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.