A year in review // Our Life in 2017


Personal, Year in Review

I know I say this every year, but I honestly can’t believe 2017 is already over. This year was such a whirlwind of a year and it’s both a relief and a shock that it’s come to and end.

In the spirit of the new year, I’m hoping to change up a few things with my business website, starting with sharing a bit more about me and my personal life. I know I’ve said this before, but I want to create a space that reflects more of who I am instead of just pretty photos. I’m not really good at sharing personal details of my life and it’s a bit nerve-wracking to be more vulnerable and put my private life out there (I always think, who cares!?), but after looking back at 2017 and realizing I didn’t document any part of my personal life to reflect on, I know I need to change that. My main goal with being a photographer is to capture people’s important moments in their lives, and the fact that I don’t do that for myself is just sad. So get ready for a lot of random personal life details and awkward selfies – here it goes!

Jack and I had a lot going on personally and a busy year professionally, and while we had many wonderful moments throughout, it’s safe to say that this year way a lot. January feels like a lifetime ago, and like a completely different life at that. We started the year in Palo Alto with Jack in the middle of his intensive, one year master’s degree at Stanford. We were living in “married without children” apartments on campus (AKA, dorm apartments), and it was such a busy, weird, fleeting time in our lives that we didn’t set down any roots or establish much of a routine. The commute to the city was insane so we never really saw any of our friends, Jack was studying from 7am to 9pm most days, and I spent the majority of my time shooting engagements, redoing my website, and organizing by business processes for the upcoming wedding year. I was getting ready for a crazy busy wedding season – I had 19 weddings on the books for 2017 – and we were living on a student budget so we spent tons of time cooking at home and resting in any free time. Looking back on our lives in Palo Alto is so funny because it was such a temporary spot, but we did find little gems and moments of extreme happiness- like our random racquetball date nights, and listening to Harry Potter on audiobook on repeat while walking the Dish, and exploring some of the AMAZING hikes and open space along the peninsula, and spending any and all free time riding my bike to to one of the many amazing libraries in the area (I READ SO MANY BOOKS!). I know I’ll always look back at that time fondly, but I’m also so glad that’s not our life anymore.

After Jack graduated in June (YAY!) we spent a blissful week in Park City hiking, cooking yummy meals, and relaxing in the sunny mountains. One of my absolute favorite days from this year was a morning spent hiking, then taking the gondola up to Canyons Resort, posting up with a picnic in the grass and grooving to an AMAZING free concert by Jamestown Revival. It was hot, people were dancing, the music was amazing, and we didn’t have a care in the world. Whenever I’ve been stressed I think back to that day and that feeling and savor that memory, knowing that we’ll be able to do that sometime again soon.

After Park City (and a few temporary months living with our parents in Marin… again…) we moved into an AMAZING apartment in Oakland. Our unit is part of an old victorian house that the landlords renovated into a few apartments, and we have a two story flat with more space than we know what to do with. We have a huge living room, adorable blue kitchen, a “dining room”, and an upstairs with a bedroom and AN OFFICE. Yes, I have an office. After four years of working out of our cramped living room / bedrooms / kitchen, I finally have a space just for AMP. And it has been life changing. I can spend my day in my adorable office working hard, then close the door at the end of the day and actually shut off the business side of my brain (or at least try to). I’m not constantly trying to finish up an edit while Jack makes dinner or respond to one last email before going to bed. I finally feel like I can separate my real life from work life. It’s definitely been a learning curve – trying to establish a work routine and sticking to it – but it’s been so good for my heart and soul and mind. Plus, my office is bright yellow and is so sunny and warm and bright and I LOVE IT. The only problem with the apartment was that we were so hesitant to fill it because we were 1. still broke and 2. knew that whatever we would get would be “life” stuff. We had never lived in a place with new furniture that we wanted to keep, so it was slightly daunting to finally buy a real couch and an adult, non ikea bed. It’s taken us 4+ months to make it finally feel like a real home (not an apartment that we’re squatting in) and it’s finally starting to feel like we can settle down.

Overall, my goal of 2017 was to try to have a better work life balance. I spent the first few years of my business completely immersed in everything photography, much to the detriment of our social life. As soon as we moved back to Oakland we made a big point to see friends and family as much as possible, and it has been so good for my soul. Even though a lot of the year was stressful and super busy with work, looking through this year’s photos has made me realize that we did spend a ton of time LIVING, not just working, and spending lots of time with the ones we love, which I’m so so so grateful for.

And if you just scrolled to the photos, here’s the cliff notes version of 2017:

January started the year off right a mix of work and play. We started the month strong with with an incredible snow shoe hike in the Unitas, and we began doing Whole 30, from which and I learned so much about my body, what I can and shouldn’t eat, and how to eat like a normal, health human. I photographed a ton of incredible engagement sessions and a super exciting conference in Dallas.

February was full of fun afternoons with portrait and engagement shoots, prepping for the year ahead, and a week in Mexico photographing an incentive trip.


March was focused around redoing my website (for the millionth time), relaxing at home and exploring hikes around Palo Alto. I celebrated turning 29 in Carmel with a perfect last minute weekend trip with Jack, and ended the month at a wild bachelorette party for by bestie in Palm Springs!

April was jam packed month with engagements, nonprofit event shoots, portraits, and edits, followed by a blissful week in Maui with my family. My mantra was definitely work hard, play hard. I photographed the first wedding of the season at the end of the month in beautiful Sausalito!

May started off strong with the sweetest elopement in Napa Valley, and tons of great even and portrait shoots following. We spent an amazing weekend in Paso Robles for our friend’s wedding, and ended the month with a weekend trip up to Gualala with friends, abalone diving (I safely observed from the rocks) and lazy man kayaking down the river.

June was crunch time. Jack finished his masters and graduated from Stanford. I had my first double header weekend followed by a stressful move out of our apartment, then straight into a last minute weekend down in Monterey for the Monterey Pop Festival (which was one of my favorite concerts to date). We then immediately jetted over to Park City for a relaxing week, followed by shoots, calls, and site visits as soon as we returned.

July was crunch time part 2. Back to back to back to back to back to back wedding weekend with a bout of two week stomach flu and moving into our apartment almost killed me (literally). But I made it through it, so now I believe I can basically do anything. We spent a sweet day recovering out in West Marin, and celebrated fourth of July with the best friends doing hooligan things.

August was crunch time part 3. Weddings every weekend (including another double header), plus week long conference shoots between those weddings was probably not the best decision for my health and sanity, but again, I made it though and photographed some of my favorite weddings to date. Jack stared his new job in San Francisco and we slowly adjusted to our life and apartment in Oakland. We ended the month with the most amazing, incredible, romantic, PERFECT weekend celebrating our three year anniversary in Tofino, Canada. Highlight of my year (and life) for sure.

September brought me to Budapest (with a fun 10 hour layover in Amsterdam!) for another incentive trip and then we had our sweet friends’ wedding as soon as I returned.

October brought the devastating Napa fires. It was a rough week as we watched our beloved wine country burn. The weekends of the fire was supposed to be a double header wedding weekend in Sonoma, but we had to change plans and re-plan both weddings in a few short days. Alex Quintana from Quintana Events is simply amazing at what he does. He pulled off two incredible weddings and we got both of the couples married at gorgeous venues. The rest of the month was filled with another stunning wedding at Nestldown, more engagements, family shoots, and nonprofit events that rounded out the month with all my favorite types of work. By this time I was pretty much living in front of my computer every day during the week, followed by weekends shooting weddings. I survived on coffee and eggs, and lived in the same pajamas for the last few months. But, trying to stick true to my resolution, we made time to see some dear friends and I was able to see a few other humans besides Jack and my wedding clients.

November was the finish line. We started it off with a weekend in Park City with a few of our favorite friends, then I spent every waking hour full of editing, editing, and more edits. I finished out my wedding season with an incredible San Francisco wedding at Foreign Cinema, then went to our first Stanford football tailgate and game (six month after graduating haha) with Jack’s parents.

December was for catching up, relaxing and recharging. I spent the week after thanksgiving in Park City (again) for a week celebration for my sister’s birthday. So many hikes, puzzles, coloring, and so. much. wine.  I closed out my edits before christmas, spent the holidays with the ones I love, and ended the year with some quality time with my love hiking, cooking, and eating cookies.

All in all, I think this year was mostly about being adaptable to the different stages in our lives and learning how to live in the in-between. From Stanford to Marin to Oakland, we lived in quite a few places this year, all while trying to maintain normalcy with my busiest wedding season yet and supporting Jack while starting a new job in San Francisco. We’ve gone from living a temporary student life in PA, to back living with our parents, to Oakland and trying to establish a routine and more long-term life (for the first time in three years). I’m in a constant battle with myself to turn off the business side of my brain at the end of the day and embrace my real life, spending time with friends and family and doing things that make me happy. There’s been some growing pains, a few sleepless nights, lots and lots of coffee, and some incredible adventures in between. My personal goal for 2018 is to learn how to continue to work on creating a happy routine for my health, personal life, and business so that I can (hopefully) become more balanced and flexible with what the year will bring. Oh, and to hike more and read more and eat more cookies- those are on the top of the to do list too.

Happy New Year!

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@2019 Anna Marks PHotography