Breakfast Morning Portrait Session - Monona Bay, Madison, WI

Michal's mom had been asking her to please, please, please take some updated photos of her and Gavin, since her most recent ones were from their wedding a decade ago (or something like that). So Michal finally relented to stay in Mom's good graces. We talked about where to shoot and settled on a breakfast shoot at their place (though a cyclo-cross shoot was also considered). Done deal.

Michal actually didn't know how to cook eggs, which was awesome. Everyone should maintain a few basic things you don't know how to do, because it makes for great photos when someone teaches you. This is why I still don't know how to ice skate.

After breakfast, we walked out to the barely-frozen Monona Bay. I often walk the rails over the land bridge here early in the morning, it's a great place for capitol views, or to see folks on the lake. The trestle bridges are old and tastefully unimproved, always a nice contrast against a couple beautiful people.

Olbrich Gardens Family Portraits in Madison, Wisconsin

This shoot was scheduled for Labor Day weekend, but it turns out the Navy does not predictably schedule leave for its sailors. Which was okay with me, considering I'm not the one with a family member in some unknown location in the Pacific Ocean most of the time. That brings some perspective. Thank you, thank you a thousand times to those who serve and protect us all over the world.

Before our session, I got to visit the home and see the wonderful collection (and implied appreciation) of black and white prints this family has in their home. Beautiful work all over the walls, both in-house from dad and daughter and from friends and colleagues as well. And they asked ME to photograph their family... I felt that was quite a compliment. And a little bit of pressure, but that's a good kind. Nice making work for folks with a deep appreciation for photography as a medium.

Christmas Family Portraits in Madison, WI

There are lots of kinds of people out there. I don’t know exactly how to describe these kind of people, but I could stand to spend more time with them. Funny, loving, kind, warm, at ease with themselves. Maybe that’s because the elders of this clan are so heart-meltingly wonderful. Grandpa’s eyes sparkled the entire time. And those glasses grandma was wearing… so awesome. Fun challenge to shoot an indoor session where two people can’t leave their chairs and half the family leaves for Toronto in an hour, I like adventure.

Winter Family Portraits in Muscoda, Wisconsin

Went out to Muscoda again this year to photograph this crew, less all the relatives and plus a new little brother. They have this perfect little getaway cabin, tucked up in the hills, full of splendid winter sunshine and warmth. And if you can manage to break away from the coziness, there is a beautiful forest with big oaks and lots of trail to stomp around in. And you get to do it all with Darwin the dog, who I simply adore. Lucky guy, I am.

Winter Family Portraits in Shorewood Hills

The early freeze-down this year has had me a little bummed, as I always feel like I can count on November for being perfect: highs 40 - 50 degrees, beautiful monotone landscapes of 100s of shades of browns, crunchy leaves, crisp air, empty parks, etc. November is often a month filled with personal climbing trips and lots of pre-holiday family portrait shoots, but the cold has slowed things down on both fronts. Despite some crushed hopes, I really enjoy the variety Wisconsin weather brings; adversity always raises new opportunities and keeps the adventure alive in what otherwise might grow routine.

While I would rather shoot outside any day of the week, when it is raining down freezing drizzle and the steps to my clients' home is a skating rink... then we work inside. A good time to have some fast, wide lenses, which is why I decided this shoot would be the perfect excuse to buy the 35mm lens I have been thinking about for a while. So this session ended up being almost entirely shot with that new lens, and I loved the opportunities the glass opened up for us.



There was a buzz about the neighborhood about legions of tundra swans off Yahara Place Park, so I took a late afternoon break to go look. There were probably 300 swans and some tagalong ducks on the small pieces of open water, resting on their way to warmer climes. Not being much of a birder, I was distracted by the soup-thick sky and the incredible blue tones the fog and snow were creating. And the lake itself was caught in that short window between ice and water, showing off a gorgeous abstract quilt of snow and slush and ice. Every season has its beauties and I felt lucky to catch this scene right then.

Thanksgiving in Muscoda

Headed west on Saturday for a family portrait session on Saturday. Jeremy said his family built their cabin near Muscoda because they felt it was "kinda off the radar." Yeah, I'll say. I had only been through Muscoda once before, and though I was enamored with it, I did not think I'd ever be back there for a portrait shoot. But opportunity struck and I was psyched to follow State Route 60 (aka The River Road) down the Wisconsin to the 40-acres retreat these folks use to escape the city.

A few notes: 
• A "cabin" does not always denote a humble log cabin affair in the woods. Sometimes a "cabin" is really something more.
• It's pronounced Musk-a-day, not Mus-co-da. I'm not sure how anyone would figure that out on their own.
• There's are numerous hidden sandstone parapets and buttresses in the driftless terrain west of Lone Rock. These guys had two really neat formations hidden in the trees, up on the ridge. Wondering if there could be a secret climbing crag somewhere in the territory?

Frosty Times, Downtown Madison

I might be in the minority, but I think the best holiday cards look seasonal. The holiday season is cold, but we can't let that stop us, especially when we all have layers and layers of wool, leather, and down in our closets. It's usually in the 10's or 20's here in December, so when I see families looking bundled up and cozy together, having a great time despite the minor inconvenience of 7-degree windchill factor... those cards gets to be on top of the fridge. Solidarity!

On the other hand... those conditions are tough to shoot in, and I never wish for that kind of weather. But that's what we got last week, and this family pulled through in high style. I compliment their spirit and love the shots we walked away with. Thanks for setting the record for my coldest portrait shoot ever!

Bryce + William - A Beach Wedding in Santa Cruz, California

This is my idea of the ideal wedding: Rent a house in a beautiful place and have a party that lasts a few days. It just works. A big house can keep all your closest loved ones together and takes away so many logistics hassles. You eat together, snack together, read the paper and hang out together... and that leaves room for spontaneity, which so many planned events don't have much room for.