Private Estate Wedding

Private Estate Wedding | Byron, CA | Megan + Tuck

Oh man.  These two are like smiles and jumping for joy and adventure-time and sunshine and laughter and good vibes and dance moves and ski fast and live loud and excitement all wrapped up into one package.  They are fun loving, laid back souls with a clear thirst for life.  They laughed non-stop their entire wedding day and in fact, I’m not sure I could find a photo where Megan isn’t laughing if I tried!

Megan and Tuck were wed under a beautiful weeping willow that had THE COOLEST TREEHOUSE IN IT I’VE EVER SEEN on family property.  There were sweeping views of walnut groves, abundant sunshine, and lush greenery everywhere.  The wedding was DIY, with heavy help from all hands on deck.  Megan is an interior designer and her style was ever present.

I feel really lucky that I was connected with these two super rad people through a mutual friend.  Tuck grew up skiing at Squaw Valley and I was lucky enough to get to ski with Megan, Tuck and his family this past spring there.  It was an absolute blast.  They are fast, fun, playful skiers that clearly enjoy spending time together on the slopes and furthermore, time over wine afterwards.  You know these are all clear paths to my heart.  Also, I am jealous because they have corgis and deep down inside, I’ve always wanted one.  There, I admit it.

Megan and Tuck are going to have many grand adventures together in their future.  I only hope that at least one of them involves coming to visit me in Tahoe again in the near future!

Venue: Private Estate Wedding | Coordinating: Patty Bristow | Catering: Brentwood Fine Meats | Ceremony Music: Steve Luntz | DJ: Eastwood Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Nicole Miller | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Rentals: C&M Party Rentals | Videographer: 7th Stone Media

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Mercury Hall Wedding

Mercury Hall Wedding | Lisa + Michael

You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful Texas summer day than the one Lisa and Michael were graced with for their Mercury Hall wedding in Austin, TX.  Perfect bluebird skies brightened up their day and although it was warm, by Texas standards it was downright pleasant, especially in the shade.  Their wedding featured an outdoor afternoon lunch catered by Hoover’s with some of the best brisket I’ve had in quite some time, beers from Real Ale brewing company (Fireman’s 4 is my Texas summer jam), and a traditional Reiki ceremony from her maid of honor Katie.

Lisa was incredibly stunning.  Two wedding dresses were double the fun and I was head over heels for her Watters ceremony dress.  It was flowy and delicate – a great compliment to the Austin afternoon.

I hadn’t been back to Mercury Hall in quite some time.  It’s such an incredible venue right in the heart of Austin, TX!  Despite the fact that a very important basketball game was on simultaneously, the dance floor eventually got going and even grandma couldn’t keep her feet still.   I’m so happy I was connected with this rad couple via Thumbtack – I had such a blast dancing with their friends and family.  We all know that I love Austin and I can’t wait to return for more weddings at Mercury Hall!

Also, super huge thanks to my good friend and fellow wedding photographer Lisa for stepping in and being my second for the day.  This was an adventurous weekend and I actually photographed a wedding the day before in the Bay Area, took a red eye to Texas and slept on the plane and then went straight to Lisa and Michael’s wedding for more wedding fun.  It was an absolute blast of a whirlwind weekend!  I knew when I made arrangements that it was either going to be amazing or terrible and it was amazing.  Working is always more fun with a good friend alongside you!

Venue: Mercury Hall | Officiant: Reverend Jacqueline (Jackie) Hammett | Florist: Petals, Inc | Bakery: Coco Paloma Desserts | Catering: Hoover’s Cooking |  Guitarist: Josè Manuel Tejeda | DJ: Toast Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Watters and Pronovias  from Serendipity Bridal | Bridal Party Attire: BHLDN | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: JC Penney and Bows-N-Ties | Makeup: Rachel George at W3ll People | Hair: Bethany Lessick | Hairpieces: Aya Jewellery | Second Photographer: Lisa Hause

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Plymouth CA Same Sex Wedding

Plymouth Wine Country Wedding | Jack + Kyle

Today is Kyle’s birthday, so it seems fitting that I gift him with a few more sneak peeks of he and Jack’s amazing Plymouth wine country wedding day.  Jack and Kyle not only live in Amador Country wine country, but they are fully immersed in it: their home is atop a 360 degree view of vineyards and Jack works for Scott Harvey Wines.  If you haven’t had a taste of what Scott Harvey has been producing lately, then you are missing out.  I recommend picking up a bottle of 2013 1869 Zinfandel today!

The boys wanted a completely relaxed backyard affair on their private estate, surrounded by friends and family.  Food, wine, family, and friends are important to this couple and the day completely focused on all of these things.  Scott Harvey wines were poured liberally and the team from Sacramento favorites Mother and Empress pulled out all the stops with a farro burrata salad, grilled oysters, roasted potatoes with beer soaked melted cheese, unbelievably tender meat and sturgeon.

In order to really focus on their relationships with loved ones, the day was completely and incredibly unstructured.  The plan was two-fold, completely unconventional and I, of course, loved it: folks would show up in the late afternoon for appetizers, wines and cocktails and lawn games and then, at my word (yes, mine!), we moved everyone under an incredibly ancient and gorgeous oak tree, overlooking the sunset and vineyards for the ceremony.  Post ceremony, we moved back to the lawn for an al fresco evening dining experience under the stars.  Their ceremony was officiated by two of their best friends and both myself and, I think it’s safe to say, almost all of their guests cried almost the entire time.  In between tears of poignant joy and love for these two boys, we were all laughing hysterically thanks to gems like a “name-that-romantic-comedy” game that was played in the middle.  It was an incredibly tender and moving ceremony that left me feeling in awe of the sheer amount of love that can be given, shared, and accepted in the world.

The events of the last few days have left me heartbroken and distraught.  You know it’s bad when I can’t listen to NPR.  These two incredible men and the beautiful people that surrounded them on their wedding day are remarkable examples of the possibility and far reaching effects of love: it envelopes you in warmth and joy, shares and forgives, laughs and cries, and is an enduring example of the goodness of humanity.  I have to believe that love, and in turn, empathy and kindness, will always prevail in our world.

Venue: Private Estate, Plymouth, CA | Catering: Mother/Empress | Grooms’ Attire: Kait MCKee | Day-Of Coordinator: Allison Caruso of Turley Wines

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Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding

Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | Kerri + David

I have this small disclaimer on my wedding services page that states, “I will always work with budgets if I feel you and your wedding are a right fit.”  People either get it or they so clearly don’t.  The ones that get it send me amazing emails filled with personal details about why they are a good fit.  Kerri and David were some of those people.  She wrote in her email, “I’m trying to surround myself with people on my wedding day that have good/fun energy.”  Kerri talked about how important it was to her to include vendors who fit the bohemian intimate vibe they really wanted to recreate at their Rancho Cicada Retreat wedding.  They couldn’t have picked a better venue for what they were going for either: Rancho Cicada Retreat is a special place.  It’s a no-frills setting that you can rent for the entire week.  It’s lush, overgrown, and green with a brambling brook, hammocks and lawn games.  It’s a place where you can stay up late drinking whiskey by the campfire and no one comes to hush you.  It’s the kind of place where you can dance the night away and there is nary a neighbor to hear you.  It’s the kind of place where you can get married in an idyllic wonderland of green and golden hues, surrounded by as many of your friends and family as you want.  Although it is smack in the middle of one of California’s best wine regions, it feels like you are the only people in the world while you are there.

It’s the kind of venue that breeds a DIY affair and Kerri and David’s was certainly that.  Friends baked all the pies, officiated, and MC’d the night.  The party went on all weekend and their friends and family were so lovely and including that once again at this venue, I stayed and partied the night away in their company.  It seems to happen at this venue.  It’s clearly where the cool couples wed and I certainly can’t wait to return!  I’m feeling pretty grateful that Kerri found me and wrote to me so honestly and candidly and with such emotion.  It was clear from the get-go that these two are full of love and care and it was even more apparent on their wedding day.  Thanks Kerri and David for sharing your wedding retreat with me.  It was an honor!

Venue: Rancho Cicada Retreat | Florist: Matthew Armbruster | Catering: Chuck Collison | Bride’s Attire: Holly Stalder | Groom’s Attire: Thailand | Groomsmen Suspenders: Suspender Superstore | Make-Up: Hawley Lopes | Hair: Amanda Lyn Jones | Rentals: Partysmart Rentals | Videographer: DGL Studio | Succulents : The Succulent Source | Decor: BHLDN | Bridal Bouquet: Eucca Floral Studio | Signage: Marrygrams | Cornhole Boards: Back 40 Life | Cornhole Bags: Sky Pixie Cornhole | Koozies: The Drinking Buddy

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Papago Park Engagement Session

Downtown Phoenix Engagement Session | Jerri + Nick

Jerri and Nick are set to get married at a brand new venue in their city this fall and for their downtown Phoenix engagement session they really wanted something that felt a little bit more like a lifestyle or editorial shoot.  Drawing inspiration from a similar shoot I did for Kelley and Neal in San Francisco, we made a plan to romp around Phoenix, bar hopping and drinking our way around the city before ending at Papago Park for sunset.  It was so wonderful to see Jerri again; she is a former co-worker of mine from our former days at Pearl Izumi.  We were all so sad to see her leave our company because she has always been bright, vibrant and fun to be around.  I was ecstatic to be hired as her wedding photographer and even more so to meet her other half, Nick, who compliments her so well.  We started out our day at the The Clarendon Hotel.  This boutique hotel (which I actually ended up staying at thanks to a sweet deal on Hotel Tonight) features an awesome rooftop bar and bright vibrant colors in all the rooms.  From there we moved onto downtown murals, Arizona Center‘s lush garden grotto, the Rose and Crown Pub for a beer break and ultimately Papago Park.  I hadn’t ever spent time in downtown Phoenix myself so it was super fun to have a local tour guide to the city.

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Alfama Buildings

Three Days in Lisbon

It wouldn’t be a trip to Portugal without a stop in this large, sophisticated city with pockets of old world European charm. Spend three days in Lisbon and you’ll have plenty of time to discover all the pockets of wonderful things this area has to offer.

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Lisbon, while charming and mysterious, wasn’t quite as thrilling for me after spending so many days in Porto. It’s a much larger city and it feels that way.  That being said, it’s a worthwhile stop for two to three days while you are exploring the country.  Although I won’t return for a second visit, I am overwhelmingly happy that I visited and it wouldn’t be a trip to Portugal without a visit to Lisbon.

STAY: You want to stay in the Alfama district: it’s tight magical winding streets are even smaller than those that have a similar feel in Porto.  There are tiny restaurants and cafes tucked into every corner with traditional food and Fado music, the melancholy but traditional music of the country.  There are charming and vintage private rooms to be had on Airbnb in the area for $20-40 a night in the area and entire flats for $35-$70.

EAT:  I had a harder time finding cuisine that I was over the moon for in Lisbon, simply due to the grander larger nature of the city.  Small intimate recommendations were harder to come by here: Lisbons’ seem to pride themselves on being a cosmopolitan city and most of the places that were suggested were fancier and more American than we were looking for.  That being said, I had some solid meals in the city, the most memorable of which came on my last night in a small restaraunt with three tables run by one older woman who spoke no english.  She fed me the traditional dish of Portugal: salted cod with shredded fried potatoes and it was clearly the nation’s comfort food.

  • Queijaria for afternoon snacks or lunch: this place was quaint, unassuming and filled with amazing cheese.  It’s a great place to stop and refill mid day while you are out exploring – you can quench your thirst with a glass of wine and eat cheese and antipasto to your heart’s content.
  • Garrafeira Alfaia is dark, unassuming and comfortable.  Dine on traditional black pudding rice with cumin, sausage with scrambled eggs or the secret black pork Lagareiro.  If you aren’t that hungry, order more wine and cheese.  I may have consisted on pure wine and cheese this entire trip.
  • Frangasqueira Nacional for lunch.  This small grilled meat shop offers nowhere to sit, but quite possibly the best blood sausage and roasted chicken in the city.  Order up a mixed meat platter and head down the road to the Principe Real Garden to enjoy it.  After that, head down the road to the Botanical Garden to walk off your massive food coma.

DRINK:

  • Solar do Vinho do Porto is a warm cozy place to curl up on the couch with a book on an overcast day.  It’s dark and wonderful in there and the selection of ports will astound you.
  • Listen to Fado at anywhere that draws you in at night in Alfama.  You can wander the streets until you hear something that intrigues you or make dinner reservations

EXPLORE:

  • Get lost in the streets of Almalfa.   The view is particularly gorgeous from Miradouro de Santa Luzia.  Wander all the way up to the mediaeval Castle of São Jorge, the royal residence until the early 16th century.
  • The Museu Colecção Berardo has an impressive collection of modern art and no entrance fee.  It had more Warhols than I’ve ever seen in one collection!
  • Still not museumed out?  Head up to the Museu da Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian which has an incredibly impressive collection of ancient world, religious and Impressionist and European art.
Fort Mason Engagement Session

San Francisco Engagement Session | Mark + Julia | Sneak Peek

Mark and Julia are getting married in Lake Tahoe in 2017.  Tahoe wasn’t Julia’s original plan.  She grew up in the bay area and really wanted something elegant and indoors.  Mark is an outdoors kind of guy: he grew up in Wisconsin and loves mountains and lakes.  When Julia stepped into Edgewood for the first time, she knew they had found the perfect compromise.

The one thing Julia desperately wanted was a few romantic golden lit images.  Golden light comes easy in Tahoe: because of the way the sun sets over our mountains and the tall trees, we have a few hours of it every morning and afternoon in certain locations.  In Texas, golden hour is more like golden-ten-minutes, so I know how lucky I am in Tahoe.  Julia also really wanted a little bit of a tour of San Francisco in her images and thankfully, we timed that tour just perfectly to snag some of that golden backlight in Fort Mason last week.

There’s more to come from this adorable duo!

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Porto Portugal

A Week in Portugal: Porto Travel Guide

This past March I took advantage of a great excuse to explore Europe: Fearless Photographers offers a yearly photography conference in different European cities and this year’s conference was in Porto, Portugal.  I was excited to attend what turned out to be an incredibly inspiring and enriching experience.  I met some incredibly loving and adventurous people who I look forward to a future adventures with, drank on the streets until 4 AM with them one night, wandered the iconic city for hours on end every day taking photos of vibrantly colored buildings and it’s beautiful traditional azulejo, the ceramic blue tiles that adorn many of it’s historical buildings, discovered a love of expensive port and ate like a king.  Porto’s people are unvaryingly calm and collected: they have soothing voices with evenly paced pronunciation that makes you feel incredibly tranquil in their presence.

Here’s a few of my favorite images from my trip, interspersed with images taken of my friend and kick ass travel companion Shaunte, of Shaunte Dittmar Photography, and myself by Momento Cativo for Flytographer.

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Porto won me over in every way from head to toe.  It is everything I want in a vacation destination: unbelievably charming, affordable, and engaging.  I could easily spend weeks in this city and never tire of wandering it’s streets.  Here’s a mini Porto travel guide of navigating this beautiful city.

STAY: You want to stay in the Ribeira district: it’s charming historical winding streets and churches around every corner give it the old world European feel.  There are tiny amazing restaurants tucked into every corner with incredible food.  The riverside offers unbeatable vantage points of Porto, especially if you cross over the bridge into Gaia for an evening.  There are beautiful studio apartments that you get all to yourself on Airbnb for $40-70 a night in the area.  We really enjoyed our stay at Hugo’s TocToc Studio.  It was a perfect and incredibly convenient location to explore from.

EAT:  The most memorable places we discovered in Porto were tiny and intimate.  Most had five tables or less.  Most had three people working, or less.  Restaurants in Porto open late (expect to eat after 8 PM every night) and reservations are usually needed.  We were there during Easter week, which is a big holiday for most of Europe, and in some cases it was hard to get reservations for places.  At dinner most nights, we started just asking them to bring us whatever they wanted to serve us or whatever they thought they did best, and the results were always inspiring.  Of all the places I’ve traveled, Porto will remain in my heart as one of the greatest culinary experiences I’ve ever had.

  • A Sandeira for lunch: score a bowl of homemade soup and a sandwich for 5 euros.  Like most wonderful Porto restaurants, this place is incredibly intimate and has very few tables so go early if you don’t want to hang outside waiting for a spot to open up.  It’s worth the wait!
  • Our meal at La Piada was one of the most memorable of our trip.  The staff is incredibly gracious.  The restaurant itself is wide open, with tall ceilings, a tree in the middle of one of the tables and local art on the walls.  The couple who owns the restaurant is Italian and Portuguese and they offer piadinas: a small italian flatbread filled with Portuguese staples.
  • One of my other favorite meals was at Porta4.  There were three tables in the entire restaurant and two brothers taking turns cooking and serving us.
  • Amarelo Torrada for breakfast: if you are dying for something bigger than an espresso, this gal never minded serving me up a large americano.  I was craving eggs and actual breakfast for most of my trip, but these guys had some wonderful breakfast like toasted bread combos like cream cheese and lox that were a good stand in.

DRINK:

  • I found Livraria da Baixa on my first day and I returned every day thereafter.  The staff is warm, welcoming, and remembered me and my drink.  They mix a great cocktail and if it’s a nice day, you can sit out on the patio and people watch.  If it’s a rainy day, you can while away the evening in the incredibly cozy upstairs lounge.  Just push the bell on the bookshelf when you are ready to order another round!
  • Graham’s is one of the oldest and most renown of the Port makers in the area.  Tour their famous lodge overlooking Gaia and Porto and then partake in a tasting in the tasting room.  Be forewarned: the vintage tawny tasting is worth the expense but may ruin you in regards to port forever.  I have come to the new self realization that it is not that I don’t like port – it’s that I don’t like cheap port.

EXPLORE:

  • Take a boat trip on the Duoro River.  This is one of the few things that I wasn’t able to do and wish I had.  You can view the architecture of Porto from a new vantage point, or take a boat all the way up the river into the wine growing region and go wine tasting.
  • Go on a church tour: Igreja dos Carmelitas has an incredibly picturesque traditional tile wall on the outside.  Clerigos Church offers a 75 meter tall tower that offers unprecedented views of the city from the top of it.  Expect a wait to climb the 240 stairs if you are there at a busy time.  The Church of Sao Francisco is filled with gilded Baroque decor.
  • Get your tourist on: Lello & Irmão Bookstore is apparently the third most famous library in the world, most likely because it supposedly inspired many aspects of Harry Potter for JK Rowling.  The architecture inside is supposedly incredibly stunning.  I didn’t have the patience to stand in line for four hours to go inside, so I’ll have to go back.  If you really want to see the inside, you might go first thing in the morning before it opens to avoid the crowds, or right at closing.  Cafe Majestic opened in 1921 and used to be the meeting point for the area’s elite and creatives.  I was told it’s incredibly beautiful but has “tourist pricing.”  JK Rowling also apparently spent many a day in this cafe on the first book in the series.
  • Hire your own personal photographer: Flytographer’s photographers for Porto are Ivo and Vanessa.  This dynamic duo of a photographic team are married and totally in love with their home.  They were incredibly fun to wander the city with for an afternoon, exploring the tight winding streets for the best kind of souvenir: photos of ourselves playing in a city we came to love.
  • Visit the Oporto Craft Market: it’s filled with small stalls of homemade art, foodstuffs, and other creations by local artisans.

Flytographer in Porto Portugal

Montesino Ranch Wedding

Montesino Ranch Wedding | Kelley + Neal | Sneak Peek

I think that we all were incredibly excited about Kelley and Neal’s Montesino Ranch wedding.  And then the forecast came out: Texas was going to get so much rain over the course of the wedding weekend that flooding was not only possible, but highly probable.  Montesino Ranch is an incredible venue, but offers a few unique challenges: wedding ceremonies are generally held on a gorgeous hilltop overlooking the Wimberly countryside.  Receptions are held down below, outside on the lawn and in the barn on the ranch property (goats included).  As such, folks have to be shuttled by bus up to the ceremony site but if it rains at all, the buses can’t get up the road.

Kelley was nervous.  I was nervous for Kelley.  One of her bridesmaid’s emphatically assured us that she had been praying for a long time and that she knew without a doubt that even though it started pouring as the girls were getting ready, that everything was going to be fine and that it was going to stop and that the ceremony would go as planned.  I, frankly, thought she was blowing smoke up our asses.  She was not.  Ashley, your prayers do not go unheeded: way to make it un-rain.

In the end, Kelley and Neal had a beautiful ceremony and the rain held off for most of the day.  I can’t wait to share more from their Wimberly, TX ranch wedding!

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Drown the Gown

Drown the Gown | Isla Mujeres

So, there’s a second part to that awesome Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding I posted about.

Brittany and Crystal wanted to do a day after “Trash the Dress” session and get in the ocean wearing their bridal gowns.

“Heck yes!” says the photographer who is writing this with two black eyes from an incident involving a bride and groom on snowboards, a six year old out of control skier, the camera and the photographer.  Of course I want to get in the ocean with my camera.  That sounds awesome.

So we did.  Here’s a few of my favorite images from our Drown the Gown session on Isla Mujeres, along with images of me capturing them thanks to Julie Pizzo.

More on how we did it after the photos.

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When Britt and Crys first approached me about their wedding, the first wish they expressed was that they wanted to go in the ocean and do a drown the dress session.  I knew I would absolutely want to photograph it at least partially underwater, if not all the way underwater so I immediately started researching underwater photography housing for my cameras.  The options are varied and so are their prices. Full functional underwater housing, such as the kind my friend Ralph Pace uses for his amazing photography of underwater sea life, for my cameras is, in general, more expensive than my camera bodies themselves.  We’re talking in the $3500-$4500 range.  To rent it for two weeks while I was in Mexico was almost $1000.  I still considered it.  My original vision was to find a super calm cove and go out early in the morning when the water was like glass and get the girls full submerged.  I am now super thankful I didn’t go that route because it would have been impossible due to the weather we had the week we were in Mexico: it was blustery almost every day, all day long and it was especially windy the morning we had to photograph the session.

The next option was to go with a bag.  After talking to a number of folks, I made the decision that this was the way to go and pulled the trigger on a DiCAPac WP-S10.  I was told by most that it is hard to change the settings when it’s in the bag, that I would be sacrificing sharpness (which I’m fairly obsessed over), and some people said they ran it on autofocus and some said they pre-set settings and ran with it.  I found it easy to change aperture and shutter speed, but impossible to change autofocus and while I had set it up to autofocus, I wish that I had just chosen one of the focus selections in the top, middle of the frame and run with that.  Overall, I’m super stoked on what we captured.  I think it’s dreamy, passionate and makes you feel like you too could get swept away by the heat of the moment.  You can almost hear those waves crashing.

Everything that isn’t partially underwater is shot with the Nikon D750 and either the Sigma Art 50 or the Nikkor 70-200.  Everything that was taken partially underwater is the Nikon D800 and the Nikkor 24-70.

Location: Isla Mujeres | Second Shooter: Julie Pizzo | Camera: Nikon D800 and D750 | Waterproofing: DiCAPac