27 Sep

Waxhaw, NC Child Portraits | All Smiles

Waxhaw, NC Child Portraits | All Smiles

Have you ever seen a photo of your children that you just kept going back to look at it over and over because you loved it so much?  A photo that just makes you smile really big everytime you see it?  You know, the photo that makes you stop and say to yourself – “Wow, these guys are mine and I love them so much!  They may drive me nuts sometimes, but just look at them, they are awesome.”

Sometimes, all it takes is just one image to give you that feeling, and I was so happy to capture that one image for myself this weekend.

These guys love to run. They squeal and giggle as they are running, and I think this image just shows my munchkin and pumpkin at their best – happy together.

This is why I do what I do. Because, sometimes, you get a picture that will just make you smile everytime you see it.  I love when it happens for me, but I also really do love when it happens for my clients, too.  There will be more to share from this session, but for now, here was favorite.

Waxhaw, NC Child Portraits - All Smiles

21 Sep

Lovable Marvin, NC Family Photography | Nieces

Lovable Marvin, NC Family Photography | Nieces

I am blessed to have four beautiful, little nieces living not too far away.  They are my daughter’s best friends, and we just love spending time with them.

I think my sister loves having a photographer in the family, but I don’t mind. It is a pleasure to spend a few hours with these girls and capture their beautiful smiles and watch them grow.
This year, some of my favorites are of my youngest niece, because she made me work for some of those smiles as you can see below, but capturing all of her personality (including the “fake” pouts) was just so much fun. Sometimes, those are the images that make me giggle most when I’m post-processing the session on my computer.

Here are some highlights from our End of Summer session last week.  {Thanks girls for being so wonderful and fun!}

Lovable Marvin, NC Family Photography highlights adorable portraits of her nieces

19 Sep

Jenna’s Story, Medical Zebras, and Raising Money for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

I had never heard of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome before I met Jenna.  After learning more about the everyday impacts it can have, I wanted to help.  Jenna has allowed me to share her personal story here to help raise awareness for EDS and also raise money that can be used towards research.  I invite you to learn more about Jenna, EDS, how I’m using my business to help raise money, and at the end of this post, if you can, consider donating to EDS Network C.A.R.E.S. – a 100% volunteer organization. Anything can help, even small amounts, and we greatly appreciate your time just reading and sharing this post with others.

There is a saying in the medical field often used by doctors, “If you hear hoofbeats behind you, expect horses, not zebras.” But sometimes, it might actually be zebras.

This is Jenna. She is a bright, bubbly and inspiring girl and a former co-worker from my days at Capital IQ.

This is a story about Jenna and her zebras.

Four years ago, she was walking up a hill in Ithaca, NY at her college and started to notice some chest pain. When the pain didn’t go away after a few days, she went to the hospital afraid she was having heart or lung trouble. They did a battery of tests. Doctors found nothing wrong, sent her home with some extra strength ibuprofen and suggested rest and physical therapy. In a few weeks, she should be fine.

But she wasn’t. Her symptoms grew worse. Within a few months, she had neuropathies in both arms, her hands were numb, and eventually the muscles in her back atrophied.

Jenna went from doctor to doctor looking for clues to her mystery illness. Eventually, she received a tentative and ultimately incorrect diagnosis of bilateral thoracic outlet syndrome, a blockage of nerves and arteries at the neck and shoulders.

Jenna graduated college and moved to New York City to start her job at Capital IQ. This is when I met Jenna, but was completely unaware of any issues with her medical condition. Although she was in constant severe pain, she was determined to do well and hopefully start another round of physical therapy in New York.  She found a great rehabilitation expert on the Upper East Side, who diagnosed her as “hyper-mobile” (or loose jointed) and explained that she had more orthopedic problems than just thoracic outlet syndrome.

Jenna started with basic exercises and found she couldn’t even support her own weight rolling over or crawling on the floor. Although she diligently went to physical therapy, she grew weaker instead of stronger.  Her shoulders and neck started to pop out of joint, and her hips and knees started to get weak.  Next, she tried an injection therapy on her shoulder, only to find it became exponentially worse. A year later, even though she had made progress on exercises, she was dislocating joints multiple times a day. Jenna often had to literally tape and brace herself together just to be able to function.

At this point, her overall illness was still a mystery and at just 22 years old, she feared if she didn’t find an answer, she would soon be disabled.

One day, as she googled her symptoms again, she found a website explaining a connective tissue disorder called “Ehlers Danlos Syndrome”.  The features of Ehlers Danlos syndrome were loose, fragile hyper-mobile joints, thin stretchy skin, chronic pain, premature birth, dysautonomia, and sometimes vascular and organ rupture. Diagnosis is based on physical features and the ability to pass the Beighton test, which tests an individual’s joint hypermobility.  Sitting in front of her computer that day, she discovered that she scored all 9 points on the Beighton Scale, and had all the clinical features of this condition.

She scheduled an appointment with a geneticist at Cornell Weill Hospital, and was diagnosed by clinical examination. Jenna had Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The hoofbeats were zebras.

Since diagnosis, she has suffered many other complications of EDS.  She eventually developed dysautonomia (a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system), multiple food allergies, crippling fatigue, and severe metabolic disorders.

So, what is Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS)?

It is an inherited connective tissue disorder, caused by a defect in the way the body makes collagen. The faulty collagen makes the connective tissue in the body weak and fragile. This causes the progressive deterioration of the joints, skin, blood vessels, and organs. Depending on the individual mutation, the severity of the syndrome can vary from mild to life-threatening. There is no cure, and treatment is supportive, including close monitoring of the digestive, excretory and particularly the cardiovascular systems. Corrective surgery may help with some of the problems that may develop in certain types of EDS, although the condition means that extra caution is advised and special practices observed.

Patients with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome say it is difficult to even find a general practice doctor that is willing to treat or follow their case because of the lack of knowledge of the disease.  Every time she goes to a doctor, Jenna is often showcased to a parade of medical students who are told “this will likely be the only case of EDS you will ever see.”

When Jenna first started working with us at Capital IQ, most of us were completely unaware of the issues and challenges she was facing. Behind her smile and warm personality, she tried so hard not to show the pain she was feeling nearly every day.

At age 24, Jenna strives to maintain a positive attitude, hope for the future, and lead a balanced work and social life.  She feels very blessed to have a supportive family, caring friends, and a wonderful work environment. She hopes that one day her story will help others become aware of the disease and eventually lead to treatment or a cure.  As of now, there are no medications to treat this illness and no cure, and depending on the specific categorization of this illness, some patients lives may end early and suddenly due to possible vascular or organ ruptures.

I had the opportunity to photograph Jenna last Fall while building images for our company’s corporate web site.  As you can see from the images below, her smile is contagious, and there is usually quite a bit of laughter involved with any interaction you have with her.  She just knows how to make people feel comfortable and have fun in any situation. She actually credits her syndrome with making her appreciate life more.

I left Capital IQ in April to pursue my passion for photography full-time. But I kept thinking about Jenna, and have learned more about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome since that time. I am finally pursuing my own dream, and I want to also use my photography to do some good.  Last year, I started working with PPA Charities and Operation Smile and during the month of October, I will donate a portion of my session fees to Operation Smile’s Family Portrait Month.

BUT, now I’m also going to make September and November my own Portrait Months in honor of Jenna and EDS.  I am pledging to donate a portion of my sales from September and November portrait sessions to EDS Network C.A.R.E.S.  I have spoken to this organization which is strictly run by volunteers and 100% of the money raised will go directly to research for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

I am so happy to say that my portrait calendar for the Fall is nearly full, and sessions have begun. I am on my way to raising money for EDS Network C.A.R.E.S.

But now I’m reaching out to others.  There are two possible ways that you can help EDS Network C.A.R.E.S and Jenna’s hope for finding a cure for this disease.

First, if you are a photographer, would you consider joining me in this cause of both fundraising for EDS Network C.A.R.E.S and raising awareness about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?  You can help by donating either a small portion of your portrait session fees or your sales to EDS Network C.A.R.E.S.  You can add your contributions to our Crowdrise page, and we will create a special blog post in December to recognize all of the photographers and also any vendors that helped us in our fundraising efforts. Even small amounts will be helpful and greatly appreciated.

We will also welcome one-time donations from friends and family, photographers, and vendors through this Crowdrise page as well.  Please share this blog post with your friends, spread awareness of EDS and if you can, please help our fundraising efforts.  There is no cure, but with your assistance, more research can be done to ease the pain from diseases such as EDS.

 

Click here to Donate

 

Official Organizations…

Ehlers Danlos Network C.A.R.E.S. – Research & Awareness

Informational & Cool Videos…

Discovery Channel Medical Incredible Show on a family of four with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and how they have overcome their disabilities by becoming Martial Artists (5:58 mins)

Mystery Diagnosis on Ehlers Danlos Syndrome  – About a woman that struggles to find out her diagnosis her whole life after chronic pain and vascular problems and goes on to found the EDS Network C.A.R.E.S (25 mins)

Information Websites

Wikipedia Article explaining the basics of EDS and the different types of the disease

National Institute of Health Website of EDS.

17 Sep

CreativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey and Taking Care of Business

Have you ever imagined that you would someday own your own business? That you would be responsible for everything from marketing, finances, taxes, in addition to the actual product or service you were selling? To be honest, I never thought that was me. I wasn’t an entrepreneur or manager. And while I absolutely loved photography and would dream of being a photographer, I never thought about the business side of photography.

At least, I had not thought about it much until this past year. Somehow during my husband’s unemployment and my maternity leave over two years ago, my dream of being a photographer turned into an actual pursuit. Something happened around that time that kept moving me closer and closer to following my dream and making it reality. I knew it would take time, but even as I began the steps to officially form my business, the dream still seemed so far away. But just 1 ½ years after officially submitting the paperwork, I walked away from my full-time job ready to be a full-time family photographer. And now I am in the midst of learning what owning your own business is really all about.

I’ve made great strides in this time, but I’ve also made mistakes, and I just know that this business could consume me if I don’t get everything organized. So, when CreativeLIVE and Tamara Lackey announced the September class for Taking Care of Business – I blocked my calendar. After submitting a video for last year’s class, I knew I would re-submit and try again this year, and even if I wasn’t accepted – I knew I would be watching and glued to my seat. And as it turns out, I was “glued” to my seat on the couch of the CreativeLIVE studio set in Seattle with a microphone attached to my shirt.

To start off, if you haven’t heard of CreativeLIVE, they are a live classroom offering free online classes and workshops in photography, video, web and graphic design, app development and a wide array of other creative topics. And if you can’t participate or watch during the live recording, you can purchase the videos to watch in your own time, and these can be incredibly valuable. But even more valuable, is the invitation to become a part of their live audience. For many of the workshops, they’ll bring in just 6 photographers to be there in person. You pay your own way, but the workshop and content is free. And being there live is an incredible experience. It’s educational, networking and fun all rolled into one.

From the moment we started our course, Tamara Lackey informed us that we were going to “bring hotness to business”.  If you have ever met or seen Tamara speak, you know that her energy, enthusiasm and general sweetness is completely disarming. Somehow I was mostly able to forget that we had about 3 or 4 video cameras recording every whisper, movement, giggle or sniffle.

So, what did I take away?

  • – I can’t do it all, and shouldn’t keep trying.  I’m already working on the list of what I can assign to another person, and what makes sense to keep as my tasks.
  • – Single-tasking – Getting the same things done at one time can help you be more efficient and maximize your time.  Close all other windows and just focus on one task at a time until complete. Blog writing days will now be on Fridays.
  • – Know who I am – succinctly. And what am I drawn to? For me, these were answered with just a few words – Family, Warmth, Giggles, Closeness, Hugs, and Sunshine. This is me. This is what I love. This is what I’m drawn to time and time again. I was happy during this section, as I do feel that brand is beginning to carry all of those sentiments.
  • – Just start and just start somewhere. This alone has inspired me this week. Some tasks have been on my list for a while, but things are starting to roll as I head into my busy Fall season.
  • – Shoot what you love. Do what you love. Doing something for yourself always leads to something bigger.  (Interview with Matthew Jordan Smith)
  • – Rekanize that energy is contagious! 🙂 Bring positive and happy energy into everything you do, and make sure to take time to recharge and rejuvenate to keep your energy high.
  • – Change your mindset, change experiences in your life, and this will change your outcome.
  • – Be easy to do business with – in so many ways.  At my previous company, this was one of our core values, and it translates so well to any business.

I have a notebook full of specific business tips to focus on in the upcoming months, and things are already moving forward.

I want to personally thank CreativeLIVE for everything they do. They put so much of themselves into these classes, and the energy and excitement from everyone I met is really contagious.

As for Tamara Lackey, she should be the star of the new movie “How Does She Do It?” (I say that strictly based on the title, as I haven’t seen it yet).  I have seen Tamara speak 5 times in just about 1 year, which is not something I would typically recommend, but her content is always new and fresh and I just continue to learn and learn and learn from all of her knowledge and experience. And amazingly, she just continues to share more incredible information. She is an extremely positive person and I’m lucky just to have been given the chance to get to know her. After just one conversation with her, you might just walk away feeling better about yourself, because she’s that positive, that energetic and that amazing. Thank you to Tamara Lackey for everything you continue to do for this industry.

For my incredible colleagues in the live audience – Jesse, Donovan, Kellianna, Erika and Courtney – you guys were amazing. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me and everyone else watching around the world. Thank you for helping to make me laugh, and for listening to me when I was stressed. You are all so very talented and it was a privilege to be there with you for the two days in Seattle. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of you and hearing about your careers as you each grow your businesses. I have no doubt that you will all succeed, and I look forward to sharing things we have learned and continue to learn as we grow.

Marvin, NC Family Photographer as a guest of CreativeLIVE in September 2011

 

07 Sep

New Blog & CreativeLIVE!

Some big items this week including my brand new WordPress Blog.  Most of the posts have been moved over from my previous blog site, and please bear with me as I continue to update the images and add them into the blog posts as well.  I hope you continue to follow my posts here, and welcome feedback and comments.   I’d like to thank the amazing Leslie Vega from Leslie Vega Designs for the beautiful blog header.  Leslie designed my logo earlier this year, and she is incredibly easy to do business with that I just had to go back for my blog header.  She is so good, that without any instructions other than “I need a blog header that works well with my site and colors”, she designed this one in one try.

Next up on the list is my trip to Seattle this week to participate in Tamara Lackey’s Business Workshop for photographers on CreativeLIVE. This is an incredible opportunity, and I will be one of just six photographers participating in the live audience.  I can’t wait to meet the rest of the participants, as well as the amazing CreativeLIVE team.  CreativeLIVE has organized a multitude of amazing workshops for photographers in an online setting that is both affordable and valuable for this industry. I have learned so much in the last year thanks to their workshops, and can’t believe I get to join them in Seattle for Tamara Lackey’s class. I can’t wait to get started on Friday morning.

For photographers, if you are interested in watching, the workshop will be available during the times below at www.creativelive.com/live.  If you watch it live, it is free.  But I also highly recommend purchasing the recordings to watch it multiple times.  We will be live during the following times:

9 AM to 4 PM — California (PST)
Noon to 7 PM — New York (EST)
5 PM to Midnight — London (GMT)
1 AM to 8 AM Saturday — Tokyo (GMT +9)

For more information, please visit their web site at www.creativelive.com/courses/taking-care-business-tamara-lackey.

Wish my luck and I’ll see you on the internet!  Time to finish packing.

02 Sep

Time to Upgrade Your Social Media Profile?

I love an opportunity to see an old friend and former co-worker. So, of course, I was very happy to journey into the city to help a good friend upgrade their social media profile. Although it was a hot afternoon in August, we still had a great time wandering around the Times Square area and finding little spots for backgrounds for these portraits.
My favorite: I just love that my friend and client had a great sense of humor and was willing to pose with Elmo and Cookie Monster, just to give my kids a smile and giggle while I post-processed the session on the computer.
While many of us use Facebook to connect with friends and family, we often turn to LinkedIN and similar social media sites for professional networking. But does your profile picture show the professional you? Whether you are connecting with colleagues, recruiters or your clients, you want your profile photo to convey the right image to the corporate world.
If it’s time to upgrade your social media profile, consider professional portraits to upgrade and enhance your image to your networks.  Autumn is a great time of year to capture these images, so let me know if you are interested.
Enjoy the long weekend!