Personal, Uncategorized


For those of you who only know the bearded version of me, there was a time where I had smooth cheeks and a corporate job. One of the perks of that job was living in Laguna Beach, CA for over a year. I got to experience the West Coast lifestyle, the amazing weather, and the horrendous traffic. And if you haven’t heard my surfing lesson story, please let me know and I’ll give you a good laugh to start your weekend. Ever since I moved back to Chicago, I’ve missed California for various reasons: Avocado on everything, seafood in general, the salty air that makes every day feel like vacation, and a culture that truly places an importance on passion and enjoying life (several companies give employees Fridays off during the summer or on good surf days!). In fact, it was in California that I finally felt ready to leave my old job and start pursuing a career that made me happy. So when I heard about a photography conference in Santa Barbara during the miserable winter months of the Midwest, I didn’t hesitate.

I knew nothing about this conference until about a week prior to it’s beginning. All I knew was I’d be reUNITED (see what I did there?) with 3 friends I made at last year’s WPPI conference: Jill Tiongco, Rebecca Read, and Jordan Lukianuk. We had a blast and made several new friends as well. In fact, I caught up with Jamie Grant…she and I went to high school together but hadn’t talked since! I’ve got to give Jamie Ivins a shout out too because he did it all: modeled, led a class, and geeked out with me all week. And last but not least, Karena Dixon became a great friend who aside from being generally awesome blew me away with her business acumen! I’ve got too many people I need to visit now….

Anyway, it was a great 4 days of shooting, learning, laughing, and filling up a moleskine with 100 things I need to be doing now that I’m home. These conferences always leave me with a revived sense of excitement, creativity, and overall passion. Twenty fourteen is going to be a great year, and I hope to keep sharing photos of happy people enjoying their lives and each other. Here are some highlights from UNITED 2014:

The first shoot I participated in was Mikey and Stephanie Smith’s sunrise bridal/trash-the-dress session. We had 3 amazing models: Kristen Wiersma, Heidi Watson, and Fernanda Maile Santini. They toughed it out on a not-terribly-warm morning and even got in the water! Hair was done by Taylor DeZavala and makeup by Marla Nyamdorj. This shoot was particularly fun for me because I’ll be doing a couple destination weddings this year, so shooting on the beach was good practice and got me even more excited! Here are some favorites:

2014-03-07_00052014-03-07_0002 2014-03-07_00092014-03-07_0001 2014-03-07_0004 2014-03-07_0003 I told Kristen to give me a serious face…2014-03-07_0007 Then I told her she didn’t have to look like she wanted to KILL me! I love the reaction…2014-03-07_0008 2014-03-07_0015 2014-03-07_00162014-03-07_00102014-03-07_0011 2014-03-07_0006 2014-03-07_0014 2014-03-07_0012 2014-03-07_0013 2014-03-07_0017 2014-03-07_0018

The next shoot was Carrie Swail’s “Offbeat Bride and Groom.” First and foremost, I need to thank and credit the models who are all photographers: Jamie Ivins, Julie Wilmes, Seth and Lauren Pinson, and Mycah and Bobby Burns. I love working with anyone who may be considered “offbeat,” and this was a great way to make some new friends and see how photographers do when they’re in front of the lens! Honestly, everyone did awesome. I would have been soooo awkward. Well done, models! Favorites:

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The following morning I got to join in on a shoot based around paper cranes! Stephanie Arieno and Carrie Swails styled this unique shoot, and photographers Jamie Hudson and Ling Harris stepped up and let a bunch of people put cameras in their faces all morning. The paper bouquet was done by Paper Posies, and Ling’s dress was her own made by Sue Wong. Favorites:

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And the final shoot I snuck into was Jamie Ivins‘ “Posing Groomsmen Like A Boss.” As anyone who has shot or participated in a wedding knows, the groomsmen are often more interested in boozing than posing for photos. Trust me, I feel the same way when I’m the one wearing a tux and thinking about an open bar. So I understand the need for speed but badassedry when it comes to groomsmen photos, and Jamie helped me pick up some tips and tricks to get the most out of the guys even when it might not be their favorite thing to do. Thanks to the models: Andrew Robison , Austin Klenk , Josh Thayer, and RJ LaMendola.  I mostly listened, but here are a couple shots I got:

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Now here’s the kicker: I shot all of these sessions with my Contax 645 film camera as well! So if you’re thinking “wow that wasn’t NEARLY enough photos to satisfy me!” then you’re in luck. Anyone? I’m sure the photographers will at least appreciate it. Anyway, I’ll likely do a film blog once I get the rolls developed and scans on the computer. Thanks for reading!