Short Story: The Early Mornings | Claremont Documentary Photographer

Everyday human stories and beautiful light inspire me. So, it’s natural that I’d lift up my camera to document the gorgeous morning light that surrounds my children as they wake up and start the day.

These are the normal, everyday activities that are common to every family and the routines that we may forget by dinnertime. But, they are important because I love these people. I love how small they are; how they just have to eat cereal without milk; how they have such adorable belly buttons.

We need to document the everyday activities
that we risk forgetting.
These activities are the ones that create
our sense of family and home.

Documenting the early morning with a school age boy.
A child getting dressed.
I love how the light lands on the tiny toys my children save.
Breakfast with children
Cereal without milk
I love seeing the extreme differences between the warm inside artificial light and the cool outside sunrise.
Sun flare and children are always gorgeous.
The youngest and the slowest eater.

When we are surrounded by the people we love and trust…
When we’re doing the everyday activities we love…
That’s when we’re our truest selves.

Document and treasure those moments. They’re worth it.

Our Favorite Picture Books that Encourage Good Relationships

Did you know that I used to be a librarian? I've always had a natural desire to research and know everything so being a librarian and sharing that knowledge with others was a great fit.

After retiring from the academic library world to raise my three wild things, I put my experience to work finding the most amazing books for them. I didn't want our precious reading time wasted on books that possessed no literary value; we needed top quality, engaging, fun books.

Additionally, I wanted books that showed great sibling relationships or children trying hard to do what's right. Like sneaking vegetables in their meals, I sneak good teaching into our read along time.



"The world belongs to those who read."

- Rick Holland



We started with picture books when they were younger and even now that my children are entering 4th grade, 2nd grade and kindergarten, I'm still busy searching for top quality books for everyone.

I think it's high time I shared some of our treasures with everyone, starting with our favorite picture books.


McLerran, A. & Cooney, B. (Illustrator) (1991).

Imagine your parents or grandparents as children growing up in rural southern California. I bet they acted a lot like the kids in this book: turning sticks into horses, rock piles into houses and pebbles into buried treasure. This book celebrates the idea that children can work together and use their amazing imaginations to create entire new worlds for themselves. And the illustrations will have you searching for everything else that Cooney has touched.



Hughes, S. (1977).

Big sister loves her little brother. Her little brother loves his stuffed dog. He loses his Dogger and his sister is his savior, helping him and comforting him like I wish all siblings would act. And, you gotta love the 1970s outfits.


Three Tales of My Father's Dragon

Gannett, R. S. & Gannet, R. C. (Illustrator). (1998).

This sweet early chapter book is about the adventures of a little boy who travels throughout this fictional world to help a trapped baby dragon. He is resourceful, helpful and curious - all traits I'd love for my children to develop. As an early chapter book, it's also a great book for your child to read to you. Skip the endless "level 2" licensed character books and give this to your 1st grader. They'll love it.

My Father's Dragon is a fantastic early chapter book about a boy who helps a little friendly dragon. This book is great for early readers.

The Maggie B.

Haas, I. (1975).

Another big sister really loves her baby brother. She also wants to be free on an adventure. So, she takes her little brother on her sailing ship, cleans the ship, makes him meals, rocks him to sleep, and brings animals for him to visit. It's a tender love story of adventure and family at the same time. I now want more babies and a ship. 

"North Star, star of the sea.
I wish for a ship
Named after me.
To sail for a day
Alone and free.
With someone nice
For company."


George Washington

D'Aulaire, I. and D'Aulaire, E. (1936).

Every book by the D'Aulaires is gorgeous with wonderful stories. We use their books (like this one about George Washington) to learn about real people. The illustrations spark my childrens' imaginations and the text will draw in the older readers.


Homer Price

McCloskey, R. (1943).

A curious boy (about 8-10 yrs old?) uses his own wits to solve crime and gives us a humorous look at small-town America. 


Becker, A. (2016).

I have no words at all. I mean that this book is completely wordless. Pictures tell an entire story of adventure, danger and family helping each other. It will be read many many times and you'll then be seeking out the author's next books.

Photographing Across Generations - Grandparents and their grandkids

As a parent and photographer, I am always wanting to capture the connections between people. I love seeing where we "came from" and who we're connected to. So, it's only natural that I'd bring my "big" camera on our near-weekly visits to the grandparents and attempt some documentary photography across generations.

As my children have grown bigger and louder, these visits to the grandparents have also evolved. We used to all sit in the living room and stare adoringly at the cute baby on the blanket. Well, now those three babies are running and screeching throughout the house and the grandparents tire out very quickly.

I took the opportunity one recent trip to capture what my children find to do in this "non child-friendly" environment. Someday in the future when my children have forgoten how they used to fit inside a kitchen cabinet, I can drag out the photo album to remind just how small they used to be.


Do you wish you had more photos of you with your grandparents?

Wouldn't you like to create photos of your own children with their grandparents?

I wish I had more photos of my grandparents and of myself with them. So, if you're like me, let's grab coffee and chat about how we can honestly capture on camera the multi-generations in your own family.

Let's Talk

Underwater Photography - A before and after comparision

Underwater photography relies heavily on post-editing. No matter the camera - whether I use my fancy DSLR with underwater housing or my GoPro - the image that is straight out of the camera (SOOC) is never perfect. Cameras just can't capture the contrast and detail that a human eye can see. So, I always spend a good amount of time with each photo in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop pulling out those important details. Here is one of my latest underwater photos. I thought everyone might want to see the difference between a SOOC image and the final edited image.


(After getting edited in Lightroom and Photoshop)

Underwater photography of children in Claremont, CA


Straight out of the Camera (GoPro Hero 5)

My settings: ISO 100, 3mm (ultra wide angle), f/2.8, 1/2500 sec


Underwater photography is really an exciting activity. I have the honor of capturing children completely absorbed in their own activities and everything takes on a bit of magic. How often do we get to fly, float and spin upside down?

Do you have access to a pool and want to chat about creating totally unique underwater photos for your own family?

Snapshots: The Suburban Mom Lifestyle - life in a minivan

Raise your hand if you spend as much time as I do just driving your children back and forth to All. The. Activites.  So, it's only natural that since I carry my camera almost everywhere we go, that I'd capture some of our life in that beloved minivan. Seriously... this thing is messy and full of crumbs, but has sooo much space. Enjoy this snapshot of our life in our minivan. 


Underwater Photography

When I take my camera under the surface of a pool, it's like I'm in another world. Shadows and highlights are entirely different than on land. Bubbles surround and accentuate everyone. And the colors! Sun streams through the surface, darkness creeps up from the deep end and everyone's swimsuits scream summer with every shot. As a lifestyle photographers, I love seeing connections and movement everywhere; and this includes underwater. I love seeing siblings getting crazy and parents helping their littlest of fish.

I'm lucky that I live in California where we have such a long swim season. Underwater photography has given me such creative expression that I enthusiastically jump in the pool with my kids at every opportunity.

Two kid grab onto their dad in the pool.

My favorite photography tools


Fuji X-T2

I recently switched to this mirrorless system and really love it! It has amazing low light capability and incredibly fast shutter speed; both features that really come in handy when photographing children.


Fujifilm 23mm f/1.4

My favorite focal distance for families with children. I can be close to the action and help prompt authentic emotions with no lens distortion.

Minolta 50mm f/1.7 (vintage)

Can you believe that I picked this up at a thrift store for $20?! After using this for several months, I often reach for the lens just for that creaminess this vintage lens adds to a scene. It's almost like butter. It also works really well for freelensing and makes some fun oblong bokeh.

Rokinon 12mm f/2

I reeaally love wide angles lenses! Obviously it's great for real estate and interiors photography but it's also a fun novelty lens to use for environmental portraits of children.

Helios 44-2 58mm (vintage)

This is a fun specialty lens that, in the right situations, can produce a swirly bokeh that almost looks like it's spinning behind the subject.

Fujifilm 50-140mm f/2

Not every situation calls for the photographer being all up the clients' faces. This heavy lens helps me build muscle and give my clients breathing room. It also creates that smooth bokeh that makes me melt.


Lightroom and Photoshop

A must for professional photographers. Lightroom is the standard for organizing and editing of photos. Photoshop is for the heaving lifting. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but are as necessary as a camera.


For resizing images and creating image galleries for blog posts. Saves me tons of time.


Ah, how I love Dubsado! I can organizing contacts, invoices, proposals, contracts, automate forms, and so much more. Dear Dubsado makes me look so very professional. 


Joby Pro Sling Strap

This strap has saved my shoulders and back so many times. I can camera my camera and a large lens for hours without any trouble. This strap is an absolute necessity when I photograph newborns and small children. When not photographing, I cinch the camera close to my body and it won't swing forward when I bend down. You definitely don't want a camera bumping a sweet child in the head!


For perfect white balance, a photographer must master color systems. This includes knowing the "color values" of trees, skies, skin tones, etc. It also helps to have an ExpoDisc for those really tricky situations like golden hour under a glowing green tree. 

  • Macro filters
  • Lens Pen

Camera Bags

Ona Bowery Canvas messenger

This is the perfect size to hold my mirrorless and 1-2 small lenses or if I have the camera on a sling, it can hold at least 3 lenses. It's durable and strong but not too big.

Jo Totes Allison

The version I have isn't made anymore. I use it to store my small collection of lenses and small camera stuff (like lens pen, extra lens caps, etc.) It still looks great after four years. I don't usually take it out on shoots because it's pretty heavy on my shoulders though.

Black and White Portraits - the power of light

Black and White Portraits - the power of light

Black and white photos are more than clicking a button on the computer take away color. If you make a photo with the intention of it being black and white (like the old film masters had to do), you pay attention to light, shadows, textures, etc. You then heighten that with special post-production editing. The result will hopefully tell the story that the photographer originally intended.

We marbled pumpkins - A Pinterest win!

We marbled pumpkins - A Pinterest win!

We actually did a Pinterest activity... and it worked!

Last week at my kids' school some of the other moms were talking about when they tried to dip pumpkins into nail polish to create a marbled look and how it failed so horribly. Out of curiosity, I looked the technique up when I got home. It sure did make some pretty pumpkins and did look pretty easy. Probably won't really work though, right?