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Pretty Park Couple’s Session

My family likes to go “adventuring,” which is basically location scouting with kids in tow. When we planned this adventuring double date with our friends, who are also photographers, we had NO IDEA how much fun it was going to be! We were trying to check out Mile Square Park’s Urban Natural Area, where they have trails and really cool California native plants and cactus, but it was closed. So instead we just kind of wandered around until we came across this really cool stone bridge/wall and took turns posing and photographing each other for the better part of an hour while our kids ate snacks and played.

Jessica and Alex are some of the most joyful, sweet, and encouraging people you will ever meet! They love traveling and adventuring with their kids (a few years ago, they sold their house to buy an RV and travel around the United States!), and we feel so blessed to have been able to meet such genuine, loving people during their time in California. Jessica has this absolutely infectious smile, and she has been such a positive and uplifting presence. Even though, we’ve only known them a couple of months, it feels like we’ve been friends for years!

At the bottom, I’ve included a couple of behind the scenes photos from our time together (because I love seeing other people’s behind the scenes, and I’m excited to share some with you!). A note about Jeremy standing on the wall: there was a 10-foot drop on the other side, and he was balancing on one foot pretty precariously on top of two rocks! Luckily, we all made it home unscathed!

Jessica, thank you so much for braving the potentially awkward “blind date” feeling the first time we met! I’m so glad we both put aside our fears and went for it! You guys are so wonderful, and being around you is like being surrounded by positivity. It is so great watching you interact with each other and your kids – there is just so much love there, shining for the world to see! We love you guys immensely and feel so blessed to have you in our lives. I may be totally biased and a little selfish, but I hope you decide to put down roots here in California, because I don’t want to share you (even if I also love looking at all of your travel photography and listening to your adventuring stories)! Haha.

 

   

 

Fun Beach Family Session

The waves crashed against the rocks as they walked along the beach.

Suddenly, John pointed out at the water, “Hey, look over there!” he shouted.

Emily immediately perked up and started searching the sea near where he was pointing, “A shark?! Where? Where?! Is it a shark?” She was almost jumping up and down in excitement to see a shark in the water.

John smiled, “No. Look at this.” When Emily turned around to look at him, he was holding open a little box, and nestled inside was an engagement ring. “Will you marry me?”

Don’t they have the CUTEST engagement story? She was so excited about the “shark” that she was completely surprised about the proposal (even though she had already stumbled on the ring hidden in a drawer at home!). They met in freshman year of high school, and in the words of Emily, “When he met me, he was done!” OMG!! THEY ARE SO CUTE!!

When Emily told me she wanted her family photos on the beach, we had NO IDEA that it was full circle for them as a couple, because John proposed when they were at the beach! So the beach is this magical, special place for them and for their family, and we were so honored to be invited to share this special place with them for their family photos this weekend! We got to enjoy this perfect little evening playing on the beach with their kids. It was a little windy, but so warm that we weren’t cold. The water was so warm, you almost forgot this is the PACIFIC ocean!

We had so much fun chasing her kids around, dipping our feet in the water with them, and helping capture sweet memories for their family to remember for years to come. Their kids are so sweet and energetic, and the perfect reminder for us of WHY we do this: we love capturing LOVE! The love Emily and John have for each other, the love they have for their children, and the love their children have for each other! It was so much fun watching John throwing a ball back and forth with his son, and dancing in and out of the waves with his daughter. Watching Emily twirl with her daughter on the beach, and having a quick snuggle with her son when a big wave scared him. Add in the sound of the crashing waves, the warm sun, and a flock of pelicans flying overhead, and it was a perfect fun beach family session!

Thank you so much, Emily and John, for inviting us to come share a magical evening on the beach with your sweet family! Watching you interact with each other and your kids is so wonderful, and it is so clear to the world just how much you all love each other! You are raising sweet, joyful, amazing little souls, with such adorable personalities and quirks, and we are so grateful we get to be a small part of that! If you ask us if we had fun, we think we’d reply in the words of little E.: “YUM!” (translation: “YES!”)

Happy Birthday Teddy!

So, in classic mom mode, I completely forgot to blog about Teddy’s birthday, even though it was 2 months ago (Seriously, how has it already been 2 months??). Second kid problems, right? Regardless, Happy Birthday, Teddy!

This little boy is actually a huge part of the reason that I became a photographer (and subsequently dragged Jeremy along with me! Haha). 3 days before Christmas 2015, I had what was supposed to be a routine echo scheduled. I was told that something looked a little off, but the doctor was fairly sure it was a variation of normal. But he wanted to get a fetal cardiology specialist in to make sure everything was fine. They told me it was probably normal, but just wanted to make sure all of our bases were covered. After being reassured, I decided to go to this particular appointment by myself.

The half hour echo stretched to one hour. Then to two. I dozed in and out in the dim room, pregnant and tired (I had an 18-month old at home already!). Finally the cardiology specialist finished and left the room to analyze the images. A technician came in a few minutes later, and I asked if everything was good and if I was free to go. “Um… you really need to speak with the doctor.”

My heart stopped. “But everything’s ok, right?”

She didn’t meet my gaze, “The doctor really needs to be the one to tell you.”

The next 15 minutes was agony. Hormonal and pregnant, I cried by myself in the exam room, waiting for the doctor to come back.

When she finally did, it was to explain that my unborn son had a congenital heart defect – an anomalous pulmonary artery off the right artery. In plain terms, his lung was attached to the wrong part of his heart, so his lung would be getting blood that had already been oxygenated, and if it wasn’t fixed, he would only have a 30% chance of making it to his 1st birthday. I was told that while he was still in utero, he was safe, but after he was born, he would start to get very sick if they didn’t perform open heart surgery as soon as possible.

After calling Jeremy and filling him in, I called my mom and cried my eyes out. This baby, this tiny, unborn baby that I had been entrusted with, that I already loved with all my heart, was going to need open heart surgery when he was just a few days old. I had to pull the car over because I couldn’t see straight.

Fast forward 4 months, holding this little boy in my arms for the first time, being told I could only hold him for 10 minutes, and then they would have to take him to a neighboring hospital for testing. 4 days after he was born, he underwent open heart surgery. I spent every day of the next 2 and a half weeks at the hospital, holding him as much as they would let me, going with him to x-rays, echos, listening to the endless beeping of the different machines and monitors he was hooked up to. One thought ran through my head on repeat while we waited to see how he would do, if he would recover, if he would have other complications – what if this is all I get? What if this is the only time I get to spend with him? What if this is it?

I had this inexplicable urge to capture as many moments as I could. I took photos of him with all of the tubes, monitors, everything. I knew it might be upsetting to some people, so I never posted it. But I kept it for me. Just in case. Every day, a new picture. Every time another monitor, tube, or wire came off, another picture. Pictures as he met sister, Me-Ma, uncle for the first time. Photos of our kids MATTER. (Want tips for taking better photos of your kids?) The urge, the desire, the pressing need to keep documenting love, life, moments hasn’t let up since then. If anything, it’s become stronger. I have to take these pictures. Mark these moments. Hold on to these emotions and memories forever.

Teddy will never remember his first hospital stay, but I will never forget. It will be engraved in my heart and mind forever. And now I have pictures to show him when he’s old enough to ask about his scar. To tell him that he is the strongest, bravest little boy that I know. And I am so proud to be his mama.

On the day he was released from the hospital, Charlotte and I walked around the cardiology ward and handed out felt hearts to all of the nurses and doctors we could find who had taken care of Teddy during his stay to pin to their scrubs. To this day, Charlotte and Teddy still hand out felt hearts to people – mostly to strangers. People who stop and talk to them in the line at the grocery store, someone who opens a door for us, the robbers on the train at Knott’s Berry Farm. For a little boy who was born with a defective heart, he’s got one of the biggest, warmest ones I’ve ever seen. He never goes to bed without giving his sister a hug and a kiss. And he climbs out of bed a MINIMUM of two times every night for “one more kiss. One more hug.”

Teddy, you are so strong, so brave, so loving and kind. From the day you were born, it was clear to your dad and me that you were never going to let anything slow you down! You look up to your sister so much, and you want to be a part of everything she does. You love cars and are obsessed with trains. Basically anything that moves! You love the Octonauts, the aquarium, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Every time we go, you ask to go on all of the biggest rides (we took you on your birthday, and you got really mad when we wouldn’t let you go on Exelerator!). I can’t wait until you’re big enough to take you on all the big ones, little boy. I know you’re just gunna love them! I love that you ask to go on “the coal mine ride,” even though it scares you – you are SO BRAVE and ready to take on any challenge! We love you SO MUCH, bubba. Happy Birthday, Teddy!

(Also, be sure to check out Charlotte’s 4th birthday from a few months ago!)

Dreamy Lakeside Anniversary Session

Thirteen years ago, right around the time Elle was picking up her very first point of shoot camera, Disneyland was preparing to release a brand new parade in Disney’s California Adventure: Block Party Bash. What Courtney and Devin didn’t know as they went through the audition process and were selected to be a part of it was that their lives were about to change forever. They didn’t know that they were about to embark on the first chapter of a beautiful love story featuring a family and marriage built on trust, love, and devotion that brings inspiration to those who know them.

Elle has known Courtney since they were kids (they are second cousins after all), but because they didn’t live near each other, visits were few and far between. Since growing up and starting families in neighboring cities, we now see each other almost every week, and have gotten to know them, their kids, and their three adorable dogs so well! One of the things that stands out to us in this day and age of technology and drive-thrus, where we are used to having everything delivered to us, immediately, at the touch of a button, is how they continue to do things the old-fashioned way. Home cooked meals, playdates at the house, a swing set in the backyard, and monthly date nights to keep the romance alive! A true Christian with an amazing heart and compassion for all life, Courtney continues to awe us and push us to continue trying to be the best versions of ourselves.

We’ve gotten to watch them raise two amazing daughters who remind us that with a little polish, a precious gem truly sparkles. And these two girls absolutely sparkle under the polish and guidance of Courtney and Devin’s loving encouragement. They have so much compassion for others, coupled with a pure joy that is truly magical to watch. These girls love our kids so much, and one of Elle’s favorite things is walking into Courtney’s house to the chorus of “Hey!! Charlotte!! Baby Teddy!!” followed by a traffic jam in the doorway as Courtney and the girls all come to greet us and get their first hugs of the day in before the play can start. And when we leave, it’s basically the same in reverse: all the kids piling into the car to give last hugs and kisses while Elle straps the kids into their car seats.

Courtney and Devin, we just want you to know that we see you, your inspiring marriage, your beautiful family that is just bursting forth with love, and we aspire to that too. We have gained so much by friendship with you, and you touch lives everywhere you go. We have loved watching your family and love for each other grow these past few years, and count ourselves so blessed to be a part of your extended family! We know that whatever the future holds, you will face it with grace, gratitude, love, and compassion, together. We love you both so very much!

Happy 7th anniversary! Here’s to many, many more!

Courtney and Devin's 7th Wedding Anniversary Session

Courtney and Devin's 7th Wedding Anniversary Session

Romantic Woodsy Maternity Session

It’s hard to believe we’ve only known Sara and J.R. for 2 years! It feels like we’ve known them forever!

When Elle was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte, she was very unexpectedly put on early maternity leave. At the time, we didn’t really have any other friends with kids, so she basically spent the next 4 weeks as a hermit, barely leaving the house (except when we went for really long walks anywhere and everywhere in an attempt to “walk the baby off!” Yea… That didn’t work!). By the week of Charlotte’s due date, she was going stir-crazy, and knew that after Charlotte was born, something had to change. She went on Meetup.com and started looking for local mommy meetup groups. What she didn’t know at the time was that she would meet some of the best friends of her life in that group, including Sara!

We met Sara and her sweet little girl through that same mommy meet up group about 2 years ago, and we’ve continued to see each other at least once a week ever since. Going through this parenting journey beside her has been so great (when we met, M. was only a few months old, and Elle was pregnant with Teddy!)! Whenever Elle starts feeling/acting like a hermit again, Sara organizes a Girl’s Night Out with the mommy group and makes her come. Sara even went line dancing (pregnant!) when Elle got the crazy idea that she wanted to go line dancing for her birthday! (This woman is seriously a SAINT, you guys!)

Sara has now taken over running the mommy group, planning Halloween Trunk or Treats and Easter bashes (complete with a visit from “Mr. Bunny” himself! AKA J.R. Because he’s a SAINT TOO!), and we can tell you that her and this group have absolutely changed our lives in so many ways. We have met so many amazing new friends, our kids have met their best friends there, and we have spent so many amazing hours with such wonderful people, in large part thanks to Sara!

Sara and J.R., we are so thankful that you asked us to be a part of welcoming your sweet new baby girl into this world, and we simply could not be happier or more excited for you as you enter a new phase of your life as parents of two beautiful, wonderful little girls! Your kindness and generosity towards us, and the love you have for each other and little M. show us just how lucky she and baby L. are to have you as parents! Congratulations, you guys, and we just can’t wait to meet her!

 

 

Why Should I Do An Engagement Session?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions from brides-to-be, and one that I feel so passionate about as a photographer!

There are several reasons to have an engagement session, and some may resonate more strongly with you than others, and that’s ok. But I feel that all of them are important to consider, especially as you are choosing your wedding photographer who may or may not offer an engagement session as part of your wedding package (by the way, I include an engagement session in ALL of my wedding packages, because THAT’S how important I think they are!).

Courtney and Devin's 7th Wedding Anniversary Session

You’re Planning a Marriage

When you are planning engaged, it is so easy to get caught up in the details of planning the wedding itself, but in reality, you aren’t just planning a wedding. You are planning a marriage. And in service to your future spouse and marriage, I think it is so SO important to set time aside to be yourselves, to take yourselves out of the planning scrambling frantic rush to the aisle and just breathe. An engagement session is the perfect opportunity to do this! It’s a chance to stop worrying for an hour or two, and spend some time just celebrating how crazy in love you are! It’s an opportunity to start setting the stage for how this marriage is going to celebrate and honor you (as individuals, and as a cohesive unit).

Have you ever heard the phrase “date your spouse?” I think it’s a fantastic concept, and one that I want to get into the habit of doing NOW, before the wedding even happens! Keep making time for each other, to celebrate each other, to love each other, and to honor the special, magical bond you share!

You Can’t Turn Back the Clock

Humans have this amazing habit of convincing themselves that “this phase” will last forever, and I’m here to burst your bubble! This wonderful, crazy, fun, challenging phase of being engaged and planning a wedding is NOT going to last forever. And once the wedding bells are done ringing, you can’t turn back the clock. You will never be engaged to this amazing, adorable person ever again! Some engagements last longer than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that one day you will no longer be engaged. You’ll be married. Photos taken during this magical little bubble of time can be so precious to look back on, especially years down the road when you’ve been married for years and want to look back and see how crazy and wonderfully in love you were! These photos are also fantastic to show children as they grow up. You can look back and say, “Look how in love we were. We still are!”

They Make Great Save the Date Cards

One of the most common reasons you’ll hear for doing an engagement session is that the images from this session make great Save the Date cards! I couldn’t agree more! A Save the Date card is the first glimpse your guests will get of your wedding day, and seeing a beautiful picture of you and your sweetheart on the front, ready to celebrate your love, is the best way to get your guests excited and eager to reply back with an enthusiastic “Will Attend!”

Get to Know Your Wedding Photographer

I may be a little biased (ok, I am probably a lot biased), but I think this is the NUMBER ONE REASON to have an engagement session! An engagement session is like a rehearsal for your wedding photos! You only get one shot at wedding day photos, and you want to make sure that both you and your wedding photographer are on exactly the same page as to what types of images they produce, and what kinds of images you are expecting on your wedding day. (This is also why it’s important to chose a photographer based on what you see in their portfolio and their past work. If you don’t like their past work, you probably won’t like what they offer you! On the other hand, if you love everything they’ve shown, you’re much more likely to be blown away on your wedding day!)

The other half of this equation is getting to know how your photographer directs you (or doesn’t!). I am the type of photographer that is talking, reassuring, directing, and praising almost constantly, but there are definitely other photographers who give little to no direction or reassurance at all. You want to make sure that whatever type of photographer you choose, you know how they run the actual session, and you are comfortable with their type of direction. That way, when the wedding day rolls around, you will be so much more comfortable going in knowing exactly what to expect from your photographer.

For me, I see engagement sessions as the time to start building a warm and trusting relationship with you so that on your wedding day, you are already comfortable and at ease before I even lift my camera to my face! You already know exactly what to expect from me, what kinds of directions I give, and what kinds of images I will produce for you.

So are you ready to book your engagement session? I’d love to chat!

Great Mother’s Day Gift Idea!

I have two wonderful children, but you know what I never did?! I never got maternity photos taken! I never got newborn photos taken! In fact, I never had any kind of professional photo shoot done until Charlotte was a year and a half, and the only reason I did it was because my brother gave me the session as a birthday gift! (And this was before I became a photographer, so this was a super big deal for me!) To this day, it is such a huge regret because those are pieces of time that I will never get back!

Spring is sprung Mommy and Me Session

To this day, that photo shoot from my brother is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten!

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For those of you that don’t know, my son was born with a congenital heart defect, and my time spent in the hospital with him while he recovered from open heart surgery is actually what sent me down this path to pursuing photography. I realized, sitting there in the hospital with this tiny baby in my arms, that if I lost him, all I would have left were the photos. Yes, it’s a little morbid, but it’s the epiphany that changed my life!

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Now my mission is to give others the gift of memories that can be cherished forever, by generations to come! I love to capture the love between people, the connection and the bond that people share. I love capturing raw, human moments that naturally happen during even the most well-run session. I want to capture laughter, love, and light!

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Mother’s Day is May 13th this year, and if you haven’t come up with a Mother’s Day present for your mom yet (or a present for your wife, gentlemen!), consider giving her the gift of memories by booking a photo shoot with a local photographer whose work you know she admires! Those memories and moments last a lot longer than a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers – I promise!

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(Images in this post are from Lizzi’s Mommy and Me Session. Flower crowns designed and made by me.)

2nd Anniversary Wedding-Redo!

When two of my dearest friends got married 2 years ago, their photographer did almost no posed photographs of the two of them during their portrait hour after the ceremony. When Ash lamented to me that there were really only 4 or 5 photos of them together that weren’t during the ceremony, I gave her a wicked smile and told her to look at her schedule and tell me when she and Jack had a free afternoon, and we started planning this!

I took them to one of my favorite locations (Huntington Beach Central Park), and we had an absolute blast!

One of the shots she was dying for (and disappointed she didn’t get) was Jack showing off his ring, and his groomsmen squealing over it. Jeremy (who was, in fact, one of his groomsmen) stepped in and gave us just the level of excitement she was looking for, and the four of us couldn’t stop laughing!

I put together her bouquet from ranunculus, chamomile, and two different types of eucalyptus. I am actually really kind of proud of how it turned out, considering this was only my second time making a bouquet!

Jack and Ash have the most amazing souls, and are so much fun to be around. They exude life and love, and being around them is the absolute best! We were laughing so hard that my cheeks were absolutely killing me by the end!

I am so honored that they trusted me when I first proposed the idea of a wedding session to them, because I am just absolutely in love with these photos of them! Creating beautiful images that people will love and cherish for generations is my goal, and I love this couple so much! I love that I got to be a part of this!

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Myth: All Wedding Photographers are the Same

One of the biggest myths in wedding photography is that we’re all the same. There are many different types of wedding photography (candid, posed, photojournalistic), and just as many different editing styles once the photos are captured (light and airy, dark and moody, light and moody, saturated). Add to that the photographers preferred shots (some like playful, fun expressions, others like soulful, emotional expressions). Not to mention up close and personal shots, pulled back dramatic shots, and a smattering of detail shots. Mix and match all of these different options, and brides have quite a lot of choices when choosing photographers for their big day.

A bride and groom in a wooded area in front of a lake. The bride is holding a bouquet, and they are about to kiss.

Personally, I favor a light and airy editing style, and I love posed photos that look candid – like you’re sneaking a peek into an intimate moment.  My particular posing style is great for couples who feel uncomfortable being in front of the camera and being told to “just act natural.”

A bride and groom in a wooded area in front of a lake. The bride is holding a bouquet. They are both looking at the camera and smiling.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I get in front of a camera, I feel so awkward and I have no idea what to do or how to move my body in any kind of a natural way, AND I DO THIS FOR A LIVING! The first time we ever hired a photographer to take photos of us, she didn’t coach us or pose us at all, and I remember sitting in the car on the way home telling Jeremy that I was really nervous about the photos, because we both felt so awkward the whole time!

(Do you remember in How I Met Your Mother where Marshall can’t figure out what to do with his hands? THAT’S ME!!)

I do this style of posing and photography because this is what I need when I’m being photographed, and I am willing to bet that you feel the same! (If you feel totally natural in front of the camera, I’m super jealous, and I definitely need tips!)

A bride and a groom in a wooded area. The groom is twirling the bride.

I want you to look at a photograph and remember the emotions of your big day, feel that welling up of all the love and happiness you felt. I want to make you forget how awkward you feel in front of the camera and just sink into the love, relish it, and remember it for years to come.

A bride and groom about to kiss. The bride is holding a bouquet.

 

Love Notes to Myself

If I could write a letter to younger versions of myself, here’s what I would say…

A photo of a woman in her 20s at the beach. It's a closeup of her shoulders and head. She has brown hair, blue eyes, and her hair is braided.

Dear 18-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You may not be going away to college, but you will still graduate. It’ll take 10 years instead of 4, but you will persevere. Take it slow, only take on what you can handle. You’ll get there eventually. Leaving high school means losing touch with people, figuring our who your true friends are, and learning to embrace parts of yourself you never wanted to shine a spotlight on. You’ll keep touch with those you were meant to keep in your life. And the new friends you make in a few years will be some of the best, truest, most amazing ones you’ve ever had.

A white chihuahua on the beach, with her ears perked up as she looks at something in the distance.

Dear 20-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You may be sleeping on the floor, living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 5 guys and another girl, but this too shall pass. You will meet some amazing friends who will invite you into their home, share food with you, and help you get back on your feet. In 8 years, you will be photographing their newborn baby boy for them when he’s less than 24 hours old. That camera you use every day? Don’t put it down. Take it with you everywhere, photograph everything. The things you are learning now will serve you later when you realize where your passion truly lies.

A man and his infant son on the beach. Dad is holding baby, who has a binky in his mouth.

Dear 23-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. Breaking up sucks. Divorce sucks worse. You don’t know it yet, but the man that helped you through the worst of it? He’s the one you’re meant to be with. You will have 2 beautiful, wonderful children together. Just follow your heart. I know you were just crushed, but don’t be afraid to dive in head first – it’s the only way to love.

A toddler sitting on a large boulder on the beach. He has a binky in his mouth and is pointing out at the water.

Dear 26-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You’re terrified, scared of losing this precious baby who’s life has been entrusted to you. He’s going to ok. He has open heart surgery at 4 days old, and comes through with flying colors. He is growing into the most amazing, brave, silly little boy, and I’m pretty sure he has no idea he’s any different than any of his other friends. You will get past the postpartum depression and come through stronger, with more self-awareness, and the ability to grant yourself some grace.

A little girl at the beach. She is wearing a rainbow colored dress and is brushing her hair out of her face.

Dear 27-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. Washington wasn’t a mistake. It was one big learning opportunity. You’ll learn to finally put yourself first sometimes. You’ll learn not to let others walk all over you. You’ll learn to stand up for yourself and your family. Sometimes doing the right thing means someone gets hurt, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still the right thing. As a kid, you thought things were black and white. Right and wrong. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you, and that’s ok. Don’t put down that camera. Keep pushing, keep striving. You got this.

It’s gunna be ok.