Tulips and wine in the Springtime:The Romantic Tulip Valley Vineyard & Orchard

April 17, 2009





Each month, we will do a blog post about a favorite wedding vendor in order for you to  learn more about these talented people.

Since nothing says romance quite like flowers and wine, we are excited to feature one of our favorite vendors in the area, Ector de Leon, one of the owners of the Tulip Valley Vineyard & Orchard, which is the home of the Red Barn Cider and the world famous Tulip Valley Wines.

The Tulip Valley Vineyard is a “must see” destination here in Skagit Valley.

Built around a 1920’s Red barn, this beautiful Winery also offers a Tuscany inspired wine tasting room, where you will find traditional wines such as chardonnay and pinot noir, in addition to some award-winning apple-cider wines made from local fruit. Stop by any day and you are more than likely to meet Ector de Leon, the hospitable  winemaker and Vineyard co-owner, who is always ready to tell you the stories behind their  award winning wines and cider.

Come by this month  for a sip of their local wines and ciders, meet the owners, take a tour of their art gallery and listen to local musicians perform. While there be sure to  view Tonic Design Studio’s fine art canvas prints currently on display in their Tulip Room.

If you are a bride in the process of planning your wedding, and you & your partner both love wine, why not consider having a wine themed wedding? For a Wine themed wedding, a winery is the best choice because it offers great views, timeless beauty, and tranquility for your guests and your loved one. Be sure to call Ector at Tulip Valley Vineyard and ask him about hosting your wedding or your reception there.

How to get there: From I-5 take exit 226 [WA-536] west toward Kincaid St. Go .2 miles. Turn left on Kincaid St. and go .2 miles. Turn right on S. 3rd St. and go .3 miles. S. 3rd St. becomes W. Division St.—go .8 miles. W. Division St. becomes WA-536—go 1.3 miles. Arrive at 16163 State Route 536 on the right. Look for large red barn on right and sign for wine/cider tasting.

Tasting Room: Open to the public. Complimentary wine tasting.

Amenities: Tasting Room, Tulip Room open for bridal showers, corporate meetings, Art Gallery, Vineyard available for hosting social events (weddings, reunions, special events)

Phone: 360-428-6894, Phone: 206-321-9424




A Blue winter sunset shoot and my frozen fingers.

December 21, 2008

Everything seems to have come to a beautiful standstill this week. So I took Ellya, the camera and my strobe out for a quick 10 minute sunset shoot in front of our lake covered in snow.

We only had a few minutes before the sun disappeared for the day so I had to hurry and get our sunset shot set up using a Joe McNally “The Moment it Clicks” technique I learned this past year. I’ve been waiting for the right time to get a shot like this and again, I’ve learned that it’s all about catching the right light at the right time.

With halfway frozen fingers and a shivering model eager to pack things up and go back to the warm house, I quickly pressed the shutter and captured one of my most favorite shots of 2008.

After shooting a few frames, we quickly ran back up to the house and placed our hands under warm water to thaw out. Ouch! Never take pictures without a good pair of gloves on.

But then again, the pain of having halfway frozen fingers may be worth it after seeing these images below. These images may qualify as one of my favorites from 2008.






The snowstorm, the eagle and the snowhorse.

December 18, 2008

Boy did it snow this week! One thing I missed about the Northwest is the change of seasons. We didn’t really have much of that when I was living in Vegas and SoCal. So when the first snow of the season hit a few days ago this week, I had to go outside just like a kid in a candy store and play.
Since its been awhile since I got to take Ellya out on a photoshoot, we took advantage of the gorgeous snow storm and the unusually beautiful light and took some winter shots out in our backyard.

Here’s our backyard covered in the first snow of the season.


Some dramatic shots of Ellya by the old lamppost.


My brother commented that this photo reminded him of something from “Twilight” the movie. What do you think? I know the book was set in Washington so perhaps the ambiance? Anyway, there’s something magical about these photos. Does this say Twilight to you? By the way, I just got me the book today and I am looking forward to reading it. Ellya just saw the movie and told me that she thinks the book was way better than the movie.





Since we were snowed in today, I decided to take my new 17-50mm 2.8 lens for a walk around the farm. Our brave UPS man just delivered it last night, and you should’ve heard me screech as he pulled into our driveway and handed it to me,  right out of his freezing  brown truck. Yes, I have a thing for lenses.

Anyhow,  I ended up following my son John Andrew while he ran around the backyard, trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, throwing snowballs at me and making his magical snowhorse. He also made a snow chair and a snow Eiffel Tower. I asked him why the horse, the chair and the Eiffel Tower and his reply: “Just because I was inspired”.

The old farm fence in the snow.

0054The cold weather didn’t keep this boy inside the house.
When was the last time you stuck your tongue out to catch a falling snowflake?


And here’s his magical snowhorse…


While out taking photos, John and I got  so excited to see the eagle come back that afternoon to join us. This eagle is a daily visitor and visits at least 2-3 times a day, “hanging out” on the island out in our backyard. So  Mr. Eagle flies by and sits by the tree. Now, I’ve been trying to get a good shot of this elusive eagle for weeks now. I’ve also been stalking him for at least a year now and have gotten good photos of him throughout the year in different seasons  but I have never captured one of him during a snowstorm.
It’s kind of strange how it seems as if I’ve gained his trust. He seems to recognize me as I approach him with my camera. I know that these majestic creatures have great eyesight and can see for  1 to 1 1/2 miles away (thus the term eagle’s eye). So I know that he can see me as I come close to him with my camera in my face. Well this time he stayed still for a few minutes and posed for me. Thanks Mr. Eagle. You are gorgeous!


Alas, he flies away as I move in closer.

With my beautiful wildlife subject gone for the day, I went back to shooting the kids having fun in the snow. Here’s Ellya and John goofing around.





I couldn’t resist taking more photos of our place blanketed in snow. Who would’ve thought shooting landscapes could be fun?

The bridge to the island. By the way, this bridge was built by their grandpa. It was a childhood dream of his to build a bridge that would connect the farmland to the small island surrounded by the slough.
I seem to like winter branches…
0155The frozen slough…

The long walk from our driveway to the house…


Have a great Christmas everyone, enjoy the season and stay warm, Toni

‘Tis the season…

December 5, 2008

Tis the season to start seeing all the twinkling lights everywhere, to see candy canes and Santa all over, to promise not to gain all that holiday weight, to break out the eggnog and sniff those cinnamon pinecones, to drink Peppermint lattes and sing Christmas carols, to find that favorite scarf from last year and to wear those winter  boots, to try not to be a Grinch this year and to promise your kids they’ll get something under that tree if they’re good, to try and read everything on their long Christmas wishlist and to figure out what to get your hubby this year, to try and keep up with the long Christmas card list, it’s also time to let go of my busy to-do list and experience the beauty of this season…and it’s also, well, time for me to start  blogging again.

I know, I’ve fallen behind on blogging but  just wanted to pop my head up from the busy editing floor to let you know that I’m still here!

Aside from wearing the business owner-photographer and mom-of-3 kids hat, I also wear the college professor hat in that I’ve been teaching a college digital photography course part time. It’s now the end of the quarter and my class is knee deep in doing critiques and evaluations and turning in their  final photography project. We’ve had an incredible fall and I have the awesome  privelege if teaching such an extremely talented bunch of photographers. I’m really amazed at what these students have accomplished throughout this quarter. Witnessing their talent develop throughout this course has been a real blessing. I’ve learned so much about photography just by teaching these students.  I’ve probably learned so much more about photography than I have learned in my entire career just because I teach it now. It’s true, the quickest way to learn about something is to teach it.

I’m so proud of these students. Some of their photos have brought tears to my eye. They’ve managed to produce  true art. And like all artwork, it deserves to be seen, so I will have to post some of their inspiring work here on this blog.  Sniff…sniff…I feel like such a proud mama. So again stay tuned!

I’ll also be blogging about some recent portrait and commercial shoots we’ve done as well as a wedding we shot a few weeks ago. Again, stay tuned!

Before I sign off, here are a few holiday related images  I took this afternoon while out location scouting for a Christmas shoot tomorrow. Stay tuned for images from that shoot. I’ll be blogging more shortly, In the meantime, enjoy! Love, Toni




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Holiday Cards & Boutique Packaging now available!

November 26, 2008

Holiday cards and boutique packaging has arrived at Tonic Design Studio! There is still time to place your greeting card order and select from a variety of custom designed greeting card templates. This is a fabulous way to showcase your engagement, wedding, or family portraits. Contact us to place an order before it’s too late to send your holiday cards out!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Tonic Studio will be on the cover of the October Business Pulse Magazine!

September 30, 2008

Last week, Pat Stowell, the design director of Skagit Business Pulse magazine notified us that Tonic Design Studio would be on the cover of their October issue. A feature article about our photography business was also going to be in the magazine. I had a great chat with their editor, Gordon Weeks last month and it is such an honor to be featured in their magazine!

I’m a bit speechless and at the same time thrilled about this news. I’m quite comfortable and happy being behind the scenes, being the person behind the lens, so to find out that I will be on the spotlight makes me real nervous… Yes, I still get nervous about this but then again, I’m really excited that  I got a chance to tell people about my story. And at least a little bit about what we had gone through within the last few years, how I ended up back here in the Valley. It’s a story that is very much a part of who we are and a part of what our business is about.

I can’t wait to see the October issue. It should be out this wednesday. I’ve yet to see it so if anyone out there reads it first, be sure to email me and let me know about it.

Why I still want to be a photographer when I grow up.

September 24, 2008

We all had grandiose dreams growing up. I had my fair share. I dreamt one day I would be a ballerina, an astronomer, a business owner, a lawyer. Later on I wanted to be a fashion designer then a make-up artist then finally, I had dreams of being an artist and a photographer.

This last dream never really died. Throughout my lifetime I’ve pursued many things, but one thing I keep coming back to is my faith and answering the call to documenting life.

I came across this quote from Joe McNally’s blog and it really spoke to me. That man can write. Not to mention take pictures. If you haven’t read his book ” The Moment it Clicks” yet, run and buy it.

Here’s a quote from his blog:

“It ain’t the way it used to be, but what is? There’s never been any guarantees, or forgiveness, or for the last 10 or more years, fairness, in this industry. But here’s the thing.

We are out there, in the air, in the world. We don’t go to a cubicle farm everyday and stair at dismaying numbers on a screen. We make pictures. At the end of the day, we create something potentially significant that did not exist at the beginning of the day. We go forward, despite the uncertainty. Because this is an act of love and passion, which defies reason and prudence.

And we make that occasional good frame, the one that sings, the one that lifts our hearts and the hearts of everyone who sees it. That well and truly is as good as it gets.” Joe McNally

Perfectly said.

The image above is one I took of my son while we were out on the farm one cold easter afternoon. I took a few steps back to quietly observe him. He cried out to me..”Mom, look it’s the eagle. he’s back”, referring to the bald eagle that lives on a small island where we live. He then silently observes this majestic creature as it flies through the cold crisp spring sky. I brought the camera to my eye and captured a few frames. Click. This image still sings to me.