Monday, June 20, 2016

Amber & Reagan {married}

Amber and Reagan's wedding was amazing from start to finish. What started out as a bitterly cold day turned into one of the most gorgeous Texas spring days you've ever seen. You might say their day was blessed - and why not? Reagan and Amber come from two of the most awesome, Christ-centered families I've ever had the honor to know - and that was certainly evident throughout the day with so much prayer and laughter and joy.
I'm excited to be able to share the trailer for Amber and Reagan's wedding. Thank you, Taylor and Cameron families, for allowing my team all-access to capture this incredibly special day.
Music licensed by The Music Bed
Second shooter: Matt Parker
Flowers by Moosefeathers

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Claire D {senior}

'm very excited to share these portraits of this stunningly beautiful senior! Claire was awesome to work with. We photographed her portraits on an early-summer evening recently when the bugs made things a bit difficult (I swallowed a love bug during this session!) But Claire endured it all and totally rocked it! When she smiled she just seems to shine from the inside out, and I think you can see it in these photos. But she also wanted kind of a "modely look" (my words, not hers), so we took a bunch where she wasn't smiling at all.
Thank you, Claire, for allowing me the honor of capturing this important time in your life. I wish you all the best in the future!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Lauren & Tyler {married}

A few weeks ago I posted Lauren and Tyler's wedding photos and I've been chomping at the bit to post this, their wedding video trailer. I knew as soon as I started looking at the footage the day after the wedding that this was going to be an awesome video.
Last spring we spend a beautiful morning on the campus of Texas A&M University shooting their engagement photos and some video. Then last fall they were married at a gorgeous small country church in Ellinger, Texas.
Some awesome wedding day camera work in here by my pal Matt Parker.

Thank you once again, Lauren and Tyler, for allowing me and my team to capture this very special time in your lives.

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Favorite Images of 2015

I am extraordinarily blessed to LOVE what I do for a living. 2015 was such a great, full year for me. It was a growing year and a year of trying new styles and techniques and getting out of my comfort zone a little. But it was a fun year.

This list simultaneously is my favorite and my most hated post of the year. I love going back through the year and reliving so many great memories with so many amazing people. But I have the absolute WORST time narrowing down this list to the top 10 images. The first cut was more than 30 images and I slowly, gradually, methodically whittled the list down to these.

I still didn't get it down to ten. It killed me to have to cut so many photos that I absolutely love.

So here they are, along with a brief note about each. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I did creating and sharing them!

Thank you so much for allowing me to do what I do. Here's to a great 2016...

It just doesn't get much cuter than this shot of these sisters hugging and playing. I love this shot.

In October I had the opportunity to hike around Big Bend with one of my favorite landscape photographers, Laurence Parent. The week before, hurricane Patricia has come through and dropped a lot of rain on the park, which led to the sagebrush and ocotillo plants being in bloom while we were there. This a part of the Chisos Mountains with sagebrush in bloom in the foreground.

I had a lot of fun doing more real estate photography in 2015. This shot is one of my favorites. It's a rustic fire pit outside a log barn that was built in the 1800s in upstate New York and moved to Texas.

Photographing seniors is so much fun - there's such a feeling of capturing their energy and potential in the frame. I had the great opportunity to photograph Adam this spring. Adam is a very talented musician and just a great guy. He didn't need a lot of direction - I just basically put him in a field and said "okay - be yourself."

This summer my family and I traveled with some friends to the Frio River in Central Texas. While we were there we went to a bat cave where we got to watch 10 million bats (the second largest population in the world) leave the cave in search of food. It was an experience I'll never forget. I love the moodiness of this shot and the bat shapes silhouetted against the sky.

One of the many weddings I photographed this year was of Adrienne and Rodney. This shot was form their engagement session in the spring. I love the intimate setting in the grove of trees, but more than anything, I love that he's whispering to her and the look on her face. They were so great to get to know this year!

This image was shot in April outside of Austin. The sun was setting behind the mesquite trees, giving the leaves the appearance of glowing. Add to that one of the best fields of bluebonnets I saw this year and you have a shot that screams "Texas!"

One of the seniors I photographed this year was Blake, a baseball player who plans on playing at the University of Texas.  You can just feel his potential in this image.

This summer on vacation I travelled to the panhandle and Palo Duro Canyon - the second largest canyon in the United States. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with beautiful puffy John Ford clouds. I love the contrast of the browns, reds and greens agains the light blue sky in this shot.

I was in Abilene this spring when a series of heavy storms and tornadoes rolled through the area. This is an interesting shot of the moon and a storm front approaching with some great clouds and lightning.
This image from Big Bend shows the Rio Grande winding through a wooded canyon as the full moon rises above the Sierra del Carmen mountains/

The Davies were one of many families I had the great pleasure of photographing this year. They are great people and I love the perspective of this shot.

Photographing these boys took a bit of coercion. One of them didn't want to have his photo taken, but a bribe went a long way. What we ended up getting out of this mini-session were some of my favorite kid portraits of the year. 

Lauren was such a beautiful bride. She wanted her bridal portraits to be elegant, but rain made us cancel at our original location. So we moved inside to the Ant Street Inn in Brenham and captured some gorgeous light in an elegant setting.

One of my favorite projects this year was the Step Into the Past film series for Main Street Brenham. This is a photo of "Trailboss" Troy Arndt portraying Texas hero "Bigfoot Wallace." The light on that August evening was just perfect.

This year was also sadly moving as a friend and client lost his battle to PTSD. I was asked by his family to photograph his homecoming as his casket arrived and was removed from the plane on the tarmac at Hobby Airport in Houston. This was one of the only times I've ever cried while shooting photos.

I stopped in Albany, Texas in the spring to photograph the courthouse and happened to see this old restored Sinclair station behind me in the shadows. So I light painted it.

Adrienne and Rodney were married in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony at the Royalty Pecan Plantation in Caldwell. Following the ceremony, we ventured into the  plantation grounds for some portraits. I just love how joyful they are here as newlyweds of less than an hour.

This summer I ventured into the middle of the Frio River to get this shot of crystal clear running water at sunset. Yes- there are places like this in Texas!

This family's session yielded some great photos, but my favorite was this whimsical shot of a little Texas girl turning cartwheels in the middle of a field. 

I had a lot of fun getting to know this great couple this year. Lauren and Tyler were married in the fall, but earlier in the spring we shot their engagement portraits in and around the campus of Texas A&M, where the met. This is my favorite shot from that session. You can just feel the love.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Brenham State Supported Living Center / David Weekley Homes Thank You

Every year David Weekley Homes in Houston does something amazing - their entire staff collects presents for the residents of the Brenham State Supported Living Center. Then they have some of the residents come up for a Christmas party to present the gifts to them. Then the choral group of residents from the Living Center sing Christmas carols. 
This is a video shot at last year's celebration. I literally had a lump in my throat through the entire party - it was so touching to see the outpouring of support and caring from the David Weekley staff and to see the pure joy on the faces of the Brenham State Supported Living Center residents.
Thank you to the Brenham State Supported Living Center's Volunteer Services Council for allowing me the honor of filming this and for allowing me to share it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Photographing Big Bend with Laurence Parent

Last month I got the opportunity to travel to Big Bend National Park with one of my all-time favorite photographers, Laurence Parent, to learn directly from him how and where he manages to capture such breathtaking landscape images.

I started the week in El Paso where I met up with the other guys from the workshop. We spent the first evening photographing the El Paso skyline as it lit up at sunset and then had some really, really good Mexican food at the L & J Cafe.

The next day we drove to Big Bend National Park, stopping briefly in Marfa and Alpine. It was my first time to visit each and I can't wait to go back with my family. After checking in to the Chisos Mountains Lodge in the Basin, we headed down toward the Rio Grande to photograph a hill and some tuff formations at sunset. While we were there, we did a light painting of an ocotillo plant. A few days before we arrived at Big Bend, Hurricane Patricia had passed through and dropped some rain on the desert, which sent everything into bloom. The ocotillo plants, which are normally a woody stick with thorns this time of year were completely leafed out all throughout the park. And lavender sagebrush plants were in bloom in large concentrations throughout the park. It was amazing!

The following day, we started again down at the Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon, which is famous for catching the morning light against its walls. It had gotten down into the upper 30s that night, so there was a great mist hanging just above the surface of the river.

We spent quite a bit of time that morning hiking back into the canyon to photograph something really, really difficult - a bright wall face lit by morning sun surrounded by canyon walls that were completely in shadow. We got a lot of great instruction from Laurence and from our workshop host, Ron.

That evening we headed down to the river again in a different part of the park to photograph the sunset against the Sierra del Carmen range. We hiked up a big hill and went off trail for a little while until we got to a hill that overlooked the Rio Grande snaking like a silver ribbon through a canyon below as it disappeared into the mountains. 

The mountain cliff faces, true to their name, lit up bright pink as the last rays of the day hit them. Then the huge full moon rose from behind the mountains into the  clear night sky.  The whole while Laurence helped us check our settings and exposures to make sure we were getting a good shot.

We stayed on the hill until it was well after dark. Luckily, the light from the full moon made it easy to find the trail and hike back down. It was really fun hiking cross country down the hill in the dark.

But we weren't done yet. After the hike down the hill, we stopped at an old stone building that at one time was the store and post office of a hot springs resort that used to be here before this area became a national park. We did a light painting on the face of the building and huge palm tree out front. On my last exposure - one in which everyone else had stopped shooting - I was playing around with some camera settings a huge shooting star streaked across the sky, breaking up into a brilliant shower of smaller pieces at the end. When I saw that I had captured the shooting star, I jumped around in the dark screaming like an idiot. It was after nine by the time we had our sack lunches in the van back to the lodge, but the late dinner was definitely worth it.

We started the next morning out by hiking a mile and a half to a place called "Grapevine Hills" where there are huge stacks of boulders. One formation in particular, the balanced rock, is a fairly famous representation of the park. Our group started the hike in almost pitch black and got to our destination as the sky was just showing some light. We were there for sunrise on the balanced rock formation, but I found the way the first light touched delicately off the edges of the boulders absolutely beautiful.

We had done quite a bit of hiking and the plan was to stay near the lodge for sunset that evening. But there were several of us that wanted to do a moderately challenging hike that wasn't on the workshop agenda. The Lost Mine Trail is a great place to catch sunrise and a pretty good sunset location, too. So some of us went with Laurence up the Lost Mine Trail and a couple of the group members stayed near the lodge to photograph in the basin with our group leader, Ron.

When my buddy, Lance Varnell (who is an awesome landscape photographer in his own right), first turned me on to the work of Laurence Parent, some of the first images I saw were of his shots of sunrise on the Lost Mine Trail. So when he asked if anyone was interested in doing the hike to shoot it at sunset I was all in. It was such an honor to be able to hike that trail with him to shoot at the spot where he created some of the work that made me a fan.

While we were at the top of the trail, he convinced me to climb out on a tiny little rock formation that hung out over a several thousand foot drop on either side. No problem. He got the idea because on the way up the trail I had climbed to the top of a pinon pine tree to get a better view of the canyon below. Yes, seriously. 

I started out standing on the three-foot wide rock... until the wind started blowing. Suddenly, large gusts of wind started blowing UPWARD from the canyon walls below, which made me a bit unsteady. So all I could manage from that point on was to sit on the rock. Laurence got a shot of me sitting up there with my camera as well as with his. You almost can't tell that I'm paralyzed with fright and about to wet myself here.

It was a great ending to a great day.

Me and Laurence Parent at the top of the Lost Mine Trail.

Barry, one of the other photographers in our group, photographs at sunset.

Our final full day of the workshop started with a cross-country hike across the desert floor. We left the road and headed out by flashlight for about half a mile until we came upon some really interesting rock formations called hoodoos out in the middle of the desert. Laurence said he had found these one time while he was out walking across the desert. You know- just like everyone always does, right? The full moon was just getting ready to set as we got ready for sunrise and for the first time during the workshop we had some clouds in the sky too photograph.

We were set up next to this large hoodoo that from one angle I thought looked like an Indian screaming and from another angle looked like a battleship. So I named it "battleship rock." I happened to find a cool little keyhole in battleship rock where I could frame the moon, and I loved that. Then the sky started lightening and I got really happy photographing clouds and silhouettes of ocotillos until the sun started lighting up battleship rock.

From there we headed to another hike to a waterfall in the park known as Cattail Falls. It's a place that is completely different from the rest of its desert surroundings. A small waterfall is present after rains and was still flowing a little form the rains a few days earlier. Trees found in more moderate climates surrounded this little oasis of life. Grasses and lots of vegetation filled the little enclave - including lots and lots of poison oak.  I got a couple of good shots of Laurence up on a huge boulder photographing the falls and got to play with my polarizer a bit.

We headed back to the lodge for a rest before venturing out of the park to Terlingua that evening to photograph the sunset at Study Butte. Laurence led us to an area that was a campground used thousands of years ago by Indians. Huge boulders formed shelters where some families had obviously lived, as evidenced by petroglyphs on the walls of these shelters. There were petroglyphs drawn on many of the rocks in this area. I instantly recognized some of them as maps that led directly to water. One seemed to lead to the Chisos Basin and perhaps to the very waterfall we had visited earlier in the day. I tried too find a translation of these petroglyphs online, but didn't find anything that even attempted to decode them. But to my eye, especially because of the direction some of them were facing, that's what they looked like to me. Because if this was, in fact, only a temporary stop for a nomadic tribe in the area, what would be more important in a desert environment than to know the location of water?

I didn't take a photo of it, but this drawing closely approximates the shape of the hill is sits below. It also seems to indicate the location of a spring just around the side of the hill (which is actually there).

The way this petroglyph is facing seems to me to be a clear map of how to get to the Chisos Mountains and the Basin area in particular. It even appears to indicate two series of hilly areas and a two day journey, which would be about right on foot.

This is inside a cave shelter with some other drawings. I don't have particularly large hands, but the size difference between the artists'  hand and mine was striking. Either they were a lot smaller back then or this was a child or a woman who drew this. Regardless, it was awesome being there in the same spot as the artist, being reached out to across time.

The area where the Indian camp was had a very clear view of both Study Butte and the Chisos Mountains across then desert and badlands. We had some great clouds that made the sunset even more spectacular. I climbed up on top of the boulder that held the ancient Indian shelter underneath. There was a small pool of water on top, and I wondered if it was natural or if it had been chipped away from the rock as a basin to collect water.

The Chisos Mountains lit up bright yellow and orange and pink as the sun set behind us. Pink clouds hung in the air over Study Butte, and for the first time I had a good enough cell signal to make a Facetime call to share what I was seeing with my family at home. It helped to make the moment a bit more special to share it with them.

We photographed until after dark and then headed into nearby Terlingua for a great dinner at the Starlight Theater, an old movie theater that had been abandoned and later reclaimed as a bar and restaurant. Our group celebrated a fun and knowledge-packed week with drinks, steak and soem really, really good guacamole. Spirits were high as we made the hour trip back to our lodge at the Chisos Basin.

The last morning, we were only supposed to go a few minutes away from the lodge to photograph some plant and rock details, but there were some good clouds, so we headed instead down to the desert floor near Panther Junction to photograph some of the sagebrush in bloom. Where we stopped also had an awesome view of Casa Grande looking back into the Chisos Mountains. In that  little area
were sagebrush, ocotillo, yucca and sotol plants. It was like a garden.

We packed up and made the five hour drive back to El Paso, stopping for Chinese buffet in Alpine along the way and visiting a local bookstore so Laurence could sign a few copies of his book for the owner, one of his friends. As we got closer to El Paso, the worse the weather got until finally in town it was just rainy and ugly. It was as if we had reemerged from a desert oasis into the real world - and the real world was gray and ugly.

We unloaded the van and said good by to our new friends. The next day (or two, in my case) would be an ordeal of cancelled flights, waiting in airports and booking and rebooking of reservations. But the workshop was awesome, and even this minor inconvenience couldn't detract from that.

I learned so much from Laurence Parent and Ron York at this workshop, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend. I hope that this is the beginning of a marked improvement in my landscape photography. It was fun and challenging week, but my FitBit says that I got to hike about 30 miles, so that's always a good thing - especially if it involves photography and Big Bend, as well.