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Grab your tissues, friends. This one might have you feeling all the feels. Mid-September along the west coast, just south of Bodega Bay, Caitlin and Casey made it all official in some serious style. With rolling hills, scenic views of Tomales Bay, and a restored farmhouse, the Straus Home Ranch was truly the perfect backdrop for their perfect day.

Every single detail of the day was well thought out and perfectly executed. It’s not often wedding days go off without a hitch, but I can sincerely tell you that this was one of them. It was a non-stop party with all of their favorite people flying in from all over to celebrate with them and I was overjoyed to be a part of their day.

These two (along with their amazing planner, Jessica, with Joyeux Events) sure know how to throw an unforgettable party. I can promise you, I’ll never forget this unbelievably perfect day.


Wedding Photography: Vanessa Lynne Photography

Fully Planning and Design: Joyeux Events

Venue: Straus Home Ranch

Florist: Venn Floral

Hair: Stella Stevens Hair Design

Makeup: Stefanie Fritz Makeup Artistry

Caterer: Potliqour

Videographer: Shutter and Sound

DJ: DJ Funklor

Caitlin + Casey: Straus Ranch

It’s no secret how much I love engagement sessions.. A well-planned engagement session can be the difference between nice images and magical keepsakes. If you’re planning your engagement session, (or know someone who is) here are a few tips to guide you in the right direction.. But first,  let’s talk about why an engagement session is important to begin with.

If haven’t yet read my last blog post, (see “It’s all about the chemistry”) I talk about the importance of choosing the right photographer for you and your fiance. Once you’ve found him or her, booking your engagement session is a great way to see how your photographer interacts with and directs you doing your shoot. By the time your day comes, you’ll be super comfortable in front of the camera.

Another reason I encourage couples to book an engagement session is so that you and your fiance can have professional photos that aren’t just in your super formal wedding attire. Take the opportunity to document your love outside of your wedding day. You won’t regret it. 

1. Attire

Outfits play a super important role in your engagement session. Most photographers allow a few outfit changes and typically 2-3 is sufficient. 

Choose a few complementary colors so that outfits coordinate, but not match. Most importantly, choose colors that work well in nature. Avoid black and fluorescent/neon colors which are harsh and clash with colors found in nature. 

DITCH THE JEANS. These are your engagement pictures; dream a little! Dress up. Have fun. Don’t wear what you wear every dang day.

This one might seem obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: Make sure you feel confident and comfortable in the outfits you choose. If you feel uncomfortable, you will look uncomfortable. It’s as simple as that.

2. Hair and Makeup

As a general tip, women’s hair typically photographs better when curled. It allows for more natural movement and doesn’t have to be perfect. Additionally, I recommend going a *little* heavier on the makeup than what you might normally wear. Many bride-to-be’s opt to hire a makeup artist so that it’s extra special. Whether you choose to hire someone or apply it yourself, be sure to pack your makeup bag for the shoot in case you need to touch up during the session.

3. Adventure, Please

Now, I can’t speak for all photographers, but in my opinion, engagement sessions are THE best when an adventure is thrown in there. Take a day off and let’s head to Yosemite, Bodega Bay, Death Valley, or the Sequoias. California is so freakin’ beautiful and diverse that if you can dream it, it’s a car ride away. I’m more than willing to go to wherever your heart’s desire is for your one-of-a-kind engagement session. So, dream big and we will absolutely make it happen.

4. Trust me

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they’re not photogenic, well, I’d probably be rich. You might start out your shoot feeling a little awkward and that’s normal. But! If you have the right photographer, you’ll be a natural in no time. I love watching couples gain confidence as the shoot progresses with just a little direction from me and a lot of laughs. We all look like supermodels when we are with the one we love. Trust me. It’s a fact.

5. Just be You

At the end of the day, you want your photos to be the perfect representation of you! It’s okay to go the extra mile since it’s a special occasion, just remember to let your unique and beautiful light shine.

So, grab your lover and get your adventure on. I’ll meet you there.


5 Tips for planning your engagement session


At literally every turn, Big Sur never ceases to blow my mind with its landscapes and breathtaking views. it is HANDS-DOWN one of my favorite locations to shoot; it has a unique sort of magic that I haven’t found elsewhere. For those who’ve visited, I think, will agree with me here.

After grabbing lunch at Nepenthe (and some tasty local vino, of course), we chatted about the day and made a loose game plan for where we wanted to shoot. We started in the redwoods, frolicked on the beach (yes, I frolick), and watched the sun set on Bixby Bridge. 


















Adventure Session along the Big Sur Coast


We’ve had Lauren and Jason’s Engagement Session on the books since January. They picked a day in late April, hoping for some blue skies and the chance of wild flowers. We went over location ideas and Lauren settled on both the Sierras and the American River. 

When the day finally came, we set off for the mountains in Jason’t truck, not realizing he was on E. When we got to the next gas station, the pumps were down (What??!!). We were baffled but at the same time it was a completely laughable scenario. We made the safe choice to go back down (losing about 35 minutes of time) and fuel up at the last gas station. Once we were finally back on the road, Jason started talking about a super cool look out spot. Normally, I have the general locations more or less picked out, but the way his eyes lit up when talking about this amazing spot, I knew we had to go.

As we pull off the highway, I was beyond excited to realize that this was a place I’ve always wanted to go, but never really had the chance to explore. It was fate! We hopped out and got started shooting right away, having the spot to ourselves.





From the epic view of Lake Tahoe, we drove all the way down to the river in Coloma – one of their favorite places to spend time together.  Even with the gas mishap, we still had plenty of light left and hiked up to get a good view of the sunset over the river. 

We literally ran around in the wildflowers and chased the sun going down. If this doesn’t epitomize adventure, I’m not sure what does. 

Cheers to Lauren and Jason. I canNOT wait until your wedding next year; I’m already counting down the days…..only 525 to go….















Engagement Session: From the Sierras down to the River

Raise your hand if you know next to nothing about the Channel Islands? Me, too. And up until my most recent National Park visit (if you’re keeping tracking, this is stop #3) of the Channel Islands last weekend, I had little to no knowledge of this majestic wonderland. There are eight separate islands, but we only had time to visit two of them: Anacapa and Santa Cruz. 

The first island we visited was Anacapa. We boarded a boat out of Oxnard, California with Island Packers at 9:00 am. It took us about a half hour longer than it was supposed to because we kept seeing whales and dolphins and, of course, had to stop. 

It had been foggy the whole ride over on the boat and for the first two hours that we roamed the island. When we finally pulled up, the first thing I noticed was the seagulls. Seagulls EVERYWHERE. There’s no freshwater on the island and for whatever reason these seagulls just absolutely love Anacapa and are basically the only life on the whole island. They were so fun to photograph and had no aversion to humans. They ignored us most of the time, but, man, were they up close and personal when we were snacking on our lunch. I could’ve watched them for hours. But just after 1:00 p.m., the fog finally lifted to give us more of a view of the rest of the “banana” shaped island.

I could’ve stayed there all day with the sun out and the birds flying all around me, but, alas, the boat arrived at 3:00 p.m. to take us back.



















The following day, we left out of the Ventura harbor. Thank GOODNESS I had taken plenty of Dramamine because it was the roughest boat ride I’ve ever endured. And if you’ve ever been on a boat or kayak with me, you know how terribly sick I get if I forget to take it, Unlike the start of the previous day, it was warm and sunny for the get-go. Thankfully, we packed the sunblock (SPF 100 for my ginger self). It was going to be a hot one. We had a solid seven hours to explore, so we had a packed lunch and lots of water. The first thing I noticed was the similarity to landscape found in Northern California, so I felt right at home. 

We chose the longer of the hikes since we had pretty much all day. Not far into hike, we started seeing a sprinkling of caterpillars right on the trail. A few hundred yards of that, though, drastically morphed into a solid mile of THOUSANDS of caterpillars. So much so that we had to focus so hard on the ground to watch every single step we took to avoid stepping on them. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

For lunch, we made a pit stop down at a gorgeous sandy beach to take a little break from the sun and sit under the Eucalyptus. After about a 2 hour lunch break, we headed for the boat since we had quite a bit of a hike left. All in all, I think we did a 9 mile hike – lots of hills and sunshine.

Fun Fact: The Island Fox is found on the Santa Cruz Island (and a few of the other Channel Islands) and they exist nowhere else in the entire world. Another tourist asked one of the National Park Naturalists if we’d be likely see one of them. She chuckled and told us the only way we wouldn’t see them was if he kept our eyes closed. Sure enough, we rounded the corner and one (of many seen throughout the day) was right there. They were so precious. Very petite and quite clever little creatures.













The Channel Islands on a Sunny Spring Weekend