The Old Oak Tree

California Oak Tree, Briones Park

It all started with this big ‘ole tree. My client would stop me in the halls at our children’s school weaving a tale about this tree and how it had a hold on him. Although we had talked for years about scheduling family portraits, his love of the Briones open space and the California oak trees they heralded, this would be our year to create them. I took my family on a weekend scouting trip, winding through the hills and valleys of Briones State Park in search of this monument. Breezing through the valley, I spotted the tree, we stopped the car and I got out. Barbed wire rimmed the field’s edge. It was hot. Very hot. The tree stood regally in the center of the field, dense and untouchable. When I shared my hesitation of anyone sharing this behemoths composition with a family portrait, my client confessed that he considered it the Moby Dick of photographic subjects. So hard to catch in just the right way.

We moved on to the next best idea. Which was by no means inferior. Dinosaur Hill Park, with it’s sweeping vistas and oak trees ringing the top like beads of a necklace. The grassy valley with the winding path had just been tilled the day before, foiling my scouting confirmation. No mind. We were there for the oak trees. Forested, or singular and commanding, they were also waiting for us. I always tell me clients that the day we do the portraits is always the perfect day and this was no exception. Perfect weather, a beautiful location and an easy, charming family becomes the triple crown of portrait photography.

Family photography, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Alamo, Danville

During the ordering appointment my client told me how he had lived in many places but had a special affinity for California because of the oak trees. It was so meaningful to create their family portraits in a park where they walk their dog everyday and surrounded by the trees that they love. Now their portraits will carry the memory of this day forever.

Dinosaur Hill, Pleasant Hill, children and family portraits


  1. Jim Griesemer

    Beautiful photos, Laura! I love the story and resonate with it. There is a large, singlar oak on the peaks of Las Trampas that has a similar draw for me. I hope one day to join a hike and reach the tree!

  2. Cecilia Lauerman

    Miss those old oak trees. Stunning!

  3. Kathleen Nagel-Holmes

    Gorgeous !