I'm in!

I am extremely proud to annouce I have been accepted into the Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA)! WPJA members include some of the most incredible, talented photographers out there, people I've admired for years, and now I'm one of them!

Membership in the WPJA is pretty exclusive--unlike a lot of photography organizations, you cannot pay to get in. Your portfolio and website are actually reviewed and must be deemed good enough quality, and concurrent with the philosophy of the WPJA, to get in. From their website:

"The Wedding Photojournalist Association is a highly screened, critical organization. Less than 5% of wedding photographers out there qualify for membership. "


"[WPJA is] an International, membership-based organization, represent[ing] professional photographers skilled in the documentation of weddings and events in a candid, unobtrusive style. The WPJA was founded to uphold excellence in the area of wedding photojournalism."

Less than 5% of wedding photographers qualify for WPJA membership.

Read that again:

Less than FIVE PERCENT of wedding photographers qualify for membership.

As you can see, I'm just a tad bit excited.

For more on the WPJA, including membership requirements, benefits, and the great article entitled "What is Wedding Photojournalism?", see their site. They have a seperate section for brides and grooms to help them plan the photography portion of their wedding, and regional listings for all members. But of course you won't be needing those--you already know who's going to shoot your wedding, right? ; )

Baker Beach Engagement Sessions

In the last week, I've gotten a chance to do not one but TWO engagement shoots at Baker Beach in San Francisco. Baker Beach, for those who don't know, is that beach that you always see on postcards of the city--the one with the amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I've worked there before, but haven't been back for a long time.

What these two very different shoots brought home to me is how different engaged couples can be. Amberly and Josh, who I worked with last Friday, were simultaneously outgoing and romantic. One minute they were hamming it up for the camera, the next they were lost in their own world. Josh was adorable and gentlemanly, and Amberly's face lit up whenever she looked at him. They needed very little direction, and were content to make up their own story about the locations we went to and the things they were doing. At one point, Josh remarked how the little forest area next to the beach felt like something out of a fairy tale, like sleepy hollow--which I guess would have made that hobo wandering around in the parking lot an enchanted elf. :)

Shauneen and Mike, whose shoot was the week before that, were a bit more reserved. They started the shoot off very camera-aware, as I think is common with many people who are used to the more traditional type of "look at me and smile" photography. We are conditioned to think of the camera as being a recorder of physical states, rather than emotional ones, and we've adopted all these mannerisms to make us "look better" in front of it, taking focus away from the natural beauty of the moment. Sometimes it takes awhile to break out of these patterns.

But that is what these sessions are all about. The extra time with Shauneen and Mike was well spent, because now they are comfortable with me. By the end of the shoot they were able to allow their private couple-ness to come through, and the comfortability and tenderness that they have with each other was great to watch and record. The best part is, now I will be able to walk around at their wedding virtually unnoticed, which is the way I like it.

These engagement sessions are so important, as they are a way to get to know your photographer and work out any of these little details that could get in the way on the wedding day. Most people have never been formally photographed before this, outside of maybe a 5 second school portrait. The engagement session gives them a chance to get used to the process and the presence of a photographer, getting rid of any anxiety they may have. It is a vital step in the process and something everyone should make room for in their budget.

Most of my packages include it for free, but for those that don't, I only charge $100 to add it on. I also do sessions for couples whose wedding I am not photographing at my regular portrait price of $275+. Email me to schedule yours today!

Update: you can see the proofs from the Engagement sessions on Pictage. Just go the the home page at www.pictage.com and type in the names of the couple you want to see in the "Find Your Event" window. Follow the instructions for logging on that follow. It's that simple!

Mehndi and Neeta Sharma

"Henna designing is a form of intricate painting that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is an ancient form of body art which has originated from the Middle East and India."

I know Neeta Sharma, owner of Mehndi Designer and author of the book Sangeet, from Mehreen Hussain and Asif Shah's fabulous wedding. Neeta is a Mehndi Artist--she uses Henna to create intricate designs on the hands and feet of her clients, many of whom are brides of Indian or Middle Eastern descent. Henna is "a dye procured from the tree Lawsonia inermis [which] stains the skin a mahogany color."

I met Neeta on Friday night, at the first of three different parties I was covering for this wedding--she had set up a small area in the corner of the room and was applying mehndi (another term for the decorative application of henna) to anyone who wanted it--of course I took a short break from shooting to get some myself! Looking over her books and photos of past work, I soon saw my opportunity-- I noticed there weren't many good quality photos. I immediately offered to help polish up her portfolio and she said yes!

The first shoot we did together was for another bride (slideshow below). It was incredible watching the whole process take shape--over 2 hours of work went into one bride's hands and feet! Henna is a very interesting substance--it goes on brownish, and you are supposed to let it stay on until the crusty part falls off (occasionally dabbing it with lemon to improve the color). Once this happens, the pattern is left behind on the skin as a light orange color--but what is so interesting is that it actually gets darker for the first few days you have it on.

Facts about Henna:

**"In the Middle East, women use henna to decorate their hands and feet. Men also use it as a dye on their hair and beard. Women apply henna on their hands and feet approximately once every two weeks. It is usually after the night prayer that most women dye their hands and feet.

**The role of henna goes much beyond cosmetic and aesthetic value. Henna has a deeper meaning to the women of India. The night before a wedding is known as the 'Night of Henna (Mehendi) when the bride's hands and feet are decorated in elaborate floral and fertility designs. On the henna night, relatives and friends (married as well as unmarried) of the bride gather at the bride's house. While henna is being applied the bride is enlightened about the mysteries of married life.

**There are many stories about the longevity of henna on the bride's hand. It is said that if the henna lasts longer on the bride's hands it indicates that the bride is treated well at her in-laws' place, sparing her from the household chores, at least on the first few days of her married life. The bride's mother feels a sense of relief when the daughter visits her few days after the wedding and still able to see the henna design on her daughter's palm.

**Henna has medicinal value too. It is considered an anti-irritant, a deodorant and an antiseptic. It is used by Ayurvedic physicians for the treatment of heat rashes and skin allergies and to cool the body against the intense heat of summers. Because of its cooling property henna leaves and flowers are made into lotions and ointments to be used externally for boils, burns and skin inflammations, including sores from leprosy."

Neeta's work goes far beyond bridal decoration--people hire her for many occasions. The second shoot we did together was decorating a 6 months pregnant woman's belly, in preparation for a birth blessing/baby shower she was having that weekend. In addition to the regular henna, Neeta added some glitter and rhinestones to the design. The end result was incredible:

Here you can see the slideshow I made for her, detailing the process of mehendi application. Or see it bigger here.

All quotes in this post are from Neeta's site, mehndidesigner.com.

Alena and Sean's Album

This album is from an awesome wedding that I did in August of last year. I've been needing to make some new sample books for the studio, and Alena is so beautiful and her and Sean's wedding so emotional and fun, I thought it would be great for that! The album will be 13x13" and 60 pages. nice and big, and is a good example of the kind of layouts I do for all my books.

A few of my brides ask me if I can just give them coverage only, or coverage and negs...and I can, and I do. But I always feel a little sad when I edit their pictures, because I know what could have been. I'm thinking about the album when I shoot, which is one reason why I take so many detail shots--thinking about what shots would look good together, or shooting a series of the same moment to put next to each other. The difference between having a book like this, that tells a cohesive story, and just a bunch of (albeit great) shots on a disk, is massive. If you think in terms of movies, it's like the difference between the final edited film playing in the theater and the hours and hours of raw footage that it took to get there. You couldn't have the movie without the footage--but which one do you think will win the Oscar?

The great thing about this type of album (call it Magazine style, Collage, Flush Mount, Coffee Table Book, or whatever) is that the design is 100% customizable. Every design is one of a kind. I take the whole wedding into consideration when I design it, so that the colors, complexity, and juxtaposition match the wedding itself. Some weddings work better with a more straightforward layout, without a lot of effects, and some not--the beauty of these albums is that level of control. So when all is said and done, brides have a piece of artwork that represents everything that they love and remember about their wedding day.

Check out Sean and Alena's day below, or see it bigger here. You can make the pages go faster by clicking on them.

Clos Pegase Winery, St. Helena Catholic Church, and Auberge du Soleil, Napa CA

Back in the saddle again, my first wedding of the season! Pamela Tyler and Stephen Mitchell were wed on March 3 2006 at the St. Helena Catholic Church, in a small and beautiful ceremony presided over by a very funny Catholic priest!

The reception was at Auberge du Soleil, a gourmet restaurant and winery in the Napa Valley with a great view. It was dinner only and, as a result, I was not hired to shoot all of it, but I did get a chance to photograph some great toasts and yummy looking appetizers!

Pamela and Stephen also had me come to their rehearsal dinner at Clos Pegase the night before, where I photographed their engagement session on the grounds while the rest of their party took a tour of the winery and its multimillion dollar art collection. I stayed on to shoot the toasts and the first half hour of the meal as well, and got some great shots of the decor and guests.

Look for the slideshow on my website soon, and the full proofs on Pictage in 3-4 weeks. For now, here's a quickie collage of some of the greatest shots from both nights!

Update: the slideshow is here!

Update: the full proofs are ready now on Pictage, you can see them here.

I love my dogs

My twin passions in life are photography and dogs. My dogs are as much a part of my family as anyone else, and I try to include them in everything...even my bio photo has them in it, although not my husband! (he's behind the camera, so I like to think he's there in spirit)

Their names are Luna (the grey and white female Alaskan Malamute) and Tonka (the black and white male akita). Luna will be 4 this month, and Tonka is 1 1/2. We raised both of them from 8 weeks of age, but because Tonka is the youngest we still call him baby names. We fail to see the irony in referring to a 110 lb hunk of muscle as "little man".

This picture is of them enjoying the 1/2 acre yard at the new house. Sometimes photos of them playing can make them look aggressive, but their body language is quite normal for two dogs who know each other well. I love to watch them, they never cease to make me smile.

Ipod's for everyone!

How cool is this? I am thrilled to announce a unique new product for my 2006 weddings: Engraved His and Hers 30GB Video Ipods with 300 of your best wedding images set to music in a beautiful slideshow! Using Apple's groundbreaking technology and streamlined design, you can take your wedding pictures (plus your favorite songs and videos) with you everywhere you go.

Later in the year, I am planning to introduce Ipod proofing into the mix. Here's how it would work: We shoot the Engagement session, and when your proofs are posted online you would receive your Ipod, populated with all 1-200 of the engagement shots and with numbers which correspond to those on the website so you can order reprints easily. Then on the wedding day you give the Ipod back to us, and we mail it to you a week later with all your wedding pictures added plus your slideshow. You could take it on your honeymoon! Alternatively, those with a little more computer know-how could keep the Ipod, and download the slideshow in podcast format from ITunes.

Image quality on these Ipods is gorgeous! They could replace the proof book as a portable, fun way of sharing your pictures with your friends and family, and of course the Ipods will have plenty of room left over for your own pictures, songs, and video!

Stay tuned for more on this innovative method of image sharing!

UPDATE: His and Hers Video Ipod Slideshows are now available free with our Level 6 package and above! For pricing information on the Ipods and all other packages, please email me!

Why I do this job.

As we gear up for the 2006 wedding season, I cannot help but reflect on how far I've come. There have been so many wonderful changes to my business in that past 2-3 months--my new business name (formerly known as CF Photography), my new home and new studio, new website, etc...All these changes have made me reflect on what I do and why I do it--why, when there are so many other avenues of photographic work to be had in the Bay Area, why have I chosen to devote most of my time and effort to weddings? There are many photographers out there who wouldn't touch a wedding with a ten foot lens. :) Why do I find them so much fun?

A wedding is a unique combination of public spectacle and private revelation. Nowhere else will you find such emotional richness and physical beauty in the same place. The entire spectrum of human emotional expression, including joy, sadness, trepidation, silliness, sensuality, and friendship, can be found in a single wedding. Weddings are rich with meaning, and beautiful to photograph.

My favorite part of most weddings is the first dance. It begins as a public performance for the benefit of friends and family, a nod to tradition. And yet, there is always a point where the Bride and Groom begin to forget about everyone else and lose themselves in the moment. They laugh, they cry, they look into each other's eyes. We get to see the private side of their relationship for the first time. This transformation is incredible to watch, and even better to photograph.

Last year's brides, when you're sitting at home waiting for the laundry to be done, I hope you'll look at your pictures and remember this moment, especially when the monotony of everyday life starts to get you down.

And this years' brides, when you're making your lists of all the little details you think you can't get married without, think about moments like these, about the big picture of your relationship and your marriage, and how you want to remember them next year.

Good luck and much love to your both.

New studio!!!!

Okay, well it's not THAT new (we've been here a month), but the blog is new, so I thought I'd brag a bit here. After working out of my home office and meeting clients at restaurants and Starbucks' for so long, it was time to get a place I could call my own. THIS IS IT! In a quiet, beautiful neighborhood, ten minutes north of Berkeley and 60 seconds from I-80, sits my new home, the front part of which has been converted into my new studio. I cannot express what a difference it makes to have a whole environment dedicated to my work --to have huge, beautiful prints on the walls, many albums and proof books on the shelves, and, best of all, a 32" flat screen TV to show my slideshows on!

I live and breathe photography, and in this environment my clients really get to see that. And it must be worth it, because I've been booking the overwhelming majority of clients who have come seen me here! Which is good, because I've already spent WAY too much money outfitting the studio and now I need to make some of it back!

Welcome to my world....

I've been wanting to do a blog for quite some time now...the thing that finally got me off and running with it was a seminar hosted by self made millionaire and retired wedding photographer Gary Fong. Fong says that a blog is a way for clients to meet you before they've ever talked to you, and that in itself is extremely valuable. It is the first part in an ever increasing, vital personal connection that sets you apart from other people who do the same thing as you. It sucks people into your world.

So, without further ado, prepare to be sucked in.