The Firefighters

some detail shots while i was filling the downtime

Last fall I had the opportunity to photograph 7 gentleman from across California as they filmed a commercial about one of the state propositions being voted on in the election. These men are firefighters representing many ranks in the fire department. The images I created ended up not needing to be used, but if the campaign had decided to send out printed material, there would have been still images consistent with the tv commercial.

I had about 5 minutes with each subject. Which I admit was added pressure, but I was fortunate to be working with a crew that was very nice (thanks guys!). I was working on borrowed time and I had to make sure the film crew did not get behind schedule because of me.

I was able to watch each guy deliver his lines, so I worked to set up the shots I wanted in my mind before it was my turn to jump in. That helped me create different compositions for my client with the time I was allowed. The next trick was to put my subject at ease in less than 30 seconds. This was actually easier than I was expecting. Luckily, I shot their portrait after they recited their lines, so I cracked a joke about them just needing to "stand there and be pretty" and they realized they were on to the "easy" part of their day.

It's interesting how these types of assignments have affected my style. The requirements from my client about spacing for text and printing, have found their way into my everyday work. I've started creating something that has this great combination between family photography and commercial portrait photography. I think it is a benefit going both ways. It helps me give an inviting style to my commercial/corporate work that I strive for with my family clients. It also helps me give my family clients, whether senior portraits, group photos of photos of the kids, a look that you could imagine seeing in a magazine. 

I hope to have a lot more work like this in my future. The change of pace is a very desirable challenge for me. 

Thank you to all of these men for not only keeping us safe, but also for being so awesome to work with.



The Eastern Sierra

Last weekend I had the chance to go on a photo adventure with my mom. We've been going on trips for a few years now, usually to Yosemite, but we've also branched out to the Eastern Sierra along Route 395. 

The landscapes here are otherworldly. From towering mountain ranges to vast valleys and the Mono Tufas, it's easy to imagine yourself on another planet. It's a popular trip for photographers in the fall as the many lakes and canyons are filled with Aspens and vibrant colors. 

Unlike trips in the fall, we were completely alone on our winter excursion. Instead of trying to jockey for a spot to shoot Lundy Lake, I was able to take in the almost deafening silence of the socked in Mono Lake at sunrise. 

My hair even froze

My hair even froze

At a cool 15 degrees, I did have some issues with my gear freezing up on me. It took about 30-45 seconds in-between each photo for the file to render. I started to panic, I had a warm battery and a warm memory card in the pocket of my down coat, but even after switching out the cold battery, the camera was still operating very slowly. Luckily, this sunrise was different than most. Usually its a race against time to get the sky as it changes colors before the sun is up all the way. But the thick fog gave me as much time to shoot as I wanted. So I reset my gear again, and was able to to shoot at a normal pace after removing my remote shutter release receiver. 

As I look at these images, I find myself obsessing over the subtle changes and textures. The natural gradient the fog provided,  the snow covered Tufas, the thin sheet of ice on the water, the hoar frost indicating how still the environment had been. They all allow me time to quiet my mind.

I hope perhaps you can find yourself a quiet moment as well as you look through a few of my favorites. 



The New Year, New Challenge

Hello again. It's been over a year since my last post. Pretty embarrassing. 

My husband has challenged me to blog twice a month in 2017! Seeing how I didn't even get one out in 2016, I requested a simpler only once a month. But he is holding strong at 24 blog posts this year. 

So I figured a good place to start would be to reflect on my life and business last year. 

2016 got off to a rough start. Going into my 3rd year being self employed, I started to understand why people say life can be lonely as a small business owner. It felt like days would turn into weeks without talking to anyone besides my dog, Hydi. At first I didn't mind, I tend to be a bit of a hermit. But when it turned into a lack of work, panic attacks turned into a regular occurrence.

I had to make the effort to double down and change my day to day experience. 

I realized that one of the first things I had to do was put modeling on the back  burner. I ended up turning down an offer to be represented by an agency because I realized modeling was not a long term goal of mine. I didn't want the distraction any longer. 

The next thing I wanted to do was look at ways of expanding my photography work. Ryan (the husband) was involved in a lot of networking groups. I attended some of the social mixers with him and got to talk a lot about what I do. Opportunities to work outside the realm of family photography were starting to appear. It turns out something as simple as talking about your goals can open up doors! By the end of the year I was able to add a sizable amount of professional portraits/head shots to my portfolio. I hope to share some of the work with you that included some politicians, corporate clients, doctors, dental offices, and campaign brochures in future posts. 

I also had to opportunity to get my face out there once or twice. I was a guest on This Week in Photo 3 times in 2016. You can go here to check out the episodes I was a part of. 

Being featured in Lavish Living Magazine was also important to me and my business this past year. I was introduced to the publication early on in 2016 when I was featured as The Face of Sacramento Fashion Week. The publisher found out about my business and did a follow up story introducing my photography business to the Folsom/El Dorado Hills area. You can view the write up here

My biggest take away from last year was that it is possible to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and that people want to help you. All you have to do is talk about your goals. I also learned that I have a strong network of women in my life.... and I am pretty sure they are taking over the world. And you know what...I want to go with them!

Until next time!


The "Other" Senior Portrait

So this couple might kill me for that title, seeing as how they are not senior, but hopefully I can make it up to them by describing why their photo session was not only fun, but also a great reminder of what love should look like after after 30 years of marriage! 

Normally I get a call from a mom or dad to schedule a shoot for their children, perhaps they are in need of Senior Portraits for their high schooler. That's wonderful, some of my favorite work is with young adults, but how refreshing was it to hear "we want our portraits taken" (kids that are listening... hint: this would be an awesome gift to your parents) Let's think about it, after senior portraits, you have wedding photos and then what? Maybe a professional head shot to 2, but why do we stop putting ourselves in front of the camera? Does it really boil down to the fear of looking older? Well I say PSHHHAAAA! 

Picture this... your kids have moved out, they are either away at school or living the life you always imagined for them. Or maybe it's only been you and your honey all along and you are just looking for another adventure. You have plans to go to a formal event, you bought the dress, you didn't have to hire a sitter (kid or dog) and you decide "I look amazing". No qualifiers. Not "I look good for my age", instead you reflect on the life you have created with your better half and you say "we make this look good"

Then you call me. And we plan a photo shoot. You'll laugh, I will probably make you dance, and there will be lots of hugging and kissing. And you will smile, genuinely smile. You've earned it and the love you have for each other will shine through. 

That is what Pam and Jeff did. They are an amazing couple, they have raised wonderful children and they look at life with a sense of adventure and wonder. They have been married for 31 years and they still look to make the most out of every moment  ::insert applause here::: 

The 8x12 is the New Black

A note from your friendly photographer: PLEASE, can we start to move away from the 8x10?!

Allow me to explain…

As I continue on my adventure and learn about being a business owner, I work hard to not only provide you with a great experience during your photo session, but I also want to make it convenient for you to get prints and other products. Over the last 10 years or so, as the industry navigated the switch to digital, photographers inadvertently did a disservice to their clients by providing them with only digital files.

This has created a sea of choices for clients without a clear process to purchase products that they will be proud to show off. I can't tell you how many times I have heard “I have all these digital pictures that I need to print out and do something with” And, to be honest, most people never do it. This topic deserves much more conversation, there is a lot of talk in the industry about the "the lost generation" the ones that are photographed the most, but have nothing to show for it.  This is something that will be addressed in a future post, but for now… we are just going to have a quick lesson on aspect ratios and what it means to me (and should mean to you)

Aspect Ratio is simply the relationship between the width and the height of the image. This matters because the size of the censor in a digital camera or your iPhone or 35mm film camera or 4:5 large format film camera will affect what you see as a final result.

In my opinion, the 8x10 is a dated print size and does no justice to most images created in the digital world (or even the 35mm film world). Most digital cameras have a 3:2 ratio, so when when that image is enlarged, if you quadrupled the size, it's an 8x12, not an 8x10 (which comes from older 4:5 large format cameras)

When I look at my subject through the lens, I’m composing the image as I want it. To make an 8x10, 15% of my image is cropped out. Take for example the image I’ve used below to demonstrate different crop options. When compared to the 8x10 it is clear how much of the original image is lost. This was a fleeting moment. She was so excited to take me to the water and show me the geese. Standing over her, there was no way to change my vantage point, and if I had taken time to switch lenses, I would have lost the connection I had with her. Beyond that, when I looked though my camera I loved what I saw would’t have wanted to change it anyway.

Are you still with me? Ok, good, now for the visual aids :) 

So please, I beg of you, when you are looking at your gallery and selecting what you want to order, use this as a guide. There are times when the 8x10 crop won’t hurt the image and I still offer it for those that prefer it. But open your mind to the 8x12 and let’s start a revolution!

A tip from the pro:

I realize that standard frame sizes at Aaron Brothers or Michael's are slowly catching up with this idea. There is a section dedicated to "digital sizes", but the options are less. So instead of settling for a basic frame or paying to have the image custom framed, just add a mat!

Example: For your 8x12 print you can easily purchase an 11x14 mat with an 8x12 window cut out. This will allow you to purchase from the wide assortment of ready made 11x14 frames!! 

So to make your life as simple as possible...

Print sizes I LOVE

  • 4x6
  • 5x7
  • 8x12
  • 16x24
  • 20x30
  • 24x36

Print sizes I like much less

  • 8x10
  • 11x14
  • 16x20
  • 24x30

I really hope this helps you as you select your print sizes!



The First Year

I've officially made it through my first year of being self employed. It was bizarre. It was terrifying at times, but mostly it was fabulous. I've had some time to reflect on my year. Here's my list of 5 things that sum up my life this last 12 months.


1) The "how's it going?" question.  

'Hey Christine, I heard you went out on your own, how's that going?" Always leading me to decipher if the person asking wanted to know if I was succeeding or failing. Then accepting that not everyone wants to see you make it. Or maybe they do, but they assume that because I have chosen photography, I don't have much of a chance.  I got to a point when, no matter the intentions of the person asking... I answered "Well I'm not starving", poking fun at the age old "starving artist" adage. The truth is, I am very lucky to have supporters in my corner.  My husband thinks I have what it takes, my parents think I'm finally on the right track, I have a mentor helping me along the way and a handful or friends who believe in me. 


2) The "fake it till you make it" mantra

I started my year thinking this everyday. Up until last week it was still my motto, but it was a cop out. It was a way for me to take less responsibility. I've realized, I'm not faking anything. I'm working my tail off. I'm emotional when I need to be, and am truly happy with the work I am doing. If I'm faking my way through it, how can I possibly capture true and honest portraits? Sure there are many things about running a business I am learning as I go, but that is true for anyone. The important work, the images and my connections with my clients, there is nothing fake about it. 


3) The realization that I like my work.

As my body of work grows and I curate my favorites, I am proud. I am encouraged to keep going. If you had asked me 5 years ago to photograph a newborn baby, I would have probably run the other direction. I had every intention of working towards a boudoir/glamour business. But I am so happy with the direction my clients have taken me. I LOVE working with families, I love seeing them every year and being a apart of their traditions. I think documenting families as they grow is important work and I'm happy I get to be the one to do it. 


4) The crippling fear of everything!

So maybe this is just how I am, I can't say this is unique to my being self employed, but it's still very true. Maybe this is just how I operate, but it's (usually) incredibly motivating. Being an artist, having a creative profession, you hear time and time again "you can't compare yourself to others" Well, why the hell not? I'm terrified of failing, so the best way I know to avoid that is looking at images I love, study them, compare myself to them, and then figure out how I fell short and improve upon that! I LOVE looking at others work,it hurts and inspires all at once. I spend more time then I care to admit looking at photographs. Are there days it's discouraging? Obviously. But it's necessary and you can't let it slow you down. Failure, money, marketing, growing a business... yes there are days I don't want to get out of bed, but then I remind myself of item 3) I like my work... and that helps me put everything else away and keep moving forward. 


5) The Top Twelve

"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop" 

-Ansel Adams  

If it's good enough for Ansel, it's good enough for me. 😉 

Here are my 12 favorite images I made this year... 

The Beauty of Friendship

I had every intention of writing a novel about friendship to accompany these images, but I've changed my mind. Cherish your friends, nurture your relationships at every stage of your life, and by all means, go dance in the woods barefoot! 

Connor and Alyssa, your friendship is beautiful, you girls inspire me to keep doing what I do. I hope you love these images as much as I do. 



The Other Stuff

Most people have some idea of what I mean when I say I'm a photographer. But most people, it seems, have less of an idea of what it is I do as a Production Manager. Usually the questions goes something like this "I saw you tagged on Facebook as Production Manager, what is that?"

Well here is a little behind the scenes look at a commercial photo shoot we did this summer for the new RE Camera by HTC.  It was just announced at their Double Exposure event in NYC. 

My job, essentially, is to make sure there are no hurdles that could interfere with the photographers creative process. From hiring the team, to shopping for props, securing locations and permits, reviewing images and making sure the set looks perfect, to feeding everyone and of course making sure we have all the shots the client needs,  just to name a few things. 

For a list of gear that was used, head on over to Tim's blog

I hope you enjoyed a look at what we do. Huge thanks to the team we had!!

Team Photographer- Tim Engle 

Video/BTS -Edward Khoma 

Production -Christine Alward

1st assistant -David Harlan

Wardrobe Stylist - Simone Vianna

Hair/Makeup -Jenifer Haupt

Models- Melissa Brown & Hub Marc

The Portrait of a Child

I find myself staring at these images today. To me, they are a great example of what I strive for when capturing portraits of children. I want to be there when they are experiencing real moments in their life. Of course I love planning the beautifully styled shoots as well, but to capture powerful moments like these is very special to me. I think it's important to consider both types of photo shoots as I capture your family over time. A child playing is one discovering their world. They are learning things that shape who they become. To photograph them when their natural talents come to the surface makes me enjoy what I do even more. 

As adults we become so much more guarded with how much we allow ourselves to be seen in our photographs. We have been practicing the same smile and tilt of the head for years. It takes a great photographer to help us forget those overly practiced poses and find something a little more honest. I think the more the photographer can understand that, the better they will become in all types of photography.

Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is the one they would like to show to the world... Every so often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.
— Irving Penn

I don't mean to say that it's any easier to photograph a child. Often times there is fear of the camera or they are shy to meet me. A lot of kids are used to having pictures taken of them with a small phone, but many have never seen a large camera. They get a little nervous because they don't understand what it is. I am willing to teach them about the camera, get on the ground and follow them and wait for the moment to happen. It cannot be forced, I just have to be ready. However, a child is not afraid of how their image represents them in the world, they don't care if they have dirt on their face or messy hair, so it is far more likely they will allow me to capture the moment when it happens.

And if I may take it a step further, I believe once these children become adults and look back on these images, they will appreciate the truth I captured.

As adults, we aren't as willing to share that part of us as quickly as we did when we were children. However, we are happy to share that version of our younger selves with those who we believe to be judging our current image. I believe that is because, as Mr. Penn stated, we know that who we are at the core is wonderful. A great portrait is a powerful thing, I think it should start before the person finds the face they think the world wants to see, it should start with the one that finds adventure in what they do everyday, and maybe they will be able to hold onto the ability to show their true face just a little bit longer.