Spenny the Corgi

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I did a Holiday Mini Session with a small puppy corgi, Spenny, and his human owners. Kristie reached out to me to do a short and sweet, simple photo session with just a girl and her dog, and her boyfriend.

But two weeks before our photo shoot her boyfriend, Matt, secretly emailed me about wanting to propose to his girlfriend at the photo shoot. He told me they're always together, and it was next to impossible to plan something special without appearing suspicious like he was up to something. He wanted that element of surprise! And this photo shoot seemed like the perfect time to do so. 

My reaction was something like this:

Hey! That's awesome!
Oh man, what if I mess this up?
I don't think I can do this!
What if I pick a terrible location, and there's people all over the background, and it turns out to be lame?
But! This would make such a great story to tell!
And wouldn't it be awesome if, as a photographer, I was able to capture this moment for them? To remember for the rest of their lives? I know I was happy that I asked my professional photographer friend to photograph my proposal to Leanna.
And, Spenny would be there, part of the moment!
Okay, let's do this!


I told him since there was an open Mini Session slot right after Spenny, I'd let them have the the next slot as an engagement gift. That way, we'd have more time to photograph and celebrate their engagement.

(Sidenote: This would be the THIRD time someone secretly hired me as their dog photographer for a secret mission. The other two were for a secret Christmas present, and  the other for a secret house-warming gift that magically appeared one day in a new home. That story will be posted later this month.)

One week before our photo shoot, we had a secret meeting at a super secret spot called Starbucks. There, we hatched out the plan.

I wanted to get to know them better, so I could best know how to serve them. We talked about their relationship, what they like and what they don't like, and we talked about Spenny. We talked about making signs, like "Engaged!" or "She said, 'Yes'!" But we couldn't find a great idea on how the actual proposal would take place, in a way that would come as a huge shock and surprise to Kristie.

When the caffeine finally kicked in, I said, "Okay, how about I tell her to hold Spenny and look at me, and pretend to take pictures of just the two of them. Then I'm going to tell her to keep in looking in one direction, while you sneak up from behind and get down on one knee. Then at the right moment, I'll ask her to turn around, and there you are, on your knee and ring in hand."

And that's where we left it.

Afterwards, he texted me sketches of the plan he was making at work:

The secret plan

The secret plan

 

I decided to ask someone who's been proposed to for help - my wife, Leanna. She helped me with the planning process and helped create props for the photo shoot.

Come photo shoot time, three out of four people at the photo shoot knew what was going to happen. But I had to play it cool, and act like it was just going to be a simple, short, and sweet Holiday Mini Session of Spenny.

We began with portraits of just Spenny: 

Spenny was about 6-months old, and he was full of everything you'd expect in a puppy: gleaming with energy and playfulness, easily distracted, unable to sit still for more than 1 second, and...

...extremely adorable.

Now let's add some two-legged humans into the mix:

And there's that puppy personality coming out!

As for our Holiday theme, we decided to put antlers on Spenny. After all, Spenny is named after the reindeer in Frozen, Sven.

And if you're a dog owner, then you'd be just as surprised as we were that the antlers stayed on long enough to take these Holiday portraits of Spenny.

I love these family portraits up next:

Finally, it was time.

During the photo shoot, I kept thinking, What if I mess this all up? What if I somehow ruin the surprise? 

I think was I more nervous than Matt. I started looking around, seeing where the right angle and look would come from. This photo is going to be in their family forever! 

When I finally saw an angle that I liked, I summoned up the courage, took a deep breath, then asked Kristie to just get some photos of her and Spenny alone. Then, I looked over the Matt and gave the "signal," a nod and a wink.

Except Matt wasn't getting it. I gave another signal. Nope.

Oh, great, I'm going to ruin this. Kristie is going to totally catch on.

I think it was my third or fourth or fifth nod when I turned to Matt, and said out loud, "Hey! Can you go around the back and fix Spenny's leash so it's not in this shot?" Then I made sure to wink dramatically. He finally got the signal.

And just like that, this eager young man went around to "fix the leash" and got down on one knee...

Can you feel the nervous energy of this moment?

Meanwhile, Leanna was off to the side, recording the moment on her iPhone.

Matt finally started talking, Kristie turned around, with Spenny still in her arms, and then...

Kristie saw what was happening, and tears started flowing, all the while she was still holding onto the big, fluffy Spenny.

Leanna and I caught the whole moment on camera, both in still photography and video.

"But, wait!" you say.
"What happened next?" you ask.

We're not going to show everything of course. Some special moments are better kept special, and exclusive.

But what I can show you is that...

I especially love this triumphant smile of Matt, Kristie just adoring her new accessory, and Spenny probably wondering what's for dinner later that night.

Speaking of Spenny, I'm so glad Spenny was a part of this because Dogs are Family. And in every photo of this beautiful moment, their precious little Spenny was part of it. 

He'll forever be in their family photos and stories for years to come, as part of this milestone in their lives. And it was so adorable to see her melt in the moment holding Spenny wrapped in both of her arms, providing comfort and joy in this precious time of her life.

And the best part? We totally surprised her! She didn't see it coming at all!

And to get back into the Holiday spirit:

Notice anything different on Kristie's ring finger?

Engaged! The beautiful "Engaged" banner there was designed and crafted by my lovely wife, Leanna.

You did it, Matt!! And we didn't ruin the surprise! 
Congratulations Kristie on your lovely engagement!
And congratulations to the soon-to-be Best Dog, Spenny!

And Happy Valentine's Day!
 

Here's what Matt and Kristie had to say about their experience with Dog Photography. Thanks, Matt and Kristie! - 

As Spenny’s mom and dad, we wanted to have portraits of Spenny as a puppy to remember him as a puppy. But, we can only do so much to ask him sit or stay for a picture. Even though we know he is a puppy and he's so distracted by the world, we can still get impatient with him. We appreciated how Steamer took the time to get to know Spenny and to be patient with him in taking the pictures. Now we have a huge, 20x30 framed print and also 16x20 prints of Spenny hanging all around the living room. When we got the final printed portraits, we felt happy that we could show off Spenny to guests in our home. They really like all of Spenny’s portraits! We were happily surprised with how smooth the whole process was and we are very happy with the finished products! Thanks for everything, Leanna and Steamer!

Westie Coast

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At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to try something new with my photography. I wanted to learn a new skill. I was feeling like I was hitting a plateau, and getting bored. But the good kind of bored that motivates you to take on a new challenge, and grow. As an artist, I was ready to take my art to the next level.

And what's the next level for me? Getting more creative with lighting.

After all, the word photography literally means to write with light. And it was time to learn a new  a whole new vocabulary. 

To be specific: creative lighting on-location.

I prefer photographing dogs outdoors, in their natural elements. I want to make images of dogs in pure joy and bliss, and natural surroundings brings out those carefree expressions.

And isn’t that why we fall in love with dogs? Because they reconnect us to the beautiful outdoors? Kicking up dirt behind their zooming paws, their wagging tails, and rubbing their neatly groomed fur into the grass? 

I love seeing dogs in their natural elements. I want to show them just as they are — without any fluffy clothings, accessories — just them, in their natural element. That’s why most of my images are shown without leashes. Just the dogs in their purest form! (Don’t worry, most dogs on their photo shoots still have their collars and leads on for their safety. I just remove them in Photoshop after). 

So one Friday evening, as the sun was setting on the Pacific Ocean, we took Maya to Huntington Dog Beach for yet another photo shoot. Though, I think she now knows photo shoots = lots of food and treats and attention. 

We arrived a bit late and missed the sun, but the evening glow still provided a gorgeous, dramatic back drop. 

And I’m so proud of how these images turned out! 

As you may have guessed by now, it was really windy that evening!

We LOVE taking Maya to the beach, not only because she's able to roam free and run around, but also because the beach is just good medicine for the soul. We get to meet other dogs, splash our paws in the water, and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze. 

The following image are Mommy's Favorites, because of Maya's puffy mouth look:

And these last two are my personal favorites:

Stay tuned for more creative on-location portraits! I have so many more visions about how I'm going to implement this new technique. 

I believe the photograph isn't complete until you can physically feel it, so I'm going to get working on printing these portraits and bringing them to life.


Valentine's Day is coming up! So if you have Furry Valentine and want to celebrate with something different, or you'd like to gift a portrait session for that special someone, drop me a line and let's schedule a portrait session together.

Seal Beach Animal Care Center - January Edition

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One of my 2018 New Year's goal is to volunteer and give back.

It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and that's why I'm so thrilled to share that I started volunteering with a local animal shelter, here in Orange County, the Seal Beach Animal Care Center (SBACC). They're one of the few no-kill shelters in Orange County, with an army of volunteers who pour they hearts out to help these beautiful dogs find loving homes.

I believe in the power of portraits, and an adoptable dog's portrait is the first impression people see when they're considering adopting a dog. 

So last week I went in and photographed 20 adoptable dogs, each with their own story, unique personalities, and adorable faces.

The SBACC are incredible caretakers and lovers of their animals, and you feel it when they talk about each of their dogs. I included the SBACC's own description of some of the dogs in this blog post, and let them share their dogs' stories.

If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in adopting in any these dogs, please visit Seal Beach Animal Care Center's website at http://www.sbacc.org. Also note: some of these dogs may have already been adopted, like some of the puppies.

 

Sandy

This girl was so playful! She was social, joyful, and loved being in front of the camera.

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Hello everyone, please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Sandy. I’m a beautiful girl who came to the SBACC as a stray and my family never came for me so I’m looking for a forever family who would never abandon me. I’m a beautiful girl, though very skinny. I’m getting lots of good food, great vet care and lots of love from the volunteers and I’m starting to put on some weight, but I have a ways to go before I’m all filled out!! I really need a family to call my own. A family who has lots of time to give me the human attention that I crave! I love when the volunteers sit with me, and I do the cutest thing; I’ll put my paw somewhere on you; your leg, your arm, your shoulder, as if to say, “Please sit with me for a while. Please don’t leave yet.” I have beautiful, long legs and I walk great on a leash, checking in constantly to make sure you’re still with me. Do you have time to give to a beautiful girl like me; then please come down and meet me and let’s become family. Sandy ❤️🐾
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— Seal Beach Animal Care Center

Molly

Molly's another beautiful dog, though a bit camera-shy with me at first. I gave her time to be comfortable with the camera, and we got some pretty good portraits of her.

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This beautiful girl is Molly. She is the perfect medium size (about 40 pounds). Unfortunately, Molly has has been adopted into a couple homes that haven’t worked out. Molly has anxiety when being left alone, but that’s only because she loves her people so much! In this next (and final) home, we are looking for someone who will be home most of the time, but most importantly, we want her to have another dog friend in the home because she LOVES other dogs and gets along so well with them. She is an active girl and will go on hikes, runs, walks, etc. with you. Other than her “flaw,” Molly is the perfect girl. Please don’t hesitate on coming to meet her. She is a great, loving girl who deserves the best home. ❤️🐾

Gandalf

Gandalf's a magical dog, and you can tell in his portraits that he's playful, vocal, and eager to please.

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Good morning! It’s been a while since I’ve been posted. Gandalf here wondering why you haven’t come to meet me yet. I am a fabulous boy, am full of life, spunk and energy. I do GREAT with other dogs and love to run around and play. Will you come meet me? ❤️🐾

Chance

Chance was the first dog I walked as part of my volunteer training, so he's special to me in that way. He's great at walking, and didn't pull or walk ahead of me when I asked him to. Oh, and he's pretty photogenic.

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Hi all you big dog lovers out there, my name is Chance. Are you looking for a best friend to run or hike with? One who’s well rounded and balanced with an amazing temperament? One who gets along well with other dogs and loves to cuddle? Well then, you must come and meet me, because I’m your guy! You see, I’m all that and so much more! I’m a handsome, 5-year old shepherd mix with a beautiful smile and the most gorgeous brown eyes that will melt your heart. I’m a big love bug of a boy who loves cuddle time with the volunteers, and they all say I give the best kisses!! I love my walks and my toys and I’m great with other dogs; basically, I’m the perfect package. I’m looking for my forever family to love; could you be that family? Please hurry down to the SBACC and “take a chance on me,” CHANCE!! I’ll be waiting for you with a smile and a kiss!! ❤️🐾
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Monty

Big, goofy, smile! Monty was super energetic and ran all over the yard for me.

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Who’s happy it’s the weekend?? Monte certainly is! This handsome hunk is even more gorgeous in person. He is a big sweetheart with a tail that never stops wagging. Monte is an active boy and would love an active home. When he loves you, he loves you and won’t forget it. Come meet this sweet boy. ❤️🐾

Aretha, Clapton, Jagger, and Janis

Okay, imagine you're in a small space trapped by four little furry puppies gnawing at your shoelaces, pockets, wrists, and camera. They were climbing all over me, all over each other, and tumbling around with tiny tails wagging all around. That's how it was with these puppies!

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We have puppies in the building! These 5 cuties are 8-week-old Terrier mixes. Their names are Henley, Aretha, Janis, Clapton and Jagger. We are guessing they’ll be about 40ish pounds or so, but we have no idea. If interested, please fill out our online application prior to coming to meet them. We don’t hold and don’t do first come, we do what is best fit. In the meantime, enjoy the cuteness! ❤️🐾
— Seal Beach Animal Care Center

Please note: some of these peoples have already found homes. But you can check the SBACC's website to see who's still available.

Rosie

Rosie's adorable! When I heard Rosie's part Doxie/Spaniel, it made sense to me. In my experience, I noticed Dachschunds in particular have deep eyes that really gaze into you. So far, there's few dogs I notice that do that, but our very own Maya (Westie-Schnauzer mix) also deeply gazes. 

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Who’s this cutie pie? Rosie! She is a 2-year-old Doxie/Spaniel mix with the sweetest face! Rosie is a fun girl who loves to play with other dogs, squeaky toys and cuddle with the humans. Come meet this fabulous girl! ❤️🐾

Lucy

One of Lucy's portraits is making into my portfolio, and it's the one in mid-air with all four paws off the ground, running with her red toy. When I first photographed Lucy, she was not responding to my food bribes, but once I pulled out the toys, it was smooth sailing and she turned into a really fun subject to photograph.

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If this photo doesn’t make you smile, then what does?? This little spitfire is Lucy and she is full of life. She is always on the go-go-go and will bring so much to joy to any home. Need someone to make you smile everyday? Lucy sounds like she’d be the girl for you. ❤️🐾

Lucy ("Lucy 2")

Ever since adopting Maya, terriers have a special place in my heart. And Lucy (2) is no exception. 

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Hello there! My name is Lucy! I am super sweet, endearing and so affectionate. I was adopted from the care center five years ago, but was just brought back because my owner was moving and couldn’t take me. I know there is another family out there though for me that will love me unconditionally and take me anywhere they go. I am such a cute girl and I hope you come meet me soon! ❤️🐾

Xena

I distinctly remember photographing Xena because as soon as I pulled out the kibbles, she gave me her full attention.

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Fiona

Same with Fiona, who was in the yard with Xena running around...until she heard me bring out the kibbles.

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Tahoe

Alas, the Saint Bernards!!

This sage is Tahoe, and the ground shakes when he takes a step. He was so large that I just could not get a good portrait of his full body in the frame.

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Don't worry, Tahoe doesn't have a broken foot or anything. He just wears that boot because he's been itching it too much.

Honey

Honey, on the other and, was much smaller compared to Tahoe (though still very large for a dog). Just like her name, she's a real sweetie.

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Debbie

Debbie's the third of our Saint Bernard family and she was the most cooperative dog in front of the camera. I especially love the middle portrait of her in-between yawning.

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Penelope

Penelope is a pit bull beloved by everyone at the SBACC. 

I LOVE photographing pit bulls with their big, goofy, huge smiles. 

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Who wants to meet the happiest girl in the whole wide world? Well, here she is, Miss Penelope…or “Miss P” “Penny” “Penny-lope”, which are just some of the nicknames she has racked up here. To no fault of her own, Penelope was recently returned to SBACC after approx. a year in a home. Her previous owner had some recent life changes and could no longer provide the life this little hippo deserved. Penelope is a 4 year American Pitbull Terrier and to say Miss P loves people of all sizes, is a HUGE understatement. This precious girl has never met anyone she doesn’t love and she proves it by giving the best kisses…over and over and over again! Another fun trait about this girl is her love for water. Watching her play in the kiddie pools and with the hose is one of the funniest things you will ever see. Penny is a volunteer favorite. She is constantly getting tons of love and cuddles with all the volunteers. She is quite the spooner! P also loves car rides and hits downtown a couple times a week with her favorite volunteers where everyone swoons over her cuteness. Would you consider opening your heart and home for our sweet P?
— Seal Beach Animal Care Center

 

Leilani

When I met Leilani, I heard she just recently arrived to the shelter a couple of days ago. She looked scared, unsure, out-of-place. I took her for a walk and spent some time with her before I started to photograph her. I noticed she knew basic commands like sit, lay down, and shake.  She's very sweet, obedient, and turned out easy to photograph.

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Who is this sweet girl? Introducing Leilani! I was wandering the scary streets before arriving to this place. I was so scared and confused, but just one week later I am whole new dog! See what some love and comfort can do for a dog like me? My personality is shining! I love to play ball and I bring it back, too! I enjoy endless cuddles and love going for long walks! I’m a 1-year-old Bulldog mix. As long as you don’t mind some snorting, I think we could be the perfect match! Come meet me, won’t you?
— Seal Beach Animal Care Center

And there they are! 20 dogs! I had SO MUCH FUN making dignified, beautiful portraits of these dogs. I want to say a St. Bernard-sized THANK YOU to the SBACC for letting me stop by! 

Once again, they're from the Seal Beach Animal Care Center in Southern California. If any of these furry faces stood out to you, or you know someone looking, head on over to their website for an application.

Stay tuned for more adoption portraits.