Father and daughter moments in the fields of Myakka State park is where I brought Chris Felder and his daughters Annika and Gabby. A perfect spot for wild flower picking and blanket conversations in the glow of sunset to break away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. It's not often I get the privilege to photograph just dads with their children so this was a wonderful break from the typical mommy and me sessions. For Chris who's never had photos taken of him with his daughters, this hour with his girls was something he (and I) really looked forward to.
Since our maternity and newborn session, Sneha and Ajay have been enjoying their time with their two sons, Milan and Shail. We chose the celery fields for their family session which has some beautiful views from along side the hill overlooking the wetlands filled with various birds who bring many bird watchers to our area. Across the other side of the celery fields hill is Big Cat Habitat which inhabits around 50 cats including lions, tigers, and ligers. In the dawn and dusk hours you can hear them all roar across the fields. For families enjoying a hike up the hill together, a couple watching the sunset in a hammock, or one of the many runners who take to the hill for their workout routine, this place is a really great location.
For many of my clients, this also ends up being a great location for portraits. Milan enjoyed the hike up to the top while Shail enjoyed the ride in the stroller. Once we got to the top, Mom and Dad gathered their little ones for some warm embraces and playtime as we watched the sun go down.
Long time clients, Amy and Nick Stine have been in my life since they got back in their wedding attire for some fun post-wedding portraits. Since then, I've seen their marriage develop into this beautiful growing family of four all while having the privilege of documenting their daughter, Zoey along the way. The idea of looking for a bigger home to grow a family became a reality when their home was listed and sold in just a few days. New beginnings and a new surprise was soon to come.
The moving trucks have gone, the boxes unveiled, the photos have been rehung and now the new house is home. A tiny toddler and a tea set assist to make the memories for an only child until the next big surprise awaits, a baby brother on the way. Baby Carter brings a new joy to everyone including big sister, Zoey. Of course with newborns who sleep half the day, Zoey gets to have all that Mom and Dad snuggle and play time but in between naps, she's ready to give all her attention to her brother...and what a beautiful baby brother she has. Congratulations to the Stine and Zych family on their new addition.
All the holiday cheer, festive lights, hot chocolate and a warm pair of arms to snuggle into make this holiday Christmas session so inviting. The Klingels are ready for Santa's safe travels to St. Petersburg, Fl where daughters Reese and Kendall patiently count down the days till Christmas. To fill up time in between, they strung lights on the tree, made hot cocoa, decorated gingerbread houses, played a game of monopoly and enjoyed some air time from the couches to the master bed.
There hasn't been a moment without sisterly giggles, inside secrets and a house full of love with these two sisters together. Often the giggles would start with the two of them and end up with us all belly laughing with contagious laughter in every room. It wouldn't surprise me if they had their own secret language as well as adorable and bonded they are. The fresh smell of pine and sounds of Christmas music filled the air as gumdrops and peppermint candy fill their bellies and I remained entertained the entire time.
Merry Christmas to you, Klingels. I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and a happy new year.
Sarah and Blake Lapinsky live just a few steps away from me. When we moved, I was eager to meet my neighbors to the newly constructed homes around me and had sent out flyers in hopes to start building relationships but it wasn't until I noticed the young family carting a baby carrier into their home that I wanted to stop and welcome them. My son was just nearing 2 yrs of age at that time and would soon have another friend next door to grow up with as we live this American-dream life.
Fast forward 3 years later, this family has become such a wonderful part of my life with birthday parties, Christmas morning breakfast, family dinners and many hours of story-telling. Even our dogs have become friends. Close friends and family members have heard of their recent year's journey to conceiving and birthing a healthy baby. Their newborn, Chloe has been long awaited after heartache after heartache of previous losses. When I entered their home to take these photos, I could sense their happiness and relief while remembering the ones that aren't with us.
For some, conceiving is such an effortless and sometimes unwelcoming act while for others its a journey that often makes you want to give up hope. I'm proud to officially announce that after years of trying to get to this moment, Sarah, Blake and their son Cash welcomed home a beautiful baby girl, Chloe Blake Lapinsky, on Thursday October 27, 2016. Here is their family of four with 4 day old infant in arms fresh home from the hospital.
Expecting mother, Sneha and expecting father, Ajay are beyond ready to meet their new addition and sibling to their beautiful son, Milan. Seriously, I have never met a boy with such beautiful eyes in my life and cannot wait to meet his baby brother. This gorgeous family of Indian heritage chose Selby Gardens for their family/maternity portrait session with Sneha's growing baby bump covered in her jewel-toned sari. It was a hot sunny day as we walked through the greenhouse and into the tropical gardens and rested on the roots on the Banyan trees. We eventually made our way to the beach after a change of wardrobe to let Milan play in the sand and enjoy the ocean breeze while sharing a hand and hugs with mom and dad. A water baby at heart, Milan loved getting his feet wet and mouth sandy.
Sneha and I met through mutual friend and client who spoke so highly of Sneha telling me all the many talents she carries. She may not know that I know these things but I found her so intriguing before I even met her. The woman who belly-dances, is an amazing cook, mother, wife oh..and she's a doctor of internal medicine. Ready for baby number two in November, this woman has the poise, patience and heart of a queen.
This in-home lifestyle session with Lauren and Greg Wooten and their two children, Liam and Cece was nestled in the city of Largo on their generous 2 acre lot. As beautiful and sunny as Florida can be, It also brings with it a lot of heat but indoor play time only last so long with such a great outdoor space. When I arrived, little miss Cece was just waking from her morning nap. Her brother, Liam was ecstatic as always to play and climbed in her crib in hopes to rub some energy off on her. A fresh nappy and a few minutes to stretch always helps start the playtime with a few smiles. Their black lab, Winston or "Winny" was ready to go play as well.
This photo session was in honor of Cece's first birthday approaching and what better way to do that than to document all the things they love to do together.
Once we made our way outside, it was straight to the swings! Liam was filled with joy as Dad sent him in the air. Cece was close by getting a birds eye view from the playhouse balcony with Mom. A quick 10 minutes of running around and suddenly out comes Liam with the hose. Winny was enjoying the challenge of chomping at the hose water after playtime on the playground needed some cooling down. Check out Winny's face! I'm laughing so hard! He is my spirit animal...take me somewhere chilly.
It may be the first week of fall but it's still Florida so the pool hours are always extended well into September and what better day than this very hot and humid day.
Lunchtime! As Mom scrambles to prepare lunch and Dad cleans up the slew of towels left behind, Cece noticed someone got left outside. That little peach bottom ran straight for the window where Winston was barking.
Here in the heart of Clearwater, Fl lies a historic home welcoming this young family of 5 and their puppy, Luther. Just before the couches, beds, and dressers made their way into the home, the dust of filing cabinets, office desks, and ringing phones of a business office were beginning to settle. Linawa and Josh Shaffer and their three girls love the character of this old home and began making it their own just a short three months ago. With portraits just starting to find their place on the walls, everyone is getting use to the new layout and finding the space where they can enjoy time together.
The smell of fresh coffee as the door slowly opened, the familiar eyes of a small child greeting me I had only seen through photographs, a Mother giving her daughters loving, pampering attention, sounds of an old wood floor beneath my feet and Dad making breakfast in the kitchen, this was the heart of their new home.
It is with a heavy heart that with a new location and unfamiliar boundaries comes a very sad ending. At just 6 months of age, Luther, the family dog had his life taken yesterday just as the family witnessed the accident in trying to retrieve him just steps away from their home. My thoughts are with with family as they grieve such a tremendous loss and hope they find comfort with the memories they're left with.
"We met through social media" is so much the norm of the current situations of most connections these days for me but this didn't feel like much of an introduction, this felt like a case of me hanging out with friends I've known for a while now while placing the pieces of how we each found one through the social media trenches. When I had my last and final baby, I wanted to discover all the things that I hadn't experienced before like making organic baby food, cloth diapering, baby wearing, and surpassing my past goals with breastfeeding. This was my introduction to Christian Axness who owned a local baby boutique I found on Instagram. She in return had found me because at that time I was representing a major brand Freshly Picked, baby moccasin creator and she was looking to be a wholesale distributor for Freshly Picked. Her Facebook and Instagram is filled with all sorts of hilarious videos and the success she's made for herself through Young Living.
She is now a health and wellness educator, breastfeeding consultant, and runs a full-time business with Young Living. Nate and Christian have been together for 15 years and married for 10 and are currently selling their home to travel the country with a camper, their two toddlers and their bunny. This is the home they've made for the past 5 years. It holds many memories, strengthens playtime, stores conversations, and shelters their beds so capturing pieces of them enjoying their home before their big adventure just made it that much more special.
This lifestyle session is just a small glance that shows just how important family is to them and also the many personalities that made this family session so enjoyable for me. They're playroom is the place they say they spend the most amount of time in their home. Nate and Christian love their comfy couch for cuddling with a cup of coffee or watching movies on the iPad while the children play.
With anything, success starts out with talents and who you know. A high school math teacher here in Sarasota at the Sarasota Military Academy allowed for her students to have time to themselves rehearsing for the school talent show. This past year, three students took over the classroom and hallways with their musical talents and blew them away. Their delicate tones filled the hallway along with the strings of an acoustic guitar and you could see the bashful cheeks turn as students walked past.
A little something about this trio, Jainey and Halle were originally introduced through middle school and church. They both sang together in their church choir but Halle sang harmony and wasn't quite up front and center. She struggled with confidence even with her angel voice. Jainey and Dani had to really convince her to join them for the talent show.
Dani with previous experience in orchestra, played the violin, has an ear for music and can play guitar so seamlessly, it's like she was born with a guitar attached to your body. Halle and Dani were introduced just this past year for talent show rehearsals and are now like sisters.
Then came their big debut...the high school talent show.
It's no secret to anyone who attended this show. Dani, Jainey, and Halle won thier talent show and have decided to put themselves on stage more often. I personally got to see them performing at Starlite Bar in downtown Sarasota to a filled room with a crowd supporting and cheering them on. When I met up with these three young ladies to do their photo shoot for their band, we traveled to the celery fields and at the top of the hill, they sat down on a quilt and began singing for me.....and about fifty high-school aged runners doing laps around the gravel track.
Seamstress and shop owner, Jackie Ayres created clothing line, Dyetology which mixes modern fashion with her love for tie dye. So to start off with creating a look for any business, I must first seek out what their overall brand represents and who their ideal clients are that they are reaching out to. We discussed our visions and out came the project. Next, to find the right model for the project. We wanted this person to be someone with natural beauty that could easily give off that bohemian vibe with the natural beach look.
We chose Siesta Beach because it's where people come to vacation, let their hair down and go with the flow. The white quartz sand brings so many tourists here, like Jackie that it has been not only labeled as the number one beach in America but recently voted the best place to retire and best city to raise a family. Chelsea and I met in St. Augustine at a photographer roundup where I was humble enough to meet some really amazing photographers from all over the US., including Ms. Chelsea Renay Busch herself. She gives off a very California-girl, endless-summer vibe with her long hair, tan skin and dream-weaver eyes. It was a great match up. I also wanted to include some additional images with another friend of mine, Erin. Through her journeys, Erin practices Buddhism and yoga daily. She's a certifies yoga instructor, loves playing on the silks and I felt she'd be great to model the leggings for this project.
Took a little field trip to Sarasota Jungle Gardens with the older kids today while my youngest was in preschool. This was the first time my daughter had been and second time I'd brought my son, Julian this summer. We weren't sure if the thunderstorms were going to pass us or pour on us but either way, we were just glad to be out of the house.
We arrived within a few minutes of the reptile show start time shortly followed with the bird show. Kara has been the reptile show host both times and we've really enjoyed the hospitality she's shown us. We scored a seat right in the front row and when Kara asked for a volunteer, Allison was eager with a hand in the air. Not knowing what to expect, Kara surprised her with a ball python necklace. Good thing she's a good sport!
After the reptile show we paid the extra fee to have additional close encounters with the animals of the show. The baby American alligator, Sergeant, was donated to Jungle Gardens by the sheriffs department after raiding a drug house and found the alligator malnourished and under-sized. The ball python drapes around the kids shoulders as they hold Sergeant. Then there's the uromastyx or spiny-tail lizard who won my heart.
We enjoyed the lush tropical landscape as we came up on the flamingo pond. We made sure to bring quarters so we can hand-feed them as well. This is my favorite part of visiting jungle gardens. They're quite unaware of personal space so it you fear the presence of giant birds, you may want to view from a distance.
This beauty I'm about to tell you about is legit one of my most favorite people on the planet. We have had some conversations that I hold dear to my heart and have helped me get through some difficult times. Other times, we sit and chat about what's going on in our lives and our longing for adventures where we can share a bike ride with one of us on the handlebars or live on our own private island where we are the only humans that exist. I hope everyone in life has that someone....and doesn't even need to be a best friend, but that special someone who you can completely be yourself around, and they make you feel good about yourself. That's Megan.
I met Megan at a pole fitness studio, Apple Jelly a few years ago where we learned to be sexy and feel sexy and let me tell you, that's not an easy task. Many nights we left there bruised and broken but it empowered us to continue and created many friendships with other women who attended. We kept in touch through social media over the years and would occasionally meet up for brunch or dinner party. This is one of my favorite things to do with Megan. See, Megan knows food. As a former member of the Three Kitcheneers, she enjoys writing for and about local restaurants and where to find the best dishes in town. She's one of the few people I trust to order for me when there's an unfamiliar menu.
A short time ago, she and I made a date. Except this time it wasn't over Vietnamese veggie pancakes or light conversations or towing her on the handlebars of my bike. SHE WAS EXPECTING!! I proposed the offer of photography and she said "I'd love for you to take my photos, Keli. Let's go in nature". So now at 6 months pregnant and looking ravishing as ever, she allowed me to capture her transforming into motherhood in this series I call "nature and nurture".
Megan, I cannot wait to meet you and Anand's baby and see you both becoming the amazing parents i know you'll be. Children are so rewarding and make everything come to life in such a different perspective. I know pregnancy is not always fun and just the idea of putting clothes on is the worst (or even looking in the mirror some days) but remember and enjoy the great parts, the tiny kicks, the hiccups and all the other exciting things you get to do before the arrival. Congratulations!
Cadyn and Charlie owner and jewelry designer, Chrissy Hounchell started her business with family and friendship values. Her company named after her two children and names of her jewelry named after her closest friends, their children and the names of her customers children as well, she has branded herself to bringing people together through what she calls "arm parties" and donates a portion of the proceeds to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc to help find a cure for those like her husband who are suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa, and to The National Heart Association for her best friend who survived a stroke after birthing two sets of twins. I've been photographing her jewelry line for her website since she first launched. Then, when Chrissy contacted me about including a model shoot into her website and marketing, I knew just the two.
My seniors clients, Samantha K. and Sofia Q. met through a mutual friend in school. However, this mutual friend didn't introduce them in the traditional sense. Instead, she seemed to use the other one as a means to gossip about the other so when Sam and Sofia finally met each other thinking they both hated each other, they saw past the cattiness and found a friendship instead. These two are a bit of opposites but they attract in the most perfect ways, complimenting each other style and personality. You can feel the bond between the two of them the minute they're together. I asked them if they would like to be hired as models for jewelry company, Cadyn and Charlie and they both accepted.
When senior year came around, Sam and Sofia both began applying to colleges and shortly after found out they both were accepted to the same university! What started out as two girls with bitter feelings based on deception and lies of another have now become dorm buddies entering their first year of college. They've already determined their majors and are ready to fly the coop to live their first year without mom and dad. Bittersweet! I asked them what it is they see themselves doing besides attending the frat parties. Sam plans to major in foreign relations and Sofia will be majoring in marketing and communications.
Sofia and I met at a downtown restaurant with her mom and a mutual friend of ours for brunch. I noticed how polished she was right away. I could barely get out of bed when I was her age and there I sat across from this young girl who could easily have just come from a professional makeup artist's chair. She's a dedicated, hard worker with bold interests in fashion and cosmetology and a bit of a risk-taker.
Sam's mom found me through the photo shoot I did of Sofia for her senior photos and reached out to me to photograph, Sam. This tall, tan beauty is quite lovely from the outside, in. She carries so much poise and class with her everywhere she goes and is very absorbent of life with gentle outlook, bringing a smile to light up any room. I can see why these two make such great friends - a bit of bold and wild with the calm and mild.
A duck walks into a bar, duck asks "hey bartender, got any grapes?". The bartender says, " No, duck. No grapes, now get outta here." Duck comes back later, asks again "got any grapes?". Bartender, says, "No, duck! No grapes! Now get outta here and quit bothering me." Duck leaves. A few hours later, the duck returns again with the same question, "got any grapes?" and the bartender says " Look, duck, if you don't leave, I'm going to nail your bill to the wall!". Duck says, "Got any nails?" Bartender says "NO!". Ducks asks "Got any grapes?"
Our journey to Napa began with an hour drive from Berkeley to the Chandon winery, passing vineyard after vineyard along the highway. After about an hour of driving with the top down and sun blazing on us, we were ready to cool off with some bubbly. Jackson and I sat at the tasting bar and were greeted by the bartender with extensive knowledge about the vineyard and wine. He kept the samples coming and logged each glass so we would be able to keep track of our favorites. The entire experience was excellent and although there were a few samples that didn't meet my liking, it really didn't matter. I had zero complaints about having a date with my love in the middle of a champagne winery, sipping champagne in gorgeous weather.
We finished our tasting and ordered a bottle of our favorite selection along with a cheese plate and moved to a table outside. Under the trees, on top of the hillside were vacant chairs so we finished our plate of cheese and were shortly joined by another couple visiting from Chicago. As usual, there was small talk about business and the weather and how lovely it felt in the middle of summer without any humidity. I think it may have been Jackson stating how it was likely 100 degrees but felt like 80. I doubted that and checked the weather on my phone as it didn't feel anything like 100 degrees but sure enough, he was correct.
We were playing everything by ear and going where our travels took us and the last thing we needed was a place to rest our heads. We were sad to hear that Chandon doesn't offer lodging on property as well but we learned that there were some vineyards not too far away with vacancy. We checked into Vino Bello Resort and had their vineyard right outside our balcony paired with complimentary bottle of Merlot in our room. As soon as we got into the room, Jackson passed out on the bed so I went for a little tour in the vineyard solo. Now I didn't see any signs forbidding me from sampling the berries but i can't confirm or deny that i may have had about a handful. What can I say? I was just feeling ducky! A plume of smoke was dragging across the sun from a nearby fire that was later put out. Caught that story on the local news.
I don't remember which variety of grape this was but it was delicious! Underneath this vineyard is the resorts' spa and wine tasting cellar. It's dark but so enchanting! I booked a morning massage which was very relaxing and perfect before heading back to Berkeley to see Reese and family.
When Jackson panned our trip for July 2015, we had a long list of things we wanted to do, places we wanted to see but it was all loosely planned. The one thing we had scheduled was Alcatraz as it's something that must be planned and tickets purchased in advance. We made arrangements to leave Reese to stay at the house with Jackson's mom so this was our first date while on vacation.
I know I said before that even in July you need a sweater, umm, go ahead and add ear muffs and gloves...and perhaps a snow suit. IT'S COLD and the wind is worse on the boat and walking around the outskirts of the island.
Once we got on the island, in his best Sean Connery accent, "Welcome to the rock." said our tour guide as they took us all by force and led us into the escape hatches and tunnels underground till we emerged in a jail cell.....Okay, so none of that happened, but I sure wish it did because the actual tour guide was quite annoying and made us all stay in one spot to listen to her new single, The Rules of Alcatraz singing to the tune of Adele's Rolling In the Deep. This is where the ear muffs come in real handy.
The audio tour. You get a set of headphones and a prerecorded tour taking you from room to room with narrations from the guards and prisoners who stayed at Alcatraz before it closed. The in-depth descriptions of what took place like the infamous escape from Alcatraz that inspired the movie, Escape From Alcatraz, makes you feel like you were there. Spoons, man. Spoons!
You can hear the cell doors closing, walk into solitary confinement, sit where family and friends sat to speak with prisoners, and walk through the open spaces that were once active. They also take you through a room of portraits of Wardens of the past and speak individually of each one. The guards talk about what its like working there. Many of them would leave to go party on the main land once their shift was over but were stationed with bedrooms in their own building on the island. The Wardens quarters have now crumbed and only a few partial walls remain.
The gift shop at the end of the tour is definitely worth checking out as well. We got some goodies for the kids and I got a book. Turns out the day we were there, Inmate William G. Baker was doing a book signing of his book, Alcatraz #1259
If you have the chance to check out Alcatraz, I highly recommend it. Just make sure you plan in advance. Comment below if you have any stories of Alcatraz that you'd like to share. If you enjoyed this blog post, click on the social icons below to share with friends.
The family adventure continues.
We took to the fisherman's wharf on our second day. Things you don't realize about San Francisco is that you will need a jacket even in July and especially by the water. Refreshing differences but coming from Florida heat of what feels like an oven, we stopped in a novelty shop and bought a few sweaters to keep our thin blood from freezing over. We enjoyed some Italian food, and continued exploring till Reese found a "pirate ship".
Know what's not fun? Taking a three year old through a forest of redwoods and he wants to be carried the whole way up. That's right!... UP! This national park allows you to hike up into the trees tops hundreds of feet to get the full effect of just how large these trees are. Packed full of people coming and going and a crazy parking lot congested, backed up and hard to maneuver, we got lucky on a parking spot right at the entrance- Thanks random guy giving us your spot. Another check off the bucket list!
If you have a place you love to visit in San Francisco area, restaurant you enjoy, or an experience you'd like to share with me, leave me a comment below and I'll try to add it to my future visits!
Every year we plan a new destination for family adventures. Last year we took our youngest to San Francisco and with no real set itinerary, we played it by ear and let the adventure begin. As you can imagine, the excitement was pretty profound in all of us experiencing it all together for the first time. Our cousins living in Berkeley graciously allowed us to stay with them in their beautiful home that we heard overlooks San Francisco. Once we landed, Jackson was quick to get the best rental car they had. 2016 blue mustang convertible? Yes, please! This would later be forever known as the "blueberry car"
The drive meant going through tunnels and over new bridges until we reached Berkeley and had some catching up to do with family. Cousins, Erin and Tony greeted us at the door and made the best hosts. The modern elegance of this home had two levels of floor to ceiling windows, heated concrete flooring, fine art covering each wall...but that view. Oh, that view.
This WAS last year, so some of my memory on date and times may have faded a bit but I can 100 percent recall my first experience seeing a hummingbird for the first time and it was perfect timing. Outside, here on the balcony, soaking in the scenery...and boom. I'm in a mecca of hummingbird territory. I may have got a teensy bit hysterical and dramatic about it, but my inner National Geographic expedition took over, grabbed my camera, posted up in a chair and patiently waited...and waited...and waited. Then finally, like a bullet, this little guy appeared and swooped in a photo debut showing me all his good sides.
We slowly settled into our new surroundings and made it a night in for dinner with our family. Erin ordered us takeout from their favorite vegetarian Burmese restaurant...I can still taste the coconut rice and hear Reese asking for more. We watched over the city through the telescope and finished the night with a glass of wine and long conversations on the couch. First day was a huge success.