Styled Shoot | Pioneer Woman Oklahoma Wedding Inspired

“'Well, first of all,' he began, 'I really…I really like you.'
He looked into my eyes in a seeming effort to transmit
the true meaning of each word straight into my psyche.
All muscle tone disappeared from my body.
Marlboro Man was so willing to put himself out there,
so unafraid to put forth his true feelings.
I simply wasn’t used to this.
I was used to head games, tactics, apathy, aloofness.
When it came to love and romance,
I’d developed a rock-solid tolerance for mediocrity.
And here, in two short weeks, Marlboro Man had blown it all to kingdom come."

 (Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels)

You know I love a good story. This is a fine story. But it was *this close* to being a good story. For the sake of my family it's probably for the best; had this become a good story the bragging would have. never. stopped.

A couple years ago Caleb and I were living in Oklahoma, working slowly on finishing our house, and expecting to settle there for the near (maybe long!) future (life plans changed haha). I was working on making connections with photography in the area, trying to re-build a base. I decided to do an Oklahoma Inspired Styled Session with Ree & Ladd Drummond's story as the theme. Better know was "Pioneer Woman and Marlboro Man," I came to love their romance at the perfect timing. Ree's book "High Heels To Tractor Wheels" was released just as Caleb and I started talking. I won't lie, I craved that kind of romance and (what appeared to be) beautiful, happy marriage it led to. 

When looking for models I asked my brother-in-law, Micah, if he wouldn't mind playing the groom. And I asked a cute girl who grew up in town, Savannah Crockett, if she would model as Ree. "I'll need to spray your hair red... is that fine?" We staged the shoot in the cow pasture on the Morris property, Shekinah Springs Farm, and the whole family was so sweet to help me set-up, make food, and hold props. It was a really fun afternoon!

At one point we staged a service and my father-in-law, Terry, pretended to officiate. He couldn't help himself with the obvious for a father. "Now, why aren't one of my single boys actually interested in this wonderful woman?! I think I should be out here marrying one of you for real!" Elijah raced off on a four-wheeler in a cut-off t-shirt in the background.

But less than a year later... ELIJAH REALLY MARRIED SAVANNAH. Ugh. I was one brother-model away from being the best match-maker, with a staged wedding blind date to show for it!!

Anyways, this shoot was such colorful, floral, food-focused fun. And I'm still so happy Elijah and Savannah realized they wanted to love each other forever. Micah, thanks for pretending to marry your brother's future wife for your crazy sister-in-law ;)

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Ken + Allie | Dulaneys Overlook Wedding Frederick MD

"It felt very good to have him walking beside her."
Marilynne Robinson

"I feel like we are rather un-quirky. Like, so much so that when we first met, I literally thought 'I feel like he’s the one, but he’s so much like me. Can that work?'  We are both pretty independent people, and we would both say we are introverts." I loved reading these lines when Allison sent over the questionnaire part of the contract. Finding a real "match" not just a complement is special.

Allison's mom, Tracy, was my mom's best friend. They met while they were pregnant with their first children, born about a month apart. Sam in July, me in August. A large hunk of my childhood memories include riddles with Mr. Branchaw, losing at Battleship, playing Sardines and man-hunt in the neighborhood of Waring Station, hearing stories about secret Polish family recipes, getting another pretzel out of the giant pretzel bins, and being blissfully happy (and occasionally sneaky) with the Branchaw family. Once I asked my mom if she had any life advice for me and she said to find a friend like Tracy. "She's put up with a lot from me, and I've had to bite my tongue with her, but more than anything she has been loyal and with me. I know Tracy has my back. I can laugh with her, cry with her, tell her the truth, be told the truth by her, and we usually laugh again. You need friends like this to get through life." Tracy wasn't just this way to my mom... she's been "this friend" to dozens if not hundreds.

Tracy brought us dinner a few nights after Summer was born. It meant very much seeing as mom wasn't there to share this part of my life with me. Tracy showed up; was with me. I remember bringing her dinner with my mom when her babies were born. I also remember how she was on-call to have the Snyder kids when my mom was in labor. 

The wedding of these two similar, introverted, Maine-loving lovers was of gold; the finest quality of sweet joy. Tracy, and John, have spent their lives being faithfully, consistently, and eagerly "there" for their kids, friends, family (and "new friends," too!). Almost all the vendors at the wedding were family friends. The ones who weren't felt like it. Resplendent joy. Decades of friendships coming together to lavish on a pair who would never ask for all this attention. A teary-eyed daddy (who home-brewed all the beer for the wedding) and couldn't have been more proud of his daughter and new husband. Chatter creating an energy throughout the venue. Sniffles and dabs during toasts, uproarious laughter during the jokes, and a packed dance floor all night.

It doesn't get much better than nights like these.

It doesn't get much better than love like this. 

Ken wrote of Allie "She is a dream come true." Thank you for welcoming me into your dream for a few hours. I was filled with "the good stuff" by being able to simply observe the kindness and loyalty stretching back in history and launching into the future that your wedding day was.

You two have "a special something," bigger than yourselves and given to you for your joy. I hope that as the seasons of life bring what they may you'll never forget and always hold close the "not of this earth" happiness you've shared together! Thank you for having me there, it was a gift to me!

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(All these people. They probably don't know it to the extent that it's true... but if you're a part of the Branchaws, I'd go down for you. You all mean quite a lot to me.)

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Congratulations! What a perfect day, in every sense of the word!

Ps. Speaking of loyal... a HUGE shout-out to my friend, Ally, who came from California to shoot this wedding with me. Ally has made herself available for not just major moments of my life (like coming across the country alone for our wedding even though she didn't know anyone except me and helping host/decorate my little baby shower for Summer) but also taking on the major-parts of my friends' and my family's lives. She's photographed the other two Morris weddings with me, as well as a number of Morris engagement/baby shoots. She traveled to my best friend's wedding in Minnesota with me, helped pull off my friends' proposals (plural!), and sends sweet packages to us and even my friends' little kids in the mail. Heck, this year she HANDMADE FOUR MICKEY MOUSE STOCKINGS FOR US! Thank you for going out of your way to love on me, and anyone I love. So many of the best pictures of this wedding you took. One more "enormous life gift" you've given someone. Grateful for you, friend!

M Springtime Family Session | Maryland

“Once in awhile,
right in the middle of an ordinary life,
love gives us a fairy tale.”

As I was pregnant with my first child, I photographed Shelby through the story of her third child. We did a (stunning... who looks like that when pregnant... and in labor... and post-partum?!) maternity session, the birth, and the first family portraits with the new baby.  Despite being the oldest of a large family, having a mom who wanted to be a midwife or doula, and preparing for a natural labor myself... I had never seen a real live birth until photographing this family. Watching Esme be born, in her home, as well and healthily and beautifully as she was, meant very much to me. 

A few weeks after I had my second baby, I was able to photograph these wonderful people once more... on a perfectly "Spring As Its Own Analogy" Day. The sky was the color of concrete, the water running through the park was a shade of dark olive, and the brown wood was saturated and looked wet (because it was). And yet, there was GREEN all-around us, and, more excitingly, there were flower buds. Pale white, lively pink, and yellow! It's special to watch the world come back to life. We know the concept of "every winter turns to spring" and how this matches personal life seasons, not just earth's. But what I loved the most about this session, as far as setting goes, was that as we were finished and walking back to our cars sun light ran through the field. As if it had placed its hand on the curtain and slowly pulled the drape-in-the-sky back for a final few minutes.

Even though we had already congratulated the girls on a job well done! And promised them that they were, indeed, done. I had to command/ask the family to gather back for "just two minutes!!" I snapped furiously. When least expected, light has a way of startling and capturing. More beautiful than we thought would happen (at least that evening), and a golden reminder that... the best is yet to come. Spring in a nutshell.


Esme is one of those people who love instantly upon seeing her. Her enormous eyes, bright lips, full head of red curly hair, facial expressions, and way of walking... ugh. They seize you. 


So many beautiful girls!

Brian, Shelby, Riley, Laila, and Esme... you're a fairy-tale-come-true, and a family filled with so much love and spunk. (And mom and dad? You're outstanding parents. Affectionate, engaged, helpful to each other, roll-up-your-sleeves-lets-do-this, great sense of humor, relaxed, and a great team. I love getting to watch dynamics like that from behind a camera. You're the coolest!)

Swisher Newborn Portraits | Maryland Photographer

“One of the remarkable things about love is that,
despite very irritating people writing poems and songs about how pleasant it is,
it really is quite pleasant.”

(Lemony Snicket)

They were all glowing with beauty, contentment, and internal joy. All three of them. Their home was peaceful and still when I arrived, but just as we began the shoot, sunshine interrupted through the windows asking if we could come out and play. 

Some of my all-time favorite days of my life were the ones immediately following the birth of my children. Nothing to do but figure each other out, lay in bed, eat as much as needed or wanted, and be together. I wish we could set aside huge chunks of the day, every day, to just stare, touch, and watch the sun pass by together. Alas, life has to go on... but for those early days you get to hideaway. It felt like sneaking into a secret garden to photograph the Swisher family with their brand new son. I know it's hard work learning the ropes, recovering, and trying to manage all the "new." I know it isn't all day-dream-believing smooth. Yet, there is enchantment in the beginnings and this session felt sopped in all of it -- delicious, oozing, heart-thumping good stuff.

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Congratulations on your second baby... due this summer! Your family is stuffed full with love and care, and I'm thrilled your boys get to have you as their people.

Waiting For Eleanor | Maryland Maternity Session

"I'm confronted by the irrationality of love by my children.
They are these stealth Love Torpedos.
They are powered by an inexhaustible id,
powering through whatever defenses I thought I had
with absolutely no respect for my rational, adult concerns.

That's what love is.
It's irrationality taking the place of logic.
It's emotion taking the reigns where intellect fears to drive.
How would we live without that?"

(Meghna Chakrabarti)

The power of a pregnant woman captures me. I might be wrong, but I think there is an admiration alongside whatever other feelings or opinions may exist when it comes to a woman with child. We know it is hard. We have that sense of bow-and-honor. "Good for her." "Man, I don't know if I could do that." "Go supermom." Of course observation is the front porch to the home of personal experience. Now that I have been pregnant, I'm as intrigued as ever by the miracle it is to carry a baby.

Not to mention that watching a family's story unfold behind my camera is "why I do what I do." I photographed Eric and Erica while they were still dating, then for their wedding, then with their first newborn, and most recently as they waited for Miss Eleanor to arrive. The love they share with each other, and now growing bigger with their children, is a sweet joy. I loved watching Eric and Emmett's connection. I loved catching Erica rubbing and looking at her belly. I loved the laughter and eye-contact mom and dad found in the little guy. I loved their chill, relaxed happiness.

"My love for my son makes my fundamentally irrational too. I give up sleep, food, money, energy, time, and all sorts of other things for this child... and I do so willingly! It goes against all we need to survive, and yet... we give into it all the time. Why do we do this?  'Forgive me, my logic is uncertain where my son is concerned.'" (Meghna Chakrabarti)

This session had such a Christopher Robin/Calvin & Hobbes/Tom Sawyer feel to it and is one of my favorites ever! Everything nostalgic that childhood should be - barefoot, anticipating, throwing rocks, "present," outdoors, and silly with the whole family.

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I love you guys! And am so happy dear Eleanor is safely into your arms, hearts, and home!

Year In Review 2015 | I'm Kristen Photography

2015 was a wonderful year behind my camera! I enjoyed shooting 15 weddings, plus second shot five weddings, and then three proposals and a couple dozen portrait sessions. This post is just a review of all the weddings I haven't blogged yet this year (Neill and Kate's wedding is here!). While some of my favorite pictures are certainly included, many of these represent favorite memories and moments of each wedding day. As I went through each day start to finish it warmed my heart to re-see the faces.

Pulling a segment from my website: "I don't take and present photographs because it's cute, but because I am a Note Taker, a Story Teller. You are the sonnet, you are a part of the play, and the times of your life matter. It is sincere delight for me to be allowed to walk into the doors of your world, tap into my heart, and let your joy become mine -- whether it be a wedding, a birth, a high school graduation, or a Christmas card portrait.  I know our sessions together aren't the whole story -- the nights without sleep, the gulp in your throat, the lost ones you miss, the insecurities, the numbness -- but I know our sessions are a real, that we are here logging history with a black box and light. It's magic.  I believe in family, marriage, parenthood, new starts, figuring it out, I believe in wholehearted relationship, I believe in lasting love and I know awfully sad things happen in those places. But I believe in fighting for the good, fighting to believe that the best is yet to come, that the struggle is worth it, that being known and loved -- and knowing and loving -- are what give us life and bring us the greatest joy. So, here's to the grand adventure and all the stories, and hope beyond tomorrow! *clink*" Happy Days Gone By, everyone, and thank you for letting me live parts of my life alongside yours.

| The Preparations |

| The Ceremony |

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| The Newlyweds |

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| The Celebrating |

A special thank you to all my second-shooters this year! Ellie Be, Elizabeth Baxter, Caroline Ruth, Elise Benjamin, Dom, Ally Michelle and the Mr. Morris himself. Thank you for working hard for my clients and me, for keeping track of the family shot lists, for keeping me hydrated, and for doing such beautiful work! 

Harper Joy | Nashville Newborn Photography

"Ohh, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside
Then dance for Jesus."

Chris Rice - Untitled Hymn

I love pictures of babies in the first week of life (it's just such a tiny, fast, final stage) but I don't know if it gets much cuter than the "chub up" part. Miss Harper is the sixth daughter of dear friends. I think it's a little bit of magic to have half-a-dozen little girls. I met the family after their third, Alivia, passed away and I've been so in love with them ever since. Not everyone has to face the "hell" parts of life, but those who do often seem to have a special 'substance' to them. Each one of the kids and both parents have such strong, distinct and lovable personalities. I can't wait to see their family evolve over the years. I'm especially excited for the mom of this brood and her new instagram feed and online shop, Vintage Farmhouse Interiors. She has incredible taste and makes such a warm, happy home! I love love you all! Thanks for letting me squish your newest baby, and for all the bowls of soup and slices of bread. You are favorites forever.

Elijah + Savannah | Oklahoma Engagement Photography

"I promise to sing to you
When all the music dies."

Train | Marry Me

They've lived a few miles from each other their whole lives -- and in a small town, especially, that's noteable. They weren't each other's first crushes, or high school sweetheart, or even long time best friend who is "just like a sibling." They never actually crossed paths until they were in their twenties. But even then, it was merely a crossing. She worked at the coffee shop he stopped into nearly every day. They went with a group from Guthrie on a Caribbean cruise, but hardly talked to each other all trip. There was no unrequited love or secret flicker one of them was harboring for years (though, admittedly, they both thought the other was a cutie). There was just nothing... until there was something. And all of a sudden "here you are, standing here, loving me."

A friendly hello at the gym (one of dozens throughout the years) turned into nice chit-chat and then into a few texts. Those texts turned into hanging out a couple of times which turned into... forever. They started dating in June and were engaged in October. We (the family) love to think about the fact that Elijah was completely single at Daniel and Erin's wedding last May and this coming May he'll already have been married a month. Lightning strikes fast, hard, and strong. 

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It's awfully fun to watch each other be each other's answered prayers. This relationship is redemption, sweetness and joy come to life. And since they've both always lived in Guthrie, met in Guthrie, fell in love in Guthrie, got engaged in Guthrie, will marry in Guthrie, and share their first house in Guthrie... It was only fitting we do their engagement session on the orange-gold, historic, cobbled streets of Guthrie. 

Happy love, you two! We're so happy for you and can't wait to officially welcome another "Morris" to the gang! Hurry up, April!

Neill + Kate | California Stagecoach Inn Wedding

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"
W. Shakespeare

My mom's sister married into the Borden family.  The Borden family is a huge, tight-knit, mostly-female, FUN crew.  When the first cousin, Kate, got engaged everyone was thrilled. She and her twin sister Beth are so close to the rest of the cousins, and the love the between all the Bordens was noisy and strong all wedding day!

Kate is an elementary school teacher, who has a bit of musical theater in her soul. The entire day was filled with songs, performances and "ta-da's!"  These folks know how to make a memory, and how to make you feel like family.  Neill is a warm, joyous man who appreciates the good things in life and doesn't take what he has for granted. He is a perfect addition to the new big family, and he's going to have a creative, memory-filled life with spunky Kate by his side!

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Congratulations, Neill and Kate! Your wedding was one of my favorites of all-time!


Reception Venue / Stagecoach Inn
Wedding Cakes / Nothing Bundt Cake

Middle US Part 1 | Trip to Minneapolis

So, funny story. In this two-month-trip of 20 total flights, 16 days of rental cars, 12 Megabus tickets, nine nights in hotels, seven weddings, five sessions, and 14 cities, I missed a few logistics. And for me, only missing a few is pretty great. And having one of the main mishaps involve a best friend... well, it makes it easy. 48 hours before we were set to fly into Minneapolis Lyd texted and said "I'm so excited to see you guys! Where are you staying?" Oh no. I thought for sure I had touched base beyond a casual conversation six months ago saying I booked a wedding in Minne. But. Nope. Never did.

"Uh, at your house hopefully!" Lyd was a gem and classic best friend. Jumped into action and gave us such a welcoming, easy two nights in her world (complete with goldfish crackers for Roo in the kitchen and other treats for us, enormous fresh flowers, a fun itinerary, and being a mama-hen by tucking us into bed and charging our phones when we crashed the last night. She even set her alarm and woke us up on time so we wouldn't miss our flights. Best friends, I tell ya.) Though, to be fair, I gave her much more notice than the first visit: we just showed up in Minneapolis (Stefan knew) and surprised her at her front door! That was fun. Both trips were. Thank you for being the kind of buddy who knows me, gets me, "compliments me," teases me, and loves me ;) And for welcoming my brood and I at the drop of a hat. We love you so! And we can't wait to come back again! #twoweeksnotice 

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Each meal, sight, memory, and hour was wonderful. We'll be back Minneapolis! You rock! And take good care of our Lyd and Stefan <3

Lydia + Stefan | Minneapolis Portraits

"I'd take care of you,
Take care of you.
That's true."
Beach House

Lydia and I have been real friends (not "Oh, yeah, I know that girl! We're friends!" but see-or-talk-to-each-other-almost-daily-definitley-weekly friends) for coming up on 15 years.  And though I'm married and experienced the normalcy with which a new best friend can join the mix, it's still hard to imagine until it happens. And its definitely happened with Stefan. He's the "new" best friend in our friendship, and he's made everything better.  As a couple they have a "spiritual gift" of bringing laughter.  Don't get me wrong they - Lydia especially - is the first to get choked up and empathize during serious sadness. But they can come into rooms where tiredness, heaviness and numbness reign and shine little happy lanterns... and before long the room is crying in joyous, tight-stomached, light-headed pleasure. There's nothing like a Stefan or Lydia Story.

I'm still hoping that we'll all live in the same place someday. But few things have made me happier as a friend than when Lydia decided to move to Minneapolis to be with the person she loves. (Because, lawd, those long distance good-byes were miserable... and I wasn't even the one saying them! Props to all those in the LD Club. You guys should have team patches and golden trophies.) This was our second time visiting them in Minne, and it kind of feels like all this time Lydia has been misplaced. Like the way Corduroy looked on the department store shelf compared to the little girl's bedroom. It's so good here, they're so good here. And by "here," as great as the city is, I definitely mean "together." Thanks for crashing our bestie party, Stefan. We love you as much as we love her! And that's a fricken lot. 

East Coast Part 2 | Trip to Cape May

"Rest is not idleness,
and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day,
listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is by no means a waste of time."
John Lubbock

As I mentioned in my last post, traveling is hard work... but man: when it just "works out" without much effort, it's fantastic.  My friend Janet and her family were taking a trip to Cape May with her mom right while we were in the general eastern seaboard area. Last minute her mom wasn't able to make it (we missed you G-ma!) but we were able to stop in for a 48 hours and take a bed.  

One of my favorite parts of the east coast is how much there is to it. I've lived here for over two decades, and grew up going to the teacher three hours away, but somehow this little gem of a town never made it into my life. Bethany and Fenwick and Rehobeth are magical in their own right, but Cape May just captured my heart.  We can't wait to go back again! (Ps. If you ever do end up that way The Blue Pig Tavern (for breakfast, especially), Peace Pie (get either the coffee toffee caramel sandwich or the strawberry shortcake sandwich), Hot Dog Tommy's (their hot-dogs are wonderful, but I enjoyed the potato chip pepper tuna salad just as much) and The Red Store (farm to table and the bacon is literally called "bacon steak." It's so good.) are where you need to feed your body and soul.)

A few iPhone pictures because it's just so much easier to plop in your pocket...


East Coast Part 1 | Trip to NYC

"What I can do is offer myself,
wholehearted and present,
to walk with the people I love..."

Shauna Niequist

We are in Part 1 of three weeks on the road. It's nearly all for my work. Caleb took off work and he and Rowdy are my sidekicks. We drove from Maryland to West Chester, PA for a mentor session, then to Dewey Beach, DE for a wedding the next day, we finished around midnight and drove through the night to Newburyport, Massachusetts for a wedding. The next day we visited Boston for our first time (and we adored it). We woke up and drove to New York City for a fast and crazy day in NYC with some of our favorite friends. Now we're nestled in Cape May, New Jersey before the next round of weddings this weekend.  

I often tell Caleb "Travel isn't the pictures people post. Travel is hard work." I love change and feel constrained and panicky in 'routine' (but I have a head-knowledge of its great effects, especially long term). But I love it. I love going, driving, packing, unpacking, packing, unpacking, checking schedules, meeting up with people, the memories. And it's so wonderful when it just works out: when you ask some friends if they can meet you in NYC for the day and they can. And they want to eat what you like to eat. And they have little boys too, so they know. And they can laugh at the stressful parts and you don't have to be as careful when you talk to them. It's the sighs of relief in life.  Thank you for making it happen Shorey/Baxter people! We love you!

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"It seems like just about every day, I send a text that starts with those four words. To Annette: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could tell me if I should keep these shoes.' Earlier this week to Laura: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could come over for coffee to discuss last night’s episode of Girls.' This morning to my dear college friends Kirsten & Monica: 'Wish we were neighbors so you could talk me down from my mounting book-release-related crazy.' Last week to Emily in Kalamazoo: 'Wish we were neighbors so we could take a dance class together. Wouldn’t that be fun?' Sometimes I find myself thinking about the people I love, all spread out all over the country, and I think: why are we so far apart? Would it be insane to move houses or cities or states because of friendship? Doesn’t it sort of make sense?

People move for jobs, for love, to be near their parents or in a city they like. People move to be in good school systems for their kids or according to God’s call to a church or ministry. People move for houses they fall in love with and shorter commutes. Do people move for friendship? Have you? Would you? This is what I want, in my secret crazy heart: I want to pick a neighborhood and put out the call: let’s do this! Let’s stop texting and seeing each other twice a year, if that. Let’s pick a neighborhood, and let’s move there and raise our kids together and have dinner together twice a week and go running together and put our kids on the same bus in the morning.

When you have friendships that are so dear to you, when you feel so seen and loved and connected and thankful for what these amazing people bring you, why wouldn’t we change our lives, or  at the very least, our location for them?"

Shauna Niequist -- Wish We Were Neighbors

Welcome | New Brand & Website GIVEAWAY

"The beauty of the world has two edges,
one of laughter, one of anguish,
cutting the heart asunder." 
 Virginia Woolf

pc /  Ellie Be

Good day, and thank you for making a stop at my electronic screen door! Come in and I won't apologize for the mess because I won't apologize for doing my life -- but, actually, you've caught me at a great time and things are quite tidy and new right now. It seems most everyone has realized it's obnoxious to open sites with music automatically playing... but if you want to know what my heart hears as I present this place to you, listen to the Little Rascals Theme while you browse around.

What is life without "We gotta dollar, we gotta dollar, we gotta dollar, hey hey hey hey!" and a Delectable Darlooney? Without ZuZu's petals, Dennis the Menace, Woody, Buzz and the gang, that slobbery dog Beethoven, little orphan Annie and her persistent hope? Without magical castles, nonsense candy factories, and beautiful days in the neighborhood (beautiful days with our neighbor)? Without Timon and Elton John, spoonfuls of sugar, the yellow brick road, and all those pig movies? Without Annes in gables, children in boxcars, creatures in Hundred Acre Woods?  Without Narnia, Charlie Brown, and Calvin & Hobbes? Without the princesses and the witches? 

Before you knew your mom is going to die from cancer, before you find out adults aren't all happy, before you stay awake at night inside your brain, before depressions and mind games, before he broke up with you, before she abandoned you, before you saw him hit her, before you understood how much money provides for life, before understandable loss, before knowing the favorite food of that person - that body - in the grave, before life plans blew to... the stars, before you made that "mistake," before doing something with your life. What is life before then?

What is life without the imaginative innocence of childhood, the breaking of that naive freedom and your heart, then the fight fight fight to believe the stories were more important than any five year old could know? Disney stories, especially, resonate with me for their colorful, careful depiction of deep love, devastating loss, and the journey to be brave, keep joy today, and have hope tomorrow.  The more I'm aware of all the pain life has to offer me, the people I love, and everyone else who shares earth with us, the more I believe in battling to see the good.  Not to be in denial, or to be fake, or to put on a front, but to have honest proclamations about where your life, your day, your hour have been very good in the middle of large struggle. Because it's there, it can be found, and it changes everything.

I love that I get to be the Good Keeper, the one who can give you good memories and say "Here, keep these, remember them. Write them on your heart and don't forget the story. It wasn't always so lovely. Remember? And yet here you were on that beautiful day, living in such a good series of moments. Store them up in your soul."

May the feelings of whispy youth be found in you even now, may the experience of age make you gentler not brittler, may your relationships be real and trustworthy and open, may your body move about and do tasks that bring peace and happiness to your life -- even if they're hard, may you think sharply and be honest with yourself and others, may you come into your story and be ready to fight off the joy-thieves, may you rest and play and laugh and eat and graduate and work and love and marry and stay single and have babies and adopt and be alone and try and shower when you smell. May you care, and may you find shocking goodness along your journey. 

On that note! Someone needs a special treat to make their week a little sunnier. Giveaway time!

1) Leave a comment on this blog with an imaginary title for your book, if your life were turned into a novel. Be creative and fun! Feel free to explain your choice.

2) Tag up to five friends (each friend counts as a vote) on this post on Facebook, and share something particularly kind or true about each them that not everyone knows in your comment. Make them feel special! And alert them to the giveaway at the same time!

3) Tag up to five friends (each friend counts as a vote) on my post on Instagram, and share something particularly kind or true about each them that not everyone knows in your comment. Make them feel special! And alert them to the giveaway at the same time!

Each option counts as one vote, but feel free to do them all! There are eleven possible votes per person!

The giveaway will close on Friday, June 5 at 11:59 PST and the winner shall be announced with pomp and exclamations the following day. Winner may choose $250 to Anthropologie, $250 to Amazon, or $125 to Anthropologie and $125 to Amazon. Happy entering!


"And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts,
But it's nice today,
Oh the wait was so worth it"
Jason Mraz

It's probably cheating to post an almost 20-image "teaser" but the rules bend for family, and now both of these wonderful people are indeed my family.  If you've followed along online you might know the gist of the story: Big family on the farm in Oklahoma with eldest twin boys. First twin meets and marries... me! and leaves the middle of the country for the east coast. Second twin, through a half-humorous half-serious matchmaking instagram post, meets a girl on the west coast. And they, as of last week, have married!  

This was a large family event, and we all looked forward to this time with Dan for many years. After the wedding we all chit-chatted about and soaked up the day by remembering our favorite parts. The three memories that came up the most often were their First Look, the ceremony - particularly the way the stories were told and just watching Dan and Erin together, and the toasts at the reception.  Since Ally Michelle (the light of my photography world and all-around Best Person nominee) and I took over 8000 frames, I get a little stuck when I want to post a "quick sneak peek!" It all means so much to me and it's hard to not lay it our in order and tell it all right.

But I'm settling for showing a few frames of some of our collective "family favorite" moments, and so much more is coming soon (including, hopefully, cousins for my son ;) Right guys?)

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We love you we love you we love you! And absurd amounts to follow shortly! Cousins!

Mama Bear's Memorial Slideshow

"she's somebody's hero."jamie o'neal

My mother died
in January 2014.  Arriving at January 2015 is strange.

An entire year without her.  Not a few weeks, or a summer.  One full calendar year.  A lot of life happens in twelve months.  As I've looked back, sat still and walked forward reflecting on her life and it's living impact on mine, one of the most important things I know today is that it matters.

What matters? It.  All of it.  Any of it. 

It matters.

The holiday traditions, the budget meal plans, the talks in the car while drinking milkshakes (okay, and french fries), the little notes and texts, the huge surprise parties, the late-nights, early-mornings, and all-days, the disagreeing and the understanding, the quiet things and the loud things, the soccer games, laundry loads, math help, electricity that turns on, the bedtime stories, the Disney-vacations that took two years and lots of eBay-ing to save up for, the potato chips and french onion dip, the tears during "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," the laughing to Seinfeld, the basketball games, the baseball games, the slumber games, the ABC-I-Spy-games in the car, the questions, the answers, the silence, the hugs, the sunshine, the rain, the mess, the order, the dirty barefeet and the brand-new 50% off shoes, the cheese in the pasta, the missing forks in the yard, the broken dishes, the softest kisses, the commitment to connection, the depression, the absolute honesty, the midnight home projects to catch a break, the stains in the carpet, the granola bar breakfasts and the bacon, eggs and french toast breakfasts, the minivan rides, the sideline, the bedroom, the toilets, the hospital floor, the birthdays and keep-them-alive-days, the moon, the pain, the crazy, the sane, the everything.  It all. 

She died on Wednesday and her memorial service was Saturday.  On Wednesday I didn't have a single picture scanned or sorted.  By Saturday there was a (woefully inadequate) 28-minute slideshow of her life.  Those three days were a blur of flipping through thousands of (our life) photographs, scanning them in, sorting them in folders, arranging them in a timeline, adding music, and trying to somehow give the dear folks sitting in the church an idea of all the "its." 

So many pictures and chunks of our life were missed.  And many of the images don't have her in them.  But it was so on purpose.  If she wasn't in the picture, she took the picture.  And it gives me her eyes.  Some little moment, on one day of her life -- maybe a lovely beach vacation day, or maybe regular living room day, meant enough to her to make the effort, to pull out the camera.  Maybe her quiet toddler boy was being especially chatty and he just looked too cute?  I don't know.  I know stories for many of the pictures, but not all of them.  And I'll never get the chance to ask (besides, she likely wouldn't have remembered all of them either), but I know it mattered.  I know it mattered enough to make sure film was in the slot, and batteries worked, and the camera was found and a picture was taken, developed, and picked up three days later.  It mattered enough. 

She told me that one of the best days of her life was my wedding.  "I just watched you all day.  You were so happy.  You didn't eat, even though you think you did.  You just smiled and talked and were... happy.  There isn't anything better to watch."  She let me be dumb and tell her about my wedding colors when I was in middle-school.  She would chime in about how she still loves the "Tahoe Blue" dresses her girls wore.  I don't know, she just didn't make me feel stupid.  My joy was hers, but it was never "about her."  She held me when I cried about the other boys, and this boy too at certain points, but let me go when it was his turn.  She taught us how to help our baby work through bad gas, and she gave him back to us to let us try.  The new boy and the wedding and the baby wouldn't have mattered very much if my favorite bedtime story, 42 questions about nothing, and "helpful" nights in the kitchen learning how to cook hadn't mattered as well. "How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time."  It all mattered to her, she noticed the itty bits, she as the definition of "present."

I wish I could have had more time, I wish I could have added more detail, shown more of the other kids, but this is my three-day-whole-hearted summary of the things, events and people my mom loved with her soul.  She would go back to any of these moments.  So we "go back" by remembering, by taking time to do it. (I'm not sure if it'd be boring to you.  It's everything to me.  And one of my favorite things to watch when I start to wonder "Am I making a difference? What's the point? Why am I here?")

Years In Review | I'm Kristen Photography 2014

“time was passing like a hand waving from a train i wanted to be on."
  jonathan safran foer
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In the way "When are you due!" is the question when you're pregnant, "Are you still doing photography!" is the question when, well, you disappear from the internet and stop posting any current photography. (Yes, I am still doing and have been doing photography. Just, differently.)

The last 18 months have, with no exaggeration, been the "most" times of my life.  It has been much -- from that day in June when our firstborn was delivered, to that day in January when my mom was delivered (from earth), to that day in April when blood on toilet paper met our second-born was no longer with us on earth, to all those days traveling (usually with at least one or two children) and living with other people constantly, to the long slow days spent in the heat and the ice building our home with our own two hands.

Despite what any marketing class or business principle might say, I've somehow shot dozens of weddings, and dozens of other sessions (and hosted a workshop!), while doing relatively no "promotional work."  Getting clients their images in a (mostly) timely manner is the most important, and after that, I simply haven't had more to give my business.  I blogged 27 times this year, and 28 times last year as opposed to 130 times in a year before.  My facebook page hasn't seen many more followers, my online hits have dropped (as is the case when sites are neglected), my e-mail isn't filled with inquiries, I have a blog but not a website.  Everything should be pointing to financial 'failure' and damaged business.

Yet, as always, things just kind of... fell into place. (Huge special thanks for the support and relationship with the folks at Strong Mansion.  More than half of the weddings were set there, with Twins + Violins playing music.  You'll recognize a certain set of steps very quickly ;) It's been great working together so often.) And such deeply beautiful clients have come my way, welcoming me into their holy days, and showing me the power of connection weekend after weekend.

Photographing a wedding has become a thing of healing for me.  Some days it was very, very hard to show up with my "game face" and be a sparkling professional woman.  Preparing my tools the night before, putting on make-up, doing my hair, sometimes pulling my bloody big-girl panties on (as I shot weddings one week after giving birth to Rowdy, and one week after miscarrying Ryan), sometimes crying or staring blankly in the car on my way too and from, sneaking off to empty my body of milk-filled pain, wearing a pretty outfit, feeling so strong and confident each time I finish, proud of my mind and body, grateful for my current ability and health, depositing checks in the bank and taking the money out to hang drywall or see the sea, letting myself get lost in the bliss of others, the weird and hard and thrilling work of creating, reviewing photographs, giving newlyweds the story of that day.  It is healing.  It is healing to be sensory -- to see, taste, touch, smell, hear -- when often I've had emptiness or "nothingness" this year.  It quickens me.  Being able to live, and move, and have my being, while working for, through and with God on these days of heaven-and-earth, keeps my eyes wide open when I can want to squish them shut.

I was often drawn to the middle-aged and turning-elderly women.  Sometimes it was the mother of the bride or groom, but other times it was just a group of guests or unruly aunts.  I watched them.  I watched them just be moms -- they worried, fussed, finagaled, cried, glowed, stared adoringly, got a little tipsy, kissed cheeks, choked on joy.  One dear mama carried down the aisle a photograph of she and her now-groom-then-toddler-son cut into a heart.  They fed me and, without a doubt, I would release that uncomfortable, nostalgic feeling with some tears.    One lovely friend told me my photographs were "a spiritual act."  Her sentiments blessed me.  Similar to the way that praying both honors God and brings me peace, photographing honors the stories of these people and brings me happy hope.

It is hard mental, emotional and physical work to be present and involved in the details.  I'm so honored that, again, someone, some people, trusted me to do that work.  And as all good hard work is, it is an actual joy to create for them.  Here is a (tough, tough, tough to narrow down) vault of the places I've been, flavors I've tasted, faces I've met, and souls I've linked hearts with this last year and a bit.  From Montreal to the eastern shore, from Texas to twenty-minutes down the road from home; the six-figure events and the four-figure events; the humid hot days and cold rainy days; the baby flower girls and the century-old grandparents; the mothers and the fathers; and everything in between.  Thank you, from the fragile places of this woman's heart.  The amount of intense (though sometimes teeny) human history I witnessed is nothing less than medicine.
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