The Ybarra Family | What The World Needs Now Is Love

This world is going crazy.  I don't recognize it some days.  I feel like an alien.  Like I don't belong.  There are a lot of people.  Educated people with qualified opinions.  Spitting out answers to the world's problems left and right.  Solutions are a dime a dozen these days.  Here's my suggestion simple formed by my observation of some recent events in our world.  Let's all be more like the Ybarra family.....Exhibit A:

When I work with families, we work together to bring out the warmth, the connection, the memories, the love so that I can capture it in an image.  It lives inside of each of the family members, and I coax it out so that they can put it on display for all to see.  But mainly for them, as a reminder of the precious importance of family.  Their family.  It's worth documenting.  Worth remembering.  Worth sharing.  Why?  Because the love and affection that a family shares....heals.  Family connection brings hope and security.  Family laughter and memories uplift and sustain and keep you grounded.  Right now, it seems that all of these attributes and experiences are deficient in the world right now.  

Family has a healing power.  We love our family members unconditionally.  We accept them.  We see all of their good and all of their bad and yet still.....we claim them as our own.  We agree and we disagree and we still sit around the dinner table to eat together.  Together.  We can be polar opposites in family and yet still remain in harmony together.  Family loves.  Family helps.  Family stays.  Family sacrifices.  Family believes.  Family is powerful.  Is a spirit of family what this world needs right now?   Even if your family isn't any of the things I described above, can't you create your own family to be what you thought family should've been....needed it to be?  

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When I was working with the Ybarra family, I felt as if I was a part of it.  I felt accepted, celebrated, important, heard, loved.  I hope they felt the same.  This world needs to be family to each other.  I hope you see these family portraits, feel the sense of family, and remember.  

Hannah & Jacob McWhorter | A Wedding at The Springs Events

Hannah & Jacob's love story is nothing short of perfection.  Their love is pure and bright.  Even though the universe decided we needed rain on the day of the wedding, their love journey was a light shining in all of the hearts there to witness their vows.  The laughter, the joy, the memories were the perfect beginning to Hannah & Jacob's history together.  

Congrats, again, you two love angels!  It was an honor and a privilege to document the beginning of your beautiful live together!  

Burundi, Africa 2017 | I will not give that which costs me nothing....

My sister friend, Rachel, said it so right......she said "you really do find out what you are made of over there."  Faith is required.  And not any faith.  A level of faith that we as Westerners aren't used to operating on 24 hours a day.  A level 10 kind of faith.  Love.....love is required.  And not what you think love is.  LOVE love.....Jesus love.  Even that sounds to pretty to accurately describe what I'm talking about.  Unless you know Jesus.  And you know that sometimes His love wasn't wrapped in a beautiful bow.  Over there, faith costs.  Love....costs.  And when you go, and go to give, you find out just how much you're willing to pay.  

Us.  Westerners.  We have set ourselves up so well.  We are accomplishers.  We are goal setters.  We are busy task finishers that just love to check things off of our list and move on to the next.  That never ending list that we are finding more and more ways making life just a little more convenient for us.  What's easy.  What's comfortable.  That's our goal.  But where's the faith in that?  Where's the love?  Where's the generosity and the servanthood?  We have accomplished ourselves right out of needing God.  We have met so many goals and finished so many tasks and built our tower up so high.....we have almost convinced ourselves that we don't need faith.  We are comfortable enough.  We don't need REAL love.  Jesus love.  We are successful enough.  In Burundi, if you don't have faith FILLED to the brim.....I don't see how you have a chance.  In the west.....we have succeeded at a lot, including distracting ourselves into thinking we don't need faith.  

Personally, I'm not comfortable being comfortable.  Being in Burundi, having to be filled to the brim with faith, eyes securely and consistently locked on Jesus, walking in love every step of your day.....that's a breath of fresh air for me.  In this state, I am me.  100% me.  I am free.  There is a liberation that happens in our souls, when we shed all things but His Spirit.  When we surrender, there is an everlasting victory.  When we serve the lowest and the least, there is a reward so great, no other success can counter it.  Oh how I pray for this revelation in the west.  Oh how I pray for us to become uncomfortable.  

You don't know what true faith is until it's all you have left.  You don't realize what true love is, until you see just how unlovable you can be.  To be someone who literally only has Jesus, is to be the most free, most rich and blessed.  Being in Burundi is a blessing that I am highly honored by and I hope and pray that I will always get to return.  Blessing people with the vitals of living.  Food, water, soap, shelter and love....it doesn't get any better than that.  But I will tell you why I really love what we do in Burundi.  I really love what we do because it costs me something.  It's not easy.  There are battles.  It is uncomfortable at times.  We encounter struggles.  Obstacles.  Resistance.  We even encounter persecution.  But that, is what it's all about. That's how I know that what we do counts for something.  That is love.  It costs.  Love is a slow and long journey that starts with the establishment of a relationship.  And continues no matter what it encounters.  Fueled by faith.  And when faith is all you're running on, you're always bound for freedom.  When love costs you something, you'll never be richer than you are when you pay that cost and pay it gladly.  This is everyday living in the land that I love, Burundi.  

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So until I get to return....these images keep stirred what Burundi planted in my spirit.  I pray these images speak to you.  I pray you share them and that they speak to your family and friends.  I hope these eyes and smiles ignite a faith in you.  And spark a love.  A love that costs and a faith that never rests.  Please feel free to leave comments below and share this post with someone!  

Natalie SLAYING...and some Maternity tips | @ Crescent Bend Nature Park

All I kept saying was wow.....wow....wow....WOW....wow.....just WOW!!  During the session, editing the session and even now while blogging.  Jaw dropping, wow.  Want proof?  Exhibit A:

Everyone knows maternity sessions are my favorite.  I'm a mom.  I've experienced the power and beauty and sometimes difficulties that carrying another life brings.  It's just always been something that fascinates me and gets me all emotional.  I guess the reason that maternity sessions are my fav is because I ALWAYS feel something very deeply.  And isn't that the point of art?  To make someone feel something?   If not, please correct me.....art philosophy lesson over.  

Even though I have found that each session is unique and sometimes require different tac-tics, there are a few tried and true tips that I have used every maternity session.  I'd love to share them with you.  First, always shoot at a slightly higher downward angle.  This is the most flattering angle for a woman who is between 30-38 weeks preggers.  Why?  Because this angle best highlights the shape of their body as opposed to shooting at an upward angle that results in kind of blobbing everything together and making them look more round than they really are.  Yes. Blobbing.  It's a technical term only all the pros use.  Look it up.  Along with shooting at a slightly downward angle, having them pop their knee out (the one closest to camera) and slightly twist their shoulders toward you also creates even more of a flattering shape for them.  Trust me, you do NOT want to make a pregnant woman have body image issues because they saw themselves in a weird angle in one of your photos.  That's a bad day.  

Anyone else having to pick up their jaw off the floor?  Oh you just wait.....it gets better.  On to tip number two.  Second, the more comfortable Mama is, the more natural the portraits turn out and easier the flow will go during the session.  Mom's comfort level is of upmost importance.  Bring bottled water.  Walk slowly.  Take a lot of breaks.  Have your assistant help her in and out of sitting poses. Positive verbal reinforcement is key.  Keep asking if she feels ok in a pose.  Being pregnant isn't a walk in the park.  Neither is being the subject of a portrait.  Combine the two, and you've got quite a challenge.  I just like to stay mindful and communicative about mama's comfort level at all times.  They deserve to be well taken care of!  

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By the way, Natalie made her OWN flower crown!  I was blown away.  I have attempted to make my own flower crowns before and have failed miserably.  

I was really sad when this session was over.  I could have worked with these guys until dawn the next day!  They were so fun and relaxed and also, gorgeous.  Tip #3:  when incorporating hands on belly in poses, please make sure that the hands are relaxed and natural.  We don't want to handle the belly as if it were a basketball.  We want soft and gentle looking hands on the belly.  So many times, especially with Dad's, when asked to place hands on belly we tend to spread out fingers out.  This makes the pose look a bit awkward and harsh.  If clients have a hard time with hands, have them shake their hands off and relax, and then replace them on belly where you want them.  This helps to avoid any "baseball mitt" or "basketball" moments.  Which is cool, if moms belly is painted like a basketball and Dad is in the NBA and plays for the Spurs.   

I hope you find these tips helpful on your next maternity shoot.  Also, I hope your client is as talented a flower crown makes as Natalie is.  I may ask her to give me some lessons!  Please leave a comment below if you have any maternity session tips!  

Brandi & Sean | Engagements @ The Pearl Brewery

Finding love is one of those amazing miracles that never cease to amaze.  Brandi is a nurse.  Sean is a nurse.  That right there is the perfect beginning to an amazing rom-com movie.  I already wanna watch it.  Someone make this a movie already!

Nurses are the best people.  I've always believed that you're either born to be a nurse..or you're born to be something else.  Nurses have special strengths and powers that not everyone else has. The fortitude and endurance you need to be a nurse is something not everyone understands but other nurses.  The fact that Brandi and Sean have each other to lean on for the rest of their lives, that they found each other, that they'll never have to walk thru what nurses walk thru alone, should.....does bring a new sense of hope to love and to finding it.  

Also....all mushiness aside....sorry about all that....aren't these two THE cutest?!  When a photographer like myself gets to meet two super fun and happy going individuals and celebrate the beginning of their lives with them, it's literally the best thing ever.  I'm so happy I get to be their wedding photographer.  Perk about having two nurses as clients:  If you have any medical questions, they're always there to come to the rescue.  

I mean, Brandi's smile just lights up the whole earth, right?!  I can totally see how Sean feels like he's the luckiest guy ever.  He said so during their session and I couldn't help but agree.  If their smiles are this big and bright now, I'm sure on their wedding day they will be even brighter.  The wedding will take place on Brandi's family farm.  It is going to be just perfection.  

I seriously can't get enough of her smile.  I love telling the guys to just whisper something in her hear.....usually it's something funny and works perfectly to get a shot of genuine joy.  Couples who laugh together, stay together.  Which is a little tidbit of knowledge I shared with Brandi and Sean. Being married for 13 years myself, sometimes I can't help myself in sharing a little wisdom.  So, if that's true, couples who laugh together stay together, these two will have many many years of an amazing fun filled marriage.  

Brandi & Sean....thank you, thank you, thank you SO so much for allowing me to immortalize your love story.  And also, thank you for being the best nurses in the universe.  I can't wait for your big day!  

Cultivating Connection | 3 Keys To Capturing Priceless Genuine Moments

Jacob & Hannah

Not everyone knows how to be a supermodel.  And that is ok.  My philosophy is that everyone's life moments are worth beholding.  Knowing how to tell that story can give some people anxiety and telling that story in front of a camera is almost an impossible task.  But the desire to immortalize their special and unique stories is strong, nonetheless.  That's where I come in.  I'm a storyteller.  I understand the camera-shy and awkward modesty that one can feel when standing bare souled in front of my lens.  In these experiences, I have found 3 keys that seem to unlock those hesitant hearts into unfolding their beautiful true selves for the camera.  

1.  Connecting with Clients

Complete strangers coming together on an unfamiliar location and trying to create portraits that portray something so vital and vulnerable to everyone.  Love.  We barely know each other.  It's normally never said, but it's awkward and weird.  "Hi, I don't know you and you don't know me but it's time to get really cuddly and kiss while I stand and watch.  Ready?  Go!" Yeah.......that's what it is, really.  It's not easy for me to open up, so why should I expect it's easy for them?  This is why, during the consult and time between the consult and session date, my job is to get to know first time clients as well as I can.  During the consultation, for instance, it's more about beginning a common conversation than signing the client agreement.  Asking who your clients are and being interested in their story, how they met, what their favorite tv show is, inside jokes, who is the better cook, these are all windows into their souls and lives together that are vital for making sure the portraits you create are true and genuine reflections of them.  They feel like you are interested in them, not just as clients, but as people.  

2.  Connecting with Each Other

You've laid the foundation for the clients and have a great start to understanding the goals of their session.  You've made yourself available for questions, concerns and ideas that they might have in the time before your session.  You've prepared them to be open and excited about celebrating their moment and sharing it with their loved ones.  They are ready for the camera!  Still, when you ask for his hand to be placed on her waist and her hand to be placed on his neck, there can still be some awkwardness and uncomfortableness.  It's not everyday that they interact with each other like this, especially in front of people.  Being receptive of this and reassuring them in these moments is so important to maintaining the connection between them that you are trying to convey.  I always explain to the clients that I understand how weird it feels but the camera is seeing something very different than the awkwardness that they're feeling.  I show them a few back of camera shots to reassure them that we are going in the right direction. This usually inspires them to become more open and free.  Sometimes they even start doing their own thing and I just click away!  I try to avoid still posing.  I believe that moments require movement.  So instead of having the clients attempt to connect in a still pose, I suggest several poses at once that they can move back and forth into.  They begin to have fun, make it their own and create such a story of unique depth with each frame.  

3.  Connecting With Camera

It's not everyday our clients get to enjoy a moment that is soaked in appreciation for each other's love. Usually, there's not a camera poking in their face when those moments happen.  When they understand that the camera is revealing something beautiful....their hearts for each other...they give it, and you more to work with.  When they see the camera as a tool that is crafting their story, it's easier to stand in front of.  From the first moments at your consultation to meeting at location, to all the peeks at the back of camera shots, making your clients comfortable with your camera is another key to creating sincere images.  

As photographers, understanding how to make connections can make or break our sessions and our images.  I hope these insights assist in deeper more meaningful portraits for your clients.  Please leave a comment below and join in the conversation if you have any other tips to help guide clients into connecting and creating their story.  

 

 

 

 

Top 9 of 2016

Gratitude, humility, joy, wonderment......these are the contents of my heart at the end of 2016.  I'm sure there's more in there because as I'm blogging this I have so many thoughts.  Thoughts that are hard to put into words.  So I decided to put together my top 9 favorite images for this year.  When words fail me, it's always been photography that helps me express myself.  

#9 

#9 

Getting to work with some amazing wedding photographers was definitely a highlight.  Second shooting with Dear Lovely Photography and capturing this moment when he sees his bride walk down the isle......I don't know if I could love any other job more than I did in this moment.  

#8

#8

When Patrick calls me and says he's purposing to Abbie (my second shooter) and wants me to photograph the whole thing......BIG MOMENT.  Being trusted with memories like this is a feeling I can't describe.  I'm so thankful that I got to see this.  I love these guys!  

#7

#7

This guy.  Mr. Jacob Casey.  Eldest son of my dear friends Heather and Jason Casey.  Even though I wasn't able to make it to his graduation, being his senior photographer just blessed my socks off.  

#6 and #5

#6 and #5

Speaking of the Casey family......I just love 'em.  These two images definitely stand out to me for 2016 memorable moments.  This amazing family set out to adopt two beautiful Latvian sisters.  Being able to take their first family portraits was not only one of my favorite moments of 2016, but also one of my all time favorites.  I'll never forget these girls and I'll always treasure this family.  

#4

#4

Another amazing family that I adore.  But also, this image says a lot about the direction I'm going in for 2017.  Plus, who doesn't remember their daddy doing this to them when they were little girls.  Such a great memory.  

#3

#3

Another amazing adoption story.  These are all quite possibly my favorites of 2016.  Adoption is a story that never gets old.  These returning clients of mine adopted precious Mason.  Babies are my fav.  

#2

#2

This image I took in Burundi says almost everything about life in this country.  As I prepare to return this year in June, I will never forget everything this images has taught me.  Work hard and smile, be thankful, don't underestimate yourself.....so much more.  I love beautiful Burundi.  

#1

#1

I recently blogged a little about this woman's story. This image is hands down my 2016 most very most definitely most favorite. Her eyes say everything there is to say that is important.  I aspire to be more like her.  Sacrificing, hard working, most generous and humble.  I hope to see her again in June.  She made me realize that all the struggles in 2016 are worth it.  I hope to step into 2017 with her grace and strength.  

 

To learn more about our trips to Burundi and more about this lovely woman click this link...

2016 Christmas Mini Sessions | Family

How do you define success?  There are so many versions.  One of my consistent measurements of success is smiles.  Sounds corny, I know.  Well, I am a photographer folks.  Part of my job is to generate and collect as many genuine smiles as I can.  This year, for our annual Christmas Minis, smiles were in overload......aaahhhh sweet success.  

This year was our busiest year as far as seasonal minis go. People are so happy around the Holidays and also excited to share their happiness with others. I am so thankful for all of my returning clients and my new clients that booked with us.  It is so special to be able to provide your families with holiday memories that will be shared with family and friends.  

Every year we hold our Christmas Minis in one location.  I try to choose something that's well known and easy for everyone to get to as well as beautiful.  This years Minis were held at Crescent Bend Nature Park in Cibolo.  Gorgeous location, especially at sunset.  It'll be hard to top next year! We also did a few at Cypress Bend Park and Landa Park here in New Braunfels.  It's a client favorite and always requested every year.  

These are just a few of my favorite moments from our Minis this year.  So many smiles.  So many happy faces.  I'm gonna go ahead and high-five myself.  I am so so looking forward to next year's Christmas Minis!  I have so many ideas and I can't wait to see who joins us in 2017.  Thank you SO much to all of you who booked this year!  We are honored that we could be a part of the Holiday memories you create.  Comment below and let us know who's family is your favorite and we will send them a gift card from On The Grind!  'Tis the season for coffee!  I'll be counting comments on this blog post until Friday.  So get your comments posted and put a pep in someone's step.  

Has anyone else noticed?

There are a TON of photographers in my area.  Like.......when I say a ton, imagine if Africa tried to stuff it's self inside of Texas.....yeah, it's pretty much like that.  And I was thinking the other day, ya know, I can't do anything about that.  And why would I want to?  All these amazingly talented photographers and creative entrepreneurs are just working towards the same goals that I am and who am I to try to stifle that in any way? So... with all my brain power, I came up with a game plan, a list of encouraging and motivating reminders, if you will, that I am excited to share with you.  So, safety first, click your seat belts folks!  Here we go: 4 things to tell yourself when you work in an oversaturated industry......

Gruene Estate, Gruene, TX

Gruene Estate, Gruene, TX

1: Community NOT competition.  This is my favorite one.  When you are working in an industry, it doesn't matter what it is, you enhance the general environment of that industry when you see each other as assets, not competition.  Lifting each other up, recognizing each others talents and hard work, encouraging each other and teaching other only makes that certain line of work better.  Better for business owners and better for the clients they serve.   It's ok that yet another person picked up a camera and decided to be a photographer.  It's really ok.  Your clients are your clients because they love your style, work ethic and delivery of products.  Their clients will be their clients for the same reason.  There is room for everyone to learn and start at the beginning just like you/I did.  And when I started, dang if I needed more people teaching me and encouraging me than I had.  I love photography.  It's my passion.  It means so much to me.  I want to make this art and it's industry mean something to others and impact my clients' lives in a gracious and positive manner.  To do that I need you and you need me.  You are not my competition.  We are in the same ship navigating the same waters.  It's exciting and I am so thankful for each and every photographer friend that I have and hope to meet and work with many many more.  It only makes all of us better.  It only makes our work better.  

NOAH'S Event Venue

NOAH'S Event Venue

2:  Tell yourself you're awesome...EVERDAY!  You might think this one is unnecessary and dare I say......dumb.  I tell you, it is not. And I'm going to get biblical on ya'll and say this; Verily verily I say unto thee.......  It is essential!  Your belief in yourself and your talents and abilities is the only thing that really matters because its your abilities that get clients in the door and its your talent that finishes your work load every week.  It's really really cool when your husband believes in you (and mine does, love ya babe!).  It's also nice when friends and family believe in you and your work.  Hey, even when you have your industry peers chime in and cheer you on, it feels really good, right?.  But none of that means anything and has no affect whatsoever on the progress of your business if you don't believe in yourself.  You're doing the work.  Your blood, your sweat and your tears.....many many tears.  Your belief in your work is the heart of your business.  To keep that heart beating, you have to do things that feed your faith in your abilities.  For me, it's telling myself that I'm awesome.  Even though somedays, I don't feel it.  These words work for me in pushing me forward and persevering thru the sometimes rough waters of the photography industry.  Do something that comes from within you that keeps your spark sparkin'.  Keep that heart beating.  It's YOU that has to do it.  

3: Comparison kills!  For reals.  This one is super hard for me.  There is a line between using other peoples work for inspiration and creative motivation.  It's another to allow viewing other, more seasoned artists' work to weigh you down into a sludgy, grimey self-pity fest.  That's not cute ya'll.  First, you gotta remember...everyone started somewhere.  Second....look at how much YOU have improved and celebrate that!  That photographer that has work that takes your breath away, that photographer that has portraits that brings tears to your eyes, that business owner with the upscale office and high tech goodies and a client list as long as the Nile, has WORKED their booty off to get there.  Give them props!  And guess where you're headed too?  Yes!  You will get there! You're working hard.  You're putting in the hours.  You're passion and talent are soaring!  One day, you will reach all your goals if you keep your eyes on your path.  Keep your focus on your vision.  Your business is unique and different than all the others.  Constantly looking over at others crossing their finish lines and wondering when you will get there will get you of course, love.  Keep your head down, and keep your vision alive, and I promise you, you will run across every finish line you ever set out to cross.  Your vision is worth the work.  Your work will improve.  Focusing too much on what everyone else around you is doing will only detract from your process.  Yes, ask for help.  Yes, get inspired.  But don't compare.  You're worth too much.  

Bling bling!

Bling bling!

4: Stay educated.  If you don't stay in the know, you don't grow.  I can't tell you guys how much I have had to learn this the hard way.  Learning more about my craft AND my industry has become one of the most exciting parts of my work flow. Once a week, every week, I do something to increase my knowledge both about photography AND owning a small business. And it's awesome.   How does this relate to an oversaturated industry?  Well, what helps you stick out in the rapidly growing group is how knowledgeable you are about your craft.  What helps you keep up with the ever progressive changes and advances in almost every industry is keeping yourself in the loop about new tools and upgrades you may be able to add as an asset to your biz.  Not everything will be your thing.  Not every business strategy will be yours.  Not every new techie gadget will work with your creative style.  But it is a major business muscle strength to educate yourself and also your clients about all that affects your small business.  Once you start practicing this, you will see a major change in how you relate to other photographers, how your client base is widening, how you market your services and even your creative style being tightened up and even more secured.  Do it.  Keep doing it and you will gift yourself with the stamina it takes to stay alive in your industry. 

Well my darlings, I hope there was at least one small piece of encouragement you received out of this post.  I'm so glad I get to work among so many amazing and talented folks.  I know we are all in this together and for the long haul.  I wan to thank you all for helping to make my shine brighter and I hope I can do the same for you.  

Personal Post | She's the best...

This will be a short and sweet little post.  She deserves it.  She deserves the universe.  She's my daughter.  Some of you may recognizer her from a session or wedding you have done with us.  She is my assistant.  She's only 16 *I can hear the gasps now*.....but even at her young age she is breaking the mold of what the average 16 year old consists of.  This girl has broken many molds in her life, and she will go on to break many more,  Her beauty is unmatched.....inside and out. I have never met a person with a heart like hers.  Not one as big as hers and as authentic as hers.  Those of you who know her personally, know that this is no exaggeration.  I could not have dreamt or imagined how incredible my little girl would grow to be.....God has exceeded all of my hopes for her and in her.  And I give Him all the glory for her shine.  There is no comparison.  Not even the sun that is glowing so graciously in this golden hour moment ( we were location scouting) can out sparkle her......I love you to the moon and back my Tess.  

And she does all of those things.....in that order....

And she does all of those things.....in that order....

Burundi 2016 | Planting Seeds

What a difference two years makes. I stepped off the plane with two years of growth in my heart and with everything God has done in me since my last trip it might as well have been 10 years with all the fruit that has grown in that time. I sensed the same was so in their hearts.  When I arrived in Burundi for the first time in 2014, seeds were planted in my heart.  This year, during this trip, I had the incredible honor of being one of the sowers.  Seed planting does not occupy the hands of those who easily become faint.  It's a practice that strengthens both hearts and hands. 

If you received our first update email, you were informed of our general itinerary.  We arrived in Bujumbura with a lovely greeting from our friends from Youth For Christ.  Yes, two years is a long time, too long, to be away from dear friends.  But you all know, when you're with THOSE kinds of friends, time is a non factor. It's so lovely to pick right up where you had to leave.  The next day we started on our way to see the babies of Homes of Hope in Gitega and also to have a few pastor's seminars, for men and women.  Such hungry people.  Such a rich time. When we arrived,   we started off by being thoroughly inspired by the beauty of this woman's selfless testimony of Love.  

To learn more about her, please click below.  

But then again, there's no shortage of inspiration any where your eyes may wander in Burundi.  After our 2 days of ministry in Gitega, we ventured around the mountain to Makamba.  A new town for me to visit.  We were primarily there to meet the new 3 new babies that lived in the newest campus of Homes of Hope.  They do love visitors, but when Papa Freddy comes, there's not a face that doesn't shine with joy!  

We visited a local fresh water pump that is located right next to the Homes of Hope campus.  

And had some fun with a few local friends! 

It was difficult to leave.  We fell in love with Makamba and are sure of our return.  Out next leg of the journey took us to Cibitoke.  Oh Cibitoke, how we adore you! 

We got to have time with the children of Homes of Hope AND local children when we hosted Sunday School.  If smiles and laughter could fix this world, we would have accumulated peace for an eternity.  This is never going to get old.  

We spent 4 lovely days in Cibitoke.  Each day filled with ministry for local pastors, their wives and local women, children and God never leaves us out either.  Oh, how our hearts our blessed as we speak, interact and become closer to our friends in Cibitoke.  I think it paints a pretty strong picture of what heaven is like.  After our 4 days of visiting, with tears in our eyes and a longing to return already pounding in our hearts, we hugged and kissed and said we will see you again soon.  We will never say goodbye.  

As we made our way back to Buj City, we were weary but not joyless. Our hands and feet were marked with rich soil.  We had been planting, sowing, giving, loving, but God in His goodness and faithfulness kept a pouring of confident hope in our hearts.  A hope that what He plants can never be plucked.  What He loves will never be unloved, and what deeds and hearts belong to Him will never see the turning of His face.  These fruits are eternal in their nature.  And they are full of more seeds that contain even more truth and grace from the Father.  Nothing can stop His works.  

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We spent a few more days with our friends from Youth for Christ.  We ministered and visited a church service.  Our hearts could not have been any more full with gratitude.  And now home was on the horizon.  Sunday after church, we flew towards home.  

To pursue a lifetime of planting seeds wherever the Lord may call.....and I will always hope He calls me to Burundi.  Each of your prayers for their land and people is worth more than the riches of this world.  You will see the fruit of them one day, here....or home.  

Indian Summer Wedding|San Antonio River Walk

So I'm back from Burundi!  Before I start blogging about all the wonderful things that happened this trip, I wanna share with you my favorite summer wedding shots.  I got to work with Candace Schaddelee with Rememory Photography.  We shot a insanely gorgeous Indian wedding.  This couple was so sweet and every moment was an overload of colors, textures and intricate henna!  I was in heaven!  

So much life and richness and beauty!  It was a happy day for my eyes.  It's so good to be home!  I had an amazing summer and I can't wait to blog about Africa.  There will probably be several.  There's just so much to share!  Happy humpday, darlings! 

A little walk down Venice Beach

I don't know why He does it, but God frequently gives me these life changing opportunities to travel.  He gave me the heart of an adventurer, so He must know I need a little wanderlust.  So I went to LA in May.  LA was not on my radar to ever travel to.  Unexpectedly, I fell in love with this city.  Specifically, Venice Beach.  

On the boardwalk at Venice Beach.

On the boardwalk at Venice Beach.

Palm trees, people and Peace....

Palm trees, people and Peace....

When I travel, I always find more of Him in myself because He is everywhere.  So I guess I crave adventure because I know He will be there and I know He will show me something new about Himself...or myself.  I love that He knows me well enough that He can show me things about myself that I don't know yet.  For instance, His favorite color? Blue.  My eyes are His favorite color.......like the sea.  

What have these waters seen? 

What have these waters seen? 

My dream home. 

My dream home. 

Pacific Avenue

Pacific Avenue

I also know this is why He made me a photographer.  I see what He sees.  I see how He wishes other people would see things.  And that is why I share these fine art pieces.  In the hopes that you may see a little something God wants you to see.  Maybe about Him.  Maybe about yourself.  With every image I share, I know God is showing someone something.  I have faith that they will see it.  

Freedom..

Freedom..

Light leads the pathway...

Light leads the pathway...

Danny's Deli

Danny's Deli

Excuse me ma'am, may I borrow some of your awesome?

Excuse me ma'am, may I borrow some of your awesome?

A little more palm tree action.

A little more palm tree action.

Now you'll have to excuse me for this next series of photographs.....I just really really love this lady.  She's my friend.  And she's beautiful.  She's one of God's favorites.....He told me.  

She's always looking.

She's always looking.

and so she shall always find.

and so she shall always find.

Standing in front of her happy place.

Standing in front of her happy place.

There she is....

There she is....

Her cuteness....I can't even.

Her cuteness....I can't even.

She's my fellow adventurer.

She's my fellow adventurer.

Hey pretty lady!

Hey pretty lady!

So what do you see?  Anything new about you?  Anything new about God?  I hope you see something.  If you do, please share below in the comments section.  Also, these photos will be added to my buyable prints.  You can click on the WORK tab for more info.  In the mean time, if you ever make it to Venice Beach here's a word of advice.........always avoid vehicles that look like this:

This vehicle was made in the year of "Oh heck no!!!"

This vehicle was made in the year of "Oh heck no!!!"

And also...one last thing....

Jacob, Collin & Jordan....CONGRATS! | 2016 Graduates

WHEW!!!  Senior season has been a whirlwind so far.  It's not over yet and we still have some more sessions to complete.  I have had a BLAST photographing these amazing seniors and I can't wait to see them officially cross the finish line.  Here are a few of my favorite portraits from Jacob, Collin and Jordan's sessions.

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jacob Casey-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Collin Weeks-2016 Graduate of ENAACT Family Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Jordan Gobert-2016 Graduate of Grace Preparatory Academy

Working with Seniors is so inspiring.  They have accomplished so much and are on the cusp of accomplishing even bigger things.  This is a very exciting moment for them along with their whole family.  It's great to be a part of.  During each of my in person consultations, I have the student fill out a questionnaire about themselves.  I do this to be able to go into the session knowing as much about them as I can.  Making sure I capture exactly who they are and all of their wonderful personality traits and ideas is the key to great senior portraits.  Sometimes it's helpful to bring along family members or good friends to assist the Seniors in coming out of their shell.  I know being in front of the camera is sometimes intimidating.  So if help is needed, the more the merrier I say!  Sometimes (in Collins case) no outside motivation is needed and we are just fabulous all on our own.  As I continue to look through my lens, I am in conversation with my Senior,  Asking questions, talking about favorite movie quotes of song lyrics, asking about their aspirations for the future, favorite moments of their last year in high school, so many things to talk about to really make them feel at home in front of the camera.  Once we get started, we always find our rhythm and by the time the session is over, it's like we are old pals!  

jacob11
collin29
jordan5

Because this is such a momentous occasion in these young peoples' lives, we go all out if they request.  Whatever they desire to include to remember and commemorate their last high school year, we include in our session.  Horses, motorcycles, cool cars, books, yes.....even stuffed lobsters and light sabers have been used.  And that is a whole other blog post.  Whatever the crazy prop or location, Senior portraits will always be my favorite projects.  They renew my motivation to get things accomplished in my life and most importantly...we have so much FUN!  Congrats again, guys!  

A little me time @ Lillian Farms in Washington, TX

Do you ever have those moments where you stop and tell yourself "Whoa, you need a time out....like a 3 day long time out."  To be honest, I'm not very good at detecting when I'm starting to fray at the edges.  Fortunately, I have a wonderful friend who knows when it's time....even from 7 hours away.  Rev, I am forever grateful to you.  

We visited a little B&B in Washington, TX.  Yes!  There's a town in Texas called Washington.  Who knew!  This little hidden jewel was exactly what I didn't know I needed.  A victorian style farm house with matching horse barn in the back and cute little cottages scattered throughout the few hundred acres.  A paradise for me.  I also made friends with several of the resident fur babies, of course.  Fur babies are my favorite type of people.  

fur babies

I'm always surprised by the growth and personal inward advancement that just being alone and quiet achieves.  2015  was a challenging year, both personally and professionally.  Sometimes I get it backwards and forget that it isn't putting your head down and plowing through pain and storms that builds strength.  It's stopping and resting in God that gives you true perseverance and focus.  

The amazing couple in the above photo were also staying in the main house.  They are dressed for a reenactment that was taking place in Washington that day and were gracious enough to let me photograph them.  They looked as though they belonged in this house.  They were very kind folks and educated us on some good ol' Texas history.  Being around them and admiring their passion for such a unique hobby helped me revisit some of my own unique passions that I have a photographer. Sometimes we forget and get swept up in a common current.  I was grateful for this reminding moment.  And I didn't even realize I had forgotten!  

more house details
tea room

So I took a 3 day long deep breath.  I fully leaned into God and sat under a tree.  He reset some broken bones and I reset my sails.  Rev and I laughed, of course, we sat quiet on the porch at dusk, we had the most amaaaaaaazing lemon meringue pie, and we vowed to visit Lillian Farms every year.  The pie was that good.  

local shops

We visited a few local shops and met some unforgettable characters.  We  stopped to smell all the flowers and made a few wishes on 4 leaf clovers.  We breathed in the fresh air and bathed in the new spring sun and we had another slice of pie.  Yes, taking time for you is good.  Very good.  

I hope you get a chance to advance.  I hope that if you need a moment, you take it.  I hope you have friends around you that will make an opportunity for you to sit under a tree and pray, like I do.  I hope you stop and smell the flowers and make new fur baby friends.  Go.  Take a 3 day long deep breath.  Regain, rest and reset.  Trust me, it is a good thing.   

Source: metime

Personal Project-Double Exposure…….I'm not an expert

Honest is the best therapy.  I find that, for me, being open about my position in life/business/seasons of growth, renders an amazing sense of light, inspiration and freedom.  So, if you're down with that….keep reading.  I should also mention that I am not a practicing composite photographer.  I love the art and hope to be somewhat good at it at some point in my career, but personal projects like these are my humble amateur offerings to the craft.  So, to those constructive criticizers….please feel welcome to nit pick.  So here's the motivation for this shot, and also some cold hard honesty…….this industry is insane sometimes!  There are SO many, overwhelmingly so many, very very talented photographers out there.  So many ways to run a business successfully.  So many blogs and seminars and workshops and vlogs about how to do, what to do, what not to do.  So many hows and whats and whys a million times over.  Countless new photographers popping up everyday.  Everyday!  I'm a fan of maintaining my situational awareness (thanks to my Hubby, David) but, sometimes, this tactic can cause one's demise sooner than later.  So, here's my solution...

This is an interesting line of work.  You have to have just the right mix of both creativity and business sense.  Some might argue that the two traits cannot flourish in the same arena.  But I've found that they have to.  Being creative….that's like breathing to me.  So when the cold industrial side of this career path I'm on seems to smog up my soul, I gotta do something.  For creation's sake.  For my sake.  I love being a photographer.  I love seeing and creating and being a visionary for people's major life moments.  It's a beautiful and , in my opinion, necessary, line of work.  The catch 22 is, business is business.  It's not easy.  It grates against the organic fabric of the creative mind of an artist; which is what all of us photogs are.  Emails, finding and keeping leads, networking, finances, emails, marketing, selling yourself, numbers, budgets, taxes, overpriced workshops that you know you need, emails, difficult clients, website configuration, SEO (lol UGH!), emails, budgets…..am I the only one that feels like I'm drowning sometimes?  Like my creativity takes the back seat in a very long bus?  So, this is what I need to survive.  I need my creativity, for myself.  For creation's sake and for my sanity, I stop and just do, and make and then, I can breath again.  It's like a Christmas miracle.  

I may sound like I'm whining.  Maybe I am.  But I have found myself a needed solution.  Creating for my self is just the right balance for this sometimes unbalanced industry.  I do long to be noticed among all these great artists.  I desire to stand out and be unique and different and for my talent to grow and for my business to flourish and be prosperous.  It's not easy.  There is a storm and sometimes creation is the sail I use to brave it.  So here it is.  My bared soul.  The mind and vision of my imagination and creativity, again, in amateur form.  And now, I can breathe again and the sun is peeking through the clouds.  

Gabbie & Sterling Espinosa's Wedding @ Chapel Dulcinea in Austin TX

So, we all remember being young and just married, starting off in life filled with a fresh hope and filled to the brim with ambition…..but it wasn't easy.  Since this couple is so near and dear to my heart, I'd like to do something special for them, with your help.  If I can get at least 30 comments on this blog, I'll send Gabbie and Sterling a complimentary 11x14 canvas!  This is a PROMISE.  I'll even blog about it to prove my promise.  C'mon guys, just look at this beautiful couple!  How many comments can they get?

I've known Gabbie and Sterling since they started dating in high school.  They attended the same homeschool co-op that my children do.  They're just such great kids.  I can't say enough about their heart for the Lord, their character and just how stinking cute they are!  Gabbie was the worship leader for Chapel Band.  She has a voice that'll make your Daddy cry, I tell ya.  She was also in our co-op's theatre program throughout her high school years.  She's one of those multi-talented ladies, and gorgeous, and smart and…..yeah……this could start getting gross, BUT, her humble and kind heart and her love for God just makes it to where you just can't help but love her.  She's just all of that awesomeness wrapped into one human.  She's loved by many and Mr. Sterling is one blessed man.

That first look was priceless.  My team and I were all in tears….and the ceremony hadn't even started yet!  We are pathetic…..suckers for love.

Such a touching moment between Gabbie and her bridesmaid, Moriah.  She was just speechless to see how beautiful of a Bride Gabbie was.  

Just a few moments alone before group pictures……can we just all say it together……Awwwww!!

You know, nothing's better than to have your best girls with you on the most important day of your life.  

I can't tell you how important it is to have fun with the people that you photograph.  Weddings are a celebration!  They're supposed to be fun!  These guys just rolled with the silliness!!  Such a great group of friends.  And then, after all the fun, the ceremony begins…..now…get out your tissues.  Seriously, though……get them.  

I almost can't take how intensely Sterling is looking at his bride.  It's just too much.  He loves her with everything in him and you can see it on his face here.  A little about Sterling though, he has a heart for missions.  He recently, like myself, has been to Burundi, Africa to work with some orphan homes there.  He and I talked about both of our experiences there and he just can't wait to return.  He's such a hard worker and in college just doing as much as he can to start a life for He and his Bride.  Such a young man full of integrity and solid character!  So….these two deserve a canvas!  How are those comments coming?

Gabbie wanted to ring that bell sooooo badly!  I think the imperfection of this image is what makes it amazing.  I know its not perfectly in focus or perfectly framed, but at this point, I was nearly falling apart.  I am usually pretty good at keeping my focus and not getting emotional at weddings, but this is the moment that probably did me in.  That is tangible happiness, my friends.  

I don't know…..I can't tell if they're happy here or not….you tell me.  Leave a comment about it!

Oh no, this is the moment that did me in for sure.  Nothing like a mother's love.  As a mother of 4 myself, I couldn't help but think about when my 4 will walk down the isle…..yeah.  Grab that tissue.  

Golden hour photos with the bride and groom are always on my shot list itinerary.  And boy, do they pay off.  It's just a little moment after the ceremony to let the couple step away and breathe in the moment.  They get to soak in the sunset and each other's first moments as husband and wife.  Priceless.  

Such a unforgettable day.  So, how are we doing on those comments?  Are we at 30 yet?  I really would love to send them the 11x14 canvas, with your help!  I'll post a pic of them with it when they receive it so you guys can see their cute faces again.  Thank you for reading and commenting!