How I Became A Photographer

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked how long I’ve been a photographer.  What I can tell you is I’be been asked far more times than I can count.   Typically when asked, I throw out the elevator pitch of “I’ve been taking pictures since I was a kid… but I’ve only been a professional for about 18 years”.  This short explanation is so much faster than telling the whole story.  I do however know a lot of you are curious.  So, for those of you who would like to learn more, keep on reading, the full story is below.

The Beginning – Montana Girl

In elementary school, I went on a cross country trip with my grandparents to Massachusetts and New Hampshire to visit family.  At the time it was a huge deal.  First of all… I had convinced my grandma somehow with cute smiles and batting eyes that she should take me with her.   You know…because I was the cutest grandchild ever!  Or so I thought.   To my surprise she bought me a ticket!  The next thing I know this little Montana farm girl, who was only about 10 at the time, was riding on a plane for the first time and seeing her first big city… Boston.

My mom decided to send me off with a camera in hand.  It was a cheap 110 camera.  In fact, I actually still have it.  My Aunt Carol drove my grandparents and I around Massachusetts and New Hampshire visiting all kinds of historic sites.  I took pictures at all the places we stopped.  I’ll be honest, the photos were HORRIBLE.  I mean horrible!  As in I can’t believe my mom paid for the film and processing!  Most of the images were a big blurry mess of objects.  I didn’t hold the camera steady and I often was to far away from the subject matter.  More often than not, you couldn’t even tell what I was trying to photograph.

Although my parents and I held a stack of blurry photos in our hands, my my mother noticed something.  Even though the majority of my photos were HORRIBLE, she felt I had an eye for subject matter and most of all I enjoyed taking photos.  (I started taking photos around the ranch when we got back)

The following fall I enrolled to take photography as a 4-H project.  Let me stop here for a moment.  For those of you who think 4-H is all about raising animals and baking cakes;  you’re wrong!

photographer brenda Leap at age 9
age 9

My Learning Years

I completed the first year of the photography project and continued onto level 2.  Around this same time my mother started entering my photos into various fair competitions.  I usually did “OK”,  I won a ribbon here and there.  At some point a local photo enthusiast  (I don’t remember who) saw my images in the fair and told my mother she should push me a little harder.  This person felt I had talent and told my parents they should consider buying me an SLR to learn the in’s and outs’ of photography.  My Dad had an old Yashica 35mm rangefinder camera in the closet. Leftover from his days in the Navy.  He took it out one day and started showing me how to focus the camera and load the film. The 4-H books taught me the rest.  Shutter speeds, f-stops, film speeds, composition, on camera flash and so much more.  I guess you can say I was hooked.  It all made sense to me.  It just clicked!

Advanced Amateur

By the time I was in high school I had taken multiple levels of photography in 4-H, was entering photos in competitions and was the a photographer for the school yearbook.  In addition I was working a variety of “odd job” photography gigs within the community.  If I remember correctly my first semi professional photo gig was to take photos of all the grand prize large animal winners at the county fair for the local extension office.  Within the next few years the local newspaper hired me to cover the entire week of the fair as well.  I took photos of most of the 4-H grand prize winners plus sewing, cooking, quilting, swine, rabbit, chicken, steers… whatever they asked me to photograph.  All those photos were featured in the local news paper and my name was listed as “photographer”.  At the time, I was thrilled.  My involvement with the local paper grew.  If my school and extra corricular activity allowed, I also photographed sporting events for them.

Right around my junior year of high school is when I began photographing portrait sessions of friends.  Prior to this… my sister was my favorite model and primary test subject.  Although I was mostly shooting senior sessions of friends…  I was getting paid for my talent.

I’m not sure off hand if I was in middle school or high school… but at some point I set my mind to being a professional photographer.  In the beginning my dream was to be a portrait photographer. I never considered other possibilities/niches within the profession until going to college.

Photographer Brenda Leap holding a 35mm SLR
1989

In college, I was drawn to documentary work and upon graduation, I had an idea in my head that I wanted to work on large, in-depth photo essays.  Maybe something such as National Geographic.

A Professional Career Is Born

Straight out of college, with a B.A in hand, I was trying out a variety of jobs within my field of study.  I could be found working a number of part-time jobs and any given time.  I was a freelance photographer for local newspapers and magazines, worked in 3 different photo labs that I can remember, sold cameras, and even worked for various local portrait photographers.  In the end, my bills needed to be paid and I realized I wanted something a little more stable than freelance work & part-time gigs.  It was during this time that I remembered how much I enjoyed photographing people.  Slowly I let the freelance work drop off and I began to only focus on portrait work.

Since this progression back into portrait photography, I’ve worked for other photographers in addition to starting my own portrait studio.  Time spent with other business owners has taught me both what to do and what not to do with my own business.

holding a self portrait of myself taken in college.
20+ years ago.

Leap Photography was officially established in 2004, not long after my move to Boise.  Up until about four years ago, I ran the business out of my home.

Boise Photographer

My husband and I own a 1917 craftsmen home in Boise’s West Downtown neighborhood.  The house is perfect for just the two of us… but not large enough to have a separation of business and home.  My poor husband was getting kicked out of the house more often than not because of my client appointments.  So….with much hemming and hawing… I finally moved the business out of the house.   My husband now has a home to always come back to, where he knows he won’t be walking in on my business appointments and I can now relax at home and keep work at the office…. well, for the most part.

Nowadays I photograph weddings, event, and portraits of all kinds.  My studio is located in downtown Boise but I’m frequently found throughout the treasure valley on photo shoots.

I’ve recently picked up some personal photography projects that lie within the “fine art” realm of the craft.  You can check out some of my non-portrait work by either jumping on over to my Etsy Shop or dropping by one of my “First Thursday” open houses.

So that’s my long story in a nutshell.  I hope I didn’t bore you too much, but 30+ years of photography experience is a lot to cover! — Brenda

portrait of photographer Brenda Leap

Jade: The Kitten | Boise Pet Photographer

For those of you who know my husband and I well…you know we LOVE our kitties.  They are spoiled rotten and very well taken care of.

For years we had 2 Siamese cats… Shiva and Kali.  They greeted us at the door every day when we came home and they snuggled up in bed with us every night…giving us hugs and kisses.

Last July we had to put our beloved Shiva down.  As you can imagine, my husband and I were devastated.  Shiva had been our friend and companion for 15 1/2 years.  People always commented on how she was more like a dog than a cat.  She had been with us on at least 3 road trips to Montana.  She had also been on a few camping trips with us and of course after 15 years of companionship… she’d been with us during some of the big milestones in our life.  She was a smart, talkative, caring soul. Not only did my husband and I grieve for her passing…but our other kitty, Kali has missed dearly as well.

For a few months we had been mulling over the idea of introducing a kitten into the house.  We felt Kali was getting lonely while by herself during the day and each of us had mentioned the house seemed a little too quiet now that we only had one feline friend roaming about the house.  Both of us had started casually looking at pet adoption web sites.  We’d even stopped into the Humane Society a time or two to take a look around, but never found a Siamese.

After living with 2 Siamese cats for 15 years… we knew we wanted another.  We also knew adopting a Siamese was going to take time.  It’s a popular breed and people don’t typically give them up.  We contemplated purchasing from a breeder… but hadn’t taken the Leap (no pun intended).  Then one day I was on Facebook.  What comes across my feed but a photo of a cute Siamese kitten.  Happy Jack Cats was looking for a forever home for a kitten, which they had described as a Tokinese.  Tonkinese are a crossbreed of the Siamese and Burmese breeds.  I forwarded the link to my husband… asked what he thought.  He said, “well it can’t hurt to inquire…she’s probably already adopted”.  I contacted Happy Jacks and she was not adopted.  So, I set up an appointment to see her later in the day.  The minute I walked through the door she walked right up to me and rubbed her head against my leg.  She had me!  I adopted her on the spot.

She’s been with us about a month now….and I normally don’t take studio portraits of my own kitties but… Happy Jacks asked for photos of her to use in their marketing materials.  Plus….they’re putting together a 2018 Calendar.   We of course said YES….because come on….isn’t she gorgeous!  (Yes.  I might be just a bit biased)

So….I introduce to you JADE!  The new love of our lives.

 

 

Siamese kittenCloseup of Siamese kitten with green eyeslounging Siamese kittenCurious Siamese kitten

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Treefort 2016: It’s just around the corner | Boise Event Photographers

Today tickets went on sale for Treefort 2016.  Early bird pricing of $50 a ticket for an 5 day pass were available for 200 people only.  Tickets sold out in less than 5 minutes.  I was one of those lucky enough to score tickets at this incredibly low price.  I’m ecstatic to say the least.

My excitement has me feeling a little nostalgic about Treefort’s past.  Here is a look back….in photos of course…..to just a few of the Treefort shows I’ve seen.

 

musician playing at treefort 2014

Buxton Band on stage at Treefort 2015

Hollow Wood at Treefort 2014TV On The Radio, Treefort 2015

The Joy Formidable at Treefort 2014

Fly Moon Royalty, Treefort 2014

Fruition at Treefort 2015

Trampled by Turtles, Treefort 2015

Omar Souleyman at Treefort 2015

 

Home | Montana Photographers

Sigh….. were to start.  This post is an emotional one.  It’s all about looking back.  In this case looking back to the life of a beloved Aunt and also looking back to the place where my love for photography began.  To be honest… I’m already tearing up writing this post, and I’m only one sentence in.

Last week I went HOME.  The place where I spent the first 18 years of my life.  The place I will always, to the day I die, think of as home.  Sure I love Boise, I’ve lived her for 15 years and I have no desire to move.  I do consider it home, but the old family ranch has a special place in my heart.  It’s hard to explain.  It’s not the old house that draws me in.  It’s the scenery, the never ending wind….. the smell of the dry summer grass, the complete calm that over comes me every time I drive over the hill and see the old home place.  It’s just home.

This little place in Montana is not only special to me… but the entire Leap Clan.  This is the place were my siblings and I were born and raised, my Dad and his two sisters were born and raised and my grandpa spent his entire life.  Lots of memories reside within these property lines for each one of us who spent any time here.

It all started in the early 1900’s when my great grandfather had the idea to move out west.  To homestead.  He chose a remote piece of property in Central Montana and built his place.  He and my great grandmother set roots and the family has been attached to the land every since.  Although my father had to sell the ranch a few years back, we all still feel drawn to the land.

I’d like to say I returned home just for all the warm fuzzies I get when I turn down the road to the place, a road the county has now named “Leap Lane”.  The 1.5 mile drive down the road, round the corner and over the hill to see the ranch emerge through the rolling hills is one that can make you feel happy.  Unfortunately this time, that was not the case.  The drive down the road brought tears to my eyes.  This time, the return home was not only the first time I’d been back to the ranch since before my father sold the place… but it was for a very important family gathering.  The entire family gathered together to accomplish one goal.  To spread my Aunt’s ashes.  She’d been fighting MS for 21 years, and she finally lost the battle last September.  It was her final wish to “go home”.  To spend eternity in her favorite spot on earth.  At the top of the hill, where the wind always blows looking down on the ranch.

So, we all went home.  Home to spread Linda’s ashes and while their take a deep breath, soak in the scenery and reflect on a lady that had touched us all in her own special way.

This post is for you Aunt Linda.  You will now always be HOME!

Leap Lane signNo Hunting sign in Central Montanagroup of people looking down on ranchLeap Ranch 2015view from a top a hillpeople gathered for memorial serviceold Leap Ranch in Central Montana2 men walking on a roadround hay bails in a fieldold homestead in Central Montana

 

Maraschino Cherries: Home Canning Recipe | Boise Food Photographer

For three summers in a row, my husband and I have picked and received plenty of pie cherries from our friends Matt and Arwen.  They have a huge cherry tree in their backyard which produces more pie cherries than our two household can use.

The first year my husband and I decided to make two different batches of Sour Cherry Jam.  My father in law had just recently given me the “Blue chair Jam Cookbook” by Blue Chair Fruits.  After making a number of tasty marmalade’s throughout the winter months… I was eager to try out on of the jam recipes.

The second year of picking cherries we decided to try a different recipe that was a bit less labor intensive.  We went with a low sugar, fresh fruit jam that required much less cooking time and retained more “fresh” fruit flavor.  The only downfall with this recipe was that the cherry flavor was not nearly as rich nor as intense as the Blue Chair Fruits recipe.

This year, we still have PLENTY of sour cherry jam and decided to come up with another way of preserving cherries for use throughout the year. After much research we decided to make our rendition of Maraschino Cherries.

We came across of ton of recipes for making refrigerator maraschino cherries…  but honestly I don’t have the spare refrigerator space to reserve a section just for canned goods.  After much research, most of which is now “lost in the wind” because my husband took mainly paper notes, we came up with our own recipe for canned, shelf stable maraschino cherries.  These little babies are amazing in drinks or straight out of the jar.

 

INGREDIENTS
-9lbs pitted pie cherries/washed+cleaned
-1 1/2 cup Whole Food’s Tart Cherry Juice
-1 1/2 cup Leopold Brothers Michigan Cherry Liquor (can be tough to find and a little expensive, but this tastes like pure cherry essence)

-1 1/2 cup Maraschino Liquor (most quality liquor stores carry some sort of Maraschino liquor)

– 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

– 1/2 oz almond extract

Maraschino Cherry ingredients

 

DIRECTIONS
1)  Pit and clean the 9lbs of pie cherries.  Set aside. cherry pitter and cherry

2)  Bring following liquid to a boil

  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Food Tart Cherry Juice
  • 1 1/2 cup Maraschino Liquor
  • -1 1/2 cup Leopold Brothers Michigan Cherry Liquor
  • -2 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

boiling pot of cherry juice

 

3)  REMOVE Boiling liquid from heat

3)  Add 1/2 oz almond extract

4)  Pack cherries tightly into clean+sterilized canning jars  (If you’ve never canned before…. please read up on home canning and jar sanitation before proceeding with this recipe)

filling canning jar with cherries

5)  Wipe threads and top with clean lids

6)  Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes (this is probably too long in all reality…..but since we made up this recipe….we thought it better to be safe than sorry)

home canning, hot water bath

7) Remove from boiling water, and set on cooling racks to cool.

Maraschino Cherries made via home canning

 

We ended up with about 11 pint jars total.

They might not be the prettiest ever, but they are certainly more appetizing than the plasticky neon red nubbins that topped banana splits when we were kids.

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Volunteer of the Year | Leap Photography | Boise Event Photographers

Over the past five years you may have noticed I have quite a few blog posts that revolve around the American Heart Association.  This is because I’ve been providing my time and services to the AHA to help them promote all the great things they do within our community throughout the year.

Although I feel like I’ve done very little ….. a number of people felt differently and nominated me for the Volunteer of the year award.

The video below is taken on the day I found out I had actually won the award.  Up until this point I thought all the nominees would be going through a video interview.  As you will see, I quickly found out this was not the case.

Here it is…..the American Heart Association-Idaho video of me finding out I’m “Volunteer of the Year”

Leap Photography is in the Spotlight | HERLIFE Magazine | Boise portrait photographer

I’m so honored to have been chosen as the  “spotlight” featured business of the month in HERLIFE Magazine’s August 2013 issue. 
When Jody, the editor in chief, first asked me if I would be willing to have an article written about me…I didn’t know what to say.  At first I told her “I’m so used to being behind the camera, I feel a little weird having any attention on me.”  After talking to her for a few minutes I agreed to the article and now it’s official…..I have an article about me and my business…..and it’s in print, in a magazine!  
I still feel so weird looking at this article and I keep zoning in on the big picture of me on the left (O’ my!), but I’m also honored Jody thinks so highly of me that she wanted to include my story in her magazine. 

Redfish Lake | Boise, Stanley, Sun Valley, Idaho photographer

Last month I had the pleasure of photographing Rick and Teresa’s wedding at the Redfish Lake Lodge.  The lake is located just a few miles south of Stanley Idaho.    Although I stayed in the lodge on this trip, camping spots are available all around the lake. 
All the shots shown on this blog are within 10 minutes walking distance of the lodge.   I think the next time I visit, my husband and I might pitch the tent.  I love crawling out of the tent bright and early in the morning to see scenes like these.

Up On The Roof | Boise, Idaho Photographer

Last month my husband and I spent an evening touring some of downtown Boise’s historic rooftops. Preservation Idaho put together a special tour called Up On the Roof.  The tour was a lot of fun and we had a great time seeing Boise from a different perspective.  
Thank you Preservation Idaho for organizing this walking tour!
Idaho State Capitol Building
  View from a top Plaza 121
The new space of 10 Barrel Brewing Company….viewed from atop the Washington Trust Bank
 
The Owyhee Plaza has a great view of the old Idanha hotel as well as some of Boise’s more modern architecture.

Dill Pickles: Home Canning | Boise Food Photographer

Alright…this is the last post for awhile about home canning.
One of my favorite foods is dill pickles.  I’ve been canning my own for about 10 years now.  It’s really easy and if you love pickles, like I do, you’ll find yourself making a batch year after year.
Over the years I’ve tried many different recipes and this year I finally combined a few recipes together.  Combining what I like from each.  I can’t wait, they should be yummy!

Ingredients:

-9 pounds pickling cucumbers

-12 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
-12 cups water
-2 1/4 cups white cane sugar
-8 tablespoons pickling spice (in spice bag)
-3/8 cup pickling salt

-12 garlic cloves
-10 teaspoons mustard seed
-Fresh dill

-Canning jars ( I used quart jars for this batch)

 

Step1:
Wash Cucumbers

 

Step 2:
Combine the following and place in a pot:
-vinegar
-water
-sugar
-pickling spice (in mesh bag or tea diffuser)
-pickling salt
 
Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Then increase to boiling

 

Step 3:
While bringing the vinegar mixture to a boil.  Sterilize jars.

 

Combining these two steps into one ensures the jars and the vinegar mixture are ready at the same time.
(pot on left contains vinegar mixture—-pot on right contains glass canning jars)

 

Once the vinegar mixture has come to a boil you’re ready to move onto the next step.

 

Step 4: 
Working with one or two jars at a time….place the following in the sterilized jars.
-teaspoon mustard seed
-1 head fresh dill
-1 garlic clove

 

Step 5:
Next, pack the jar with cucumbers.

 

Step 6:
-Ladle the hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers
-place lid and rim on jar (following proper canning procedures) and set aside.

 

 

Step 7:
Process jars in hot water bath.
I processed these jars for 15 minutes

 

 

Enjoy!
You’ll end up with approximately 10 quarts of dill pickles

 

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