Revive this blog, STAT!

OH MY!  Don’t look at how long it’s been since I blogged!!  I’m hoping to sneak a few posts in here quietly before people notice the Grand Canyon sized GAP in the dates!  EEK!  It’s not that I don’t have things to share…it’s that I have TOO MUCH to share and I just couldn’t keep up with it!  And my blog design needed an overhaul so badly that I just wanted people to stop looking at the old one.  But it’s winter up here in the greater Chicago area and I have myself some much needed downtime to catch up on things like organization, accounting, lesson planning…and BLOGGING!  Hopefully we’ll be hearing from Katye and Bridget here and there too.  And my goal is to go back and blog all the 2012 weddings and engagement sessions…it’ll be a fun trip down memory lane!

But FIRST, a sneak peek of a really amazing fashion shoot we just wrapped up this past weekend for Emblazon Salon in South Bend, IN.  The theme was Elemental and we did some really crazy cool stuff so I hope you come back to check that out around the middle of February when I will be able to share them.

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A Fond Farewell…

It is with seriously mixed emotions that I formally close this chapter of my life. It has been such a whirlwind to this point that it feels kind of sudden. But with so much to look forward to and so many blessings to look back on, I can’t find any greater emotion than gratitude to express at this time. I feel so cliche saying the same types of things I hear so often from others in this business…things like, “I have the best, most beautiful clients in the world!” and “I couldn’t have done it without you!” But the truth is, I truly feel these things to my very core. As I think through each person I’ve met or each relationship that has grown through photography, I feel exceptionally blessed. I couldn’t feel more lucky if I had met a thousand Rock Stars! Each person I’ve photographed has inspired me so much! And trusted me so much. It’s not always easy to let go and see yourself through someone else’s eyes, and relax in the process. I feel as if each person who trusts me this much is giving me the greatest compliment I could ever recieve. So many of my clients are now friends…some of which I’m looking forward to spending more time with next year! I can’t recall EVER having a “bad” client…we’ve worked through some tough circumstances, but the people I’ve been blessed to meet have been INCREDIBLE. This year in particular my jaw has dropped and my heart has swelled because of my clients, students, and colleagues…some have sent me baby gifts, many have gone out of their way to accomodate my pregnancy and closing business, students have been VERY patient with me while I worked through excessive delays, and EVERYONE has made very sure that I know that my presence in the industry will be missed. I feel as if the love I have for all of you is returning to me tenfold. So thank you!!

I want to take a moment to thank a few people who I’ve never publicly acknowledged in one place before. As I think back to how my interest in photography started and developed, there are people along the way who have marked a distinct change in me. I almost used the analogy of rungs on a ladder, but I don’t want to give the impression that I stepped on them or left them behind as I went. 🙂 I feel more like they were each a helium balloon and as I met each one, my journey became lighter and easier.

My parents — for buying me my first camera and for keeping their promise to develop all the film I could buy, even when it went a bit farther than they expected!

Melita Quance — for being my willing subject so many times and for making me jealous by taking photography classes in high school! 🙂

Jennifer Feeney — for becoming my muse and inspiration in high school and for telling me for the first time that I remember, “You should do this professionally.”

Mom and Dad Sturm and Mrs. Ager — for taking my senior pictures and completely changing my perspective on photography.

Andy and Mickey Sommers — for loaning me my very first SLR and enthusiastically being some of the first people in my portfolio.

My church family at FBC– for being my first clients, my biggest fans, and my friends.

Erin Prichard — for being one of my first photography friends, for 2nd shooting, for equipment sharing, information sharing, and learning together.

Eileen Dimino — for being the first professional to tell me my work was really GOOD and giving me the confidence to forge ahead. And for introducing me to Josef Samuel.

Jasmine Star — for teaching about branding in a way that allowed me to move past the confusion and proceed with confidence.

Josef Samuel — for approaching me with the idea for The X/Stop Project, encouraging me to network more, and for providing a constant source of inspiration and friendly competition. 🙂

Jerry Ghionis — for truly transforming the way I see light and the world around me and for teaching me the true keys to success.

Pamela Speck — for being an oasis in a desert, a moment of clarity, and showing me that God is still working in my life.

Rebecca Lily — for being my friend the longest, and my fastest learning student EVER, and for being a focused and upbeat 2nd shooter this past year in spite of having so many more important things on her mind.

Jennifer Budzinski — for being an inspiration in business ownership and management, and for giving me a place to stretch my creativity and display it. For helping me LOOK like the artist I felt like.

Tim Cocanower — for being truly reliable in an age when reliability is hard to come by. For driving in Chicago. 🙂 For somehow always being one step ahead of me and never once complaining when things went wrong. (and thank you Stephanie for all the time you spent without him after work hours so he could help!!)

Bridget Dix — for being my right arm, and sometimes my left. For sharing my excitement, for being my favorite model, for saving me from myself sometimes, for putting up with my oddities. For synchronizing your vision with mine and loving it almost as much as I have. You are fantastic and I am going to miss you SO much.

My husband, James Nelson — for being my hottest model EVER, for always believing I could do anything I set my mind to, for sacrificing so much of yourself on behalf of my dreams, for working SO hard to support me in both my decision to start AND to stop shooting, for always being a reliable and patient father to our children even when you should have been too exhausted to do so, and for loving me in spite of all my craziness.

There are many others to thank, I could go on all day. It’s always scary to thank some specifically for fear that I’ve overlooked someone very important unintentionally. But I think it would be even worse if I let the fear keep me from thanking these people who have influenced me so much. It is because of the generosity of these people that I have been inspired to help others, so if you have been influenced or helped by me in any way, I hope you’ll thank these people as well.

Many have expressed concern at how permanent my decision sounds sometimes…am I coming back? When? I have to say, I honestly don’t know the answer to either of those. I DO know two things. 1) I need to feel complete freedom from timeframe and obligation. I need a break with no expectations so that I can sort some things out in God’s time, under no pressure. 2) If and when I do come back, I want to have the ability to move the business out of our home, for many reasons, one of which is that our family has filled it! There are many factors that will determine if and when this can happen. I have no idea what the personality of our third child will be, how our familiy dynamic will change, if home schooling will be the best option for my children long term. All of these factors can only be determined by time, so there is really no way I can predict a return date right now.

For those of you (some I have already spoken with) who are hoping and praying that I will return in time to shoot your 2012 wedding, I will decide sometime around June of 2011. Until then I will hold your date on my calendar, but I won’t sign any contracts as I take my comittment to your wedding VERY seriously. Those interested may continue to inquire about availability as long as you understand that nothing is set in stone or guaranteed without a signed contract and downpayment!

I wish you the very best year (or more!) in my absence…take care and God bless!

2009 — Best Laughs

Wow. Another year gone like a whirlwind! And what a year it was! I began my wedding season with 4 weddings in 3 weekends: Saturday, Saturday, Sunday (in FL!), Saturday. What an awesome month that was…that was so fun!! In spite of the fast start, I was still able to keep my goal of limiting myself to 15 weddings. It was insanely busy at times, but overall managable with the ages of my kids right now. I was really happy with it. God blessed us so much.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this year, to wrap things up. There was no conceivable way I could even begin to narrow down my favorites…I narrowed it down to 435 and that’s as good as I could do. So instead, I’m going to do a series of posts in categories:

Best laughs, best dancers, best jumpers, best kisses, most romantic, coolest skies, total rockstars, funny shots, best reflections, best smiles, best flower pictures, best dress pictures, coolest places, best eyes, dog pictures, best in fashion, best childhood moments, best in color, and cool candids.

As you can see, this is going to take awhile. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me as I re-live 2009, as seen through my lens. Without further ado, here are the best laughs of 2009. I dare you to make it all the way through without LAUGHING at least once! 🙂

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Featured: The Maternal Lens

A couple of months ago I discovered The Maternal Lens and I have been positively ADDICTED ever since. These girls have SERIOUSLY great taste and every post they make has me excited to see what they’ll uncover next!

And I honestly don’t think this SIMPLY because they featured ME…lol. I truly love this blog and find it refreshing, reliable, and inspiring! If you’d like to read my article, head on over and check it out here. After that, peruse! You’ll find a nice collection of very talented photographers and fun features.

Thanks to Shannon of Thousand Words Photography for the low down throw down!

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Nikki

Nikki. Rocks.

The moment I saw Nikki, I thought she would be SUCH a fun model to work with and I was absolutely right! Not only was she photogenic no matter WHAT she did, but she was hilariously funny and kept me laughing the whole afternoon! I think she’s destined for greatness. I could be wrong, but I’m USUALLY right about these things. 🙂

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Nikki’s hair was done by Sarah and makeup was by Kelly, both at the incredible Emblazon Salon.

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See what I mean? Hilarious!!

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One of my instant fav’s the moment I snapped the shutter:

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Coolest eyes!!!

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People often email me and ask where I find these scenic places to shoot…Indiana, baby! Indiana is a gorgeous place to live! Come visit sometime!

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These are the moments I love my job so much I just want to jump up and down and do a little dance! When I asked Nikki to lay down in the middle of the parking lot…in a wedding dress…and she says without hesitation, “OK!” and proceeds to BE exactly what I envisioned for this shot… I LOVE my job!!! I don’t take for granted, for even a second, the trust that I’m given. People usually have no idea what I’m dreaming up, but they trust me 110% and I’m so thankful for that! The confidence that people have in me is what allows me to succeed.

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I specifically wanted to see how clear Nikki’s eyes would sparkle here and I was not disappointed…look at how cool they look!

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A shot loosely inspired by my photographic mentor, Jerry Ghionis.

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It’s so dark I can hardly focus, but I’m still getting a cool glow from the sky, so we’re still swatting mosquitoes and shooting. 🙂 Again, Nikki totally ROCKED!! Can’t wait till she actually gets married so we can do this again! 😉

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A blast from the past {State Theater}

When my friend Lester offered to let me shoot in his theater, I was excited, but I should have been WAY more excited than I was!! I had no idea what was there…I had no CLUE about the amazing interior of that old building! I walked in and spent a good 20 minutes with my jaw on the floor looking around at all the detail, the 5-story ceiling, the amazing textures, the architecture! WOW! You know how the scene from the Titanic took the old staircase from the ruins and then showed it in all it’s former glory…well, yah, that was what my mind was doing! It was incredible to think of all the stories and the events that the old dilapidated hall had seen!

Then, when I finally was able to snap back to the present, I went to work telling a few stories of my own. With pictures.

My assistant Bridget is not only very helpful, but stunningly beautiful as well and she so very kindly allowed me to turn her into a model for a day. We had SO much fun!

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This is probably my favorite image of the entire session. I think her choice of attire ended up being just perfect for this old building where my overactive imagination pictured girls in ballroom gowns and men in bow ties. In this picture I can almost imagine that the building isn’t old at all…it’s brand new.

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Confidence is Beautiful {Emblazon Salon}

Saturday night I had the pleasure of spending my evening at the Emblazon Salon 1-year Anniversary Party…it was a par-tay Mardi Gras style!! Of course I was excited because I got to see my latest fashion artwork hit the walls of the salon for the first time, but I was even MORE excited to celebrate this monumentous occasion with one of my closest friends. Jennifer has worked SO hard for this! Emblazon Salon is her dream, her baby, her work of art. She’s designed and schemed, poured sweat and tears into this labor of love, pulled together the most talented team of stylists I’ve ever seen, and wrapped it up in a purely unique and inspirational package. Saturday night we celebrated their first year in business and it was no surprise that the house was packed, the party was jumpin’, and everyone who was anyone was squeezin’ through that door to shake her hand and wish her the best.

Here are just a few of my favorite pictures from the Winter 2009 Emblazon Salon Collection. All styles, hair, and makeup are original Emblazaon Salon designs and all models are actual Emblazon Salon clients.

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Here’s a shot I took as soon as I arrived, while I could still see the walls!

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Alicia (one of our models)

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Introducing: the gorgeous girls of Emblazon Salon (L to R back: Lil Jen, Suzie, Karol, Michelle, Sarah, Lori, Rebecca, Center: Jennifer)

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Jennifer and I (taken by Bridget)

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Bridget and I (taken by James)

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A little self-portrait…

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2008 Picture of the Year! {CONTEST!}

It’s really HARD to narrow down my own artwork!!!! REALLY REALLY HARD! I am VERY emotionally invested in every single one of my customers and subjects!! And 2008 was a VERY amazing year!! One that will be hard to top as far as amazing photo-ops go! I was in Oradea Romania, San Francisco, CA, Napa Valley, CA, Myrtle Beach, SC, Cape Coral, FL, Madison, WI, and Mackinac Island, MI…all in one summer (and I probably missed a place or two in that list)! I knew before the summer even started that it would be a roller coaster ride and it certainly was that! It kind of left me with that same crazy feeling too…a little dizzy, glad I did it, but wow my head hurts and I’m not sure I’ll walk straight for awhile!!! I owe one enormous hug to all my wedding clients from this year who have been so patient with me! My traveling, a couple of unexpected broken bones, and tyring to juggle family, church, homeschooling, and sanity (or lack thereof) have pushed back my turnaround times more than expected. But EVERY single one of them has just been amazing and this endears them to me even more than before. I’m proud to call them all FRIENDS. My customers really mean the world to me and I am so excited to be involved in their lives and to have them in mine. They have each changed me every so slightly for the better, made me look at the world differently, they have challenged me to improve and grow and stretch myself! They inspire me with their trust and their amazing lives! I’m a lucky girl. I thank God every. single. day.

The fact that this post comes two weeks into 2009 is proof that I was floundering on this project by myself! I took my friend Leah up on her offer to help me out! Being a highly successful children’s photographer herself, she was MORE than qualified to narrow down my favorite 180 pictures (I had multiple favorites from every single session!!). It took her a couple days, but I was SO impressed…she managed to get it down to 53! I decided not to alter her list at all…I respect her opinion and I’m relieved that I didn’t have to pick because I don’t think this post ever woulda happened! (when you’re done voting here, go check out Leah’s site here!)

Now let’s see if we can narrow it down to #1! In order to vote, use your google account and leave a comment listing your TWO favorites…you’ll probably vote for your own or the picture of someone you know, and then I want you to vote without bias on a 2nd. (I will not count single votes or annonymous votes. You MUST choose two different subjects…if you vote twice for the same person, even if they’re in two different pictures, both votes will have to be discarded) ! The person pictured in the image (if possible or applicable) with the most votes will receive a free 16×20 on matboard of that image! I’ll leave the voting open for one week (last day will be Tuesday, January 20th).

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Risa and Kali

Kali and Risa came to me for “sisters” pictures. I thought this was so fun and unique…something not just anyone would think to do. They told me in advance that they were polar opposites. But when I met them I could tell immediately that they totally compliment each other, making an awesome duo. It was so fun to watch them together. Here’s a few of my favorites:

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Emblazon Salon Grand Opening!!!

This weekend was the official Grand Opening of Emblazon Salon!!! The party was smokin’ hot and THE place to be! After about 6 weeks of hiding these pictures, they have been unveiled and I can now finally share with you the unique Emblazon Salon style that is transforming our view, one head at a time. To get the full effect, you’ll have to check out the salon for yourself where all these pictures are hanging life-sized on the walls. Drop in and say hello, and when you do, tell them Christi sent you!