How to be Amazing

Rowan has always been incredibly strong and flexible. She learned to do headstands against the wall when she was two and can easily do splits, straddles, and backbends. It isn’t something she’s ever had to practice. It’s always been a skill set she’s naturally had.

Recently we decided to put her in gymnastics, and she has loved every second and has grown in leaps and bounds. Two weeks ago she had a chance to watch the “big girls” in the gym. They were practicing for their next competition, and Rowan saw them doing their floor routine, which included walkovers, handsprings, round-offs, and leaps. She hasn’t stopped talking about it, and she’s always wondering, “Are the big girls in the gym right now, Mama?” I catch her practicing leaps and splits in her room, but she’s getting frustrated with her limitations. She is seeing a big, new world of gymnastics, and she’s ready to do those amazing things, too.

But she’s not ready. Her little body is strong and is doing amazing things already, and she’s been selected to move to the pre-competitive team this summer. She has a natural talent and skill that the coaches want to build on and foster into something more. I love that she’s learning at such a young age that to reach for amazing isn’t by chance or without hard work.

Last year, I had a long-time, very loved client ask me how I was so amazing after I delivered her images. I’ve thought about that comment often since then, and the truth is, I do not consider myself to be amazing. I don’t ever want to feel amazing or that I’ve arrived or reached my goal, and since then I’ve considered what it takes to truly become what you dream of being? To stretch and reach towards that pinnacle?

Instead of that pinnacle in the last several months, I’ve surprisingly found a space of relative comfort and confidence. I’ve written before about conquering the gap that Ira Glass so eloquently described. The chasm that beginners find when embarking on a dream is intimidating; it’s frightening. The self-doubt and the frustration can be incredibly overwhelming, and it’s easy to get lost in the muck, to splash around in it and get stuck.

Comfort and confidence is a welcome shift from anxiousness, fear, and frustration. After endless hours of practicing, of analyzing, of studying. Endless hours of searching for my heart inside of my images and style. It’s incredibly satisfying to finally exhale. I enjoy feeling more confident about my work and my style. But it’s also nice to know I’m not amazing. Because that means there is still so much more to do, room to grow, and progress to make.

One day I’m sure Rowan will do a walkover and handspring. She will be one of the big girls in the gym and will find so much more comfort and confidence. And I hope that she understands that amazing isn’t a destination. Amazing is a reaching, a longing, and a desire for more that is never quite achieved, and that’s what makes it beautiful.

how to be amazing lifestyle photography girl jumping

Grasping Time

I’ve always been keenly aware of the passing of time. The boys’ rooms are sparse now and bare little resemblance to the rooms they once had: the rooms that were overflowing with action figures, stuffed animals, and lego creations. Now they require very little in the way of toys, and packing up their rooms for our recent move made this painfully obvious. While Rowan’s room required many, many boxes, the boys needed just a few to store their childhood mementos and video games. It’s a funny transition that as their bodies are growing, their need for space is shrinking significantly.

Time’s relentless forward motion is sometimes suffocating, and suddenly I’m frantically grasping at moments before I look around and realize high school is about to end. I’m pitching my thoughts back to when I thought it sounded crazy to say I had a 5 and 3 year old when now we are on the brink of 14 and 12. To accept that I’ve been home with Rowan for three years is madness. She’s entering her last year of preschool, and I can’t quite figure out what we’ve spent the last three years doing. As much as I wanted to hold onto her toddlerhood because I learned how quickly it receded with the boys, it has also become a blur of memories and moments.

So I sometimes sit and watch our lives pass by in images on my computer screensaver. It’s a mesmerizing meditation that reminds me that we have, in fact, lived and experienced so much together despite the tendency for my mind to lump it together into one, messy blur of emotions. And this is when I am so grateful for my historic tendency to document so many moments in images. Because, as we are all so intensely aware, time does continue trudge forward no matter what.

I am so grateful for this little mommy and me session from my dear friend Erin Ammons. Her heart is always in the right place, which means her images exude poignant emotion.

My sweet girl has been such a perfect addition. Her sass, her heart, her personality, and her love is the bond our family needed. She’s made me a more confident woman and a more patient mother, and I love watching her life’s story unfold.

I’m so glad to have these to add to my screensaver timeline! <3


This is my absolute favorite!watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0020watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0025

Rowan scripted this one… not surprised, of course! My little posing girl! <3watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0026

This is so totally her. She talks with her hands… just like her mama!watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0023

Oh, I love her so. <3watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0022

Rowan | Personal

This weather! It’s driving me crazy! I love the snow, but seriously, I’m feeling cabin fever big time. And I know this is the slow season, and it has been really great to focus on other parts of establishing a business like this website, fun rubber stamps and other packaging supplies for my clients, and as always practicing and learning and growing.

But still. I miss the pulse and energy of consistent sessions. I miss editing until late into the night. I miss shooting outside in the sun and fresh air. I’m so ready for spring!

What’s making it worse is I recently welcomed a new member into the HCP family! My trusty 6d is now my back up, and I’ve upgraded to a 5d Mark iii. I knew it would be different, but I didn’t realize how amazing it would be. The 6d was pretty awesome, but I just can’t even describe the difference in the 5d. And the sound of the shutter click. I don’t know what it is about it, but it feels more legit. Ha!

Since we have pretty much been housebound, I have been playing with the indoor, natural light in our house, and my favorite model, Rowan! Suddenly, she is very interested in having her picture taken. She will sit patiently however I ask her to, and she even comes up with ideas of her own. She even told me yesterday that when she grows up, she wants to be a photographer like me and wanted me to show her how to turn on the camera. Heart melted.

So here’s what we’ve been up to. Who needs the outdoors when you have light like this inside?! Okay, I do, but still it’s nice to know my indoor skills are really coming along! And having these images of my last little love bug is the best part of all!


Gah. I LOVE this one. virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0101virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0102virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0105virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0106virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0104virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0100virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0063

And because we have to acknowledge that snow is actually fun sometimes, here are some from our snow days!virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0107virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0093virginia-beach-portrait-photographer_0092

Rowan’s First Haircut | Personal

I had put this off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to cut those sweet, curly ends that have been around since her newborn days! But lately, the mornings have become a battle when we comb her hair. The ends were so dry and thin that they were constantly tangled. After two boys, I am still not used to the daily hair fight! We talked about it for weeks, and finally Rowan seemed like she was ready, so Pigtails and Crewcuts was our first stop on Saturday morning!

Jon said that I was more excited than Rowan, and I think he’s probably right. There’s just something different about a girl. It felt more like a rite of passage than a milestone, and it was just so emotional to see how big she was sitting in the fire truck getting her hair cut! She amazes me everyday; she’s such a perfect combination of sass and prissiness. She’s a princess who sometimes moons us. She loves her dinosaurs and her tiaras. I love that she is such a strong feminine force. I’ve learned so much from her already!


What the big brother does. Video games, of course.2014-12-22_0002 2014-12-22_0003

That’s her I’m just not sure about this face!2014-12-22_0004

Those curls. I was so sad to see them go.2014-12-22_0005 2014-12-22_0006 2014-12-22_0007 2014-12-22_0009 2014-12-22_0010

I had to take this one. This is her life!2014-12-22_0011

Her stylist asked her if she wanted an Elsa braid. Of course this Frozen addict said yes!2014-12-22_0012 2014-12-22_0013 2014-12-22_0014 2014-12-22_0015 2014-12-22_0016

First Days | Personal

2014-09-15_0023Last week I sent a fifth and seventh grader off to school. Over the next two weeks they will turn eleven and thirteen. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder how it is that I’m suddenly the mom of a teenager.

2014-09-15_0021I remember anxiously worrying about these days when I was still pregnant with Pacey. I fretted that he would be one of those teenagers. The disrespectful, rude ones. One of those skaters who would intentionally block the street at the entrance to our neighborhood. Those teenage days, a bit hazy and still so far in the future, seemed like the end of all that could be good about motherhood.

2014-09-15_0022And now, teetering precariously on the cusp of those hazy days, so close that they are sharply in focus, I tenderly hold that scared soon-to-be girl-mom in my heart. The lanky, deep-voiced, almost thirteen year old that has taken the place of the round face and soft curls is no more frustrating or less lovable than he was at three. The circumstances have changed. The frustration points are much different. But underneath the lank and rasp, he’s still Pacey. He’s still curls and cheeks and snuggles. And I find that I expected a sudden disconnect because of an age humorous.

2014-09-15_0020So it’s first days around here. First days of seventh grade and fifth grade. First days of three year old preschool. First days of the teenage years. All at once they are the squinty-eyed newborns, the curly-haired and ornery toddlers, and the freshly minted teenagers. First days of seeing again and again that motherhood evolves and grows with our children, but is seamlessly and gently timeless.

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Rowan is clearly more interested in the camera than the boys are now!

Encouragement and Sun Flare

IMG_3212On Friday I had the incredible opportunity to meet with three other local photographers for a mentoring and Q&A session. One word can embody the two hours we spent together: passion. Elizabeth of Elizabeth Henson Photos organized the session, and she and Heather of Heather Papineau Photography shared so much information on everything from the creative side to the business side to gear. I left with a few incredible headshots and my brain overflowing with information, inspiration, and gratitude.

With my mind brimming with excitement and the opportunity to borrow my brother-in-law’s Canon 6D and lenses, I’ve been shooting nonstop. I used the 135mm lens to capture images of Pacey’s soccer game and shared with the other parents. It made me so happy to know that the parents would be getting some really fun actions shots of their kids. And I was shooting on manual and moved to using manual focal points. Big changes!

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Then on Sunday, Rowan woke up from her nap very cranky. After two hours worth of whining and fussing and generally not being happy, we decided we all needed ice cream, dinner at our favorite restaurant, and a little sand. It seemed to do the trick for her, and I was able to practice capturing sun flare. I adore so many of these pictures, and Jon was kind enough to model for me, too.IMG_3175IMG_3161A little low light practice in the restaurant. I love how warm this one looks. And I’m not sure if you can tell, but she was licking his face. A kiss would have been too sweet for her mood that day!IMG_3181IMG_3237IMG_3247IMG_3248IMG_3250And this is my absolute favorite from the entire weekend:IMG_3211-2I’m ready to dream big and make this quiet little photography dream real and loud and defined, so this weekend I am taking engagement pictures for one of my closest friends. It’s scary and exciting, and I can’t wait.


photowalk wednesday, v. 7: the essential

IMG_4997Wednesday always happens to be a perfect day for our photowalks. Rowan doesn’t have school, and the rest of our schedule is usually light. This week, Wednesday was supposed to be warm, but very windy with a chance of rain most of the day. So we went out on Monday instead to a local park. (Just a little disclaimer. Not that it matters much!)

Rowan ran lightly around the trails, stopping here and there to inspect a pinecone, leaf, or flower. After the first several pictures, I felt a familiar sense of anxiety creep in. The pictures didn’t feel great. The backdrop was pretty and simple, but a little uninspiring and sparse while it straddles the end of winter and beginning of spring. It lacked the vast beauty of the oceanfront, the variety of playthings and books in the library. But for all the lack, I noticed it responded with a quiet brilliance and a profound freedom. It brought to mind one of my favorite Thoreau quotes:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

–Henry David Thoreau

I’m understanding that our photowalks might not always yield stunning pictures. That the landscape might not always be breathtaking, but within the simplicity, is the essential. And that the quiet moments that are the root of this life, that persist in hanging on to hope, that deviate from the default.

These moments, it turns out, are the best ones of all.


I also played with shutter speeds, fast and slow– something I have been avoiding. A swinging girl is the perfect way to practice!IMG_5073IMG_5060IMG_5083IMG_5098

photowalk wednesday, v. 6: courage


The only unforgivable crime is to cut short the experiment of one’s own life before its natural end. To do so is a weakness and a pity– for the experiment of life will cut itself off soon enough, in all our cases, and one may just as well have the courage and the curiosity to stay in the battle until one’s eventual and inevitable demise. Anything less than a fight for endurance is cowardly. Anything less than a fight for endurance is a refusal of the great covenant of life.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things

Photography has made me a little braver, bit by bit. Like Elizabeth Gilbert says, it is helping me stake my claim for endurance, it is forcing me to be courageous, it is creating a scientist where only a passive, fearful thinker was before.

We were in Richmond over the weekend, and I brought my camera. I was hoping to capture some of the city. As we sat and ate lunch, I watched the colored lights amble back and forth in the unseasonably warm February breeze. Something about the criss-cross of lines intertwining with the green, metal posts conjured something romantic in me. Something of warm nights, and fresh-faced lovers sitting closely, lost in their own small world of tension and apprehension and conversation amidst the white noise chatter of the crowd mingling with a distant pulse of music.

I wanted to capture that feeling. Even though it was a winter’s afternoon and the patio was mostly empty. Even though the din of the crowd and music was simply a created memory of nostalgia. I had my camera in my bag next to me on the bench, but there were three tables along the railing, and they were all taken. A glance behind us, and there were other tables of diners enjoying the quiet, easy Sunday afternoon.

What would I appear to be if I were to head to the railing and begin taking pictures of those lights? I really want a picture of those lights, I said to Jon

Well, he said, you’d look like someone who wanted to take a picture of lights. Why are you worried?

I couldn’t identify the source of this worry for sure. I only knew it was real and big and curled my toes, but I also knew that if I didn’t try to capture the picture I had in my head, I would always regret it. If invested is my aim this year, then that requires investing in the moments that are important to me then and there, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

I inhaled deeply, I reached the railing, and I quickly took two shots of the lights. And after some straightening, a little cropping, and a small bit of color tweaking, this is the result:

IMG_4814 It’s not exactly the image I had in my mind. And maybe had I tried a few different angles, maybe if I had not been so quick to get it over with and had lingered longer on that railing, maybe if I had gotten lost in the memory I had created for a small moment, I might have something different.

Maybe. But what’s important is I went to the railing. I pressed the shutter button. And so today, when Rowan and were headed to the library, I tucked my camera into my purse. My immediate thoughts were consumed with all of the chatter I was sure the other moms there might think of me while I was snapping away. Would I look like a crazy, camera-obessesed mom? What might the librarians think I was doing? What if taking pictures in the library wasn’t allowed at all?

But I quickly quieted all of that dribble. I reminded myself that I enjoy our photowalk days and that one day, I will cherish these slice of life images of her and the boys, of our house, of our library, our beach, our boardwalk. I pretended I was on assignment in a photography class, and I followed Rowan around and practiced zooming completely out because I’ve gotten in a habit of filling the frame entirely. Not a bad practice and a perfect choice at times, but I noticed am using it as a crutch to avoid putting together strong composition.

So I stepped to the railing again today. And I love the results. Of the photos, of experimenting in this life, and of staying in the battle and investing.


photowalk wednesday, v. 5: beach


Rowan and I have had colds this week. We spent yesterday snuggled under blankets and using tissues. It was a tough day. We both lost our tempers. I struggled with being patient with fourth grade fractions during math homework. This morning we still didn’t feel great, but finally our area’s weather was sunny and warm. Salty air is the best place to be when you’re not feeling well, so we headed to the beach.

Yesterday, I read this from Heather who writes beautifully at The Extraordinary Ordinary:

Peace washes over my propensity for guilt when I remember that nothing is all or nothing and that’s why what we do really is enough. Until it’s not, and then we have endless tries.

The salty water raced forward and just as quickly receded, and I remembered her words and felt cleansed. Just like the ocean, we really do have endless tries to get things right. And as long as we are intentional, as long as our ebbs and flows are at some point cognizant and purposeful, it truly is the best we can do moment to moment.

And I’m realizing photography is like that, too. I want to hesitate before each shot. My finger presses lightly on the shutter button and instead of boldly following through, I want to release and turn back from the camera. Recompose myself and maybe the shot a few times before committing. Because: perfection.

But nothing is perfect. Not life. Not photography. They are both a series of shutter presses, quick and rapid fire. And without question scattered in the messy experiences we leave behind us and in between the blurry frames and tilted compositions, there is always beauty. We might have to change our perspective or make adjustments to find it, but it is there, waiting to be embraced.


photowalk wednesday, v. 3: snow (again)


Mother nature has certainly given us a beautiful backdrop for the past three Wednesdays. We have had fog and snow, and snow is typically rare around here most of the time. This week was especially fun because the boys were home for snow play, too. A few of these pictures have quickly become favorites already.

I finally decided to shoot in RAW for the first time. I have been apprehensive to switch because I knew I would need to spend extra time processing the images, but now? I’m sold on it! There was so much more flexibility and width of adjustments, even with my limited and novice knowledge. I’ll be taking a photography class with Katrina Kennedy from Capture Your 365 at the end of February, and I’m really excited to see how I will grow more as an everyday photographer.











Have you entered to win a signed copy of Katrina Kenison’s newest book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment? Check out my review and the details for how to enter. (It’s easy!) The deadline to enter is midnight on Monday, February, 3, 2014.