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From Southern California Photographer to…..

This desert can seem so harsh when you first arrive…so empty and lonely and barren. But this is where I bloomed. This is where I found the space to go from mom-tographer to professional photographer. I will always remember my kids as the people who first inspired my photography journey and the desert will always be the place that first inspired it. This is also the place where hundreds of people in my amazing community first believed in me and first trusted me with their family’s memories. I could not be more thankful!Southern California Photographer, Joshua Tree Photographer, Joshua Tree National Park, San Jacinto Mountain, Southern California, So Cal, Carlsbad family photographer, Oceanside family photographerPin SITE IMAGE________

With this beautiful place always in my heart, its time to announce Marisa McDonald Photography will be leaving the High Desert in July 2017. While I’m excited for the new adventure, I will miss the beautiful desert I’ve called home for so long now. The good news? This isn’t the end of my relationship with many of my loyal clients.  You have become friends and I will always be cheering you on from wherever I may be…and in this case I actually won’t be far at all (easy driving distance)!

“The good news? This isn’t the end of my relationship with many of my loyal clients.”

I imagine I’ll come back to the High Desert from time to time for some gorgeous desert sunset sessions. Annnnddd…… My new location will be pretty gorgeous too and YOU may want to come visit ME for a session! Yes, I’m being mysterious…You’re just going to have to scroll to the end to find out where we’re heading next! Its somewhere we’ve been many times so I have plenty of pictures to give you some hints!

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You may have guessed by now, we are heading to North County, San Diego! We haven’t quite decided where we’ll land but we’ll probably end up around Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas, Solana Beach, or Del Mar! Perfect place for your next family session, right?! I look forward to this new adventure and look forward to continuing to capture beautiful memories for my High Desert clients! So……Still a Southern California Photographer!

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Weekend Report: Joshua Tree National Park and 29 Palms Inn

The next installment of the Weekend Report is here and this week takes us into Joshua Tree National Park and the 29 Palms Inn! If you’re anywhere in Southern California, you definitely need to make this a must-do bucket list item! Joshua Tree National Park is an easy day trip or weekend getaway from just about anywhere in So Cal!

Last weekend we had family in town visiting from Washington State so we had to venture into the park for some desert adventuring. Rumor has it Barker Dam is amazing right now after all the rain fall so we headed straight for the Joshua Tree entrance to the park. Unfortunately everyone else had heard the rumor too and the line was MILES long to get in! We aren’t big waiters so we quickly re-routed to 49 Palms Oasis. We had never been to this spot before so we didn’t quite know what we were in for. Weather was beautiful and parking was lined up down the road. We joined the line and headed towards the trailhead. Without taking one step onto the trail, the scene was already quite impressive. We started up the trail with 4 kids in tow. At every turn, we were rewarded with bigger and more impressive views of the desert below. It took us almost an hour to make it half a mile with the little ones. Knowing we still had a mile to go to the Oasis and that the kids would soon be hangry, we decided to call it “good enough” and start the hike back down.

Lunch was a high desert favorite at 29 Palms Inn. I had my favorite steak salad and La Quinta Brewing Co. Poolside Blonde. The kids took a walk around the Oasis of Mara while we waited for our order. It was the perfect refreshing break after putting in some time in the park.

The next day we headed out for something a little more flexible that would still allow us to enjoy the beauty and adventure of the park. We headed in the 29 Palms entrance and stopped pretty quickly at Split Rock. This was the PERFECT  place to let the kids explore and scramble around the rocks. Low flat rocks were perfect for the younger kids, bigger boulders for the big kids, and even giant peaks for the dads to show off!

Have fun checking off that bucket list! See you soon for another weekend report!

If you missed last weekend’s report you can find it over here!

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The Weekend Report: 29 Palms, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley

Recently I asked some of my local my Facebook fans from 29 Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca valley to share which items were on their High Desert Bucket List. They came up with a really awesome list that I compiled and published on the blog last month! I decided to continue to follow up on the idea of exploring our desert and beyond by visiting some of the bucket list items (and maybe a few more)!

Last weekend my wonderful husband treated me to some relaxation time and boy did I make the most of it! Saturday I started the morning with Yoga at Instant Karma in Joshua Tree. I’ve done Yoga here and there but had never been to this particular studio. It was a wonderful experience! The drop in class was $12 and lasted 90 minutes! Let me tell you it was the most relaxing 90 minutes I’ve had in a long time! The class was perfect for all levels and the teacher was very sweet and encouraging.

After class I stopped in at the neighboring Joshua Tree coffee (a regular favorite of mine). Instead of my usual plain coffee with half and half, I asked for something “over the top.” We settled on a special recipe of 1/2 cup nitro cold brew + 2 shots + half and half to the top. It.was.amazing!

After coffee, I popped across the street to the Joshua Tree Certified Farmer’s market. I mostly browsed, said hi to friends, and shot some macro images of beautiful flowers. I also picked up a thai seasoning from one of the vendors!

Last but not least, I had to head over to Campbell House for a super relaxing Integrative Massage. If you’ve never been to Campbell House in Twentynine Palms (formerly Roughley Manor), you are missing out! This place is a totally unexpected Oasis in the desert. As you drive down Joe Davis Drive, just off Utah trail, you are surrounded by nothing by desert….until suddenly you reach a row of giant palm trees, welcoming you to the most serene little bed and breakfast… lush gardens, a cool pool, and gorgeous architecture that will seem to transport you to a different time and place. I couldn’t help but be excited when I saw the brochure on the front desk, featuring some images I snapped for them of their new spa space and I was even more excited to finally try out the spa space myself!

On Sunday, the weekend was officially complete when I got to enjoy my favorite desert breakfast at La Copine in Yucca Valley with my little man! I had the Royal Crumpet (my fave) and he enjoyed his first beignets and some giant pieces of sourdough (it was the best day of his life)! I seriously can’t over emphasize how much I love this restaurant! But be warned…I’m not alone! They open at 9 a.m. on the weekend and guests are lined up at 8:30 to get a spot for the first seating. We arrived just 5 minutes before 9 and we did make it into the first seating but we had to wait about 15 minutes while they spaced out our seatings. People who arrived around 9:10 were hearing wait times of 45 minutes to an hour! Definitely make this place a priority though…get there early if you must! You won’t regret it!

I hope this gives you some inspiration for the weekend ahead! We have visitors coming to town this weekend so I’m sure I’ll have more to share with you in another weekend report in the near future! I’d love to hear what you’re up to in the comments below!



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Joshua Tree Newborn Photographer: Marisa McDonald Photography

During the time I’ve been a Joshua Tree Newborn Photographer, I’ve had the honor of photographing TWO sweet babies for this family! They first came to me a little over a year ago when their first daughter was born. After that I had the pleasure of getting to know them even more as I met them for family sessions at the 6 month and one year milestones! Photographing baby brother’s newborn time was just the icing on the cake. Seeing big sister toddling around while baby brother napped so sweetly was just the icing on the cake. Things change so quickly! I can’t emphasize enough…capture these moments! I know this family has and I know they will never regret it!

P.S. That beautiful teal bump blanket is by the talented Stitches.Fiberworks!

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Photographer Tips!

I’m going to start sharing a tip for photographers during each sessions hare. If you’d like to make sure you never miss a tip, be sure to subscribe to my email list so you will get my monthly newsletter with links to each post!

So here it is…tip #1! Many of the newborn images you see are misleading! Never try something that you haven’t studied! Of course you can wrap a baby and lay him/her down on a safe surface without too much worry but beyond that you need to be sure that you have studied all the ins and outs of baby safety before ever attempting a pose or technique. Even better…consider mentoring in person with an experienced newborn photographer (check out my two in person mentors, Michelle Salsman Photography and Rachel Vanoven Photography) ! I absolutely loved the froggy pose this session (the image featured at the top) but it is important for aspiring photographers to note that there was always an adult’s hand on baby for this shot. Hands were later edited out by compositing two different images in Photoshop. Baby’s safety was never compromised for a shot! Always use your common sense. If it doesn’t make sense for a baby to do something, you probably shouldn’t! There may be more going on behind the scenes of newborn images than you realize!

Have a burning question about photography? Send it to and maybe I’ll include it in a future tip!

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Mother’s Day Mini sessions are here and I could not be more excited! The reason I do Mother’s Day sessions every year is that I think its so important for moms to find their way in front of the camera. All too often moms are the ones documenting life, snapping away, capturing those sweet little moments. But when you start looking through those pictures, printing them out, preparing albums, and such, where are you?! Of course your kids will *know* you were there but there is a special power that pictures have in our memories. Your kids (and you!) deserve to see pictures of you together…To see your place with each other, to see your connection, to see your love.  Last year Mother’s Day minis were a lot like family sessions…out in the desert, just mom and kids. And they were so sweet and perfect and I met some amazing families who have turned into some of my favorite clients and who have even come back to me for sessions with the whole family!

This year I wanted to re-create some of those sweet mommy and me moments but with a special emotional spin. I’m taking out the desert and really I’m taking out everything but you and your child. I want to really highlight your connection more than anything else! If this speaks to your heart and you know this is something you and your family will cherish, please contact me! I would love to work with you!

These sessions will be available April 30 (29 Palms) and May 7 (Joshua Tree). Sessions will be 20 minutes and include 5 digital images with print release for $299.

Bonus: For every Mother’s Day mini session that is booked this year, Marisa McDonald Photography will donate $49 to Magic Hour Foundation. Why? Well, this is all about creating memories that will last a lifetime. I want to do that for YOU and also for some really deserving families in the fight against cancer. I hope you’ll join me!

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  • I LOVE this!!!! The mother child bond and connection are so amazing to photograph! I love how you cherish capturing this for moms…and how often we are the ones not in the pictures!!! Can’t wait to see these mini sessions!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Awww these are precious! And a very good point! I know mothers who get tons of photos of their kids but far too often aren’t documented WITH their kids!ReplyCancel

    • marisamcdonaldphotography

      Thank you Griffin!ReplyCancel

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