Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maricopa Arizona Family Photographer

I tell ya, I love family photo sessions. The very best part about family photos is that, unlike weddings, I almost always have complete freedom with time and creativity.

This past weekend I drove down to Maricopa to photograph a special family. I've known Randy since he was in Elementary School, and by a weird twist of fate, his wife Heather was a high school student at the school my husband Ryan student taught at when he was getting his teaching degree. Even stranger, Heather and I were on the same huge band trip (her: student, me: "chaperone") to Europe when I was still in college. We didn't know each other then, but we do now!

Heather and Randy have an adorable little girl named Addison who I know is the joy of the entire family's life. Her grandparents and Aunts and Uncles dote on her, and it's not hard to see how she earns that! She has the sweetest, most easy-going little personality and it was so much fun getting her to laugh for pictures. Luckily, I have my trusty photo sidekick (aka. Husband) who is like catnip to babies. Little Addie couldn't take her eyes off him, so as long as I had him standing right over me making faces at her, we were golden.

Addie had a bit of a rough start in life, but as you can see, she's a tough one! Everyone is so glad that she's healthy and happy.

Along for the ride was Kyra the pup. I love when families include ALL their family members! And luckily where Ryan's good with babies, I'm good with puppies, so it was a winning combination.

One photography-type note: I did some photoshopping to these pics, but not much. I hesitate to point it out even, but Heather got her knees wet (so did I!) playing in the grass with Addy, so I had to do some magic to her jeans in the photos! How did I do? :-)

On to the photos of this sweet family!

This next one cracks me up. Her mom called it her 'bitter beer face'. Ha!

Please visit my website if you'd like to talk to me about your own family photo session.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Photography Business

I'm at a bit of a crossroads with my photography business. Until now I have relied almost completely on references from friends. As a result, my prices are dirt cheap compared to the serious industry in the valley. Which, you'd think, would give me an edge when it comes to competition for weddings with people being more money conscious then ever.

Not so. Why? I'm at a weird mid-range place where I charge much less then the photographers who own their own physical studios and employ staff to book gigs and process their work. But I also charge more then the people who are trying their hand at photography and are quoting potential clients fees that make it barely worth their time to do the gigs.

Case and point: I was asked to quote a wedding this week, and the package included an engagement session. Right now I am including regular engagement sessions as a freebie if people book a wedding with me, which saves my clients $150. However, this engagement session was to take place at one of my favorite mountain lakes.... two and a half hours from my house. That is 5 additional hours that day committed to photography for the couple, so while I discounted the whole package by $150, I did charge for travel time.

While I was excited about the location for both the engagement and wedding pictures, and I felt that my personality was a good match for the couple, ultimately then went with someone they found on craigslist who is doing the whole thing for practically nothing. I figured with the travel time, time taking photos, and hours and hours of post-processing for both sessions.... their photographer is making $15 an hour.

I started out the same way that these photographers did, so I completely understand the need to underbid for the sake of booking any wedding they can get. I'm lucky in that this photography job is my passion, not my livelihood, but it is still disheartening to lose fun gigs because people are willing to gather quotes, then just take the lowest one regardless of skill or experience.

So here I am with a decision to make. Do I make the leap and start advertising in order to increase interest, or do I just bag the whole thing and go back to taking pictures for fun? I'd hate to do that because I really do love being able to offer people the opportunity to have beautiful pictures of their families to put on their wall.... without having to pay a ton of money or deal with people at JCPenny who have no other qualification besides the ability to hit the shutter release.

And if I do decide to advertise, how in the world am I going to pay for it, and how do I start? Until I've been completely self-sufficient doing all my own sales tax processing, creating and maintaining my own website, meeting with clients, doing all the necessary paperwork, and I even do all my own processing, which is getting rarer these days.

So, a dilema.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Best Brownies EVER MADE

When I bake, I hardly ever feel like I'm the one who should get the credit for how it turns out. I didn't do the hard work of figuring out the chemistry behind the recipe. I didn't test it over and over until it's perfect. I just read and do.

So... I feel perfectly comfortable that I'm not saying this egotistically: I made hands down the best brownies ever this week. Have you ever had Fairytale Brownies? Yeah, I made brownies to rival those this week. I'm going to laminate this recipe, possibly frame it and put it up in the kitchen so it's close at hand. They are dense, and moist and cakey with a perfect flakey top. Chocolate perfection.

Here it is, the recipe for the best brownie EVER (which I got here):

- 8 - 1 oz squares of unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup butter
- 5 eggs
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (I left them out because we have a girl w/ a nut allergy at work)

Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Grease a 9x13 pan.

Melt chocolate and butter in saucepan over low heat; set aside.
In a mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes (this is important!).
Blend in chocolate mixture, flour and salt until just mixed. Stir in the nuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes (Don't overbake)
Cool, and the recipe says frost if desired, but I think that's ridiculous.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Goodbye in Photos

First of all, what sweet comments and notes I got from you all out there. Strangers even. And man, it is amazing how touched firefighters are by the loss of one of their own, even if they're across the country and have never met the guy.

If you've visited me here before, you know how attached I am to my camera. I brought it to my mother's funeral (although I can't remember if I used it, and if I did, I don't know where those files are). I also brought it to her ashes spreading in Florida and hid behind my lens so I wouldn't have to feel it all over again. Even if I don't have my main camera, I almost always try to stick a point-and-shoot in my pocket.

When I was getting ready for Tink's funeral Friday morning, I debated the camera. There were the normal girly considerations like how in the world could I get it to fit into my purse without looking like a freak (I decided looks weren't everything). But more then that, I was worried about how appropriate it was.

I've spent a good amount of time around Ryan's guys with my camera, and I suspect they appreciate it, and for sure I know they're used to seeing me that way. In fact, when Tink died, they asked me if I had any pictures of Tink hanging around, which I did. That's why I decided to just bring it along "in case". I'm so glad I did.

I imagined that the funeral for Tink would be huge, but I had no idea. The church, which had 1200 chairs, was full, with people standing in the back. There was an overflow sanctuary that I hear was full too. The service was beautiful (I didn't take pictures of course), and they touched on sweet things, but plenty of funny things (fitting for Tink!). At the end they excused all uniformed personel to go outside to make a line of honor. I didn't know what that meant. 90% of the church filed out silently. The rest of us followed the casket out and when I came outside, I was surrounded by men and women in uniform standing at attention. It was indescribable.

I was on the 5th vehicle back in the procession down to Queen Creek. It was the firefighters' family bus, and from where we were we couldn't see the 100 fire engines behind us, but we could see Tink riding ahead of us on top of his engine (which is also my husband's engine). I had no idea the processional would be this amazing. There were fire trucks at every intersection.

People standing on the side of the road waving flags and covering their hearts.

So many people....

And when we finally got to Tink's hometown, Queen Creek, we came around the corner and the entire elementary school was outside with signs, waving. I just can't even describe that feeling.

We came into the library parking lot, where they had tents set up for the firefighter service. First another line of honor.

Then into the tents where they had the entire bagpipe band, last bell, folding of the flag for tink's wife, a helicopter flyover, and most heart breaking, the last call... I've never heard it before, and Ryan tried to prepare me, but you just can't be prepared to hear that.

The whole day was just heartbreaking. To see his young children, and his wife, his parents, his brother, his tough firefighter brothers barely keeping it together, then not even trying to. But it was also beautiful and amazing. A fitting tribute to a good man who dedicated his life to the fire service and to supporting his family. I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.

When I put the pictures online, I hoped that everyone would accept them in the vein I took them: out of respect and love. I feel like I picked moments where it was ok to take pictures, and I left other moments alone. The camera was comforting to me, and I think the pictures are comforting to the guys.

And in true firefighter fashion, everyone went home after 6 exhausting hours of saying goodbye, took naps, got up, pulled themselves together... and held a WAKE. And oh boy, can firefighters drink to the memories of their friends. What a reunion it was, and I think if you'd asked Tink, this would have been his favorite part of the day. And nope! No pictures from that! And if there are, I'm not telling! :-)

(Note: I did not take the videos I have linked to here, but he did a good job capturing the firefighter service. East Valley Tribune also did an amazing video of the day)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Line of Duty

I have only ever been to one funeral in my life. People say I'm "lucky". Lucky... I've never been the same since my mom died. She was such an important, necessary part of my life that some days I feel like I'm just allowing myself to go along with the flow, rather than participating. Some days I still feel really lost.

Tomorrow I go to another funeral. This time for one of Ryan's "brothers" who died on duty less than a week ago. We were camping and out of cell phone range when it happened, and when I got the voicemail from a friend telling me that they'd seen a firefighter death on the news, maybe Ryan knew him... my heart skipped a beat as I waited for
the voicemail to get to the name. WHO IS IT?!? Tink... Honestly I think I'd take any death in his department hard, but some of those guys feel like my friends too.

In December of 2006, my mom went into the hospital for the first time. It was such a surreal experience to watch my healthy, dog-walking, hiking, daily gym attending mom get locked up in a hospital room and hooked up to an innocent looking bag of drugs. It felt so unreal, that the first week she was there, she was actually dancing around the
hospital room to keep herself entertained. Because her dance partner was an IV pole, she loved to tell people she was busy practicing her "pole dancing". We all thought she'd be one of those who miraculously escaped chemo with very little ill effect.

Week two, she definitely started to show some fatigue. No more dancing. Week 3 is when it hit all of us what was really going on. She was sick. And she started losing her hair. By Week 4, Christmas week, she was in Intensive Care, and not ever being around someone who was sick, I was sure she was going to die. I didn't yet know how much more torture the human body could endure before it gave up.

That Christmas Eve, which is when my family always celebrates Christmas, I was alone. My husband and my brother were both on shift and my mom was in the ICU. I called Ryan sobbing. I could barely even talk. His
captain that day, Eric Tinkham, told Ryan I had to come down. Tink made me stay with them, and he sat with me while I cried. See, his daughter had AML, just like my mom, so he knew. This was a man who worked extra
shifts constantly to help with his daughter's medical bills, even though she was married and on her own already. He was a good man.

I just played mud volleyball with him 3 weeks ago. He was fine. He was our monster spiker! OK, he was our only spiker (I think he was the only one over about 5'10").

My heart hurts for his family. I know what it's like to send my husband to work and worry about his safety on a regular basis. I worry my husband isn't going to come home. Tink's wife... I just can't imagine. And at 30 years old, I was too young to lose my mom. Tink has girls much younger than that. I wouldn't know the right words to say to

And my heart hurts for the firefighters. You can only imagine what kind of community they have. Firefighters are a special breed of men and women, and it is remarkable to see how they support each other. Firefighters from around the Valley have driven down to Queen Creek to place their shirts on the fence around Station 1. Phoenix, Gilbert,
Mesa, Sun Lakes, Globe, Florence... There will be 100 fire engines in a processional tomorrow, and a helicopter fly-over from air ambulance and police departments around the Valley. New York City is sending firefighters for the funeral. They do this because fire departments around the country supported them during their time of need, and they
pay it forward. Firefighters from around the Valley have volunteered to stay with Tink 24hrs a day until the funeral so he's not alone.

I'm glad that my Ryan belongs to another family that cares so much. And I'm lucky to be on the sidelines watching all the amazing ways they support each other.

Tonight we went to the viewing. It was impossible. But oh man, there's nothing better then a good strong hug when you're feeling sad, and there were plenty of those to go around.

about me

  • CLICK HERE to visit my wedding, portrait, and event business website

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    Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

    I'm Amanda. I'm an engineer in an industry full of men, a professional wedding and family portrait photographer, a firefighter's wife, a traveler, and a dogMa.

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