Jeuel Darby Nelson


Choosing our baby girl’s name was difficult. Our naming format is the problem…we make it sooo hard for ourselves: 1) It has to be found in the Bible, but it has to be obscure/unique. 2) It has to have a meaning that applies. 3) We have to LIKE it (sadly this is the hardest!)

SO, when looking through lists of Bible names, we came upon the name Jeuel (pronounced “jewel.”) I read the meaning, “God takes away; God heaping up” and I thought WEIRD. Who in the world would name their child something so morbid, contradictory and confusing? I passed it up. But as I flipped through name after name, I started to lose track of which ones I had already ruled out and I came back to Jeuel because I loved the sound of it and the unusual spelling. The second time I read the meaning, I stopped for a moment and a thought occurred to me. It said, “GOD takes away.” Of course God permits all things that happen to us whether good or bad, but there are certain things that are actually taken away specifically BY God and undeniably, any action taken by God in our lives would be for our own good. So God taking away would ALWAYS be a GOOD thing. I began to think about things that God was taking away from me right now. He was taking away my business (at least for a while) and the stress and guilt that had come along with working too much. He was taking away a huge burden and distraction in my life and using this baby girl to facilitate that. And although “taking away” and “heaping up” sounded distinctly contradictory, I realized that in the process of all that taking away, He was heaping up joy, comfort, peace, and a new enthusiasm for life and my family. All of a sudden, the name seemed PERFECT. I couldn’t imagine naming my daughter anything else. I know that in the future her name will be a reminder of how God worked in our lives during this time, and who knows, maybe it will serve to remind us that when God takes away, it is always, ALWAYS a good thing.

Her middle name was not a tough choice. We’ve had this name chosen since before we had children at all. We use middle names to honor people who have been very influential in our lives. Of course, we will never have enough children to honor all of them, so we’ve had to do some doubling up in a “just in case” kind of way. Corban has two middle names after both of his grandfathers. Jadon is named after James (I insisted!). And Jeuel is named for the two saintly women who “rescued” me when I was about 16/17 and gave me a vision of the wife and mother I would strive to be someday: Darlene Sturm and Barbara Ager. Somehow, these two women managed to be absolutely crazy about me, love and adore me, in spite of all the mistakes I made. In their lives, I caught a glimpse of Jesus’ love for us in spite of our sin and it filled me with such awe that my understanding of God’s love expanded with it. They loved the rebel right out of me and gave, and gave, and gave even though I had nothing to give in return, truly not even the amount of affection they deserved.

When James and I got married, we were living paycheck to paycheck. Both of us working full time just barely paid our rent, utilities, school bills, and covered the never ending car repairs. Two weeks before the wedding, all I had been able to do was purchase my dress, the tux, the invitations, and reserve the church. We were counting on wedding gifts to fund the entire honeymoon. I had resigned myself to the fact that there would be no decorations, no reception, maybe not even flowers, but we’d at least walk out of there married and crazy in love! But Barb and Darlene pulled off a grand finale in those two weeks. Flowers, cake, lights, balloons, food, music, and all the details came together in 14 days out of seemingly nowhere. I was amazed to tears. My wedding wasn’t anything like the stunningly gorgeous weddings I see and photograph now every weekend, but it was so beautiful to me.

As we tried to think of the best way to use the two names Darlene and Barbara, it occurred to me to try combining them. As I’m sure you can imagine, this discussion was LOL funny: “darbarb, barbdar, barlene, darbara…” but eventually one of us said “Darby” and I thought it made a really CUTE middle name and was a great combination of the two. And so it stuck. From that point on, we always knew our daughter’s middle name would be Darby. We’ve just been waiting for the right moment to use it. 🙂

Corban has been trying to help us keep the name a surprise. I reminded him, “Don’t forget, it’s a secret.” He said, “I know, Mom. Besides, I wouldn’t tell anyone because they would laugh at it.” I was amused and mock offended, “You think people will laugh at our baby’s name?” He nodded, “I thought it was silly when you told me. But now I like it. It’s pretty cute.” 🙂 I told him, “Well, I don’t think anyone will laugh. They’ll probably think we’re a little strange, but once we tell them what her name means, I think everyone will think it’s REALLY cool.”

And he agreed.

And so I introduce to you, Jeuel Darby Nelson.

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!

Coming out of Hibernation

As I slowly emerge from hibernation, I find myself reaching for the camera more and more. The urge to shoot, to light, to pose, to post process…it’s a glowing ember threatening to burst into flames at any moment. 🙂

Here’s some pictures I took today in the park…it was SO nice out that I enjoyed both the sunrise and sunset while breathing in the fresh air. It was glorious!!




Fresh Blogging Energy…

I’m back! WHEW! Had a nice long vacation relaxing with the family…oooh, it was NIIIIICE! Swimming in the pool every day and visiting with my dear, sweet grandma. Blue skies, fresh clean rain-filtered air, the sun and the gorgeous sunsets…I came home with so much positive energy! But my poor neglected blog. I left in such a rush I didn’t even have a chance to schedule some posts like I had planned, to hold you all over. I’m behind…oh, so VERY far behind, on updating you on my life. I promise that evidence of my fresh energy is going to be hitting your screens very soon! We’ll start with a couple pix from our vacation…


I love this one because what you can’t see is how long Jadon laid back like this just soaking up the gorgeous view…anything that stops our little booger in his tracks is pretty stunning! 🙂


I love the wonderment represented here…


The aquarium is relaxing and fun to be in even when you’re not near the water dislpays…




Some of our fun in the sun…


I don’t know how I could be more in love with this picture!!! It’s such a typical Jadon moment.


The fluffy clouds were gorgeous and made me feel happy and peaceful. I couldn’t help taking a picture of them to remember that feeling by!


My dear sweet Grandma. She is SUCH an amazing woman. My very take-charge Italian Grandpa has been gone for two years now and no one thought that Grandma would be as strong and independent as she is without him. I’m so proud of her and love her so much!


Some rare brotherly love…



My little brother, Micah…he’s single ladies, and very accomplished!




My amazing and very sexy husband finally let me take some pictures of him! I had FUN with these pix! Isn’t he SO photogenic? As photogenic as he is, he’s even MORE wonderful, which is so rare! I love him SO much!




AND, if you’re feeling YOUR blog needs a little infusion of positive energy as well, I have JUST the thing…a blog makeover! My bff Rebecca is one of the most talented people I know when it comes to design of any kind and now that she’s back from China and settled in with their new little guy, she’s decided to reopen her blog design schedule. She’s introduced fresh new photo blogs that will show off your pix nice and big and beautiful…and right now she’s GIVING one away on her blog at To be entered into the drawing, all you have to do is leave her a comment! It’s that easy!

My Family

I’m skipping a few overdue posts to squeeze this in today. We had a great visit with my family this weekend and before Sunday dinner I pulled a couple of my siblings outside for some quick photos…

Here’s my little sis, R. She’s SO gorgeous, I just love taking pictures of her! That’s her natural hair color and I am SO jealous! I have people that work really hard to give me color that vibrant!


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And this is my little Rockstar bro, N and his girlfriend, R. Aren’t they adorable? LOVE the 2nd shot so much!!!


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Prairie House Massage

Every winter in Indiana is cold and let’s face it, a little depressing. We’re all scrambling for pick-me-ups to get us through to warmer weather. This winter it was providential that I stumbled across a little piece of indoor sunshine in the way of a super cool guy named Jeff. Jeff and I met at Art Beat. I was manning my booth and I turned around to see this tall intellectual looking guy peering at one of my pieces thoughtfully, arms crossed, one hand on his chin. I didn’t want to break his concentration so I left him alone for a bit, but after awhile I just had to know what he found SO intriguing about this particular picture! Turns out Jeff is the President of Bike Michiana Coalition and he was drawn to one of my all-time favorite images, a picture I took of a man and his son on a bike while in Romania last summer. The picture kind of subtly represents Jeff’s world…Jeff is a former Minister so the fact that the image was taken on a missions trip is appropriate. He’s promotes everyday bicycling and that’s clearly represented. The image has a strong artistic pull for the viewer because there’s a lot of unknowns and the hands in the image slightly resemble Michelangelo’s “God and Adam.” Lastly, Jeff is a highly trained and very talented Massage Therapist and I think it’s only appropriate that the man in the picture is bare-backed and ready for his 2pm massage! Ok, maybe I’m grasping at straws on that one, but hey! After studying the image for awhile longer, Jeff asked for my business card…and the rest is history. A large print of the image now proudly hangs in his office at Prairie House Massage in South Bend, giving his clients a deep and profound look at Jeff’s multi-faceted world and artistic taste.

When I went in to pay Jeff a visit and see my artwork on the wall, it just so happened to be one of the WORST weather days this winter. I could hardly see the car in front of me, the drifts were measured in feet not inches, and the wind was trying to blow my van off the road. I stumbled through the front door and up the steps, thawing and dripping as I went. But when I walked through the door of Prairie House Massage, it was as if rays of sunshine landed on my face and warmth enveloped me instantly! It was so warm and welcoming! It was “sit on the front porch with a cup o’ tea and chat in the sunshine” warm. In the midst of a very cold winter, it was especially welcoming and I knew that this place would be FUN to take pictures of! It has such a soul because of how much Jeff puts himself into everything he does.

You can bet that on really cold Winter days, and after shooting a long Summer wedding, and amidst stressful Fall deadlines, and probably just during Spring fever, you’ll find me filling up on R&R at Prairie House…it’s one of my new favorite places!

(for more information, visit







Jeff has expertise in medical massage including Oncology and Sports, among others.




A new spin on a couple’s massage…Jeff will teach you how to give a better massage so you can take some knowledge home with you! I thought this was brilliant!



A Post for the Middle of Winter

I don’t surf the web for these things…usually friends send them to me. And when they do, I have to give them a huge shout out on my blog for doin’ the leg work for me. I love a well done video clip. This one was forwarded to me by Eric from EB Photography. You can check out their work at But it was created by Zack Arias at I think it’s a brilliant piece of work and I know that a lot of photographers and aspiring photographers read my blog, so I thought I’d share it. I think that quite a few of you will feel the message of this video to the core of your very soul. It sure cut right through me! I’ve been there! I wonder if maybe there’s a little part of ALL of us who can relate to this to some degree.

And a big thanks to those of you who are a warm bright spot in the midst of a cold winter…even though it’s off season and I enjoy the change of pace, by about this time of year I’m chompin at the bit to get back in the saddle. Looking forward to some upcoming photo shoots with some stoics who are not afraid of the cold that seems to have returned to laugh in our faces. We’re gonna rock it out anyways! YAH!

Truly Madly Deeply

The year I graduated from high school (this dates me) Savage Garden released my favorite song of all time, Truly Madly Deeply. My bff Jennifer and I would lie on our backs in the little trailer parked in her parent’s driveway (my temporary summer home), play this song on permanent repeat, look at the stars and dream…we were (are) both dreamers. And hopeless romantics. We dream big and soar high. I was most definitely dreaming VERY big right about then…I had declared to everyone who would listen that I was going to marry a man that I was not even dating…who, in fact, had told me we COULDN’T date. If you want the whole truth, we were barely friends. Not to be dissuaded by minor setbacks, I was nearing stalker status. He was way out of my league…I don’t know where I got the notion that this would actually WORK, but I schemed and plotted every opportunity to spend time with him. I bolted across campus when I heard his car coming (YES, it’s true, I could distinguish the SOUND of his car!) to “bump into” him as he checked in at the guard station. I would forget my umbrella on rainy days knowing that he was SUCH a gentleman that he’d offer to walk me to my next class. I would sit on the end of the aisle and not let anyone sit on that side of me so that there’d be a seat there JUST IN CASE he happened to walk in late and need a quick spot to sit. I even somehow got his sister to convince him to invite me to a Valentine’s banquet, as “friends.” I remember that Valentine’s day like it was yesterday…I was on CLOUD TEN AND A HALF. For me, that was it. It was all over. I was ruined for all future potential relationships. If I couldn’t marry him, I wouldn’t marry ANYONE.

It’s been 10 years since that Valentine’s Day and now that crazy crush has a new name…marriage…but it doesn’t feel any different. James alters my whole world in ways that I didn’t know a single human being could. He’s still waaaay out of my league. He possesses qualities that have changed my perspective on life, the world around me, and given me insights on the love of God. Never before have I met someone so genuinely unselfish and giving of himself. I had never experienced love like that. When I realized that God’s love is exponentially more giving, I was blown away. I literally sit in awe and wonder of how God could create such an amazing person. And with such a high starting point, it blows my mind that God is a million times moreso himself.

Today I stand on a mountain with him, sometimes we bathe in the sea; but I still dream…and I will…until the sky falls down on me.

Here’s some pics from last night…Jadon couldn’t sleep so I made a deal with him…if he’d let me take some pictures I’d let him stay up a little later. 🙂 I think I got the better end of the deal.






{Emblazon Salon} 1-year anniversary!

emblazon1009.jpgOn Saturday night, I’m gonna be hanging out at THE party…the only place worth being this Saturday night…come join us at Emblazon Salon! It’s a Mardi Gras party starting at 7pm with a DJ and appetizers. (Bring your own mask or they’ll provide one at the door). You’ll find us at 115 N. Main St, South Bend, just a couple doors south of Fiddler’s Hearth.

The party will also be the unveiling of my most recent fashion session…the entire{smashing fabulous} gallery on the walls is original Rawsii art and all models are actual Emblazon Salon clients…they rocked it out and I’m so excited about the pictures! Come check it out and wish Jennifer and the girls a Happy 1st year of being the HOTTEST salon in town!