Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's a girl!

One of my favorite places on Planet Earth as many of you know is the Woodland Park Zoo.
I am so blessed to have been accepted as a volunteer photographer there. I love all of the animals there but I have always been particularly fond of the Gorilla families. Amanda is a 37 year old Gorilla and last week she gave birth to an adorable female gorilla. Timing is everything. I had a few appointments in Kirkland, WA this afternoon. Since I was down that far south I thought I would take a chance and see if she was out. The keepers have been keeping Amanda and her baby inside almost all of the time. My friend Ryan Hawk is the main photographer at the Zoo. He had been allowed inside with the Gorillas to acclimate Amanda to his presence so when she had her baby she would be somewhat used to him. She had her baby and Ryan got some great video footage of her the day after she was born as well as a beautiful still shot seen on the main Zoo web page. After that, she hadn't really been seen. Ryan spent a day outside when they let them out for the first time waiting patiently for her and just caught a glimpse here and there but no solid sightings.

Today I showed up and wasn't too optimistic about the keepers letting them out as the weather was looking a bit ominous. When I arrived there were no gorillas in the habitat. I noticed some carrots and broccoli on the ground however which told me they were about to let them out. I took a seat and waited. About 10 minutes later, Ryan and his posse arrived as the main keeper had apparently called him to say they were letting her out. About 10 or 15 minutes after that she came out and gave us the pose shown below with both Mom and Baby. Check out how they were both staring right at me! It was a neat moment for sure. Seconds later, Amanda packed up and headed out of sight behind the bushes.

I waited around another 20 minutes or so and my patience paid off. She walked right up to the glass, plopped down on the ground and started to nurse. I was able to get right up next to her to fire off the close up shot seen below. Wow! I was so excited to get this shot. It was truly a special moment and one of the highlights of my highlight filled photography career.

Take care,


Sunday, October 28, 2007

We met up with the Kowger family today at the Stocker Farms Pumpkin Patch and had an awesome time there during a beautiful, sunny Fall day. They charge you an arm and a leg to get inside their amusement area. The first attraction is a few rocking horse kid toys and I have to admit I was wondering if my wife knew what she was talking about when she chose this Patch over the others we have been to at the past. The girls enjoyed the horses so what the hay right? Get it...hay. Anyway, they had a face painting booth but we didn't want the girls to get painted as I was hoping to get our family portrait done. I lost that battle. They had these giant hamster wheel things for people to climb inside to race in. The girls really wanted to try it out but they were required to wear helmets that had been worn by every other person that had climbed in the hamster wheels and Lea didn't think that was too good an idea. Mike and I had been talking about doing it since we arrived and never got around to it. Heck, we're both bald so I don't think the used helmets would have been too big a concern for us. Anyway, they had tires hanging around to throw footballs through. Potato sack race setups (in which Savannah kicked my butt). A giant, inflatable pumpkin for the kids to bounce around it. They had quite a few logs around with buckets of nails and hammers for the kids to pound. That was a big hit. They had pots and pans drum stations set up. More good clean fun. They also had a bit pond with bamboo fishing poles for the kids to drop a line in. Savannah caught a monster! I mean a whopper! Must've been a 14 inch Rainbow Trout! I know I am forgetting things they had, but I am tired and have a big day ahead of me tomorrow so for once I am going to be brief.

See ya next time!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dan and Kali (scroll wayyy down for's a long post!)

I'd like to start this blog off with a bit of advice for any engaged man or newlywed that may be reading this. Trust the instincts of your wife/fiance. It is probably going to drive you nuts, but they are almost always right! Well, at least mine is. The reason I mention this is because as I was typing the blog below about Alex and Trina's wedding day, my beautiful, funny, patient and most insightful bride said to me "What the heck are you doing, you need to blog about Dan and Kali first." Me being the dense, hard headed, know it all often uninsightful guy I am said "They're in Australia until the end of the month, I don't want their wedding day blog to be buried under other posts by the time they get back." Lea however was convinced that there was internet access in Australia. I figured they were on a walkabout, snorkeling or surfing and that there was no way they were checking the blog. Once again in a continuing series of my life, I was wrong, Lea was right and I apologize. That's another tip fellas. Those 3 terms used in order are they key to happiness. "You're right, I'm wrong and I apologize." My Uncle Mike aka Guido taught me that years ago and I'll be darned if it doesn't hold true. My ultimate apology however is to Dan and Kali. So sorry for the delay and I hope you two are having an incredible time in Australia!

So without further ado.....

I first met Dan and Kali just over a year ago near Quincy, CA at a place called The Greenhorn Ranch. Kali was a bridesmaid in a wedding I was photographing and had expressed interest in booking me for their wedding. I was immediately struck by how madly in love with each other they were. We were at the Ranch for several days and unless they were on separate horses, they were constantly cuddling, hugging, holding hands and just being in love. At the time, it was apparent to me that Kali already had in her mind a very clear vision for what she wanted her wedding day to be like. I will skip ahead a bit and say that she saw her vision through to the day and I am so blown away by the details and organization that all of her hard work and perseverance paid off because this wedding was amazing! So in October 2006 I knew Kali was the planner and I soon learned that Dan was one of the funniest guys I have met and one of the few people I have ever known with a sense of humor as dry or dryer than my own.

As I mentioned before, we had been at the Ranch for several days. The bride was the daughter of a good friend of mine. The guy in charge of the food was Dave Powell owner of The Vista Grille in Sparks, Nevada. He is one of my closest friends and his assistant was the Executive Chef for the restaurant company I work for Alan Brines. We were all good friends and had been working extremely hard for the previous couple of days. After the reception was over we all were able to breath a sigh of relief and were invited to unwind and relax. Dave, Alan, Myself and Dan found ourselves hanging out at the Ranch next to an enormous bonfire that one of the Wranglers had built for us. That Wrangler was the son of the owner of the Ranch and a good ole boy chewin tobacco and drinking JD from a flask (I think he was anyway.) We were drinking a moderate amount of various malted beverages when the Wrangler started telling jokes. Then Dave started telling jokes, at one point in time I was laughing so hard I fell in the fire. Then I told a joke about a clown and that reminded Dan of a joke about a clown he knew. If you think I've been typing a long time with this post. Multiply it times 1,000 and you will get a fraction of this joke Dan was telling. It was easily the longest joke I had ever heard and when the punchline finally came, his story telling had built it up so much that the anticipation was almost unbearable. When the punchline came he delivered it with such calm, perfect timing that you almost didn't realize the joke was over. I've had a lot of time to ponder about this joke and I gotta tell you, it gets funnier and funnier every time I think about it. I'm not going to tell it on this blog because it just wouldn't be the same. However, should you find yourself hanging out at a bonfire in the middle of the night with me and we are sharing various malted beverages, please remind me to tell you Dan's joke about the clown. You may or may not be sorry.

Anyway, we saw the clock tick 5 or 6am that night/morning. We speared some barbecued chicken on a fishing hook and dropped a line in the pond and went to bed in anticipation of an 8am wakeup call for more festivities. Believe it or not, we caught a fish with that bbq chicken! That was my first impression of Dan and after meeting his brothers I learned he is not the only one with a unique sense of humor in his family. You'll read more about that later.

As I mentioned, Kali was a meticulous planner. I can only imagine how many different venues they researched and visited before they decided on The Holly Farm in Carmel, CA. All their planning and searching paid off because this place was cool! As I mentioned in the first post I spoke of this wedding, the place was eye candy for a detail oriented photographer like me. There were trails zigging and zagging all around the 5 acre private estate. I never completely got my bearings straight there as it was so easy to get lost. Around every corner was something cool to look at. Interesting statues, figurines, tropical plants, surf boards, you name it. I immediately fell in love with the place! They had booked the entire property for the weekend. With guests flying in from all around the country it was the perfect location for them to all get together and have unlimited amounts of fun.

I had never been to Carmel before and my vision of the area was warm and tropical with beautiful beaches and all that good stuff. The beaches are beautiful. It is tropical, but the day of the rehearsal was not warm. It was probably around 50 degrees or so and I hadn't thought to bring anything with long sleeves. I made a mental note to remember that for future destination weddings and started shooting. Poor Kali was the quintessential hostess and kept assuring everyone that it was unusually chilly. I didn't mind the brisk weather. After all, I am from Seattle and I was working so it didn't make a difference to me. Kali's teeth were chattering and she refused until the very end any sweater or jacket offered to her. The rehearsal went well, plans were in place and it was time for everyone to have fun and enjoy the night. They were thoroughly prepared with great wine, a nice selection of cocktails and a delicious chicken dinner followed by a sentimental slideshow with loads of great photo's of Dan, Kali and their loved ones.

I mentioned Kali was a planner. She had put so much thought into details I couldn't believe it. With 9 beautiful Bridesmaids and 6 handsome Groomsman. 4 kids helping, two awesome sets of parents. Kali and Dan had monogrammed bags made with gifts for each and every one of them. As they were presenting the gifts to them all I was in awe of Kali's ability to give a speech about and to each and every one of the them. She spoke of each person with genuine emotion, love and appreciation. There were a lot of tears and laughter with such insight and attention that I felt I knew them all on a personal level by the time they were done. Good friends are rare gifts. Dan and Kali are blessed with an amazing supporting cast of friends and family. To be able to describe each person with such detail and sincerity was inspiring to witness and humbling to document.

On to the wedding day...

Kali was right (see above...the wives are always right ;)!!! Saturday morning arrived and accompanying it was the sun! It was a beautiful, perfect morning with blue sky and a cool breeze. I hit the Farm around 7:30 and Kali's Dad was cooking eggs and turkey bacon. There was hot coffee which was very nice to see. There was a lot of energy and excitement in the air. Kali was wearing her "Bride" shirt to start the day and in each of the bridesmaids bags from the night before was a matching track suit. Another of the countless details that had been thought of in advance that was such a nice touch! As the girls started to get hair and makeup done I went into the bridal suite to grab some getting ready shots. Hanging in a super cool open closet (I'm telling you, every detail including the closets at the Holly Farm was cool) was a stunning dress. I mean stunning. Did I mention this dress was stunning because it was stunning! I learned during the toasts that Kali is very much into shopping and into high end designers and fashion. Her dress was not purchased at Walmart I can tell you this with absolute certainty. It was a Monique Lhuillier gown and I thought it was gorgeous. I had already photographed her Jimmy Choo shoes and so I knew this girl meant business when it came to fashion. The bridesmaids dresses were designed by Kali and were also quite beautiful along with the gorgeous shoes they were wearing. I took many great photos of all of these details as I love those types of shots. I also had the great responsibility of keeping a secret from Dan. The plan for them was to buy Dan a wedding band when they were in Australia. For the ceremony Dan was to borrow a ring from one of his friends or brothers. Kali wrote on a sheet of paper while Dan was nearby that one of her bridesmaids had a ring for Dan that she had made in secret. I made as though I was going to just photograph her ring for the time being and took her beautiful rock and tracked down the surprise ring for Dan. I never heard if she pulled it off and totally surprised him or if he had a sneaking suspicion. Dan, Kali, be sure to post a comment to this blog and let me know. The other question I had was who made the ring. I got the impression it may have been a family member though I am not sure.

So while the girls were busy getting their hair done and their makeup applied Dan and the boys hopped in their cars and drove 5 miles to Carmel Beach for some hard core surfing. I have never been surfing, nor have I photographed surfing. Growing up in Oregon, I feel that I was super lucky to have some of the most beautiful beaches on Planet Earth nearby. While I know there are many people that do enjoy surfing off the Oregon Coast, the average temperature of the water is around -50 degrees in the summer so I just never really got into it. Instead, we go to the beach, drink good wine, build sand castles, go crabbing, clam digging, all sorts of fun stuff. Occasionally we will body surf until frostbite kicks in but that is about as far as I take it. Dan and his brothers are Californian's and these guys know how to surf! They strapped on the body suits, waxed their boards and jumped in! I had a great time catching some of the action and raced back to the Holly Farm to get more shots of the girls.

The girls were getting ready inside and out and there was lots of activity taking place every where. The nervous anticipation was growing and they were getting more and more excited by the minute. The Bridesmaids got their dresses on and the necklaces that were designed by Kali's sister.

Not much later, the guys returned and started to get ready. Dan was ready the fastest so the plan was to take him for some individual portraits before Kali got her dress on. As we were walking away one of the more disturbing, yet hilarious photo ops I've ever been presented with occurred. Dan's brother had just gotten out of the shower and came outside wearing only a towel to tell him something. When he saw me and my camera he said "You've got to get this shot!" He removed the towel, placed his arm around his brother and proudly posed for a photo with a giant grin on his face. I have to be honest, while it was a bit awkward, this was probably the funniest moment I have ever encountered on a wedding day and I don't think it will be topped. As I loaded the images my wife Lea was looking over my shoulder when this photo appeared. I knew what it was and quickly scrolled to the next pic. Lea of course made me go back and couldn't believe her eyes. It was one of those moments that the timing was perfect and her expression was priceless. Thanks for the laughs! I told you these guys had a sense of humor that was pretty far out there :)

So I grabbed some shots of Dan solo. At this point Jarda Brych had arrived from San Francisco to lend me a hand as a 2nd photographer. He finished shooting some portraits of Dan while I raced back to the bridal suite to get the final shots of Kali getting ready. Oddly enough, no bridesmaids ripped off their towels and asked to have their photo taken next to Kali in her dress. That would have made nice back to back album pages next to the guys shot I am sure :)

Kali was breathtakingly beautiful in her gown. In just a few short moments Dan was about to have his socks knocked off. One of the few shots I set up during the day other than the formal portraits is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time. Dan had his back to her and she slowly approached and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around with his hand over his eyes and snuck a quick peak between his fingers. He then removed his hand, looked her up and down and in a casual tone said "You'll do." I'm telling you. The dry humor gets me every time.

We wandered around the property with the group and shot formal portraits in a variety of locations. Such a great advantage to shooting at the Holly Farm. So many different, unique locations to shoot.

Well, I had better keep this short ;) so I'll get to the wedding. The sun was shining, it was bordering on being a bit warm by this point (could have been that I was wearing all black and lugging around a couple of cameras and a half dozen lenses and flashes.) This is probably my favorite part of the wedding day. It is real. All the planning, the dreams, the hope, the love, the anticipation all boils down to now! With a deep breath and a long, smooth exhale Kali accepts her Fathers arm while he is beaming with pride and fighting to hold back the tears.

Dan, the Groomsmen and the Bridesmaids are all watching along with the 200+ guests standing while they make their way to the front. Kali's brother is a retired pastor with the gift of speaking to the bride and groom and those in the audience in a way that makes everyone feel he is speaking directly to them. It must have had a tremendously calming effect on Kali to have her brother perform the ceremony. His warm, friendly smile and eloquent message made the ceremony romantic, funny, educational and memorable. As the ceremony wrapped up, Dan took his new bride in his arms and planted one of the longest kisses on her lips I can ever remember seeing at a wedding. It was great! Just when you thought they were going to wrap it up, he moved in again and kissed away.

The reception has begun! More of the planning was apparent when there was a man playing the guitar in one area, a small kitchen set up preparing quesadilla's. A couple of bars were strategically placed so no one had an empty glass and the toasts began. A delicious dinner was prepared, the dancing began and shortly after a table was set up with dozens of homemade pies. Instead of a cake, they cut a pie and fed each other. The crowd was practically frothing at the mouth in anticipation of I'm sure a slice of pie for themselves and what they were sure was to be a messy feeding session. All that pie, all that whipped cream. One person feeding the other. It felt inevitable. Dan, however is a smart guy. He knew that her dress, her makeup, her hair, all those details had been so important that he took the high road and gave her a small mouthful of pie in a delicate manner. She returned the favor. The crowd was disappointed, but I'm sure they all understood. All but two that is. Two of Kali's closest friends, her bridesmaids could not stomach the fact that there was to be no whipped cream attack that night. Deviously, they snuck to the edge of the table and put a can of whipped cream behind their backs. They crept away and filled each others hands with whipped cream. I saw the whole thing unfold and knew it was my job not to participate, but to observe. Every ounce of my being wanted to warn Dan but instead I quickly changed the settings on my camera and got in position. Sorry buddy, just doing my job :) The girls were merciless. In full stealth mode they were right behind him and he didn't know it. In one swift tandem motion they covered his face with whipped cream and he didn't even move. He stood there with a look of disbelief apparent in his one visible eye as globs of whipped cream oozed onto his new suit. He grabbed a handful of the sticky sweet from his face and moved as quick as I've ever seen anyone move from a still standing position. The girls were covered before they knew it and Dan's best man couldn't stand to be away from the action. He grabbed the can and sprayed directly into Dan's face to finish the job then out of guilt (?) he turned the can on himself and that was the end of that.

More dancing ensued, more drinking, more fun. Just at that point of the night when you think everything is winding down and people start to get a bit hungry again...another benefit to Kali's detailed planning capped the flawless day. A dozen giant pizzas arrived! It shot new life into everyone and a new wave of dancing began.

Well, again I had better cut this short. I'd hate to babble on about the day :) I went to the bridal suite where my gear was stored to pack up. Dan walked inside moments later and fell on the couch exhausted. It had been a day full of fun and adventure and I can only imagine how well they slept that night.

As with all of the weddings I have shot, it was a great privilege to be there to photograph their day. So much thought, work and love had gone into the planning of the day that it is a huge responsibility to document it. As I continue to work on the photos I am proud of the work that I have done and I hope that Dan and Kali enjoy their photos as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Congratulations you two and enjoy the rest of your honeymoon!!!

Surf's Up!

Amazing Details!