The year after the pandemic started.
The year we watched way too many Tik-Tok videos.
The year Kim and Kanye broke up.
The year I finished my first full year in business.
Over one whole year. Which, technically, is nothing at all---at least in the grand scheme of things. But, for a small business, it is everything.
This year was filled with the highest of highs and a small handful of lows which just served to teach me more about this business and how to be better. I learned more about running a legitimate business than I ever thought I would (i.e. save money for taxes) and started to really find a groove in my editing. I participated in workshops that focused on composition, ones about running a successful elopement business, and even one on SEO. I purchased a third camera body as additional back up, another lens, and other new gear to help make your sessions and elopements perfect. I started a Pinterest for my business, completely rebranded mid-year, and even made a handful of reels for Instagram (yes, this is noteworthy because they take FOREVER to make).
All in all, I am thrilled at what 2021 brought my business in every way possible. So, in celebration of this year, let's take a little jaunt down memory lane, shall we?
The month that I freaked out over. Because when you are a new small business owner and don't realize that this industry tends to slow down a bit during the first couple months of the year (hello holiday recovery mode!), you freak out a little bit. That said, I had just come off the heels of a very busy holiday lifestyle season with lots of great families as well as my first travel gig to what would become my second home this year: Yosemite.
I used the down time in January to work on building my adventure elopement portfolio, something I had been working on getting off the ground for some time. I worked with some great people who helped me bring my vision to life and establish myself a bit more in this niche.
The second month of the year marked a turning point: I started to get serious inquiries (and ultimately bookings) for elopements and other travel sessions which was just about the most exciting thing ever. February also marked the first month that I was ordained and was able to marry my first couple while shooting their elopement. No big deal.
February was ironically somewhat slower for shoots than January but I was putting together a lot that would ultimately prove invaluable for the remainder of the year.
Talk about an exciting month! One of my goals going into 2021 was to get some of my work published; it didn't have to be anything major, but just start getting my name out there. In March, I was finally able to make that happen when a mommy and me session became one of my most well-received pieces of work this year (read all about this session here). It was a thrilling moment to see my work recognized, even in small ways.
I worked on a few other awesome projects in March, including a boho-senior-session in Venice Beach that made me realize how incredibly uncool I am as well as a Dodgers themed engagement session that was just about the cutest thing ever. March was a solid month with lots of fun and loads of opportunity on the horizon.
On a personal note, I got to finally visit Channel Islands National Park at the end of March after having our trip cancelled the month prior due to poor weather (you have to take a ferry out there). It was unbelievably gorgeous and the amount of marine life we saw on the boat ride over was absolutely incredible. Definitely recommend!
I literally don't even know where to begin with April because it was one heck of a rollercoaster (and if you know me, you know I love a good roller coaster)! The month started off with a bang with a week-long adventure into Utah where I would do my first out-of-state gig with some pretty incredible people. We finally were able to complete all five Utah parks since we hadn't done Capital Reef NP or any of the Moab parks yet. Moab proved to be just as otherworldly and incredible as I expected, probably more. It is a place that I foresee myself coming back to often because there is just so much to explore and not nearly enough time. I was able to bring my couple to Canyonlands NP, Dead Horse Point SP, and Arches NP for some pretty rad engagement photos, where they let me in on their secret: they were thinking of eloping in Yosemite in the fall. More on that later but holy cow I was excited.
During the month of April I shot a few other intimate weddings in California and even one in Vegas. I also got to work with a fellow photographer wanting couples photos in San Francisco which was an absolute dream! We watched the sunrise through the thickest fog from a beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge---it was heaven. I made the most of my time in SF during those two days to get a little bit of elopement content in at one of my favorite places: Muir Woods. This was also a big bringer of opportunity as it helped bring my first booking for Redwood National Park.
May was a BUSY month. But, if I thought May was busy, I had no idea what was coming for the fall. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Not only did I have quite a few amazing sessions in May, I had my second busiest weekend of the year with two intimate weddings and an engagement session. And they were all over southern California. I shot a beautiful backyard wedding on a Friday, a gorgeous outdoorsy ceremony with first look at Pasadena City Hall on Saturday, and then ended the weekend with the coolest sunrise session in Joshua Tree.
June was the start of little bit of down time for me to recharge and spend some time with family. I spent a couple weeks in Florida with our family and friends where we got to go to Disney World and my kids got to ride horses with my mom in Ocala. Of course, my camera came with me and I was able to work with some old friends while in town, grab some priceless shots of my mom and the kids, and start planning some epic content with my brother and sister in law.
Even though I was gone a large chunk of the month, I did do a few sessions back home in California with some truly lovely people. All in all, June was a month that I needed to prep for the remainder of the year.
The beginning of July brought a little bit more downtime mixed with some incredible bucket-list content. It was also the start of Yosemite becoming a second home for the next few months. My brother and his family came to visit us and of course, we had to bring them to Yosemite and Sequoia because, what's a seven hour drive at this point? We spent close to a week and a half driving around, hiking, exploring the Merced, rock climbing, and just catching up. Remember how I mentioned we were planning some epic stuff? Well, we decided to do a small vow renewal in Yosemite and I was finally able to shoot at Taft Point, something I has been itching to do for a LONG time. I literally cried when I pulled the images into Lightroom to edit because I couldn't believe we actually made it happen.
The day my brother, sister in law, and nephew flew home to Florida, I dropped them off at the airport and drove right back up to Yosemite for an incredible extended family session. This would also mark my first time seeing a bear in Yosemite (actually, there were two!) and it was pretty amazing. I spent a lot of time on this short trip getting to know the valley like the back of my hand and find comfort in Curry Village.
In between all of that madness (great madness, obviously), I had the most fun, amazing elopement up in Big Bear that you can read more about here! We had a blast jeeping around Big Bear with their pup, Finn. It was the perfect summer elopement day and we honestly couldn't have asked for a better day.
Last but not least, July brought the official launch of my rebrand as Summit and Sur Photography! I worked with the amazing Morgan over at Native Brush Design who did my entire rebrand and came up with some absolutely incredible artwork and branding. The idea to rebrand was a fairly stressful experience that was made infinitely more bearable with Morgan to work with and take control over. I literally don't know what I would have done with her (which is why she is also re-doing my website...coming in 2022!). As stressful as it was for me to completely drop my initial brand, it was so exciting to see everyone respond so well to the new brand and a huge weight off my shoulders.
My favorite month of the year! Actually, not really because it is typically way too hot. But it is mine and my husband's birth months so it tends to be fun! But I digress...
August was filled with more Yosemite fun when I had a client bring me up to shoot some adventure photos of her and her husband up at Taft Point again! Their session was stunning and fun and solidified just how much I love this place. Once again, I feel Yosemite start to feel like home. I knew which cafe brought me good service to connect to wifi, how late I could get food, and even started to bring my bike to get around instead of driving (reducing my carbon footprint, yo!). I was able to stay in Curry Village again, this time in the canvas tents which proved to be a really economical, low-key, way to stay in the valley.
Not only did I get to do a super fun, family adventure session in Big Bear and a lovely in-home lifestyle session this month, but on a personal note, we took our kiddos tent camping for the first time in Sequoia and had an absolute blast. We swam in the river, fished, and hiked along the lake. It was truly a great month.
This was the beginning of what would become the busiest three months of my entire year. Between traveling half the month for both personal and business related events, I was in for a ride. But what a great one it was. That said, we can't acknowledge the good without confronting some frustrating things.
The month started off with a fun trip to Arizona with some girlfriends and then slowly started to become a bit stressful. It was my first time dealing with fire season AND elopements and, well, we had to pivot a bit. One of my clients, who was originally supposed to get married in Tahoe, needed to rework her entire plan due to the Caldor Fire that burned exceptionally close to their home and elopement location. While stressful for everyone involved, it all turned out for the best! We replanned and they were able to get married in Downtown Los Angeles and then do sunset photos in Joshua Tree later that day. They even squeezed in cozy, fun, day after session to top it all off! With their elopement being at the end of the month, this led straight into a weekend of adventure gigs in Yosemite, but more on that for October.
Of course, I can't talk about September without talking about the incredible Redwood National Park elopement I was fortunate enough to shoot mid-month. I will be writing a full blog post about it soon but without getting into too much detail, it was pure magic. I have talked about how special the redwoods are to me, the spirituality they bring, and the peace. Getting to work up north with such an incredible couple in my favorite place was, well, nothing short of amazing.
The start of October was intricately intertwined with the end of September because of the elopement in Los Angeles/Joshua Tree. After my couple's day after session in JT, I drove straight to Yosemite to start prepping for the next few days. Of course, as California would have it, we were met with more fire issues and even the threat of a government shutdown...never a dull moment around here. Thankfully, that didn't stop the party and not only did I get to shoot an epic Taft Point proposal, I was able to work with some super special clients for their Yosemite intimate wedding (the ones who did their engagement session in Utah this past spring!). It was the craziest week of the year but also one of the most fulfilling.
The fun in October didn't stop there though because less than a week later, I was off to Moab for another crazy 48 hours of fun. I flew in to Salt Lake City for a family session I was hired to do for a friend of mine who was visiting Moab from Miami. Wanting to take advantage of my time there, we did a sunrise session in Arches the next morning and then I drove across the state to the Bonneville Salt Flats where I met up with one of my best friends and her husband to do a couples session. After we finished, I drove all the way back to Salt Lake City to spend the night and then wake up in the morning for my flight back home. It was exhausting but entirely worth it!
The rest of October was the beginning of my massive amounts of family sessions for the remainder of the year! Getting to catch up with so many of you was amazing as well as working with some new faces.
The penultimate month of the year brought my first set of mini sessions in the redwoods, a ton of family sessions, a wedding for a family friend, and a trip to Mexico! It was a busy, busy month full of loads of editing and making sure you all got your galleries back in time to send out holiday cards! The mini sessions worked out beautifully and were way more fun than I expected which led me to offer these next year as well...yay!
I also found out in November that I would be interviewed and have my work published by SD Voyager! It was a definitely a highlight for me as this was something I really hoped would happen this year. You can read the full interview here.
The final stretch. A last minute elopement. More family sessions with new and familiar faces alike. A gorgeous San Diego engagement session. A sudden associate shooter gig for an elopement.
December was incredibly stressful last year because of how late in the month I continued to take on clients. I felt like I missed time from my family and didn't get to soak in the holiday magic. So this year, I made a clear boundary of what date would be my last for the year and, minus helping a fellow photographer out on a last minute elopement due to COVID, I am pretty proud for sticking to that line in the sand. It is one of the most important take aways from both last year and this year: boundaries are healthy not only for me for me but for my business. Why? Because a well-rested, happy, creative me means better sessions for you!
All that aside, I did some really awesome family sessions this month and got to reconnect with some past clients again, even some from as recently as the fall. I then finalized my year with a little weekend trip to San Diego to work with an awesome couple over at Cabrillo National Monument. We had a great time running around the peninsula shooting their engagement photos and I CANNOT wait to share these with you all!
This year brought so many good things that I can't even begin to express my gratitude for. All of these milestones and accomplishments, they couldn't have been done without YOU. Without my loyal clients, the tremendous support of family and friends, and even just those who cheer me on from the sidelines of Instagram and Facebook. I am eternally grateful for each and every one of you. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a wonderful new year and can't wait to see what 2022 throws our way.