burn and this leg of journey will be complete.  Somehow, I just know that Kayden’s journey will never be complete.  His life will be filled with the kinds of adventures that most people cannot even comprehend taking on.  He’s pretty fucking awesome.

Thanks for the stories, the South African Bread and the good times Kayden!  I’m certain our paths will cross again!

You can see more from Kayden’s quick portrait session here.

I encourage you to head to his website and follow his blog and if so inclined, donate to his worthy cause.

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Matt + Sara | Tahoe Pregnancy Portraits

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It’s the ultimate form of flattery when my friends insist that I take their portraits and when Matt and Sara, whose wedding was the first wedding I ever shot from start to finish, asked me to take their Tahoe pregnancy portraits, I readily agreed.  I felt exceedingly honored.

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We decided to head down to the gorgeous Hope Valley, which is near both of our homes.  Matt and Sara are both very grounded people, with their hearts and souls firmly rooted in the world around them.  They have such a deep spiritual connection with each other and the natural world that it only made sense to me to take them somewhere with huge grand sweeping views.  It’s simply where I thought they belonged.

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These are a few of my favorite photos from the day.  I’m so thrilled them.  Sara looks absolutely glowing, just as she should.  It’s pretty awesome when my creative vision comes to fruition from start to finish.

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A Napa Girls Weekend

The email said, “You’re invited to help create the best 3 days of your life.”

With an intro like that, how could anyone refuse?

What we had the best of intentions to do was to road cycle every morning, followed by cooking amazing meals and then lounging about by pools in the afternoon with some wine tasting mixed in.  See, after all that road biking in the mornings, we would be tired and worn out and oh so deserving of the extra glasses of wine that night.

What we actually did was sleep in every day, lounge about the house in an unmotivated fashion until we cooked amazing meals, went wine tasting, lounged by pools and drank more wine than we deserved because we hadn’t done anything that day to warrant drinking extra wine.

However, no one cared in the least and we were all sublimely happy.

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On our first afternoon there, one of the ladies arranged for us to relax by her AMAZING pool overlooking picturesque vineyards as the sun set.

But wait – it gets better.

On top of that, she hired friends of hers who are masseuses to come give us hour long massages and oh, yes, just wait, it gets better!

In between giving us massages, lounging by the pool, drinking wine and laughing as the sun went down, they cooked us a huge meal of authentic Vietnamese food.

HEAVEN.

Montages-3On the 2nd day, we had grand plans to get up and go road biking but instead we slept in, lounged around, read books, had a late ladies lunch and then visited my good friend James, who is the Assistant Winemaker at Patz and Hall, a small winery with superb Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

That evening, we had a girls dinner at the house where Jessica who has secret powers as an amazing chef whipped up a most ridiculous dinner of bruschetta on grilled bread, pasta and Caesar salad with home made dressing.

It should go without saying that there were many bottles of wine consumed.

Montages-2Our last day, we had grand plans to go road biking again but instead opted to visit Jessica at her vineyard.  We had some time to kill so we wandered about the grounds of Beringer for a bit.  I tend to dismiss Beringer wines on the whole simply because of their massive popularity but I would highly recommend a venture around their Historic property.  The Beringer vineyards are the oldest operating vineyard in the area and some of the structures date back to 1850!

Jessica works Sullivan Vineyards, an amazing little boutique vineyard smack in downtown Rutherford.  The home and property on which it stands are breathtaking and the history behind the family owned vineyard is fascinating.  They have some awesome value wines (my favorite was their dry rosè, Pink Ink).

Want your own Napa Valley Girls Weekend?

STAY:

  • The fresh, charming and bright Calistoga Wine Way Inn is a no frills location with rooms from $99 within walking distance of downtown Calistoga.
  • Napa Valley is notoriously expensive for hotel rooms and the prices are kept high from the lack of properties.  That being said, Airbnb is picking up in popularity there and you can rent this bright, airy and beautiful home that sleeps 8 in St. Helena for $250/night.  Bonus: floor to ceiling views of Meadowood Valley and when it says it sleeps 8 it means it: there are four queen beds in the home.

PLAY:

  • The roads in Napa are gorgeous for road cycling but you’ll want to stay off the main highway.  Check out this list of popular road biking routes or head into Vino Velo, owned by the Clif Family to get their take on the best cycling route for you.  They offer free maps with the best rides of various distances on them and a staff that is knowledgable about cycling in the area.  While you’re there, pick up some bicycle themed stuff (I walked out with some gorgeous wine glasses with bikes on them) or some of their tasty jams, nuts or olive oils.  Don’t skip a tasting of bread dipped in olive oil and rolled in the pistachio dukkah – it’s to die for.
  • In nearby Calistoga there is a ton of hot springs to relax in.   Head to the mineral water pools at the Calistoga Spa Hot Spings after 7 p.m., when the entrance fee is only $10.  Bring a picnic dinner and some wine to enjoy poolside.

EAT:

  • The Rutherford Grill is always a staple: not too pricy, with a killer wine list and something on the menu that everyone will love.  I’m a sucker for their homemade veggie burger, which to this day is still the best veggie burger I’ve ever had in my life.  Bold statement, I know.  I will say, they almost lured me in this time with the Butternut Squash Enchiladas but I held firm to my thirst for that burger, which I’ve been dreaming about eating again ever since I first visited in 2009.
  • Oenotri is unbelievably delicious. From their fresh homemade pastas, to their inventive salads to the unbelievably perfect thin crust pizzas, it was everything I needed from my lunch that day. If you order one of each salad and one of each pizza for the table, you won’t be disappointed.

DRINK:

  • Cakebread has always been one of my favorite go-to wines.  Their stainless steel aged Chardonnay is well known.  Their tastings are by appointment only as well.
  • Frog’s Leap will always hold a place near and dear in my heart and not only because their Zinfandel is such a killer wine.  Their tasting is unique, extremely in depth and full of quirk and character.  By appointment only.