On the first Sunday of Advent this year, Danny and I lit the first Advent candle at church. Two days before, the day after Thanksgiving, we kicked off the Christmas carols and put up our tree, our nativity scene, our mantle decor. A few days after that, we went and got some fresh evergreen boughs and I arranged them with poinsettias, dusty miller, and a big red bow on the little white wrought iron tea cart that we have by the front entryway, welcoming people into our home.
I love Christmas. I love the happiness of it, the meaning of it all, the traditions of church and family and friends. I love the parties we’ll be attending and hosting in the next couple of weeks, the foods we break out only at this time of year, the colors and the closeness and the coziness.
Yes, we have two little Georges-Pierre ornaments, and a couple awesome Our First Christmas ornaments. I wish real champagne were filled with glitter.
As a child, I had so many favorite Christmas traditions with my family, from the hot cocoa in front of the tree as we read our Advent calendar each night to hanging our stockings on Christmas Eve to the annual Christmas morning breakfast of egg and sausage casserole and hot curried fruit. Also, the tradition of my mother putting my own gifts in nondescript boxes and letting me wrap them myself, since I absolutely loved wrapping Christmas presents!
As an adult without any kids yet, it sometimes feels like we have fewer traditions. Because, let’s face it, Georges-Pierre can’t exactly roll up his sleeves and bake cookies with me. But we do have traditions. We have the Christmas music we sing along to, way too loudly — check out the Jars of Clay Holiday, Hillsong Holiday, and BarlowGirl Holiday Pandora stations to hear some of our favorites. We have the extra flurry of mail with all the Christmas cards we send and receive, and of course, the always-hilarious photo shoot we do for our Christmas card. (It’s interesting trying to get a dog to understand that the point of a photo shoot isn’t for him to use his people as a jungle gym.) And, of course, who could forget that we have the tradition of Danny’s parents’ Christmas tree . . . which conveniently doesn’t get put up until we arrive in Virginia to drag the 12-foot tree up from the basement.
Whatever your Christmas traditions, I hope you are enjoying them this year!
I sat down to write this blog post a couple days before Thanksgiving — because, let’s face it, a Thanksgiving Day blog post feels kinda obligatory.
So I thought about all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for. And then I thought about how incredibly easy it is to be thankful for the things that make our lives better, those things we tick off when we “count our blessings.” And then I thought – how are we supposed to feel about the things in our lives that don’t feel like blessings? Are we supposed to be thankful when literal and figurative storms darken our horizon? When loved ones die or struggle with debilitating, chronic, life-altering illness? When business takes a nosedive? When relationships sour? When life just hurts?
It was a horribly cloudy, rainy, all-around unpleasant day, weather-wise, when I sat at my computer and typed these words. In general, I hate cloudy, rainy days. They make me feel as if the whole world has turned its back, and after only a few hours of clouds, I sometimes have trouble believing the sun will ever shine again. I struggle to be grateful for the rain in the midst of all the gloom.
That’s a pretty insignificant problem in the grand scheme of things. (I should be thankful, right?!) But no matter the problem, these words from 1 Thessalonians echo in my mind: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” That can be hard. But the next part of that verse is even harder: “For this is God’s will for you.”
In some circumstances, it can be just too hard to give thanks. But what I am incredibly grateful for is that the exhortation is not to be grateful necessarily for the circumstances, but to exercise thankfulness in spite of them. One of the things I know I should be thankful for is that I’m not currently in any circumstance that makes giving thanks feel like an impossible task. But even on a great day, it can be a challenge to live with thankfulness.
Giving thanks isn’t only for the good times, for the happy events, for the material blessings, for the holidays. Giving thanks should be a way of life. I’m the first to admit, I’m not skilled at that way of life, but right now is the perfect time to truly work at putting it into practice.
Ever since our business began, Danny and I have focused on shooting weddings. But more and more, I’m loving working with families on an ordinary day, just capturing a little bit of their personalities, a little peek into their lives at that specific moment. Because, while weddings only happen once, this exact time in a family’s life, whatever time that may be, also only happens once. And it’s just as worthy of holding on to.
Last week I got together for a shoot with some old friends and their kids, who were just babies (or not born yet!) when I first met them. It’s so much fun seeing how a family’s dynamic evolves as kids grow into their personalities and how parents and kids become friends.
And, okay, truth-telling moment here: Photographing the parents during a family session is still possibly my favorite part. I absolutely love photographing couples and seeing the ways they interact, the ways they look at each other, the ways they hold hands or link arms or lock eyes. And I especially love photographing couples who are parents, because they don’t necessarily get a lot of time to just be a couple when there are kids in the house. And these two? Every bit as adorable as they were when they were middle school sweethearts.
I loved this. The guys told each other jokes all afternoon, competing to see who could make the others laugh the hardest.
One of my favorites!
Yes. Just yes.
After a quick outfit change, we were back to shooting.
A wintery sunset wrapped the evening up perfectly.
Thank you so much for a great afternoon, you guys!
Next week we’ll roll into the holidays again — that wonderful time of year when there is no shortage of family and friends and food . . . and probably photographs. Thanksgiving dinner with the family? Picture time! Christmas cocktails with the girls? Let’s all look cute for the camera!
Whenever Danny and I pose our subjects for portraits, we try to pass along a few simple tips they can use any time they’re photographed, because it’s amazing how changing the way you stand oh-so-slightly can determine whether you like how you look in your pictures. So here are a few quick– very quick, and by no means comprehensive — tricks for looking your best each time a friend wants to grab a quick group photo. Of course there are times when we intentionally break these rules when we’re posing our subjects individually, and different bodies pose well different ways, but here are some standard go-to rules that will help anyone, male or female, look great in a snap.
Turn your body at a three-quarters angle to the camera rather than facing the camera squarely — it’s frequently more figure flattering:
Put your weight on the leg farther away from the camera and put a little bend in the leg nearer the camera — it will keep you from appearing rigid, and as an added bonus, it can be slimming:
If you’re sitting, be sure to cross your legs away from the camera rather than toward the camera — it will almost always be more flattering to your legs:
Tilt your head slightly — it will make you look loose and relaxed:
Give your hands something to do so your arms don’t just hang at your sides – it will help you look comfortable and purposeful:
Oh, and one more thing, but I think you’ve probably got this one down:
When I found out Alicia wanted to do senior portraits with her Thoroughbred, Leo, out at Hidden Creek Stable, I knew we were going to make some magic. I’d photographed at Hidden Creek before, late this summer, so I’d already seen what a perfect place it is for pictures. But take one high school girl with a glowing smile, one handsome bay gelding, and one glorious fall afternoon and you have a recipe for something really special.
Really, really special. I mean, really! The picture above was a combination of my idea and Alicia’s — a collaboration that Leo went along with once Alicia’s mom, Cynthia, came up with the idea of hiding Leo’s treats between Alicia’s fingers.
See what I mean about Alicia’s smile? Her eyes almost flicker when she smiles, and you just have to smile back. Alicia, you are just as pretty on the outside as on the inside.
We pulled Mom and Dad in for a few family portraits. With Leo, of course, since he’s part of the family.
To end off the shoot, Alicia made a quick change into her riding clothes and schooled Leo over some cross rails. He seemed to think we should all just call it a night and go have dinner, but he went along with the plan without too much grumbling.
Alicia, I loved spending the afternoon with you and Leo and your family! Here’s to a great senior year!
Hairstyling: Grace Cobb
Makeup: Sarah Graff