Category Archives: Children

Family Reunion Love

It has been far too long since my last entry…the only excuse I can think of is that my creative brain has become so full the past few months of moments of joy and inspiration, that it has been hard for me to pick out just one thing at any moment to write about.  So while the blog has been missing, I have not been silent at work!  Thank you to those who continue to entrust me with capturing their most precious moments.  I am continually humbled to do the work I do, blessed to step foot into your lives if for just a moment, and overjoyed to deliver to you images that make your hearts smile.

Last weekend I photographed a family reunion, and told the story with my camera. I knew one of the families, and another member only through Facebook.  There were more than thirty people gathered at Turtle Lake Campground on a cloudy, rainy and surprisingly chilly Saturday.  I blended into the rhythm, and quietly snapped away for four hours…paying attention to tender moments of connection, emotions, and the activities.  I could write a book about all that’s gone through my head since photographing this very special family, but will try to sum it up in a few thoughts…

…make the effort to connect with those you love.  We are given today, a living and precious gift, and it is up to us on how to live it.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so live for the present.  Don’t wait, connect.  You are beautiful just how you are, right now.  Take care of your elders, they have taken care of you.  Treat them with respect, love them, touch, and breathe in their peace. Laugh a lot. Encourage your kids to play, to be, to connect in a positive way with each other.  Help watch out for others’ kids.  Pray with and for each other.  When it gets hard, connect more.  Ask for help, share your burdens with those you love.  Eat good food.  Don’t complain about things you cannot change, like the weather – but embrace it and continue on.  Buy good coffee.  Be interested in each other.  Welcome outsiders.  When you say good-bye, stay in touch.  Get everyone together yearly. Take family pictures…be YOU in your family picture so you can recognize yourselves.  Love deeply.

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Different Than Expected

The first thing I do after importing a photo shoot onto my computer (and backing it up), is to go through the pics, and start deleting so the gallery is manageable, for both the client, and for my editing.  I don’t know many people who want to go through 500 pictures to choose the one they want to hang on their wall!  For me, it’s the hardest, and most time-consuming part of the editing process and it’s often done numerous times, over the course of several sittings.

On a recent shoot I did, I was going through this deleting process, and came upon this pic – one I would normally delete immediately, even if the composition and everything else was perfect – just because I missed focusing on the boy running, he was blurry.  It’s very important to me that my images are crisp and clean.  I think I actually did delete it, then brought it back.  And it’s managed to stay standing through all the rounds of deleting.

So in this dance I’ve been participating in with this image, I posted it last night on my facebook page, and was surprised at the comments that came!  I guess folks saw what I saw in it, that something that prohibited me from deleting it forever.  Toward the end of the thread of comments, someone said this: “Hmm… kinda like life, we may think we do things that are mistakes, but end up beautiful, maybe I’m getting too deep…”  No, that’s not too deep at all!  You may have forgotten, but I’m also a Marriage and Family Therapist!  So these types of connections are pretty common for me to experience!  And for those of you that didn’t know that about me, don’t worry – I take off my therapist hat during shoots:)  But I do keep the compassionate, non-judgmental, meet you in the moment hat:)

Anyway, this is true – I find that we often go through life expecting things to be a certain way and then feeling frustrated or even angry when they turn out differently.  I for one can speak to that fact!  Thankfully, I’ve learned how to seek comfort in the unknown and flex in the changes.  According to the facebook posting of this pic – I still have growth areas:)  Thank you Scott for sharing your wisdom – it rang true!  And this picture is a reminder of that for me.  So in addition to the ethereal beauty, the innocence of childhood, and the joy in any given moment, I also see the gift that is received when we can be open to things being different than expected.


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Scared at Bedtime

I want to divert a bit from the photos I’ve been busy editing and projects I’ve been working on for a personal story.  It has touched my heart so much, I feel inspired to share – so here goes!

My 7 year old has struggled for some time with being scared at bedtime.  She has a nightlight, we keep the hall light on, and she has several “snuggly” items in bed with her.  We chalk it up to an easily suggestible, very creative and imaginative mind.  When peers in her classroom talk about “bloody mary” and the “dogman,” it doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other for her – it stays with her for quite some time.  And she works through it at bedtime.  Last night she was particularly upset, and I was balancing the line between being motherly and simply letting her be.  I was near her bed, completely out of ideas, just repeating what I say every night when in pops her older brother.  [side note - our kids fight just like any other sibling pair, I just choose to share the wonder moments:)]  I’m sure she was thinking he was ready to tell her to quit all the fussing, when out of his mouth comes, ‘here Payton, this rock has really helped me [hands her a good size rock]…it takes all bad thoughts and dreams from you and replaces them with good ones…all you have to do is keep it by you…you can keep it for however long you need.’ Stunned mom….stunned sister….no one said anything for a good 2 minutes, but she examined the rock, I’m sure looking for a trick of some kind as her brother is quite the magician!  He kept encouraging her to take it, and she did.  The moment ended with him hugging her and saying ‘good night, I love you,’ to which it was responded to with the same from her.  And get this…she was quiet!!!  She totally believed it, not another word came from her mouth and she fell fast asleep!

I’m still stunned, a day later.  Tonight as she was laying in bed, I heard her shout “mom!  I SAW the bad dreams leaving!!!”

I’m pretty proud of my son for recognizing a need, and working in his brain for a way that he could help.  He responded so compassionately, so patiently…it was so sweet.  It reminded me yet again of the purity in their hearts…and that they do indeed like each other:)  I love those kids!!



Telling the Story

A friend of mine emailed me a few weeks ago, asking if I’d be open to photographing a fundraiser for a local youth battling brain cancer.  The fundraiser would take place at Blue Oxer Farm in Cedar, MI.  Of course, I said!  It is my opinion that it is crucial for us to be connected to our larger community and also for us to give back – in whatever shape that take for each individual person.  When I say “crucial,” I mean for our own happiness and ability to live life to the fullest.  For I think that is quite simply how we are wired.  We are wired to be connected, to be community.  So even though I do not know this young gal or her family, I have a camera, I know how to use it, and I love to tell the story!  I gave a gift to this family, but throughout it all, I also received a gift – the gift of giving.

Upon arriving, I met Abby Gross and her parents, and then began my exploration shooting. In my mind, my focus was on “the story…on telling the story.”  So I looked for the experiences, watched the people, captured expressions and caught the moments.  Here are some favorites from the afternoon…IMG_8080IMG_8085 IMG_8190 IMG_8216 IMG_8295 IMG_8317 IMG_8324 IMG_8348 IMG_8350 IMG_8503 IMG_8576 IMG_8605 IMG_8619 IMG_8623 IMG_8625 IMG_8670 IMG_8737 IMG_8754 IMG_8780 IMG_8827

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Children at Play…

My absolute favorite subject to photograph are kids.  I admire the way they are just themselves in front of the camera.  Not yet old enough to be tainted with the pressures and expectations of our society.  They are care-free, natural and as authentic as they come.  Thanks to the kids I have been able to photograph, I have now adapted a strategy with adults to help them arrive BACK at the place these beautiful children are…to feel comfortable enough to let loose, show their natural beauty and authentic, not forced, smile.  There is such a difference when I look at the photographs…I instantly know when I’ve captured their essence for something glorious is sparkling in their eye, their smile lights up just so and they all of a sudden look absolutely beautiful.  Thank you children for showing me what this is!!

When I’m shooting kids especially, I enjoy simply playing with them…with my camera in hand of course.  I find all sorts of beautiful giggles, unique expressions, and one of a kind poses that I would never be honored to witness if I were in a studio or more rigid with my style.  It is a very fun challenge for me, and I grab every opportunity I can.  Below are some pictures I took while on the playground with a group of kids from church.  Authentic, real, innocent and absolutely beautiful.

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A Visit to PEACE Ranch

I had the joy and honor of working with the first and fourth graders of Eastern Elementary last week, as they came to visit PEACE Ranch for their culminating experience as part of the Heroes in the Community program.  I had visited each class prior to this experience, and shared a bit about photography.  I talked about some general hints on how to take a good picture, but really emphasized the importance of shooting from your heart and looking all around your environment.  I’m a self-taught photographer, and place a great deal of value on being present in the moment, and finding beauty wherever you are.  Put a camera in the hands of someone with that mentality, and I believe the results will shine.

So once the kids had their cameras (huge thank you to The Camera Shop in Traverse City for letting us borrow 10 amazing little cameras!!), I walked around the ranch with them, sometimes giving pointers, answering questions and giving a lot of praise when I saw them changing their perspective, finding something unusual, or framing their shot in a unique way.  My spirit was on fire, and I had a ball!  Throughout the experience, I also shot with my own camera.  I can’t share them all here because I didn’t get permission from all the parents.  However, you can view them all on PEACE Ranch’s facebook page.  The fourth graders are here.  And the first graders here.

Here are a few of mine that came from those two days…   IMG_5516

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Thanks for visiting!

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Point Betsie

I hope you all had a very happy Easter this past weekend!  My folks were able to drive over from Minnesota to share the weekend with us.  And as is usually the case, the time went by incredibly fast, and was filled with many a memory.  I find myself riding the fence of wanting to photograph every moment of times like this and wanting to soak in the moments minus the camera.  I AM in the moment when I’m shooting, but it is often in a different way that when I’m not.  As I get older, I find it easier to judge the situation and come to the best answer for me.  This past weekend, I focused on documenting our adventure to Point Betsie, on Lake Michigan.

My dad brought his video camera, and lost it to my son – who proudly took over the videography.  I’m excited to see his finished product!

IMG_4312My dad is a Teacher, and a scientist…I love it when he’s here, for all the science type questions my kids come up with can be directed to him!  And in his gentle and patient way, he entertains their questions.  I think he’s talking about the ice formations we discovered where the water meets the wall.

IMG_4331And my free-spirited daughter soaked up every moment…


IMG_4443My beautiful mom soaking up a few moments.


IMG_4515Ah, it’s that rare photo that I am IN!!  With two of the three loves of my life…IMG_4563




IMG_4736As I stood off in the distance, capturing their interactions, I heard the crashing of the waves, the cool breeze, and my son playing his harmonica.  It was absolutely beautiful.
IMG_4742I’m thankful for the memories.IMG_4754




A Hawk Rescue!

My kids and I had a crazy, awesome experience this past weekend.  I answered a plea for help – someone in Traverse City had an injured hawk in a box in her house.  She found it on her morning walk, and it needed to get to Wings of Wonder (WOW), 20 miles away in Empire.  I was the first of many volunteers to respond.  So with a boxed up injured hawk in the back of my Sante Fe, my two kids and I made the trip to WOW.  Upon getting there, we were able to watch firsthand what happens when an injured bird arrives at this blessed sanctuary.  Rebecca gently scooped him up, graciously allowed my kids a closer look (and a few pictures), and then we followed her down to the “hospital.” The hawk appears to be a male Coopers Hawk.


IMG_3020In the hospital, Rebecca performed an examination in an effort to determine the extent of the injuries.  It looked as if the hawk had possibly flown into a window, as one wing looked a bit different, and his right eye wasn’t fully open.  The poor guy just looked like he felt lousy…he probably had one massive headache! It was amazing watching him peacefully allow the exam, almost as if he trusted the hands he was in, sensed the love and care.  And THEN, she allowed my kids to explore the wing, as she gently guided their hands, explaining to them what they were feeling.  AMAZING.




IMG_3043He then found solace in a large cage while we watched Rebecca cut up some quail for a snack.  As I have in past experiences with Rebecca Lessard, the Founder and Director of WOW, I am in awe of the deep respect she holds for raptors and all living things.  I respect the passion she exudes for the work she does – it is clearly evident as she talks about the mission and vision of WOW.  And I respected greatly the grace she showed my children as they eagerly snapped pictures of the entire experiences.  She educated them about what they were seeing, and was patient with and respectful of their curiosity.  If you ever have a chance to visit WOW or hear Rebecca speak in the surrounding area, I highly suggest checking it out!

And as long as we were out there, we got a tour of the place.  Here are a few of the residents…



IMG_3077Last I heard, the Coopers Hawk is doing much better.  He’s been eating well, and will hopefully return home soon!  Thank you to the kind soul who noticed and rescued him in Traverse City, and to WOW for giving this young fellow a second chance.

Read about the release of this hawk here.




I went to Eastern Elementary last week and introduced photography to a class of first and fourth graders.  As part of Heroes in the Community, these two classes chose PEACE Ranch to learn more about and help to support.  This truly remarkable program deserves an entire blog series to help explain it, but in this post I just wanted to share about the teaching experience in those classrooms.

Many of the students had never held a camera before, many had.  So I started from the beginning.  Believe in yourself, breathe and see with your heart.  Explore your environment, play with your perspective, get close, and don’t be afraid to experiment.  Hold your camera straight, relax and shoot!  I shared these tips and a few more as I showed pictures depicting each tip.  I had so much fun!

In talking about looking high and low, and at things that people might pass by – I showed the following picture.  It generated quite a bit of conversation – “where were you?  In a helicopter?  Is that a volcano?  A mountain?”  It was really fun to explore the different thoughts that arose just from viewing this photo.  I love the fact that this happens whenever I show this one…I’m drawn to the color, the clarity and the perspective.  What do you think it is?

StumpThis image is available for purchase here.