My 10 Favorite Images of 2017

2017 was INSANE. 2017 was insane and I felt outside of my mind most of the year. But 2017 was also filled with incredible moments. The incredible, warm moments outweighed the crazy and stressful times and for that, I am thankful. This is just a quick highlight of my year, personally and professionally and I hope you enjoy this line up.


Magic. This moment was pure magic. Chris and Libby held their wedding at Catherine's Terrace on Santa Catalina Island. Descanso Beach is backed up to the canyon that is heavily wooded on the island and houses Descanso Beach Club, Catherine's Terrace and a zip line for the more adventurous island goer. This was hands down, one of the most picturesque ceremony sites I have ever photographed and the "uninvited guests" melted our hearts. The ceremony had concluded and we were just finishing up portraits of the bridal party when two deer slowly and very quietly emerged from the hills. These four legged friends were clearly regulars at Descanso Beach Club weddings and knew just who to target. The Bride. The Bride was carrying the most beautiful luscious bouquet/dinner and the deer was determined. She was not shy and she was almost pushy. Chris ended up taking the bouquet from Libby after we sensed the friendly creature was not backing down and we relocated up the hill while the deer settled for the yummy palm frond arch. I'll never forget it.


Gretchen and her newest little love gave me all of those butterflies. This sweet moment needs no explanation. #sigh

Tracy Dwyer is in the process of writing two fitness books, is buffer than buff and just turned 60. She is a truly kind hearted individual whose passion and drive inspires so many. I am incredibly thankful that we crossed paths this year. I feel like a stronger person just knowing and being around her. Stay tuned for my upcoming blog post on Tracy! 

#7 Donuts and Soul Mates

#7 Donuts and Soul Mates

Jason and Lauren met in high school when in Europe on a School trip (different schools, different states!) and maintained a long lasting friendship so deep that it weathered many years apart and many personal changes only to bring them full circle to marriage...THIS WEEKEND! This incredibly  kind, funny couple took me to Michigan with them to Uncle John's Cider Mill to capture their engagement session. We wandered the corn mazes, thumped pumpkins in the crazy huge pumpkin patch and hung out in the apple orchard where all of the cider magic is born. This California girl was in Authentic Fall Heaven. In a short period of time, I've met and created a friendship with Jason and Lauren enough to confidently feel that this image is them. As we sat and munched on donuts and sipped cider while we waited for the sun to set a bit, they giggled and chatted and this was one of my favorite moments of the trip. This is the picture I will have in my head when I jump head first into capturing their wedding this weekend. I can't wait!


Little James may not know he's ready, but he will be soon enough. Mom and Dad say that he is not entirely grasping the fact that there will be a new little life in the house and that is okay. We are all excited enough for him and I know that Mom and Dad are going to make the transition a good one. Two of my best friends in the world (Amanda, mummy to James) and my college roomie are both warming up baby #2 and are due very soon. Its going to be a year full of new babies! Maybe that is why I am feeling so good about 2018! So much new love to come!!!

#5 Sheer Joy

#5 Sheer Joy

Andrew blew Heather away by surprising her with an early morning proposal on Bolsa Chica Beach. I actually think he may have surprised himself a little bit...he was definitely overcome with excitement as you can see. I was shooting and weeping a bit and trying to keep it together. Andrew's surprise proposal was featured on How He Asked by the Knot. I'll be capturing their wedding this March and I am so looking forward to more excitement and emotion from this handsome young gent. 

#4 Love is the Thing

#4 Love is the Thing

Daniela, Tommy and Briella celebrated together this May at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, in San Diego. This was immediately my favorite image of their wedding, because to me, it says it all. I adore the way that Daniela and Tommy honor their love for each other and their love for Briella by incorporating their precious little baby in their ceremony. Daniela and Tommy are over the moon in love with Briella and have told me that their little daughter has done nothing but enhance and bring joy to their lives. It is so apparent here. I'm such a sucker for crazy obsessed parents. Cue the ugly cry over here behind this computer screen.

#3 Words of Wisdom

#3 Words of Wisdom

I was fortunate enough to photograph one of my dear friend's family portrait in honor of her Grandfather's (pictured here with Grandma) 90th Birthday. Not pictured in this image are their three children, 6 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. After we shot the large extended family portrait, I got Grandma and Grandma alone for a moment and wasn't entirely prepared for their personalities to shine so brightly. Grandpa's 90, right? Right. But he was so completely tuned in. I asked that old question that most of the adult population really truly wants to know...simply, "What is the secret to your marriage?" Without skipping a beat, Grandma says, "Neither of us would take the kids." This image was the very moment after that statement and Grandpa was bursting with laughter. Grandma was pretty satisfied with her answer as well. So was I. I'll carry this little piece of advice with me until I'm in my 90's, especially if I end up having children. 

This is the only image in the top 10, that I did not take. This image was taken by my husband's good friend, Dave Salinas (we love you, Dave), moments before the guys left the hotel to head to our ceremony. There was a communication breakdown and our photographer wasn't able to make it over to my husband to capture the getting ready photos I was really hoping for. Things happen. Weddings never go according to plan. Our wedding, however, was near perfect to us. We woke up the next morning feeling like the day was more than we could've asked for and our friends and family were the reasons why. The morning after the wedding, Dave emailed us a couple dozen smart phone pics. That email contained this image and I was giddy inside. A moment that I will probably never understand, but one that I will cherish, because of the happiness shared here between Ian and his mom. I can't tell you, Dave (if you're reading this), how thankful I am for you and all of your photography. Oh, also for leaving your family in Switzerland on your birthday to come celebrate with us. That too.   

#1 My Mom, My Heart

#1 My Mom, My Heart

This is my mom. She is the reason for everything. I love her so and I love her because of this. If any of my other professional photographer friends can say that their mom busted out a disposable camera while you were getting ready for your very own wedding, please raise your hand. Probably not too many of you. If you had this experience, you might just understand what makes my mom so special. She's the best. That's where I'll leave it. 

Didn't know I'd be here today

Yesterday was a really special day for me. I was editing all morning in the comfort of my tiny bayside apartment with my friend and co-worker, Chico. I did a couple of loads of laundry and then headed out to pick up my nephew from his third day of Kindergarten. 

I drove out seriously early, arriving thirty minutes before he was supposed to be getting out (because those crazy Kindergarten teachers are unpredictable. I mean, what if she lets my little buddy out early and he wanders down the street and gets lost and it is all my fault) and I waited with one other very young looking father in front of the Kindergarten classrooms. It was over 100 degrees, I paced and paced and felt like a total creeper being there so early, but that was okay. I belonged there. I was there for a child. Finally, the doors opened and I saw my little nephew's head peak out the door! He ran to me and hugged me and said, "Auntie Kells! Are we going to the beach?!" "We sure are!" I replied.



We hopped back on the freeway and took a little detour to Snow Monster, because (if we're being honest) I was in the mood for an ice cream sandwich. Orion enjoyed about three bites of ice cream with gummy worms and fruity pebbles and I tried GUINNESS ICE CREAM. You read that right!!! Side note... it tasted just like Guinness and it was delicious. 


After our ice cream pit stop, Orion helped me fold some laundry, we sunscreened up and went out to the bay. We played in the water for a few hours on the lonely beach until the breeze kicked up and this unusual heat turned to a chill. The clouds rolled in and Orion was actually ready to go inside for a change. We made dinner together and watched Moana. It was a special day.


You are probably wondering what made this day so special. Truly, days like this should all be special no matter what, but yesterday shook me. Maybe it was because I arrived too early to pick Orion up from school and had too much time to think. Or maybe it is because I have a ton of personal events coming up and I am overcome with emotion and this is the way it is all coming out, but I was taken aback by my own emotions yesterday. 

Two years ago, I was sitting in this same teeny bayside apartment, truly loathing life. I was working as a Litigation Specialist for a company that knew little of my existence, nor did they care about my mental or physical state. I was in and out of court, arguing with attorneys on a daily basis and dealing with people who were usually experiencing the worst times of their life. I was working 50-60 hours a week for my Lit job and was putting in 40+ hours a week shooting weddings, portraits, boudoir and editing everything as well. I had gained nearly 20 pounds in about two years and I was seriously neglecting myself and ALL of my relationships. I was miserable. I had a mini meltdown when my boss wouldn't let me leave to see my nephew's first Pre-School recital. I sat at my desk and cried pathetically into my keyboard and told myself, this isn't where you are supposed to be. That was two years ago.

Now, I spend my days shooting beautiful Boudoir clients, documenting weddings and editing and perfecting my craft. I am not at all where I want to be in my business...I don't think I ever will be. I do not have it in my makeup to be satisfied with myself. I will always strive to be better and to grow and to make something more of myself. But for now, I am happy with where I am. I have time for friends and family and for myself. I am still in a state of decompression as a residual effect of that time in my life. I am still anxious and feeling like I am playing catch-up and I still feel like I am on overdrive most of the time.  That's okay. I am learning to adapt to being happy. That sounds bizarre (I know it as I type it out and see it in front of me). I don't think it is a bizarre thing to be going through though. I spent over ten years feeling like I was in the wrong place, going through the motions, making more money year after year, doing what I thought was right and it was just so wrong. So, I am giving myself permission to be happy and live my life the way I see fit, not the way I thought I was supposed to be living it. It will continue to be an adjustment, but I will be unapologetically happy with where I am now. I've earned it. 


I encourage everyone to dig deep this week and think seriously about the state of their happiness. If it is less than what you want it to be...what can you do to change it? If your financial, family, personal situation won't allow you to make large immediate changes, what small thing can you change today or in the short term to change the course of your happiness? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Happy Friday friends!