Thursday, December 15, 2011

Who you are

To be honest, I have been struggling in my photography business.  The business itself is doing very well, it was my busiest and most profitable year so far -- which isn't saying too much, but still worth saying.  But deep down inside I have been struggling.  I wanted to get into this art form because I love photographs of genuine moments!  I love images that bring the viewer emotion.  That move you.  That show you a little taste of who that person really is.  Hence my tagline, "just the way you are".  Hmm...

Fast forward two years and here I am, in the midst of a growing business that is bringing in more sessions than I anticipated doing so soon.  Yay!  That is so exciting, and I am truly honored to be chosen by so many families to document where they are right now.  

But, I am not feeling the passion I once experienced with photography.  I love meeting the families, getting to know them, watching them interact with each other.  I love people!  I really do.  Each one is like no other, each one created and loved by God, each one special to someone else.  That is the story I want to tell with my photography!  But, my clients and I aren't getting there.  Somehow, the mall portrait studios of the world have brainwashed us all to wear the same colors, line up, put our hands the same way, and smile at the camera.  There is nothing wrong with smiling and looking at the camera!  But, I would be so bold as to say that "smile" 90% of the time is... FAKE.  And not just at the camera... on a daily basis.  Yesterday, at the neighbor whose dog was barking at 6AM, or answering "good" to "how are you" when you have truly had a bad day.  We have all gotten very good at pretending to look happy!  And we are taught it from a very early age:

Photo "A" was the first of a series I took of Paige the morning of her birthday party.  Does she look happy to you?  Not really.  If you look at her mouth alone it looks like a smile.  Mostly.  And if I didn't know her, I might be convinced.  But, I have seen her real smile so many times that I know this is not it.  Photo "B" was taken playing at the beach.  She was looking up at Lauren running in the waves, and filthy with sand.  I had just asked her if she liked being at the ocean.  This is her real smile.  This is her joy, her sparkle, her life.  She is four.years.old.

How much better are we at faking a smile by thirty?!?

And what value do you place on a picture where you are pretending to smile, when you know in your heart of hearts nothing real or meaningful was happening at that moment?

I think this is why many people do not like having their picture taken... because they don't like the way they look?  Sort of.  I believe they don't like the way they look because they aren't feeling anything special.  If you are laughing, and feeling love toward your family, or glowing from the love of your spouse... you will look amazing.  It just happens!  Joy seeps though the pixels of that image to the eyes of the viewer and they are convinced.  They are moved by who you are, and they can really see you.  

Every person is special.  Amazing.  Remarkable.  A miracle.  Why do we want to document anything fake?!?

So, I am on a journey to figure out how to capture these real moments.  You'll probably hear a lot more from me about this topic in the near future.  I want to make some big changes, starting by including sessions recently named Beloved, to celebrate the love of married couples.  Not to say my clients won't get a traditional smile-at-the-camera image from our sessions, they WILL.  But, I hope to also give them so much more.  I hope to create an enjoyable experience.  I hope to document their real beauty, their real joy, and their real love.  

Because that is something worth remembering forever.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paige's Party

I am shocked that it has been two weeks since I last posted!

We had a birthday part for Paige three days after her birthday, and she was SO excited!  She chose a bug theme, had a few crafts, and all in all a wonderful day!

I love this girl!  She is wild and crazy, sweet and cuddly, loves to laugh, will eat everything, and is a girl after my own heart -- she is all about the quality time together!

I love these pictures on special days - they remind me that these girls do love each other underneath all the bickering.  ;)

We made bug hats - I loved Lauren's choice of one huge eye and one teeny-tiny eye!

The bug cake that I thought was bizarre, since the writing was on the front!  But, she was really happy... with the ladybugs in particular!

And then we scarfed it up!

Then the kids dug for bugs...

and swung at the pinata!  That "game" was Paige's only special request.  My kids will do anything to get some candy.

And I was so happy I actually caught this moment:

And apparently we need to find a bigger pinata, because there was not enough candy crammed into that little donkey's body.

Oh well!  

Happy Birthday, sweet Paige-a-riffic!  
We love you and all the light and laughter you bring to our family!  


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Paige is FOUR!

Okay, how did that happen?!?  I mean really?  She's four.years.old.  I have lost track of the last two years, badly!  Still seems like she should be little to me.  But, you can't stop them from growing, so I am choosing to be excited about the little girl she is becoming!  

Since her birthday was on a Wednesday, it wasn't anything to exciting... but she picked out what we would have for dinner, and was thrilled to open gifts - of course! 

This sweet face picked STEAK, bug-mac-n-cheese, cooked carrots, and bread for her dinner!

Then the frosted sprinkle cookies, much like what she had last year...

This girlie has always been into looking at her cards!  She was so intently watching how to open the envelopes.  Love that!

Her birthday haul!  Thanks Aunt Tamara, Aunt Jamie, Grandma and Grandpa Beeler, and Great Grandma Caroline!  She was thrilled with everything you sent!

Lauren was doing "only okay" (her words) with it all being about Paige yesterday.  Lucky for her she was at school for 90% of it!

Her gift from Daddy.  It is an awesome pump pop-gun with small foam balls.  The girls LOVE it!  

But somehow, I think I'm in trouble.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We were able to go up to Camp Verde to visit with the extended Beeler family for Thanksgiving this year.  This is always a big event with at least 50 people, and it seriously took me five years to start getting everyones names right!  It is always nice to catch up with everyone and let the kids run around like crazy on their nice big property!

Lauren waiting patiently for the round of "what are you thankful for this year?"

Jaelyn kept busy playing with this homemade game by Great-great-uncle David.

The circle of family talking about what they are feeling grateful for.  How about a family that all gets along and continues to get together for all these years?!?

Paige and Daddy!

Digging in to the food!

Then it was time to relax and digest!  I loved this moment of Jaelyn and her cousin Tyler!  He was her age when Justin and I first got married.  Therefore, this picture makes me feel O.L.D.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  

Monday, November 21, 2011


1.  That God gave me my husband.  I can't stand to imagine my life without Justin - our marriage has gotten better every year!  I love him!!!

2.  For our three girls.  They make our family fun, wild, giggly, and messy.  I wouldn't have it any other way!

3.  For all our family.  They have loved us, supported us, laughed with us and at us!

4.  For the Swope family.  I could write ten pages about what they mean to me... but for today I will just say that I love them.  They are friends, they are family.  They have made Phoenix feel like home.

5.  Our home.  We shouldn't even have it... technically.  There was no reason the bank should have accepted our offer.  Though on my worst days there are a hundred things I would change - I love this house.  It is more than I thought we would have, living in the city!

6.  Phoenix.  Yes, you read that right - I am thankful to live in Phoenix.  This post from a local blog made me tear up.  That is SO me!  Up until about two months ago... honestly.  But, if I stop complaining and look at where I live, really look at it for what it is - we are very fortunate to live here!

7.  My business.  I adore taking pictures of people - creating an image of who they are, right at this moment.  Because you never know what tomorrow may hold.  It is my dream job, and I get to live it!

8.  Especially thankful for those people who have made a huge difference in my business!  Jaclyn, Colleen, Annie, and Katie.  Without you, and your HUGE referrals, I would not be where I am after just two years!  You are amazing women and I am so blessed to have you in my life!

9.  For Justin's job and the company he works for.  Times are tough these days, and we are so blessed that he is able to work, and to work for a smaller firm, and to have such a positive response from his leaders!

10.  Now for some fun ones... I am thankful Justin is not a neat freak.  Amen.

11.  That God gave me three girls and not boys because I am already exhausted by 5pm!

12.  Trader Joe's and CostCo, without them my shopping days would be so mundane!

13.  Boots that are lined with fleece so your don't have to wear socks!  I hate socks.

14.  Flip flops.  See above.

15.  Food and wine.  And all the variations you can enjoy with the two together.  And that God gave us an amazing ability of taste for all those things!   I <3 food.

16.  That Justin let me paint the bathroom turquoise.  I adore bright colors for rooms!  And then, he did 90% of the painting!  For that I am even more thankful.

17.  For stores that have shopping carts that contain more than one child!  What would I do without them?!?

18. Coffee.

19.  Chocolate.

20.  Apparently I have digressed... I'll wrap it up.  I'm thankful for this blog, that I can come here and put my thoughts out into the world, and that even though I don't update it like I should YOU still come here to check up on me!  You're awesome.  =)

Happy Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Getaway in Sonoita, AZ

**Excessive amount of pictures ahead - and none of them are of my children***
Don't say I didn't warn you.

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to have a little get-away kid free!  My gracious mother-in-law watched the girls for three whole days - thanks again, Nel!  

We decided to go see an area of Arizona neither of us had ever been to before.  We left home Friday morning and headed to downtown Tucson for lunch and a little meandering around.  When we were first turning off the freeway we saw a Veteran's Day parade lining up.  By the time we had parked it had already begun and we literally ran around downtown until we figured out a good spot to see the beginning (thank you Mr. iPhone).

It was nice to take a moment and truly recognize the holiday!

After the parade we had lunch at an Arizona original:

It was great, and I don't care for Mexican food really.  So that is saying a lot!  The inside was covered in history, and truly amazing.

Then we were back on the road.  We stopped halfway from Tucson to Sonoita to take a little walk.  I was afraid Justin was going to wear me out when he said, "just along that ridge and back up the other side" - it looked far and he is in much better shape than I am!  But, it was fine... and the fresh air and scenery were very enjoyable.  We also saw the biggest, fattest grasshoppers ever!  All over the place and all different kinds!

Then we headed down to Sonoita and to our B&B.  Another first for us!

Hacienda de Sonoita - it was amazing.  A beautiful location, and our hosts were absolutely wonderful!

We drove back into town for dinner and some "local flavor" at "The Steak Out".  It was... okay.  Not the best $25 prime rib I've ever eaten.  Let's just leave it at that.  
Actually, the highlight of the whole meal was this:

A very talented pair of musicians were the live music for the evening!

Then we headed back to the B&B for a mean game of Skip-Bo.  And by mean... I really mean the game that would just never end.  Seriously.

The next morning at breakfast (an amazing one with more options than you could imagine!) we found out that a fellow guest of our B&B was the head winemaker at a winery having a festival that day.  We decided to go there for the first part of the day, and I am so glad we did! 

That guy there is Fran, the head winemaker - very knowledgable and interesting.  Here he was discussing how they blend their wines before they gave tastes right from the barrel.  Amazing flavor!

This is the contraption they use for barrel-tasting.  This Cabernet was one of the best I've ever tasted, and I later found out that many must feel that way at $100 a bottle.

Then, these sweeties gave us a wagon-tour of the vineyards!

The vines are mostly bare this time of year, but it was still beautiful.

This gentleman is the founder of wine-making in Arizona.  He was a professor at UofA and discovered that the Sonoita/Elgin area had the ideal climate for grape production.  He was lots of fun to talk with on our tour!  You can tell he just loves his vineyard.

I would love to see this place in the Spring!

Then there was the blessing of the new wine.  The presiding Catholic Priest was the funniest I have ever heard!  He had the best jokes about wine and Priests!  =)  We were stuck back in a corner as we came in late from our wagon tour, so this is all we saw.

After a bunch of tastings and wine/food pairings, we considered it a very successful get-away day so far!

So we headed to the neighboring town of Patagonia, which we had heard had cute little shops to walk around and see.

Not so much.  There were a few galleries and shops, but on this chilly day this town looked fairly sparse.  We did stop in to this cafe "Gathering Grounds" and had a delightful latte and the BEST pecan bar ever.  Yum!

Then we headed to what was supposed to be an old ghost town up in the nearby mountains.  What it was... one rock wall that used to be a house on what was labeled as private property and a small old cemetery.  
Looking to give more purpose to the eight mile drive out there, we turned down a dirt road that the map feature on our phones said would lead us back to Patagonia where we planned to have dinner.  

Never believe Mr. iPhone when he talks about dirt roads.

It looked harmless enough...

Pretty, even!

We were on an adventure!  We enjoyed the scenery and made lots of jokes about the mining signs, and signs warning of illegal immigration activity.  For a while...

Aw, he still looks happy!

The hillside grew very steep!  Justin got out to roll a rock down the hill and see how long it crashed along.  

Unfortunately, here is where our fun turned south and the road got REALLY rocky.  Crazy steep and ragged, Justin managed to maneuver the 4Runner down the hill with nothing more than a little extra Arizona pin-striping along the side.

I did not take pictures during this adventure.

But, I took this one after we reached normal dirt road again and got out to survey the damage and catch our breath.

Then we drove back in the other side of Patagonia to our dinner destination.  It was 4pm.

We weren't up for many more adventures that day.  Dinner sounded safer.  

Especially when the name of the restaurant is the Velvet Elvis!

I was hoping for a room filled with velvet paintings, reminiscent of Mr. Fredlake's classroom in High School.  No such luck.  One velvet... of Elvis, of course.

But the food was organic, local, and amazing!

Food like that makes me smile.  I am sorry I didn't get pictures of pizza or dessert, truly!  But believe me, they were amazing!

Gotta love the self-timer!

The next day we packed up, ate another amazing breakfast from the B&B and headed home.  We took another way around through Nogales to stop at a few more sights along the way.

First, an old mission - Tumacacori.

It has not been restored, except to keep it standing.  It was rather impressive!

The entrance was not particularly inviting...

But they had fresh, warm tortillas on a wood burning rock stove outside!  It was quite tasty, especially in the cold drizzly weather we were having.

Once inside, the building is reminiscent of Indiana Jones.  We were the first ones to be out there this day, and the silence allowed you to really take everything in.

I had to capture what my honey did much of the time we were sight-seeing:

Inside there is a museum of artifacts from the area, and this is their depiction of what the mission looked like while in use.  Quite a difference!

Then we were back on the road.  We stopped at Tubac where we ran in and out of shops in the rain and I took no pictures.

We were planning to go into the San Xavier Mission as well, for a look at the fully restored mission - but when we arrived it was quite crowded and we were pressed for time.  So this was all we saw!

Then it was back through Tucson with a quick stop for some more "local flavor".

I had never been to an Eegee's before.  Frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Then, we headed home to hug our kiddos!  It was a great weekend, and truly refreshing!  I am thankful for the time alone with my husband to recharge our batteries!