Alcatraz II: Back to the Rock with The Travel Channel

You may recall my post from December when I spent the night in an Alcatraz jail cell.  Well, someone over at the Travel Channel noticed the blog post and contacted me for an interview.  This led to an invitation to participate in the filming of a segment for the upcoming show “Unpacked” on Alcatraz which will air this summer as part of a series they are doing on little known local attractions in iconic destinations.

Alcatraz may be well known but very few know that you can sleep there overnight or that it is a bird sanctuary and a botanical marvel.

So, I called up a few of my buddies who did the overnight with me and asked them if they wanted to be on TV.  It wasn’t hard getting them to make the trip back to San Francisco for this rare opportunity.

Not only did we bet to go back to Alcatraz, we went over there with an Alcatraz inmate who spent five years there in the late 50’s.  Robert Luke was his name and he was full of riveting stories of his days on the Rock.

I don’t yet have an official air date for the Unpacked series but it should really be interesting…and it will have me and my boys in one of the episodes so you know its gonna Rock.

I’ll post to my Facebook Fan Page when I know the show schedule.  Go click my Like button so you can stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting!

Baker Beach Engagement Session: Jenny & Santos

Baker Beach is a favorite of Jim Vetter Photography with its iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and gorgeous coastline.  Lots of couples really want this location for their engagement session because it gives a strong sense of location (San Francisco) and its a very romantic spot.

Jenny and Santos were very sweet and we had a fantastic time capturing these images.

Thank you Jenny & Santos for making it easy to create these lovely images!

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2012 Bridal Show Season for Jim Vetter Photography

The 2012 bridal show season is about to kick off and I’ll be exhibiting at three shows over the next two months.  If you’re planning a wedding or if you’re just into this sort of thing, please come out and see me!

Here are the shows on my calendar:

Sunday, January 8, 11 am – 3:30 pm
The Bridal Extravaganza
Marriott Hotel, Santa Clara
2700 Mission College Blvd.


Sunday, January 22nd, 11 am – 4:00 pm
San Francisco Wedding Fair
The Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco
757 Market Street


Sunday, February 26th, 11 am – 3:00 pm
A Soolip Wedding
The Bently Reserve, San Francisco
301 Battery Street

Hope to see you there!

I Slept Alone in an Alcatraz Prison Cell Last Night

Last night was certainly a night to remember.  At 1:45pm, I joined a small group of friends at Pier 33 to embark on an overnight adventure on Alcatraz Island.  I had never been on the island before and had no real idea what to expect.  What I did know was that I’d be sleeping in cell block D – the isolation block on the outside wall of the out of service prison in the middle of the freezing cold San Francisco Bay.

We arrived to a sunny Alcatraz with a few tourists here and there.  The public is welcomed by Rangers from the National Park Service which now manages the island.  Our host and guide was Ranger George Durgerian – a passionate storyteller and lover of history.  He was fantastic.

After Ranger George put us to work clearing brush for an hour he took us to our cells where we go to select a tiny jail cell in the infamous D Block where Al Capone was held at Alcatraz.  I found it a little creepy until later that night at bed time – then I found it a LOT creepy.  More about that later.

Ranger George and Volunteer Jack took us all around the island and the prison, sharing stories of the checkered past of Alcatraz and its willing, as well as no-so-willing, inhabitants.  The image above left is the stairway down to the underground isolation chambers where prisoners were held during WW1 in complete sensory deprivation for extended periods of time.  They turned off the lights while we were down there and we all learned the real meaning of DARK.

As you can see from the images, there are some spectacular things to photograph on Alcatraz.  The dilapidated and crumbling buildings, the creepy cell blocks and the beautiful wildlife and amazing city views are all candy for this kid with a camera.

The weather couldn’t have been better for us.  It was clear, cool and calm with a FULL MOON as well!  The lighthouse in front of the Administration Building looked so cool against the moonlit sky over San Francisco.

Part of our tour was up in the old prison hospital which still has some of the gear used while the prison was still in operation.  There were no lights up there so we found our way with flashlights through the dank corridors of the upper level of the old building.

The views of San Francisco from Alcatraz are so great and last night afforded us the most spectacular scenes.  In the image below, it looks like the city is burning.

I finally crawled into cell #31 around 1:30am exhausted from a very exciting day.  However, sleep wouldn’t come for some time.  I laid down on the old cot and looked out through the bars and began to imagine what it may have been like for the inmates locked away in those tiny rooms day after day and night after night.  I tried to imagine the sounds that would have echoed through that cell block and then I realized I actually could hear it.  At first it was a low rumble and then it became this cacophony of snores booming through the building.  Our group included 32 men and one woman and the roar of the snore was deafening.  Why hadn’t I brought ear plugs??

So anyway, after a creepy night of very little sleep I got up 30 minutes before dawn and grabbed my camera and went outside to greed the rising sun as I began to light the city.

As the sun creeped up on the horizon, this is what I saw from the top of Alcatraz Island.  There was no wind whatsoever.  The flag in front of the building wasn’t moving at all.  The bay looked like glass.

As the sun peaked over the clouds on the horizon, the city began to sparkle and the air began to warm.  What an amazing sunrise this morning.

I walked around the back of the island and climbed a long crumbling staircase up to the back entrance to the old recreation field behind the prison.  This is where well behaved prisoners were treated to fresh air and exercise.  I learned that the game of bridge (played with dominoes instead of cards at Alcatraz) was very popular and many convicts played it for hours out in this cold rec field.  You can see it below right.

Just before we packed up to head back to the mainland, we all gathered for a group photo on the steps in front of the building ahead.  Here we are after our night in D Block.

Many thanks to Dave and Dick who make this trip happen and thanks to all of my cell mates who make this adventure that much more awesome!

Rack ’em!

Here is a link to a great book about the history of Alcatraz at Amazon. Thanks for visiting!

Beautiful Baby Gabriel

I really enjoy photographing everything from babies to weddings.  I love to be the family photographer my clients think of when they want photographs of maternity, baby, birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings and more babies.

One of my clients recently brought a beautiful little boy into the world and asked me to create their newborn photographs.  I was honored to oblige, of course!

I asked Gabriel’s new mommy to get the house warmed up and to get Gabriel’s tummy full so that he’d be nice and sleepy.  He was about 21 days old in these photographs which is about 10 days past when he was sleeping 20 hours per day.  So, it took a little while to get all of these images but it was a wonderful experience all the same.

As you may have gathered, newborn babies are most easily photographed while they are in a deep sleep.  This allows the photographer to ease them into cute little poses that show off their tiny faces, hands and feet.  As you can see below, little Gabe chose a lot of his own poses and did a wonderful job.

Since Gabriel didn’t really want to sleep, I was able to photograph his big baby blues.  What a doll!

Then, as if on queue, Gabriel decided to totally zonk out just as I packed up my gear and this is how I left him at the end of his first photo shoot.

Thank you to Gabriel’s mommy and daddy for trusting Jim Vetter Photography to create their first family heirloom!

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Alie and Dave’s Napa Engagement

I was recently fortunate enough to spend the day in the Napa Valley photographing a very fun couple.  Alie and Dave are getting married next June and wanted to do their engagement session in a special place that they both really love.  Napa was their easy choice.

They are so cute together and are an amazing match.  You can tell by the images how connected they are.

Here is a short video slide show of some of my favorite images from the day.

We had a great day in Napa – the weather was perfect and as you can see, the leaves are turning and the colors were spectacular.  It made for such a beautiful setting.

I went up to Napa early that day and found the location on a country road.  There was this old vacant farm house next to a vineyard and I just had to use it.  Alie and Dave were up for anything and we had a great time.

We had the added bonus of an amazing moon rising just as the sun was setting.  Check that out!  What a day!

Congratulations, Alie and Dave!!

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5 Great Reasons to do an Engagement Photo Session

If you’ve recently gotten engaged and you have not yet planned an engagement photo session, then you should consider this…

  1. Your engagement photos are all about you and your fiance.  They are not about the flowers or the dress or the cake or any of the other things that wedding photography needs to capture.  Engagement photos are meant to feature your relationship with each other in a relaxed environment.  (and they are fun!)
  2. You can use the engagement photos for your Save-the-Date cards.  Your guests will love the card and will probably pin it up or hang it on the fridge.  Who doesn’t want to be on their friends’ fridge??
  3. Engagement photos are a fantastic way to fill your wedding guest sign-in book.  Every guest will sign it because they will just have to look at all of the photos!
  4. You will soon be married and your engagement days will live in your memories.  Your engagement photos will be a wonderful reminder of your courtship and the sweetness between you and your fiance.
  5. Engagement photos are the perfect way to get to know your wedding photographer so you’re more comfortable with them on your wedding day.  The better you know your photographer, the better your wedding photos will be!

The Knot did a little video piece on Engagement Photography that you might find interesting as well.  It has lots of ideas for how and where you might do the session and how to use the photos.

I consider the Engagement Session to be so important that I include it in all of my wedding photography packages.  Please visit Jim Vetter Photography to see my portfolio!

I hope to be shooting your engagement session soon 😀

Jim Vetter Photography coverage of Beats for Boobs Breast Cancer Benefit at Mezzanine SF

I just had the great honor and pleasure of photographing the annual breast cancer benefit, Beats for Boobs.  I’ve covered this wonderful event as principal photographer for several years and it just keeps getting better!  The fashion show, the music, the art… It feels so good to be part of this organization.

Beats for Boobs™ is an all-volunteer organization that grants financial support to local breast cancer non-profits that provide direct services to people battling breast cancer and survivors, promote prevention or offer breast health education. Beats for Boobs™ strives to encourage volunteerism and philanthropy towards the breast cancer community. For the past 8 years, Beats for Boobs™ has united a diverse group of artists and activists to honor and remember people impacted by breast cancer.  They maintain low event overhead and keep attendance fees low to maximize community involvement.

If you didn’t make it to this year’s event and you’d like to contribute, you can always make a donation at

The event was held at Mezzanine in San Francisco, CA.  The large club is filled with displays and delectables including live artists, sculpture, paintings, food, live performers, awesome DJ’s, a huge raffle and of course, the fashion show featuring local designers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering my services with Beats for Boobs over the years.  Just look at this small sample of culture, color and beauty and you’ll see why I love it so much.  But more importantly, the B4B executive team are all good friends and I know that they pour every ounce of their heart and soul into this fund raiser.  They have set this example that I have followed by producing the best images I can to document this amazing party.

I’d like to acknowledge the exec team of power ladies here:  Juliana Cochnar,  Radhika Ragsdale, Katherine Vicker May, Shabnum Mehra, and Summer Frundel.  Thank you all so much for making this a reality!

The fashion show this year had 12 designers and more than 40 models – all volunteering their time and talent to put on a remarkable show.  The images above are a small sample of what I captured.  It was awesome this year to shoot behind the velvet rope!  Thank you, Summer for giving the photographers a little room to work the end of the runway!

I must admit that my favorite part of the shooting this event is the backstage activity.  The energy back there is just wild.  There are people running in every direction, clothes flying, hairspray in my eyes and on my lens and champagne flowing. It’s mayhem!  But everyone is having a fantastic time and getting along famously.  Its such a fun thing to shoot.  The images above are from the backstage coverage this year.

Please do become a fan of Jim Vetter Photography on Facebook.  I’ll be publishing my full coverage of the event on my fan page very soon!

Below is the event detail from the beatsforboobs site so that I can give proper credit to everyone.

The Event

The Beats for Boobs™ San Francisco team is skillfully crafting a stellar roster featuring the very best in local DJs, artists, fashion designers and culinary masterminds.

The Venue

A richly diverse gathering space, Mezzanine showcases live and electronic music from all genres – rock, dance, hip hop, soul, jazz, salsa, world beat – as well as multimedia art events, fashion shows and video/film installations. The multi-use venue boasts state-of-the-art lighting technologies with custom-built sound systems for both live and electronic music. Beats for Boobs™ is proud to return to Mezzanine for our 2011 event; the perfect setting to handle the large-scale performances, musical acts and activities offered at our lively fundraiser.

Mezzanine is located at 444 Jesse Street @ Mint Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. For more information click here.

Fashion Show Designers

DJ Line-Up

Culinary Delights

  • Sauce
  • Golden Gate Meats
  • Royal Hawaiian Food
  • Sysco Foods
  • A & B Produce
  • McQuade’s Celtic Chutneys
  • Pretzel Chips
  • The Cake Gallery
  • Escape from New York Pizza (Downtown SF)
  • Kome Matsuda
  • Jeff Trevathan

Live Performances

  • Light Performances by Solar Flare
  • Aerials by Jozie Gato and Trapeze World

Live Art Gallery

Interactive Art

Video by Hamish Reid

Jim Vetter Photography

The Beneficiaries

Beats for Boobs™ San Francisco is proud to announce the local beneficiaries that will benefit from the profits raised at this year’s 2011 event. Beats for Boobs™ is a 100% volunteer organization. Proceeds from ticket entrance, merchandise sales, donations, raffle tickets and sponsorships will go towards supporting these San Francisco based organizations.

Breast Cancer Emergency Fund responds quickly and compassionately to provide emergency financial assistance to low income women and men of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties who are in active treatment for breast cancer, in order to cover basic human needs, lessen financial burdens, and improve quality of life.

Breast Cancer Fund’s mission is to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of the disease. Growing scientific evidence shows that the toxic chemicals and radiation we’re exposed to in our everyday lives contribute to the high rates of breast cancer. The Breast Cancer Fund translates this science into public education and advocacy campaigns that empower women to reduce their risk and to take part in big-picture solutions so that our daughters, granddaughters and planet can thrive.

Shanti’s Breast Cancer Program is one of San Francisco’s most highly regarded breast cancer support programs offering free culturally competent care navigation services, in-home peer support, translation and transportation assistance and wellness education in Spanish, Cantonese and English to ensure that low income and underserved individuals can access medical care, complete treatment regimens and enjoy an improved quality of life with better health outcomes.

The Sponsors

Beats for Boobs™ San Francisco would like to thank our supporting sponsor, The Walking Company!

Kaleigh and Brian Engagement at the Stanford Dish

Jim Vetter Photography:  As a wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay area, engagement photography is one of my favorite things to do.  This is the time when I really get to know the couple as we just go out and have fun making beautiful photographs.  The wedding day can be pretty hectic but the engagement session never needs to be that way!

Kaleigh and Brian met me in Palo Alto at the Stanford Dish for their engagement session.  The Stanford Dish is a hiking trail next to 280.  It gets its name from the large radio satellite dish on top of the hill.  Its a popular spot for locals to do short hikes (or long walks).

Kaleigh and Brian are as sweet as they are cute.  We had a great time making these images despite the angry hornets, nagging gnats and prowling mountain lions.

Thank you, Kaleigh and Brian for making it so much fun.  Good times!

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