Tag Archives: portraits

Rafael: The Real Life Superman

The Palacios family came into my life for a Give Back Session in the early Fall of 2018 and I am so incredibly grateful to have met them and captured a small part of their journey.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyWhen Jackie first reach out, we spoke candidly about the fact that her strong, hard working, smart, loving husband had just been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She explained that all the members of their family were scrambling to wrap their minds around it, but that one thing was certain: they wanted to take photos with the entire family right now to commemorate their tight knit bond before treatment started, “just in case”. When someone says “just in case” in a conversation like this, you don’t even have to think. You hold back the tears stinging your own eyes and say, “absolutely I can fit you in, are you free Saturday morning?”.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-family

When we met that morning I was blown away by the smiling and laughing faces before me. There was no moping and no sadness, just endless love and appreciation for their patriarch and everything he’s done for their family. Jackie and Raphael have 4 amazing kids and a whole gaggle of adorable grand kids. He was very recently blessed with an additional granddaughter that he was able to meet and enjoy. I relished the experience of seeing Raphael interact and draw strength from all the joy he was surrounded by. He was definitely a fighter, and his whole family would be the team he needed to get him through this. They constantly assured me they’d be right there with him every step of the way. View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyIt came as no surprise to me that Rafael is affectionately nicknamed “Superman” by many of his friends and family. Even before his diagnosis he was working out, giving back to his community, and overall living life to the fullest. It is with a heavy heart and tremendous sadness to have learned of his passing over the past weekend. He was in hospice at home, surrounded by his beautiful family, and I know he felt loved and treasured in his last moments with them.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyIn hindsight, the nickname Superman seems to have come with a purpose; to be a reminder of his strength in all of life’s challenges. Rafael was Superman and Superdad and no one will ever forget that. If you’re wondering what you can do to celebrate Rafael’s life, take some time to give to The American Cancer Society and/or attend their fundraiser, Relay for Life, this coming Saturday. Please also send all of our thoughts and love to the Palacios family during this incredibly difficult time. Rest in Peace Superman.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-family

Sarah, Ryan, & Baby Jackson

A little over a year ago I was sitting in my apartment crying with absolute joy as Sarah and Ryan sent me photo after photos of their perfect little rainbow baby Jackson. He was such a long time coming and instantly SO loved. I’ve never seen a happier couple than them on that day.

This summer, our little cuddle bunny celebrates turning one year old. No one-year birthday would be complete without ALL the Disney toys, tons of family snuggles, and (of course) a whole cake for the king himself.

We all just love you to bits Jackson! Thank you for the hugs and snuggs during our session and for making your mama and daddy’s life so very complete. You were worth the wait. 

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Torrie: WARRIOR STORY

THIS IS TORRIE.

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I met Torrie a few years back at a wedding I was shooting. We hit it off during our time together on the day and stayed in contact on social media over the years, encouraging one another as friends from a distance and watching one another grow and flourish. After a time of mostly online friendship, we managed to carve out time to get together over wine and chat. We got to know one another well and build our friendship into something tangible and strong. With that build up came understanding. With that understanding came trust. With trust came the development of a project that Torrie and I feel wildly passionate about working on together and sharing through Katherine Elyse Photography.

The story presented here is all Torrie’s. As her friend and photographer, I hope the images act as a vessel for her to share her experience in a way that is safe and accurate. I’m using her words, taken directly from an interview my good friend David N. Sachs conducted the day of her shoot, with a few back end tweaks by Torrie to round everything out.

THIS IS HER BATTLE STORY.

“This is the story of my journey into loving myself and body acceptance, into feeling comfortable in my own skin.”

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“In 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Cervical Cancer. Before that, I had had a number of different cervical changes related to HPV, which is pretty common nowadays. But in 2005, it was less common and all I knew about HPV was that it was one letter off from HIV- which meant that it had no cure and that it was sexually transmitted- and that it could either cause warts or cervical cancer. And the warts never came.

I had HPV prior to the cancer diagnosis. I actually found out that I had HPV from a clinical trial at the hospital when I was 12 years old– after I had been sexually assaulted.”

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“As a religious kid, having a sexually transmitted disease is a good way to be looked down upon, no matter how you got it. Especially when you are 12 years old. I had to start making up stories about my life and my body so that I felt accepted in my own skin and so that I wouldn’t be shunned from the community.

It didn’t really work.

I was still shunned from my community and felt a lot of shame about who I was and felt mostly like it was my fault that I had been assaulted.”

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“I was diagnosed with cancer at 19. I had just gotten married and I felt like I earned it- that it was my fault that I had cancer and, therefore, really just needed to do anything that I was told. I didn’t ask any questions about what was supposed to happen to me or if I had a choice in anything concerning my care. And so over a period of three years I was led through my care without having asked any questions at all. I didn’t have time.

At the end of that three years I had had seven surgeries that completely mangled my body (especially my sexual organs) and ruined my marriage with my husband because I couldn’t have kids, which was an important thing to him.  And, let’s face it: being young and married to someone with cancer is really scary. I didn’t know that I couldn’t have kids until after treatment ended because I didn’t stop to ask any questions; I didn’t care about myself or about my body enough to actually do something about it to take control or to even feel like I had a choice in my decisions.”

“I started out having an unhealthy relationship with myself in relation to others before I actually even knew who I was or what I wanted. I spent 20 years believing that it was my fault and that I was being punished for something that was outside of my control.”

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“But I have a different relationship with my body and myself because I had cervical cancer.”

“I learned more about myself in the process of having cancer than anything that I had gone through beforehand. I learned that I wanted to give back to the healthcare system to help make sure that people, especially people going through an illness, know what their choices are, and are educated about how to sit across the table from a doctor who they often feel has more power and knowledge than they do. I was really interested in figuring out how we do that, how we slow down the process of decision making in healthcare. I ended up going to school for public health, focusing specifically on people who are vulnerable- poor populations, minorities, people who don’t have a lot of education or power. Because I went through this process of needing to understand my resources more than anybody else. I wanted to give power to other people and a voice to other people.”

“When you are cancer free for 5 years, you are supposed to have a party, and I was not going to have cancer againuntil I did.” 

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And this was a completely different situation than last time. The tumor was outside my body, and it was going to change the way that the outside of my body appeared; and I didn’t have the ability to control how I shared it. Also, it was close to my clitoris, and I really liked my clitoris. I didn’t find that out until my late 20’s, in between my two bouts of cancer. I had discovered this magical thing that could give me sexual pleasure and made me feel powerful, and now it was just going to be taken away from me.”

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This time, though, I wasn’t going to just be led through my treatment without asking any questions.

I was almost immediately offered a complete vulvectomy, which is basically “we’re just going to remove everything on the outside, including your clitoris.” I made sure to ask that question. But my oncologist had already scheduled the surgery for me, without even asking if I wanted it or not.

So immediately this became a different situation then my first bout with cancer. During my first bout, it was a big deal but I was at least pretty confident that I was going to live. This time, it was a later stage of cancer and a lot more serious, so I knew that I needed to make some decisions. But I was ill-equipped to make them.”

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“I still didn’t really like myself, and I still held this view that I deserved it or I was being punished for somehow not figuring out how to get out of that situation from when I was 12. I had to learn that my body was worth fighting for. That my dignity was worth fighting for.

So I had a consultation with a social worker in palliative care who asked me what my goals were in life. What mattered to me. She told me that I actually had a very good prognosis. I was likely to live through this circumstance. And so we started talking about what was important to me in life going forward.

And I had three goals:

The first goal was that I wanted to maintain sexual function. I knew that I couldn’t have children and so having sex was really important to me. I had just learned about my clitoris. I was going to keep my relationship with it.”

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“The second is that I’m a cyclist, so I wanted to be able to cycle. It’s the place where I clear my mind. With that surgery, I actually wouldn’t have been able to ride a bicycle ever again.”

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“The third was that I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and not feel mangled. It had nothing to do with the relationship that I had with somebody else or having sex with somebody else and not wanting them to look at me in a different light. It had everything to do with being able to look in the mirror myself and feel like a whole person.”

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“It was really empowering to make the decision to do what was best for my body. For me. It’s only been recently that I can say that I never needed to be forgiven for something that happened to me that wasn’t my fault. I’ve learned a lot about the fact that the mindset being carried on throughout my life kept me, in a lot of ways, the same age I was when I was assaulted.

And I feel like the moment that I let go of all of the shame that I had about my body, about things that happened to me, I realized that I’m not a girl, I’m a warrior.

I realized that I don’t need to be pushed around, that I have no interest in being pushed around and that I deserve everything that I want. I’m learning that I’m worth loving. That i’m worth fighting for. And I want to help others, especially those going through the healthcare system, believe the same.”

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All images are copyright of Katherine Elyse Photography. Images are owned by Katherine Elyse Cohen of Katherine Elyse Photography. For image use requests, please email katherineelysephotography@gmail.com

Oh, They Call it that Good Old Sugarloaf Station!

I’ve been going to Sugarloaf since 2001, making this my 18th year there. I started as a camper, graduated up to a counselor, and somehow weaseled my way into an amazing staff position with a crew of boundlessly talented individuals. Sugarloaf is better than Christmas. It’s a haven of love, art, and creativity that comes every summer to sweep me off my feet and remind me who I want to be. It’s essentially New Years Eve/Golden Birthday/Right of Passage all rolled into one amazing experience. We teach some truly fantastic kids about everything from theatre arts to photography to textiles and watch as they grow and shine over the course of our week together. It may sound a bit short, it may be dusty and dirty, it may not even sound like much of an experience from the perspective of the outside world, but to all of us it’s just like coming home.

If you’re inspired or curious about camp, feel free to visit our Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp homepage to learn all about what we do. If you happen to have a couple bucks free, you can be a part of camp directly by donating to the Sugarloaf Station Foundation (the non-profit that funds the camp) and/or joining us at the Sugarloaf Station Foundation’s 16th Annual Fundraiser in September so we can raise money for these awesome kids to continue to experience this magical creative week in the woods! 

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Laurel and Mike: Out on the Town Engagement Session

 For Laurel and Mike’s unique engagement session, we decided to mix Chinese tradition and modern SF culture to create some epic shots that celebrate San Fran city culture along side Laurel’s Chinese heritage. These bought me empanadas, taught me Chinese, and flashed they style all over SF with reckless abandon. (Basically my photoshoot dream!) We went from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Chinatown to Russian Hill and back down again. I could do celebratory multicultural shoots like this every day!

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Karen: A SURVIVOR STORY

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Sometimes life throws us curveballs we struggle to understand. Karen was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy with her son.  This was her third and final baby and she was shocked to find out she would have to give up breastfeeding early and instead begin chemo. She underwent treatment after soon he was born and, thankfully, has made a miraculous full recovery. She’s currently in remission and soaking up all the time she can with her wonderful family before heading back to teaching in the Fall. 

This session was a Give Back Session for the Magic Hour Foundation.

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Sister Sister: Double Baby Trouble!

One day this past Spring I was working on some editing when my friend Julia texted me to tell me she was EXTRA excited because her friend Sarah had just told her she was pregnant. And even more exciting and flabbergasting? Sarah’s twin sister Julia had just told her that she was, in fact, pregnant as well. No planning. No attempt at synchrony. Just good old fashioned co-twin-cidence! 😉

I was ecstatic for them both! My fiancé had known these two girls for a long while and over the years we had become friends as well. I was elated when they reached out to set up a maternity session with me! I made sure to schedule their sessions at overlapping times so we could get some pics of both mama’s to be in one setting. As you can imagine, the session did NOT disappoint!

JULIA AND NEIL

First up were Julia and Neil. They got hitched a little less than a year ago and jumped right into building their sweet family. These two bond over beer (non-alcoholic right now) and punk music and there really is no shortage of love and fun between them!

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SARAH AND DUSTIN

Sarah and Dustin have been together for over 10 years (married for 2) and are adorably and madly in love. We talked dogs, expectant parenthood, and a whole lot of nerd stuff while we walked around the park before and during the golden hour for our photos!

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SISTERS

Of course, seeing as their due dates are so close (only two days apart, actually) I couldn’t resist getting some shots of these two inseparable twin sisters together! Even though they won’t QUITE be twins, I have a feelings these two boys are going to be thick as thieves. 🙂

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Huge hugs to both these families, I can’t wait to meet these boys! ❤

August: Happy National Family Month!

August is National Family Month (who knew??) and I’m looking to celebrate all the wonderful families I’ve worked with in the past and will work with in the future! This month, I’m running a fun promotion to entice some new families to join the KEP family! If you book your family photoshoot during the month of August, I’ll throw in two free 8×10 prints as a special gift for you guys! And who doesn’t love free stuff??

**Booking must be made in August but shoots can be scheduled anytime from September-December!**

Family Month

I know it sounds shockingly early, but it’s never too early to start planning holiday photos and get them done when the weather is great. This is the perfect opportunity for you to get them finished and have them ready before holiday crunch time hits! And guess what? Because you’re so wonderful and you read my blog, you’re going to get an EXTRA 10% OFF when you mention the blog! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

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Make sure to tune into my Facebook all month to see some of my favorite family photos from the past year! If you’re interested in booking, email me at katherineelysephotography@gmail.com or call me at 916-812-5475 to book your session today! 

Sugarloaf: Home Away from Home

Every year for the past 17 years I’ve made the trek up highway 50 into the mountains to the place I, and many others, call home. It’s a simple grouping of cabins where I learned who I was as a teen; where lifelong friends were made over the years; where the smell of mountain misery is pungent and overwhelming in the best way possible. The trees echo with beautiful music and the sunshine lights up the art rooms and camera lenses that act as a catalyst to capture our creations. I’ve been going to Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp for more than half my life and I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be a part of it.

After being a camper I transitioned quickly into being a cabin counselor. After 7 years of playing that roll, I was able to secure myself a spot on the INCREDIBLE photography staff. With digital photography making it’s debut and film photography going strong I got thrust into the roll of Digital Slideshow teacher and I’ve loved it from the beginning. Each year I’m presented with a new batch of amazing kids I’m supposed to help learn how to capture the week and create a slideshow/yearbook of our experience. It’s stressful, it’s detail oriented, it pushes their creativity to new levels, and (somehow) every year’s show is wonderful and completely unique.

This year I was given 4 kids that absolutely blew my mind. Their creativity and dedication reached levels I hadn’t considered particularly possible in such a short amount of time. They rocked everything from low light photos, actions shots, stunning portraits, and working candids. Needless to say I’m immensely impressed. Beyond their photos skills, I was able to really get to know these kids as people and, I’ve got to admit, my hope for the future has been fully restored. There was no lack of love, kindness, creative thinking, empathy, compassion, and joy from them. I was grounded by them and honestly brought to tears at the end of the week by how lovely they all were and how much I know I’ll miss them in the coming year. They said thank you to me at the end of the week but honestly, I should be thanking them for such an enlightening experience.

I’ve gone and chosen my favorite shots by my group to share with you. There were literally HUNDREDS of amazing images, but these ones stuck out to me as the photos they spent time and energy composing and perfecting. They applied some complex camera skills (shot all in manual btw) to capture these photos and I’m glowing with pride over how fabulous they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. ❤

ACTION SHOTS – Capturing motion is, by far, one of the hardest skills we learn as photographers. Having good timing isn’t innate, it’s very much a learned skill. I’m blown away by how much my kids picked up in a matter of days!

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Class Photos – Capturing the essence of other students learning at camp is CHALLENGING. How do we create magic based off of other people’s intensity? My kids did a great job at creating perspectives that truly show all angles and emotions of the programs we run here at camp. These photos represent so much!

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Portraits – This was by far my favorite part of the class to teach. Teaching the kids how to take kick a** portraits using posing prompts and natural moments/light was a joy and (not surprisingly) they were AMAZING at it. I adore these intimate photos they created almost as much as I adore my students themselves!

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If you’re impressed (which I KNOW you are!) and you’re interested in supporting these kids experiences at camp, consider heading to the Sugarloaf Station Foundation website and making a scholarship donation. Nearly 25% of our kids are only able to attend camp based on the generous donations of art lovers in the community. We would love to help even more kids expand their arts education and enjoy the beauty of camp year after year.

If you’re interested in donating, and having an amazing time doing do, come on out to our 15th Annual Sugarloaf Station Foundation Fundraiser on September 30, 2017! You can purchase tickets HERE.

CHEERS TO ANOTHER PERFECT YEAR AT SUGARLOAF FINE ARTS CAMP!

(PS- Huge thanks to my friend Russ Levi for allowing me to borrow the pixel stick, the prisms, and all the other fun trinkets. We had a great time experimenting!)

 

Grace and Chad: Plymouth Ranch Wedding at Rancho Victoria Vineyards

Grace and Chad’s wedding day was an absolute dream. From the bridal party, to the emotional moments, to the gorgeous location, especially the joy that was felt by all, it couldn’t have been more perfect. Grace and Chad, THANK YOU for allowing me to be a part of your big day! What a joy you are to each other’s families! Chad: you’re sweet, intelligent, committed, faithful, and you care for other people oh-so well. Now you’re married to the sweetest, funkiest, most amazing girl ever and I know you’re going to love her in the most special way. You’re both so lucky!!

The day started with some seriously awesome bridesmaids on bridal beauty duty. They were rocking their blue converse and making sure Grace stayed smiling and looked PERFECT from every angle!

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Even the tiniest member of the bridal party couldn’t stay away.

After getting the girls secured in their hiding spot, it was time for this gaggle of awesome dudes to strut their stuff!

And of course, some tender moment were due for the groom as well.

After that we shooed everyone away for a sweet moment of love and prayer (and no peeking) between the couple. It brought tears to my eyes too Chad, and I’m so glad I got to witness this amazing moment.

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I couldn’t wait to see Chads face when Grace walked down the aisle and boy, I was not disappointed. Not a dry eye in the house!

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Their ceremony was gorgeous, held under a massive blooming Oak. Their commitment to one another was felt by all who witnessed their vows to God and each other.

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After a romantic and deeply moving ceremony, the knot was tied and they were happy to galavant back down the aisle (with a few surprise kisses) as a married couple!

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Getting the whole family and bridal party together was a delight and you could tell everyone was so happy to be a part of the celebrations!

Then it was onto couples photos and, let me tell you, these two ROCKED their portrait session. (I don’t have to tell you though, see for yourself!)

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The reception was nothing but pure joy and insanity. Everyone boogied their way in, laughed their way through dinner (so much so I was able to sneak the couple away for sunset photos!), and smiled and cried along with the couple during their wedding speeches and dances.

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After the main events it was time to party down and dance the night away! Glow sticks and crazy guests added so much texture and energy to the night!

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Beyond being an awesome couple to photograph, these two pushed me outside of my comfort zone with their requests for some super fun off camera flash and sparkler photography!

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Their night came to a close with another ride in the incredible vintage wonder car as they waved good-bye to all their guests!

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I am so thankful Grace and Chad chose me for their wedding. I don’t know if I’ve ever shot a couple with more style, flare, and all around good vibes! I wish them all the best in their life together, even though I know they don’t need it. ❤

(HUGE thanks to Rebecca Skidgel from Rebecca Skidgel Photography for second shooting for me on this fine day!)