From Rummikub to Rivas, Part Three | Amber Rivas Photography

After our first date, Alex didn’t waste any time. Probably partially because we didn’t HAVE much time. As I mentioned at the end of Part Two, we had approximately eight weeks until graduation, at which point neither of us knew what we were going to do. I was about to receive degrees in math and philosophy, and I hadn’t done so well on the math GRE (I had poison oak during the test, and I may have spent the night before hanging out with Alex, Molly, and Steven instead of getting a good night’s sleep…). Alex on the other hand had passed his EIT exam and was going to officially become an aerospace engineer. I hadn’t applied to many jobs yet, and Alex had applied to a TON. Both of us had plans to move back home with our parents while we continued the job search, and Alex was considering the Navy Officer program as well.

So on May 11, 2013, we had our third date. Alex had told me ahead of time that after the date he wanted to bring me over to his apartment to meet his roommates and to get the full picture of “Right Cheek”, as they had labeled their apartment. I knew he probably wouldn’t bring me over there for no reason, so there was a good chance he’d ask me to officially be his girlfriend sometime during or after dinner.

We went to Silver Dragon where we got a massive amount of Chinese food, and then we went to the trail behind Right Cheek during golden hour. The sunset was beautiful as we walked around holding hands, and I thought to myself, “Ok, now is the PERFECT time for you to ask me out…”

He waited until we were almost back to the apartment complex and said some things that I don’t remember and asked if I would be his girlfriend. Finally! I said, “Okay! I’d like that.”

For the next few weeks, Alex included me in his meticulously organized Google calendar, we spent a lot of weekends together, and we rode the Unitrans bus around just because we could. Taking advantage of the free bus rides while you’re still a student, you know? On May 14th I was baptized at First Baptist Church of Davis, and my family and one of my closest friends came to witness it and got to meet Alex that night. In June, his family came up for graduation and I met them for the first time.

At this point we were still both looking for jobs, and Alex was still pursuing the Navy route. At the advice of some of our college mentors, we decided to just enjoy our summer together while we still had our apartments, and focus on getting to know each other better before the inevitable long distance dating began (Alex is from the Mojave Desert…I told you he’s cooler than I am). We had a lot of adventures! Visiting the state capitol building, going to an air show on the first annual “Surprise Day”, taking the Megabus to Nevada to stay for an hour and get In-N-Out and DQ. At the end of the summer, Alex had packed up everything he owned and put it in his little Yaris. I was beginning to clear out my apartment and getting ready for a tearful good-bye.

Here’s where I truly believe God’s timing is evident. Alex had planned to go home at the end of August, but the Navy recruiter told him it would be better for him to get his physical done in Sacramento before he left. So his travel dates shifted, as the doctor wasn’t available until the next week. He got the physical done, and then on the day of his new departure date he got a call back from a potential employer – somewhere he had long given up on as his resume had been sent in months prior with no response. They were located in Dublin, and they wanted him to come in for an interview THAT week! The only problem was that his apartment lease was up. Wait, no problem! My parents live 20 minutes away from Dublin! Come home with me!

Alex and I left Davis together and went to my parents’ house. He lived on the living room couch for a week, got the job (thank you Jesus!), and then found a place in Livermore to rent through a series of connections that no one has been able to figure out since. Meanwhile, I got an interview at a tech company in the South Bay thanks to a good friend, and they brought me on as an intern. Suddenly in the span of two weeks our prayers had been answered and God provided for our needs. I love telling people about this part of our lives.

But this is getting long, so let’s cut ahead to July 13, 2014. Alex had talked to my dad one weekend while I was in Washington, bought a ring, and planned a trip to Davis. He knew that one of my favorite things about Davis summers are the sunflower fields EVERYWHERE, and we had a fun day planned to visit FBC for church in the morning, hang out with some friends all day, and end the evening at sunset by finding a sunflower field. On our way out of town, we came across one near Pedrick’s fruit stand, and we pulled over to take a look. Most of the sunflowers were looking a little sleepy, but we took some pictures anyway and watched the sunset.

Then Alex got down on one knee and told me how much he loved spending time with me and that he wanted to spend the rest of our lives serving God and loving people together. Instead of saying yes like a normal person, I told him, “Ok!” After all, that was what I responded when he asked me to be his girlfriend! 🙂

We called my family, his family, and a few close friends to give them the news, and then we headed back to the Bay Area to begin the next phase of our lives…wedding planning! We didn’t spend too long dating (one year and a few months), and had an even shorter amount of time being engaged (a little less than a year).

This is what I love about us: because our relationship and our lives are built on Christ and his plan for us, I had no doubts about being with Alex. Although he is probably both the least enthusiastic and least emotional person I know (who would have thought I’d end up with someone like that?), he is also the most caring, supportive, and kind person that I’ve met. I’m blessed because of his presence in my life, and will be forever grateful for the way that God brought us together. He is not the type of person I would have chosen for myself, but he is definitely everything I need in a life partner!

Family Photos on the Arroyo Mocho Trail

I first met Khouanchy during a Sunday morning class at church. We talked for maybe 5 minutes after the class was over, and then Josh came over with their daughter, ready to leave. She said, “Let me get your phone number and we’ll get together sometime!” I thought to myself, “Huh, that’s different…we’ve barely talked at all and she wants to hang out?” But I’m not one to turn down potential new friends, so of course I gave her my number, and I’m so glad I did! I’ve loved getting to know Khouanchy and her family, and I always look forward to getting together for some milk tea or a Joann’s run.

As a Livermore photographer, I love doing sessions that are right here in town and finding new beautiful places even just 10 minutes away from home. The Arroyo Mocho Trail has become one of my favorite spots to take photos. Alex and I used to walk this trail when we were dating, and we call it the “Livermore Arboretum”. I had no idea back then that I would have the opportunity to walk, bike, and take photos on this path as often as I do.

Khouanchay and Josh have two beautiful children who LOVE to run around. We spent this family photo session picking up rocks and throwing them into the river, wading through fields of dry grass and getting pricklies on our feet, making funny faces and sounds, and saying “CHEEEEEESE” every 5 minutes. 🙂

Family photo on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA: dad, mom, son, and daughter smiling and laughing
Family photo underneath a tree near the disc golf course on the Arroyo Mocho Trail
Two children smiling in a field of golden poppies in Livermore, CA
Dad sitting on rock during sunset throwing son in the air
Family photo on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA
Family photo on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA: two children sitting on a blanket
Dad walking with child, dad holding two children
Girl in hand-sewn dress twirling in wildflower field
Family photo on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA
Family photo near the Arroyo Mocho river, throwing rocks
Family photo on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA standing near the water
Family photo session on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA
Family photo session on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA
Family photo session on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA
Family photo session on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore, CA

Sunset Photos in Niles Canyon

All week long leading up to this session I was hoping for some wildflowers down at Niles. We started off the evening at the staging area, walked down the path a little, and got some photos by the Alameda Creek. As the sun was setting, we hopped across the highway to Vallejo Mill Historical Park and found just what I was looking for! The little patch of yellow, though it was small, made me so glad we drove over to check it out right at golden hour.

I first met Alyssa over 10 years ago when we went to high school together! I hadn’t seen her since graduation, but I knew her back then as a fun, genuine person. During this session I was happy to find that she is still as kind and fun as I remembered. I hadn’t yet met Justin, but having seen Alyssa’s posts on Facebook of all the fun things she and Justin have done together, I was so excited going into this session! They plan surprises, hang out with their families, and seem to have a fun relationship despite living across the Bay from each other, so I knew they’d be a joy to work with! I love how Justin looks out for Alyssa’s best interests and you can see how much he cares for her in these photos.

Thanks, Justin and Alyssa, for allowing me to take your photos!

Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, standing in front of yellow foliage
Couple at Vallejo Mills Historical Park near Niles Canyon, standing in the wildflowers
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area
Couple laughing at Vallejo Mills Historical Park near Niles Canyon, standing in the wildflowers
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, standing in front of the water
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, hugging in front of the water
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, holding hands and walking near the water
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, hugging in front of the water
Couple laughing together on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, overhanging trees on the pathway
Couple on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area, overhanging trees on the pathway
Couple walking together on a trail at Niles Canyon near the staging area
Couple smiling near the water at Niles Canyon
Couple holding hands walking away near the water at Niles Canyon
Couple at Vallejo Mills Historical Park near Niles Canyon, standing in the wildflowers
Couple at Vallejo Mills Historical Park near Niles Canyon, golden light sunset with fields of grass and trees in the background
Couple at Vallejo Mills Historical Park near Niles Canyon, standing in the wildflowers

From Rummikub to Rivas, Part Two | Amber Rivas Photography

Last we left off (Part One here!), Alex and I had just hung out for the first time together with just the two of us. We played three rounds of Rummikub. I won twice and let him win once. He maintains that he won without me letting him.

Between April 4th and April 19th, we got together a few more times. Once I skipped out on a windy ultimate frisbee PE class to hang out with him and explore the hidden tunnel between Wellman and Hart Halls. Once we fed the ducks at the arboretum (and later found out that my dad and sister were in Davis visiting the arboretum at the same time…). Alex doesn’t like birds, and he doesn’t like feeding birds. Neither of these things were mentioned beforehand.

Here’s where it’s important to bring up Steven and Molly. They were newlyweds at the time, and Molly was new in town. I had decided I was going to be her friend, and she had decided she was going to get me and Alex together. When she found out we had been hanging out, she was elated. She got me alone and asked if I liked him, and I told her, “Well, I don’t really know him, but I think I could.”

Molly told Alex that he should tell me how he felt, and she made plans with me to hang out on April 19th at 7pm. She said, “We’ll just decide what to do once we meet up.”

On April 19th at 9:55am, Alex met me as I was going to MAT 150C in Bainer Hall (Modern Algebra, third quarter). I think I biked to class even though Steven had told me I needed to stop biking. He’s now a doctor, and I had recently injured my knee. I maybe should have listened. Anyway, when I got to the hallway where my classroom was, there was Alex. I remember smiling as I saw him, and he walked over to me and had this short speech prepared, something like: “I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing here. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I really like you and I was wondering if you’d like to go on a date to Yoloberry tonight at 7.”

Me being clueless couldn’t figure out that Molly had just asked me to hang out at 7 so that I wouldn’t have other plans because Alex was worried I would already be busy. I told Alex, “Well, I’d love to but I’m hanging out with Molly tonight.”

Don’t worry, he told me that he had planned the whole thing and that I was actually free that night. Woohoo! Then I went to math class and filled up three pages of notes that I didn’t know anything about because I was too distracted by my thoughts. And busy texting Molly about how sneaky she was. Alex went upstairs to the engineering lab and freaked out for 15 minutes.

Not our first date, but we spent a lot of time in the arboretum!

That night I got dressed up all nice and waited patiently for him to come pick me up. We went to Yoloberry (I brought my wallet just in case because you can’t make assumptions! Alex later told me he was frustrated that I tried to pay on our first date…whoops!) and walked across the street to talk and eat our frozen yogurt. We walked around the arboretum and talked some more, and then we ended our first date night by heading over to Steven and Molly’s apartment to tell them about our night! Romantic, I know. 😉

Since this was April 19, we had only 56 days until his graduation and 57 days until mine. Neither of us had a job lined up, neither of us had a plan for what to do. We were both planning on going back home to live with our parents, 387 miles apart. This probably wasn’t the best time to start a relationship, but I didn’t have any worry or fear about the timing or the circumstances. For somebody who over-plans everything, that’s a pretty nice way to be feeling about a potentially big life change!

Now you know how our first date came about…next time: how he asked me to be his girlfriend, and then his wife!

Creative Collaboration at Elliston Vineyards | Sunol Wedding Photographer

As a creative small business owner, there are a lot of ways to connect with other local entrepreneurs in your town and get to know some other creative people. Rising Tide is a nationally known organization that promotes community over competition, because “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Meaning we are better off learning together and helping each other grow than trying to fight for competition and dominance! My kind of philosophy.

“We rise by lifting others.”
I love how you can see the team working in the background of the mirror.

My local chapter of the Rising Tide Society is called Tuesdays Together Tri-Valley. We meet up once a month to discuss a topic that helps us grow our businesses, and during a meeting a couple months ago we decided that since we have so much talent in the group we should host a styled shoot for ourselves to promote each others’ businesses.

Last Saturday the rain held off as we got together at Elliston Vineyards in Sunol and showcased everyone’s work. My favorite part of days like this is seeing others do things I couldn’t imagine being able to pull off. I’m ok at florals when I really try, and I can make signs and table settings, sure. But that’s nothing compared to seeing someone whose whole business is devoted to one craft being able to make the most stunning bouquet or well-thought centerpiece! And the lettering that was done is definitely something to be admired!

Here’s the full list of vendors that participated, including four fellow photographers:

Mobile bar Wandering Well covered in green and orange florals
Is this not the cutest bar you’ve ever seen? I’m loving the floral displays, the colors, the sign, EVERYTHING.
Bride and groom with long flowing veil
White floral centerpiece
LC Floral on display!
Bride and maid of honor on steps holding white floral bouquets
Elegant place setting with gold charger, white plates, pastel green cloth napkin, and scripted name setting on a rock
Bride and groom portraits with white floral bouquet
Bride and groom portrait with white floral bouquet
Maid of honor with white floral bouquet
Bride and groom portraits with white floral bouquet
Bride and groom portrait in front of pond with white floral bouquet and flower scenery
Bride and groom leaning in to kiss, portrait in front of pond with white floral bouquet and flower scenery
Bride portrait and maid of honor portrait, holding white floral bouquets
Lettering by Letterly! Lorin made these rocks for all of the attendees of the shoot!
Look at these Filipino inspired desserts from Sweet Condesa! I left before the cake was cut, but let me tell you – those pandan cookies were SO good. I had two.

From Rummikub to Rivas, Part One | Amber Rivas Photography

The very first time I met Alex…I don’t remember it. Apparently I was wearing yellow flip flops, talking about how I couldn’t decide what to major in, and declaring that I would not be an engineer because I didn’t want to have to take chemistry. Our mutual friend was telling me I shouldn’t base my whole career off of one quarter’s worth of classes.

Alex silently agreed with me.

Anyway, I don’t remember that day at all in relation to Alex. I do remember getting smoothies with all the guys, and relaxing because classes were almost done for the year. You could say he just didn’t make much of an impression on me – you’d be right. Alex is not known for his outspokenness or his wild ways. 😉

After that, we didn’t talk for TWO YEARS. That’s right, it wasn’t until junior year of college at a Christmas party when I finally introduced myself to him after a mutual friend dragged him over to talk to me…and it didn’t exactly take off from there!

Our mutual friends kept inviting me to hang out at their apartment on the same nights that Alex “just happened to be there.” After the fact it’s easy to see that they knew something I didn’t. I thought Alex was nice, but nothing really past that. I noticed him around College Life (our Christian fellowship group), and knew him to be a hard worker. After all, he was getting his degree in aerospace engineering. He’s a lot cooler than me, I know.

Finally near the end of senior year, when we’re JUST about to graduate, my good friend Katie and I were hanging out one day (March 6 in fact…I remember this conversation well) when she mentioned something that went like this: “I probably shouldn’t even tell you this, but we’re so close to the end of school that it probably doesn’t matter. I’ve just heard some things around. Do you think Alex likes you?”

“ALEX? No. No way. He barely talks to me. Surely he’d try to initiate SOMETHING if that was the case.”

But the conversation stuck with me, and I decided to message him one day on Facebook, just to see what would happen. I asked him how he saw God and engineering working together in his life, and told him I was just curious because he seemed like a thoughtful person who might have some insight. He responded, and we began talking back and forth for about a month when finally we said something like, “We should hang out on campus in between classes and play games or something.”

The very first time we hung out alone…
April 4, 2013

On April 4, 2013 – six years ago today – we met up outside Bainer Hall where his class let out, and we walked to the Tercero dorm rooms to sit in the lobby and play Rummikub. Later that day I met up with another friend (who was also in on the big secret of Alex being into me). She told me, “I saw you walking with someone…you know who I’m talking about. I took a picture.”

I played dumb. But yes, I knew who she was talking about. And I will forever be grateful for this very first picture that was taken of us together on our way to our first hangout.

The timing of Katie’s revealing of “the secret” and the way that Alex waited around for me for so long is something that I can only attribute to God’s perfect timing. We both got to experience college for four years separately, making lifelong friends and building our faith, something that may have been distracted by a relationship. And as I’ll share later, His timing was also evident as we continued our relationship during the summer after graduation.

Part Two about our first date a few weeks later!

Ruby Hill Graduation Photos | Livermore Photographer

Last week I met up with Rachel and we drove out to Ruby Hill to take some photos in her graduation gown! We drove around the loop of the neighborhood as we waited for the skies to clear (let’s be real, they never really did…) and scoped out some spots to get some pictures.

Rachel graduated from Concordia’s online masters program, and didn’t expect to receive a cap and gown since she opted for a day at Disney instead of sitting through the ceremony…not a bad choice! But when the robes arrived in the mail, she thought why not do a photoshoot and at least get some use out of them! After all, she worked hard for the degree and it’s always fun to celebrate a job well done. Rachel’s new degree will help her out with her swim coaching with Ruby Hill Aquatics – her husband co-owns the team and they’re super cool, so be sure to give them a visit at 🙂

Enjoy these photos of our (gloomy but still fun) afternoon at Ruby Hill:

Thanks for letting me take your pictures, Rachel!