San Diego is the city where summer almost never ends, which is why the Datska family decided to turn Alex’s fall work trip into a family beach vacation. With their two little girls in hand, I met this lovely couple at their waterfront hotel. We climbed the stairs down to the sand and slowly made our way towards the pier. And despite the fact that all of the local surfers had full wetsuits on, this family was delighted to be playing along the shoreline and wandering into the water as I snapped away at their joyful faces.
You may recognize Anjali from her portrait session in her mom’s wedding dress this past summer. This time, with the holidays fast approaching, we let the boys join in on the fun. We gathered in the early morning, just as the marine layer was starting to burn off. Mama Jen came prepared with flower crowns and bouquets. And the kids were easily amused as their dad tossed them into the air. It’s obvious that this silly family deeply loves one another, which makes my job of capturing happy holiday photos as easy as (apple) pie.
You only turn one once – which is why there’s no better time to capture a family portrait followed by a cake smash! When this beautiful family of three and I met up at Torrey Pines, Andria starts by saying, “I didn’t know how to tell you over the phone, but my daughter doesn’t like strangers.” Tiny Theodora was hiding behind her Minnie Mouse stuffed animal, but after some singing of The Wheels on the Bus and other children’s tunes together, this sweet little girl was smiling at the camera.
“I want to do a portrait session of my daughter in my wedding dress so that I can give her the photos on her own wedding day.” This request turned into one of my all-time favorite portrait sessions to date. Meet Jen and her six year old daughter Anjali, and take a peek into Anjali’s “wedding day preview”:
Meet the Smith family: three sisters, one boyfriend, one husband, three kids, a mom (now grandma), and a dad (now grandpa). And this is only part of the family! All of those who had left San Diego for various parts of the country were back, which meant a moment in time that deserved to be captured – especially given that there was a recent addition to the family.
It was a beautiful day at La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. The sun was starting to set and everyone was busy making food, drinks, and laughing amongst themselves when I arrived. As I learned names, family relationships, and important facts (such as that it was Chase’s 4 year old birthday), I started to gather the groups: sisters, kids, couples, etc.
I have to admit, these are some of my favorite family portraits to date. And I can’t even take the credit, because a family this stunning makes my job so easy! Thank you to all of the Smith’s for inviting me to your family gathering and for being such a fun group to work with!
Mrs. Susan Lombard contacted me through Facebook a couple months ago. Her husband had plans to come to San Diego for a work conference and she was going to bring the kids along. They were spending one night at the Hotel Del and asked if I could photograph their family during their stay.
She wrote to me: “What really drew you to me was your beautiful photographs and the fact that you work with orphans. My husband and I have one biological son who is 19 and we have another son that is 3 1/2 and a daughter that will be 2 soon that we adopted through foster care. We have had both of them since birth. If my 19 year old son is able to travel with us, I would like to do our first photo shoot as a family on that day if you have it available.”
Although their oldest son was not able to join us, we were able to photograph and celebrate the babies of their family. This was especially exciting because Shiloh’s adoption just became final in March and these photos are the first to capture that momentous occasion.
So congratulations to the Lombard family on the official adoption of their baby girl, and Happy Mother’s Day Susan! Your capacity for love is what being a mom is all about, and I am so honored to have been chosen to photograph your babies.
I always joke that this is a “vacation blog.” Whenever I have vacation time from school, I dive back in to blogging, photography, reading, and Netflix. I am being 100% serious when I say I don’t even have time for Netflix these days, which kills me because Gilmore Girls is the hot topic between classes right now.
Time is always the issue – the fact that there never seems to be enough of it. So when one of my best childhood friends and I decided we wanted to go to Yosemite (I had never been), late November, early December was the soonest we both had a weekend free… a perfect time of year if you want to freeze to death in your tent. “Well, I could go this coming weekend…“
And so it began. Our plan was simply to not have a plan. We would put the back seats of her Jeep down to make a fort to sleep in and we’d apply for last-minute lottery permits to hike Half Dome. And anything after that, we’d figure out along the way.
DAY ONE: The Drive To Yosemite
5am, 5:01, and 5:02 alarms just barely encouraged us out of bed. But we hit the road by 5:30 and were stuck in LA traffic by 7am. The good news: the sunrise was beautiful and we stopped for yummy food at Urth Caffe. After that, time actually passed quite quickly. We spent the remaining hours blasting music, sharing funny anecdotes, and calling to reserve a camp for that evening.
Once we arrived at Yosemite, we drove up to Glacier Point and I got my first view of Half Dome. As soon as we hit the trail and began walking up the slightest of inclines, I could immediately tell that we were no longer at sea level since I was out of breath after a few short minutes. Fortunately, the trail wasn’t long and the viewpoint was STUNNING and worth the embarrassment of gasping for air. And to top it off, we climbed over the Do Not Enter railing to take some incredible pictures (sorry Mom).
A family friend had recommended to call Housekeeping Camp on our way up to see if they had a last-minute vacancy. She called it a “refugee camp,” but promised it would be better than sleeping in the car as it provided a bathroom, light, and an outlet. We didn’t quite understand what she meant by a refugee camp until we arrived and saw this:
Obviously, the only logical thing to do when you’ve walked into your sleeping quarters which consist of metal rod bunks is to break out the alcohol, bag of Doritos, and deck of cards. And when it’s time to go find the bathroom, one must wear their headlamp. (Duh!)
DAY TWO: The Hike
Unfortunately, we didn’t win the lottery for a Half Dome permit. But we decided to hit the trail early anyways to see how far we could get. In the end, we hiked TWELVE FREAKING MILES. We had lunch at the top of Nevada Fall, reached the base camp for Half Dome, and then took a detour past Vernal Fall on the way back. Our legs were furiously shaking by the end. So as soon as we reached the car, we collapsed into folding chairs right in the middle of the parking lot.
Once feeling began to return to our feet, we decided that we couldn’t sit in the parking lot forever. And because we didn’t have a place to stay that night as the entire park was sold out, we would either need to make fast friends and bum off someone else’s campsite… or we could go spend the night in Fresno and hit Sequoia National Park on the way home. The latter option (which also happened to promise a hot shower) was the winner.
DAY THREE: Sequoia National Park
Let me just jump straight to the best part: we saw FIVE BEARS – two of which were cubs with their mama! They fearlessly joined us and our many fellow hikers on the paved path. The mom literally hopped through the fence and then sauntered down the road with her cubs chasing after her as people hollered, “Watch out! Bear!” The babies were so darn cute that I was tempted to give one a hug… but given that the mama bear would have killed me, I scratched that idea. Instead, I managed to take this epic selfie. (That black thing on the path is the mama bear!)
We also hugged some big-@$$ trees, had an epic fail as I tried to get on Ali’s shoulders to take a picture in front of General Sherman (the largest sequoia in existence), and trekked the 400+ stairs to the top of Moro Rock which offers a 360 degree view of Sequoia National Park and Forest. It was BREATHTAKING!
Yes, it was a lot of hours in a car considering we only had the equivalent of two full days of exploration. But I would do it all over again! In fact, we are already planning our next hiking adventure! We’re thinking either Antelope Canyon or the Grand Canyon, both out in Arizona.
Does anyone have any suggestions? Favorite places to spend weekends hiking? We want to hear them!
Guess what? One of my best friends is getting MARRIED!
Yup! On July 11th of 2015, these two love birds are going to make it official! I’ve been there since the first date over three years ago, gossiping with Lauren in the sorority house we both lived in together about this new boy.
Well, their first date is old news now – the new thing for us to chat about on the phone is a WEDDING! We have to go old school and use a phone because Lauren & Tyler moved to Sacramento after graduation. But they visit often and when I found out they were going to be in town last weekend, I asked if I could take engagement photos for them! They indulged me by saying yes! (Maybe because I forgot to mention that I had never done an engagement session before… oops.)
The absolutely stunning Grand Del Mar and then the Del Mar Beach set the scene. Thanks to these two gorgeous locations and an outfit change, I snapped over 500 photos of these two posing, smiling, kissing, and often simply looking into each others eyes with that twinkle, knowing that this was just one of many events on the road to spending the rest of their lives together. To be able to witness a love like this is special, and to be honored with the task of capturing it on film is something I am so grateful to have been given.
Here are just some of my favorites… not too bad if I say so myself!