Category Archives: My Life
This summer was a “semi” kinda big birthday for me. 35. Not the big 40, but a milestone for sure. The number doesn’t really get to me, but I will say that the 34-35 year has made its appearance known – creaky bones, permanent eye crinkles, yada yada. Those that are older than me are shaking their heads, “just wait.” Those that are younger are saying “yeah, yeah. You’re old, what do you expect?” 🙂 I guess when you still feel like you are in your 20’s, but you look in the mirror and don’t see your fresh faced 20 year old self anymore it is kinda shocking, ha!
Anyhow, this is not a sad Debbie Downer post. Really, 35 (so far) has been pretty dang great. So when thinking of what I wanted to do for my (semi) big birthday, I decided that I would NOT think of creeping age spots or spider veins and instead do my most favorite thing in the world – take a trip with my family. Because my birthday is so close to the 4th of July, we thought it would be fun to celebrate at the beach.
Along the way we stopped at Goliad State Park (a really unique place) before getting to Port Aransas. Once we finally made it, we were shocked at the HUGE party on the beach! The weekend before the 4th is THE party time for Port A. It’s like a mini Cancun Spring break, but much more family friendly :).
This was our first time to Port A and we really liked it, even more so than Galveston. The extra drive time wasn’t bad and we plan to go back as soon as the area is ready for us! The hurricane has completely wiped out everything – a fact I can’t even wrap my head around. But, I know that tourism brings money to the local businesses and families and aside from donations, it is a fun way for our family to support a city we loved.
We all have bucket lists – things we would love to see/do/accomplish in our lifetime. I like to think that I have a “reality bucket list” and a “dream-world bucket list.” I’m going to go ahead and give you a spoiler alert – being hired to photograph a couple in Banff, Canada was most definitely in the “dream-world bucket list” pile. Having a severe case of wanderlust and a love for all things travel, I have long dreamed of moonlighting as a vacation photographer or even doing travel sessions in other states (so, feel free to contact me about that LOL).
I first met Jessica, of Fat Baby Photography, a couple of years ago at a photography workshop I hosted. She had just given birth as a surrogate to TWINS! I was amazed at her selflessness and her passion to follow an instinct that she knew in her heart. On top of that she was incredibly friendly and sweet. Fast forward to seeing each other at a few other photography meet ups and I eventually took family Christmas photos with her girlfriend and their sweet doggies. When I met Ana she immediately gave me a big hug and told me how she had heard great things about me and was excited to meet me – you know those people that do that, right? That make you feel special, immediately comfortable, and relaxed? That’s Ana. She is easy going, funny, and the perfect match for Jess.
A few months later I had heard through facebook that Jessica and Ana were engaged. What happy news!! Then I heard from Jess, asking if I would take their engagement pictures.
Would I mind traveling? Maybe Austin??
ummmmmm….. Are you kidding? Of course! I felt honored that they wanted ME to photograph them again. Of course!
Well, as you can predict, Austin never happened. The location wasn’t quite right and Jess and Ana wanted their photos to be EPIC. In a random moment of serendipity, a great deal on flights to Calgary, Canada popped up just as we were feeling the time pinch of nailing a location. In a matter of hours Banff was given a quick google image check, flights were booked, and we were all squealing that WE WERE GOING TO CANADA!!!!
I won’t lie – there were plenty of things I had on my mind….
Travel to another country, rent a car, stay in an Air BNB – all by myself???
Photograph at a location I know NOTHING about?
What if it rains?
Or I get eaten by a bear?
What if my gear gets stolen? Or I somehow lose their images?
I like Jessica & Ana, but what if we annoy each other?
But, my greatest fears were not even close to being realized. We shot the images on our first full day and everything went perfectly according to plan. Banff is every bit as gorgeous as its reputation boasts and I did not lose my gear/images/limbs due to bears. (Although take a moment now to please scroll down to see that we were, indeed, just feet from a real live grizzly bear that was munching grass on the side of the road. Surreal life experience, for sure.) Also, Jess and Ana were a dream to travel with – in fact, we spent quite a bit of time together apart from the shoot and had an absolute blast. We made SO many great memories and insider moments cemented a friendship (pizza + honey, mosquito swatting, glacier crossing, gondola riding, and more!). They were so sweet to me and I will forever treasure this trip with them.
And, now, a peek at some of my favorite images from Banff!!
At Vermilion Lake – first look at Jessica’s wedding dress:
After leaving Vermilion lake we headed to Johnston Canyon to hike and take pictures by one of the waterfalls. Along the way we saw “The Boss.” You guys. We were seriously FEET from him. (Don’t worry, Mom, we were safely inside our vehicle and were ready to hightail it if needed.) I will say that there were a few other vehicles that had stopped to admire him – some of those people actually GOT OUT of the car. crazy! I later heard about it on a Calgary radio station – the game warden came and had to get people back in their car! Nuts!
Our second stop was Johnston Canyon. The paved trail follows the Bow river, cutting through the forest and leading to several waterfalls along the way. It’s an easy and very rewarding hike.
Our final shoot location was actually in the town of Banff. Although sunset isn’t until almost 10:00pm, we were able to get some “golden hour” light as the sun slipped behind the mountains. It truly couldn’t have been more gorgeous! I love these images because I think it shows the playful relationship that Ana and Jess have – lots of laughter and fun!
The next few days exploring Banff were nothing short of incredible. It is a photographer’s paradise, for sure. And there is so much to do! One day we took the gondola up to Mt. Norquay and spotted this incredible view. Those red chairs are placed by Parks Canada at some of the most scenic locations in the Rockies. It was fun to see them! We also knew that the location was too good to pass up – so on our final day we did one last mini shoot to capture a few images in this scenic vista.
And that is a wrap! I’ll leave you with a few “behind the scenes” images of the rest of the trip. Some of these were taken with my DSLR and others were taken with my GoPro. It was an incredible experience and I am so grateful that I was able to capture these images!
Last year, when I taught at Clickaway Seattle, I was incredibly fortunate to be sponsored by Color Inc Photo Lab. Through emails and phone conversations I got to know the owners and when I finally hugged them in Seattle, I knew I had met friends. Since then I have been to their lab location, Grand Rapids, to teach at their School of Photography. I toured the lab and learned about the process of professional printing. I met their employees, most of whom had been with the company since it started. I left Grand Rapids feeling so incredibly proud to teach, spoiled from having a few days in a new city to myself, and grateful for the opportunity to partner with a company that supported their customers and employees in all of the little and big ways that matter.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and my dear friend Liz LaBianca and I traveled south to teach at the Austin School of Photography for Color Inc. Whoop Whoop! We were teaching to a packed house, with photographers attending from all over Texas (including many of our friends from Dallas!). Although Liz and I are both teachers and LOVE to share, we were both nervous and just wanted to nail it. One minute into the four hour event and we knew the evening would be filled with a-ha moments, big laughs from the crowd (yeah, mostly directed at us), thoughtful questions, and a camaraderie amongst each other. Seriously, it was an amazing night!
Here are some behind the scenes images, as well as a few favorites from photographing the models…..
For many, it seems that 2016 wasn’t the best. Lots of heartbreak and sadness. But for my little corner of the world, all was mostly good and I am so thankful for an abundance of blessings . This year has been filled with so many happy memories with my favorite people. Our family had lots of traveling and new experiences – our favorites being Big Bend (twice), Galveston, and our mega trip to Wisconsin. My husband started his ultra-cycling races, which has been fun for our family to cheer him on. I squeezed a trip in to Mexico with my BFF and became closer to many new friends. Professionally, I met so many DREAM GOALS. Published in my favorite magazine (twice!), TEACHING at an amazing photography conference in Seattle, and welcoming the return of so many of my clients. Those things made my year.
These are just a few of my favorite images of 2016. It’s so many, and believe it or not I cut out a TON. And they are in complete random order. I typically post my favorite shots over on Instagram, so if you aren’t following me there then go give it a click!
Cheers to a marvelous 2017, my friends!
Clickaway 2016….where do I begin? I guess back to the start, when I first learned that I was selected to speak at this amazing photography conference. Thrilled, honored, and proud best described my emotions this spring. And, I also had a lot of fear…….. let’s face it, teaching in front of your peers and with some of the biggest names in the industry is nerve wracking. The months of build up helped nurture that fear. It spread into the corners of my mind and replaced some of my thrill with a bit of self doubt. Sure, I knew my material and have a background in teaching but questions began to surface that I just couldn’t answer with authority.
“What if no one wants to come to my class?”
“I’m going to be awe-struck at my fellow presenters…. those immensely talented women won’t even give me a second thought.”
“One thousand things could go wrong…. my microphone won’t work, it will rain, someone will answer a question I can’t answer.”
“I”m going to screw up.”
The spoiler alert is that EVERYTHING went great. My classes were filled with eager faces – women who asked questions, got that “a-ha!” look on their face, then gave me hugs afterwards. I met some of my photography idols and they were so niccccceeeeeee. Truly. No egos. In fact, I met so many empowering, talented women in my classes, the lobby, and out to dinner….and they became more than an idol – they became my friends. Also things DID go wrong. It rained, there were questions I couldn’t answer, and my presentation didn’t go exactly according to plan. But it was ALL good. Each little challenge was easily overcame, which gave me back my confidence.
And while I had the honor of teaching at Clickaway, my love for learning means I am an even better student. My schedule didn’t allow me to attend many classes, but I soaked up what I could….
Amanda Jane Jones – your talent for design inspired me. I am looking at my photography through refreshed eyes.
Meg Loeks – attending your class (pictured below)….whoa. I look forward to every image you post and it was incredible to meet you in person. Plus, you are really super duper nice :).
Lissa Chandler – Your infectious giggle, grandma florals, and talent at adding FUN to every image made me exceptionally eager for my high school portrait sessions. You rock, lady.
Yan – You are a warm mug of hot cider (sweet and unexpectedly spicy) on a rainy Seattle day. I soak up every word you say, and am now adopting the mantra to “set the bar low.” I learned from you in Austin. I learned from you in Seattle. And I sure hope to learn from you at Yan Fam Way 2.0 in NYC.
And from my own classes – here are just a few favorites from my sweet model family sessions. Both families were amaze-balls and it was a BLAST to photograph at the Seattle Center. Bright colors, bold lines, and cool architecture are a match made in heaven for me.
It was the BEST weekend and I am so PROUD to be a part of the Clickaway Community. We represent the best of the best in the industry.
Three years ago my son started preschool. I was a mess. He went a grand total of six hours a week, and each minute I thought about him. Gradually, of course, I started relishing the time to myself but there was an adjustment period on my end. Naturally he loved preschool and never thought twice about hopping out the car door and kissing me goodbye. At that point in my life I only had one child, had just started my photography business, and did things like style his back to school photos. I look back on his preschool days and just can’t believe it all went so fast. (cue the tears)
Now my son is about to start Kindergarten and my daughter will begin preschool. And I’m a mess times ten. Life is busier now, so my idea of a “styled” photo session is throwing a couple of apples (aka their snack) and their newest favorite books in the car and heading off to inner Dallas for photos. I mean, does graffiti and broken beer bottles scream “let’s start kindergarten” or what??!? ha, ha!
School starts tomorrow and I have cried approximately 10,236 times over it. My poor husband just pats my head and keeps telling me to “focus on the positive.” And he’s right – our son is SO excited about school. It’s a fabulous school where he has several friends and he is READY. He will shine and flourish and make us prouder than we ever imagined. But gosh it’s so hard to close a chapter. I’m just going to miss him, ya know?
So 2016-2017 School Year – I’m expecting AMAZING things from you. I’m looking forward to my babies growing and learning by leaps and bounds along with the balance of some extra time for me. It’s going to be all right, right??!?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Which came first, my mind lost BEFORE Galveston or my mind lost AFTER?
I dunno, but I do think I had to be slightly off kilter to entertain the idea of a 2 year old and now 5 year old at the beach without my husband. ha! See, my husband had been traveling for work for about 6 weeks at this point. What was going to be a little family weekend trip, turned into an either “missy takes the kids by herself trip” or “missy stays at home with the kids and feels sad” decision. I am sure you have guessed by now what choice I settled on. It wasn’t easy, but it WAS a complete blast. Below are the top five lessons I learned:
1.) It may be better to be completely fried by the sun than to leave sunscreen application up to the children. Picture my back as a fiery red and pasty white fingerprinted masterpiece. I can now say that I will wear my children’s handiwork on my back all summer. 🙂
2.) I missed my husband for many reasons, not the least of which was what an excellent personal Sherpa he makes. A beach trip is work! The packing, car loading, unloading up to the condo, and reloading out to the beach multiple times a day ain’t for the weak. I truly realized just how much of the PHYSICAL work my husband does for us.
3.)In my book, a beach vacation entails adult beach beverages. I drank Capri Suns all weekend = NO beach vacation. (BTW, the Pacific Cooler is my jam.)
4.) My kids are rockstars. They are truly such adaptable, funny, and loving babies. They do better on road trips than I do.
5.) I could list a hundred cliche sayings about this, and every one would be true…. single parents, you have my utmost respect.
TEN days in a camper heading to southwest Texas, one sassy 2 year old, an adventurous 4 year old, and no real plan – it was going to be a family trip that would either make us or break us. My in-laws (whom we borrowed the camper from) provided us with plenty of advice – how to use the camper, clean the tank system (a job fully bequeathed to my husband), and even advice for when the inevitable mariatable fight arose. But advice for living in about 200 square feet with two small children (one who was in the midst of potty training)?? Besides their suggestion of plenty of libations (we took them up on that), they pretty much just shook their heads and planned on an early return. I’m not going to lie – somewhere around day 3 Guy (my husband) had his break down. I handed him a beer and a box of cookies and eventually he came out of it. Mine came the next day after realizing that my shower option that day was the public showers (due to hot water problems in the camper). PUBLIC. Somewhere between dodging a spider the size of my fist and several nasty hair balls clogging the drain, I started rethinking a lot of life choices. A whole lot. It took more than one beer for me to move past it. Anyhow, odds on making it through the “vacation” were against us.
But let me back up some. I should mention that our family loves to be on the go. We travel frequently (often just weekend trips to Oklahoma and around Texas) and enjoy adventures together. I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a much better mother away from my house. Mind you, not that I’m a bad one in our home – but I’m way more interactive for long periods when I am away from the need to keep a clean home, maintain a business, and just keep up with life. When we are out of the house I can fully give my attention to the most important thing, my family. I wish I weren’t that way (hello, mom guilt) but I am and I know this about myself, so I make it a priority to take my kids somewhere most everyday (park, walks, zoo, etc) and plan plenty of family getaways.
Anyhow, at the beginning of the year our family made a 2016 Mayo Family Bucket list. We filled it with plans and experiences that we wanted to enjoy together. At the top of my list was to go to the Monahans Sand Dunes, Marfa, and Big Bend. An odd family vacation choice with such young children, but thankfully my husband subscribes to the “happy wife, happy life” theory. So Spring Break we decided to make it happen AND do it in a camper. Go big or go home, Mayo’s.
Our trip was epic. An adventure I will NEVER forget. At the risk of getting over the top cheesy, I would say it had fed each of our souls and given us exactly what we needed. My husband and I overcame tests of patience and teamwork and our children saw a whole other landscape, overcame their own fears and challenges, and were fed constant quality time and encouragement.
This is a long post and very pic heavy, but scroll through to read and see more about our big adventure:
*On a side note, these images were taken with a combination of my 5Dmark iii (my big DSLR), a GoPro Hero 4, iPhone, and a cheap point and shoot. I believe the best camera is the one you have with you!
Our first stop was the Monahans Sand Dunes. In college, Guy and I went to the Sand Dunes in Colorado and it was one of the most memorable experiences. I have always wanted to go back, and when I learned that Monahans was a mere 6 hours from Dallas, I knew we needed to get there. It did not disappoint. In fact, I believe it was our kids favorite part of the whole trip. They went bananas! From a photographer’s standpoint it was gorgeous. The wind had really picked up and I didn’t bring my DSLR case, so I didn’t take many pictures with my “big” camera. But the few I snapped I sure do treasure! Mostly I used a cheap point and shoot that I bought many years ago and it was perfect.
After one night in Monahans (we could have easily stayed two), we headed out to Marfa. It did not disappoint with its weirdness – starting with a random turkey in front of the elementary school.
So, Marfa was ok. We had a great time, but I think it would have been better if we had come on different days. A Monday and Tuesday in Marfa isn’t exactly hoppin’, ya know. It’s definitely an interesting community – a strange dichotomy of wealth and poverty, art appreciation and deterioration, etc. Business owners seem to run their restaurants and shops like a hobby – odd hours and days, so we were left with a pretty wide open schedule due to not much being open. One night we even went up to Dairy Queen just to get out of the trailer and entertain the kids a bit. And I will say, that D-Q was a pretty popular place! ha! Of course, we also saw the Marfa Lights and Prada Marfa – both interesting experiences. A highlight was going to the goat farm! The kids loved it and learned a little too.
On the road again….. our final stop was to stay the rest of our trip in Big Bend. We didn’t have any real idea what to expect from the National Park. We were blown away by it’s vast size and utter desolation. Thankfully we had our trailer in Terlingua (old ghost town) that wasn’t far from the park – otherwise we would have been without electricity. Camping without modern conveniences was for my 20’s – not my 30’s with two little kids!
The next set of images are from Terlingua. The Starlight Theatre is a must for dinner. And the sunsets there….. freaking insane.
So Big Bend Park. There was something there for each of us – photography (obviously) for me, bike riding for my husband (he’s a bad ass going up those mountains), and hiking/fishing/animal scouting for the kids. We did it all and could have easily stayed much longer. The hiking trails vary from very easy to quite rigorous and you can choose areas around the river, mountains or desert to go into. Our favorite hikes were to Balanced Rock (in the Chisos Mountains), through the stunning Santa Elena Canyon, and along the Mexican border at Boquillas Canyon Trail. It’s definitely legit hiking – plenty of water, an eye out for snakes/bears/panthers/mountain lions, and proper attire are needed. Cell phones don’t work so you have to be very prepared. Our kids did FANTASTIC and were pretty much rock stars.
So that’s our big trip. We are already planning another one and I am positively ITCHING to go. Next time I think the only thing we might do differently is stay at the Sand Dunes for two nights and do Marfa on a Friday or Saturday for one night. There were so many things we didn’t get to do and are wanting to try.
Despite meltdowns from each of us, long days and long nights, and a constant battle of dust and dirt – we made it and lived to tell about it. One more item off our family bucket list has been checked off!