A Bride Who Found us in the Craziest of Ways

Howdy y’all!

I wanted to blog abut a wedding I did a few months back with a very cool backstory.  People find us all different ways.  A LOT of people get referred to us.  It’s always awesome when someone is so thrilled with the work that we provide them that they tell every engaged couple they know about us.  Referrals are probably the greatest form of flattery you can give anyone in the service industry.  We are always incredibly grateful when people come to us that way.  Other folks find us via search engines like Google or Bing. While not as common some people find us through places like Style Me Pretty or first saw our work in a magazine feature or something like that.  It’s always interesting to find out how people find us.  Looking back through 10 years of shooting weddings however, I don’t think anyone has found us in a more random (and cooler) way than Arian did.

Arian found us because she was our labor and delivery nurse when Vera was born.

You’re probably wondering how exactly she went from strapping a fetal heart rate monitor over Katie’s belly to being one of our brides… well it’s an interesting story…  ;)

We’ll travel back to Katie’s 39 week  OBGYN appointment.  We knew (or least were hoping!) that the baby would be coming soon and we were grateful that at the appointment everything looked right on track.  Healthy baby, healthy mama = two thumbs up.  The only issue the doctor saw was that Katie was borderline on having too high of blood pressure.  She was still in what was considered the healthy range, but high blood pressure can throw some wrenches into the birthing process and Katie’s levels were approaching the point where the doc wanted to keep an eye on it.  She told us that over the weekend we should go to one of those Walgreens where they have a free blood pressure monitor and if it was over a point to give them a call.  So we followed the doctors orders and of course Katie’s blood pressure was literally at the exact point at which she told us to call.  We rang up the on call doctor and they advised that we go to the hospital just to have everything checked out.

This is where things get interesting.

The date was Saturday October 27th 2012 and of course…I had a wedding.  Knowing that Katie was literally days away from her due date, I had told the couple months back about the situation and had an emergency backup photographer in place.  My couple that weekend was beyond amazing and completely understanding and knew that if I had to send my backup that they would be in excellent hands.  Well when we got to the hospital we got checked into a room and they started examining Katie and doing an ultra sound to see how the baby was doing.  This is when yours truly steps up to the plate and displays his unselfish, patient, and caring father side by asking the nurse if she thought the baby was coming right away because if not, I needed to hit the road and head off to work.  :)  I realized how that must have sounded and was panicked this nice lady would turn into Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and try to give me a full frontal lobotomy for seeming to care more about my job than my very pregnant wife.  I quickly explained that I was a wedding photographer and was contracted to be at a wedding in a few hours, but if it was baby time I had a backup and was completely ready to be a good husband and present father and ditch work.  The nurse smiled and said I was probably good to go and that they would call me if anything changed. After a quick call with our doctor, it was decided that they would give Katie 24 hours to see if she naturally went into labor . If not, we would come back to the hospital and start  inducing labor.  I raced back home, quickly changed into my wedding clothes, threw my camera gear into the car and photographed a wedding as if it was a totally normal day at the office.

The afternoon of the 28th we arrived at the hospital, this time knowing for sure we weren’t leaving without a baby (woah… crazy!).  By around 5AM on the morning of the 29th they decided it was time to induce.  Later that morning the nurses changed shifts and who comes in…. None other than the understanding nurse who watched me race out of the hospital two days earlier!  Arian was like a nurse super star.  It’s the labor and delivery nurses who are with you in the trenches checking your progress, administering any meds, and making sure you’re as comfortable as can reasonably be expected.  She was incredibly chill and laid back (which it turns out is exactly what you want from a labor and delivery nurse… you don’t need people who are gonna stress you out in the labor room.)  She was reassuring and funny, she knew her stuff, and without a doubt she made our whole experience amazing.  After Vera was born, it was Arian who first put a naked and screaming Vera into my arms.  A moment I will truly Never. Ever. Ever. Forget.

Fast forward about 10 months and we get an email from Arian.  She explains that she was our labor and delivery nurse (as if we needed reminding about who she was) and she had recently gotten engaged and remembered that we were wedding photographers and wanted to know if I would be open to shooting her wedding.

Ummmmmm YEAH!!  ;)

Now at this point I feel like I’ve already written a short novel up to this point so rather than continue to ramble on, I’ll get right to the pics from Arian and her amazing husband Cullen’s wedding. Truly, these two are both amazing people.

Arian and Cullen got married at Arrowhead Golf Course.   Once you see the following pics, you’ll understand why I would happily photograph 5 or 6 weddings a year here. It is amazing.

I love this picture of a couple stragglers showing up right before the wedding starts….

I love getting candid pics of guests at the reception.  Usually people are just talking and mingling.  In this case, I have absolutely no idea what was going on, but it made for a pretty funny picture….  ;)

I love getting shots like this.  There’s maybe a 10 min window where you can get the vibrant colors in the sky, so I kept an eye out on the light and was ready to race outside as soon as light was right.

Arian and Cullen… you guys are incredible.  Arian, words can’t thank you enough for the pure awesomeness you brought to Vera’s birth. You are simply amazing at what you do and we were so beyond thrilled to be there to document YOUR incredible day!

To not know what 9/11 is…

Be forewarned… the following has nothing to do photography.  :)  I posted this on Facebook this morning and people seemed to resonate with it, so I’m sharing it here….

The other day I was watching Vera play with her baby doll (affectionately named “Baby”) and was realizing just how innocent she was. I know it’s kinda cliche to talk about babies and very young kids being “innocent”, but it really struck me how Vera has no real concept of what being “mean” really is, much less things like murder, rape, torture, jihad, suicide bombs, Ebola, etc etc etc.

Someday, Vera and I will have a long talk about September 11th. We’ll talk about how scared everyone was, how there were national guard troops with M16s in the airports, and how fighter jets patrolled the skies for weeks after the attacks. I’ll share where I was when it happened, how I watched live along with millions of others the second plane crash into the South tower, what the world was like on September 10th, and what it was like growing up during a time when the United States wasn’t perpetually at war. We’ll discuss things like why people wanted to attack us in the first place, why there is such evil in the world, and how we as individuals can be a light, even in the midst of such darkness.

Every night right before we put Vera in her crib we whisper in her ear “Vera, you’re going to do good things for the world… and that’s why you need to GET YOUR REST!” It’s something we’ve told her every night almost since the day she was born. It makes me sad to realize that for her to do good things for the world, she must have some understanding of all the bad things in the world first.

Someday we’ll have this conversation. But I hope not for a long long time. Right now, I’m treasuring her innocence. I love her complete and utter ignorance of the nature of evil. Her total un-awareness of the harshness of the world around her.

For now, her ignorance is bliss.

NFL Week 1 Broncos vs. Colts

Well it seemed like it would never come (at least to us die hard football fans), but at last the NFL regular season is here!  Yours truly was there to cover the big Sunday night matchup between the Broncos and the Colts… here’s a couple highlights….

As usual, I arrived a couple hours before the game.  It’s often requested that we get a lot of fan action so I headed out to the parking lot grab a little tailgating action before the game…

Mr. DeMarcus Ware warming up before the game out on the field.

These types of moments happen really quick and you have to watch for ‘em.  Images like this though end up getting used all the time.

Peyton being Peyton….  :)

Near interception….

Julius Thomas had a great night last night…. The guy is a beast.

For this shot I was actually in the end zone shooting behind the offensive line.  I camped out back there, hoping to grab a shot of a sack.  Often times when quarterbacks go down, they end up turning around to protect the ball and you can get a cool shot of the QB as he gets brought down.  Didn’t happen here, but the shot works nonetheless.

These Andrew Luck TD images ended up getting used quite a bit…  It’s still amazing to me the speed at which digital images get used in sports.  As opposed to the film days (before I was shooting professionally) when a photographer would rush his film back to his newspaper get it developed and the next morning hours after the game people would see the image in their newspaper.  Now, this image was on ESPN and USA Today’s website just mins after it was shot.

Rahim Moore also ended up having a pretty decent night with two interceptions.

It’s pictures like this that remind me why players stretch so much before the games.  :)  (and why they wear pads).

Montee Ball making his diving second half TD…

Colts made the game a little more interesting than I would have liked, but in the end the Broncos held it together (unlike my hometown Chicago Bears… UGH!) and took care of business.

Next up Chiefs!

Documenting Families

My experience of family is difference now that I have one of my own.  I see how fast things change.  I understand a bit more how incredibly fulfilling and how unbelievably hard it is… often all at the same time.  When I was a kid I never thought about life from my parent’s perspective, but now that I’m a father I look at my parents and my in-laws and see them watching Katie and I, realizing that they were in our spot not all that long ago.   They don’t say anything, but I can tell that they remember what it was like when we were little.  When we sprung out of bed at 6AM with more energy than any sane person should reasonably be allowed to have.  Or when we would burst into tears over desires that we had that made absolutely no logical sense.  When Katie and I are grandparents and we smile and watch Vera as she struggles with the early stages of parenthood, I want to remember these days that we are going through right now.

Becoming a parent has greatly shaped how I approach family and kid portraits sessions.  I want, to the best of my ability, to create pictures that will remind parents of what this stage of life was like.  I want to create images that are authentic and genuine.  Never staged or forced.  A lot of times it makes sense to do these kinds of sessions at home.  Particularly if they are quite young, I just let the kids play with whatever toys they want to play with and allow them to direct a lot of the session…

Sometimes playing means just means eating.  Sometimes eating means eating chocolate ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.  And sometimes when you eat chocolate ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s you get it all over your mostly white clothes.  Sometimes you do this before you’ve taken any other photos.  So sometimes you go through an entire photo shoot with chocolate Ben and Jerry’s ice cream all over your mostly white clothes in every shot.

Awesome.  :)

Anyone who knows me and my philosophy regarding photography knows that I believe every person has a story worth telling and portraits are a way to tell that story.  Portraits of kids are no different.  For kids and babies they are literally discovering the world around them.  That is part of their story at this point in their lives.  When you make a picture that captures that discovery…….. Love.  Love.  Love.

The other part of their story is their community.  Children don’t live in isolation.  They live, eat, bath, read, play, in community.  A huge part of that community is their parents.  Capturing those relationships is so incredibly rewarding.

Of course… sibling interaction is pretty fun and awesome too.  It’s usually a different dynamic than child parent interaction, but it’s just as fun and just as sweet.  :)

Does that mean I don’t capture regular group shots?  Am I willing to capture pictures where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling nicely?  Sure, however the more authentic and genuine they can be the better.

If you’re interested in having your family captured in this way, please reach out to us.  Just as we are honored every time a couple asks us to document their wedding, we are equally honored and humbled whenever a family asks us to document whatever season of life they are currently in.

Why Photographs are Important. A Farewell to a Dear Teacher and Friend.

I think most adults can look back on their childhood and teenage years growing up and identify an adult (other than our parents) who played an instrumental role in their life.  A teacher, a baseball coach, a neighbor, a grandparent, etc etc.   For me that adult was Mr. Nolde.  Mr. Nolde was my Russian teacher through middle school and high school.  In the school district I grew up in in the suburbs of Chicago you had to start taking a foreign language in the 6th grade.  I wasn’t particularly interested in taking a foreign language and wanted to pick something safe like Spanish or French.  My parents looked at the list of available options and seeing Russian as a choice immediately wanted to me to choose Russian saying that it was different and might come in useful.  This was in the early 1990s and the iron curtain had just come down a few years before and I think my dad, ever the businessman, saw the opening of capitalism into Russia as a great opportunity and if I had some exposure to Russian that could be beneficial.  My parents finally persuaded me to choose Russian and little did I know it would be a truly life changing choice, but not for the reason my dad had hoped.

Believe it or not, I still remember my first day of middle school.  My first period, of my first day of 6th grade was Russian class.  I sat with the six other kids whose parents had probably also all convinced them to choose Russian as their foreign language.  We all sat silently looking around at each other and then all the sudden the door opens and in walks this teacher with a goatee pushing a cart (the kind you’d put a slide projector on), but his cart had an assortment of books, a coffee cup, and lots of loose papers.  He pushed his cart a few feet into the classroom, looked around and introduced himself as Mr. Nolde.  That’s about all I remember from that entire first day of middle school, but it was my first encounter with a man whose classroom I would sit in every day from 6th grade all the way till I graduated high school.

Mr. Nolde was shall we say…. a different kind of teacher.  You’re probably reading this thinking that after seven years of studying Russian I probably graduated being close to fluent in the language.  Well….Not exactly.  :)  While most days we did eventually get around to discussing and speaking in Russian a little bit, I often referred to the class, at least in my own mind, as “Life 101.”  We would discuss what was going on in our lives, life lessons about how to deal with disappointment and achieving goals, things like that.  Mr. Nolde was always much more interested in making sure that we learned how to become good people who would contribute positively to the world than making sure we understood the ins and outs of Russian verb conjugations.  It’s been almost 15 years since I graduated high school, and I don’t remember the tiny details of a lot of the class discussions we had over the years, however the one thing I remember very vividly was that Mr. Nolde always had time for us.  When the bell would ring, he would never rush out of class.  He would stick behind, and chat with us about whatever was on our mind.  We could always drop into his office and chat with him about anything we wanted.  Mr. Nolde was the prime example of a teacher who cared about his students.  Not just their academic success in the subject that he taught, but in them.  He never viewed his students as students.  He viewed and cared for them as people. He was funny, witty, patient, kind, smart, and understanding.  He was a friend.  I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.  All 7 of us who started the journey together in 6th grade continued all the way through our senior year of high school even though you only needed one or two years of foreign language credits to graduate.

While we didn’t walk away from the our Russian studies fluent Russian speakers, Mr. Nolde was passionate about Russian culture and the “Russian Club” he ran.  He would often take us on class field trips to Russian restaurants in the ethnic Russian neighborhoods of Chicago.  During our middle school years he would bring in Russian balalaikas (essentially a 4 string triangular musical instrument, kinda like the equivalent of a Russian banjo) into class and teach us how to play them.  I don’t know if he was too cheap to buy actual guitar picks, but I remember he would always bring in a Folgers coffee tin, and cut up the plastic lid into large triangular picks!  In 1996 during my freshman year in high school Mr. Nolde took a group of us over to Russia on a foreign exchange program.  Mr. Nolde even brought along his wife and two young daughters on the trip.  While on the surface it might seem odd that his family came along, in reality it felt perfectly normal.  We had heard stories of his little kids and had even seen them a few times around the school when they would come in for one reason or another.  It had always been clear just how much love Mr. Nolde had for his wife and two daughters.  For most of the two weeks we lived with a Russian family, but when we weren’t with our Russian family Mr. Nolde took us through historic Russian sites such as St. Basils cathedral, Lenin’s tomb, and the Winter palace.  While high schoolers aren’t typically known for their interest in museums and historical places, Mr. Nolde’s passion and excitement for the country, the culture, and the history, radiated outwards and infected all of us.

After I graduated in 2000 I went out to Santa Barbara for college.  During my freshman year Christmas break I came home and found that my high school was still in class for another couple of days.  One day I drove back over to see a couple of teachers who I had liked, but mostly to see Mr. Nolde.  I found him in the math office (since the district couldn’t justify keeping Mr. Nolde on full time as just a Russian teacher, Mr. Nolde also taught a couple algebra and geometry classes.)  His cart with books, papers, and the ever present coffee cup was still parked next to his next desk.  We talked for almost an entire hour as I recall until he had to go to his next class.  We talked about how my first semester had gone, how I liked the mild Santa Barbara weather and living so close to the beach.  Just as I remembered him during my middle school and high school years he was fully attentive, interested in what was going on with me, and witty as ever.  As we got up to part ways, I remember thanking him for what an impact he had had on me growing up, and I very vividly remember him making a comment about how we will always remember those who touched our lives.  I don’t know if he was talking about me touching his life, or he touching mine.  Maybe he meant a little bit of both.

It was the last time I would ever see him.

Randy Nolde died on June 18th of this year.  Over the years I’ve thought about him often.  I remember hearing from friends a number of years ago that he had retired from teaching and I often thought that I would need to make a point to somehow try to track him down and maybe grab a cup of coffee or lunch with him the next time I was back in Illinois.  To my regret, I simply never got around to it.  When my sister (who had also been a student of Mr. Nolde) told me that she found out he had died I was stunned and instantly horrified that I had never made the time to see him.  My sister passed on a website where there was some information about his funeral and a guestbook where people could leave notes.  While I knew that it was rare to have a teacher who you were so close and who you truly looked at as a mentor and a friend, I was not at all surprised to see the many pages of notes of former students of his who clearly had had a similar relationship with their beloved teacher.  Not just students of Mr. Nolde’s through his several decades of teaching, but fellow colleagues, and community members who all had been touched by Mr. Nolde’s life left heartfelt messages.  On the memorial page, there was an area where you could upload photos.  It suddenly hit me that I didn’t have a single photo of Mr. Nolde.  In some ways, it makes sense… I knew him in an era before digital cameras, Instagram, and Facebook.  I didn’t even own a film camera until I was in college.  It felt strange that I didn’t have a single photo of myself with this man who had been so influential for such a long period of the preteen and teenage years.  There were only a handful of images that were posted to the site (including the one I posted above).  At this point, it’s only the memories I have and those handful of images posted to the site that are left to remind me of Mr. Nolde.

As a wedding photographer I’m constantly aware when I go to a wedding that I’m documenting not only a wedding and a bride and groom, but I have an opportunity to take professional photos of the guests and family members there as well.  At every wedding I photograph, there may be someone else’s Mr. Nolde.  To me as the photographer that person is just a stranger, a guest of the bride and groom, but to someone else, he or she is a dear friend, a son, a daughter, a mother, a father, coworker, neighbor, uncle, aunt, boy scout leader, or mentor.  The photos I take very well could be the last professional photo ever taken of that person.  I remember a few years ago a fellow photographer telling the heartbreaking story of getting an email from a former bride whose mother died right after the wedding while she and her new husband were on their honeymoon.  The bride was writing to ask for every single photo, good or bad, that had her mother in it.  That photographer had the very last photos of her mom ever taken.  I’m keenly aware that could very well be me one day, getting a call asking if I have photos of a now deceased sibling or a parent or grandparent or even random guest.  That lesson has hit home even harder since I learned of Mr. Nolde’s passing.

We each have our own Mr. Nolde.  Treasure the time you have with them and the time that your lives happen to intersect.  Take pictures of them and with them often.  You never know how many more chances you might have to do that.  Even though I hadn’t seen Mr. Nolde in years, when he passed away I lost more than just a high school teacher.  I lost a dear friend and mentor, and the world lost a giant.  No, Mr. Nolde wasn’t a household name, at least not beyond the homes of District 220, but for those who had the privilege of interacting with him, his humility, wittiness, kindness, and light left an immeasurable imprint.  His legacy will not be forgotten in those he left behind.