a family portrait session with my family

I am so in love with this family…because they are my actual family, (thanks to my husband Gabe having Jessie as his sister.) I honestly have no idea how I lucked out in marrying someone with a family that I actually enjoy being with, and even calling after the ‘being with’ to talk for a few late night hours. This is a family that offers a permanent supply of  love, support and hand-me-down gossip magazines, so they definitely deserved a little something back, but being an artist with little to offer besides some creativity and heart I was forced to give the lamest excuse for a present ever: a hand made gift certificate. Granted it was an excessively large gift certificate, colorfully written on a stretched canvas, with instructions to hang the certificate on a wall in their home until it was redeemed for the real gift; a family portrait session, but it was still essentially a gregarious coupon posing as a Christmas gift. Finally, a half a year later, I’m finally offering something back to the most deserving and beautiful family ever; documentation of their connection as a family and some memories of this fleeting moment in the girls’ lives. I usually post mostly color photos, but for this session the toned black and white images felt much more powerful to me. I think when the color is removed from an image we are more easily able to focus on the emotion within the image. I find so much love and spirit communicated in all of the expressions and gestures that these four share. I included a little color some color at the end,  to show that it really was a stunning summer day at the beach, that there are some insanely dazzling blue eyes in this family, and to convey that there is a very vibrant future ahead of this crazy hula hooping crew!

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the healing continues | surviving breast cancer

Those of you who have  followed my blog may remember the brave and beautiful Jen as she was just beginning her battle with breast cancer, (click here to see the first post.) Well, I couldn’t be happier to announce that Jen has made it through her final chemotherapy treatment and is on the path to a full recovery. I was beyond honored that Jen asked me to photograph her in this second stage of healing before she faces more surgery and yet more healing. We decided to meet at a beautiful, secluded beach up the coast. Poor Jen got stuck in hours of terrible traffic on her way there, but she still arrived with a bright smile and willingness to brave the rock cliffs that I had her climb and the cold that I made her endure…I think that kinda sums up Jen’s spirit perfectly. While I was wandering around the beach before Jen arrived, I found a piece of driftwood that when pushed together with some effort, formed a heart. It made me immediately think of Jen, so I gave it to her during our shoot. I love the shots of her holding it, especially the one at the end of the post. Jen I adore you and wish you continued health.

I asked Jen to be my guest blogger again, because I know her words do much more justice to this experience than mine ever could. She kindly shared these words:

“With the completion of chemotherapy in the first week of June, my gift to myself was a celebratory photo shoot with Carlie. When Carlie photographed me in the winter, I was about to have a mastectomy on my right side, about to start fertility treatments should my reproductive system not “wake up” after chemotherapy, and yes, I was about to start chemo as well. Part of my reason for asking Carlie to photograph me was that I had a fear that I wouldn’t recognize myself anymore, both in body and soul. I was afraid I would be changed forever. Fortunately, I did about as well as anyone can do with chemotherapy: my side effects were pretty minimal, nonethless, chemo and all that goes with it made for a long winter. I learned that nothing (mastectomy, chemo, hairloss, etc) lived up to my fearful idea of it. Each time a big moment came up, I would have all kinds of anxiety and before I knew it, I had adapted, because really, what other choice do you have, and I was OK. I don’t think anyone goes through a brush with a life-threatening illness without a ripple through their soul, but I’m not convinced anymore that you become a stranger to yourself in the process. This experience has fortified my ties with my friends and family, and brought into the light new important people in my life. When I feel happy, I feel it deeply, with gratitude for the moment. I’ve climbed a mountain of sorts and I’m seeing myself and my world from a whole new vantage point. I think that’s what Carlie captured. With relief, I can say I am cancer-free and chemo-free. With triumph I can say I did it and it is behind me. With humility and gratitude I can say I love my life, my friends, my family.”

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the branch family | family portrait session on the beach | santa cruz

I have to thank my daughter’s preschool for connecting me with this sweet family. I spent some time with these brothers in their classroom when I photographed them for Midtown Montessori’s new website. I got to observe both boys completely quiet and still as they focused on their work inside the classroom, and then I got to see their extroverted and active sides come out when we met at the beach one windy afternoon for their family portrait session. There is a sense of freedom and fun that the oceanside offers, and the boys were definitely feeling it, as they ran, jumped, laughed and got giddy….all of which kept me thoroughly entertained and permanently pressing the shutter button.

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