Category Archives: Michigan

a story from beginning to forever…

So I had the absolute pleasure of being a part of a HUGE day for two of my favorite people in the entire world.  Not only was I a part of their day in a HUGE way, but I’ve had the honor of being there all along.

My little cousin got married!  It is bittersweet watching your siblings and cousins grow up and become human adults.  You’ve been there all along for each other and all of sudden, in the blink of an eye, we are creating lives of our own.  It’s a bit scary, and not all too daunting, but it is also relieving too know… we made it.  We made it through being reckless teenagers (bwaha… I think Chas and I were the least reckless of our group during this time frame in our lives), we made it through school, and we are on really great paths to futures we have wanted for a long time.

I want to preface the next few photos by saying 1. I’m sorry for the quality and 2. I’m sorry these aren’t old enough, you know in this digital day it’s difficult to keep track of all of the older printed photos when you need them, and it’s a shame because the old ones are always the best ones.

Sometimes it is really hard to find the time to acknowledge anything other than the present and the future.  But the past existed and it was good… and it is even better to be all nostalgic and recollect just how great it really was.  Maybe one day I’ll tell you just how many times Chas and I watched the Lindsey Lohan version of The Parent Trap (while brushing our teeth), hint: the number is countless.  Or perhaps I’ll show you the obviously-parent-posed photo of all of us cousins on a tree limb arranged oldest to youngest from the year 1999 – of which I quite clearly remember rolling my eyes at before, during, and after the process.  (UPDATE: Oh Look… I found the picture, thanks everyone for helping me locate it.)

Cousins Tree

Top to Bottom: Sam (me), Ernie, Ariel, Charlie, Jimmie, Chas!, Chelsea, Tiffany, Nick, Krista

But I digress, lets get on to why you are really here.  The recap of her big day.

Chas first asked me to photograph her wedding far before the date was ever chosen – and I was just elated she put that kind of trust in my hands.  It was only appropriate we also worked together for her Engagement/Save-the-Date photos, which turned out quite amazing because Chas is unbelievably photogenic and Logan is so patient and flexible.  Also, their relationship is so unique and genuine their personalities really shine through on camera.

Chas and I also worked together on a specialty photoshoot right before the wedding – somewhat of a glamour shoot.  It was so much fun and she looked fantastic.

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The Wedding:  I first have to mention just how hard they worked on every single detail from beginning to end.  Chas worked tirelessly to make it exactly how she wanted, and being the creative she is – she designed and created most of it herself.  That kind of attention to detail is hard to come by these days, when in fact it is much easier, efficient, and less time consuming to hire someone else to do it for you.

She did have our cousin create her wedding cakes, whom also created all 20 of my wedding cakes, and has her own cake creation company she runs right out of her home in Michigan.  (Need a cake designer?  Contact me for her details).  As you can see in the photos, one cake rolled with the theme and the other, it is apparent, was strictly designed just for Logan.  Appropriate.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention two other extremely important family contributors to her wedding.  Dalene Bielat not only did all of the girl’s hair but anyone else who wanted to look all fancy with a gorgeous updo.  AND Tim Richards and Family did the catering and fed so many people that night… successfully.  Thank you for the reminders everyone – it is difficult to remember everyone who worked dedicatedly to make this event happen.

(Aunt Teresa – I’m not going to give you a special mention here just because you birthed the woman all those years ago.  Yeah yeah – you’re awesome… blah blah blah.  ❤ 🙂 )

The wedding was Nightmare Before Christmas themed.  But it wasn’t on Halloween or Christmas, it was in fact an early October day.

The attendance was miraculous.  Friends and family came from all over the country – and even our great grandma made it for the ceremony.  She’s a trooper and she completed (and extended) their generational photo – which are always fun and extremely valuable to family documentation.)

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The family rented a gigantic house in Northern Michigan instead of utilizing the hotel industry in the area.  When I say this house was gigantic, I mean… it was gigantic.  It had an indoor swimming pool and hot tub pool house attached to the house, a weight room, a squash and racket ball room, and something like 15 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms?  Insane.  It was quite amazing to have the majority of our closest family in one house all at one time and actually not be able to see (or even know where) everyone was all of the time.

My favorite part of the house though, the view.  It captured Michigan in one panoramic view and created an amazing backdrop for the Bride and her side of the bridal party in all of their photos.

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The house also provided a perfect space to for the getting ready process that takes ever so long, is time consuming, tedious, and also creates marvelous photo ops.

Another detail to this wedding is in fact, her dad (my uncle) officiated the wedding (he also officiated mine).  He’s retired from the Navy (ah, there’s the rationale for the strapping uniform), and is the best officiant I have ever seen conduct a wedding.  It proved to be  extra special because it was his daughter’s wedding.  The happy-tears were flowing all the way through the day.  He met her on the porch with a view for first looks, walked her down the aisle, gave her away, and also pronounced them man and wife – man of a couple hats and definitely a saint for being able to pull it off without breaking down every two minutes.

I guess I should mention Logan in here too, (but no one judge – everyone knows the wedding industry is heavily marketed towards the bride unfortunately).  He looked dashing as always and made for a very calm and collected groom at no surprise at all.

The ceremony was beautiful and sincere – filled with tears, so much laughter, and moments that I will certainly remember.  I will admit I had to hide my own couple of tear drops behind my camera a few times.  Uncle Ernie did say something I hope to remember for ever.  It involved the idea of what Chas and Logan had to go through to find each other in life… it certainly makes one think.  Chas and Logan also painted a canvas for their union part of the ceremony – instead of sand or candles or tying rope.  Fitting.

The wind was chilly, and the sky fluctuated between sunny and overcast, but the rain held out until we were all warm inside partying it up.   The Bride and Groom First Dance was done, the Mother-Son dance, and of course the Daddy-Daughter dance during which they didn’t even look at each other the whole time (I’m guessing to prevent more tears, but that’s just an assumption).

But THEN… about a minute into the Daddy-Daughter dance the song screeched to a halt and the bridal party broke into a flash mob on the dance floor to the song by Silento – Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).  Which was comical in and of itself, however the best part was the practice run through the night before (sadly, those photos are forbidden to be distributed in a public forum).

And of course, the camera went away, the photographer finally got to play, and we all partied well into the night.  It was a success!  The couple got married, the photos turned out pretty good, everyone had fun, and we can officially call Logan part of our family (officially I said – he’s been putting up with us for many years and earned that title a long time ago).  Sorry everyone, two more amazing people are off the market.  What more could you ask for (unless you’re single and pining over either Chas or Logan, well in that case you’d be asking for them to be single again).

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I got to sneak into a photo too… ironically I didn’t get one with the bride and groom.  But, it was fitting I was with two more amazing cousins that I get to watch grow (far too fast) and turn into amazing young men from an adult perspective.

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What a real “Family Photoshoot” looks like

Lets be real for a few moments (and then we’ll get to the photos…)

This can be categorized as a “behind the scenes” type of entry.  Bear with me for a minute.  You can look at it as the outtakes of the movie; the shots you don’t ever get to see because your photographer weeds through and hands you a final product consisting of only the best of the best.  But with these photos you see the story, you get to know your clients, and you understand who they are just a little bit more.

I’ve had this conversation three times in the past two weeks.  I feel like I have to explain my preferred style way more than I hear other photographers doing so.  But my explanation is justified and prepares my clients for what they will receive at the end of the editing process; because its not what the typical client expects, even though they may have seen it before.

Photography is for documentation of reality.  We want to remember the moments and capture them to tell the stories years down the road when anyone ends up opening our photo albums… (those still exist, yes?).  It’s a difficult concept to grasp when we are trying to “document” every moment of our lives already, yet the details always end up vague and disheveled.  Its a difficult concept to grasp when the times we pull out the actual camera we are in our best dress, best setting, and are forced to wear the best smiles; but where is the story, what is there to remember, and doesn’t that create moments of tension, exhaustion and resentment rather than happiness and fondness?  I get it, we just want at least ONE photo to hang on the hallway and put in the Christmas letter (that still happens, yes?)  And that one shot with everyone looking at the camera, eyes open, smiles bright, and intentions true can be so precious and miraculous at times that we are amazed and ever so thankful it happened.

The client expects a “good” photographer to capture the moment as they’ve been hired to do.  As the hired photographer, we know (and are sometimes terrified to even consider) the moment may never happen; and should it be the case, we pack up our equipment and start heading home knowing we’ve already let you down and we haven’t even culled yet.

It’s intensely important to understand that moment is only going to happen IF it is normal for your family to have it.  The chaos that may ensue in your every day life won’t allow for a moment on the couch, next to the fire place with everyone believing they are The Clever Family.  That moment in most families is going to look more like an interaction, an experience: parent reading a book, son playing with a toy, other parent smiling, daughter trying to interrupt to ask a question.  That is real.  That is what we want to remember.  That is the moment that describes, defines, and summarizes that family in that moment (and in many moments of that phase in their life).   And that may be the moment they are the most calm all day long – but it was captured, in real time, and in a real fashion.  When someone looks at that photo they will believe it, they will understand it, they will want to know more about it.

As a photographer I want to document the time I am with you.  Sometimes it’s super easy and some times its not so super easy.  Sometimes the family photos are too many to count, other times the family photos end up in bits and pieces.

As a client, remind yourself of two things before, during, and after the shoot and finally when you’re looking at the final product and handing prints out to all of your most beloved: 1. it’s real and 2. it shows the beauty in the chaos.  I search for the beauty in the light, the color, the setting, the intensity, the serenity, the love, the laughter, and the reality of who you are as a client and I document it.  That is my job.  That is what I hope you look forward to receiving.

This family’s story is beautiful.  It got me a little teary eyed just editing this few photos and remembering those couple hours we spent together; and I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through the rest without doing the same.  But I was there, with them, and I found the beauty to capture from the very start.  This is a real family and these are their bits and pieces that make them whole.

Sometimes this is how a family photoshoot looks… real and beautiful, (or really beautiful; beautifully real).

Normally comfortable pastimes create smiles like this: smiles that count…

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and proud moments such as this…

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Group interactions bring sincerity and contentment.

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And when at least two adults ask the kids to look and smile at the camera, sometimes they do as their told, but most of the time they won’t (and that’s okay)…

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But most of the time, the best moments are captured when they’re not looking…

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and maybe not even smiling…

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Sometimes, when you least expect it, there will be a shot (believe it or not) that doesn’t look half bad…

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And just when you think you can adjust and make the next shot a little better, most of the time something like this happens…

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And after a while, all hope is completely lost…

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until they just can’t take it anymore…

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And because, after all of that, the family pets just wouldn’t sit still or stop barking you have to add them into the mix individually and at their happiest…

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But the moments to document (and remember) continue, even when the shoot is over, it’s time to call it a wrap, and the camera is SUPPOSED to be turned off…

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Because there are always times like this, when mom is not-so-slyly tricked into giving a piggy back ride the rest of the walk home, because walking became impossible after an old scratch on the leg was noticed…

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And at the end of the real madness and the beautiful chaos, somehow your partner can still make you smile and make you remember that this beautiful insanity is real; real enough to be experienced and real enough to be captured.  Its so real, it deserves to be remembered forever and maybe even hung in a frame or sent in a Christmas letter.  Because after all this is your history, your legacy, and the footprint you leave for all who travel behind you to see, admire, learn from, and possibly to follow.

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i interrupted some nookie this morning; arachnophobia sufferers: Do Not Proceed…

But, really… is anyone honestly afraid of Daddy Long Legs?  They can’t bite you, they don’t bother you, and really they protect you from other spiders (or so my mother has told me since I was old enough to be afraid of all creepy crawlies in general).  I don’t consider them real spiders, even though my heart still falls a bit every time I see one; but then my rational brain kicks in and ignores them.  In fact I saw one in my house the other day, I just pretended I didn’t notice him and went about my afternoon.

By no means do I claim to be a nature photographer.  But I saw these two on my porch and just had to capture the moment.  So ignore the fact that the focus is slightly (mostly) off the insects (but look at the weave of the grill cover… perfection!!) and just get in a little nature channel type education for your morning entertainment.

Let me just say: this was difficult.  Lets go back to the point that I do not like spiders.  That being said, I will kill them if they are in my house, even with my hands if I can’t find anything to crush them with fast enough to get them before the escape, (the trick is to be quick, swift, fearless, and have a fierce landing).  So I can’t say I am an arachnophobe, by any means, but I had a 100mm macro lens on my camera body and it took me about 50 photos and about 15 minutes to get close enough to get these shots, and they still aren’t perfect.  (I’m really sorry to all who are cringing and hating on me because I just admitted to killing “other living beings”… it’s just bugs, not even all of them – mostly just the ones in my home and the harmful ones, I promise.)

Secondly, I was under the impression my lens had captured the insects perfectly.  Uploading them I see it mostly captured the grill cover.  It’s okay.  It’ll do.  People… animals… trees all much easier… most of the time.

I knew by the way they were spinning that 16 legged web that something was going down, but I had no idea what I was looking at until I uploaded the photos and imported them to my software.  It’s pretty amazing. I’m not going to try to narrate because the photos tell a good storyline, but just the fact that I was looking at them through the camera and had no idea the details until I actually looked at the photos is pretty incredible.

I think about the nature/science of this and I’m proud of these shots.  Then I really think about it and I kinda feel like a Peeping Tom.

*Photo quality degraded for social media use.

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a baby shower…

This month I co-hosted a baby shower/diaper party.  It was small and simple and over all a success except for a minor wardrobe issue I had that was quickly solved by rummaging through the closet of the mom-to-be.  (uh… oh yeah,  I have yet to return that).

In case you missed it, here’s a short recap.

The party had three hosts really, to include Charlie here.  Dashing isn’t he?  Very stoic.  I’m sure he thought everyone was there to see him though, I doubt he cares much about the arriving baby at the moment.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 10.01.39 PMThe food was good, the company was good, the weather was beautiful, and drinks a plenty.  But the piece de resistance was surely this handcrafted cake, made by none other than my extremely talented cousin, Melissa Wallace of Tasty Memories out of Macomb, Michigan.  (Have any cake needs coming up?  Contact me for her contact information, she is wonderful…)  You can’t see it here, but the giraffe was wearing a diaper.  The cake flavor, you ask?  Funfetti!!  Only the best.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 10.04.35 PMThe guys did their thing, beer and cigars were definitely involved.  We did force them to play a game with us, which was pretty much the best thing ever.  This was a pretty fun game actually; a short and sweet relay called Tinkle in the Pot.  (Want how-to details? Just ask).  Here’s mommy and daddy playing along… no, your eyes are not deceiving you, daddy IS pregnant.

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At the end of the day a group of mommy and daddy’s closest friends joined together to support them in their up coming adventure via good company, well wishes, gifts, diapers, laughs, fun, memories, and love.  From beginning to end it was chaos, a lot of work, but well worth it.  We couldn’t have pulled it off without a handful of amazing people whom all helped to organize the mess of a plan I had written in my head.  I’m sure I amped the anxiety and stress levels on my own with my ocd-ness slash perfectionist tendencies.  Either way… Go Team Suki!

Here are the ladies that attended the girls-only portion of the party (actually, it was very co-ed, mingling type of atmosphere… but I think we used up our requests for participation from the guys with the game we made them play.  Asking them to take a photo would have definitely been pushing it.)

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Stay tuned for the maternity shoot for the parents-to-be (have I used that phrase too many times?  What else do you call them?) coming soon, right before the baby is born, when mom is popping like bubble yum.

**Note:  Photo quality is degraded for blog post purposes.  Want a print?  Contact me!