Quinceañera - A Coming of Age

I’ve been spending the better part of a week sorting and editing the 2000+ photos I took at a Quinceañera last weekend. The event was a larger one - one larger than I am used to doing at this point - at a forecasted 150 people.

I travelled to the first destination - the Quinceañera girl’s house - where we would do some family portraits as well as capturing some of the beautiful chaos of getting five girls, five boys, and the family ready for the event.

The father mentioned that he wanted to replicate a photo that they had taken years ago in the same spot, since everyone was together in the same place and dressed up.

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The family was incredibly inviting, and all of them were interested in doing nothing but being themselves - a photographers dream. The time at the house was short lived. The limousine arrived and the Quince and her Court hopped in and headed to the Lighthouse in Havre De Grace.

The reception wasn’t scheduled for 7:00PM and it was about 5:00PM at this point, so we had plenty of time. I do have to say that one of the benefits of doing multiple locations is the downtime in-between. Shooting can be fast-paced, and this allowed me to prepare for what I want to do at the next location now that I know a little about the family, the Court, and the Quince.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse in Havre De Grace is a place I was familiar with before going in to this shoot - so I had some ideas of what I wanted to do. Having the lighthouse in the background of several of the posed photos was a no-brainer. Being near the waterfront allowed us some additional opportunities as well.

The posed shots by the lighthouse went really well. A little encouragement was needed to get some smiles out of the more serious young men - but the girls were bubbly and excited for their friend.

I had so much fun with this group. Being so light hearted and ready to have fun made them a pleasure to shoot. An added bonus was learning about the Quinceañera and it’s history. The traditions of the gifts, tiara, changing of the shoes, were all things that I hadn’t known prior to preparing for this event.

Ohiopyle, PA

Friday, June 22nd, my family and I headed to Ohiopyle, Pa for a camping trip along the Youghiogheny River (I'll never not have to google that word to make sure I have the correct spelling.)

We arrived Friday, set up camp and went into town for dinner at the Lucky Dog Cafe. I ordered a Tomato Basil Pizza, and oh my word was it delicious. We decided to turn in semi-early night as we would be making our trek to go white water rafting on the Youghiogheny (thank god for copy/paste.)

I brought my GoPro along with me - a 2nd or 3rd hand Hero 3 from ~2013. The battery crapped out on me minutes after we got into the raft, but I did manage to fire off a selfie before the thing took a dump. It's a fun little thing to have around and since getting back I've invested in a GoPro Hero 6 Black - which should yield more desirable, and hopefully reliable, results.


I had never been white water rafting and it had me pretty nervous. I only came close to falling out the boat once, and other then a gnarly bump of my chin against my girlfriends helmet I left scratch free. We spent close to three hours on the raft and every minute was more enjoyable than the last. 

The plan for Sunday was to wander around town and do a little bit of hiking. Luckily, there's a ton of primo locations within walking distance of town. We parked, I grabbed my camera bag and we were off!

Cucumber Falls

We followed the yellow footsteps from the visitor center with the promise that they would lead us to our first destination, Cucumber Falls. One of the employees at the visitor center mentioned that due to heavy rainfall that past week - some of the trail may be flooded. Luckily, it wasn't TOO bad. We had to go off the path a handful of times but it wasn't anything more than we could handle. The trail follows alongside the Youghiogheny, so we got some spectacular views of the river from the coast. We even saw a few rafters float on by.

My girlfriend, Katie, on the Youghiogheny.

My girlfriend, Katie, on the Youghiogheny.

Trekking through the mud and flooded paths paid off tenfold. We arrived at Cucumber Falls and all of our jaws hit the forest floor. The falls had an enormous recess behind it where you could walk behind. I looked for a spot to find a composition that would let me see clear through to the falls without any major obstructions. The falls poured into a stream that flowed through to the Yough, and the further back I was - the more of it I could capture. I ended up on top of a rock in the middle of the stream, with some pretty wet boots. 


I set up my tripod and tried a couple of different exposures - but ended up being most happy with the one you see above. I've always been most pleased with the results of longer exposures when water is the focal point - that buttery smooth blur always gives me the willies. I think I would've preferred just a SLIGHTLY quicker shutter, but I also wanted to use my polarizing filter. This normally wouldn't have been a huge deal, but the day before I got my polarizer stuck to my ND8 filter, which made for a pretty dark scene!

Natural Waterslide

Our next stop was the Natural Waterslide - a hop, skip, and jump from Cucumber Falls - if you have really long legs. If you have normal human legs, it was about 1/4 mile. Our guide from the white water rafting had told us that the locals refer to it as the "Slip and Bleed" due to it largely being made of, ya know, rocks. None of us were brave enough to try it - and although some other visitors were there with tubes, I didn't actually see anyone go down the slide. Kind of a bummer.

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It was a great trip. Photographing nature is always a pleasure, because there's so much less pressure. You're not going to miss a reaction, or moment, by taking your time and really trying to figure out what you want to do. I think that's what's most enjoyable. Being in nature causes this calm, serene feeling, and photographing it isn't much different.