Fall Traditions to Start (or Continue) This Year {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}

 Rebecca Clair Photography, Kansas City lifestyle photographer, apple picking photo session, apple orchard photos, Kansas City family photographer, apples on the ground

The cold yesterday caught me by surprise, but even as I pulled another jacket over my sweater and dug my hands deep into the warmth of my pockets, I couldn’t help smiling, because it finally felt a bit like fall! And I knew that the cool, wet weather meant that soon the trees will be kissed with the reds and yellows I’ve been waiting for.

I’ve been ready for fall since the day I flipped my calendar to September, but this cooler weather has really started me dreaming about all things fall and cozy. We’ve already gone apple picking and picked up some mini pumpkins to decorate our dining room table, but I’ve been dreaming about autumn picnics, hikes through paths of golden trees, and sweet, spicy pumpkin pie.

And so I thought it would be fun to compile a list of fun fall traditions to start or continue this year (there’s still time!):

Go Apple Picking

This is at the top of the list because it’s one of my favorite fall traditions! I love wandering the rows of trees, plucking the best apples to put in my basket (and usually munching on one as I go). And it’s even better if you can snag some fresh apple cider donuts to enjoy at the end of it! We started this tradition with friends years ago, but it was fun to bring Ethan for the first time this year and watch him experience the wonder of it. There are several great orchards in the Kansas City area, but Cider Hill Family Orchard and Alldredge Orchard are two that we’ve personally visited and loved.

Visit a Pumpkin Patch

We haven’t taken Ethan to a pumpkin patch yet, but maybe this will be the year that we start that tradition! I’ve heard that Kansas City has some great ones, many with fun family activities besides just the pumpkins (check out the handy guide that KC Parent put together, listing a lot of the popular patches in the Kansas City Area)

Take a Nature Walk

Every season has its own unique beauty and I’m a fan of getting outside all year round, but there’s still something especially inviting about driving out of the city in the fall, as the leaves start to change from green to gold and red and the fields soften to rich browns, to get just a bit closer to nature to witness its autumn transformation. The Kansas City area has a lot of great places to hike, including Weston Bend State Park and Shawnee Mission Park. Even if you don’t want to drive too far out of the city, Lakeside Nature Center and the Anita Gorman Conservation Center are both great places to explore nature right in the city.

Bake a Yummy Fall Treat

In the summer, I sometimes sweat when I just think about turning on the oven, but when the weather gets cooler, I suddenly feel the urge to mix up something sweet and spicy (preferably to enjoy with a hot mug of tea or coffee!) Sometimes I’ll bake during naptime or in the evenings, to surprise Ethan when he wakes up, but more often I’ll invite him to climb up on a chair to help me pour and mix. Apple crisp, pumpkin muffins, and gingersnaps are some of my favorite fall treats to bake!

Visit a New Coffee Shop

Starbucks may be the first thing you think about when you think of a fall cup of coffee, but while I appreciate pumpkin spice now and then, there are so many sweet local coffee shops to explore in our city! Thou Mayest and Crows Coffee are two of our favorites, but I also just had a delicious pumpkin pie latte at Parkville Coffee this weekend (and it’s just a short walk from there to English Landing Park for a autumn stroll along the river).

Rake Leaves and then Jump in the Pile

Sure, kids love this tradition, but don’t let that stop you from trying it, too! I don’t think there’s much that could bring out your inner child quite like jumping in a pile of leaves! And crisp fall leaves are the quintessential fall smell!

Make a Big Pot of Soup and Invite Some Friends Over To Share It

You may have noticed that a lot of my fall traditions revolve around food, but really, all around the world we use food to celebrate the significant seasons and moments in our lives (hello, birthday cake!) While I love the sweet fall treats, I think sitting down to savor something warm and comforting, like a good, hearty soup is such an appropriate way to celebrate this cooler season. And it’s even better when you gather around a table with some friends and loved ones to share it. You can make it homemade (I love to throw soup in my slow cooker!) but even soup from a can counts if your short on time!

Schedule a Fall Photo Session!

I know, I know….but I had to end with this one, because if you’re like me and you love to celebrate fall with all these traditions, don’t you want a tangible reminder of those sweet memories with your loved ones to look back on year after year? Maybe it’s your child’s first experience apple picking or that hike you took with your fiancé the fall you got engaged or that coffee date alone with your husband while your mother in law watched the kids for a morning. These traditions aren’t even as much about the fall season as they are about celebrating it with the ones you love. So while you can schedule a photo session all year round (and I hope you do!), fall is full of these sweet traditions and moments that are perfect for capturing in a photo session! Message me to chat more about how I can help capture those fall moments for you, whether it’s with your family, your spouse, or even just you and your dog!

(Are you hoping to catch one of my fall mini sessions? I still have a couple open! Click over here for more details!)

So how about you? What are your favorite fall traditions?
Comment below and share some of your favorite things to do in the fall!

Crepes and Russian Fairytales; A Small Business Story {Kansas City Small Business Photographer}

 Kansas City small business lifestyle photography seven swans creperie woman making crepes

Maybe it’s the former creative writing major in me, but I love telling stories. It’s one of my favorite things about this business of portrait photography. When I work with a couple or family, I get to hear a bit of their story and then I get to share a little glimpse of that story, first through the images I create during our session and then later through the blogs I write.

This year, though, I’m discovering that I also deeply enjoy hearing and sharing the stories of small businesses. As I dig deeper into my own business journey, I’m realizing that, like me, most businesses have stories, born out of their owner’s dreams and passions, personalities and relationships, and life experiences. For most business owners, their business is about so much more than just a product (though most have spent months or even years perfecting their products). Instead, their brands encompass so much personality and story. And I love hearing and capturing those stories through lifestyle branding and headshot photography. These sessions give me the opportunity to not only photograph beautiful products, crafted with passion and excellence, but to also capture the people behind those products or services and the joyful work that spurred them to start their own business in the first place.

Kate is one of those business owners and Seven Swans Creperie was definitely birthed out of a sweet story of passions, dreams, and perseverance. As Kate’s friend, I’ve had a bit of an insider’s view of her business story. And let me tell you, it’s beautiful. Her crepes and soon-to-be-finished mobile creperie (which is the sweetest little renovated trailer!) are the product of years of dreaming, longing, and waiting, of excitement and passion mixed with plenty of discouragement, shifting plans, and a TON of hard work.

I think that’s a big part of what I love about her story. I can connect with it. I’ve never made a crepe in my life (and maybe never will, if I can keep eating these fantastic ones that Kate makes!) but in my role as an entrepreneur, pursuing my passions through the ups and downs of starting and growing a business, I can relate to the mountains and valleys of Kate’s story with her creperie and feel encouraged by her tenacity through it all. Stories like Kate’s, chronicling perseverance through challenges, are my favorite kind. And now it’s so fun to celebrate with her as she watches this dream finally materialize.

And so it felt especially sweet to spend the evening with Kate and a small group of lovely people, taking these photos and watching the next step of her business unfold in the form of lovely, mouth-wateringly delicious crepes arranged on beautiful plates, surrounded by fresh fruit and flowers, glasses of wine, laughter, and chocolate covered faces.

I especially loved getting to capture some photos of Kate at work in the kitchen, prepping the crepes, because I think one of the things that makes her crepes so outstanding is that everything she uses is fresh, high quality (often local), and homemade. You can taste that quality in even the simplest of her crepes.

(The theme of Kate’s branding is “Russian fairytale” -- a nod to a bit of Kate’s personal story, which includes some extended time in Russia -- and I think with the rich reds, worn wood, and dreamy greens here, we managed to capture that!)

How about you? Do you have a business with a story, perhaps a tale of ups and downs and perseverance through obstacles? If so, I’d love to hear it and maybe chat with you about how I could help you communicate your business’ story and heart through images for your website and social media. Send me a message to start the conversation!

(And if you’re local to the Kansas City area, you should definitely follow Kate’s story on social media and visit her creperie soon as it opens!)

He Makes All Things Beautiful; a Glimpse of the Precious Life of Benjamin Levi {Kansas City Newborn Photographer}

 Rebecca Clair Photography lifestyle NICU newborn photography Children's Mercy Hospital mother and father holding baby through the curtains

I have this phrase I sometimes repeat to myself during sessions: “find the light”.

That little phrase reminds me of the basic principles of photography, but more than that, it’s an invitation (perhaps even a challenge) to find the light and beauty in every season, every person, every story. 

There are days when that feels like an easy task. When a perfectly dressed family cuddles together in a field at sunset or when a young couple laughs in each other’s arms as they look towards a sweet future together or when a family finally brings their newborn home to the nursery they’ve lovingly prepared for her, it feels easy to see and celebrate the light and beauty in those moments.

But what about in the hospital room where a couple holds their newborn son, born alive but unresponsive? What about those hours when they hold him close, knowing it could be their last day with him? What about the day when they have to choose to let him go? Can we – can I – find beauty in that place, too?

At the end of June, I had the profound privilege of spending a couple hours in the NICU with my friends and their newborn son Benjamin. Benjamin was born alive but unresponsive after suffering a severe brain injury in utero. He held on to life for eight miraculous days, amazing us all by the ways he defied the odds and by the ways that his little life stirred and united so many people in prayer. The day that they planned to remove Benjamin’s breathing tube, my friends asked me to come and take some photos of them as they snuggled him skin to skin (their skin to skin times with Benjamin are some of the precious memories they hold onto from his time in the NICU). I was a little nervous to enter this space with them, because I had never photographed anything like this before and it would be an understatement to say that the moment felt weighty, but at the same time, I had never felt the value of photography as deeply as I did in that room. 

Near the end of my time with them, they played a song that a friend had written and dedicated to Benjamin. I couldn’t hear most of the lyrics, but the one phrase that resounded in my ears as I snapped those last photos was, “You make all things beautiful.” Later, when I re-listened to the song, I found out that the lyrics actually said, “You make all things new,” but I think perhaps the word “beautiful” was what I needed to hear in that moment. That phrase, “You make all things beautiful,” defined those hours (and all of Benjamin’s life) for me. 

Because even in the midst of the heartbreak, those two hours in that NICU room were full of more beauty and peace than I could have ever imagined. And I saw so much beauty in Benjamin’s short life:

Beauty in his mother’s greeting as she gently touched his head. 
Beauty in his tiny, perfect fingers and toes.
Beauty in the way his arms snuggled around his mother’s chest.
Beauty in the way she tenderly cupped his feet in her hands.
Beauty in the sound of her laughter billowing into that hospital room. 
Beauty in the gaze his parents shared as they held him close and the way they closed their eyes as they touched their foreheads together.  
Beauty in the way he nestled under his father’s chin.
Beauty in his father’s soft kiss on his forehead.
Beauty in the way his fingers (so tiny, so strong) curled around his father’s finger.  
Beauty in the light on his mother’s face as she closed her eyes and entered into the prayer of the music. 
Beauty in each rhythmic breath he drew, skin to skin on their chests. 
Beauty in the warmth of his body alive in their arms for those eight days.

And even after those moments of beauty were gone and Benjamin was “swallowed up by life”, held only in memory and photographs, still I saw beauty in Benjamin’s story.

Beauty in the rawness and vulnerability with which his parents have shared this story.
Beauty in their posture of humility and faith each step of the way.  
Beauty in the words that flowed in from all over the world in response to his life.
Beauty in the voices lifted in prayer and worship, day and night. 
Beauty in the hearts that rallied in hope.
Beauty in the hearts that broke in grief.
Beauty in the emotions of wonder and grief, celebration and sadness, that unite us all.

There is grief here, to be sure, and a depth of pain that can’t be put into words. But through it all, so much beauty. And finding the beauty here, even in these hard spaces of Benjamin’s story, renews my hope that He can make all things and all stories (including my own) beautiful.

And so each click of the shutter as I witnessed these moments of beauty became a thank you. A thank you for the preciousness and purpose of Benjamin’s little life, even in such a short amount of time. And a thank you for the privilege of witnessing this little bit of his story.  

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

(If you'd like to hear more of Benjamin's story firsthand from his parents, I encourage you to listen to the message, "Swallowed Up By Life", that they shared recently at our church)

Everyday Treasures: the Tarkowski Family’s Saturday Morning Session {Kansas City Family Photographer}

 Rebecca Clair Photography Kansas City MO lifestyle family photographer Line Creek Trail Family Session family together by a waterfall

I am so excited to finally share this sweet family session with you guys! I think it may have been one of my favorite sessions lately, not just because this family is gorgeous (though they are!), but because I so enjoyed witnessing how tender they were with one another and the sweet moments of connection they created during our time together.

This year I’ve started sending out a little questionnaire to my clients once they book a session with me, to help me get to know them a little more and plan a session that truly fits them in this season in their lives. I knew this family’s session was going to be good as soon as I read Natalie’s responses to her questionnaire. She shared candidly about some of the challenges and insecurities of life as the mom of two littles (I love it when clients are real and authentic with me!), but she also wrote so poignantly about the little everyday moments, in the midst of that real life, that make her feel loved: when her husband tells her that she’s beautiful every single day or calls in the middle of the day just to say hi. When her daughter comes in to snuggle in the morning or draws her special pictures or is so excited about something that she can’t wait to tell her. When her son cries for everyone else but stops immediately when he settles into her arms. She shared about the moments she loves with her family, snuggling up together to watch a movie together, about sharing a cup of green tea with her husband in the morning before the kids wake up, about taking walks together at the park as a family, about playing with the neighbors, and about watching her husband play pretend with her daughter.

When I read her responses, I couldn’t help thinking that these moments are the treasures of this season with littles, the gems in the midst of the chaos and mundane, the beauty that gets us through the challenges. Life with young kids can be so trying at times (as the mom of a toddler, I’m right in the thick of that season, too!), but I’ve found that stopping to really appreciate and enjoy these moments helps remind me of why it’s all worth it. I am so grateful that I got to capture a few of those treasure moments with the Tarkowski family that Saturday morning as they explored one of their favorite trails together.

How about you? What treasure moments get you through the unique challenges of your current season of life?

Not About Cancer: A Shoot for CURE Magazine’s Extraordinary Healers Publication {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}

 Rebecca Clair Photography Kansas City MO lifestyle photographer CURE magazine Extraordinary Healers nurse and patient cancer survivor at Lake Jacomo

Cancer has altered the course of Danielle’s life. Diagnosed at just 17, cancer undoubtedly changed many areas of her life and family and ultimately led her to a career with a cancer organization.

Cancer has also defined Donna’s career as she has worked as an oncology nurse for years, helping countless patients walk through the practical and emotional side effects of their diagnoses. 

And cancer is what initially brought these two together, when Danielle first met Donna in that awkward doctor's office visit, shortly after her diagnosis. 

But this session was not about cancer. It was about two friends, sitting by a lake on a spring day, catching up on life. It was about sharing stories of children and grandbabies. It was about laughing (a LOT of laughing) and maybe a bit of hugging. Because that’s a huge part of what set Donna apart as a nurse for Danielle: she cared about Danielle as a person, not just as a cancer patient, and she made her feel comfortable enough to laugh, even in the most uncomfortable situations. 

I'm so grateful to CURE Magazine for connecting me with these two extraordinary women and featuring a few images of their sweet reunion in the latest edition of their Extraordinary Healers publication. If you're able, I suggest reading Danielle's moving tribute to the impact Donna had on her cancer journey, along with the other essays in the collection. (And I have to say, it's super fun to see a few of the photos in print in the book of essays that CURE just published!)

In This Business Together: Emilee and Anthony’s Relaxed In-Home Headshot Session {Kansas City Small Business Photography}

 Kansas City lifestyle photographer in home couples session cuddling in the kitchen with coffee engagement photos black and white photo

I really love getting to connect with other creative entrepreneurs in my area. I feel inspired by the lovely things they create and by their tenacity in pursuing work that brings them joy.

Emilee is one of those creative entrepreneurs. Though she is a photographer herself, she recently branched out into a new business venture as well, starting a wedding décor rental company with her husband Tony. As newlyweds themselves, they remember what it felt like to plan a wedding, recalling both the excitement and the stress of managing all the details and balancing a budget. As they were planning their wedding, Emilee noticed that many brides chose the same few weddings themes and purchased similar decorations. After the wedding, they then had to either sell or store those decorations. Now that Emiliee is married and settling into a new home with Tony, her recent experience with wedding planning led her to start Wedding Decor & More, a company that rents wedding décor to brides to help them save time, money, and hassle in the wedding planning process.

I loved hearing how this new business was fueled by Emilee and Tony’s own lives and experiences. I think one thing I’m learning in this adventure of running my own business is that business and my personal life aren’t as starkly separate as I used to think they needed to be. I’m realizing that who we are and the things we love really do influence the work we pursue and HOW we pursue that work.

And so my session with these two was less about what they do with their business and the products they offer and more about who they are and the way they love each other. It was about the way Tony makes Emilee laugh (something she loves about him!) and the way he supports her in every crazy idea she has, including supporting her in running two businesses. It was about how Emilee is so energetic and upbeat (which is the first thing that attracted Tony to her when they met working together at a restaurant) and hard-working. It was about how comfortable they feel together, content to relax in their home with one another and their three dogs. Doing their session at home, cuddling on the couch, relaxing in the kitchen, and sitting with their dogs, seemed to fit these two and the relaxed, cheerful demeanor they offer in all they do, including in this new business.

I can’t wait to see these in action on their new website (coming soon!). In the meantime, you can find out more about Wedding Décor & More on Facebook.  

Rainy Day Snuggles: The Ashley Family’s Cozy In-Home Session {Kansas City Family Photography}

 Kansas City Family photographer, in-home lifestyle family photography family reading together Rebecca Clair Photography

Even a gloomy, rainy day couldn't dampen the sweetness of this family's in-home session. These moments are simple, cuddled up by the window, reading a few favorite books, but they're the kind they will treasure in the years to come, as their daughter grows and changes. 

Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Donuts (and a Few Tips for Happier Toddler Sessions) {Kansas City Family Photography}

 Kansas City family photographer toddler eating a donut Cider Hill Family Orchard

Let me tell you a little story about expectations vs. reality with a toddler.

Last week, on one of those gloomy, rainy days we’ve had lately, I ran out to the grocery store with Ethan to grab one quick thing that I had forgotten during our normal grocery trip (because now that we have a second car, we can do that!) While we were there, I decided to pick up a donut for us to share, a special rainy day treat.

Here’s how I imagined we would enjoy it:

We would come home from our errand, snuggle up together while the rain fell softly against the window, and share a sweet blueberry donut treat together.

Here’s how it actually went down:

Ethan cried and yelled “Dono! Dono! Donooo!” the entire car ride home. He ate his portion of the donut at the table in about 30 seconds. And then proceeded to cry, “Dono! Dono!” again, until naptime.  Not exactly the sweet moment together that I’d imagined!

Why do I share this with you? Because I get it. I get the frustration of planning something fun, only to have your toddler melt down. And I get the disappointment of booking a photo session and having your toddler frown and refuse to sit down or look at the camera. Toddlers are hard to predict and often have strong opinions of what they do or don’t want to do. It can make picture day a little stressful for you and them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are a few tips for setting up a session that’s fun for your toddler (and therefore fun for you, too!)

1) Loosen your expectations. I know Pinterest is full of cute poses and ideas and we can try a few of them, but don’t push too hard if your toddler isn’t into it! I find that we get happier, more genuine photos when we follow your toddlers lead. If they just want to cuddle in your lap, go with it! These moments won’t last forever and you’ll be glad you captured them. If they don’t want to let go of their favorite toy, let them keep it. You’ll look back at these photos and remember the season when they were inseparable from it. Do they just want to run around with sticks? Jump into the game and chase them! We can totally capture that, too!

2) Bring a favorite toy or book. Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or car? Do they ask you to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear every single night? Bring those along! They can help your child feel more comfortable in a new place, with a stranger, and we can catch some photos that capture these beloved pieces of their childhood.

3) Bring a snack or treat. I’m not necessarily advocating for bribing your child (but maybe just a little?), but it’s no secret that a fun treat can often quickly turn around a toddler’s mood! My only suggestion is to bring something that you don’t mind being in the photos since I won’t be photoshopping those out (you may find that cookies are cuter than cereal bars and fresh fruit is cuter than an applesauce pouch!) and don’t bring something messy unless you’re willing to embrace the mess of the moment!

4) Play together. I know that sometimes you want just one good picture where you’re looking at the camera and smiling (the kind that the grandparents will hang on their fridge) and I always try to get at least one of those. But most of the session I want to focus on you enjoying being together. Snuggle your child. Tickle them. Toss them in the air. Spin them around. Explore with them. As you focus on spending quality time with them and having fun together, I’ll focus on catching the sweetest, authentic photos, too.

Despite my rainy day treat backfiring, we had a little bit of donut redemption at Cider Hill Family Orchard’s Apple Blossom Festival this weekend. After we took a wagon ride through the orchard, we sat together on a bench, a warm bag of donuts crinkling in our hands and cinnamon sugar coating our fingers, watching a fire and munching on the BEST apple cider donuts (and then we wandered around the orchard, fed ducks, splashed sticks in the pond, and swung on a swing!). It wasn’t the same rainy day snuggles that I’d imagined last week, but it was a sweet family moment I’ll cherish.

Spring Anticipation: Rachel and Daniel’s Springtime Maternity Session {Kansas City Maternity Photography}

 Kansas City Loose Park spring maternity session with the flowering apple tree Kansas City maternity photographer black and white photo

Everything about this session feels like spring to me (despite the chill wind that day!). The fresh green grass. The cascading apple blossoms, touched with just the faintest pink on the on the buds. The tiny leaves unfurling from the branches. And these two, so in love and so joyfully awaiting the arrival of their daughter whose birth will usher in a fresh new season for their family.

It was such a sweet privilege to photograph Rachel and Daniel in this season as a couple. They’re still in their first year of marriage and now share the sweet anticipation of this little girl who will utterly change their life. They both have great style, but more than that, they wear their love for one another. You can see it in the little things: the way Rachel looks up at Daniel as they walk, the way Daniel wrapped his arms around Rachel to warm her up between shots, and the way she nestled into his arms and the soft kiss he planted on her forehead.

To me, this is what maternity sessions are all about. Though I find pregnant bellies incredibly beautiful as they curve around the growing new life and I feel that it’s worth documenting that unique stage of a woman’s life, I particularly love capturing the parents together. I love to take that time to document their love as they stand at the cusp of a dramatically new season, drawn closer together than ever before by the anticipation of this new life, the embodiment of their love. There’s nothing quite like it!

Community Over Competition: A Photographers Play Date {Kansas City Couples Photography}

 Couples session in Kansas City west bottoms couples photography hair blowing

“Community over competition.”

I first heard this slogan (which originates from the Rising Tide Society) at the Inspired Story Conference in Dallas last summer, when I gathered with women photographers from around the country for a weekend of learning, creating, and listening to one another’s stories. Every photographer who spoke at the conference shared their knowledge and stories candidly and generously. I was blessed and challenged as much by their humble attitude as their words. My experience that weekend at the conference pushed the value of “community over competition” deep into my heart.

As my own knowledge and experience slowly grows, I try to remember the gift that that those photographers were (and still are) to me as I learn this business of photography. And like them, I strive to share what I know just as generously, whether it’s sharing a particularly lovely location I’ve found or passing on client questionnaires I’ve created. Although this can be a competitive business, with dozens of photographers clamoring for the same clients, I believe that the competition doesn’t need to define my interactions with other local photographers and that forming positive relationships with other area photographers can only help all of us grow stronger in our art and business.

I’m grateful that there are other local photographers that feel the same, including Jen Williams and Jordan Friend. A couple weeks ago, Jen and Jordan organized a play date for some local photographers in the West Bottoms and I had the privilege of joining them. They had recruited some couples and singles to model for us and we spent a couple hours that afternoon, wandering the area, taking photos and getting to know one another. I had never been to the West Bottoms before and the urban environment definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone. The harsh mid-afternoon light was also a challenge, forcing me to embrace the contrast and find flattering light in the shadows. Several of the photographers there that day also showed me how they use some of their lighting equipment to offset the harsh light, inviting me to rethink the usefulness of flash.

In the end, I sweated a lot (it was HOT out that afternoon!), made some new connections, stretched myself beyond my comfort zone, and created some images I’m proud of.

Kolby and Shaffen

Rebecca and Trevor

Olivia

Spring Snow Day: A Saturday Morning in Photos {Kansas City Lifestyle Family Photography}

 Kansas City, MO lifestyle family photographer spring flowers in the snow winter family photography

Remember how I was gushing the other day about the early spring weather when I announced my spring mini sessions? Well, I may have spoken too soon because winter rushed back in full force this weekend! By March I’m usually over winter and ready for spring, so I may have grumbled a bit about the return to frigid temperatures and gray skies.

But then we woke up Saturday to soft snow flurries outside our windows. We took advantage of a leisurely morning to make blueberry pancakes together (I let Ethan “help”, which resulted in a floury mess but a happy toddler). And then we all took a walk outside in the snow. We didn’t walk far – just down the block and around to the alley that runs behind our house – but even that small distance was full of wonder and adventure for my toddler, who has seen very little snow yet in his life. It reminded me of why I was so excited for winter this year, because of the chance to watch him experience snow for the first time.  And the way the snow clung to every branch and leaf and early spring flower filled me with wonder and gratitude as well.

These were simple moments. Cooking together. A simple breakfast. A short walk around the block. But I love these images I caught that day, precisely because they capture those simple moments of this unique season in our family. Someday Ethan won’t make such a mess when we cook together. Someday he won’t need help climbing down the front steps. Someday he won’t fit that adorable yellow hat (seriously, it’s my favorite!) Someday  he’ll be too heavy to carry in my arms. And someday he will balk when I try to kiss his cheek. But for now, this is our life, both the sweet and the chaotic. And I’m determined to document it so when that day comes, I can remember and treasure this season.

How about you? Did you enjoy the spring snow this weekend?

Wandering Westport: Part Two of Chris and Hanna’s Urban Session {Kansas City Couples Photography}

 urban engaged or married couple in Westport archway engagment photography couples photography Kansas City, MO

As promised, here is Part 2 of Chris and Hanna’s fun and relaxed session! (If you missed Part 1, you can find it here)

One of the things that Hanna and Chris have loved about their current apartment is its proximity to the quaint and unique shops and restaurants of Westport. They love to try new restaurants together as fun little dates, so it made sense to do the second portion of their session in this fun part of Kansas City. We didn’t really have a plan for this portion of the session, other than to wander together and give ourselves permission to stop whenever we found a place that looked fun. And let me tell you, it was so much fun! Westport is full of colorful storefronts, brick alleys, and unique little nooks and crannies. And we found the most beautiful, dramatic light in the parking garage of all places!

I also loved that many of the buildings and shop fronts had an international flair to them. Those seemed to particularly suit Chris and Hanna, who love to travel together (in fact, Hanna described a backpacking trip through South America as their favorite “date” together!)

Announcing: Spring Mini Sessions! {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}

 Kansas City lifestyle photography spring mini sessions for families and couples

It’s March already! Can you believe it? It seems like every day I’m seeing more green peeking out from the wintery brown earth, more tiny leaves unfurling from the tips of the branches. The other day my son even found one lone dandelion on our walk! I think it’s safe to say that spring is quickly approaching!

If you’re like me, this early spring weather may be beckoning you out of your winter hibernation and outside into the sunshine to enjoy the warmer weather and new spring growth!

The lovely weather may also have you thinking about scheduling a spring photo session. The mild weather and spring flowers make this one of the most popular times to schedule sessions for couple or families.  This year I’m trying something new and scheduling several mini session days so that I can offer these coveted spring sessions to more of my clients. And as promised, I’m opening these sessions up to you first before I offer them to the general public, as a thank you for jumping on board with my email list. Tomorrow I will share them publically on my facebook page, though, so be sure to schedule your date quickly before spots fill up!

Like my full-length sessions, these mini sessions will be lifestyle sessions, focused on the sweet connections between you and your loved ones and the simple joy you share together. My goal is to help you create a sweet memory together during one of the most beautiful times of the year while freezing some of these moments for you in images that you can treasure for years to come.

So imagine cuddling with your husband underneath the delicate blooms of an apple tree. Or imagine standing amidst the delicate branches of a bush just starting to leaf as you hold your newborn baby. Or imagine swinging your toddler up high and hearing his giggle ring out in the fresh springtime air. These are just a little taste of the moments you can create (and capture) with your loved ones during a mini session.  

Are these the kinds of memories you want to make this spring? If so, here are some more details:

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Dates, Times, and Locations:

Saturday, April 1:
Location: Apple Orchard or Shawnee Mission Park*

7:30-8:00 a.m.
8:15-8:45 a.m.
9:00-9:30 a.m.
9:45-10:15 a.m.

(Sunrise is at 7:00 a.m.)

Sunday, April 2:
Location: Apple Orchard or Shawnee Mission Park*

5:00-5:30 p.m.
5:45-6:15 p.m. (Reserved)
6:30-7:00 p.m.
7:15-7:45 p.m.

(Sunset is at 7:45 p.m.)

*I have two different area apple orchards (30-45 minutes from Kansas City) lined up for these mini sessions but they have warned me that they cannot predict when the apple trees will bloom because it’s entirely dependent on the weather in the next few weeks. And once the trees bloom, they’re really only pretty for a few days. SO…I’ve set these dates based on their best guess at when the trees will be flowering. If we’ve guessed right, the sessions will take place at the apple orchards. And if we’ve missed the blossoms, we’ll do the sessions at Shawnee Mission Park (where we may possibly still catch some flowering trees!)

Saturday, May 13:
Location: Lake Jacomo

6:30-7:00 a.m.
7:15-7:45 a.m.
8:00-8:30 a.m.
8:45-9:15 a.m.
9:30-10:00 a.m.

(Sunrise is at 6:00 a.m.)

Saturday, May 13:
Location: Burr Oak Woods

5:00-5:30 p.m
5:45-6:15
6:30-7:00
7:15-7:45
8:00-8:30

(Sunset is at 8:30 p.m.)

You may be wondering....

Why might I choose a mini session over a customized full-length session?

Maybe you had photos taken recently and just want a few updated images. Maybe a full length session is a little out of your budget right now but a lower-priced mini session is more doable for you right now. Or maybe your children are at that wiggly stage and you feel like a shorter session would be a better fit for them.

How do I sign up for a session?

Send me a message with your first and second choice for date and time. Sessions will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. I will send you a confirmation email of your date and time, along with a contract and invoice. The contract will need to be signed and the invoice paid within 48 hours of receipt to hold your spot. Otherwise that slot may be opened up to another client.

Why do your times start so early?

I want you to have the best light for your session, that beautiful soft golden light that flatters your skin and adds dimension to your photos. And that light happens during the first two hours after sunrise and the last two hours before sunset (the “golden hours”).

Can I bring my aunt/cousin/sister/grandma to my session?

Because these sessions are shorter than my typical sessions, I have to limit them to singles, couples, and immediate family (parents and children) only. If you’d like to schedule a session with your extended family, I would love to set one up with at a different time! Send me a message and we can start that process!

What should we wear?

I love to talk with clients about possible outfits for their session! What you wear definitely effects how your final images looks and the colors that stand out in them. When you book a session, I’ll send you a “what to wear” guide that I’ve put together with some tips for putting together outfits. I also invite you to send me snapshots of potential outfits you’re considering so I can help you choose outfits that are both comfortable and that photograph well.

What happens if I (or my child) get sick the day of the session?

Unfortunately, the session fee is non-refundable. However, in the case of illness or other unavoidable emergency, I may apply your session to another mini session if there are any still available or it can go towards the balance of a full-length session (but this would be at my discretion).

So are you ready to schedule your spring mini session to make some memories with those you love?

A Newlywed Home: Chris and Hanna’s Adorable In-Home Session {Kansas City Couples Photography}

 cuddling together with coffee on a bed during an intimate in-home couples session in Kansas City, MO

(I’m actually going to post Chris and Hanna’s session in two parts, because there’s just too much goodness to fit in one post! So stay tuned for Part 2!)

I love photographing couples and families in their homes. These in-home sessions happen most often when a newborn baby makes his entrance into a family or when the cold of winter pushes us all indoors, but I think the home provides a sweet, intimate setting for a photo session in any season (and in any season of life). Home is the space we come to rest, to relax, and to be most fully ourselves with the ones we love, and I enjoy seeing the ways each home reflects the life and personalities of those who inhabit it. 

So you can imagine how excited I was when Hanna and Chris asked if we could do their session their cozy Westport apartment! This apartment was their first home together as a married couple and holds many memories of that first year and a half as newlyweds. They are preparing to move this year, though, and wanted to commemorate that season in their first home with a photo session before they go. 

Their apartment is full of light, warm color, and the kind of character that only an older building can offer. Every room held little details that spoke of Hanna and Chris’ personalities and life together, from the walls that friends help paint when they first moved in to Hanna’s easel and paints in the dining room, the theology books lined up on the shelf next to a globe of the world, the old newspaper stand that proclaims “You’re Married”, and the potted plant trailing on the window sill. 

Before their session, Hanna shared that the two of them met in college, while riding together with friends on the way to a dance. They hit it off on that car ride (so much so that they may have freaked out their friends!) and both fell in love with their ability to banter back and forth and make each other laugh. It wasn’t hard to imagine the banter of that first meeting as I watched them joke and tease and laugh together during their session. 

Chris and Hanna, thanks for being vulnerable enough to allow me into your home to photograph you together! It really was a joy to spend that Saturday morning together!
 

The Long-Awaited Ezra {Kansas City Newborn Photographer)

On New Year’s Day, when the year was as fresh and new as it will ever be, I had the privilege of photographing a newly-born baby. Little Ezra was not quite two weeks old, his life as fresh and new as the year.

Ezra was born just as the world prepared to celebrate the birth of another long-awaited child, Jesus, born over two thousand years ago now. This timing of his birth felt appropriate because Ezra himself was long-awaited, a precious gift that his parents waited several long years to finally hold in their arms. But their long wait and the difficult circumstances of this past year (including a house fire that displaced them from their house part-way through their pregnancy) seemed to only increase their joy and wonder over him now that he is finally here. As we prepared for their session, Margriet shared that the difficult waiting process convinced them more than ever of what a miracle his birth (and the birth of a child in general) is and how every step of the process is so wonderfully, uniquely, and intricately designed. Her words brought tears to my eyes as I read them, especially as I remembered the painful wait for my own son.

Now as they finally hold Ezra, still so tiny and fragile in their arms, they wonder who he will be and what kind of calling rests on his life after such a process of waiting. Who knows? For now, though, he is still just their precious baby, content to rest in their arms, cradled by their love.

A Perfect Fall Saturday: Apple Picking and Picnic {Platte City Family Photography}

I love family traditions. In the midst of changing seasons (both natural seasons and seasons of life), I appreciate the stability and sense of belonging that comes with those traditions, the sense of anticipation they bring as each season or holiday rolls around again.

Over the past several years we have established the tradition of picking apples each autumn, always with friends and ideally followed by a picnic. I thought we had missed our chance this year when the orchard we had been going to announced that their season was over. I found another orchard with one more weekend of apple picking, though, and so we went this weekend.

We arrived in the chilly morning, shortly after the orchard opened for the day. Armed with our baskets, we trooped out to back portion of the orchard (past roaming chickens), to the few remaining trees still laden with apples. There were a lot of kids in our group -- five between all of us -- and I enjoyed watching their delight as they plopped apples into their baskets and swung them around while the littlest ones (including our Ethan) bounced in carriers on their mother's fronts.

After we filled our baskets and paid for our apples, we spread blankets under a large tree in the corner of the property for a picnic. I had baked homemade bread and chocolate cookies to bring, along with cheese, olives, and an apple kale salad, and another friend brought chicken. We feasted on these and then visited for a while afterwards before we all went our separate ways. It combined some of my favorite things -- sunshine, autumn, picnics, friends, and fellowship around good food -- for a perfect fall Saturday.

Friends From Faraway: The Jones Family Visits {Kansas City Photography}

In the five plus years that Derek and I have lived in Kansas City, we have seen many of our friendships from back in Ohio slip away over the distance. But not our friendship with the Jones family. Through visits back home, skype dates, and joint photo projects we have stayed in touch and continued to share life together.

And this month, they finally made the trip to Kansas City to visit, now that their three boys are old enough to handle the long drive. We spent a few days showing them around the city, sharing some of our favorite places (including Joe's Kansas City Barbecue, Prospero's Books, and Thou Mayest Coffee Shop) and discovering a few new places as well.

Jeff has been a staunch supporter of my photography from the beginning (in fact, he sold me my camera), so it only seemed appropriate to document their visit.

Embracing Playfulness: Lebeka {Kansas City Small Business Photography}

Lebeka’s spontaneous personality and quick excitement over new ideas and experiences often reminds me of the simple joy of a child. I had the privilege of living with Lebeka for about a year and during that time, I came to appreciate not only her childlike joy and spontaneity, but also her unflinching commitment to serving struggling children, teens, and families. When she shared that she had accepted a job as a play therapist, it seemed like the perfect fit for her. As I have watched her step into this role, I can see that while she is childlike in her joy and enthusiasm, she is also a professional, with a deep well of compassion and a particular desire to work with adoptive families and their children.

When Lebeka recently approached me about taking some headshots to help her update her professional profile, I was excited about the opportunity to take some photos that would help celebrate and showcase those qualities in her. We chose the brick alleys and colorful storefronts of Westport as a fitting background for her photos.

(Do you need new photos for your website or professional profile? Feel free to contact me for pricing and more conversation about how I can help celebrate who you are and what you love to do.)

A Longing Fulfilled: Wendy's Wedding Shower {Kansas City Event Photography}

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My church community here in Kansas City celebrates people well. In the little over five years that we have lived there, I have attended many birthday parties, baby showers, going away parties, wedding showers, and more. Each one has been carefully planned, full of details that celebrate who that person is, what they love, the unique and beautiful ways each of them functions, and the story emerging in their lives. These experiences of celebrating others and being celebrated myself have influenced the ways that I, in turn, love to celebrate birthdays and other significant events in people’s lives. This has also influenced the way I photograph people, though, because it has helped teach me to look for and celebrate the unique beauty in each person and story.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of both attending and photographing one such celebration, a wedding shower for the beautiful Wendy. Wendy was on our church’s leadership team for many years and hosted many of these celebrations herself. About two years ago she moved to Hong Kong full time where she later met her fiancé Tad, a beautiful story of long-held longings fulfilled. Her wedding shower was a sweet time of hearing and celebrating that story, accented by vibrant, rich colors, delicious hand-crafted foods, and easy laughter.