I’m so thankful that this is my 5th year photographing the Tim Tebow Foundation Celebrity Gala & Golf Classic.  This year, over TWO MILLION dollars was raised to help support all of the Foundation’s outreach initiatives, all focused on making brighter days for children in need.

As usual, it was a star-studded weekend with celebrities from all walks of life.  The gala was a fun celebration dinner, with music, auctions and a fun red carpet entrance.  The true stars of the weekend were the many differently abled guests, most who were previously touched from one of the many Tebow Foundation programs.  However, I was excited to see Harry Connick, Jr, the always entertaining Scott Hanson, singers Gary LeVox, Chris Tomlin, Hillary Scott, Jordin Sparks, Javier Colon and of course, Terrell Owens:

I had an unusually tall ladder for the group picture of the celebrities this year.  It was so tall that even NBA legend Artis Gilmore was looking up:

Hillary Scott, Jase & Missy Robertson, Willie & Korie Robertson, Jep & Jessica Robertson, Anthony Mackie, John Smoltz, Gary Levox, Derrick Henry, Chip Gaines, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Horschel, Jordin Sparks, Marcus Allen, Scott Van Pelt, Chris Tomlin, Coach Dan Mullen, Shawne Merriman, Justin Martin, Gary Sheffield, Kaylee Hartung, Chris Dimarco, Erin Cummins, Lisa Morales, Scott Hanson, Kristy Lee Cook, Javier Colon, Jerry Cantrell, Leon Washington, Artis Gilmore and Tim Tebow

It’s fun crossing paths with such recognizable stars, but it’s especially enjoyable to see them having fun for a great cause spending the day on the golf course!

Shawn Merriman, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Jase Robertson, Terrell Owens and Billy Horschel

By far and away the best part of this weekend is the thought that I’m making a difference.  Hopefully, the pictures themselves help too, but even if it’s just supporting the work of the Tim Tebow Foundation, it’s very fulfilling knowing that hundreds (if not more) of lives are changed for the better by Tim Tebow and the work of his foundation! 

Going to the movies is an escape from reality and lets the mind wander, but the beauty of film festivals is that the movies come to life.  It is incredible to see and meet the actors, learn why the screenplay was written and hear from those behind the scenes describe their experiences.   Photographing for the Santa Barbara Film Festival is truly a highlight of the year.   The festival consistently draws the best stars from the year and I had the pleasure of photographing 7 Oscar winners throughout the festival (Casey Affleck, Mahershala Ali, Emma Stone, Damien Chazelle, Kenneth Lonergan, Byron Howard, and Barry Jenkins):

A definite highlight of the event was the Outstanding Performers of the Year Award honoring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, stars of La La Land.  It was really fun to see how witty and hilarious Emma Stone is!  And that opening scene of La La Land with dancing on the cars on a freeway in Los Angeles was incredible!

Another actor with a huge year was Denzel Washington (Fences).  Honored with the Modern Master Award at the festival, he was very well-spoken and seemed to really enjoy the experience.  I appreciated when he was talking about his awards he keeps at his house…  They are next to the college degrees of his children and he said: “There’s life and there’s making a living…when I began, I thought acting was life… ” Another favorite quote he said was:  “To give is the most selfish thing you can do.”

The film Manchester By The Sea was a huge success and the festival honored actors Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck with the Cinema Vanguard Award.  They seemed to have a wonderful connection between each other:

The Virtuosos Award honors breakthrough performances from the year and the 2017 winners from the SBIFF were Aaron Taylor Johnson (Nocturnal Animals), Dev Patel (Lion), Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures, Moonlight), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Ruth Negga (Loving), Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins) and Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences).  My favorite quote of the night came from Henderson, who said, when he acts he’s “trying to get it TRUE, not ‘right’. Getting it right is a judgement in your head or someone else’s.”

It was hard picking images for a blog post.  There were so many highlights and so many recognizable faces!  Here are a few more to share, Isabelle Huppert, Bill Nighy, Kevin Costner (who was supporting his daughter Annie from Sound Off Films), David Crosby, Jeff Bridges and Maria Bello:

There were a few more incredible moments that I would like to share to wrap up this post… The festival opened with a movie called, Charged.  It’s the story of the incredible Chef Eduardo Garcia, who was very badly electrocuted and nearly died while on his own in the Montana wilderness.  I loved meeting Chef Garcia and love his mission of sharing positivity and becoming a better person after tragedy.  The next photo shows a classmate from college (Emily) and her business partner Joyce who’s documentary, Refugee won an award for the Best Short Documentary.  The next image is of Paula Vesala, a very famous singer in Finland and is pursuing acting.  Lastly, a fun moment when Byron Howard took a cell phone selfie in front of 2,200 school kids who had just seen his film, Zootopia:

Being a photographer sure is easy when you are at the Bacara Resort on the coast in Santa Barbara, California.  I sure love photographing corporate events (and the scenery) here!!  Although it’s next to a golf course, and shops are just a few minutes down the road, it seems isolated when you are at Bacara.  Nothing but blue sky, ocean, and coastline on the horizon.  It’s quite peaceful!

One of the corporate events I covered this year had some fascinating speakers.  Billy Beane, manager and part-owner of the Oakland A’s baseball team was one of them.  He was the subject of the film “Moneyball” highlighting his strategy of removing emotion and instead evaluating statistics when managing a MLB baseball club.  Another incredible speaker was Chamath Palihapitiya, an extremely successful businessman who founded ‘Social Capital‘.  I enjoyed learning about the “sampo yoshi” which means good for three parties (the buyer, seller and society).

The Sandpiper Golf Course is breathtaking.  One of those courses where some of the holes are nearly touching the water!  Between Bacara and Sandpiper, it’s such a nice stretch of the Pacific Ocean to spend a few days…

 And when the sun went down, the corporate events had wonderful parties inside and out to photograph:

Although I prefer the Rocky Mountains in the summer, it’s tough to beat any weekend at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch (outside of Vail and Beaver Creek).  Especially when you are not driving in it, the mountain snow sure is gorgeous!

Guests enjoyed skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, snowshoeing and many more mountain activities.

The job had no shortage of star power… From the best snowboarder of all time, Shaun White, to the best tennis players Venus and Serena Williams and finally, singing superstar Kelly Clarkson:

 

On the way to Morocco, I had a wonderful stopover in Madrid, Spain.  I was able to play tourist and walk around the town and take in the sights!  Most of the day was spent in the Plaza Mayor, which dates back to 1577 and was filled with vendors, restaurants, entertainers, tourists…and lots to see and photograph!

The rest of the day in Madrid I learned about Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote who was born, lived, and is buried there in the capital city of Spain:

One short chartered plane ride later, we arrived in Fez, the second largest city in Morocco.  A UNESCO world heritage site, the old city (medina) dates back to the 700’s and is considered to be the world’s largest car free zones.  It’s made of narrow winding corridors and is an amazing sight to see!

It’s like stepping back into time knowing the walls have been around for thousands of years… but I’m still a people photographer at heart so they are still my favorite images!

Hand-made arts and crafts are a true highlight of the region.  One of my favorite stops was to a ceramic workshop where the clay is shaped, baked, hand-crafted, painted…and ultimately crafted into beautiful goods:

Another highlight is the leather tanneries.  Chouara Tannery is reportedly oldest dating as far back as the 11th century. The hides are soaked, scraped, softened, dried in the sun and then finished.  Quite a sight (and smell) to experience!

A neat day trip to Bhalil (outside of Sefrou) was really enjoyable.  Known for houses built into the hillside (caves), colorful buildings and for hand-made buttons (Jelleba Buttons):

And one last look at more images from the medina in Fes:

The next stop on the journey was Marrakech.  The hotel itself was a true highlight.  Called La Mamounia, it was a 17 acre palace!

In the heart of Marrakesh is the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the world famous medina square that dates back to 1070.

Incredible, overwhelming, exciting, ancient…but definitely touristy.  And definitely not PETA approved…

Last on the stop on the way to the airport was Casablanca.  Of course made famous from the movie with the same title, but also home to the Hassan II Mosque (or Grande Mosquée Hassan II or Casablanca Hajj).  The city is urban with polluted beaches, but on the horizon and incredibly gorgeous is the Mosque overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Largest in Morocco and 13th largest in the world, it’s the world’s tallest minaret at 60 stories high and can hold over 100,000 worshippers at once.