The Blog

why I do what I do . . .

I love photography. . .

I love the art of it.

I love the creativity of it.

I love the technology behind it.

But what I realized the other day, and most important of all, I love the emotion and history that photographs provide. . . the heart of it.

I shot a couple several years ago on their wedding day. They are a wonderful couple who couldn't have been more complimentary of the images I gave to them.

A few days ago, the bride lost her Grandfather, who was possibly her favorite person in the world. She had a special relationship with him. It was evident when you looked at how they acted towards each other. . . unquestionable love.

I can relate to this myself because my grandmother and I had a special relationship as well. To this day, I can't describe it, but there was just something a little extra special. We just "got" each other. She passed away many years ago, but there is rarely a day that I don't have a thought about her.

Anyway, a few days ago, when this bride lost her most special Grandfather, she shared a post "Goodbye Zadie" on Facebook. It was a way to tell all she knew , just what he meant to her and the bond they had.

Accompanying her post, was one photo. . . one that I was able to capture on her wedding day.

The fact that of all images, it was one of mine that she sought out, solidified to me why I do what I do.

I'm so sorry for her loss, but I'm so thankful she has that image to remember him by.

We will always have our memories, but over time, they fade.  Images last forever.


by Michael Clemens

The best camera is . . .

the one you have with you.

It's an old adage, but it's a good one.  In today's day and age, almost everyone has a camera on them at all times, from a point and shoot, to a phone or tablet, or weather you're carrying your expensive dslr.  Well, I've become a bit of a camera snob since getting my first dslr over 10 years ago.

The other day, I went out with my family, do dinner an a movie.  On a normal day, I would actually schlep my dslr and 70-200mm lens with me.  Just dinner and a movie, but WHAT IF there is a shot I've just got to get?  But this day, after having quite a few shoots lately, I decided to leave it at home.

As luck would have it, (I believe it's officially called Murphy's Law), while walking through a parking lot, I see this gorgeous , brand new, shiny red cayman parked all by itself.  Due to the nature of the parking structure, most of it was enclosed, but there were areas that let some light poke through.  At this time of day, it was lighting up just the emblem on the back of the car, as if a spotlight from God .

I was thinking "see, I should have brought my camera".  Well, I didn't have it, so I had to use the "best camera" (the one with me), to grab this shot.

What you see below is the shot I got on my iPhone.  I did just a tiny bit of processing (ON THE PHONE ITSELF) by adding a little vignetting and a little sharpening. . . but that's it.  I honestly don't think that I could have taken a better photo with my fancy equipment.

I think I was put in my place by myself.

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by Michael Clemens

Remembering Sammy

I was asked by some friends to take some photographs of their family dog because he was getting so old, they didn't know how long he would be around.  What I didn't know, is that they may actually be needing to put him to sleep.  Seeing this sweet old dog just tore my heart out.  We went outside to get some shots, and this poor ol guy stumbled and struggled just to get down one stair.  All of a sudden, a quick afternoon shoot for a friend became much more important.  This was going to be documenting a "family member" for possibly the last time.  I'm now possibly responsible for how he was to be remembered.  Pictures are said to be worth a thousand words, but after taking these, only one comes to mind. . . goodbye.


Best Feet Forward

A wonderful mom at my children's school came to me with a request to help her with a project for her daughter's room.

It's based on a project I volunteer for each year for the 5th grade class called "Inspirational Soles".  It's a series of shots of the kid's feet in the shoes that represent what they want to be when they grow up.

The purpose of the mom's request for a special shoot was because she wanted to re-design her daughter's room with a sports theme.  The problem was, that everything "sports" was either really girly, or really masculine.  This way, it would not only be more appropriate, but it would be completely personal.  We went out to a local park and below are three images I took as well as a shot of how the (black and white) versions were used in the final design of the new room.

From the colors to the quotes, it's such a clever way to make a little girls room beautiful and inspirational.

I can't think of a better way my photographs have been displayed.



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by Michael Clemens

The number 42 . . .

The number 42 has been a "mysterious" number for me.  It was burned into my brain at an early age.  42 is the age my father was when he died of Cancer.  When I was 9, 42 seemed like a million years away.  It was the age of a real adult. . .and "old" person.

On the other hand, a little later in my life, I had an amazing relationship with the number 42.  Growing up in Los Angeles in the 80's, it was the age of "SHOWTIME". James Worthy, number 42 on the Lakers, embodied everything I wanted to be as a sports hero.  To this day, he's my all time favorite player.

Major League Baseball has so far retired only one number across the entire league. That number is 42 and it was worn by Jackie Robinson (Dodgers).

"The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42." - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (one of the first "real" books I remember reading as a kid)

With just a few weeks until my 42nd birthday, I found myself faced with some unusual pain and symptoms that were not normal.

I have to say, when I'm faced with medical adversity, I can't focus on anything else. . .even photography and that's why it's been several weeks since I've posted anything to my blog.

3 weeks ago, I had some pain and issues that caused me to go to the dr to find out what it was.  For those of you who know me know that I RARELY go to the doctor.

So when I do, it's gotta be "something".

I went to the after hours care (actually it was a pediatrics place we take our kids to), and they did a few tests right then and there.  Nothing was conclusive, so I was ordered to go have lab work done and an ultrasound to rule out any tumor.  TUMOR?  OK, I wasn't going THERE.  But now that the doctor uttered that word, that's the ONLY place my brain is now going.  With my family history, I've always felt that it was just a matter of time for me.  With the pain and other symptoms I had, and 42 even closer, I've been paralyzed with stress.

On to getting blood taken and an ultrasound.  What better to help with my tremendous stress, is to have to WAIT for results.  Finally, three days later I get a call from my doctor who said everything came back normal.  So, I'm glad, but there are still issues.  Now this means more tests and more waiting . . oh yeah, and more stress.

I now have to do MORE blood work and now a CT Scan.  Getting poked again with a needle is not fun, but it is what it is.  The CT Scan was quite different.  You get laid down on a narrow platform, and it escorts you in and out of this giant tube while taking a picture of your insides each time.  However, in order for the pictures to reveal pertinent information, you have to have an I.V. that they inject with "Contrast" (iodine based dye).  The minute they hit the go button for the solution to enter your body, you feel what a hot flash is.  It starts with the top of your head, onto your ears, the back of your throat all the way down to you toes.

The good news about all this is that I got the results back a few hours later. . . but I didn't know that, so when my phone rings and the display say my doctor's name, I think I got another hot flash without the I.V. this time trying to guess what my doctor was going to say.


Turns out, I have a large kidney stone (too large to pass), and on top of that, I have a partial hernia.  I've got issues front to back.

Both are going to require hospital visits and knocking me out.

I'm truly grateful that both are treatable and have resolutions.

I've had NO medial adversities in my own life ever, so these are scary to me (even if they are very routine procedures).

The weight has definitely been lifted, but now after my huge sigh of relief, I can can focus and stress on the procedures waiting for me.

One more 42 fact. . .

In Chemistry, number 42 is the atomic number of molybdenum.  Proponents claim molybdenum is an antioxidant that prevents cancer by protecting cells from free radicals, destructive molecules that may damage cells.

42 will forever be a mystery to me.

P.S.  Sorry none of the photographs were actually taken by me this time!

by Michael Clemens

Skying High with 5 Guys

This weekend we took the girls and 3 of their friends, yes, that's right, 5 kids, to sky high (wall to wall trampolines), and then to 5 guys for burgers and fries.  I'm just glad we did all that jumping FIRST.

by Michael Clemens

family portrait session . . .

I've talked about this before, but when you overlap business with friends, for me, it's INCREDIBLY stressful.  When I am shooting, if there are strangers involved, I want every shot I take to be magical, I swear.  I know it's impossible , but it's what I strive for.  However, when you shoot for friends, I want every photo to be unprecedented.   I had the pleasure of shooting some good friends a couple of weeks ago.  To make my job even easier, they ALL happen to be quite easy on the eyes.

I always recommend doing a shoot at a location that means something to the family, so we shot at St. Mary's College where most of them either attended, or got married.  Luckily, we live in California, because we picked a day (in February) where the day was gorgeous and the light was just glowing.  All that combined with bubbles and soccer balls made for a great shoot.  After delivering the photos, I hold my breath and hope that they all love the photos.  Because I'm always attached to an internet capable device at all times, I expect everyone else is.  So when I don't hear back for 20 minutes, I think. . . "oh no, they hate them!"  I'm horrible, I have to give them their money back, why am I doing this?".  Prior to this internal dialog, I was thinking. . ."there are some nice images here.  I'm pretty good at this".  Cut to : 40 minutes after I send the email.  "I need to sell my cameras!".  Then I see it. . . a bouncing notification that I have a new email.  Do I look at it?

Do I confirm how much they hate the photos , or maybe, I just ignore it and pretend I don't see it.   I've created a whole story already, why not write the ending I want ?  OK, I have to be professional and look at the email and deal with the consequences.  The first word I read is "absolutely", not "Hi Michael", not "the photos".  That's it. . my worst fears confirmed!  No sense in reading the rest right?  Well, I continue anyway.  The next word was again "absolutely".  OK, two absolutely's in a row?  "Wow is this bad" (inside my head).  Third word. . . yep, you guessed it. .. "absolutely".  Now I'm thinking "I don't know how I'm going to recover from this beating I'm about to take".

Next word :   "LOVE".

 Wait a minute!

OK, so maybe it didn't play out like I was fearing, but the feelings I had were genuine.

 In the end, I am thrilled that a client/friend is ecstatic with the final images.

Maybe I'll try and wait 1 hour next time before I start freaking out.

by Michael Clemens

going commercial (real estate)

A wonderful mom at my daughter's school asked if I would want to do a photo shoot for a real estate deal.  It's nothing I've done before, so I was a bit nervous.  Not nervous that I couldn't get some good shots, but not knowing what people in that industry are expecting.  And, whenever I do any kind of shoot for a friend, I want them to be so perfect.  Anyway, it was fun to do something different and to try and make a charming little house in Pinole look like the home of your dreams.  (and if you're in the market for a house, let me know and I can pass on your info :) )

by Michael Clemens

Father/Daughter(s) Dance


This weekend was the yearly Father/Daughter dance.  My girls really look forward to it each year.  You may not believe this, but I'm not that much of a dancer :).  We started the night with a nice dinner with nearby, and then off to the dance.  Well, as many (most) fathers stood off the dance floor watching all their kids dance, I was promptly dancing and sweating all night as I watched my 6 and 7 year old sing all the words to "I'm sexy and I know it" (not my favorite moment of the night).  I was sporting my TWO boutonnieres (purple and yellow for the Lakers, and blue and white for the Dodgers as it was explained to me).  They each got a wrist corsage from me that they proudly sported all night, trying so hard not to bump it.  Ego, embarrassment, and shyness all go out the window when you watch those two happy faces so proud to be there with their dad.  I can't wait 'til next year.

by Michael Clemens

a "shot" for a friend . . .

A "new" friend asked if I could help him out by shooting a small event at a bar in the city that was going to feature the sale of some of his new t-shirt line.  Turned out not even my friend was able to make it, but I still was there to get some fun shots at a cool bar with some really nice owners.  It felt like a throwback to a an old neighborhood  watering hole.

by Michael Clemens

dancing in the rain. . .


Remember when you weren't so worried about getting wet, and puddles and the rain bouncing off the brick was so much fun.  I almost can't remember . . until I watched my daughter.  Watching her with complete excitement is so fun.  It makes you remember those important moments in your life that don't necessarily seem so important until they've passed by.

by Michael Clemens

disney museum . . .

Over the weekend the family went to the Disney Museum in the Presidio.  Unfortunately, I couldn't grab too many photos. . .very strict about photographs inside. . . not even the GIFT SHOP!  The girls had fun seeing all of the characters and presented in a very Disney way.

Worth a visit. . . .

by Michael Clemens

outer beauty . . .

There has always been something so intriguing about a tattoo.  But, you have to OWN it. This girl does.  She was a guest at a wedding I shot.  I don't know that I could ever (besides, my mother would have HATED it).  If I were to ever get a tattoo (and even though my mother is no longer here, I don't know that I could do it to her), I'm sure it would have to be Lakers related. . . .I don't know, but something about me is so impressed with the confidence that this girl has in being herself.

by Michael Clemens

oxymoron . . .

by Michael Clemens

The old stomping grounds. . .

missing all my good friends from jobs past. . .

by Michael Clemens

homework, homework, homework . . .

I don't know, but I don't remember getting this much in 1st and 2nd grade . . .

Book reports, stars of the week, shadow boxes, heritage papers. . .  I need to quit my job to make time for homework.

by Michael Clemens

700 miles of silence

For anyone that's read my blog or who knows me, it's obvious that my kids are everything to me.  So much so, that my wife and I rarely get time for ourselves.  I think since the first of my two daughters were born 7 1/2 years ago, I think we've both spent a night away from home ONCE for a wedding that we attended.  Sometimes I've had to travel for business with a night or two away, my wife even less.  Well, my wife made plans for a night in a hotel she's been eyeing in Santa Barbara (my old college stopping grounds).  Thanks to Grandpa and Aunt, the girls would be well taken care of and we could enjoy some "silence".  Leaving at noon on Saturday, and back in the car at 2pm on Sunday, didn't give us a lot of time, but the total round trip of 700 miles was certainly the most peaceful car ride we've had in some time.  Lots of uninterrupted conversation.  We got to enjoy a nice hotel, walk down to the beach, have a nice dinner, catch a movie (and not the Alvin and the Chimpmunks variety), and my wife even got a massage in the morning. . . wow.  A little time on Sunday to walk around State Street and then back home to bathe the kids and get ready for school/work the next day.  I am so grateful to my wife for being so incredibly dedicated to our children, but I think having some time for her (and us) makes doing all she does a little more do-able.  Thanks Amy for a nice day.

by Michael Clemens

comforting moments . . .


In relation to my last blog post, my older daughter had a performance at school the other day where her class was to sing in front of the school as they hosted the church service that day. I got there early to get a good seat .  Well, as I looked back at the entrance to the church, I saw my daughter upset.  I know the face.  I got up to see what was wrong, and she said her stomach hurt.  This was a pretty clear case of anxiety and stage fright.  Now, my daughter has done things like this before, but for some reason, this was not setting well with her.  Even though she's the "older" child, she's by far the more "cautious" and calculated.  She'll let her little sister lead the way (similar to the kings taster. . if it doesn't kill the taster, then it's safe for the king to try).  Well, her teacher saw her crying with me and saying that she didn't want to go up there.  The teacher obliged her and let my daughter sit with her and watch the performance.

Afterwards, her stomach may have felt much better, but her pride did not. As the crowd recessed from the church, my wife took my daughter aside to talk to her about what she was feeling.  She explained that weather it was an upset stomach, or simply nerves about performing in front of everyone, it was totally understandable and ok.

I was able to catch this vulnerable and comforting moment.

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by Michael Clemens

captive audience . . .

Remember when you had to go get up in front of your parents, and all your friends parents, and hundreds more that you didn't even know?  Well, my girls had to. . . so here's how it feels . . .


by Michael Clemens

Commute . . .

Work is rough, spending so much time away from my family.  The pressure to deliver at a relatively new job is also great.  But commuting 110 miles per day is simply debilitating.  After leaving the house each morning at 7:30am (in hopes to get to work by 9am), it's really exhausting at the end of the day (6:30pm ish while not in crunch time), and jump in the car for another hour plus commute.  If only the freeways moved this fast. . .

by Michael Clemens