We sat across the table from my dad in a restaurant over dinner, and I heard him say, "You know, I think you're a lot like me."
He said, this thing that you do....it's gotten into your blood. Just like logging did for me. I'm willing to bet that you'd show up hurt, sick, get up early, stay out late....whatever needs to be done. That's what happens when you really love something.
I nodded and thought this over for a second. Then I asked him if I could get him to give me a serious answer to a serious question. He agreed, so I asked him what his "Why" was. Right there over the hot rolls and cinnamon butter in the Texas Roadhouse, we talked about why we do what we do. He thought about it for a long time. Started and stopped again. And then finally settled on, You know, I think I was just born to do this. It's who I am.
He talked about having a respect for the trees. About the years that it took to get to that point, and how it's his job to take down these giants without ruining what they were meant for. So they can still fulfill a purpose. How a 40ft tree can hit the ground and splinter into about a million toothpicks in a split second if you're not careful. So he said one of the first things he always tells new loggers is, "It took 100 years for this tree to get here. The least you can do is take five minutes extra to do the job right."
The next day I stepped up to the podium at the WV Weddings Extravaganza and had the absolute honor of delivering their keynote address. I spoke to a room full of wedding creatives and upcoming brides. And I talked about "Why." About why we have weddings in the first place. And the years that it took to get to that point. I talked about what really matters, and who really matters, and how that has nothing to do with how fancy the linens were or how expensive the centerpieces added up to be. That, sure, all of those things are nice and- don't get me wrong- I love details in weddings. But how none of it matters if the heart isn't in it in the first place.
I talked about how a wedding is really just Day 1 in what will hopefully be a sixty two and a half year adventure. Together. And a reminder that come what may, through the hard times and the struggles and the laughter and the tears, a wedding is about marking that first day and saying, "You know what, at least we know it always started with love." That 100 years from now, it may very well be one of our pictures that someone's grandchild holds on to as proof that this life and this love were always worth the risk. So the least we can do is to take five minutes extra to make sure we're doing the job right.
Yea, maybe I am a lot like my dad after all. I can only hope for as much.
Me with the absolutely inspiring, talented & tenacious Nikki Bowman, editor of WV Weddings, WV Living & 4 other magazines. Nikki, I am SO grateful for your friendship and how you're blazing the trail for all of us!
So tell me, when was the moment you knew photography had gotten into your blood? Or if you're a bride, what is the WHY behind your wedding?
Almost a month ago, I sat in an empty ballroom with my good friend Karen Stott and cried biting, stinging, corner of your eye tears as I uttered the words, "I can't do it." Corner of your eye tears, because they were the kind of tears that you know if you just let go, if you let that dam break ....they may never stop falling. I sat in a room with her and told her that I felt empty. Hollow. The well had run dry.
There was no more left to give.
I had been asked to give the closing keynote at United. And as we sat there, both having just come from hearing an incredible speaker- Kevin Hall - give his address, I added he should have been the one. He should have been the one to close it out. He should have been the one to set this crowd on fire on the final day. He would have left them standing on their feet. And I returned to the only words that filled my thoughts and heart... I can't do it.
But somewhere in the silence of words that might just have been true, my friend Karen- just like she always does- said something that pulled hope out of emptiness and planted purpose in the place of doubt. She said:
Maybe these really BIG things that we're called to do aren't at all about who we are....but who we are becoming.
It's been nearly six months since I joined a group of women Christian creatives in Rome, Georgia for the first ever Pursuit 31 Conference (founded by none other than the inspiring, amazing advice giving Karen Stott). And in those four days, my heart was changed. When it came my turn to talk, I stood and the words that came out of my mouth were about things I've never talked about before. Nor have I again since. About the broken pieces of me that are still a work in healing. About the scars that we are afraid to let show. And about what it is to be called to a bigger purpose than yourself.
It was the kind of thing that I could have never been prepared for...and yet, it was exactly what I needed.
Maybe these really BIG things that we're called to do aren't at all about who we are....but who we are becoming.
I am incredibly excited & honored to be heading back to Rome, GA this October for the 2nd annual Pursuit 31 Conference . If you are in a place where you're feeling empty. Where it feels like the well has run dry. Where the words I can't do it have become the soundtrack in your head. If you need to find purpose and feel like you're in this for something bigger than yourself....I would love to see you there. Where we will no doubt cry corner of the eye tears together! :)
Registration for the conference closes a week from tomorrow on March 29th, so be sure to
grab your spot before then!
Here's to who we're becoming
**Picture stolen from my friend Katelyn's blog who will also be speaking there!
Two days ago we walked the aisles of Whole Foods and I put things like baby brussel sprouts and tequila lime seasoning rub in our basket. Justin looked at me across the fish counter with the kind of eyes that just said "really?. But I just shrugged my shoulders and said it made me feel more gourmet.
We perused the bread section, lingered in the cheese section, and ended up buying a tub of dried cranberries. On the way out, I bought myself a bunch of ranunculus. Mostly because I like saying the word ranunculus (OMG, it's so ranunculus!). But also because I said it made our house feel more like home. And spring time. Which I am more than ready for.
When we got home with our two bags of groceries, I took the flowers out of the bag and divided them into two mason jars. Then I tied gold bows around each one and set them out on the table. When I was finished, I smiled. Because it made me feel like Martha. And let's face it, gold bows on mason jars is about as close as I'll ever get.
But hey, you've got to take your wins where you can get em!
And speaking of all things gold, and crafty, and beautiful....we are incredibly honored to have been part of the making of the absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous Style Me Pretty Book that came out earlier this year! We were so lucky to work with Abby & her team on all of the DIY projects for the book, so our pictures ended up making up the whole last chapter of the book! We finally slowed down enough to get our hands on a copy this week, and let me tell you this book is perfection. If you haven't grabbed a copy yet, be sure to pick one up!!
And we're actually going to be able to help not just one, but TWO of you get your hands on a copy this week! We have signed copies of the book from Abby herself to give away to two lucky winners. All you have to do to enter is leave us a note in the comment box below saying hi & we'll announce the winners on Friday!! And....GO!
Justin & I are out in Vegas for the annual WPPI Conference (where something like 15,000 photographers descend upon Sin City each year) getting ready for my Platform Class, "The Bottom Line" on Wednesday at 8:30am. It's kind of a two-part class, with the first half being all about practical advice for raising your bottom line and the second half being that the REAL bottom line is what you then do with it. And what's most important to you in this world. We're getting really excited for all the surprises we have planned this year, so we hope we get to see you there!
In other news, we are incredibly honored to be featured in this month's issue of Click Magazine!! Click is a new print publication that is just laid out beautifully!! It's a really gorgeous magazine and with a ton of great information to boot. This month we did an article for them all about why every photographer should have a working knowledge of their off camera light & I've included the intro that I wrote below so you can get an idea of why we believe that so strongly. If you want to check out the full article, you can sign up to receive Click Magazine by going HERE. And if you're looking for any of the gear we mention, you can find the complete list of our gear by going to the What's In Our Bag page on our site!
When the conversation turns to flash and off-camera lighting, most photographers I know just want to cover their ears and run away. Cartoon style. With a cloud of dust behind them. They will say things like they are an ďall natural-lightĒ photographer, or that they have no desire to learn more about how to use their flash because they just donít like the way it looks. And I know exactly how these photographers feel, because I used to be one of them.
However, if there is anything that shooting somewhere around 200 weddings in the last five years has taught me, itís that natural light can not always be counted on. Show me the wedding where the photographer was planning on shooting all natural light, and Iíll show you the wedding where it all went wrong. In our business, Justin & I have seen everything from rainstorms to sunset ceremonies that ran late to getting ready rooms that had no windows at all- just a solid brick wall. And the simple fact of the matter, is that if we didnít have our ďone lightĒ set up to fall back on, those pictures just wouldnít have happened.
So today I want to challenge you to make it your goal to study and understand off-camera lighting, first because I believe it is our responsibility as professional photographers to have a back-up plan for our clients when Plan A isnít working out. Also, I believe that if you have that working knowledge of your flash and off-camera lighting, even if you donít end up using them, you will go into your shoots more confident and prepared knowing that whatever is thrown your way you have it covered. But even more to the point, as someone who used to be a proud card-carrying member of the natural light society, I would challenge each of you to re-think what off-camera light can do for your photography and the dramatic leaps that it can elevate your work. Because if youíre anything like me, you might start off learning your flash because you know you need it, but come to find out that you actually really love it. I believe our flashes get a really bad rap. And I for one, think itís time we shine a little light on the matter.
A couple weeks ago, twenty photographers from all over the country- Maine to Minnesota- gathered in New Haven for our most recent "Walk Through a Wedding w/ J&M" workshop: Cocoa & Chanel. It's never lost on me but for some reason this time it was especially apparent, what an honor it is to sit in a room full of fellow artists and talk about this thing that we do. And about this love that we share in common. As any alum will tell you, Walk Through is not your "surface" type of workshop....we go DEEP and right off the bat. We lead with the Why behind why we do what we do and push people to think about & defend the "how's" that go along with it. It's a great way to break the ice! :) But what is maybe the coolest thing for me, is how we all start out on Day 1 just trying to figure out each other's names and by around midnight on Day 2, we're all sitting around a crackling fire telling ghost stories like we've been friends for years. Over those 48 hours, we laugh together (trust me, I'm WAY funny! :) and cry together (which probably has something to do with why our classes are always about 18 women & 2 men! Ha!). And we talk about real life. And honestly, it's hard to go through something as intense as those two days of Walk Through and not walk away feeling like you have 20 new friends. I am so grateful for that.
We were talking and we realized that this workshop was probably somewhere around our 25th Walk Through that we've done over the past 4 years. That just blows my mind! Ever since I was 18 and thought I would be a third grade teacher to being 25 and wanting to teach law school, teaching has always just been something that was in my blood. It's the kind of thing that gets in there & sets your heart on fire. And I've since realized that giving other people light bulb moments is kind of like my crack! :) Once you feel that high, you just want it again and again. So I am so, so grateful to everyone of these 20 photographers turned friends (and the 24 classes that came before them) for allowing me to live that dream of teaching....and for enabling my addiction! :) :) I adore every one of you!