New Websites!

If there was one project I needed to finish in the last couple of months it was this...and let me tell you it feels great! After months of editing and choosing and years of putting it off, I finally have two brand new websites to showcase my most current work.

The first site is a revised version of my wedding and portrait site. The second site is a brand new beauty showcasing some of my commercial and editorial work.

Both can be accessed through

Want to reach just my wedding and portrait work? Visit here: Want to reach just my commercial work? Visit here:

Hope you like what you see. I am sure there will be little tweaks in the coming weeks...but for now it will do.

Ah. Posting this feels SO good. Now I am going to go kick my feet up and try to find something to eat with whipped cream.

Portrait + Linen Books- Madera Albums

You guys, I really really like these custom books that I offer to my clients.

I have posted images of the leather version here...but wanted to show off the portrait book (with a printed cover) and the linen book that I offer as well.

Clean, simple, classic. Handmade. Not going to be outdated tomorrow. The pages are thick and with these books there is just a folded gutter...which some like more than a split gutter (which comes with the leather books)...I like both for different reasons.

Most of the time I am laying these out for wedding clients but holy moly they would be beautiful books for family sessions or a birth story.

I am running a print and product sale for 30% off through this Sunday. Email me if you are interested in printing out those images living on your computer. Let them escape and live in a book instead! Books last longer than computers, FYI.

Madera Books

I have been a busy little bee designing and laying out books for clients. I think this last month I designed 9 different books! It is so gratifying to print my images, bind them and hand a family heirloom over to eager eyes. Don't discount the importance of printing your photographs. Photographs are something that increase in value over time..until there really isn't a price you could put on them... because they are worth everything to you. All of the weddings and portrait sessions I shoot now include prints or albums. They have to! It's too important.

So, back to the point of this post...I started using a new book binding company for some of my high end bound books, Madera Books. I am so in love with the simplicity and quality of this book. Shown are a 12x12 size book and a 8x8 size book. The books feature a lay-flat page with an itty bitty crease and the printing is flawless.

I am so excited for Ryan and Carol to have this beauty in their hands. I am getting ready to send a big box of albums and prints to them in Australia!!

If anyone is interested in having me create one of these beauts for them, send me an email or give me a call. I would love to help you check that off your list.

2012 Lookbook

I am so excited about my new lookbook for clients...I don't even care that I am sharing snippets of it shot with an iphone of my computer screen! Even though the images are sub-par I think you can get a feel for the colorful crazy circus of love.

I have so many more fun packaging and clients gifts I am putting together right now. I just want the presentation to be worthy of the images.

Hope everyone is having a great week. I am. I work a little, mom a lot and this week in particular I am just content with the pace we have going. Life is good.

Best of 2011

...and this is only what I actually blogged. I still have more 2011 images yet to come.

The interesting thing about this year was I only worked half of it...June through December. Those 7 short months were so amazing for my business that Grant joined up with me. In 2011 the word "family" took on a whole new meaning for us.

I was tempted to only show one image..which wraps up the whole year for of my sweet Nova. Really she was the focus, the center, the star. BUT then I realized without the trust and work my amazing clients give me, we wouldn't be in the same situation , we wouldn't be able to focus so much on what really matters the most to us.

So from the bottom of this new mothers heart, thank you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your celebrations and challanges and newness...and thank you for being a part of mine.

My prices have been raised for 2012. My time is more precious and my family more needy. I will only take select weddings and commercial jobs. I want to give only my best to my sweet clients and to my family.  I am so exited at the new opportunities I'm sure await me in 2012. The new relationships, the new images I will create and the new changes for my family.

I have so many amazing ideas swirling in my head. Ideas that 2012 will bring to the surface.

Happy New Years!!

Love, Rachel, Grant and Nova

Brethen Family Take 2

I posted some images from this shoot a couple weeks back. That post was shot on film and this post is all digital. I like both..for different reasons.

What are your thoughts? Does the medium matter as much as the content? Does the medium add to the content?..that is the more important question in my mind.

Take a look. What are your thoughts?

I am a hybrid shooter. I like being able to shoot whatever I think will do the best job in the moment. The problem is, I love so many cameras and each record the moment so differently that I wish I could shoot all cameras for every frame (impossible).

Just stuff I am thinking about...

Being a Mom & Photographer Isn't Always Easy

(photo taken by Julia Bender)

Here's the scenario:

You've spent the last 13yrs wanting to document every worthy moment through a camera and lens. You live in extreme guilt (and sometimes pain) when you don't document said important moments. You try and tell yourself to be present, enjoy the moment as it is happening...and you do try and sometimes even succeed..but deep down you mourn the loss of capturing the perfect ray of light falling at the perfect moment illuminating the perfect expression or thought or mood. Deep down you wish you could have both, the experience and the recorded memory.

Being a Mom and a photographer isn't always easy.

After being up for 48hrs+ strait, 27 of which I was in labor....17 of which I was in active my home..without pain medication....The number one thing people wanted of me was PHOTOS. "Where are the pictures?" "Can't you just post a photo from your iphone" "We NEED to see her".

I get it people and I truly did sympathize.

I wasn't about to have the 1st photo of her shown to the world be a semi OK photo taken with a mobile phone. Sorry. This photographer knew her daughter deserved more.

So while she was yet one day old, I stole 10mins and tried to photograph my newborn. Emotions were running high. Family was waiting in the family room to meet her..but I only had 10mins of daylight, 1omins left of day one. 10mins to photograph a moment I had been anticipating for years..her 1st photoshoot. So of course I was in tears. "This isn't what I wanted!"..."I need more time!"...Standing was still uncomfortable. My emotions were fragile and so was my body. I held my camera with shaky hands and proceeded to climb to a standing position on top of my bed to get the right angle. Grant was helping to hold me up and with tears running down my face, I took a few shots.

Taking photos has gotten a bit easier...but still it's a constant balance between me as a photographer and me as a Mom. I know I am both..that won't change but I have found that at times the need to give in to the lack of perfection. Giving in to the fact that executing the vision exactly as I see it in my mind won't always happen.

Our families theme for the year is "Creating Space". In this situation I have found the need to let certain things go in order to create space for others. I need to hold her and feed her and look at her AND not because she needs it but because I need it...sometimes more that putting her down to get the shot.

Which leads me to the reason of this post! (Thanks for sticking with me this far). My friend Julia was coming over to meet our little gal and I asked her to bring her camera and get a few shots of us as a family. So glad I did. We don't have a lot of the three of us and the ones of her and I are always tinged with the stress of me setting up the shot, checking exposure etc. Julia came, shot and presented these beautiful photos...meanwhile I was holding, loving and kissing my best girl and guy.

I am going to get this photographing my own child thing down. Mark my words. Trust me I have already taken thousands of photos of her (not kidding). I am planning on posting some more images of our first few weeks together this week...that is unless I am too busy being present.

Any professional Mom/photographer combos out there that want to share their best tips for balancing the two roles?

Living A Creative Life

[youtube=] Chase Jarvis posted this video of the Sartorialist on his blog.

Not only is this short clip beautiful to watch, but it made me think about how complicated we sometimes make our efforts to live a creative life.

I love that his idea was simple and uncomplicated. He wasn't trying to copy someone else's creative life...instead he choose his own.

But as any "creative" will tell you, it's hard (maybe impossible) to ever feel like it's enough. There is always something more to say...and other ways to say it.

Questions I always have on my mind are, "How can I get this out?" "How can I satisfy this urge?". I'm guessing those questions never go away.

Solitary Inspiration

If this would have been the only image I shot while in Kauai last month, I would have been content.

Some of you may look at it and think, "What's the big deal?" "A landscape with some horses?....this is #1 image you shot?"....and if you are thinking those things fine! Really. I didn't shoot it for you. I shot it for me.

I am tired of shooting when I don't feel I don't. If I don't "see it"..if I don't "feel it", then I don't take 1000 frames of it that I later open up in photoshop and HAVE to dig through.

Ask yourself when you shoot, "Why?'. What are you going to do with that image? What does it mean to you? Why does it matter? As long as you have an answer SHOOT. And even if you don't, you can ignore me and still shoot it. Just don't come crying to me when you lose all feeling.

My life does not happen in front of screens or behind them (at least not all of it).

This image is purely sentimental. It reminds me of begging my family to pull over when I first laid eyes on that wide open space. I think I was 14yrs old...and I had to run through it. I HAD to. So they stopped and we jumped fences and were free. I hold my breath every time I see it. It reminds me of innocence and change and love and family and solitary inspiration. It is always blessed with magic light. It is my field. It's where I go to in my mind when I just need to run free.

I had my polaroid land camera and 2 frames left to get it right. Always guessing on exposure with that camera, since your options are "lighter or darker"...I was fiddling with the settings and focus etc..when I saw horses running strait towards my framed image. Could it be?!  No time to think. Say a prayer, finalize settings, push the shutter. It could be great. It could be a mess. Grant and I leaned over the white little sheet, peering at the first peeled corner. Oh please oh please oh please...60secs later and there it was. My favorite image of the whole trip. Just one shot...perfect to me.

We looked at each other. I'm not sure if we even said anything at all. He knew. I knew.

Guess we better head to the beach and think about how great our life is. First a stop at Banana Joe's.

(image shot of the Princeville Ranches, north shore Kauai)

Selective Color

Usually (like always) I am against selective color....but when I saw these images on Orange Beautiful's Blog showing Brown Sparrow Nest's knitted scarfs, I thought it was well done and fitting.

It is because it is showcasing a specific product? The way it was photographed?

What are your thoughts? Yay or nay on letting selective color slide this one time?

(And can I please have at least 5 of these scarfs? Wish I had the patience to knit.)

Underwater- Behind The Scenes

(all images shot by Mr. Grant)

It was not dressed right for this shoot. I should have been wearing a wetsuit. Do they make maternity wetsuits? Needless to say it wasn't my most flattering look for meeting new clients BUT turns out they weren't expecting me to be in a prom dress.

It was cold outside the water and in. It was overcast. No direct sunlight. All of these conditions did make me shuffle a bit and go to game plan B. I have shot underwater before but only once and so this was definitely an experimental shoot. This was known by all parties involved. I knew that once I was in the water and could meter and play around with the equipment I would have a better idea of what I could control and what I couldn't.

Knowing that I couldn't use any directional natural light really make me focus on getting a variety of different activities and varied positioning...from near the surface and some a bit deeper near the floor of the pool.


  • Aquatech housing
  • borrowed canon camera and 24mm lens (that fit the borrowed housing)
  • dry 5d for out of water shots and candids
  • plenty of  CF cards
  • ankle weights, waist belt w/weights and goggles
  • oxygen tank, provided by clients (to be used if they wanted/needed)
  • thrift store suit and wedding dress. NOT what they are wearing on their wedding day
  • towels
  • tea (provided by our hosts. bless them)

That's all there was too it. We jumped in, played around with a few ideas I had and then crawled out an hour and 20mins later.

The colder I was the harder it was to hold my breath for long periods of time...but the adrenaline of shooting made it much easier than I had anticipated.  And the weights were magic! As first I was nervous that I was going to feel like a trapped pregnant lady, stuck at the bottom of the pool....but it wasn't the case at all. They helped me stay down just enough that I didn't have to fight to stay down while trying to get the shot.

After we were out and the camera was taken out of the case...not a drop! It was dry dry dry and I feel a little bit in love with Aquatech. Santa?......

I did edit these image more than I usually do. More cropping and cleaning and color adjusting...but it was fun. I loved the more fine art feel to this shoot and enjoyed my computer time with them afterwards.

The color balance was tricky. While I was shooting I could feel most of these turning into BW images. I knew it would help with the color issue and add to the moodiness that already existed.

I have to thank David again for letting me borrow his gear. He pretty much outfitted me with the housing, camera, lens, weights and googles. Amazing and so kind.

Now...who else wants to go for a swim?


I have had a lot of questions about editing and digital workflow lately. Check out my formspring to read a general description on what happens to my images after I shoot....and i'll just say now (so you're not disappointed)...not much.

I'm sure there are a million fancier workflows but I guess I'm just not that fancy.

If I change too much I feel like I am being dishonest. Like my photojournalism teacher scribbled on the board the first day of class 10+yrs ago:

"All photos are lies."

I do kind of feel bad about that, so I try not to perpetuate the problem.

Remember from now on I am taking all questions here:

Thanks and love.

Shooting Schedule

I've needed to post my schedule for the next 6mos for awhile now. After turning down numerous weddings for this coming February, I knew I needed to set a more firm timeline for maternity leave.

As of now our little thumbelina is scheduled to arrive early-ish February. Because of this not so small event I am not booking weddings from January-April. I will also not be taking any out of state jobs during the same time-frame.

I will however be taking local jobs on a case by case basis Jan-Apr 2011. Please email for inquiries.

I will be back to shooting as normal in May.

I have already started booking work May through the end of 2011 so let me know if you are interested in reserving a date.

As excited as we are for our miniature lady to join the is hard for me to take the time off from work. I get a pit in my stomach having to say no to jobs that I really want to shoot.

It will be a bit of an adjustment finding the right balance and I appreciate your patience as I learn to juggle marriage, motherhood and work.

xxoo- Rachel

(This is one of my all time favorite photos. My mom holding me as a newborn at home in Fairbanks, AK. I love her hair and the snow and the tall trees...and I really love the reflection. Good job Dad.)

Creative Live Weekend

(The last photo was taken by fellow classmate Eric. Proof I was in the same room with Master Zack)

The three day studio lighting course with Zack Arias felt more like 3 months. SO much so little time.

It was a photo geek fest. Lights, exposures, cameras, lenses, modifiers, my new boyfriend the 7ft westcott octabank, community, twitter, chat rooms, ruby slippers.......

If you weren't able to watch it live online, and you think you can handle the "geek" level, buy a DVD of the course here.

Zack is an open OPEN book. I have used studio lighting before even though I am a natural light girl at heart, but even with my limited knowledge there was so much I didn't know. Some might have been a review like some of the fstop/numbers talk BUT I had so many little questions about set up and settings and tips on getting a perfect studio shot through the camera. Zack answered all of them. I especially wanted to learn more about modifiers and his opinion on what to buy...what was really needed.

I feel extremely blessed to have been one of the 6 people invited to attend. It really is kind of dreamy for me to be surrounded by people that share so much of my same passion. Being there and reconizing my extreme interest and love for my sport, confirms again what I have always known. I love photography.

Zack and his crew were beyond gracious and kind.  Chase Jarvis hugged me when we met, feed us barbecue and then let me borrow his iphone charger...nuff said. AMAZING. The Creative Live team was so inviting, fun to be around and so on it! You should have seen the production. So impressed. And my other 5 classmates......quality, quality people. Genuine, ego free and all with that fire behind their eyes. I know that fire.

I also gained a lot of new Twitter friends (if you want to follow me on twitter you can here) and for that I am so grateful. I love how the photography community has changed through twitter. It was an amazing process to watch this weekend as questions rolled in and Zack was able to answer them in real time. A wealth of information was being shared. It was humbling to watch.

I received numerous questions via twitter and thought I would answer some of couple of them here:

-No, I do not have an "actual" studio in my bathroom. I have this great mini bathroom that boosts great window light and a white wall behind my tub. I have been know to fake a studio look tub side in a pinch. My tryout video, seen here, for this class shares a glimpse of my fake studio. I also shoot every once in a blue moon in real studio setups like here and here.

-So many of you kind of souls were concerned about my focusing issues while I was shooting live (in front of probably 16,000 plus people!!!). I have not yet solved the issue. I did find a forum with some info here,, but not a firm solution. I have been shooting with that 5D for over three years now. Might just be time for an upgrade. My focus lock has been intermittently working and not working for a couple of months now. Very annoying, especially when thousands of people are watching it happen. Such is life. Let me know if any one has any suggestions on the matter.

Love, love, love to everyone that made this weekend happen and thanks again to Zack & Meg for having me out. It was like Disneyland on crack.

I just feel inspired to be better. A better photographer and a better person.

Links to all my awesome classmates (or as Jeramie called us, "The Oceanic Six"...even typing that makes me miss LOST pretty fierce):

Jeramie Shoda

Aileen Reilly

Jordan Cartwright

Eric Krebs

Nicholas Lopez

Creative Live w/ Zack Arias!! Need Help from Rachel Thurston on Vimeo.

If you follow me on my twitter feed, you might have all ready seen this. A few days ago I put together a little video tryout for a spot at a studio lighting class Zack Arias is teaching in Seattle for Creative Live.....AND WON!

I am so excited and happy and honored and just overall freaking out. I have already learned so much from following his blog, I can only imagine what I will learn being with him in person.

Visit Creative Live to learn more about the class which will be broadcast for free. Amazing, right?


Time To Vote

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(Niece Julia & nephew Jake. Sacramento is too far away.)

I already got a lot of great feed back from my previous posts but I thought I would get the final say in one place.

I am not promising that I will use the image size that gets the most votes, but I still want to know the general opinion. It matters. I don't want to have annoying images that scream at you...AND I want it to be a friendly size based on how you view them.

Voting ends Friday 6pm PST

Which size image would you prefer to see on my blog?
image 1- 900px
image 2- 850px
image 3- 800px
image 4- 750px
image 5- 700px free polls


We are off on our European adventure with a new friend...A Canon 310XL super 8 camera. Grant found this baby and we are excited to test our skills at movie making.

I have pre- blogged and maybe if I'm lucky I'll find time to share some stuff while we are on the road. xo.