alaska

Traveling the Denali Highway - Anchorage Family Photographer

Sometimes we forget what a beautiful place we live in, and that we need to get out and explore Alaska. So, this week we decided to pack up, drive to Denali, and then camp and drive home along the gravel Denali Hwy. This July has been a wet one, but we lucked out and only had a few rain showers. The mosquitoes are everywhere we go, and at times the kids didn’t want to get out of the car because of the hoard of mosquitoes surrounding us.

Before we left on the trip I decided I didn’t want to take anything that created dishes to wash. We ate instant oatmeal, freeze dried food, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was the most low stress camping trip I’ve ever had, and I think it’s because of this.

We didn’t get to bed until midnight most nights, because we wanted to watch the beautiful sunset. We were hoping to see some bears, but found lots of rabbits, ptarmigan, moose, and pica.

We searched for an abandoned gold mine, but just ended up driving 8 miles into the middle of nowhere. There was fun to be had gold panning, hiking, off roading, rock-hounding, lots of driving, and just had a blast.

We were warned that the Denali Hwy was really rough. But, I have to say that it’s a really well maintained gravel road with amazing views. We plan on heading back this fall.

In Home Lifestyle Photography - Anchorage, Palmer, Newborn Photographer

I loved photographing this family and their beautiful little daughters! An in home session is perfect for families with small children, they are more comfortable in their own surroundings. If they get hungry, there is food right there, and they never get bored. Next time you are considering a session, consider your home!

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Megan + Peter Wedding - Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer Wedding Photographer

Here are the images of their wedding that took place in Wasilla, Alaska! It was a rainy day, but it created some absolutely gorgeous images. I love couples that aren’t afraid to get out in the rain!

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Moms Rock! - Palmer, Wasilla, Anchorage Lifestyle Photographer

Mothers do so much for their families! It needs to be celebrated and documented for them. Mothers day is coming up, so don’t put off putting mom first and scheduling a session for her. The longer I take photos, the more I realize that having images and prints of your family is priceless. We’re only getting older, so don’t let this time get away! These sessions can take place in your home, on location with a beautiful Alaska backdrop, and for smaller families in my home studio.

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Summer in Alaska - Palmer + Anchorage Family Photography

I live for summer in Alaska! Minus the mosquitoes! It’s warm, but not so warm that you don’t want to go outside. I love how temperamental the weather here in Palmer is. One minute it’s sunny and beautiful, the next you are having a rain shower. The clouds here have to be one of my favorite things ever. I wouldn’t change living here in the summer for anything, the winters are a different story!

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Why I Love This Photo | Anchorage Family Photography

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When you stand on the glacier the blue extends for miles. As you walk you feel the crackling of the ice under your feet, and the cold air brush against your face. Suddenly you’re hit with a sense of how small you really are. But even though you realize how small you are, you also realize the love that this mother and daughter have for each other is more than words can describe.

Why I Love This Day In The Life Image | Palmer, Alaska Family Photography

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You can just feel how close the Reindeer have come, can almost feel their breath on your face as they nuzzle close for food. For some people, this might be uncomfortable, but for this mother and daughter, this is magic.

Why I Adore this Documentary Image | Anchorage, Alaska Baby Photography

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As soon as Steven sat down at the piano, Ada speed-crawled over to him. I love how she smooshes down the piano keys just like her dad. She takes piano seriously. Just look at that face.

I Love This Portrait Because...... Palmer, Anchorage, Family Photographer

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Her contagious smile, her hands that she excitedly waived up and down. She was looking at her parents, they were behind me talking to her, and making the silliest noises. It’s just a good reminder that our emotions are often contagious.

Why I Love This Storytelling Image | Palmer, Alaska Family Photographer

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Parenting can be exhausting. We can spend the whole day thinking we didn’t experience anything but mundane everyday activities. What you don’t see is that they are really beautiful twinkles of love that are sprinkled throughout your day.

Alaska Peony Farmers - Anchorage, Palmer, Alaska Commercial Photographer

I had the opportunity to photograph these hardworking, Alaskan business owners! We originally photographed them this spring because they needed an image for marketing, but they really wanted to have an image with the flowers that they are farming. This is a 4 generation photo which makes it even more priceless. Alaska Peonies are the best! So get out there and buy some while they are available. Not only will your day be brightened, but you will be supporting local Alaskan business owners. 

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Sophia - Palmer and Anchorage, Alaska Fine Art Child Photographer

As a fine art child photographer in Anchorage and Palmer I have a lot of options to include flowers in the summer time. I have wildflowers, Lilacs, Lupine, Fireweed, Dandilions, Wild Roses. Including floral crowns into a portrait really makes my heart sing. They bring a touch of femininity to an image that I really love. So if you love flowers as well, please contact me about a floral portrait session. I photograph women of all ages, you are never too young or too old! 

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Selena Hatchers Pass Senior Portraits - Palmer, Anchorage, Senior Photography

I love photographing and creating senior portraits in Hatchers Pass. Every summer when it warms up, and opens I take my family up there to explore. The raw, natural beauty takes my breath away. I love combining the natural beauty around my subjects along with the natural beauty of my clients. Being able to photograph children, tweens, and senior girls in a natural beautiful way that isn't too posed is something that I love to do. When I get to hand my clients the actual prints printed on fine art, archival paper, I know my job is done. They have a fine art piece that they can hang on their wall and show their children years from now. 

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With teens and social media, they are often craving the "likes". But I remind them that this images isn't just for "likes" it's an heirloom. So 30 years from now they will see their image and realize what a beautiful person they were, and are. I strongly believe that women should have professional images done their whole life. Take a look at Selena's images, and feel free to contact me at info@christalhoughtelling.com to schedule a session.

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Natural Family Photos - Palmer, Anchorage, Alaska Family Photographer

With 4 kids at home sometimes it's a complete disaster! Dirty dishes, clothing needing to be folded, shoes all over the place. But here is the deal....I'm tired. I'm tired of trying to keep everything clean, of trying to make my life appear to be something it's not. I'm a hot mess! My kids are their own people, they make their own decisions about what they do.  While I try my best to influence them to do what I think would be the best, sometimes they decide that they are going to chose something else. I don't want to live my life trying to impress other people. I love my kids, my family, my life. I want to remember it as it is right now. When my daughter calls me 20 years from now complaining about her life, and kids I can tell her that she's not crazy. It's hard to be a parent, but it is also so rewarding. I have beautiful kids, and I have the ability to make crazy gorgeous portraits of them. Which I love. But I also love capturing moments of my life that really mean something to me. Moments that remind me what an awesome mom I am because we went to the airshow this year. I want my kids to know that I value them and love to spend time with them. I want them to know that I love the way they are right now, that we don't have to pretend to be perfect. 

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Tips on how to Photograph the Northern Lights - Anchorage, Alaska Family Photographer

On Christmas night I stood next to my car in -40 degree temperatures outside of Denali National Park trying to capture the perfect photo of the Northern Lights.

Why?

Because photographing the northern lights is addictive, magical, and so much fun. It was also on my bucket list, and it’s probably on yours as well. The dancing lights can be fleeting, so I want to give you some tips on how to get it right the first time.

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Protecting your camera:

Taking your camera in and out of the cold can cause condensation, and so it is very important to properly protect your camera. I place my camera into an extra large airtight ziplock bag. I then place the camera into the camera bag that I have also had out in the cold. The condensation will form on the bag and not on my camera. The reason I place the plastic bag into a cold camera bag is to allow the camera to adjust slowly to temperature changes. Just be sure to let your camera warm up slowly, it can take quite a while.

 

Protecting yourself:

Be prepared for the weather! I live in Alaska and -20 or colder at night is normal. I wear thermal underwear, long sleeved shirts, a heavy winter coat, snow pants, snow boots, gloves, large mittens over my gloves, hat and a face mask. I also use hand warmers in my gloves, and my boots. I like to be warm! Obviously this might be overkill for where you live, so prepare yourself accordingly. DO NOT touch your tripod without gloves in very cold weather. It can be very painful, I know from experience!

 

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Recommended Gear for photographing the Northern Lights

  • Tripod: You will need a tripod for the long exposures that are required.

  • Shutter release: Although this isn’t a requirement, I find that using one helps keep the photo sharp, and free from camera shake.

  • Wide angle lens with a wide aperture: I use a wide angle lens exclusively for my northern light photos.

  • Extra Battery: You will be taking lots of long exposures, and the cold reduces battery life! Be sure to keep an extra battery on hand. I keep mine inside my coat to keep it warm.

Recommended Camera Settings

Your camera settings will vary depending on the brightness of the Aurora, but here are some good starting points.

  • Aperture: Keep your f-stop around 1.4-2.8, or the widest your lens will open up.

  • ISO: Start with an ISO around 1000, and increase or decrease as needed.

  • Shutter Speed: Shutter speeds will also need to vary depending on your desired effect. If the lights are dim try shooting around 1/15-1/25th of a second. If the lights are bright and really dancing, increase your shutter speed to 1/10 of a second or faster to catch the movements.

  • Focus: I set my camera on manual focus, and focus to “infinity”. Then I check and adjust as needed.

The northern lights can be unpredictable, and can change in intensity. You will need to adjust your settings as needed throughout the shoot.

Don’t let the dark winters keep you indoors and away from shooting. Yes, it can be hard to drag yourself out of your cozy bed, but it is worth it! Just don’t forget to stop for a moment and really enjoy what you are seeing. Now get out there and capture some magic!

What to do if your toddler wont co-operate for photos? Tips from a photographer who was that toddler!

       Early one morning my mother decided that she was going to take me to go get my photo done at the local JCPenny's. She had 6 kids at the time, and obviously wanted to show the world her youngest little beauty! I'm surprised that I can even remember this event seeing as I was so young, but I do. The photographer sat me up on the bench, stood behind the camera and told me to smile. Now just in case you don't know me well, sometimes right off the bat I don't like people. I did not like this photographer. Looking back on it, I felt like he was talking down to me. So, I did what every little sassy pants toddler does...I REFUSED to smile. He then proceeded to try everything he could do to make me smile, and nothing worked. Out of desperation my mother bribed me with an ice-cream shake if I would just give her one smile. I can still remember the desperation in her voice! At that point I knew I had won! I gave my mother what she wanted, this sassy little smile, and we were out the door to get that shake.  What is interesting is that this last Christmas this picture came up, and we didn't talk about how cute I was. We laughed about what a stinker I was that day! So, what can you do to have a stress free photo-shoot with your toddler....

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LET GO OF PERFECTION

There I said it! Just let it go. Perfect images are boring anyway. Are stale images of your kid looking at a camera really what you want? Or do you want images that tell a story, take you back in time, and make you feel something. 

I suggest a documentary family photo session. What does that mean? It means that the photographer hangs out with you for an entire day documenting your life. It might seem like a weird concept at first, but these types of sessions produce images that are so awesome. 

These sessions take all the stress off of your shoulders because you get to be you. No need to buy matching clothing, no need to clean your home, and dads love these sessions. 

LET ME TELL YOU ANOTHER STORY

I hired a mentor a couple of years ago to help me with my photography. I just wasn't happy with where I was going. I can produce beautiful perfect family portraits, and I was bored and frustrated out of my mind. Families would nit pick how they looked in each image trying to find the perfect image for their wall. It made me sad. These images where technically perfect in every way. So why wasn't I happy! Then my mentor told me a story about Picasso. She said he was a master at the human form. He could paint it perfectly, with perfect dimensions. But obviously at some point he became interested in finding his "style" what he loved to create. I have always loved documentary images, but was worried to let go of my other technically perfect work. It pays the bills, but it hasn't been where my heart is at. I love images of kids being kids. I love to see mom cry when she looks at her images because they made her feel emotion. I dare you to give documentary family photos a try and see what you think. I promise that at some point your toddler with throw a tantrum during the day, but you will cherish the images that come from it. 

Activities for Natural Family Photos - Palmer, Anchorage, Alaska Family Photographer

Any time a family contacts me they ask for ideas of activities that would be good to do for natural family photos. As a documentary Anchorage family photographer I tell them that family photos should be a real representation of how your family likes to spend time together. My sessions are relaxed, and natural because I work hard to make good photos of you spending time with your family. Summer is upon us in Alaska and it is short! So here are some ideas of activities that would be great for you to do as a family for your photo session. 

  • Play at the Lake or on boat

  • Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows

  • Play in the sprinkler at home

  • Go to the icecream shop and get icecream

  • Fishing together

  • Bake something as a family

  • Play in your yard and your home together

  • Go to your favorite little town on "vacation"

  • Go to the reindeer farm

  • Visit a glacier or take a glacier helicopter tour

  • Visit a local farm and pick out produce or flowers

  • Go berry picking

  • Go on a short hike and have a picnic

  • If extended family or friends are in town this is the best time for a family session and take them around to all the local tourist spots and spend time together at home.

You don't have to limit yourself to this list! Whatever you want to do as a family I can tag along. My documentary sessions last anywhere from 4 hours to a whole day. When clients hear that I spend the day with them sometimes they are surprised.  But the fact is that I am not taking any of your time, you get to spend your time doing whatever you want and I am just along for the ride. If you have any questions or want to schedule your family session contact me at info@christalhoughtelling.com. 

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On Nancy Lake - Anchorage, Palmer, Alaska Family Photographer

As a documentary family photographer in Palmer, Wasilla and Anchorage I have some of the funnest things to photograph! Playing around in the mountains, on the lakes, and at family homes makes me so happy. This family was going to play on Nancy Lake at their cabin and had me come photograph it. 

Documentary sessions are fabulous for extended family sessions. It's so much more interesting to see moments where family are interacting verses just staring at a camera, that is why I always recommend these sessions. I also offer my documentary clients a mini portrait session while at these shoots as well because I understand that both are important. If you have any questions, or would like to book a session give me a call at 907-982-5409, or email me at info@christalhoughtelling.com 

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Why I Love This Portrait - Palmer, Anchorage, Alaska, Child Photographer

  Not everyone loves black and white portraits, but they are timeless to me. This could have been taken 100 years ago or yesterday. I love the way her hair is blowing across her face and the way the light is hitting her face beautifully. The clouds are dramatic, along with the hair you know it's a stormy day. The plants and the mountains in the background give a sense of place, and texture to the image. The way her little hands are holding her dress out so delicately touches my heart. I really love this image because to me it's a timeless portrait of a beautiful little girl. 

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