The Blog

Shooter becomes Subject

Megan has been an assistant I've worked with on many shoots.  She's personable, reliable, and a good photographer herself.  Well, this time, she got to be IN FRONT of my camera :).   Megan is a High School Senior who is off to college in Texas in the fall, so it was time for her Senior Portraits. She nailed this too!  She will be missed (by none more than her boyfriend as you can see)

by Michael Clemens

To the future. . .

This weekend, I photographed a Bar Mitzvah for a wonderful young man (and family).  I watched as the young man delivered his Haftorah in hebrew and his interpretation in English.  It's a lot of pressure on a 13 year old (I know).  

According to Jewish law, at the age of thirteen a boy is no longer considered a minor and is responsible to fulfill all the Torah’s commandments. The term “bar mitzvah” literally means “son of the mitzvah,” or one who is obligated in mitzvah observance.

The obligation is automatic, whether or not a celebration or special ceremony is held. But since becoming a bar mitzvah is such an important milestone and joyous occasion, we make a point of celebrating together with family and friends.

This image I was able to capture really represented that "moving forward" from boyhood to manhood and literally and figuratively carrying it with you.

Congratulations to the entire family.

by Michael Clemens

Lauren and Mischa Sneak Peek

I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of Lauren and Mischa.  Not only are they both incredibly photogenic, but they are even nicer than they are good looking (a rare combination).

This was my first wedding at the Brazillian Room in Tilden Park, and wow was it a spectacular location.  From the canopy of flowers as you enter , to the grand vistas, it made for a stunning wedding.  They were surrounded by a group of friends and family that were all so wonderful, I felt as though I was part of the family.

Congratulations Lauren and Mischa!

by Michael Clemens

T a i w a n

I was asked by a former co-worker to come to Taipei for 2 1/2 weeks and teach at their animation facility.  That was a little out of my comfort zone. . not the teaching, but traveling to a far away place, where people don't speak my language and I don't speak theirs.  The culture was so different from growing up in Los Angeles.  I also have the palette of a 4 years old (burgers, fries, chicken fingers, etc).  So I was assuming if I went, I wouldn't eat for a couple of weeks.  My friend who invited me out said "Do it for the adventure of it".  That really spoke to me.  I've not been a very 'adventurous' type in my life.  I'm played most things in my life really really safe. . .but not this time.  

Well, LONG story short, but it was one of the most incredible things I've ever done.  From the people, to the culture, the sites, the sounds, the photography opportunities, for communicating with people that don't understand a word I say, to teaching to people who don't understand what I'm saying, the new friends, and the years of memories.  

EVERY evening, when I was done teaching, I would head out.  I would jump on the subway, usually with no destination, and just get off somewhere and start walking.  The only way to see a city is to walk it.  Over the course of my 2 1/2 weeks there, I easily walked 50 miles.  I also was so generously taken on day trips on the weekends by some of my students.  

Night markets, historical monuments, shopping districts, street performers, music, tea houses, baseball games, museums, gorgeous libraries and more.

Thank you Jin, Young, Ayen, Chris, Indra (and Ray) and everyone else for making me feel so at home, showing me so many things, and treating me like a lifelong friend.

I hope I can return the hospitality if you get to the Bay Area!

Here is a sample of my experience in photographs. . .

by Michael Clemens

Would be '79'

A young Burton Clemens

A young Burton Clemens

It's incredible that today would have been my dad's 79th birthday.  There is something so interesting when someone dies so young, 42, (also IN '79)that they are always remembered eternally young.  Other than the obvious reasons, I wish he was still here to see what he turned out to be.  It would give me a little insight into my future (if I'm around that long).  At 45, I'm beyond the age of my father when he passed away back when I was 9 years old.  Looking at the few photos I have of him is so sad for me the older I get.  Maybe it's because I realize now just how young he really was.  Maybe because I can relate what it would be like to leave 2 kids and a wife behind.

Me and my dad

Maybe because I don't know if I actually remember him, or just am I remembering stories, or a complete new person I've created in my head. . it's been that long. 

by Michael Clemens

Milly and Jeff

I had worked with Milly on a previous wedding as she was the event planner.  She was dedicated, sharp, and funny.  I hoped that I would get the chance to work with her again.  And then, one day, I got an email from her about my availability for another wedding.  I took that as a compliment because when a wedding planner/coordinator likes you, that's says volumes about you as a vendor.   She liked my work, she liked me as a person, she thought I delivered to my clients. . . all those great things.  We went back and forth a few times, and then , in her last email, she wrote : "oh yeah, by the way. . . it's for MY wedding".  I was floored.  Out of all the photographers she deals with from all of the events she puts on, she thought of me.  

Well, getting to shoot Milly (and Jeff's :) )   wedding gave me the opportunity to get to know Milly even better.  What a wonderful person.  And this was my first time meeting Jeff. . . again, incredible guy.  There are, unfortunately, wedding I've shot that I wonder why the two people are going through with this.  Milly and Jeff are NOT one of those couples.  They play off each other, are intensely in love with each other, and have so much fun together.  It was such a pleasure to watch unfold. 

Here are a few images from their wedding that I hope captured all that makes them so perfect for one another.

Under my thumb. . .

Set an alarm to wake me up in the morning that played my favorite song (snoozed it with my fingerprint)

Got an automatic notification about an accident on my route to my shoot

Checked the weather in my home and shoot cities to figure out how to dress today

Used my last razor so ordered more that will arrive at my door in 2 days

Played a music station that plays tunes based on my taste so I had something to listen to in the shower

Got dressed and checked the stocks for my favorite companies (pretending that I know something about finance)

Looked at images on Instagram of my closest friends and see what they're doing today

Got in my car and checked for the suggested fastest route based on traffic

Set a reminder that when I got within 1/2 mile of the Target near my home, to pick up a prescription that was ready.

Played music for the drive that connected to my car wirelessly

Ordered a coffee at Starbucks and when I arrived, it was paid for an waiting for me

Called my friend on the east coat to thank him for a fun weekend during my visit

Was alerted that there was a new accident and my route has changed to get me to my destination faster

Turned down the heat in my house to a lower temperature because I remembered that nobody would be home all day. (it would do this automatically if I chose to set it that way)

Looked at the shot list and reference material for the shoot next week.

Ordered an accessory I'll need for that shoot next week and it will be at my door by the weekend.

Now at the shoot, set up my camera equipment, set the focus, fstop, iso, shutter speed and fired my camera and strobes from my phone

Checked the images that I just shot on my DSLR from my phone to make sure it was the way I wanted it

Shared that photo with hundreds of my 'closest' friends on Facebook

Was reminded automatically that it was my friend's birthday, so I text him a note wishing him a great day

Got a text from a friend who was at my house because she left her sunglasses there.  I opened my front door from my phone so she could get in and get them.

Turned on the lights in the house so she could see better.

Looked in live to my living room at my house while she was there to make sure she closed the door fully when she left after retrieving her glasses and then turned off the lights and locked the door.

Checked traffic and got the best route home

Got a reminder that the Laker game was starting in an hour, which I forgot to record while home, so I set it to record, with a padding in case of overtime, so it would be waiting for me when I got home.

Played music (on random) through my cars speakers wirelessly

Got a call, which turned down the music in my automatically, and connected the call to my car's speaker and microphone

Booked a client appointment which I told my phone to add to my calendar (which is shared with my wife so we can be up to date with our schedules)

Sent my rate sheet and information about me from my google drive to that client so she was prepared for our meeting.

Saw a guy who looked like Hank from Breaking Bad, wondered what was the actor's name was. Only typed "hank bre "   and my answer appeared . . .(Dean Norris)

Drove near Target which my phone reminded me to stop at and pick up the prescription

Checked on my phone to see the location of my wife and children to see if they were home yet

Since nobody was home yet, I checked the temperature in my house, saw it was a brisk 61 degrees since I had turned it down all day, and set it to 70 for when everyone got home.

Saw an amazing sunset and took a picture which automatically was sent to my computer and tablet as well.

Getting close to home, switched on my lights so I didn't have to walk in to a dark house.

Got a notification that my family arrived at our home.

Sent an eta and live route to my wife so she can anticipate when I'd arrive as well.

My wife texted me to ask if I could pick up dinner on my way.

I ordered and paid for food to go from our favorite restaurant which I was notified would be ready in 15 minutes.

Needed gas so I checked to see where was the cheapest station within a 5 mile radius of me.  

Picked up food which was ready and waiting and paid for and bypassed the line of people waiting to order.

Arrived home.

After dinner, I helped the girls with homework and looked up the answers on my phone to check their work (since there were an embarrassingly large number of questions I couldn't answer of the 6th grade science homework)

Turned on the tv and started the Laker game on the dvr (from my phone)

Kissed the girls goodnight and set my alarm for the morning so I wouldn't forget if I got too tired

Finished the game, skipping all the timeouts, and then deleted it to make more space on the dvr

Got into bed, turned out the lights, plugged in my phone and fell asleep.


After all, my thumb had a busy day















by Michael Clemens

In a pinch

Got a call from a former groom of mine that he needed a last minute headshot.  We didn't have time to set up lights or a sweep, or anything.  So, in a pinch, how do you get it done fast and on the fly when you don't have the time.  With a white reflector and an off camera remote flash pointed at the reflector, we were able to create a "studio" looking headshot on his front porch.  Using the diffused light from the sky bouncing off of the payment, and the off camera flash to make the white reflector go pure white, we got some pretty good results.  We did the same to get a version against black. . this time, no need to even fire the flash at the black reflector since we wanted to keep it dark.  This helps prove that you don't always need fancy gear to get the job done. (oh, and it helps to have a great looking subject too :) )   

by Michael Clemens

Coming soon . . .

I had the pleasure of shooting a baby shower for a woman who has had a long road to having a child.  This is going to be one spoiled little person.  Just a quick peek at one of the lovely mother-to-be.

by Michael Clemens

Milly and Jeff "Sneak Peek"

When I got the email from Milly about my availability for January 10th for a wedding, I assumed it was for one of her clients.  Milly is a fantastic wedding and event planner who I've worked with in the past.  After going over details and a few emails back and forth. . . she says . . "Oh, and by the way, it's my wedding".  I couldn't believe it.  I'm always so honored when someone chooses me to photograph such an important day, but when it's another wedding professional, and someone who works with many many photographers, I was blown away.  Yesterday Milly was married to Jeff.  I hadn't met Jeff until the wedding, and what a wonderful guy he was.  I felt as though I've known him for years.  On top of it, Milly and Jeff where a joy to work with and an inspiration to observe.  I've shot quite a few weddings, some large, some small, some on a budget and some with unlimited funds. . . but the one thing that is unique to each wedding is the connection that the bride and groom have to each other.  Watching Milly and Jeff made me smile because of the obvious incredible relationship they have.  

Here is just one image from the day, but I think it speaks volumes. . .

by Michael Clemens

look out san francisco- Here comes CARLY LOWRY

An Arizona High School Senior, Carly Lowry has had great success in volleyball.  She was named Southern Arizona Volleyball Player of the Year! She's committed to University of San Francisco to play for the Don's next season.  She was in town (San Francisco) visiting the school and family for the Thanksgiving holiday and I was fortunate to get to photograph her before she left town.  We only had a short window, so she decided to brave the exceptionally cold night and shoot at something iconically San Francisco. If Carly is half as good at volleyball as she is photogenic, she will certainly be an all star next year.

"holy s*** this guy is amazing!"

That's possibly the best quote I've ever received. I was contacted by Kate's mom initially. She was researching photographers and found me online. A lovely woman (even by email) we instantly became fond of each other. She sent my website to her daughter, Kate, and that was the response:

“Holy s*** this guy is amazing!” and “That labyrinth shot was gorgeous!”

She was referring to one of my all time favorite wedding shots that I took at Grace Cathedral. Kate and Morgan too were getting married at Grace and seeing that shot I took sold them on hiring me for their wedding day. That was a challenge for me. . . try to get the same shot, but somehow try and improve on it. The original one was spur of the moment due to the fact that facing the other way, towards the bride walking in, was a mess of stuff. .. .exit signs, visitors station, tourists waiting, giant glass doors. Why shoot that way when you have that gorgeous wall of stone and stained glass . This was NOT the traditional shot though. . . and I only had 1 maybe 2 changes to get it. This time, I was prepared. I also, in my attempt at improving the older image, I set up a flash behind Kate and her dad to fire as they passed. I was hoping to get that beautiful rim light that would surround them. Also, because this was during the day, we luckily got the beautiful colors on the labyrinth ground making the shot even more magical.

by Michael Clemens

Day in the Life

I'm not good at self promotion. . . .

so I thought I'd let someone else do it. . .


I just can’t get enough! Every time I look, I discover new images I hadn’t noticed before.

Thank you so much, again, for this timeless gift of a fleeting moment in time. These are absolutely the days we’ll forget. Ordinary, regular routines - daily habits, expressions, interactions, activities - just the average day. It’s like freeze framing my favorite time in life - the now. It pains me to think of how fast time passes. Having this collection of photographs is a clear reminder of how blessed we are - it’s almost an out-of-body-experience every time I open it. I’m never given the chance to watch my day unfold. Page by page, I get to experience a day in our life. I love seeing the kids at school behind the scenes - talking to their friends, concentrating on a task, playing at recess. These moments are imagined, until now. It is a treasure and will be rediscovered often.

Your gift of time, talent and treasure is beyond appreciated. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to experience your work. You are so professional - from our first telephone conversations last May, to your understanding, flexibility and accommodations in switching the dates around for our numerous “not so ordinary” conflicts.

I will promote your business, as I’ve been doing, with 100% conviction and pride in your service. I do pray that this business takes off for you.

You have a gift to share; people need to experience your remarkable talent.

I’m passing the link on to friends and family! Can’t wait to share:)

Thanks again, from the bottom of our hearts!!

Mariah and Clay

I will never be able to appropriately describe Mariah and Clay.  I used to work with Mariah years ago, and although I've seen her on the periphery via Facebook, we haven't connected in quite a number of years.  Well, a lot has changed. . . she's married, has a house, and now expecting her first baby in a few months.  So when she got in touch with me to take maternity photos, I jumped at the chance ( ...said in my best dad voice : and I could check out this "guy" she was married to).  Well this "guy" was equally as wonderful, funny, well spoken and super fun to be around.  There are not two people more suited for each other.  Their humor and fun loving nature made it a dream to shoot. . . . not taking everything so seriously, and just "going with it".  I've said it before, that a photographer is only as good as what they get from their subjects. . . and they gave me LOTS.   I can't wait to meet the little man when he arrives (and take some "outside" photos of him :) ).  (oh yeah, and their dog 'Moose' joined in for some of the fun.)

A Day (ok, 45 min) at the races

Watching horses run around the track with such power and grace is quite amazing.  And doing it from the rail up close is really spectacular.  Although we were only there for a short while, I was able to grab a few images of the activities. . .    It included a few races by Russell Baze, the record holder for the most race wins in North American in history.  In this day's races, the 56 year old jockey won another one as well, adding to his historic total.


Anyone that's on social media has seen an onslaught of profile pictures with a rainbow overlay. That is , or course, wonderful to show support for something that is long overdue.  My girls and I decided to take a different spin on it. . . :)  (even the sky decided to show it's support) #loveislove #pride



The "Sneak"

So, my dog , Matzah, is a smart one.  We just picked her up from a MONTH of training.  Of the commands is "Kennel".  With that, she is supposed to go to her bed (in this case a giant elephant pillow pet), and lay down on it and stay there until told she can go.  Well, she has developed a unique skill of "sneaking".  You be the judge if she's good at it in this time lapse video . . .

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by Michael Clemens

Nina and Ankit

Allied Arts Guild, Menlo Park, California


From the first phone call, Nina , Ankit and I connected.  What an incredible couple.  Their wedding was a lot of "firsts" for me.  First traditional Indian wedding.  First time using a second shooter.  First time using a different assistant.  These two were so laid back and so easy going, that they put ME at ease.  Having never shot an Indian wedding, I didn't fully know what to expect.  I didn't know all the traditions, or customs, etc.  I wanted to make sure that I captured all the important moments, which is even more difficult when you don't know "what's coming" :)  

This wedding spanned two days.  On day 2 was the gorgeous reception at Devil’s Canyon Brewery in San Carlos.  It was decorated beautifully and not what you would expect from a place with "brewery" in the name.  It was elegant and warm (which is a perfect description of the couple themselves).  

I really feel lucky to have meet Nina and Ankit and their wonderful friends and families.  

Here are some selects to give you an idea of the beauty of the day. . .

by Michael Clemens

City Hall Wedding

I was fortunate to shoot an engagement session for a couple late last year.  Not only did we get some beautiful shots, but we hit it off fantastically.  With that, they decided to hire me to shoot their San Francisco City Hall wedding at the start of this year.  After the ceremony, we went down to the South Bay for an intimate reception at a family member's home.  This couple was so nice, that you start to ask yourself. . . are they for real?   Well, let me assure you, they are!.  Here are a few images from the day.  Congratulations to the newlyweds.

by Michael Clemens

Losing greatness


I've had the pleasure of marrying into a BIG family.  The one at the top of this very large family , the one that had all the stories, the one that was as quick as a whip, and had a smile that lit up every room passed away last night.  A few weeks shy of her 97th birthday , Jane (or Mary Jane, or Mimi, or Mom) was as sharp as anyone could be.  She and I actually shared the same birthday, April 4th.  It was fun sharing my birthday with her as she would get most of the focus of the day (which was so deserved, and great for me who hates the fuss).  The past few weeks have been difficult watching her not be herself.  She would lay there in bed at first being able to flaunt that smile, and crack a joke, but soon, she would just lay there not really 'knowing' that we there there. Our visits just consisted of holding her well aged hand for a while and a kiss on the forehead.    I know it sounds crazy, but I felt like I had a special connection with her even though she had TONS of grand children and great grandchildren; and  I just married in to this group.  

She raised 3 amazing kids of her own who have so many of the same qualities that she possessed.  A quality person such as Mary Jane could only produce quality children.  

She will be truly missed by so many.

by Michael Clemens