Oakland Family Photographer

6 Ways to Photograph the Same Scene (and How to Work Through a Rut)

Over the years, I’ve been known to periodically get myself into a photography rut. It usually occurs when I feel uninspired (well, duh), or just plain bored with my personal work. I’ve learned how to break-out of it by doing two things. The first is to allow myself a break. I used to judge myself when I didn’t feel like picking up my camera for days or weeks. I used to question my commitment and wonder if I was really a true artist since there were times when I just didn’t feel like taking a photo no matter how good the light was. I soon came to the realization that none of those things were true. Instead, it simply meant that I needed to hit the pause button to allow myself the space to focus on something else- even if that something was nothing- and to let myself be in that space for however long I wanted. I know now that with time my camera and I will inevitably be drawn to each other once again.

The second thing that helps me get back to photography, is to take a new project. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, just something to get me excited, or better yet, challenge me to learn something new. One of the things I’ve always loved to do is to photograph the same subject and scene from multiple vantage points, as well as play with the lighting and processing. It always challenges me to find new perspectives and make different images with a relatively static subject. I say “relatively” but usually I’m photographing children, so I roll with their flow. This is not only a useful exercise for seasoned photographers to practice, but also great for new photographers to see how many different images they can get just from simply moving their body and playing with the light.

So when my six-year old son recently climbed up on the kitchen counter while I was doing dishes, I knew it was a good opportunity for me to practice because he loves laying on the counter (go figure) and would probably stay there for a good long while.

And here are the images I captured that evening:

Taking in the Full Scene: This was my vantage point when I turned right as I washed dishes at the sink and saw him lying up there on the counter. I stood back and photographed the full scene to illustrate how ironic and a bit odd it is that he there. I also played with the processing and converted the image to black and white for a couple reasons. 1) due to the contrast in the image, and 2) I wanted the focus to be on him and not necessarily on the items on counter and all that.

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Side-Lit: I moved to right and shoot him head on so that only one side of his face would be lit and the other half would be in deep shadow.

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Spotlight: I moved back to my left so that I was more square with the light (and his body) so that the light would cast on him from above, as if we was lit by a spot light.

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Back Lit: Once he lifted his head, he blocked the direct light that was cast on him previously and the image became more of a silhouette.

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Side-lit with greater exposure: Similar to the second photo above, this is image is mostly side-lit, but I took a big step back and slightly to the left in order to get more of the scene in the photo. I also changed my camera settings so that more of the scene would be exposed.

Back-lit in Black and White: In the next two images, I played with the processing to create a highly contrasted silhouette.

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Moving in Close to Photograph the Details: I love to shoot hands and feet. That is all. But seriously, I wanted to capture the way his hand was holding the pencil, how the fingers on his other hand curl with concentration, the creases in his feet.

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Oh how I love baby feet! Most of my clients are all too familiar with how I photograph their children’s feet. I love the chubby toes. Does that make me weird? Probably.

So those are my tips for different ways to photograph the same scene. Comment below if you have any other vantage points to add. I can already think of a few. Still next time!

Christmas 2016- Oakland/Bay Area Family Photographer

I didn't grow up loving Christmas. Perhaps I've shared that in my blog before. My mom wasn't a fan of Christmas when I was a kid. Not exactly sure why. It probably had much to do with making ends meet and the scarcity of resources as a young single parent. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we lived far away from family and so Christmases were rather quiet. Whatever the case, it wasn't a holiday that held much meaning for me. That is, until I had children of my own.  That first Christmas after my daughter was born was almost like a light was turned on inside of me. I was suddenly all about Christmas. I wanted the tree, the perfect angel, the holiday songs, gifts, food, etc. I wanted the entire quintessential experience-for her.  Through her, I was finally able to feel the full joy of the "holiday season", and it felt good. And it still does. It probably won't  ever be my favorite holiday, but I'm in it now and having the opportunity to spend time with those I love most is worth more than the cost of admission. 

So this was December 25, 2016 and I am grateful for every minute of it. 

Meeting Max- Oakland/East Bay Newborn Photographer

Some days I wish I'd majored in Anthropology in college. I am a people watcher, curious sometimes too a fault. I want to hear about your journey and where you hope to go next. One of the things I love most about my job as a photographer is getting a chance to meet new people and hear new stories.  I love that, in many cases, I've never met the family on the other side of the door when I arrive for a session, and it's a pleasure to spend the next hour and half  getting to know each other.  Photographing in one's home requires a certain intimacy that your typical outdoor session at a park does not. And that's what I like about it. 

So when I knocked on the door of the F family on a crisp, sunny Thursday afternoon just two weeks after the birth of their little boy, I had a rush of anticipation. I was curious to meet the person I'd corresponded with over email for nearly two months beforehand. And what I found on the other side of the door was a couple with a deep love and commitment to each other and a contagious excitement about their new baby.  As brand new parents, they were more at ease than I ever was at that stage. And while I took photos, we talked about how they'd ended up in the Bay Area, musical inspirations, work, and the lessons their son had taught them so far. 

I love making beautiful images that freeze time and tell the details of a story that might otherwise be forgotten. But photography also affords me, and my clients hopefully, an opportunity to honor human connections.  My primary goal is to use my camera to capture relationships. And in the process, if I am also able to make a stranger into a friend, well...that's icing on the cake. 

Welcome to the world, Baby Boy!

Cooking with the Baileys- Super Easy Raw Cookie Dough Balls- Oakland Family Documentary Photography

I will be 40 years old in a few short months, and I love dessert. I am come to understand the hard way that those two facts do not agree with one another.  As my metabolism has slowed and my doctor's warnings have grown louder, I'm come to realize that I can no longer partake in after dinner delights of cookies or chocolate. And rather than completely go cold turkey, I have been on a quest to find "healthy" treats that will satisfy my sweet tooth while also staying on course with my health goals. Easier said than done, for sure. 

My kids and I recently discovered a recipe for Raw Cookie Dough Balls, I've we've made a bath of them just about each week for the last few months. We make them so often that my four year old now knows the recipe by heart, and I'm convinced he could make them all by himself if only I'd let him use the food processor. They are delicious, don't require cooking hence the term "raw" in the title- duh Rhea!), and are gluten/dairy/soy free! Oh and they are SUPER easy to make.

We made them AGAIN tonight, so I thought I'd document the process and share the recipe. I even make a cameo in the photos below. Huge shoutout to Veganela.com for the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats (use gluten free if your diet requires)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup grated dry unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, add the oats and pulse for 20 seconds in order to break the oats down slightly. 
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients (EXCEPT the chocolate chips) and pulse until fully combined. 
  3. Stir-in the chocolate chips.
  4. If the dough is too sticky/soft, refrigerate for ten minutes to harden it slightly, then roll in to 12 balls and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

And there you have it! Yummy goodness! Try them and leave a comment below to let me know how you like them.

The Jones Family is Growing Up! - Oakland Family Photographer

I had the extreme pleasure of photographing this beautiful family the day after their second child was born. I met them for a Fresh 48 hospital session. What made it particularly special was that this was the very first hospital session I'd photographed. And it couldn't have been a sweeter family. They we so at east, so welcoming, so sweet to each other and to each other.  Check-out their hospital newborn session here

So when they asked me to come to their home the following November to photograph their family in time for the holidays. They welcomed me in to their adorable home with the same smiles  I remember from their last session. This time, the baby boy was now deliciously round and alert and as happy as could be. And their sweet little girl was eager to show me her room and toys. As you can see in the photos, they really enjoy each other.  You can almost hear the laughter coming through the images. This is definitely my kind of family. 

Mommy and Me Session- Oakland Family Documentary Photographer

Back in February (yes, I am long overdue in blogging this session), I traveled down to my "second home", Los Angeles, for a long weekend. Although it doesn't happen often, it's always so good to get back there. So many memories and a handful of my most cherished friends, make it a special place from me. While I was there, I had a chance to see a few of those friends.  One of them was my dear friend, Jenifer. We've been close since our freshman year of college. We've been through  all the ups and downs of adulthood, and our friendship has lasted throughout it all. I was honored to be able to photograph her and her beautiful son. Her mom also makes an appearance, as well! I had a blast and I hope that they too. 

S and W Family (Lake Temescal)- Oakland Family Photographer

I have been so lucky to work so many amazing families in the last few months. It's been a busy time, but an exhilarated one because I've been doing what I love which is hang-out with awesome people and make pictures. Unfortunately, that's left little time for blogging :(  But here I am, back to showcase one of my favorite families ever! You've been them on the blog before, and you'll see them again in the coming weeks.  They were one of my very first clients and have been so loyal over the years. I don't do many outdoor family photography sessions these days, but I had a great time getting outside with this bunch!



Mother's Day Special!! "Mommy and Me" Sessions - Oakland Family Documentary Photographer

Hey Mom! You sure do wear a lot of hats.  You are the project manager of your home, the consoler, the party planner, the referee, the nurse, the play date scheduler, the family photographer and documenter, your child's north star.  Dads are equally amazing do all of things, as well. But there is something uniquely special about the mom and child relationship.  And I want to document that for you. 

Each day, you quietly read countless bedtime stories, play "tickle", breastfeed, and kiss and cuddle. But who documents that? Do you have pictures of you and your children doing all these beautiful daily activities? As they grow and look back on the images taken during their childhood, will they see you? Will they simply see posed images of you and them, or will they be able to see how you read to them, helped them with their homework, cuddled with them,  cooked with them, played games, and breastfed them?  

In honor of Mother's Day, I am offering a discount session to capture those memories for you. Just you and the your children. Let's document the special little things you do together that you don't want to ever forget.  Here's a bit more information:

SESSION DETAILS

- $275
• 30 minute storytelling session centered around a specific activity such as reading stories, breast-feeding session, cooking, or simply cuddling
• Takes place inside your home
• Can include mom or grandma
• Includes 10 high res images and 40% off a custom storytelling album with session images
 

The Fine Print 

Sessions must be within 10 miles of 94611 for no additional cost.
Session must take place in April or May 2015.
Only a limited number of these special sessions are available.

Perfect for gifting to friend or loved one!!


CLICK ON THE BANNER BELOW TO GRAB A SLOT TODAY!!

Boys will be Boys- Oakland Family Lifestyle and Documentary Photography

I love color. The brighter, the better in my book. So, when I drove up to this family's home, and certainly when I stepped in the door, I felt right at home. They have such a bright and happy home and it is a total reflection of the people they are. 

And boy, did we have a good time during their shoot. I following the super sweet and energetic boys around as they played with cars, blocks, balls and everything in between. It was such a beautiful day, so we also spent some time in their backyard swinging on the swing set and blowing bubbles. 

One of the things I love about the families I get to work with is the strong partnership amongst the parents. And these two were no exception. They love each other deeply and it's evident in the gentle way they interact with one another. Those interactions are one of my favorite things to photograph.

I'll stop talking and let you scroll through the photographs to see more of this super fun family. Enjoy!

We Are Oakland- Kirk Roberts

As I mentioned in my previous post (check-out Part 1 here) about the Full House Cafe, the lead cook, Kirk Roberts, is pretty famous in his own right.  Full House closed it's doors for good last Sunday, but for 13 years Kirk was the face and the soul of the restaurant.  In fact, when I first met him, I just assumed he owned the place.  Kirk never met a person he didn't like.  He even earned the affection of my children who'd run to the kitchen each time we visited the restaurant to give him a big hug. Plain and simple he was (and is) an all around good human being. 

When I first had the idea to start the We Are Oakland series, Kirk was first on my list to profile. I wanted to learn more about the man that meant to much to our family and countless others. Luckily, I had a the chance to sit down with Kirk to ask him a bit about himself- his journey, his passions, his dreams.  Here's what he had to say: 


What's your name?  Kirk Roberts

How did you end of in Oakland? I'm actually from Richmond, CA, born in Martinez. I live in Pinole. I have been commuting to Oakland ever since I started this job.

I am born and raised in the Bay Area. I have never been any where else. I’ve never been on an airplane, a train, a Greyhouund, no boats. Coming up on 51 years of age and have never been anywhere besides here.

Do you Drive?  That’s all I do.

Would you like travel?  I probably will one day when I retire and have a whole bunch of money.

What do think about Oakland? It’s great. I’ve had several big jobs in Oakland. I’ve worked all over the Bay Area.

How did you become a cook?  Oh, it goes way, way back. I been cooking for 34 years.  I was in a little trouble in my youth, and I went to the California Youth Authority. I spent 18 months in CYA. I went when I was 16 and got out when I was 18. While I was in, I had a work furlough. My work furlough was at Denny’s.  This was in 1980.  I was a dishwasher. They used to take me from CYA out to a Denny’s in Stckton. Every time I took plates into the kitchen, I would always look and watch what the cooks were doing. I was real good at picking things up real fast. And one night, one of the cooks called in sick and the manager needed help.  It was on a Friday night.  I’ll never forget it.  So, I helped her out. And the next day she said, “Wow, you did a great job last night. I want you to be trained as a cook.”

So I became a cook before I got out of CYA. And when I got out, she transferred me to the Denny’s in Emeryville- closer to home. So as I continuing to work for Denny’s, I went to Culniary Arts School.  I wanted to get certified.  You know, I cooked at Denny’s for ten years. I cooked at seven different Denny’s. It was a great experience.  I could go back if I wanted to, but I would never do that.  

What do you love about cooking?   It’s a mind relaxer for me. I block everything out because when you're cooking you have to stay focused. So, if you got some things on your mind, cooking will take it off your mind.  It does something for me.

Now here, …this is the first open kitchen I’ve worked at, and I love it because I’m a people person. Some places I worked at I called it “The Man Behind the Mirror”.  You never know how much people appreciate you. The food is good, but they don’t know who you are because you’re behind the wall. I’ve always said that it’s good for a cook to walk the floor of the restaurant every now and then to let people know who you are.

I’m here for the people. Money is just a part of it.  I can go around the corner and make the same money, but will I get the same people? You got to ask yourself that. 

They’ve been talking selling about this place. (Editor's note: Full House Cafe was sold and closed it's doors on Feb 22nd) And all the custimers have said they want to know where I’m going and they want to stay in contact. The majority of the time I'm out there talking to the people, we don’t even talk about food. We talk about life and the kids and the holidays. That's the kind of stuff that people really enjoy. But at the same time, I’m going to make sure they get what they came  for, which is the food, because that’s my job.  The most important thing that I have really enjoyed is watching these kids grow up.  Like you, I watched you when you were pregnant and now you have the most adorable family. And those are the things…There’s been sadness too. I’ve lost a lot of friends here who have passed away. Two of my customers had been married for 52 years, and his wife recently passed away around Thanksgiivng. Now the husband comes in here and he looks so sad. His wife was so great.  Over the years there’s been a lot of joy and happiness and some sadness too. I had to speak on because those people were important to me.

What is your superpower?  My superpower?  Hmm...Well, I take a lot of "me" time. I’m an only child. I grew up having to play by myself a lot. So now, you’ll see my alone a lot. That’s just how I am. I tell my kids that I’m used to being alone.  I come here to work and hour or two early every morning.  Everybody needs "me" time. I don't care how old you are or how many kids you have or how long you’ve been married or what you are going through. You have to take time for yourself.  And that’s why I come early each morning. I do that from my heart because I know where my blessings come from and I have a great deal of respect for Fred (the owner of Full House).

Tell me about your dreams for the future.  My dreams are already being answered.  I turned 50 when my youngest child was 18.  She was the last one that I wanted to see graduate. It was very emotional because she was a premature baby and stayed in the hospital for four months after she was born. As a parent, your dream is to see your kids be successful. And then for God to actually let me live to see it, it is a dream come true. Now my next dream is to retire.  Oh, and I hope to get on a plane for once in my life before I check out.

When you get on that plane, where are you going to go? I have no idea. People tell me to go to Los Angeles or Las Vegas. I've never had everywhere to go- not saying that I don’t want to- I’ve just been happy here. I had my kids at a young age and now I have 5 grandkids. I’m just happy. As you grow older and you start winding down, life all comes together. I am not in a hurry to do anything anymore. 

What are you proud of?  Me. I’ve been through a lot and I’ve come a long way. It hasn’t always been a cake walk. There's a been a few stumbling blocks in my life, but I've overcome them and that’s something to be thankful for and proud of. I’m happy. I have a beautiful woman at home. Kids are grown and now me and my lady get to spend some good time together. You know, we have some of those pajamas with the feet in them that we like to wear (He lets out a huge laugh).

Is there anything else you want to tell the people reading this?  I have been working here for 13 years, and it’s going to be hard to walk away because I won't be walking away from this restaurant, I’m walking away from the people. And I’ve grown over the years, and I have a lot of respect for the cutomers that come in here.  I might get a little emotional.  Being here everyday 10-11 hours a day... I just hope that the new oweners keep it the same, and I hope that the cutomers keep coming.  I hope that Fred can drive by this place and say, “I used to own that place" and be proud. He’s run this place for 20 years and I take my hate off to that. 


I am very happy to report that Kirk has found a new cooking job at Mama's Royal Cafe in North Oakland. So, if you're local, please go check in him at his new spot. Or better yet, meet my there for breakfast! :) 

hi

We Are Oakland (Full House Cafe and Kirk Roberts)- Oakland Family and Newborn Documentary Photographer

We Are Oakland (Full House Cafe and Kirk Roberts)- Oakland Family and Newborn Documentary Photographer

Writing this blog post feels like birthing a baby.  I have had a dream for many, many months to begin a regular series about the people and places of Oakland, California.  

Oakland Family Documentary Photographer- The T Family

Oakland Family Documentary Photographer- The T Family

Do you ever have people in your life that from the moment you meet them you want to be their friend?  Those folks are just genuine "good people." 

The Yavorsky Family- Oakland Family Documentary Photographer

The Yavorsky Family- Oakland Family Documentary Photographer

When I walked into their house, I knew it was going to be a good time. The children were smiley and relaxed, mom was completely gracious and at ease, and the house was bathed in gorgeous light. What more could a photographer ask for?  

Is there a doctor in the house?- Oakland Family and Documentary Photographer

Sabrina is one of my closest friends in the whole wide world.  I love this girl to death.  She is my sister.

Malcolm X Jazz Festival (Dreaming of Summer)- Oakland Family Photographer

Winter has officially arrived.  I've been following the heavy, heavy snowstorms back east.  Isn't it a bit early for all this?