Styled shoots are a great way to build ones photography portfolio. One thing I discovered when I first moved to northwest Montana was I had trouble convincing prospective clients I could take the epic Montana photos they craved when the only examples of photos I had were of the hills of the Texas hill country filled with oak trees. That is nothing against the Texas Hill Country mind you—after all my own wedding took place in a hill country setting and it was an amazing, low-key party enjoyed by all—but the central Texas is lacking in the amazing mountain vistas and alpine forests.
So naturally when I got a call from fellow photographer Cammi of So Striking Studio inviting me to tag along on a styled shoot she'd put together at a couple of iconic Glacier National Park locations how could I say no?!
While it was a tad breezy and our poor model got a little chilly was the sun began to set, I truly don't think it could have gone any better than it did. It was one of those photo shoots where I just couldn't wait to get home to get the images downloaded to start working on them.
I do a lot of talking about how awesome it is to meet folks from all over the country who come to Montana for weddings, family reunions, or just your standard vacation. What I don't often talk about is hanging out and documenting the lives of the friends we've made here in Montana. But no more! Nick & Skotti's daughter was in my daughter's first- and second-grade classes and they've become good friends. So naturally when Skotti hit me up for some potential family photos I naturally jumped at the chance. Of course it was chillier than expected—it was in the mid-40s on this late August morning—which made it necessary to just power through, but we all managed!
Meredith & John came all the way from New York to escape the crowds of the city and to document their engagement in the last best place, Montana. It's a shame they only had a few days in Whitefish, as we could've spent so many more hours traipsing around to Glacier National Park's copious amounts of epic views. Alas, with the limited time we had to "make do" with sticking to West Glacier and Lake McDonald. I don't think anyone will take pity on them for that 'restriction.' Meredith and John, thank you so much for choosing me for your engagement photos, and best of luck as you begin the in-depth process of wedding planning. And if that gets overwhelming come on back to Montana and elope! 🙂
I probably sound like a broken record, but one of the perks of being a photographer in an area that is such a destination for so many people is I get to meet and hang out with people from all over the country. The Brown family contacted me in hopes of getting some photos to document their trip that took them literally all over the western half of Montana, and culminated in a visit to the Flathead Valley. They made the trip from Mississippi, which was funny because it was the day after Shona & Bradley's wedding, and they live in Mississippi. It's as the song from the Disney ride says, "it's a small world after all."
Like just about everyone in the wedding business this year, my summer bookings were all made prior to the worldwide pandemic created by COVID-19. Naturally, this placed a lot of wedding plans up in the air, and while Shona and Bradley were traveling from out-of-state, their plans were always for a more intimate wedding in the glorious outdoors that can be found at Lone Pine State Park and the beautiful grounds of Conrad Mansion in Kalispell. Also, any wedding where a friendly game of bocce ball breaks out is a successful wedding in my book. Congratulations to Shona & Bradley, thank you so much for including me in the festivities.
Lorene & Justin's wedding should've taken place right in the thick of what was on pace to be my busiest wedding season ever. With the onset of COVID-19 however, it ended up being my first wedding this year, amongst a plethora of unfortunately canceled and rescheduled events.
Thankfully this super easy going couple already had a lot of things working in their favor. Even before the pandemic took hold in the United States, they had a limited guest list predominantly made up of family, and they were getting married at their house. Their day was made up of friends and family pitching in to get everything just so, and the decor was largely of the DIY variety, making for a laid back, intimate, fun affair.
Thank you Lorene and Justin for your trust in me, and your hospitality in welcoming me to your home.
As you may have heard, the world is currently in the middle of a pandemic due to the coronavirus. The thing about novel viruses that nobody seems to fully understand and can be transmitted even by asymptomatic people is that large gatherings are generally a big no-no. Cities, states, and even whole countries have implemented various levels of "lockdowns" and "shelter-in-place" directives in hopes of avoiding overwhelming our healthcare system.
Prior to all of this, my mother-in-law had long been planning a move to Northwest Montana from her long-time home in central Texas. My family, and my wife's sisters and their respective families all now live in this general vicinity, and by extension so do her grandkids. And as any grandparent can likely attest, the pull of being close to your grandchildren is a mighty one. So this spring was always earmarked as the time that made the most sense to put that move into motion for several reasons. Once the coronavirus became a big deal, it changed the math a little on how exactly we would all make this happen. But fortunately when the main things I do to earn a living—namely weddings and motorsport photography, but also family photography to a lesser extent—become banned for all intents and purposes, when your wife comes to you and asks if we can rent an RV to act as a self-contained quarantine mobile, drive four-thousand miles roundtrip, and help her mom pack, I've got nothing but time!
Under any other circumstances, it actually would be a ton of fun I think. Taking our time, stopping at roadside or near-roadside attractions to see things we might otherwise never get a chance to see, and putting together some of my somewhat unique knowledge of small towns in the Texas panhandle to good use (due to my spending almost five years working for the official travel magazine of Texas, Texas Highways.)
But of course, under these circumstances, it was in many ways what I have decided to dub 'a stress pancake.' Between my wife attempting to get work done to salvage what income we do still have during this crazy time, attempting to make progress with my daughter on her take-home work with schools being closed for the year, attempting to drive an RV during a record-breaking late winter storm and 45+ mph crosswinds for 70% of the trip, and packing up the house where my mother-in-law has lived for the past 20 years, and leaving the RV only to pump gas and hook up to power and water at our nightly KOA stops... it was a lot.
While I am not doing my normal work photographing people or events, I am always striving to work on my craft. Whether that is new techniques or forced limitations on my approach. With this trip I wanted to document, it will no doubt provide story fodder for many years to come, and perhaps one day my daughter will have the opportunity to regale her children and/or grandchildren with the story of the time she rode across a country in lockdown in a rented RV with her parents, her cat recently diagnosed with lymphoma, and her two guinea pigs to help her grandmother move. I limited myself to only using my iPhone for capturing and editing everything, and while I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, and there are large chunks of the trip missed simply because I was driving, I think I did an okay job of capturing a sense of how it all went down.
But out wasn't all exhaustion, driving, stress and "my gosh why is central Texas so hot and humid in mid-April?!" There were moments of magic. Davis' Trading Post (the top image) and the wide open spaces of South Eastern Idaho, the bluebonnets covering the rural roadside's at golden hour in North Texas, talking about what serious art classes were like in college with my daughter and how critiques work. Hopefully those are the things she remembers, and takes away from this crazy endeavor.
Like a lot of states around the country, Montana is now under a 'stay-at-home' order in hopes of combatting the spread of the Coronavirus. Thankfully, prior to that happening I was able to escape with the family to the in-laws in Northern Idaho for some extreme social distancing and some maternity photos in anticipation of another nephew!
Family photos can be tricky with a rambunctious two-year-old and a brother-in-law who sometimes acts like a two-year-old (joking!) but here's a little secret. Silly kiddos are infinitely more stressful on the family—and let's be honest, the mom primarily—than they are for the photographer. Oftentimes my favorite photos from family sessions are when the kid(s) are just goofing off and not following my direction or the pleas of their parents.
Anyway, I can't wait to meet the latest addition to our family, with the hope all of this COVID-19 stuff is largely behind us in a few months and life has returned to some semblance of "normal."
I was fortunate to be included in this fun styled wedding session at North Forty Resort this past weekend. Book of Love Weddings & Events pulled together a bevy of awesome collaborators from My Montana Wedding for this pink-hued, winter inspiration.
It's always a delight to get a call or text from a fellow photographer with an invitation to join them on a styled shoot, no matter how low-key it may be. And that is just what happened with this particular shoot.
Amber—of Amber Lynn Photography—texted me to see if I wanted to head out to West Glacier for a quick styled shoot featuring a cheapo $30 sheer sparkly dress, the Northwest Montana Snow, a fellow photographer—also an Amber—as model, hair, and makeup from Bridal Bliss, and florals from Farm-to-Market Floral. How could I say no?!
For my second time doing portraits of an individual in freezing temperatures in the middle of January, I'm really quite happy with the results.