Mini Session Time!

I’ve found a new place that is just so perfect for mini sessions, and I can’t wait to play there. Care to join me?

Here’s a sample:

An orchard. An old quilt. A happy family. Isn’t it perfect that we do some sessions in an orchard in the south Bay… a place that not so long ago was famous for orchards rather than silicone and microchips? Yes. I agree. The orchard works best in the evening, light-wise, so I’m booking evening minis here.

If the orchard isn’t your thing, I have morning sessions available in another location, near trees, grass, ponds, paths. I’ve fallen in love with this location, but don’t have a finished session to show yet. So here’s a sample from my phone. It’s going to look amazing with a better camera and a wonderful family!


So, here are the details:

Date: Friday, June 8. 9-11 am (ponds) and 6-8 pm (orchard).

Session Fee | 150

  • includes one 5×7 or 8×10 print
  • 15-20 minute session for up to 6 people (same family)
  • 10-12 edited images to choose from, presented in online proofing gallery for five days
  • special packages/pricing below

to reserve a session time, please shannon [at] shannonmontez [dot] com  or call 408-887-6917.


Package 1 | 350
11×14 print
one digital file
three desk prints

Package 2 | 499
two 11×14 prints
one digital file
four desk prints

Package 3 | 650
5 desk prints
2 digital files

* with purchase of any collection, add all digital files [presented in your gallery] for an additional $475.

desk prints [8x10 & smaller] | $65
11×14 fine art print | $110
16×20 fine art print | $175
individual digital file | $150

Last One.

(Franklin and me on this day, May 7… exactly 8 years ago. He’s 2 days old.)

A mother’s body remembers her babies—the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul. It’s the last one, though, that overtakes you. . . A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world.

But the last one; the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after—oh, that’s love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she’s gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She’s the one you can’t put down.

-Barbara Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible

Oh boy. This quote makes me cry. I read it a few days ago, just a day or so before my youngest turned 8. The one I can’t put down. She described it so perfectly…how you cheer those older ones on. You’re so excited about every milestone, so proud of them. So amazed by what they can do. You certainly do love them.

But the youngest. Oh, that youngest. You hold on a little bit tighter. Your cheering quiets a bit and starts mixing with tears when they reach a new milestone. Knowing it will be the last makes it so bittersweet. In fact, at times, if I’m not careful, just bitter.

I ought to put up a celebratory post of him, how wonderful he is and how happy we are to have this wonderful big kid. We certainly are. But for a moment, I just need to hold on to him before I send him on. The biggest comfort is knowing that I really did learn how to slow down and enjoy it by the end. Young motherhood is crazy and exhausting and hard. But by the last one, I really did learn to appreciate and savor those gone-so-quickly moments. Maybe that makes it harder, because it was so beautiful and I miss it so much. If it had passed by in a blur and I’d just succumbed to the exhaustion and wished those moments away, would it be easier for me now? Because I’m enjoying the relief of the different pace? The full nights of sleep? Could I look at those days as something I’ve survived and can be happy to never return?

Instead, I enjoyed them. I held on. I rolled it around on my tongue like a piece of fine chocolate. I watched him sleep. I touched the soft hair. I kissed the tiny lips. I smelled that sweet breath. I bounced and patted and sang and snuggled.*  I grabbed the moments I could and realized they were great at the time.  And there’s a big part of me that aches to have that tiny person back. And aches with every step they take away.

* I didn’t enjoy it ALL the time. I don’t mean to over-simplify. It was difficult much of the time. Motherhood is crazy and exhausting. But the pain of it all fades, and the beauty of it lingers like a scent… you can almost taste it, just out of reach.

(Franklin on his 8th birthday)

My caboose. I’d say the train analogy is very apt, especially with babies. The first one, the engine, rips into your life and shakes it upside down. It’s noisy and chaotic and you can barely get your bearings. The middle ones do the same, and fill your heart and expand your skills and make your home the crazy wonderful, full, exciting place it is, even amidst the chaos of a train running it down. And then the last one. The caboose closes all the doors, cleans up the mess, ends each chapter before you’re quite ready, just at the time you began to feel accustomed to and even really enjoy the commotion. Suddenly, the train has moved on, and all is quiet again. You’re still the same person, yet everything… EVERYTHING is different after that ride.

I know the ride isn’t over. We’re probably on the most scenic, calm, fun part of the ride, before teenagers threaten to pick up the speed again. I really really DO enjoy this part of the ride. It’s amazing and wonderful, and my kids are so much FUN to hang out with. Even when they’re awake! And they can do so much for themselves.  I know this is a stage that I’ll again reflect on tearfully someday.

But just for today, I’m going to indulge myself. I’ll let myself wish for a time machine to go visit the Littles. I’ll mourn my empty arms and feel a bit weird and out-of-sorts in my quiet calm house, before the train comes home and leaves socks everywhere and loses its homework and fights with itself and spends too much time on the computer and reminds me that we really only have this very day to enjoy fully.

Joshua Trees

Ahhh… spring break. This year I struggled with the difficult decision of staying home and spring cleaning or going camping. Luckily, Dave managed to sneak away from work and drive us down to Southern California for some camping in Joshua Trees!

As a kid, I went camping over spring break every year in Arches National Park. It’s been at least a decade since I was there last, and I miss it sorely. But given that it’s about a 17-hour drive from here, it wasn’t feasible. So I thought Joshua Trees, with it’s desert landscape and gobs of rocks to climb around on, would fit the bill. It pretty much did. It didn’t hold all the memories, but it did have a lot of the same fun.

It was so nice to spend the time together as a family, away from computers and homework and schedules and laundry and shopping and all that business of daily life. It kind of cracks me up that we find camping to be something fun to do…. giving up most of our modern conveniences, sleeping on the ground, eating fairly sub-par food and getting sunburned and wind-blown and in this case, rained and snowed on. But I guess it just goes to show that it isn’t all the “stuff” that makes you happy, but the people. And that is for sure the case. I have the best people around. Also, the fact that it is temporary is a plus. I doubt I would enjoy living like this if it was my only option.

Joshua Tree feels like another planet. One with its own kind of beauty. This is the view that greeted us as we set up camp, the view looking to the west from our campsite.

Dave and I learned to love each other at the end of our rope. I just made that up, but it seems like a really good analogy. The way we spent our time together as we got to know each other (I’d say dating, but it wasn’t really… we were just friends for a long time) was rock climbing. Every chance we got, we’d head to the crag, lace up our shoes, and climb. It was his greatest love (until I began to compete for his heart). But alas. Kids came along. And climbing became a huge hassle (not to mention a bit unsafe) with little kids toddling around the base of a rock, so we have rarely climbed together since having kids. But now, they’re finally big enough. They’re all old enough, brave enough, coordinated enough to participate on their own.

I loved seeing how happy it made Dave to see his kids pull off a tough move or even power through fear to make it further than they thought they could. I loved seeing how happy it made my kids to make their dad and themselves proud. I loved feeling the sun freckle my face as I laid on my back on a rock at the base, feeling exactly like a lizard warming itself, as I watched our children do, successfully, what we first loved together.

We also hiked around Ryan Ranch:

Matthew especially loved climbing. I think he read the guidebook cover to cover and begged for more climbing time, even when the rest of us were begging to just head home and out of the wind. Speaking of the wind… our last night there was crazy. After a morning of climbing, the clouds began to roll in. We knew that rain was in the forecast, so this wasn’t a surprise. We decided to just get in the car and take a drive for a while. We visited Keys Point, then went to a visitors center (where Shelby learned that Joshua Trees are actually lillies, not trees) and to the nearest town for Mexican food.

(Key’s Point, taken with iPhone using Instagram)

By the time we got back to camp, it was cold enough and windy enough and rainy enough and late enough that we decided to just go to bed. The wind was crazy (plus the rain and SNOW), but our tent is a good one, and we knew we’d be fine. Sophia spent much of her night fearing the tent would break, as it did for one of our neighbors. Dave and Matthew got up to help them move about a dozen kids into the van, while the mom packed up, fearing that her lantern would very likely set their tent ablaze. Luckily, it did not. They were from a nearby town, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I wasn’t her, where a night setting up camp by myself with all my kids in the wind and rain and cold felt like a better option than being home. [Although, I guess in some ways, that is exactly what I did as well, except for setting up and tearing down camp by myself in the worst conditions.]

After the night of dismal sleep, we awoke to more wind, and by the time we finished breakfast, we decided to just head home a bit earlier than planned. The drive home was beautiful. It really made me appreciate California, how diverse and beautiful it is. I’m feeling glad we didn’t move. A few shots from the road:

I always feel refreshed and appreciative of my life when I get back from spending a good deal of time outdoors. There is just something about being out in nature that is restorative to ones’ soul and mood and stress level.


A Fave

This session was good for my soul.

It was on a day where I really needed the perfect weather, the perfect light, and the perfect family to cheer me up. And that is exactly what I got!

I left for this session straight from my friend Kathi’s house, after saying goodbye to her as she was moving to Texas. As one of my dearest friends for over 10 years, this was heartbreaking for me. I cried most of the way there, and got out of the car hoping I didn’t look like a total disaster. But oh… this light… this family… they made me feel so much better.

This little girl is the luckiest girl ever. To be so loved is such a wonderful thing…

Happy Family | San Jose Family Photography

I met this family several years ago, and in the time since I met them, I’ve always been impressed by the sweet interactions among each other. A large family, with extra large hearts.



Thanks, Dallas, for serving our country! (he’s a Marine)

These two are the best.