Sunday, September 30, 2012

Chef & Shutter

When Michael and I were in Montreal a couple of weeks ago, we had lots of time to be inspired by the beauty that surrounded us and plan for our next big adventure. We have started a business on the side called Chef & Shutter. The concept is to hire us for small and intimate dinner parties. We will prepare, cook, decorate, clean up and photograph the event. We want to keep it small and have been testing the market. The response has been positive! Last night we hosted a dinner party for ten and made a practice run of our next 30 person event this fall. The decor was inspired by the harvest season including white gourds, candles and mason jars filled with wild flowers. Citrus water was served in empty label-less wine bottles and there were sprigs of rosemary intertwined in each napkin. Smooth lounge tunes were woven into the bustling conversations and laughter. We started with a welcome drink made of apple cider, bourbon and cinnamon sticks. Various cheeses, fruit and bread were served as well as a prosciutto wrapped pear, watercress, red and yellow peppers and homemade herb cream cheese. The soup was a butternut squash and pumpkin seed blend. Next was beef tenderloin cooked to perfection, leek mashed potatoes, candied carrots and asparagus and a glazed pearl onion. We sipped on various California reds, matched perfectly to each course. Dessert was homemade vanilla icecream and a pear, apple and ginger crumble with a crushed pistachio crust. As always, we took breaks between courses, snapped photos in between and later sipped Lemoncillo liquer to cleanse the pallette. Our guests left with a dinner music compilation that I made for each couple to take home. We have always entertained like this. We are fortunate to now have a house made for entertaining, and amazing friends who always offer to contribute.  We had a great night, were left with more wine that we even started with and a very generous gift from our friends. Looking forward to the next leg in our creative journey together. I could not ask for a better lifemate or corporate partner.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Giving thanks

We are shooting a family wedding next weekend and since we will all be there, we decided to do Thanksgiving a week early this year. My parent's place at the lake has become a special spot to us this past year. We go for long walks on the beach, chill out and most importantly, spend time together. Last night was the final weekend until everyone closes up for the season. I could smell the waft of turkey as soon as we rounded the corner. Bundled up in our comfy cozies, the four of us sat and had some drinks, munchies, and reflected on recent events. If there is something I have learned as we get older, it's that our time with loved ones is eventually limited. It saddens me to see my parents slowly aging. They are still active and could probably run circles around people their own age, but still. It's their time to relax and enjoy life. They've both been through so much and now deserve a peaceful life. I blogged at Christmas time how, after almost 7 years together as a blended family, my stepsister explained that this was the first time she felt that we were a real family. No struggles, no strife and having each other's backs. Inside jokes, traditions and routine. At the end of the day, all that matters is who is between those four walls, what is said is only known to us and that we make each moment and day count, spending time together and laughing, instead of wasting moments re-hashing the past. I realize that what we have is a gift. Having our parents alive and well is a precious, precious gift and we have grown so much as a family, and finally got our groove going, so to speak. We know the drill, we know each other's moods, we know what and what not to say. We are all that we've got, and for this, at Thanksgiving season, I am grateful. Cheers to another wonderful summer together and on to a new season, your seventh wedding anniversary, and our fifth year of being together. 



Friday, September 28, 2012

When the smoke cleared.

An old highschool friend of mine emailed me to ask about photography services for his family. In February, tragedy struck them and their home and all it's contents burned to the ground, right before their eyes. They lost everything. Family pets, wedding photographs, and every memory they had ever made including family pictures. My heart went out to them.

They wanted new beginnings. Their new home is being dug. They are slowly rebuilding their world. And last night was a fresh start for some family photographs. Stephan did not want the typical "black background with matching t-shirts" kind of portrait. We met them in Cambridge and just photographed them being a family. I love the autonomy these parents give their children to express themselves, colored hair and all.

Here are a few photos from last night. And I wish them all the luck in the world as they rebuild. And they will.




Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Coming soon on the blog....a gorgeous maternity session with my longtime and dear friend Dara and her baby girl Capri. It's been a hectic month and I'm behind on some blogging but I have some exciting sessions coming up!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Goodbye to summer's been a great one, but I am so excited for fall, warm sweaters, red wine, fireplaces and rejuvinating the mind and soul.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

My turn of crazy.

I was told that I've been spoiled with normal clients, so it's only fitting to have my turn of crazy.
I'll keep this blog post as professional as I can under the circumstances, and we are looking for photographer's support. Mine, Michael's and my assistant for a day's wedding photos have been compromised and tampered with. The wedding was a "family" member and we felt sorry for them that they were on a budget. The price was peanuts and we worked tirelessly for 14 hours, and countless weeks following to carefully hand craft the wedding photos. We also shot their engagement and stag and doe free of charge. I've come to learn via Facebook that the bride is unhappy with the photos. So much so, that she sent an email to all her bridal party requesting to comment negatively on all the wedding photos she posted. Thank goodness I have all this documentation to back us up. After seeking legal counsel, my assistant contacted her to please remove images that her and her bridesmaid are taking upon themselves to re-edit, as well as a statement that the photographers intentionally made her look old and ugly. A statement which is liable in court for slander. And posted to the Facebook world for all our friends and family to see. She laughed, and refuses to take the images down. If anything, more edited images continue to appear. And our "army of supporters" as someone quipped, continue to document it every step of the way.

Now I understand that everyone has a right to their opinion. The tricky part about wedding photography is trying to be on the same page with the client in terms of final output. The problem becomes when, they compare your work to high end weddings to those that are on a budget. Of course gorgeous venues, beautiful food and amazing details photograph well. Most brides take the time to do their hair and makeup, ensure their room is clean and free of garbage to photograph and take pride in the details. In this case, there were no florals except for those that were fake, a sea of turquoise and a bride who does not like the way she looks on any given day. There was no dinner provided to the guests, no bombineres and very little guests on the bride's side. It is difficult from our perspective, to turn a photograph into a masterpiece when there is very little to work with. We are memory makers, not magicians. With that being said, we are a company that bides by the term "no excuses." If a hotel room is a mess, we try our best to photograph the bride by a window. If we are running low on time, we try to pull the reigns in to get all the shots we need. Because we know, at the end of it all, if photos are missed because the hairdresser is running late, it's not her that will take the brunt of's us.

This is our first experience dealing with a negative situation like this, and it is quite disheartening to say the least, to be told that our photos "suck" and accused of deliberately screwing up wedding photos. In a message to my assistant, the bride let her know that she takes better cell phone photos of herself and in a separate email stating that she turned down a 5 million dollar Cover Girl contract as well as a 2.5 million dollar contract with Jive records, and has never seen such ugly photos. Did I mention she is a paralegal as well? Poor Michael took so many photos of the groom, and to be told that they are all unflattering and ugly is a horrible feeling. In fairness to us, every vendor was complained about (other than the makeup artist and wedding singer who conveniently happened to both be the complainer). Everything from the bridal party not paying for their dresses, the dressmaker screwing up the hemline, the aisle runner being wrong, the invitations having to be redone etc. My mom was going to make the cake, and my stepdad was asked to videotape. Both foresaw what was going to happen, and both eagerly declined and I was encouraged to do so, but we forged forward. A promise is a promise and I am a professional.

So you see, we understand we are not dealing with someone entirely on this planet, however from a legal aspect, the manipulation of our photos is something that is a poor reflection of our brand and talent. We have deep pride for our work, our reputation and our relationship with our clients. When I posted these re-edited photos on Facebook, the comments from my colleagues came flooding in. I am not alone in this experience and the copyright laws that are included in the contract are supposed to protect us from such damage. But when something like this is associated with your name, how protected are you? My before shots, and her "after" shots...claiming that a bridal portrait should be more "heavenly."

This is definitely not my typical client. It was my assistant's first wedding and I felt sorry for her as the bride yelled at everyone in the room to be quiet so she could put on her makeup. I let her know that this wedding was not the norm. Most brides, despite the nickname bridezilla are loving, gracious and happy on their day. I was advised to never shoot weddings for family or friends and anyone who gets a discount, almost always takes advantage and wants more. Photographers that I know charge up to $25 per edited image. These photos were edited by hand, all 800 of them for nothing. The value of nothing, is obviously nothing. Lesson learned.

In this photo above, my husband was focusing on the "guy in the front", whom in this case happened to be the father of the groom. In my experience, the father of the groom is a pretty important guy. No?  It was done deliberately, but not maliciously like the comments suggest.

Something that I struggle with personally, is giving clients photos that are technically imperfect. Of course any photos with obvious closed eyes, distracting angles or totally blurry get thrown in the reject pile. But what if that photo with the distracting angle has a cute and candid moment that is meaningful to the couple, that we are unaware of? We don't know the dynamics going on between them and certain guests. In one photo at a family wedding before my aunt's death, someone took a slightly fuzzy picture of her and I laughing on the dance floor. And I still cherish it. The beauty of digital is that if you don't like a certain photo, then you don't have to post it. In the above shot, I felt this was a cute moment because while others may not understand it, it was a photojournalistic approach to a day which was full of posed smiles. Sadly, this was posted intentionally with the commenters prodded to say negative things. It was all planned.

It's sadly true that often times, high end budgets have higher calibre people. Strangers have booked us, and in our upcoming weddings have scheduled us in for a weekend at bed and breakfasts, rehearsal dinners, a next day brunch and often send tokens of their appreciation. Or at least a thank you card.
They also maybe have an appreciation for quality and in our experience, never complain.

It certainly puts a damper on things when you have worked so hard at something, put your heart and love into it and it gets shit on. But you can't win them all, you learn and grow, avoid it happening again and most importantly, try even harder with your next client. Everything is a learning experience. My only hope is that future clients don't suffer because I've over-scrutinized whether or not to include the photo that may not be technically perfect.

To see the complete photos and writeup of this blog, please check here. You will note that the bride left the last comment on the blog and was happy with what she saw, but somewhere along the way when the party was over, is left angry with visuals of a day that she was not happy with. And the photographers unfairly take the brunt of that. I've offered them the very little money they gave us back because they are so unhappy with their photos. It's sad to think that you didn't live up to someone's expectations, but when you try your best...what else can you do?

I am happy to announce that the bride has redone her portraits with her cell phone to her style and taste.
I have yet to pose a bride eating her veil but it goes to show we all have our own rights to what we think is classy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

~ A new day has come ~

Have you ever admired someone so completely that they entirely changed your world upside down? Can you fathom that same person that has been your muse for so long, now wants to sing your song for example? Or in my case, be photographed by me.

I first met Natalie over 3.5 years ago on a wedding planning site. We were both on Canadian Bride, long before the likes of Pinterest and other such eye pleasing blogs. She posted photos of her bridal shower and I almost died. I asked her in amazement, who was responsible for photographing such jaw-dropping images and her response has contributed to forever changing my life. In that single moment.

She, this gorgeous and young lady was the photographer. And then it hit me. Whatever this is, I need to do this with my life.

We carried on communicating for a few years, and had many deep and heartfelt "conversations." She helped me with my struggling beginnings in photography, and we chatted about life, love and most personally, her desire to have a baby.

Together we conspired to one day meet but since the distance permitted this, I concocted a different plan. I scrawled a message to God, translated to Italian by Natalie, put it in a bottle and threw it far into the rapidly flowing currents of the river. One day, I received a message, on the day I bought my first professional camera: You're getting a D800 and I'm getting a baby. Both our dreams are coming true.

Michael and I took a week long trip to Ottawa, Mont Tremblant and Montreal last week and I finally got to meet Nat and her family in person. She was a lot shorter than I imagined, but then again, so was Madonna. It's funny how someone so high on the pedestal in your imagination, is not really that tall at all. But in real life, this tiny and beautiful person who I've admired so immensely over all these years, is a sweet, talented and excited mother-to-be. And after spending the day and night with her mom, sister, grandparents, husband and doggy, it felt like we were forever friends.

And we will be.

Natalie, Lucas & family, thank you so much for being so hospitable to us. We had minimal time to work with, no chance for an alternate rain date and no real planning went into this shoot. Sometimes, like we discussed, there is this moment where the spontaneous meets the talent, and magic just happens. We hope these images tide you over until your beautiful baby girl Ellia arrives. We can't wait to meet her.

Love always,