Fifteen of my favorite images from 2015.
Three handsome boys, fresh snow and lots of energy! That's what this lifestyle portrait session was all about. And fun. It was also about fun. Mom was pleased we got all of them smiling (and gasp!) looking like they liked each other, haha, but I didn't have to do anything to coax that out of them ... this session was simply boys being boys being brothers.
We've been living in our snow pants lately. Whether or not there is snow on the ground, most everything is covered in frost and everybody seems happier when all their parts and bits are nice and toasty.
We drove up to Eklutna Lake just to get outside the other day. The boys resisted at first but guess who didn't want to leave? They quickly busied themselves ice cutting (thank you, Frozen) and stick gathering and log crossing and just generally enjoying themselves outside in a pretty dang pretty setting. The blues are so blue, but there was something about the textures in the muted browns were really catching my eye. Not my typical photo share, but then Alaska is not your typical place.
A full fall color family lifestyle session in Chugiak, Alaska.Read More
I had a rare day of nothing planned so these two indulged me in a photo shoot, and even donned some dapper duds for the occasion. Don't be surprised if you see one or more of these again on our Holiday cards later this year.
ps. Fireweed is in bloom! And if you look closely, you can see a bee buzzing in the fireweed portrait, thus he is leaning as far away as he possibly can.
Family portrait session in Eagle River, AlaskaRead More
Are you on Steller? Steller is my new favorite app and not just because they're featuring this story in their PLACES collection. I like the aesthetic, the ease of use, the ability to tell a story with a set of images, rather than just one.
Let me know if you're on Steller so I can follow you!
My soon-to-be six year old is obsessed with all things Star Wars. His birthday party theme, it is.
Here are a few favorite party details:
Bubble wand lights sabers. I spray painted the handles silver. I'd hoped they'd be able to play with the bubbles outside. The rain kept us indoors, but didn't stop the kids from using the wands as light sabers.
Death Star Piñata. The silver spray paint also came in handy to create a simple Death Star pinata. Formerly a dented soccer ball piñata, in silver it looked just fine to me, without any other detailing.
Glow stick light sabers. Yoda adorned the gift bags, sporting a glow stick bracelet light saber.
... stays in Vegas.Read More
Meghan glows in morning light.Read More
If Corinna is tough to capture, Lindsey is that much more challenging. She has been my roommate for our last two gatherings, and still! (Watch out, Lindsey, next time I'll photograph you sleeping if I have to.) She was my partner in waking up early and getting out to shoot. She is an inspiration, an Impossible Pioneer, and always has more than one camera at the ready. Black and white suits her though her own images are often full of bold color. Follow her bold beauty on instagram @modchik.
Corinna is one of those naturally beautiful people whose words and images always hit at the soul level.
She hosted a few friends at her house in the mountains in Colorado last fall and whipped up the most delicious soup from fresh roasted chiles. She took us hiking and to hot springs and all the places she knew we'd want to see and photograph. Photographing her, however, is no small feat. She likes to observe and is most often seen with the camera up to her pretty eyeballs. She was kind enough to put her camera down and sit here a spell.
Lately she's been traveling the world as a storyteller for a NGO. The job is brilliant for her, and she for it. You can follow her travels on instagram @birdwannawhistle.
I am in the business of capturing moments.
This is a recent favorite from my own life. When I look at this image, I can feel the sunshine and I can hear the waves. I can hear his unbridled delight. I can feel his pure joy in -- after months of being buried under layers and layers -- running barefoot in the sand, wild and free.
This is why I love photography.
After a long, dark winter, my heart felt so very alive.Read More
Instagram has been one of my favorite photography communities. In the fall, I was thrilled to participate in a Shutter Sisters collaborative effort with Lensbaby and their mobile lens. Hashtag: #travelinglensproject
Here are a few new Instagram hashtags I intend to frequent:
The always-lovely Susannah Conway has been speaking my language lately. She's doing a daily photo and email prompt for the month of April -- April Love 2015 -- that I'm excited to do. Hashtag: #aprillove2015
Viewfinders is a new collaborative effort by some of my very favorite photographer friends. Hashtag: #viewfindersio
Do you Instagram? What about Vine? Snapchat? Meerkat? If you are on any of these and we aren't already connected, lets! Leave your handle in the comments.
You can find me most places @tarawanders
Vegas and I have some history. For the longest time I did my best to avoid it. On a whim, I visited Vegas when European travel plans were crushed by a weak dollar. On that trip, I met my future-husband. Less than two years later, we moved to Las Vegas. We were there three years. They were good years but I hadn't been back since we moved away.
I returned to Las Vegas recently for WPPI 2015 -- Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. As always, I walked away from WPPI with notebooks full of ideas to bring back to my clients and shoots.
If you've never attended WPPI before, here are a few tips:
1. Study the schedule.
My dear friend Boots assumed this conference was like others conferences she'd attended where the good stuff is at the beginning. She booked her hotel and flight accordingly and ended up missing the Expo entirely as well as all the Platform Classes, not to mention the opening party! She ended up shelling out more cash to attend some early Master Classes but her pickings were rather slim by the time she'd realized her mistake.
Also you'll want to read up on the speakers. Roberto Valenzuela is always one of my favorites. His talks are always loaded with useful information and I appreciate his sense of humor (as well as his accent). But try to get an idea of what the speaker is shilling before committing to a session. Everybody is shilling something, some of it is more useful than others. And do use WPPI's pre-board system for the sessions you really want to see.
2. Watch the print competition.
I learned so much from the live judging of the print competition. Key learnings: print quality and technical execution matter and just because a client loves an image does not mean it will score well in the competition.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
The MGM Grand is the biggest of the big resorts and you will be hoofing it to get to coffee or food or anything not conference related.
Beyond WPPI, Las Vegas looked a little different than the last time I was there. My absolute new favorite spot was on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental. I made a reservation for a window table at the Mandarin Bar around sunset and was not disappointed. With Giant windows well above the fray, it was an oasis of calm and elegance. I brought my husband back a second time.
The Linq is a new addition, as is the High Roller at the pinnacle of its promenade. We'd just spent several days at Disneyland and were on theme park ride overload or I would have given it a whirl, but regardless, it makes a photogenic addition to the Las Vegas skyline. Also on that Linq Promenade is the Polaroid-Fotobar, another must-visit for photographer types.
As we drove away from Disneyland, my husband and I marveled at the empire that is Disney. We mused about what it was really like to be a cast member at Disneyland, if they were as happy to be there as they seemed to be. A few days after our trip, I received a survey from Disneyland Resorts asking me any number of questions but the one that really stuck with me was the one that asked if anything "magical" had happened. Magical.
Imagine a place where cast members are directed to go out of their way to give you a magical experience. In a place that is gob-smacked with crowds, where apps exist simply to help you avoid the longest lines and busiest days, cast members are tasked with making magic for guests.
Would I describe our visit to Disneyland with two boys aged 4 and 5 as magical? In a word, yes.
Carsland was their first ever favorite movie come to life. Both boys were both tall enough to ride Radiator Springs Racers and so we did so 3 times the first day (no doubt aided by FastPass and Magic Mornings).
Star Tours allowed the boys to "ride" a Star Wars space craft through a Star Wars scene. I didn't realize at the time that there are 50 different scenes for this flight simulation ride. My guys probably would have stayed on this ride all day if we'd known, just to experience all of them.
At the Jedi Training Academy the boys donned Jedi robes, learned a few light saber moves AND fought Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Also, the show is a hoot for parents to watch. The boys never felt braver. We will never stop talking about this experience.
A few tips:
1. Offseason meant some features were closed for refurbishment. Even the signature castle was under wraps. I might have felt differently if this was our first or only visit but we'd seen World of Color and had ridden Peter Pan's Flight on previous trips. Offseason for us meant smaller crowds and shorter lines and I was all for it.
2. Jedi Training Academy. We wore Star Wars t-shirts and sat in the first row for the first show as I had read we should do. The first show was packed. Parents had their kids holding signs: "Yoda is my preschool teacher." Our boys didn't get selected. We came back later when other people were claiming parade viewing spots. The boys donned mouse ears in addition to their Star Wars shirts and were the first padawans recruited to the stage. I was worried that they'd be afraid when Darth Vader appears. To prepare, they watched a YouTube video of the Jedi Training Academy. They couldn't wait to have a chance to fight Vader! I was also worried only one (if any) of our two would be selected. The Jedi Master is no dummy. He selected kids in groups of two (give or take) and seemed to make every effort to include all interested siblings, especially in that much less crowded afternoon show.
3. Fantasmic Fastpass. You can buy a meal to ensure a good viewing spot for Fantasmic. You can also grab a free Fastpass. We opted for the latter not knowing if we'd still be standing by dark. The FastPass put us in the Green section on the bridge by Pirates of the Caribbean. I never would have guessed, but it was a great spot to watch the show, and cast members kindly helped us find an unobstructed viewing spot within their roped off section.
4. 40" is the magic height. Our littlest was too little for some rides on our last visit. Naturally, meltdowns ensued. This time, he was just over 40". He got measured EVERY SINGLE TIME a ride had a 40" requirement. And every single time he got the green light. And every single time I saw him stand a little prouder and be a little braver. The confirmation of being tall enough, even just, felt good.
5. Ideal camera lens for Disneyland. The last time we went I brought my 50mm lens because it was light. This was mistake. I was too close (especially on a cropped sensor frame). I needed a wider lens to shoot anything from within the Teacups and it made me nervous to back that far away from my little ones just to take a photo. This time I brought the 24-70mm. True, it was heavy. Had we not rented a stroller/sag wagon/camera bag carrier, I might not have, but it gave me the width and zoom I wanted and I was glad I did.
For our four and five year old boys, Disneyland was a place of magic. Yes, it helped that cast members went out of their way to make sure our views weren't obstructed by trees or that my boys had straws for their milks. I doubt they'll remember those niceties, though I will. I imagine they will remember they saw their favorite movies come to life. They rode Space Mountain for the first time. Above all, they had opportunities to be brave.
Debra and this rainbow tutu of wonder have been places. She did some of the most amazingly epic self portraits with tutu in Death Valley, and elsewhere. Lucky for us, she brought it with her to Colorado. Good times, good times. Debra also has a lovely new online home for her gorgeous photography. Check it out! www.debracowie.com/portfolio