Sutter Creek Engagement Session | Morgan + Vittawat

Morgan and Vittawat met in high school.  Yes.  That still happens.  Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged.  This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno.  When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session.  I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did.  It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan. 

It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek.  I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever.  My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there.  It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable.  Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?  

Sutter Creek Engagement Session

There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump.  Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.  

STAY:  While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.  

  • The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in the downtown of Sutter Creek.  Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet.  Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store.  Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.  
  • Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest?  The answer is no.  Obviously.  Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.  
  • The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste.  It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.  

EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true.  I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants! 

  • Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason.  I jump at any chance to eat there.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist.  I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.  
  • You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well.  Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night. 
  • Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area.  Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.  

DRINK:

  • Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area.  Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
  • Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer.  Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding.  I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.  
  • Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.  
  • I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk.  I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back.  It helps that they are NPR under-writers also.  Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager.  He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch!  Captain Crunch!).  His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines.  Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.  

 

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YMCA of the Rockies Wedding

YMCA of the Rockies Wedding | Estes Park, CO | Jamie + Kristen

I first met Jamie and Kristen because they were searching for a Tahoe based photographer on Thumbtack that would be willing to photograph an unconventional engagement session in which a yeti attacked them in the woods and their dog rescued them and thus, they all lived happily ever after.

I was the perfect fit.  Duh.

After that, I was so enamored with these two that I couldn’t imagine not photographing their YMCA of the Rockies wedding in Estes Park, CO.  While we briefly flirted with the ideas of ziplining in wedding attire, climbing mountains and etc, in the end, we decided we didn’t have time and you know what, that was ok.  Their day was absolutely perfect just as it was: complete with rubber animal masks (not a first), berry cobbler instead of cake (be still my heart), a ring bearer dressed as Frodo, incredibly wonderful friends and family, and a relaxed atmosphere.  Kristen’s former advisor expertly relayed stories from when the two first met in her lab in college as she officiated a ceremony peppered with quirky hysterical readings.   The YMCA of the Rockies is an epically beautiful location that offers an exceptional place to hold a wedding on a DIY shoestring budget.  Your friends and family can all rent cabins or rooms for reasonable rates and very little decor is needed when you’re standing on a hilltop gazing at Rocky Mountain National Park.  At the end of the day, this wedding was exactly what I think a wedding should be: a day where you surround yourself with the people you love the most and you don’t worry about the rest.

I frequently get compliments on the days of weddings from guests who watch me work, or who have recently been to a wedding where the photographer was a nightmare not fun to work with, which lead to stories that are both fascinating and educational to hear.  Generally I am told things like, “You are working so hard!”  And, “You’re so great at family formals, that wasn’t terrible at all!”  At Jamie and Kristen’s wedding, one of their guests gave me both a new compliment and the best compliment I’ve ever received: “I can tell by how much you’ve been smiling and laughing today that you really love your job.”  

I do really love my job.  I really love my job because it means I get to hang out with wacky people who love their friends and family that aren’t afraid to buck tradition and be themselves.  With mixed wedding parties (because why should it be girl vs boys?), with friends who sing songs for their first dance, or run around in circles in animal masks during their portraits, or dance even when they are the only one dancing.  I love surrounding myself with awesome and Jamie and Kristen are definately in that category.  

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Venue and Catering: YMCA of the Rockies | Musicians: Ptarmigan String Quartet | Bride’s Attire: White Lace and Promises | Groom’s Attire: Jackson & Connor | Wedding Party Attire: Convertible Wrap Dress and Jackson & Connor

New Orleans Travel Photography

My New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans continues to be my favorite city in the world. It’s vibrant unique culture and diverse tolerant population of characters continues to draw me back, again and again.  It’s impossible not to fall in love with the people, the food, and the music of this incredible city.  After a few years away, I returned to New Orleans this time for Jazz Fest, which I hadn’t been to since before Katrina. Although some of my New Orleans Travel Guide remains the same, there’s a few new haunts I fell in love with listed below the photos.

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STAY:  Every neighborhood in New Orleans has it’s own unique feel and vibe, but I always encourage you to think outside the French Quarter when staying in this city so that you really get a feel for the varied cultures and differing architecture of the city.  While hotels and bed and breakfast’s abound, there’s also a great selection of rooms and entire homes on Airbnb and VRBO to choose from when visiting my favorite city in the world.

  • The Garden District: up river from the French Quarter, St Charles winds it’s way along the river bank into a neighborhood filled with colossal columned porches, lush overgrown green gardens, and wrought iron gates.  Magazine Street offers hip new restaurants, small independently owned boutiques and now, a trendy but delicious donut store.  Stay here if you want to really embrace that southern gentility and envision yourself drinking champs on a porch while the streetcar rolls by.
  • The Marigny used to be a secret, but it’s proximity to Frenchman Street and it’s laundry list of amazing nooks and crannies to explore has made it more popular.  The Marigny’s eclectic mix of late-Georgian, one-story Creole cottages and shotguns that are vibrantly colored make you want to wander down a different street every day on your way through town.  Stay here if you want to be close to the nightlife, but just out of the way of the French Quarter drunkards.
  • Mid-City is perfect if you’re coming to New Orleans for a festival.  It’s proximity to the fairgrounds means that you can walk to the fest while you’re feeling sparky during the day, but taxi and LYFT around to the nightlife at night when your feet are feeling the pressure.  From grand mansions, to shotgun doubles, to Victorian style homes, you’ll see a varied mix of architecture here, but none lacking in charm.  Make sure you head to the Parkway Tavern on your way home from the fest one day.  It’s one of the best po-boys in the city.

EAT: this list gets longer every time I return to New Orleans.  It’s been over a decade since Katrina and the restaurant scene here has really flourished in recent years.  There are a few of my stand-out favorites on this list, and some new ones that I discovered this trip around.

  • Elizabeth’s in the Bywater (don’t skip the Praline bacon), Slim Goodies Diner in the Garden District, and The Ruby Slipper Cafe are breakfast standouts.  The Ruby Slipper now has locations all over the city.  Cake Cafe and Bakery in the Marigny is also a great breakfast stop-off, where breakfast is served six days a week all day.
  • Jacques-Imo’s is still one of my favorite restaurants in the city.  It’s raucous atmosphere, incredible menu and alternative vibe have me returning again and again.  Expect a bit of a wait, but you can always head next door to the Maple Leaf for a drink.  For a real experience, come here on Tuesday night for dinner and then head on over to the Maple Leaf to see Rebirth Brass Band play their weekly show.
  • The list of restaurants on this page with James Beard awards is astounding and La Petite Grocery is part of that club for good reason.  The turtle bolognese was incredible and it didn’t hurt that I made new friends while dining at the bar.
  • Our meal at Shaya was a stand-out: modern Isreali cuisine prepared fresh, prepared fresh with a huge side of warm, brick fired pita.  You must order the hummus!
  • There are certain dishes that I spend my life dreaming and replaying over and over and over again in my head and Cochon‘s wood fired oysters are now on that list.  I’ve always maintained that I’d want my last meal on earth to be the mushroom strogonoff that I once had at South Congress Cafe in Austin, TX, but these oysters may be claiming that top spot.

DRINK:

  • Enjoying a Pimm’s Cup at the historic Napoleon House is a must-do.
  • If you can get in, Bacchanal is a wonderful way to while away the evening.  Part retail wine store, part patio, this Bywater haunt has become incredibly popular in the past few years and there is now usually a line around the corner to get in.  Skip it on the weekend and on festival weeks but if you are around in the off season, you might be able to score a seat on their deck and listen to music mid-week.
  • If you can’t score a seat at Bacchanal, the Tasting Room offers an eclectic dining menu and boutique wines from around the world.  It’s dark, cozy and just what you want a wine bar to be.  It’s perfect for lounging on the couch, reading a book and sipping wine in the event of poor weather.
  • Sitting on the deck of the Columns Hotel in the Garden district and whiling away the afternoon with a bottle of champagne will never lose it’s charm with me.

EXPLORE

  • Get lost on foot: the New Orleans Tours at Your Feet walking app offers guided tours of the French Quarter, the Garden District, Haunted Homes, and Cemeteries in the area.
  • If it’s your first trip to New Orleans, the World War II Museum is a must-visit.  It’s grown considerably in the past few years, but it remains informative and the exhibits are related to local history and people.
  • The Presbytere in the French Quarter houses a New Orleans cultural exhibit on mardi gras and it’s customs, along with an exceptional exhibit about Katrina and it’s aftermath.
  • Fest it up: the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Festival and Mardi Gras continue to be huge draws to this city.  They are all amazing, but there’s also something to be said for just going for the shrimp and grits no reason at all.
Virginia City Wedding

Virginia City Wedding | Piper’s Opera House | Brenda + Dillon

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT VIRGINIA CITY?!?

Oh man, I’m just kidding.  My friend Holly talks about it all the time because she’s obsessed with ghosts and she likes to take her ghost hunting equipment (it’s a thing).

When Brenda first contacted me she gushed over my love for guacamole, enticed me with BBQ and promised me a man dressed as a miner with a donkey.  We never found the miner, or the donkey, but they did have a pistol packing preacher in a top hat (he had to check his gun at the Opera House gun check), fry bread, delicious promised BBQ, and both Brenda and Dillon have really wonderful and calm spirits.  When some things didn’t go as planned (sometimes red lipstick gets on wedding dresses), there was nary a beat in anyone’s steps because these two are so incredibly cool (so hot they’re cool!  so cool they’re hot!).  For future incidents: laughter helps and so do Tide pens!

Their venue was was full of wonder and intrigue: the Piper’s Opera House is a historic performing arts venue.  The current building was built in 1885, to replace the version built in 1878 that burned down in a fire.  It’s actually the third iteration of the Opera House: the Piper’s 1863 venue was destroyed by the 1875 Great Fire in Virginia City!  Piper utilized a lot of what could be salvaged from the original buildings when he started running out of money and you can see the use of it in the hallway leading into the great hall.  I was given a private tour by the onsite volunteer earlier in the evening and she told me that at one point they had to institute a gun check because the miners would get super drunk and rowdy and start hanging from the rafters and shooting their guns off!

I feel really incredibly lucky to have connected with these two amazing people and explored such an unbelievably picturesque strange retro town with them.  Although no one was swinging from the rafters and shooting their guns off at Brenda and Dillon’s wedding, there was a rowdy dance party!

In summary, Virginia City is quite the place, with quite the demeanor, and it was overwhelmingly awesome to photograph there.  I mostly spent the entire day freaking out over one texture or another.  Y’all, there was brick!  REAL BRICK!

I had a difficult time trying to narrow this one down to 10 photos and so I just gave up and refused.  So here’s a lot of photos from Brenda and Dillon’s wedding that I love.

Venue: Piper’s Opera House | Coordinator: Jalie Premier Event Planning | Officiant: Rev James Matthieu, aka, “The Pistol Packing Preacher” | Bakery: Whole Foods Reno | Fry Bread: Muha’s Indian Tacos | Catering: Carson City BBQ | Bride’s Attire: Elizabeth Dye from Alt Brides | Groom’s Apparel: Saks Off Fifth | Groomsmen Attire: Macy’s | Hair and Makeup: Chellsie Danielle Kiger | Rentals: Camelot Party Rentals

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Margareten Vienna

Exploring Vienna, Austria

Last year at the Fearless Conference in Europe, I met a number of wonderful people who I shared many meals and glasses of wine over while sharing travel stories, inspiration and laughter.  One of them, Christian Cardona, convinced me that I absolutely had to go to Colombia, because it was the “gem of South America.”  It is.  The others, Marie and Michael, convinced me that I had to come to Vienna, because it was charming and one of the most enjoyable cities in Europe.  I wasted no time adding both recommendations to my list and crossing them both off within a year.  When Fearless Photographers announced that their annual European conference was to be held in Budapest, it only made sense to tack on Vienna for a few extra days of exploration.  It’s an easy, comfortable, and inexpensive train ride from Budapest and the my friends and I would have some built in tour guides in Marie and Michael.

Vienna itself is a beautiful, albeit strange mix, of Gothic, Baroque, and Neo-Classical architecture.  Some of the buildings are grand, palatial and sweeping, while others are squeezed into smaller spaces and tight turning pedestrian only streets.  After World War II, Vienna spent a significant amount of money and funds restoring their buildings to their pre-war grandeur.  The result is something that feels drastically and dramatically different than the rest of Europe: a strange mix of new modern that feels like it has one foot in the past and one far in the future.

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STAY: We stayed in Margareten, otherwise known as the Fifth District, which offers typical Viennese architecture and a bohemian vibe.  We also considered Mariahilf, but after wandering for a brief moment down the busy tourist uninspiring high street of Mariahilfastrasse, I have to say that I was quite happy with our choice and would make the same one again.

EAT: 

  • It isn’t a trip to Vienna without consuming wiener schnitzel, a very thin, breaded and pan fried cutlet made from veal.  Known as one of the national dishes of Austria, it’s incredibly delicious.  After wandering around Vienna and viewing St. Stephen’s Cathedral, take a break in the famous rooms of Figlmüller, which has been helmed by the Figlmüller family for four generations now.  The schnitzel is crispy and surprising: although one is enough to share between two people, you can be assured that it will get devoured in no time!
  • The Vienna Naschmarkt is perfect for exploring, dining and drinking.  The bustling mile long market offers food stalls and small outdoor cafes to explore and while away the afternoon in.
  • Start one of your days off with a traditional brunch at Burg.Ring 1 before heading off to explore.  The interior is an eclectic mix of bric-a-brac and vintage furniture and you can elect to add quite the buffet spread of fruits, yogurts, vegetables, cheese and a gorgeous selection of Viennese pastries, treats, and breads to any weekend breakfast entree.
  • We spent hours over tapas and wine at Lola, a Spanish Tapas bar where you can get your menu in German, English or Spanish.  The staff also spoke all three languages.
  • The coffee house culture of Vienna is so integral to the city’s social fabric that it was declared an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO.  After wandering the city center, relax and enjoy live music, a “sweet treat” from their in house patisserie, coffee and conversation at the infamous Cafe Central.  The cafe claims to be Vienna’s most famous cafe, but can truthfully and honestly boast that it served the likes of Trotsky, Freud, and writers and poets on a daily basis.

DRINK:

  • Motto in Margareten was a hidden gem of jazz and darkness.  Don’t skip a visit to the bathrooms, which are uniquely and perhaps confusingly different than the restaurant and bar space themselves.  The cocktail and wine list is outstanding.
  • I totally goofed and didn’t plan ahead, but if I’d been on it, I would have booked us on the Vienna Wine Walk, a guided walking wine tour with a master sommelier who takes you on a tour that introduces you to both the wines of Austria and to some of their favorite neighborhood drinking holes.

EXPLORE

  • Take a walking tour of historic Vienna on the Ringstrasse: after having a traditional Viennese brunch at Burg.Ring 1, walk down to start your exploration in the Museum Quarter, where you’ll find the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) and the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer), both overlooking the Maria-Theresien-Platz.   Alternatively, hop on the RingTram, which departs on a lap of the Ringstrasse every 30 minutes from the Schwedenplatz.  The interior of the historic city center, surrounded by the Ringstrasse,
  • Go to the opera!  Vienna was Mozart’s hometown and the opera is an important part of their culture.  While some performances sell out in advance (we secured tickets to Faust ahead of time), you can also sometimes purchase tickets from the Mozart-costumed representatives on the street outside Vienna’s famous and ornate State Opera House.
  • Take the metro and head a bit outside the city center to explore the Schönbrunn Palace and the accompanying gardens and grounds.  The Palace, originally commissioned to be a hunting lodge, eventually grew into a palatial imperial residence over the course of the eighteenth century.
  • Seek out street art: Vienna has a thriving street art culture, though discovering it isn’t quite as easy as in Paris or Bogota.  Start on the Donaukanal, a former arm of the river Danube, but now a regulated water channel through the city.  The walls and banks of the Donaukanal are filled with all types of graffiti and art on one massive long urban ever changing canvas.  Wandering the streets though the Mariahilf neighborhood to the Naschmarkt will offer produce some excellent art if you know where to look.  I missed the permanent Invader installation in the Museum Quarter, but you won’t thanks to this guy’s handy dandy map.
Budapest Hungary

Exploring Budapest

Each year, Fearless Photographers, a world wide professional photography organization that I’m a member of, hosts an annual conference in Europe dedicated to furthering education, inspiration and networking.  Always the prolific traveler that I am, I decided after last year’s successful and memorable conference in Porto, Portugal, that I wouldn’t ever miss a year.  I was overjoyed when Huy announced that this year’s conference was going to be in Budapest, which has been on my travel list for quite some time.  I fell in love with this charming Eastern European city and to be honest, I didn’t plan enough days there, which just means that I’ll have to return.  It’s mind blowingly beautiful, the food is amazing, the people are incredibly generous and it has a hip, vibrant and creative culture.  I feel pretty lucky to have been able to spend a few days exploring Budapest, meeting other Fearless Photographers from around the world, with my good friends Nicky and Ilana.

Here’s a few of my favorite images from the trip, taken by myself mixed in with a selection of our images thanks to Rokolya Photography for Flytographer.

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STAY: Until 1873, Budapest was actually two different cities, Buda on the western bank of the Danube river and Pest on the eastern.  Buda has sweeping vistas, offered from the rolling slopes and tiered streets surrounding the the old Citadella fortress.  We chose to stay in Pest, because of the proximity to our work conference, but didn’t regret it: the busy, bustling streets of the trendy neighborhoods across the river offered an abundance of people watching, gourmet restaurants and underground “ruin” bars to explore.

EAT: have at least one traditional Hungarian dinner, but make sure to explore Budapest’s extensive and varied restaurants as well.

  • Mak Bistro was one of our favorite dinners during our entire trip.  The menu is creative, laden with interesting twists on Hungarian dishes, and the wine list is exceptional.
  • We ended up at Pozsonyi Kisvendeglo for a traditional Hungarian meal on the first night.  It seemed to be mostly frequented by locals, the menu was only in Hungarian, the portions were massive and the goulash was delicious.
  • I would have never expected to find the best bagel of my life in Budapest but I did and we ate there every morning we could.  Inez Bagel Shop, conveniently located across the street from our Airbnb, also had the best coffee I’ve had in a long time!
  • Our meal at Mazi was a stand-out.  Traditional Greek food prepared fresh, in an adorable setting with fantastic service.  The squid ink pasta sent us to the moon.
  • Underneath our Airbnb was an Italian restaurant, Caffe GianMario, that was open from dawn to far past dusk.  It was always packed.  Every day the incredible smells of a garlic red sauce would waft up through the courtyard.  It would overwhelm you as you walked to or from the apartment door.  We knew that eating there at least one night was an absolute must and I’m so glad we did.  The minute you stepped into the restaraunt, you were transported to what I can only imagine Italy is like: an intimate cafe that was loud, boisterous and joyful.  An unexpected surprise in a lobster pasta, a perfect pizza pie and interesting conversation with a Russian sitting next to us really made this night a memorable one.

DRINK:

  • Szimpla Kert might be Budapest’s most famous ruin bar, but with good reason.  It was the first and paved the way to change what folks saw in buildings that would have otherwise been demolished.  What started as an idea for a community art space is now one of Pest’s busiest bars.  The eclectic collection of thrift store finds and bizarre inclusions feels like it would be right at home in Austin, TX and the walls are graced with community art and plants.
  • The Faust Wine Cellar is hard to find but worth the effort: the result is a lesson in Hungarian wine, from a knowledgeable local expert in an underground cellar beneath the Buda Castle.  They guide you through 6 tastings (five different ones and then one repeat).  We loved the experience (and the wine) so much that we ended up taking a few bottles home to the apartment with us.

EXPLORE

  • Get lost in Castle Hill: on the Buda side of the river, the castle and old citadel, a Unesco World Heritage Site, offer unparalleled views of the city and hours of exploration.
  • Shop local: find selections of books, clothes, jewelry, art and other knickknacks from local artisans at Rododendron Art and Design and in the stalls at Paloma, which offers a hidden interior courtyard with a multitude of small quaint stalls hosting anywhere from 1-10 artists and craftsmen in each one.  From leather bags, to shoes, to art, to jewelry, we walked out of there having spent a wonderful afternoon chatting with the designers and artists themselves and with our pocketbooks significantly lighter.  Paloma is cash only so hit up the ATM before you go!
  • Budapest is world reknown for it’s thermal baths and parks and those are two things that I wish I’d had extra days here to explore.  Don’t make the same mistake we did!
  • Hire Flytographer Roky.  It’s no secret that I love to hire professional photographer’s for myself as a souvenir when I travel.  This was Nicky’s first international travel experience as an adult and she was really excited to have it captured professionally as well.  Roky was amazing and we had the best afternoon exploring the quaint steep brick streets and architecture of Buda with him.  He made us feel like a million bucks!
Central Texas Wedding Photography

On Death, Love and Photography

Last week, some of my good friends traveled to Utah to celebrate their cousin’s wedding.  Their week was filled with celebrations of life, love and their enthusiasm for the mountains and winter.  The wedding was held at the top of a resort and everyone who was able skied down together afterwards.

The groom’s mother, Aunt to my friends, who had been suffering some significant health problems, watched her son get wed to his love, danced the first dance with him, and then passed away in the pre-dawn hours of the next morning.

Mother and Bride

I photograph weddings because I believe that the images that capture the relationship between you and your loved ones, on one of the most special and memorable days of your life, often become the only written and permanent history of your family and friends.   This weekend, I photographed my third wedding of 2017, fresh off the inspiration of Fearless Conference Europe, but introspective over my friends and their family.  I can’t imagine the roller coaster of emotions that must come from the high of a wedding day and the low of a death in such a short timespan.   I hope that their cousin hired an amazing photographer, because those images of the groom’s mother will be the last photos they have.  I think about my friend Nicky, whose wedding I will photograph in September, whose mother passed away from cancer on New Year’s Day a few years ago.  She will not have images of her mother on her wedding day.  I think about one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose mother was diagnosed with ALS and is rapidly declining.   The photos I took of his mother on his wedding day are the last professional photos they will have of her.  In them, she looks proud, happy and beautiful.

I photograph weddings because when an elderly grandmother leans in snarkily to me every summer with a wag of her finger and whispers in my ear with a laugh, “I know you’re taking so many photos of me because I’m going to die soon,” we both know that all things funny have an element of truth to them.

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At the wedding I photographed this past weekend, the mother of the bride hated being photographed.  She wore sunglasses the entire day and spent most of her evening avoiding my lens and abruptly turning around backwards with a scowl every time I tried to get an image of her.  She didn’t care for me much, but frankly, I decided I didn’t care whether she liked me or not.  Normally, I see it as part of my job to win over the extended family members of the bride and groom, but in this case, I wasn’t going to give in.  I took it upon myself, in light of how I was feeling about death and love and family, to rise to the challenge.  I was absolutely going to get a good photo of her so that her family members would have some images of her to cherish.

Later that night, while chatting with some family members on the dance floor, the bride’s cousin told me that most of the photos they have of the mother of the bride involve her holding her hands or a napkin up over her face.  When I showed her an image that I captured of the two of them together in the back of my camera, she cried.

Virginia City Wedding

At Fearless Europe this year, Emma Case talked a lot about her why.  She strives to make images that are personal to her clients, while photographing both the extraordinary and the ordinary.  She talked about how our images link the past, present and the future together and that by photographing weddings, that we are photographing something bigger than us.  While it certainly resonated with me at the time, the incredible importance didn’t really sink in until my friend’s Aunt passed away.  So while my heart is heavy for my friends and loved ones, I am inspired to keep doing what I do in the best way I know possible: trusting myself to continue to grow while capturing the moments that will tell your story for generations to come.   To be frank, I think it’s a hell of a lot more important for me to be photographing you facetiming with your grandmother in her nursing home than off photographing your shoes on a damn tree trunk.

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This week was a reminder that I am photographing not just for you, but for decades of your family members to come after you, as well as, for the friends near and dear that hold a space for you in your heart.  As photographers, even as wedding photographers, we are responsible for cataloging our culture, our traditions, and our relationships for all of time.  We are the record keepers and as Emma reminded me, even the mundane is important.

I love that my clients become my friends.  I love that I have a hard time untangling how I feel about them and what I see in a photo from the technical specifications of it.   That I can’t judge the compositional merits of my own images, because I’m too blinded by how happy my clients make me feel.  I love that when I look at a photo of someone’s wedding day that I took, it summons up how I felt about the day with a high speed retelling of the events and feelings and speeches and funny touching moments that I remember.  They whoosh by in my head with an explosion.  I can only hope that the images I hand over to my clients make them feel exactly the same way and that one day, a new generation of your family will cherish the images as well, albeit for completely different reasons.

I photograph weddings because I like people.  I think they are weird and quirky, entertaining and amusing, funny and touching.  I like watching them interact with each other, or not.  I like meeting them and dancing with them and sharing with them and in the end, I like cataloguing their day for them.  While the importance of my job certainly has never been lost on me, it’s nice to be inspired and reminded of just exactly why every once in awhile.

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Walking in a vineyard

Wineries of Fairplay | Cedarville Winery

Cedarville Vineyard is one of my favorite wineries of Fairplay.  Cedarville, owned by the amazing husband and wife duo of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks, is sustainably and organically farmed.  They have amazing underground caves they designed to store wine, feature owl boxes to assist with pest control, and use rotating grasses, weeds and other crops under the vines to help keep soil healthy and pests to a minimum.  Jonathan and Susan were looking for a slew of marketing photos to have at their disposal for the vineyard.  It didn’t take much convincing (or any at all) to get me and some of my favorite people to the vineyard for a tour, a wine tasting, a picnic spread and some wandering among the vines.

Cedarville Vineyard is located in Somerset, CA and welcomes visitors for tours, tasting, and sales by appointment only. You can either email or call 530-620-9463 to set up an appointment.  You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you!

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Gather Estate Wedding

Gather Estate Wedding | Phoenix, AZ | Jerri + Nick

Jerri and Nick had originally planned to wed at a brand new venue in downtown Phoenix, AZ, but when construction didn’t seem to be coming along as quickly as it should, they scrapped their plans and discovered The Gather Estate.  You wouldn’t have any idea that this simple unassuming house on a major thoroughfare in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona is an incredible wedding venue!  The ranch style house is long and sprawling, offering great spaces for getting ready, indoor and outdoor receptions and dining al fresco under the stars.

Jerri and Nick are incredibly competitive and decided that to really set the stage for their reception that only an epic surprise lip sync battle would do.  It paved the way for an awesome dance party, an evening of celebration with their large close-knit families in attendance, and overall, an incredible fall Gather Estate wedding.

Venue: The Gather Estate | Bakery: AJ’s Fine Foods | Caterer: Pork on a Fork BBQ | DJ: Desert Music Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Brilliant Bridal | Veil: David’s Bridal | Bridesmaids’ Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Nick’s Menswear | Hair: Ynez Martinez at Plush Salon | Second Photographer: Brian Dunham

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Winter Trip in Paris

Winter Trip to Paris | Travel Guide

Paris, je t’aime.

When I had to make a trip to London this past January, I decided that I wanted to tack on at least one other major European city to explore.  With a couple of girlfriends on board, we decided that Paris was the perfect location for a winter girls’ trip.  Wine, cheese, croissants, art, and scarves – what’s not to love about winter in Paris?  Oh, and there’s no tourists to be seen save us. 

24 hours into our trip and I had already fallen in love.  Meals are three hour affairs involving multiple courses shared languidly over intimate conversations with wine.  Everyone is impeccably dressed, there is a cheese shop on every corner, directly next to the bakery, and you can’t find a bad glass of wine if you tried.

We spent over a week in this historic and entrancing city and I can’t wait to return.  

Here’s a few of my favorite images from the trip, along with some that we hired Flytographer to take for us, along with recommendations for your winter trip to Paris.

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STAY: Montmarte was our favorite neighborhood, but you also can’t go wrong with the Marais.

EAT: I dare you to find a bad bottle of wine in this city.  I double dog dare you to find bad cheese.  Doesn’t fucking exist.

  • Anne and I had been anxious to try out EatWith ever since we’d heard about the concept: EatWith’s goal is to bring strangers and travelers together at tables around the world in local’s homes.  You sign up to eat with others and learn about new cultures and food traditions and Paris seemed like the perfect place to try it out.  We absolutely adored our meal with Claudine more than any other meal we had the entire trip.  It was incredibly memorable from start to finish – so much so that we ended up inviting her to join us for dinner later that week.  I’m feeling thankful to have had such a unique experience and to make a new friend!
  • Restaurant Jeanne B in Montmarte feels a bit like stepping into a charming farm-style delicatessen, if that is a thing.  Spiraling sausages hang from the ceiling and the daily changing menu is presented on chalkboards at your table.  We enjoyed the experience and the variety so much, it became the only spot we returned to twice on our trip.
  • The cathedral like ceiling and mirrored accents make the sparsely decorated Daroco feel extra chic but also warm  and cozy somehow.  They offer wood fired pizzas and homemade pasta for those looking for a bit of comfort in an incredibly stylish setting.
  • Do not confuse Les 110 de Taillevent with it’s 3 star Michelin rated big brother around the corner.  Although, if you do, they are used to it and will simply direct you to where you are supposed to go.  Despite showing up late, they will graciously seat you amongst the 110 options for wines by the glass and feed you stunningly prepared food.
  • Our favorite meal in Marais was at Le Dôme du Marais, which feels remarkably like eating in your own private garden.  The building was originally utilized as an auction house to fight against poverty thanks to Louis XVI.  It’s absolutely stunning inside and the food is exquisite to match.

DRINK:

  • We were told by no less than 10 people that a drink at Les Philosophers was a must.
  • We spent an extraordinary amount of time at Le Gisou, partially because it was literally across the street from our flat, but also because it was charming, cozy, had a great staff and an even better bathroom.
  • The Bar Hemingway is a must visit, but only for one drink, because that’s all you can afford.
  • The Bistrologist is perfect for late night cocktails.  Their drinks are inventive, the decor dimly lit and intimate, and it feels a bit like a speakeasy.  The kitchen also stays open really late if you find yourself wandering the streets and starving at midnight.

EXPLORE

  • After doing the graffiti street tour in Bogota, Colombia, Anne and I have been inspired to find more walking tours, whether street art related or not.  Paris actually offers it’s own street art walking tour hosted by Street Art Paris.  They offer tours in Montmarte, the Left Bank, and the one we chose, Belleville.  Since we were staying in Montmarte, we thought it would be nice to explore a neighborhood we weren’t already wandering on our own.
  • The cooking classes at La Cuisine Paris are worth the expense!  We participated in the market class, which starts off in a nearby outdoor market.  You collectively pick a plan for your meal, shop for ingredients, and then return to the La Cuisine kitchens to prep, cook and share your meal together.  It was a wonderful experience and I was even able to come back home and recreate most of the aspects of the meal on my own from memory!
  • If you’re a wino like me, a wine tasting is a must-do.  The classes at O Chateau will walk you through the French vineyards and regions.  We walked away with a much greater appreciation of French varietals and their appellation system.
  • Gonçalo Silva was Flytographer’s first ever photographer hire and I was pretty excited to meet him and have him do a Paris portrait session for us.  We ended up having a blast wandering the charming streets of Montmarte with him and another Flytographer photographer, James.   We all loved each other’s company so much that two bars and a meal later, we finally concluded our evening together!

  • Fondation Louis Vuitton is an incredible display of design, color and architecture designed by Frank Gehry.  While we were visiting, they were hosting a traveling exhibit of 130 artworks collected by Sergei Shchukin, on display for the first time outside of Russia.  It was a really incredible collection, featuring tons from Matisse and Gauguin, not to mention the building itself.