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Last week I was able to travel up to Anchorage, Alaska to photograph an extended Family Day in the Life photo session with my brother Eric, sister-in-law Brandy and their young family. The new Greener heir has been born! My new nephew Paul is a little over a month old and the trip was my first time meeting him. It was fun to embed into the world of a young family’s experience raising two kiddos. Despite the occasional fuss from my stinking cute two-year-old niece Molly, the majority of the time giggles and laughter could be heard throughout the house. These two are natural parents and it was fun for me to help out where I could while documenting their family experience. It’s a cool new thing for me in my role as an uncle. It’s the ultimate long-term photo project. A lifetime photographing all of the fun with my niece and nephew. I’m just thrilled! We had a great time and my arms are tired from holding and bouncing babies! Someday I’ll get dad arms. Here are some favorite photos I made of my family during my stay. I can’t wait until the next time I can head back up. -M

 

Back in October, I packed up my cameras and traveled northeast to the city of Seattle to make some “Day in the Life” family photographs of Kim and Daniel and their two girls. Upon my arrival into Seattle, we decided to load up the Subaru and make a day trip north to the small coastal town of Bellingham Washington (near the Canadian border) where we explored the beaches, rainforests, parks and the surrounding community. It was great to have another opportunity to photograph this awesome family. Years ago, before kiddo number two came into the picture, I photographed these guys here in Bozeman, Montana as they were traveling through town. I had a great time with these guys. This time it was fun to explore their home turf and a new photographic canvas to work with. Bellingham is a beautiful place. Here are some of my favorite images from my time with them. -M

When my brother informed the family that he had proposed to his long-time girlfriend Brandy, we were just thrilled. Group effort wedding planning soon commenced. In celebration of the Greener/Hollenbeck wedding day in Hope, Alaska this past summer, I brought along my Greener Visuals Photo Booth for the reception. The reception site was held two hours south of Anchorage, Alaska at the Discovery Cafe in Hope, Alaska. I’m going to say it…photo booths just make weddings receptions better. They are interactive, creative and often hilarious. Bringing your own props allows you to shape the photo booth interaction for the reception guests and invites them to play. Having one at this Greener wedding reception was a no-brainer. Like I mentioned in their wedding day photos blog post, this “do-it-yourself” wedding required frugal creativity on everyone’s part. Everyone aided in making for a really special weekend. Tasked with final prep for the reception photo booth, my sister Katie and I decided to go drive around and visit numerous thrift stores scattered around Anchorage, Alaska for last-minute affordable photo booth props. Our efforts didn’t disappoint. At Eric and Brandy’s wedding day reception, we set up the booth against a rustic, weathered looking cabin wall as the backdrop. The photo booth was a complete hit. Via remote control, their wedding guests could fire the camera and strobe to make epic, wonderfully weird self-portraits on their own. Without fail every time, those who enter it let loose in their creativity and leave with a grin on their face. The best part is you never know what you are going to get.

Here are some of my favorites from their wedding day photo booth but you can view all of the awesome photo booth pictures, by going here. PW: greener

What a fantastic day! I could not be more excited for Eric and Brandy! I love you guys! Wishing you a lifetime of happiness! – Your brother Mike

Eric & Brandy Wedding Day Photos in Hope, Alaska - Greener Visuals Wedding Photography

It is with much love and pride that I present the wedding photos of my brother Eric & his awesome lady Brandy’s wedding day celebration in Hope, Alaska.

Earlier this summer, my younger pilot brother Eric tied-the-knot with his long time flight attendant girlfriend Brandy in a lush, mountainous wild Alaskan setting in the small town of Hope, Alaska. She is an incredible lady and I’m so grateful to now call her sister. After a very public Alaskan Airlines in flight wedding proposal that went viral on YouTube, the excitement of the first sibling to be married in the Greener clan was felt by all and plans soon sprang into action to create their special day. This was going to be one hell of a wedding celebration. I would be the best man and wedding photographer which proved to be a tricky, fun challenge. After purchasing their first home together earlier this year, Eric and Brandy were looking to be as frugal as possible when planning their wedding day. Without being over the top, they wanted a place to gather the two clans, have some good food, dance to a live band without breaking the bank. Not a problem. The families and friends all came together to create a DIY rustic themed Alaskan wedding day. I think some of the best wedding successes are when wedding couples think outside the box while staying within a budget.

We got creative.

We took reclaimed weathered barn wood to make their wedding arbor and decorated it with mason jars filled with flowers the grocery stores had that morning. Rather than make the bridesmaids and groomsman buy matching outfits, they instead told them a color palette, in this case navy which also would work with whatever color flowers were available the day of. It worked out well. Scrap pieces of corrugated steel siding with the application of white paint became cool signs and decorations for the reception. The elder Greener gentlemen roasted a pig, guests brought a dish to pass, local friends helped with location needs and their unfinished new house as a staging ground for the bride and her ladies. Everyone in attendance contributed to making their wedding day special. Paying for the live funk band was worth every cent.

There were of course some logistical hurdles to cover, the first being that Hope, Alaska was a dinky little town a two hour drive around the Turnagain Arm on Highway 1 out of Anchorage, Alaska. This meant that everything (guests, tents, tables, chairs, decorations, camping accommodations, food, etc..) would need to be driven out by the family and wedding guests. The venue provided the site alone. In the end, it took a village, generous friends, a fleet of trucks and a used short school bus to make it all happen.

It was a day meant to be. Even the rain held out. What a wonderful love to honor and celebrate. I’m so happy for them. In between dancing, chatting and my best man duties, I managed to make a couple photos through out the day. Here are some of my favorites.

To see all of the wedding photos from the day click here. Password: greener

Love you guys so much! Wishing you two a lifetime of happiness. -your brother Mike

A few weeks back my pilot brother Eric married an awesome woman named Brandy, the love of his life in Hope, Alaska. The first of the siblings to get hitched. It was also the first time I’d been assigned the roles as both a best man and a wedding photographer. It was a fun challenge. I’m editing through the mountain of photos and will post their full wedding soon. I’m so excited for you brother! Stay tuned… -M

For the past 7 weeks, I’ve been making a weekly trek to the outskirts of Bozeman to the Gallatin Valley Botanical farm with my girlfriend Lora to scope out her new puppy and best friend. Ten puppies equal awesome. Our Wednesday visits quickly became the best day of the week for us. Lora’s friends Matt and Jacy, owners of the local Bozeman farm, had a litter of ten puppies and one would soon come bouncing into my life. During my youth growing up in Illinois, my family bred labs on our five-acre wooded property. I have some good family memories growing up around Labradors. Now by association, I would get to be around once again. Awesome indeed.

Before the puppies all went to new homes, I ventured one evening over to the Bozeman organic farm with my camera and made some fun family photos of Matt and Jacy along with their kids and an army of labrador puppies. It’s not often an opportunity like this happens. We had a great time. In the end, Lora got a yellow male and is calling him “Timber”. This will be fun. The dog adventure begins. -M

 

One of the surprising twists and wonderful honors I’ve been fortunate enough to experience as I grow my wedding photography business is returning clients. In the wedding industry, that rarely happens. Much like age has brought some wisdom my way over the years, outcomes of how I once thought my path would play out, rarely in fact, did so. I’m so grateful. I have been fortunate in ways I never thought I would have had a chance to be. I photographed Gillian and Jeff’s wedding day years ago in Sacramento, California and ever since they have continued to bring me back into their lives to document their special events over the years. For those of you who may not know, weddings are just one of many facets to my creative photographic outlets. Years ago, Gillian expressed to me just how much I made her feel comfortable in front of a camera. I feel privileged that I can continue come back into their lives to document their celebrations. Without even realizing it, I find myself in the role of a documentary family photographer. These two have been huge supporters of my photography from early on in my career.

A month ago, I left Bozeman, Montana and hopped a plane to San Francisco to spend a Sunday afternoon with my old friends/clients to document the new addition of their daughter Miriam. I spent the day documenting a traditional Jewish naming ceremony at their home and the celebration afterwards complete with the portraits of numerous family and friends. Gillian was very clear in what she wanted – as many photos of her little girl as possible. I was happy to oblige. What a cutie. It was a wonderful time. I recognized many familiar smiles from the wedding years ago and realized I had seen many of Gillian and Jeff’s coupled friends back then early on in their relationships. Fast-forward five years and now I had this new window back into their worlds seeing them with kids in tow. Add some good caterer BBQ with sunny weather to boot and you’ve got all the ingredients for a beautiful San Francisco Bay Area fall day. It was fun for me to spend time with these good folks again. My, how time flies. So glad I could be a part of it. -M

To see all of the party photos and portraits click here.

Finding a window of opportunity with two extra days off from the newspaper this week, I packed up my gear and headed over to Missoula, Montana to visit my family yesterday afternoon. My parents had informed me that my Grandma Jean was being honored for 50 years of volunteering for a PEO (which is womens philanthropy sorority) and they wanted a nice portrait of her. Enter photographer grandson. I wanted to show people the grandma I know and love. The one who giggles at her own stories, the one who cooked our amazing family meals and a the formatable opponent who dominated the countless family boardgames growing up. It was a chance to photograph my second mother. I was excited about this photo shoot. I began by looking over her wardrobe. When making portraits of people, I always want them to wear clothing that is simple and not distracting. Remember it’s about the faces and not the clothing. I choose a solid navy color, non-pattern sweater for her (that also happened to make her blue eyes pop, bonus!) and choose similar color palette for Aca (my grandpa). He is a man that appreciates his flannel. A good trait by any other circumstances except for portraits with other people. I want the viewers eye to go right to the person’s face. not the pattern of their shirt. Different patterns on shirts can clash too easily with each other. Tip – This can be a good thing to remember when photographing your own family. I chose the most simple pattern I could find and set them against a blue piece of sewing material borrowed from my mom. I liked the effect of blue on blue. From there it was all about capturing the interaction between the two of them. They will have been married for 58 years this June. One of the immediate benefits to photographing a family member is that you know just the right way how to make them laugh. It didn’t take long. The end result are photographs I think really captured their personalities. Looking over these again, realized I am really going to cherish these for the rest of my days. So glad I was able to finally do it. Hope you like them as much as I do. -M

About a week ago, I left the mountains of Montana to head over to Sonoma, California to photograph the long awaited wedding weekend of Molly and Brian. Back in mid May, I made the same journey to photograph their engagement session. Sonoma is a truly beautiful place. This time of year the famous grapevines are starting to bear their fruit and the surrounding valleys are covered in multi-layered shades of green. Molly and Brian live in Chicago, Illinois, not far from my old stomping grounds of my youth. Rather than soak in the midwest humidity, they decided to have their wedding out west and bring out all of their friends and family out to California for their big day. I met up with them Friday evening at the famous El Dorado Kitchen Restaurant in the heart of downtown Sonoma for their rehearsal dinner with close friends and family members. Here are some of my favorites from the evening. I’ve been busy working on all of their wedding day photos and will post them soon. More goodness to come. -M

To view all of the images from Molly and Brian’s Rehearsal Dinner at El Dorado Kitchen Restaurant go here.

I’ve been excited to show this wedding for a while now. How appropriate that my last wedding shoot of the year was spent documenting the union of an old family friend. Nick and Emily hired me to fly down to greater Los Angeles area to photograph their wedding weekend festivities. I’ve known Nick and his family my entire life. Growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, his family and mine were close friends who attended the same church where the kids shared in the same childhood mandate of singing in the church choir. Nick and his brother Matt were partners-in-crime with my brother and I every Sunday as we played games of hide and seek around the church sanctuary often times managing to get into trouble as young boys tend to do. The tradition of mischief continued throughout adolescence through countless celebrations and BBQs together and our families’ annual road trip westward towards the mountains of Colorado for a week of skiing every spring. So, needless to say, when I heard that Nick was getting married and his family asked if I could photograph the celebration, I jumped at the opportunity.

Nick and Emily met on the job. Nick, upon graduating from high school, moved out to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. He was supporting himself at that time by working in numerous positions at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant from dancing in a shrimp suit to being host. It was there that he met Emily during a work training session three years ago. Emily, a Los Angeles native, has since found her calling as a talented pastry chef working at Rivera Restaurant in Los Angeles. “It wasn’t exactly love at first sight with Nick,” joked Emily when recalling how they first met, “Our relationship started off as friends but he was the persistent type and kept trying to ask me out on a date. I didn’t want to risk losing the friendship.” But thankfully, persistence pays off and after asking her out four times with her answer being no, it was the fifth time that she finally said yes to a date with him and as the saying goes…the rest is history.

When it came time to plan their wedding things got a bit complicated. Nick was cast in a lead role for a new television show and would spend the four months leading up to their wedding filming in Prague within the Czech Republic. Emily was busy trying to finish up her schooling as a pastry chef. Being resourceful, they were able to defy the hurdle of the time zone difference and plan out the wedding through the power of Skype and with the help of their family members. It all came together really well with a good mix of professionalism combined with a do-it-yourself feel. Above all, they were adamant that they wanted candid, high quality photography for their wedding day and that’s where I came in. The wedding festivities were to be held on Saturday around noon. I flew down Friday evening to Burbank where I met the wedding party and watched as the last minute preparations were made. The outdoor ceremony and reception were held in the courtyard of The Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, California. It was a beautiful warm, southern California setting overlooking the De Bell Golf Course and the surrounding Burbank hills. These two families know how to celebrate a union! Their ceremony went off without a hitch and then the celebration began. Like all great receptions, there was plenty of dancing. Food was provided by the venue and when their wedding cake plans fell through a couple days prior, Nick’s grandmother Ann was able to whip up a beautiful homemade cake for the event. All in all it was really great to be apart of and document the celebration for an old family friend. I wish them all the best. -M

To view more of their wedding images you can check out their wedding story here

and to view their entire wedding photo shoot and purchase prints you can see them in the photo archive here

I’ve been working hard to finish up the wedding photos of my friends Nick and Emily Wedding photos. Pneumonia be damned. They are almost done but I couldn’t wait to show some of them. They will be up here soon. Stay tuned.

When Erin & Ryan hired me to photograph their wedding weekend in the Denver, Colorado area, they made it apparent to me that it was going to be a huge celebration. The two have made a successful careers working in Palo Alto, California – Erin at Facebook and Ryan for the AGC of California and they wanted a wedding that could accommodate all of their friends coming in from all across the country. After the last three and a half weeks of processing their wedding photos, I can honestly say that it was one of the biggest weddings I have photographed. My day began with an early morning start with Erin getting ready with her bridesmaids at the home of her aunt and uncle in Parker, Colorado. It was a huge, beautiful custom-designed mansion complete with antique furniture and big windows that cast in a lot of natural light. It really set a nice scene for the pre wedding preparations. It reminded me of being in some fancy European castle.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, photographing Erin’s wedding was a mini reunion for me because I knew her and many of her bridesmaids from high school in Crystal Lake, Illinois. It was so great to see them all again. As the girls got ready, they sipped champaign, laughed over old high school stories and helped Erin get ready for her big day. Once they were finished with their make up and hair by the stylists from L Raymond Styles Hair Salon, they got situated into their black, designer dresses from Rent the Runway and we were able to do some Vogue fashion style formal portraits. As the wedding start time approached, we loaded up into a stretch Hummer and made our way to the church. Erin and Ryan decided to have a more traditional catholic wedding held in the Ave Maria Church in Parker, Colorado. It was there that my hired assistant Justin Edmonds, a photojournalism friend and fellow Eddie Adams Workshop Rust teammate, arrived and we worked together to document the story of their wedding day. Having a second photographer to help photograph a wedding allows me to have multiple angles and to provide a much more thorough coverage of my client’s wedding day. It really makes a huge difference and if it’s something you are considering for your own wedding day, I can’t emphasize benefits enough. He was a big help.

Erin got a lot of assistance with all of the wedding details and decoration ideas from her wedding planner Stacy Pisani, of Alexan Events. Where the wedding ceremony followed a tradition catholic undertone, the reception was a stark contrast of hip, luxurious style and design. A large air conditioned tent was setup in the backyard of Erin’s aunt and uncle’s house where you could find a full dance floor with DJ music from Scratch Weddings, a club style lounge with couches, table settings and chairs from Event Rents, an assortment of gourmet food stations from Epicurean Catering and fine wines from The Wine Experience Café scattered through out. It was an incredible evening complete with delicious food, a fun, Greener Visuals photo booth that I set up and the guests danced well into the early morning. These guys know how to have a good time.

This is a sample of some of the photographs from their wedding day. You can see all of my favorites from the day under my wedding stories section hereYou can view and purchase all of the photos from the day here.

Wishing Erin and Ryan all the best with their new life together. Congratulations!

I’m just about finished with their Colorado wedding photos. Stay tuned…..

A couple weeks back I was emergency hired to document a family reunion of Plush Wedding & Events planner Michaela Rodgers. Her former photographer backed out at the last minute and she was left scrambling to find a replacement. Through the great wedding network of Sacramento, Michaela was able to track me down and asked if I could help her out. Being a professional photojournalist at newspapers for the past six years, I’ve often been thrown into a photographic situation at the drop of a hat where I’ve had to roll with it and make captivating images. I was happy to offer my photographic services and a couple days later, I found myself hired and driving eastbound towards Lake Tahoe for my Saturday with the Rodgers documenting their family festivities.

The Rodgers Family gathering was focused around the birthdays of the grandparents Donna and Kirk and their kids wanted to celebrate the event with a surprise weekend in Lake Tahoe. Michaela married into the family with her high school sweetheart now husband Cameron, the youngest of the six children. The two have known each other since their junior year of high school.

Coming from a smaller family of three kids, my eyes were definitely opened to a whole new family dynamic of six children and ten grand children. There are eighteen grand children now,” said Michaela Rodgers about life as a Rodgers family member, “It’s never a dull, or quiet, moment.  I knew right away that this family was special and they have taught me a whole new meaning of what being a family truly is.”

The whole idea of their special surprise weekend began months earlier stemming from Cameron’s older sister, Tawna (third oldest sibling).  Their parents, Donna & Kirk both recently turned sixty-years-old this past year and their kids and grandchildren wanted to do something meaningful for them. The kids figured since their parents had taken care of, supported and loved their children and grand children every day of their lives their recent birthday was a good excuse to celebrate in style. So Tawna gathered the family members together, gave us each tasks and assignments to get the planning underway.

I’ll let Michaela describe how the weekend went with a letter she sent to me.

Everything about this weekend was a surprise to the parents.  The first day, we put together a scavenger hunt that began in Lincoln, CA and led Donna & Kirk up to the cabin in Lake Tahoe.  They were welcomed with a huge gift basket of their favorite treats: Popcorn, Hot Tamales, Diet Pepsi, Pellegrino, M&M’s, all their favorites along with beautiful fresh flowers to brighten up their room.

The second day, we surprised them with our fabulous photographer, Mike Greener of Greener Visuals Wedding Photography.  The idea of having Mike share our weekend celebration with us was so that he could capture the everyday silly, goofy, emotional and special moments that we have with one another regularly. It’s those special moments that we rarely are able to capture because we are always “in the moment”.  We wanted Mike to document our day with his beautiful pictures and he delivered above and beyond what any of us had envisioned.

First, let me back and up and mention how we came to find Mike…and let me say too that he was our savior for this weekend!  We actually had another photographer lined up, but she canceled two days before our departure!  Needless to say, I was in a panic, and happened to call a dear friend/colleague of mine in the wedding industry, and she gave me Mike’s name and information and said I have to give him a call.  I was a little hesitant at first, being that I had never met him before, and we all know how important pictures are, right?  So, I checked out his website and was blown away!  I gave him a call and his kindness, compassion and eagerness to help us in our oh-so-desperate situation was more than I ever could have ever asked for!

So, when Mike arrived at the cabin, we had our picnic lunch all packed up and we headed out to the beach!  There we ate lunch, played some football, volleyball and baseball and simply hung out and enjoyed each other’s company.  Mike was awesome!  He captured everyone in his or her truest state of being and living.  We gathered all twenty-three family members for a family picture in front of Lake Tahoe and let me note there were two families that weren’t able to make it.  We have a huge family!

After the beach we made Donna & Kirk one for their favorite meals, Mexican food galore and each family member around the table shared a special memory that we had of them.  Needless to say, the room was filled with an immense amount of emotion, love and tears.

Following dinner was the biggest surprise of them all!  Tara (second oldest) wrote and directed a play for her parents.  This play was a representation of Donna and Kirk’s life together, beginning when they first met in 2nd grade, their marriage at 16 (just juniors in high-school) and they re-played each child’s birth.  The twelve grand children that were there played the parts of their parents as they were growing up, high-lighting extra special events and moments that occurred throughout their lives.  Having such special meaning only to our family, watching stories being acted out that we have heard throughout the years, the amount of laughter and tears that were shared during this moment, were indescribable.

And thanks to Mike, he captured it all flawlessly.  Because of him, we will forever have these intimate memories of this weekend to look back on and reminisce about and forever smile upon.

Thank You! Thank You!  Thank You!”Michaela Rodgers

Upon my arrival at their snow-covered, cabin doorsteps it was immediately apparent that this was a loving, tightly knit family. I had so much fun watching and documenting the Rodgers family play and laugh together. I quickly felt right at home. One after another there were jokes and stories of the family’s past being retold and laughter and hugs ensued. You knew it hadn’t always been smooth sailing for them like most families I know but here they all were older and wiser laughing till their stomach hurt, recounting all of the antics and struggles big and small that they endured over their childhoods. This was a family that had grown strong together. A family that had supported each other through thick and thin and now were here to honor and celebrate the two parents that had given them that unwavering foundation and guidance along the way to adulthood. It was a cool thing to behold…laughter, tears and all. Here are a couple favorite images from my time with them. It was yet another fun weekend photographing in the mountains. I was glad to help them out. –Mike Greener