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It was a year of growth and facing fears for me. Putting myself out in the world creatively, with a new focus and learning to run a business (that helps me eat and actually pay bills) was scary. When you do that as a creative business person, you are met with a lot of questions and it’s difficult to stand by your choices. We all think we want to be successful, but I realized that success is actually the thing that frightens me the most. Standing behind your work and your vision is challenging, and learning to be artistic but still smart financially with your choices is a lesson in and of itself. Then there is just the part where you want to become a better photographer and continue to grow in your craft, but (oh ya!) there are invoices to manage and emails to keep up on and packages to mail and it is often hard to find the time for that kind of creative growth in the midst of your to-do list.

With all that in mind, I wanted to celebrate the things (dare I say it) I got right in 2015 (trust me, there were many fumblings on my way there). Below is a collection of my favorite (and strongest) images from 2015. I’ll briefly pull them apart technically and share any stories that came with them. If you are a photographer learning like me, and find it helpful, man…that’s a major bonus. Otherwise, enjoy!

*All film scans by PhotoVision, all pre-sets by Mastin Labs.

# 1 – THE HAT THAT GAVE BACK

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/700 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

You may remember my other post about this portrait session in harsh mid-day light. I seem to have made a habit of shooting at the “wrong” time of day this year, even in personal work when I had full control. I’ve decided there is no “wrong” time of day, and the more difficult the lighting scenario, the stronger a shooter I become. I used the large floppy hat we had with us to shade my client’s face, and put her back to the sun. I always shoot at F/2.8 on my Mamiya 645AF (a medium format film camera) when shooting individual, up-close portraits and details. I exposed for the shadows in the image, which if you can even believe was 1/700 of a second 2 stops over-exposed (that’s how bright it was), which gave the image a gorgeous luminous quality. It was extra windy that day and so I made myself a human tripod planting myself firmly in the sand. Film images tend to be more soft than digital and I wanted my focus point to be tac-sharp. With this in mind, I carefully, manually, focused on Debbie’s gorgeous closed eye-lid and shot away. Taking some time to create this moment, considering how the harsh light could work in my favor, and using tricks to soften the light around us….created one of my favorite images of 2015. I love how enveloped she is by the golden light, you’d never know this was high-noon.

#2 – THE CUTEST KID EVER

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Canon 5D Mark III  |  50mm Lens  |  ISO 400 at 1/200 F/1.8  |  Fuji Pre-Set + My Edits

Sometimes when I get home and process my images after a family session, I don’t even remember taking half of them. In order to capture the special moments that happen rapid-fire, I tend to go into a hyper focused “jedi-like” state. Parents tend to want their kids to look at the camera and smile, and I always provide these images for them of course. However, the ones they wind up LOVING are the more real, candid moments. Sometimes though, kids need a little coaching to do the things I notice them doing off-camera. This little guy was smiling for the camera like a champ, but it all felt a little forced. So I had him jump up and down as fast as he could to get his wiggles out, and then take a deep breath and cover his mouth, and then let it all out in a big “huff.” I was ready with my camera, down at his eye level, to grab the shot. I was blessed with plenty of soft morning light and open shade so I had no other technical issues to consider besides composition and focus (always focus on the eyes). He sweetly and authentically did exactly what I asked, with his parents giggling and enjoying the moment right behind me (providing that sparkle in his eye). We found ourselves with a coached moment, that became real and resonated with his personality, that his parents and family friends wound up loving.

#3 – BILLOWS AND WIND

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/125 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

I had been worried about the harsh sun at Smith Rock all day, as hair and make-up was only available mid-afternoon. In order to keep our model’s hair and lashes in place, we had to shoot earlier in the afternoon than I would have liked. However, the wild-fire smoke that had settled in the sky from miles away created a fog-like filter than enabled me to shoot in a mysterious style of light I doubt I’ll ever experience again. This shot was extra special to me because I had sketched it out and kept it on my mind, but knew I’d need to wait for the perfect moment to capture it. I waited for the sun to get low enough that I could place just a bit of light flare behind Montana’s head. I asked her to look to her side and close her eyes, to show off her unique and dynamic profile. I wanted this shot to feel like the renaissance or Botticelli, between the light and Montana’s lovely features. Right when I asked her to look to the side, the wind picked up creating gorgeous movement…and I was ready for it. I exposed for the shadows to create a light and airy look, letting my camera focus on her dress moving in the center rather than her face. The result was exactly what I had envisioned…which was very fulfilling since I’d been dreaming of the shot for weeks.

#4 – EXCITEMENT + LOVE + BEYONCÉ

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Canon 5D Mark III   |   35mm Lens   |    ISO 400 at 1/1250 F/5.6   |   Kodak Portra Pre-Set

It’s probably not hard to see why I love this image, there is so much love and excitement and real joy in this shot. Here’s the funny part : I have no memory of taking it. Much like family sessions, weddings can become a blur. You are working in overdrive and your senses are aware of everything as you try and be creative, consistent, but technically sound…while still being charming, fun and encouraging for your clients and their family. It’s a tall order, but one I really love being able to deliver on if I can. This image is a step outside my style. I rarely shoot horizontals unless I have to, I rarely shoot with my 35mm and I NEVER shoot at F/5.6…I mean never. However this moment was happening fast! I was standing near the front left-hand side of the ceremony shooting when I started to hear the phrase “I now pronounce you…”, which meant I needed to book it to the aisle! Before I knew it, Beyoncé was playing and the bride and groom were dancing their way down the aisle. I remember grabbing my 35mm as I ran (knowing I’d need a wide lens by the time I reached them) — and I don’t remember anything else. I got the shot, and that’s all that matters. This image taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone with lenses and style can result in images that you adore, and your clients love even more!

#5 – ALL IS QUIET 

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Mamiya 645AF  |  80mm Lens  |  1/60 at F/2.8  |  Fuji400H Film

This little pony is my heart. I will remember it’s warm eyes and gentle gaze my whole life. My husband and I arrived in Iceland after an amazing road trip through Europe. We had a fantastic time and loved every minute, but it was hard on me physically. Due to some struggles earlier in my 20’s, my body gets tired pretty easy and in many ways, I’m physically older than I ought to be at just 32. I became really sick on the plane. I was in a lot of pain and I felt guilty about it…I felt so tired. We arrived at our Airbnb to a warm welcome from Dagmar, our gracious host who offered me tea. A huge storm rolled in and we were forced to stay in for some much needed rest. A couple days later, I bundled up and went out in the storm to photograph the sweet ponies wandering Dagmar’s property. One pony came up to me and looked right into my camera. I didn’t have to call her, I didn’t have to wait. She just walked right up to me in the wind and stared into my lens and didn’t stop. As I looked back at her through the glass I felt like she was saying “It’s going to be okay.” I planted my feet firmly on the ground amidst the wind and shot in the sweet spot that I love, 1/60 of a second at F/2.8. This will forever be in my top 5 images. Forever.

I don’t know what the New Year holds for you, but I hope that whatever lessons you learned and challenges you faced in 2015, that you emerge stronger and wiser for it. Life is beautiful and difficult…often painful. Yet, it’s a perfect gift.

auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne….

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Sometimes I see something so beautiful that it haunts me. My husband and I were traveling in Bend, Oregon when we drove by Smith Rock State Park…and I was astonished at how other worldly the landscape was. I just knew I had to photograph something, anything, in the midst of the gorgeous scenery.

As we drove home that day, I started sketching out ideas for a styled bridal shoot…one that evoked romance and a wild, windblown nature that matched the beauty of the area.

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FILM :  Mamiya 645 AF  |  80mm F/2.8 Lens  |  Fuji 400H Film  |  Scans by PhotoVision

DIGITAL: Canon 5d Mark III  |  50mm F/1.8 Lens  | Mastin Labs Fuji Preset

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I’ve taken part in quite a few styled shoots both as the photographer and in other roles, but every attempt fell short of what I really wanted to accomplish. In the past I had a tendency to over style, or try and fit too many elements into one look. Maybe the biggest mistake I made was trying to build a whole shoot off of something pretty I’d seen while coveting another photographers work, and I always rushed through things. Thus, I usually ended up with imagery that felt disjointed and lacked attention to important details. Styled shoots are a lot of work… so to be less than pleased with the images is very disappointing, particularly when the blog rejections start piling up.

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START WHERE YOU ARE. USE WHAT YOU HAVE. DO WHAT YOU CAN. -Arthur Ashe

This time, I let my ideas sink in for a few months while I slowly contacted vendors. I only took on as many details as I could truly handle on my own without a team (no tablescapes, cakes, invitations or large floral garlands to speak of). I kept it simple and used what I had. I cut myself some slack, moving slowly while I considered my options. Most of all, I decided to shoot for myself…and not worry about blog submissions until the images were finished.

I’m learning not to expect perfection from myself…and this shoot is no exception. It’s not perfect. And yet, these are some of the best images I’ve created and I’m very proud of them.

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The Pacific Northwest fell victim to a really terrible wild fire season this year…at its worst, some very brave fire fighters even lost their lives in Washington. As we shot at Smith Rock, lingering smoke from fires burning many miles away hovered over the terrain, like an eerie fog…creating a filtered pastel color in the sky that I doubt I’ll ever get a chance to photograph again. As the evening progressed, we felt grateful for all the people keeping us safe from the fires burning far away…we were filled with gratitude. Everything felt a little somber as the sun set, but it was beautiful despite.

The gorgeous Fine Art Wedding Blog (and one my favorites), Wedding Sparrow, is featuring the full gallery of film images from this shoot TODAY! That’s the particularly fanciful thing about the folks at Wedding Sparrow, they only feature film images, which is rather lovely. I’ve featured a fuller range of images that includes digital as well (since I’m always trying to master hybrid shooting), and it adds a little variety too! Thanks for stopping by…

SPECIAL THANKS:

Ken Kupelian – My husband and gracious assistant during this shoot

Montana Ocampo – Model

Swoon Floral – Floral Design

Kate Tuma – Hair + Make Up

Sara Seven Via The Dress Theory – Gown

Melinda Rose Design – Headpiece + Veil

 

 

 

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On Thanksgiving morning I woke up to frost which had winked at us, covering the whole yard. Everything sparkled and glowed underneath it, and I was able to step outside and savor it before rushing off to work. It’s becoming more popular for clients to book family sessions on thanksgiving and also in the days following… since their loved ones tend to be in town and have the luxury of time-off from work. As I drove away, it felt odd to leave my sparkling yard because I felt like I could have stood there for hours.

Gratitude isn’t natural for me most of time. As I age, simple things invigorate my heart more and more…but most of the time I just feel like I’ve missed a fast moving train. I often wish I was more successful, could keep my laundry folded, or be more in so many ways. My headspace occupies the future as I long for a child, for a home that we own, for a studio to work out of, for a car that has more space for my gear (or at least a dome light that works).

Yet, as I stared at those sparkling leaves and watched my breath in the cold air, I didn’t long for more of anything. Something had quieted and slowed down my heart enough to be present and want for nothing. What a gift.

Our world seems to be bleeding at it’s core; between racial tensions in policing, political agendas, terrorism, refugees seeking safety, and the whispers of violence the globe over…I cannot even afford to live without gratitude. I can’t fix all these problems with my limited time, resources and reach. These barriers prevent me from investing in justice for every human who deserves it, as much as I wish that weren’t the case. However, I can live in gratitude and allow my heart to take part in sorrow and joy with others…giving what I can and where I’m called to, with a full heart. Other endeavors, while beautiful and worthy in smaller ways…really can’t compare.

HARD TIMES  |   East Mountain South 

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let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
while we all sup sorrow with the poor
there’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song? a sigh of the weary
hard times? hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh? hard times come again no more

while we seek mirth and beauty
and music light and gay
there are frail ones fainting at the door
though their voices are silent
their pleading looks will say
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song? a sigh of the weary
hard times… hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
’tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
’tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
oh, hard times come again no more

’tis a song’a sigh of the weary
hard times? hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around my cabin door
oh, hard times come again no more
oh, hard times come again no more

 

Posted in Life + Thoughts
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I’m excited to announce the soft launch of my new little shop! I finally have zeroed in on Photography as my career path in the last year…yet, the graphic designer in me still likes to get a little time for creative outlet. This gave birth to the Jenni Kupelian Print Shop.

* VISIT THE PRINT SHOP *

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This little store features limited edition art prints and gift cards. Gift cards you say? Yes! After getting many client requests for these and having to make them on the fly, I finally got organized with many different options and designs to choose from. It’s so hard to find meaningful gifts for friends and family these days, what better way than gifting them with a photo session? As you may or may not know, the message of my business is “CREATE HEIRLOOMS” — and this little store is a place where you gift heirlooms to your loved ones.

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ENTER TO WIN THIS *FRAMED* PRINT BELOW !!

Art Prints are available framed or alone. Gift Cards can be purchased for a specific photo-session I offer, or there are custom options if you want to contribute towards a session or let your recipient choose. I’ll even mail you a genuine physical gift card, all ready to be wrapped up gorgeous for Christmas. AND if you support the shop this week, you could win the beautiful “All Is Quiet | Film Version” print above!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Look for more prints being added all this week! I’m also excited to launch the “CLIENT STORE” password protected section, where my photo clients can quickly and easily buy photo cards, albums and other handmade products.

HAVE A WONDERFUL THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

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Mamiya 645 AF   |   80mm F/2.8 Lens   |   Fuji400H Film   |  Scans by Photovision

Fall is full of nostalgia for me. I don’t know what is about the smokiness in the air, the fog, leaves scattering across my yard, hot coffee in the morning and layering up for the day — but I adore it. It is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.

For the last two consecutive Octobers, I’ve been lucky enough to visit my good friend Natalie and her husband Casey in Exira, Iowa. Natalie is a talented artist and creates stunning work over at Minted. I always love photographing their family life (they welcomed little Navine into their lives last December) and the nooks and crannies of their lovely home. While we didn’t have time for family portraits this time around, I couldn’t let my film camera go to waste so I walked around their property and shot some snapshots from their life…and the images turned out to be quite a homage to fall.

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The last image is my favorite because I love how the grasshopper is peeking over the leaf at me, a really sweet moment captured (and not easy to manually focus on either, so I’m amazed it turned out!). This image reminds me so much of the tone of Natalie’s Artwork – the whimsy and cheekiness of it paired with classic, careful attention to detail.

Visiting my friends in Iowa is always such a restful, life-giving experience that I’m grateful for. I can’t think of a better way to spend a few Octobers days.