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The calendar tells me it the first week of autumn, the warm sun outside tells me it still feels like summer, and by the magic of film that was shot a few months ago and is finally being published today, it is only JUNE. June, I’ll take it any day. Here is my girl India hanging out under the pier at Pismo Beach California. When the calendar said summer, but the cool breezes had her wrapped up in a Turkish towel like it was only spring. :)

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India was photographed by me at Pismo Beach with a Canon 1V and on Fujifilm. The film was processed and scanned at home…which is why it is 3 months late! haha. PLEASE, go see Washington photographer Charlene Hardy, who is a mastermind at photographing her own children monthly AND processing and scanning her own work in just a few short hours. GOALS.

one person one roll of film summer

I have a little travel-everywhere Pentax K1000 which was loaded with Ilford HP5 film. Sometimes, especially in the summer when the film is black and white, that roll can stay in the camera for ages. I have a 2nd Pentax K1000 loaded with color film too and that one gets used more often. This roll of Hp5 was used up at the beach, but over several different visits, mostly with my beach loving boy. Black and white film grain, sandy skin, wave splashes and ocean misty skies are a delicious combo. I’ll do this summertime black and white more often! Processed by ProPhotoIrvine, scanned (with loads of dust) by me.

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My friend Juliet Schwab has also posted her One Roll One Kid this month and you can see it here :

Downtown Senior Portrait Sessions

This is a session I am very excited about. Even though I have photographed this family many many times over the years, this was the first time I really got to focus alone on Ashton and (hopefully!) photograph him the way he wants to be seen. I love when a person can relax and bring their true self in front of my camera and when that person is also a very talented artist with killer style and great attitude it is even better. Love you!

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Ashton was photographed in Eastown and downtown Grand Rapids in June 2019 by Dena Robles. The session was captured on Kodak Portra 400 film with a Contax 645 and processed by IndieFilmLab.

High School Graduate Photos

Over the years of photographing high school seniors I’ve had so many students and families realize the importance of documenting this ‘growing up’ milestone. Somewhere around age 12 kids and parents don’t often interact with each other in photographs. Annual family sessions don’t keep happening annually, and all the ‘memorable moments’ seem to happen separately from each other, and thus, the family camera is not pulled out as much. Granted, teens are taking their own selfies with filters and posing with friends…parents are still trying to grab a shot now and then but are often greeted with hands covering faces or silly expressions, pulled faces or my favorite ‘the death stare.’ A high school senior portrait session is much more than a yearbook photo. It is a culmination of a forming identity and a display of newfound maturity. It is often the last ‘formal’ photograph created until wedding photos or corporate head shots. I’ve had many students return to me to purchase photos from our senior session for graduation announcements, college applications, press releases for awards earned, publications in college etc etc. It’s more than a yearbook photo, it deserves more than an iPhone snap or mall kiosk, or even a photo from Dad’s big-camera-with-the-lens-that-changes-and-everything. Even at 17 or 18 years of age, teens are still more receptive to working with a professional. And at 17 or 18 years of age, parents belong IN the picture with their youth, not behind the camera. Next time it happens could be in wedding photographs. yikes.

Here are a few favorites from my recent session with Josh. I was delighted to have his mom jump in for a few photos!

high school senior photographer Dena Robles
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Josh was photographed at Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids Michigan by Santa Barbara based senior photographer Dena Robles. His session was shot on Kodak Portra 400 film with Contax 645. Senior sessions are still being offered in both West Michigan and Southern California. Please email dena @ to book your session

Senior Pictures

I met Katie and her sister Ashley when they were in 6th grade, the year our three community elementary schools merged into one middle school. I met them with braces, glasses, blemishes, unruly hair and ‘mom I don’t care’ awkward stares. I’ve watched them evolve into their own identities and into the confident, witty and beautiful people they are today. I look forward to hearing about all their college adventures and adult lives. Thanks Katie for finally getting in front of my camera :) These are just a few of my favorites!

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Class of 2020 graduate portraits
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Outdoor portrait sessions for teens

Katie was also photographed at Reeds Lake in Grand Rapids, MI. A popular place if you know where to go and at the right time! She was photographed on Fuji Pro400H film with a Contax 645 by Santa Barbara based portrait photographer Dena Robles.

Senior Portrait Photography

The sun finally peeked out this morning after a few days of rain. Ashley is absolutely luminous here in the forest setting. I’ve loved watching this fiery girl transform into the confident woman she is today and I do hope our paths cross again in the future (hint hint…California awaits.)

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Ashley was photographed in East Grand Rapids, Michigan by Santa Barbara based portrait photographer, Dena Robles. Her session is captured with Fuji 400HPro film on Contax 645

Travel Sessions in Grand Rapids, MI

Last month I went back to Michigan to photograph high school seniors for East Grand Rapids High School Class of 2020. Even though I only lived and worked in Grand Rapids for 8 years, I feel like I have known these students their entire lives! It was great to come back and see everyone again. Here are a few favorites from my morning with Reece.

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Class of 2020 portrait photographer in Michigan and Santa Barbara
Outdoor portrait sessions for high school seniors

Reece was photographed at Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids Michigan by Santa Barbara California portrait photographer Dena Robles. His session was captured on Kodak Portra 400 film with a Contax 645

East Grand Rapids Class of 2020 Portraits

June marks that time of year for me…time for senior portrait sessions. I made a trip back to Grand Rapids a few weeks ago because the Class of 2020 holds a special place in my heart. I’ve watched these students grow up in my neighborhood since 3rd grade, the year we first moved to Michigan. When the rain started pouring down a few minutes before this session we got creative and ducked into a coffee shop, utilized the stoops and overhangs of local buildings and brought out the bright dotty umbrella. Here is sweet Olivia!

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I always encourage parents to jump into a photo or two during senior sessions, sometimes they are my favorite frames of the day. :)

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Olivia was photographed by California based lifestyle portrait and editorial photographer Dena Robles in Grand Rapids, MI using Kodak Portra 400 on Contax 645 and Canon 1v. If you are located in Central Coast California OR in Michigan and would like a session of your own, please email me at

Family Portraits in Hawaii

When you travel annually to the same places for 20 years for family vacations doesn’t it make sense to document that time with family photographs? I think it is a brilliant idea. My family vacationed in Maui this spring with our good friends who are frequent Hawaii vacationers. It seemed only natural to do this year’s family portrait session in the place they love the most!

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That ‘Hawaii light’ is just as beautiful as ‘that California light’ and I can’t wait to photograph more sessions…in either location! xx dena.

Grand Rapids Michigan June Sessions

Hey Grand Rapids! As promised I am returning to East Grand Rapids for a week of photo sessions. For all those rising seniors that I’ve watched grow up since 3rd grade and for all those families I have worked with year after year, this is Me coming back to YOU. :)

Dates: Friday June 7th to June 11th


Class of 2020 Senior Photos or Family Sessions

Full Signature Session : up to 90 minutes shooting time with varied locations and wardrobe choices. Session includes standard and creative edits on up to 30 photographs, digital files for your own printing including yearbook-specific photograph for students. $325

Mini Session: up to 25 minutes session time at one location and one wardrobe. Session includes standard and creative edits on approximately 10 photographs, one digital file for your own printing and the yearbook-specific photograph for students or 5 inch print for others. Additional files are available for later purchase. This is a good choice for those budgeting their senior year expenses or who just really want the yearbook photo or a quick head shot or sibling update! $150

Location choices: Downtown Grand Rapids (Sunday 9th only), Reeds Lake, Eastown or your own backyard/home. See location samples below!

Schedule: Full Signature sessions are booked at 9am and again in the late afternoon. Mini Sessions are booked immediately before or after Full Sessions at the same location (contact me to book) or the mornings of June 10th and 11th scheduled back to back at Reeds Lake or at another location TBD. Inclement weather date June 11th.

How to book: Sign up now for available dates and times between June 7th and 11th here: Paypal payment is accepted through the calendar and is required in order to book the time slot. If you need a different time slot during that week, or location, or payment method, please email me ASAP so I can block out your time! (e) Once your session is booked you will receive a guide to prepping for your session and we will decide on a location. Because of the travel time constraints, it is imperative to be on time and camera-ready according to your booked time. Once booked, there will not be refunds, but you can transfer your appointment to another party.

Contact me: (e) (t) 616-238-8738

Reeds Lake

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Downtown Grand Rapids

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I can’t wait to see everyone again!!

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As a human, (especially as a parent) you always assume you will have all the time in the world. Time to do this, time to try that, to go there, to love them, to be with them. I’ll do it tomorrow, there is always next week, next year will be different. Minutes turn into weeks, weeks into years and then time has slipped by. So now time looks like this “I have some time Saturday morning before I go to my job, after the dishes are done, after the dog is walked, IF my favorite shirt is clean, IF it’s a good hair day, AND the rain stops and I STILL have time to get to my job. Let’s squeeze in our photos then.” Okay, yes. NOW is the time.

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I photographed India (after the dishes and the dog walk, before work at her job, just between rainstorms) on a Saturday morning at Santa Barbara Mission Historic Park with my Contax 645 on Portra 400. One Person, One Roll of Film, BAM.

My friend Jennifer Stamps has also shared her version of One Person One Roll of Film on her blog here. Go see!!

One Person One Roll of Film January

My story goes like this, I learned to shoot film in my college Commercial Art program. I shot film for ten years, dropped and broke my beloved camera and bought a new-fangled digital camera. Canon 10D was the groundbreaking diggity-bomb at the time. So I shot digital for 10 years. Not much to say on that…it is what it is, always. Lacking the joy and artistry that I experienced when shooting analog I picked up film again just before my youngest was born. He’s almost 12. As a result, he has grown up in front of my too-many-to-count film cameras. I’ve been shooting One Roll, One Person with him since he was born. I love the compact snippet of 12 or so frames at a time to mark his childhood. No pressure, no planning, come as you are, show me who you are at THIS MOMENT. So here he is, 11 and a half, desperate to be taller than me, anxious to get on with Junior High, all about the friend group, memes, the skater style and no cheese ever (at least in my photographs, he is a well-trained little portrait machine.) On this day he was helping me test my ancient rusty Yashica Mat 124G, and this was the first roll I had run through this camera. Kodak Tri-x400. Always a winner for me.

As I have moved through my different photography journeys, first college, then online forums, to Facebook groups and Instagram pods, coffee shops and gallery shows, I have continued to build communities and relationships with other artists.

Charlene Hardy is a gorgeous example of One Roll, One Person with her own children. Click here to enjoy this Washington based portrait artist.

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One Person, One Roll of Film is one of my favorite sessions to offer. You can find more information on these fun and fast sessions on my Info tab on my website here.

Chicken Soup for the Teenager Soul

My first child’s high school years were screeching to an end in the proverbial ‘blink of an eye’ that all the more seasoned parents always warn us about.

Really, how did he grow from this——————————————-—to this overnight?

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In a panic I realized that Home Economics is not something that is offered in his high school curriculum among all the triple crazy trig-something-something and the AP Physics sciency-thing classes and since I wasn’t invited to go along to college with him it was time to take things into my own hands. I may not be able to teach him how to change a tire or fix a plumbing leak or repair his car, but I can teach him how to feed himself. Off to the market we went and this is the story of Chicken Soup for the Teenager Soul.

Santa Barbara food photographer Dena Robles
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Food Styling and Photography by Dena Robles, California
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I’m less of a recipe-developer and more of a styler, photographer and storyteller. I’ll include the recipe here to complete the narrative, but here is the link also where I found the recipe a few years ago and continue to find inspiration. AND the recipe for our favorite cornbread (we sub in gluten-free flour) yummm.


My Favorite November Person

My favorite part of November is celebrating this girl of mine. India is turning 17 later this week and is off on a solo trip to Michigan to spend the week with dearly missed friends! I love her so. I don’t want to let her go. anywhere. ever. But let’s be honest…we’d probably strangle each other at some point. So there will always be those steps of ‘letting her go.’ Having a daughter is one of the greatest gifts in life. Happy Birthday India! No, you still can’t get a cat.

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Food for Fall

I believe that the autumn season is synonymous with certain comfort foods and possibly that this is the season most strongly tied to dishes. I know we have holidays which contribute to that and the ridiculous marketing of pumpkin-spiced-everything and the colder weather turning us indoors to wrap ourselves in our favorite foods. But what happens when you suddenly live in a country without those holidays? Or a place without pumpkin patches or pumpkin-spiced-everything-imaginable-under-the-sun, or gasp! no changing leaves, no smell of wood smoke, not woolen hats and it is still 80 degrees outside? Well, perhaps we are creatures of habit, or perhaps there is something truly intrinsic, ancient and innate about our bodies wanting these autumn dishes, because here I am, in green California wearing tank tops and flip flops and craving rich soups, apples, winter squash and pumpkin pie. Now if only I could bear to turn the oven on…

Don’t be fooled by these beautiful changing leaves, this is a collection of photographs I created LAST autumn, in crisp chilly Michigan. My Food Story of Autumn.

Food Stories by Dena Robles, food stylist and photographer, Santa Barbara California

Love Letter to Michigan

Dear Michigan,

Thank you for the many blueberry fields and the vast apple orchards.  Thank you for treating us to glorious perfect summers and the crisp brilliant autumns and the winter wonderland.  Thank you for the summer rain and the fireflies that follow. Thank you Michigan for the unsalted sea and the sand dunes and the long hot afternoons resting on your banks.  Thank you for the beautiful sunsets shared with family and friends. Thank you Michigan for your beer enthusiasm, your growing food culture and for the coffee shops where many a rant was shared.  Thank you for the street fairs and the artist community. Thank you for the makers, the bakers and the markets.

Thank you dear Michigan portrait clients for appearing in front of my cameras over the years and for trusting me enough with your memories to return for more and more and more again. Dear Michigan, thank you especially for growing up with my children and parenting beside me. Thank you for the lifelong friendships and the smiling faces. You are all missed.

Love always, me.

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Hello to Santa Barbara, CA! We’ve been in town for about 5 months now and are happy to make our new home here in California. We are already in love with the palm trees, the salt water, the mountains, the food and the people. We can’t wait to explore and discover what is in store for us in this next chapter. I look forward to making memories with new west coast friends, and welcoming visitors from our Michigan years. I hope to see many of you in front of my cameras both here in Santa Barbara and again in Michigan dear friends. For the lovely East Grand Rapids class of 2020, I will be back in Grand Rapids for a week in June 2019 to conduct your senior portraits just like we planned way back in 4th grade! Can’t wait to see you again. xoxo.

Class of 2019 Senior Portraits

Hello High School Juniors!  Guess what? It's time to book your senior portraits.  As if you aren't already busy enough, summer sessions book up very very quickly.  My calendar is now open and I have an early bird special for Class of 2019 Portrait Sessions who book this spring.  Contact me at to get all the details and to secure your session spot.

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Celebrate Motherhood Mini Sessions

I am excited to collaborate with fellow photographer and friend Amber Brooks to offer a few dates of mini sessions this April to honor mothers and all the selfless things you do.  We know it is hard as parents to get in the picture with our children, especially as we are usually the ones wielding the camera!  Do this for yourself, for your children, for your own mom, capture your relationships together because our children need to remember that "we were here too." 

Mother's Day photo sessions, grand rapids, michigan

All the Details:

Mini session dates are April 21st and April 29th.  The $200 session includes a 25 minute session window, beautiful edits to keep everyone looking their best, 5 digital files for your own printing, sharing and archiving.  Additional digital files or printed products are always available to purchase. Sessions are designed to showcase mothers and children of all ages in immediate family groups.  Inquire with Amber or myself for a generational session. 

Sign up here:





Coffee and Cameras-Everyday Storytelling

The next Coffee and Cameras class series is March 13th, 20th, and 27th!  This is a Tuesday morning class for adults 9:30-11am, held at 1345 Breton Rd, EGR.

Photography classes for adults in Grand Rapids MIchigan

This class is designed to help you curate the little details in your everyday life and turn them into art for the walls.  The added benefit is learning to operate your camera along the way and to refine your composition and perspective skills. This series is appropriate for all skill levels and will cover the camera basics to shoot in manual mode and learn to perfect your exposure. We will choose a personal project to work on and then finish with critique, basic editing, storing, sharing and printing options.  Class fee is $150 and due to the personal attention given to students is open for up to 6 participants only.  (e) to register

Motherhood Project Models Needed

I have an upcoming photography project which requires a few fresh faces and test session models.  The theme is Celebrating Motherhood and my desire is to get the moms out there in front of the camera and to celebrate your relationships with your child(ren).

Moms and children in front of the camera, motherhood portraits

Here are the details:

  • Available dates are February 24th and 25th or March 3rd
  • This will be a black and white film session in your home
  • This is open to any age mother and child(ren)
  • There is no cost to the participants
  • A fine art gift print will be provided to each mother
  • A signed model release will be required for use in promotion and class discussion

Please inquire by email to if you have any questions or would like to be involved on the dates listed above.