Creepy Shootout in California Central Valley Preston Castle

California Central Valley

Preston Castle Shootout

Creepy Doll & Dark Alice in Wonderland

When friend & co photographer of MC Senior Photography asked if I was interested in shooting at Preston Castle, I jumped at the chance to bring my model team & get creative! Such a fun adventure to travel up to Central California for the weekend & shoot with friends in a “haunted” Castle! I talked it over with my team & we selected a theme. We were so excited to be planning this trip & photoshoot.

I stayed at the Ione Hotel – a historic & supposedly Haunted Hotel in Ione, CA. The downtown area was architecturally pretty interesting & was a cross between an old stagecoach town & the Wild Wild West. I had my morning coffee at a local Coffee Bar called the Corner Cafe & Bistro & was ready to head out!

The days theme of the adventure destination to Preston Castle in the Central Valley of California were Creepy Doll & Dark Alice in Wonderland. Preston Castle Foundation opens this “haunted” historical building a few times a year for photographers to have some fun & boy did we have some fun! Chyane embraced the photoshoot with an uncany ability to look creepy, doll like & she made a very scary grungy Alice! The temperatures were a little warm – but bearable.

We started on the second floor of the castle, then made our way down to the basement – where it was a bit cooler. 30 photographers & their models had a few hours of fun exploring the photo opportunities this historical building had to offer.


I particularly like the images in black & white because they look a little more historic & creepy to me. I will share some images from the days adventure here. Chyane is one of my Models from my model team & I was so happy she could join me for this shoot.

Preston Castle is located in the sleepy little town of Ione, CA. The facility was home to a reform school for many years & hosted some famous residents including Merle Haggard.



The Infirmary. Looks creepy to me……





To read more about the Model Street Team & how you can join  – click on the Model Team tab above & complete the questionnaire. 

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Top 10 Senior Summer Shoot Ideas

Top 10

Senior Summer Shoot Ideas


Are you a Senior looking for Summer Senior Portrait Ideas? Parent? or Photographer Looking for inspiration?

Well, here are my TOP 10 Summer Shoot Ideas!

No. 1 – The Fence

This image was taken along a fence in San Diego at Shelter Island along the bay. I love how the boats are in the background. This was taken at sun set with the sun just behind the hillside in the background. This gave a beautiful backlight to the image.

There is nothing easier or more fun than working a fence. You can find fences along roadsides, parks, ball diamonds, schools, even backyards. Just look around to find one!


No. 2 – The Desert

This photo was taken in the local Mojave Desert of Southern California.


No. 3 – The Beach

Southern California has so many beautiful beach options! This image was taken at La Jolla Beach Cove. The perfect place to get beautiful sand, water & bluffs in the image. You can see the water highlighting in her eyes. Beautiful textures & colors.


No. 4 – The Backyard

Don’t worry if you think you might not have the perfect place to shoot. Most anywhere, even the backyard can provide some shade & interesting textures. This image looks like it was straight out of the jungle – but in reality just a shady yard space.

No. 5 – Your Favorite Coffee Shop

Get on trend & check out your local establishments like laundry mats, coffee shops or other boutiques. They make for unexpected but fun places to shoot! This image was taken through the window for added texture & fun!

No. 6 – The Botanical Garden

If you are wanting a variety of beautiful blooming plants in your image then you should check out your local nursery or botanical garden. This image was taken in a butterfly garden at a local botanical garden. Such a fun place to have a photoshoot! In addition the boho styling really complimented the look!


No. 7 – The Book Store

Another really neat Top 10 place for a Senior Summer Photo Shoot is the local library or book store. I just love the colors & textures of books in the background & you can get some really amazing images with all those books! Pick a book to match the Seniors mood, or pick a color to really enhance the Seniors eyes.

No. – 8 The sidewalk

Sidewalks can be found almost in every city. Find a really cool spot to try out some photos & I am sure you won’t be disappointed. This image we turned to black & white to really bring our the contrast and textures in the image.


No.  – 9 A dock

A wooden sidewalk or dock adds some really cool texture to a Senior Summer photo shoot. Check your local ponds, marinas or board walks. This image was taken in San Diego along a marina.

No. 10 – Leaning on a pole or tree.

Interacting with a pole, tree or even the side of a building Is a really nice way to give the Senior something to interact with. I love this beautiful image of the Senior leaning against a light pole.


For more ideas to get your creative juices flowing, check out these images. Perfect Senior Summer Photo Shoot Top 10 ideas! Just make sure you are keeping the Senior safe when you pick your location. I hope this post & these images give you some inspiration for your Senior Summer Photo Shoot!


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Congrats Kaylee! Southern California Senior 2019, Victorville

Congratulations Kaylee!

Victorville 2019 Graduate

High Desert Southern California

There is nothing better than shooting a Senior in the high desert of Southern California. This Victorville teen really knew what she wanted & she rocked her flower themed session. Kaylee was so much fun to get to know. After hair & makeup we headed to a local botanical garden for the styled shoot. These are a few of our favorites from the shoot! Congratulations Kaylee! A 2019 Victorville California High School graduate!

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Dreams Do Come True! Lightning Bug Lantern

Dreams Do Come True

Lightening Bug Lantern

While traveling to the Midwest this month, I had the opportunity to spend the day with my niece Andrea Skuta & talk with her a bit about her journey to becoming a published children’s book author. We spent the day checking out a local lavendar farm, Shawnee Hills  Lavender in  Cobden, Illinois & who knows……. maybe collected some inspiration for her next book!

Andrea recently released her 1st book “Lightening Bug Lantern” a delightful children’s story illustrated by Julie Wells.

The story about catching lightning bugs is a summertime childhood memory of most all midwesterners. Who didn’t love running around the backyard catching these wonderful blinking bugs and putting them in jar for a bit? The lightning bugs transformed summertime into a magical wonderland, transporting many children into the land of pretend adventures!

Andrea always dreamed of writing a children’s book & her dream became reality! So very proud of her accomplishments! You can learn more about Andrea & her thoughts about her book on her website here!

Order a copy of her book at Barns & Noble or Amazon!

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Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Canal Area Challenge Shootout!

Downtown Indianapolis Indiana

Canal Area Challenge Shootout!

Traveling to new locations from Southern California allow me get out of my typical shooting box & try some new lighting or creative shooting situations. I had that opportunity  this week as I traveled to the Marci and Christy Imagine Conference  in Indianapolis, Indiana. Besides the Disney Land style back lot of the hosting photographers – which you can see on there website here – MAC – a new location can offer some great photography challenges & new lighting scenarios if you get out & explore!


From lighting to posing on the run, this shootout was fast & furious! I decided on an evening shoot, & the canal street location. Follow along as I walk through my location, lighting, styling, posing & lens choices.


Picking an awesome location in a new city can be a challenge. Here are a few tips that work for me.

First, I googled what time sunset was in my desired city of Indianapolis, Indiana so I could be prepared for the sunset timing after the day of education!

Next, I put out a model call to the local area & asked my models where they wanted to be shot or for ideas of an awesome location. They suggested the canal area in downtown.

Then I used Google Earth to walk the neighborhood! The picture above is a shot of the city scape in the area we chose to shoot.

Check it out here –Google Earth  It is such a great resource!

I personally look for areas with shaded light, reflective surfaces to bounce the light, or ally ways that filter the light when shooting earlier in the day. I love to be free of modifiers & lights when exploring a new city, so I like to be free to “run & gun” so to speak! This lets me explore! I also look for textures & colors that can create interest in the image & tell the story of the location!

Camera & Lens

My camera & lens choices vary, but typically I start with my baby the Nikon 200 mm f/2 prime. I didn’t pack it for this trip so I went with my Nikon 135mm f/2 Defocus Control lens. I choose this lens for 2 reasons. 1st the amazing Bokeh control when shooting wide open & 2nd the tack sharp in focus area, & 3rd the amount of light I could get into the lens as I would be loosing light quick shooting so late in the evening. I did use my Nikon D810 as my camera & I love the ability to really push my ISO. It is not grainy if you nail the exposure in camera. I shoot  Raw. Here is a shot with the 135… Practically straight out of camera…I did load it through Lightroom Mobile on my IPad Pro to tweak it a tad & check out the color before loading it here. (I used the healing brush to remove a small piece of white lint on her shirt)!

The second lens I choose to bring was my Sigma Art 35 mm f/1.4.   This wide angle choice would give me a great opportunity to capture the feel & environment as well as a different perspective! It also has great warm color rendition, is tack sharp, & has beautiful Bokeh!!! My favorite qualities in a portrait lens! Check out this image below, again loaded through Lightroom Mobile on my IPad.


The great thing about shooting in a new location is trying out some new posing ideas! I shot on the wall to use reflected light to fill the shadows, & sitting, squatting, lying down & some other go to poses. But I also experimented with window reflections & shooting with found light sources as it got dark. I love the variety of available textures & leading lines available in the canal area! Check out these images…


Lighting  for this shoot was just using available light sources. I had my speed light but I really wanted to challenge myself to see the available light resources. The shoot started at about an hour before sunset. It was cloudy and overcast with spotty rain. I started with positioning my subjects next to windows, light colored walls, and in spots where the sunlight would bounce beautifully back into their faces. If you zoom in on the images you will see the horizon, a wall, or even myself caught in the reflection. Additionally, I used some backlight in some of the shots to create a nice rim light or to separate  my model from he background. As it started to get darker I just looked for areas where I could get my models face closer to the reflective surface or any potential available light source like the street lights or sidewalk lights seen in the images above. It is so much fun to figure out how to feather an available light source to get a pleasing light & shadow pattern on my models faces.


Styling was a street vibe. I just asked the models to bring a variety out of their closet & to include some props such as heels, chucks, jeans, dresses, sunglasses etc. They would be rushing after work to pull some items together to meet me & I wanted to work with the surprise Items. Boy was I impressed. They brought 1 backpack which was like the never ending carpet bag from Mary Poppins!!!! Talk about variety!!! I bet they easily had 25 pairs of sunglasses!!!!! As we walked we changed outfits &’props to fit the scenery! So much fun!!!!


Check out these additional images for ideas for your next surprise destination shoot! The images are loaded through Lightroom Mobile on my IPad, & loaded here…. most have had zero editing to give you an idea of what I was looking for & what I captured. I will follow in about a week with another blog post to show you some of the images fully edited – as I am traveling & my computer is a desk top so I will be editing when I return to Southern California. Follow me on Instagram or Facebook or right here on my blog for more destination & styled adventures. You can even sign up for my email list which will notify you when I post! Enjoy & happy shooting.



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