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Dancing with the Cows

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: engagementportraitsbarnfarm.cowslove

Born and raised in Petaluma, Joseph has been visiting his friend at a barn on the mountain since high school. After the wedding proposal to his sweet heart Joanna, Joseph called me to shoot their engagement portraits at the barn.

On the way to Petaluma's country road, I was expecting to use a horse as the prop and was trying hard to compose some ideal shots in my head. But when I arrived the barn, I quickly found out that there were no horses but rather a bunch of cows!

So we crossed over the fence and carefully walked toward the cows to include them in the background. I remembered many years ago when I was driving in a remote area in Yakima, WA, I pulled over to a cow farm to take photos of the peaceful looking cows. As I approached closer to the fence, one of the cows was surprised by my presence and ran quickly toward my left. Suddenly the rest of the cows (hundreds of them) all charged in the same direction, and I was shocked and scared for my safety.  So this time when I crossed over the fence to shoot the portrait, I was a bit hesitant.  Foruntely, the cows were calm and just gazed us with curiosity from a distant. Thanksfully, we had some great shots.

Modern Vintage Photo Backdrop at Fort Point

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: engagementportraitportraitweddingfortpointgoldengatebridge

Engagement portraits are usually taken months prior to the wedding. It's a perfect opportunity to wear the favorite clothing and have romantic portraits taken professionally. San Francisco provides so many beautiful backdrops for portraits of all kinds - the beach, downtown skyscrapers, lakes, gardens,  etc. Yet the iconic Golden Gate Bridge remains the top popular location for locals and tourists.

The couple loved the architectural elements of Golden Gate Bridge and bricks at Fort Point. It's a distinguished spot that has both modern structures and vintage textures. Built in  1853, the fort was completed just before the American Civil War. Canons were mounted on the rooftop aiming toward possible enemies that might pass through the strait, where Golden Gate Bridge was built many years later. Although no battle occurred at the fort, it remains an interesting site to visit as a historic landmark. The best thing about it is that one can see Golden Gate Bridge up close directly from below. This location is one of the most unique spots for photographers.

Portrait Collage for kids

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: kidchildrenportraitcollage

I just love photographing kids (as long as they don't come in the studio in an already bad mood). Their innocent express is priceless and would be quickly lost as they grow up fast. Photographing kids require lots of energy but rewarding when capturing shots of them smiling.

Shooting kids is a different world than shooting grown-ups. I feel like a clown when I photograph kids. Kids have short concentration timespan. The photo session needs to be done quickly before they lose interest. I find the use of props is highly effective in getting their attention. I often use a plastic hammer that emits a loud sound as I bang it on my head. That should get their laugh for a least 10 shots before they get bored. Then I reach to my next prop - a soft orange ball made of styrofoam attached to a long string. I would throw the ball at them and it would retract back just before they could grab it. The ball is a highly effective trick, especially for the boys. If I still need to take more shots, I would use a toy snake that makes noise when squeezed and wrap it around my camera lens. It probably won't make kids laugh but they would stare at my lens with curiosity.

A framed photo collage (featured above) showing kids' various expression makes an awesome wall display at home and make the parents proud.

From Russia with Love

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: familyportraitrussiancrissyfield

This lovely Russian family lives in Alaska. They were traveling to San Francisco and wanted to take family portraits by Golden Gate Bridge. We started with some traditional portraits then ended with some unexpectedly fun shots. For this featured portrait, I arranged the family members apart from each other and asked them to strike a different pose for each count of three. The result is a natural yet lively shot portraying the personality of each family member.

Row. row, row your love - engagement portrait at Stow Lake

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: boatlakeloveportraitengagementstowlakegoldengatepark
Jordan is an avid boat rower and wanted something different for engagement portraits. I suggested that we go to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Parks where they could rent the boat for an hour.

It was a beautiful sunny morning on the date of the photo shoot. I arrived a bit earlier to scout out the best lighting and noticed the glare from the rising sun over the lake. I knew it would be the perfect back-lit light for dramatic effect but would have to careful with the low contrast and light spills.

Leanel, Jordan and I met at the boat rental, and I followed them around the scenic lake on foot. At first, I was a bit worried that I might not catch up with the speed of the boat. It turned out that our pace was about the same. That allowed me to take my time to compose and capture the photos. Communication wasn't an issue as I used my body language to tell them to stop or spin the boat around for the perfect angles. I used a long lens (Nikon 70mm to 200mm f2.8) to zoom in closely from the far distant on the shore, and this narrowed the perspective and highlighted the depth of the couple on the boat.

The bride and groom to be now have some awesome portraits for their Save-the-Date cards.

A birthday present for herself

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: birthdayportraitmotheranddaughter
Gricelia called and said, "It's my birthday today. I want a nice photo taken with my daughter as a birthday present to myself".  She said she never had a good photo taken with her daughter, and she'd be happy if I could take just one good photo. I said to her, "No worries. You will have lots of beautiful portraits to choose from." Later Gricelia came to the studio with her daughter, and we took a variety of shots. After seeing the proofs, she was so happy and thanked me for the nicest birthday present in her life. It always moved me when I hear someone feel great about themselves with their portraits, and the portraits will bring her a lifetime of joy whenever she looks at them.

Family Portrait Session with San Francisco Cityscapes

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: familyportraitssanfranciscocityscapepalaceoffineartspaintedladiesgoldengatebridge
The family flew in from Texas for a vacation in San Francisco. They wanted to take some memorable family portraits with distinctive landmarks. So we met at Mark Hopkin Hotel in Nob Hill and got in a limo for a fun three-hour photo shoot around the city.

Our first stop was Palace of Fine Arts. It was crowded, as usual, so we waited for the right moment to take some clean shots without too many people in the background.

The ever popular Golden Gate Bridge was on the top of their list. We then headed to Crissy Field as the lighting would be the best in the afternoon. The weather was a bit cold and windy. However, the most challenging part was the crowd in the background. I had to do some Photoshop magic to remove people that could be distracting elements. Well, it looked better after half an hour of erasing and cloning.

The limo driver drove the long stretch limo in turtle speed (well, it was a Sunday and no one seemed to be in a hurry anyway), so it took a long while to arrive Alamo Park for the Painted Ladies. The family grew up watching the popular TV series "Full House" and told me about the new Full House episodes called "Fuller House" that's only available on Netflix. I led them to the famous postcard spot on top of the green hill of the park and took shots of the family in front of the colorful Victorian houses of the Painted Ladies.

With so many fantastic backdrops from neighborhood to neighborhood, we could spend days to shoot all of the famous landmarks. That's what's so unique about the beautiful city!

Friends are Forever!

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: friendsflowersfriendshipfunphotowreaths

Nadya had a bright idea for her baby shower. She invited her best friends over to her house to draw flowers, then make flower wreaths, and then take a photo of everyone together with their flowers to create a photo as a lasting memory.

When Nadya hired me for the photo shoot and told me about the idea, a picture was illustrated in my head, as I tried to visualize how it could be done. First, we need a tall ceiling, then a ladder, then a white background and floor large enough for seven ladies to lay down. The most challenging part was the lighting. I decided to point my flash upward to the ceiling for a soft, broad light that would evenly illuminate everyone's face without cause shadow.

The result was just as we had visioned - beautiful ladies formed a circle surrounded by colorful flowers that represent everlasting friendship.

Joanne and Niko's Unforgetable Night Photo Shoot

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: engagementportraitspier7

Engagement portrait photo shoot at night can be charming and enchanting. Thanks to the great winter weather (although California really needs water due to lack of rain in this season), Nicole wear able to put on her favorite red dress and her fancy red shoes for the shoot.

Taking portraits at the popular Pier 17 can be challenging. It's usually windy and sometimes crowded. We were fortunately enough to arrive at dusk while the velvet sky was just turning deep blue. The romantic couple Joanne and Niko will be getting married at Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Oakland. They have selected their favorite large framed portrait to be display at their wedding reception. I love their portraits so much that I also printed a colorful large portrait for my studio's back-lit LED frame display.

Melissa and Christian's Urban Portraits

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: portraits

What a super fun shoot with the sweet couple Melissa and Christian. They drove all the way up to the city with their family from central valley. I loved their idea of wearing masquerade masks and how they dress in black and white. Click here to see video slideshow.

An UFO crashed into my shot!

Published by in Portraits ·
Tags: ufochinabeach

The image is from a recent engagement portrait session with a lovely couple Ashley and Jeremy. The couple had just ordered their photos, so I was pulling out the images to print. Suddenly, I noticed there was a black spot on the photo, and I thought it was a bird. After I zoomed in to retouch it out, I was surprised to see an unidentified flying object. There were just a few people on the beach, and I was certain no one was playing frisbee. It would have been a huge frisbee based on the size and distance. No one was throwing anything into the ocean, as I would have noticed it in the background. It was neither a blimp nor a balloon. I took several shots within seconds of the same scene and it only appeared on one of the images. Click on the image to enlarge. What could it be?

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