Lincoln County Photo Festival

I had the pleasure to attend the second annual Photo fest in Lincoln County, NV this year and it did not disappoint! There was a great turnout, it more than doubled from the inaugural year. I participated in Impressionistic, Sports, Landscape, Night Sky, Environmental, and Photo Editing classes.

This one was completely new to me and was explained as “showing the world what you see when you’re not wearing your glasses” and was taught by Alyce Bender. She walked us through camera settings and how moving your camera different ways will give you different effects. Things were blurry and hard to make out, just giving the impression of something. We started in Cathedral Gorge using plants and flowers as subjects. Then we moved into the Hoodoos where it was much cooler and we practiced lines as well as learning how to stack images in camera. I have much respect for intentionally blurry images now.

This was taught by Michael Okimoto, who I met the previous year when he taught the Environmental Photography class. We were up on one of the mountains where he had some mountain bikers staged. We went over camera settings and I was excited because this was also something I haven’t tried but i could definitely see how i could apply it to my child and family photography. The bikers would come one by one around a corner where all the photographers were staged at and we all tried to freeze them in motion. Then we moved down the trail some and practiced panning with the bikers. This allows the subject to stay in focus (if you do it right) and the background to have a motion blur. I’d like to practice this some more. The images looked good on my LCD screen, but they were all a bit blurry when I saw them full size.

Landscape & Night Sky
Taught by a couple, Shawn & Corinne Severn, we missed the beginning of class because we thought it started half an hour later than it did… and we discovered a speakeasy. The clouds cleared prior to sunset so there wasn’t much color in the sky, but we practiced framing up a shot on an old water tower back in Cathedral Gorge. This class transitioned into the Night Sky class taught by the same couple in the same location. We all lined up and focused on a rock formation and waited for night to fall. We were in the right position to capture the Milky Way! I got the shot I wanted then I kept moving my camera to see what else there was. After this class Michael Okimoto took a small group of us into the hoodoos to shoot more night sky. This was an image that has been on my bucket list and I was so excited to have the opportunity! I really liked the framing, but I felt that I could have done better with the sky exposure and less light on the hoodoos, but it was great for a first try!

Environmental Portraits
This class was taught by Mikel Conrad in Pioche, Nevada. He had a female model named Irish, who we practiced outdoor lighting on. I haven’t had the opportunity to try HSS (high speed sync) so that was interesting and solidified my desire to upgrade one of my strobes. I just love the effects you can get with it. We then changed locations and used Kelly Garni as a model outside of his Ghost Town Art & Coffee Co. While we were there some bikers came through and we used one of them with his bike as another model for variety. We moved up the hill and Irish was our model again. Then we broke up into small groups and practiced lighting and camera settings on each other. I loved the variety of images this class provided. Finally Mikel brought us to an overgrown area between two buildings which was shaded and he showed us how he would photograph a senior portrait, including posing, lighting and camera settings.

Photo Editing
I don’t have as much to say about this class because I was introducing a friend to Lightroom and showing him how I choose images and edit them. It was a very helpful class especially for those who are less familiar with Photoshop and it’s capabilities.

Overall, this trip up North was definitely worth my time. I had a lot of fun and learned several new and useful techniques that will help to bring my photography to the next level. I feel like I should always be learning something new in order to provide my clients with the best possible photos, and I will definitely be attending the Lincoln County Photo Festival again when it rolls back around next year.


When I first decided to pursue family photography near the end of 2016, I reached out to my closest friends and offered them all a free session to help get my portfolio going. In March of 2017 my close friend Michelle suddenly and unexpectedly lost her husband, which changed her family forever. One of the reasons that I so love photography is because photos capture memories. You never know how long you will have with your loved ones and once they’re gone it’s the memories and images that help keep them alive in your heart.

It’s a devastating fact of life that awful things can happen to the people that we love. The best time for family portraits is the present.

Michelle moved to California not long after her husband passed away, but I still really wanted to do a session with her and the kids. We agreed to spend a weekend together during which I would photograph the family, and I set out for the beautiful California coast on a late Friday afternoon. As soon as I turned onto the freeway “California Sunrise” by Jon Pardi started to play on the radio and I knew that it was going to be a beautiful trip. I arrived in California just after sunset and I was welcomed with hugs all around and treated to a delicious meal.

The next day the weather was absolutely gorgeous and I couldn’t breath in enough of that gentle ocean breeze. We started the session under the pier where the boys practiced their rock throwing skills, laughing at a fat pigeon trying to fly while they emulated their mother’s poses. Just being near this family fills my heart with so much joy. The boys balance each other perfectly, one is very calm and considerate and the other is always laughing, joking and doing his best to make us smile. Michelle may have her hands full, but they are in perfect harmony.

We moved to the top of the pier and created some family images and individual portraits. We walked to the end of the pier to look out over the ocean and met a friendly fisherman who educated us on the reefs. We ended the day by eating pizza on a patio near the pier while taking in the gorgeous sunset.


A Most Special Tea Party

I had this crazy idea pop into my head to have a tea party in the dry lake bed, because I love juxtaposition and images that stop and make you think. First I needed people for the tea party and since I didn’t want the usual princess tea party, I chose a father and daughter combo. It’s mostly mothers who come to me for family portraits, but fathers are just as important for children to be photographed with. So, I had an idea and willing participants, but nothing to stage a proper tea party. I scoured a few thrift stores and found the PERFECT tea pot, some cute plates, cups and saucers – even crystal candle holders!

The day of the session the wind was blowing incredibly hard and didn’t let up, I had some reservations but decided to give it a go. It took three adults at least 20 minutes to put a couple of table cloths on a table. Setting a table in gusty conditions isn’t something I recommend but I can add it to my list of skills now. By the time everything was set up, the sun was disappearing behind the mountain and we were losing light fast!

We captured some great images and the lighting was gorgeous showcasing the pastel colors of the desert. The relationship between this father and daughter really shines through. She was so excited about the tea party, and she referred to it as “the most special tea party”. We partied until the sun went down and packed up in the dark.


An Engagement at the Grand Canyon

I recently took part in what I would call my “dream shoot”. It all began when a friend referred me for a photo session on a Facebook group for creatives called The Rising Tide. A man named Michael was looking for a photographer who would be able to capture the incredible proposal that he had planned for his girlfriend, Megan. The plan was to take a helicopter sunset tour into the Grand Canyon, and while there he would pop the question. I couldn’t believe that I was offered this opportunity, and after discussing the specifics I happily accepted. A lot of planning went in to this trip, and the best part was that Megan had no idea what was coming.

The morning of the big day I arrived early at Serenity Helicopters so that Megan would not see me, and the employees had me join them in the back so that we could figure out a way to slip me on to the flight without giving away the big secret. They ended up telling the whole crowd that was waiting to take off that I was there to get some new promotional shots for Serenity. They even had everyone sign model release forms to make it look legit!

The helicopter pilot had a soundtrack playing during the flight and he kept us entertained with facts and tidbits of information about the areas that we were flying over. Megan and Michael sat up front with the pilot while I was in the back capturing images of the landscape and sneaking the occasional image of the lovely couple.

The helicopter swooped down into the canyon itself to land on a shelf overlooking the Colorado River. It was breathtaking. There were a few tables already set up in anticipation of our arrival and hot meals were set up as we exited the helicopter. Megan and Michael sneaked off to get a good look over the edge at the river snaking through the canyon below us. All eyes were on the couple as Michael got down on one knee, much to Megan’s surprise and joy. It was quite an honor to be able to capture this moment for them!

The pilot had dinner ready for us at that point, and a bottle of champagne was opened in honor of the newly engaged couple. The tour company really had the details covered. They had even prepared a bouquet of sunflowers, which were Megan’s favorite.

This tour of the Grand Canyon was in the middle of a two week adventure that Michael had surprised Megan with, during which they were visiting several of the places on their bucket list. Megan did not know each location that they were going to until they were headed there. At each location, Michael had Megan pose for a picture with a wrapped gift that she was finally able to open here after the proposal. Inside the present was a hand lettered canvas that read “Will You Marry Me?”

I thought this was a neat idea: Megan suggested that they throw her promise ring into the canyon now that she was replacing it with an engagement ring. Michael made a show of winding up to let it fly and faked everyone out before throwing it for real the second time. Everyone was in high spirits and we were all so happy for the beautiful couple. Megan and Michael had such a great positive vibe about them that it was impossible not to smile when near them. I wish them much happiness and many more adventures to come.

What to Wear for a Family Shoot

  • Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in. If you hate dresses, then don’t wear one!
  • Stay away from fluorescent clothing as it can create unnatural color casts on the skin.
  • Skinny jeans are flattering on any body type (if you feel comfortable in them), paired with heels or wedges they make your legs look longer.
  • Layers are great in cooler weather, however living in Vegas layers are the last thing you want to wear. Think about adding belts, necklaces, hates and light scarves to your outfit.
  • Avoid clothing or shoes with characters on them, it’ll date the photos and take focus away from the family.
  • Try not to match outfits. Instead coordinate them using two to three main colors, they don’t even have to be the exact same color, similar is good enough.
  • Let the children’s personalities show! If they have a favorite hat, glasses, etc bring them along or if they dislike wearing shoes they can be barefoot.
  • If you and the children are comfortable it will show in the finished images!