Oh my goodness y'all! This was actually the first session I did here in Colorado and I am in LOVE with these images. (I'm a wee bit behind in my blogging, but it's coming, I promise!)
This park is absolutely gorgeous and honestly, if it wasn't 40 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, I may just shoot exclusively there! The golden light that came out after a quick 3 minutes of rain was phenomenal and we had such a good time exploring the Painted Salt Mines in Calhan for this family portrait session!
As we pulled into Calhan, the sky opened up...luckily this was before we hit monsoon season when it rained for hours and hours for days and days, so I texted the Bells, who were right behind me, not to stress...it was going to clear! And luckily, about 3 minutes after we arrived, it did. It just stopped. We chose to park at the overlook and walk down, versus having the kids hike about 1/2 mile through the grassy areas to get to the mines. It was an excellent choice, albeit a little slippery. With a little grown-up help and good tennis shoes for grip, with a quick change into FANTASTIC green heels for Mom we were ready to go!
We explored the rock / salt formations first and the kids were absolutely amazed. The colors, the scenery, the windmills in the background - it was just phenomenal! (Definitely nothing like it in Kansas, Tennessee or even Vermont where I've shot other clients!) We decided to shoot a bit in the grass, with the mines in the background and got shots like this: Seriously...what is your Christmas card going to look like, because as I see it...they will win :D
We were careful to respect the park and stay off the formations - that way we ensure they are still around when our kid's kids come back to visit. Can we just talk about how adorable these kids are for just a minute?!?!
Because of the rain and clouds, we pretty much had our run of the place - and the light was unbeatable. It was super cloudy for the first half of our session, but we were able to stretch the kids because they could run around and play in between sets!
Will (3) wanted to chase rabbits, as there were a ton, so we went exploring into what I'll call the "grassland". While there weren't rock formations, the sun came out and was setting at just the right angle for the most amazing golden light. If you have ever wondered what photographers mean when they say "golden hour", this is it...it beautiful, soft light that just illuminates everyone soft and evenly. It usually happens about an 30 minutes or so before the sunsets and it's a magical time to take photos. I am in love with this set of images...
After that, we chased some more rabbit and laughed and giggled our way out of the park. (Pausing at the top to shoot the back side, as the sun had dropped enough for no squinting!) Will and I held hands and he picked me a flower. I seriously couldn't have asked for a better start to my shooting in Colorado. Bell Family...I just love y'all!
PS Jenna sells wine...and she'll even come to your house and do a tasting! (hence the new headshot below). If you enjoy a glass every once in awhile, give her a shout. I will be happy to pass along her contact info.
Ok...so when you hear of Colorado Springs and it's epic views and landscapes, one of the top parks to visit is Garden of the Gods. It's this amazing space, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, on the edge of Colorado Springs where these amazing rock formations seem to just spring out of the ground! I knew I wanted to shoot there, and at different times of the day, so I was super excited when a couple of my repeat clients from Kansas to Colorado told me they wanted to summer family photos at Garden of the Gods! I think I could probably shoot there every day for a year and not run out of "new" places to shoot, but I have definitely found an area that is my favorite! I'll be sharing the Manneck family's session in this post, but check back in a few days as I'll be sharing some favorites from the Zynda's sunset session there as well!
The weather wasn't super promising for our 3pm shoot (they have little girls, as you'll see, so a 7pm golden hour/sunset portrait session would have been a bit late. It had rained for 14 days straight and the clouds were a bit ominous as I got ready to leave. I checked in with Kerry (Mom) and she said they were game if I was! My equipment is weather sealed, so barring dropping it in the ocean, I'm good in wet weather...I'm almost always game! We met across from the nature center so that I could pile in their car - parking in the Garden of the Gods park is kind of a beast. I read that there are only some 336 parking spots in the whole park...so it's definitely at a premium! While we were on the side of the highway, I convinced everyone to hop out and take a few shots with the rock formations in the distance. I'm so glad we did...I love these images! Here's one of my favorites:
When there are small kids involved, I always make sure to nail a solid family portrait first thing in the session. This way, I ensure that my clients have a perfect image for the wall, because (as a Mom myself) that is really the main goal of a family photo session for most of my clients!)
After we shot outside the park, I crawled into their back row, left my car and we followed the line of cars into the park. Because of the ominous clouds and a bit of thunder, I think the traffic was a bit lighter than normal, which is always a nice surprise. As we drove around, headed for the Siamese Twin hike (which I had scouted with my kids as being a great spot for taking photos with kids because the hike wasn't super intense), we passed a little parking pull-off with spaces available and this super cool bridge. Because the Manneck's trust me, I convinced them we should get out and shoot on the bridge. It was totally worth it for this family shot:
As we walked a little further into the park from this pull-off, it started to sprinkle rain. Being the troopers that they are, the girls grabbed rain coats and we braved it. Some of us braved it better than others, as Evelyn was not thrilled with the idea of taking off her jacket for the pictures! As I tend to NOT be a glutton for punishment, I suggested we hop back in the car, find a different location and hope that this is a quick storm cell. We did. I had never actually been to the main parking lot of the park and Kerry suggested that walking on the pavement might be a better idea since the trail I had planned might be slick. I agreed. I was shocked that even though it was raining, the parking lot was still jam packed and people were still exploring! (Reminded me of when I lived in Vermont where there was no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing...I never really got on board with that mindset;) )
I was checking the radar on my phone and we were in the middle of what looked like a large rain cell. In an effort to salvage their shoot, Mom convinced the girls that we would just wear coats and jump in puddles. Everyone was on board...but miraculously, as we stepped out of the car, it literally just stopped raining. And the sun came out. I'm so confused by Colorado weather!
We walked into the park with about 100 other people and I began trying to figure out how I was going to avoid it looking like it was super crowded. Everyone was happy, the weather was gorgeous and we just explored. As we came to places I wanted to shoot, we would wait for the crowd to thin and then quickly get everyone in place. I was appreciative to all of the people who stopped and let us shoot for a minute or two before walking into our shot. Everyone at Garden of the Gods was super courteous and I was grateful.
Another cool thing about custom sessions and discussing how you want to print your images (bound vs. unbound albums vs. wall art) is that I shoot for YOU. If I know ahead of time that you want a certain orientation shot of each of your kids, I'm happy to ensure you get those shots! As an experienced photographer, I can also guarantee that all of your images will have a consistent look and feel, so that when you decide to purchase a large canvas grouping from our shoot, all of the images will flow cohesively. For example - look at these gorgeous girls, side by side in black and white. I can just picture these images matted & framed for a timeless display of this exact moment in their family life!
When I work on location - I can't control the light...natural light is an amazing light source when you know how to use it. It's diversity is fun and always a challenge. As we walked up to this little stone patio with the large tree bush in the background, I knew I loved the look of the stone bench and it was cloudy so the light was nice and even. (And because there were no rock formations, there was no one around! Always a win in a crowded public park, like Garden of the Gods!) As I took Evelyn's hand to get her into Dad's lap, the sun came out brilliantly, so thinking quickly we rotated slightly to put the sun to their back, I adjusted my settings and we rolled. I just absolutely love the shot above! As we wrapped up, the rain started to drizzle again and the thunder rolled as we climbed back into our car. If I could have special ordered weather for our session, I couldn't have planned it more perfectly! Let me know what you guys think of these shots! And...if you're interested in a family photo shoot at Garden of the Gods, let me know...I learned a lot during this location scouting shoot and I'm so grateful to the Manneck family for being my guinea pigs!
Musings on a Family Shoot at Garden of the Gods:
All in all, my take away from shooting Garden of the Gods at 3pm on a cloudy Saturday...it's crowded. If you will feel awkward posing in front of tons of people, we should choose a different location. The main area works at 3pm because of the shade some of the rock formations provide to have nice, even natural light, or even supplemented with a little flash. Given my choice, I wouldn't shoot here while the nature center is open (8-7pm) and the park is so crowded - it was hard to avoid all the people in the background. Because of the diversity of shooting areas and the walking to get to them, the session tends to take a bit longer than some of my other preferred locations.
Garden of the Gods Location Score:
5/10 for families with young children.
8/10 for families with older children (Zynda Family blog post forthcoming)
9/10 for high school seniors or environmental personal branding
So, a thought came to me as I was driving my kids to the Space Museum this morning...what if I could offer a Senior session (or sessions, actually) for a group of high school senior best friends?? Wouldn't that be awesome? In addition to having amazing pictures of yourself for your senior album and your memories, you could also have images of your best friends! Annnnnddddd, bonus here: since we'd be shooting together, we could do multiple locations & looks on different dates - this means that you could have images from almost every iconic place in and around Colorado Springs!!
I'm still new here, so I'm learning the fave spots (and have discovered some of my own that maybe aren't quite so popular!), but wouldn't it be cool to have pictures at Garden of the Gods, the Broadmoor, Palmer Park Maintou Springs (Rainbow Falls) and more?
I think I might be onto something....so I'm looking for a group of besties to test out my theory of awesomeness! Ideally the group would be 5-8 high school seniors, boys and girls mixed or all one gender. Cost to participate would be $250 per person and as a thank you for being my Bestie Project guinea pigs, each participant will receive a $500 print credit to put towards their final senior image purchase.
If you have a group of friends that you think may be interested, please let me know ASAP! I'd like to start shooting this project in early September. Call me at 719-644-6505 or shoot me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am exclusively an environmental family portrait artist. Currently based in Oahu, Hawaii and catering to families who truly value fine art photography for their family memories. Popular among locals, but also caters to tourists who have "vacation schedules".