There’s nothing quite like walking out into the woods with everything you need for the night on your back. All of your food. The tent and sleeping bag you’ll sleep in. An extra layer of clothing. A baseball hat snapped onto the back of your pack. And then you walk. Through forest with tall trees. Over a wooden boardwalk elevated over swampy terrain. Along a cold and clear river. Through berry bushes taller than you are. Your feet get tired, but the sun is warm and you chat with each other about anything and everything. Then for some stretches it’s ok to be silent. To get into a rhythm. My short legs make me a pretty slow backpacker, so I just try to go with the flow. But trips like this provide me with little jewels in my memory. These are little glowing days that stand out compared to the rest of my year. It wasn’t because it was easy. No. It was definitely not a breeze. My body was pretty exhausted after this trip on the Jordan Valley Pathway, but a couple of days in the woods makes your mind slow down. After a trip like this I seem to be able to refocus on the things that are truly important. I can’t wait to plan our next outdoor adventure - I’m already brainstorming ideas for this Summer…
In 2015, our family spent Christmas together in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had briefly been through New Mexico on a road trip when I was 10 years old, but other than that I had no real knowledge of the area. I didn’t know what to expect, and I certainly didn’t predict that the landscape would captivate me as much as it did. I think about this trip often. I can’t even fully explain it. As I walked through Bandelier National Monument, there was just something so overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful about it. The colors of the rock and moss and cactus against the overcast Winter sky were creating the most incredible color palette. The evidence of human presence in the region that goes back at least 11,000 years. The way the rock became large scale abstract sculpture - some carved by humans and some carved by wind and rain and time. Between our time spent here, as well as exploring the food and art and textures in the area, it was a trip I’ll never forget and a place that I hope we are lucky enough to visit again.
These are just some of the images from this trip, and they make up this week’s “From the Archives” post.
If you are really, really, lucky you will have a couple friends who have been there for your whole life. Who you played power rangers with. Who you spent months with in the summer living out of your bathing suits and throwing fishing lines over the side of old pontoon boats. They grew up with you and witnessed your adolescent shenanigans and still love you. They aggressively rooted for college sports with you. And then when everyone had graduated from college and moved onto other adventures, and moved long distances, there was always that phone call, that random text, that email, just checking in. I’m so so grateful to have a couple of these people in my life, and now we’re all “grown up” and either married or about to be married.
Even though we don’t always see each other as much as we might like, when we are together it’s pretty special. Last Summer we found one weekend that worked for all of our schedules. We went camping and made meals over the fire. We passed around bottles of beer and bubbly. We ate snacks on the beach and fell asleep in the sand. I almost got hit in the face with a frisbee - instead I ended up with a welt on my collarbone. We all laughed so hard we cried. We took a kayak out into Lake Michigan and the early Summer water was crystal clear. We watched the sunset and then made our way back to the fire. The best part? We were unplugged. If you only have a couple days out of the year to spend uninterrupted with some of your favorite people, I highly, highly, recommend doing something like this. Find a place where your phones don’t work - it will be great.
This is the first post in a series that I have found myself calling “Blogging the Backlog”. There are so many fun personal projects, images from our travel, or commercial and editorial projects from the past few years that I haven’t found the time to blog. Some of them I haven’t even truly had time to edit! Yikes. During the weeks of February and March I’m going to try to have one scheduled each week. You’ll see images from Santa Fe, Summer backpacking in Northern Michigan, exploring and scuba diving in Bali, and hiking in Asheville. Those are just the things that are popping into my head that I know I’m planning to share, but I’m sure that I’ll find more to post as I delve deep into our hard drives.
Last Winter I had the great opportunity to join Kendall from Wild Banshee Adventure Co. (and The Revel Rose), Lee from Fieldguide Farmhouse, Heather from Ampersand Lettering Lab, the fine ladies of Juniper & Lace, and the one and only Sandy Michalik, i.e. my mom on a Winter Rafting trip down the Jordan River. Jordan Valley Outfitters led the trip and I would highly, highly recommend it!
Claire recently moved back to Traverse City with her pup, Bowser, and she asked if I might be willing to take some photos of them near the cabin that she lovingly called her dad’s “project cabin”. Just say the words “project cabin” and I’m there. Seriously. It’s kind of my dream to build a rustic cabin retreat in the woods and this one is a little beauty. Claire and I hiked with Bowser to her favorite part of the woods near the property. A beautiful Aspen forest covered in fresh snow. Bowser was beyond excited to be outside exploring and we did the very best we could to get portraits of him in between watching him dive under branches and then untangling him. Once we made our way back to the cabin we enjoyed the fire, chatted with Claire’s wonderful parents, and changed Bowser into an adorable new sweater. I’m pretty sure this is Northern Living at it’s finest.
When my friend Julie became a mom she was looking for quick, healthy, meal options that didn’t contain any artificial sweeteners or additives. She began making smoothies and pretty soon the idea for her amazing company, The Purple Beet, was born. Now, alongside her husband Ryan and two sweet kiddos, Julie offers smoothie packages that contain only real ingredients. All you have to do is blend them with one cup of a liquid of your choice and that’s it. And there is no ice required because the packages come to you frozen! You can sign up for a smoothie subscription on the website! So when Julie asked me about collaborating with her I was super excited. I get to play with fruits and vegetables and sample 8 different smoothie flavors?! Yes please. We brainstormed the look we were going for, Julie & Ryan created a custom backdrop for this shoot, and then we spent hours carefully styling the ingredients that go into each smoothie recipe. It was so bright and colorful and I always love playing with food ;)
Time passes so quickly, which is one of the main reasons I find so much meaning in being a photographer. I can’t encourage you enough to capture your life as it is right now. There will never be a “perfect” moment - your haircut might not look the way you want it to, you might question your outfit choices, your kid might not behave exactly how you hoped they would, or maybe you’re thinking that only people with kids take family portraits. Nope - c’mon this is real life. Nothing is ever going to be “perfect”, but I hope that you come away from your session with at least a handful of images (hopefully more) that make you feel like life is pretty freaking awesome.
Despite being chilly and windy, it doesn’t get much better than this. The Miller Family and I definitely took advantage of the Fall sunshine. I had a great time photographing this beautiful and super sweet family out on Old Mission peninsula last week.
My friend Julie is building a really amazing business - with the help of her whole family ;) The Purple Beet is a company built to make sure you have quick, easy and healthy food options ready to go at a moments notice. I am especially excited about her new smoothie subscription service that allows you to select your favorite smoothie flavors and have them delivered to your door. Keep them in the freezer until you are ready to go. I can’t wait to make this a part of my routine and you should definitely check it out. We’ll be working with Julie and her family again in the coming months and I can’t wait to share more!
This sweet family has to move away from Northern Michigan for what will - hopefully - only be a short amount of time. Before they left, they wanted to fit in a few family portraits and I was so happy I could work with them for this quick mini session in Petoskey. I hope you hurry back soon McPhee family! xo
Happy Monday! Last week I went to Petoskey to meet up with a group of awesome women! Savannah is the face behind Nakina Artistry, soon to become Nakina & Ko. She creates magic with hair and makeup, but she also has big plans for a rebrand which will include more lifestyle content in the future. You’ll just have to follow along with Sav to stay in the loop! ;)
This seems to be a year of former wedding clients reaching out about family portraits, and I'll tell ya what: I'm 100% ok with that. I was basically jumping for joy to hear from Kendall about setting up a session with her extended family while they were vacationing at Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake. I've followed along with Kendall, Tim & Ellie on social media since their wedding and I've also run into her mom at a number of local events here in TC. This family has the best sense of humor and their laugher was contagious. Given they don't all live in the same place anymore you could just tell how precious this time together was. My job is just the best - I'm so grateful for families like these.
Does it get cuter than this?! No, my friends. No it does not.
Julie and John's riverside wedding was one of the first weddings I photographed the year that we moved back to Michigan. 5 years has passed, which is just super hard to believe! Now they have a sweet little one, Jack, and last week we spent a few hours exploring the family property along the AuSable River in Grayling. This property was where Julie and John got married - his family has been coming here for generations. They were so happy to just spend some time doing simple things: playing the banjo, hanging out with cousins, and enjoying Northern Michigan as a family (with their three dogs of course!). It couldn't have been more fun or more special to reconnect with them.
This is the fifth Summer that I have photographed the Martens family. Five years! Wow.
July is busy. The height of the Summer... but it's a perfect time for sessions like this one. We took a cruise on the pontoon and played in the sand. It doesn't get much better. I'm so happy that these beautiful people want me to do this every year. Love you guys!
Three years ago, we were lucky enough to meet Kerry & Nick when we documented their wedding. Fast forward a of couple years and Kerry and I found ourselves at the same retreat for women who own or are starting businesses. We were able to connect on a level outside of the client to wedding vendor relationship - which don't get me wrong, I love and value my relationship with my clients, but it makes me so happy when we can actually become friends and stay in touch. When Kerry reached out to me about taking portraits for their son's one year birthday it felt extra special. Seeing our clients years after their wedding, so happy and in love with their awesome baby is just the best!
I've said it before - but I'll say it again. I love extended family sessions. I love the fact that families are gathering along the shores of Lake Michigan to vacation together. To eat meals together, explore a new area, take in the lake views, enjoy the late sunsets and just be together. Cheers to this beautiful family and their time together.
Last week Michael and I volunteered to photograph a few of the events hosted by Up North Pride: a vigil honoring the lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the Pride Ride through downtown Traverse City, and a sign-making party at Rare Bird Brewpub (see the bottom of this post for a full list of contributors!). We were overwhelmed by the love we saw in this small town and felt an immense sense of joy to know that we don't need to live in a large urban area to support Pride. As people who document love for a living, our goal is to make everyone feel welcome and accepted. We want to work with loving people of all religious and non-religious backgrounds, all races, all sizes, all sexual orientations, and all gender identities. The vigil was a somber reminder that we have a long way to go to achieve peace and acceptance as a society, but the pride ride and sign-making party reminded us of how far we have come. It gave us hope for the future. One with more love and more parents teaching their little ones how to keep an open mind and open heart.
Cheers to Up North Pride!
Up North Pride & Michael Chetcuti Foundation // Vigil: Polestar LGBTQ + Community Center of Traverse City, Mom's Demand Action, Blackbird Arts, and New Waves United Church of Christ // Pride Ride: Norte! and One Up Web // Sign-Making Party: Rare Bird Brewpub, Blackbird Arts and Ampersand Lettering Lab
My friend and fellow artist, Dani Knoph, and I had the fantastic opportunity to collaborate with Lee Maynard of Fieldguide Farmhouse to exhibit new works. The new show opened this past weekend and our work will be on display throughout 2018! So if you book a stay at the farmhouse, or participate in any of the fantastic events held there this year, you'll have a chance to view (and even purchase!) the pieces. For more information, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
My oh my what a wonderful world - especially when it's filled with family, love, kids, cupcakes and balloons. We spent a special day with the Schlehuber family and I just love how much energy exists in these photos. The candid nature of a family at home celebrating together makes me very, very, happy.
When your clients request an engagement session at a hidden little lake with special meaning to them, you know it is going to be a good day. Despite some truly bone-chilling temperatures and a fresh dusting of snow from the night before, Erin & Shelby took the rowboat out with their pup. The late fall colors were subtle but beautiful and by the end of the session we were hiking with big fat snowflakes falling around us. It was such a pleasure to work with these two and I'm beyond excited to share a peek of the session here. Also, I have to mention that Shelby is a very talented woodworker - I had the chance to check out her products at Shop & Sip (a holiday craft market), but if you missed it I would highly recommend browsing her website... just in time for the holidays ;) wink wink ;) Cheers to Erin & Shelby!
Briana and Bob have adopted two adorable children, Korben and Autumn, from China. I first met Korben a few years ago now, and at the end of September they were able to make the trip to bring Autumn home. As they are adjusting to life as a family of four, it seemed like a perfect time to document them together. I think the happiness is pretty contagious.