Author Archives: Jesse Cunningham

Leavenworth Real Estate Photography

Summer is the time of the year when working as a wedding photographer is busiest. Spring/summer also happens to be the time of the year when many people list their houses for sale. This summer, in between doing wedding photography jobs, I have also been doing some real estate photography work for my friend Geordie Romer for his Leavenworth real estate business. The Leavenworth area, with its sunny climate and abundance of outdoor sports opportunities, is a popular tourist and recreation destination as well as a desirable location for vacation home buyers. I am a resident of Ellensburg, where we share the same pleasant and sunny climate, but I am also drawn to Leavenworth for the outdoor recreation.

Although I have a wide range of photographic skills and interests, shooting these properties has been a great new challenge for me to really hone my skills in this area. It is very rewarding to finish one of these shoots and to see how the photos can highlight the features of a given property. Of course, I am also very fortunate to have been able to photograph some amazing properties. I am happy to say that the first property I shot (which had been on the market for two years previously with another agent) had an offer within 11 days of listing. With a prime location on Camas Meadows and a view from the deck like this, who would not want to live there?

My second property was this home on Icicle Road, which had multiple offers in just over a month. The house sold for the full asking price ($799,000) and was the second highest selling property to date in Leavenworth in 2011.

While I cannot take all of the credit, Geordie works very hard and is good at what he does, the importance of compelling images is clear because good images, even of a less spectacular properties, will draw more interest from potential clients and will result in more showings and more potential buyers for a home. My most recent work included two more amazing homes, one on highway 2 near Lake Wenatchee and Stevens Pass and another home on Icicle Road with prime riverfront property on Icicle Creek. If I had the money I would buy both. The Stevens Pass timber frame home for its land, waterfall views and close proximity to skiing at Stevens Pass

and the Icicle Road property for the river setting and close proximity to hiking in the Enchantments and rock climbing in the Icicle Canyon. Which one would you buy?

Ironically, one of the more challenging homes to photograph was this nice little cabin in the Ponderosa Estates neighborhood.

Smaller spaces and the lack of majestic architecture don’t make my job easier. However, I was really proud of the results because I feel like I was able to capture the simple functionality and charm of a smaller cabin. Full listings for the properties can be seen by following the above links. A random assortment of some of my other favorites may be found below.

Concert Photography at Raw Space in Ellensburg/ Mainly Blues Kickoff Show

A few weeks ago I did some concert photography for a new non-profit organization called Mainly Blues, which is dedicated to bringing quality bands and musicians to Ellensburg, as well as showcasing local musical talent. If you live within traveling distance of Ellensburg you should come check out the monthly concerts. The kickoff show was held at Raw Space, a relatively new venue in town, that provides outstanding resources with great ambiance for concerts and other events. The list of performers for the night included the local Cooke Canyon Duo (although there were 4 on stage), a solo acoustic performance by Rafael Tranquilino (also of the Randy Oxford Band), local favorites Ravinwolf, and The Randy Oxford Band headlined. The Randy Oxford Band was fresh off of a trip to Memphis where they were finalists in the International Blues Challenge. They have an all-star lineup of extremely talented musicians who, when combined, create some phenomenal blues music.

I had a lot of fun capturing photos of the bands in action. Concert photography can be challenging when working in low light conditions, with dynamic movements and ever-changing lighting. Of all of the types of photography I’ve done, I think I have the lowest percentage of “keepers” when photographing concerts. It is all worth it though when you get those shots that capture the essence of an individual performer or the band as a whole. Some of my personal favorite photos from the night are included below.

Why your Wedding Photographer wants to give you a KISS (wedding album)

Last week I had a booth at the Winter Wedding and Event Expo at Central Washington University. The show is relatively small, but as a result I felt like I had time to chat more with people as they came into the booth. My new sample wedding photography albums were given a lot of attention and I had a lot of compliments on the quality. Many people remarked that they had never seen albums quite like them. What I like is that they are both simple and elegant. A famous quote by Einstein states “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” KISS wedding albums are all about simplicity but when you make the best quality albums you don’t need any gimmicks to sell them (you do know what KISS stands for, don’t you?). Simple. Solid. Quality. Elegant. Here is a summary of the key features:

  • Available with luxurious leather or linen covers- Leather albums are more durable with hard pages and premium-quality full-grain leather covers. Linen books are lighter with more flexible pages.
  • Pages are archival quality with true photographic printing on Fuji Crystal Archive photo paper. Less expensive, lower quality albums are press printed like books.
  • Photos can be printed all the way to the edge of the page, including full 2-page spreads.
  • Lay flat bindings with no cut at the seam allow for large, uninterrupted spreads with no gutter like on traditionally-bound albums.
  • Continuous, accordion binding design won’t crack or come apart like glued or sewn bindings.
  • Included cloth dust covers shield and protect your keepsake albums.
  • Available in 4 sizes – 4×4″, 8×8″, 10×10″, 12×12″ – and 7 colors

These wedding albums are heirloom-quality, built with only the finest quality materials and construction, and will last for generations to come. Personally designed albums are included in all of my full-day wedding packages. As a wedding photographer, putting these albums together and telling the story of a couple’s wedding day, is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. I can’t think of a better way for a couple to document and share their wedding memories.

The sample album photos below are from two weddings I photographed in 2010. The black 12×12 linen album is from a wedding on the coast of Maine. The informal outdoor ceremony overlooked the town and harbor of Camden from the summit of nearby Mount Battie in the Camden Hills State Park. The 10×10 white leather album is from a wedding at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Leavenworth, Washington, one of my favorite local central Washington wedding locations. Both sample albums have about 10-12 spreads (each spread is 2 pages). Albums can be designed with a maximum of 40 spreads (80 pages), which makes for a seriously solid book if you get one of these in leather! The black and white fabric seen in some of the photos is one of the included dust covers. Contact me if you’d like to have a look at my samples. I love to show them off.


Ellensburg Downtown: The Davidson Building with Snow at Night

If you’ve ever been to downtown Ellensburg, Washington, you have undoubtedly seen the Davidson Building. The Davidson building is in the heart of Ellensburg’s Historic district, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and was originally built in 1889. Due to its unique character and historic nature, the building is often photographed by visitors and residents alike. I’ve been waiting for the right conditions to get a more unique shot than many of the photos I have seen. This weekend we had a fresh snow. The streetlights were reflecting off of the low cloud cover, creating dramatic lighting conditions, and I knew that this was my chance to get a great shot. The following photo is one of my favorites. This basically straight out of the camera- no Photoshop enhancement, no HDR, no digital trickery. 

The Biggest Adventure Yet

I have been fortunate to have had many travel and outdoor adventures so far in my life. I look forward to each adventure for the places they take me, the things I see, and the opportunity to share time with friends and the people I meet along the way. As much as they have enriched my life, in some ways traveling, climbing, and even photography can be selfish pursuits. Planning a new adventure always brings excitement tinged with uncertainty and fear of the unknown. I am proud to say that I am beginning one the biggest adventures that one can have in life, and I’m not even leaving home. I enter it with the same mix of emotions, excitement tempered by uncertainty and the fear of what may lay ahead. I know that it will be hard at times, like anything else worth doing, but there is no growth in life without challenge. This one is not about me. The journey: fatherhood.

We recently welcomed our first child into the world, a boy named Cedar. I will spare you the birth photos but will not hold back on some newborn baby photos. The following were taken at 6 days old. He is quite handsome if I do say so myself.

Mount Rainier and the PCT on a Perfect Fall Day

I have been spending far too much time in front of the computer lately editing photos and working on the new website. We had some perfect fall weather last week with crisp cool nights and warm clear days with bluebird skies, which makes for my favorite hiking weather. On Wednesday morning I got up early and drove up to Chinook Pass outside of Mount Rainier National Park. I had planned to arrive close to sunrise and wasn’t disappointed as I crested the pass and was treated to outstanding views of the eastern flank of Mount Rainier with the first rays of the sun bathing the mountain in golden morning light. I grabbed my camera and began walking the Naches Peak Loop– A popular hiking trail that rewards hikers with excellent views for modest effort. On the backside of the loop there are views down into the Dewey Lake Basin. Since cool fall air had settled into the basin overnight, there was mist rising from the relatively warm water of the lakes below. At the next junction I took a detour onto the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and ran most of the way down into the basin, worried that I would miss the show. The basin was noticeably colder with frost in the meadows and thin ice on small pools of of water. I worked quickly to get some photos before the ephemeral mist cleared with the warming air.

After returning to my car I spent the rest of the day doing short hikes in the park. My last stop was at Paradise, the main tourist center on the south side of the mountain. A network of paved trails leave the parking lot and then turn to gravel as they head up towards the Muir Snowfield and the main climbing route up the mountain. I took one of the less traveled trails and had a surprising amount of solitude on my hike up to Panorama Point. I was not inspired to take many photos until, ironically, I was nearly back to the car. I turned around and took a number of photos not more than 50 feet from the parking lot and, as a result, captured a scene that countless millions of tourists before me have captured as well. There is really nothing remarkable about this composition but it has meaning to me since it was such a “picture perfect” day and the colors were truly brilliant.

It’s Better to Burn Out than It is to Rust

My dad is an avid hot rod fan and loves to restore classic cars. He is always on the lookout for old, abandoned cars that might have hot rod restoration potential, which includes any rusty old car that he might spot in some overgrown bushes. As a kid I went to countless car shows with my dad and saw more than my share of rusty cars. As an adult I still take a second look when I pass old cars in the bushes. There is one vehicle in particular that sits in a local park where I occasionally walk my dog. I have walked by it several times with a camera– wanting to take a picture, but not having the light be quite right. This week I went there one morning with a general plan to take some photos and hoping to catch the right light based on my previous observations. When I arrived at the vehicle, and was disappointed to not find the entire scene illuminated in warm morning light as I had hoped, it occurred to me that I had the tools to fill in the necessary light and get the shot I wanted. It is quite likely this clicked for me for the first time because of the Speedliting workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago. I used one off-camera flash with an orange gel to match the warm morning light and fired off a bunch of shots (photos not bullets, although it appears I am not the first person to “fire off some shots” at this car). After all of the times I walked past this car because the light wasn’t quite right, it was incredibly satisfying to finally get the shots I had been envisioning. With landscape photography there is a certain amount of luck with being in the right place at the right time but good photographers work hard to get there and will often come back to a location multiple times before getting the shot they want. In this case, it was a matter of the right timing (fall, morning, aspen leaves on the ground) and being creative with the tools available to me to craft the light appropriately.

Back to School

The change of the seasons has a powerful pull on the memory. There is something about fall that will always be associated with “back to school.” Somehow that gets ingrained in childhood. Whether I am actually “in school’ or not, it is important for me to always be learning and pushing myself. As a photographer, that means challenging myself to try new techniques or to shoot in a different style. As a climber and backpacker, I learned the importance of choosing your gear carefully and paying particular attention to the weight of each piece. The philosophy of “light is right” carries over into photography and there is a large movement of what are called Strobist photographers who espouse the use of lightweight flashes and gear for creatively lighting their subjects. In the last few years, I can have become increasingly interested in lighting techniques and the Strobist philosophy. I recently attended a great workshop taught by Syl Arena and sponsored by the Seattle Photography Associates studio. Workshops like these are great for seeing into the creative process of other photographers and for learning new techniques. Most of our handouts were excerpts from a forthcoming book that Syl is writing called The Speedliter’s Handbook. The book will cover lighting techniques with compact flashes in general as well as detailed use of Canon Speedlites. It should be a good one. Since the class was more demonstration that active shooting, I don’t really have any good photos to share from it, but Syl did a nice blog entry about his shoot with one of the models at the workshop.

New Beginnings and Weddings on the Coast

Most people think of spring as the season for new beginnings, but there are a lot of new beginnings happening around here this fall. I am starting a whole new blog and am working on rolling out an updated website in the coming months. The wedding season is winding down (What is so wrong with a winter wedding, anyway? I have been to some very nice ones. White dresses on snow, how much more pure and elegant could you get? I may be biased in that I probably like snow quite a bit more than your average bride). Speaking of new beginnings (I’m back on track now), I have been very fortunate to work with some great couples this season. In addition to local weddings in central Washington, I was able to break out my landlocked living and photograph weddings by the coast. Both of them. Weddings in Vancouver, Whidbey Island and Maine– all with beautiful weather — gave me healthy doses of sea breezes and salt air to fill my senses from both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. My taste tests conclude they smell and feel quite similar. In fact, the rocky island- dotted landscape of mid-coast Maine has some striking similarities to the landscape of the San Juan Islands and the Northwest coast.