Category Archives: Photography

A Touch of Grace: Classic Portraits

We live in an era where everyone needs a proper portrait. With social media becoming our first impression, it’s more important now than it ever was to put our best face forward. And, that’s why I have started telling people that by the time they enter the working world, they need a good head shot.

All that said, there’s a big divide about what a proper portrait or head shot should look like and how to do one. I think the best are those that help a person shine, and engage the viewer. And so, that’s why I love finding that connection in the eyes and keeping the set up simple, yet classic.

I was thrilled to capture my cousin’s portrait. She’s full of beauty from the heart. My hope is that I was able to capture the grace she has as a woman and her fun personality.

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And, she deserves praise for being so patient to see her photos, as I captured her portraits just before leaving for Bolivia!

BOLIVIA BOUND!

It’s been quiet around here, but that’s because there’s been a flurry of activity. From a little family vacation to working as hard as I could to keep up with client work, and now to prepare for Bolivia!

I would not be able to go on this adventure – to do good while learning and expanding my photography skills – if it weren’t for my husband who first supported my crazy idea. And, the neighbor who volunteered to help me launch the Indiegogo campaign. Then came the flood of support from family and friends!BoliviaBound

 

There have been two very good questions, though, from strong women I admire:
1. How will you?

When I first announced at a family gathering that I was going to do this, she asked how I would be able to – knowing that I didn’t have the funds to go right away. I said that I didn’t know exactly, but that with a vote of confidence and check from a cousin, I was sure I could ask for more help and earn the rest…the truth is that I’m almost there. I’ve put some of the trip on credit, which is a first for my business. This is a workshop/location/cause that fits into a place in my heart that I can’t quite explain. So, I’m taking a leap of faith and following.

And, I’m grateful for everyone who is helping to make this happen: from my Mother-In-Law who is going to fill my shoes for a week to the friend who referred a portrait client.

2. Why not teach the people photography instead?

This is an excellent question, and one that I think could be asked of any group or non-profit who needs to raise awareness. First, the non-profit is working on basic life needs like food and childhood nutrition education. While there may be one or two workers who know how to use a camera, photography is not just the process of pushing a button. The job of photography in this instance is to tell their story in a way that engages and encourages others to get involved. Second, there’s the technical issues with equipment in remote villages – if a camera breaks down it might not be cost effective to fix it or to buy another one. And, I could drone on about lack of Internet access and the other technical details.

There are some who are trying to help aid in educating and enabling those less fortunate to tell their story, but it’s not the most effective model yet*. That’s why non-profits need photographers and videographers. Think about it: You get a letter telling you about a situation so dire it sounds unbelievable, and it’s typed in size 10 font on a double-sided sheet – is that as effective as a short clip or few photos you see your friend share?

On a more personal note, I have had questions about inequality and lack of awareness since moving into the North Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. The heritage of this part of West Seattle lies in depressing statistics and a bad reputation as a place where gentrification and inequality mix like a sick city experiment. Our neighborhood is home to the lowest life expectancy in the county. We have been labeled as a food desert for lack of a grocery story or farmer’s market.

Basically, I hope to bring back some understanding of how to better work in my own neighborhood to bring us together and work toward improving and changing the depressing statistics. For all the years of volunteering and photographing our happy community gatherings, I feel ineffective, like I’m not making a difference yet.

xo,

Holli

p.s. A short interview of Kevin Kubota, an instructor, explaining what Workshops With Purpose is all about.

* Brooke Shaden uses her photography skills to help survivors of human trafficking tell their story in India. Her Promoting Passion blog is what inspired me to apply for the Bolivia Workshop.

Indiegogo has hosted several campaigns aimed at teaching photography to youth in areas such as Africa to tell their story through photojournalism.

Tree Woman Project: Moss

The beautiful thing about this project is how it appeals to women of all ages and stages of life. Remember the model who sat patiently for me while I worked through my studio lighting technique with my classmate, Alecia Lindsay?

Well, after telling her about my project, she offered to join the volunteer models! And, since I didn’t have a specific tree in mind, she braved the cold, rainy Seattle weather to adventure around the Duwamish Greenspace with me as we found pretty mossy places in the trees.

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This session was more of an adventure than classic beauty portrait of a tree and a pretty woman…

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I treated the session much like all the rest of the series, by creating her crown, and planning around her dress to pair with a green velvet jacket and a little glamorous makeup…

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This session inspired me to be more adventurous with my editing, and I explored some techniques to make them look like old school film prints…

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Much thanks to Jessica Marie Cantu for being an adventurous Tree Woman!

 

Bolivia Update: Almost There

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I can’t believe it’s almost time to purchase airplane tickets for this trip! The fundraising urgency has slowed down as we entered 2015, and I’m happy to report that I was able put all of my profits from 2014 into this trip, adding another $465. After trimming any excess spending (goodbye, Hulu subscription), I was able to add even more. And, I’ve been surprised and humbled by more family who have further supported me where I least expected it.

The plan moving forward is to put 50% of all my business profits toward the trip. I plan on borrowing the rest of the tuition from our family savings account and paying it back as fast as I can. I’m sending in the last of the tuition March 2nd!

Thank you all for inspiring me from the beginning with the launch of the Indiegogo campaign – that $550 start was the spark I needed to really reach for the chance to grow. I can hardly wait to share what I learn and show you another part of the world.

xo,

Holli

What I Learned From A Model

I never would have thought that I would know a fashion photographer. But, as I’m growing in my work, I’m meeting other photographers from various genres. Last year, while taking a Creative Live course in studio lighting, I had the opportunity to befriend Alecia Lindsey. We got together just this past month to practice what we had learned, and she coordinated work with a model, Jessica Marie Cantu.

This was a really fun opportunity and I am so glad I finally worked with a real model and got to see a fashion photographer in action…and I finally am starting to feel confident with my studio lighting work!

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My passion is to help everybody, no matter what shape or size, look and feel beautiful in photographs. While I do get inspired by images in fashion magazines, my focus is really on captivating portraits. Until last month, I have only photographed what I call “real women” – but the truth is that we are all real women. And, I realized that while I had the opportunity to work with a model. Yes, she was able to move her body in ways many of us cannot, but she is just as kind and real as all the real women I know.

I also realized this while walking through some mud in the green space while talking with another mother as our kids played. She talked about an article where a ballerina defended the wear and tear on her feet (often regarded as ugly and inhumane) as akin to the hands of a wood worker, a craftsmen. The ballerina was proud of her feet. That gave me an “aha!” moment where I thought about how we are all so different and about how art and media tries to celebrate only a fraction of the body of humanity.

This changes the way I see myself as a photographer. I used to use the phrase, “photographing real women” and I want to change that. I need to stop buying into the divisiveness that kind of language reaffirms. We’re all real. Instead, I will say I aim to capture the beauty in everyone.

Tree Women Project: Bamboo

When I posted about this idea I had for the Tree Woman Project, I was pleasantly surprised. First, I was not expecting so many of my friends and family on Facebook to support the idea. Second, I was impressed by the number of volunteer models that emerged.
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Jackie is such a doll. When I met her we were children attending the same church. She was my friend’s younger sister. I always thought she was adorable, and so it was really like a mini-reunion dress up session to photographer her for this project.
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She’s a strong woman who never stops encouraging others…and with a flair for fun. She brought her own fairy wings that are special to her, and so we snapped a few of those too.

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Jackie was up for wandering around the Kubota Garden with me, so we tried a few other locations too. I think it was a pretty neat way to mark the half way point toward my goal to capture 12 Tree Women!

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Tree Women Project: Deodar Cedar

When I think of Christmas trees, I envision a classic Scandinavian Noble fir. As I was learning about trees this past summer, I saw the Deodar Cedar and thought it looks very much like a Noble, but was surprised to find it’s what some folks call a “real cedar” tree. They grow very tall and look like giant Christmas Trees.

My Dutch friend, Robin, was the chosen model for this tree because she is a strong woman. A mother of four, her reputation proceeded her as a woman who gets things done. Though our kids don’t know each other, we have become friends through Facebook. Exchanging comments through social media seems like a shallow way to make a friend, but I can honestly say that I admire and appreciate her.

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This was like getting together with an old friend to play dress up!

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As a mother of young kids, I really think it’s important to feel beautiful, and to be celebrated in the midst of seemingly thankless years of raising kids past toddlerhood. That transition for the kids to become independent is vital for both parties, because it’s so easy to get lost in the care and shuffle of daily living.

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A hearty thanks to Robin for being my model, and braving another “Seattle Winter” day – braving the cold and steady mist-like rain to show let me capture her beauty!

Tree Woman Project: Douglas Fir

In the spirit of the season, the Douglas Fir tree was the inspiration for this Tree Woman portrait session. At this maturity, the Douglas Fir looks an awful lot like a classic Christmas tree. Cassie was my intrepid model who braved the cold, rainy day with as much excitement as I had for our photo-project adventure.

Her style is fun and very Seattle, so I had to snap a few photos of her dressed normally before she went into Fairy-tale beauty mode (a mix of Tinkerbell and Peter Pan suits her)…here’s my favorite:

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From Seattle girl to Beauty girl:

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Going with the fun feel of the dreary-dreamy weather, we adventured nearby to some other parts of the Duwamish Greenspace, and found a few perfect spots for exploration. Even though this wasn’t part of the Douglas Fir themed shoot, I just love them. It feels like a story is waiting to be written about these scenes…and, sadly I don’t know what types of trees they were – they are prefect for a woodland story!

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And last but not least, a little admiration for old snag of a tree, the decay process revealing an ornate pattern:

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She is more than just beauty too – a woman in the Seattle Tech world, I greatly admire. Big thanks to Cassie for being my model!

New Year, New Direction!

FBCover14ReviewNot all of the portraits and special events I had the pleasure of capturing in 2014 fit in this collage – but it’s a good representation of what the year has held.

Since August 2014, when I decided to pursue portraiture and not solely fine art nature photography, I have been overwhelmed with gratitude for each portrait I had the pleasure of capturing.

What a year of learning and growing! I honestly love to learn so it has been a fun year, even thought those learning curves brought a lot of self-doubt. I am sure I will always be my own worst critique. But, I am proud of what I can do to capture each of you…here’s a peek at the ways I’ve grown in a year:

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Onward to 2015!

Changing Focus: This will be my year of growing the Portraiture side of my business. I will keep capturing beauty in fine art photography, but will only be showing that in the Etsy shop. In an effort to hold myself accountable and actually get new work up, I will be rotating the photographs in there quarterly to match the season.

Building Business: One of the most important things I’ve learned last year was about how much I love to collaborate and help small business owners tell their story. So, while I will still be offering portraits to families, and pursuing my dream to learn non-profit photography with my Bolivia trip, I’ll also be helping local businesses.

Keep In Touch: I honestly haven’t been consistent with my email newsletter. Now, I have to confess that I will miss the art shows and craft fairs, because that was the only chance I had to connect with those of you who love my art photography. Those two things will mean that I will keep in touch more often via email!

To a brighter 2015,

Holli

 

At The Courthouse: Short and Sweet Seattle Wedding

When I met Renee and Chris for a little family portrait session this summer, I immediately thought they made a beautiful couple. Loving, patient and kind to each other, I was so excited when Renee emailed me about photographing their wedding.

I started out as a Wedding Photography Assistant when I was 19 and loading Medium Format cameras with film. So, my first love and early training is with wedding photography, but as my life has changed and I’ve become a parent, I have focused more on portraits. Times like this, though, I make an exception.Wedding_HolliMargell 172

Photographing this short and sweet wedding reminded me of why I will always love weddings: it’s a beautiful day in the story of life, and capturing it to remember in photographs is truly an honor. There’s something magical about having such a momentous moment in your life documented. {Bonus points to Renee’s friends for gifting her some extra photography at the courthouse – seriously the best gift ever!}

How many people get ready for their wedding in the Jury Room?RCWedding_HolliMargell 157

Renee’s friends made it fun and helped keep Lila entertained so Mommy could get all dressed…

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Chris’ first look at his lovely bride…RCWedding_HolliMargell 162

They both wiped each other’s tears…

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Close friends and family were there, including Grandma via Facetime!Wedding_HolliMargell 173
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The wedding party migrated to the Bay Cafe to savor lunch and celebrate the new family.RCWedding_HolliMargell 166

Congratulations to Chris, Renee and little Lila!RCWedding_HolliMargell 171 RCWedding_HolliMargell 169 RCWedding_HolliMargell 170 RCWedding_HolliMargell 168 RCWedding_HolliMargell 167

xo, Holli