"I got this dress this morning," is how you can give your photographer a heart attack. Just don't tell me. I don't want to know. Let me think you've had this outfit ready to go for the last 3 weeks. But yeah, that's what Hailey admitted when I told her that I loved it. To everyone else: don't leave it to the last minute because you might not luck out like Hailey!
However, let the record stand that Hailey was the originator of the "accessories in individual baggies" planning epiphany. So when you get your two-day pre-shoot email from me with the last minute checklist of planning prep, and it talks about this, you have Hailey to thank!
During her planning call Hailey explained that she really wanted a rustic look for her shoot. She was going to wear neutrals. So instantly I knew that this farm and field would be perfect for her shoot.
"The photography opera!" is what her mom Micaelanne called it. And by "it" I mean me, and the happy noises I make when I'm excited about a shot. I was quite operatic at Hailey's shoot apparently. But seriously, how can you *not* get excited when you see a shot that you know will turn out like this?
While we were at this farm, in between takes, we managed to see baby goats, ducks, chickens... it was seriously like our own little mini petting zoo.
When we got the heck out of Dodge for the ultra rural part of the shoot the tall grasses were in their full spender. This meant two thing:
1. Hailey's sister, Rachael, would start throwing the little grass heads at Micaelanne's chest and, like a dart board, they would totally stick in her shirt.
2. I, in a moment of inspiration, would pick an adjacent bundle of wildflowers for Hailey to hold and, in doing so, manage to rip the dang things out by the roots. Here, hold this 3 foot tall bundle of stems with this clump of dirt! Pretty!
But it all worked out. Micaelanne made it out in one piece, I clipped the flowers down to a normal configuration, and Hailey got some lovely shots in the golden sunset.
"I broke my arm-- the same arm-- 4 times," said Kendra. The saga of how it happened each time, the metal plates, all the hospital visits...did not sound like fun. So imagine my surprise when Kendra explained that she wants to go to medical school.⠀
"I just really find it all interesting," she said. I love the fact that Kendra was able to take what most people would consider pretty crummy experiences and channel them towards a bright future.⠀
Speaking of future..."I was soooo worried that she wasn't going to do a good smile in her pictures!" Kendra's mom admitted to me when they came to pick up their artwork. ⠀
Which was surprising to me, because Kendra's smile was totally natural in all the pictures from her senior session!⠀But this comment was based on a pretty extensive history of Kendra doing either cheesy or grimacing smiles. But no worries here! Obviously somewhere along the way she figured it out.
Something else she figured out? Bringing along a concealer stick to use on her legs!! ("I read your post about how most people have random bruises on their legs and don't even realize it and already *knew* that I had some from diving!") So yeah, there was a little bit of leg touching up going on. Which was AWESOME.
I honestly think that all the careful prep that Kendra put into her session is an excellent indicator of her impending success in the pre-med track at Baylor! Keep it up Kendra!
Did you know that 17 year olds can fly planes...solo? Yeah, me neither...before I met Dylan that is. "Was is scary going up all by yourself the first time?" I asked him. "Not really," he said. "It's a pretty standard flight path you take for that first solo. What IS scary though is when you do a forced downward spiral." Gulp. Yeah, I bet.
So it turns out that, just like the standard parallel park for a driving test, the forced downward spiral is something that you have to prove you can deal with as part of your pilot testing. You better be a pretty calm person in general before taking this on. "Unflappable" is how Dylan's mom describes him. I'm onboard with that one, and let me tell you why...
In addition to proving that he could deal with the downward spiral, Dylan also dealt with an ample amount of heckling during his shoot. Dylan's uncle, the owner of this lovely plane, was around for the shoot and just so happened to be playing the theme song of Top Gun-- Highway to the Danger Zone-- on his phone pretty much the entire time. Actually...it was kind of awesome. Was Dylan phased? Not one iota.
Not surprisingly, Dylan is interested in pursuing aeronautic engineering. ("He wants to be an astronaut," his mom said. To which I replied, "Don't we all?" But, um, he's actually working on it.) He's already been admitted to Purdue, but is still waiting on a few other schools.
Before Dylan's photoshoot I had never been to the Livermore Airport. I've driven past it a million times, but never pulled in and actually walked around. There were several surprises. First, I was totally floored by the fact that you can literally just walk right onto the runway. No checkpoints, no gates. You don't have to take your shoes off- heck, you don't even have to sign in anywhere. Second, it turns out that there are actually a TON of great places to take pictures!
Thanks so much Dylan for introducing me to this fantastic location! I can't wait to see you soon for your Cap & Gown mini session and find out where you'll be next year!
When we were planning her photoshoot Bella mentioned to me that she would love to incorporate flowers. This presented a bit of a challenge, given that it was early November, but I suggested that we start out at Alden Lane Nursery because they pretty much always have something in bloom. I love shooting at Alden Lane; the people there are *so nice.* They always tell me that I'm free to move anything around for the shot, and go out their way to accommodate photography. Sure enough, for Bella's photoshoot they had plenty of flowers and were crazy nice, as always.
This trimester Bella is taking a sci fi lit class where they not only get to read the Hobbit but also get to watch all the Star Wars movies. "It must be really hard to get into that class!" I exclaimed. "I mean, wouldn't everybody want to take it?" But she said she just signed up for it, no problem. One of her other classes is an internship at Kaiser, which sounds pretty perfect since she intends to major in nursing at Ole Miss.
After a bit at Alden Lane we headed over to Shadow Cliffs to catch the sunset.
Between her four classes she's done with school at 2pm (sweet!). But Bella's still pretty busy; she works at Bent Creek Winery helping out with the back room stuff and she also leads a bible study group for 7th grade girls at Cornerstone Fellowship.
During her free time Bella plays the guitar and and enjoys reading and writing poetry. I'm so happy that she brought her guitar to her photoshoot-- I feel like the images of her playing really capture the heart of who she is.
I'm so excited to see you in the spring, Bella, with all of your Ole Miss stuff for your mini shoot! It's going to be a ton of fun!
Because she joined my brand representative team I've had the pleasure of photographing Adelle several times this past year. But this shoot was different because it was her actual senior portrait, designed and produced to showcase her unique style and personality. During the shoot we talked about college and I just found out that she was accepted to her top pick: Oregon State. Way to go Adelle!
To her session Adelle brought a pair of beautiful turquoise earrings. She also wanted to make sure to get some shots in her letterman's jacket to celebrate her tenure on the cheer squad.
Durring her session we talked about all of her exciting upcoming plans: a trip to Costa Rica, a resolution to dye her hair pink (which she did the very night of this photoshoot!) and the intent to get a tattoo when she turns 18 in March. The design she picked out is this beautiful flower and symbol that represents internal peace and tranquility.
Here are a few of my favorites of Adelle from prior shoots. We've had a blast this year finding all sorts of unique locations for shoots and chasing the sun! Thanks for joining my team this year, Adelle! It was wonderful to get to know you!
"They're always super fun and exciting, right!!?!?" I exclaimed, dripping with sarcasm. Katherine was much nicer in describing the school board meetings she has attended. As a member of a club on campus whose goal is to improve student life, she's made an effort to create meaningful change. This group is attempting to get AVHS to reform their expulsion policy. And at the school board meetings Katherine has proposed that the student reps not merely have the right to attend the meetings but have actual voting power. She did tell me that she's interested in possibly majoring in chemistry, but might I suggest taking some poly sci? I'm thinking politics might not be a bad route to consider, Katherine...
Speaking of chemistry, Katherine is taking 3 AP classes right now, including BC calc. As a person who was completely mentally drained by AB calc (those related rate problem- ugh! I still have nightmares about water flowing into and out of a bathtub at different rates. Not even kidding.) I can really appreciate what this means. She's also doing lacrosse in the spring.
Katherine's dream school is UCLA and she's applying to a bunch of other California schools but she's also applying in Colorado because they have a merit based scholarship for $15K! Who knew? (Well, she did...I didn't.)
For the record, Katherine's photoshoot started, continued, and ended with a bit of weirdness. At the get go we had to relocate because there was an enormous running race happening at the original venue. Once we got to the new location and started shooting a totally random police car drove down the trail...really slowly...right behind her. And they shouted, "We'll make a nice backdrop for you!" Thanks guys. And then as we were wrapping up, we noticed cat after cat after cat amassing around us. Dusk was setting in and after about 5 minutes of chatting there were probably around 7 cats hanging out on a nearby driveway. "A cat party." she declared. Totally.
When I first asked Braxton what he was into he produced this crazy list that included about everything I could think of and ended with cliff jumping. So I was like, "water polo, fishing, wake boarding, baseball...cliff jumping. Right. Cliff jumping. Sure." And then lo, I was looking at his instagram and there was a picture of him...jumping off a cliff.
He really does do all these things. And he's actually into a whole lot more that he didn't even mention up front. For starters he is taking the photography class at Amador right now and he has his own photography page. I love getting all nerdy talking to seniors who are into photography and Braxton didn't disappoint. I can really appreciate the complete and utter despair that he suffered when his neg development process went awry and he lost a spectacular shot of two motorcycles that were both popping wheelies that he shot from on top of a bridge. I have so been there. Braxton also had several ideas to contribute to his own shoot involving his baseball glove, which were fantastic.
We talked about colleges a bit-- it is that time of year after all. He explained that he actually submitted 3 apps earlier that very day but had about 8 more to go. He's applying to schools mostly on the west coast but then threw out North Dakota. "North Dakota, huh?" I said. "For aviation," he explained. In addition to an interest in history, finance, and business, he's considering pursuing aviation. He actually has plans to start taking classes at the Livermore Airport next semester.
Braxton plays baseball for two different teams- AVHS during the normal season and a traveling team in based in Danville the rest of the time. He also manages to work as a lifeguard at the Pleasanton Valley Club in the summer, which meant that we knew a ton of people in common. It's such a small world.
Braxton, with all your diverse interests, I can't wait to see where you end up next year!
In her A.P. Econ class Arianna was supposed to craft a fictional life for herself using actual current job and real estate listings. Since she is considering a job in teaching (high school A.P. history, maybe?) she found a teaching job open with Redwood City Unified.
But with that salary, and the added obligation of finding a 2 bedroom house, the fictional Arianna bought a home in Tracy. To which I said, "Dang, now that is a terrible commute!"
Arianna is also taking African American Lit and a class called Lit & Social Justice where they are going to read my favorite book, 1984 by George Orwell (which, if you haven't read it, is both exceptionally timely and terrifying.)
She said that her favorite class and likely major is History because she enjoys how it helps explain how the world works.
We were interrupted during this photoshoot not once, but twice by random guys. The first time was in this cozy little alley next to a taqueria (which smelled like they were doing something *amazing* with chicken by the way)...
Shooting in downtown Livermore means that you can't entirely avoid onlookers. This bridge is an overpass and while we were shooting there (which we literally RAN to in order not to miss that last rays of the sunset) we had our second interruption. Some random guys driving under us shouted that they, um, would like to see more of Arianna... Never a dull moment!
Arianna played soccer for many years and is thinking about applying for a job with Kidz Love Soccer. So if your little one is signing up for it in the spring, you might be seeing her. And you'll also be seeing her back here for her Cap & Gown mini shoot. I can't wait to find out where you will be studying history next year Arianna!
Hayden is a competitive sailor, which I found a bit confusing at first because she lives in Pleasanton.
So naturally I was like, "Where do you sail around here?!?!??!" It turns out that all summer long she commutes every day to the Richmond Yacht Club where she is a sailing instructor.
During the school year she makes the trek there on the weekends for regattas. She's currently racing a 4-person boat. So if you don't see her around town much, that's why!
But when you do see her around town you might wonder why she's wearing scrubs. Hayden is interested in becoming a vet and is in a program where her first two periods of the day are spent in a medical setting. She's really hoping that will be with a veterinarian, but at the time of her photoshoot she hadn't been placed yet.
Hayden is applying to UC Davis (which has the top vet school in the country, btw). I went to UCD for grad school (not the vet school) and sincerely hope she gets in because I can speak with experience when I say that it would be a wonderful place to spend the next 4 years. People there are *so nice.*
Hayden, I'll cross fingers that you get to work in a vet clinic this year and that you'll be wearing an Aggie t-shirt at your Cap & Gown mini session in the spring. Keep me updated!
Meet Sayler, Class of 2018. She looks fresh as the morning dew here, am I right? What would you say if I told you that it was actually *97 degrees* when we took this shot in full sun? I would say that Saylor is amazingly impervious to heat! Her mom and I were juggling water bottles and misters and doing everything we could to just function. Sayler, meanwhile, was totally fine.
If you get to know Sayler you'll find that she has a deceptively sweet sounding voice. Don't get me wrong, she actually *is* incredibly sweet and I loved every minute I spent with her! What I mean by deceptive is that she is, in fact, a decisive person and knows what she wants --which I love-- but not necessarily what you'd expect after just casually chatting with her for a few minutes. I actually think that this contrast is going to serve her really well in life. Kind of like that old adage that you can catch more flies with honey...She has this honey-voice, but is definitely a catcher.
Sayler's an athlete -- she plays soccer and lacrosse -- and she's got some battle scars to prove it. But when the possibility came up of whisking them away with photoshop she said, "Leave them in." Love it! And I'm not just saying that because it's less work for me; I'm saying that because I love that Sayler sees them as a part of herself, part of a memory, an experience, and not something to try to hide or erase. It's so incredibly powerful to take a part of you that others might perceive as a "flaw" and valuing it as something that makes you unique.
Sayler's in the midst of college applications right now: one down, several more to go. She's mostly applying to schools in Oregon and Colorado. When I asked about writing personal statements she mentioned that all the schools she's applying to this year have writing prompts on heavy topics. And I do mean heavy. But she does have experiences to draw on and it sounded like her writing samples are going to knock it out of the park.
Sayler, you did an amazing job at your senior portrait session. I can't wait to catch up with you in the spring for your Cap & Gown shoot and find out where you will be next year!
I am a high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.