Boats, Islands, and Family Portraits

Boats, Islands, and Family Portraits


This job just gets better and better as time goes on. Over the years, I’ve pushed any photo opportunity (which clients gave me the liberty with) to create some truly unique and different artwork. It starts with an intimate/interesting view into the subject(s), backed by solid visual logistics and lighting expertise, and it produces something more than a documented portrait in time. The sessions themselves are much more than what clients’ thought were possible when they sought out a portrait photographer. The shoots are experiences all on their own, most feel compelled to tell me how much fun they had, and the photos showcase that.

As a result of the years of pushing clients to do something beyond the traditional and letting my concepts become realties, I started to have clients walk into the studio looking for exactly that, and without me going, “what if we did _____ .” They come in wanting “different.” They are excited they found me. I’m excited they found me. It’s awesome. It’s created a momentum of fun, free-thinking clients that let us explore new photographic opportunities, we enter their perspective of the world and capture it. It is a lot of work, it takes a lot of time, and it is all, without a doubt, worth it. Everyone involved feels the uniqueness, the personality and emotion injected into the artwork we create.

This is why I love to blog about these shoots. I get to share the story involved in the making of all these great images. People often ask me what my favorite photographs are (as if I could just pull them out of the hat like that). My answer is that it is never the photographs themselves that make them my favorites. It’s the back story or the journey behind making a particular set of photographs that make them my favorite. Unfortunately, I only get to share with you (here on the blog) the digital format. To see these photos presented as they should in their end form, on phenomenal metallic mediums, is absolutely the way to go and usually how my clients order them. Such cool pieces to have and display the art.

Here we have the adorable Bracken Family. Scott walked into the studio a few months back, a photographer himself, and one of those previously mentioned clients looking for someone who could create something “different” for his family portraits. After learning Scott and his family love to spend their weekends heading out on their boat, we quickly found our photo concept. The Brackens frequent a very small island, a really cool little spot that is about a 15-minute boat ride from Tacoma. This was our location, see the video below (as fast as we usually have to work, BTS video is a rare luxury we get to snag while on a shoot. Not the best of snippets but it’ll give you an idea of the location, which is a very cool spot).

Mom, Jessica; 8-month Mason; 3-year old Jayden; and Father, Scott; along with Alice and myself headed out via the Bracken’s boat. Arriving to the island, Alice went to work on Jessica’s makeup while I explored the available photographic options. Even with as much prep and work we put in, shoots can go upside-down quickly in the PNW, and there is really nothing we can do but look up and laugh. Approaching the evening’s ideal ambient light conditions, makeup finished and gear setup, the skies got angry and let loose the rain. We had a particularly unpredictable spring/early summer this year, at least, according to the meteorologist weather reports, as this was just one of many shoot days with promises of very favorable conditions yet we got the exact opposite. I swear, when they claimed 90% chance of rain it was bone dry, all the while a 10% chance produced flood-like conditions. Either mother nature was a flip-flopper or needs a new forecast team. Anywho, a few hours into a day of work, we called the shoot, packed up and boated back to town. Deflating as it may be, it was a wise decision. A grey, rainy day usually produces equally flat/grey photos (as far as capturing the overall environment), and I will never (if I have the choice) opt to force a shoot in those conditions. These photos are super important to the client and to me, and I want them to look like we imagined in the concept phase. We awoke the next day, hopped another back in the boat, determined to make these shots happen.


Little Mason motoring around inside the boat while mom was getting her makeup done.


Our little captain, Jayden. I love how his sunglasses are sitting goofy.

The skies were friendlier, and we got our desired sunset. I have to give the Brackens credit for making the styling we imagined come together so well. Not an easy task for a family, especially with such a themed occasion.





Though you don’t see much of the island in the final photos, it was the flexibility of working any side of the island and the sandbar that allowed use to get the looks we wanted with the light angles we had to work with. The island also lies in a fairly shielded area, so the water remains calm for the most part. Working boats into the photography is also a challenge when working with lighting, but these photos turned out great as well.


The real colors came out to play as the sun dove deeper in the horizon. A fun time of each day, colors dancing across the water, bringing in added dimension to the visuals.






A fun day spent in a very cool location! The family looks amazing, and I’m kinda jealous I don’t get to spend more time here! Thanks, Bracken Family, for sharing one of your favorite spots with me and being such an adventurous, fun family.