I loved Caitlin and Robert's late summer wedding in Milford, CT - and not just for the ice cream truck!
It was probably a random Tuesday afternoon when my friend (and super talented photographer) Amy Winningham asked if I’d second shoot a wedding in the Catskills with her in June. (A thousand times yes, because shooting with your amazingly talented friends is the best.) I didn’t have much intel about the weekend until I’d picked Amy up at the airport (she’s based in Portland, OR) and we were prepping in person for the big day between bites of Pepe’s pizza.
The basics were pretty easy. We’d be shooting a wonderful California-based couple named Derek and Molly, the ceremony and reception would all on Molly’s grandmother’s creekside property in a little town called Claryville, and maybe (if there was time) a quick little jaunt up the street for sunset photos to a spot that Molly really loved. Easy and sweet. A joyful day. I’d probably cry a few fat happy tears, like usual.
This magical day, though. Nothing like the usual at all. Molly’s Grandma? Total badass, and kinder than the day is long. Molly and Derek? Two of the warmest, most loving people I’ve ever met. That creekside property? Magical, because of the decades of history of Molly’s huge family returning to the same place and space to celebrate and laugh and love and share time together - I swear, you could feel all that time they’d spent with one another in the air and the trees.
And that little spot down the street? Molly told us on the way there that the family called it the Top of the World, and when we finally made it up the last massive hill, you could see why. You could see for miles - rolling fields and hills in every direction, with a pink and blue sunset edging beyond the horizon. It was breathtakingly beautiful in every way - and so were Molly and Derek as they danced and played and laughed through the grass until it was too dark to see.
There were so many details that made that day amazing - the way the entire family came together to build stuff, and design stuff, and prep the space, and support Molly and Derek on their way to their vows. The flower girls in the leaning afternoon light. The stars when the sun finally set (one of the many benefits of being in the actual middle of nowhere). The homemade s’mores around the coziest bonfire at the end of the night - and yes, I probably had at least one too many.
I’m so grateful that Amy asked me to assist her that weekend - to be a witness to all the love and joy and laughter with Molly and Derek and their families that day was a total honor.
And, gravy on gravy, I’ll be back in Claryville next June, in that very same magical spot, to capture Molly’s sisters wedding. Eily and Tim, I can’t wait!
We're sliding into that season where slowing down and getting really present feels reaaaaally right. Maybe it's the cozy sweaters and the chilly temps? Or we're already all anticipating that feeling we get when you look around the magic chaos of your house-full of holiday people and time seems to stop for just a second. That's the good stuff, isn't it?
I think staying present in the midst of all the chaos that comes with this next season is what actually makes it magic. As a photographer, that’s exactly what I crave in my images (and in real life, let’s be honest.) I want those moments of presence and connection between my subjects - I want to pull out that story of how a family or a couple loves together when they are REALLY there with each other.
Often times, that experience of really being present with each other during our sessions is what my clients remember the most! But how do you ACTUALLY do that in real life?
It’s always good to have a few tools in your back pocket for when things get crazy and you need to re-arrive right where you already are.
Here are a handful of tricks that I use with my family and my clients to make that space.
Breathe. I know, this one seems SUPER obvious. But when I’m caught up in the DOING, I often forget the BEING. Try the 4-7-8 breath (developed by Dr. Andrew Weil). Inhale for four counts, hold the breath for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts. Do this for 4 breath cycles. I swear, it’s like actual magic - no matter what is going on I feel instantly more grounded.
Pick a Mantra. In the midst of all the things swirling in the world, it’s good to give yourself some perspective. Having a word - or two - that you can bring your mind back to in a crazy moment can help reframe everything! My mantra? Just This. It comes from the idea that just this moment is enough, just this breath, just this feeling. It helps me drop my self-judgement and reground when things are spinning! True story: I got these words tattooed on my wrist a few years back so I don’t ever forget.
Self Care. Our self care is often the first thing to go when we’re in a crazy time! When you know you’re headed into a life sprint, pre-plan your own care. Water, healthy snacks, good sleep, and a 10 minute walk every day (schedule it, for real) can work wonders for our ability to stay present. If you can do more (more water, more exercise) go for it - but remember that enough is a decision, not an amount.
Listen Well. The founder of Storycorps, Dave Isay, says that “listening is an act of love” and this just resonates in my bones. Often during a session, I’ll ask my clients to tell each other something special - maybe about the first time they knew they were in love, or what they are the most proud of about their partners. Taking the time to really listen to these answers (without a device in your hand, with eye contact, and maybe even a touch!) can be hugely powerful. Same thing goes to really listening to your kiddo’s crazy, meandering 10 minute story about the moon and pizza. Really listening to each other without distraction creates this incredible space for intimacy that can’t be found anywhere else.
Gratitude. This one though. THE MOST IMPORTANT. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to stay caught up that we often forget to be grateful for the bounty we already have - no matter how much that is! Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to say “I get to…” instead of “I have to…” Even getting out of bed in the morning is something to be grateful for, and resetting our frame of mind around our to-do list in that way can be hugely helpful. Remembering the gifts we’re given every day actually makes it easier to be more generous with others too.
If you take anything with you into this soon-to-be season of holidayness, let it be this: be where you are, and be all in. No matter what else is going on, at least you’ll be ready with a whole, present heart.
I was lucky enough to meet this wonderful family while teaching in Buffalo, NY at the Happy Heart Project Artist’s weekend. My dear friend (and one of the co-founders of the retreat) Erin Brant used to live in Buffalo, and when she told us about this magical family she had lined up as models for our in-home session I knew it was going to be an extra special session.
Family sessions at home are super important to me. These are the spaces where we literally make up our lives - the familiar creaking of the old steps in the same place every time, the way the light falls across the floor in the kitchen just so first thing in the morning. When we get invited into a family’s space, we get to see their story - and who they are - in a much more intimate way.
I loved every minute with this family. They were the kindest, most fun, most loving humans to be with all morning, and the energy in their home felt so cozy. I’m so grateful that all our retreat attendees (and all of us teachers) had a chance to capture these loves, and that we were able to share back images with them that really reflect what a beautiful life and love they have for one another. For me, that’s truly what this work is about when it’s all said and done.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I met sweet little Parker when she was the size of a peanut. Literally! I photographed Parker’s parents (Caitlin + George) for the first time two Octobers ago - on a windy Saturday afternoon in South Philadelphia. I loved them together, and it was so evident how well they loved together, too. We romped around the local dog park with their dogs Bruno and Zeus and talked about the parts of Philly that we all love (I spent most of my first 8 years there.) Little did I know that just a few days before, they’d found out they were expecting!
Since that day, I’ve photographed little Parker three times. We did her newborn and 6 month old photos in their home in South Philly, and then life brought them all down to Charlotte, North Carolina just a few months before she turned 1. I hopped a plane to capture photos for her first birthday, and it was the most magical treat to pull up to their new house and see sweet Parker STANDING at the door! I nearly died. How could this child - who was standing and walking! - be the same as the kiddo I’d seen crawling around on her parent’s bed 6 months before? TIME ACTUALLY FLIES. I’m a momma, and I still forget this every time.
Our original plan was for me to fly down on Saturday afternoon to do a documentary session on Sunday morning, but let’s be honest - put me in a house with my camera, and nothing to do but hang with a 1-year-old for 24 hours? I’m gonna take a lot of pictures. We had the most amazing time catching up, and Parker did all the totally, completely ordinary things that I LOVE to capture when I’m in a client’s home - taking all the toys out of the toy box, playing with the pups, changing diapers, and even waking up from naps (ok, the going down for naps are pretty exciting too.) Lots of treats were had too, including one epic double-scoop ice cream cone that I’m still dreaming about.
I love this sweet little one and her family, and I’m so grateful to have captured so many milestones for them over the last two years! PS, if you peek at the first photo in this post, you’ll see two shots from our windy afternoon session a few years back hanging on their fridge!
A few weeks before Mothers Day, I had this totally insane idea. I called two of my dearest friends and said, “I want to do a bunch of mini sessions for Mother’s Day, but I want to donate a chunk of each session to support other mommas in Bridgeport. Wanna help?” Lucky for me, I have amazing friends and with less than three weeks, we pulled together one of my favorite days of 2018 so far.
I knew I wanted to find an organization that I could donate some of the mini session proceeds to, and I’ve long been in awe of the women of the Mercy Learning Center. MLC provides literacy and life skills training to low-income women in a super compassionate and supportive environment - and they are based right here in Bridgeport!
My vision was two-fold. I wanted to create a space that would let mommas and their kiddos feel super at-home and comfortable with each other in front of my lens, while at the same time taking advantage of a studio setting so we wouldn’t have to worry about weather. And, I’m such a huge fan of natural light, I wanted to be sure that we could create that feeling of home using window light alone.
My dear friend Marcella Kovac of The Bananaland was kind enough to volunteer her gorgeous studio space, which overlooks downtown Bridgeport from the third floor with huge floor to ceiling windows….MAGIC. Bananaland is pretty stylin’ all on it’s own, but I wanted to set up a few vignettes that gave my mommas a chance to be in the same kinds of spaces they’d be in at home - on the couch, cozy on the floor, and leave room for some space to shoot a few more traditional portraits against the gorgeous old white brick wall too.
Another super stylish soul sister of mine, Madeline Rhodes of Oh My Gemini, jumped in to help create the space that felt like what I envisioned - Maddie created a master plan for the furniture and adding cozy blankets and pillows into just the right nooks so it really felt like home. When I walked into the space after she’d worked her magic, I cried! It was so beautiful.
The last touch was snacks, because life. Selfishly, I knew I couldn’t go a whole day with some delish food, but I wanted to be sure that when my mommas arrived everyone felt pampered and we didn’t end up with any hangry kiddos! I reached out to the amazing Chef Raquel Pablo-Rivera of Pinch of Salt, and she put together a super simple and totally divine menu. I snacked all day, and so did everyone else. Totally delicious, and totally worth it!
We started at 10 and I shot until 4, and I had SO MUCH FUN. So many gorgeous mommas and grandmas, just hanging out and lovin’ on their kiddos. When the last family left, I definitely had one of those “life is so beautiful” moments where you catch yourself tearing up at just how good it was. We made some stunning images together that day! The best part - beyond the images and the magic - was the $546 donation I made to the Mercy Learning Center when it was all over. That’s an entire semester’s tuition for a part-time student.
I’m so excited to share some of the images we made that day. Momma’s don’t get in the frame often enough, and it was such a delight to capture them all with their kiddos. I’m already planning for next year’s Momma Love Day, and I hope you can join me!
I met the Cepeda’s last summer when we did an extended family session at Waveny Park, one of my favorite spots in Fairfield County. Truth be told, I love family sessions that include grandparents! I am super close to my grandparents, and any time there’s s a chance for kids to be photographed with more than one generation I’m totally game. We had a gorgeous night to play together, and this whole family was so much fun.
What I love most about extended family sessions is creating the space for the various relationships to unfold themselves. Who is really closely knit? Who likes to be independent in the group? Who takes charge and keeps the whole rodeo together? And, most importantly for my heart, what is it about the adult couples in the family (parents, grandparents) that is really special to the family’s generations-long story?
I loved my time with this bunch - the light was magical that night, and I might have laid in the grass more than once to get a shot just because it smelled so perfectly summer-ish. Summer evenings feel a little far away now (because sometimes it takes months to blog a session!) but this one still lingers in all the right ways.
Let’s be honest: a good stylist is hard to find. Like, really hard to find. When I met Faviene a couple years ago (yep, I was sitting in her stylist’s chair while she worked her magic) I think I might have heard angels singing in the rafters. Sitting in that very same chair, I’ve heard all the stories about her classy gent Felipe, the house they bought together, the puppy they both totally adore (more on him later), and all the details as they’ve planned for their September wedding. I was so excited when Faviene asked me to shoot an engagement for them (and if we’re honest I’ll admit that I didn’t say yes until I knew that Oliver the dog was coming too.)
We met at one of my most favorite local spots - St Mary’s by The Sea in Black Rock. The weather was magic, Felipe and Oliver were both wearing bowties, and Faviene looked like a dream brought to life. It was a total delight to be with these three that night, and I’m so excited about the images we captured together! I’m starting to think maybe every four-legged family member should wear a bowtie, pretty much all the time.
Here’s a secret - my favorite part of this session isn’t the magic light, or her gorgeous dress, or his dapper (monogrammed) button-down. It’s them. Settling in to each other and just being themselves. Almost every couple I shoot starts out our sessions by saying “we’re SO awkward in front of the camera” and by the end, we’re all laughing and crying and just having a damn good time. Whether you’ve had your photo taken a million times or you’ve never been in front of a lens bigger than an iPhone, it’s all good. All you have to be is you, together, and as Felipe and Faviene proved on that lovely summer night, that’s more than enough to make some magic together.
Baby Zion came into the world at exactly the right time - born in the middle of a blizzard, he arrived two weeks early, on his grandfather’s birthday. His parents are dear friends of mine, and a group of us texted updates back and forth late into the night that night, waiting to hear word from the dad-to-be or the doula or the expectant aunt. When hours later a picture came through of a beautiful little boy and a happy, tired Momma, I cheered so loudly I woke up my own kiddo! Worth it.
I finally met little Z just a few short weeks later, when I photographed him and his parents Luke and Marcella in their Bridgeport rowhouse. We spent a few hours together, just soaking in the slow, magic pace of a newborn, of new parents, of a new life altogether. I love love love in-home sessions for newborns. There’s no agenda, no way that anything is expected to go, just for parents and baby to be together doing what everyone does with a newborn - diapers and feedings and snuggling and snacking, on repeat. Whether you’ve spent months arranging a beautifully designed nursery, or you’re just taking it a day at a time together, your home will never be just the same as it is in those first few weeks.
When my own son was born, we lived in a one-bedroom cottage, and we didn’t have a nursery. I think back to changing diapers on top of our dresser and that particular arrangement of my nightstand with special cards from friends and family and extra burp cloths and wipes, and even that one get-ready-for-baby book I was sure I’d have time to read.)
Luke and Marcella’s house is simple and beautiful, with so many lovely details that helped to make up the story of Little Z’s life. From a handmade wall-hanging from a dear friend, to the white brick walls of his nursery (painted by Luke and Z’s Aunt Laurie in the months before he was born) I had so much fun capturing their life as a whole. As Zion rounds the corner to 5 months old, its so sweet to look back on just how tiny he was in these very same spaces!
Before I tell you anything else, let me tell you this: Alicia Levy has the coolest closest, the most sophisticated cat, and the best laugh of anyone I know. Full stop. She also happens to be a totally kickass photographer, who somehow makes magic out of thin air and fairy dust for every school portrait I’ve ever seen her take. I met Alicia because she took my own son’s school photos a few years ago, and she captured him in a way I’d never seen in a “school photo.” The images were so amazing, I had to send her a note and thank her (yes, they were so beautiful that she made me cry..those photographers, man.) Fast forward a few years and I’m so lucky to call this kind soul a friend.
It’s always humbling when another artist wants to hire you for your work - and when she asked me to capture her family in their new home, I was so excited. Photographers - especially photographers who are mommas - have a really hard time getting in the frame, and I wanted to be sure that the images we made together reflected what a present parent and partner she is, and how much of herself she’s put into her new home.
I know her son Jaxon from school, and this made our session all the more fun! We did all the things he loves to do inside and out, and I made sure there was time for Alicia and her husband David to spend some time just being together too. We often forget that before there was a family, there was a couple, and one of my favorite parts of family sessions is to create some intentional space for parents in front of my lens. It was so much fun to capture these three together - especially our barefoot in the yard bubble fest at the end!
Sometimes running a business and raising a kiddo can feel totally overwhelming. Some days I feel it a hundred times over! There are so many great resources (and ways) out there to find and feel supported and encouraged and one of my most favorite is motherhustle.com. Motherhustle is a totally honest, inspirational community started by Emily Cretella, a CT neighbor and badass entrepreneur in her own right. Emily and I connected last year when she needed some images for the soon-to-be-launched Motherhustle community - I got to hang out with her super fun family in their North Haven home for a few hours on a spring Sunday morning. There was endless coffee, legos, couch jumping, piano playing, and yes, even glitter. My kind of session!
When Emily reached out this year to do another session with her kiddos, we decided it might be fun to capture all that magical energy her daughters have in the sunshine. The Yale University campus is a special spot for Emily and her husband Bryan and I love shooting in New Haven, so we made a date to meet in one of my favorite green spots on the campus - near the School of Music. Lots of people think you need tons of room and endless green for a fun outdoor session, but add in a college campus with gorgeous old architecture and you’ve got some really great opportunities to use line and shape alongside light to create beautiful images of a family being their wild, joyful selves.
We lucked out - the weather was gorgeous, the kiddos were ready to go, and Emily even brought cupcakes for the girls as a post-session snack! I think I’ll add that one to my client prep guide…
I love this family, and I love the way they love too. It was such a joy to capture them two years in a row - and to celebrate how much the girls have grown up since last year’s session!
I met Becca and John a few years ago - though now I couldn’t quite tell you where or how. They’re part of a magical little creative community here in Bridgeport - John is a musician (go, now, and look up the band Oh Cassius) and Becca is one of those creative humans that can make anything, and make it look amazing. They’re classy and kind and generous beyond measure. And as if that wasn’t enough, Becca makes a mean donut - I know because I’ve probably had too many.
I’ve had the pleasure of taking pictures for lots of parts of their lives - I’ve captured photos of those divine donuts for Becca’s donut truck, documented the renovation of their old Bridgeport home over the course of 6 months, and I had a total blast second shooting their wedding with my forever teammate (and total badass photog) Taylor Lenci. But by far, my favorite of all is taking newborn photos when their son Samuel Ryland arrived in early January. We spent a couple cozy hours hanging out in that very same old house they’d been renovating for so many months, and even got to sneak in a couple snuggly photos of Baby Sam with Becca’s parents.
Documenting newborns at home gives us the chance to capture all the wonderful new-ness of those first few days - new parents and new routines and new reminders to slow down together. It’s that weird, lovely vortex of time where you are meeting yourself and your partner as parents for the first time, over and over again. At the same time, this little being is filling up your home and your arms and your time in a magical way unlike any other person or thing before. I love these sessions because there’s time to really settle in, to capture how a family learns to move together through spaces and challenges and joy.
And, it’s almost impossible to believe that little Sam is big enough now to sit up on his own! Those newborn days feel like forever ago, and just yesterday all at once, don’t they?
One of my most favorite things about summer at our place is the garden. I can’t really take alll the credit for it - my husband is the greener thumb in our house (the product of generations of farming in the midwest). But just when the heavy darkness of the New England winter seems too much, our seed packets start arriving and summer dreaming begins.Read More