Mika + Zach | Wilson High School Prom | Wyomissing, West Reading Pennsylvania Portrait Photographer

It’s prom season around here, and Wilson High School had its prom last night. It is rare that Mika agrees to step in front of my camera, so I had to capitalize on this opportunity to photograph her and Zach - even though I had only a small window of time to capture these images before I had to leave to photograph a Bar Mitzvah outside Philadelphia. I was determined to make it all work somehow!

Mika and Zach are creative and fun, like doing their own thing, and prefer to avoid crowds. We are very similar in those ways! Last year, they decided to have their prom portraits captured at Stoudtburg Village - and we lucked out and were the only ones there. (You can see those photos by clicking here.) This year, they wanted to use West Reading as their backdrop, specifically the murals. I was game! So, while everyone else attending Berks County proms was fighting crowds at the Reading Museum, Wyomissing Park, and Grings Mill, we had downtown West Reading all to ourselves! Those other places are lovely, and I photograph there often - but I’m impatient and don’t like waiting for my favorite portrait spots on prom day. I also don’t like having hundreds of other people in the backgrounds of my photos. And, as a couple, I think it’s nice just to be able to spread out a little bit and be yourselves during your portrait time.

When we met up in West Reading, we lucked out with both the weather and the crowds - we had great light, no rain, and no competing prom couples. Mika and Zach looked absolutely amazing! Thank you to Iron Roots Hair Salon for fitting in Mika’s makeup and hair that afternoon. (She went there directly after taking the SATs! It was quite a busy day!) Mika has only worn makeup twice in her life - and the first time was for prom last year. They do a fantastic job of bringing out Mika’s natural inner beauty. You may notice that Mika was wearing her Crocs (aka “snowboard tuning shoes) in some of her photos. She’s all about comfort - and I can’t say I blame her - but the “fancy” prom shoes did find their way onto her feet before prom started.

I hope you enjoy this selection of some of my favorite images. Mika is currently a junior at Wilson, and Zach is a freshman at West Chester. One more prom for Mika, then I think we have a few years off until it’s our youngest daughter’s turn…

A Studio Session with Momo the Shiba | Berks County Pet Photographer

I brought Momo into my GoggleWorks studio the other day to get ready for a really fun freelance job that I have coming up.  I needed a small, furry model, and Momo fit the bill perfectly!  Momo is a 2-year old Shiba Inu with lots of personality!  Plus, she doesn't break the bank - she works for treats, such as dog biscuits and Starbucks whipped cream.

Here are a few shots from our test session in the studio.  Thanks for your help, Momo!  (Big thanks to my daughter Akina for being the treat handler!)

Snow Day Fun With Momo The Shiba Inu - On The Second Day Of Spring! | Berks County Pet Photographer

I've been so busy lately that I haven't made much time to take pictures just for me, just for fun.  When winter storm Toby arrived today and gifted us with over 12 inches of snow, my work plans had to be rearranged.  (I'm not complaining at all - I'm actually very thankful for the unexpected day off!)  My Shiba Inu, Momo, absolutely loves the snow - so when she refused to come inside and warm up, I decided to join her outside and take a few photos of her snow day shenanigans.  Winter is my favorite season, and I'm really sad to have to say goodbye to it.  So, I'm extra thankful for this early spring gift from Mother Nature!  Finally, a storm that didn't miss us...

Cliff Mautner's Bootcamp | A Workshop Review | Pennsylvania and Destination Wedding Photographer

I am proud to be a lifelong learner.  This desire to constantly add to and refine my knowledge base was instilled in me from as young an age as I can remember.  Learning not only helps me hone my skills in whatever I am passionate about, but it truly feeds my brain and my soul.  I really am in my element when I am in an environment that allows me to apply and improve my passions.

I feel that you can never learn everything there is to know about any given subject.  Although I feel that I am a pretty decent photographer, I also acknowledge that I can always keep improving my craft.  My commitment to learning is not only beneficial to myself, but also to my clients who put their trust in me to produce the most beautiful art for them that I am capable of creating.  In order to continue to grow as a photographer, I try to attend at least one workshop or conference a year.  When I heard that Cliff Mautner was offering his Lighting Bootcamp only 1.5 hours from me, I knew that I had to attend this workshop.  Cliff is a renowned wedding and portrait photographer, and is also very real and down-to-earth.  (That can be a rare combination in the world of wedding photographers, especially for those artists who have won as many awards as Cliff has.)  So, I signed up!

Finally, that much anticipated August afternoon had arrived - I threw my camera gear and an overnight bag into my green VW bug, and headed to New Jersey for 2 1/2 action-packed days of learning.  The first night started off with an informal reception where Cliff got to know all 18 of us attendees (who had gathered from all over the world), and we all got to know Cliff.  Cliff promised to be an open book throughout the workshop, and he kept that promise!  No question was off limits, and Cliff personally made sure that everyone was made to feel heard and valued throughout the entirety of our time together.

The learning and sharing continued over the next two days, where Cliff gave us pointers, hands-on demonstrations, and assignments incorporating both natural light and artificial light.  We started early in the morning and worked long after sunset.  Cliff kept our bellies full and our brains working.  I left the workshop about 10 pounds heavier and with more insight and knowledge and inspiration than I could have hoped for.

I would do you a disservice if I gave away anything that Cliff taught us over those 2 1/2 days.  You really should attend one of his workshops if you have the chance.  So, instead, I'll just show you some of the photographs I created during my time at the workshop.  On the first full day of the workshop, we shot in a few hotel rooms in Haddonfield, New Jersey.  On the second full day, we ventured into Philadelphia and shot at a few of Cliff's favorite public parks.  We had every lighting situation thrown at us during our time together - from dreamy natural light, to harsh afternoon sun, to shade.  And Cliff helped us all gain confidence for creating stunning portraits regardless of the lighting challenges we faced.  He truly helped us learn to SEE the light.

Big thanks to Cliff, the amazing models that worked with us, and to my fellow artists who showed up and allowed themselves to be vulnerable and humble.  And thank you to his talented wife, Susan Stripling, for sharing him with us that week!  I knew that taking his workshop would be a game changer for me and my photography business, and I was right.

 

 

Camden | A Gold Hope Project Fighter Session | Berks County Pennsylvania Photographer

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by The Gold Hope Project, asking if I could photograph a "fighter session" for a local family.  When I saw the email come through, I was simultaneously excited and saddened.  I knew this email meant that I had the chance to use my photography to help someone in need, but at the same time I knew that it meant that a local family had a child who was fighting cancer.  I'm always looking for ways to use my passion to bring joy to others, so I instantly agreed to take on the session.  The Gold Hope Project quickly responded with the family's contact information and a brief synopsis of their fighter's story.

Camden is a 22-month old boy who is fighting Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma.  Camden has been a fighter his entire life.  He was born in November 2015 with a condition known as Gastroschisis, which is when there is a hole in the abdomen that gives space for the intestines to be outside of the body.  After being treated for that condition immediately after his birth, he was finally able to go home to be with his family.  However, he started getting very sick, requiring additional hospital stays.  In November 2016, he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.  Since then, this amazing little boy has undergone chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation. He has been living in the hospital on and off for the past 10 months, and his mom has not been able to work since he was diagnosed, so that she is able to care for him and drive him back and forth from CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) on a regular basis.

After reading about Camden's story in The Gold Hope Project email and on Camden's Facebook page, I wasn't sure what to expect at our photoshoot.  I wasn't sure how long his energy would hold out during our photoshoot, or what type of mood he would be in.  I decided to show up without a plan, and to let Camden run the show.

When I arrived, all of my worries were instantly put to ease.  Camden is one of the happiest almost-2-year-olds I have ever met in my life.  His smile and curiosity are contagious, and I could barely keep up with him!  He loved exploring the Reading Museum grounds during our photoshoot, and I loved following him around with my camera.  Camden's mom, dad, brother, and sister joined the photoshoot as well, and we were able to get a bunch of great family photos during our time together.  My favorite part was just hanging back and capturing Camden interacting with his family members, playing with the signs his mom made for the photoshoot, and waving sticks around.  He acts like any other toddler, and just by looking at him and playing with him you would never know the battle that he and his family are currently fighting.  This little boy is so full of life, and his light was shining very brightly during our brief time together.

I would like to thank The Gold Hope Project for giving me this opportunity to help a local family in need.  Most of all, I would like to thank Camden and his family for allowing me into their lives, and for reminding me of what is truly important - family and love and hope.

For more information on Camden's journey, click here.

There is a GoFundMe campaign set up for Camden here.

For The Gold Hope Project's website, click here.

For The Gold Hope Project's Facebook page, click here.

Philadelphia Lantern Fest | Maple Grove Raceway | Berks County Photographer

One of the recent additions to my Bucket List was to attend a lantern festival.  The last two times one was being held within a reasonable drive from me, I had weddings booked.  When I found out another lantern fest was being planned for June 10th, just 15 minutes from my house, I immediately snatched up tickets and blocked out the date on my calendar!  It's a good thing I did, because this one sold out within a few weeks.  It was so popular that the organizers ended up adding a second day!  (I would have gone both days, but my studio open house was scheduled to take place the following day.)

I'm not a fan of crowds, but crowds can't be avoided at lantern festivals.  So, if you go, be prepared to wait... a lot...  However, I have to admit, the more crowded they are, the more amazing the lantern display looks!  I did, however, manage to sneak away from the crowd and score a perfect viewing spot in the bleachers along Maple Grove Raceway.  My plan was to capture a few photos from that vantage point, then join the crowd below to set off my lanterns.  Once the lanterns started being released, however, that plan went to pieces.  My view from the bleachers was so amazing that I just couldn't bring myself to leave.  I am definitely going to attend another one in the future, so I'll be sure to capture some photos from the ground-level vantage point when I go back.

If you decide to go to one of these, plan to arrive early to find a close parking spot.  When you enter, you'll be given a lantern, a marshmallow roasting stick, and a goodie box (containing s'mores supplies, a lighter, and a sharpie for decorating your lantern).  There are food and drink stands for all ages, live music, face-painting, balloon-animal artists, and inflatable rides for the kids.  Again, be prepared to wait - a lot - but in the end, the wait will be worth it!!!  And this is coming from someone who detests crowds!!

My pictures just don't do this experience justice, but I hope you enjoy them anyway.  I'm so glad that I was able to attend.  The view was breathtaking, and being there with my family was the icing on the cake.  If you ever have a chance to go, I highly recommend it.

Chapel + Emarosa + Sum 41 + Pierce the Veil | Freedom Hall, Lancaster County Convention Center

My good friend (and my daughter's drum instructor!) is currently touring with Emarosa as their drummer.  Last week, we caught their show at Freedom Hall (at the Lancaster County Convention Center).  Emarosa was one of the opening bands for Pierce the Veil, during their "We Will Detonate" Tour.  The other bands were Chapel, and Sum 41.  Brent was kind enough to score me a photo pass, so I hung out in the pit and created some art while enjoying the show.  I'm definitely in my element when I am photographing concerts.  I really enjoy being able to combine my loves of music and photography, and to capture other artists sharing their passions with others!  Something about the lights, shadows, colors, and emotions on display during concerts just fills my soul to the brim.

Here are a few of my shots from last Tuesday.  I hope you enjoy them!  Thanks again, Brent!!

Late Night Netflix is Dead | High School Senior Session | Harrisburg Photographer

Last week, Kaiya and I took an impromptu trip to Harrisburg to snap a few photos.  We brought along one of her prom gowns, just for fun!  We started off at the Late Night Netflix is Dead mural, then wandered around the surrounding area.  There are so many great spots there!!  I definitely want to go back.

On the way home, we stopped at Stoudtburg Village for a few more photos before the rain eventually chased us away.

Here are a few of our shots from the day.  Enjoy!

Procrastinating with Momo | Berks County Pet Photographer

I have a Shiba Inu named Momo.  (Actually Momoko, but that sounds too formal, so we call her Momo).  She rocks.  If you've met her, you understand.  If you haven't met her, you really should.  She has the best personality and is so freaking photogenic!  She's stubborn and doesn't listen most of the time, but I'm the same way so I find those qualities endearing.

We procrastinated together for a few minutes today, and here is the outcome.  I hope you love these half as much as I do. <3  If you want to see more of Momo, she has her own Instagram account now!  Check her out at:  http://www.instagram.com/the_real_momo_the_shiba.

P.S.  After the photoshoot, I'm really thinking about offering pet photography sessions...

A Snowy Session with Akina | Berks County Family Photographer

You may have seen my recently blogged snowy session with Mika.  If not, be sure to check it out!!

Well, before we left the house for that photoshoot, Akina (my youngest daughter) asked to come along with us and have a quick session of her own!  I was ecstatic!!

The three of us ventured out into the deep snow together, and shot for as long as we could tolerate the cold.  They were both troopers in the cold and wind, but Akina was a beast!  When you see what she was wearing, you'll understand.  She was sporting long underwear and snow boots under her dress, but her arms were completely exposed - and she was totally fine with it!  I actually had to scold her to put her jacket back on and zip it up after we were done with our photos!  (Oh, how I miss my fearless and carefree childhood!!)  We were probably only outside for about 10-15 minutes total for both photoshoots, but it seemed so much longer than that!

Here are a few photos from Akina's snowy session.  Enjoy!  (Thank you for this late-winter treat, Mother Nature!)

 

A Snowy Session with Mika | Berks County Family Photographer

Last week, after winter storm Stella dropped almost 2 feet of snow on us, something amazing happened...

Mika (my typically camera-shy daughter) asked me for a quick photoshoot with her and her snare drum!  If you know Mika, you know just how momentous this occasion was!  She is absolutely stunning, but refuses to have her photo taken 98.5% of the time you ask her.

Needless to say, I jumped on this opportunity!  We ventured outside, drove around the neighborhood looking for the perfect spot (and a place to park nearby without getting stuck in the snow), and shot as many photos as we could before we both froze!

I had a blast!  I'm sad that winter is ending and that I'll have to wait until next winter for more opportunities like this one.  I hope you enjoy these photos from our super quick session!

 

An Exciting Announcement! (aka Everything Happens for a Reason)

Everything happens for a reason.

Last weekend, on a whim, I suggested that we stop by the GoggleWorks to see if there were any studio spaces currently available that would be perfect for setting up my studio. (I've been thinking about it for a while, but now the timing just felt right.)

As we walked around, I saw a few spaces on the 3rd floor that I thought might work, and I made a note to see if they were available. Then we made our way up to the 5th floor. Even though this area is away from most of the other artists and has a different "vibe" than the studios on the 2nd and 3rd floors (no natural exposed brick, less of the warehouse feel that I liked), I wanted to check it out anyway. I'm so glad I did!

As we arrived, the person who was currently renting Studio 541 was in the process of moving out. Literally, they were moving out that minute of that hour of that day. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't have timed my random visit any better! I had walked by this space a handful of times before and was always in awe of the size of the space (it's actually two separate rooms), and the gorgeous natural light that comes in through the windows. The wooden floor and high walls are pretty amazing, too. And, it was opening up THAT DAY! I had always pictured myself in that space, whenever I had walked by during previous visits. I thought to myself there was no way that this space wasn't already spoken for.

As soon as I got home, I emailed the GoggleWorks and inquired about the three spaces I was interested in, hoping at least one was still open (and hoping beyond all hope that 541 wasn't already spoken for). I heard back two days later - All three were open! Then I asked about the rent, hoping (but doubting) that it was something that I would be able to fit into my budget. It was. :)

And, since I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, I jumped on this opportunity to rent Studio 541. It's happening! The lease is signed, the security deposit and first month's rent have been paid, and the lease begins ON MY BIRTHDAY!! How freaking awesome is that??? I get the keys on April 11th, and then the real fun begins! After I repaint the space and furnish it, I'm going to be hosting an Open House. You are all invited! I can't wait to celebrate and share my excitement with you!!

Thank you so much for your support over the years. I still can't believe this is happening! (And my family is pretty stoked that my photo gear is moving out of the house so we can reclaim a lot of space and start making our house look like a home again, instead of a studio.)

I am so stoked.

Everything happens for a reason.

 

 

P.S.  Starting April 11th, my studio address will be:

201 Washington Street
Studio No. 541
Reading, Pennsylvania 19601

Czech Republic | (aka I finally czeched Europe off my Bucket List!)

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of traveling to Europe to cheer for my oldest daughter as she represented the United States as an alpine snowboard racer at the Junior World Championships.  It was our first time visiting Europe, and it would be an understatement to say that we were both excited.

Kaiya had a fantastic two days of racing!  She finished 23rd on the first day and 16th on the second day, and was the the top American finisher both days!  It's such an honor for her to be so high-ranked among the top junior athletes in the world, and I'm so proud to call her mine (not just because she's an incredible racer, but because she's an incredible human being).

Her races took place at Klinovec, a ski resort right along the border of Czech Republic and Germany.  Before and after her races, I was able to take some time to sightsee and take a few photos of Prague and the spa town Karlovy Vary.  My time was not nearly enough to take in all of the history and sights that Czech Republic has to offer, but it was a good start!  I definitely want to brush up on my history and go back when I have more time to act like a tourist.

Anyone eloping, renewing vows, or looking to have portraits done in Czech Republic?  You know who to call! ;)

Here are a few of my photos from our quick trip to Europe.  Enjoy!!

Jackson, Wyoming - Part 2 | Kaiya, Class of 2017 | Destination High School Senior Portrait Photographer

While Kaiya and I were in Wyoming in November, we decided to add a few photos to her ever-growing high school senior portrait portfolio!  Here are a few of our favorites from Grand Teton National Park, Mormon Row, and downtown Jackson Hole.

Here's a fun fact about the incredible antler arch that you will see in the photos...  Jackson is home to a National Elk Refuge, and the roughly 8,000 antlers that make up the four matching arches in downtown Jackson Hole all come from the elk's annual antler shedding.  No animals were harmed to obtain the antlers to create these enormous and iconic arches.

Jackson, Wyoming - Part 1 | Elk, Coyote, Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Waterfowl | Wildlife Photographer

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter was supposed to have a snowboard race in Jackson, Wyoming.  The race was cancelled due to lack of snow, but our plane tickets and hotel were nonrefundable, so we decided to go on our trip anyway.  Neither of us had ever been to Wyoming, so I thought it would be a great experience for both of us.  We packed up our laptops, camera gear, and sense of adventure, and headed west.

On our first day in Wyoming, we went out in search of a grocery store and Starbucks... and found much, much more! My daughter noticed something moving in the tall brush on the side of the road, so I pulled over to check it out.  What we stumbled upon was a migrating herd of elk.  I grabbed my camera, hopped out of the car, and ran alongside the herd snapping as many photos as I could.  It was absolutely incredible and breathtaking to witness.  On a separate trip, we encountered bighorn sheep, moose, a coyote, and various waterfowl!  (We eventually did find the grocery store and the Starbucks.)

Here are some of my wildlife photos from our trip.  I definitely plan to go back again when I have more time to explore... and next time I'm planning on bringing some bigger lenses!

Kaiya's Nor-Am Races at Buck Hill, MN | Pennsylvania Snowboard Photographer

This year, I made a few big changes in my life.  One was resigning from teaching after 16 years and supplementing my photography business with educational consulting.  That big career change has allowed me to pursue both my photography and education passions simultaneously, and has given me increased flexibility in my schedule to support my family as they pursue their own passions... and it has given me more time to snowboard. ;)

Our entire family snowboards.  This shared passion is part of the glue that keeps our family so close.  All three of my daughters are alpine snowboard racers, and my oldest daughter, Kaiya, is now competing at the international level.  I was able to accompany her recently as she raced in her first North American (Nor-Am) Cup events of the year at Buck Hill Resort in Burnsville, Minnesota.

There were four events scheduled over the span of three days (three "big" Nor-Am parallel slalom races, and one "junior" Nor-Am parallel slalom race).  The temperatures ranged from a high of 20 degrees on Friday, to a low of -40 degrees on Sunday (including the wind chill).  It was so cold on Sunday morning that the races had to be delayed until the temperatures rose above -20 degrees so that the lifts could operate.

Kaiya finished 14th on Friday evening (her first ever evening event under the lights!), 2nd on Saturday morning (only missing first place by .02 seconds!!), 6th on Saturday afternoon (after a heartbreaking DQ), and 7th on Sunday.  I'm so proud of her performance in all of her races that weekend, especially considering that she wasn't able to train on gates prior to the races because of the lack of snow here on the east coast!  The last time she practiced in gates was last June at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon!  It's hard to describe the range of feelings I experience on race days.  Leading up to and during any given race, there's an exhilarating (and exhausting) combination of anxiety, excitement, joy, heartbreak, happiness, suspense, and pride.  Lots and lots of pride.  Looking through my camera and focusing on taking pictures during her races helps keep my anxiety (somewhat) under control.

Kaiya's 2nd place finish was her best Nor-Am finish to date, and resulted in her first time earning a spot on the medal podium (and the first time she won prize money)!  Kaiya's next Nor-Am race will take place at Steamboat Springs, CO in two weeks.  Her younger sisters have a race coming up at Camelback Mountain in the Pennsylvania Poconos next weekend.  I'm looking forward to an amazing season for all three "SnowSurfGirls"!

If you happened to be at Buck Hill and saw me waving and pointing like a crazy woman every so often, it's because I was signaling to family and friends who were watching the race via Buck Hill's webcam.  They asked me to wave whenever Kaiya was coming up next, and to signal which lane she would be racing in. ;)

Here are a few photos of Kaiya from her races at Buck Hill.  I wish you all could have been there in person!

Everything Happens for a Reason | A Personal Session in Park City, Utah

A few years ago, I "met" @lindseasnow on Instagram.  She commented on a few of my snowboard-related posts, and we soon realized that she used to snowboard at my "home" mountain.  We quickly determined that we seemed to have a lot in common and joked that we were practically the same person - just separated by 10+ years in age. ;)  I hoped I would meet her in person one day, but that possibility seemed a bit far-fetched once she packed up and moved from Baltimore, MD to Utah.

Fast forward to this fall...  

If you know me personally, you know that snowboarding is kind of a big deal in my family. ;)  My oldest daughter is competing in the Nor-Am Cup for alpine snowboard racing, and had a last minute race added to the calendar for November.  The race was supposed to take place in Jackson, Wyoming.  The cheapest airfare we could find required that we fly in to Salt Lake City, Utah and then drive 4 1/2 hours to Wyoming.  I made our travel reservations, and then remembered that my Instagram friend, Lindsay, lived in Utah!  I reached out to her to see if she lived anywhere near the SLC airport, and as luck would have it, she was very close!  I told her that we would be in town and we decided to meet up for lunch while I was in Utah!

I also found out that Lindsay had recently undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy and reconstruction, and I wanted to use my photography passion to help celebrate her strength, positivity, and kick-ass zest for life!  So, I offered to donate a photoshoot while I was there.  I'm so glad that she immediately took me up on my offer!

The week before the race was supposed to take place, it was cancelled due to lack of snow.  And when I say lack of snow, there was literally no snow to be found in Jackson, Wyoming.  Winter got off to a very late start in Wyoming this year, so there was no way the race could go off as scheduled.  They got a few inches of snowfall right before the race was supposed to happen, but it was too little too late.  Our airfare and hotel were prepaid in order to get the best rates at such short notice, and were nonrefundable.  So, my daughter and I decided to make the best of a crummy situation and take our trip anyway.  And, I'm so glad we did!  Not only did we manage to see some incredible wildlife while in Wyoming (one day I'll post those pictures when I find the time), but we also managed to meet up with Lindsay for lunch, incredible conversation, and an amazing photoshoot.  We even managed to squeeze in one more dinner (and dessert!) with her on our last night in Utah before we flew back home!

Here are some of Lindsay's blog posts that discuss our online friendship and our in-person meeting, since she's way better with words than I am:

https://lindseasnow.com/2016/11/09/woman-crush-wednesday-the-amazing-women-ive-met-via-blogging/

https://lindseasnow.com/2016/12/13/using-social-media-to-actually-socialize/

If you browse around her page a bit, you'll learn more about her story and her incredible outlook on life.  I highly recommend that you pour yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and check it out!

Since I'm much better with photos than with words, I'll leave you with a few of my favorite images from our brief time together.  (Her photoshoot took place at Jordanelle Park and Jordanelle Reservoir, some of her favorite spots in Park City.)  Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Lindsay!  I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and I know that our meeting was meant to be.  I have a feeling our Instagram meeting years ago was just the beginning of what is to become a long friendship.

A Berks County Halloween | A Personal Session

With our oldest daughter graduating from high school in June, this could potentially be the last Halloween that we have all three of our kids at home at the same time.  Since all three of them had costumes this year, I couldn't miss this opportunity to snap a few photos of them together.

This isn't my typical style of editing, but sometimes I will do it for fun.  (Although I always have fun when I make photographs, so that might not be the best choice of words...)  I like to keep learning and stepping out of my comfort zone, and I love how these turned out.

Here are a few photos of my own personal Waldo, Chucky, and The Mystery Machine.  They all made their costumes themselves!!  Enjoy!

 

 

A Berks County Forever Family Session | The Francis Adoption Day!

777 is definitely a lucky number for one special Berks County family!

A few weeks ago, someone from the organization Together We Rise reached out to me to see if I was willing to photograph a local family's adoption.  I excitedly agreed, and they connected me with the family's mother.  Fast forward to this morning...

Their long awaited adoption took place at the Lancaster County Courthouse. This was the first adoption I was honored to witness, so I didn't know what to expect, besides predicting that I'd see quite a few hard-earned and well-deserved smiles.

My trip to the courthouse was significantly lengthened by standstill traffic on Rt. 222. It cleared, and I breathed a sigh of relief... only to discover more construction around the courthouse itself. Luckily, I left with a few extra minutes to spare, and arrived right on time - and the family happened to be caught in the same traffic as I was. Crisis averted.

We went through security and made our way to the courtroom (#6) only to discover that they were running behind today as well. So, we were able to catch our breaths, and we spent a few minutes waiting outside in the hallway while we could hear other families celebrating inside Courtoom #6 as their own adoptions were being processed and finalized.

A few minutes later, it was our turn, and we made our way into the courtroom. I was a little disappointed to find out that I wasn't allowed to photograph any of the proceedings and had to wait until after everything was finished to snap a few photos of the family and the judge who granted the adoption. If I was allowed to take photos then, you would have seen loving parents smiling from ear to ear, excited children who were beaming as their new legal names were read out, and exuberant family members and case workers who were there to show their support. It was so heartwarming, and I shed more than a few tears of my own. (Mental note, pack tissues the next time I photograph one of these!!)

As the parents were finishing their testimonies (and I found out we share the same wedding anniversary!!), the courthouse fire alarm went off. Everyone had to exit the courthouse and wait for the okay to go back inside. Talk about an exciting morning! A few minutes later, we were allowed back in, and after making our way back through security and back into Courtoom #6 again, we finished up the official adoption proceedings. I snapped a few photos of the family together with the judge, and then we made our way to a local park to capture a few family photos.

I am so happy that I was able to donate my time and talent to this family. This is a day that they will all remember for the rest of their lives, and I am honored to have been a part of it. I think everyone should be able to witness this type of joy at least once in their lives.  After 777 days in foster care, and an incredibly exciting morning, these amazing brothers have been granted their wish - crowned princes of their loving forever family.

Congratulations, Francis family! Thank you for allowing me to share this incredible day with all of you.

A "Me" Day at Longwood Gardens | Water, Flowers, and a Whole Bunch of Frogs

A few days ago, I saw a post on Facebook from a photographer who had registered for a photography class at Longwood Gardens but then couldn't attend.  She was looking for someone to take her spot.  I read about the class and loved everything in the description!  (I later found out it is one of the most popular photography classes at Longwood - and has been sold out for months!)  I looked at my calendar, and besides my seemingly-never-ending PhD work that I was supposed to get around to working on that day, I only had a photoshoot scheduled for the late afternoon.  The calendar Gods were smiling upon me that day, and I decided it was a sign!  The PhD work could wait!  (And, my photoshoot clients decided to change their location to Longwood Gardens once they found out I was going to be there anyway!  It worked out perfectly!!)

I bought the ticket from the other photographer and woke up at 5am to be at Longwood Gardens by 7am.  I am not a morning person (putting it very mildly), but I can do it when I absolutely have to.  It ended up being more than worth the early wake up and drive!  I was able to watch the sunrise while I drove to Longwood, and wished I was a little bit more of a morning person.  Once I arrived at Longwood, I realized we had the entire property to ourselves for a few hours before it opened to the general public.  It was awesome, to say the least.

Our class started with a little bit of instruction and shooting tips, then we were broken into three groups.  Each group was going to be allowed access in the world famous waterlily ponds for an hour at a time - and we got to go in twice!  And, I'm not talking just any access - we were given waders and actually allowed to get INTO the ponds and take photos from a "frog's eye view".  It was so amazing being able to get that close to the flowers I have stared at in wonder for years.  I also got up close and personal with a few critters - including frogs, damsel flies, dragonflies, tiny fish, bees, and lots of other insects that were flying and hopping around.  When we were not in the ponds taking pictures, we spent time wandering around the gardens taking photos (and making some new friends).  If you look at my photos closely, you'll even see that we were visited by a stunning Blue Heron!

Here are a few of my favorites from the day!  I took HUNDREDS of pictures, so this is just a small sampling of them.  (I wouldn't have time to get anything else done this weekend if I didn't force myself to stop going through them!!)  I hope you enjoy my photos - and if you haven't ever been to Longwood Gardens, or if it's been a while since your last visit, you really should go. :)

Thank you for the opportunity, Krista!  Thank you for lending me your filter for a few shots, Andrea!  Thanks to Jon (the light ninja) for a great class and a lot of laughs!