Back to the Future

It’s 1993 and you just broke the seal on a shiny new package of floppy discs. You slide the epitome of technological advance into the computer and hear the familiar hum of the hard drive roaring to life. You highlight your chosen files, confidently select save to disk and sit and wait as the unmistakable clickity-clack of the disc drive assures you that your important files will be safely preserved for posterity.

Fast forward to 2015 and as you clean out the long neglected junk drawer you uncover that precious disc. Should you be lucky enough to even find a computer still capable of utilizing such an antiquated format then there is still the nagging question of whether or not the disc is even still readable. The technology you thought was keeping your irreplaceable data safe and sound has only served to entomb it – held forever within the confines of the plastic shell never to be retrieved.

Now hop in your DeLorean and travel back in time to the early 1900s. Not a computer, hard drive or floppy disc in sight. If one wants to save important information for future generations then it must be put into print. Pen to paper, ink to page, emulsion to fibers – all of history was recorded by what would now be considered primitive means. However, travel back once again to modern day and where are those historic records? Some are displayed, some are tucked away , but with a little effort they are accessible and readable, even today. No equipment needed, no technology to fail, just good ol’ paper that has stood the test of time for generation upon generation.

So what is the moral of this story? The pictures that you thought would be fine sitting on that disc or USB drive might not be as secure as you once thought. Because we live in such a technologically advanced day and age we tend to let our archival guard down and assume that our precious memories will be there when we are ready. A printed picture, on the other hand, will be there for you to admire today or a hundred years from today. In our pursuit of ever changing technologies we have devalued the photographic print.

The power of the print is more than just its archival qualities. The pictures displayed in our homes tell our story to those who visit. As we pass by the slices of life frozen in time on a daily basis, our photographs keep our memories sharp, hitting that refresh button taking us right back to the moment of capture. Who hasn’t seen a baby’s eyes light up as he or she points to the recognizable figure adorning the wall?

There is definitely value in a digital copy – I will always provide that for my clients. However, I fear I have done those very same clients a great disservice by not also stressing the importance of taking the next step and having prints made. It could be a single image framed on the wall or a series of pictures bound in a book. However you choose to do it the important thing is that you get those pictures into a real, tangible, enjoyable format. I know the task can seem daunting and in the business of life it is not often high on the to-do list, but perhaps it’s time we prioritize a little differently. Far into the future when we are living like the Jetsons in cities in the clouds and eating our meals in pill form our silly little CD or USB drive will be a thing of the past and the printed pictures may be all we have.

Have Camera, Will Travel

Everyone has different priorities when they travel. Some people head straight for the tour of must see destinations and don’t veer from the prescribed itinerary; others do everything within their power to avoid the dreaded tourist traps and kitchy souvenir shops, taking more of a local route blending in with the hometown crowd. Some people take it slow and steady. Others find a whirlwind tour to be more their speed. As with most things in life I tend to fall somewhere in between all the options, taking in a little of everything in my own unique way. What guides my travels most is my camera. I tend to go where the lens leads me. And even better is when said lens can bankroll the whole trip.

As a photographer living on the central coast of California I am beyond blessed. I get to frequent some of the most beautiful places on earth and call it work. The majestic scenery of the California Coastline is my backdrop. But, as lucky as I am to claim California as my home turf, God did not stop there when he was creating his masterpiece. There is a great big world out there packed full of an endless supply of beauty.

On a recent trip to the east coast to visit family and photograph my cousin’s new baby I figured why not book a couple other sessions while I’m there. My original intent was to let my skills as a photographer pay for the trip. What I didn’t expect was the creative outlet found in shooting in a completely different environment. While the oceans and redwoods will always be magnificent, the thick lush greenery of New England was a different kind of beautiful: covered bridges, meandering streams, dense forest and trees that stretch on for days were all in abundance.


A photo shoot in front of the capitol building capped off a visit to Washington DC. Come on, how awesome is that! Just being there is cool enough, but getting paid to hang out and do a portrait session with the grandness and history of the United States Capital as my backdrop is certainly not something I get to do every day.


My time back east got me thinking. Where else could my camera take me? Where else do I know people who might be in need of some portraits? Or better yet, where do I know people who have family and friends who might also be looking for some photographic representation. What other amazing settings and backdrops are awaiting me? So, with that said here’s my pitch: Affordable family photographer eager to showcase your little slice of earth. Available for all manner of portrait needs: weddings, newborns, senior portraits, family photos and more. Have camera, will travel.

Church Camp for Photographers

Primitive cabins stacked to the brim with bunks outfitted with paper thin vinyl covered mattresses. Daring someone to take a drink from a pitcher practically overflowing with a mystery concoction while on KP duty. Ridiculously contrived relays on the quest for arbitrarily assigned team points. Broom ball rivalries. Foosball tournaments. If any of that sounds familiar then you, like me, have probably been to church camp (shout out to Hume Lake, Silver Spur and Camp Hammer!) In addition to all the high jinks and shenanigans, the other thing church camp had going was the unique ability to fuel a passion. Somewhere between the mass quantities of scrambled egg substitute and a midnight round of capture the flag, they were always able to sneak in speakers who inevitably left you inspired to return to real life with an unrivaled passion and drive.

Arizona cactus

I just returned from Phoenix where I attended Imaging USA, a national convention for professional photographers from all over the world. While we didn’t play strange games where I had to hold an empty two liter bottle on top of my head while fellow campers spit jello into it trying to be the first to fill the bottle (True story – I didn’t eat Jello for quite some time after that!) what the photo convention did have was that unique ability to leave me motivated to conquer the world – photographically speaking that is. So, after three long days of inspirational speakers, instructional classes and innovative vendors here is what I took away from the event (other than a mild case of carpal tunnel from scribbling page after page of notes).

imaging usa 2014 expoThere were gadgets and gizmos a plenty. An entire convention center floor full of vendors showcasing all manner of photographic products. I got answers to a lot of old questions and some new questions I didn’t know I had. In addition to a fresh supply of free swag including a handful of reusable shopping bags and a lifetime supply of lens cloths, I also picked up some neat new toys to help speed up my work flow. This is perhaps the first time I’ve been this excited to sit down and edit a bunch of photos.

When I wasn’t busy drooling over expensive toys that I can’t afford I was in classes learning how to improve my product, with or without the high priced gear. With multiple sessions each day they covered just about every subject one could think of to maintain a successful photography business. With multiple offerings for each time slot the hardest part was deciding which classes to attend. I ended up choosing sort of a mixed bag of topics ranging from working with children to Photoshop fixes to boosting SEO (or search engine optimization, in other words how to make Google work to your advantage). In addition to a whole notebook full of very useful information I also came away with a little sense of pride at how much was presented that I already knew (and not just in the classes about working with kids).

imaging usa 2014

Imaging USA was no doubt a great few days of total immersion in all things photographic. Perhaps it’s that complete concentration on one focus (photography pun intended) that delivers the feeling of unbridled enthusiasm. Then there is the inevitable unwelcome return to reality where one is tasked with the mundane responsibilities of everyday life. Much like coming home from church camp, the passion for a cause quickly begins to fade. So I now must do my best to continue on in the same spirit all the while looking forward with great anticipation to when I get to do it all over again next year at camp….errrr, the convention.

Location Location Location

“God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good” Genesis 1:31

Indeed it is! As a Central Coast and Bay Area photographer I have the distinct advantage of having an endless supply of beautiful and unique settings.

Right up there with “what should we wear?” the other question clients are always asking me is “where should we go?” If you are seeking fashion advice you’re reading the wrong blog (see “Dress for Success”). However, for some scenic suggestions please consider some of my favorite go-to locations.

Do not consider this in any way a comprehensive directory. I love finding new locations. And by “finding” I mean going somewhere a client proposes and then recommending it for future sittings. So, if you have somewhere in mind, or a special place your family loves to frequent, or even just a park down the street don’t hesitate to suggest it. Your little hangout could be my new favorite location.

Hidden Beach

Tucked away in a residential neighborhood of Aptos, Hidden Beach and the adjoining park very much keep to the name. For the variety of venues in one place it can’t be beat.  Iconic California coastline, a lush park with its year round greenery, even a rustic and striking train trestle – Hidden Beach has it all. What it doesn’t have however is lots of parking, the only downside to an otherwise great location.

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Palm Beach

Not your typical stretch of Santa Cruz coastline, Palm Beach is part of the greater Sunset Beach State Park. Sunset Beach is located between the surfer’s paradise of Santa Cruz and the biological bliss of Monterey. A long drive down Beach Blvd ends at a dense grove of eucalyptus which leads you up and over the grassy dunes reminiscent of an east coast seashore.


Mount Madonna

If the beach is a little too sandy for you then consider one of California’s other treasures. The redwoods in California are unmatched anywhere. Mount Madonna County Park provides majestic redwoods nestled in amongst the old growth oaks. And as an added gem the ruins of the Henry Miller Estate provide a captivating locale.


Wilder Ranch

Who doesn’t love old barns? Wilder Ranch State Park takes you back to days gone by and if you happen to visit during one of their special events the whole family can get a little taste of what those days were like. Large white washed walls. Bucolic barns and outbuildings. Fields and fences and farm paraphernalia.


Home Sweet Home

Sometimes the best place to take pictures is right under your nose. Your own home is often times an ideal spot for the most treasured portraits. Don’t underestimate the potential of your home turf. It doesn’t take much and the pictures will be that much more meaningful to you in the long run.

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Dress for Success

So, you’ve finally decided the time has come.  You’ve bribed the kids, bargained with Dad and psyched yourself up for it.  You have factored in work schedules, school schedules and nap schedules.  Come scrapes, bruises, bumps, bad attitudes and bad weather you are getting a family portrait.  Now what on earth are you all gonna wear?!

With all the other hurdles you have to jump to get a nice photo of your growing family, what to dress everyone in should be the last thing you need to worry about.  The truth of the matter is, even the most carefully selected wardrobe will most likely look comically dated when you look back on the image 10 or 20 years from now.  The only thing that will really matter is the beautiful faces of your family.  But, with that said, in the here and now we all still want to look our best.  So here are a couple of my best suggestions to help you out when planning what to wear for your next family photo.

  • Dress Mom First

Let’s face it, if Mom’s not happy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy.  Many times moms are so worried about getting everyone else prepped and dressed that her own attire becomes hardly more than an afterthought.  Since we are all our own worst critic, when mom looks at that photo, if she doesn’t like herself then the adorable outfits that were so painstakingly picked out might as well be burlap sacks because that image will never make it past the photographer’s memory card.  Try reverse engineering the process.  Instead of struggling to coordinate Mom with everyone else, outfit Mom first and dress the rest to match.  Don’t force Mom to wear something she looks less than her best in simply because it matches everyone else. Mom should go to her closet and choose her favorite, most flattering outfit and then dig through the recesses of everyone else’s wardrobes to coordinate.

  • Easy Variety

We’ve all seen the matchy-matchy white shirt with jeans or khakis.  While it can be timeless if done right it can also be overdone and dated.  You don’t have to be a family of identical twins to compose a nice photo.  You can all wear white and still look different.  Variety can be found in things other than color.  Long sleeve, short sleeve, textures and patterns – everyone can blend nicely without looking the same.  Choose a color and let everyone go from there.  For example, if everyone wears blue, that could be a range of tones from light to dark in a range of patterns from plaid to polka-dot.  You all look unique, with unique styles and personalities but when the final product gets hung on the wall you will all come together as one big, happy family.

  • Google It

You no longer have to peer through strangers’ windows to peek at their wall portraits or commandeer friends’ photo albums to get ideas for how to dress your family for a photo.  Now that can be done virtually and from the comfort of your own couch.  We are blessed with a wealth of graphic-rich websites providing endless examples of what to wear and what not to wear.  Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, the list goes on, all abundant sources of motivation.  There is no shame in drawing inspiration from what other people have done, or even downright copying them.  Don’t reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the job.

  • If You Can’t Decide, Do Both

The task of getting the whole family dressed and ready is daunting enough, the thought of doing it twice is downright maddening.  So the idea of changing outfits during the course of a photo shoot might simply be out of the question.  However, taking a sweater or wrap off, revealing something different and thus creating a unique look is completely within the realm of comprehension.  Try a casual top concealed under a fancy button up.  Bring and extra shirt or two for the kiddos and then, even if they’ve miraculously managed to keep the one they have on clean and presentable, go ahead and do a quick swap just for an alternative aesthetic.


If you were looking for some fabulous tips and pointers on current fashion trends or a tutorial on how to mix patterns, along with a crash course on the color wheel, then unfortunately you came to the wrong blog.  I apologize, but as anyone who knows me well (or for that matter even met me once) can attest, a fashionista I am not.  So, for that sort of information may I suggest you refer back to the section entitled “Google It”.  But hopefully my few simple suggestions are enough to at least get you started on the road to dressing your family for your next portrait.  One last thought as you embark on your mission: whatever you decide to wear just be sure it stays true to you.  Your clothes and your style and in turn your photo should ultimately reflect who you are and what your family is like and no one else can decide for you what that looks like.

The Price is Wrong

Raise your hand if your bank account is full and you’ve got money to burn. Yeah, me neither. Raise your hand if you think most photographers are only affordable for those who raised their hands the first time. Yeah, me too. As it turns out capturing our “priceless” memories apparently does have a price, and unfortunately it’s quite a bit more than many of us can afford. Photography is considered a fine art and as such it is priced accordingly. However, there are a great many people out there who are not looking to expand their gallery, they simply want some nice pictures of their family.

I’ve heard a number of professional photographers attack the throngs of amateurs who run around with their consumer grade digital cameras, have minimal training, and charge rock bottom prices, in turn doing a disservice to the customers who turn to them because they want to capture life’s irreplaceable moments. On the contrary, I feel it is the professionals doing the public a disservice by forcing them in front of the lower priced lenses by way of their fees that are simply unattainable by a large majority of the population. As much as young parents might want the museum quality portrait of their precious little ones, it is often monetarily out of reach.

A recent photography newsletter post on how to approach a sale mentioned that a lot of photographers lament, “I LOVE being a photographer but I HATE having to talk about what I charge when my clients ask for my prices.” To that I say, “Then change your prices.” It shouldn’t be about a slick sales process in which you convince your client that they should take out a second mortgage on the house in order to have a nice picture.

Family, friends, and even clients, have encouraged me on numerous occasions that I could be charging a lot more for my services. Yes, I could! It is a conscious choice on my part to be priced considerably below the going market rate for a private photographer. Not to undercut the competition and steal clients (well…maybe a little). Not because I don’t feel my time and product is worth it. Not because I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to ensure that everyone has equal access to excellent photography. I want new parents to be able to have their newborn, who changes daily, to be photographed every couple of months. I want people to have pictures they love and not go into debt to get them.

Sure, there are those out there who can afford to drop a couple grand on photographs. I however, do not fall into that segment of the population. If I can’t afford my own product, I’m charging too much. Are the images worth the high prices? Absolutely! We’re talking about treasured memories that can never be replaced. But, it is my desire to stay committed to keeping those irreplaceable moments accessible to everyone. In the end it’s the family that didn’t have the money to blow on overpriced photos that will cherish even more the gift of a priceless image.

All in the Family

I am a family photographer in Watsonville and as such it is my privilege to not only photograph families of all shapes and sizes, but to convince the parents in these families that they, too, should be included in the pictures. After working as a photographer for families in Watsonville (and all over) it is always amazing to me how often a family photo shoot doesn’t include the entire family. It’s astonishing how many parents (both moms and dads alike) choose to opt out and let the kids have all the fun. Now, perhaps you are that rare parent who already sees the inherent value in forever capturing your family at a moment in time. If so there is no reason for you to continue reading and let me congratulate you on your insight and forethought. However, if you are of the vast majority who not only decline to be photographed but actually go to any means necessary to dodge the experience, then let me take a few moments to poke some holes in your logic and convince you of the error of your ways.

First and foremost, it can’t hurt. Unless there is some rare and unknown disease in which sitting in close proximity to one’s family with a vague expression of happiness causes one to have symptoms of physical pain, then taking a family picture literally can’t hurt you. But seriously, in this age of digital imaging where little to no resources are used up to take a picture, my philosophy is it can’t hurt to just try one or two family shots. You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised and find out you love them (you’d be amazed what can happen in the skilled hands of a family photographer). Of course there is the off chance that you truly don’t like the pictures, which brings me to my next argument.

edit-6724While you may not like the pictures of yourself right now I can guarantee that in about 20 years you are going to look back at those images and treasure how young you looked and reminisce about the days your family was young and the kids were still kids. You may decide that right now the pictures with you are going to do nothing more that sit safe and sound in the digital stratosphere. But, someday you will be glad they’re there and even if you’re not, surely future generations will – which brings me to my third and final point.

edit-6650When it comes to pictures you have to get your mind out of the here and now and think about posterity. How much do we love pulling out old photos and laughing at the hair styles and mocking the fashion choices of decades gone by and commenting “look how cute I was!” (to which my Mom always says “yeah what happened?”) More importantly though, how much do we love looking back at who we were and what made us who we are. Pictures fill in the gaps of what our memories can’t recall. Few of us remember anything from our early childhood, least of all what we looked like or even what our parents looked like. The pictures you take today are the only thing future generations will have to look back on.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. If I haven’t persuaded you yet that including the ENTIRE family in a picture is paramount then I fear there is no convincing you. But, just in case, let me leave you with one final thought: in the long run you probably won’t regret taking family pictures but you possibly, and quite probably, will regret NOT taking family pictures.


Home Again

After living in Orange County for the past six years, I returned to the central coast where I was born and raised to be a full time children’s photographer in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area. I love Orange County and all it has to offer (and anyone who knows me knows that by that I mean Disneyland!), but it was time for a change. So, why did I choose to be a children’s photographer in Santa Cruz?

First of all I saw a need that I hope to fill.  There are a great many growing families who face a lack of options for quality and affordable portraits. I firmly believe that great pictures shouldn’t have to cost a small fortune.  People should not have to compromise quality in favor of cost. I don’t believe that was readily available…until now.

To further understand why I chose to be a children’s photographer in Santa Cruz all one has to do is look around.  To be a photographer here is to do so in one of the most diverse and beautiful places in the country, if not the world.  From the expansive coastline to the majestic redwoods one could not ask for a more beautiful backdrop.  There is no shortage of breathtaking locations for amazing photo shoots.

Finally, this is where I’m from.  It’s where my family is. It’s where my closest friends are. And, it just so happens that all those people have kids, and those kids need pictures. The only thing better than taking pictures for a living is taking pictures for the people closest to you and calling it “work”.

It has been said that you can never go home again, however, I would have to respectfully disagree, cause I did and it’s great.

Not Just a Photographer

I love being a photographer and can’t imagine not doing it for a living. But, believe it or not being a photographer is not what I set out to do. As a film studies major at the University of Colorado in Boulder I had grand plans of a career in Hollywood. Those grand plans faded into the background when 8 years later I was still making the same goofy faces and the same goofy noises as a children’s photographer with a major portrait studio chain. But thanks to God and poor corporate management I got the shove I needed to finally pursue a position in the film industry.

Enter World Wide Motion Pictures Corporation. World Wide is a boutique film distribution company based out of beautiful Huntington Beach California specializing in theatrical distribution of independent and foreign feature films. The company also has an extensive library of classic work. If you happen to be in the market for a classic film DVD you should check out the World Wide Motion Pictures Movie Store. There is a lot that goes into taking a classic on film and turning it into a classic film DVD but I won’t bore you with the details.

In my tenure with World Wide, in addition to working on the technical aspect of making a classic film DVD, I have also had the privilege of representing the company at film festivals, mingling with movie stars, and even working on a campaign for an Academy Award nomination. Through all this I have even had opportunities to use my skills as a photographer.

Overall my long awaited entry into the film industry has been interesting to say the least. While I look forward to long relationship World Wide, nothing will replace my love of taking timeless images to be cherished by families for generations.