Summer Bucket List

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Wow, its been a while since I’ve written anything. Sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions, and that’s ok. Between end of the semester projects, final exams, and kicking off my wedding season, it was hard to find any down time, and what little I did have was devoted to pajama coffee dates with my husband, snuggling with my pup, and eating all the ice cream (finals are stressful, it was a necessity to make it through them)! But now that summer is in full swing, I’m going to do my best to make sure I don’t let this blog die for months at a time (again).

And speaking of summer…

Living in Wisconsin, you really learn to take advantage of the few precious months of warm weather you’re allotted each year, and I plan do my best to make the most of them this year! Here’s what’s on my bucket list for this summer…

  1. Check out Lost Valley Cider Co. in Milwaukee’s Walker Point: I may be a little biased here because the owner’s are basically my second family, but even if they weren’t, I would be excited about this place. Its quirky, rustic, and rooted in the spirit of adventure, so basically its my ideal drinking spot.
  2. Shoot for Fun: While I absolutely LOVE shooting weddings, engagements, and all your other adventures, there’s something freeing about being able to shoot whatever I want, without any expectations or deadlines. I was looking through my photos from the last few months, and very few of them are personal photos. I used to shoot for fun all the time, and its something I definitely want to do more of this summer, even if that just means taking hundreds of pictures of my dog!
  3. Organize, minimize, and de-clutter: We moved back to Wisconsin almost two years ago, but there are still boxes in our garage that we haven’t unpacked, items that I set places “for now” that still haven’t found a permanent home, and lots and lots of just, well… stuff. One of my biggest goals for this summer is to finish reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and then put those methods to use in my own house to create a space that feels more like a home.
  4. Hike, bike, travel, camp, and adventure: Ok, this isn’t really a summer only thing, since its kind of my everyday goal, but during the summer especially I want to make sure I’m trying to do something active and outside every single day that I can. I also have two big trips planned this summer that I’m super looking forward to! First I’m heading back to Hawaii by myself and I’m heading up to the U.P. with my entire family.
  5. Wine dates with my girlfriends: My husband has a pretty packed schedule this summer with all his required Army training, so that leaves me with a lot of “me” time, which I plan on spending with my favorite ladies, doing what we do best… Relaxing, chatting, and drinking (responsibly, of course!).

I’m sure I’ll come up with other things as the summer progresses, but this is my list for now. What’s on your to-do list this summer?

The Rad Retreat

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Who here knows what a Myers-Briggs personality test is? Well I’m an INTP, heavy on the “I”. Basically, I’m really, really introverted. I prefer being home in sweats watching Netflix with my dog to just about any other social engagements. I bring this up so you can get a feel for how out of place it is for me to do something like attend an overnight, three day long retreat where I’m surrounded by strangers and expected to share my feelings.

This being said, I could not have been more wrong in feeling anxious or nervous to attend the Rad Retreat, hosted by the amazing Christine of Natural Intuition Photography. I spent three days surrounded by so many amazing, creative, talented, and supportive women. I learned so much, and in such a safe and nurturing environment. I can’t even begin to put in to words how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to attend the first (of many!) Rad Retreats.

We dove in to our personal and professional goals, learned how to find the light with Laura Zastrow Photography, ate some crazy delicious food, drank the perfect amount of wine, and had an absolutely amazing time. I joked with Christine prior to the retreat about how I was only attending because she harassed so much about it, but I am so incredibly glad she did.

This blog post can’t even begin to do the retreat justice, but I guess what I’m trying to say is this: take risks, push yourself, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. You never know how amazing it could turn out to be.

Aggie, Alexis, Bri, and Amanda, you ladies rock and I miss your pretty faces already! Can’t wait to see where this experience takes you all, because I know you’re all going to do amazing things.

(Super special shout out to the entire Rad Team: With Grace & Gold, Jake Anderson Photography, Elevate Events, Kala (our amazing creative facilitator), and all of the awesome sponsors, too!)

My February

I have so many photos that live in my phone, so I’ve decided to share a few of them here with you. I’m going to try and remember to do this every month so you all can see behind the scenes of my life and business. So, here’s what I was up to in February…

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  1. Lee, a Great Horned Owl, cam to visit my Ornithology class. He was a real hoot (sorry, I had to)!
  2. A gorgeous sunrise over Iowa on my way back from Colorado.
  3. Jer and I enjoying a Wisconsin snowstorm.
  4. My new fur-niece, Shea! She was a little scared of me at first, but after a walk and a few treats, she warmed up to me.
  5. After AJ at Vamp Artistry did my makeup for a photoshoot with Colleen at Capture Life Moments, I had to take a selfie!
  6. My sissy and me in Colorado! I hadn’t been skiing with her in almost a decade, so I was beyond excited to get some quality sister time on the slopes.
  7. Rocky Mountains, as seen from Breckenridge.
  8. My new Lego bookends, a birthday present courtesy of my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law, plus the random assortment of other odds and ends currently filling my side of our headboard.
  9. And lastly, one of my two new fur-babies! Last month we adopted two little guys from B&B Chinchillas, which have been Jer’s dream pets since he was a little kid. This little beige guy is Poe, and his adopted brother Finn is dark grey. They are spoiled rotten, and Buck (our pup) is endlessly entertained by their antics.

Well, that’s about it for February. We were pretty low-key this last month, but my planner is filling up quickly for March! :-)

What I Learned From My First Wedding Season

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The holidays are over, the beginning-of-semester craziness is starting to wane, and I have several months before my busy season picks up again. I seriously don’t know what to do with my weekends these days! But it has given me time to reflect on the last year, and everything I learned from my whirlwind introduction to wedding photography.

As some of you may know, I never intended to start shooting weddings last year. However, good friend of my sister’s messaged me and asked if I’d be willing to shoot her big day. I told her I had no experience, had never shot a wedding, and basically and no idea what I was doing. And yet she still wanted me there, capturing one of the biggest days of her life. I can’t begin to tell you how honored I felt that she trusted me to do that. Well, that led to six more weddings last year, and a nearly full schedule for 2016! You guys are all seriously amazing, and I’m so, so grateful to all of you!

So, after all that, here are a few of the things I’ve learned after my first year shooting weddings! :-)

  1. Always, always, ALWAYS check your directions. Then double check. Then triple check! I made the mistake once of assuming that the church my couple was getting married at was located in the same city as the reception. I typed name in to my GPS and hit go. When I arrived, I realized that I was in the wrong place. Their church had the exact same name, but was located in the next town over. Thankfully, I was only a few minutes late and the bride was a friend form High School and very forgiving (plus I added an hour at the end of the night to make up for it!). After that, I made sure I always had the right address.
  2. Always keep spare batteries! I realized on my way to a wedding that I left the spare batteries for my flash sitting on my kitchen counter. Luckily they were just AA’s and I was able to buy new ones. Regardless, I now keep an extra pack tucked safely inside my camera case at all times!
  3. Wear the right shoes! Most weddings I’m on my feet for 8+ hours, and wearing the wrong shoes can be devastating. I’ve tried out a few different pairs, but by far, my favorites are my Tieks (so much so that I bought them in two colors!). They’re comfortable, cute, professional, and worth every penny I spent on them.
  4. Staying organized is a must. Make sure you have a detailed timeline from the bride and groom, and I always asked for a list of family pictures they’d like (with NAMES, not just Grandma and Grandpa), which has definitely streamlined family pictures.
  5. Community over competition, always. I consider myself incredibly lucky that so many established photographers here in Wisconsin have been so open and amazing. They’ve given me tips, shared their secret photo spots, allowed me to second shoot, and just been generally awesome (Christine, Jen, Jen, I’m looking at you ladies!). Its so nice to have such an amazing network of talented photographers who always have my back.

Ok, that’s all I’ve got for now. And if you’re still reading, you rock. :-)

Boho Winter Stylized Elopement

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This was an idea my good friend Jess and I came up with towards the end of fall. My wedding season was winding down, but I really wanted to do a winter themed wedding shoot. So we decided to create one. We made a Pinterest board, got my sister and her boyfriend to agree to be our models, contacted some amazing collaborators, and things were (seemingly) starting to come together nicely.

Then December rolled around. We had record high temperatures, which meant no snow. The jacket I had wanted to rent was out of stock, so my poor sister was surely going to freeze. Casey (my sister’s boyfriend) was only going to be in town one day. Which also happened to be the one day my dad’s siblings were going to be back in his hometown. And it was raining.

Well, despite this, we made it work. We packed everything up and brought it with to my aunt’s house on the other side of the state. Lucky for us, she had a huge spruce tree in her backyard that made a perfect backdrop. You know how people say everything happens for a reason? Well, this is one of those times when I absolutely believe them.

And HUGE thank you to Steph’s Sweet Treats for providing the amazing (and delicious!) cake and cookies, Rustic Rhinestone Events and Planning for all of the gorgeous flowers, and Sweet Carolina Collective for providing the adorable sign. If you’re planning your own wedding, you definitely need to check these ladies out, they are all absolutely fabulous!

(Dress from Rent the Runway)

 

 

2016 Goals!

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As a rule, I typically avoid making new year’s resolutions, because I feel like I shouldn’t need a new year as an excuse to make changes. However, I feel like its important to set goals for my business and what I want to accomplish this year. And if its in writing, and out there for the world to see, I might be less likely to procrastinate on getting things checked off! So here goes…

  1. Off Camera Flash: In 2015, I finally started using off camera flash, and in 2016 I want to get to a point where I feel completely confident with it and know exactly (or at least mostly) how to get the best possible images using this technique.
  2. Be a Better Business Owner: If I had my way, I would just take pictures and somebody else would handle the business side. I’m not great at record keeping, tracking my mileage, and all the business-y stuff that comes with running a business, but this year I’m going to be better. I even got a new book for Christmas (thanks, sissy!) that should hopefully help get me there.
  3. Plan Another Styled Shoot: If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve no doubt seen sneak peeks of my winter styled shoot with Steph’s Sweet Treats, Sweet Carolina Collective, and Rustic Rhinestone Event Planning & Design. There will be a blog post with all the gorgeous details coming soon, but I really want to plan another shoot for this spring/early summer. My head is already swimming with ideas, so I really, really hope it comes together as well as this one did!
  4. Travel: This one isn’t entirely business related, but since I always take photos of all the places I go, and because travel and adventure mean so much to me, I figured I’d include it. My goal is always to go to at least one place each year that I’ve never been to before. And actually, I’ve already done that this year since I spent New Year’s Day in New Orleans, so maybe I’ll try and make it to two new places this year!
  5. Streamline: My bookkeeping, my work flow, my wardrobe, and my life in general. One of my biggest goals this year is to get rid on all the unnecessary “stuff” that’s cluttering my home, computer, and life.

Best of 2015

I can’t believe its 2016 already! While I’m looking forward to this year and all the amazing weddings I have coming up, I want to take a moment to reflect back on the last year. To those of you who let me photograph you and your families, I couldn’t have asked for more beautiful clients, inside and out. To all the couples that took a leap of faith and let a brand new wedding photographer be a part of your big day, thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you! Knowing that you had confidence in my skills is something I appreciate more than I can even begin to tell you. You guys are seriously the best!

So without further ado, here are (just a few of) my absolute FAVORITE images from this year!

Weddings:

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Families & Engagements:

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Personal:

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Our Christmas Traditions

Its my very favorite time of the year. The air is getting colder, and if you look closely, you can see tiny snowflakes blowing in the breeze. Holiday lights are slowly popping up, and decorated trees can be seen in the windows. Christmas carols fill the air. And, most importantly, family starts heading home to spend time with the ones they love most. Everybody has their own reasons for loving the holiday season, and their own way of celebrating, but I want to share with you just a few of my favorite traditions.

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  1. The Tree: We have a fake tree, unfortunately, because living in Hawaii, all the live trees were fairly scraggly, so a fake tree just worked better. It was the very first Christmas tree Jer and I ever had, before we were even married. The first Christmas we were together, I was a little sad because our tree at home (that is, my parents’ tree) was always filled with a ridiculous collection of ornaments spanning generations, and all I had was a few glass balls from Wal-Mart. Well, my parents must have known that out tree needed a little love, because they sent an entire box of their own ornaments to us in Hawaii: Felt angels and snowmen my great-grandma Jo made, carved stockings, wreaths, and toy soldiers from my grandpa and dad, and even some ornaments I received from loved ones when I was a baby. Now, Jer and I have added some ornaments of our own, too, mostly from our travels, a few that his mom has gifted us over the years, and a few just because. There’s so much love on our tree, and even though it might look a little ridiculous with all its mismatched ornaments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world
  2. Untitled-1Cookie Day: This tradition started in 2000 when my family and I were living in a tiny apartment while our house was being built. My mom HATED the oven there. It never cooked anything evenly, so she asked my aunt, who lived just 20 minutes away, if we could use their oven to make Christmas cookies. My sister, cousin, and I had so much fun making, baking, and decorating cookies that our moms decided to make it a yearly tradition, despite the fact that we almost certainly annoyed the heck out of them with our ridiculous singing and ever worsening decorating skills. Even now that we’re all grown and living on our own, and even though we tend to annoy we all still get together one Saturday for our annual Christmas cookie baking marathon.DSC_4310
  3. Rudolph: This calendar has been around for as long as I can remember, and when we were little, my sister and I used to race to move Rudolph each morning. Even now, when we’re both home at Christmas, its still kind of a big deal to move Rudolph. My husband has even gotten in on the tradition! He’s been bragging to me all day about he got to Rudolph first this morning and moved him.DSC_4343
  4. Family Christmas: Every year, my mom’s side of the family gets together to celebrate Christmas. When we were little, we exchanged presents, but now that we’re all older (and most of us are over 21), its evolved in to a day of food, drinks, and increasingly inappropriate games. Traditionally, we play Scattegories (complete with an official judge who’s ruling is final because we get a bit rambunctious), but this year we decided to try out Cards Against Humanity, and oh my word… It was slightly awkward to play with my parents, but also incredibly hilarious. But most importantly, I get to spend time with my favorite crazies (see above, they’re clearly nuts)!
  5. Christmas Eve: Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite part of Christmas. Every year, we get dressed up in our Sunday best for the candlelight service at our church. Then, when we get home, we all change in to pajamas, mom makes fondue, little smokies, cheese, crackers, and all sorts of delicious snacks, and we gather around the television to watch a family favorite, Christmas Vacation (although, truth be told, I think we all enjoy watching my dad more than the movie. He has seen it dozens of time, and can probably quote the entire thing, but he still laughs so hard he cries every single time). At the end of the night, before we go to bed, my sister and I exchange one gift that we bought for each other, which almost definitely started when we were little, though I can’t remember exactly when or why.

Writing this makes me even more excited for the next few days. For my sister finally being home for the first time in a year, for family Christmas with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, for Christmas movies with my dad, and Christmas carols with my mom… For snuggles with my favorite pups in front of the fire, and my sister waking me up Christmas morning yelling “Santa Clause came!” (even though we’re both well in to our twenties)… This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas Gifts that Give Back: For the Adventurer

 

 

This guide is probably one of my favorites, because as most of you probably have realized, I love traveling and everything outdoors. This guide includes tons of ideas for the adventurous ladies in your life, and, as always, purchase of any of these items will give back to a community or charity in need.

Adventure

  1. Merino Wool Base Layer – A 1% for the Planet partner, this super soft base layer is made from sunstainably-sourced wool, wicks moisture, provides sun protection, and is stink-free!
  2. Cherry Almond Bar – A great, healthy snack, and every bar purchased helps feed hungry children.
  3. Down Vest – Purchasing this warm, waterproof vest helps fund Cotopaxi grants, which selects high-impact organizations that build sustainable solutions in collaboration with local communities.
  4. Hammock – Embrace the newest camping trend in this super comfy hammock, and support another 1% for the Planet partner.
  5. Nova Everyday Backpack – A great pack for travel & everyday, featuring tons of storage pockets and a padded laptop sleeve. Osprey supports several outdoor foundation promoting environmental integrity and sustainability.
  6. Steel Mug – The perfect cup for your morning coffee, its purchase will remove one pound of trash from waterways.
  7. Stainless Steel Growler – Keep your cold drinks cold, and your hot drinks hot, and purchasing this will help fund clean water projects around the world.
  8. Hiking Boots – KEEN is a popular brand, and they also give out grants to non-profits around the world who are dedicated to responsible outdoor participation.
  9. Fair Trade Cotton Hoodie – Patagonia is another well-known brand, and they are also a 1% for the Planet partner and have donated over $70 million in cash and services to groups that promote positive environmental changes.

(1% for the Planet partners donate at least 1% of their sales to nonprofit partners vetted for participation. Check out other members here!)

 

Christmas Gifts that Give Back: For the Fashionista

This post is all about clothes, shoes, and accessories for the fashionably philanthropic ladies in your life! These are just a few of my favorite items, but all these sites (and so many others) offer tons of gorgeous items, so be sure to check them out for yourself!

 

Clothes

  1. Give Bag – You choose the size, and three apparel items are handpicked and delivered in a winter-themed burlap bag, and 7% of the proceeds are given to Sevenly’s cause of the week.
  2. TOMS – Most people know about TOMS’ One for One campaign that provides shoes for children in need, but these limited edition shoes also partner with National Geographic to support big cat conservation and education.
  3. Saturdays Sweater – Krochet Kids works to empower women in poverty stricken regions of the world such as Peru and Uganda, helping them support their families and rise above poverty.
  4. Floral Rain Boot – Designed by Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson, the purchase of these boots provides a pair to a child in need.
  5. Waxed Canvas Tote – Purchase of this tote provides 50 school meals for children around the world.
  6. Sunski Sunglasses – Sunski is a 1% For the Planet partner, and donates 1% of all sales to Save the Waves and Leave No Trace, both of which aim to protect and restore delicate ecosystems.
  7. The Ultimate American Jacket – Made entirely in the USA, insulated with bison fiber, and featuring a removable vest for added warmth, purchasing this waterproof jacket will help remove one pound of garbage from our waterways.
  8. Pardus Beige Watch – Made from sustainably sourced wood, WEWOOD and their tree-planting partners plant a tree for every purchase (over 300,000 trees and counting!).
  9. Lalina Boots – Fair trade certified, sustainable footwear made in sub-Saharan Africa, each shoe purchase supports those who made them.

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