Welcome to my Blog!

This is the place to stay up to date on all the latest news here at Cheryl Bigman Photography. You'll see pictures from my most recent portrait sessions & events, read the backstories on all the great families and kids I get to work with, and take a peek into my own life as a photographer, a dreamer, and of course, a hockey mom. I hope you enjoy the Blog as much as I enjoy creating it...

A Story of Hope - Razia's Family Portrait Session

January 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Razia, Abe, and Family | Family Portraits
Date | 8.21.15
Location | Hap Magee Ranch Park, Alamo, CA

 

Everyone has a story...

One of the things I love most about my job is getting to know my clients on a personal level, and telling their stories in both words and photographs. Razia's story in particular, really got my attention.

So first, her incredible story...

Imagine being just 3 years old and living in the midst of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Razia's family knew they had to leave everything behind for their own safety, but leaving was no easy task. There were no planes to take them out of Afghanistan. The family had to pay perpetrators to walk them to Pakistan. Yes, walk! As Razia recalled, "Even though I was so little, I still remember hearing the sound of rockets being fired over my head." Frightening!

Razia's family finally made it to Pakistan where they moved into a crowded place with an aunt. To make matters worse, the thousands of refugees entering Pakistan were seen as illegal aliens and considered "less than" in society. Many left successful careers in Afghanistan, only to find menial jobs in Pakistan. Razia's grandparents, who previously fled to Germany, were both successful professionals in Afghanistan. Her grandmother ran the first hospital there and her grandfather was a cardiologist. Her grandparents moved to Los Angeles in the early 80's and sponsored their children. After 2 years in Pakistan, Razia's family was able to join them in Los Angeles on 3-15-83 where she spent the next 10 years.

 

Life in the U.S.

Razia knew she wanted to go to college, and eventually moved to the east bay to attend Cal State Hayward. She also knew she wanted to use her experience as a refugee to help others going through the process. She graduated Cal State and attended the California School of Professional Psychology where she was the youngest in her class. She earned her PhD at the age of 26, doing her residency at UCSF. Such an inspiration!

Razia has worked as a clinical psychologist with Jewish Children and Family Services (JCFS) since 2009, helping refugees through the resettlement process. She is the only psychologist in the entire Bay Area who speaks Dari (Afghan), Farsi (Iranian), and English which is huge in gaining the trust of the people she works with. She also appears on an Afghan TV show called "Women of the World" and recently gave a presentation in Washington DC on refugees and immigrants, and the cultural differences between South Asians and Afghans.

Interestingly, Razia's husband Abe's family also came from Afghanistan. Without knowing it, both Razia and Abe's families lived in Fremont for a time. Must have been meant-to-be.

Those of us who have grown up in the U.S., especially the San Francisco Bay Area, cannot even begin to know what it was like for Razia's family. Risking your life for your freedom, leaving everything you know behind, moving to a foreign country where you don't speak the language and have no job. It's a story that has repeated itself throughout history, most recently with the current Syrian refugee crisis. The strangest thing for me listening to Razia's story was thinking about what I was doing back in the early 80's compared to what she went through. Night and Day. Like many high school kids, I was completely oblivious.

I am so thankful I got to know Razia and create beautiful keepsake portraits to document her more recent family history. Knowing her story makes it all the more special. Razia's little girls will hopefully never experience the struggle and sacrifice their parents endured to get here, but Razia assured me that someday they would take the girls back to the places they grew up when they first arrived in the U.S.

 

And now, Razia's Family Portraits...

I think these two like each other just a little...


Jodee's Fall Family Portrait Session

January 08, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Jodee & Robert | Family Portraits
Date | 10.30.15
Location | Family Home
 

 

Fall Family Portraits

When Jodee called me asking to do Fall family portraits, I was a little concerned. Here in the East Bay Area of San Francisco, we usually get a pretty good show of Fall colors, but with our severe draught, October was looking pretty dull. Luckily, Jodee suggested using her home for her portrait session which had an amazing wall of ivy in the backyard - ivy full of beautiful fall colors!

 

We decided to start with Jodee and her husband Robert's sweet daughter Chloe.

Chloe was quite the little model and made my job so easy.

 

We also decided to include Winston, their adorable West Highland Terrier, and he did not disappoint. Such a cute boy in front of my camera!

 

Then we added the rest of the family... aren't they gorgeous!

 

It's always fun to see how kids interact with each parent separately. Snuggles with mom and dad...

 

and then Dad giving Chloe some air time.

 

And of course, we had to get some shots of just Jodee and Robert. Such a beautiful couple!

 

After exhausting all the great backyard locations, we moved to the front of the house and Chloe changed into the most adorable new outfit. Such a fashionista she was! The grounds around Jodee and Robert's home provided endless sets for us to use.

 

Then it was back to getting shots of the whole family. 

 

One of those "unplanned moments". Chloe and Winston just happened to look at each other at the exact same time.

 

And of course, we had to have some fun with the dog, so Robert broke out the treats and Winston was all over it!

 

Thanks to Jodee and Robert for allowing me to photograph their very personal family portraits at their lovely home. Could not have asked for a better location or a nicer family to work with.

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area Family Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Family Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography, specializing in portraits of Families and Children throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Family Portrait photographers. Each family is one of a kind, and Cheryl feels your Family Portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every family portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your special family.

 

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Photography of Families and Children throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Family Portrait Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and all of your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

The Agony and the Ecstasy... of being a Professional Photographer that is.

September 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

A Short Personal Story...

Did you see the amazing super blood moon/eclipse the other night? If not, you undoubtedly saw the pictures posted all over social media. I knew it was happening, but I had already scheduled a family portrait session and new client consult during that time, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to shoot it.

As the day went on, I couldn't stop thinking about how photographing the moon has been on my list of things to try for a very long time. The closer it got to the big event, the more anxious I became. This is the fight that goes on inside the head of a pro photographer. Do I drop everything to get the shot, or do I let the opportunity go?

I finished my portrait session in Oakland and began the drive to my consult in Marin. Once I crossed the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, I could see people standing around with their iPhones and iPads pointed up to the sky behind me. I knew they were trying to photograph the moon, but I couldn't see it.

Then it happened - I turned onto a dark road high above the bay, and suddenly the view opened up to a wide open clear sky with the huge blood red super moon hanging over the water right in front of me! The words that spewed out of my mouth... you don't want to know. There I was with one of the best views in the San Francisco Bay Area of this once-in-a-lifetime event. I wanted to stop SO badly! Then I remembered... I had a client appointment to get to AND I had no tripod with me. Even if I wanted to photograph the moon, I couldn't.

 

Another Opportunity

The next night, I was blow-drying my daughter's hair when she said, "Mom, look at the moon! Why don't you take a picture?" Right outside my window was the coolest full moon illuminating a sea of clouds in a warm glow. That little fight inside my head began all over again. It was 10:30pm on a school night. I needed to get my daughter to go to bed. But how could I pass up another opportunity right outside my door?

My daughter rarely asks me to photograph anything when I'm with her. She hates it when we go somewhere together and I have to stop every so often to take a picture. And she knows it's never just one picture. I linger to work the scene until I get what I want. That night however, she actually encouraged me to take some shots of this amazing skyscape, so I grabbed my gear and went for it. This is the result...

 

Worth it? Absolutely! I think my daughter was as amazed as I was by how clearly we could see the details in the moon. I can't think of anything better than the feeling of photographing something I've never tried before, and learning from it. That's what fills my cup. That's what ignites my passion for photography over and over again.

 

For all you photography enthusiasts, here is how I got the shot...

Gear: Canon 5DMarkIII, 100-400L IS II, Gitzo Tripod

This is actually two shots of the same scene combined in Photoshop. One is exposed for the moon, and the other is exposed for the clouds. Because the moon was so bright, there was no way to get both the clouds and the moon exposed correctly in the same shot. The clouds were also moving fairly quickly across the scene, but I decided to show some motion blur as I thought it would add a more artistic feel to the shot. Here are my settings:

Moon Exposure: ISO 100, f/5.0, 1/320, 214mm, manual mode

Clouds Exposure: ISO 250, f/5.0, 1/5, 214mm, manual mode

In order to get the moon tack sharp, I used Live View mode and zoomed in 10X on the back of the camera. I then focused manually. It was literally like looking through a telescope!

 

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Amanda and Bobby - One HOT Wedding... Literally!

September 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Amanda and Bobby | Wedding
Date | 8.16.15
Location | Coyote Ranch, San Jose, CA

 

What do you do on the hottest day of the year???

Have an outdoor wedding of course! At least that's what Amanda and Bobby did, and I got to capture their entire story in pictures.

No one ever plans to get married on the hottest day of the year, especially if your wedding is outdoors. But Mother Nature was in control and decided to bring on the heat big time! The day topped out at 106° to be exact.

Amanda and Bobby are used to spending a LOT of time in ice rinks as they're both hockey coaches, so this was going to be interesting. All I kept thinking as I was driving to San Jose was, how am I going to keep everyone as cool as possible and still get all the beautiful portraits I had pictured in my head?

 

Getting Ready

My day started with Amanda and the girls getting ready at a nearby hotel - air conditioned thank goodness. I walked into their room, turned to my right, saw Amanda (or so I thought) getting hair and makeup done, turned to my left, and saw Amanda's double! I must have looked totally dumbfounded as everyone started laughing. No one told me Amanda had a twin, Marie, who was actually the one in hair and makeup! Guess the joke was on me :)

 

The Details... nothing like a little blue box from Tiffany & Co.

 

 

A Special Moment - Amanda's sister and mom helping her put on the wedding dress she MADE for her daughter! So beautiful!!!

 

Then it was the boys's turn in the hotel next door. Both hotel rooms were very small, so I had to get creative. The boys' room had a great mirror on the wall which I thought would be fun to play with. I'm a bit vertically challenged and these boys were TALL, so I had to improvise. They all had a good laugh at me balancing on the bed to get this shot.

Bobby and his dad...

Loved the guys looking so cool.

 

The First Look

Amanda and Bobby agreed to a very private "first look" before the actual ceremony. I had them each wait inside air-conditioned rooms until the big moment, and then it happened...

 

 

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, it's...

Every event has a funny backstory, and Amanda and Bobby's was no different. After the First Look, we started our wedding party pictures. Suddenly, Bobby's face turned from very very happy to very very angry. Everyone looked to see what was wrong. We quickly realized that a bird decided to relieve itself smack dab on Bobby's dress shoe! (And this bird was either really big, or had some tummy troubles that day.) The girls thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen, but then cautiously looked up to make sure they were not the next target. The flower girl was obviously not amused. The boys helped Bobby clean up, and he was soon back to his happy place.

 

The Ceremony

So many great moments during the ceremony, I could hardly contain myself!

Dad giving away the bride...

Exchanging rings...

 

Party Time!

Representing the hockey contingent, Bobby's San Jose Jr. Sharks Girls team came to support.

The reception venue had these very cool rustic chic framed mirrors lining the walls which made for some unexpected reflection shots.

And then there was Ellery - flower girl - spinning dancer extraordinairre!

Last Dance...

 

Not even the scorching heat could dampen the spirits of this wonderful couple. Thank you Amanda and Bobby for choosing me to capture your love for each other on your wedding day. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness!

 

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area wedding photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and other events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area special event photographers. Each wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or other special event is one of a kind, and Cheryl feels your special event photographs should be one of a kind as well. Every special event is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your family and your day.

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and other special event photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a special event photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your family portraits and custom high school senior portrait photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

Amanda and Bobby - An Engagement Session to Remember in Half Moon Bay

August 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Amanda and Bobby | Engagement Session
Date | 6.28.15
Location | Ritz-Carlton Beach, Half Moon Bay, CA

 

The "Unexpected" Engagement Session

I first met Amanda when she was the head coach of my daughter's ice hockey team a couple of years ago. Bobby was also a hockey coach for another girls team at the same rink, and that is where they first met. When Amanda asked if I was available to photograph her wedding, I couldn't have been more excited!

We met to discuss the details, and decided to do an Engagement Session so Amanda and Bobby would have current pictures that were separate from their wedding day. Honestly, I thought the location was a "no-brainer" - the ice rink of course! But to my surprise, Amanda told me she wanted something different, something no one would expect. I LOVED that because most people are used to seeing these two in their hockey coaching attire at the rink (including me).

Amanda told me a great story about when Bobby took her on a surprise date to Half Moon Bay, CA, and I have to say, I was impressed to learn the softer, more romantic side of B​​obby. We decided right then and there it HAD to be Half Moon Bay!

We set out early the morning of our shoot to beat all the other San Francisco Bay Area people trying to escape the oppressive inland heat. Typical of Half Moon Bay, we had cool weather with perfect overcast skies. Many people think overcast is bad for pictures and sunny is better, but when you're at the beach, direct midday sun can be really harsh and unflattering so I was very happy - great light and no fog!

 

Before our session, I scoured the internet looking for the perfect stretch of beach with lots of options, and decided on The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. We began shooting on an incredibly scenic bluff overlooking the ocean. It didn't take long before Amanda and Bobby created their own amazing moments for me to capture. It's always those spontaneous, unposed moments that make my heart sing.

 

We walked down to the gorgeous beach which had a perfect curved cove in the background. Because Bobby is about a foot taller than Amanda, I was looking for natural props that would even out their height a bit. Once the logistical elements were in place, I let Amanda and Bobby just enjoy each other and their surroundings (with a little direction from me).

Engagement-Portrait-Half-Moon-Bay-Beach

 

Next, I asked Amanda and Bobby to take a leisurely stroll on the beach. Bobby may seem like a tough guy at the ice rink, but once his tender feet hit that cold pacific ocean, I saw a whole new side of Bobby. Too funny!

 

As we walked down to the other end of the beach, we came across this cool outcropping of rock and decided to get a few wider angle shots of Amanda and Bobby surrounded by the powerful ocean.

 

"Tender Foot" trying to get off the rock - LOL.

"You caught me!"

 

Eventually, the sun began peaking out through the clouds so I decided to try a different location on the beach, adding some extra fill light with off-camera flash.

 

Our last stop was this cool wooden bridge lined with beautiful cypress trees.

 

After all our hard work was done, we celebrated with lunch at Sam's Chowder House (YUM!). I had SO much fun getting to know these two on a more personal level. It was great seeing this whole other side of Amanda and Bobby, and it was clear just how much they care for each other. Next weekend, I'll be photographing their wedding day and I couldn't be more happy for them. (Bobby - keep your shoes on!)

 

 

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A Surprise Portrait Session for Lolo's Birthday at Hap Magee Ranch Park, Alamo, CA

August 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Nicole and Andrew | Family Portraits
Date | 4.24.15
Location | Hap Magee Ranch Park, Alamo, CA

 

What do you get your dad for his 70th birthday? - A Surprise Family Portrait Session!

Every year I volunteer to photograph the annual fundraiser for my daughter's elementary school, donating a Family Portrait Session to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. This year's winners were Nicole and Andrew, an adorable couple with two of the cutest kiddos ever!

Andrew immediately asked if I was available on the date they had planned to surprise his father with a big birthday weekend celebration. All of his siblings would be coming to town, so he asked if we could include the extended family. Of course I said YES! What an incredible opportunity to create timeless portraits of this man and his loving family.

 

The Big Day

When the day of our shoot finally arrived, the grandparents, affectionately known as "Lolo and Lola", could not have been happier to have all of their kids and grandkids in one place creating beautiful pictures together.

We decided to start with a big group family shot in case the little ones started to get antsy. I was SO impressed with the amazing job Nicole did in making sure everyone's outfits coordinated. The corals and blue denim together photographed beautifully against the greenery in the background. Just adorable!

 

Then we moved on to each sibling's immediate family, beginning with Nicole and Andrew. I had to laugh as the older kids were all smiles, but little Audrey wasn't so sure. When all the other relatives tried their best to get her to smile, she got a bit overwhelmed. Then all of the sudden, somebody hit the jackpot (I still have no idea what they were doing behind my back), and Audrey busted out the most adorable smiles!

 

Andrew's parents were so cute together, I just had to get some photos of the two of them by themselves. Here's one of my favorite tender moments.

 

Once we had photographed all the smaller family groups, it was time to focus on the kids. The cousin shot was a must-have on my list, especially with these sweet faces! Again, Audrey wasn't sure why she was getting so much attention from the peanut gallery and her smile disappeared. It was time to break out the Cheryl magic. I knelt down close to the kids and quietly started asking about their favorite toys and things to do. We discussed "My Little Pony" and "Frozen", and within minutes the smiles returned. (Oh, and the peanut gallery serenaded us with their rendition of "Let it Go...".)

 

Finally it was play time! I really wanted more candid shots of the kids and I love getting silly with them, so we headed to my favorite group of trees and played a game of "Peek-a-Boo". Audrey finally let loose with her belly laughs and here is what we got...

 

I also took this time to take individual portraits of all the kids as the light was just perfect.

 

Some of my favorite pictures from this session are the ones taken in those "in-between" moments. Posed pictures are important, but I can almost guarantee that right after I say, "Ok, we got it!", someone says or does something funny and we get great moments like these...

 

Then it was "Girl Time". All the girls decided they should get a picture with Lola. So first we did the posed shot...

 

...and then came the "Lola Show". Lola decided it was time to have some fun, and I think the girls were just as surprised as I was!

 

On our way out of the park, we stopped at the playground for more candid moments. Some of my favorites!

 

Nicole and Andrew's family were such a pleasure to work with. They ended up getting a beautiful wall portrait of the whole family to have as a remembrance of Lolo's special day. Happy Birthday Lolo!

Do you have a special occasion coming up?

Special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations are the perfect time to schedule an Extended Family Portrait Session. Not only will you come away with beautiful portraits of your immediate family, but you'll also have timeless keepsakes of your extended family to pass on from generation to generation.

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area Family Portrait Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Family Portrait photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Portraits of Families and Children throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Family Portrait photographers. Each family is one of a kind, and Cheryl feels your Family Portraits should be one of a kind as well. Every Family Portrait Session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your family.

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Photography of Families and Children throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Family Portrait Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and all your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

Maya and Nomi Visit 99.7 FM Radio - A Wish Granted

June 12, 2015  •  1 Comment

Maya and Nomi | Documentary
Date | 1.21.15
Location | FM 99.7 NOW Radio Station, San Francisco CA 
Wish Grantors | Adam Goldstein, Gatsby Entertainment, 99.7 NOW Radio
 

Good People, Giving Back

A few Blog posts ago, I told you the courageous story of Maya's Bat Mitzvah. Maya spoke so eloquently about being the bone marrow donor for her little sister Nomi who is battling Leukemia.

At the party, Maya and Nomi got the surprise of their lives when the good people from FM 99.7 NOW Radio arrived with a special message - an invitation to visit the station for a private tour and meet & greet with their favorite DJs. And thanks to our Bat Mitzvah DJ Adam Goldstein, I was invited to document the visit in pictures!

 

When the big day finally arrived, the girls were given the royal treatment beginning with a limo ride from school to the station in San Francisco! Nomi decided to dye her hair a rock-star shade of lavender just for this occasion. Love that!

I met everyone at the station to find that one of my favorite DJs, Letty B, was in the studio. She couldn't have been nicer, signing the girls' posters and just having fun chatting them up. Gotta love those pink Beats!

 

Then we toured of the rest of the studio. Maya had her "Step-and-Repeat" moment in the same spot all the big musical stars do when they visit the station. 

 

Cool signed memorabilia all over the place!

 

Maya and Nomi had fun laying down some tracks with one of the station's mixmasters.

 

All giggles listening to what they just recorded.

 

We headed back to the on-air studio just in time to watch infamous St. John take his shift at the controls for his afternoon show,  "St. John's Playhouse". I was AMAZED at how fast this guy works! (Although there was an empty Vente-sized Starbucks cup on his desk.) SO much fun seeing all the behind-the-scenes action.

We even got to help him judge one of those listener contests!

 

Then it was Maya and Nomi's turn at the mic. Shout-outs to all their friends at school were a must.

 

Finally, Adam and the girls headed back home... limo-style of course. What a great day!

Special thanks to Adam Goldstein, Gatsby Entertainent, DJs Letty B and St. John, and all the other people at the station who went out of their way to make Maya and Nomi's day so special.

 

My Spring Break in St. Louis or "Angst at the Arch"

April 14, 2015  •  2 Comments

Just returned from Spring Break and thought it was about time for a personal story on the Blog. I'm wondering if any of you can relate to what you're about to read as I'd love to know I'm not alone! Honestly, I wasn't sure if I should even write about this as it's a bit embarrassing, but here it goes...

This year I let my daughter decide where she wanted to go for Spring Break since we haven't had a mother/daughter vacation in quite a few years. It was really a pre-emptive move on my part. I figured if she chose our destination, I would avoid hearing that lovely "teenager voice" complaining about everything wrong with our trip.

So where did she choose? St. Louis! Not exactly what I had in mind for Spring Break, but I had never been, and knowing how much she loves history (and hockey), I agreed.

 

A Visit to the Gateway Arch

The one thing I knew for sure I wanted to do in St. Louis was see the famous Gateway Arch. After all, it's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of St. Louis, right? When I found out you could actually ride to the top for spectacular views of the city, I was SO excited! My daughter on the other hand was less than thrilled. It's about 640 feet high and at first she was hesitant to go. Being the adventurous type, I was determined to convince her we had to "not think" and "just do"!

We arrived at the Old Courthouse to pick up our "Journey to the Top" tickets, and walked past a few exhibits on the history of the Arch.

Side view of the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri where you can pick up tickets to the top of the Gateway Arch.

 

This one in particular got my attention - a model of one of the original "pods" that carried passengers to the top. It looked like a tiny space capsule with 5 seats crammed inside and no windows. All I kept thinking was, thank goodness times have changed because you would NEVER get me in one of those things!

 

 

We made our way to the entrance of the arch and patiently waited for our boarding time to be called.

 

Entering the tram ride to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Walking toward the boarding area felt like waiting for the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland. There were lots of interesting displays on the walls about the construction of the arch, but I never saw any photos of what the tram really looks like. We made our way down the stairs and were told to stand in front of the steel door with our boarding number on it. Here is what we saw...

 

 

The door looked like something out of Alice and Wonderland. It was tiny to say the least. I had convinced myself that this was no big deal. Just a short 5-minute ride to the top. I was excited to hear we could spend as much time as we wanted taking in the the views (and of course taking pictures) before returning back down to earth. Camera at the ready, I heard the cars coming down to pick us up. As Door #4 opened, I stared in utter shock and disbelief at what was in front of me.

 

 

The tram car looked exactly like the "pod" we had seen in the exhibit! (Note: this picture is a close-up of the pod in the museum. I was so stunned after that door opened, I forgot to take a picture of the actual pod!)

My daughter climbed in without hesitation along with another adult dad and his daughter. My heart was racing, my hands started shaking, and all I could say was, "I'm sorry, I can't do this."

I've never thought of myself as being prone to panic attacks, but there I was - completely frozen!!!

Just the thought of being closed into this thing with 3 other people sent me into a full-on panic attack. I said goodbye to my daughter (telling her to please take pictures for me), and walked away. I honestly thought I was going to cry. I was so thrown off-guard by how much this affected me.

 

Panic Attacks? - not me!

I never understood panic attacks before this. I've always thought I would never be "that person". And there I was, sitting in the lobby waiting for my daughter to come back and tell me how ridiculous I was. How could I have let the arch defeat me? Am I getting old? What the heck is wrong with me? I was so disappointed in myself.

About 20 minutes later, my daughter returned from her ride, took one look at me, and wrapped her outstretched arms around me. All she said was, "Come here. Poor mama." I think she saw the sheer terror in my face when that steel door opened.

We walked outside and she shared her iPhone pictures with me. Here's some of what I missed (Photo credits: Hallie Bigman).

 

 

 

 

Shaking it off

Once I started taking pictures outside, all of my anxiety disappeared and I was back in my happy place, looking for that unique shot of the famous arch. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri photographed from the side.

 

 

 

So that was our traumatic event at the famous Gateway Arch. I can only think of one other time in my life when I've even come close to feeling the way I did that day. I was getting ready to shoot a Bar Mitzvah party at UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium and got stuck in a Field Club elevator. Felt like the walls were caving in!

I would LOVE to hear from anyone else out there who's experienced panic attacks or something similar. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

 

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Maya's Bat Mitzvah - A Lesson in Courage

February 25, 2015  •  1 Comment

Maya | Bat Mitzvah
Date | 1.10.15
Service | Temple Isaiah, Lafayette, CA
Reception | The Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, CA
DJ | Adam Goldstein, Gatsby Entertainment
Decor | Balloon Thrills
Caterer | The Claremont

 

Once in awhile, someone comes into your life who touches you in ways you could never imagine. Several months ago, I met with Maya’s family for a consultation about photography for her Bat Mitzvah. As they told me their story, my heart just ached.

You see, one year ago, their youngest daughter Naomi ("Nomi") was diagnosed with Leukemia and their whole world was turned upside down. It reminded me of the first time I met Chelsea and her family (Chelsea's Hope), who many of you know I've worked with over the years. Listening to the pain in their voices as they described what the last year has been like was heart-wrenching.

 

 

And while Naomi's parents were focused on the endless tests, chemo, hospital stays, and complications, Maya was often left to fend for herself. She had to try and continue living her 13-year old life of school and religious studies in preparation for her upcoming Bat Mitzvah, and she did so with courage beyond her years. One of her wishes was that her little sister Naomi would be well enough to attend her Bat Mitzvah...

 

 

I had the honor of photographing Maya's Bat Mitzvah a few weeks ago, and I'm happy to say Naomi made it with flying colors. To be the one to capture her and her family having this one day of “normalcy”, celebrating Maya and just being in the moment was awesome!

 

 

 

 

Nomi’s journey of recovery however is far from over, and the entire family's resilience is being tested once again. On Feb.9th, Nomi re-entered the hospital and endured 8 days of intensive chemotherapy in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Last week, Maya entered the hospital and underwent the procedure to harvest her own bone marrow in order to donate stem cells to save her little sister's life.

 

In Maya's D'var Torah (teaching) about courage, she shared her thoughts on this next step in Nomi's treatment. Maya touched every single person listening that morning including me.

 

 

 

Tears filled Maya's eyes as she spoke so eloquently about being the bone marrow donor for Naomi, and about her fears as she and her family enter this next phase of her sister's treatment.

 

 

 

Here is an excerpt from Maya's speech:

"In new situations, we often need a push. We need someone who believes in us and helps us build our confidence to try a new experience.

Early last year, shortly after my sister, Naomi, was diagnosed with cancer, I had to have my blood tested to see if I might be a match in case she needed a bone marrow transplant. I have a phobia of needles, and I was scared to have my blood taken. My mom and I went to have this done at the same time. Even though I was scared, it helped to have my mom with me.

Even more than that, I kept thinking about Nomi and everything she was going through. I thought, if she can do all of that, then I can do this. Even though I knew I had to do it, her experience helped me build up my confidence to face my fear and do something scary.

Nomi will be getting a stem-cell transplant in February and I am her donor. When I found out, I didn’t hesitate about doing it, at all. But, I am very nervous about how uncomfortable and painful it will be, and I am anxiously anticipating the day. I know I need support to help me get through it and have the confidence in myself to be able to deal with it.

I have learned that I am capable of doing more than I might think.

We are all capable of doing more than we realize. When we come up with excuses and try to get out of doing things that are hard,  we might not ever get the chance to see that we can be good at the difficult challenges we were too scared to try."

 

Wow, what a powerful lesson for us all! Really makes you stop and think...

  • How many times have you let fear stop you from trying something new?
  • How many times have you passed up an opportunity to grow as a person?
  • How many times have you looked back at a missed opportunity in your life and said, "I should have..."

 

Maya's celebration that evening was such an incredible event, truly a celebration of life. Photographing Naomi and her family letting lose and having the time of their lives was such an amazing experience.

 

 

 

Thank you to Maya’s family for sharing their inspiring story and to Maya for having the courage to share her innermost thoughts and feelings about a very difficult situation.

Thank you to Bar/Bat Mitzvah DJ extraordinaire Adam Goldstein (Gatsby Entertainment) for making so much of Maya's party possible.

 

I will continue to follow Maya and Naomi's story in a series of future Blog posts so stay tuned. In the meantime...

 

Maya's family needs our help 

A Fundraiser has been established to help the family pay for Naomi's mounting medical expenses. For the past year, they have been living off of the father's salary as an 8th grade science teacher since mom quit her job to take care of Naomi. Please read more about Naomi's story and consider making a donation today. Goal is to raise funds by Naomi's 12th Birthday on April 27th, 2015.

Find Fundraiser Ideas that Work

 

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area Bar & Bat Mitzvah Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Bat Mitzvah Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Bar & Bat Mitzvah photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Bar & Bat Mitzvah photographers. Each family is one of a kind, and Cheryl feels your Bar & Bat Mitzvah photography should be one of a kind as well. Every Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your special day.

 

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Bar & Bat Mitzvah Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and family and children's photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 

“An Officer and a Gentleman” Comes to Life in San Ramon, CA

November 11, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Paula and Zack | Surprise Portrait Session
Date | 10.17.14
Location | San Ramon, CA

 

The Call

So I get this call from New York and I’m thinking maybe I’m finally going to fulfill my dream of photographing an East Coast Bar or Bat Mitzvah! But little did I know that the gentleman on the other end of the phone was about to give me the photography opportunity of a lifetime. Storytelling through pictures is and always has been what I love most about photography. (I think I must have been a photojournalist in a previous life.) Whether it’s a B’nai Mitzvah, a wedding, a high school senior, or families and kids, I’m always looking for the backstories, and this gentleman had one of the best I’ve ever had the honor of telling.

 

The gentleman proceeded to tell me that he was flying out to California to bring the love of his life back to New York with him, and he wanted to surprise her on her last day of work. He asked me if I was familiar with the last scene in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman”. Well, duh, who from my generation doesn’t know that scene! Richard Gere playing the role of Zack Mayo, after graduating from the military academy against all odds, shows up in his whites at the factory where his girlfriend Paula works. He scoops her up in his arms, places his hat on her head, and carries her off into the sunset. One of the best movie scenes ever, right? So when this real-life Officer and a Gentleman asked if I’d be willing to capture the moment when he re-enacts this scene with his girlfriend, I could hardly contain myself! He told me his girlfriend works at the elementary school down the street from my house. That’s how he found me on the internet (isn’t Google awesome!). So for the purposes of this Blog, the Gentleman shall be known as Zack, and his lady, Paula.

 

We talked about all the details of the shoot, and I was already strategizing about how I was going to capture that special moment in all of about 30 seconds. No pressure! The plan was to wait down the street from the school until about 12:15pm, follow Zack into the school, and then into Paula’s classroom for the big surprise. I would then follow him as he carried her out of the school and walked down the street. For all you photographers (and photo enthusiasts), keep in mind that I was going into the classroom completely blind, no idea on white balance, lighting, etc…, and then going right into shooting outside at high noon. I decided to carry 2 cameras, one with a wider angle lens for the classroom, and one with a long telephoto lens for outside, both with flash at the ready.

 

 

While we were waiting down the street for the big moment, I decided to capture some portraits of Zack by himself as he was looking so sharp in his uniform. It was at this time that he shared his very special story with me and I can’t tell you how close I came to breaking down in tears…

 

 

 

The Story

Zack and Paula first dated in high school. Then, they each went their separate ways, and he joined the navy. They ended up marrying other people, having kids and living separate lives. As is so common, especially in my generation, they married young and as the years went on, grew apart from their spouses. They reconnected at a high school reunion and began communicating more regularly when they realized how much they enjoyed being with each other, and that they had a very special connection. Fast forward 5 years after trying to have a bi-coastal relationship, they finally decided that they did not want to spend another minute apart. Paula gave her notice at work, packed up her house, and prepared to move back to New York.

 

The Big Moment

I love surprises, but I tend to get caught up in the same emotions that my clients are experiencing, so the challenge for me was to stay focused on getting the shots. Not an easy task! We walked into the classroom and this is what I saw through my camera…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It all happened SO fast, and Zack was obviously VERY excited as he booked out of that classroom SO fast I had to run to catch up (while shooting!). Sometimes these things don’t always go as planned. Zack hoped this would be a very private moment, but we didn’t realize it was a Minimum Day – the whole school was out at 12:15! Parents were everywhere picking up their kids. Kids watching knew something great was happening, but they had no idea what. As a result, we had a curious audience watching all of this unfold. I really love the shots that show their reactions because they help to tell the story. Can’t you just hear them saying, “Awwwww”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After…

After the big moment, I introduced myself to Paula. I’m sure she was probably wondering the whole time who this crazy lady was chasing her down the street taking pictures. I decided to do a few quick portraits of Zack and Paula at the same spot I used earlier for Zack’s portraits. I just let them be in the moment and the results were exactly what I hoped for. Every time I look at these pictures, I feel the love and the passion these two have for each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel so honored that I got to be the one to capture this very special time in the life of a true Officer and a Gentleman. A turning point in both their lives for sure. Zack and Paula, I hope you will look back on these pictures years from now, and remember this moment like it was yesterday. Thank you Zack for finding me on Google. Thank you Paula for being so lovely. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness together in New York.

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Portrait Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing portrait photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area portrait photographers. Each family and each story is one of a kind, and I feel your portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together your story.

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Portrait Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Portait Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for all your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 


Family Portraits – How to Make Yours Truly Unique

July 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, Benjamin | Family Portraits
Date | 4.13.14
Location | Hap Magee Ranch Park, Alamo, CA

 

What Makes a Family Portrait Truly Unique?

We’ve all seen them – beautiful portraits of families all dressed in matching blue jeans and white shirts. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But what if you want something a little different. Something that will remind you years later what your kids were like at this age, and how you all related to each other. That’s what custom portraits are all about.

One of the first questions I ask my clients when planning their family portrait session is, “What are your kids into right now?”. If I can find a way to incorporate each child’s “thing” into your session, we are guaranteed to come away with a great collection of natural-looking, truly custom portraits. And just the fact that they’re doing what makes them happy creates a fun session for everyone.

 

Svetlana’s Family Portrait Session

When Svetlana contacted me about doing family portraits with her four kids, we talked a lot about how to make the session relaxed and fun. The kids were all spread out in age, each with different interests and personalities. We decided to go to Hap Magee Ranch Park in Alamo, CA since it not only has a variety of environments to choose from, it has a great playground for the kids to look forward to at the end of the session.

We started with individual portraits of each of the kids. Here is Sarah.

 

 

Sarah is an artist who loves to sketch, so I thought it would be fun to place her in this tranquil forest-like setting and have her do her thing – sketch. I just love the feel of these images.

 

 

 

 

And this is Rebecca.

 

 

She brought a little surprise guest…  meet Dinah the Bearded Dragon. I’ve done lots of family portraits with pets, but this was a first for me! (And no, I’m not a big fan of reptiles, but I have to admit she kind of grew on me.)

 

 

 

Rebecca also loves gardening, so we used this cool sign in the park’s own garden.

 

 

 

And this is Joshua. He’s into reading books, but forgot to bring one. Hey, it happens. So the challenge for me was to get him comfortable in front of the camera without any added props. I asked lots of questions about his favorite things, and soon his personality came through.

 

 

 

 

And this is little Benjamin…

 

 

Ben LOVES his trucks and brought a very special red one just for his portraits. At first he was a little shy and decided it would be fun to hide it from me, but as soon as I told him how much I loved trucks too, he just had to show me.

 

 

… and it stayed with him for the entire shoot!

 

 

 

Of course, we had to get portraits of the entire family together. The first thing you’ll notice is they are not all wearing the same thing. Mom decided to color-coordinate their outfits, but she didn’t stress over getting it perfect. Definitely not “matchy-matchy”, kids were all comfortable, and it worked!

 

 

 

 

I also wanted to create pictures of smaller family groupings to add variety (mom with the girls, dad with the boys, mom & dad, etc…) I could definitely feel the love in this family and that’s what I wanted to capture.

 

 

 

 

In the end, we created a unique set of portraits that captured everyone’s personality perfectly! It’s my wish that as the kids grow older, the family will look back on these portraits fondly, and remember what they were like at this time in their lives. Thank you Svetlana, Douglas, Sarah, Rebecca, Joshua, and Ben, (and Dinah) for allowing me to document your family’s love so beautifully.

 

San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography

I hope you enjoy this San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s Photography provided by Cheryl Bigman Photography specializing in Family photography and Children’s photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cheryl Bigman Photography is unique among other San Francisco Bay Area Family and Children’s photographers. Each family is one of a kind, and I feel your Family portraits and Children’s portrait photography should be one of a kind as well. Every Family portrait session and every Children’s portrait session is treated with the utmost care and attention in order to creatively weave together the story of your family.

 

 

Service Area Information

Cheryl Bigman Photography offers Family and Children’s Photography throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including but not limited to the Tri-Valley and Contra Costa areas of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City on the Peninsula, Marin County in the North Bay, and the South Bay.
Not looking for a Family and Children’s Photographer? Please consider Cheryl for your custom high school senior photography and all your special event photography needs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Destination photography outside the San Francisco Bay Area available upon request. Call for more information.

 


On a Personal Note – My Birthday Wish

June 18, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Yep, today’s the day – my first “post-50th” birthday. Funny how birthdays take on a whole new meaning after 50. Instead of thinking about what to wear to the party, I think about how grateful I am to still be here so I can go to the party! Seriously, I can’t believe how many friends my age have passed or are fighting the health battles of their lives. Having had a couple of health scares myself this year, I’ve grown to appreciate every moment I’m here on this planet!

Since I just returned from photographing the first ever Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Research Symposium in La Jolla, CA, this birthday carries even more meaning as I reconnected with several families whose children have lost everything to this horrible disease. The pain these families have endured is indescribable. I had the honor of photographing many of them for the first Chelsea’s Hope Fundraiser back in 2009, and it’s been heartbreaking to watch their decline ever since. Several have passed away. This is a disease with no cure.

 

Thankfully, an incredible team of researchers have put the “Hope” back into Chelsea’s Hope with groundbreaking discoveries that will eventually lead to a cure. Because it is so rare, Lafora is considered an “orphan” disease, so little or no funding is given. I’m proud to say that Chelsea’s Hope has raised an incredible amount of funds over the last few years, but it’s still not enough.

 

My Birthday Wish

My birthday wish is for you to find it in your heart to give a little something (or a big something) to Chelsea’s Hope Lafora Children Research Fund in honor of my 51st  birthday. Donations can be made through the website at : www.chelseashope.org .

Thank you!

Cheryl

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