Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cohen/ Beck Family Photos

When I started to more actively promote photography as part of the of the Backyard Boutique, I reached out to former co-workers, friends and acquaintances to start building a network and get my portfolio more current.  I never imagined that I would have such a positive and supportive response.  I know I've said it before, but I cannot say enough how meaningful and rewarding it is to have such enthusiastic encouragement from people I care about.  I am grateful for it every moment of the day.

The very first person to jump on board, set a shoot date, and sign a contract was Robyn, a lovely woman I used to work with.  When I reached out, Robyn had already started thinking about a family photo shoot for around the time of her baby girl's first birthday.  We picked the beautiful Norristown Farm Park for our shoot as it gave us the flexibility of several very scenic outdoor locations.  

A few weeks before our scheduled shoot, I was so thrilled to find out that Robyn had gotten engaged!  As if documenting a sweet little girl's first birthday wasn't exciting enough, finding out that I get to be a little part of this very special time in their lives made it even more so. 

After spending some time with Robyn, Brian and Aubrey, I am so sure they will have a life full of happiness and love!  Enjoy the photos!

Candid moments.  Those dimples will get her out of some trouble, I think!

The weathered barn was an excellent backdrop for our impromptu family picnic.

Happy, happy family.

Elmo = smiles.

From rustic barns to open field scenery - the farm park is worth a visit!
Aubrey attempts the great escape!

Extra extra special thanks to Robyn for being the first official photography client of The Backyard Boutique!  Your support is invaluable!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Barnes Family Photos - Julianna is One!

I met up with the Barnes Family a few weeks ago at beautiful Natirar Park in Somerset County, New Jersey to snap a few family photos.  Remember the sweet little girl featured here for a Mermaid Lagoon birthday party?  Fortunately for me, I was invited to spend some more time with this lovely family to capture photos to commemorate Julianna turning one year old.  Poor babe was a little under the weather at her birthday bash, so it was so wonderful to see her smiling, running around and being a generally unstoppable one-year-old this time around.  

Lauren (Julianna's mom) had so many perfect ideas for this photo shoot, and it was such a great experience to work with her on achieving her ideal vision.  The resulting photos turned out so well with the many things we had on hand to keep Julianna busy and happy! It was hard to narrow down the best of the best to share with you here, so I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I do!

"I'm ONE!" Cool parents teach their children cool things!

Happy family!
That smile.  Those baby blues.  Holding Daddy's hand. What a cutie pie!

Just having some fun with Mama.
Time for a wardrobe change.  Don't let the coy look fool you, she was happy to run around half dressed.
We ended the day with some cake smashing.  Perfect, if you ask me.
I have been so very lucky to be busy with photo shoots and editing over the last month.  I am so excited to share more family photographs, and will be updating more soon!  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flanagan Family Photos

August arrived yesterday.  Typically, that would put a smile on my face.  September, and the unofficial end of summer, is right around the corner.  But, I haven't had to run my air conditioner in over a week. This little slice of summer heaven is something I could get used to. 

Just when I think I may be starting to enjoy summer a bit more, I remember oppressively hot days like those leading up to and after Independence Day.  Sitting and watching fireworks and periodically peeling my legs off of the plastic lawn chair for fear that they may be permanently stuck if I sit still too long.  Ahhh... the memories. 

On one such 95+ degree day, The Flanagan Family and I braved the heat and humidity to capture some family photos.  Lucky for me, they made it look easy!  Mike, Kate and Aidan laughed off the harsh elements and even got the family pets involved.

We made a day of it!  This allowed me to capture some typical family time that they enjoy together when there isn't a snap happy photographer following them around.  I had a fantastic (albeit sweaty) day with the Flanagan's; getting to be a little part of some sweet family moments is always a treat!

We started out at my house for a change of scenery.  Aidan made fast friends with the horse!        
Father & Son
Some cuddle time
Pillow fight!
Cute little Patriot.
Mommy and Aidan laughing at Daddy.
Lovely little family of three.
Can't forget the furry family members.  Even the pups are smiling!

Thanks again to Mike, Kate & Aidan for letting me into your lives for the day!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Love Story: Part 2

In case you missed Part 1, you can read it here!

Recently, some juicy bit of celebrity relationship gossip flashed across my Facebook newsfeed and, as is often the case, it started me down a path of deliberating on the important things in life; like my marriage and why it’s awesome.

After a solid 10-15 minutes of devotion to my thoughts, I started browsing Pinterest and lost track of them.

The thoughts stuck with me and I started taking more careful notice of the events that happened with such ease in my marriage – and more importantly why it is so sincerely important that they continue to happen with ease.

I began to pick apart the keys to my happiness. Why does our relationship work? Spoiler Alert:  I have no ever lovin’ idea. While there is no secret recipe for success, having a marriage that lasts isn’t a total shot in the dark, either.

At its onset, my relationship had what some people may call, “a snowball's chance in Hell” in resulting in a marriage – let alone one that will last forever. I bet there was at least one person in attendance at my wedding that thought (and maybe still thinks) we were destined for divorce.

But we are married – ‘til death do us part. 

Married!  At the ripe ol' age of 21.

Senior Prom.  My Mom-Mom made my dress.
When Aaron and I met, we were seniors in high school. Mature, worldly, smart, good decision making, 17 year olds. We were totally good friends for , like, AT LEAST 3 or 4 weeks before we started making out – a solid friendship foundation is of the utmost importance. Both of us were packing the, “serious relationship knowledge” arsenal of… well… 17 year olds. We dove in.

The. Very. Best. Decision. I’ve. EVER. Made.

I mean that with all of the emphasis one-word sentences can convey. Probably more. 

Looking back as objectively as one can look back on their own life, it makes very little  logical sense that Aaron and I are very happily married. Anyone who knows me, knows I am never without a plan; because uncertainty gives me anxiety, not because I’m smart.

Aaron entered my life at a point where my plan was as follows:
  1. Get into Parsons School of Design.
  2. Live in New York for 4 years (it’ll totally be like FRIENDS) while studying photography and taking the best photographs ever seen. I’ll definitely be able to make money part-time this way.
  3. Graduate and be a fashion photographer or maybe a photographer that works on the set of SNL. 
  4. Be fabulous at one of the aforementioned jobs.
  5. Get married when I’m 30, yup, 30 is good.

    I’m not EVEN bending the truth here at all, folks. I very literally had decided that the above list of 5 points was how my life would go. It was probably written down somewhere – that’s how I knew it was a good plan. It still makes me proud to this day that I totally nailed #1 on that list. The rest went to shit pretty immediately after I moved to New York. 

    Aaron and I before our "Senior Dinner" shortly after we starting dating.

    After our graduation in an over crowded un-air-conditioned gym.  Niki with the photo bomb before it was cool.
    View from my very temporary NYC bedroom.
    Aaron and I had decided that after FOUR  (seriously!?) months of dating that we would stay together – long-distance will work (said no one, ever)! I packed up and said goodbye to Aaron (thinking of that morning still makes me want to vomit), and everything else I’ve known, and drove with my parents in my Mom’s conversion van to the city that never sleeps.

    I moved into a BEAUTIFUL, brand new, dorm apartment building that was supposed to be for upper classmen and graduate students. Somehow, me and two other doe-eyed freshmen got lucky and ended up in an 8th floor apartment with unobstructed views of the Empire State Building. There were 4 other (yes SEVEN total) girls that split the three bedrooms, full kitchen and living room. Despite the fact that living with 6 other people sounds like a nightmare, I felt pretty awesome – until I didn’t. I’ll spare you all of the crying-while-walking-down-the-street-details and cut to 6 weeks into the semester when I’m calling my mom and writing my dad a letter explaining why they need to drive back to New York City and bring me and the contents of my 8th floor apartment HOME! 

     For the record, my dad called me immediately upon reading the letter and said, “Why didn’t you just call me?  You could be home already. If you are unhappy – whatever the reason – I will come get you right now.” A couple of points worth mentioning here:
    • I was afraid of disappointing my dad because I wasn’t following through – that was self created, I came to discover.
    • I’m certain that my dad knew I was coming home because of my high school boyfriend of 6 months – regardless of whatever other nonsense I wrote in that letter.

      Stay tuned for part 3!

      Sunday, June 16, 2013

      It's Dad's Turn: Happy Father's Day, Pops!

      When I began collecting ideas and thoughts to write this, I started to recall memories that exemplified my Dad's varied, sometimes conflicting, personality traits and tendencies.  As I tried to mentally organize anecdotes, and ideas, it hit me: my dad is kinda hard to describe.  I truly don't know why that surprised me.  I've had a lifetime of trying to "de-brief" people on meeting my dad only for any explanation to end in: "Well... uhh... you'll see when you meet him". 

      Rather than try (in vain) to explain my unexplainable Dad, I present a small snippet of my favorite memories.  I can only hope that it paints an accurate picture of how amazing I think he is.  
      Napping like a boss.  My dad wears a "Rude Dog" shirt while napping with his toddler. 
      My Dad is an excellent teacher.  Perhaps one of his best qualities.  Of course, over my lifetime, my dad has taught me an innumerable amount of things on just as many topics.  When I was about 6 years old, my dad took me to the bank and I sat and listened as he opened a savings account for me.  He explained what saving money meant and why it was important to do so.  For this to make sense to a 6 year old, my Dad said things like: "...that pink boombox you saw the other day.  It costs more money than you have right now, but if we put some money aside every week into a savings account, soon you'll be able to buy it!" He explained what interest was and how to figure out a time frame for saving for a large purchase.  I was an active participant in acquiring, saving and spending the money needed for that pink boombox.  Such a simple thing.  So many lessons.  Good one, Dad. 
      A usual silly moment with Dad
      Essentially, the basis of my Dad's method of interacting with the rest of humanity rests in the idea of giving everyone the benefit of assuming they are good, truthful people.  From there, people will either continue to gain your trust and love, or, they won't.  My dad has never been vague about the consequences of violating his trust.  I credit his blunt, black and white communication about consequences for getting me through my teenage and college years successfully and unscathed.  Raising a teenager in this philosophy sounds like a frightening proposition to me - but my Dad stuck to it.  He did things like lobby my mom to allow me to get my nose pierced when I was 15.  What was he thinking?!  He was thinking that he wanted to reinforce my positive behavior.  I was a good student, never had so much as a detention and didn't need to be asked to do my homework.  At that moment, getting my nose pierced was what I wanted the most in the whole world.  With that reward my Dad taught me that hard work and good choices pay off big.  It left me with the unspoken idea that poor choices in the future, would have consequences as negative as this reward was positive.  He did the impossible; he made a teenager understand consequences. 

      This picture explains a lot about me.  On Dad's dirt bike (the Harley was in the garage) in a dress and saddle shoes on my first day of Kindergarten.
      (An aside: My dad again persuaded my mom to allow me to get my tongue pierced at 17.  Seriously, Dad?  That same guy tried his hardest to change my mind about getting a tattoo when I turned 18 - and each time since.  See what I mean about conflicting tendencies?)

      The unwavering support my Dad offers for each endevour I undertake is mind blowing.  He invests himself so wholly into my interests so he can offer useful advise or opinions.  I'd be a liar if I said that I am always eager to hear his opinions, but knowing that he loves me so much that he spends his time on things that I am interested in has always boosted my confidence and resolve.  From hocking Girl Scout cookies, to building me a dark room, to giving me the wedding of my dreams (and an un-listable amount of other things) his unshakable belief in me and my passions is at the core of who I am.
      Right before our walk down the aisle.
       I am so full of gratitude for the person that my Dad is.  The good, the flawed, the strengths and weaknesses make him the Dad that I know and love deeply.  I wouldn't trade him for the world.

      Saturday, June 8, 2013

      Bennett's Baptism

      It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since Mother's Day and my last post.  More than ever, it seems lately, time is just ticking away much faster than I approve of.  My oldest niece, who I swear I was meeting for the first time a minute ago, is two years old, wearing pigtails and saying all sorts of sassy things.  The whiskers and hairs on my dog's face are suddenly more gray and white than they are brown and I am 6 months away from another birthday.  I really don't know how this all happened!

      My love for reminiscing and nostalgia is one of the reasons I so enjoy photography; especially the variety that documents important events or time periods in people's lives.  It is rewarding to know that as time passes, as faces age and babies grow, some moments that I've captured will be the moments people look back on as they say "remember when..."

      I am so fortunate to have people in my life who are supportive of the things that I love to do!  I have yet to manage to put in to words how meaningful and special it is when I am invited to be a part of a family's memorable occasions from behind the camera.  

      I met Maura (Bennett's Mom) while working at a place that we are both glad to no longer work at!  Despite the fact that we both gladly moved on, I know I am happy to have worked there because of all of the wonderful people I became friends with during my time there.  When I first met Maura she was preparing to get married; planning her winter wedding in her hometown of Oneonta, NY from the suburbs of Philadelphia.  She planned a beautiful wedding in a very short amount of time, all while maintaining a collected calmness - at least on the surface!  I met Sean, Maura's husband for the first time at a Halloween party at my house.  They dressed as Liz Lemon (Tina Fey's charter on 30 Rock) and her boyfriend at the time Carol (played by Matt Damon).  Seriously, how could you not be friends with these people?
      Costume inspiration.  The often unintentionally masculine Liz wears the same flannel shirt as her boyfriend

      Maura and Sean -Halloween 2010.  How awesome are they?

      I was thrilled to hear the wonderful news last June that Maura and Sean were expecting a little one!  Bennett Reid made his debut in late November 2012 and was surrounded by family at his baptism this past Mother's Day.  It was such a pleasure to be there for this special day!
      Very seriously the only baby I've seen that didn't throw a fit while being baptized.  Maybe the pacifier helped!
      The proud parents receiving baby Bennett's baptism certificate
      The grandmothers
      Very proud god parents!
      What a beautiful family!

      Beautiful Mama and cute Bennett laughing at his Daddy. 

      Handsome, happy, smiley Bennett!

      Need photography for an event or family portraits?  Get in touch!

      Sunday, May 12, 2013

      Happy Mother's Day!

      My Mom is amazing.  On top of that, my Mom-Mom (my maternal grandmother) is quite incredible as well.  I am beyond lucky to have these women by my side to love, advise, teach, discipline,  and other wise mold and shape me into the woman I am.  Of course, other people (my dad, my friends, my husband) have contributed to the person I am today, but today is about the awesomeness of Mom and I have a lot of awesome to celebrate. 

      Although they are very different in many ways, my Mom and Mom-Mom are similar in that they are strong, independent women who have forged success from less than ideal circumstances. 

      My Mom-Mom, raised on a farm with three brothers became a teenage mother and bride in 1958 (before it made you an MTV celebrity)and eventually left her home and husband with a my very young mother in hopes of making a life that was better for the both of them.  She had gone to beauty school and worked as a hair dresser (she still does at 71, by the way) for many years before starting her own business, Sue's Beauty Shop. It certainly would have been easier for her to stay married to a man she didn't really love, stay in a town where her entire family lived - but she didn't.  I've never gotten into the nitty gritty details as to why this was her chosen course, but from the information I do have, I'd imagine staying was simply not an option.  

      Mom -Mom at a Christmas dinner
      Anyone that interacts with Mom -Mom (that's basically her first name) knows she is a no nonsense kind of lady.  She can come across a little harsh a hasty at times and I'm entirely sure she is unfamiliar with the phrase "hold your tongue".  Although subtlety and tact, aren't necessarily her strong suits, she loves her family with a strength that I admire immensely.  She is also wildly talented.  Growing up on a farm as the only girl in a family with 4 children, she spent much of her time in the kitchen or on a sewing machine - and it shows.  She whips up holiday dinners with her eyes closed, and makes prom dresses for her picky granddaughter with a smile.  Having three brothers also made sure she knew her way around the tool shed.  She's always been a Ms. Fix-It (installing counter tops and flooring - no biggie) while maintaining the largest lipstick and nail polish collection 10 year old me had ever seen.  She is a quick decision maker, laughs hardest at physical humor (don't trip and expect help) likes to dance, loves lounging in the water on the hottest summer days, and would likely choose the company of dogs over most people. 

      My Mom, raised mostly by a single mother, became one herself in her early 20's.  She struggled with money and raising a son after her husband left.  She eventually met my father and attended nursing school while pregnant with me.  Although their romantic relationship ended, my parents remained as friendly as possible and did an excellent job making parenting decisions that were best for my brother and I.  My mom purchased her first home in 1995 (when I was entering 4th grade) after a lifetime of renting.  An accomplishment I am still in awe of. 

      My beautiful Mother

      My mother's house - a few years after purchase
       My mom has a quiet peace and calmness that can instantly put people at ease.  Although she is a worrier (mostly about her kids), she literally has a blood pressure that is so low, most pharmacy/ grocery store cuffs don't produce a reading.  She is the most empathetic person I know and possesses a level of open mindedness that I envy.  She introduced me to pedicures and yoga (things I can't imagine living without) and the value of a makeup -less face.  Whenever I am critical of myself, she chastises me and explains why that negative, is indeed a positive.  Second only to spending time with her family, is spending time in the garden or otherwise in nature.  Her appreciation of the beauty surrounding us in nature is the epitome of genuine.  She loves naps and being silly in public.  I have never, ever, not even for a millisecond, been unsure of the vast, unconditional and all encompassing love that my mother has for her children. She doesn't nag, or impose her will or make me feel guilty about anything. Ever.  She is one of the best people I know, and despite my downright bitchy horribleness between the ages of 13-18, she is one of my best friends. 

      Mama and me.
      I carry so many of the diverse traits that both my Mom and Mom-Mom possess and I couldn't be happier about that fact.  I love spending 2 hours getting ready for a night out just as much as I love spending an evening around a campfire and sleeping in a tent.  I am sometimes hasty, sometimes indecisive, and on occasion, can strike the perfect balance between the two.  I love the quiet I achieve while practicing yoga and the rowdiness of a country music concert on the lawn in Camden, NJ.  I love spending time in my garden and doing DIY projects around the house without the help of the awesome men in my life. 

      The best women I know.  Laughing at my mom's struggle to put on a glove at my wedding.
      One of the best things about these women; you'd never know about the challenges they have overcome because they don't dwell on them.  They are happy for the lives they have now, regardless of, or perhaps because, of what paths they've ventured down to get here.  In a nutshell, they aren't bitter.  And by living their lives without bitterness in their hearts, they have given me the best gift of all. 

      Thank the awesome women in your life today and everyday!