On August 12, 2017, Greg and I stood together with twenty of our closest family and friends and said our marriage vows to one another in Zion National Park. We had set aside a week to travel from Las Vegas to St. George, then to the Desert Pearl Inn in Springdale and on to a mini-honeymoon through southern Utah's beautiful red rock country.
As a professional photographer, there was no way I was going to leave my camera behind. As a fiancee, I also wanted to be fully present in each moment rather than living through a lens. So naturally, I asked one of my best friends and favorite photographers (Courtney Cimo) to create the visual memories from our wedding day while bringing only my film camera, a 50mm lens and three rolls of Kodak Portra for little personal moments.
These photographs are from the Desert Pearl Inn, Zion National Park, Sunset Point at Bryce Canyon National Park, Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Coyote Gulch Trail and Hole-in-the-Rock Road. As usual, this film was processed by PhotoVision Print Lab in Salem, OR.
In January, I traveled with friends and fellow photographers Courtney Cimo and Jenna Hazel from Chicago Midway to LAX and then up and down the Pacific Coast Highway to explore Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills.
When I travel, I prefer to shoot film because the process takes away less of me from the moments of living and experiencing. It's a more mindful practice of photography-in-life. I hope these moments from our travels yield themselves to your imagination the way the film immortalized them.
Kodak Portra 400 and 800 35mm Film
Indie Film Lab
I finally made it to Taos. I say "finally" because I've heard about/read about Taos for years, but it was elusive because it is just off my beaten path between Chicago and Las Vegas (and now Scottsdale).
If you all are still not tired of hearing about Georgia O'Keeffe and my search for the muse which inspired her- she spent some time in Taos. The plaza is a colorful collection of shops, adobe, hotels and restaurants puzzled together much like the plaza in Santa Fe, but with narrower streets and less commercialized.
I spent the afternoon walking through the streets and galleries and studios looking. Looking at everything. There's so much to look at in Taos. After four hours, I walked my saturated self back to my car parked at 133 Kit Carson Road- and was transfixed by what I saw through the gallery windows. A number of paintings hung in one room; a progression of intuitive landscapes and emotive deconstructed modern art works. It was immediately apparent the paintings were the work of one artist, with a dedication to the majesty of light and nature.
Seeing these paintings would already have been the highlight of my day in Taos, but Kathryn Vinson Tatum was present and I had the delight to hear her impressions of the concepts of space, process, humility and reverence in the face of nature and the might of an artist in creating rather than only re-creating.
As a fine art wedding photographer, I want my work to look as effortless and evocative as the best paintings, which often look like they blossomed into being on the canvas. I've believe the photographic ideal avoids a style process obvious to the audience (i.e. filters, overprocessing, gimmicks) and is instead captured without guile in the purity of natural light and color. This is what drew me to Tatum's work: her paintings of abstract topography and land and sky are luminous, honor their subjects and reflect a reverent but courageous artist confident in her vision.
When Rumi went into the tavern
I heard a lot of crazy talk
and a lot of wise talk.
But the roses wouldn't grow in my hair.
When Rumi left the tavern
I don't mean just to peek at
such a famous fellow.
Indeed he was rather ridiculous with his
long beard and his dusty feet.
But I heard less of the crazy talk and
a lot more of the wise talk and I was
hopeful enough to keep listening
until the day I found myself
transformed into an entire garden
- Mary Oliver, "Rumi"
Northern New Mexico is a study in contrast and color. It's an arid landscape, barren by East Coast, Midwest or Southern expectations. The low, scrubby brush of juniper, sage and aspen offset the rose-colored desert and broken mesas of the Colorado Plateau whether the Rio Chama (Grande) flows south. Orange and blue, blue and white, green and pink, purple and rust- every combination a passionate display of color.
I would love to photograph a wedding in such a setting. The open skies invite open eyes, open hearts and open arms. Clouds float in, drift, darken, break and dissipate, only to gather once again in another far corner of the endless sky. The light changes here faster than any place I've been, adding a heightened sense of urgency and drama to the improvisation of natural light photography. One has to be quick with the camera to hope to capture such an ephemeral muse.
These images were created in and around Abiquiu, at Dar Al Islam and Ghost Ranch. The adobe house is where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted with Cerro Pedernal beyond. The name of the horse is Zorro. The dog, Sugar, is the sister-from-another-litter of two other Great Pyrenees (Chubby and Daisy) who live just down the road and whom she likes to visit. I photographed her commute.
This fall I'll be 27 years old. When I was 22, I started True Grace Photography and began working around the clock to build a business that would be both authentic and worthwhile. (No one could have prepared me for the number of hours starting a business requires!) With 28 weddings booked in 2016 and 14 booked for 2017, I'm unbelievably happy with and thankful for the foundation that has been set for this life-long dream journey.
This past year I opened a brick and mortar photo studio space just west of Chicago. My intention was to use the space to grow, to have a space to develop my personal creative interests and skills even in the middle of a Chicago winter. However, the opportunity taught me two things that I didn't expect:
I need rest. As a working artist, I demand my own personal best for my clients. By the time the initial and planning meetings are over and the engagement sessions are delivered, I've become personally invested in each and every wedding. However, if I don't allow myself some space and rest, my creative output and overall product quality suffers. When I had the studio, I didn't have the winter off-season to recover.
I crave nature. My happy place (or in the business world, my "niche") is atmospheric, fine art natural light photography. I love watching light play. Often I feel like my life is lived remarkably in synchrony with Light. In the studio's four unchanging walls with the same light and forced air, I began to feel suffocated creatively. The spark that is my love for photography is rooted in my love of nature and improvisation.
Knowing these things, I released the studio endeavor to pursue the naturally beautiful places on Earth. The first on my list: Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia.
This island is about the size of Manhattan and only accessible by ferry. It is home to wild horses of Spanish descent and a host of wildlife as well as some of the most lovely beaches on the Atlantic coast. The last ferry departs with day-trippers in the late afternoon, so while planning this trip, my longtime college friend (Lauren) and I decided to reserve several nights at the Sea Camp campground. It turned out to be the perfect decision.
We had the island to ourselves, and because of this we saw more wildlife than we ever expected and the quietest nights in the campground. I slept better on a mat on the ground than I'd been sleeping at home.
Getting outside and finding rest are wonderful things, especially together. It allows the soul to breathe and the mind to clear and all things to gain perspective. For me, they're as essential to maintaining a balanced life and successful creative business as answering emails in a timely way or adjusting presets to fit each unique photograph.
All of these photos were shot on Fuji 400H Pro, Ektar 100 or Kodak Portra 400 and processed by Indie Film Lab.