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Family Photoshoot at Balcones Canyonlands | McDaniel Family

January 3, 2021

Every once in a while, I get to photograph families at a location that makes the session super fun. I took the McDaniel family’s family photoshoot at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Bertram, Texas. 

This enchanting location is a little ways northwest of Austin, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country. The area was established as a national wildlife refuge in 1992 to preserve a natural habitat for many native Texas wildlife species, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.

Family photo at Balcones Canyonlands

To say I love Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is an understatement. It is gorgeous, quiet, has fantastic views, and few people visit there this time of year. What made this photography session a little more special was my relationship with the McDaniel family. I’ve known Lori since our college days at the University of Texas when we were on the rowing team together. Lori, her husband Jesse, and her two daughters Caris and Everly, made this shoot fun and memorable.

Family Photo at the canyonlands

You can’t get much more photogenic than this family. Lori and Jesse obviously passed on their warm personalities and sweet smiles to their daughters, and the afternoon glow in this photo captured their family perfectly. No matter where we took pictures during this shoot, the sun seemed to be in favor of a picture-perfect setting.

Family Photo at sunset

This was especially true of their two young daughters, Caris and Everly.

sisters photo at Balcones Canyonlands

Lori and Jesse were looking for an Austin photographer who could show their kids for who they truly are — bright, caring, smart young girls. Their sunny disposition was highlighted by the refuge’s lighting and shone brightly in both color photography and black and white photography.

sisters hugging

I mean, can you just look at those sweet faces?

sister photo sister photo

Wintertime Texas colors also fit perfectly with this photoshoot. I was able to use the natural surroundings at the wildlife refuge to capture the McDaniel family’s togetherness, such as I did in this cute hand-holding shot. 

family photo at sunset

The color also worked perfectly to complement elements of each family member’s visual appearance. The ambers of the leaves and grass matched Caris & Everly’s hair beautifully, and the dark background helps Lori & the girls stand out in this photo. 

mom with her daughters


And it wasn’t just the girls and their mom who were photogenic against the natural color palette. Jesse looked relaxed, handsome, and extremely happy to be with his family. Who can blame him?  The girls and their mom are just so fun to be around it made this family photoshoot extra special.

photo of dad with 2 daughters

Jessi and Lori are personal friends. It’s always a treat for professional photographers to work with people they know, because it can bring out genuine expressions throughout the shoot. Many of the photos I took with just Jesse and Lori showcased the magic in their relationship. I didn’t have to try too hard to get them to look naturally in love with one another.

black and white portrait of a couple

One of my favorite things about photographing Jesse and Lori together is their smiles. They both have such nice smiles, and they stood out in both the black and white portraits and the color portraits. There was nothing ingenuous about either of their expressions throughout the entire session.

photo of a couple at Balcones Canyonlands

At the end of the day, I hardly felt like I worked at all — this was such a fun family to work with. Despite the McDaniels being my friends, working with such a loving family during a very trying year gave me a sense that, despite it all, everything will work itself out for the better. 

Lori recently emailed me to express how much she appreciated my quick turnaround on photos and how I work with families to ensure they have a good time during the photoshoot. According to Lori, everyone enjoyed it — even their youngest, Everly. After the photoshoot, as they were driving home, she said, “Mama, she’s actually pretty cool.”

silhouette family photo
You’re pretty cool too, kiddo.

Now the cool weather is in, it’s the perfect time to book your family photoshoot at Balcones Canyonlands. I’ll make sure you have as fun a time as the McDaniel family.


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