Red head, green dress

Is there ever a better match than a red head in  a green dress?  My daughter was sick last week, so as you can imagine I spent a lot of time on the couch watching nickelodeon.  During this time I did a lot of day dreaming about getting outside and taking some photos!  Winter is getting long, there was still snow on the ground, and St. Patricks day was right around the corner.  As such, I decided to do a photo shoot for me.  One where I could get creative in my edits and really just get out into the fresh (cold) air!  That is where Maizy and Bennett come in.  To start the process, I did a model search on Facebook to find the perfect red head!  My ideal model’s hair would be really red, and she was going to have to wear green. I had a great response to the model call, and at the end of the day I got the perfect submission.  Maizy was exactly the little red head I was looking for.  Originally, I envisioned the photoshoot being with a little girl, but I also got a handful of boy submissions, so I invited Bennett along as well.

I borrowed a green dress by Well Dressed Wolf.  Bennett showed up in a cute biker jacket that we rolled with.  I chose a location that was up pretty high.  It was important for me to get a bunch of sky in the photos because I fully intended on adding some rainbows in.  I wanted there to be pseudo-St. Patrick’s day theme.  In other words, I wanted the models to be red heads, I wanted the green dress, and rainbows.  I did not want leprechauns!  The evening was cold, and despite that, the kiddos did a great job! I was able to get the shots that I wanted, do some over the top editing, and also produce a couple cute, organic images for Mom.girl on ladder painting a rainbow skygirl holding a rainbowRedhead painting rainbowsRed head green dressboy on ladder painting the skyRed head boy at sunset Red head boy at sunsetRed head green dressRed head green dressGirl painting the sunsetSunset twirling dress

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Peace, love, and roller-skates

I had this idea to do a themed studio photoshoot with Ellie wearing roller-skates for her 8th birthday.  Her birthday party with all of her friends from school was at Skateland in Rockford.  As a result, being a little nostalgic being a child in a 1980’s roller rink, I set out to find the perfect outfit.  That was a bit harder than I thought.  First, I started with the socks and from there was hoping for a pair of short shorts with contrasting cording on the edges.  I know you can envision what I’m talking about!  Maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s just not 1980 any longer, but my perfect outfit was nowhere to be found.  Either way, I ended up with a cute shirt that said “radiate love,” some striped socks, and we dug an old skirt out from last summer’s wardrobe.  I thought it worked out alright… I was just missing the roller-skates.  Today the roller-skates in stores look a bit more like rollerblades.  Even if they are quad skates, they have plastic ankle supports and no laces.  I was really hoping for those white “shoe” skates with a pom pom.  After driving around town all day and visiting Amazon.com more than once, I found the perfect pair!  I paid way too much money for them, but they were perfect!

Once the roller-skates arrived, we headed to the studio to get to work.  Ellie let me put her hair in pigtails.  This was a big deal, she hates pretty much anything done to her hair (including brushing it).  She got all dressed up and then it was time for the skates.  Honestly, I didn’t think this through well.  After all, she’s 8 and these skates were fast!  I kept trying to get her to pose, or give me some sass, but she had to focus all of her efforts on not falling down.  It was a riot!  After a while, I asked if we could take the skates off.  I thought we could take at least a couple of head shots and some without her feet.  This way she wouldn’t be focusing all of her efforts on staying balanced.   She emphatically said NO!  Actually, she let me know that the only reason she was allowing this was because of those skates!  So, I gave in and we just played in the studio for a bit on the skates.  Imagine how hard it was for her to skate in a small space with the paper behind her and three strobes set up!  Luckily no-one, and no equipment was hurt.

Please enjoy these photos of Ellie’s 8th birthday.  She is the most amazing little girl and my motivation for learning photography in the first place.Roller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshootRoller-skate photoshoot

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Senior session ~ free spirited thespian | beloit photographer

Addison Autumn is a free spirited high school senior.  She pours her heart and soul into theater.  As a result, we decided to do her senior pictures in two separate sessions.  The first session was on location in Beloit Turner High School’s theater.  This session allowed us to play a bit with lighting, consequently, we were successful at creating multiple different looks.  Some of the photos fell like they are right off of the cover of a playbill!  Additionally, we exemplified Addison’s passion for theater in these photos.  You can just see how at ease she is on stage!

The next photoshoot was more organic, outside in downtown Beliot.  We chose this location because it has recently been revitalized and the scenery is perfect for the diversity you want in a senior session!  Further, Addison works downtown at Lucy’s Seven Burger Bar.  It was important to grab a photo or two in front of Lucy’s.  As we walked around downtown, we found all sorts of nooks and crannies to jump into and create images.  I just loved all the bricks, ivy walls, and the bridge over the river for us to work with.  Most of the day was overcast, but luckily for us, the skies parted and we were able to capitalize on some great light.

Senior on stageSenior with awardsSenior in theater seatsSenior hair blowing in the windSenior at Lucy's #7 Burger BarSenior under large lampSenior on bridge, dramatic skySenior next to ivy wall

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Ellie’s story | How albinism drives my photography

So, how does someone who is formally trained in the sciences take up photography?  I mean, let’s be honest, science and art rarely mix.  For me, it happened with the birth of my second daughter, Ellie, who was born with albinism.

Perhaps you should go grab a tissue before I start, this story is intense.  

The story begins because we had trouble conceiving.  Once we did, I had a really tough pregnancy, but on March 5th 2010 Elliette May Leden was born. She was perfect! Well actually, she was jaundiced and looked slightly like an alien, but perfect! Her most remarkable feature was a head full of snow-white hair.

In the beginning of our time together, Ellie and I spent three days in the hospital.   During this time, I never saw her open her eyes. I even joked with the Dr. asking him if she had eyes. Right from the beginning, Ellie was unique. My nurse stopped checking our wristbands when she brought Ellie back to me because she said Ellie was the only baby in the hospital with white hair. No one had ever seen hair quite so white. On the second day of our hospital stay, my nurse said do you think she is Albino? “NO,” I said! After all, I was a toe head, Amelia (her big sister) was blonde and her Dad is also blonde. Clearly our genetics coded for a little “toe head.”

A couple days after we got home from the hospital, Ellie started opening her eyes, mostly in the evening after the sun had set. I was nursing her so I gazed at her often. Under incandescent light, the irises of her eyes were transparent and I could see the lens right through them. So, I did what anyone would do, and I began to Google. That is never really a good idea. When Ellie was seven days old, I went to the Dr. because I thought something was wrong with her eyes. She never tracked anything. My husband told me he thought she was blind. The Dr. assured me that everything was fine. She had a pronounced “red reflex,” but in all of his 30+ years of practice he had never seen albinism and was certain she was not Albino.

As a Mom, I think you just know when something is wrong, and something was wrong. I pushed harder and got an appointment at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. There was a Pediatric Ophthalmologist there who specialized in Albinism; I was going there for answers.

When the day of the appointment arrived, my Mom went with Ellie and I. We drove up towards Madison, and although I knew something was wrong, I was optimistic that the Dr. was going to tell me she did not have albinism. We got out of the car, loaded up the stroller and pushed Ellie in.  Inside, we were greeted by a friendly receptionist who said, “I see why you’re here.” Really? The receptionist knows? My local Dr. assured me she did not have Albinism. I was concerned, but she was just the receptionist, right?

Ellie was 21 days old when Dr. Struck walked in, introduced himself to us, looked at her eyes for less than a minute and then he said “yes, she has albinism.” You know, that moment in a movie when someone gets bad news and the outside of the screen becomes blurry, and the person receiving the news doesn’t hear anything else that is said? That’s about how it happens. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. I held it together. In what seemed like the smallest room, I stared at the Dr.’s face thinking how I, in this moment receiving this news for the first time, had to be the worst part of his job. I don’t really remember much more until we walked out of the building. To keep my composure, Imade a point to walk in front of my Mom. I did not want to talk about it; I did not want to look at her. I wanted my moment. I put Ellie in the car and sat in the front seat staring out the window. She asked me if I was OK. I was not; I broke down and cried for what would be the first of many times. I was paralyzed, mourning actually. (I was morning the loss of a dream. Please do not judge me for saying I was in mourning, I was.  In short, individuals with albinism have “low vision.” Ellie may never drive, and in reality there are professions she will not be able to pursue as a result.) My child had a disability. I didn’t know what that meant for our future.

I of course had to tell my husband. Because I was unable to talk, I sent him a text that said Oculocutaneous albinism type 1A, I’ll call in a bit; I need to get myself together. This monumental day began my journey. It would change everything I thought I knew about love and life, and it would redefine the person I am today.

The next month was tough. I did not tell many people, mostly because I couldn’t talk about it. Each time I did, I had to mourn the loss of my ideal for this child all over again. I became very reclusive. At this point, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could stay behind closed doors and feel bad for myself, or I could embrace this and move forward. After all, it was only albinism! I contacted the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) and got connected with parents of children with Albinism. I had to learn what albinism was and what raising a child with albinism would mean for me.

Fast forward to today.   There are just a few accommodations I make for Ellie now. Her depth perception is not great, nor is her vision, although you wouldn’t know it if you watched her play. I tell her where stairs are, or when there is uneven ground, etc. It has been a wild ride to redefine what beautiful is, and really be humbled by such a young, amazing, able and crazy child!

Ellie is the motivation behind my photography. I am upholding my parental responsibility to make sure her memories are as beautiful in a photo as they are in real life.

I began my photography journey strictly with natural light. I didn’t want anything to do with flash.  When I used flash with Ellie, her pupil and iris were both red.  After mastering outdoor, natural light, I decided to learn studio lighting.  I am happy to say I’m quite versatile now!  I can even take photos of Ellie with a flash and there’s no red-eye, see below!  Take a minute to soak in her beauty!

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Children on the farm | Rockton family photographer

This beautiful family is blessed with three children, all girls.  There is an age gap between the oldest and two younger children but that doesn’t hinder their relationships.  Imagine how refreshing it was to watch the organic connection between sisters.  Also, the outward expression of respect between the children and their parents was heartwarming.  Maddy, the oldest, is on edge of adolescence and really expressing her inner spirit. She looks so grown up next to mom.  In comparison, mom looks super young next to Maddy!  Consequently, they both looked amazing.   In comparison, the two younger children, Kassidy and Khloe, are true country bumpkins.    They run around, playing hard, and working hard.  If it is a good day for dad, he has some help in the tractor which makes time go by so much faster.  They’re little farm hands, yet they have just enough sass to keep everyone on their toes!

Take a quick walk around the farm with us.  Check out the animals and the views for miles.  Family with children on the farm ~ Rockton child photographerSassy child next to a barn ~ Rockton child photographerChild laughing in the grass next to a barn ~ Rockton child photographerchild next to a barn ~ Rockton child photographerMom and daughter serious gaze into camera ~ Rockton child photographerTween serious gaze into the camera ~ Rockton child photographerTween smiling next to a barn ~ Rockton child photographerSunset couple on the farm ~ Rockton child photographerFamily on the farm ~ Rockton child photographer

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