gone home, too

I am shooting more and more families like this one, who traveled from all over the states to Newport Beach for a family vacation! Grandma and Grandpa, their five kids, each of their spouses, and all of the grandkids joined in this fun.

Each shoot is beautifully unique to every family and their own story, and when they leave I feel like pieces of me have gone home with them.

soft

For me it feels better, calmer, to be soft.

I was sitting on the beach this evening talking with extended family. This mom of a beautiful daughter mentioned she had worked for a long time and was hard, but since recently deciding to stop working, she has become soft. Then she said something that felt powerful to me, “And, I don’t know, I think I prefer soft.”

I have felt a similar shift in my attitude - I ran from my family for so long that now that my mind and body have healed I feel myself being pulled into them like a magnet! As I walked into the airport headed for Seattle last week Kate blew kisses to me with my every step farther and farther away. I blew kisses back and wondered, “What am I doing?! Do I really want to leave this?!” So these days I wonder, what does photography have in store for me? Does it bring me closer to the ones I crave most? Sometime it doesn’t and I can finally accept and admit that.

I am praying and working and setting goals to give my greatest attention to the ones who deserve it most, at this time in our lives.

This weekend is general conference. Saturday and Sunday will be spent being soft, being open, listening to communication from heaven (because I know deeply that when I listen it comes.) I will choose soft. My mind, heart, and spirit will be one. In turn I will feel at one with my loves, my friends, my family, the world.

It’s funny how that works - soft can be interpreted as weak, but I will be soft - at one - and I will feel whole, complete, and strong.

Portra 800 forever. And to all of the families who embrace my chaos - I love you. Thank you for making images with me that feel beyond perfect in every regard. xo, Christina

Where darkness melts into light...

Where darkness melts into light

Lines meet and quickly fade.

Expectations dissolve and

Given new ears I hear

The melody she sings

When not confined to the shadows.

There is an artist, photogtapher, writer I love, Amy Grace, who is the master of combining words and photos. I want to be a better writer - and reader - and put my thoughts down, especially in a way that specifically makes sense me. Here is my attempt and poetry; I hope it's a lifelong friendship.

"...to the core."

 "...we love each other, to the core." That is how Kennedy describes the love she and Chris share.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle, comings and goings, and stuff that presents itself in our relationships, it can be hard to remember that we loved one another "to the core." Somehow those moments, mistakes, or habits, become more important than the person we love, or once loved. 

While it is work, and was not meant to be easy, I am sure the growing pains will have unified us. When we are old and gray, and he paints my fingernails and feeds me oatmeal (not to mention changes my diapers), the hard stuff will be nothing more than a distant memory.  

This is my reminder to recommit to choose love.

To always choose love.

Mamabird

 

"You should not have come today. It's a free day, for everyone to enjoy." The lady who stopped our photoshoot to continually lecture me about how I - and the other photographers - should not be there in their way.

"Moooommmmm!!!!! She turned it off and we LOOOSSSTTTT IT!" Ashton and Oliver when I turned off Pokémon Go to take pictures and they didn't catch their Pokèmon (which now I feel bad about.)

"I want this to be what it is - Brenda is the star of the show." Lorin looking at my camera after the session.

At least we ended on a good note - a really good note!                

In the Rain

"Ian and I coming out of the fog." That's what Katie said in response to what the perfect shot from this session would look like. I'd say the fog of an infant hasn't phased them at all; they are gorgeous people cloaked in fall and leaves and rain - everything Seattle does best. Add that sweet baby M + Bosco. Total heartstoppers.

Love and Choice

"If we did not have moral agency we would simply be puppets manipulated by the strings of fate. ...the great purpose of mortality is to learn. [Faith] is a spiritual gift...and it always requires that we act first, and then the power comes. We don't know where to go, we don't know what to do. But my trust in Him enables me to act. He blesses me with His power, that confidence increases, we then can ultimately navigate the most difficult circumstances in life, knowing that we will never be alone, and we will always have His help.

"The greatest gift that the Father gave to us was His Son, and the gift that comes to us through the Savior's atonement is agency. So agency is central to the Father's plan, and it is the capacity to act and learn from our own experiences. That is the very essence and purpose of being here in mortality." a 3-minute video by David Bednar

The greatest lesson I have learned in my life is: This life is about love. If I am not loving, I am not doing it right.

The greatest gift we have is the gift of the atonement, from which I am bestowed the gift of choice. My greatest job is to love, no matter another's choice.

I love this family. This is my family. And their photos tell a perfect story.

Greenlake at Dusk

This family was one of the very first families I ever photographed - bless them for coming back for more. One year has passed since I started this gig. I have learned so much and have connected with people I now love, who I never would have met otherwise. My photos have been sent out to the world via blogs, The Wall Street Journal, and plain 'ol Instagram and Facebook. When I see canvases in peoples' homes I still cannot believe I was the one who took the picture. This was a dream I never saw turning into this much of a reality.

These photos of Kristi and Mike wrapped in each others' arms, E being kissed over and over again by his mama, and his swinging in his dad's arms, are all the things that make me love what I get to do. I am giddy inside thinking of what the coming year will bring. XOXO.

Just Playing

These images are some of the most meaningful I have ever taken, for a few reasons. First, Annie was one of my mission companions, and is one of my closest friends - you know the person you don't have to explain anything to and they get exactly what you are talking about? You can go months without chatting and then as soon as you talk it's as if you had been hanging out every day the whole week previous. I wish we lived next door to her and her amazing husband and beautiful baby girl. I may or may not have named my Annie-girl after her...

These pictures are also significant to me because they are a sign of major progression on a path to creativity. I want to be an artist - one who paints memories and feelings with her camera. I have been doing mentoring with Samantha Kelly - a photographer I look up to so much, and let's be honest, who I want to be when I grow up (AND who is traveling to Seattle in June to take family photos, mine included. Oh ya, it gets better, she has a Bachelor's in painting and a Master's in Art Therapy. Aaaannnnnddd, she shoots 100% film!) A couple weeks ago she gave me homework assignments via a Google Skype session. I asked all of my questions, told her all of my fears, insecurities, and worries about photography, and she did nothing but infuse me with confidence and excitement. I put into practice the suggestions she offered and saw immediate results. These photos were born of my own brainstorming and creativity, and I could not be more pleased. I tried every angle to get these shots, free lensed, and used manual focus to do it (and did not drop everything in the sand!) I took risks without worrying about the outcome, and the outcome was 8 million times more than I could have imagined. 

Here's to best friends, realizing our dreams, and documenting all of the things that matter most in this short time called life.

Film. Black and White.

I bought the wrong camera (HaHa!). I'm wondering if I should have bought a film camera and just figured it out along the way, as I am doing now on this amazing cheapy thing. I love everything about film, everything. It's only a matter of time before every. single. image is film. I'm giddy wondering what what the future holds in my "practicing art" department. 

Just an added story. I have a three year old. Three. 3. While taking a shower the other day she was chasing Kate. I know she was making her mad 'cause there was a heard-of-elephants sound roaring up and down our hallway and Kate was growling, which means she's mad and trying to defend herself. I happily said, "Annie, put your dress on and we will go bye-bye!" And then, 

She came into the bathroom. Turned out the light. And closed the door.

Enjoy the photos.

Living the Summer Solstice Dream

@nicolebcheung said it best, "Our summer solstice parade is better than your summer solstice parade." Naked babies running around wild and who are stained red and blue by fistfuls of blueberries and raspberries, delicious meals, Target and Old Navy shopping sprees, pony rides, swimming for hour and hours, complete freedom, walks into the sunset, the world's greatest dress up armoire, and even some pole fitness adorned our week long mommy-baby trip in Wenatchee. I leave Cyndi's house feeling so thankful for what feels like infinite love that continuously pours out of her.

One of my favorite memories: It was evening, before the kid's bath time, and Annie was SUUUUPER cranky from so much fun in the sun and no nap. She smashed Jonah's finger in the door (of course while they were all goofing off) and then was smiling at me with her hands covering her eyes while I *attempted* some sort of discipline (who's not winging this parenting thing....?) Basically I told her she "was done" and it was bedtime for her. I shut the door while the other kids were getting ready for their bath. I was so frustrated with Annie by that point that I could have banged my head repeatedly against a brick wall. I went downstairs to get a cheese stick for Kate, and complain to a mom who had been there and done that - 8 times, mind you! - about what I was having to deal with right then (which included a very sad screaming Jonah because of a smashed finger and a sad screaming Annie by this point because I keep trying to put her in bed but she kicks at me and covers her eyes and isn't listening and then she is laughing at me and! and! AND! AANNNDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!) and ALL CYNDI DID WAS LAUGH.

So much of my life was thrown into perspective in that moment. All that I fret about, the control I try to have, the chaos I try to manage, the tantrums I try to calm, the fighting I work to settle, the hitting, kicking, bugging, teasing, the "Annnnnnieee scremememing me...!!!!!" that Kate loves to cry about (as if she has never intentionally screamed at Annie to make Annie cry...)... All of it had never felt so menial. In the instant Cyndi laughed my whole life with kids flashed before my eyes and I saw clearly that I always have a choice to make: frustration or calm. I do not talk lightly about that! That choice is SO hard, especially past 4 pm. 

Parenting is hard for me because I want to raise sweet, well-behaved children, but when and how do I demand that behavior when right now I really. just. don't. care. to fight for it? Or maybe, I don't have the energy to fight for it. I really just want to put them in their room, close the door, and walk away. When they don't stay there is when the war begins and I want to lose it. Many times I do let my girls' crankiness get the best of me, but I want to try harder at not letting it affect or control my emotions and actions. And I wonder, if they could see that their problem was never my problem, maybe they wouldn't continue to do the annoying things that deep down do get to me (like run around like crazy people when they are clearly exhausted and it's bed time and they're supposed to lay down and stay there). I can never clearly articulate my thoughts and feelings in words but all I'm trying to say is, "I want to laugh it off more, and self destruct less." 

Anyway, life is perfect in Wenatchee, and here is the proof:

First Roll of Film

Portra 400 how I love you.

I know why people convert to film and never look back, and I wish I could move this instant. All the creaminess, rich colors, depth of color - I see it! My dream is to shoot 100% film - hopefully it doesn't take long to realize. While these images are kinda weird (due to my having to learn how to work the camera!) I wouldn't change a thing about them. 

All but four photos are completely unprocessed, and the ones that are are only slightly cropped.

This camera is something Tyler found online for free, but is in great condition. It is a Konica Minolta 7000. It was the first auto-focus camera ever made, and was born in 1985. The vignetting in the photos is from the camera. And yes, after every shot I looked at the back of the camera in hopes of being able to adjust my settings so as not to under/overexpose my shots...

I usually mix up my photos in the gallery so similar photos are not next to each other, but in this case I am leaving them in order because this is the exact order in which I took the shots, and my progression through changing random settings through the roll of film is significant to me.

If anyone wants some crazy film shots let me know! I'll give you a steep discount...

 

Camping at Ohanapecosh

At the last minute our friends found a highly coveted spot at the Ohanapecosh Campground in the Mt. Rainier National Park (which to our celebration was someone else's cancellation). Tyler and Steve were chatting on the bus the day before their departure, so we got lucky and were able to tag along with them! They packed amazing food - chorizo and eggs and tortillas for breakfast - and Tyler and Steve packed their fly fishing poles. For some reason I did not pack us to sleep near snow and glaciers so we were a bit under packed, still it was one of the best camping trips we have taken to date! I found some freshly cut cherry wood - that was hard to light and had us worried, until it finally caught fire and burned long and hot! -  and we packed two huge bags of it. The girls slept the entire ride down which left Tyler and I free to talk and listen and laugh together. After arriving after dark, Tyler put all his skills to work setting up our tent.

This specific campground is the start and finish points for multiple hikes of all skill levels, and of course, everywhere you look is breathtaking. We mostly laid low, sitting by the campfire eating s'mores, doing short hikes, stuffing ourselves with delicious camp food, and exploring the raging river that runs through the campground. Annie peed her pants while taking a nap in the car on the way to Paradise, so in our lack of preparation she was left with a swimsuit to wear - which she loved every minute of, as did the people standing by taking pictures of her playing in glacier water (I still don't know what to say to those people; sometimes I just stand in front of them...) Tyler only packed one shirt and of course Kate's poopy diaper leaked on it so he ended up in one of my extras (which makes him look like macho man in one of the photos).

While the swimsuits were strategically packed so we could enjoy the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs, we later learned they "aren't the swimming kind" per the lady at the Visitor's Center. With a laugh we walked the 20 minute, and .01 mile, hike through the hot springs - that were more like trickles of water running down the side of the rock. Tyler and Steve took out their fly fishing poles one evening, and their only excuse for not catching any fish is: this river doesn't have many. Oh, and the ones it does house are really small. (Insert laughing emoji here.)

Hiking with these two littles is kinda hilarious. While Annie runs ahead saying, "Mom, mom, run! Mom, run! Running! Mom, run! Dis like Annie!" Kate waddles behind swinging her arms across her whole body while her bum dramatically moves back and forth. And to top it all off says, "I too heavy. I too heavy." When she is done, she turns around and walks the other direction, despite all of our hollering for her to come back. She sneakily stares us down and when we continue forward she starts all over: running, swinging arms, waddling bum, "I too heavy. I too heavy" and we can't do anything but crack up and playfully roll our eyes. I don't know how Kate sees every single teeny tiny bug on our path but she screams, "Bicho!" ("bug" in Spanish) and wants to stop, squat, stare, then says, "I touching? I touching?" asking if she can touch it. She squeals and squeals while it scampers for its life. 

Right now Annie is a creative dancer. She was swinging her shirt all around while kicking her feet up sideways and dancing to the banjo music in the campground. Lately while walking she raises her hands up in the air and I feel a rush of this-is-my-daughter-and-she-will-be-whoever-she-wants-to-be. The most important thing I need her to know if life is that I love her. A close second to that is my desire to infuse confidence into her - I wish I could fill her with so much confidence that she would not notice when others aren't being kind, and that she would have the ability to love them, and more importantly love herself, regardless of their insecurities and treatment of the world. 

This weekend was a much needed break from all of lifes' demands, and we took full advantage of our time together. The last two photos are of: 1. the view from the sunroof on the way home. We were racing past thick, white clouds as well as views of Mt. Rainier I didn't even know existed from the road. And, 2. Annie and Kate had to take 2 baths when we came home they were so filthy. 

Thank you to Steve, Karen, and William for the getaway (and getting some photos of me with my babes!)