Bald is Beautiful

Let me introduce you to my friend Carrie. She’s bald now, but she’s bald by choice. Some of the children that Carrie works with are bald, but by no choice of their own. Carrie has worked for St Baldrick’s Foundation for almost 6 years now, raising funds to help children who are fighting cancer . St Baldrick’s exists to fund research and create funding priorities that make the greatest impact to children with cancer. When I read the statistics, I just couldn’t believe that over 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year! That number is just so much bigger than I could’ve ever imagined.

Last month my husband and I attended St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event in LA and it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. Carrie chose to shave her beautiful blonde hair off because she has spent every day reading stories of why others shave their hair in honor of a child with cancer. Carrie shares; “Since I have two small children of my own, I think about these honored children and what their whole families go through to fight cancer. I cannot imagine what I would do or how I would handle hearing my child has cancer. I decided to shave because it makes me feel like I am doing something to help these families, to advance research, and to keep me from crying every time I read a sad story about a child and their families suffering with cancer.”

I used to work with Carrie at an organization that helped those less fortunate than us and she specifically worked in programs that helped children. She’s always worked with children in one way or another, so it was not surprising that she chose to work at St. Baldrick’s. When I asked her why she chose this organization to work for, she told me this story from childhood; “Growing up, there was a young boy named Danny who had cancer and he was very sick. He would come out to play sometimes, but many times, his sister would come play with me and my sister without her brother. I believe he was only 6 when he passed away. I was maybe one or two years older than him. I remember how his death impacted my mother, even though I really didn’t understand completely what had happened to him.

Carrie’s heart for children and ultimately children who are fighting this horrible disease, led her to do an amazing thing to help even more. Carrie personally raised over $5,500 for the head-shave event; making her the 2nd highest fundraiser! The event itself raised over $34,400 so far! What an amazing organization this is and what a brave friend I have. Thank you to Carrie and all of the other Shavee’s from the event who have already done so much for these precious children! And thank you for allowing me to capture some of those moments!

If you want to know more about St Baldrick’s Foundation and this event in particular, please feel free to visit the event page: Click Here.

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Top 5 things to know for baby’s first weeks

There’s way too much advice out there about parenting, and for first-time parents, it could be very confusing to decipher the good advice from the bad & the ugly. We have found 5 helpful tips from parents who walk the talk… they just might be the ticket to a successful first few weeks with baby!

1. Listen to your baby. Your baby may not be able to communicate verbally (except for that blood-curdling scream at 3 am), but they do know how to communicate with you. Tugging at their ear or quick, jerky movements can tell you that they are tired. Finger sucking & reaching with their arms or legs can tell you that they are hungry. Pay attention to your baby’s cries and movements over the first few weeks-you will probably figure out what they’re trying to tell you very quickly.

2. Breastfeeding vs formula feeding is a personal choice. Breastfeeding can be hard. It’s not just as simple as “plug & chug”! It takes time for you and your baby to get the hang of it-which is why they recommend starting immediately if that is the route you plan to take. However, breastfeeding may not be for you-and that is OK.  It may be because baby just won’t take to you. Their could even be a medical condition preventing breastfeeding. But don’t let anyone make you feel like a failure if you choose to formula feed. Do what is best for you and your baby.

3. Listen to your instincts. There’s so many resources out there on parenting, but the best voice to listen to is your inner voice. If your baby is hungry but it’s only been two hours since you fed them, and the book says to wait 3 hours, feed your baby! Listen to your instincts. 9 times out of 10, your gut instinct with your baby will be correct.

4. Don’t worry about trying to be the perfect mother. The best thing a mother can do is to try her best. Period. There’s no secret formula to being a perfect mother because there is no such thing!  Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people in your circle who undoubtedly would love to hold your baby for an hour or so. I know I would! 🙂

5. Make time for your partner & for yourself. This should be #1 on the list, as it’s so very important!  It is absolutely crucial to take time for yourself. During nap time, or when grandma offers to watch the little one, do something that you want to do. Read a book, go for a walk, take a nap! Better yet, include your spouse in this and have one of those things called… date night (what’s that?). It’s typical to give baby all of the attention during the first few weeks or even months. Make sure that you take time to show that special person in your life some much needed love & affection.

 

But, I hate photos of myself!!!

What woman hasn’t at least thought this phrase if not said it out loud? I’m guilty of it myself. In this day and age of selfies, most of us ladies are not fans of someone else taking our pictures because we can’t really control the outcome. At least with a selfie, we can angle the phone’s camera just right in order to get that perfect jaw line, or hide our imperfections. We are so critical of our bodies & how we look and so we try to avoid being in front of the camera at all costs. I have been so much better about being in photos recently as I have lost some weight & I’m starting to feel better about my body. But the really sad thing is that when I look through my older pictures so I can see how far I’ve come, I find that I rarely ever had full body pictures. Most events and outings, I made sure I was behind the camera. Well that ends now! I want to be able to look back at photos and see my smiling face & how much I enjoyed those memories.

I book a lot of newborn sessions and with these sessions I also include a few family and sibling photos. I am so saddened by the fact that most moms decline being in them. I understand that most women do not feel like they are at their best within 2 weeks after giving birth. Most women want to lose weight before they even attempt to be photographed. But professional photographers know how to pose you in order to help hide some of those little imperfections (which, by the way, nobody even notices except for you).

Well, listen up ladies…specifically those of you who are mothers. You may not particularly love having your picture taken, but guess who is going to love the fact that you are in pictures with them? You got it- your little munchkins! One day, your child will absolutely love the fact that their mom was in their very first professional pictures with them. They won’t care what you looked like or if your hair or body was perfect. They will have a memory that they can treasure for a lifetime!

Eventually, hopefully not for many, many years, these photos will be the only thing that they will have left of you. If you don’t like certain photos of yourself, you don’t have to post them as your Facebook profile picture. But you should frame them for your child’s room. Don’t rob them of these treasured memories just because you don’t like your hair or that extra 10 lbs you want to lose. They don’t care about these things. They love you and will be so proud to show off pictures of their beautiful family. Every child deserves to have pictures with their parents.

Oh and don’t forget…You are beautiful!

Twinning!

My goal for you, in each and every session, is to have you walk away with beautiful memories that were created through an amazing experience. It’s not only about the photos, but it’s about the memories that we make while creating the photos. And sometimes I get the pleasure of capturing many memories over the years for a special family. In only two short years, I had the pleasure of capturing their wedding, maternity, newborn, and most recently their first birthday cake smash! And I scored a two for one deal with this family! Twins! One of each! My husband and I have actually become friends with this family and it has been so much fun to watch their littles grow over the past year.

Meet Sean and Olivia..

If you think a first birthday and cake smash session is fun, you just wait till you have two at the same time! These two were all over our studio, checking things out and playing with anything they could get their hands on! Between mom, dad, big sister, and myself, we had our hands full! But they were so much fun to watch. Olivia was laughing, giggling and jumping around, while Sean was serious and just taking it all in.

These two have such different personalities that came out in front of the camera for sure. But they are like two peas in a pod with the love that they have for each other.

We brought out the bubble machine and they were both mesmerized by it. With an outfit change and a couple of very special crowns, these two cutie pies were ready to turn one in style! Doesn’t Sean look like a baby Magnum PI in this outfit?

Last but not least, the cake smash was so much fun! Once again, these two went about it at a different pace. Sean was clean & meticulous about checking out his cake, while Olivia just dove in! You can tell which one loves to make a mess!

This first birthday and cake smash session was double the fun and I think we probably wore the kiddos (and the parents) out to sleep through the night! Happy first birthday to my favorite set of twins! So excited to see what sort of mischief you two get into this year!

Behind the Scenes

Happy Summer!

Summer tends to be the least busy season for outdoor portraits, and I’ll give you one guess why… Well, duh- it’s so stinkin’ hot outside! I remember a few outdoor sessions that actually had to be rescheduled due to the excessive heat! I’m totally ok with having a slow summer season as I prefer to keep cool as well-but I’m not the one in front of the camera! It’s hard to look your best when your make-up is sweating off and you have to worry about sweat stains in your pits!

That being said, I figured that my slow time is a good chance to take you on a little behind the scenes tour of what I bring to an on-location photo shoot & why! Why would I tell you all about my secret weapons? Pffft-because there’s really no secret to it!

I do have an in-home studio available, but that is mostly for newborns and babies up to a year old. I also have room to do a few family photos as part of these sessions, but for my family, maternity and children’s portraits I really prefer to get creative outdoors. It depends on what the client wants (rustic, water, greenery, field, etc) but I typically choose a location that is convenient for you and me.

When shooting on location I typically have my assistant with me (AKA my husband Arlo). He helps with lighting and loading equipment and occasionally engages the husband about football (he even occasionally finds another Dolphins fan!). Sometimes he can be my secret weapon-as dad is typically the person who wants nothing to do with family portraits. No joke! It’s usually on his day off, and dressing up and posing out in a public place does not sound like fun to most guys. If he likes football, I’m pretty sure my husband can get him to smile long enough for a few pictures.

So, besides me, my husband & my camera (that’s a given), let’s get in to my bag of photography tricks. In my camera backpack I tend to bring 2-3 different size lenses to each session, although I may only use one of the lenses the entire time. It really depends on several factors:

  1. How many people I am photographing.
  2. The surroundings/location.
  3. What type of a feel do we want for the session.

I may want my zoom lens so that I can be quite a distance from the subjects so they can interact and I can capture some candids. Or, I may want to be closer to them in order to give directions or for safety reasons. It all depends. I also bring everything I need to clean & care for my camera & lenses all within the backpack. You will also see me using a funny contraption that I use each time we move around the location. I use this to adjust the white balance in camera in order to keep your white shirt looking white & not blue or green. The reason I may do this multiple times during a session is because the lighting can change due to the sun or any number of circumstances. I also keep plenty of extra memory cards & batteries in my backpack just in case.

Most shoots where I have an assistant, we will also bring my off camera flash/lighting set up. Some may wonder why I would bring lighting for an outdoor session where the sun is bright-it would appear that there is plenty of light. Well, for your eyes, that is true. But for the camera, your face could be the darkest part of the picture because sun creates shadows. Even your hair or your nose can create a very unflattering shadow on your face. So I bring lighting (with a diffuser) to give my subjects what is called fill light. This fills the darkness that shadows can bring and the diffuser helps to soften that light so that it also doesn’t create more harsh shadows. Depending on the size of the group, I may bring 1-2 light stands with lighting. The larger the group, the more fill light we need.

In addition I would also bring any props that we might use during the session. This could be a chair, step stool, apple box, blanket, toys, or any number of creative items to enhance your images. I also encourage clients to bring anything special that they may want to include in their photos. Occasionally we may also bring things like an umbrella if the weather is questionable.

I know-so much stuff just to take a few pictures! Well, that’s why you hired me-so you wouldn’t have to worry about all of this. This is also one of the many reasons why professional portraits are more expensive then just paying someone with a camera to take your pictures. We want your experience to be fun and your memories to be preserved in an amazing way. It takes a lot of time, equipment, love & care to accomplish this. I hope that you enjoyed this little sneak peek behind the scenes view of what goes into the production of an outdoor photo session. Now it’s time to come out and see it for yourself!

Why am I doing this?

Sometimes I wonder why a person chooses a certain job. Do they love it? Is it a passion of theirs? Or does it simply pay the bills? Often times I get questions about my photography business and why I do it or what made me interested in photography. I decided that it is finally time, after two years of actually being in business, that I should publicly answer those questions for you.

I don’t recall the first time I picked up a camera, but I was a child for sure. I remember being in High School and babysitting my youngest cousins (two boys & two little girls).  I would set up little backdrops using linens and I even used props and posed them. I don’t know where it came from; the only person in my family who was even a hobbyist photographer was my dad’s father, but I more remember him as a singer than a photographer. I was always taking pictures-even of my grandmother’s dog. It just seemed to be in my blood. In fact, I know that I still have a few rolls of undeveloped film somewhere in my storage from back in the day. I should send them out just for giggles.

In 9th grade (a long, long, long time ago) I took my first photography class. This was the coolest class I ever took throughout my formative years. We used their manual 35 mm film cameras and had weekly projects such as taking photos of cars in motion vs stopping motion of a passing car. Not only did we take photos, we actually developed these photos ourselves. It started with going into a pitch black closet-sized room and opening the film canister (which was amazingly difficult to do) and placing it into another canister that would be placed in the developing solution. Once the negatives were set, we used them to make the prints and then also developed those using chemicals. I remember feeling like I was capturing and creating something that could last forever!  I still have my self portrait from that class-over 25 years later! That experience inspired a dream of mine to one day have my own home studio & dark room.

Ever since my High School days, I have had a camera in my hand. I remember getting my first SLR camera in my twenties- It was a Canon Rebel. At the time it probably cost $150 or so for the basic model. Maybe $200 max. But that was a lot of money for a single girl living paycheck to paycheck. I was still a film girl, and never edited any photos or anything. But I loved the versatility and control I had with this camera. Whenever there was a family gathering or a party, I was taking pictures. Some found it annoying at times, but were always thankful after the fact that I had captured the memories.

I was always one who wouldn’t fall into fads or buy something just because it was new.  I turned my text feature off for years on my phone. I didn’t get a smart phone until my 30’s. And I refused to give in to the digital age by changing over to a digital camera. That was until Mammoth!  I was heading up to Mammoth with a group of singles from church for a skiing trip.  I realized that it is virtually impossible to carry a big SLR camera on the slopes without potentially damaging it or myself.  So, I purchased my very first digital point & shoot camera that fit right in my pocket. I don’t recall using it much while on the slopes as I was scared to death of falling, but I did capture some great memories while snow shoeing.

Not long after that I purchased my first DSLR (Another Canon Rebel) and I was in love with it! Something about film was that you didn’t really know what you captured until you printed it out. One time  I was highly disappointed that a girl never captured a photo of us with our friend Tracy Byrd on a super fun night in Florida just because she didn’t push the button down hard enough. If I had a digital camera at that time I would’ve known right away and had someone else take it-haha! Yes, I admit, I cried at Target when I picked up the prints only to find that my favorite photo wasn’t even in there. Yes, I’m a giant dork!

I have had a passion for capturing images of sunsets and would always try to be in a good spot whenever sunset hit-especially if we were at the beach. Not long into my marriage, maybe 5 years ago, I remember getting into an argument with my husband because he was so annoyed at how I always had to take pictures-no matter what. He asked me why I couldn’t just be in the moment and enjoy it without a camera.  I cried & shared with him how memories fail, and how I was afraid that if I didn’t capture all of these memories in a more permanent way, that I would one day lose them. He understood, but I agreed to try to take less photos and spend more time just appreciating those moments. Now we have such great little cameras on our phones that even when I don’t have my actual camera with me, I can still capture the memories. HAHA- I got around that one easily! Now that I own a photography business, he never complains about how many photos I take. 🙂

There was a transition in my life about 4.5 years ago when I decided that I needed to leave my position at United Way. I loved the work that we did, but someone high up in our tiny office really made the work environment stressful (actually for all of us-my boss & coworkers left shortly after I did). After taking a vacation and then crying on my first day back to work, we both decided that it was best for me to leave my job, take off some time to fix up the home we just bought, and then go back into the workforce. Luckily my husband made enough money to support us for a while.

During the next year I fell into a severe depression which stemmed from losing my grandmother in 2010. I hadn’t realized that I was depressed until I was no longer busy. That year I sat on the couch in my pajamas watching TV most of the time. My husband, God bless his soul, never judged me or was upset when he would come home to a messy house and no dinner after a long day at work. He would simply love on me and support me and never made me go out if I didn’t feel like I could. I had also gained quite a bit of weight that year which only made my depression worse. We hosted a family gathering at Christmas that year and my mom said she was so worried about me because I looked pale & almost sickly. However, I was watching the show The Biggest Loser at the time and something had inspired me to make a change in my life. The following January (2013) I started just by cutting back on my food intake and walking on a treadmill. I could only walk for 5 minutes at first, but that increased over time.That next June we were heading to Hawaii for a wedding and my goal was to lose 50 lbs by then. I fell 5 lbs short, but was proud of my accomplishment. I had been up & down a bit after that but My Fitness Pal just notified me the other day that I’m actually 95 lbs down from those horribly depressing days-and I’m still going strong!

I had also become motivated & started looking in to returning to school to finish my BA degree that I had put off. I only had 3 more classes to finish and then I was done! It was tough going back to school at such a late age (your memory isn’t as strong), especially when I had to take two language classes! During my first Spanish class I started thinking about what I was going to do for work. I discussed event planning and photography with a couple of friends.I even went to a local photographer for my friend’s daughter’s photos to see her set up. I almost gave up on the idea of starting a photography business (thinking I it wasn’t possible for me to start a business) but that passion within me ignited once again as I started taking on a few friends as clients. My first few sessions were free or extremely inexpensive. When I realized that I was pretty darn good at it, and how much work it was to edit and deliver each session, I set an introductory price. I officially received my BA from Cal Baptist in December, 2013 but that following year was filled with a lot of photography education. I did training and workshops & learned so much about lighting, editing, posing, and the list goes on & on. There’s always more to learn so I continue to take workshops when they’re available.

Cristy’s Candids became an official business in 2014, but it has definitely evolved since then. This past year I have revamped my business model and now offer more of an experience than just a photography session. I also introduced prints and products last year because I believe in displaying your memories for years to come instead of just hiding them in a drawer or on social media. My work is very important to me, but my clients are the reason why I do what I do. I love capturing the first moments in a child’s life knowing that these will be preserved forever. I love when my clients come back to me every year and I get to watch their children grow. I feel so privileged to be a part of a couple’s special day when I capture those two words “I do”. Some days I still can’t believe that I am so blessed to be living my dream that was created over 25 years ago! This business is still in the early stages, but I love where it’s heading. I’m so thankful for this journey and excited for the road ahead of me where there is more growing, more smiles, and definitely more memories to be captured!

 

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The Calm within a Storm

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 is surely a date that the majority of us will not soon forget. The terror and sadness of that day & the events that unfolded in San Bernardino still touch my heart in so many ways. It seems that everyone knows someone affected by that tragic shooting. I just happen to know or have met quite a few more than average I guess. A close friend of mine was the next-door neighbor of the shooters, my friend and I used to work with clients from the IRC (where the shooting occurred), several friends live in the neighborhood where the 3rd suspect (who turned out not to be involved) was being apprehended, and just recently, at a party where we had a photo booth, the lady making our tacos told us that she lives on the corner right next to the shooting. So many lives were and still are touched by this tragic event.

But this story, this is not a story of tragedy. This is a story of hope, new life, and a calm sense of peace amidst the chaos of that day. This is the story of Isabella!

Isabella1-1

Isabella’s mom found us through a mutual friend who recommended her for a newborn model call. Her due date was December 10th, but she had a feeling that Isabella would arrive early. In late November, she was in the hospital a couple of times with contractions-but Isabella was not ready yet! Mom let me know a couple of days after she was born and we scheduled her session. It wasn’t until the day of the session that I realized that Isabella was born on December 2nd in Loma Linda Hospital.

Mom had just dropped off her son at school that morning, the whole time feeling contractions, and as she was sitting in her son’s school parking lot, she was praying that she wouldn’t have her baby there. She also had found a nail in her tire that morning, so she stopped at Costco to try and get it fixed. However, they were closed due to the shooting. A helpful guy told her that she should be fine, so she drove herself to the hospital. What an amazingly strong woman she is! I don’t know that I could’ve driven myself anywhere while in labor and in the middle of a very scary situation.

While she was in the hospital, she recalls that she was not even thinking about the shooting. The only concern on her mind, was safely delivering her daughter. While everyone else was glued to their TVs, or locked down at work or in their homes, some fearing for their lives, this momma was not doing any of those things. Even when the hospital went on lock-down, her only thought was for her baby girl. It was a long day, but for this mom, there was peace at the end of the day.

Isabella-6

Isabella was born on December 2nd at 7:51 PM at Loma Linda. She weighed 7 lbs, 8 oz and was 21 inches long. She brought hope to a sweet little family & peace to her mom’s heart. She was born on a day full of tragedy and chaos, but her birth brought a sense of calm and a whole lot of joy. As her mom spoke of the day, she barely mentioned anything about the sadness or the tragedy, she focused more on the hope & the amazing miracle of new life. What a great perspective to have. Yes, it was a tragic day, but there can be joy found in the midst of pain. There is always light after the darkness.

Norma-1

Thank you Isabella, for bringing some comfort and peace on a day that now will not only be remembered for the tragedy, but for this family at least, it will also be remembered as a very special day indeed. These photos show the love and joy that Isabella brings her family. I smile each time I look at them, as I know that God has big plans for this precious little girl!

My prayers continue to go out to the families of those who lost loved ones on December 2nd. May you find peace in your pain. And may you once again feel joy.