Behind the Scenes of Our Funtivities

Learn more about our adventures when we are out Browning Around!

Chasing the Perfect Image

I was asked to take engagement photos of a couple I have known for a few years through the fire department. I was super excited they asked me to be their cameraman. As we talked I knew we would have some great photos. I knew we would certainly be doing some photos at the fire station and as we talked we would be heading to Bend, OR - specifically Smith Rock. Smith Rock is the birth place for sport climbing and the Misery Trail takes non-climbing adventurers to the top of the rock. Smith Rock would be my crux shoot on this Grand Session. This would be where the best images would come from, if Mother Nature wanted to show off for the camera.

Steve and Ashley at Eugene Fire on the Tiller

Our day started off at The Eugene/Springfield fire department training center where they pulled out the tiller for us. The tiller would offer a great backdrop due to its length and give us plenty of other options. We had to move quickly to beat some of the rain that was teasing us. I had forgotten my phone in my truck back at Steve’s house so I had to go off memory. But I powered through, falling back on my fire experience and other portrait sessions I had done. We narrowly beat the rain and got some great shots in the can.

Steve and Ashley at Sahalie Falls on the McKenzie River Trail

Our next stop in this Grand Session was to head up the McKenzie River trail to Sahalie Falls. I had just bought a 10 stop ND filter for Iceland and knew it would play here. My goal was to have them in front of the waterfall and have the water silky smooth. This required a long exposure and for them to remain still. Out of a dozen photos I got 2 that brought all the elements together. What I didn’t take into account is how much Steve’s jeans would soak up the spray from the waterfall. Oh well, it is a memory now! Just as we finished and got back to our car, the skies opened up and it poured. Pretty much knew our time on the river trail was done and we were onto Sisters for a burger, fries and a shake.

Along the way to Sisters, we stopped and drove down a fire service road to get into a grove on Ponderosa Trees to get some shots in more western wear. I knew I had great coloring and lighting to work with. One challenge was that Steve’s wardrobe pretty much blended in like a hunter. So getting him to stand out was tough. I worked to contrast him against some of the patchy snow on the ground. I also had Ashley change into something more colorful to help her standout too. The maize yellow sweater she brought really matched the tint of the pines. It worked so well with the surroundings. Next was to switch lenses to my 70-200mm to get some compression from the photos. I shot at 2.8 to get the depth of field + the compression. I did some static shots with them, then also did some moving, flowing pieces to get a different look. I her to grab him by the hand and take him behind the tree. All they are not actors by trade, they did an excellent job.

After a burger, fries and a shake we moved onto the grand location - Smith Rock. This is where I was going to bank everything on. These images could not fail and would be the best of the group - or so I hoped. Natalie and I packed our bags full of gear. My camera bag was the heaviest it has ever been. I always measure it against an SCBA pack a firefighter wears. This was pretty close to the same weight.

Toasting to a great day!

Misery Ridge lived up to its name with the weight of the pack. I have been running and really hoped for a better showing, but being dehydrated and working off a burger I was struggling a little. We still made good time to the top despite my slow ascent. I knew roughly where I wanted to go, but still wasn’t sure if Mother Nature was going to show off for us, or if she was going to be shy. I knew if anything we had the rain band that was behind to the west. That in itself will be a great back drop. I found a large, flat table top rock for them to stand on. I gave them a few cues and hiked my way back to get everything into frame. Mounted the 70-200mm and put my camera on a tripod for the best possible image. I didn’t need it based on the shutter speed, but I didn’t want to chance anything. A couple pops of the shutter and I knew I was on my way to perfection. Once I told them to dance and for Steve to twirl Ashley I knew I had photographs that nobody had and that I had achieved something I had been chasing - perfection. It was the crossroads of location, backdrop, Steve and Ashley, gear, my vision and faith. I don;t think I could have pulled this off with anyone else. I makes it even more special reflecting back on the day we spent together and our friendship. I always tell Natalie to “just believe” and have a little faith. I always have faith that Mother Nature will show off for me when we are on a photo shoot like this. For a very brief moment she showed us her colors and it was amazing.

Steve and Ashley dancing on top of Smith Rock at sunset

The Perfect Image and Perfect Moment

Why Engagement Photos are Important

Until this weekend I felt engagement photos were something to add to the wedding photo package and part of the memories. Reflecting back, not too many couples select to do engagement photos. Probably a cost thing and also they know the wedding day will produce several amazing photos.

I think there are a couple of factors that make the engagement session so important.

Jeff and Aida

The Hunts

  • You don’t have the pressure of your wedding day. Your wedding day is full of seeing old relatives and friends, dancing, eating and of course photos! You don’t get a chance to slow down and breath. Engagement photos allow you to slow down and just be the two of you plus the cameraman.

  • You have the option of going to a couple of different locations. There might be a place that holds a special place in your relationship and wouldn’t it be nice to have professional photos done there. Even if there isn’t a special place, there are so many amazing locations just around the Portland and Columbia River area or the coast.

  • Engagement sessions allow you to have different outfits and perhaps adding props. Let’s say you both kayak together, bring the boats and paddles. If I can photograph you on the river, I will. I always encourage my clients to bring a couple of different looks depending on where we are going

  • Not too many people have their wedding photos up around their house. But they do have photos up of their adventures and fun times. I always include in my final product what I call are the outtakes - the funny moments.

What really got me thinking today was the story behind each photo that made me realize the importance of the engagement session. It doesn’t have to be one of my Grand Sessions, it can be a local session done at Cathedral Park or some other great Portland location. Every Grand Session I have done, we all walk away with some funny memory from the day together. Perhaps it is falling in the snow, the champagne bottle that got dropped or getting soaked by the waterfall…..

If you are on the fence about engagement photos, lets talk and make it happen!

Ashley and Steve at Eugene Fire

Every Photograph has a Story #1- White River Falls

I have always felt that a photograph is just a photograph until you here the story behind it. You talk to any photographer about the images they are proud of and I bet they will talk to you for 10+ minutes about each image. Even as I photograph people, there are stories behind the image that I love to share. Could be intimidated by the subject matter, the effort to get there or just what happened as the subject was being photographed.

Joe and Tracy at White River Falls Park in Dufur Oregon

Here is one such image that has a fun story behind it. A month prior, I photograph Joe and Tracy’s wedding reception in downtown Portland. For the first time I had camera issues, location challenges and prop issues. My game was thrown and I was not sure what to do after i built myself up. Eventually I rallied and got through the night, but felt bad I didn’t give them all of what I was hoping for.

After I delivered the final product, I asked them if they wouldn’t mind getting back into their outfits and come with my wife and I to White River Falls out in Dufur, Oregon. I was looking for a couple that I could stage a photo shoot and not be under any pressure at all. Where I could slow down and direct the scene how I wanted. In return they would have a fun time and get some photographs they would enjoy.

They were such sports and we switched between formal wear and casual dress. We even enjoyed some Buffalo Trace and Flaming Hot Cheetos for our efforts. We used the river, the waterfall, the drone and the pump house as backdrops.

Framed through the pump house window

At the end of the day it was so nice to slow down and enjoy the moment and set a photo like this up. I was balancing on a railroad tie about 8ft above the ground. I told them to dip for a kiss and just be themselves. No real instruction as I wanted it to look natural. We got natural and a beautiful image for them and my portfolio. This really taught me to be more of a director; afterall my customers are paying me to play the role of director and photographer. The photos from this day have taught me to have a different approach to my engagement sessions and senior portraits.

Unplanned Funtivities with Walmart Christmas Onesies

We decided to spend a couple of days in Hood River and get in a couple hikes before we head north to Bellevue for the Christmas holiday.  We had looked at going to Cougar or down to the southern coastline, but decided the shorter drive after work and snow was what we wanted. 

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Thursday after work we headed out for the slow drive out I-84E to Hood River.  But this drive was much better than the +4hr drive down to southern Oregon like we planned.  Natalie booked a familiar hotel for us to spend a couple nights in.  We don’t ask for much and really just need a place to feel safe and hang our coats.  The Sunset motel seems to be perfect for us.  Only a mile from down town Hood River, just off the freeway and right across the street from a Safeway and other stores.  The room isn’t big, but enough room for us to spread out. 

The weather was not supposed to be great in the afternoon so we weren’t sure how to spend our Saturday afternoon.  We wanted to go somewhere with a view of Mt Hood and maybe not too many people.  We settled on Chinidere Mountain; a hike we have done during the summer with some amazing views of hood and the forest below.  We thought there might be a light dusting of snow, but nothing we couldn’t hike through. 


We arrived on FSR 1310 and began to ascend.  There was a sign mentioning that there was “no winter maintenance” on the road ahead.  With a lifted 4x4, I wasn’t too worried about the road.  Our first obstacle was a rock slide that threw some rocks and boulders onto the road.  We took a few minutes to clear out the worst of the rocks and boulders and then pressed on.  We then started to hit snow, which got deeper as we ascended.  As we trail-blazed and the snow got deeper the truck started to hop and bounce around.  The truck was working harder to get through the snow and I started to question if we should try and go another 2.5mi in the snow to the trail head.  The only tracks in the snow were from a fox and my Goodyear tires.  This meant we were alone!  Great for the solitude and quiet, but not so good if we have a breakdown or get stuck.  It was time to pause and come up with a new plan.  Looking up towards where we would probably be hiking, the clouds started to roll in and we would not have a great view from the top.  On top of that I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or something to wear under my jacket, so I would have been cold the whole way. 

Our new plan was to get out the Walmart Christmas onesies, crack a beer and take some funny photos.  I had this idea in mind of story-boarding the photos when I shared them on social media.  I tried to craft them around a naughty elf breaking into my cooler.  Having fresh snow and the place to ourselves we had a blast.  We ended spending 2 hours goofing around. 

This was an unplanned spontaneous afternoon in the snow with Walmart onesies and had a blast.  We seem to always structure our outings and they are pretty much predictable.  But days like this are my favorite; where we make something out of nothing.  These are probably some of my favorite goofing around images that we have done.  So, get out there and don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t go as you planned.  Sometimes those unplanned afternoons are the most memorable. 


Get Outside:  Metolius River Trail

We followed up the Tam McArthur Rim trail with the Metolius River trail on Sunday.  A couple years ago we had a hiking adventure from trailhead following the river downstream to the hatchery at Wizard Falls and then back to the car.  This time we drove to Wizard Falls at the Hatchery with the thought of getting a photo of the blue water that flows under the bridge and then go see the fish at the hatchery.  Such a beautiful drive through Camp Sherman down to the hatchery.  The area was empty and so there was no traffic to distract me as I drove us to our destination. 

The weather was having some fun with us.  Sprinkling on and off with the sun and blue skies poking through every now and then.  The question became do we bring the rain jackets or not.  Ultimately being from the Pacific Northwest, we erred on the side of caution and brought our coats.  Seemed like we would put them on and then the sprinkling would stop.  Take them off and then it would start sprinkling again. 

Fly Fishing 2.jpg

Our hike took us upstream a mile or so in search of some fly fisherman.  I really wanted to photograph fly fisherman out in the river.  I was rewarded on this trip with 4 fishermen on various parts of the river.  Although I was happy to exercise my 24-70mm 2.8, in some instances I wish I brought my other heavyweight the 70-200mm 2.8.  I needed a little reach through some of the tree branches.  Regardless I was not disappointed by what I put into the can. 


Hiking off season has some benefits – no crowds.  We probably saw a total of 10 people on the trail system.  There were a few more visiting the hatchery, but that was it.  Once we returned to the hatchery, we decided to keep hiking and exploring down the river.  Neither of us had done the whole trail and the weather was looking promising enough.  I believe it is 6mi roundtrip from Wizard Falls.  You hike down one side of the river and then cross the bridge to travel upstream on the other side.  Downstream we found a couple fisherman that I could get a good angle on and photograph.  I was in photographer heaven because of the fall colors still hanging around, the peaceful nature of the Metolius river and catching people out doing what they love – fishing!

He had the river to himself

He had the river to himself


Once back in the car we saw the large dark cloud that was hanging over Hwy20 and our route home.  Although I was grateful it held off on dumping on us on the trail, I knew we were in for a long ride home.  Sure, enough the heavens opened up and the wipers were on full speed.  Thankfully we had to slow our pace due to a severe accident near the junction of Hwy20 and 22 involving 4-5 vehicles.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to driving down the curves in the pouring rain.  A lifted truck with knobby tires doesn’t instill confidence around wet corners.  Thankfully we made it home in good time and in one piece. 



I really am glad we took the time to explore down stream and enjoy the fall colors.  We were thinking of hitting a trail on the way home instead.  But we would have missed having the river to ourselves and being able to enjoy those lasting fall colors.  If you go bring a few quarters to feed the fish in the pond. It is fun to see all those fish swarm to the food.