family photojournalism : the vasquez family

i'm so luck to have such gorgeous cousins! you may remember a while back when i blogged jake, cadi, and baby maple? well, this girl here is jake's big sister. and this is her sweet family. they and we were all in lansing together around christmas time, when we had this incredible ice storm. it was stunning. so we had to adventure outside together, cold as it was, to do this sweet little family photojournalism session before they headed back to philadelphia. 

grand rapids birth photographer // the story told by hands

hands are so expressive, and this is especially true during labor and birth. you could almost tell an entire birth story using only photos of hands. the mother's hands, loosening and tensing with each contraction, the hands of birth workers and partners massaging, attending, caressing, or wiping the mother's brow with a cool cloth. and then, the mother's hands reaching out to gather the baby to her chest, cradling with wonder. here is a series of photos from a recent birth, all featuring hands. :)

light & life : a workshop

light & life workshop

i've toyed with the idea -- largely due to having received so many requests -- of having a workshop that would teach folks how to use their DSLRs the way they were intended to be used. it's a real need. i mean, more and more of us have taken the plunge and purchased a nice DSLR camera, with high hopes of having better pictures to show for it, and then it somehow disappoints a bit. we realize that a good camera doesn't automatically lead to great pictures. truth is, we have to learn how a camera works, what exposure is and how you achieve it, how to compose an artful image, how to meter and focus, etc. etc. if we don't know how to do those things, the "Auto" setting is all that remains available to us, but "Auto" -- though smart in certain ways -- is not ever going to be a great photographer. because of this, i like the idea of spending a chunk of time equipping people to learn how to use the fantastic camera they've invested in, empowering them to take shots of their families and personal lives in a way that they can feel good about.

but there are lots of workshops out there to teach the technicalities, both online and in camera stores, and from other photographers. you don't have to look far to learn how to use your DSLR.

so if i'm going to do something like this, i want to bring my unique self to the table, offered up as a gift to those who might feel inclined to receive me. and i think my particular gift, my niche, is this: to notice ordinary moments and to capture them in a way that let's you see their beauty. this is the feedback i get the most often, and it's also the gift that lays behind my two specialties of family photojournalism and birth photography. it's how i photograph my own family, too.

that is what i hope to offer to you in this workshop. i want to invite you to sit in my living room around my wood stove on a wintery day. i want to offer you pastries and coffee while we sit down and have a conversation not just about the technicalities of DSLR use, but also about our lives. i want to take time together to practice gratitude and noticing and light.

i want to talk about how to use a DSLR with technical skill for the larger purpose of celebrating the life that's unfolding around you, in all its glorious ordinariness. 

here's what i'm envisioning it will look like: the first part of the day will be spent learning the how-tos of DSLRs while we sip our hot beverages, then we'll move into conversation about telling a story with our photos and "finding beauty." we'll have a yummy lunch together while we talk more. then the afternoon will be space to practice what we've been learning and discussing, through a few different invitations.

because i want to keep this highly personal and want to give each participant the attention he/she deserves, space is limited to 6. so if this resonates with you, listen to that, get in touch with me, and register now.

i am so stinking excited.




new photo books with all family photojournalism sessions

i am ever so pleased to announce a new type of photo book available to all my clients. as you may know, all the family photojournalism sessions come with a small album. up until now, they've been 20 pages long, 7x7 inches in dimension, and printed by these books were nice, but i've found something that really excites me! i was recently introduced to the incredibly Artifact Uprising. now i'll be using their 5.5x5.5, 40-page albums in the family photojournalism package. the paper is so pleasing, the size and feel so pleasant. you'll love it.

i love it. i want to print a million of them for my own personal use, too. but i guess i'd better keep myself in check. :)

my heart

these two. these children who by their neediness leave me exhausted each day, who don't sleep as much or as easily as i wish they would, who make messes all over the house and my clothing....

these children who enlarge my heart to dimensions i didn't know it was capable of, who fill my cup to overflowing...

they are my heart.

family photojournalism : oliphants + pecks

two sisters, each with a life dedicated to obediently following Jesus wherever and however He leads them. for one sister, that's meant marrying a widower who happens to also be a farmer and a "recovering baptist," blending their families, and then foster parenting and adopting more children together. for the other sister, that's meant spending the last 10 years preparing, along with her husband and as they grew their family, to enter the mission field, full time, and overseas in unreached people groups. sister number two is leaving on that mission very soon. and so before she went away, she wanted some time in front of the camera with her sister and her family. what followed was a sweet late afternoon playing at sister #1's house, where all is green and open and the animals are plentiful (particularly the sheep). i just bore witness to the simplicity of their time together, and did my best to tell a story that will be cherished by them for years to come, when they might not get to see one another nearly as often as they would prefer. God bless rachel and jamie and their families. 

on the other side

this past weekend, my little family got to be on the other side of the camera. usually that means that i've put the camera on a tripod, but this time that wasn't the case. this time, a real life photographer came from across the big lake, along with her husband, spent a night with our family, and did a slice-of-life, family photojournalism session with us on a saturday morning as we cuddled in bed at 7:30 a.m., made and ate a pancake breakfast, played in the yard, drank our coffee by the fire, and all other manner of ordinary activities. i admit that i felt a little self-conscious. more than i thought that i would. and i was a bit preoccupied with the overcast skies because the lack of clean morning light made me worried that Sarah would have trouble getting the best images. i felt a little self-conscious about the in-process state of our [new] home, wishing that i were more lived-in already, more filled. i also will admit - though it's a bit embarrassing - that i often caught myself extending moments and interactions that i thought were cute or beautiful so that Sarah might grab a shot of it. apparently, even when we're technically not posing, it is still a temptation to pose.

but after she left and i started processing the experience, my excitement grew. because here's the thing: i know she caught us. it doesn't matter a bit about the state of the house or the color of the light. we were really just doing our thing. we were being a family, as our family is in this season of our life. it's not an easy season. truth is, it's a really difficult season on a number of fronts. but it's still worth documenting, will still be something to recall with gratitude. and having these images will help us to do that, years from now. my loose belly skin peeking through my t-shirt, tim's less-than-ideal haircut, hazel's chipped tooth and "crazy face" expressions, and gus' pasty white chub, the house with a few too many bare walls... oh, that's the good stuff. that's the stuff worth remembering. because it's human. it's family.

i haven't seen the photos yet. i'm doing my best to wait patiently. meantime, i have this one preview to look at a grin (isn't my son the cutest little chubby buddy?!):

gus in the morning // photo by Lovely Ember Photography

this probably sounds self-interested, but i have to tell you, friends: you really ought to be photographed in this way. please don't wait until you feel like you're in shape enough, or your child outgrows a difficult developmental stage, or your house finally gets the pinterest-inspired make-over you dream of. do it now. then do it again in 2 or 3 years.

i promise you won't regret it.

what about the money? again, it's so worth it. we planned ahead for this... like 8 months ahead. i put a line item in our budget so that each month we were setting aside some to save up to pay this photographer (who is worth every penny she charges and probably more!). i value this a great deal; enough to sacrifice some other things along the way so that we can do this every couple of years.

besides, i couldn't strongly urge you to do it if i wasn't doing it myself, could i?!



expectant : jen and dave

jen and dave are eagerly anticipating a little girl in the first part of june. they've asked me to be there to photograph her entrance when that day comes. but first we took a stroll at the nature park and made some lovely images of them in this ripe and ready season of waiting. isn't she gorgeous?!

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family photojournalim : the verwys'

this session was a long time coming. emily won this session in a bidding war (in which she put up a fierce fight) at a silent auction and movie screening event almost exactly a year ago (i'm so flattered!). and then she had a baby. and then they bought a house. and then they gutted and redecorated the entire house. and finally, when the backsplash tile was laid, it seemed that everything in her life was settled enough to have me come on out and capture some images of this life they've been working so hard to create together as a family. the house is awesome and they did a great job with it. but even better than that are their darling girls, audrey and claire, and the dancing, baking, cuddling, love they all have for one another.

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family : the tenderos

tendero-blog-fb-1 tendero-blog-fb-24 tendero-blog-fb-25 tendero-blog-fb-26 tendero-blog-fb-27 tendero-blog-fb-28 tendero-blog-fb-29 tendero-blog-fb-30 tendero-blog-fb-31 tendero-blog-fb-32 tendero-blog-fb-33 tendero-blog-fb-34 tendero-blog-fb-35 tendero-blog-fb-36 tendero-blog-fb-37 tendero-blog-fb-38 tendero-blog-fb-39 tendero-blog-fb-40 tendero-blog-fb-41 tendero-blog-fb-42 tendero-blog-fb-43 tendero-blog-fb-44 tendero-blog-fb-45 tendero-blog-fb-46 tendero-blog-fb-47 tendero-blog-fb-48 tendero-blog-fb-49 tendero-blog-fb-50 tendero-blog-fb-51 tendero-blog-fb-52 tendero-blog-fb-53 tendero-blog-fb-54 tendero-blog-fb-22 tendero-blog-fb-21 tendero-blog-fb-20 tendero-blog-fb-19 tendero-blog-fb-18 tendero-blog-fb-17 tendero-blog-fb-16 tendero-blog-fb-15 tendero-blog-fb-14 tendero-blog-fb-13 tendero-blog-fb-12 tendero-blog-fb-11 tendero-blog-fb-10 tendero-blog-fb-9 tendero-blog-fb-8 tendero-blog-fb-7 tendero-blog-fb-6 tendero-blog-fb-5 tendero-blog-fb-4 tendero-blog-fb-3 tendero-blog-fb-2this family is so dear to my heart. so dear. jenn and tony have adopted me and my little family into their hearts and have been spiritual parents to us these last several years. so there are many, many things i have learned and assimilated from them. and though this may be one of the shallower lessons, i have learned from them that beauty matters. choose to surround yourself with beautiful things. if you choose to bring only lovely things into your home space, even your messes will be beautiful. :) jenn bravely resisted the temptation to "style" her home and her kids for this session, allowing me instead just to come photodocument a a typical afternoon in their household. but even without the "styling," there was ample beauty and inspiration to be found in the simplicity of the life this family has built together and the affection they so quickly express for one another.


tribe : the kranzos

this is the second time i've gotten to photograph this family. last time they were pregnant with this little guy below (isn't he adorable!?). what i love about the kranzos is how social and inviting they are, what class they have, and how they live with quiet integrity. i'm hoping they'll let me photograph them again one day soon, because i want to watch these kids grow up. :)kranzo-family-preview-1 kranzo-family-preview-2 kranzo-family-preview-3 kranzo-family-preview-4 kranzo-family-preview-5 kranzo-family-preview-6 kranzo-family-preview-7 kranzo-family-preview-8 kranzo-family-preview-9 kranzo-family-preview-10 kranzo-family-preview-11 kranzo-family-preview-12 kranzo-family-preview-13 kranzo-family-preview-14 kranzo-family-preview-15 kranzo-family-preview-16 kranzo-family-preview-17 kranzo-family-preview-18 kranzo-family-preview-19 kranzo-family-preview-20

family : the hoekstra-kooles

when i met this family, they were only two. now they are six! can't hardly believe it. they have moved and changed jobs and started companies and been surprised by twins, and through it all they remain lovely and true. what a joy it was to spend an afternoon watching them play together.hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-1 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-2 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-3 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-4 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-5 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-6 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-7 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-8 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-9 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-10 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-11 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-12 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-13 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-14 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-15 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-16 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-17 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-18 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-19 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-20 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-21 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-22 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-23 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-24 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-25 hoekstra-koole-2012-preview-26

becoming a specialist : the plan for 2013

after spending more than 10 years with my eye pressed up against the viewfinder of an SLR camera (first it was 35 mm, then digital), after pointing it in the direction of so very many things, places, and people, some things have come started to come clear. you look at my portfolio right now and you’ll see i have been a generalist: weddings, engagements, families-who-are-posed, mini-session portraits, babies, kids, graduation and anniversary parties,  multi-generational family groups, seniors, boudoir, and birth.

what a lovely, lovely world filled with a billions of beautiful faces and thousands of good reasons to celebrate and document those celebrations. i’ve seen the fresh love and creative pinnacle of a wedding day, the flirtatious adoration of an engaged couple, the traditions of families stopping to commemorate, the sensual daring of a woman who’ll be photographed in her undergarments to give some joy to the man she loves, and the tentative coming-into-self of a graduating senior. i have loved it all, each in its own way.

today, feeling now so blessed to have been allowed to witness and document so many sorts of breath-taking people and their moments in time, i feel i can now step back and ask myself: out of all of this varied glory, what is the one thing that resonates most deeply, that brings me so much life that i want to spend as much time around it as possible?

i might have answered this question differently 5 or 8 years ago, had i bothered to ask it of myself, but i didn’t. so today, the answer to this question is this:

that which is raw and ordinary, which is family, which is life. 

more specifically:

family photo-journalism

(the kind where no one gets especially dressed up, and they probably stay home and just do the sorts of things that families do while i just happen to be present to make note of it on film)



birth stories

(the sort where women - and their men - are transformed as they undergo the process of giving life to a new little person, and are brave enough to allow me into that space to witness it through my camera’s eye)


mmmm, yes. those things get my heart pumping. these are the ones that i look forward to doing more than any other sort of photography job.


what if those two things became unapologetically my specialty? what if i began to say “no” to other sorts of work so that i could indulge in and master these two sorts? what if i gave myself over to that which i really love, and that which i think i do best?

there’s a degree of risk. will it shrink my client base too significantly? will it disappoint certain folks? will i be going back to square one to re-establish myself within these new parameters?

yup, risky, but it feels right.

this is the new plan, friends. website and blog and facebook page will begin to reflect said changes very soon (well, maybe after my maternity leave).

i’m very much looking forward to this new chapter of my photography career. i hope to see you there.


tribe : the hackers

four kids rather close in age makes for a busy and lively household! and they sure are good at playing together: making pizzas, playing soccer in the backyard, reading books while all squeezed onto one couch. i had a great evening following these guys around with my camera as they did one of their typical evenings together. hacker-family-preview-1hacker-family-preview-3hacker-family-preview-4hacker-family-preview-5hacker-family-preview-6hacker-family-preview-7hacker-family-preview-8hacker-family-preview-9hacker-family-preview-10hacker-family-preview-11hacker-family-preview-12hacker-family-preview-13hacker-family-preview-14hacker-family-preview-15hacker-family-preview-16hacker-family-preview-17hacker-family-preview-18hacker-family-preview-19hacker-family-preview-20hacker-family-preview-21hacker-family-preview-22hacker-family-preview-23hacker-family-preview-24hacker-family-preview-25hacker-family-preview-26hacker-family-preview-27hacker-family-preview-28hacker-family-preview-29hacker-family-preview-30hacker-family-preview-31hacker-family-preview-32hacker-family-preview-33hacker-family-preview-34hacker-family-preview-35hacker-family-preview-36hacker-family-preview-37hacker-family-preview-38hacker-family-preview-39hacker-family-preview-40hacker-family-preview-41hacker-family-preview-42hacker-family-preview-43hacker-family-preview-44hacker-family-preview-45

tribe : the susies

after several years of not being in touch, facebook worked its magic and reconnected me with jana. last i'd seen her, we were single college gals in a weekly bible study together. now we're both married with kid(s)! i was so excited when she invited me to come do a session with her family because it would be an excuse to catch-up, too. i did this session en route to madison, wi, where tim and hazel and i were headed to visit family. jana made us a stellar lunch to compensate us for going out of our way. i love the playful spirit of this family, and the creativity they have with cardboard boxes! :)susie-family-preview-1 susie-family-preview-2 susie-family-preview-3 susie-family-preview-4 susie-family-preview-5 susie-family-preview-6 susie-family-preview-7 susie-family-preview-8

faith and photos

being a photographer is not an automatically, or obviously, christian vocation. not like being a missionary or a pastor or a "person in ministry." but as a person who also has one of those job titles, i have come to see that all places and vocations are extensions of the kingdom, that the Holy Spirit, when He is invited, infuses all things with His distinctive light. He makes all things beautiful. so here's my little secret: in the car, as i'm driving to meet you at your home or the park or the church where you're about to get married, i am praying. out loud like a crazy woman. i'm asking the Holy Spirit to anoint me with the spirit of creativity, and i'm asking the Father to give me eyes to see you in all your unique quirks and glorious beauty. i am offering Him my hands, my eyes, my camera, and my imagination, so that they can be His, and so that they can be used to make something really meaningful and celebratory and good. for you.

i know i can't mine and then capture the beauty of YOU without HIS empowering. so i have to ask Him. every time.

and since i've begun to do this, i've been getting more feedback from you. you remark about how well i "got you." and when you do, i smile in my heart and say, "thank  you, Jesus."

He does all things well. even photography.

bartering and the value of photography

i just wanted to draw your attention to this page, which outlines my philosophy on bartering and contains a running list of items and services i'd be interested in bartering for. if you're someone who would love to have photographs taken by me, but you don't have the cash on hand, please take a look!

and, just so that this isn't a photograph-free entry, here's a photo my husband took of me and my daughter yesterday on my first mother's day. he did a pretty good job, right?