An incredible summer

Ceremony 198 (1)

Ceremony 198 (1)

I can't believe the blog hasn't been updated in months! The wonderfully busy summer came to an end and soon I'll be posting up all the weddings that took place. I'm at least 12 weddings behind on the blog and October is completely full too! What's more, we just had our 2nd baby a full seven weeks before her due date and both mommy and daddy are relearning how to take care of our new bundle of joy. After 15 days in the NICU we finally got her home last night.

Walnut Grove Wedding: Nikki and Catalin

It's said that love overcomes all, and Nikki and Catalin could write a book. These two have overcome quite a lot that life has thrown at them! All of those struggles have made them stronger and now together in marriage they're ready to forge ahead a new future. It was a pleasure to get to know these two and the wonderful people that Catalin works with, who helped prepare everything for their wedding ceremony and reception at a beautiful home in Walnut Grove. Thank you Nikki and Catalin for the wonderful day! Hugs :-)

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Wedding Venue: Private home along the Delta River in Walnut Grove

Fortuna Backyard Wedding: Peter and Gina

Without a doubt, simple backyard weddings are always a truly fun celebration of a couple's love, and this one was no exception. But what made the day extra special for me was knowing a good number of people attending this wedding. I go to the same church as Peter's family and good friends. Peter's dad was my Sunday school teacher way back when I was in high school. The weather in the northwest part of California can be unpredictable, but by God's grace it turned out to be a gorgeous warm day surrounded by wildflowers and coastal redwood trees. Peter and Gina's closest friends from college as well as family from the Bay Area pitched in together to set the stage for these two to make solemn vows to one another.

All the best to you Peter and Gina and thank you for making me a part of your big day!  

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And the slideshow!

Scribner Bend Vineyard Wedding: Aaron and Lauren!

Good old fashion word of mouth is how I was lucky enough to meet Aaron and Lauren, who got married last Saturday at the charming Scribner Bend Vineyard near Sacramento. Their wedding was a country affair, with cowboy hats, boots and of course some really yummy BBQ. But all of that was just a backdrop of a really beautiful union between a really sweet couple. Their story Lauren and Aaron's story is like a bad made for TV movie: Two elementary school teachers who met years ago and never gave each other a second thought, suddenly found themselves both single, and teaching at the same tiny school. Not only were they at the same school, but Lauren taught 5th grade, and Aaron taught 6h, so you can imagine the excitement buzzing around the little campus when they publically announced that they were dating at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

Once the initial excitement died down, the relationship continued to progress until April 4th 2012, when Aaron asked Lauren to make an honest man out of him at the top of the Martis Camp Express chairlift at Northstar Ski Resort. It was very romantic with the sideways snow landing in their hot dogs, and the slightly soggy potato chips, so of course Lauren said yes. For the rest of the day, she called a different friend on the phone each time they got on a lift to fill them in on the big news.

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And for more highlights from this amazing wedding check out the slideshow!

Wedding Venue: Scribner Bend Vineyard, Sacramento CA

Awesome DJ coverage provided by Anthony Karabetyan at DNA Entertainment

Catering by Rayna's Gourmet Catering

Flowers by Shanan Spears, a friend of the Bride and Groom - contact me for her info

Maricela and Jose | Engagement | San Francisco Golden Gate Park

The forecast was for rain... which was hard to believe since it was 90 degrees in the days preceding Mar and Jose's engagement session. Well it did indeed rain, but luckily cleared up just in time for a really fun time in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. I have to admit I don't know the place well. Every time I had photographed in this huge park it was always at locations suggested by the couple. But this time I was determined to seek out new ground and find untypical locations for Jose and Mar, who were driving up from the South Bay.  I got to the park more than 2 hours early with my jogging shoes and set out to conquer a good chunk of the eastern half. Wow, from flower gardens, fountains and all things pretty, to some amazing architecture at the California Academy of Science. Jose and Mar "worked it" and I was so happy for all the great photos we made together. Thank you guys for an amazing afternoon together and I look forward to the big day coming up!

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Scott's Restaurant Walnut Creek Wedding: Joseph and Mary

Thanks to a recent inquiry about shooting a wedding at Scott's Restaurant I realized Joseph and Mary's wedding never got posted to the blog! How could I forget the couple with the most interesting combination of names? It was an especially fun wedding for me because I photographed Mary's cousins wedding (Rose and Archie) a few years ago and have since become really good friends with them. So seeing Rose and Archie and all the other familiar faces from their wedding made the whole event really comfortable for me to photograph. The only hiccup was in the rush to leave the hotel, the bouquet was left behind! Note to all the brides out there: have a checklist of things never to leave behind for your wedding! The highlight by far was hearing Joseph pull off a special number for Mary -- he's quite the romantic and left all the ladies in the house swooning. Joseph and Mary - a year has gone by but I hear Southern California is treating you well -- best of luck to you both! A few words about the venue... Scott's Restaurant in Walnut Creek is constantly booked for weddings for good reason -- they're old pro's at putting together small to mid-size wedding celebrations. At the past two weddings I've photographed there, they were actually pulling off simultaneous wedding parties in different parts of the restaurant.  The staff was efficient and courteous as one would expect, but not always receive from just any wedding venue.

Blackhawk Country Club Wedding: Nate and Annie!

In just the last few days Annie and I wrapped up their wedding album, which is getting printed as I type this! I can't wait to get it into their hands because I know they'll just love it. Now that we've got that out of the way, I have time to post just a few of their many favorites from their wedding out at Blackhawk Country club last year. Thank you Nate and Annie for the fun engagement session in San Diego and the privilege of capturing your beautiful day in Danville!

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Engaged: Lee and Jessica... it all started in 7th grade!

One of the benefits of being a wedding photographer is hearing all the great love stories. This one is special because it started when they were in the 7th grade. How many middle school relationships end in marriage? Their amazing story, in their own words:  "Jessica was the tallest, blondest, prettiest girl at Sequoia Middle School." Lee says. "I was four-foot-six in 7th grade, and Jessica seemed to stand two full feet over me. But I didn't care. I was in love."

He continues, "I walked her home from school. Sometimes I held her hand. We went to movies. I took her to the Spring dance. I remember we had to dance at 'elbows length apart' most of the time, but during the final dance I pulled her close. She could rest her head completely on top of mine. It was magic."

Scroll to the bottom to here her side of this sweet story.

Her side of things was just as sweet. "I still can't believe that the man I'm going to marry is the boy that took me to the spring dance in 7th grade." Jessica says, "He even wore a suit to the dance. All the other boys were wearing the typical baggy pants and big t-shirts, but not my Lee. He has always been very classy, even as a 12 year old boy! He was also my first boyfriend. I was extremely shy and timid in middle school. I was a scrawny, tall, gangly girl, and I often got teased for these things. Lee somehow saw me as gorgeous. Still to this day he says he thought I was just so pretty!"

She continues, "As many young romances go, we parted ways around the end of 7th grade. Little did we know, that wasn't the end of our story. We kept in touch on and off over the years; we even dated again for a while in 2008. It seems we couldn't stay away for too long. In September of 2011, the time was finally right. After a wonderful year together, Lee proposed in Hawaii on September 2, 2012. He said he just couldn't wait any longer. We are so excited to spend the rest of our lives together! I believe some things are just meant to be, and I am definitely meant to be with Lee. He is the funniest man I've ever met. We laugh together every day. He knows how to make me feel better when I'm down. I feel so lucky I get to spend even a minute with him, let alone the rest of my life! I couldn't be happier that I get to marry my best friend."

Well if that's not the sweetest love story that started in the 7th grade I don't know what could possibly top it. Thanks guys for the wonderful engagement shoot and I'm totally excited to photograph the wedding!

Best of 2012 San Francisco City Hall Weddings!

It's not so extraordinary that people travel to San Francisco or Napa to have their destination wedding. We do have some pretty incredible venues no doubt. But this year I was amazed to have clients, from as far away as Singapore, to photography their ceremony at San Francisco City Hall. And not just one international couple, but several -- couples from China, Japan and Guatemala! 2-hour packages start at just $500 and always include a second location of the couple's choosing. If you're a couple who's found this page and are interested in booking your date, head over to the main wedding website and contact Dan to get all the package options and prices.

Here's some of the 2012 highlights!

Engaged: Aaron and Lauren at the Ruby Hill Winery and Vasco Road Barn

Engagement shoots are always really fun, especially ones that involve wine and trespassing. And ones where we get in trouble are always the best.  Aaron and Lauren were game for all of it, and while we didn't get arrested, we did get kicked off of private property twice. It could only have worked out better if we got kicked out of all the places we visited -- oh well. We started off at the Ruby Hill Winery in Pleasanton for some tasting and a few warm-up photos. We weren't suppose to walk through the vineyard, but nobody seemed to care. From there we drove over to the Mitchell Katz Winery, whose staff DID care a great deal that we took a photo in front of their building. We left immediately, but didn't really appreciate the snooty nature of the women who kept an eye on us until we drove away. No matter - we were off the old barn with the American flag on Vasco Road, which is behind barbed wire and off limits to the public. Exactly the sort of place we wanted for some rustic engagement portraits. Just as we wrapped up though, we were caught by a park ranger who was quite nice about making sure we left right away. Our last location was west of Brentwood on a pretty field just before sunset. A perfect ending to a really fun day with a really great couple.

Aaron and Lauren I'm really looking forward to your wedding next year! And it will be so fun to see Corey and Michelle! For readers of this blog, they are the fun couple that referred me to Aaron and Lauren... and the couple that graces the top banner of this blog!

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Bella Montagna Wedding: Sadek and Carmen

Sadek and Carmen 

Married on September 29th 

Photos Delivered Oct 1st 

Sadek and Carmen grew up here in the U.S., but come from families that immigrated here many years ago. On a warm, cloudless day in the hills above San Jose, their different cultures united to make a beautiful and unique celebration of their love. What made it special for me was hearing the different languages -- one minute Carmen's grandma is holding my arm and speaking to me in Portuguese in the most endearing way (I smile and nod, giving the impression that I understand her - we have several more "conversations" like this)... then I turn around and hear another warm exchange of affection between relatives in Arabic. Toward the end of the evening, everyone seemed to know Korean as they got downright silly dancing and singing along with PSY - you know the song I'm talking about.

The venue for their wedding and reception was at the Bella Montagna, a hillside estate that overlooks San Jose and the entire south bay. Marcia coordinates weddings for this place with amazing efficiency and kept the day moving beautifully, despite the inevitable hiccups. Thanks Marcia for the great communication both before the wedding and on the day itself -- I don't know how you do it all!

Thanks Carmen and Sadek for allowing me the privilege of capturing your big day - Parabéns and تهنئة !

 

And lastly, the highlight slideshow!

Wedding at Valencia Hotel - Santana Row: Kiki and John

John and Kiki 

Married on September 23th 

Photos delivered on September 25th

These two pulled off something amazing for their wedding at Santana Row's Valencia Hotel in San Jose. You see, Kiki's from New Orleans and wanted a 2nd Line - google it like I did (also pictured in the last two photos). John's a trained musician and played in a Latin rock band back in Houston, where he met Kiki. Somehow they brought together both of these musical flavors in San Jose--a brass band and a latin rock band--for one amazing reception at the Cielo rooftop.

Before the party, there was a wedding of course. Kiki and her entourage got their hair done up at drybar. It's a very convenient place if you're getting married at the Valencia or anywhere around the Santana Row area. John of course got ready in the bathroom of his hotel room, also a convenient location I must say.

At the Valencia's courtyard, they ceremony was small and intimate. It's always a special moment to capture a groom holding back tears when he sees his bride walking down the aisle. John held it together pretty well though, that is until it came time to give his vows. When I captured him holding his hand over his chest, it was a moment that got us all choked up. It's a beautiful thing to see such an emotional and genuine pledge of undying love for another, and luckily I could hide my misty eyes behind the camera quite nicely.

Check out their wedding website and highlight slideshow here.

Thanks John and Kiki for having us capture your really fun day -- looking forward to the upcoming post-wedding portrait session!

Sean and Daniela's Wedding at the Garden Valley Ranch - Petaluma

Sean and Daniela 

Married on September 22 

Photos delivered September 24 

This summer as I blog the weddings, I'm having a hard time not starting off with something totally cliche like "Sean and Daniela's wedding was amazing from start to finish!". But the thing is each wedding really has been quite wonderful and Sean and Daniela's was no exception. Having had not just one but two wonderful conversations with them over coffee before the wedding, I got to learn a bit of their story. Long before they promised to love, cherish, and honor each other for the rest of their lives, they've been doing it in a loving relationship where each sacrificed for the other as they pursued their respective careers. Daniela helping Sean as he became a CHP officer, and then Sean helping Daniela as she went through grad school. They've been through many chapters of life together and on a warm September day, they began yet a new chapter as husband and wife.

Daniela and Sean, I hope you're enjoying every minute of your honeymoon in Mexico. Thank you for allowing me the privilege to capture your beautiful day...it was an honor I didn't take lightly.

A few notes on this wedding -- Daniela and Sean (mostly the former, I think!) made all the decorations you see in these photos. They chose to see each other before the wedding - you can see those "First Look" photos below. When the Garden Valley Ranch isn't being used as a gorgeous wedding venue, it serves the community as a working nursery and is open for touring around. Their wedding was on a Saturday and all their carefully edited photos were delivered Monday night!

Because of the potential illegality of an actual wish-lantern send off, these photos above are merely photoshop depictions of what a send off would have looked like. Sean and his other law-enforcement guests would never have willingly broken the law, and the arrival of the local Fire Marshal that evening was purely coincidental.

 

Erik and Ellen's Pear Valley Vineyards Wedding in Paso Robles

Erik and EllenMarried August 4th Photos Delivered Aug 6th 

When it comes to having a wedding in a Paso Robles, there are plenty of great options but you might not need to look much further than Pear Valley Vineyards. A stunning location, complete with a hill top they use for ceremonies which overlooks the valley and thousands of beautiful vineyards. This is where Erik and Ellen chose for their wedding last Saturday, attended by their closest friends and family who drove and flew in from all around the country. Erik and Ellen actually live in Washington near the Canadian border, but they both grew up in California where their families still reside. Erik's parents are lucky enough to live in this rival to Napa Valley, which might have a certain charm found nowhere else.

The alarming thing that happened on their wedding day is it rained. I mean it rained hard and solid for a good hour or more in the morning, complete with thunder and lightening -- which undoubtedly stressed out everyone since this was an outdoor-only ceremony venue. But by the afternoon, it was bright and sunny and almost too hot.  I got to Pear Valley after a 3 hour drive from the Bay Area and in plenty of time to find to Ellen and her bridesmaids who were still getting ready. The winery has a large room for bridal prep though the ambiance was a little office-like. That was ok because the real photographs would be taken outdoors anyway, where everywhere you turn there are great locations for portraits. Erik was getting ready at his parents house a few minutes away so we had enough time to do a few photos of the details and some portraits of Ellen and her bridesmaids.

Erik shows up soon after and I choreograph the "first look", where the bride and groom get a chance to see each other and share an intimate moment before all the non-stop craziness of the day really takes off. I love these moments because the raw emotion is plain to see -- always a joy to photograph this from any angle.

The ceremony was picturesque with vista views in every direction, and Ellen's pastor officiated a wonderful union. It really could not have been more perfect.

With family and wedding party portraits out of the way, Erik and Ellen headed over to a ridge across from the hill where the ceremony was held (but still on Pear Valley Vineyard property) that I had spotted a few hours earlier where that would make for some wonderful bride and groom photos. When I told them of my plan to take us over there, it so happened that Ellen was going to suggest the same exact location! But I had in mind to try something a little different that in all honesty didn't completely satisfy. I tried for a shot (showen below) from the hill where the ceremony took place. Yeah it's ok. I just was hoping for something a little better. If the hill were 100 feet closer it would have been a great shot.  Never the less I had several other locations in mind and since we were running late, I prioritized and took us to just 3 spots where we cranked these out in less than 10 minutes. I hear of photographers insisting on 1-2 hours for photography and I just don't get it. If you plan out the shots ahead of time and are a master of your camera settings, some great portraits can be achieved in just a few minutes.

Erik and Ellen, thank you for asking me to photography your wonderful day. You guys were so sweet to send me home with a little gift for my wife and the cake was out of this world delicious. I'll look you guys up when I'm in Washington!

 

Check out their highlight slideshow and wedding website here

A bold new promise - Your Beautiful Wedding Photos in 2 days!

I've heard the story more than once and so have you. A couple gets married, and 6 or 9 months later the photographer still hasn't handed over the photos. I heard the story again just the other day from a couple that booked me for their wedding. One of her bridesmaids got married and is still waiting, not for the photos actually but for the video. And it isn't just 9 months, it's been a year and a half.  Wow. When I first started the wedding photography business I delivered the digital negatives to clients in 3 weeks. Then last year I started delivering in 10 days and the feedback was incredible. Now it's time to up the bar even more: 2 Days!  How does this happen without compromising the quality of the editing? Simple. I totally and completely block off the entire day following your wedding to meticulously cull, edit and prepare all your photos. I then upload them to your wedding website for you to share and enjoy. That's it! I might be turning down extra commissions to deliver this service, but for me it will be worth it: couples get to instantly enjoy going through their photos on phones, ipads, laptops, or good' old fashion desktop computer, sharing and facebooking all those photos to their hearts content. And I get the satisfaction of making my couples very happy -which for a helpless people pleaser like myself, it doesn't get any better.

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Michelle and Corey's Wine Country Engagement

Michelle and Corey's Wine Country Engagement

I first met Michelle and Corey to talk about their wedding on St. Patricks day at a Brewhouse at 7pm. What was I thinking? It was a complete madhouse and we found a quieter spot that still served beers. I have to say while it's nice to meet clients for coffee, beer is way better! I'm definitely going to offer that option to folks in the future. They had in mind to have their engagement shoot in the beautiful wine country just north of Napa in a little town called Healdsburg. They know all the wineries up there and knew exactly which ones have the best photographic possibilities. Little did I know exactly how jaw-dropping beautiful these places were -- especially the Jordan Winery just north of town. You'd think you drove up to a centuries Tuscan old winery when you see this place for the first time. We took a guess that to get married here you'll drop around at least a $100K, but apparently they don't mind if you sneak in and do some engagement portraits at the west end of the building. It was raining off and on which actually helped out in a way -- the ground was all wet and provided a shiny look. The clouds offered a nice diffusion of the big light in sky and surprisingly we weren't kicked off the property. We were off to Hawkes Winery and later White Oak Vineyards, both places where Michelle and Corey have memberships. This was really helpful and allowed us to sort of go wherever we wanted to take pictures.

There's a "Save the Date" video coming out of their engagement very soon, but because I know they're anxious to see some of the better shots here you go Corey and Michelle! Thanks for planning such an awesome day!

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[dan johanson] weddings

Pat and Sarah's Wedding at Saint Mary's Chapel, Moraga

I've gotten to work with some really sweet people doing wedding photography and I love it when these clients become friends and refer me to more sweet, friendly people. I don't mind the clients that just want great wedding photos... I work my rear off for them too. But it's such a pleasure to work with the ones that go just a little out of their way to appreciate the effort I make at delivering tons of great photos from their big day. There's no bigger compliment (and source of encouragement) than when a bride refers me to another bride-to-be. That's how I met Sarah, who found me through Vicki, her hair sylist at pHyxx Salon in Walnut Creek. Pat and Sarah both attended Saint Mary's College in Moraga, which gives its alumni the privilege of using it's chapel for wedding ceremonies. This alone might be why we'll send our children there someday, according to my wife. Despite the alumni-only requirement, the chapel books up constantly a year in advance and they'll do 3  weddings on a typical Saturday. The campus, the spanish-style church and flowered courtyards are made for perfect wedding photographs, and it certainly made our job a breeze.

The other thing Pat and Sarah did at Vicki's recommendation was to use Positino in Lafayette for their reception. This place is full of great character and charm and did not disappoint.

Now a word about Pat and Sarah themselves. They are not on Facebook and really value their privacy... not that I would go on and on here about their personal lives...I just admire them for bucking the trend and keeping things real in their lives. How I wish I could do the same but alas wedding photography is all about online social marketing these days and sadly, less about serving clients well and getting awesome referrals like Pat and Sarah. But I digress... Pat and Sarah, it was a great pleasure to document your big day and I totally love you guys!

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And the highlight slideshow (click play below) has many more photos from Pat and Sarah's wonderful day.

Reception: Postino Restaurant, Lafayette

Katy and Val's Watsonville Wedding in the Redwoods

When Katy first described their plans for the wedding, I knew this was going to be a day like no other... Indeed, it wasn't. Not even close to other weddings that I have photographed.   First of all they reserved an entire campground for two nights, not just for themselves but for the 100+ guests! Mount Madonna State Park, just west of Gilroy up in the redwood forests, has this amazing park with an amphitheater, which apparently gets used a lot for weddings. All the guests came up Friday night and camped in their exclusive little grove of trees, which would serve as the reception area the following evening. This in itself was awesome, but it also meant that everyone was there to help put on what I can only describe as a love-filled, community-crowed-sourced extravaganza, where everyone chipped in to do something in an ultra organized fashion. From decorating the nearby amphitheater to preparing the sumptuous meal, it was all done by their friends and family.

In short, it was a day to remember and cherish for everyone in attendance.... Not because everything was done to perfection. There were challenges and improvisions left and right. But how this community rallied together to celebrate Katy and Val is what made it so special for me. I love how they made me a part of this effort and for that I am truly grateful to be a witness and documenter of their incredibly fun wedding -- thanks Katy and Val!

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Katie and Nate's Engagements at Kirby Cove

I have to hand it to Katie and Nate for finding a Golden Gate Bridge angle that I hadn't used for a portrait location. The key to finding this gem is that it requires a 20 minute descent to this place called Kirby Cove, and that's just far enough to deter a lot of folks from being there. We had the place practically to ourselves and that's no small thing when you're trying to capture a couple's love for each other while including the beautiful natural surroundings. Nothing destroys a captured moment like some shirtless beer guzzlers in the background!

Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay - Post Wedding Portraits

Corey and Michelle are a match made on.... Craigslist! Yes, they met on the same site you can swap old car tires for a pair of A's tickets. We had an amazing time at their engagement session in the wine country where we did a "Save the Date" film (link to the video) in addition to the portraits (separate blog post for those) As you can see from that video, this couple are the ultimate romantics and completely bonkers about each other. Their love is so easily captured in photos, they were the perfect couple to do some extra wedding portraits for at The Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. There are tons of great spots for doing portraits at this hotel, which allows public access and free parking (which is limited and sometimes full on weekends). Just to the south of the hotel there is path way that parallels the cliff. All along this stretch the backdrop of the hotel and ocean combined make for beautiful portraits but you'll notice that one of the shots here is somewhat high pointing downward. Well that's a trade secret, but no I didn't use a helicopter for that shot! Sunset is obviously a great time to be here and we all paused and took in the amazing last few minutes of daylight. Thanks guys for the wonderful day at this gorgeous spot on the coast!

Ritz Carlton Wedding Photography packages at my main website