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

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding | Brittany + Crystal

I should quit my job now because I’m sure I’m never going to be able to top the amount of love I have for these two ladies and their Isla Mujeres destination wedding.  I want to share all their photos but I have rules against that because I’m pretty sure no one really looks after 10 images anyways, so I tried to keep it together and not go overboard.  That being said,  it was a priority for Britt and Crys to really take advantage of their location so after getting ready and their first look at the hotel, we had hours to cruise around the island on our golf cart Joaquin and take loads of amazing portraits inspired by the ridiculously awesome place we were in.  There’s a few other of my favorites that I didn’t double up on over on their sneak peek from last week.

These two gorgeous gals hold a special place in my heart: they are former neighbors of my best mate Haley.  It was an unbelievable honor to be asked to be their photographer and I hope I did them justice and that they love their photos as much as I do.  Half of my job is already done when friends or acquaintances hire me.  So much of what I do involves creating a relationship and a quick connection in order to bring out genuine moments in folks and when I already know you, that hurdle is non-existent.

This was not my first time to Isla Mujeres, and although it’s changed quite a bit since I stopped in here on my way home from Cuba in 2008, it still has the heart and soul of the island I originally fell in love with.  Isla Mujeres is relaxed: the best sort of island time.  There is inexpensive delicious ceviche at every restaurant, cold cheap Mexican beer, smiling faces and warm hearts everywhere you go.  There are no massive hotels, no high rises, and no fancy private beaches for the most part.  You can get $2 fish tacos from a man in a plywood booth that presses his own tortillas.  You can rent a wonderful apartment on Airbnb for very little.  It’s off-the-beaten path travel at it’s best and it made the most wonderful backdrop for a wedding.

After we spent the whole day jaunting around the isle, Britt and Crys were wed in front of friends and family at the Zama Beach Club, which is officially in my top five favorite venues of all time now.  Instead of cake, they had a churro cart.  Instead of a special cocktail, they had fresh coconuts handed out to drink from as guests walked in.  Shoes were expected to be removed.  Toasts were made.  Sunsets were watched.  Crowd-surfing happened.

Britt and Crys, I can’t wait to come visit you and all of your amazing friends in Philly.  I know that your life is going to be filled with dancing, laughter and unicycles, and I wouldn’t wish anything less for the two of you.

Venue: Zama Beach Club | Wedding Planning and Day Of Coordination: Sunhorse Weddings | Invitation Design: Karith Gingrow | Bridal Gowns: BHLDN, Lace and Liberty, and The Wedding Dress Shoppe | Second Shooter: Julie Pizzo

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Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding | Brittany + Crystal | Sneak Peek

The island of Isla Mujeres is a magical place where you ride golf carts from place to place, eat fish tacos from a man in a plywood stand who presses his own homemade tortillas to order, swing through the rafters of the bar on the main street after one too many tequila shots, and, apparently, have one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever had the opportunity to photograph.  Big thanks to Brittany and Crystal, who not only entrusted me to capture their Isla Mujeres destination wedding at the Zama Beach Club, but also gave me an entire afternoon to tromp around the island taking portraits before the ceremony.  It was basically my dream come true: beach, fish tacos, plenty of hilarious women, and a wedding.  Here’s a few images from their incredible day.  I can’t wait to share more, including the ones from a day after trash the dress session in the ocean!

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Bluxome Street Winery Wedding

Bluxome Street Winery Wedding | Liz + Engin

All weddings should have farm tables.

All weddings should have relaxed planners and coordinators as amazing as the gals at Posh & Folk.

All weddings should have catering as delicious as the family style meal provided by Melons.

All weddings should have succulents in their bouquets.

All weddings should be at wineries.

This Bluxome Street Winery wedding was nothing short of understated elegance and refined comfort.  It was absolutely perfect for Liz and Engin, who met over wine and envisioned a simple yet stylish evening surrounded by loved ones.  Basically, they nailed it.

I regret not eating pie.

Venue: Bluxome Street Winery | Planning and Coordination: Posh & Folk | Minister: Rev. Maggie Beretz | Florist: The Floral Loft | Caterer: Melons Catering | Bakery: Three Babes Bakeshop | DJ: Heart of Gold DJs | Gown: Allure Bridals | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Rent the Runway | Hair and Makeup: Sacha Badame | Rentals: Bright Rentals

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White Sparrow Barn Wedding

White Sparrow Barn Wedding | Teddy + Janet

Teddy and Janet are awesome.  I’m 110% certain that you can’t mention Teddy in my family without someone exclaiming, “I LOVE JANET!”  Teddy, this is your future: being overshadowed by love for your wife.  To be honest, I’m also 110% certain that Teddy is absolutely overjoyed for this to happen.  He will be the first to tell you that Janet is not only the most important person in his life, but the best thing that’s ever happened to him.  I know he’s secure in himself enough to be okay with the situation because frankly, there’s no lack of love for Teddy in my family, or any of the families that surround him.  And now, this love extends and envelopes Janet as well.

Teddy grew up with my “little” brother and they have a very tight knit group of friends to this day.  Despite Teddy’s distance and independence from the rest of the group, most of whom still live in Dallas, everyone adores him.  Woe be upon the friend who moves away from the group!  They now all also adore Janet.  I can’t imagine what it was like for Janet to meet Teddy’s boisterous friends for the first time, but I can say with confidence that I’m glad I grew up with them, instead of having to be introduced to them.  As my brother would say, “Dukes for life.”

It was hard to pick just a few frames to share from Teddy and Janet’s wedding.  Teddy’s family hails from Liberia, Africa and with almost 200 people in attendance, half of which were in traditional African wedding attire, it made for an incredibly colorful wedding.  My mother makes an appearance below, learning how to twerk.  The infamous plastic vuvuzela made an appearance not only to introduce the ceremony, but through out it.  Teddy’s mother and her church members catered the entire dinner, offering some traditional African dishes that were amazing!  She made the best cabbage I’ve ever had!

I’m so happy for Teddy and Janet.  Much like the rest of my family, I absolutely adore both of them.  They are an incredible powerhouse dynamic duo: bright, smart, adventurous go-getters that remind me of myself.  I know that they will achieve each and every one of their lofty dreams in life, together.

Venue: White Sparrow Barn | Invitations: Papersource | Florist: Whole Foods | Bakery: Sugar and Ice Custom Cakes | Bride’s Attire: Bridal Warehouse | Veil: Alain Patterson Couture | Bolero Designer: Alter My Heart | Groom’s Attire: Jos A. Bank

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Bluxome Street Winery Wedding

Bluxome Street Winery Wedding | Engin + Liz | Sneak Peek

Liz and Engin came to me by way of a close friend from high school and I’m so thrilled they did.  Liz is unbelievably kind.  She pays attention to every word you say in a wonderfully earnest way that makes you feel like the most important person in the room.  She’s funny and gracious and Engin is a most wonderful complement to her.  Their ceremony and reception were simple, yet elegant and in a dream venue for me: a winery tasting room!  The Bluxome Street Winery was the perfect location for this dynamic duo because they met over a glass of wine.  Thanks to some help from the fabulous ladies at Posh & Folk, who were the best and most relaxed and organized wedding planners I’ve ever worked with, the event space was styled out in and flipped in mere minutes for a gorgeous family style dinner that I can’t wait to share photos of.  In the meantime, here’s a few frames from Liz and Engin’s wedding day.

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