Abriana is one of those amazing athletes that got to enjoy an entire senior year free of the stress of college acceptance. And I'd love to say "Lucky!!" except that luck had very little to do with it.
What did have something to do with it are grit and determination, both of which came in handy on this shoot. Abriana braved through rain and pretty chilly temperatures to pull off these beautiful shots.
Abriana has been team captain for her swim team for both junior and senior year because, well, she's just that kind of person. The younger swimmers (the "littles") call her "Mom" which, naturally, her own mom finds pretty amusing.
This was at the tail end of the shoot, the chilliest part before heading home. "I want to go to Starbucks and get a hot cocoa," Abriana said, "...and put my hands in it!" Cracked. Me. Up. Abriana, I had a fabulous time with you. Hopefully we'll find a time in between spring meets to shoot a cap & gown mini session but if not have a fabulous time down in LA next year!!!
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!
Don't you hate it when you run your gels and the bands are all muddled and the data is crappy? Emma and I commiserated about gel electrophoresis, which is something she's doing in her biotech class. This totally blows my mind, by the way, because I didn't even know what a Western Blot was until I took genetics my sophomore year...of college. I can't believe you can even take a class called biotechnology in high school now. Amazing.
Emma does not love having pictures taken. That gives us another thing in common. Unlike me though, Emma has the most adorable dimples and she kept complaining that her dimple was getting tired. So during this shoot, whenever I needed to adjust my camera settings, I would say "relax your dimple."
Emma has the best schedule ever right now. Most of the week she's done with school by noon. On that other day she's done by 11:30am. Part of the reason for that is that she's doing a work study. She has a pretty sweet job: she's a waitress at a retirement community. Emma admitted that the job is challenging but she recently got a raise and is making decent money.
One crazy thing happened during this shoot when we were on this raised trait. I love this path- it's up high and gets great light at sunset. But you know who else likes this path? Lots of people. Especially people out walking their dogs. And that's totally fine except for the couple that walked towards us with their super friendly golden retriever who was soaking wet and off-leash. I asked them nicely to please keep the dog away from the photoshoot because I was really worried that it was going to shake all over Emma in her lovely white romper. And you know what they did? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And of course the dog ran right up to us! So I got the dog by the collar and walked it around Emma so she would be out of the potential shake-zone. The folks, who we thereafter referred to as "the mean dog people" then spoke loudly about having the right to do whatever they want with their dog in a public park and kept walking. Astonishing.
Thankfully everything turned out just fine. We got our lovely sunset, Emma stayed perfectly dry, and all was well.
Lydia got her nose pierced before her portrait session. Not like literally that day, but recently enough that she had to explain to me the reason she was sneezing a lot. This was actually pretty funny because I got a ton of fantastic sneezing pictures, and also pictures of that moment when you *think* you are going to sneeze but it refuses to actually happen. (Hate that feeling, ugh!) But here I'm going to stick with the lovely ones, because you know, that's my thing.
Lydia buys a Vitality Bowl every day. I had to ask, "Really? EVERY DAY???" Yes. So I was like, "That must get expensive!" To which her mom piped up: "it sure does!" Anyways, that's not the interesting part. The interesting part is that Lydia recently found out that a secret admirer put $10 onto a tab for her at Vitality Bowls. And she doesn't know who it is.
Of course I was like, "So did you interrogate all of the employees? Or maybe if they won't tell you, ask their friends? Also, who knows that you buy these every day? Maybe you could make a list of people and start narrowing it down!" But she's so chill. She was like, "It's no big deal..." NBD!?!?!? Sorry, I just get excited by stuff like that. If it were me I would launch a full scale investigation.
Lydia is really into children and into helping people. She volunteers at the Open Heart Kitchen where she serves the elderly. She also works with kids on a daily basis at Pump It Up and is student-teaching in a first grade class for credit during the school day. She ultimately would like to major in education but is looking to take a gap year before college and do a program called YWAM where she would do missionary work in other countries. She actually just got back from her second volunteer trip to Haiti. On this trip she was helping to build a library, Habitat for Humanity-style.
The funny thing about Lydia, and her mom Keelie actually, is that even though they are religious, and that religion is important to them, I would not describe them as umm...reserved at all. See, I had figured that I needed to be on my very best behavior on this shoot (it was at *their church,* after all!) but somehow the conversation turned to alternatives to the word "crotch" and that pretty much set the tenor for the entire evening. Ha!
Lydia, I can't wait to see you back in front of my lens in the spring for your Cap & Gown mini session! I want a full update on the Vitality Bowl mystery and on all your latest adventures!
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 was going to title this post "Death, Garbage, and Inappropriate Jokes" but Jordynn's gallery is so lovely I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So first I'll tell you a little bit about Jordynn and then I'll get to all that other crazy stuff.
Jordynn already knows that she wants to get her teaching credential. During her senior year she is student teaching in a second grade classroom at Alisal Elementary. But here's the best part: she's student teaching... with the same teacher that she HAD for second grade at Alisal. How awesome is that?
So during her session we took smiling Jordynn shots and serious Jordynn shots. I asked her to do my "big fake laugh" and can report that Jordynn has the worst fake laugh ever. I would say "Ok, go!" and she would give the weakest little "heh heh." But then I would call her out on it and she'd start laughing for real. Her real laugh is *fantastic*.
We lucked out during her shoot because it started off overcast and then the sun came out. Best of both worlds, really.
Towards the end of the shoot I asked Jordynn if she'd be willing to forge across to the opposite side of the nearby stream for the last location. She donned a pair of random pedicure flip flops her mom had from the car, which promptly ripped apart in the water, and then proceeded barefoot up the bank.
I dragged over a log for her to sit on and we started shooting. It turned out there was a can of Modelo in the frame so to spare myself the time in photoshop I did a little "real life" edit. (Note to self: buy more hand sanitizer for the camera bag.) The scene was beautiful. The scene was perfect. Well, I thought it was until I glanced to my left...
Not 5 feet away from me was the well rotted carcass of a mid-sized mammal. I quickly looked back at Jordynn hoping that she hadn't followed my gaze. She had. "What is THAT?" she asked. I took a deep breath, which at that point started to smell, nodded slowly, and said, "You look stunning right now." And we kept on shooting.
I'm fairly confident it was a raccoon. But you know what? Jordynn kept right on going like it wasn't even there. I was so impressed.
On the walk back to the car I found out that Jordynn's mom, Chris, is an agricultural inspector so I asked her about those tall golden grasses that I'm always working with. I've always wondered what they were. She wasn't sure then, but she remembered this conversation at Jordynn's gallery reveal and there she looked it up.
Wild Oats. Yes, that's right. I couldn't help myself, "Wild Oats?!?!?" I exclaimed, "as in "sow your wild oats??" Ha! I actually get this question fairly often, so the next time someone asks me if I happen to know what that plant is I'm going to have a really hard time not cracking up.
At any rate, Jordynn: it was an honor and a pleasure to photograph your senior portrait. Thanks for the adventure and I can't wait to see what happens during your Cap & Gown mini session in the spring!!!!
Meet Megan, University of Oregon class of 2021. Megan's mom reached out to me to see if I could schedule a shoot with Megan before she left for school; we managed to pick a blazing hot evening for the session but the golden hour turned out to be *magic*.
Megan's session was absolutely packed with meaning, which I love. The location was one where she and her mom often go for walks together. She was also wearing a necklace that she got for her 16th birthday, and an engraved bracelet from graduation.
Being in the midst of planning her dorm room decor, when Megan came to her gallery reveal session one of the first things that she noticed was my throw pillows. That's a first! Discussing her color palette of pinks and neutrals brought back all the excitement that I remember having in getting my own dorm room ready.
Megan is currently undeclared but she's taking a class in sociology and in education this fall and leaning towards an education major.
I'm so glad that I got the opportunity to capture this moment in time with Megan. This entire session was about the transition from high school to college; that inflection point between enjoying the familiarity of home to diving into the energizing newness of a big move out of state and into the rest of her adult life. Megan, I wish you all the best and I hope you have an amazing intro week!
I am a high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.