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Alpana and Sunny

Geez guys. This one was beyond. I feel like I barely need words to describe the photos you see below.  The food, the floral, the beautiful textures colors.. people!! Ahhh I could shoot a million photos and never grow tired.  This wedding was a true work of art.  I was so honored to be asked to see it through my eyes for Sunny and Alpana.  The bride and groom had a vision that could have been illustrated in a storybook.  My favorite part? That Alpana, the bride, so perfectly tied in elements from not only both Hindu and Sikh tradition but she also did so many beautiful bohemian touches.  Also.. her face? Angel face.  And Sunny, the groom? Looked like a prince. Sooooooo ... here you have it. Hush over all of the details and read more about the wedding by clicking the link below on their feature in Martha Stewart Weddings.

Venue - Serra Plaza

Planning - Vinscena Kostka -  Intertwined Events

Floral Design - Inviting Occasion

Hair & Makeup - Flawless Faces

DJ - 3D Sounds

Sitar - Ronobir Lahiri

Video - White Rose Productions

Catering - Jays Catering

Rentals - Town and Country, Baker Party Rentals, Signature Party Rentals, La Tavola, ModMix Studios, Found Rentals

Melissa GayleComment
What is In My Wedding Bag

Have you ever wanted to know what to bring to shoot a wedding. Watch the video above and read below for a full rundown of all of my gear!

ALL OF MY GEAR| FIND IT HERE

And yes if you buy from these links it will support my blog. So thank you!

 This is my bag fully assembled and ready to rock a wedding. I try and put everything back in the same pocket that way I get a quick read at the end of the night on of all of my gear is coming home with me.

This is my bag fully assembled and ready to rock a wedding. I try and put everything back in the same pocket that way I get a quick read at the end of the night on of all of my gear is coming home with me.

 The two camera bodies I use pictured above are the Canon Mark IV & the Canon M5.

The two camera bodies I use pictured above are the Canon Mark IV & the Canon M5.

 The full line up of lenses I own. With these guys I’ve got everything more than covered.

The full line up of lenses I own. With these guys I’ve got everything more than covered.

 Pretty little lightweight tripod, isn’t she!

Pretty little lightweight tripod, isn’t she!

 Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite & Pocket wizards for off camera flash.

Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite & Pocket wizards for off camera flash.

 You can tell it’s been through a lot. The Think Tank Airport 2.0 is seriously my favorite piece of equipment.

You can tell it’s been through a lot. The Think Tank Airport 2.0 is seriously my favorite piece of equipment.

 And last but not least my memory card pouch!

And last but not least my memory card pouch!

It’s taken me a while to craft this bag of tricks. Slowly but surely you will get there. Invest in your tools and buy QUALITY lenses and equipment. You will spend more time learning the gear you aspire to shoot with.

As always, I am an open book! If you have any questions please also feel free to post a reply on my blog here or contact me through instagram! I love hearing from other photographers and seeing what people think!

xo!
Melissa

@melissagayleweddings

 
 
Melissa GayleComment
Shauna & John's Happy Hideout Wedding

May and I pulled off of Highway 88 and made the right and turn that would take us two miles towards Shauna and John's wedding. The magic that we would find on the other end of the roadwas like no other. But first things first.. gunning my 02 Eurovan up a massive hill so freaking steep it would put San Francisco's finest slopes to shame. And then... we were there, chasing down a folk band, in a sea of axe throwing, lake lounging with the guests; giggling with mountain mamas radiating in their jewel toned gowns, sipping whiskey out of a shotgun barrel with some shady groomsmen, and getting high on the pine trees and crisp mountain air. I said it once and I may have said it a million more times that day; "Man o' Man! I wish I could get married all over and have a party here like this!"  
 
Highlights of this one were shooting Shauna and John at the private lake in front of their log cabin. I wanted the shot from the water so I walked my pregnant self right on into the lake chonies and all. Working with Katie Rebecca owner of Cotton & Oak Events who not only brought together so many of the beautiful details but also came with THE BEST and most fun attitude I have ever seen out of a wedding planner. 
 
 

BE A VISITOR IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD
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Living in the Dana Point neighborhood means getting to know the local tour businesses more than it means knowing the guy who runs the market. In Orange County: land of strip malls and wide spread-out streets; where it takes too long to get anywhere and where you have to drive everywhere, one of the best things we all do to relax is go down to the harbor where foot traffic is the only means of point A to point B.  I miss culture and museums, art and great food...all things the cities I have lived in have offered me.  Living in this suburbia can feel like living in the Truman show.  Yeah it’s pretty but where’s the meat you know what I’m sayin? BUT it is the ocean that reminded me again why I am here.  The ocean has a strong centering force.  Getting out there on or in the water makes me become present like no other place can. 

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  I’ve walked by captain daves dolphin safari more than one occasion. Josh and I have chatted I think about 4 times about bringing our out of town guests whale watching. I’ve been whale watching before, up at the farallons in San Francisco but this little local safari was pretty rad for its ease compared to that trip. 

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  First of all if you live in town or anywhere close by it’s really awesome that you can take a weekday morning off and be back to your day by lunch. The coast drops off in Dana point pretty quickly so you get to marine life within 1 mile of leaving shore.  We departed at 8 and we’re literally frolicking behind a pack of several hundred dolphins within an hour of leaving shore.  The wide catamaran boat was super spacious, complete with three little netted hammocks that you can lay on right over the open ocean.  Kids ( and me) laid on them, our faces smashed into the netting peering down at the dolphins rushing in the waters is below us.  They’ve converted the hulls of the catamarans to be plexiglass.  There, wedged into that little glass hull, you can lay going 25 miles an hour surrounded on all sides by the water and swimming dolphins. Amazing really.  I could hear them echolocating to each other, the wooshing of the water and the clicks of the dolphins bringing me to my happy place!

  As Lady luck would have it we didn’t run into any larger whales that day but that is just the way of the water. You never get what you are asking for- sometimes you get a way better show! Huge ups to the crew that took us out. Captain Craig, Steve the photographer and ... were such a pleasure to meet.  Passionate are those who spend 14 hours a day brining land lubbers closer to whales. And passionate people feed my soul.  I can’t wait to go back again and highly recommend you get you and your kids on a boat with them soon. The season for blue whales is happening right now!  

 

You can sign up for a safari with them online here.  There are several boats a day!

Melissa GayleComment
DT+V Wedding In Joshua Tree

If you mix enough talented people together and throw them into the middle of the desert, sprinkle a little old fashioned L-O-V-E on the that, you got yourself a mighty fine shindig.  Mighty fine indeed!  I was once told by a wedding blog that my submission was not accepted because I had too many shots of people.  But the people are the good stuff ya heard?  The people are the reason for this whole wedding thing.  There aren't enough pinterest pins, crafty ideas, fancy dresses in the world to outshine a wedding full of shiny people.  So screw the details and cheers to the people!

 


Derek & Val

 
Melissa GayleComment
Find your wedding workflow; from shooting to sharing
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YOU'VE FINISHED SHOOTING THE WEDDING.  NOW WHAT?

The most common complaint that I hear from other photographers who have dipped their toes into the wedding photographer world is.. I just cant deal with all of the pressure and all of the edits!   Being in the slog of thousands  of photos, feeling backed up and chained to a computer screen, is not anyone's idea of living their best life.  So today I'm sharing my secret weapon.  My two truths: a commitment, & a strong wedding workflow!

THE TWO TRUTHS

TRUTH #1:  THE COMMITMENT

I Melissa Gayle, do solemnly swear that I will finish editing a wedding before I take off to shoot another.

Holding myself to the commitment of not falling far behind is crucial to my sanity because it has allowed me to get to my other projects after being a wedding photographer is over. I do make minimal exceptions.  If I am shooting 2 events in one weekend or if I am one or two behind I don’t trip.  But after that I do trip.

Why?

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Because, if you are continually behind you will never EVER  have time to get create and grow your business, and personal life or shoot the type of weddings and things that you hope to.  SO MANY wedding photographers I know have a backlog of weddings from months ago they need to edit.  This, my friends, sounds like my living nightmare.  Having the weight of multiple weddings to edit is the energetic equivalent of having your ex-boyfirend living in your house.  He wants to get out, and you want him to as well, so let that boy free to go flourish in the world and get on with your life.


Not only does the commitment save you from accidentally shooting over a card that you forgot to backup (because you notice something is missing before that is even at risk.)  You also have the benefit of seeing where to improve on a more rapid cycle.  Maybe yo should be more careful cropping peoples feet out of photos?  Perhaps you think you pushed your ISO a little too bit in a low light situation.  Editing on a timely manner allows you to evolve your work more quickly.  The more opportunities you have to examine your work and course correct the better photographer you will become.

TRUTH #2: THE WORKFLOW

I have a great WORKFLOW that kicks butt and moves me through the edit and upload process relatively painlessly

So for what it’s worth here is is.  My workflow and tools I can’t live without

STEP 1: BACK IT UP

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I shoot everything RAW on SD cards and put them in this hard case; and when I return home or to my hotel from a wedding my number one job is backing that-ish up!   That way I have not one but TWO copies of the photos living on my body as soon as possible.

If I go to the bathroom at a gas station on the way home- one stays in my purse and the other in the car.  NEVER give the opportunity for all of your hard work and someone's wedding to be stolen. Don't let this be you!

I use a USB External hard drive for my working drive that is pretty rugged.  These guys are the best.  I call this my “working drive” and it travels with me everywhere. 

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After backing up my cards to the drive I then LOCK my cards so I don’t accidentally shoot over them and carry on my merry way.

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File Numbering

When backing up the cards the file numbering system I use is key to being able to consistently look like my image catalog at home.  This way is Chronological when it sorts and I try to use it consistently everywhere I can, including in Lightroom.

YYYY.MM.DD_ClientLastname

and then within that folder I label my cards in shot order: Card_01, Card_02, Card_03 , And so on ...

Here is a screen shot of what that looks like for those of you who hate reading the words and whose eyes just glazed over.

(ProTip: Make sure you bring enough cards for you AND your assistant.  Having to send his or her cards back can be a pain in the tuckus.  Also you don’t know what they have done with their cards and to have one fail on you for factors outside of your control would be sad.  Oh. So. Sad.)

 

STEP 2: THE BACK UP AT HOME

The first thing I do when I get home is then take my “Working Drive” and back the entire wedding up to my massive external hard drives at home for safe keeping.  I do not work off of these drives when I edit. The files just get dumped and stored there.

I use a series of G-Drive Desktop External hard drives to backup my large library of wedding work over the years.  So far I am up to using 6TB drives.  I find this usually is the amount of space I need for one wedding season’s entire RAW library and edits.  Anything bigger scares the bejeezus out of me because if it failed I would lose a lot of work.

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Once I have the wedding backed up onto the bigger drives I then unplug those big drives and keep my working drive plugged in to my computer.  

This portable working drive is what I will use the entire time I edit and upload the photos.  That way I know there is a safe copy of everything living somewhere else in case of a nasty power surge, water spill, if there was a tsunami- I could take one set and run.  Get it? Got it? Good!

STEP 3: EDITING

IMAGE SELECTION & PHASE ONE MEDIA PRO

I couldn’t do without the image cataloging program MEDIA PRO by Phase One.   In Media Pro images are not actually duplicated to another place in your computer.  They are merely referenced- think of it as a visual indexing system.   This step saves SO MUCH time.  

  • You can quickly see and sort through large volumes of images
  • Image thumbnails load super fast
  • You can use this tool to generate large thumbnails and see all of your shots quickly and side by side and make fast selections before you bring them into Lightroom.

It has been proven in clinical studies that loading everything into Lightroom will cause you to loose-your-effin-mind!  Why? Because waiting for every image to load in Lightroom is slow AF .  Once it’s in there you will want to edit it.  It will suck away all of your time.  Be a smartypants and cut down your work BEFORE the import.

ProTip #2:  You can go through an entire wedding in Media Pro making all of your selects red.  Then importing just those labeled red into Lightroom with one simple drag over from the catalog. (Select “Find” in the menubar and sort by “Red”) Boom! Drag & drop.  
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EDITING IN LIGHTROOM

Once I have dragged all of my selects into Lightroom I create a catalog folder of the images.  Select all of the imports you just did and next click the plus button next to the Collections window.  Label this the same as you have on your hard drive:

ex: YYYY.MM.D_ClientLast name.

You are now cooking with bacon grease.

 

Editing in Lightroom I have a few favorite presets that I have made on my own and a few that I have purchased from the internet.  Remember that these are just a starting off point to get your images from point A to their final look that is completely your own.  I almost always remove all grain for my style and manipulate shadows and lens corrections.  You will find your groove too.  For more on how to edit keep following along with my blog. 

BATCH EDITING

Adjust one image leading the series then shift to select all of the images in the same color group and then hit the "Sync" Button.  This will bring all of your images close rather than editing them one by one.

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PRESETS: TAKE THEM IN STRIDE

You are only as good of a photographer and editor as you have the mental capacity for.  Take breaks, walk away.  But do try to edit groups of like images together to maintain the same feel and tone.

Here are some of my favorite photographers presets:

EXPORTING YOUR EDITS

Once you’ve edited all of your images you are ready to export them to your working drive.  In a separate folder below the card folders create a  folder called “Edits” Select all and export your files to this edits file.

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EXPORT SETTINGS & FINISHING EDITS IN PHOTOSHOP

I don't adjust the size I use full resolution jpegs.  That way I can go back in and make any additional edits.  I do all of my editing to skin, erasing pesky distracting content from backgrounds, and really fine tune a select amount of edits at this stage in Photoshop.

I love Pro Retouch by Totally Rad Labs.  I use this Photoshop based set of actions for all sorts of skin retouching!

 Before and after a quick retouch using Pro Retouch...

Before and after a quick retouch using Pro Retouch...

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WHAT I DON'T DO!

Personally I don’t make everyone look like a blemish free doll.  Philosophical values aside I am drawn to a more natural look in my editing.  I will make some skin enhancements. Especially on close up portraits but I don’t buy into the expectation that you should look as smooth as a plastic barbie or as thin as a rail.  My clients are not typically looking for this level of retouching either.  This is where you will find your own way with this but it is a major place where you can eat up a lot of un-necessary time trying to make people look perfect who may be completely happy with the way the look naturally.

BACK IT UP AGAIN

Once my Edit is complete and the fine tuning in photoshop is done I drop that “Edits” folder back into my large external G-Drive for safe keeping.  Now I have two identical complete copies of the wedding living somewhere in case my working drive is stolen or fails.

 

STEP 3: UPLOADING TO THE WEB

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Last but not least I want to tell you about my very favorite way to send photos to my clients and that is Pixieset.

You can get a Pixieset account by checking them out here!

 I have tried several other sites for this service but I have stuck with Pixieset for several years now because I love just paying one fee annually rather than a per gallery fee.  I have the largest plan and I use every GB of it.  The interface is clean and simple and I can upload/ sell/ and give clients and their guests all sorts of levels of access to their images.  Each gallery is distributed with a DOWNLOAD PIN that the client can use to access their digital files in Original, Large and Web sizes.  It has truly been a wonderful subscription

 

Well guys, there you have it.  This my workflow- tried and true.  Hopefully you can gleam a few little tips and integrate them into your own workflows!  Happy editing!

 

So to recap here it is in a few east steps

1) Back it up onto a working drive that you can travel with

2) Back it up at home onto a larger external HD

3) Make Selects using Media Pro

4) Import selects into Lightroom

5) Batch Edit in Lightroom- Edit groups of images by using presets & your own adjustments then shift select and paste your edits on similar images with similar color and exposure.

6) Export to jpeg files

7) Do fine tune editing in Photoshop

8) Backup again to larger external HD

9) Upload Using Pixieset

10) Share and promote!

 

 

The Artist’s Way Part 3:

The Artist’s Way Part 3:

A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer

“So, what’s your story?” an inquisitive man asked me, his hair spiked atop his head as it were meant to touch the sky. 

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I was at an event in Palm Springs, in a home rumored to be owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, shooting for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos BEFORE he was declared the wealthiest man in the world. I was amongst “very important people;” but, in my naturally oblivious way, I was starkly unaware of it. 

I proceeded to have a 20-minute conversation with this nonchalant man about my abridged life story, genuinely enjoying his insane ability to strip down the chit chat and get to the good stuff. We talked about the architecture of the house and both of our recent weddings in Mexico that were literally one day apart. He showed me pictures of his kids and wife… We were the same type of person, mirroring the comfort upon which fast friendships are made possible. He kept lobbing questions at me like a pitcher against a rookie hitter until after enough foul balls, I figured out how to hit the home run.  

“So, what about you?” I asked.  

“Oh, I’ve produced a few films…” 

“Cool. Anything I’ve heard of?”

He began rattling off his “short list.” 

“Splash, American Gangster, A Beautiful Mind, My Girl, Blue Crush, Liar Liar. I started Imagine Entertainment with Ron (Howard).”  

Turns out Brian was responsible for just about every single movie I’ve ever watched in my 30 some years on planet Earth. Gotta love the ignorance I bring to the table as a transplant from the animation world in Northern California…

That same week Brian had been invited to sit on a panel with Ron Howard and Jeff Bezos to speak about his story of how he broke into the film industry. He had recently released his first book, A Curious Mind, which recaps how a younger and more eager Brian had gotten his start by randomly negotiating meetings with people he found interesting. These people could be anyone; a scientist, a notable explorer, a person who survived an insane disaster, an inventor, a writer, Ron Howard… you name it. He would simply become curious and reach out to that person, taking one meeting every month for years. Until... that boy knew everyone under the sun.  And, what’s important here folks is that Brian did this without initially realizing how much he would learn by simply listening. 

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And, for some reason, he had decided to choose me out of a sea of people—at one of the most interesting events I have ever attended—with whom to have a conversation. I was just the meager photographer of the event… the “help.” But, he doesn’t see people that way because those are labels that are projected onto us; not who we really are.

And, for some reason, he had decided to choose me out of a sea of people--at one of the most interesting events I have ever attended—with whom to have a conversation. I was just the meager photographer of the event… the “help.” But, he doesn’t see people that way because those are labels that are projected onto us; not who we really are. And, he gets that. He gets that you never know who we will elicit a morsel of wisdom from. Thus, in order to learn, we must be curious. And, in order to be curious, we must open not only our eyes and ears, but our hearts, to as many other travelers as we can in this life. 

I’ve learned a lot of life lessons, but this one from Brian hit to my core: 

 

Be a curious mind and, in turn, you will lead a richer life

I remind myself of these words every single day and strive to be more like him in whatever way I can. 

My 3 Recommended Books:

1)      Creative Confidence; Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelly

2)      Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

3)      A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer

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Melissa GayleComment
The Artist’s Way Part 2:

The Artist’s Way Part 2:

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Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

As I’m sure you could guess, I left Pixar to become who I am still becoming now: an artist who is humble enough to realize that I am a forever student on this trip called life. Hence, why Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert is my oblig next book. 

“If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad.  If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And, what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitro, insult your intelligence, misalign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile and sweetly suggest - as politely as you possibly can - that they go make their own fucking art. Then, stubbornly continue making yours.”

I cannot emphasize enough how laden this book is with both pragmatic and inspirational information. But, my biggest take away is the theme that guides her cornucopia of insight: there isn’t any concrete reason why artists create.  

Her explanation is so meta that it’s hard for me to fully capture how deeply it affected me beyond the fact that this book was able to identify the problem that plagued me throughout almost my entire 20s. 

I would always find myself feeling like everything I did creatively needed to be seen as a methodical step within a big-picture contraption that was scaffolding my career towards something shiny, yet slightly out of reach (hence, Pixar). Leading me to question myself, my art, and what how I am supposed to be feeling about all this versus how I actually am feeling. 

What is my narrative in this world?  

What am I trying to say? 

Who is already saying that, and how can I say it differently?  

I love heavy documentary-style photography… so, what am I contributing to this world by merely taking happy portraits of people on their wedding days? 

 

Does my work really matter???

  I love heavy documentary-style photography… so, what am I contributing to this world by merely taking happy portraits of people on their wedding days?        Does my work really matter???

I love heavy documentary-style photography… so, what am I contributing to this world by merely taking happy portraits of people on their wedding days? 

 Does my work really matter???

 

Once I would get going, I would spin out of control, blinding myself from any solid conclusion, subsequently removing myself from the creative flow. 

 

Every artist knows the cycle. 

 

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But, what we artists lacked—until now—is the permission to put an end to indulging in the tragedy that is the artist’s way because all it does is stifle the very juice we need to keep the artist’s way alive and free flowing. 

Gilbert prescribes the antidote through the grace of simplicity: to view our inclination to create as a gift. 

Art is not a mechanism within our control nor a mechanism through which we manipulate success. Thus, binding our creative efforts to any motive beyond the impulse to simply “do” stifles the very creativity necessary for the magic of art to happen.  

Ultimately, this book reads with the intolerant wisdom of your older sister snapping at you to cut the shit, stop groveling, and just do it because you want to, not because the world is telling you to or otherwise. Whenever I need a quick reminder on how to update my love/hate relationship with my creativity, this is the book I turn to.

Melissa GayleComment
The Artist’s Way Part 1:

The Artist’s Way Part 1:

Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly

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         Allow me to begin by saying that I truly believe we are all creative. The caveat is genetic differentiation. Beneath the umbrella theme of humanity, there is a subset of us who are simply wired to choose to pursue our creativity as a means to an end. We are the crazy, offbeat ones that don’t know really have work-life balance. Who don’t compartmentalize. Who can’t sit still. Who breathe adventure and let our curiosity get the best of us. Yeah, it’s messy. But, supremely rewarding when we are committed to the ongoing cultivation of said creativity, and are courageous enough to allow that relationship with our creativity to evolve and challenge the way we assumed life as an artist was supposed to be. 


         For the month of July, I wanted to share the books that have reassured me that I’m not completely alone in the way I think and feel as an artist, and helped me look at those necessary painful moments as milestones that were a necessary part of my growth. This week, I will be discussing Creative Confidence; Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelly, shedding light on one of the longest legs of my journey through life thus far.

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Have you ever heard of the “looks good, but feels bad” trap?  

*raises hand*

I have. 

In production manager at Pixar, I had landed the “dream job.” Finally, my internal aspirations had been validated by life’s external stamp of success. 

But, boy, was 22-year-old Mel wrong.  

I mean, there were occasional glimpses of surrealism. Like, when I would participate in meetings with some of the most talented artists in the world, participating in the craftsmanship of stories and characters that would color multi-million dollar films that would last beyond lifetimes… And I would have to blink twice, thinking to myself how amazing my life is right now.  

But, then, just as quickly as it was over, the clouds rolled back in and I had returned to that empty place. A feeling I just couldn’t deny any longer, beckoning me to address its call. When I was faced with the harsh reality of the source of my dissatisfaction. 

I was not empowered in my role at Pixar to express my creativity.  

Instead of nurturing the artist that lived inside of me, I was nurturing the creative talent that I was being paid to say “yes” or “no” to. I was shackled to “the man.” “The man” in School of Rock. “The man” that paid the bills, but doesn’t spark my soul. “The man” that surrounded me with influential people, but didn’t acknowledge my propensity to become one of the same. And, the longer I was around it, the more my anxiety increased to the point that I could no longer deny my soul’s calling to break out and be free. To be free of what “looks good, but feels bad.” 

But, you know what? Even though I felt like I was being eaten alive while at my Pixar job, it was the catalyst that informed my decision to do what I do now. I was able to fully live out the version of myself that everyone had told me would make my dreams come true to ultimately realize that what we want for ourselves can only be informed by ourselves, no one else. 

So, if you have ever need help getting to the root of who you are, look no further. Creative Confidence; Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelly serves as a reminder of what we are capable of. This book is even broken down into small digestible sections, so that you can easily pick up the book for a few minutes each day, and still glean something in a short amount of time.

 This class I took with Joey L. (one of my favorite people to look for inspiration from) was a total catalyst to leaving behind the benefits and turning towards something deeper.  I remember he told me.. it's not like you are gonna starve in this country.  You're going to be fine.  What's the worst that can happen? Love you Jo!  Thank you buddy!

This class I took with Joey L. (one of my favorite people to look for inspiration from) was a total catalyst to leaving behind the benefits and turning towards something deeper.  I remember he told me.. it's not like you are gonna starve in this country.  You're going to be fine.  What's the worst that can happen? Love you Jo!  Thank you buddy!

How To Have The Biggest Fiddle Fig On The Block
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Whenever someone comes over to my house they exclaim, 

“That is the happiest fiddle fig I have ever seen!” 

And, it’s true. 

Our lil’ babe here was purchased when she was a mere 2.5 feet tall, costing us a meager $29.95 at our corner nursery.  

But, now? 

The ol’ gal is towering at 13 feet tall. Her head is resting against the top of our vaulted ceiling. If we had brought her home at her current size, we would have paid top dollar for the very same plant.  

But, alas, you too can purchase a little squirt and attain these same results by following my easy steps.

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1)   Pick a good one.

Goes without saying, but ensure with your local nursery employee that you’re buying a healthy plant.  

2)   Find a nursery with a money-back guarantee.

My nursery has a money-back guarantee where if your plant comes home with you and dies within 30 days, they will replace it--no questions asked. 

I love this! The worst thing you could do is bring home some chem-sprayed plant that is on her way out and, despite all the love you put into her, watch all that money and time go to waste.

3)   Re-pot that ish!

Your fiddle fig will only get as tall as your ambitions (and pot) let it.  

I had to do a little bit of convincing in order to persuade my husband to allow me to get a pot the size, and weight, of a small child; BUT, I am SO happy that I did! 

Re-planting the fig into an established pot, rather than confining it to the plastic container it came in, gave the roots plenty of space to spread out. 

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DO:

Start at the base of the pot by first, adding a layer of gravel; then, bark; and, finally, add a good layer of rich soil. Now, replant your fig into the pot, filling sides with soil you do not cover the exposed roots on the top as this may smother the plant.  Fiddle figs are a fickle little fannies.

4)   Water much? 

I am pretty sure that most people can’t keep their fiddles alive because they are drowning them. 

Which is no one’s fault! 

The fiddle fig’s irrigation is a finicky situation and I have the solution. 

DO:

Feel the soil to see if it’s dry to the touch, making sure it’s NOT completely dried out. Then, fill in one of these Japanese water pots with 3.5 cups of water. Feed yo’ girl. Say, “thank you.” And, repeat in another 4-5 days. 

The trick is to have well-drained soil without keeping it saturated. That’s what the gravel base on the bottom of the pot provides :)

5)   Let there be light.

   Fiddle figs rely upon a bright room. 

HOWEVER, be wary of the following enemies

  • direct baking hot afternoon sun
  • drafts from air conditioners and open doors
  • low humidity environments

6)    Fish and poop you say?

The best kept secret to supplementing Arnold Schwarzenegger-like growth for your fiddle fig is:  

A mixture of one capful of fish and poop fertilizer + a gallon of water that is poured into the pot once a year. 

We did this after we repotted our plant into the bigger pot and I swear it grew 5 feet in just 3 months! Since the leaves are pretty permanent, you can look at them like a histogram of the plant's health.  If you go down the stalk you can even see the giant paddle leaves that changed in size after we fertilized. The name of the product I use is Fish & Gauno

A little stinky fish and poop does a fiddle fig good. 

Can’t wait to hear how your fiddle figs blossom to new heights! 


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Melissa GayleComment
How To Make Your Own Living Fern Wall
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I have always been a long time admirer of those epic living walls!  It’s my secondary goal in life to live in a space that feels like the living breathing outdoors, my primary goal being to live in the actual outdoors.  Perhaps it is that connection to nature in all of us that craves this sort of jungalow vibe. 

Wooly pockets, an awesome product, were a bit too far out of my price range at a whopping 40 bucks a pop.. to get the look I was going for would cost an arm and a leg.  So, when I came across this abandoned bed frame on the corner of my street my creative cogs started to spin! I improvised this makeshift fern wall and have maintained it for the past few years.  Today, I wanted to share with you guys how I put it together.

Materials:

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  • An old bed frame or something you have crafted yourself
  • 2 big bags of supermoss
  • 5 Gallon Bucket
  • Dykes
  • Wire cutting gloves
  • Floral wire
  • Heavy gauge wire 16g
  • Small holed chicken wire (1 “ about 50 yards)
  • 1 bag of potting soil
  • A variety of ferns, plants or succulents
  • Osmacote fertilizer

The Set Up (Building Your Frame Out)

The first thing you need to do is find the framework of your living wall or build it yourself.  The structure of this old bed frame worked super well because it already had the depth built in to it but this is where you will need to be creative yourself.  What can you repurpose to build your pockets into?  Keep your eyes peeled and just make sure that whatever you choose doesn’t have a bunch of nasty chemicals sprayed on it.  Remember that this will be the home of living things and whatever you use will get wet and leech into your plant’s water.

Next, I used a roll of smaller holed chicken wire, a pair of dykes, and nice thick pair of gloves to begin assembling my pockets.  Using a staple gun, I affixed my wire in panels as wide as the pockets to the back of the wooden frame, shaping and bending the wire forward to become the front of the pocket and squeezing it together on the sides.  I made sure to fold the front of the pocket over one time before securing it down.  That way the front edge of the pocket wouldn’t be a sharp, unfinished edge of pokey wire.

After completing this in all square holes of my bed frame I took a strong wire with a pliable gauge and reinforced all of the pockets.  This part is crucial.  These pockets will need to hold a lot of weight once you fill them with moss, soil and watered plants; so to be sure not to skimp on the enforcing here.  More is good, too much is the right amount here.

Lining the Pockets

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Awesome! The hard part is over.  Ya done good. Great time to take a break and continue on to phase two.. filling your wire pockets with supermoss.

I purchased my supermoss from the nursery.  Make sure you don’t buy craft moss which can be painted and nasty and filled with chemicals.  You want to ask your local nursery what they use for planters and get that.  I used two big bags for this project so scale up or down depending on the amount of space you need to cover.  I bought mine local after searching the internet far and wide.  I'll add a photo of the brand I recommend.  It's called

Soak the moss in a 5 gallon bucket filled with water a couple of handfuls at a time and begin removing the soaked moss and molding it into small sheet like handfuls.  Press the moss into the inside of the basket and line the whole pocket from the inside out. This lining will be the barrier to protect your soil from escaping and retain the moisture fr your plants so don’t skimp on it!  Make sure you’ve got a nice thick lining for your new plant wall.

Planting

After you have finished lining your wall you are ready for the fun part! It’s time to plant!  You will want to go to the nursery and have a good conversation with your local gardener.  I always like to take a lot of iPhone photos of the area I will be putting my plants in and give them an idea of the sun and how it will hit.  This will help you get plants for you wall that will thrive. Grab some potting soil and start filling your pockets 1/3 of the way with dirt, then placing your plants in one by one varying the plants based on color variety and size.  Make sure to plant at an angle here so your plants can grow outward.  I stuck with ferns and tropical mixes.  I love the pockets that just have one big plant (because they are so easy) but a few little ones added in add for great texture.

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Let The Love Grow

With time all things grow better.  And so it goes with a living wall.  Some things will die, some things will thrive.  You will go on vacation (or have a baby) and one day ALL of it will die and you will have to replant! ;) But that is the joy.  I have learned a little bit as I have gone with it, pulling the plants that struggle and touching up the moss and soil here and there.  So have fun with it!  Can’t wait to see what you put together!

Note: About 6 months down the road you can sprinkle some Osmacote onto your wall to fertilize it once the plants have established themselves.  This will give everyone a nice little boost!

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Taft Point
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Taft Point is a quick trip that can be accomplished in an hour and a half. The only nuance to getting to the edge of this epic lookout is knowing when to go when no one else will be there. I did not want to spoil that liberating feeling of being a speck in nature without the distraction of tourists reminding me otherwise. Which is why Josh, our buddy, Winberg, and myself decided to hit the trail at the first light of day to check it out.

As most of my adventures tend to start, this trip was most definitely impromptu. I had just finished a wedding in Carmel at Holly Farm, and was struggling to fall asleep in the back of my van (being pregnant does not allow any bladder to participate in the blissful memory that is a full night’s sleep). So, when dawn hit the horizon, my eyes burst open, energizing my heart with the prospect of; first, a cup of coffee, and, second; a trip into Yosemite to acquire a camping permit during the peak of summer.

I arrived at the park 4 hours later with my windows down and old-school Beyoncé blasting as loud as my speakers would allow me (not very loud). I rolled into that divinely lit office, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, when the record skipped and music stopped. 

Stand here. Wait in lineEnter the lottery and, hopefully, (HA HA) one of these rare cancellations will get rewritten with your name on it.” 

I was involuntarily stalled until further notice, enduring the wait in the parking lot kicking acorns around in the dust, which do nothing to lend to the time passing more quickly. But, I would not give in, rather, utilizing my ample time in the lot to devise a plan(and people watch all of the goofy tourists on their selfie sticks): Winberg and my husband would pop on over after their work trip to camp with me for the night. Surely the universe would allow me this tiny one other request in addition to being permitted, right?

Wrong.  

The ranger circled us up like kids at a summer camp and begin shouting out names. As each one was said I had the hope as assurance that mine would be next. As she announced the last name on the list, mine of which it wasn’t, and the reality I had been actively avoiding set in. My eyes fell and my tail dropped between my legs. But, this ranger wasn’t your run of the mill, authoritarian, Ron Swanson type. She happened to steal a glance, covering her mouth with an old cardboard clipboard as she leaned in towards me, and in a hush, spoke out the side of her mouth. 

 “Listen, you know you can have 2 cars per site? Go over to that campground and make friends with someone over there. You can’t offer them any money, but there’s plenty of room for you over there for one night.”  

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 What a gem!

  And this is the secret code of the outdoor folk.  There is always room to spare for a new friend; so long as you can contribute a friendly smile, a beer, and a good story.

 I marched away, beaming with content, as I usually am, despite running on a slim shred of hope. I popped in the van, scanning for any common denominator across the rows of the campgrounds. With very little to go off, I began scoping out other VW’s when I came across one with a micro-sized tent. I hopped out, not really thinking too hard about what to say, letting gall guide me.

 “Hey! So, I know this is really random and weird, but, I didn’t score a permit today, and have nowhere to go. The ranger said its cool if I ask to split the site with someone, and, I’m wondering, since we both are VW lovers, if I could share the site with you guys for the night…?”

 “Sure thing,” said the sweet couple, “but, we already have 2 cars. You’re gonna have to ask our neighbor. She’s out for a hike, but she’s all alone. She’ll probably be cool with it.”  

 Hmm.

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I smiled politely, excusing myself to wait in the car, so I could think…  

 Hover over this lady’s campsite until she returns, which could be after dark, and explain how her neighbors said I could probably fit in her space, not to mention that I had two men that would show up at some time to cram in there as well…?

 Not ideal, but, it could work. 

 I left my van in front of her site, so I could search for cell reception and alert the boys of the newest version of the plan.

But, not too long into my walk, I realized that I had somehow walked in the direction of the permit office! 

Wait, what?

Did the universe call me here? 

The angel of a ranger noticed me through the doors, giving me the “come hither” nod. 

“Hey. I actually think I have a permit for you. Some people on the list just dropped out. Just get in line.”  

Hollaaaaaa! 

I skipped into my place in line, and, before long, BAM! I was the proud recipient of the last permit in all of the Yosemite Valley Floor on a temperately-weathered summer’s day! I picked up the van, driving it over to our private campsite just as the boys arrived. 

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The next morning we arose before the sun, packing up camp early so we could head to the Taft Point trailhead. And, in alignment with the whole of our experience, the weather had slid into the opposite side of the scale: it was freezing. Freezing so much that we did not stroll, we ran down the trail, passing by the massive rock slide that had taken place earlier that week at El Cap. You could still see the scar of it upon the mountainside as we reached the end of the trail and watched the sun rise… relishing in my favorite thing to do: being present amongst the epic outdoors with myself, my peeps, and nature doing her thing. 

I cannot bring myself to fully appreciate nature otherwise; muddled by humanity making itself known to nature with its mass quantities, rancorous noise, and selfie sticks. We politely snapped a few memories before the edge of the granite cliff, swallowing back the sensation of my stomach dropping into my feet, before turning back into the tunnel of reality. 

As I mentioned before, I was pregnant then; maybe 7 months or so? It’s hard to recall. But, remembering this day now, I am warmed by the thought that our daughter was there with us—sleeping in the car, walking the trail with mom and dad, rising with the sun, and being suspended over the edge of a cliff—all from the safety of my tummy. I am so eager to bring her with us on our next outdoor escapade because I cannot wait to watch her eyes as she takes the grandeur of our planet in for the first time.

If you want to try this hike for yourself, here is a link on where to park to start at the trail head Sentinel Dome & Taft Point

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“The Risk” of Traveling With a Newborn

“The risk” of travelling with a newborn

Reminiscing

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Traveling with our little baby girl has been a totally positive experience; however, no one would’ve guessed that I would’ve turned into this confident mama had you chatted with me a mere 6 months ago… 

 

I was having a conversation with a close girlfriend—the free spirited, cool chick—as we sat in all of our pregnant glory, ceremoniously scarfing down cheeseburgers while pondering our fates. She had recently returned from a hippy-dippy, mind clearing workshop where people had shared their heaviest fears about motherhood. These gals had gone through it all—i.e. miscarriages, health issues—the real shit that’s worth fretting over. 

 

Caught in the candor brought on by the contemplation of fear mixed with the inspiration of becoming a mom, I had to ask: 

 

“Candace, what’s your biggest fear about all of this?” 

 

She replied in her laidback, Laguna Beach steez, elongating the first part of the sentence before seamlessly transitioning into a more serious tone. 

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“I’m not reeeeeeeeally an emotional person. But, I am totally afraid I won’t be able to do anything ever again!” 

 

Oh, hold up. 

 

I couldn’t believe that we were rowing the same selfish boat of all that we would be losing in the face of all the love we would be gaining with these new lives growing in our bellies! 

 

“THAT’S MY BIGGEST FEAR, TOO!!!”  

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Don’t you love these friends? These friends that validate your humanity. It makes this journey so much easier when you can bond with the people who resonate with how you feel. Like, Candace; we are both sojourners. And, the only thing that poisons our spirit is the looming shadow of stagnation. But, that’s also why fear associated with anticipation is so useless. Once we get to the other side of the future, and we’re inhabiting the moment we had been trying to imagine, it’s nothing like what our minds had fretfully made it out to be. Nothing is ever as scary as we think it could be, which I know to be true since all those hesitations—how my precious newborn and I would navigate the reality of my soul’s mission (to travel)—dissolved as soon as I first held Winter in my arms.  

 

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I didn’t want there to be any boundaries between who I am and what my child “could” or “should” be able to handle. I didn’t want to regret not including her in what strikes my soul ablaze. I didn’t want to teach her that other people can impose limitations on you by what they say.

 

Only you can determine what is true for you. 

 

Thus, at only 4 months strong, Winter has already been on 5 airplanes. 

 

I know… I know… She’s a rock star, which is why I am sharing this with all of you...  

 

Word to the newDo not internalize the horrified faces of your audience when you reveal your plans to tote your newborn on a plane during flu season. 

 

InsteadRemember that there are newborn babies who also live in all of these places you will be visiting. 

 

I am aware that newborns have a lower tolerance for germs due to their maturating immune systems; but, I also think we make it a lot bigger deal than it needs to be. With a dose of caution, careful hand washing, and a positive mindset, you will have done most of the work having survived the germ bank that is the airport. The only other part is tuning out fear while it spits smack trying to convince you otherwise. 

 

My evolution of joy

 

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” -Lao Tzu 

 

Going on an adventure with family and making it simple can be a reality. You just have to decide what you want it to look like and believe that it will happen. 

 

Since my whole outlook on life is joyous, why should doing the thing that makes me the happiest bring me anything less than that? 

 

Thus, travelling with my family has been nothing short of a symphony of bliss. There were just minor shifts I had to make; such as, substituting hipster hideouts for family friendly, well-groomed hotels that ensure clean water, and a friendly staff that allowed behind the bar to use their to sink and wash our baby bottles out.  

 

Not only that, travelling has allowed me to recapture a bit of myself again. 

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As a mother, I now understand what it means to have “no time;” most of all, for yourself. Having a free hand to read a book, or do something recreational is rare. But, somehow, traveling is filling that void. All of a sudden, the duties of a baby against the backdrop of a destination makes me feel like a more present mother than a hurried mess. Maybe it’s because I shed all of my habitual scenery that is what lends to the mess feeling amplified—the laundry, the feeding, the plants to water, the emails, the naptime… Thus, maybe mothers are only messes because we are forgetting about ourselves while we are constantly giving to others. Needless to say, this past trip has reaffirmed travel’s potent effects upon me. Its therapeutic benefits have reminded me of all the gratitude I hold in my heart for my job, my daughter, my husband, my mother, and the time we’ve carved out to just be together for the sake of the free flowing love that is family.

 

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To create the same feeling of ease while travelling, I have assembled a list below for travel items/tips I’ve gained along the way. Because, one thing is for sure, being minimal is the right move! 

 

I hope that my reflective feedback helps inspire you to take a special trip with your little one, whether it be on a road trip or flying to another country, because the reward undeniably outweighs “the risk.” 

 

PACKING LIST

  • Stroller- These are great to carry your bags even if you are wearing the baby bring this to the gate and then gate check it once you get there.

  • Stroller Bags- We found that we really like the ones that Southwest Airlines sells for 18 bucks.  They are huge and are way better than the one made for the BOB. You can check your car seat and base right when you get to the curb.
  • Backpack Diaper bag- When it comes to traveling a plain old backpack is the key.  No one needs a fancy purse.  You need something that you can put on your shoulders and not take up valuable real estate on your arms.
  • Portable Breast Pump- I have the Medela Freestyle.  I couldn't recommend this product any more for an on-the-go mom.  I pump in my car when I drive sometimes! I bring a separate bag for the pump and parts & cooler or milk. The Medela pump comes with a tiny square soft sided cooler.  We carry all of the pump parts and bottles in one bag with a bottle scrubber and keep all of her feeding stuff together.  Don't forget your pump charger!!!
  • Mom Shoes- You know what I'm sayin?!  Slip ons but closed toed.  Nice and wide.. good for security but warm on the airplane.  I have these ones from UGG.  Ulukai also makes a great pair that is a bit wider.
  • Neck Pillow for the airplane- Our neck pillow literally says keep away from infants but I use it to prop under my arm on the airplane and support my wrist that is holding the babies neck while she sleeps or during feeding.  Super clutch!
  • Pacifiers- You will need them for when the airplane takes off and descends to aid the babies ear pressure.  It's also good to reserve a bottle of milk or nurse through this.  You may need to help keep your little babe awake and make sure that the pressure doesn't build.
  • An Extra Bottle or Two of Milk- So you aren’t scrambling. Always nice to have a little serving of milk on hand for a stressful situation. Am I right?  No one like to be hangry AND traveling.  Including your little baby!
  • Circle Cut Sweater- Love my these sweaters.  They just drape over my boob and serves as an extra blanket for the baby.
  • Changing Pad- Bring a little one in your diaper bag for the changing table in the airplane bathroom.  Those rooms are high use!  Wipe down with a baby wipe before putting baby on there
  • Tip Cash- Treat yo' self and check your bags right when you get to the curb if you can.  You will breeze right to security.  Just bring a couple bucks to tip the guys.
  • Hand sanitizer- Though we dont really believe in this stuff we make the exception when flying with Winter.  No strangers allowed to touch the kid and use the hand sanitizer/ avoid touching surfaces yourself.
  • Car Seat Cover- It can double as a privacy blanket when the baby is brand new to keep loving onlookers from reaching their grubby hands into your kids carseat.
  • Ergo Carrier- Getting through security you have to take the baby out.  We have the Ergo.  I really loved it for those early trips because she just passed out in there and it was very germ free and contained.
  • Normal Diaper Bag Stuff- burp cloths, favorite toys, diapers, wipes, an extra change of clothes, socks and something warm, a beanie
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TIPS

  •  The #1 thing is extra time: if you are a cut it close at the airport type... don't be!  Allow yourself plenty of time to make it an enjoyable experience
  • ID- Babies don’t need ID but make sure you call the airline and tell them you have a lap child.  If you are traveling internationally you will need a passport!  Get baby passport early if you intend to travel out of the country.  These little guys are good for 5 years!  So funny that winter will have a baby picture on her 5 year old passport.
  • The Extra Seat- If you ask at the gate, and your flight is not full, they an give you an extra seat for your carseat and you won’t have to check the bag with the carseat in it.
  • Grandma Love- An extra set of hands to move your things through is crucial.  I travel with a whole bag of camera gear that also has to go through security.  Having my mom with me has been a wonderful addition because we get to travel together and she knows what all of the babies needs are and can hold the extra bags while josh and I do logistics.  Plus it's so nice to get to share memories with her!
  • Travel Documents- Put your travel documents and wallet into your diaper bag, zip it up (less is more).  Carrying a purse in addition to everything is not necessary.  If you need a purse on the other side just put it into your checked bag...
  • UBER- Make sure you order the extra large uber for your extra stuff!
  • Don’t forget your car seat base!
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For The Other Side

  • iPhone Cable & Charger- Bring one for your rental car to play your pre-downloaded Spotify playlists.  Pro tip: Make a playlist of sleep sounds or lullabys too.  You won't regret being able to pump those sweet melodic jams as you explore.
  • Sound machine- Your baby is used to his or her own little nursery sounds.  Having a sound machine is like brining a little piece of home with you in the hotel room.
  • iPhone/nest cam- We don't do this but some people like having a baby cam.  I have a Nest at home so I think if you have your baby in another room and are used to that it may be good to bring to set up in your air bnb.  We have also had friends call each other on face time and leave one phone in the room with the baby as a makeshift monitor in a pinch.
  • Travel Size Baby Soap- Just took a little bit of her soap and put it into my toiletries that way the harsh hotel soap won't dry her skin.  We packed a portable tub once (totally not necessary unless you are doing a road trip) instead we just wash her in the shower with us.
  • Bottle Warmer- again we don't use one but something to consider bringing if you are used to one.  We just ask restaurants for hot water and heat bottles that way.
  • Travel Dish Soap- For washing baby bottles in the hotel sink.  You probably won't need this if you are going to an Airbnb or place with a restaurant but doesn't hurt to have it and a bottle brush.
  • Sleeping/ Cradle- Make sure to think about your sleeping arrangements, many hotels can offer you a crib…  We  packed a little co-sleeper to Hawaii which was nice.  Every family does this part different.  I sleep with Winter on my chest in the extra double queen bed but I know this isn't for everyone.  

 

 

THE GOODS

Easy Breezy Baja California Surfer Wedding
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Jesse and Caito wanted a simple wedding, with a small group of essential friends and family. The main priority? Hours in the surf and sun. I dragged Josh down the Baja coast with me to enjoy the magical union of these two star crossed lovers. We had a time, the kind of time that only grows fonder in memory as I look back at the trip and makes me wish I was right back in the moment.  
 
Josh and I knew we were off to a great start when we ditched our airbnb after wandering into the Todos Santos Inn, staying for a drink in their bar to watch the world series and then deciding to never leave. This hotel was a magical discovery, the old chipping brick walls were covered in vines and plants and layers of paint. The staff invited us in like family. Beautiful architecture and some of the most amazing and fresh sushi I have ever consumed at this spot! Truly a gem! 
 
We hit the dirt road the next afternoon for mid day surf for Josh and to meet with with Caito & Jesse (the bride and groom to be). I was still not allowed to go into the water since I was still recovering from being hit by a car a month and a half before. TORTURE! But we got out to the beach. The landscape was so flat and monochrome, it was beautiful like someone had taken a paint brush and painted 2 horizontal lives on a canvas. One the color of sand and one the color of the sea. 
 
Josh proceeded to mosh out too far up the beach, not heading my warnings of getting stuck in the sand. Well...we got stuck in the sand. Baja road trip checklist- CHECK. Oye! Well I do believe the photos speak for themselves. The journey was amazing and as you can see these two humans embody what I love and mean when I say "Photographer for Adventurous Souls." Jesse and Caito... here's to you! I love the way you do the things you do. You are creative, talented, deep living souls and I'm so happy I was chosen to capture your wedding week.

There’s nothing better than surf, sand, and waves… Well, maybe one thing, and that’s when tacos, churros, margaritas and tons of dancing are thrown into the mix! Caito + Jesse wanted their day to be easy + breezy; when they started to plan, they both asked each other, “What have we loved and disliked about weddings we’ve attended?” Based on that, they had a pretty clear answer to what was important to them, and their planner, Gaby Cobián, made helped make it happen.

 
 

Caito shares Some of it was logistical, like the wedding without assigned seating that left everyone wandering around awkwardly trying to figure out where to sit. Other parts were ideological like maintaining a strictly secular ceremony. And the best parts were just a reflection of what we love in this world — sun, beach, surfing, tacos, smiles, outer space, close friends and family. The most natural part was the style and design of the wedding as we are both artists and designers — we simply started creating what felt right.

With driftwood accents, shells, stones, and bones, C+J headed down to Baja California with their closest friends + family for one raging good time… And we mean raging — their reception turned into a surprise pool party! Let’s explore Pachamama, on the shores of Mexico.

Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.- Carl Sagan
 
 
  There were so many great things about having our wedding in Mexico… Amazing food, a beautiful empty beach, warm fun waves. But the best part was having all of our favorite people on vacation with us and giving everyone the opportunity to get to know each other. Everyone was so relaxed and friendly by the time the wedding came around.

There were so many great things about having our wedding in Mexico… Amazing food, a beautiful empty beach, warm fun waves. But the best part was having all of our favorite people on vacation with us and giving everyone the opportunity to get to know each other. Everyone was so relaxed and friendly by the time the wedding came around.

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 How cool is Caito’s two-piece wedding dress?! It’s by none other than  Grace Loves Lace .

How cool is Caito’s two-piece wedding dress?! It’s by none other than Grace Loves Lace.

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 We’re diggin’ this floral tie + linen suit from  ASOS  (perfect for the beach wedding, might we add).

We’re diggin’ this floral tie + linen suit from ASOS (perfect for the beach wedding, might we add).

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  OUR MUSICAL CHOICES    Processional:  Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles   Recessional:  Alive by Empire of the Sun   First Dance:  Say My Name by Odesza (feat. Zyra)

OUR MUSICAL CHOICES

Processional: Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles

Recessional: Alive by Empire of the Sun

First Dance: Say My Name by Odesza (feat. Zyra)

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  OUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THE WEDDING   Jesse: I was suited and ready to marry about 5 hours too early. I just remember hanging out all prepped drinking a Sculpin in the hot sun while glowing with excitement.  Caito: Dancing on Jesse's shoulders in the pool! The ceremony was romantic, the sunset was spectacular, the speeches heartfelt, but the pool party during the reception was so unexpectedly and outrageously FUN!

OUR FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THE WEDDING

Jesse: I was suited and ready to marry about 5 hours too early. I just remember hanging out all prepped drinking a Sculpin in the hot sun while glowing with excitement.

Caito: Dancing on Jesse's shoulders in the pool! The ceremony was romantic, the sunset was spectacular, the speeches heartfelt, but the pool party during the reception was so unexpectedly and outrageously FUN!

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 How darling are these painted rocks and driftwood used as centerpieces?

How darling are these painted rocks and driftwood used as centerpieces?

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 Be sure to check out their sweet video by  Melissa Fuller Photography  below…

Be sure to check out their sweet video by Melissa Fuller Photography below…

And for a final few parting words from this darling couple, “We offered beer, wine and margaritas — we ran out of tequila three times… Make sure you have enough alcohol and the party will last all night long!”

 

 

venue namePachamama, MX, Mexico // event design: Bride and Groom // planningGaby Cobián // wedding dress: Grace Loves Lace // videography: Melissa Fuller Photography // paper goods: Bride and Groom // calligraphy: Bride and Groom // handmade details: Bride and Groom // catering: Compa Chava, El Poblanito // desserts: churros by Pachamama // popsicles: Paletería La Paloma

Baby Winter's Nursery
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Definition of NEST: 

 

(1)a person’s snug or secluded retreat or shelter

 

Like the good mama bird I am, I went out into the world, scouting for elements of comfort, aesthetics, and stability to weave into the perfect combination for Winter’s nook of a nursery. Through this process of collecting, I realized that the value of nesting goes beyond a monetary budget. Nesting is not replicating a photo in a magazine; rather, it is the cultivation of a sacred space. One day, I’ll look back and remember the countless nights awake in this room, nursing this human with liquid strength, witnessing her evolution from seedling into the essence of all that she is meant to become.  

 

Weirdly, one of the my biggest preoccupations during my pregnancy was to not fall into the trap of mindless consumerism. I went through a rough patch of worry that I would be letting down Mother Earth by further contributing to a planet plagued by excessive consumerism, and its unamendable byproduct of unconscious waste. The baby industry is a repeat surplus offender, ranging from the justifiable—buying new products for safety reasons—to the superficial—the countless number of disposable diapers a child will inevitably go through. 

 

It was my goal to inherit as much as we could before investing in anything new. Thus, the décor in Winter’s room is far from the sterile shine of matching accessories; rather, a current of wisdom runs through every artifact that adorns her room:

A painting from our wedding.  This was gifted to us and painted from a favorite photo from the day we were engaged.

An old sheepskin rug I had laying around.  

A hand me down beautiful restoration hardware crib Keira who just raised twin girls.

PICTURES of her dad and grandma!  I hear that filling your home with photos of the people you love is good for relationships because you get a little endorphin high when you see them.  So get to printing folks!

Re-gifted clothes from my niece.   The amount of baby clothes to buy is staggering.  Instead I am trying to purchase the special things I love and take only the necessities as hand me downs.  Winter really only does wear the same two little bamboo outfits that my friend Chandra bought her anyways!  Comfort wins! 

A print from Laura Berger.  A female artist who creates these beautiful whimsical simple figures.  I love her work for a little girl's room.  The scenes represent women in such a unique way.  Winter's aunt Qianjin go this for me before we were pregnant.  The diverse ladies remind me of my closest girlfriends, standing in a circle... saluting the sun.

 

 

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that I am a new age hippy, spending my days air drying cloth diapers, while weaving leaves into a tunic for Winter to wear. 

 

Rather, it is more of a mindset than an actual lifestyle that I am advocating for here: to repurpose goods for a growing child. Winter will outgrow many items within weeks to months at a time, and seeing as I am an advocate for all things sustainable, I am practicing what I preach.  

 

Because, guess what? 

 

The way the room looks isn’t as important as it feels

 

It was one of the first weeks after Winter’s arrival home. 

 

It was about two in the morning as I gazed upon her angelic face, a stark difference from the mixed expressions of nursing and crying from a mere 30 minutes prior. In the profound silence, marked by a sleeping baby in the middle of the night, realization set in. 

 

         “Oh my god. This is really happening.” 

 

My heart was overcome with warmth and awe for this living proof of the word, “grace,” that is a child. 

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I'm obsessed with this daybed!  It's the one thing I bought and it used bt me everyday sleeping in the room with Winter.  With a newborn you really don't know what your sleep routine will be until baby comes.  Well, this thing has been a total lifesaver.  I like that it is low to the ground so that if she ever did fall out (heaven forbid) it wouldn't be from too high up.  Also it is at the same height as her Rocker so I can easily grab her in and out of bed in the middle of the night.  Plus it's super cute! 

 Found this piece of wood and Josh made a coat rack from it.  It been super useful to dry towles, milky burp cloths.. even swaddles with spit up.

Found this piece of wood and Josh made a coat rack from it.  It been super useful to dry towles, milky burp cloths.. even swaddles with spit up.

 Nursery necessity: A humidifier!  Learned this lesson the hard way!

Nursery necessity: A humidifier!  Learned this lesson the hard way!

 Gifted Art from my friend Roanne.

Gifted Art from my friend Roanne.

Hiking Mt. Whitney
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The Prologue

I’ve been waiting to hike Mt. Whitney for three years. What took me so long, you say?

Couldn’t I get my shit together and just do it, you groan? 

Well, it’s not that simple. Actually, it’s not simple at all because as is the case for most adventures worth proceeding towards- the website for the permit is just too damn wordy to figure out. So, I had to do my “she scout” part on the back end: researching blogs by people who had already done the work to learn that I don’t just get to add my name to a uniform list and wait my turn. 

No. 

I would have to emit strong Sagittarius optimist vibes and manifest winning a permit lottery. I had the technical stuff on lock: register by January 31st (done) and enlist the attendance of guaranteed travel companions (convince friends to take a sick day: check). The rest was up to fate to determine whether this Southern California girl would get her digs up that 14,505 foot mountain, a 17-hour stomp up the front and back of majestic curves that called my name. 

And, the destined day arrived. I ripped into my inbox to receive the good news. 

“Dear Customer, 

We are sorry to inform you that your application to Mt Whitney Lottery 2016 was not successful.”

How does the saying go?… “Well shit!” 

Assigned ticket: tough luck. 

Adventurous souls to accompany my spirited ascent: drop-outs. 

But, I wouldn’t let my inner flame extinguish. I couldn’t; it’s not in my nature. My tired and true approach to getting what I want is effort, patience, and all the persistence stored in my reserves. So, instead of deflating me, the rejection jumpstarted me. 

    “Maybe I’ll just go alone,” I ruefully remarked to my husband Josh. 

It didn’t take even two seconds for Josh to respond: 

    “We’ll make it happen.” 

You see, Josh was worried about me hitting the trail alone (and, rightfully so).  There are many things that can go amiss on a hike that long, and Josh was tuned in.  

In hindsight: I highly recommend going with a buddy now because, in case of an emergency, you need someone there who can catch your back (literally). Plus, in true Christopher McCandless style: “Happiness is only real when shared.” 

The Adventure

A little known fact is that the permit office actually issues a limited amount of day-use permits based upon who hasn’t shown up for their permit day. Seeing as I was in-between photo jobs, and had a couple days to fill, I headed north to show fate who was boss. The rejects and last minute hopefuls (like me) are issued a number at the Lone Pine permit office, patiently awaiting for the moment when rangers begin calling those numbers at 2 pm, issuing each group leader the available number of permits until they run out.  

Lucky me. I was handed ticket numero uno, snagging a permit, and called up Josh, who was waiting on call with our other buddy Wills. 

    “It’s on boys! Get in the car and drive yourselves to Lone Pine!”  

Without any advance notice—and Wills’ ignorance of the endeavor that is the grueling hike up Mt. Whitney—the guys doubled back from their work mission in LA to make packs for the trip. Meanwhile, I drove up to backpackers’ camp, a small site reserved for those with day-use permits to hang before and after their hike. While pitching my tent and roping my hammock, I couldn’t help but notice the achieved hikers returning from their descent. Little did these exhausted hikers know that each of them were contestants on my Mt. Whitney trivia show.

    “Was it hard?

How windy was it?

What gear am I missing?

How long did it take you?

What time did you leave in the morning?”  

I was scavenging the useful intel that the Internet couldn’t tell me; the sorts of facts that sway with the weather forecast.

By the end of a few hours, I had enough info to form our plan before setting up camp, awaiting the boys’ arrival behind me. I casually phoned them to pick up the few necessities that we were definitely going to need like warm gloves and warmer layers, also inserting that even though they would be arriving in the middle of the night, that we would be making a 1:30 am departure to head up the hill.

I laid in my tent, waiting for the sight of headlights through the transparent edges, far too anxious to get any good sleep. The boys arrived just as I had finally tapped into the snooze, interrupting my submission to the overpowering flow of exhaustion. Josh crawled into our tent, while Wills cozied into his Prius, and the night passed almost instantly into morning. We assembled our gear, meeting a few others from the campsite, as we embarked upon the path to The Portal, across the 22 miles that laid ahead.

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 First light hitting the mountains.  Such a graceful sight.

First light hitting the mountains.  Such a graceful sight.

One of the coolest thing about backpacking with your close friends is that you are pinned in by conversation without any outside stimulation to dictate your conversation. Meaning, a conversation can last hours. I mean, when was the last time your boyfriend or best friend and you literally spent sixteen hours talking to each other while immersed in nature? It is the only refuge that allows you to cover it all: some silliness, a touch of politics, stretches of silence, ridiculous made-up games to pass the time, and recurring inside jokes that evolve along the span of the terrain. 

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This was Whitney’s precious gift: time alone with friends, the remedy to the mental blocks created out of the discomfort of a physical challenge. At times, when I literally thought I had reached the end of my rope, I would look ahead to see Josh and Wills a few steps in front of me, providing a friendly, motivating reminder. 

    “I just need to get to there; where he is… I can do that. Yeah. I can do this.”

With the sun rising on our backs, we had arrived just below the lake. We reoriented ourselves towards the sun, snacking on our well deserved bars as we witnessed day break. The rocks behind us slowly illuminated as if the sun had been lifting the curtain upon Earth’s stage, revealing the future to us: 99 switchbacks along nature’s edge. By then, we were at the whim of the elements—direct sunlight that could not overpower the chill of the altitude winds—as we approached what I refused to consider doom to my spindly little legs. 

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 The view from the last of the switchbacks to the top of the mountain's crest.

The view from the last of the switchbacks to the top of the mountain's crest.

About 20 minutes in, I was confidently reassuring the others:  

“See! These switchbacks aren’t so bad!” 

Wait. No.

WRONG. 

So wrong! 

I was so wrong, wrong, wrong! 

Fake news. 

I gave it another 20 minutes before asking folks who were on their way down if we were almost there. 

They just laughed at me. I was not pleased with them.

And, surprisingly, the 99 switchbacks weren’t the worst part. Looking upon the visible miles traveled to make it to altitude, one of the friends I had made in the parking lot at backpackers’ camp shared with me the story of him and his girl Whitney. Supposedly, out of the 26 (yes, 26!) times he had speed-hiked the trail, five of the times he could not proceed past this point because of altitude sickness. Although training and hydration are absolute necessities, there is not a failsafe trick to avoiding altitude sickness. He slapped me on the back before getting up to continue pushing on. 

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 Trail Crest!

Trail Crest!

I had to scramble out of what he said, evading the chance that I may not finish, calling upon my optimism; but, by the last two miles, my will no longer had the strength to carry me through.

The only thing that kept me going was an older woman that passed us going the opposite way. I had taken a break upon on a rock, seriously questioning whether I had it in me, when she graciously paused to raise my spirits. 

  “Just keep going, one foot in from of the other. I felt just like that an hour ago; you’re almost there!”  

  “Yaaasss lady yassss!” cried my inner spirit, who knew how much it meant to accomplish this feat that I had waited so long to make my reality. 

I peeled myself from the rock to finish the last stretch of hike, an area of encompassing vastness that makes you feel like a speck of an ant on a pile of shale. Each step carried the pronounced weight of motivation, every gain felt seemingly endless until we finally reached the top. 

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SPOILER ALERT: 

Well, there ain’t much to see at the top of our girl Whitney, folks. Yes, it is beautiful.. undoubtedly so at 14k + feet.

However, I hate to break it to you, but, not only do the views of Half Dome trump Whitney, they are easier to get to than Whitney, too! 

But, boy oh boy, did I feel like I accomplished something!

 The most valuable takeaway I’ve gained from backpacking is that someone else can bring you to the base of the journey, but only you can take yourself to the top. 

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 Taking a break in the summit house before heading down.

Taking a break in the summit house before heading down.

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Remember, how I said earlier that I always get what I want, and when I don’t, I ensure that I will? 

Well, Mt. Whitney taught me a lesson: that some things we want are harder than we assume they will be. 

Most often I can muster the self-confidence necessary to get me through anything—i.e. leaving Pixar, putting an offer in on a house, even becoming a mother through the unexpected events of a C-section—but, this? This was of a different caliber. This challenged me mind, body, and spirit to take myself to a place that wasn’t readily accessible. I didn’t know when I would get there; I didn’t even know if I could. Whitney did something to me; she humbled me. She made me realize that invincibility is foolishness without humility; that that type of strength is called courage.  

If you have any further questions about the trip, I am more than happy to offer more specific insight into my own experience. Below, you can find a preliminary list of things to bring along with some links I couldn’t have done without.

MY ESSENTIALS

  • Canon M5- a small and lightweight (affordable!) mirror-less camera.  Love this one for hiking because it is so portable! the little 22mm lens is a macro and really does the trick.  You can get the adapter and use with all of your EOS lenses.  Plus it has built in WIFI so you can send yourself images to your phone and do edits on the spot.

  • REI Quarter Dome- This tent is my best friend on the trail. No joke.  I have taken it everywhere.  It is SO light and small and easy to set up.  IT fits two fill sized adults no problem.  It’s hands down my favorite backpacking softgood.  Throw this in the tent with your camp stuff before you head up the trail.
  • The Jetboil- Uhhhhhh do you have this? If not you best be gettin it.  This thing is the shit for making backpacking meals, boiling water in 2 minutes flat and now even to clean my breast pumping parts on long trips in the van.   No need necessarily to bring this up the mountain if you are just doing a day hike if you have brought plenty of bars and snacks.
  • Gloves- BRING EM.  The wind is fierce.  Any gloves that wont let the wind penetrate are great. 
  • Layers- I always dress in layers for these sorts of hikes.  I start with sports bra that I can easily wear as a botching but top if I wanna fry my skin and thing go up from there with a light cotton T shirt.  Warm thermal long sleeve and windbreaker.  If you have a warm down layer that folds up real little you can throw that in there too.
  • A Bandana
  • A Water Filter- I like the sawyer water filter system.  It is way lighter than a pump filter.  It is literally just big pouches and a straw you push the water through.  The bigger bags are great because they fill a whole Nalgene
  • Nalgene Water Bottle- for weight purposes I leave my hydro flask at home and opt for a Nalgene and a camelback.  Josh usually wears the camelback and shares with me and I hold a bottle and the filter for the two of us.  I find that having a straw on him at all times really reminds me to drink rather than having to stop and open the water at a break.
  • Sun Glasses
  • A Hat
  • Wikking Comfortable Hiking Socks
  • Fitted Hiking Shoes
  • A Day Pack or Camelback
  • This Trail Map (see above)
  • This Mt. Whitney Guide- I love these little brown books and buy one every-time I am thinking about doing a mountain. It is actually my first step to motivate making it happen.  I just buy it and leave it laying around my living room and gauge interest in anyone who might want to join me on the adventure.
  • Long underwear pants- can be removed when it gets hot
  • Hiking Pants- I like these because they turn into shorts
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Tons of Bars/ Jerkey- I am legit in love with these coconut pro-bars
  • Electrolyte gel blocks- For when you aren’t hungry but need an energy boost
  • Beers- For your car at backpackers camp when you get back!

 

Must Read List:

For an awesome and in depth guide to hiking the trail check out this link which I found to have all of the good info on the more technical details.

The Parks Service Website

A Visual Guide to Mt. Whitney

 

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 Taking a break at the meadows.

Taking a break at the meadows.

 A lonely old pine.

A lonely old pine.

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 Josh and Wills taking a minute right before we head up the last bit.

Josh and Wills taking a minute right before we head up the last bit.

 When you get to the top of the mountains crest you will look over the other side of the mountain and down at Hitchcock and Guitar Lakes.Next you will continue on an pass the Mt. Whitney windows.

When you get to the top of the mountains crest you will look over the other side of the mountain and down at Hitchcock and Guitar Lakes.Next you will continue on an pass the Mt. Whitney windows.

 The sunrise reflecting upon Consultation Lake.  This is the last place to pump water before the big ascent up the switchbacks and to the summit.

The sunrise reflecting upon Consultation Lake.  This is the last place to pump water before the big ascent up the switchbacks and to the summit.

 Official entry to "The Whitney Zone".

Official entry to "The Whitney Zone".

 

 

 

Melissa GayleComment