Vineyard Family Session- Santa Rosa Family Photographer Angelika Mitchell

My favorite color is fall, and fall lasts a really long time in Sonoma County. We do eventually lose our leaves, but they can stay almost to Christmas. This family session was in early December, and while we were on the back end of the colorful vineyards, we still got stunning colors. 

Dad is a winemaker, so when this young family thought about updating their family photos, they wanted the vineyards of Sonoma County to be the backdrop. Vineyards really are such a beautiful location, and they rival beaches for my absolute favorite spot to do family portraits. I feel so lucky to live in an area of such diverse beauty. We can be on the beach, in the forest, in the mountains, and in the desert all within a short drive. This particular Vineyard is right in my home town of Sebastopol. 

Sonoma County Vineyard Family Photos- Angelika Mitchell Photography

Just like fall is my favorite color, toddler is my favorite child. So many clients worry that toddlers and young children won't cooperate for photos, and in some ways they are right! That's the beauty of the toddler though. Everything happens on their time and serves their needs. When we had our family photos done and my little one was 2, she decided the whole photoshoot was actually a hike, and she just kept going. What makes toddlers so magical, is that they infuse fun into every moment. I love the way their carefree energy lightens the mood, and how playing with them and having fun makes for the very best portraits. I am always thrilled to learn a new client has young kids. I just know that the adventure we have together will be infused with fun and the wonder of early childhood. 

Sebastopol Vineyard Family Photos- Angelika Mitchell Photography

Now that the rainy season is upon us, I am longing for the warm colors of fall. We just took down our Christmas tree, and that time is always a little sad for me. Knowing that it will be so long before the fall and holidays are back. I know as soon as the flowers start to bloom in Spring, I will be so thankful for longer nights and the burst of new life. Such is the wheel of time. 

Capturing the Magic Of Christmas

Every year I make a calendar, like many of you, to give to the grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles who all live far and wide. This has been my tradition for 5 or so years, but as my business had gotten busier, the calendar has gotten harder. Right in the middle of the busy season I am trying to scrounge through the catalogs of my year looking for photos that are calendar worthy. Lately, I find that I don't have enough photos of my own family and it makes me a little sad. Now let's be clear, I have THOUSANDS of phone photo. And if you count child taken selfies, my middle child alone once logged 5,236 selfies on one iPad. (so not kidding)  I do include cell phone shots, especially from fun family outings and trips to Disney when suddenly Mickey appeared. I also try to fill the calendar with some of my favorite more formal photos; as an artist I am not as drawn to the beauty of everyday moments as I am to the magic of special moments. 

One of the hardest months to fill has been December. I have amazing summer beach photos, great fall family photos, and special Halloween shoots. Spring saw flower swings and blooming fields of mustard. December though, is hard. So this year I made a promise to myself to try to capture the magic of Christmas. I am a bonafide Christmas junkie. You know the movie Elf, totally me. I really truly believe in Christmas magic, and I believe in Santa. I love lights and sparkles and huge trees right in the middle of living space. (why can't that be an everyday thing?) So why is it that I was failing to capture this for my family? Honestly, it seemed like too much work to add one more thing onto the list of the EVERYTHING I do to make the holidays magic for my three little people and extended family. 

So here is a little Christmas Magic for you. The photo on the right? If you zoom in on the lower part of the window you can see the outline of Santa on his sleigh. I swear to you there is nothing in my house that would make that reflection. Nothing in the yard, no possible answer as to where it came from. Crazy, right?!? Magic. 

So here is a little Christmas Magic for you. The photo on the right? If you zoom in on the lower part of the window you can see the outline of Santa on his sleigh. I swear to you there is nothing in my house that would make that reflection. Nothing in the yard, no possible answer as to where it came from. Crazy, right?!? Magic. 

Once I set my mind to it, I captured these magical Christmas photos for my family in under 10 minutes. Yes, under 10 minutes! I started with the youngest and then added them in order of age. My little one actually loves having her photo taken. My oldest, well let's just say he was bribed. All these photographs were take with a 35mm lens on a Nikon D600. Neither of which I use that often. I am, generally, a long lens gal. 200mm being my preferred focal length. The reason I tell you this, the 35mm lens is generally one of the most affordable lenses to branch out with when you have a new DSLR camera. If you don't have one, a 50mm will do, you will just have to place yourself further back. I find the 35mm to be the best lens for taking pictures inside the house. You too can absolutely capture photos just like this of your family!  

Taking Christmas Tree Photos- Angelika Mitchell Photography

In order to get the tree lights looking their best, place your subject a few feet away from the tree. I you want the lights to blur out and give you nice big balls of light, use an aperture around f1.8, or as open (low number) as your camera can go. I had my ISO at 800, which is the highest I go with this camera. All of these were hand held, with me laying on my belly on the floor. Spot meter to your subject and adjust the shutter speed until you have enough light. You can also get little flares on the lights by moving your focal length closer to f15. It's a totally different, and also fun look. 

I can't tell you how happy I am to have these photos. They really capture, for me, what is magical about Christmas. The tree with sparkling lights, the togetherness of family, the magic of waiting for Santa. The book the kids are reading is The Night Before Christmas, and it's one of those books where you record your voice to read each page. My Dad made it when my oldest was a baby. Every Christmas eve, we gather around and let Gramps read us the Christmas book before we tuck in and wait for Santa. It really is Magic. 

Beach Family Session- Santa Rosa Family Photographer Angelika Mitchell

Do you know what my favorite part of photography is? Seeing children and families grow over the years. There is a special place in my heart for the families who come back year after year, and share their journey with me. One family that blessed my lens this fall is our Masto Wyatt Warrior family. I have had the pleasure of working with the kiddos several times, but this fall I put Mom and Dad in front of the camera too.

Mom has always been someone who I greatly admire. She is the best fundraiser I have ever seen, rallying for research into Wyatt's rare skin disorder.  I have never seen such grace under pressure, with an enduring attitude of gratitude and hope. Wyatt is a treasure, that's for sure. The big kids are SO much fun to photograph, they are naturals in front of the camera. 

Rodeo Beach Family Photo Session- Angelika Mitchell Photography

While we may live hours apart from one another, we found a beautiful beach in the middle to meet at. Rodeo Beach in Sausalito, Marin County, provided the most picturesque backdrop to our family photo beach adventure. The family was impeccably styled, as usual, with no coaching from me at all. We tested our luck with the fall coastal weather; hello fall rainy season-which came out of nowhere! We ended up with the perfect day. 

Rodeo Beach Family Photo Session- Angelika Mitchell Photography

I really love beach photos. The Sonoma and Marin coastline can be tricky, so we don't attempt these sessions as often as my heart would like. The summers tend towards foggy sunsets, and the fall and spring are pretty cold and windy. It's really such a glorious synchronistic moment when you get a beautiful family, a beautiful beach, and nice weather all at the same time. God smiled on us that day, for sure. 

Mommy and Me Session- Santa Rosa Family Photographer Angelika Mitchell

On Mother's Day this year we had a contest. To enter, Moms commented on a favorite thing about Motherhood. Reading the comments was one of my personal favorite Mother's Day treats. It was so heartwarming to see all the different ways women cherished their role as Mom. This gorgeous Mom was the winner of the contest, and I am so excited to share her photos with you. I know her daughters will cherish these memories forever. 

Often, as Moms, we get a little lost in the shuffle. We are the ones with a phone full of photos of the kids, and probably our kids and every other member of the family, from Dad to grandparents. What we don't have, is enough photos of ourselves with our kids. (awkward selfies with the kids aside) We either don't love the way we look, don't think we are photo ready, or don't even think about it. The thing is, these kids of ours, who we cherish so much, need to see us loving on them in their lives. One of the comments during the contest was a young woman who had just lost her own mother, and she was so sad that she had so few photos of her Mom and her together. It's heartbreaking.

So ladies, please be in the picture! Even with no make up and a messy bun. Wear those yoga pants and tank top, which you might even have slept in, and take that photo. Because the truth is, that is a version of you the kids want to remember too! Once in a while, get dressed up in whatever makes you feel awesome, and have some photos done with the little people you love most. By doing so, you show them how much you love them, and how much you love yourself too.

In my bedroom I have 3 framed photos hanging on my wall. One with each of my children when they were around 2. I LOVE looking at them every night before bed! Even though I can see myself aging over the 7 years, I can also see how I have grown as a woman, how I have really started to get the hang of being a Mom, and how much I love my children.