Michelle & Robert | Pine Hills Lodge

Michelle and Robert met the old-fashioned way; her mom set them up! And it turns out that mother really does know best, because these two very quickly realized that they were head-over-heels in love. Nice job, mom!

Robert and Michelle's wedding was the perfect blend of tradition and uniqueness! I loved the juxtaposition of Michelle's pearls (passed down from her grandmother) and her incredibly beautiful sleeve tattoo that she designed herself! And don't let the tattoos fool you. It was an all pink wedding for this self-proclaimed girly girl, including her absolutely stunning engagement ring!

There were tears all around when Robert first saw Michelle before the ceremony. A first look for the books! You can see his deep love for Michelle every time he looks at her! What an amazing moment!

Their wedding party was full of friends, family, and of course, Michelle's sweet dog in a tuxedo! Can every wedding please include dogs? That would be great! The Pine Hills Lodge in Julian, CA was a perfect fall setting for this beautiful wedding! It was a fantastic day from start to finish!

Michelle and Robert, I wish you all the best in this incredible new adventure! It was such a joy spending your wedding day with you! Best wishes, my friends!

Robert & Alan | Waterfront Park Engagement Session

I met up with Robert and Alan at the San Diego County Administration Building and began their engagement session the way I always do. "I know it can be really strange to have somebody telling you what to do and pointing a camera in your face, but I want you two to have fun tonight. Think of it as a date. You're all dressed up! I want you want to be yourselves. I want you to enjoy each other's company. Just be present in the moment. Soak it all in and have a great time. I'll take care of the rest."

Then, just as I set up the first shot and grabbed my camera, I saw that they had stopped. Robert was tearing up. "Hey Robert, talk to me. What's going on?" I asked.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stop. I'm just so happy."

His reply was every reason I do what I do. My job is not just about making people look their best. It's not just about lighting and posing and camera settings. My job is about encouraging authenticity. It's about inviting people to be vulnerable and asking them to trust me with the most precious parts of their story. It's about encouraging them to be present in the moment, because the images we create are reminders, not the memories themselves. The memories are up to you.

It Smells Like Paris

Paris by Yves St. Laurent is one of my favorite fragrances. Don't get me wrong, it smells like old lady. But it also smells like mischievous giggling and sneaking cookies at midnight. It smells like squeezing in close to cuddle in her overstuffed armchair and feeling the remarkable softness of her aged and wrinkled hands. It smells like decades of family portraits and school pictures in mismatched frames lining the narrow, creaky-floored hallway. It smells like an Arizona sunrise and waking up early to watch the quails eat the bird seed Papa scattered every morning. And it smells like the birthday cards she wrote me every year, intentionally spritzed with her perfume so I would know, without even looking, that it was from her.

I like to think that this tradition of spritzing birthday cards with perfume started with the love letters she wrote to my grandfather during World War II, but I can't be sure. I am certain, however, that Grandma got it. She understood that her precious perfume carried with it a lifetime of memories. That, just the slightest hint of her signature fragrance, felt like eating cookies and telling jokes and holding hands.

Fragrance is powerful. Our sense of smell is so strongly connected to our memories that it has the ability to transport us through time and space. That's why my favorite bridal detail to photograph is the perfume. On occasion, a bride will tell me that her perfume bottle is nothing special and doesn't need to be photographed. And in those cases, I politely disagree and say, "Your perfume is the fragrance of your wedding day. It's the scent of the anticipation you feel building inside your belly right now. It's the smell of laughing with your bridesmaids as you reminisce about college and try to keep from smudging your makeup with happy tears. It's the memory of walking down the aisle, holding his hand, saying I do, and being pulled in close for your first dance. Trust me. It's special."

I no longer receive birthday cards from my grandmother, and when I visit her in the Alzheimer's facility she lives in, she's not wearing Paris by Yves St. Laurent. We don't sit in her overstuffed armchair. She doesn't remember the Arizona sunrise or the creaky floor in the hallway, but I do. And when I hold her soft hands and hear her still-mischievous giggle, I think back to sneaking cookies at midnight, and it smells like Paris.

Jessica & Eric

Jessica and Eric met when he, a speech therapist, started working with her students in her special-education classroom. As the only young people working at the school, they quickly hit it off. And while Jessica knew very early on that Eric was interested in her, she wasn't quite ready to date. As far as she knew, he would be moving to another city soon enough anyway. But, as seems to be a common trend among the wonderful couples I get to photograph, Eric's persistence paid off. With his sights set on Jessica, Eric decided to stay in Monterey and even had his friends help him find a new job in the area, allowing them to start dating. And just as it didn't take long for these two to become close friends, dating quickly taught them that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

Their wedding in Monterey, CA was a joy to photograph. I loved the way they were able to tie in Eric's Chinese heritage with beautiful red florals and lanterns. And the backdrop for their first look at York School was stunning! Plus, Jessica all of the tables at the reception had musical theatre-themed table marker. Right up my alley, folks! I was humming show tunes all night long! But more than any of that, Jessica and Eric have the sweetest hearts, and that's what made sharing in their day so special. Their love for one another and everyone who shares in their story is palpable.

Jessica and Eric, my deepest congratulations and best wishes for your marriage. I love the way you love others. It's inspirational. Keep doing that and you're sure to have a very happy life together!

The Good Ol' Days

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I'm a marine biology nerd. I love all things nautical. Blue and white is the color scheme of my life (and most of my closet). Coffee is life. Leather-bound journals are awesome. Pilot gel pens are the only pens. Narwhals are real.

For being a marine biology nerd, it's a bit embarrassing to admit that I didn't discover that last truth until I was in college. Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea, and they totally exist. Mind blown. Much to my dismay, my dear roommate was present during this epiphany and still never tires to remind me (or our friends) of it.

While discovering the existence of these majestic creatures was a crucial revelation in my college career, the most life-changing lesson I learned in college was the practice of being fully present. I had just returned to an empty campus after Christmas break of my senior year, meaning I had one semester left. Just a few more months of the most transformative and exciting times of my life. That reality hit me HARD! I kept picturing my future self saying, "remember the good ol' days?" I found myself sitting alone in my room, crippled by the fact that, very soon, my entire community would just disappear. In a very real sense, I was grieving the loss of something I loved before I had even lost it!

Thankfully, by some divine revelation, I realized that I had become so engrossed in my fears for the future, that I had completely stopped living in the present. A switch flipped. Rather than spending my time imagining what it would be like when all of my friends moved away, I started making the most of my time with them. Every single day I woke up and asked myself, "What are you going to do today that's worth remembering?" As somebody who had always been futuristic and goal-oriented, this new philosophy ROCKED. MY. WORLD. 

It's now four years later, and yes, I consider those the good ol' days. But guess what! Today is the good ol' days, too. Practicing presence is something I continue to do every day. Admittedly, I often forget. Sometimes I get caught up in the rush and let the day slip by. Our culture is pretty good at teaching us how to live for tomorrow. But when I remember, I take a few deep breaths and I grab my journal, or I sit at the edge of the ocean, or I grab coffee with a friend. And in those moments, I do my best to slow down. I take in everything around me and I tell myself to remember this. And it works.

As a wedding photographer, I now believe in the power of presence more than ever. I know from first-hand experience that being fully present results in deeper relationships, truer emotions, and clearer memories. That's why I am so committed to practicing presence with my couples on their wedding day. Beautiful photographs are precious. They will tell your story for years and generations to come, but there is no substitute for being fully present the first time around.

Try it.

 

 

"Bye, Buddy! I hope you find your dad."

Allyson & Shane | Mt. Woodson Castle

I knew I was going to have a blast photographing Allyson and Shane's wedding when I asked what they were most looking forward to about the wedding and they responded, "the food and the dancing". Yes, please!!!

Allyson and Shane met in the freshman dorms at UCSD, and although she instantly thought Shane was cute, it would be a year and a half before they started dating. Allyson's deep love of Disney quickly squeezed its way into the relationship as she convinced Shane to buy an annual pass to Disneyland, where he would later propose on their second anniversary!

During the wedding day, these two were all smiles! Their love for each other is so apparent. As we were photographing portraits after the first look, I asked Shane to look toward the camera. His response? "But want to look at Allyson. She's so beautiful!"

After a beautiful ceremony, officiated by their freshman resident assistant, we went for a stroll under the oak trees where we photographed some seriously swoon-worthy portraits. And, of course, the dinner and dancing that followed did not disappoint!

Kirsten & Krishan | Publick House Historic Inn

As a photographer, I rely on images to tell the stories that words often can't, so I'm really glad I have all of these images to show just how special Kirsten and Krishan's wedding day was. Kirsten has been one of my dearest friends for many years and I had the enormous joy of both photographing her wedding AND being part of her wedding party (which means you get to see some images of me tearing up the dance floor)!

Kirsten and Krishan might be one of the best examples of "opposites attract" that I've ever met. Kirsten is whimsical, energetic, and LOUD! (I can say that because we're friends and because I'm probably just as loud). Krishan is methodical, calm, and quiet. But for all the ways they are different, they have one particular thing in common: music. 

Kirsten and Krishan are two of the most gifted musicians I have ever met. Their mutual love of choral music is what initially brought them together. If you've ever had the pleasure of watching this choral conducting power couple at work, then you know that they operate like a well-oiled machine. And if you've had the pleasure of calling these two your friends, then you know that, for all the ways they are different, they are so very right for each other.

Kirsten and Krishan's winter wedding in Sturbridge, MA was everything a winter wedding should be! The ceremony at Notre Dame Catholic Church was jaw-dropping. The snowy fields and forests made for beautiful portraits. And the Publick House Historic Inn was a cozy location for the reception. And when most of your guests are musicians, you know there's going to be some great dancing and good ol' karaoke!

I could go on and on about all of the reasons I loved this wedding, but as I said before, the images will do a much better job anyway. Kirsten and Krishan, thank you for your friendship and thank you for inviting me to play such a special role in your big day. I wish you the happiest of marriages and many years of beautiful music!

Chelsea & Erik | Sunset Cliffs Engagement

Chelsea and Erik are as absolutely adorable as it gets! I start each engagement session by encouraging my couples to have fun and think of the session as a date. Chelsea and Erik embraced this so well and we had an amazing time creating these dreamy images! Plus, we all got to visit our alma mater, which was so fun! Chelsea was a fellow science major at PLNU and Erik was a music major. It was so fun to reminisce about our favorite professors and memories from this wonderful university!

Photographing these two was a dream! They are funny, affectionate, and so so so sweet. I love the way Erik makes Chelsea laugh. Getting genuine smiles from them was no problem at all. I also love the way Chelsea looks at Erik. There is definitely a sparkle in her eye when she hugs up on her man. This sweet, cuddly engagement session is basically everything I love about my job and it makes me so exited for their wedding next year! Enjoy!

Allyson & Shane | Marian Bear Park & Scripps Pier Engagement

The only word I can find to describe Allyson and Shane's engagement session is MAGICAL! First of all, these two are absolutely adorable! They make each other laugh and it's impossible to not to enjoy yourself when hanging out with them! We started the engagement session at Marian Bear Park to capture San Diego's teeny sliver of fall. The leaves, sweaters, and cuddles made for a perfect autumn session. 

We later moved to Scripps Pier where we were lucky to have one of the most epic sunsets I have ever seen! Shane and Allyson dipped their toes in the cold water and walked along the beach as the sky exploded with the most incredible colors! I was like a kid in a candy store while photographing the vibrant sky and this fun-loving couple.

Thanks for bringing me along, you two! I cannot wait for your wedding!

Magical!

Jené & Nick | The Avalon Hollywood

I'm a huge fan of black and white photography. For me, black and white images immortalize the intimacy of a moment in a way that colored images cannot. It's as if all of the distractions are removed, and all that remains is raw emotion. Perhaps it's because, as my imagination fills in the colors, it also fills in the story. Questions like "What color lipstick was she wearing?" turn into "How must she have felt as she prepared to see her husband for the first time?". And as I study each image, I become captivated by the story that created it.

I've always wanted to photograph a wedding entirely in black and white. When Jené and Nick told me that their wedding would have a 1920s theme, I knew this was the one! In keeping with the theme of the wedding, I'm sharing the story of their day in classic, timeless black and white! For all of my lovers of color (and those of you who really want to know what color lipstick she was wearing), I'll be blogging the colored images soon, I promise!

Jené and Nick planned the most elegantly-themed wedding I have ever seen. The Old Hollywood style was present in every detail of the day. From Jené's vintage makeup by Besame Cosmetics and Daniela Beckstrom, to her juliet cap veil, she was a black and white movie star come to life. Nick and his dapper groomsmen wore classic black tuxes and bowties. And the venue?!?! A historic nightclub right on the Hollywood walk of fame. So much yes!

I'll be back to share more from Jené and Nick's wedding, including more of their love story. For now, take a trip to the 1920s and enjoy some of my favorite black and white images of their special day.