Session Share: Gunner, Toby, and Maui

This week is a session share with a beautiful family that recently welcomed a new furry family member in their home. Gunner is a 4 month old Chocolate Lab, that Toby and Maui welcomed with play bows and waggin’ tails!

Below are some of my favorites from their session.

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It’s that time of year again, time for fun festivities, shopping, decorating, and over indulgence.  This also means time for holiday photos.  Whether you choose to have photos taken for sharing on with loved ones on cards or to be framed for your mantle, here are a few tips and ideas for those photos!

  1. Use What You Have Around The House: You don’t need to go out and spend a lot to set up for a family photo, look around and use what you already have.  A Christmas tree with some gifts make a lovely set for a background. Be careful with small props, ornaments, lights, and some plants when using them in the photos they can be ingested which could be dangerous if ingested. If you use these items, be diligent in watching pets and children during the session.

  2. Involve the Entire Family: What is a holiday card without the entire family? Extended family and friends enjoy seeing the family change throughout the years, and what everyone is up to.  If this includes pets, make sure they are comfortable with their surroundings and with each other.  You want them to look at ease and not worried, this will help if they are comfortable with the environment, and those in the photo.

  3. Cats, Dogs, Lizards, Birds & Horses in the Same Photo?  It is doable!  If they do not like one another, which we all know this is not an uncommon dynamic, that is okay.  If they can tolerate each other, then place them on opposite sides of the portrait, as if they are framing the family.  If this is not possible, then get creative, maybe do photos with them separate and create a collage. When I get the request for the entire family with this dynamic, it is possible to seamlessly edit the images together when the photos are acquired using the same setting, lighting set ups and planning on positioning in the final image.  This is called a composite image, and does take a bit of extra time and skill to execute properly.  

  4. Come Up with a Theme: Be creative! Center the theme around the family, something that you guys enjoy doing as a family.  Some them ideas:

      1. PJ Party

      2. Christmas Cozy

      3. Holiday Outing

      4. Tree Selection

Whether you decide to choose a cozy in home settings or something on location, remember it is all about everyone having fun- this will come across in the photos themselves.


Session Share: Mia

Session Review:

I wanted to look back on a session I had a few weeks ago, this was for the winners of the Bow Wows and Meows Signature Session Raffle Winner.

Jeff and Michelle Purdy and Mia. The Purdy’s choose for the shoot to take place at the Placenta Nature Center in Valencia, which I could not have chosen a better place.  The Nature Center is amazing place, and has several areas for lovely backdrops.  Jeff and Michelle were amazing and Mia was such a trooper, very ready to explore!  

The Signature Session includes an hour on location session, which below are some of the photos from the session.


Coming Together

Today I wanted to write not about photography, but about how amazing it is to see people come together in times of need.  I live in southern California; about 20 miles of the Woolsey fire, and am part of the Los Angeles county ERT.  The ERT is a group of specially trained volunteers that are activated to assist with the horses and livestock during devastating events, such as natural disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, as well as manmade disasters.  This team not only is trained to assist with the evacuation but also with sheltering and aftercare, until the animals can return home.

When I arrived on-site Friday, horses were being brought in by the trailer-load, some were being driven by the drivers of the farm/ranch owners and others were being driven by Good Samaritans, people who are skilled in driving trailers, but are volunteering their services to help those who in need.  The ERT has Level 3 members that assist directly with the evacuations, as well as teams of drivers that work with the county.  Every man was on deck to help those people and animals in need; the goal is to evacuate everyone out to safety and then taking care of them during this distressing time in their lives. 

As the animals would come in, they would be assigned a stall, and given the necessities of water and forage.  Remember this is one of the scariest moments in their lives too, and we are there to make sure they know they are now safe.  The volunteers and county staff were there to make sure these animals were cared for, and then their people could have one less thing to worry about.  By taking care of their horses, sheep, goats, dogs, chickens, alpacas, donkeys, and even a pig, the victims of the fire could focus on other aspects of their lives.  It will not be an easy road, as of today (a week later) this fire is still active burning just over 98,000 and only 57% contained, but a team of caring people come to the aid of those in need to help with one of the most valuable parts of those peoples lives. 

These volunteers are a handful of people assisting in giving aid during this disaster, I want to thank everyone involved from the men and women on the front lines fighting this flame to the volunteers giving their time to the ones donating clothes, food, and funds to those who need it the most. This is what being human is about, putting our differences aside and helping those when they need it the most

Woolsey Fire Burns In Background

After the Pups Big Day. . .

So the big day is over. . .Now What? Today we will talk about what happens after the session is complete.

Once we have parted ways, this is not the end, but the continuation of creating the perfect images of your session.  After downloading all of the images, I go through each one and deciding which will make it to the editing process.  Depending on the session, this will take some time, as it is usually several hundred images.  Only the best will make the cut and move into the editing programs.  That’s a right, these images will go through multiple editing programs. I shoot in a format called RAW, which means I am able to pick up the all the tiny details and colors without compression.  The RAW images will be upload and edited in Lightroom for exposure, highlights, shadows, tones, etc., while going through this process I will then do a second round of culling or cutting photos from the ones will make it to the next step. The images that have made it through the second round of drafts will be edited in Photoshop, this will include object removal, background changes, and . . .

Some of these edits can take hours depending on what is needed to make the photo spectacular. A personal proof gallery will be created and hosted for you and the final edits will be uploaded.  From here you will be able to decide on what digitals, prints, and canvases you would like to download or have printed and keep.

As you can see there is more than meets the eye when it comes to a photo session.  We are creating more than just photos from your special moment, but works of art for you to cherish as forever memories.

UpComing Event! Bow Wows and Meows

This week I will take a moment to mention a wonderful event coming to the Santa Clarita Valley that I get the privileged to be a part of: Bow Wows and Meow.  This event is one that supports a cause near and dear to my heart: Animal Adoption. My first volunteer position was at the local animal shelter at the age of 12, and I later was hired on and even after I resigned (to continue my education) I stayed on as a volunteer.  So, I know first had how important adoption is, and the difference it makes, not only to the animal, but also the family.  I will not get on a soapbox here with statistics, but will encourage everyone to come out and enjoy the event.

Event Details:

Sunday, October 14, 2018 11am-4pm at Hart Park (24151 Newhall Ave, Santa Clarita, CA 91321)

There will be something for the entire family from dog shows, vendors, and even raffles!!!

Catching Up with Old Friends

As you well know, I am a huge horse person, and have spent a majority of my life in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky.  While there I volunteered with a great organization called Old Friends.  For those of you that are not familiar with it, this is a retirement farm for retired racehorses; they specialize in pensioned stallions, but do have several geldings and mares as well.  One of the most famous residents is the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Silver Charm. Other residents include the horse that kept him from the triple crown that year, Touch Gold, as well as Game On Dude, War Emblem, Sarava, Alphabet Soup, Afternoon Deelights, and You and I.  I could go on and on, there are so many wonderful horses there.  Other than the horses, they have an amazing staff, this team is such an asset, and takes care of each horse as they were the only horse on the farm.  Tim and I are always catching up and comparing notes on our photographs, subjects we have been shooting and techniques.  I definitely miss being out there at times, so any chance I get to drop by I always take it.

Below are a few photos from the trip:

Touch Gold Galloping Over to Say Hello

Touch Gold Galloping Over to Say Hello

Yahoo taking it easy.  Not much gets this guy riled up.

Yahoo taking it easy. Not much gets this guy riled up.

Fun Night at the Red Mile!

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to travel back to where it all began, Lexington.  I spent several days in the area, photographing my old stomping grounds.  First stop is always something to do with horses, now it was not the typical Thoroughbred most people think about when Kentucky is said, but rather the Red Mile track in downtown Lexington.  This track is known for its red clay surface, from where it’s name derives, and holds its meet in late summer and runs in the crisp days of October. Standardbreds typically are raced pulling a sulky (the cart where the jockey sits), but at times ca be raced under saddle.  Either way, there are 2 gaits this wonderful breed shows on the track: trot or pace.  The trot is where legs on the same side track opposite of one another, meaning the left side front leg is forward and the left side rear leg is back, and then on the right the front leg is back and the rear leg is forward.  This is a gait that can be seen naturally in all breeds.  Now the pace, is a little different, the legs on the same side track the same directions, meaning that both the front and rear leg on the left will go forward, while the front and rear leg on the right will point to the back.  This gait is less likely to be seen naturally in many other breeds.  Horses are bred for this gait, and then nurtured to improve it once they start training. The pace is a faster gait than the trot, and the two never compete in the same race.  To hear the pounding sound of the Standardbreds hooves across the red clay is something that needs to be witnessed in person, and is a must stop for any visitor to the area.

Here are a few photos from that night.


Session Share. . ."Boogie"

During my short trip to Kentucky I had a wonderful opportunity to get back to my roots, and relax.  While there I had the request to perform a Dog’s of Summer Session for a beautiful 3-year-old Female Rottweiler, “Boogie”. 

She was a natural for the camera, always aware of where it was, and what was needed of her to show off her best side.  I was able to snap a few candid images as well.  This is something I think is very important for a photo session, it shows the true personality of the animal, the side usually only the family sees. 

Session’s like this is why I do what I do, this is one very loved pup, and it is so rewarding to give the family a forever memory with these photographs.



Event Review

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being the official photographer for the Greater Los Angeles Paint Horse Association 4 H Youth Horse Show.  This show was at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, and there are very few locations, where the event is just a hop skip and away from the Pacific Ocean.  This happens to be one of them, and the weather could not have been more perfect sunny and 75.  There was a nice cross breeze coming off the water, and the smell of the ocean wafting in the air.

These kids were amazing; they competed in multiple disciplines from English Equitation to Barrel Racing.  They were very focused in the arena, and it showed how much they had worked to get there.  Instructors were there tips and last minute words of advice for the participants.   The judges were amazing, giving each youth one on one tips and even brought the entire group in after the events to explain overall what/where there was room for improvement.  The organization volunteers were outstanding, giving time back to support the cause. 

To be part of this event was such an honor, it is amazing to think this group is our next generation of horsemen. 



5 tips to Help Improve Your Equine Photographs

As we all know, horses have a mind of their own, so photographing them is not always the easiest of task.

Below are a few tips that can help you out when your are searching to get the perfect photo from  your equine friend.

1.     Using Sound:

a.     Sounds that are not a normal everyday audible for your subject will help out tremendously.  Some horses are treat driven, so peppermint wrappers or opening the bag where their favorite treats are held can also do the trick to getting their attention.

2.     Proper Lighting:

a.     Lighting is very important in all photos.  If using natural lighting, choose time of day carefully.  Early morning and late afternoon are your best times this is a softer light so to create optimal photos. Remember do not shoot with the light behind the horse, unless the silhouette technique is your goal.

3.     Pay Attention to the Background:

a.     Not many things are worse than a lot of clutter from random equipment to kill the mood of a photograph.  Check out the location prior to the session, this will help to find the exact location to prevent unwanted background debris.

4.     Multiple Subjects:

a.     If the goal is multiple horses, a few things need to be considered.  Make sure they are acquainted with one another, and get along.  The latter of that statement is a biggy, It is not safe for anyone involved to photograph multiple horses that do not get along. 

5.     Have Fun and Explore:

a.     Make sure to have fun.! This is important, there are so many different ideas in creating equine photographs.  Don’t stay inside the box, try new things, but stay safe.

These few tips will help you improve your horse photos.

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From Color to Black and White. . .Why???

Black and white processing is a monochromatic technique which contains greys that sit in the spectrum of absolute black to absolute white.  Color in a photo is needed and great to show certain emotion, but sometimes the photographer wants to create a fine-art feeling, show texture, or give a different perspective. Black and white photography tends to decrease distractions that allow the viewer to see the composition of a photo. 

I enjoy working with black and white processing when editing a session.  When I find a photo where black and white suites the image, I will still offer both edits to the client. Not all people have the same preferences when it comes to their photos being in black and white, and that is fine. 

There are a few things that I consider when selecting an image for black and white. 

1.     How busy is the photo?

If there is a lot of background activity this could not allow for the subject to contrast to the background which will lead to a muddled grey-tone.

2.     How is the lighting?

The muddled greys would also apply if there were not enough contrast lighting on the subject.

3.     Are the colors needed? 

A sunset over the ocean may not be a good candidate for processing in black and white, the emotion will not transfer the same. 



Above is a comparison of images from a combine driving competition.  

There are many other edits that can be made to allow the photographer to create a certain feel, including cropping, background swapping, blurring, etc; we will go over some of these in future post.


Black and White photographs create a timeless feel, and it will be a techniques photographers may consider when processing a session.

Is it Really That Different to Photographing Animals and Landscapes?

Within the field of photography there are many niches: sports, automobile, nature, landscape . . . the list could go on forever, and then within those are more specialized niches.  A photographer chooses their area because it is what they are drawn to, it is what they love to convey to the audience.  I chose to photograph animals, specifically horses and dogs, because I enjoy being around them, and the challenge of bringing their personality through a photograph.


What makes shooting animals different?  There is a lot that goes into the planning of any session whether it is for a senior graduation or for a furry family member.  However, with animals there is a little more involved than asking someone to sit, look at the camera, and smile.  Animal photographers need to have the ability to read and understand an animal’s body language.  Truth is all animals convey being uncomfortable in different ways, and a photographer in tune with these signs will be able to listen and change the tone of the session.


Animals are able to tell you a lot without using a word if you are willing to listen. What is their posture?  Are the ears back or forward? Is the tail tucked? What is the expression in their eyes? Are they comfortable or nervous?  If they are nervous, what is causing this and how can we (as the photographer) make them more comfortable.  They need to feel comfortable during the shoot, and that requires the photographer to recognize when something needs to change, location, set up, or even the lens.


As someone that understands every animal is different, I know the importance for flexibility and patience.  Not every technique will work for every animal, and a good animal photographer will understand this.  Maybe getting down and rolling around with “Luci” to make her comfortable works, but “Jax” is a bit more reserved and needs to have his space. In the case of “Jax”, he is comfortable with the surroundings, but not with my presence: That is okay!  I would opt for the telephoto lens and shoot from a distance and I can work my way back to him: if he allows.  The most important thing is for them to feel comfortable so their personality will shine through, and you will have the best of them within the photo.




Getting Your Furry Family Member Ready for Their Close Up. . .

The location is locked down . . . the photographer is booked . . .what’s next?  Today we will talk about getting your pet ready for their big day.


1.     Familiarize yourself and pet with the location.

The first and foremost thing is knowing your pet’s personality, we do not want them uncomfortable during this session, this will lead to this links back to the post a few weeks ago on location.  If you have a pet that is shy, and does not like new spaces, take him/her to the session location a few times to let them familiarize themselves with the area.  It will give you guys some bond time, and help ease any anxiety they have about an unfamiliar area.


2.     Take the time to Groom Ahead of the Session

Do not overlook the importance of grooming; it does make a huge difference.  Make sure to get those whites sparkling, the brown is really suppose to be brown, and get rid of any knots or burrs out of their coat/hair. We take for granted shorter haired animals, but they too will benefit greatly from a good bath and brush spa session.  Not only will they look wonderful, they will also feel amazing.


3.     Bring Items that Will Reflect Your Pets Personality

Yes, props are ok.  Is there a favorite toy you want to use? Sure lets incorporate it.  Now, if you want something new, that your pet has never seen, for example a flower crown/wreath?  Take the time at home (where your pet feels safe), and slowly introduce you pet to this new strange concept of putting something on/over their head.  They maybe okay with this, and that is terrific, next lets see how they act when asked to “Leave It”.  This will be the real test! Yes, I am fast with the shutter, but sometimes they are a little quicker.  Also, if they just are not keen on the idea and are terrified, that is also okay! Tweak the idea a little, maybe instead of a wreath/crown let have the session in a flower field.


4.     Get Everything Ready at Least the Day Before

There is nothing worse than getting somewhere then realizing you forgot what you needed the most!  Trust me, I travel . . . A LOT!!!  So, at least the day before the big day, pack yourself a day bag: props, grooming supplies (for those last minute touch ups), snacks (both for you and the furry one), and anything else you may need. 


Always remember, this is an exciting day for everyone involved, HAVE FUN!!!



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Choosing the Right Photographer for the Job

So you’ve decided that you want to make the investment of a portrait session of your beloved 4-legged family member.  How do you go about choosing a photographer?  Where do you start? Below are a few steps to help you out along the way.


1.     Decide on a Style:

Every photographer has his/her on style that is what makes the profession so diverse.  You want to make sure your vision matches the photographer’s style.   Look through many portfolios, and narrow it down to a few you like.


2.     Set Up Interviews:

Once you have narrowed your selection, contact those you like and set up an interview.  This can be over the phone, Skype, or even in person, just make sure you get the one on one you need to see if your personalities mesh.  Remember it’s very important you like your photographer, this is someone that you will be working with closely to capture some special moments, and you want it to be pleasant for all involved. 


3.     Ask Questions:

Go over any questions you may have for them. Here are a few that you may want to ask:

1.     What are the sessions you offer? From pricing to what is included with each package.

2.     What is your animal experience? You want someone that will be comfortable with your pet.  If you know your pet has some quirky personality traits, please bring them up here, this will help with your choice

3.     What is the turn over time once the session is complete to review the gallery?  You want to be in the know for this, and not be waiting months for your photos.


These are just to get you thinking.

Any questions you have, please ask.  This will help alleviate any anxiety or worry about the session.


In the end you will choose the right photographer for you.  Once you find the photographer you love, keep them! Photographers enjoy the seeing the pets grow up and welcoming new furry members to the family. It helps eliminate the process of choosing a new photographer if you already have one you feel comfortable with and know that they will deliver to your expectations.




So You Want Your Photo Session at the Top of the World's Largest Waterfall. . . Let's Talk. . .

Imagine a waterfall almost 11 football fields long by one football field high; this is the size of Victoria Falls in southern Africa! Yes, that would be one heck of a session setting, but lets talk for a second about setting up for the perfect location. 

Taking on the task of looking for the perfection location can be daunting.  No need to fear, below are a few pointers to take into consideration to find that perfect spot.

1.     What feel do you want?

Are you wanting simply beautiful or it tell a story? If you want somewhere that is unfamiliar, visit.  Take the pet; this will help for when the session day comes everyone is comfortable.

2.     How busy is the location?

If you want a very busy area, research different times to decrease the foot traffic.  This is help with ensuring you have less interruptions and more time with the camera.

3.     Is the location accessible safely by all parties? 

Most locations with some tweaking it’s possible to set up a location, but not all of the time and this should be taken under consideration.

4.     Is it safe on a personal level?

We touched on accessibility safety; also consider personal safety!  Is the area safe, or is there a high chance of being harmed or stolen from.  Sessions should not be conducted where someone’s personal well being is at risk.

5.     What if there is implementing weather?

This is always a possibility, and should be high on the list for consideration. If it rains or snows is there a shelter where the session could still take place?  Are you willing to withstand the elements to complete the shoot? Talk to your photographer if they are even willing to expose their gear to this scenario.


Extra tip: Parks are a great start!!! They can be huge, and there are nooks and crannies everywhere, go out and scout ahead.  Narrow it down to a few spots and visit different times of the day on different days of the week.  This will help with deciding on what the perfection location will be for your session. 

After reading this, and the world’s largest waterfall is still on the list, amazing!

Remember the possibilities are ENDLESS!!!


From The Medical to the Artistic Side of the Spectrum

Medical to Artistic Side of Working with Animals

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