Family Photo Sessions are hard and naturally demanding, but incredible opportunities for learning. You need to become accustomed to a unique family dynamic almost instantly. It is learning on your feet at its finest. Many times the goal for a session is to capture something that is beyond just a pretty image for a Christmas card, but is rather to preserve a moment in a family's journey that celebrates challenges that have been overcome, while preparing for those that are yet to come.Read More
Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
This is the second special needs session that I have done as a volunteer for the organization Hope Kids www.hopekids.org. I had the honor of joining Jill and Chad Voerste by the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis a few weeks ago for a family photo session with their beautiful children Myranda, Trevor, Lacey, Elizabeth, and Deacon James. This blended family has an incredible love for each other that shone through the entire session. Despite the many stresses and trials that they have faced due to life-threatening illnesses facing Elizabeth, 3, and Deacon James, 18 months, they are a family of incredible faith who lean heavily on Jesus and the assurance that He is in control of their lives. Their faith is a wonderful testimony of how God’s grace can help us rise above adversity and see the beautiful blessings that are there.
Elizabeth is a beautiful and vivacious 3 year old who wears twirly dresses, has an angelic smile (with a little bit of mischief mixed in) and is just plain sweet! One would never know that she has an autoimmune disorder called I.T.P. which causes her immune system to malfunction and destroy blood platelets. As a result she has been hospitalized frequently and has undergone chemotherapy.
Deacon James is a toddler on the go! His personality is huge and his smile is contagious. Deacon was born with a rare genetic disorder called 2Q11.2 duplication caused by an extra copy of a small piece of chromosome 22. Diagnosing this disorder did not come easily and was an incredibly frustrating process for Jill and Chad. After several trips to the E.R. and misdiagnoses from several doctors, Jill and Chad had to advocate that something was very wrong with their precious baby and, no, it was not just a virus. Deacon has a host of medical conditions stemming from this disorder, but the extent of his health and developmental issues are still being determined by a team of 20 specialists from Children’s Hospital and Gillette Children’s Hospital. The list of his current struggles includes: conductive hearing loss, bi-lateral hip dysplasia, developmental and speech delays, sensory issues, chronic pain syndrome, and laryngomalacia in which the upper larynx collapses inward during inhalation, causing airway obstruction. As a result of this condition, Deacon is on a breathing tube, has been on a G tube, and must undergo feeding therapy because he aspirates easily. The list of surgeries and tests from the time he was 2 months old to the present is longer than most people ever experience in their lifetime. He requires constant hospital-level care.
Jill’s day is filled with continual doctor visits and care on top of managing the busyness of life with 5 kids. She says that despite the time and attention that her littlest ones require, her family has been brought even closer together through these circumstances. The constant hospitalizations, doctor visits, therapies and resulting financial stresses would tear many families apart. However, she says that all of these things have forced their family to surrender all control to God and they have had to increase their trust in Him to care for them, even when circumstances seemed impossible. Even in the darkest moments, she is now able to see the light of His blessings in the smallest details. Elizabeth and Deacon’s conditions require that they receive continual care forcing her to stay home as well. Since she is a registered nurse, she is now able to be paid to stay home and be Deacon’s nursing provider. An incredible blessing. When the weeks are consumed with doctor appointments and little time is left for the demands of normal family life, an activity offered by Hope Kids- something which blesses the whole family like a Twins Game or a trip to the zoo, will pop up and provides them with a much needed break and to simply have fun. Another blessing. When money has been tight, and they don’t know how they will make ends meet, provision has always come through, sometimes, in miraculous ways. Again, blessings. When kids are kids and do something to drive them crazy, a big brother will selflessly tie his sister’s shoe, a little sister will give a hug to her crying brother, a story will be read to a little sister, or the youngest will beam the biggest smile towards them all.
These are Blessings. Blessings which carry them through. Blessings which bring hope to their lives. The lesson? You simply have to open your eyes to the blessings before you. No blessing is too small. As a result, there is Hope. Hope which humbles hearts and makes striving tendencies cease.
In this session, I tried to capture the incredible relationship that this family has with one another. The love between them is palatable and filled me with such joy. Nothing deters their hope. Their patient endurance is inspiring. Deacon is simply a normal toddler who desires to run around and explore. He carries his oxygen tank around like a trooper! He doesn’t let it steal his joy. It is simply a part of his day to day life. He keeps his eyes focused on the beauty of the world around him, wiggles out of his mom’s arms, and lives free in the joy of the moment. Elizabeth (or “Z” as they call her) doesn’t live in fear of being sick or hurt, but twirls in her pretty dress, smells the flowers, and cuddles with her big brother and sisters. We can learn so much from these little ones! Our trials do not have to hold us back, but we are free to simply live because we know that one day, our suffering will cease. Someday, one day, because of what God has done for us, they will disappear, but our joy will not.
Jill said that the song “But even if…” inspires her family each day. It has helped them to hang on to the truth that their strength is not from themselves, but from what God has done and is doing for them each day. All they have to do is hang on to the hope that this provides.
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
“Even if…..” by Mercy Me
Newborns! How amazing and precious they are. However, the first few weeks after bringing that precious bundle home can be a bitter sweet time for many parents. You are exhausted, your focus is on feeding and diaper changes, and you are longing for more than a couple hours of sleep. However, your baby is finally here! Their smell, their little fingers and toes, their fuzzy hair, and little squeaks and gurgles make your heart melt. You are fervently trying to lock away these details in your memory so that you can remember them. That's when life takes over with its busyness, chaos, and complications - all in an attempt to steal your peace and joy.
Newborn photos are so important for so many reasons. They not only preserve the precious details of your child during their first few weeks of life, but also of your family in general. Such details often get shrouded by stress and complications. However, there is so much beauty even during these chaotic times. This is what I try to capture in my newborn family sessions. I have tried to make these sessions unique in that they not only capture the precious details of baby, but of the beautiful details that are often missed during the first few weeks after bringing their newest family member home. Moments such as mom and dad giving each other a gentle touch of encouragement when baby is inconsolably crying, of mom breathing in the fleeting smell of her baby's head which will soon become a bouncing toddler's curls, of dad holding his fragile bundle and being amazed at the size of her toes, or of big sister being proud to take on her role as the big kid in the house, yet still needing a reassuring cuddle from mom and dad. These are the details that I try to preserve for families so that when they look back and think about the time when they first had a newborn, they will be able to see the beauty that was there instead of just a blur of exhaustion.
These photos represent just that kind of situation. Toby and Tyler had been through so much awaiting the birth of Lucille Rae. Big sister Violet is a spunky 4 year old who has so much she wants to share with the world! Her energy and joy, plus being a complete ham brought so much joy to this session. However, it was also a stressful time for this family. Lucille was having feeding problems and she had to be supplemented with a tiny tube frequently. Despite the stresses of regular doctor visits checking her weight, constant feedings, and little sleep, Toby and Tyler conveyed so much gratitude for their life. It took several years to become pregnant with Violet, and after a painful struggle filled with heartbreak after two miscarriages beautiful Lucille came into the world. Just knowing she was here filled their hearts with joy and gratitude. No matter how many doctor visits there would be, no matter how tired they were, no matter how stressful her feedings were, she was here and she was a gift and an answered prayer.
This gratitude and love for the journey before them is what I aimed to capture in these photos, so, that when they look back, instead of just remembering the frustration or exhaustion, they will see their incredible love.
Hope and prayer - holding on to both changed the lives of Abby and Jeremy Barta and their precious daughter Juniper. Abby and Jeremy are incredible parents. They have a heart for service and helping others and are no strangers to emergencies. Jeremy is a firefighter and Abby works for North Memorial Ambulance Service. I had the privilege of doing a photo session for this family as a volunteer for an organization called Hope Kids. Hope Kids provides support for families who have a child with a life-threatening medical condition. Abby’s pregnancy and Juniper’s life are a testament to the miracles that God can bring about through any situation or challenge that life can bring. Abby’s pregnancy was far from easy, but through it all she constantly clung to hope and learned to surrender everything to God even when things seemed incredibly dark. Abby had an excruciating pregnancy in which she faced chronic bleeding and pain, continual doctor and ER visits, yet no clear answer to what was going on. She was facing a potential diagnosis of Uterine Cancer, fainting spells, and pain. When she was home, she would lie upside down in a chair just to make sure Juniper would not come too soon. The fact was that she had a complete placenta previa and Juniper was lodged in her pelvis – the thing that was causing her the most pain, was actually keeping Juniper in place and prevented her from being born even sooner than she was at 23 weeks. Despite being born at 23 weeks and weighing only 1 lb 1.6 oz, Juniper’s fighting spirit and God’s incredible way of carrying out His plans brought about the miracle of this little girl’s life.
Juniper is now 19 months old and only 15 pounds, yet she has an incredible spirit. She seems to be bursting with an incredible joy and a certain toughness despite the odds she has faced and the trials she faces every day just to survive. The list of Juniper’s health challenges is long. She was born with a genetic disorder called Septo Optic Dysplasia/Optic Nerve Hypoplasia resulting in extremely poor eyesight and a pituitary gland that does not function properly. There's no cure for this disorder. As a result, Juniper has growth hormone replacement therapy. She also struggles with diabetes insipidus and adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is an extremely dangerous condition in which even a simple childhood fall could result in death. "Being able to talk about our journey is a big part of my coping abilities." These are the words of Abby - an amazing mom, wife, and friend. Her story brings hope and encouragement to others who may be facing similar challenges while also blessing her in return. When we share our stories, we realize we are not alone, our voices are heard, and the blessings that shine through the darkness become even more real.
Every day is an adventure for this family. Caring for a toddler under normal circumstances keeps parents on their toes and is exhausting, but continual injections, therapy, monitoring of sodium and insulin levels, nutritional supplements, while making sure a normal fall doesn’t result in the need for an adrenaline shot and a trip to the emergency room, seems impossibly overwhelming. Although there are days when, yes, this is the case for Abby and Jeremy, they don’t see it this way. Abby says that despite everything they have gone through, they are thankful for everything that has happened in their lives. They have learned that prayer is powerful and hope is unconquerable. Their view of life has changed. Things of this world which were priorities before have faded in the light of the miracles which God has done in their lives. They have learned to be thankful in all circumstances and for things which before they took for granted. Getting through the day safely is something to rejoice in. Seeing the joy in their child’s eyes is a precious gift. Having a peace that surpasses understanding is a reassurance that God is with them and leading them through each moment. Finding strength in their weakest moments is a testament that God is working all things out for good and is always by their side.
Juniper is a rambunctious toddler who lives each day to the fullest. Her zest for life is contagious and her smile is full of joy and love. My goal in this photo session was to capture that joy and the incredible connection that this family has. What a gift it is to preserve these simple moments in this family’s life. Aren’t these the things that we want to remember when we look at our family photos? Not the perfect poses or outfits, but the connection, the laughter, the hugs, and the joy we have just knowing that God has blessed us with these fleeting moments in time together.
The more I do Senior Photo sessions, the more I love them. Graduating from high school is such a momentous time in an individual's life. Kids today, more than ever before, face so many pressures to succeed, to do the right activities, to get into the right school, or to decide take a gap year and figure their lives out - today! What if we just let them be who they are for just one moment? Kids. Kids with passions, interests, faith, families, friends, and maybe a pet! When I do a Senior Session, I start out by discovering who these kids are - what makes them happy? What makes them tick? What passions make up who they are? And in so doing, what do they want to share with others in their photos? Ultimately, Senior Photos are meant to preserve the special details and interests of a teenager. These things are precious. They help to keep them grounded when feeling pushed and pulled by the demands they face each day. These are the things which bring them joy and provide them with solace when facing an AP exam, waiting for a college acceptance letter, or facing the pressure to complete as many college credits before graduating high school as possible.
The photos of these two girls are very special to me. I believe they capture what is incredibly valuable to them: their cultural heritage, their love of music, and their playfulness while exuding with the beauty of their personalities. Both of them have a servant's heart which seeks to show the love of God in all that they do. They have both been student missionaries and serve others in their church and community continually. What a blessing it is to preserve who they are during this time in their lives. What an even greater blessing to see what they become.
I'm sure you have heard it before....photography is all about light. Living in Minnesota where light can be scarce several months per year, you come to revel in it when it is present! Light is powerful. It can create a magic that nothing else can. It can add an ethereal mood to any photograph no matter where it is taken. I think that photography is able to freeze the beauty of light in ways that our eyes just can't. The amazing thing is that this light is present in our every day lives, in every day places, and we walk past it and probably miss its astounding beauty so often. The majority of the photos below are taken in simple places in my home or in the park next to my house or at the lake down the road. These are simple neighborhood paths in Plymouth, Minnesota that people use every single day. What does this tell you? You don't need to search out a location that is far from home in order to get photographs that are stunning and even magical...you just need the right kind of light. The soft glow of light an hour before sunset is ideal. It is warm, it glows and envelopes its subjects in amazing ways. So, don't let location hold you back when thinking of scheduling your next family or individual photo session. Look around your yard. Walk over to your neighborhood park. Look within home. With the perfect type of light, something simple can become a piece of art!
Connection...that is my goal with family photography sessions. I truly enjoyed a recent session because the connection among all of the family members was wonderful. You can have perfect weather, perfect light, and poses that are just right, but if you can't find the connection among your clients, your photos will be lifeless. That is why I hate posing and love capturing how my clients interact with one another. So, how does one do this? You have to foster that environment for your clients, and, most importantly, connect with them as well! I truly feel blessed getting to know my clients, hearing their stories, learning about their traditions, and discovering who they are. The father and daughter of this family have an incredible tradition in which she gives him a rose every summer (usually around Father's Day) and they have captured this moment in photographs since she was little. The mom's sister was leaving for India the day after this shoot ending what was a precious visit together. Their conversations, their smiles, and their hugs spoke volumes of the time they had enjoyed with one another which was now coming to a close - until the next time. I consider spending time with a family, capturing their love, and their joy a very sacred thing. The next time you have your photos taken, think about these things. Don't worry so much about the posing or coordinating your outfits, but rather, relax and enjoy the time you are about to share together and see what kind of beautiful images result. What story do you want preserved about your family? Contact me and we will make it happen!
Springtime portraits have arrived!Read More
Being that I am usually the one taking the photographs, combined with the fact that I really don't like having my picture taken, I realized that I am not in that many pictures. This pushed me to see that I am really doing a disservice to my kids and their memories. The purpose of taking photographs is to document special moments in our lives. Whether capturing momentous occasions, chronicling the growth of our children, capturing the beauty of the places we experience, photographs hold irreplaceable value. I decided that I really need to get in front of that camera instead of always being behind it. I purchased a remote and starting clicking away. Now, these photographs are not artistically posed or processed in any special way, but I am there. I am present. I am with some of the people I cherish most in the world. This is why I believe photographs are so important. My girls will have images of their toothless grins, laughing with each other, cuddling with their pets, enjoying their childhood, playing with their Dad, and during all of that, being with someone who loves them tremendously whether she is in front of, or behind the camera.
I had the honor of doing an infant photo session inside a beautiful family's home. These photos tell a story. They are a photographic journey into the day of a family who just gave birth to a beautiful 10 pound 11 ounce wonder of a girl! Her eyes are so discerning even at 2 weeks old. They seem to peer into your soul. You just want to curl up and have a long conversation with this little one about all the wonders of heaven! She joins an incredible pair of siblings. One incredible 5 1/2 year old sister whose mothering skills are at equal measure with her ability to dance at one moment in her tutu and then go make a glass of homemade of lemonade and serve it in a wine glass! 18 month old brother has a contagious laugh and smile. His energy and vibrant spirit seemed to fill the room with joy. The beauty of these little ones surrounded two incredibly gentle parents who are just trying to take it all in. Their lives have changed with this newest addition, but it was like she had always been a part of their family. The love in their home just expanded a bit more.
These photo sessions are filled with so much hope and wonder. What an honor it is to see the simple beauty of cuddling on the couch, preparing a bottle, dancing in sunlight, or even a diaper change. These are the moments I try to capture. These are the moments which are so quickly passed by in our day-to-day lives, yet, they hold incredible value. They are moments of nurturing and growth, of creativity and laughter, and most of all, love.
It is winter. My little ones are cooped up in the house. It is dark outside. How will I ever get those beautiful pictures of my baby with her eyes lit up with beautiful light? Did I mention I do not want to go to a studio? If you are thinking those same thoughts take a load of these photos taken on a cold winter day in a busy family's home. All it takes is a beautiful window with light pouring in, a reflective white or colorful blanket on hand and you are all set. These are my favorite infant and family sessions - right smack in the middle of someone's home! As a photographer there is nothing I love more than capturing the beauty of a family - not in a studio with perfect hair and outfits, but right in the middle of their home with toys spread about. I love capturing the beauty of their every day lives because those are the moments they rarely have the chance to preserve. Those are the moments we forget about so quickly. Moments like how our dog always likes to lie in the light of the doorway. Or, how we played Uno a gazillions times, but that's how our little one learned their colors and numbers. Moments like how we just liked to hang out on the stairs and build with colorful tiles. I feel like you can almost hear the giggles. I adore how happy baby looks just hanging out without a diaper (yes clean-up was required!). This is life and this is beautiful. How blessed we are to take time to reflect on the precious details that God gives us each day.
It is winter and many people haven't even begun to think about their family pictures. However, I think this is the best time of the year for family pictures whether you are inside or out. First of all, winter portraits create stunning images that are incredibly unique. A stark landscape covered with snow allows for clients to pop in the scene. I encourage clients to where beautiful shades of black or blues and then accent with a red scarf, mittens or hats. The contrast in colors is beautiful. Another benefit to these types of family photo shoots is that there is so much to do in the snow! Family snowball fights, throwing snow into the sunlight, cups of hot cocoa steaming in the crips air, kids blowing snow from their mittens or huddling together to keep warm are all things that make these photo sessions special! These scenes make for incredible shots that create a lot of joyful memories. So, thinking of a family photo shoot soon? Don't hold off until summer when everyone else is getting theirs - bundle up, get out, and capture unique images that you will enjoy for years to come!
I absolutely love to go for walks and find beautiful, dead plants and leaves frozen by winter. There is a beauty to all of it that only winter can give. In the summer these leaves are brushed aside, but in the winter their textures, color and transparency are a treasure. God leaves gems of his goodness even in the "dead-stuff." The gallery has been growing. Below are some of my daily photos. Each day another detail. Each day something beautifully simple.
It has been a month since my last blog. It is January and that means my client photography slows down. It is a time where discouragement around "why on earth am I doing this?!" sometimes sets in. However, this is actually a good thing. These are times for reflection, educating yourself, and creativity! In the spring and summer, there is so much color and new life abounding around you. The winter forces you to search for beauty and to appreciate simple things. I have found that this does amazing things for my photography. It influences everything about it, especially my client sessions. The tiny fingers of an infant, a close-up of a couple's hands as they embrace, the curl of a little girl's hair - these are the details that we often miss in the hustle and bustle of our every day lives. What a treasure it is to preserve them in photographs.
My next few posts will reflect how I do this in the winter time. I call it a 365 project. You take a picture every day - no matter how simple, no matter how strange it may seem at the time - in the end it will create an incredible collage of life. Many of the pictures will be of very simple things, but God has created all of these things and inherent in them is his incredible creativity and beauty. How special it is that we are blessed by it!
Today's image is of a simple green flower from a bouquet I had bought from Trader Joe's. Seriously, it is the best place to buy beautiful arrangements for super cheap! I love vibrancy of the greens and yellows in this flower. Plus, the light shimmering down upon it reminds me of summer. You would never guess that this picture was taken on a day when the temperature was only 7 degrees! That is the beauty of a simple thing. There was no other warmth or "green" present in my day that day except for this beautiful flower. I am so glad I will be able to appreciate if forever!
I will put all of these pictures in a gallery that will be at the bottom of each blog post so that we can see the beauty that each day holds!
I had the honor of photographing my friend Lisa’s eighteen-year-old daughter Carly this past week. Carly is a remarkable young woman who struggles with Angelman Syndrome. Individuals with Angelman Syndrome are missing a portion of their 15th maternal chromosome and face significant developmental and cognitive disabilities. Carly faces a host of issues ranging rom being non-verbal, to a sleep disorder, seizures, and needing round the clock supervision. Lisa and her husband Larry have had their lives radically changed in miraculous ways since Carly came into their lives. From their struggles has risen a ministry that has touched the lives of thousands of families. Walk Right In Ministries is an organization that supports families who care for a loved one facing special needs or a chronic illness. Their first book together, Finding Glory in the Thorns, “explores how God reveals Himself through crisis. It shares the heartwarming story of those early years parenting Carly in the midst of an unusual expression of a loving community.”
Reading their story has influenced my life and my faith in so many ways. We live in a society that focuses so much on self-reliance and perfection that we are often left reeling whenever we face struggles. Carly’s story opened my eyes to the beauty of surrounding yourself with help from others who long to show you love and support, the value of shared stories, and the power that lies within all of that. God uses our experiences to shape us while also empowering us to share those experiences with others. As a result, we become a conduit of his grace and comfort. In short, we need each other! We learn so much by simply listening, and teach each other so much by sharing our experiences and gifts.
Carly is a beautiful girl. Her hugs make your heart melt! She also has a mischievous spirit and an incredible sparkle in her eyes when she smiles. She comes alive whenever music is playing and loves to dance to her favorite music. She is also particular and stubborn! All qualities of a typical teenager! I wanted to portray all of these things in Carly. It was important to do so. This was her Senior photo session after all. My goal was to portray Carly as the beautiful teenager that she is while also showing her unique beauty and personality.
As a photographer, this photo session had its challenges. I didn’t want you to see her as a young woman with a disability, but as the incredibly beautiful person that she is. I couldn’t tell Carly how to pose like you would in a typical Senior photo shoot. I couldn’t direct her to turn her face toward the light or ask her to give me that smile at just the right moment. This session was more about interaction. Getting to know her, to laugh with her, dance with her and, yes, receive her incredible hugs. In the midst of all of that, I was able to pull out my camera and take some shots that captured a smile here, a mischievous grin there, or the contented feeling of being held by your mom. This taught me a lot about my photography. It’s not about the perfect poses or even the perfect light that you find, but rather it is about experiencing who your clients are. It’s about seeing them in their true beauty and light and preserving those moments with your camera.
It’s in the sharing that we know we are not alone and others are able to benefit and be blessed as well.Read More