The Final Four by Travis Cobb

Naturally, the holidays end up being a pretty hectic time of year – everyone is needing photos for the Christmas cards, like, yesterday. I probably had 8 or 9 shoots in November alone – it's a lot, but I love doing it. Apart from the sheer volume pf photographs, there are all sorts of challenges associated – less-than-favorable weather, dwindling daylight hours, less-than-desirable environmental conditions and settings, but showing up and spending an hour with people and screwing around taking photographs, well, there certainly are worse ways to spend a few afternoons.

Below is a compilation of of some of my favorite images from my four final sessions of 2017.

Felicity, Ben, Aubrey & Katherine by Travis Cobb

It's not a thought that normally comes to mind until I'm editing photos, but it's a real trip to look at images I've taken of people that span the course of years.  I mean, I do it with my son all the time, but it's different when it's not my kid.  I met Felicity and Ben years ago when I took their engagement photos, and last month I was photographing them and their two gorgeous daughters.

I know parents often have these lofty ideas about how shoots go – or will hopefully go – but when you toss kids in the mix, there quickly comes a point where you've got to essentially set them loose and let them do their own thing.  Pick grass, throw rocks, make faces, whatever.  I want to see that and capture that.  If you don't let a kid be a kid at a photoshoot, then the only frames you'll get are a bunch of side-eye glares.

I appreciate the freedom Felicity and Ben afforded me that day in November – I know the photographs wouldn't be the same if kids couldn't be kids.  Below are my favorite frames from that afternoon.

Patrick & The Boys by Travis Cobb

I've known Patrick for a while – our boys played on the same baseball team way back when. And when he asked if I'd be up for photographing him and his boys, I jumped at the chance. I do love photographing people, but I don't always love photographing people with animals.  Animals might as well be infants – they don't understand a word you're telling them or a direction you're giving them, they could not care less for the images I want to capture, and more often than not, the animal clearly wants no part of these photos. With that said, photographing people with animals can also be totally awesome.

Kids – as photogenic as they can be – aren't always the most camera-friendly. Often times they're nervous, and like animals, want no part of these photos. They're getting direction from me while getting heat from their parents for whatever reason. And worst of all, as soon as I lift my camera and look through the viewfinder, they've been indoctrinated to give some super cheesy smile. So, for me, it takes a little bit to break that down and build up what I want to see. That's where the animals come in.

Patrick had told me they'd recently gotten a dog and he'd asked if it'd be cool to bring her along. Familiar with where we'd be shooting, I thought it'd be a great opportunity for a few reasons, but primarily, they can be a sort of safety blanket for kids to help lighten the atmosphere of family photos. And after several minutes of me trying to capture some frames, I'd asked if they let the dog go, would she run, and if she ran, would the boys chase her? They couldn't let her go fast enough.

I know my approach and vision isn't for all, but that's fine by me, because it's mine. I appreciate people like Patrick who afford me the opportunities to express it while documenting little slivers of their lives.

Montana on Kodak by Travis Cobb

My mom moved to a little Montana town (Victor, about 45 minutes south of Missoula) in August of 2016.  This summer was the second time I'd been able to go visit.  It's wonderful to be able to visit places like this – places basically in our backyard but also places that don't necessarily rank too high on our vacation destinations. 

My past two visits (August 2016 and July 2017), there've been massive wildfires in the neighboring mountains.  On the flight in to Missoula from Seattle, I sat next to smoke jumpers that were flying in from Alaska to help combat the fires.

My mom moved back to Washington this September.  I'm bummed I didn't get a chance to see a Montana Christmas (yet), but to me, nothing compares to the Pacific Northwest – it'll always be home. 

These are some of my favorite frames from my last trip to Montana – all shot on Kodak Portra 400 film.

Lindsey, Amanda, and New Mexico by Travis Cobb

Maybe I'm alone in this sort of thought, but as a photographer (and I use that term very loosely), the more I progress, the less desire I have to photograph things that don't interest me, regardless of how much it might pay.  I don't take photographs for a living, so I don't need to take paying jobs because I have a steady income (thankfully).  But I've been there before, earning barely enough to eat more than Top Ramen, needing photo gigs to supplement my income to pay the bills, and I genuinely feel as though it compromised my work artistically.  I was photographing things not because I wanted to, but because I needed to.  Now, when I do take on a gig, there's got to be something about it that draws me in – that engages me – or else what's the point?  And that really applies to my life in general – if it doesn't fuel and sustain my creative desires, then I simply don't see the point in pursuing it.

That's why I love, absolutely love taking these breathers with my friends.  There's no stress, no pressure, no client needs, just being in a place I've never been, with people I love, taking photographs of things I want to see.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  But I'm afforded the rare opportunity to try things I normally don't get to.

More times than not, my only muse is my 11 year old son, who I have to bribe with Legos in order to let me snap a few rolls of film.  But here, with Lindsey and Amanda, I'm free and they're always ready and willing to put themselves in positions a normal client wouldn't – like on a bug-and–algae-covered rock in the middle of the Rio Grande.

It's these little breaks from normalcy that inspire me as an artist and as a human – I don't get out all that much.  Thank you, Lindsey and Amanda, for being a part of my much-needed little breaks.

Lindsey, Elise, Amanda and the Dunes by Travis Cobb

For several years now, I’ve wanted to visit and photograph our National Parks and Monuments – visit all those places that I’ve never seen but want to support and protect for my son and future generations.  I’m a day’s drive from several, and with a few 3-day weekends on the calendar, that’s how I was going to choose to spend them.  As time passes and as I continue on my photographic journey, I find myself becoming detached from photographing the things I’d done in the past, and instead taking photographs for myself – the things and the places and the people I want to photograph.  I’ve said “no” a lot over the past several years because those things that I was being propositioned to photograph didn’t align with where I feel my direction is headed.  Admittedly, that direction isn’t making me any money, it’s costing me quite a bit, yet for the first time as a “photographer” I feel genuine fulfillment with what I’m doing and with what I’m capturing because I’m doing it on my terms.

With all of that, and in some serendipitous fashion, I was driving to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado to see a friend whom I haven’t seen since the first and only time we met four years ago (she also brought two new friends).  We all needed an escape, so we escaped to Crestone to play in the sand and take a few pictures.  Anyone who’s seen that part of our country knows how indescribably breathtaking it is.  The drive from Dallas to the border of Northern New Mexico and Colorado is…well, it’s about 9 hours of suck.  But there’s this point, this magical little spot on highway 87 just east of Raton, New Mexico, when you come around this long, gradual turn and the Rocky Mountains reveal themselves as if the landscape gave way just for you.

You can plan and plot and forecast all you want, but it never seems to fail that when you take your camera out of the bag, Mother Nature gives you a big middle finger.  Trying to balance harsh sun, quick moving clouds, rain, strong winds and blowing sand isn’t something I’d actively seek out again, but those kinds of circumstances make the greatest of memories.  I know that if I’d uploaded the full resolution images and you pixel-peeped, you’d still see countless grains of sand stuck to their faces – I was still finding sand in places when I got back to Dallas.  I’d thought about trying to Photoshop out ALL the sand from their skin, but it felt like I was trying to erase part of what I remember quite fondly about that trip and being there with them, so I left it there, every grain.  I am still learning, and this trip definitely took me to school, but I am anxiously counting down the days until we do it all over again in Santa Fe.

Below are some of my favorite frames from our trip together...onesies and all the grains of sand.

The Cowboys of the Fort Worth Stockyards by Travis Cobb

Several weeks ago, I went to the Stockyards in Fort Worth for the first time.  I've been in Texas for over a decade but have never actually been to the Stockyards.  We were there for a leadership conference for work, but had a few hours to kill before dinner.  I saw a few guys dressed up, or what I thought was dressed up, but nope, they were full on cowboys.  The Stockyards seem as though they can be a bit of a tourist trap, I mean, dozens of us showed up on two charter buses, so....  I didn't want to be intrusive as I'm sure these guys (and gals) have to pose with tourists some ungodly amount, but when the first guy looked at me and nodded, it was on.  These guys (and gals) were some of the warmest, most personable people I've come across – after taking their photo, they thanked me and then stopped to tell jokes.  I'll most definitely be back.

Family: Andy, Erica, AJ & Jack by Travis Cobb

It's been a while since I've last posted, but life has been so nuts lately with Ethan's baseball and a new job that updating the blog definitely took a backseat to life.  But lately, I've gotten the itch to shoot much more, or rather, much more than just Ethan – he can only tolerate so much.

Andy and Erica and some of my most favorite people to photograph.  In fact, a frame from our last shoot was actually the featured image on the Tumblr homepage (you bet I took a screen shot of that).  Our first session was years ago when they were welcoming their first son, AJ, home.  Now, they've welcomed their second son, Jack.  It really is something else to be able to document a family as they grow and mature over the years – it's pretty special. 

Each shoot isn't without it's own set of unique challenges, but those challenges end up becoming some of my favorite images.  Below are my favorites from that Sunday a few weeks ago.

Wedding: Christine & Jason by Travis Cobb

I don't advertise.  Sometimes I wish I did.  Generally, if I shoot a wedding, it's because some how, some way, someone either stumbled across my website, or in all likelihood, they were referred to me by a friend or client.  And more often than not, they end up being just as cool as the friend who referred them, which makes my job so incredibly easy.  I'm just there.  Couple that with my love for Austin, Texas, especially just outside Austin near Lake Travis and the Hill Country, well, there are definitely worse ways to spend a day.

Unlike most weddings I've photographed, this one was pretty relatable, especially considering I'm not even married.  I haven't been a part of that many weddings in which the bride and/or groom already had children.  Long story short, seeing their kids there, so involved in the entire process, it gave me hope, it reiterated the desire that maybe someday I'll be fortunate enough to get married and to be able to have my son be just as much a part of my wedding as their children were a part of theirs.

Thanks to Christine and Jason for allowing me document their day -- these are my favorite frames from that day in Austin.

Ashley & Scott by Travis Cobb

I met Ashley and Scott downtown at the Dallas Farmers Market on a Saturday afternoon.  I'm never a huge fan of shooting in such a public place as sometimes it can be quite difficult for the subject to relax when they're so visible.  However, even with people whistling out of their car windows, Ashley and Scott took it like champs. 

After a little while, we headed north to Breckenridge Park in Richardson (more my kind of place).  No people, no houses or buildings or cars or power lines...just a bunch of tall dry grass right before sunset.  These guys are a breeze to photograph, and no, I wouldn't say that about everyone.  Even after Ashley told me she was allergic to grass, she still gave me a few frames in the middle of the tall grass -- I'm so thankful she did.  Like I've mentioned in other posts, a few frames below are panoramic portraits, and I cannot thank them enough for tolerating me repeatedly telling them not to move, but I think (hope) it paid off.

Thanks to Ashley and Scott for that Saturday evening.

Megan by Travis Cobb

Not much helps to make you feel older than to photograph the senior portraits of a kid you knew from when they were in diapers (she wasn't actually in diapers, but I've known Megan that long that it sure as hell feels like it). 

I've made an effort to move the way I photograph into a different direction and to expand and test my knowledge base, and Megan was the perfect guinea pig.  Now, all I want to do is to take panoramic portraits (shooting a series of 6-9 images and stitching them together to achieve a much shallower depth of field than I can achieve otherwise, more akin to how my portraits look when I shoot film).  There were a few that turned out pretty well -- and I owe half of it to Megan for not losing her cool when I kept telling her not to move when the wind was howling.

Lastly, I owe a huge thank you to Tracy and Michele, Megan's mom and dad.  They've been good friends for a long, long time.  So, thanks, Tracy and Michele.  Below are a few of my favorite frames from that Sunday morning with Megan and Michele.

The Duhon's by Travis Cobb

I've known Mike, Buffy, Chase and Cole for some time now.  The last time I photographed them, the boys were probably half the age they are now (or at least it seems that way).  Seeing the way Chase and Cole interacted with each other took me back to my childhood and the way my brother and I used to act and treat each other -- annoying and irritating and frustrating each other.  So as brothers, basically. 

Even though my allergies were killing me, it was still a pretty good way to spend some time in McKinney, and these are a few of my favorite frames from that Sunday morning.

On Film: Me, Ethan & Glacier National Park by Travis Cobb

The older I get, the more I realize that there is so much I've taken for granted in life, one of those really big things are our National Parks.  You know, when you're a kid, you want to go Disneyland and do cool stuff like that, screw sitting in the car for 20 hours on a road trip to the Grand Canyon.  There are so many places in this country that I haven't been that I'm dying to see that it finally got to the point that I needed to stop talking about seeing them someday and just go see them.  I feel fortunate to have grown up in Washington State where you're surrounded by so much of what I seek now.  But Washington only has what Washington doesn't have the Grand Canyon, it doesn't have Glacier, it doesn't have Yosemite, or Yellowstone, or Death Valley, or Arches, or Big Sur or so many others.

Not only was Glacier National Park a place I've always wanted to see, it was also something I wanted to do and to share and experience with Ethan.  Life being what it is, we don't have as many opportunities to do these kinds of things.  I know that going to Glacier National Park probably isn't on the top of most 9 year old's lists, but he's 9, and I'm dad, and we're doing it...damn it.  It was something else, almost difficult to find the right words to describe.  For me, I liken it to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time -- immense beyond measure, vast and obviously breathtaking...reminded me of home.

I chose not to bring my digital camera on this trip for a few reasons.  Nowadays, probably 90% or more of my personal work is all film, so there's that.  Also, for me, digital is distracting.  It's so hard not to fire off a dozen frames and want to stop and look at the LCD and see if my exposure was good or if I was in focus or blah blah blah.  I've talked a lot on other posts as to why I love film over digital, but the main reason for this trip was that since digital is such a distraction for me, I know for certain that it would have meant that I would have also been distracted from Ethan, and the whole point of going was to be able to do it with him.  However, after traipsing what felt like thousands of vertical feet over the days we were there, I was seriously second guessing myself -- the Mamiya RZ67ii is like a metal brick the size of a shoe box strapped around your neck.  But at the same time, it was pretty neat to have conversations with strangers at the park about what exactly it was I was holding, especially with the few people who actually knew what a film camera was.

These are my favorite frames from our trip to Montana.  And now that my mom lives in Missoula, I'm hoping my excuses will be far fewer for not seeing this place sooner.  All frames shot on Kodak Portra 160 and 400, and a big thanks to The Find Lab for the processing and scanning.

Wedding: Chrissy & Shelley by Travis Cobb

Up at 4am Thursday.  Flight from Dallas to Los Angeles.  Layover.  5 more hours from Los Angeles to Honolulu.  One hour in the car to Kualoa Ranch.  One perpetual goosebump-inducing rad afternoon on a four wheeler through my childhood dream come true.  Drink.  Sleep.  Wedding.  Drink.  Sleep.  Beach.  Honolulu to Los Angeles.  Layover.  Back in Dallas at 6:30am Sunday.  Wouldn't change a damn thing.

Maybe other people have experienced this as well, but there are a handful of people I've meet at different points in my life, when after meeting them they've made such an impact on me that I realize that it's a shame I wasn't able to meet them any earlier in life.  That's Chrissy and Shelley.  We met in a really cold New York City one January not too long ago and now they won't leave me alone.  I kid, I kid.  Honestly though, these two, they're something else, and I do consider myself the fortunate one.

I normally don't like to post this many images in a single gallery, but it was just too much fun and I remember every moment of it...and I just want to.

Thank you to Chrissy and Shelley for letting me tag along and trusting me enough to document it all for you.

The Brandys by Travis Cobb

I've kind of lost track of the number of times I've photographed Jon, Christine, Jacob and Cooper -- a lot, I suppose.  I've said before that I feel oddly fortunate to be able to be a part of someone's family, to see everyone grow and mature and to see little kids turn into little people.  Jake and Cooper are exactly that, little people.  My approach to photographing people doesn't always meld well with kids in the sense that all mom and dad want to see are smiles and all I want to capture is the absence of smiles.  But, it tends to work in my favor -- the more I tell a kid not to smile, inevitably the more they end up smiling.  The difference being that those smiles are genuine smiles, genuine emotions and genuine reactions...there's none of that "say cheese" crap here...except for Christine, I'm pretty sure I heard her say that once or fourteen times.  Kids are a hard read, too (might as well be photographing cats).  They don't want to be there but mom and dad made them get up early.  They don't want to see my camera pointed in their general direction.  But they also don't want to suffer the wrath of mom and dad if they don't cooperate with me, hence a handful of the aforementioned genuine expressions below.  For me, I would much rather see the personality of my child shine through in a photograph a hundred times over versus a forced and transparent smile -- that's what school photos are for.  I want to remember the personality my child had, in that moment, because that is how I will remember my child -- not the child with his hands on his knee holding a pose as he says "cheese".  Thanks again to Jon and Christine for keeping me around as long as they have and for being the friends they are.

Erica, Andy & AJ by Travis Cobb

I like photographing people.  I love photographing people who engage, who take direction -- or rather, entertain my ideas -- and those who bring their own ideas.  Erica and Andy held a small, intimate ceremony in Tahoe.  When they returned, Erica reached out to me, and coming off of a bridal shoot with Erica maybe a month prior, I jumped at the chance to photograph them.  I hadn't actually photographed all three of them since AJ was just a little baby.  Plus, I love finding little places hidden away downtown that I never knew existed.  Below are a few of my favorite frames from that Sunday morning.

Bridal: Erica by Travis Cobb

It isn't very often in which you're able to photograph under the best of conditions and this day was no different.  The trees were brown and leafless, the grasses dry and dead (the only clump of green we could find was a hanging vine), and sporadic cloud cover that often tested patience.  Yet it became pretty apparent very early into the shoot that things would turn out alright.  I care very little (often times I don't care at all) about the sky being blown out or how brown and lifeless the foliage is behind my subject so long as my subject looks good, is lit well and exposed properly.  Instead, I try to find some little sliver of harmony between what I cannot control and what I can control, and that satisfies me.  In the end, this turned out to be one of those sessions that reignites that little invisible fire inside that reminds you why you love to photograph people.  I don't think I could be happier with these images if the grasses were green and the trees were full.  Nothing helps me more than a subject who shares their ideas, who takes direction well and who is completely willing to give my ideas a go (even though they may be dreading it on the inside).  Thank you, Erica, for trusting me with your bridals.

Shelly & Chrissy: The Pre-Wedding Reception by Travis Cobb

There are people that you meet throughout your life that you click with right away.  There's no awkwardness or small talk, it  I met Shelly and Chrissy in New York at Tosha and Cristina's wedding, and it just...was.  I had heard rumblings at Tosha and Cristina's wedding that Shelly and Chrissy obviously liked each other and all of that stuff, but when I had heard the news about their engagement and got the text from the two of them asking me to photograph for them, I was floored.  The wedding is later this year in Hawaii, but the reception was in San Antonio on New Year's Day.  I feel incredibly fortunate that people trust me enough to be able to experience little slivers of their lives that most others never get to.  I also feel incredibly fortunate that I am able to document things like this for people who, in the past, never had the same opportunities (we've come a long way, America, and that's a damn good thing).

Below are a few of my favorite frames from the pre-wedding reception -- a humongous hug to both Shelly and Chrissy for trusting me enough (and tolerating me enough) to spend this special time with them.

Family: Justin & Burke by Travis Cobb

Justin and Burke are the kind of friends you wish you had -- the kind of friends that make you feel fortunate to have people like them in your life.  I've known Justin just about as long as I've been in Texas (the better part of ten years) and have been fortunate enough to get to know Burke.  To see two people who love each other finally have the ability to get married, that's cool.  To see the same two people become to doting fathers, that's awesome.  I got to spend some time with Justin, Burke, Caleb and Cody on a cold Saturday morning and these are my favorite frames. 

If you've got a chance, you should most definitely check out all the good they're doing with S.O.S.

All The Skaggs by Travis Cobb

I've known these guys for years.  They're the type of friends that you could drink half a bottle of scotch with and not be worried about making a total ass out of yourself (been there, done that).  They're the type of family that you'd be proud to be a part of.  They get your jokes -- they're often times sharp enough to beat me to the "that's what she said" punch.  We've collectively been a part of each others ups and downs and I've relished all of it.  The Skaggs have been nothing short of family when I am so far away from my own. 

These are a few of my favorites from one Sunday evening with the Skaggs.