Michelle + Doug: South Park and Bethel Bakery Engagement

This summer, Doug finally popped the question to Michelle! With Doug being from Pittsburgh and Michelle from Michigan, it was a tough decision figuring out where they wanted to have their photos done. When I spoke with Michelle about planning their session, she mentioned Bethel Bakery being special to her. 

Bethel Bakery, I wondered? Being from Michigan and both of them living there, why Bethel Bakery? Michelle's answer made me certain that we had to go there:

"Well Doug told me all about them when we would talk about Pittsburgh, and before our first trip there he talked again about how awesome it was and I was to excited to see it in person. Then finally, during our first trip to PA, it was one of the first things we did and it was sooooo perfect! We got cookies and cake and I think it was there that I first really saw a future with him."

Doesn't that just melt your heart?! Bethel Bakery does have some of the most delicious buttercream frosting I have ever had, so it makes sense that a couple so sweet should have photos there! So take a look at some of our favorites from their South Park and Bethel Bakery engagement session below!

Patricia June - Maternity

It's always a pleasure to work with other photographers. Patricia has run her own newborn and family photography business here in Pittsburgh for years and I've had the pleasure of working with her a few times before. When she asked me to do her maternity photos, I just had to say yes- and when she told me she wanted to get into the water, I about died of excitement! Her two beautiful daughters are sweet as can be and added quite a bit of energy and love to these images.

Take a look at some of the amazing photos we got at Raccoon Creek State Park this summer, and show this proud momma some love!

The Time Element - "What happens after my photo shoot?"

As a photographer who works with cosplayers regularly, there is a good reason I can’t guarantee your turn around time on photos. Don’t get me wrong- I work long and hard every day to get images back to cosplayers as quickly as possible! But sometime shoots take longer to edit than others, and I’ll never give back a product that I’m not satisfied with. So this blog post comes from a place of understanding. I want you all to see what types of obstacles I face that make it hard to give you a hard date to get your photos back.

For anyone who has booked me before, you already know my sessions. A solo shoot, a duo shoot, or a group shoot, each getting progressively more edited images. A solo shoot takes me on average one day to edit, duo shoots two, and group shoots are wild cards depending on the number of cosplayers. Things get tricky when heavy editing needs done, though.

Let’s take a look at one example. This shoot is a Ruler Kenma Au cosplay by Makkiichan Cos. When she arrived at the shoot I was giddy. Her outfit was a twist of cosplay and fashion- tassels on shoulder pads, flowy skirt, and legs for days with a beautifully colored and styled wig. I knew right away that one piece of the cosplay was going to take me some time: her tights. As you can see below, the seam is in the front of the leg with layers of a thicker fabric around the waist and top of her legs.

Facebook: MakkiiChan コスプレ
Instagram: @makkiichan.cos

Rule #1 folks: If you can get it right in camera, do it. Take the hairband off your wrist, remove the phone from the boob pocket, and tuck that piece of fabric where you can see the safety pin from a last minute repair. Unfortunately, the tights couldn’t be smoothed in person. We carried on with the shoot, got amazing photos, and when I brought them into Photoshop the real work began. This solo shoot took me an entire week to edit, averaging one photo per day (that’s right, about 4-5 hours per image).

There were three major steps to getting rid of these leggings. First, use frequency separation to separate the texture layer from the color layer. This way I could clone stamp the texture from the rest of her leg over the bunched up areas. Now the texture from bunched fabric is gone and skin texture is in its place. Next, I focused on the color layer. There were still dark and light streaks from the shadows and highlights of bunched fabric, so I had to carefully smooth the inconsistencies out. My second big step was correcting color temperature. The problem area is a warmer, greener, and darker color than the rest of her legs. The third step was adding appropriate shading and highlights to contour the area and make it look more like a leg with shape and less like a blob of color.

Four to five hours, per image, taking me a week. This shoot has taken me the longest to date to edit, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the results! Word to the wise, guys- please be aware of how your wardrobe affects your photographs.  Not all photographers will make edits like these, and depending on the cosplay and posing I might not be able to make these changes every time either!

............

The next one I want to talk about is a cosplay of Art Nouveau Squirtle, designed by Hannah Alexander and cosplayed by Ginger Liz Cosplay. I have a weakness for the fashion glory of the art nouveau style and Ginger Liz and I had photographed a Hannah Alexander design once before (which you should also go check out here!) This photo took me 3 hours to edit- not because of tights, but because I’m a picky person. I liked her arm better in a different photograph, so I merged two poses into one. Due to the detail in the cosplay, there was a lot of clone stamping, blending, and fabricating of beadwork involved. Making sure all of the lighting and color temperatures matched and the combination was seamless took quite a while! In addition, the composition needed more balance, so I adjusted the background and framing to draw the eye straight to the cosplayer instead of the blank wall to the left.

The next step was to balance my color temperature to really enhance the cool blue effect, remove remaining distractions, and do some minor dodging and burning to enhance the detail of the cosplay.

Facebook: Ginger Liz
Instagram: @gingeriiz

And there we have it! Three hours later I finished one image. One thing you can know working with me is I will do everything I can to make sure your photos look awesome.

So if you ever find yourself wondering, “When will my photos be done?” there are two things you can know for sure:

1. I’m working as quickly as I can every day to ensure everyone I work with receives my personal best.
2. That includes you!

Katie + Jesse

Katie and Jesse are two people who have an incredible, beautiful relationship with each other and God. Seeing such an honest, pure love is absolutely inspiring! Their happiness was radiant and definitely showed in the photos we took. I am so honored to have worked with these two on their wedding day at Oak Alley Farms in Pittsfield, PA. We had a beautiful venue, beautiful weather, and all of the details they put into their ceremony and reception are unforgettable. It was difficult to even narrow down what images to share with you guys! But congratulations to these two love birds and their new life together!

Fitness + Sam Yarbrough

Every now and then, my friend Sam Yarbrough- a hard working and accomplished model- comes to be with a concept for us to shoot. We've done fitness in the past, but more along the lines of a black and white advertisement. This time she wanted to go action, high key lighting, color pop! Despite the challenges we faced, the results are exactly what we were going for. Thanks Sam for another wonderful shooting experience!

Emily + Michael

I had SUCH a blast photographing Emily and Michael's engagement photos on Sunday! We went to McConnells Mill State Park and walked along the water for a while before sunset. The park was busy but it didn't stop us from creating some beautiful images. They were fantastic models and you can feel the love just being around them. Congratulations, you two! Looking forward to your wedding next Spring.

Until then, everyone enjoy this little sneak peak! All natural light. I love the mood provided by the woods. 

Iceland - Day 5

Today was much simpler than previous days and much more self guided. We started off by going to the beach just west of the town Vik. Apparently all beaches in Iceland are black sand beaches, who knew! The waves were massive, at least ten feet tall. We found a little alcove in the side of a cliff made of hexagonal columns like those commonly depicted in Ireland. Shortly after discovering it, though, we were asked to leave because the tide was coming in and we could get trapped. Apparently somebody drowned on the very same beach just a few days ago. The waves are big and strong with a powerful undercurrent and are not to be messed with. This considered, we moved on.

We had a glacier walk tour after lunch that was leisurely but exciting. It was a total of 2.5 hours of walking. The guide had us put on harnesses in case of emergency and strap crampons onto our shoes (a layer of spikes that stretches and ties around your boots). We also had ice picks to use as walking sticks and in case of emergency. We climbed the blue ice dusted in snow from the storm we had yesterday and continued our ascent up the glacier until it leveled out. There he told us stories of the glaciers shifting and trapping people under the ice. We also got to crawl through a tunnel that formed originally as a water tunnel through the ice. The blue ice was beautiful! Photo below was taken on my GoPro of us all looking down the tunnel.

The last thing we did was go back to a different part of the beaches by Vik and take some pictures as the sun began it's long descent to the horizon. the waves were still enormous and threatening, so we couldn't get too close.

Tomorrow is a day off until the Northern Lights tour in the evening, so I may not post until the following day. Hopefully I'll have some beautiful green lights to show you all! :)

Iceland - Day 4

By this point we can't even remember what day of the week it is. Iceland feels so detached from home, from "the real world". It took a while to deduce that yes, it is in fact Tuesday.

We got to be on a more flexible schedule today. After breakfast, we left our hotel for a glacier lagoon that was about two hours away. The sun somehow felt like it was still rising, which cast beautiful light on the bright blue ice sculptures suspended in the water and provided a beautiful, soft morning light over the mountains in the background. The gulls were flying about , perching on the edge of the sheets of ice that floated on top of the lagoon. A seal kept poking his head out of the water, teasing us and dodging back beneath the surface before our cameras could turn on.

Next we met with a tour group to go on an ice cave adventure! It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The ice looked like waves mixed with bubble wrap, an odd but consistent repetition of soft pyramids coming in from all directions. The shapes were formed mostly by aid of the wind, but still I couldn't believe that such unique shapes and textures occurred in nature. We only had 45 minutes to take all of our pictures. First, there was a big open cave where following the path led to a brief glimpse of the outside world before diving back into the giant mouth of blue ice.

If you continued back even further, through the darker and narrower part of the tunnel and were able to crouch and crawl for about a hundred feet, you were able to see another section of the cave that was darker. It had less light, mostly just what was able to shine through the thick layer of ice over our heads, and with less wind the texture of the ice surface was completely different. Only myself and my daring friend were willing to embark further, down a pitch black drop off and into the farthest depths of the caves. Here was darker, a path illuminated by a suspiciously beautiful trail of light coming from above. This final corridor is what you see in the picture below.

After being fetched by our tourguide, who thought we had gotten lost or fallen I suppose, we had to find our way through a snow storm back to our hotel. It took two and a half hours to drive what normally was an hour and a half and we almost got blown off the road multiple times! Imagine looking at a giant piece of white paper and being told to find the red dot. There is no red dot, is there? I'm surprised we were able to stay on that narrow road for over two hours without accident.

For dinner, our hosts at the quaint hotel cooked us a full three course meal. Our appetizers consisted of slightly toasted pieces of bread with a sweet Icelandic summer mustard on top and either raw salmon or smoked mackrey (not perfectly sure how it's spelled). Entree consisted of the best lamb I've ever eaten with the best gravy I've ever eaten, sweetened potatoes, corn, a small side salad, and some sort of vegetable patty topped with pineapple (which had a lovely flavor palette despite how boring it may sound). Dessert was an apple pie with strawberries and whipped cream. Pie in Iceland is more like a pie cake mixture, so apple pie was like apple cobbler on top of cake. It was a perfect meal, truly.

Oh, and fermented shark for the daring. Quick lesson: fermented shark is an old time thing in Iceland. Only about half of Icelanders even really eat it anymore. The shark that is used actually has poisonous oils/secretions, so by allowing it to ferment it is no longer toxic. But I promise that it still smells really, really terrible.

Tomorrow will be a glacier walk, so more beautiful blue ice! :)

Iceland - Day 3 "The Surprise"

The best summary of this day wouldn't be complete without describing our lunch: our tour guide pulled a grill out of the back of his super Jeep and set up shop in the middle of absolute white nothingness in every direction, complete with ketchup, mustard, and canned fried onion. And while we all stood in the snow next to the Jeep eating our Icelandic hot dogs (which were delicious), he pulled a giant red accordion out of his trunk and started playing for us.

Now let me backtrack. The day was a mystery from start to finish, named the "surprise" day by our tour guides. We didn't know what we were going to do until we started doing it. First we arrived at the Ladeyjarhofn, roughly translating to "land island coast", which were black sand beaches facing the Westman Islands. There was a boat wreck on the shore that was made of now beautifully worn wood. We also found a piece of a humpback whale spine!! You can see a picture on my instagram (@SaraLynn_Photo), but it was LARGE.

We visited a handful of beautiful waterfalls throughout the day, but the other major event was going to a little spring in the middle of nowhere. After driving hours through snowy landscapes farther and farther away from the hotel, our tour guide pulls the super Jeep onto a side road, past a small church that looks long since used, and up to the edge of a hill.

"Are you ready?" he asked. "We will hike over one hill, and maybe another." But when we asked what was there, he smiled and refused to answer. After a short walk we found a small sheet metal house next to a small spring. Hot, steamy water followed a creek past the shelter which had a little underwater bath right next to it. You can see below the size of this little place, it was quaint and so warm! The bath was a stone rectangle with stairs down under the water, which the tour guide didn't hesitate to take off his shoes, roll up his pants and step into!

Upon returning to the Jeep, the hot dog and accordion shenanigans commenced. It was a memorable way to finish the tour. Two hours of driving back to the meeting point and another two hours of driving to our next hotel later, we are prepared to spend the night watching out for aurora borealis, aka... the northern lights.

See you guys tomorrow with another update. This time, we're expecting a storm.

Iceland - Day 2

"We've got some bad weather, haven't we?"

This coming from the tour guide who lives in Iceland and whose full time job is to drive a super Jeep through extreme conditions.

Today was all about super Jeep exploration. We drove to Hovlsvollur in the morning and met with our tour guide at 10am. The next seven and a half hours were cold, wet, windy, and amazing. We were originally going to go on a glacier hike. After almost an hour of driving through seemingly the middle of nowhere- and getting stuck once along the way (pictures below)- we got to the glacier base and it was too windy. I don't mean too windy as in it was chilly and we didn't feel like it. I meant windy as in people were getting blown over into the foot and a half of powder we were trying to drag our feet through and couldn't get up because the wind just kept on mowing us over. We took shelter in a restaurant that was about twenty minutes further through the endless snow and over a river that we drove straight through. Despite our time there, the winds didn't calm, so we spent the day exploring waterfalls.

There were tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, and ones where the wind hit the water so hard that it blew away and turned to hale pellets before ever reaching the body of water below. PS. the snow here looks like Dippin Dots. Perfectly round pellets that hurt when they hit you in the face but were fun to kick and play in.

One cave we explored, which I am SO excited to share pictures from but you will have to wait, was incredibly difficult to navigate. We had to tip toe across rocks through an ice cold creek that ran between enormous cliff sides. At some points it was either grip the chain that was attached to the cliff-side for dear life while you ascend the side of the waterfall, or fall into twenty foot deep icey waters. Our feet slipped into the water multiple times, but by the end our numb toes were worth the beautiful surroundings.

We finished the day with some good old fashioned pizza, which was delicious and served with a side of what I can only deduce was salmon flavored salt. The photos below show the pickle we got into with the super Jeep. The front end was completely dunked in water and we had no traction to get out, which was surprising given the number of other crazy things we did in that jeep today (driving through entire rivers, for example). Thankfully another tour group was not far behind and were able to rope us up and pull us out with no harm to the vehicle or any people. Yea, just another crazy day in Iceland :)

(Click the photo to move the slideshow!)

Iceland - Day 1

We stepped out of the airport in Reykjavik, Iceland, at 6:30am. With a car, a really small map, and no GPS, we spent the morning navigating empty roads/highways in an attempt to sight see. I've quickly learned that Iceland is full of lots and lots and lots.... of rocks. And the snow looks like Dippin' Dots!

First we drove through a little village on the southwestern peninsula right along the shore. It seemed like a storm was coming in (though we never actually saw the storm) so the waves were angry and large. By large I mean the biggest waves I've ever seen. Photos do these monstrosities no justice- they would've easily swallowed a person whole if they got close enough to take that picture. Next we visited a light house with an interesting beach and cliff side that seemed to be the hot spot for photographers at the time. As soon as we showed up, so did three other cars! I wouldn't have guessed three other cars would be within ten miles of each other at the same time.

The Gunnuhver Hot Spring was also somewhat populated, but mostly by a film crew. Despite the area with the actual gushing hot water being roped off, two girls in full costume and makeup were standing right in front of one of the steam plumes doing strange dances with a film crew on the other side of the rope playing music and directing. I wish I knew what they were making, because it seemed very interesting. Those poor girls looked freezing between shots though! At least they warmed up every couple of minutes.

The last thing that we did was check into our hotel- the Blue Lagoon. The water was blue and steaming in amazing contrast to the snow covered ground and hale whipping through the air around us. We swam for about an hour in these steamy waters. The bottom of the spring was all this white clay that they encouraged you to use as a facial mask; it was super soft and felt like mud on our toes. I don't want to share the best pictures yet, but the photo below is from the private spring at our slightly remote location of the Blue Lagoon hotel. There was a larger public spring that had lots of people in it, so I sprung for the mostly empty one.

Anyways, I'll post more updates as I can- super excited to for tomorrow's adventure, which is a glacier walk :) Stay tuned for the results!