The Last Minute Elopement

Elopement

I was surprised to get a phone call to do an elopement a few days before the couple’s ceremony. A week before I witnessed a quick elopement at my church. The couple wanted to get married before the baby was due so they asked the pastor if he would do a quick ceremony.  I felt moved by their situation that I wanted to bless them with a small photo shoot to commemorate their special day. I gave them my phone number and email and said let’s touch base on Monday. I also asked my colleagues if they wanted to join me. They said, “yes.” Monday came along and the couple never contacted me. I was surprised because I was going to gift them a one hour shoot and they didn’t accept it. So, I decided to let it go.

Five days letter I get a text from a pastor friend who said that a mutual friend of ours had recommended me to him to do this last minute elopement that he was performing in Malibu. I immediately said yes and was elated at the opportunity. I couldn’t believe it. Instead of me blessing and getting turned down, I got blessed with a paying gig. God is good. I really needed it. The timing couldn’t have been anymore perfect than this.

The location was at an Airbnb in the Malibu mountains overlooking an incredible view of the ocean. It was just the four of us, the pastor, me, and this sweet couple from England. The ceremony was sweet and short and we did a few shots up on the mountain. Afterwards they invited me to dinner at a really great restaurant in Malibu called Geoffreys. We all had a lovely dinner and great fellowship together. I decided that because the location of the ceremony was limited and they never got to get any beach shots, that we would meet them at the beach for a few more. They were happy that I would go out of my way to do that.

Sometimes when we have a heart of giving even if the other person doesn’t receive the gift, good things come around. I believe that because I sowed generosity I ended up reaping a harvest. Always have a heart to give and you’ll be amazed what can happen. Check out the gallery for more images.

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My Coachella Experience 2019

Woman standing by a tree with a hat in her hand

 

This was my second time at Coachella. The second time was surreal for me. My first experience was when my friend had asked me if I wanted to go to this festival that had a host of various d.j’s and bands. I immediately said yes. I actually went on vacation for two weeks from my job and took a temp job during that vacation at Fred Segal’s sale to make the 400.00 that I needed for the whole trip including tickets.  I was always down for a good concert and this one seemed epic. I’ve been a concert goer since 14 years old. From then I was hooked. This particular concert was different and it had a ton of different talent that I couldn’t wait to see. Let’s go back twenty years ago to my first Coachella experience. To be honest I faintly remember it but I had a blast. What I do remember is, it was hot like hell. 119 degrees Fahrenheit in October is still etched in my mind. The heat was brutal and there was no shade anywhere. Actually the tents were your shade. But once you were in the tents it was a steam room filled with sweaty people. Another thing I remember was the line up was impressive. The question was how could I possibly see twenty plus acts? I had to miss some and overlap others. Nothing has changed there but having the show in April is so pleasant.

 

Twenty years later I’m back. My first day I was a little shocked. It’s the Disneyland of music. It was much bigger then my first experience. I clocked 22 miles walking in 3 days. It was definitely a mini workout. Parking was a mile from the entrance but we took pedicabs for 10.00 per person. That made it 20.00 a day, except Sunday. Sunday was more. I’ll get to that later. We ventured out and mapped that place from every corner. We had downloaded the Coachella app earlier so were able to  schedule the music we wanted to see. This helped us stay on schedule and we got to see most of the acts that we plugged in.

Woman in black dress in front of the Coachella spaceman

Before the festival I decided to listen to every single person that played and picked a few I wanted to check out that I have never heard of. The first act that I got to see was SG Lewis. This 23 year old Brit producer, songwriter, and multi instrumentalists had the tent at full capacity. I was amazed at this young talent and enjoyed the entire show. Great electro chill type tempo. Ella Mai has such and  amazing voice. She was one of the many I was interested in seeing. Her voice is clear and smooth. Her style of music is melodic and hip. Up next on the list of must see was Anderson Paak. He is such a multi talented great performer. This was definitely a show. Not only was he energetic, his voice and musical talents have you on your feet. I couldn’t stop dancing. While waiting for another show to get started I stumbled upon The 1975. Ok love love love. They remind me of a modern 70’s groove. This takes me back a little. The blew me out of the water. Amazing performance.

Girl in an orange dress and black sneakers in front of art installation at Coachella festival

Day two for me got even better. We were sitting down to eat in front of the Gobi tent while Jain was performing. This was happenstance. I was like, who is this? This chick is dope. I just found a new artist. She was great and she got the audience going. I even got up from where I was eating and followed the crowd.  Billie Eilish for such a young age, was incredible. I was blown away by her and she got the crowd jumping.

Girl in a white dress standing in front of a crowd

Day three, well what can I say about day three? Thank you Kanye for the best show of the weekend. Even though we had to get up so early from a late night and it took 3 Pedicabs to get there which cost 30.00 and another 10.00 to get back, it was really worth it. It never really felt like 2 hours. The gospel choir sounded heavenly. The voices were so angelic. I was afraid that Kanye wasn’t going to come out. It was almost an hour later but he showed and it was fantastic. Thank you for the gospel house music at a music festival. This was creative genius at it’s best. Even though Kanye can be controversial, he is a musical genius y’all. But for all the money to get to the show from the parking lot, there was a big win in the end and it was the 50.00 I found on the ground. Sorry for the person who lost it. Thanks for the pedicab cash for the way back which only cost 10.00 this time, because we walked partly back to the car. From waking early we decided to head back to the hotel for brunch and a nap before heading back to catch Dennis Lloyd. Thank you Dennis for your sultry amazing voice. His voice is similar to the likes of Adam Levine, amazing. I’ve been wanting to catch this guy live for awhile. I’m glad I did.  Next up was Lizzo. I have never heard of her except the day when I was discovering talent from the line up. I remember putting her on the list. Lizzo is one of my highlights of the festival. She has the energy of 10 people. The show was incredible and I love how she embraces her beauty and body. She had the crowd on their toes. I thought to myself this is what Coachella is all about, finding new music and enjoying amazing shows.

A fifty dollar bill in hand on top of a trust God T shirt

As a photographer I barely took any photos just a few night shots. Why? Everybody is taking the same shots. Selfie seekers everywhere. Some people were so consumed with the selfie shot I wonder if they saw any shows. That was the turn off. So instead I thought I would take bad videos to remember it lol. When I look at them I feel like I’m there again. I can’t wait to see next years lineup. For more pics and videos go here

 

Lake Elsinore Walker Canyon Super Bloom

Lake Elsinore poppy super bloom

 

My friend and I embarked on one of the road trips of the season, California’s Super Bloom 2019. Intitally when I saw so many amazing pictures of friends frolicking in a sea of poppies on Facebook, I knew that I couldn’t miss out on this. As I researched where everyone was going, I called my friend and said we are going. My friend Julie and I are nature freaks. We live close to the Santa Monica Mountains where we hike together a lot. Due to the recent wildfires that struck our area last fall, we were determined to see spring’s burst of wildflowers in it’s magnificence. This is something that I have never seen in my life. It was one of the most amazing spectacles.

Lavonne Grady photography walker canyon Lake Elsinore

Lavonne Grady photography walker canyon Lake Elsinore super bloom

The drive for us, fortunately was less than 2 hours. We met a couple that drove from San Francisco. We met these ladies who were from Chicago and Wisconsin. This was not only locals but nationwide news. As soon as we got on hwy 15, all we can see is poppies everywhere. On top of the hills, on the side of hills, all around there was poppies. I was getting so excited that I just wanted to get out of the car as soon as possible. Upon arriving, the exit was closed and we started to get some traffic. We learned that the weekend before they had received over 1 million visitors. The weekend we went they were prepared to handle the traffic. We drove another 2.5 miles to the next exit where we were directed to a parking area where we would be shuttled to the canyon entrance. After being shut down due to the population overload, the city decided to control the situation due to resident complaints. The good part was it was controlled. The bad part was now we had to pay 10.00 to see the poppies. But it was truly worth it.

Orange poppies LaVonne Grady photography

With the excitement looming and my anxiety levels rising, we finally arrived at the entrance of Walker Canyon. Hundreds of people dressed up with their cameras taking selfies and pictures of each other. The all seemed concentrated in one area and you can tell. Why? Because people who don’t respect nature left major footprints. By time that I got there there was some damaged to the hills. New trails were made. People laying on poppies to get their selfies. Since my friend and I like to hike we managed to go a little further and get away from the hordes of people. Also we respect nature and took all of our pictures in open spots. We tried not to leave our footprint. I think we really accompolished that.

Walker canyon lake elsinore super bloom LaVonne Grady photographyGirl sitting in the middle of a poppy field walker canyon lake elsinore LaVonne Grady photographyGirl standing in the middle of wild flowers walker canyon Lake Elsinore LaVonne Grady photographyWalker canyon Lake Elsinore LaVonne Grady photography super bloom

Poppy fields in walker canyon Lake Elsinore LaVonne Grady photography

Just like everybody else, I brought a couple of outfits to change into along the way for a few pictures for myself. My friend Julie isn’t a photographer. So what I do with my non photographer friends is set up the scene. I make sure the exposure is good, then I place the composition just right and tell them to stay there but feel free to zoom in and out. I usually have them do the simplest photography until they feel comfortable. I don’t like when my photos horizon lines are off. It may seem artistic but I hate it. Does that mean I’m actually the photographer even if I didn’t release the shutter? Leave a comment on that. I would love to read what other people think on that one.

What do you think? I think she did a great job taking my pictures. Till the next adventure.

Washington DC

 

Historical buildings, African American history museum, Lincoln memorial, us capital building, Jefferson memorial
Image: LaVonne Grady

How I love DC.  I definitely think it should be on every American’s bucket list as one of the US destinations to see.  DC is such a great metropolitan city.  From the food to the sights you can’t miss a beat.  Even though I had only a day and a half, I managed to check out some of the local eats and see most of the monuments, thanks to the Hop On Hop Off bus tour.

The first night we decided to have drinks at RPM. RPM is an elegant Italian restaurant which started in Chicago by reality stars Giuliani and Bill Rancic, chef Doug Psaltis and partners. The drinks were amazing. The drink that I got was even more amazing as the mixologist made my drink at the table. For dinner we went to Farmers and Distillers.  Farmers and Distillers is a named one of the best new restaurants in DC. It’s a farm to table style restaurant much like it’s sister restaurant, Founding Farmer. For all the alcohol connoisseurs, Farmers and Distillers has an in house distillery.  The food was great and if you like comfort farm to table recipes, you’ll love Farmers and Distillers. It’s great for large families, friends, or colleagues.  For breakfast before our long filled day of activities, we decided to go to the Commisary for breakfast. It’s located in the cute neighborhood of Logan Circle. I really liked the location. It’s a cool hipster area. The breakfast was great! I love a good breakfast joint. For dinner we ended up at Old Ebbitt Grill. One of the iconic restaurants of DC. It’s been around since 1856. It’s an American classic Victorian style restaurant. I had the best conversations with fellow patrons. This young lady told us that the Old Ebbitt Grill is a local hangout for most politicians, what they call “ugly Hollywood.” I though that was funny how people get super excited to see their favorite politican.

 

Sexy drinks at RPM in Washington DC
Image: LaVonne Grady

During the day we took the Hop on Hop off bus to Arlington Cemetery. At first I wanted to skip it and go to Georgetown instead. Arlington Cemetery was closer and we were short on time so we ended up at the cemetery for times sake. I was completely moved by the changing of the guards. The crowd was massive and it was hard to see. There were a lot of students that came from different states on a field trip to make matters worse but, one of the students gave me his spot and I was able to get a glimpse of the changing of the guards. It was so touching. The atmosphere was very still and quiet. I couldn’t help but tear up. Here lies soldiers who died for our freedom and we don’t know there names. Writing this has me all teared up. The sacrifice that people make for our liberty is incredible. It was also an incredible to see the gravesites of the Kennedy family.

To sum it all up, the people are great, the sights are amazing, and the restaurants are incredible. Having only a day and trying to fit things in, I was able to get a sense of the city and the culture. Check out the profile for a complete look at the photos.

 

Why I Joined A Photography Group

Model leaning on the door post wearing Chloe sunglasses at the stagecoach inn in Newbury Park ca
Image: Christian Ortiz

 

I co lead a photography group at my church to build community with others in my neighborhood and maybe bless someone along the way with a great photo.  I must say, I had a great time.  I think we were surprised by how amazing our first meet up went.  It was raining that morning and I didn’t think we would be able to get any real good shots being indoors.  Plus I was anticipating on being outdoors like we planned.  Living in a dry area, being outdoors after a really wet season is a blessing. It’s quite lush and green right now even in the burnt areas that were damaged by the Hill and Woolsey fires. I was eager to be outside and enjoy the nature.

For our first meeting together, we decided to keep it real local.  I have lived in the Conejo Valley for almost half my life and I have never been to the Stagecoach Inn.  The Stagecoach Inn is a historic landmark and museum in Newbury Park. Stagecoach Inn was a resting stop for people going from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. These days by car the distance between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara is about an hour and a half with no traffic. It has also been used as a post office, military school, and restaurant.

Fortunately for us the rain stopped and we ended up with a beautiful afternoon. As soon as I parked and studied the grounds, I was immediately eagered to get started.  This historic site has the most amazing photographic spots. I definitely could of had more outfits with me for sure.  One of the docents told us that the Inn is used for weddings as well and I can see why.

 

Model leaning on the door post wearing Chloe sunglasses at the stagecoach inn in Newbury Park ca
Image: Christian Ortiz

 

Before we got started we decided to talked about our love for photography. One of the photographers wife was pregnant and we thought it would be a great gift to give her pregnancy photos to cherish for her and her family.  It was a pleasure to be able to bless her with photos.  Using each other with that great backdrop made it all worth it. Since I also like to be in front of the camera for fun, it was cool to be someone else’s muse.  I felt blessed that I had a couple of photographers to take photos of me.  My sister usually is the phtographer whenever we are out, but if she isn’t around, then I don’t have the best shots of myself. Maybe because she is honest with my poses and angles plus I think she does quite well.

What’s so great about being with other creatives is that we come with different views on how we see the world. It’s inspiring to see how each of us sees things around us. My prayer is that we will all be able to develop our talent even more. I pray that this group can make a difference in how we see the world through each other’s eyes.  I also pray that in the process we get to bless each other as well as others with our images and at the same type build cool relationships shooting together.

Model standing in front of a vintage tractor wearing raybans
Image: Christian Ortiz
A photographers taking pictures of a wagon wheel at stagecoach inn in Newbury Park ca
Image: Christian Ortiz

I’m super excited about the upcoming photo meet up.  If you know any great places in the Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern county areas, please comment.  Thanks and till the next post.

 

 

 

Art Los Angeles Contemporary

Art Los Angeles Contemporary, ALAC, Contemporary art galleries in Santa Monica,
Image: LaVonne Grady

Art Los Angeles Contemporary was held at the Santa Monica Barker Hanger in Santa Monica California. The show consisted of various galleries around the world displaying talented artists. I met some of the most incredible artist and was inspired by many pieces. It was hard to come up with a favorite but I did capture some stunning art work that captured my eye.

Not only will you find your self inspired by the various art, there was a great lounge for a cocktail and a bite to eat while discussing art. If you’re like me, as an artist, it’s great to see what other people are creating for inspirational ideas. There are lots of talented artists out there. Keep your focus on your creative gift and show the world. For more information about the show and attendees go here.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary, ALAC, Contemporary art galleries in Santa Monica,
A few of my favorites.

Art Los Angeles Contemporary, ALAC, Contemporary art galleries in Santa Monica,

 

 

A Day In The Quaint Town of Bruges Belgium

Brugge Belgium is a sweet quaint town in Belgium. It was a wonderful day spent in Brugge. Brugge is about an hour train ride from Brussels. Everyone kept telling us we need to go there and I am so glad that I did. It was small enough to walk around the city center and capture all the great architecture. The city is made up of spectacular brick gothic buildings that developed in the Middle Ages. I was very inspired by all the structures and the artistic sculptures around the city.

Belgium Bruges europe gothic buildings landscape photography cityscapes living with Rheumatoid Arthritis RA patient health traveling travel wanderlust adventure
Photography by: LaVonne Grady
Belgium Bruges europe gothic buildings landscape photography cityscapes living with Rheumatoid Arthritis RA patient health traveling travel wanderlust adventure
Photography by: LaVonne Grady
Belgium Bruges europe gothic buildings landscape photography cityscapes living with Rheumatoid Arthritis RA patient health traveling travel wanderlust adventure Plastic whale recycling
Photography by: LaVonne Grady

Check out more of the pics in the gallery.

Montmartre

Paris France Montmartre art district traveling Europe with Rheumatoid Arthritis RA patient photography landscape cityscape churches carousels health
Photography by: LaVonne Grady

While in Paris you must go to Montmartre.  This part of Paris is known as the art district.  Many famous well known artist during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s found their place here.  Today many artist set up camp and make incredible of portraits of tourist.  Here are my 5 must do’s while in Montmartre 

  1. Definitely see the Sacre Coeur.  This magnificent church has some of the most amazing views of the city.  The Sacre Coeur sits at the highest point of the city.  Have a little God time while your inside and see beautiful statues, such as the Golden Jesus, and leave a little of yourself there by writing a prayer in the sign in book.
  2. Check out a gallery or 2 of some fine art.  There is an amazing collection at the Salvador Dali gallery of his wonderful and trippy work.  
  3. It seems like every restaurant is good.  Find a great cafe to dine, chill and people watch.  There are so many people all around the world to gander at.  
  4. Do get an artist to draw a portrait of yourself.  While there are so many artist to choose from they each have there own unique style.  So find the one that suits you the best.
  5. Have some gelato and walk around and check out the many shops and galleries.