Personal, Autism

Last chance to donate!

Tomorrow morning I will be meeting up with my team at 7am to walk for the fifth year in a row to raise money for autism research. Thank you SO much to those of you who have given generously! We are only $500 away from meeting our goal of raising $4,000! That's amazing and I'm thrilled at the prospect of what this money can do to help us in the fight to find answers for my two nephews and the other 1 out of 110 children affected by this disorder.

But I would be even MORE thrilled if we could walk knowing we had met our goal. If you haven't had the chance to donate yet, please consider doing so -- any donation small or large will make a difference! Click here to donate!

Thanks so much! I'll blog on Monday about the walk and give you our final total raised!

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MJ's Camera Bag


bad whisker day

My amazingly generous mother grooms Dixie. She does a fabulous job. The photos above show the before and after from a past haircut. People are always stopping us to ask who grooms her, and I proudly say my mom does the job. Every two months or so, Dixie reaches a level of shag that leads to a day at Grandma's house. This past Saturday was one of those days.

I was shooting a wedding all day, so it worked out perfectly. When I picked Dixie up at 10:30 that night, she was all trimmed up and gorgeous. For the most part.

I crouched down and looked her square in the face and started giggling. Her whiskers were a mess. I gave my mom a bit of a hard time, because usually her work is impeccable. I get my perfectionistic bent from her, after all. But this is what I saw:

My mom explained that she must have cut Dixie's whiskers while her mouth was open, which accounted for why her chin hair was so much shorter than the sides of her beard.

It was late. We had a good laugh, and Dixie and I headed home. But yesterday I couldn't take it anymore. I pulled out the scissors -- not the fancy expensive dog grooming pair my mom has, but the paper-cutting kind (I can imagine my mom's audible gasp now), and remedied the situation as best I could:

Cute and sporty, huh?

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

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Tanner & Rachel's Album Design

Tanner and Rachel were married Saturday at Copperwynd Resort and we just finished their album design that tells the story of their amazing day. Such a beautiful wedding! Click here to see the full design! And keep in mind that the finished album is much larger -- 10 x 14 inches in size.

Note to photographers: If you need help getting YOUR album designs done fast, click here to find out how you can purchase my templates!

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Album Design Templates

Weddings by MJ

Tanner & Rachel

Rachel and Tanner met on their very first day of medical school. Similar class schedules and mutual friends meant Rachel and Tanner spent a lot of time together and it didn't take long for them to become friends. Very good friends. Great friends. She was cute and compassionate, he was charming, smart and funny. Before they knew it, they faced a decision many great friends face - stay great friends, or take a risk and become something more. For Tanner and Rachel, the answer was clear. They had something special and wouldn't regret pursuing it.

And indeed they wouldn't.

At their reception Saturday evening, in front of their closest family and friends, Tanner spoke these words to his new bride:

"I felt lucky just to meet you and be your friend. And I feel even luckier to have married you and love you for a lifetime."


These two are so sweet together and for that matter, sweet individually. They live in Minnesota and had an intimate destination wedding at Copperwynd Resort in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Rachel carried a handkerchief that her mother carried 30 years ago at her wedding:

I love photographing the bride getting ready:

Rachel's mom helped her into her dress and shoes:

Tanner got ready to meet his bride with his father and groomsmen. He looked so handsome:

The first look was so special and emotional. The image at the top of this post is one of my favorites -- I just love their expressions. And here's another favorite:

Can you believe how gorgeous Rachel looked? I loved her unique Ulla-Maija lace dress:

We walked around the property and got some great portraits before the ceremony:

More stunningness:

The bridal party and families were great sports. It was pretty hot in the sun but in the end their sacrifice paid off with these photos:

Copperwynd has won the award for most beautiful ceremony site in Phoenix time and time again. This is why:

The view to the right of the tree in the above photo is this:

That fountain is the 4th tallest fountain in the world and it goes off every hour on the hour for 15 minutes. It went off right as guests arrived for the ceremony.

Rachels' father walked her down the aisle:

There were so many great moments during the ceremony:


After the ceremony, Rachel exchanged her veil for this gorgeous hair piece and we grabbed a few more portraits:

The evening was perfect for an outdoor reception:

These are some images from Tanner's heartfelt speech that I quoted at the beginning of this post. Both of them cried. It was sweet:

What an amazing night!

If you'd like to see even more photos from this great day, click here to view the slideshow!

Vendors responsible for the amazingness:
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Copperwynd Resort
Florist: Petal Pusher
Make-up: Linda Wagner
Hair: Ruca Bowman
DJ: Ray the DJ
Cake: Slice Cake Designs
Videographer: Serendipity Videography


Equipment used for this wedding:
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.2 lens
Canon 24mm 1.4 lens
Canon 70-200 2.8 lens
2 Canon Speedlite 580 EXs
Gary Fong Lightsphere
2 Lumedyne HV Tinycycler Battery Packs
2 Pocketwizards
Light Stand with umbrella bracket and cold shoe

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For Photographers

Lens series: Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS review

Today I'm going to continue my series on lenses by talking about my Canon 70-200 2.8 IS lens. If you're just joining the series, click below to see the first post!

Canon 50mm 1.2

In my opinion, if you're a wedding photographer, the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS is a must-have lens. I use it for only around 15% of my images at any given wedding, but they are important ones. The reason I think this lens is so vital to have when shooting a wedding is that it allows you to capture the ceremony without having to be right up in the action. You can stand at a distance that allows you to be unobtrusive while still capturing the emotion and facial expressions that you want to preserve from this once-in-a-lifetime event.

The "IS" stands for "Image Stabilized" which is a feature that helps limit the effect of camera shake in telephoto lenses when they are hand-held at low shutter speeds. You can buy this lens for less without this feature, but I wouldn't recommend it. When you buy lenses you want to buy the best because they are investments that will stick with you through the course of your entire career (barring any mishaps). If you try to save by purchasing the 70-200 without the IS, you will not be able to use the lens hand held much below 1/200 sec when fully zoomed in without your images being blurry. When shooting weddings, you really need to be able to use this lens in low-light situations so don't waste your money on the lens without this feature.

I often use this lens during three of the four parts of a wedding day -- portraits, ceremony and reception. The only time of the day that I don't typically use it is preparation because we are in such confined spaces. The three things I love most about this lens are that it allows me to capture genuine emotion, to compose freely from a distance and to spy on people :).

I love spying on people. Taking their photos without them knowing I am doing so is awesome. If you have to be close to the subject to get a good composition, they will often stop what they are doing and look at the camera. That ruins any possibility of capturing the moment or that person in a natural state.

Here are a couple examples -- and just because I know people will ask, you can assume that my aperture when shooting with this lens is always 2.8. (Because it is.)

One of my favorites -- spying on parents & guests during the ceremony:

Another sweet moment that I wouldn't have been able to capture if I had to run across the room to grab it:

Two other great times to use this lens to spy on people during a wedding day are to capture guests both as they arrive for the ceremony and during cocktail hour. It's a must-have for both of these instances.

During the portrait part of the day, I use the 70-200mm for some of the portraits of the bride and groom and I LOVE it for this purpose for a number of reasons. When a couple does a first look and they see each other before the ceremony, I love to be off in the distance so that they feel like they are having a private moment. This allows their reaction to one another to be genuine. I love when I can capture images like this from the first look:

I oftentimes start the portrait time with the bride & groom with my 70-200 because it eases them into feeling more comfortable being photographed. As a result of the distance between us, they feel more comfortable interacting and focusing on one another and it allows me to capture more intimate moments like these:

As I mentioned above, another reason I love this lens is that it allows me to compose freely from a distance. The zoom capability gives you flexibility with your composition when you can't be closer to the subject (in the case of the image below left where I was on a balcony).

Here's another example. This image wouldn't have the same feel if I was shooting with my 50mm lens from the downward slope of the hill looking up at them.

During portraits, the Canon 70-200mm is great for walking images:

And during the ceremony, it allows you to be at a distance yet capture images like these that feel intimate:

Sometimes I use my 50mm for the recessional, but sometimes I need to be at the back of the aisle so the 70-200mm is handy.

It's also a great lens for getting tight shots during the toasts and dancing:

SUCH a great lens! If you are an aspiring wedding photographer, click here and buy the 70-200mm today. That's an order. Or save up for it and buy it later. Whatever :).

Another option, if you can't afford the lens now, is to rent it from Check them out!

Let me know if you guys have any questions by leaving a comment! And if you found this post helpful, please spread the news by using the Facebook and Twitter buttons below! Thanks! To find more info/reviews on my gear and other resources I offer photographers, click here!

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