Thursday, February 28, 2008

Girl Scout Cookies

Ahh! Thin Mints. The perfect balance of chocolate, mint and cookie crunch. So refreshing, direct from the freezer on a warm spring day...

Somehow last year I missed Girl Scout Cookie Season. No one ever called, e-mailed or came to the door asking if I wanted to buy some. I never saw the familiar boxes on tables in front of the bank or the grocery store. I even photographed at the Girl Scout house in Seal Beach (Sun-N-Fun Preschool was temporarily meeting there), and still the season came and went with nary a care for my Thin Mint craving.

To make sure this does not happen again, I will give the first person who sells me a new box of Thin Mints a free portrait session!

UPDATE: I have a box of Thin Mints chilling in my freezer and one lucky girl scout has won a free portrait session for her family.

Friday, February 22, 2008


One of the biggest highlights of 2007 was also one of the smallest. Our new nephew Caleb was just 3 lbs 14 oz when he was born in October. "Small" does not adequately express the size of this sweet little guy. One of the first photographs his proud father took was of Caleb's tiny hand grasping his wedding ring - it looked more like a large bracelet in his hand than a ring. Caleb is doing very well and we are in love with this new addition to our family.

Looking Back on 2007

Is the end of February too late to look back on the previous year? I hope not, because there are many things that I wanted to share last year, but did not have the time to post. So, in the next few days and weeks, I will post some of the highlights of 2007.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Photo Tip: Include Yourself in the Picture

One comment I hear a lot when photographing families is that mom (or dad) is never in the family's pictures, because she is usually the one taking them. If you are that mom (or dad), give your family photographic proof that you were there, by employing these suggestions and including yourself in the picture. I would love to see and hear about the creative ways you've included yourself in the picture (e-mail me or describe them in the comments).

Do It Yourself:

Arms Length - Have everyone gather in close, hold the camera out as far as you can with it pointed back at you and shoot. It takes practice (learning where to point the camera and trying not to scrunch your chin into your chest - unless you want a lot of extra chins), but can be really effective at capturing spontaneous moments of everyone together. Digital cameras make this easier than ever because you can see if the technique "worked" or if you need to reshoot.

Timer or Remote - Most modern cameras have a self-timer, which allows you to put the camera on a tripod or other solid surface, compose the picture (leaving some space for yourself), activate the timer and quickly move into the picture. Read your manual to find out more.

Reflections - Capture your reflection in a mirror, window, or other reflective surface. Remember to turn off the flash (or angle the camera) to avoid the picture being of a bright white spot.



Combine the versatile GorillaPod with your camera's self-timer or remote, to get the shot just about anywhere.

Involve Others:

Appoint an assistant - Assign another member of the family to take pictures for a while.

Ask a passerby - People are very friendly and generally willing to help out.

Hire a professional - Photographing families is what we do. We will travel nearly anywhere to capture your family in action and guarantee that you will love the results.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Annual Retreat 2008

At the beginning of each year, Judy and I set aside a weekend to reconnect, to reflect on the previous year and to plan for the future. It is a great tradition that has helped sustain our business, our marriage and our family.

This year we went to downtown Los Angeles. I love cities - the scale, the activity, the diversity and the opportunity for discovery. While L.A. is no San Francisco or New York, it has a lot to discover within a few city blocks. We packed our backpacks and rode the Metro Blue Line in from Long Beach to our hotel. This helped put us in "traveling" mode and insured that we would have to rely on public transit or our own two feet to get around. Travel advocate, Rick Steves refers to this as "becoming a 'temporary local' to get a break from our cultural norms" and it helped set the tone of reflection - about our city, our friends and neighbors, our family, our values and our future.

Our time in downtown L.A. was a wonderful mix of work and relaxation, of reflecting and reconnecting. We rode the Metro Red Line (yes, L.A. has a subway) to Hollywood to see Wicked, did some research and writing at the beautiful Central Library, ate dinner at the wonderful Ciudad (I can't believe we have never eaten there before), had refreshments at the rotating Bona Vista Lounge atop the Bonaventure hotel (I don't know if it is tacky or kitschy, but the view is amazing) and discussed plans in the many great public spaces.

I highly recommend that you set aside some time every year to step outside of your normal schedule and surroundings and reflect on your family, your community and your life.

If you decide to take an adventure downtown, here are some great resources to help make the most of it:

Deciding What to Do
Huell Howser - a California treasure who helps locals and visitors discover what makes our state so great
Interactive Downtown Map
Take a Tour of the historic theaters on Broadway and other buildings
See a Movie in one of the historic theaters

Getting Around - though I encourage you to use your feet, these alternatives are much better than a car
Metro - L.A. County buses, light rail and subway
LADOT - L.A. city bus system

Where to Stay - we've stayed in the first three and want to check out the others on future trips
Millennium Biltmore - get in the mood of historic L.A. by staying in a piece of history
Omni - a great location next to MOCA and California Plaza (which has free outdoor concerts on Fridays in the summer)
Sheraton - right across the street from the Metro station
The Standard
Hilton Checkers

Dining - there are lots of great places to eat, but many are closed or have limited hours on weekends, so check before you go
Clifton's Cafeteria
Grand Central Market
George's Greek Cafe

A view of the city from our room.

I recently posted about creative reuses for cardboard tubes. Taking "reuse" to a new level, artist Nancy Rubins sculpture using old airplane parts at MOCA.

The unreal Disney Hall.

"Wicked" at the amazing Pantages Theater (not actually in downtown L.A., but a short subway trip away)