Just for Fun, Photography

Wedding Photography Featured on Offbeat Bride

No Comments 06 October 2015

Yes, it is is wedding season here in Santa Barbara and I’ve been busy documenting my favorite kind of wedding–the casually elegant outdoor kind, for great people at great venues.

Montecito Beach Wedding Photos

Beach wedding photo near Montecito

Same Sex Weddings in Santa Barbara

Same Sex Wedding in Oxnard












If you look at my wedding photo portfolio you will see that some of the images are funny and quirky and have an offbeat and fiercely unique quality, so it makes sense that I would be a featured vendor in the online directory called Offbeat Bride.

Offbeat Bride is a blog devoted to the mission of “altaring your thinking” and is “an ongoing celebration of couples who dare to walk off the beaten aisle.”  Those are my peeps!


VW Microbus Wedding

VW Microbus Destination Wedding in Tucson

You can check out my professional wedding photography listing by clicking this groovy badge:



Just for Fun

Top 5 Films That Make Me Want to Take More Risks (and Five That Make Me Glad for the Status Quo)

No Comments 13 January 2013

I love documentaries and indie films because the way life reveals itself in our habitats, lifestyles, and relationships is in many ways is more beautiful, fantastic and weird than anything that could be fabricated on a huge Hollywood soundstage.

Watch a movie like Hands on a Hardbody or even Indie Game and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

This round-up is a sequel to my post called “Strongly Inspiring Documentaries about Strong People: My List of Oscar Nominees for 2011”, although these are not all Oscar nominees (or all documentaries), I thought I would share a few of my top 5 lists.

I recently discovered a site with free and often obscure documentaries called Top Documentary Films. Check it out.

Top 5 Films That Make Me Want to Either Take Bolder Risks in Life or Curl Up in Shame for Not Taking Bolder Risks in Life

1. The Cove
2. Gasland
3. An Inconvenient Truth
4. Thrive
5. Suicide Tourist

Top 5 Films That Made Me Wish I Had Been Born Earlier so I Could Have Been an Actual and Official Hippie

1. Easy Rider
2. Surfwise
3. George Harrison: Living in the Material World
4. Joni Mitchell Woman of Heart and Mind
5. Ram Das: Fierce Grace

Top Five Films That Make Me So So Grateful For My Current Life and Its So Called Problems

1. Glen Gary Glen Ross
3. Hands on a Hardbody
4. Requiem for a Dream
5. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Top Five Quirky and Evocative Fun on Several Levels

1. Inside the Actors Studio: Robin Williams
2. Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice
3. Defending Your Life
4. The Workshop
5. Truman Show

Just for Fun, Photography

One Photographer’s Prayer

1 Comment 27 June 2012

My main intent when “writing with light” is to express your basic goodness or celebrate your essence and to create favorable conditions for that to emerge.  I stand for the healing power of deeply seeing and being seen and the courage it takes to live in those infinite moments.


One Photographer’s Prayer

May our time together be a living prayer.

May it evoke your true nature and reflect your true gifts.

May it celebrate your miraculousness.

May our love and nature express itself in this moment.

May I experience you as if for the first time, wide-eyed and awe-struck.

May I be fully present to your light and reflect it as light.

May my head, hand and heart go together.

May I see deeply for deep seeing is loving.

May our stillness shine forth.

Just that.

Who could ask for anything more?

–Doug Ellis, 2009

Staff photographer for the Transformational Leadership Council, Doug Ellis has photographed such luminaries as the Dalai Lama, Jack Canfield, John Gray, Lisa Nichols, Marianne Williamson, and Rev Michael Beckwith. He specializes in heart-centered, light-filled environmental portraits on location and  travel and lifestyle photography of sacred ceremonies, events and workshops.

Doug’s photography portfolio may be seen at www.dougellisphotography.com.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

—Antoine De Saint Exupery

Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Little things that keep me sane

No Comments 05 May 2012

Esalen garden in SpringThis list is of a different focus than the longer list of favorites and sponsors, and is instead a short list core practices I use to shift my state and  re-connect me to what is essential, life-affirming and self-renewing. In the book Leadership and the New Science, Margaret Wheatley writes about how nature and life in general heals itself by reconnecting itself to as many parts of itself as it can.

If the quasi-ness and pace of modern life has you thinking that peace of mind is no longer a choice, but a distant, out-of-reach memory or fantasy, and your nerves are too frazzled and tweaked to take Timothy Leary’s advice to “trust your nervous system” take a few moments to play with one of these.

Go barefoot. Get barefoot onto some ground or (non sprayed) grass, ideally early morning dewy grass. Being barefoot in dewy grass is actually an ancient Qi Gong move and one of the oldest natural treatments is to strengthen immunity, stimulate intestinal functions, relieve   chest and throat irritation and headaches. Walk slowly, breathe into your belly and feel deeply into your feet while  paying attention to the beauty all around you.

Listen to Music. Find some great music and even better create some or combine some of your favorites. I like listening to Bach when I work and have found Hyperion Records a tremendous source for hard-to-find and excellent classical music. Pandora and Spotify are also fantastic sources for streaming/internet music, and if you want to be entertained with a stream of entertaining and often humorous words, check out the This American Life App, available from the Apple store.

Laugh. I haven’t actually done laughter yoga yet, at least not in a formal way with a group, but I have seen some funny youtube videos of it. But what I do like to do to make myself laugh is hang out with funny friends and also scan Netflix for funny campy comedies and also look on Hulu.com for episodes of Portlandia or Modern Family.

Touch and be touched–with bodywork and energy work. It is surprisingly easy to lose touch with your body and the power of being touched in a loving. healing, non-sexual way and there is something deeply restorative and revivifying about being touched just as the soft animal of your body loving what it loves.

Have some Chocolate. I go for the hard dark stuff..72% or higher and Chocolove is now offering an organic 73% Cacao chocolate with cherries that is primo.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Also known as tapping. When I really need to clear and discharge some feelings and negativity I do some EFT, usually with some videos by Brad Yates.

Meditation and Releasing. I’m really enjoying Jack Kornfield’s CD of his top 6 meditations and the free guided meditations by Aleya Dao and Craig Hamilton. I also listen to a variety of guided Sedona Method releases in the car to and from work. You can check out some releases as mp3 files here.

Run, Jump, Dance.  It is hard to be in a funk or bad mood when you are moving your body, whether that is running, jumping, or just dancing around the room. I include yoga in this category of movement, and occasional sessions of deep breathing or breath work, like the powerful and short guided sessions by David Elliot.

May these little breadcrumbs along the trail to help make your journey more joyful and give you some new ways to be gentle with yourself. Feel free to add any tips or tricks below.

Just for Fun, Photography

Why Do Photographers Wear Black?

No Comments 07 September 2011

Why do Photographers Wear Black?

Doug Ellis a Different Kind of Photographer

Doug Ellis Not Wearing Black

They’re grieving what might have been.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
Nostalgia–like being in the darkroom but with a slightly different sour smell.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
So they don’t accidentally bounce light off a lighter fabric.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
Because it looks so artsy and darkly European.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
Peer pressure and habit.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
It is the city color of Manhattan and don’t all photographers want to live in LA or NY?

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
Because it matches their equipment.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
Because they may need to subtract light and can slip it over a fill card in a pinch.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
For invisibility and stealth.

Why do Photographers Wear Black?
To hide the flash powder.

Doug Ellis is a professional light-bringer, photographer, and spiritual/somatic life coach. His life is dedicated to heart-centered expression and the healing power of deeply seeing and being seen. He still wears black, mainly to photography conferences and workshops in New York or LA.

Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Thoughts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

No Comments 31 August 2011

I don’t believe in beliefs but if I did one might be that our brains secrete thoughts the way our other organs secrete hormones or neurotransmitters. They’re not really good, bad, or ugly, that was just a catchy title that squirted through.

Sometimes I’ll secrete  a thought that seems like a fantastic point of departure to a faraway land–an eccentric is a pioneer turned inward-– and I’ll wait on the dock with it and enjoy its company while it rattles around looking for a happy home in a photo, journal or blog.

Other times I’ll have a judgement disguised as an observation–people who wear leather vests are lost in a haze of Harley noise, bourbon, and cigarette smoke–so I’ll add another repentant  thought over the top to cancel it out: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.

Still other times I will think something prideful about how thoughtless I am–Wow, so quiet. Like a  cat or a zen master. Oops wait, they don’t think that.

Less frequent but more fun are the times when I consciously  take advantage of the mind’s infinite innocence and naivete and slip it a placebo–Sting is on his way over for breakfast.

I cleaned my apartment in just under an hour this morning with that one perched on my shoulder.

What is your relationship to thought? Can you say me what your next thought will be?


Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Suffering: You’re Soaking in It

No Comments 26 August 2011

“If suffering made a sound we would hardly be able to hear ourselves think.”
–Master meditation and grief teacher and poet Stephen Levine

The last thing a fish would invent is water. In the same way the last thing I noticed I was addicted to was suffering.

It was everywhere, I was soaking in it. My body was wafting a feeling tone of bone-weary sadness and lethargy from every pore. The pain body took up occupancy then slimed every square inch before bolting all the windows and doors to make sure my identification with it, as it, was complete. Its jangled and spiky vibes were systemic, pernicious. As Adyashanti would say, I was “Velcro’d”.

Where I was was off. If I was there, even I wished I wasn’t. Kids would go find another room to play in. Dogs would growl. Even my body odor smelled like it belonged to someone else.

Have you ever tried to out-affirm, out-pray, deny or step over that kind of pain? To stuff a steamer trunk of %dc# like that into a space no one would recognize? There is nothing more pathetic and painful than watching someone do that to themselves. The heart knows the truth.

So, you might ask, how did feeling like Eeyore become my drug of choice? Who knows. All I know is it did feel familiar, in the sense of family, or ancestry or at least collective. Like the uh-oh you get in your gut when you step off the plane onto the tarmac of a war-ravaged country. Its not really personal until you make it so. Then the parasite of suffering sucks up to a new host.

Looking back, I can see how I was continually gathering evidence of not enough, animating it with my attention, fertilizing it with the foods I ate, the way I held my body, even the way I breathed. My first few breaths of each morning were puffed into this gloomy little ghost, the rest of the day spent idly stroking it with two fingers…one of encouragement, one of dread. And I was so proud of that angst, protective of it as mine, my special artistic and intuitive sensitivities and pessimistic proclivities.  As if brooding made me European and mysterious instead of just an annoyingly brooding American. Pride and shame together make a kind of emotional epoxy.

So how did I get unstuck from the addiction to suffering?

I’ll tell you: merging onto the highway today (which takes time in an old 4 cylinder Subaru) I realized that what I thought was “being in my heart” was actually a lie: I was leaking energy to my feelings and giving my power away to my feelings of separation. Compassion had turned to wallowing, self-care to neuroticism.

Today I chose to let go of wanting to be controlled by that feeling, and instead to  re-claim and re-direct my energy and love to someone else that can truly benefit. In choosing to cut that cord, I feel my energy rise, spine lengthen, and heart expand.

If I get caught by that feeling again, I can rest in knowing that feeling is arising in or on that which I Am, and not the other way around. And if I really look deep within, I can’t find anyone home to actually take posession of that little package of pain.

And that is a huge and blessed relief.

Just for Fun, Life Coaching

Perfectly Broken: Following Your Voice Home

2 Comments 19 August 2011

What if…
we all just stopped, looked up, and let Life ring through, as clear as a birdsong or a bell?
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”—Leonard Cohen
What if…
Instead of becoming infatuated again with all the bluster and footwork of passion and will, we remembered that..
Life is designed to support full expression and growth.
Our mammal bodies are 2.5 million years in the making and we can trust their innate wisdom.
As spiritual beings we are eternal and can never get it wrong because we are never really done.
What a blessed relief, to be out of the how and what business, all those beginnings and middles.  All that self-loathing disguised as self-help. All that crack patching.
What a blessed relief to love yourself because you are that way.
“You do not have to be good.  You do not have to walk on your knees through the desert for a hundred miles repenting.  You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”—Mary Oliver
If expression has any point, it is that.  Just the soft animal of your body giving its grief cry or joy cry, or maybe its particular flavor of silence.

Denying the soft animal of your body makes it sad and can also make it sick.As Carolyn Myss says, “if you don’t have passion you do have symptoms.”

The main reason I love helping people fully express themselves is because I know how much it hurts not to.What a painful lie it is to feel invisible, voiceless, separate.

As a spiritual life coach and photographer, I give space to what is already there and let it shine forth.  It is a simple and healing thing.  Really the most natural thing.  There is nothing to fix.  Makeovers to the soul are a form of violence.
Looking back I can see how all the emphasis I put on my “Hero’s Journey”, my evolution and growth, my specialness and sensitivities, only made the illusion of separation stronger.
22 years of following the Western rabbit trail of freedom later, I have realized I didn’t need to be a ragged individual, didn’t need to create unique gyrations of style to be someone, didn’t need to improve, or even lead, my life.
In fact there is no such thing as “My life”.  Just life.  Just One with Life.
I had followed my voice back home.
In hindsight I see that even my inner resistances and apparent “hitch in my gitalong” was perfectly orchestrated.  All the things that didn’t happen were grace too.

What hasn’t happened lately that you are grateful for?

What is the simplest or most outrageous thing you can be, do, or say now in service of what you love most?

Share your comments and insights below.

Doug Ellis is a professional light-bringer, photographer, and spiritual/somatic life coach. His life is dedicated to heart-centered expression and the healing power of being deeply seen. 

Just for Fun, Life Coaching, Spirituality & Transformation

Being Here is Triumph Enough

1 Comment 16 July 2011

Existence Exists
Here Is
Life Lives

Here I Am. Here You Are.

If its some random chaotic accident, why not make it a happy one?  If it is an expression of Divine Intelligence or cosmic grand plan then might as well shoulder and savor the responsibility as best a mortal can.

There is not a dang thing we can do or undo to change it.

So, be here reverently or resistantly but pretending not to be here hurts and being non-reverent is kind of ugly.

Here belongs. You belong.

Its a miraculous sleight of hand that we could even think that “something is wrong,” or, “I’m not good enough” when you consider that:

  • The odds of you being that lucky egg-getting sperm to make it to the egg are 1 in 12,000,000,000.
  • The odds of the Earth supporting complex life the way it does are under 0.01 per cent over four billion years.

The odds of you finding and reading this post are probably similar.

Thank you for reading these words.

18% of the world, about 1.2 billion people can’t read at all much less own a computer.

Feeling lucky yet?

A few inspiring sources:

Just for Fun, Life Coaching

Curating or Collecting: Saying Yes to Your No

No Comments 29 June 2011

Our Creations As Extensions of our Energy Bodies

I have accumulated a lot of nice photographs and sometimes, despite all and even during all, my meditating, will hatch a good idea or two. When these thought forms and little energetic dopplegangers pile too high I begin to feel menaced and overwhelmed by my equivalent of  what Spaulding Gray used to call his “Monster in a Box” –a 1600 page and still growing unfinished novel that he carried around in a huge cardboard box next to his writing desk like a kind of cancerous creative sidecar. For all I know it is buried next to him now still throbbing with promise.

To keep that little creative “Mini Me” at least life-sized if not smaller, I set a challenge to myself to do a portfolio review and delete the four weakest images from each of my photo galleries. That got me thinking about curating vs collecting and the clarifying power of a discerning no. A compassionate and loving respectful no, an open-hearted no, the kind that Steve Jobs, King of the Delete Key, alludes to when he says “I am as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.” Put another way, he is as proud of the no as he is of the yes.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. ~Gandhi

How often do you do a life review? When was the last time you said no?

Curating vs Collecting: In Art and Life

Curate as a verb actually means to “be in charge of”, and is one of the most underappreciated skills and talents in the arts and in consumerist American culture. Those disciplined choices, all that “negative (no) space” , make the difference between a fine art museum and a warehouse of stacked canvases. Even more importantly, curating makes the difference between all these little creations and choices being in charge of us and us being in charge of them.

As an online reputation consultant, I frequently remind clients that saying no is the difference between having a recognizable identity and brand niche and being tossed into the brand bargain bin (picture Williams-Sonoma vs Walgreens).

Curating is a different mind-set and skill-set than creating. That is why there are writers and editors, artists and museum curators. Until I have my own agent or editor, I have to set aside time and head space specifically for one or the other. Trying to both at once is stultifying to the creative process and not quite rigorous enough for the curation. I generally put a piece away for weeks to months and come back to it with fresh eyes and perspective for a more critical review.

Ansel Adams said that “twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.” I still aspire to that kind of discipline, even in these Google Image and stock image crazed times where sheer volume and keyword density appear to reign supreme commercially.

Life as Your Canvas

Its not that there is something wrong with collecting–every curated body of work has to start with a collection, after all. It is when we use a collection as defense, and a kind of insulation or padding to feel safe that we begin to serve it instead of the other way around. There are areas of my life where I curate and areas where I collect. I’m noticing that the areas I curate are the areas where people can most readily connect and relate to. I tend to collect in domains of life where  where I feel insecure or uncertain,  interior, private backwater eddies, subconscious material that hasn’t quite taken shape yet or that I haven’t felt clear enough to shape yet.

  • Areas of life I curate: food/diet, movies/entertainment, books, beliefs/thoughts, camera gear, photos.
  • Areas of life I collect:  acquaintances, experiences, spiritual teachings/trainings/, computer documents, ideas, files, music.

Creating Space for the Next Creation

As an empathic, intuitive and introverted person I can spend a good length of time in that murky cloud of creative chaos and the momentum and solitude of it is fertile soil for the next creation. But as much as I like my alone time I realize its not so healthy to stay in the output mode and all the clutter it generates indefinitely. It has an infinite incessancy, and I feel like an industrious creative little beaver, that must keep gnawing wood or its front teeth will grow too long for its mouth and pierce through the tongue. Meanwhile my creations pile.

Then I know it is time to curate again, time to clear the creative cache. When I want more clients and clearer head, I clean my car and throw away papers.

It is a personal regenerative cycle that informs the next evolution of creation and gives me at least the illusion of doership in whatever it is that life is expressing through me.

doug ellis signature



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