I shared Hana and Mike’s engagement photographs a few months ago in my blog “The Lumberjack and the Princess“.  Well, the big day finally arrived last Sunday.  Hana and Mike got married. I was privileged enough to photograph their wedding. … Continue reading


My friend CJ approached me at one of our weekly retired guys meetings and inquired if I would be interested in photographing a small wedding he was putting together for a couple of friends.  He also said that I knew at least one of the people  as she had worked at my school and now worked in the school district office.  As I like photographing small, intimate weddings, I quickly agreed to do the photography that day.

I knew the Susan from the brief time that she worked at my school before she transferred over to the district office. Neil also works at the district office, and it was there that they met.  Their relationship first began with just their casual smiles at each other as the passed in the office hallways.  Neil admits that he was smitten with Susan when he first met her, and it only took one date for Susan to realize that Neil was The One.  As they spent time together, they started talking about the reality of getting married and finally agreed that marriage was the right thing for them to do.

As the couple announced their plans at work and to their friends, CJ and his wife Jennifer convinced Susan and Neil that they should conduct the ceremony and reception at CJ and Jenner’s home.  Thus was beginning what I call the wedding in Little Hawaii.  CJ grew up in Hawaii and his backyard landscaping and decorations are all based on Hawaiian themes.

Both Susan and Neil mention that one of the favorite things about the other is their smile.  Those smiles were visible all around on the big day.  Definitely no “now look serious” poses for them.  The setting was great, the food terrific, and a wonderful time was had by everyone.

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Susan and Neil and their four sons.


The Newlyweds with Jennifer and CJ, the founders of the feast.

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The wedding day ended with close friends and family under the lights of Little Hawaii and the beauty of another wonderful Arizona sunset.   Good luck and God bless, Susan and Neil.  May you have great adventures kayaking  and may you find wonderful recipes on those cooking shows you love to watch.  Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your special day.



Readers were introduced to this young couple in my blog post on April 15, linked here.  The big day finally arrived on June 7th.  The wedding was held at Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale.  The day went off with just a minor hitch.  Mother Nature blessed us with a 112 degree day.  But we live in a desert and are aware of the things we need to do to survive and found as much open shade as we could at 4 in the afternoon to get the early photo session out of the way.

The venue for the wedding was the fruit packing shed at the park.  It was a great little place to have the ceremony and the reception.  The shed and the surrounding area allow for rustic looking photographs using the antique buildings and equipment as props.  We also had access to the vineyards to use as a backdrop for some of the images we took.  And the park is not nicknamed “Peacock Park” for no reason.  The many peacocks that live on the ranch decided to show up and watch the “goings on” of the afternoon.

Because Katie is a former student athlete of mine, there were many guests at the wedding that are also former students and athletes that I haven’t seen in quite awhile.  It was great seeing them and catching up with their lives.  My little Hawklings have all grown up…sniff.  It is great to see how these young men and women have grown out of that “floppy puppy” person they were as Freshmen.

I want to thank Katie and Jason for the opportunity to photograph their wedding and share in that magical time of their lives.  They are a great couple who display a great enthusiasm for each other and for Jason’s son, Andrew.  I wish them the best as they start on this new journey as a family.


KJW-43The beautiful bride

KJW-10The handsome groom

KJW-25The Groom and his Men

KJW-47The Bride and her Lovely Ladies

KJW-49 KJW-23The wedding was soccer themed, as the couple met at a soccer tournament they were both playing in.

KJW-151-EditThe Family Hyatt


KJW-180-Edit2013 version of American Gothic


KJW-80Katie’s grandfather’s Bible

KJW-376Sealed the deal on the Bible

KJW-359-EditIt was a donut that started it all…great things start out as simple things


KJW-252-EditAll wedding portraits should look like this.  Fun was the keyword of the evening.

KJW-302The main event of the reception dance.  Andrew calls his dad out for a dance-off.  As I remember it, Andrew won.


Wedding photography was done by Tim Poole of Poole Photography LLC

Thanks to my second shooter Brianna Yahraus for all her help that night.



Shontionn is a former student and athlete of mine from the good old teaching days at Apollo High School.  Shontionns specialty in track was the hurdles.  I and his event coaches will always remember Shontionn as one of the hardest working and determined athletes that we have had the privilege to coach.  I was happy for Shontionn when he posted his engagement to Maria on Facebook.

Maria did not attend Apollo, so my first time meeting Maria was the day we shot their engagement session.  What a wonderful young lady.     I look forward to the day I get to photograph their wedding.  Best of God’s blessings to you, Shontionn and Maria.

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A Slice of Summer’s Drake’s Cakes

A little background here.  I introduced my former student Summer Drake in this blog post at the end of December. One day I was brainstorming about photography sessions I could do in between jobs and I thought of Summer and her cake baking enterprise.  As a new business myself, I am quite aware of the need for the new business to get the word out about their product, be it photography or cakes.  I myself do this with my website, Facebook business page and, of course, this blog.  So I thought that I use the tools I have at my disposal to give a hand to Summer and help her promote her Drake’s Cakes business.  So I came up with the idea of shooting a photographic journey of Summer putting together one of her cake masterpieces.

I was a big fan of the show “Amazing Wedding Cakes”.  I always thought that the job, the creation of the final product, looked like something fun and creative, but I knew it would be too tedious a job  for me to do.  Plus, I know that somewhere along the line I would succumb to the temptation of doing a faceplant into one of the cakes and eating my way to the surface.  One might think that the show would be boring to watch, but I found it highly dramatic and entertaining.  The show featured 4 different bakeries that followed the creation of the final cake from the meeting with the client to the final delivery and the clients all gushy and happy about the results.  But the show always had its share of tense moments.  There were  the two sisters who always hated each other during the making of the cake but at the end loved each other again, until the next cake.  Then there was the owner that would never like anything and pretty much throw out everything that was done and start over an hour before delivery (as my wife said, “I could not work for that man.”).  Of course there was always the  perils of delivering a huge wedding cake on time in the harrowing Los Angeles traffic. But my favorite drama moment was when the baker found a slight flaw on one of the 2 dozen blown sugar glass balls and proceeded to throw everyone of them on the floor at about 4 in the morning with shots of her 2 interns looking on in horror.  Classic.

I did not anticipate there being any of this type of drama at Summer’s cake baking session.  After all, the other is television and if it didn’t have drama and suspense, no one would watch  “Amazing Wedding Cakes”. It would have just been another cooking show.  What I did want to do was capture the love and care and steps that Summer took during the cake building experience.  I believe the photographs that follow are a great testament to Summer’s cake making abilities.

I did a Friday night and Saturday afternoon session with Summer.  She had three cakes to decorate.  She had done all the baking before I arrived and the cakes were chilling in the fridge.  Summer’s sister Samantha, another former student of mine, came over and helped.  (they liked each other all the way through the process)  I hope these pictures convey the energy that Summer puts into her creations to make sure that the client is completely 100% satisfied with the results.  (or gushy and happy, if you prefer)

The cakes I photographed are the baby shower cake and the Sweet 16 cake.  It was also Summer’s first topsy-turvy cake.  Finally at the bottom are two pictures Summer provided of two wedding cakes she made.

For more photographs go see her Facebook page at facebook.com/drakescakesandcatering.

Phone number: (623)297-0113

Email: summerldrake@gmail.com

On to the main event!


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The above is the cake without the decorations.

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When I started writing this post I started thinking of Bill Cosby’s routine about chocolate cake, so thought I would share it.  It is hysterical, without a single swear word.  Worth the 9 minutes.


After I made the decision to go into the wedding photography business, I began researching what types of pictures were normally shot at a wedding.  Every blog I looked at all featured photographs of the dress hanging in front of a window, or off of a tree.  They also included pictures of the flowers, the cake, the reception decorations, invitations and all other types of wedding paraphernalia.  And shoes.  The bride’s shoes.  I hate to say this, but I became fixated on the “why” of shooting the bride’s shoes.  So I asked the people who I thought might know the answer; wedding photographers and brides.

The wedding photographers gave me a pretty sophisticated answer.  The first reason was that the bride requested it.  Makes sense since we work for the bride.  The second part was business related.  The photographers usually posted the shoe photos on their blogs and listed the name of the shoe supplier with a link to that supplier’s site.  Free advertisement for the shoe company with the shoe company giving out positive recommends for the photographer.

The brides’ answer was simple: girls dig shoes!

After pondering this for some time, I came to the following  hypothesis;  when it comes to weddings there are things “girly” and there are things of “beauty” And I don’t use the word girly in a derogatory way. I use it in a complimentary manner in the sense that if the subject of the photograph is girly, the female photographer “gets” it.  For example, when Diana Elizabeth, Melissa Jill or Jasmine Star post  photographs of the brides shoes, those pictures look special.  That is because, in my humble opinion, the women are in tune with the whole shoe scene.  They appreciate what the bride went through to pick out the perfect shoe for the day.  They might even want a pair just like them, only not in the same color.  The ladies understand.  And this understanding and love of shoes goes into all the technical and artistic intricacies and embeds itself into that photograph of the bride’s shoes.

But one might ask, “don’t the shoes exhibit beauty?”  Yes they do, absolutely. My point is that  I may see the beauty of the shoes, but I will never appreciate the beauty of the shoes the way a female photographer does.  I believe that appreciation gives her the opportunity to capture that image in personal way that I am not able to do.

The beauty that I am referring to is the universal beauty that can be appreciated and understood by both male and female photographers.  We all can see the beauty of the bride, understanding the hours, days and maybe years that she spent planning on looking as beautiful as she does on her important day.  We see her beauty reflected in the face of the groom as he turns and sees her at the “first look”, or as he catches that first glimpse of his lady-love as she proceeds down the aisle.  And capturing that beauty is what drives us as photographers.  We look through that viewfinder and use the lenses, the settings, our technical and artistic skills to reach out and bring that beauty into the camera to be preserved for bride and groom so they may spark the memories and the stories of that one special day.

As a wedding photographer, I work for the bride.  If she wants pictures of her shoes, I will take them and do the best I can technically and creatively to capture the best photograph possible.  It is her wedding and it is up to me to photograph the memories she wants.  But let me say that I felt extremely fortunate when my last bride politely declined to have me photograph her shoes.  It did not hurt my feelings.

Now if someone would explain to me this whole “trash the dress” thing.

Daily footwear for the retired gentleman.


Finally got the wedding loaded up to Pictage.  It was a tedious process.  I could get about 5-10 pictures uploaded and then I would lose the internet connection.  The tech I talked to at my cable company tried to blame it on the size of the pictures I was sending, or the site I was sending it to.  Something tells me that highly paid professionals that are uploading thousands of pictures to one of the premier photosites are NOT having the same problems that I am having.  Could it be my modem, which is 9 years old and is only supposed to be good for about 5 years?  I must get this cleared up before my next assignment.  Regardless, it feels terrific to be done.

For the immediate future I will continue to work on improving my photography and editing skills, and drum up some future assignments.  One of my many mentors said that the business of photography is 10% photography and 95% business.  So back to blogging and planning out my next steps.  However, I think I will take a guilt-free nap sometime in the near future.  I read somewhere that before the Beatles were famous that John Lennon came home from a Hamburg tour and slept for 3 days.  Sounds like a plan to me.

When the mother of the bride (see previous post) was an infant, I did talk her dad into putting her in a windup swing while he and I played a board game.  It worked. She was quiet and happy.  Her dad felt guilty.

She turned out just fine.

Another cool little tidbit from the wedding.  Pita Jungle catered the reception.  I mentioned to Mom that a former student of mine was a cook there.  She said that Josh, the cook, had told her that.   She also told me that Josh told her they were getting a real good photographer for the wedding.  I was flattered.  Josh and I go way back.  His dad was my assistant track coach for many years.  Josh took two years of photography from me and ran track for me as well.  He was the Arizona state champion in pole vaulting his junior year.  I also accidentally smashed Josh’s fingers in a door when he was 8 years old.  I am glad to know he doesn’t hold that against me.

One last thing.  I am pretty hit or miss about adding tags.  During my blogging on the Olympics, however, I was pretty good about adding tags to my posts.  I don’t get very many comments on my posts, so I scan my spam comments just to entertain myself.  In one of them I was congratulated on my Olympic victory.  Got to love spiders or what ever they are called.  Gave me a good laugh.I also printed it and framed it.


or as a friend of mine said, “that achingly cute couple.”    This was a very special wedding for me to shoot as my connection to Mallory extends back to the 1st grade at good old Washington Elementary School in Prescott, AZ.  This is where Mallory’s grandfather and I met and ended up becoming life long friends.  True BFFs.  Mallory’s mother, Gigi, was a newborn when she was a passenger in my car as her parents and I drove back to college from Prescott to Azusa, CA, at the end of the Thanksgiving holiday.  When Gigi and I talked over the wedding weekend she reminded me of two stories.

The first one is how I talked her dad in to putting her in a wind-up swing so he and I could play a board game uninterrupted for a few moments.  In his defense, dad didn’t want to do it.  I talked him into it.  And whenever he felt guilty, I would point at her swinging away contentedly  and say, “She’s fine!  She will grow up okay.  Your roll.”   Gigi turned out fine.  She is a mother of three, a published author and a home-school-er and a wonderful person.  On the other hand, maybe if she hadn’t been put in the swing, she mind have found a cure for some disease by now.  Who knows.

The  second story was of the time she lived in Phoenix and needed help moving from a bottom floor apartment to a second floor apartment.  In the summer.  Did I mention in Phoenix?  Just me, dad and her moving furniture in 100+ degrees.  What a long, hot day.  There was one positive thing that came out of that day.  I learned that the best way to cool down quickly was to stick my head into the freezer.  A trick I still use to this day.

As for Mallory, the last time I had seen her she was about 10 years old.  It was a pleasure to meet her again and see what I fine young woman she grew up to be.  She met the groom, John, at church.  He is the drummer and she is the singer for the church band.  One Sunday he proposed to Mallory at the end of church services.  I am told there wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation that day.

Mallory and Johnnie’s wedding was a simple affair.  No MUAs, no hairstylists, no maid of honor or bridesmaids, no best man or groomsmen.  Mallory’s future mother-in-law made the food for the rehearsal dinner, made the wedding cake and provided the flowers. The music was provided by the church guitarist.   The whole wedding day was just a celebration of the binding  of these to young hearts together.  I am glad I was given the opportunity to  photograph the joy and the love of Mallory and Johnnie’s wedding.


I found out from Mallory that she had taken photography in high school.  I told her that as a photography teacher I told my students not to take “say cheese” photographs, or “duck lips” or other forms of mugging for the camera.  I may have imagined this, but it seemed like a lot of times when she caught me ready to take a shot she would throw a little “mugging” pose for the camera.  I’ll let you be the judge.  I loved Mallory’s sense of humor.



There was a crowd of family and friends for the First Look.  The bride pinches the groom on the side of the arm.  He turns and that magical moment happens when he sees his lovely bride for the first time in her wedding dress.  They embrace and are getting ready to kiss when the gallery starts yelling “You can’t kiss!  No kissing until after the ceremony.”  That may have been the longest 30 seconds of the young couple’s life, embracing each other, wanting to kiss, but deciding instead just to “air kiss” a few times.



I wanted to get a few shots of Mallory right before the ceremony got started.  People told me she was in a particular room.  I went to the room and found it totally dark except for a little light through an inside window.  Mallory was in a tiny room with her two sisters, an I-pod playing contemporary Christian music and Mallory beautifully singing along.  I don’t even know if she was even aware that I had entered the room and was taking pictures.  This is one of my favorite images of that time.


“My turn to to read the vows!” excitement.

The church, Canyon Chapel, is a renovated Pep Boys.  On the Thursday before the wedding, the decision was made to move the reception to the basement of the church.  The not quite so renovated basement of Pep Boys.  Over the next two days friends and family worked tirelessly to turn that basement into a reception worthy room.  It reminded me of the barn building scene in “Witness.”  I had seen the basement Thursday when the renovation had just started.  When I showed up Saturday it was just like “wow!” And all this work was done cheerfully.  I believe this to be a testament to the love and affection that people feel for this young couple.

Smiling, Happy People, Kissing, Dancing, Kids, and did I mention Kissing?

Good fortune and God’s blessings to John and Mallory.

Music provide by Terry Alan; Founder and guitar instructor at the Flagstaff School of Music.  http://flagstaffschoolofmusic.com/

Reception catered by Pita Jungle.  Former student Josh Devlin is a cook there.  http://www.pitajungle.com/locations/flagstaff/

Music of this blog:  Gordon Lightfoot classic love songs.

I would like to thank my second shooter, Noel Palomino.  The day after I learned I was going to be photographing this wedding, Noel and I went to lunch.  I explained to her that I knew a couple of people that I could ask to second shoot for me, but I didn’t feel right asking them to go up to Flagstaff  to do it on their own dime.  She immediately volunteered her services, telling me she would be back in Flagstaff by then.  Noel is a former photography student of mine, so I knew I could count on her taking decent shots.  She was of great help to me that day.