family photography

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!

Mommy + Buddy Portraits | Maternity + Family

"She sings the tune without the words 
And never stops - at all."
Emily Dickinson
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Four Septembers ago I was figuring out airplane tickets to visit Oklahoma for the first time and Becca was pregnant.  I didn't know it.  I hadn't met Caleb yet.  I had some from friends in the middle of the country I wanted to visit.  Right before my trip I got an e-mail from Becca.  She and her husband were my small-group leaders at church and all of us young'ins' loved to inquire and tease about their someday-baby.  This potential child was affectionately named "Bacon" by us.  After four or five years of marriage, there was a Bacon.  And after all this time!  She was in Oklahoma!  And we weren't altogether to celebrate!  It had been a long haul, but a soul was made and lived inside the caves of my good friend.  But I didn't know any of this...  

...Until I got Becca's e-mail, right before my trip, after Bacon had already gone to heaven.  We hadn't really considered a miscarriage.  Somehow when it takes a "little longer" to get pregnant it doesn't seem fair that those mama's should miscarry.   (Of course it never seems "fair."  Souls and human life don't come and go like making a football team.)  She was sad, but gracious and full of Becca-kindness.  She said she was grateful a friend was coming to town so she and Dre wouldn't feel quite so alone.  He was their Apple Seed Baby, small and good.  He was and is missed.  

For Christmas that year I bought Becca a silver apple-necklace (the size of the fruit's seed).  The month that Caleb asked me to be his girlfriend was the month we found out about a Baby Bear, Apple Seed's little brother.  Caleb moved to Maryland and we helped assemble IKEA furniture and fold clothes for Baby Behr's nursery.  The night he was born Caleb and I slept on the hospital floor.  I was the second friend to meet and hold him.  On our wedding day Behr was a chubby, sweet ring-bearer.  10 months later Behr slept on the same hospital floor while Becca helped us through my labor with Rowdy.

By that Christmas there was a Tiny Baby, little brother to Apple Seed and Big Boy Behr.   Becca and Dre were back to Oklahoma for work.  Meanwhile my mom was closing her chapter in this world, and when she died a sick, pregnant Becca flew back to Maryland with Behr (who wore a dragon costume to my mom's funeral) to be there for me.  A few weeks later, in Oklahoma, Caleb and I found out there was a Baby Ryan.  I was so excited to be pregnant with my best friends (Janet was pregnant, too, with Bobby.)  We all three talked about being huge and bloated at the county fair, newborn Halloween costumes and "three little turkey's" at Thanksgiving.  But before our dreams had a chance to match reality, both Bobby Boy and Ryan Day went to heaven with their buddy, Apple Seed (all being dotingly cared for by Mama Bear, I'm sure).  We weren't pregnant together anymore.  There would be no "triplet" pictures during the holidays.  Now all three of us had babies in heaven.  

Caleb and I buried our baby in Oklahoma, a few nights ago we sent up balloons on Bobby's due date, and now we all wait.  We all wait to meet Tiny Baby.  He's shows us the stubbornness of hope, the gift of anticipation.  But any story points to the story behind it.  And the story behind Tiny Baby is a  big one.   Today I want to make a big deal about his mother.  

She's the Friend of Friends, Giver of Givers.  She has been juggling fire-pins and keeping more than one family going.  She works part-time on top of being a full-time supporter, break-giver, human-grower, wife, listening-ear, and mourner.  Her little Behr Boy loves her, and is an intelligent, creative, weird, chatty lovebug.   They have such a playful, strong relationship.  They really are friends.  In the middle of all the chaos this year has been, she methodically saved pennies and dreamed ideas to make her son a special new room before the baby comes.  There isn't a single item in his space that doesn't have meaning and heart behind it.  "I go to prepare a place for you."  (Oh.  And when I lived with Dre and Becca while Caleb and I were dating, this was my bedroom.  See?  Stories intersect everywhere.)

It was only right to do something a little different than formal maternity pictures.  Instead Dre wanted pictures of the special relationship and big love Becca and Behr share.  Here's to new stories, the thing with feathers, heritage, heaven, tear soup, outie-belly-buttons, hazelnut eyes, hazelnut coffee, bacon, washi tape and mama's with their little boys.

β€œSometimes it doesn't occur to boys that their mother was ever young and pretty.  I couldn't stand it if you boys were inconsiderate, or thought of her as if she were just somebody who looked after you.  You see I was very much in love with your mother, and I know there's nobody like her...”
(Willa Cather, My Ántonia)
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"And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm."

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to book your own i'm kristen family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, or oklahoma to dallas areas

The Sherrill Family | Dallas Family Portraits

"it’s been a long hard ride (we've got a ways to go), 
but this is still the place that we all call home."
dierks bentley 
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β€œSuddenly it seemed to me that I looked back from a great distance on that smile and saw it all again - the smile and the day, the whole sunny, sad, funny, wonderful day and all the days that we had spent here together. What was I going to do when such days came no more? There could not be many; for we were a family growing old..." Jetta Carleton

I have nearly ten good friends who are now wives and mothers.  When I met most of them they had neither "a guy" or "kids."  What a meaningful and fascinating experience it is to watch someone else grow, overcome hard new things, nurture a brood, bring new relationships into the world, develop, and happily thrive.  Jessica (Shae) and I met with weirdly similar life goals, and similarly weird current-life circumstances.   "It's the oldest story in the world.  One day you're 17 and you're planning for someday.  And then quietly, without you're ever really noticing, someday is today.  And then someday is yesterday.  And this is your life."  It's wonderful to look at a short-legged, fat-footed, brownie-eyed, watchful, puppy-boy and see my friend looking back up at me.  At least parts of my friend.  His eye-shape is the same as hers when he smiles, and just like his dad's "at rest."  Her dimples, his eyebrows.  Her goofiness, his need to figure out how things work.  A whole, original, never-before-and-never-again human who was wondered about in parks and Chipotle's all over the east coast.  I love knowing a talented, quietly sassy, determined woman and then meeting the new characters in her story -- finding out where her story all along was written into somebody else's.  This is the man.  This is the child.  Here is her family!

Josh is a friendly, smart partner for Jessica, and she is a lively, tough match for him.  Judah is clearly and affectionately loved by them both (I think every time we've hung out together Josh feeds/changes/cleans-up Judah.  Caleb and Josh have special bonding time over their sons' stank! haha) Being with them is easy and warm.  I love this little family, mostly because I know how much joy they have in each other.
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to book your own i'm kristen one-year or family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

The Gasca's | Maryland Family Portraits

"at the end of all my faith, 
till the end of all my days, 
when I forget my name, 
remind me."
andrew peterson
 photo ashley_ed_cruz_family_portraits2of23.jpgA little more waiting, a little more crying, a little more time.  There is a place for everything.  But who among us could hold out hope, could continue to believe, or even wish, unless we had tastes of the happiest things?  We live in this world of the charmed and the damned; a time for everything.  In other worlds, in other days, there won't be times for everything.  Only time for good things.  So we hope for Splendor, and live in the pig pen, and watch the sunrise and wish, believe, hope.  This small family has had their mourning times, their quiet times, their pained times.  But in the gold crackle of autumn, they found themselves in a dancing time, a laughing time, a living time.  New Baby Cruz - teeny and particular - , teasing and jokes, togetherness, tastes of days over the rainbow.  
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These pictures, this family are promise to me.  "In the face of chaos, baby, I can dance with you.  We're dancing in the minefields, sailing through the storm.  He's promised not to leave us, His promises are true.  I can dance with you."  Thank you for allowing me sixty minutes into your sixty years.  I loved pressing pause in the backyard and making your first days as a family of three stand still, for just a moment.  
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to book your own i'm kristen home-family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york/boston, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

The Whiteside Family | Home Family Sessions

β€œafter all," anne had said to marilla once, 
"i believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those 
on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens
 but just those that bring simple little pleasures, 
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” 
 l.m. montgomery | anne of avonlea
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The story of her life is charmed, relatable and yet entirely dreamy.  Anne of Avonlea has had a handsome way with words for years.  " pearls slipping off a string..."  The best part of her simile is the reality of a broken necklace.  Most women, no doubt, would moan and clench if their real pearl necklace snapped and the beads strolled off one by one.  There's the profundity: life rips apart sometimes, lots of times, but look!  Isn't it neat how the pearls slide off the string?  Simple pleasures,  small instances,  a crocus crown working to stand tall in the snow.  
And, so, here are the simple pleasures that can perhaps be missed in the breaking, the moaning, the frustrating.   The financial issues, the church issues, the relationship issues, the health issues, the house issues, the greater-world issues.  Here is a home, a family, a house and some of their best pearls.  Meet  steel-eyed Nora, and her copper hair.  She's the little lass of the household.  Her mama, Ashley, is an interior designer -- making the world around her beautiful is her speciality.  Nora's pops is a pastor and all-around good, kind man.  
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Currently this sweet family of three have friends living with them.   These friends are doing coffee-shop ministry.  They have given their life to creating comfortable, inviting spaces made for meeting and knowing people.  And, of course, drinking coffee.  "Come in!  Welcome!  It smells good, hey?  Sit for a while.  Come back again soon: bring friends."  Their love of people, all shapes and ages, and well-made coffee aren't just for "work," either.  Little Nora looks at them like I imagine she would look at the midnight stars.  They purposefully teach her the ropes, and she takes their confidence seriously.  She has each and every step of coffee-making memorized, written on her heart.  She copy-cats these two and her infectious pride and adoration is impossible to miss.  They even do yoga together!
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Okay, so the coffee was a little weak.  And the meditation and exercise benefits are a little cut short when a toddler is your teammate.  One pearl, two pearls slipping off the strand.  Simple pleasures, little stories, memories made.
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Special games with daddy fill the house and murmur onto the front porch.  Story time is where imaginations, vocabulary and life-skills begin to engage; where they sprout so green and bright.  Nora is an old-soul, with a watchful mind.  She examines the people around her, and watches -- learns! -- what they do.  She is her father's need to learn; her mother's need for order and systemic beauty.  She wanders off along, and also nuzzles and laughs until she can't breathe. 
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That day has passed, those pearls have fallen, the problems of the morning are gone now, and the joys of the evening are another piece in the jewelry box; the beautiful, shining, display case of a family and their life lived in the nicest, sweetest days.  Thank you for welcoming me into your home and hearts, Whitefield family!  I'll be sure to be back again.  
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to book your own i'm kristen home-family session, 
especially in the maryland/virginia/dc, new york, or oklahoma to dallas areas
(i'll also be traveling around southern california + the lake tahoe/nevada areas in coming months.)

Woods Family | Hoboken Coffee Roasters At Home | Family Portraits in Guthrie

i could be sweet
and i could be sweeter
i want to be where your heart is home
she & him - home
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You met Trey and Mallory behind the bar at Hoboken Coffee Roasters.  You met their dream - their wooden, mechanical, brown, window-ed, handmade dream.   You met a part of them that isn't just their career or their work, but their hearts on display on Division Avenue.  Hoboken is more than a part, but it isn't the whole.
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Today you'll at least get to meet more of the parts, that will help you know the whole far better.  The parts about an OSU cowgirl-student, paying the bills by working at a college town coffee house.  The parts about her meeting Gerald Woods, the Third (or "Trey," for three.  Get it?)  The parts about an engagement three months later.  And a wedding four months after the "Will you?" And the parts about their bike ride - on their bicycles, with pedals and wheels that runs on human muscle, determination and exhilaration - from Oklahoma to Oregon.  Yes.  The parts about their time in Eugene, working working working, playing playing playing, learning learning learning, dreaming dreaming dreaming.   They continued to pay the bills by being hired at, well, where else?  Coffee shops.  And they looked forward to big new parts.  Baby parts and a shop of their own parts and a house to make their home (at least for a good long while) parts.  
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On a personal note, before I wow you with more heartwarming Woods tales, I have to recite, once again, why I love shooting people in their real life.  I'm not the biggest fan of styled shoots (I understand their fun and place), I'm never going to be a commercial "America's Next Top Model esque" photographer (but I sure am glad someone does it, because I adore the spreads in Vogue and Vanity Fair), I have no desire to learn camera and photoshop tricks and magicals to create Popular Page worthy Flickr creations (though I adore it when those are well done - they're dreamy.)  Honestly, I could take or leave photography.  And "art."  Not in the world, oh no.  But in my own life - I don't "need to take pictures!"  What I do "need," however, is to create (bedrooms or meals or outfits or blog posts) and to know people.  I'm far less bubbly and outgoing than I was a few years ago.  I may be less social and, heck, even less friendly!  But my heart is "on" and I'm addicted to knowing and discovering the stories of people.  I love shooting a birth story or a wedding or a friend of mine at the pool.  I just, oh, feel alive!  Like life is tasty and happening and dazzling!
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And here, in a living room on Oak Street, in a town set aglow by the promise of "Munson and Sons" (or "Mummy Fords," depending on which old lady in town you speak with), is a wife and mamma and female who doesn't know how to pin something onto Pinterest.  And a husband and daddy and man who looks like American Storybook Jesus, according to my husband.  And a coffee-shop babe who takes her naps under a espresso machine, and who kind of looks like a munchable little coffee treat herself.  And this is where they wake up and come home and close their blinds and take their showers and park their jeep and rest.
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And it makes me feel alive.
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They moved into this home, less than two minutes from their store, last month.  They have hardy plans for it.  When we opened the blinds they fell off the window and Mallory tossed them into the kitchen.  Where the dish and clothes washer live.  And the plaster needs to be repaired in the walls, and the bathroom isn't "them" at all.  Just the night before this shoot Mallory went all "destroy the shower doors!" and hung up a curtain and rod in their place.  It's just on the cusp of all it will be, but it's undoubtably theirs and beautiful.
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In my various conversations with the Woods family over the past eight months, I've watched a trusty thread stitch their thoughts together.  "It just wasn't us, ya know?"  "That was just SO 'me'!" "It was us!" "It really wasn't 'me.'" They have some of the most developed, unstuffy, natural, pleasant, makes-you-feel-comfortable-not-judged-happy-not-like-a-failure sense of personal taste and desire I've ever come across.  They aren't trendy or trying to be cool - they just dress and decorate and drink and do what they love!  It's so simple and good. 
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Trey is the sort of person who you feel really proud-of-yourself when you've made him laugh.  He's easy to talk to, interesting and not-shy - but he also doesn't pity-laugh.  Mallory, on the other hand, is a feather of a speaker and, if she caught on that you were making a joke, would laugh no matter what - just to make sure you didn't feel bad.   But as a couple they make you feel like you're family.  It doesn't matter if you're at the shop or in their living room.   And their little offspring daughter is a holdable part of their love.  She is so easy to adore and want to be near.  She's (obviously) super used to being around people all day long.  She sucks her fists and is working on coordinating her back with her mind, and she looks at you like she's got you all figured out - and then usually smiles really big, which makes you confident that she assessed you well ;)
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These three must be a little window light of heaven.  Everyone - from my own family to the church ladies to the Town Member of The Year to the instagram-and-tweeters to myself - have only experienced memorable, rich and addicting love from this crew.  It's honest and not something that can be faked or manufactured or posed.  
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Trey, Mallory and young Autumn, er, Harmony (hahah just kidding. Harvest.) yes, you're beautiful.  "Inside and out," as they say.  Yes, you're inspiring.  But thank you, sincerely, for your hearts - especially towards people.  Thank you for not making people different than you (basically your whole town!) feel snubbed or looked down on.  Instead they feel a part of you.  Thank you for living out what you believe is best, but not talking about those things in a way that makes me-or-others feel like half-bakes.  You love differences and don't want everyone to be like you - you want them to be like them.  And you bring that out in people.  Thank you for talking about God like He's really your friend, and not like you're "good Christian folk who have to bring up prayer now."  It's obvious that your life in Him is so interweaved with your everyday life that they just simply can't be separated.  It doesn't feel hokey, ultra-spiritual or pushy.  It just feels right and helpful and delightful.  
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Thank you for the start of a friendship - I hope our babies will be buds for a long long time, and I hope you'll get to eat at our bagel shop someday, and I hope for many nights and meals and BBQ's and holiday parties and coffee-breaks and conversations and knowings with our families.

It's been so nice to meet you.

Shelby Leigh + Brian + The Three Girls | Newborn + Family Portraits

"is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed? 
any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me?"
elise mckenna - somewhere in time
Not many hours after Esme Rose snuggled into her first days of "outside" life, this beautiful family and I met up again for one more story time.   We started back in December, with simple portraits of a mama-and-dada-to-be.    Within weeks, we were huddled together in a bathroom, with a couple more daughters and supporters, watching Shelby and pleading to Esme with our hearts - "Come on, sweet girl.  Come out!  We're waiting for you!".   This brings us to early spring and a family of five.
Inside the white picket fence, and red front door, up the wooden stairs, past the dusty rose and khaki nursery, on a white bright bed was a crew full of sunshine.
The ladies of the house are, well, stunning.  Each and every one of them.
And papa is a brave soul ;)
The delight I had left behind that cold night was just as complete when I came back in the daylight.  The big sisters were still intrigued and comfortable.  The whole house attracts itself to mama and baby.  They all love to be near.
Esme had quite the stare-down!  It's breathtaking!
Soon the little cupcake won't be eating every hour or two.  Soon she will know her sister's names.  Soon she will jump on dad, and break mugs, and fill up a little purse with goodies, and count to eleventeen and beyond.  Soon she will clap for herself.  Soon she will ask for what she wants with words.  Soon she will ask dad about his tattoos and if she can play with mom's hair and "are we there yeeeet?"  Soon she won't be a baby.  But today she's quite baby.  And absolutely incredible.  She is loved, and has been for some time now.  She is here and she is there's.
It's been honor and fun to be a part of this story; to record and tell something that can never be told again.  Esme Rose will never go back into her mother's belly or be delivered or be a few hours old ever, ever again.  And it really resonates in my heart the sweetness I've been able to join in on by photographing this entire, lovely family.  

Harris Family | Portrait Session

But the lesson is vague in the lightening,
Shows a dear with her mind on the moor.
And now something with the sun is just different

Since they shook the earth in 1904.
Tallest Man on Earth - 1904
Before ice-skating lessons in 1998, my mom stopped into the Christian bookstore across from the rink.  I had on leggings and a emerald green sweatshirt and skates-with-guards.  I was looking forward to being 10-years-old ("just ten more months until I'm ten!"), and my family had recently relocated from the intensity of the Washington DC area to the chill-back-bro area of San Diego, California.  And I mostly just wanted to go ice-skating.  Tara Lipinski already practiced 12 hours a day... this bookstore stop was cutting into my 1.5 hours!  "Kristen, do you know who this is?"  Mom showed me the back of a black and white book.  There was an "old," dark-haired 21 year old in the picture.  I had no idea who he was.  "This is Joshua Harris, he wrote this book and he works at our old church in Maryland now.  And he's only 21."  I had to admit, it was pretty cool that anyone from my old church - whether I knew who he was or not - was on the back of a book at a store all the way in Escondido.  Mom and I enjoyed our little "celebrity siting" moment, and that was that.
Now, nearly 15 years later, I've seen and heard and talked with the Back Of The Book Guy a lot.  By the time we moved back to Maryland, he was married.  There was a baby.  And another book.  And a baby.  And another book.  And a baby.  And another book.  For over a decade Josh always seemed "the same" to me.  Nice, cheerful guy.  Full of energy and short-guy jokes.  Eager, spirited and good in front of people.  His children were adorable, his wife was always precious and pretty.
But in the last two or three years, I feel like I've gotten to watch change become different.  Not because I personally know him or his family very well, but even watching from "the outside" there is a change.  His sensational mother suddenly died a few summers ago.  The next summer he began the process of leading a church through it's greatest trial yet.  I've watched Josh weep.  I've watched him collapse in front of thousands of people.  I've watched him apologize.  I've watched him make decisions and take the heat afterwards.  I've watched him honor his mother, through pursed lips and quivery prayers.  There's been a change.  A depth.  Josh is still friendly and eager, but, like Noah & The Whale say "Some people wear their history like a map on their face."
And I like it.  The hour I spent with Josh, off-stage, out of office, away from ministry and "work", just home, with his personality-full children and clever, perceptive wife was just oh-so-real.  They were running late.  Outfits were in question.  The cat was missing.  Children chased each other.  Dishes were in the sink. Josh wasn't "back of the book" Josh.  He was dad.  He was normal.  He didn't seem 21, he seemed upper-30's.  And real, and a little tired (a lot tired?) and happy.


There is hurt and experience and delight and unknown that the man I saw in the fall knew, that the man I saw in 1998 didn't.  Shannon is the same way.  Ever lovely and kind, she looks like she has stories to tell.  She has richness in her voice and sweetness in her eyes, but somehow she is tough as nails.  Like a Cape Cod cottage that has withstood the winter winds and summer floods, she lives on with more charm than before.  Emma, who is now older than I was when I "discovered" her father, is gentle, peaceful and calm.  She speaks in complete sentences, asks beautiful questions and seems not just thoughtful and attentive, but extremely constant for a child her age.  JQ is all "boy."  Not just "all sports boy" (he is that!) but all "boy."  He is filled with all kinds of facts and quips and ideas.  He is adventurous, theatrical, competitive and talkative.  He seems like the guy who would cry and mourn for a few days if his team lost the Super Bowl, or would rejoice and celebrate for months (years?) if they won.  He's all in.  In everything.  Mary Kate, the little firecracker, has a magnetic draw and hilarious demeanor.  She does not care what anyone thinks of her.  She is bold and free and incredible.  She has mischief written all over her face (I think it's in her mouth and dimples), but is absolutely impossible not to instantly "click" with.
(The cat made it! Woo-hoo! Go Wasabi!)
The time I spent with Josh + his family blessed and uplifted me more than probably any message I've heard him speak, or paragraph of his I've read.  Watching them really belly-laugh, tease and poke fun, figure out who got to hold the cat, interact and just be was special and important.   I love this family more after getting to know them better, in person, in life.
And there's a lesson in that, isn't there?  No matter what someone is like, or how different or similar they are to you, when you get to know someone, your heart can't help but care for them more.  

Harris' - you come to mind frequently throughout my days and weeks.  Keep laughing and loving and chasing.  You're a complex and interesting crew of people, and it's really wonderful that God gave you all each other.  You're great together.  I can't wait to watch your stories unfold - and hopefully I'll only be able to know you better and better.  You have my respect + my laughs (especially that Mary Kate!)

The Smart Family | 2012

With access to the water, the railroad and the sheltering mountains, the Union and the Confederacy pined for control of Harper's Ferry.  Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson eventually secured it for good but it took eight "back-and-forth's" between the two armies.  In intentionally and almost eerily frozen Civil War "feel," the town of Harper's Ferry has rich, sad and long history.  But for two little blue boys, the only part of the town that was very interesting at all was the train.
Well, the train that was supposed to come down the train-tracks.  They waited and watched.  But no train came.  The sun does not wait for little boys and their locomotive-hearts, so family pictures had to resume.  Bigger Boy kept his ears on the look-out... just in case.
Littler Boy (only in size) wanted to go back to the tracks and wait.  He begged with his eyes.
Our hopes were raised a few times!  We heard rumbling and horns! Maybe?!
No.  No train.  So dad, mom and Sister tried their best to distract and engage The Little Blue Boys.
Kisses and shoulder-rides and snuggling are good for distracting.
It's been six years of documenting this family.  We started back before there were Blue Boys who loved trains.  We've been through maternity shoots, anniversary shoots, new baby shoots and a collection of family shoots.  This year just may have been my favorite, though.
Because after lots of smiling, listening, watching and tickling, as we were getting into our cars to leave... the train came :)  And there was just something that clamped my heart when I watched those kids rejoice over a train.  Maybe it was because in a few years they'll be "big boys" who don't spend the whole shoot distracted by big vehicles.  They keep growing every year.  And one of these years they won't be little at all.

But that wasn't this day.  This day they weren't fighting wars or figuring out parking or looking both ways when they crossed the street.  This day they were still small.  And we'll never forget it.

Lightfoot Triplets | Baby Photography

"you better be prepared to 
be surprised."
sondre lerche | to be surprised

I don't care who you are: at some point in your life you've thought about what it would be like to have a baby.  Even if it was only for a split second.  Even if it was in disgust thinking "That is just WAY too much work.  I'm never having children."  Maybe your first thought went to the lifestyle and body changes: not having freedom to go out or travel, gaining weight and stretchmarks - you get the picture ;)

But for many people (particularly women) there is a natural, nurturing, full part of your heart that can't help but think fondly of that day when you have your own child.  Sometimes it seems bizarre to hold another person's baby, but what if this was mine? What does it feel like to have a person inside you?  Is it as magical as some women claim?  Is it as awful as other women claim?  Is it a healthy dose of wonderful and terrible?  Will my first baby be a boy or girl?  Will the child look like me?  Will he be a good baby? Will I be a sleep-hungry, smelly monster?  Will I spend hours staring at the baby counting it's ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes?  

Maybe that is just me.  I do have an extraordinary love for children, particularly babies.  But I'll tell you one thing:  I've NEVER imagined counting 60 toes and fingers after my first pregnancy.  Nope.  It hadn't crossed my mind.  
I'm told that giving birth to triplets hadn't crossed the mind of my smart, sweet and glowing winter 2010 bride, either.  She was s.h.o.c.k.e.d.  SHOCKED.  How could you not be?  SIXTY FINGERS AND TOES INSIDE YOU.  Who prepares for that?  Jennifer and David, though completely surprised, have been equally thrilled.  They love all those fingers and toes.Photobucket
By winter 2011 this little lady and her kind man were holding Makenna, Noah and Emma, their firstborns.
With an army of support, love, generosity, bottles, arms and adrenaline, these three siblings were welcomed into a Florida town.  Hundreds of friends have prayed, waited, given and helped mom and dad take care of their little lives.  And kiss all their toes.
I've never seen baby triplets in person before.  It was a very, very odd feeling.  One baby gives me so many feelings and wonders in my heart.  But three was just... overwhelming and beautiful.
Their lives, though in every way a surprise to this world, were planned long before this world had a chance to be surprised.  Their lives, like every life, entered this stage right on cue.  God wanted them, and He wanted them now, and He wanted Jennifer and David to raise them.  Not Katie and Bill.  Not Sue and Todd.  But Jennifer and David.  He gave these three to them specifically.
And they are spectacular.
From their rosebud lips, to Noah's "hound dog" eyes, to their pink little bodies, to their double chins, smooth bald heads, grunts and kicks and rounded bellies they are beautiful and miraculous and "planned."  "As I have planned, so it shall be."  Spending just over an hour with this little/big family gave me such a needed vision of God's ability, kindness and power over us.  It's actually unbelievable that three humans grew inside one human, and now they are here: screeching, looking, breathing, wriggling, eating, learning and functioning.  They have been joys to friends near and far, they have been blessings in their neediness, happinesses in their dependance.  They aren't exactly productive or "useful," but they are people and are loved so much.  They reminded me to love people in my life: the inconvient people, the "surprise!" people, the difficult people, the family-people (who are easily taken for granted), the unhelpful people, the sweet and innocent people.  They reminded me to look at some wrinkly toes and see God.  And to praise Him.  In reality all people can and should do that to me, but there was something about touching and seeing three infants that hit that lesson home.
On that chubby, roll-y, soft belly note, let's call this post a day :D

The Smart Family {Family Portraits}

he's gonna act like he can't wait to leave
but as he drives out, he'll cry his eyes out
if he's anything like me.
there's worse folks to be like
aw, he'll be alright if he's anything like me

brad paisley | anything like me
It's "family portrait" time of year.
I haven't shot a family since last year.
And I've done me some thinking.
Portrait: A verbal picture or description, especially of a person or people.
A verbal picture.
Of a person.
Of people.
A description of people.

Sometimes I see very pretty pictures, of very pretty people.  There are family and children photographers who are much more gifted then I am.  They just know what they are doing and nail it.  I've realized, though, that, just like in weddings, you can take lovely photographs that don't tell you a single.darn.thing about the subject.  I've often shot families like I'm shooting for a Gymboree ad.  I know the type of image I'm looking for and I try to make my mini subjects pose and smile and sit the way I think they should.

But, just like no two couples are the same, no two families are the same.
Neil and Jessica are relaxed, happy, opinionated, active, talented and loving in their own way.
Their children (and, man alive, their children's personalities) are striking, funny, dynamic and full of life in unparalleled fashion.  So I would like you to meet them.  I want to describe them to you. 
Enjoy these portraits.

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Neil doesn't get told what to do.  He is smart and strong and a man.  But he does not care what other people think about him.  Kind of a "live your life, take care of your business" vibe.   He is committed to his wife, committed to providing for her.  Not because "so-and-so" says that is what you are supposed to do.  Because he knows that's what men do.  Man up, step up and live.  He's one of those dads that changes diapers, ends fights with a single look, chases kids and yells right with them and is connected to his family.

Jessica is very sweet.  She reminds me of friends from California (and not just because she has blonde hair and blue eyes ;) haha).  Chill, kick back, do what you love, love what you do, laugh and enjoy.  She works - don't get me wrong - she works.  But her attitude is so elegant.  I don't think I've ever seen a whiny Facebook status from her.  Lots of happiness, heart and love.  She doesn't complain.  Her children really are some of her best friends. 

These two are so great at shoots. They play with their children, just like they do at home.  They don't fuss with fixing hair while I'm trying to shoot, or constantly calling their kids names.  It's as crazy yet normal, loud yet peaceful to shoot them as it is to sit in their living room.

Nyah is a talkative, colorful, helpful little girl who also is going on 18 ;)  She reminds me of Neil. 
Ryder is a creative kid.  He's usually some kind of creature when I see him.  He obviously looks up to Nyah SO much, but loves to push her buttons.
Kylan has some spunk.  He has places to go, things to do and not being able to walk is really slowing him down, folks.  He's very curious and aware.

This shoot was filled with shrieking, tickling, running, growling, laughing and convincing Nyah it was okay to sit in the grass.
I hope you enjoyed meeting the Smarts.

Craig, Laura + Kids {Family Shoot}

you might fall down on your face
but don't be fall'n in love
as she's walkin' away
zac brown band - as she's walkin' away
Craig is a little on the shorter side.
And Laura is a little on the beautiful side.
They went to church at the same place, and Craig heard Laura's testimony.  He was kind of hooked.
But they hadn't spoken yet.
He was chilling with his friends afterwards, and she started to walk their direction.
Craig started to get mentally pumped. 
"Keep it together man."
This was a big moment. His chance to introduce himself to beautiful Laura.

And in one boy-ish swoop, Craig's nearly 7-foot-tall friend, grabbed Craig by the ankles and dangled him in the air as Laura passed.
He now likes to joke that he was "literally head over heels" when they met ;)
Cute stuff.
And clearly everything worked out just darling for the young boy and the cute girl
Their three awesome kids are so well-behaved and did an excellent job as we ran around taking pictures.



I think this picture is a good intro to the slideshow song ;)
So nifty how that worked out...


Seth + Janet + Baby {Family Shoot}

"And you take that love you made
And stick it into someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood

And walking arm in arm
You'll just do it all again"

regina spektor - on the radio

Seth is madly in love with his wife, Janet.  And she thinks he is pretty awesome too :D
It's exactly how it should be.

And it was time for them to have a baby.  In God's wonderful way, He gave them a little girl. Exactly at His proper time, she entered their life.

She's a darling, beautiful child named Audrey Elizabeth (but she is affectionately known as "Meeper.")
A few weeks before Meeper was born, we did a family shoot. 

We couldn't hold or see her yet, but she was definitely their daughter inside Janet's belly :D  And this is their family!

Janet is a silly-head a thought she was so big + fat.  I'm pretty sure she weighed less then me when she was NINE months pregnant.  She is so gorgeous. And tiny.  Seth was looking sharp himself!  No wonder Audrey is so stinkin' attractive!

Audrey is a wiggler!  We could see her little feet goin' for a walk.  So amazing. 

Side note: I miss sunshine and color and warm days.

I love you guys so much!  All three of you!

If you'd like to see Meeper with her family after she was born, check out Jenny James' pictures right here!  SO GOOD!

Brewer Family Shoot {I'm Kristen - MD/DC/VA Photographer}

"these are some good times
so take a good look around,

you're gonna miss this."
trace adkins

I think I was in middle school when Dave become a youth pastor at my church.  I remember the night really well - I felt very out of place.  I wasn't exactly a cool kid and the highschoolers scared me BIG time.  And I had no idea who "Dave and Jen Brewer" were, but they seemed fun. We all clapped and welcomed Dave to the group.

Dave was a highschool teacher, Jen was a fabulous highschool athlete and they met in highschool, so I guess it works well for Dave to be a highschool youth pastor!  I always thought they were a great couple and I even remember the first time they "knew" who I was and said "Hey Kristen!" I was like "Yes. Score. They know me." haha I told you I wasn't very cool ;D

And soon this great couple turned into a great family :D  I remember each time Jen was pregnant, and all of us highschoolers loved to guess what she was having, and talk about names, etc.  Needless to say, this family has a special place in my heart.

Even though I'm a few  years out of highschool, I think I see them more then I did while I was!  I love going to youth events and seeing little Brewer children running down the halls, while calm, steady Jen looks on and Dave, like, I don't know, throws balls at them. Basically they are a loud, happy, fun family and I love it!

For two years I helped on a team that ran and organized the youth events and I was constantly teased by Dave and other guys about being "Kristen LAY PHOTOgraphy dot BLOG spot DOT com" and they'd mock me about treasuring moments. Someone was always bound to yell "Kristen! Did you see that? Did you capture the moment?" All in good humor of course...

It was fun times but I have to say, I was pretty honored they wanted me to really do a shoot with them ;D  They are honestly such a down-to-earth, enjoyable family.  And I love them!

This actually is the second time they have been on the blog.  Once when I baby-sat I grabbed some shots of the kids.  You may remember the story of Sarah, and how she had cancer in 2008.  I remember that horrible-sick-to-your-stomach feeling I had when I found out, and I also remember how amazed I was with the peace and hope the Brewer's had. 

And happily, Sarah is doing great!  There are still some side-effects she is fighting, but she's alive and well!

As much as I love Sarah, I really love the other kids too.  Caleb (the only boy) is such a funny little guy.  He has some of the best one-liners you will ever hear.  He's one of those kids that makes you say "How did you come up with that?!" haha He's pretty awesome :D

Alethea and Mikaela  are great too.  They are such good big sisters.  Alethea is more on the quiet side and loves to read, and Mik is very bold and loves to run around!  It's so sweet how their different personalities work so well in their dear little friendship.

Hello big girl!  She really grew-up this year.  I don't know when it happened, but goodness gracious, she turned into such a big girl!

Oh I love her.

Dave and Jen, thanks for coming out for the shoot!  And more than that, thanks for teasing me, laughing with me, listening to me and being such good friends.  And so sorry the whole couch-in-the-woods thing didn't work out this year ;D

Enjoy the slideshow!

The Bonebrake's - Family Shoot {MD/DC/VA - I'm Kristen}

Lift up your hearts with a smile
Lift up your feet with a dance
Lift up your spirits with a song
Its family time

Ziggy Marley - Family Time

Life is a serious thing - no joke.  And that's why it is SO important to seriously enjoy it.  I love when I meet people who really, really do.  The Bonebrake family.  Guh.  They love each other and they love life.

The kids are sweethearts and we had a blast running around a local park together.  I loved their giggles and trips and ideas for pictures. 

I love that their voice-message for their phone is "Hi!  You've reached the Bonebrake's and we're playing with the kids! Leave a message!"

I love how Andrea calls her baby boy "Mr. Blue Eyes."

They have such a care-free, relaxed, happy vibe to their family.  Their kids are going to love all their childhood memories - they have amazing parents.

He saw a puppy.  I am SO not as interesting as a puppy. 

Ps.  When was the last time you saw so many cute faces in one collage? 

Hey dad, I hope you are ready to keep the boys away from these two!  Good luck with that!

Maryland has some gorgeous color, I can't lie.  As fussy as the weather is, it really has some exceptionally gorgeous times.


They really are the best of friends.  I loved watching them together :D

I kinda wanted to take him home with me.  Think they'd notice?

And that's a wrap!

It was a pleasure meeting and working with you guys!  I hope you enjoy the pictures :D

Smart Family Shoot {I'm Kristen - MD/VA/DC Photography}

"Ordinary? No! I really don't think so,
Not a love this true"
me and you - kenny chesney
You may or may not recognize this family on my blog.  If you have been following me for a while, you might remember Jess, Neil and little Nyah from our first shoot together two years ago.  Or maybe you remember when Jess's bestie, Heather, get married. Jess was a bridesmaid and Nyah was a flower girl.
Or maybe you re-call the preggo shoot we had when Jess and Neil found out a baby boy was headed their way.  Perhaps you remember when Mr. Ryder arrived!  We did a shoot then, too.
More recently we did a shoot of Jess and Neil for their 5-year-anniversary. It was off the charts amazing (and at a fair :D).  

Needless to say, I've grown to love this gorgeous little family.  I love to talk to them, I love to watch their kids grow-up and laugh and cause trouble ;D  I love how real, normal and genuine they are.

I also love how they really all are so child-like.  Everybody needs people like Neil, Jess, Nyah and Ryder in their life.  I strongly believe that :D

And no one can complain about their good-looks :D

They are just SO cute!  Seriously!

Good luck when this one is old enough to date... Neil is gonna have to hire an escort for her ;D

And Mr. Adorable Blue Eyes already dissolves my heart - I feel bad for every girl he meets the next 25 years!  They are gonna fall fast ;D

And before you know it, I'll be shooting their weddings!

HA!haha Nyah's little drama queen leg... She's so cute.  And I love everything about this picture.  They rocked it!

Just chillin' like a villian

And one more of him... because I just love him :D

I love you guys!!!

The Jackson Family Shoot - MD/VA/DC Photography

"oh reckless abandon
like no one's watching you
a moment, a love, a dream aloud
a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs"

-- sweet disposition by temper trap

You are a child, you go to school, you fall in love, you get a job, you get married, you have children and somewhere in there you grow-up.  Somewhere in there you become an adult. 

Life moves on with little warning.  It's not like a car-racing video game where  you reach flashing checkpoints along the way.  It just sort of happens!

You are a child one day and before you know what's happened you have been married for 25 years and your children are becoming adults!  At least, that's the case for the dear Jackson family.

I've known the Jackson's for a few years now, and they have been so supportive as my business has taken off!  Mrs. Jackson is so quick to encourage me and Nicki was one of my interns this summer!  Check out her fabulously fabulous blog!

The kids are so well-behaved, so adorable and very affectionate and loving!

I have to say, Mr. Jackson, you and your wife have a special and precious 25 year marriage and you are raising your sons so well - I'm sure they will follow right after you!

They are so happy! I'm a fan of happiness :D

Awww.  I hope you two have another 25 years of laughter, memories and growth together.  Give your kids an extra big hug today and love love love them, cause soon I'll be shooting them with their children!

 Much love,

The Marini's

Everyone has a "Marini family" in their life.
That family that has been through so much.
That has had such hard times.
That is so kind, welcoming and abnormally friendly.
These families make you grateful for your life in a fresh way.
They make you realize how good you have it.
They help you take your eyes off yourself for a bit.

Rachel Marini e-mailed me last Fall about doing a shoot of her family. I did and since then we have e-mailed back and forth a bit and Rachel and I even went out for lunch once.

I honestly think it's impossible to not love Rachel. She's like a sweet little bunny :D She is so calm and tender, so smiley and adorable.
I just love her.

Rachel e-mailed about doing another family shoot this summer. I was 100% there.
Not just because I love Rachel (which I do).
Not just because I was available (which I was).
Not just because I love photographing her fantastically cute daughters (which I do).

But also because, I love getting to see the Marini's little boy, Gabe.

When Gabe was born, all seemed perfect! Though Rachel and Shaun were shocked to have 3 kids in 3 years, they were thrilled with their new baby boy. Within three months, however, things took a scary turn. Gabe was hospitalized and after 8 grueling months in the hospital - and after being diagnosed with Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID), Gabe was able to go home. But on many medicines, monitors and not the same baby. While his body does grow bigger and bigger, he "sleeps" most of the day. He doesn't talk or play like most kids his age might, and he still has a long road ahead of him.

Living day in and day out with such hardship takes a toll on anyone. I know for a fact that it's very hard on Rachel and Shaun. But it's impossible to talk about it with Rachel without her praising God. She, with her bright but tired eyes and her "always-on" smile, loves to talk about how God is seeing her through. It's amazing.

(This is the extended family - not gonna lie, I was pretty excited to get so many people looking and smiling!)

Oh, and this is Rachel's sister and husband!

Rachel, it was a JOY to see you again and I hope you love the pictures! I love your family so much :D

The Petersons!

When I was visiting my dear new bestie, Jamie Delaine, I was asked to take some family portraits. Always scary to shoot another photographer :-/
But I was excited because I completely heart the Peterson family and had a great time!

Heyheeey, I can be artsy sometimes if I want ;D

There was this amazing frame of a barn that we used for some pictures. Good times in that barn, eh?

Awwww! Cute!

Jamie, when you come to see me, you can shoot the nine Snyders? I miss you something awful!

The Smiths!

There are some people in life who affect you in ways that they will just never know.
Chase Smith is one of those people :)

I've never actually met Chase, but someday I will. I do know his dad, Jon, and mom, Jenni.
I also know his big brother, Carson, and perfect little sister, Jade.

Chase was born on November 6, 2006 and, as his father writes "then 'he was not, for God took him' (Genesis 5.24). He died in [my] arms.
Chase fought heroically for that four-hour period of time, but that battle was not for him to win or lose, for Christ alone holds the keys of life and death."

{photo from The Smiths Blog}
The day after he died, they wrote on their blog: "We count the four hours that God gave us with him as some of the most precious 4 hours that we have had while here on this earth. God was good in giving us every moment we had with Chase and He was and is good in taking him."

{photo from The Smiths Blog}
Thanks to Chase and his parents, I have fallen more in love with my God. While he was in the womb, doctors discovered he had a fatal brain condition that stunned his parents. For such a young couple, they have handled such severe suffering. But they are some of the happiest, kindest, most joyful people I have met. I realllly reallllly want to be like them!

It was honestly a PURE joy to watch Jon and Jenni with their two-month-old baby girl. They love her so much. I can hardly stand it :D

Isn't she wonderful? I could have held her all day....

:D Hi squishy!

I love that God is the healer of the broken-hearted and has poured out His kindness on Jon and Jenni! I love these smiles :D

Even though it was nippy outside, we had to get some shots. Nothing beats sunshine :D

Guh, I love it! So sweeet!

Mommy and her little ones :D

I loved the feel of these next two... I don't know why. I think they're just cuteness :D

OOooo watch out, world. It's a stud muffin!

Jon and his little lady -- he is one of the proudest fathers this world has ever seen

Oh cute!

This one was a special request by Jenni, and I love how it came out!

To the whole Smith Family -- thank you for how you have impacted me and thank you for letting me take pictures of your GORGEOUS family!