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Photographs are a time machine. They allow us to relive moments and reconnect with children, family and selves from years past.

In the blur of new parenthood, we lose track of just how small a newborn baby's hands were as they wrap around our finger. We forget the wrinkles in their feet. As we get excited about our toddler learning to walk, we quickly move past their bowed legs as they take their first steps. We forget just how round our belly was when we were pregnant. Photographs help bring back those memories. It is why I fell in love with photography.

My favorite images are those that capture the really small gestures: happy or sad -- the way a kid holds a pencil when they draw... the way they look at a leaf in the park... the way they pout. The portraits preserve their appearance and personality, all in one.

I want to document your family's journey, and give you the chance to relive these memories.
I want my portraits to capture you.... being you, being comfortable... being yourselves.

Welcome to Zemya Photography! Thank you for taking the time to visit my site.

--- Ava

Saturday, May 21 2016

San Carlos Family Portrait: Photo Gifts

San Carlos Family Portrait: Photo Gifts preview photo: 0

I love fulfilling photo gifts! G and D bought D’s mom a gift certificate for a family portrait session with me for Christmas. Grandma loved the photos of the kids from the previous fall and was pretty excited to take her own turn. The only trick was aligning the time, because Grandma L lives all the way in beautiful Santa Barbara! As D and G each had business trips to go to last month, Grandma L came up to help with the boys and it was perfect! With the sun setting later in the day, as summer approaches, we met on a Monday evening, after dinner. It was a quick shoot, super close to home. I was actually worried about the wind since with the summer months the winds pick up a ton, but L must have had some excellent family photo shoot karma, because everything died down just in time for our session. It was a lovely evening, and I got to revisit a favorite San Carlos spot in a season where the grass is still green. We had a bunch of fun! I don’t often expect adults to get really into the silly action, but L didn’t miss a beat! The smiles you see on their faces were frozen on mine as I was editing through their photos: I love reliving these moments! I love even more that L has these photos that are just herd of her grand-kids and her. I seriously need to do this for my parents… This might come as a surprise, but my parents are probably the most robbed of photos with their grandkids: consider it one of those ‘shoemakers children’ kind of situations. I need to remedy this next time they are up for a visit. How about you? When’s the last time your parents got photos with their grandkids? Not sure? Give me a holler 🙂

Sunday, May 15 2016

San Francisco Family Photographer: Plan B

San Francisco Family Photographer: Plan B preview photo: 0

Remember how this family photographer was just saying that I was surprised how long it’s been since she’d photographed a family session on the beach? Well, I had not one, but actually two planned back. My second family shoot was to be in the city at Crissy Field, with the Golden Gate Bridge being a symbolic background. I drove to the spot we were to meet earlier in the week (since I hadn’t been there in years, I wanted to get re-acquainted with what I had to work with). It seemed like a fun place and I was excited to do it. And then our session day came, and clearly the wind had very different plans for us. You see, while the sky was perfectly clear and a beautiful sunset was brewing, the wind was so strong, that the sand was blowing so hard it was exfoliating my face. I could not hear or shout past it. It would’ve been miserable for a family photo session, especially for a little kiddo. So, thinking on the fly, appreciating the proximity to the Palace Academy of Art, we quickly got in a car and changed venues. Plan B. I’d never shot at Palace of Fine Arts before…. unless you count the time I took a photo of my cousin 11 years ago when she was visiting with my point and shoot camera. Yet, there we were, me thinking on my feet on where to go so we can have the illusion of some privacy amidst what felt like 200 people that were hanging out there that afternoon. At least, the wind was no longer a factor. Also, I am super thankful to have clients that are super flexible and understanding that no matter how much we plan, having a plan B [for the same day] is a great idea. I gotta tell you — working with these guys was a blast. They’re funny! When we talked over the phone, planning out their family photos I knew it would be a fun time. I am a bit disappointed there were no matching onesies for the whole family — after all, we did discuss this as possible outfits for this day. It would’ve been great! I was even willing to don on one (had they brought me one my size). I setup my camera while I wait for my families to arrive. Here is[…]See more from “San Francisco Family Photographer: Plan B”

Thursday, May 12 2016

Peninsula Family Photos: Sand in my pockets

Peninsula Family Photos: Sand in my pockets preview photo: 0

Do you remember the super warm and beautiful day we had three weeks back? It was our first day in the 80s and it almost felt like spring slipped into summer a little quick. It was the day that everyone headed to the beach…. and I was in the line of cars heading there too. When H reached out to me, she asked that we try and do their family photos at Montara Beach. Her family was moving away from California in a few months, and they spent time at this beach so it meant a lot to them. I was happy to oblige. I’m almost a little surprised how few family portrait sessions I’ve done at the beach. Come to think of it, I think there have only been two. Granted, the beach is not all that close, but still — a far cry from an hour drive. I’m hoping that this might be the year that statistic turns around a bit more. I left an hour early to arrive on time… because clearly half of the Bay Area was heading to the beach that day too. I was hoping that our evening session would leave the beach a bit more private, and even though many cars had been pulling away, private was far from our experience, but we still had fun. It was too late to head home for dinner after our session, so I hit up tapas at La Costanera, a restaurant right at the Montara Beach parking lot. It was super yummy, and I got to watch the sun set over the water and fire-pits at their outdoor patio. Having dinner alone at places like this always feels a little awkward to me, but it’s also a nice way to reset before an evening of photo back-up and post-processing. As I was walking to the car after dinner I reached in my back pocket for my car keys. Guess what I found? Literally an inch of sand in there. No amount of scooping was about to get those sand-grains out. Yet again, it goes to show me how all over the place I am when I shoot: I’m on my belly, I’m on my back, and clearly digging into the sand. Clearly the beach didn’t want to let me go without a souvenir 🙂

Friday, April 29 2016

Belmont Baptism Photographer: Telling stories

Belmont Baptism Photographer: Telling stories preview photo: 0

I drive by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Belmont almost every week-day on my way to drop off your youngest at his pre-school. It’s an incredible building on the outside. The doors alone are remarkable, and I’ve had fantasies of being able to photograph in this space for such a long time. My family goes to the Greek Festival held by their community every year: (frankly it’s one of the few chances I have to get a taste of the sweets I grew up with this side of the Atlantic). But I had never before been inside. Earlier in the week I received a call asking if I would be available to photograph a Belmont Baptism. It’s not something I get to do very often, and after talking to G (the God-father), it turned out I was available, the timing was perfect, and the location happened to be just this church. When the stars align, how can you not do it? I won’t lie — photographing religious celebrations makes me so nervous!!! I am constantly in fear of doing something to accidentally offend or do wrong by that faith. I called a friend earlier in the week, who was raised into the Greek Orthodox Church to ask about the baptism celebration. I spoke with Father Peter, from Church of the Holy Cross, as well, so he can tell me what was OK in his place of worship. Still, I was researching online, and had butterflies in my stomach like you wouldn’t believe. I still hope I did OK. Now, let’s take a moment and talk about the inside of Church of the Holy Cross. It’s gorgeous! The floor to ceiling mosaics just take my breath away. Take a look! Everything but the icons by the altar is a mosaic: small pieces of colorful stone assembling these masterpieces. My mother is a restorer by profession. She also specialized in iconography. She’s handled ancient religious artifacts to bring them back to life, and watching her do it while I was growing up gave me a great appreciation for how images like this last, and the level of effort and artistry that brings it together. Little E’s baptism was a very intimate affair. Just the immediate family and a few close friends. My heart was so warmed that they treated ME like family. E’s mom pinned a witness martirika[…]See more from “Belmont Baptism Photographer: Telling stories”

Tuesday, April 26 2016

San Mateo Lifestyle Family Photos: At home

San Mateo Lifestyle Family Photos: At home preview photo: 0

The reason I like lifestyle family photos at home is simply how different each session turns out. Each home is like a fingerprint — every family makes it uniquely their own. Even if I was to walk into the same layout of a house, every piece of furniture, every comfort accommodation each family does makes their home special to them. That variation, and unexpectedness keeps me on my photographer toes in such a good way. I love family portraits at home just for that reason! Outdoors, I’m antsy to know my surroundings. I need to know where the light comes in, where it falls, how I can make it work with my photo (or at least not against it). I will scout out locations that my clients request trying to get as close to the time of day, even if that means driving an hour, so that I know what I’m getting into. Yet, going into a family home I don’t have that urge for control. All I can hope for is decent-enough window light (though I bring a little video light just in case), and room for me to work in. I’ve crammed myself up into closets, stood on top of beds and tables all to get the shot and it’s been great. I love the challenge! I love having to think on my feet! I love getting a chance to incorporate those home elements into shots. I’ve been fortunate that so many of my sessions this year have given me this chance to shoot indoors. Partly due to rain, but also because my families requested it. When I walked into G’s home, her husband was still getting ready (another bonus to family sessions — a little behind on one person isn’t as big a deal!), so I took the opportunity to get a tour of the place and do some snuggle shots of Mommy and her little girl. In J’s nursery there was this awesome bed. See: this Mom and Dad were smart — they realized that if you’re going to be making the trek to the nursery and hang with a sleepless kiddo, doing in in the comfort of a cozy full size bed IN the nursery is the way to go. I can’t tell you how many nights I stood over our sons’ crib, or tried to sleep in a rocker next to them WISHING I[…]See more from “San Mateo Lifestyle Family Photos: At home”