Ashley + Matt: The Engagement Session

I knew from the moment I first talked to Ashley when she called about booking me for their 2018 Sugarloaf wedding this past summer that we were going to get along swimmingly. My instincts are rarely wrong, and they didn’t fail me this time either. As Ashley and Matt approached the benches in front of Higgins Beach in Scarborough, where we had planned to meet for their engagement shoot, I could see her warm, friendly smile from a block away. It was colder than we’d expected–a warm front would blow in the next day  causing large portions of the state to lose power for days, but Saturday was brisk and breezy. Still, Ashley’s smile never dimmed, and she was game to dance, sit on the wet sand, or explore the landscape of Higgins Beach without a single complaint about the weather or the wind whipping at her long dark hair.

In between shots we got to know each other, chatting about their work and mine, their progress on their wedding plans, and so on. This is what I really LOVE about engagement sessions, and why I’m a firm believer that even the most camera-shy couples should include one in their package: it’s an awesome opportunity to get to know each other before the big day. And Matt, Ashley’s fiance, confided he’s not thrilled to be in front of the camera, but you’d never know it to look at his pictures. That’s because over the course of a session, we’re all getting more comfortable together until before you know it, you’ll stop noticing my camera clicking away in front of you, and you’ll stop formally posing, and instead, you’ll just start being who you are with the love of your life…while someone happens to be taking a picture of you doing it (yay me! This is why I love my job!).

Ashley and Matt are my last engagement session of the 2017 season, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to work with each and every one of my couples in 2018. Here’s to an awesome year, guys!!

xoxo

Melissa + Michael: The Engagement Session

I had a seriously hard time editing Melissa and Michael’s engagement shoot: not because the editing itself was hard — most of my editing now doesn’t involve much more than a quick crop or black and white conversion — but because it was so incredibly difficult to cull my favorites. The light at Gilsland Farm at sunset was so beautiful, Melissa and Mike were so comfortable and easy to shoot, and the love between them was so obvious–how to cut down 500 amazing shots to a manageable number seemed an impossible task to figure out.

Somehow though I managed it…and I LOVED shooting at Gilsland Farm. If you get a chance, you should totally check it out. It’s in Falmouth, and it’s part of the Maine Audubon, and while I was there, I actually managed to walk up on a young bald eagle, perched on a pile of brush, and then watch, mouth agape, as it took off with a few slow sweeps of its enormous wings under the huge overhanging branches of the tree above it and then out to the great beyond. (Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for a peek!) I went home thinking I had maybe just experienced my best engagement shoot of a whole summer of amazing sunset engagement sessions.

And as promised…that eagle, caught from about 100 yards away with my 70-200mm zoom:

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Engagement Session: Joanna + Charles

Joanna and Charles could not be cuter. Seriously. As I followed them with my second shooter Jess (we’d totally taken advantage of the opportunity for a girls’ weekend in Bar Harbor while we worked–more on that later) down the paths behind Jordan Pond House in Acadia Park, Joanna said she didn’t think she’d mind having paparazzi follow her, and as you can see, they’re both more than comfortable in front of the camera. But what really stood out to Jess and I as we spent the hours heading into sunset with Joanna and Charles was the quiet adoration they clearly have for each other, the way they looked at each other, the way they murmured little inside jokes to one another, teasing each other sweetly as we documented every word, glance, and touch. They are eloping in NYC, so I won’t be working with them on a wedding as I would with most of my clients, but I’m so glad I was able to be part of this special afternoon with them…and as you look through this small peek into that session, now you will be, too.

Please VOTE!

Some of you may know I entered a photo of one of my 2018 couples, Alexa and Joe, into Down East Magazine’s Annual Reader Photo Contest. It’s currently trending #1 for the Lifestyle category, and #7 overall, thanks to all the love it’s gotten from you all! Could you help it stay in that spot (or move up)? All you have to do is VOTE (if you haven’t yet, or try again, because sometimes you get to vote twice!), and SHARE it with your friends so they can vote, too! I’ll love you all forever if you do! (And who am I kidding? I’ll love you forever anyway…but VOTE still!) Here’s the link: VOTE HERE!

xoxo

Sneak Peek: Melissa + Mike

When we scheduled Melissa and Mike’s engagement session, I think we all thought it would be a perfect early fall day with just a hint of chill in the air. What we got instead was a day we would have cried for in August: 85 degrees, humid and still. We all melted a little (well, not Melissa — she looked as gorgeous and fresh at the end of our session as she did getting out of the car at the start!), but the shots were well worth it, as we wandered around the scenic trails of Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. And Melissa and Mike were so much fun–relaxed and easygoing, and so so adorable. I can’t wait to work with them over this next year! Enjoy their sneak peek…there’s more to come!

Engagement Session: Alexa + Joe

I think I’ve mentioned before that my nerves always ramp up before an engagement session. Even though I rarely book a wedding without at least a phone conversation with a prospective couple, living in rural Maine means it rarely works to schedule an in-person pre-booking meeting, so that means the engagement session is the do-or-die moment the couple and I size each other up and learn to be friends — all in the space of approximately two hours!

Alexa and Joe were that rare couple that immediately put me at ease. Their warmth is contagious; it forces you to relax. And WOW, their chemistry is crazy. I usually try to give my couples a little time to warm up to being affectionate in front of the camera, but Alexa and Joe didn’t need time. They’re clearly happiest when they’re closest, and that made my job soooo much easier. And have I mentioned how right Joe is when he says Alexa is “ridiculously photogenic”?? She could give lessons to women everywhere (including me!) on how to be comfortable in front of the camera! (Her secret? She fessed up to watching a LOT of America’s Top Model haha!)

See for yourself: the hardest part about editing their shots was choosing the best shots. There were just too many! Besides how gorgeous and adorable they are, we toured all over the Rangeley Lakes area at sunset, and the setting made for an incredible backdrop for their shoot.

I’m so excited to be working with you guys over the next year, Alexa and Joe! Thank you for choosing me!

P.s. You may recognize Alexa and Joe from the photo of them in a canoe currently holding the #1 spot in the Lifestyle Category of Down East Magazine’s Annual Photo Contest. If you’d like to help me stay there (and move higher in the overall rankings), pretty please, please, please take a minute to vote: http://downeast.com/photocontest/?contest=photo-detail&photo_id=62314 — and SHARE this post or the link with your friends! Thanks guys!!

Sneak Peek: Johnna + Sean

There is nothing more special than photographing your friends, and that’s why I was thrilled to have the opportunity to shoot our friends’ Johnna and Sean’s wedding this past weekend. They are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people more in love (and that’s saying a LOT because all of the couples I’ve photographed are clearly completely smitten with one another!). All of their adorableness, AND a hilarious wedding party, AND terrifically awesome parents, AND an epic venue (a huge shout-out to the INCREDIBLE staff at the Governor Hill Mansion in Augusta!), not to mention photographing their wedding surrounded by guests we know and love, made this one very special and memorable wedding for Jess and I to shoot.

 

 

A Tale of Two Mushrooms (Or, Why Professional Photographers Are Worth the Investment)

Today was a sad day in the Diaz household. My son, getting ready for his first day of his Junior year of high school, called me frantically from the hallway outside of his room, “Mom, come here, quick.” I ran out of my bedroom to see his distressed face. “Penny died.”

Yes, Penny, Ronan’s first pet, a beloved red-eared slider turtle I’d bought for him when he turned 7 years old, nearly exactly 9 years ago today, had suddenly died. And if you’ve never owned a pet for 9 years, one who made the move with you from Maine to Hawaii and back again, or been a 7 year-old boy who once declared, “Penny is my best fwend,” you may not quite understand the sadness that discovery brought on for us today, but trust me: it was a very sad day.

And all of that brings me to this afternoon, when Ronan and I dug a hole (as big as we could manage in our rock-infested back yard) under a beautiful big tree, and had a little Penny funeral. Ronan recounted his favorite Penny memories, I talked about what a great turtle she was and how much she’ll be missed, we made extra sure she really was dead (sadly, she was), and then we buried her. We sat near the grave for a little bit, enjoying the nearly-fall breeze, and just being quiet, and then we got up and headed back toward the house. As we did, though, Ronan pointed out an enormous mushroom he’d spotted earlier, and I borrowed his iPhone 6s to grab a picture.

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It’s not a bad picture. It definitely captures the enormous mushroom. I could probably fancy it up with some Instagram filters. There’s not a lot of style or substance beyond that, but yup, that’s definitely one big mushroom.

Later, though, after Ronan had left for his after-school job, I felt compelled to pick up my Nikon D810 and just sit with nature a bit. On the way to the line in my backyard where the grass ends and the wild begins, I stopped to take another picture of the mushroom, this time with full control of the lighting and focus.

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Do you see the difference?

Couples every day make the choice between the two mushrooms, and they don’t even realize it. On one hand, they have the first mushroom: inexperienced photographers–sometimes their friends–with an affordable, or even free, price point, who seem like a convenient choice–a lot like that iPhone or Samsung most of us have in our back pocket for a quick picture when we’re in a pinch or just want to take a selfie with a friend, and wow, those other mushrooms are expensive! On the other hand, many realize the value of the second mushroom: photographers with the real deal equipment, experience, and training to do the job right, and yes, they may be more expensive, but they’re definitely going to deliver what the client pays for.

Is there value in both mushrooms? Absolutely! I used to be that first mushroom, just learning with my old Nikon D200, doing weddings and portraits for friends on the cheap while I figured out what the heck I was doing with all these crazy settings on my camera. But I can also see the difference in my work from then to now, several years later, and I know I’m now worth the investment I ask. In those intervening years, I invested in two Nikon DSLRs, a Nikon D800 and a Nikon D810, and I will soon own the D850. I started shooting weddings years ago with a Nikkor 50mm prime lens and a single ancient Nikon speed light, but since then I’ve added Nikkor’s 70-200mm zoom, 24-70mm zoom, 85mm prime, and 14-24mm zoom to my carry list, as well as three Nikon speed lights, and a Paul C. Buff strobe to my equipment list (and that doesn’t even count the transmitters, tripods, light stands, light modifiers, and more). I’ve spent thousands on additional training and workshops. And I’ve spent TIME–my most valuable commodity of all–in learning how to run my business in a way that makes my clients feel valued, special, and satisfied when their wedding or lifestyle session is wrapped. All of that investment I’ve made in my business ensures that when a client invests in me, I know I can deliver the goods they’re investing in.

So which mushroom is better? Neither. The second mushroom could never happen without being the first mushroom–every new photographer needs to have the room to grow and learn, so they can become the second mushroom. My point isn’t which photographer makes the better choice to hire. My point is it’s worth recognizing that when a professional photographer asks you to make an investment in them, she’s asking you to trust that she’s worth investing in–just like that shot of the second mushroom will be the one I print and frame and hang on a wall of my house. When your eyes widen at what a professional photographer asks for a single wedding, know that photographer has most likely invested thousands of dollars, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars, in her equipment, that she is continuing to invest her time and energy in becoming the best photographer she can be, and that she will put dozens upon dozens more hours into your images in the days and weeks after your wedding than the time you pay for on the day itself. In short, she made an investment in YOU long before you knew you’d be investing in her.

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I didn’t only take mushroom pics today! Here are a few more of the beautiful things I encountered today:

Engagement Session: Jordanna + Paul

So remember that thing I said in Jordanna and Paul’s sneak peek about “squishy, squishy mud”? I never saw myself as the type of person who’d be okay with wandering through muddy sea flats with a couple, barefoot, mud squishing between my toes, but as it turns out I am that kind of person. We picked our way over a muddy path around the sea grass, small bugs darting around our feet, until we reached the rocks that mark one point of Winslow Park.

The inlet spread out around us from there, a view of picturesque boats at Jordanna and Paul’s backs. By now we were all laughing, and Jordanna and Paul seemed completely at ease with my camera whirring away–so yes, picking your way across squishy, squishy mud with two people you may not know very well at first (and there is no other word so perfectly suited to the type of mud we found ourselves sinking into) is a perfect bonding ritual, and it left a memory I won’t soon forget.

I LOVE the way Jordanna and Paul’s images came out, and I especially love the way their parents’ classic-style L.L.Bean bikes were able to become a stand-out prop. I can’t wait to see how their Save the Dates come out! Thanks for choosing me, Jordanna and Paul–I can’t wait to work with you guys again come next July!

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Engagement Sneak Peek: Alexa + Joe

I swear as the summer flies by, the engagement sessions just keep getting better (and that’s really a very high bar, because they’ve all been AMAZING!). Tonight I had the wonderful opportunity to wander all over the Rangeley area with Alexa and Joe, capturing their adorableness against the incredibly beautiful backdrop of the Rangeley Lakes Region. Right from the beginning, I loved the way they are together: the way Joe looks at Alexa, the way Alexa is almost giddy in Joe’s presence. Their love was truly a joy to capture.

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Sneak peeks are always sooo hard for me: I want to post everything, all at once! But this time, I’m going to build a little bit of anticipation for the awesomeness, so stay tuned for the rest of their love story in pictures.