11.28.2013

A Holiday Greeting

thanksgiving-pumpkin-patch

Hope you indulge in lots of good food, laughter, and loved ones today.  If there was ever a day that should be about the little things, it's today.  So enjoy them all.  Happy Thanksgiving.

xo


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11.26.2013

Twosday | Piggy Playtime

guinea-pig-cuddle-cup
guinea-pig-playing

Twentieth Street

Join the link-up and show us your two photos this "Twosday"!



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11.25.2013

Twenty Years

Today is the twenty-year anniversary of my great-grandmother's passing.  I was only 11 when she left us for that great dance floor in the sky - she often said she was looking forward to going to heaven where she could finally dance with my great-grandfather again - but I still think about her all the time and strive to make her proud in all that I do.  She was the family's matriarch in every sense of the word - our connection to family history, our educator on social responsibility and civil rights, and the best hugger and cuddler a kid could ask for.  There are moments when I wish I could go back in time and ask for her advice or share some awesome story with her.  I wish I could tell her about all that I've done - becoming the first woman in my family with a college degree, finishing law school, passing the bar, starting my own business, getting married - not necessarily for her approval but so she knows, I listened to her.  I did my best to make her proud.  And though it's been twenty years since she walked this earth, she never truly left.  She's been in my heart all this time and I know she'll stay with me there forever.

The Great-Grandparents' wedding photo from 1932 ("Grandma Mamie & Grandpa Tony").

L: Grandma Mamie on the left, her mother center, her sister right. She wrote "The Three Fat Ladies" on the back of this photo! | R: Grandma Mamie (second from left) with three of her sisters

Grandma Mamie at 70

She loved make up, especially face powder.  The whiter the better, apparently!

Christmas, 1989

Top Left: with my little cousin Tony | Top Right: with my uncle Tony (lots of Tony's in our family) | Bottom: lovely as ever with pearls and blue eye shadow

Love you for always, Grandma Mamie.

xo


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11.23.2013

Happy Weekend & Some Web Love

Yesterday was quite a busy day!  I had a 5-hour photo shoot, split between morning and afternoon, and I tried to squeeze in some other work during the in-between time.  But I missed you, lovely readers, so I wanted to stop in to wish you a Happy Weekend and share some web love.  There've been some true gems floating around them interwebs lately, let me tell ya.  These are just a few of my faves this week!

redwood-cathedral-roaring-camp

I'm not usually one for a cappella but these ladies from Florida State University have done a pretty awesome cover of one of my favorite songs from the summer.  The beatboxing chick in the front row is my new idol.

And, just what the hell is going on with dudes these days?  Kelly has some great commentary on Brooklyn hipster trends but it's not just limited to Brooklyn.  SF hipsters apparently think we're still in the days of gold-mining, too.

I wish these toys were around when I was little but I can't wait to buy them for my nieces and watch them make awesomeness happen. 

Fashion trends guys hate?  I'd love to see what these guys were wearing when they were commenting on women's fashion trends.  Probably something involving waxed handlebar mustaches ...

I never know what to do with cauliflower when it comes in our CSA.  Next time we get some, I'm making this (with gluten free bread crumbs, of course).  Yum!

Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie.  Belle was the first Disney princess that had brown eyes, brown hair, pale skin, and books for friends - just like me! - but I've often wondered about a few of these unanswered questions myself ...

Adorable kitties doing male model poses?  I die.

On a personal note, I can definitely relate to this awesome spoken word poetry.

Seen anything cool/interesting/funny online lately?

Happy Weekend!!!
xo


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11.21.2013

An Afternoon with Nolan & His Family and My Approach to Family Sessions

When I first started my business, I reluctantly accepted the family session inquiries that came my way.  I was certain clients had a specific idea of what family photos "should" look like and that must be what they want from me, too, right?  So I ignored the instincts that told me I should do what I felt was right & authentic, not what I thought everyone expected, and showed up to the sessions ready to pose the cute little families the way I thought they were "supposed to be" posed.  Those sessions turned into two hours of stress and frustration, and left me walking away with a feeling of complete and utter failure.  Sure, I was able to find good enough shots to send to the clients, but I wasn't necessarily proud of the work I was doing and I certainly didn't enjoy it.  Very soon, I came to dread those family sessions.  I'd get nervous, with sweaty palms and non-stop foot tapping, a few hours before the session, secretly hoping the client would cancel at the last minute.  I told the Husband I "hated" family sessions - they just weren't for me and I didn't want to do them anymore.

And again, I felt like a failure.  I'm a good photographer and I'm good with people, so how could I not succeed at family photo sessions?  Rather than walking away from them completely, I thought a little harder and searched a little deeper.  I could do this.  Like everything else, I just needed to figure out how to do it my way.

I realized the problem was not the sessions themselves, it was how I was conducting the sessions.  I was trying to control everything - the environment, the posing, the interactions - and if you've spent even 5 minutes with any child, you'll know you can't really truly control them.  All my attempts at control got me nothing but frustration and unhappy children running as fast as they could away from my lens.  So I changed my approach.  Now, I just let the kids play.  I encourage them to be themselves and enjoy the time we have together.  I set parameters, of course, by choosing the backdrops and the lighting, and I mix in more posed-but-not-quite-posed wall-worthy shots with the family.  But the kids didn't choose to do the photo session, their parents did.  And, for the most part, I'm a total stranger to them and I have to earn their trust.  So I want the sessions to feel fun for them.  I want them to be free to laugh and play and explore and be silly.  I want them to show me who they are and, because kids literally learn something new everyday, I want them to show me what they can do at that point in their young lives.  They are energetic and curious little beings constantly in motion, not perfectly posed little dolls who sit precisely still for every shot.  And that's okay!  In fact, it's better than okay.  It's exactly what I want to document.

When Nolan's mom contacted me about a family session while they were in California, I didn't hesitate for a minute in saying yes.  She and her husband are wedding photographers in Indiana and they were looking for true lifestyle photos.  Photos that capture their son and their family dynamic authentically and without pretense or artificial posing.  I had a feeling we could make magic together.  We started off at Cannery Row in Monterey, and explored a few hidden nooks and alleyways before heading to the coast.  Each of them had a little one-on-one time with Nolan, then mom and dad stepped back while he explored the little dandelions pushing their way through the green grass with a kind of intense curiosity only a toddler could possess.  We continued to chase the fading sunlight while exploring rocks and seaweed, benches and beaches until the sun made its final dip below the horizon.  We captured smiles and laughs, silly gestures and even a few tears.  But isn't that all part of life with a toddler?  And to me, it's a part of life worth documenting and preserving.  Being with this sweet little trio made me so grateful I never gave up on family sessions.

Jess, Nate, & Nolan - thank you for inviting me to be a small part of your California vacation and letting me document a slice of your lovely life together. ♥

family-lifestyle-photography-monterey
family-lifestyle-photography-monterey
family-lifestyle-photography-sunset-monterey
family-lifestyle-photographer-monterey-california
lifestyle-photography-san-francisco
little-boy-in-anchor-shirt
little-boy-with-anchor-shirt-black-and-white
lifestyle family photography
family photo session monterey beach
family photo session monterey beach
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset

This was one of Nolan's first trips to the beach and he wasn't a fan of the slimy seaweed.
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset

Mom didn't mind, though.  She rocked in on the seaweed-covered rocks!
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset 
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset

 I asked Nolan to show me how to climb on the bench "like a big boy" and it quickly turned into a game of bench peek-a-boo.  Who knew a kid could have so much fun just trying to sit on a bench?
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset

He was pretty proud of himself when he finally made it up.
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
lifestyle photo session on the beach in monterey at sunset
xo


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11.20.2013

An Open Thank You Letter to Costco

fall-leaves-in-sonoma

I recently read about a number of stores planning to open on Thanksgiving to give customers a leg-up on their Black Friday shopping.  Just the thought disgusted me, but before the disgust passed, I then read about stores like Costco and Nordstrom who are staying closed on Thanksgiving, despite the pressure to open their doors for higher profits.  I shared that article on Facebook and, not long after, got this comment from a childhood friend:

"Have not spent a Holiday with my family since I have worked at Walmart. This will be my 13th year. Wish I could have spent thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandmother before she passed away."

My heart broke instantly.  You see, Christmas used to be my favorite holiday.  We didn’t have much money growing up so the focus was never really on presents and what “cool things” we’d get.  Other than my beloved Popple & my Cabbage Patch Kid with the crimp-able hair, my most memorable Christmas present was … cotton!  Or, rather, the cotton in the box holding a little pair of earrings.  You see what I mean about not having much?  Even cotton thrilled me as a child.

When I think of Christmas, my mind flashes to evenings spent decorating a huge (to a child) fresh-off-the-tree-lot Christmas tree after listening to my mom and uncle argue about how exactly that dang tree stand is supposed to work anyway.  All of this happening against the backdrop of my grandma’s fancy living room with her antique piano and silk curtains.  The room was forbidden any other time of year.  But not Christmas.

When I think of Christmas, I think of rebellious little Stephanie sneaking away with her mom’s bumble gum pink boombox to play Christmas Classics on casette. 

Feliz navidad.  Feliz navidad.  Feliz navidad, prospero ano y felizidad...

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth…

I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night…

Rockin’ around the Christmas tree at the Christmas party hop.  Mistletoe hung where you can see ev'ry couple tries to stop...

When I think of Christmas, I drift back to lazy afternoons on Christmas break from school when I’d take my library books into the living room, turn on only the Christmas lights, and let the multi-colored glow light the way for my next literary adventure.  The scent of fresh pine as I lay near the tree was intoxicating.

As the years went on and I grew older, Christmas seemed to become more and more focused on finding the perfect gift or having the coolest holiday party.  Keeping up with the Joneses became Keeping up with the Clauses and the stress and pressure of the season’s required gift-giving can nearly induce a panic attack.  The "commercialness" of Christmas had taken over.

So, Thanksgiving rose to the top as Favorite Holiday.  How could it not?  If I’d had any sense or foresight as a child, it would’ve been in the top spot since the late 80s but, hey, hindsight is 20/20.  What matters is that it’s Number 1 now.  Numero Uno.  The whole point of the day’s existence is to spend time with loved ones and give thanks for all that we already have.  Which translates to eating lots of yummy food and watching football all day - how could you not love it?

And Black Friday?  Well, Black Friday used to be this fun, quirky thing that some people did Thanksgiving weekend.  Not Thanksgiving Day.  Not when it means that the employees of those stores -people who most likely need their job and cannot afford to quit- have to abandon their loved ones in order to work on what is arguably the last uncorrupted holiday on our calendar.  The irony is, I bet those employees would be even more grateful for their jobs if they had employers who respected their time and recognized that they deserved to be with their families, too.

So, thank you Costco and Nordstrom, and any other stores planning to keep their doors shut on Thanksgiving Day.  Thank you for doing your part to save my Favorite Holiday from the pitfalls of our wonderfully glorious nationwide shopping addiction.  And thank you for recognizing that not every day of the year has to be about consumerism, especially not the one day we’re meant to be grateful for the bounty we already have.

xo

How do you feel about shopping on Thanksgiving?  Will you be staking out your place in line or staying in with loved ones?


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11.19.2013

Twosday | At The Ferry Building

ferry-building-san-francisco


I finally got my blogger ish together enough to make a little button for our Twosday link ups so we can spread the photo love.  If you'd like to join, just enter your link below & grab the button to include in your post!

Not sure what Twosday is?  It's simple - two photos posted every Tuesday with little to no words included.  The photos can be whatever you want, taken whenever it's convenient for you with whatever camera you have (the ones above were shot on Sunday with my iPhone) and, of course, if you want to include a few words that's entirely up to you.  The goal, though, is to let the photos speak for themselves.  A photo is worth a thousand words, right?  So, in theory, that would make Twosday a 2,000-word wordless post.  Mind blown.  (Not really.)

Twentieth Street

Add your link and show us what caught your eye this week!


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11.18.2013

A Morning in the Park with Rocky & Bebe

I don't do pet sessions often but I love animals, and I love watching the interactions between humans and their beloved pets, so when Julie contacted me a few months ago about doing a photo session with her sweet pups, Rocky & Bebe, I just couldn't say no.  The two fluffy pomeranians have reached their senior years and Julie, who's been their fur mama since she was in high school, really wanted to capture a few moments with Rocky & Bebe that she and her mom could cherish forever.  We did the session at the local park, where the dogs go for their daily walks, and ran into a few of their puppy friends along the way.  Rocky & Bebe were generally more interested in treats than the camera but both were happy to cooperate if it meant a few extra cuddles from Julie and her mom.

san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography
Bebe was not impressed with the camera.  She only had eyes for Julie (or for the bag of treats Julie was holding... )
san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography





san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography
san-francisco-pet-photography


xo

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