Goodbye 2014

Five out of six of my goals for 2015 are photography related. Maybe next year I'll make a goal to be more well-rounded. In the spirit of accountability, and because this is a photography blog, I'm going to write them out here. 

We'll get the non-photography goal out of the way first. Goal #1 is also the most cliche. Yep, I'm talking about exercise. I noticed last year I am a better person when I wake up inhumanly early and do crossfit. I really think the early part is at least 50% of the benefit. It forces me to start my day on time and in a positive way. Left to my own devices I just might wait until the last second to wake up and use yelling and bribery as the primary means of getting my kids off to school in less than 15 minutes.  I did pretty well at the whole exercise thing last year. But this year I want to go even more frequently and not rely quite so heavily on my friend picking me up. Yes, I have a friend who drives out of her way (before 6 am!!) to pick me up, just because I am a whiny baby who likes to sleep in unless I know I'm inconveniencing someone.

Goal #2 is to do more personal photography. I love photographing other people, but my kids are growing up and I want to stretch my skills with them as the subjects. Specifically, this goal will be a project 52, with a different creative goal each week. Perhaps I should post the results here for more accountability and motivation.

#3 is all about birth photography. You may have heard me raving about it here and here. Get used to it. I would love to make the majority of my business birth photography. I'll need to revamp my website and advertise, which is more than a little daunting. But guys, I've found something I truly love and am good at and I want it in a major way. You can help by accosting any pregnant person you come across and telling them how awesome it is. When they complain about how unattractive they are during labor and tell you how they don't want that (or their vagina) documented, reassure them that the beautiful moments I'll capture will transcend their sweaty non-makeupped selves. And that I stay at the head of the bed because I don't want a picture of their vagina, either ;)

Goal #4 is more boring. I want to further my photography education with reading and online classes. Send me your recommendations!

#5 is also boring, but more painful. It's all about organizing and editing the photos I've already taken. I'm going to try to go through and edit the previous month's photos along with another month from long ago. Hopefully the hell of this will be offset by the discovery of some great forgotten photos!

Lastly, #6 is to made a video of my kids. It's sad that I'm allowing myself to be intimidated and ignoring my camera's awesome capability. I've "learned how" about 3 times. But, unless I do something right afterwards it disappears. Which is why it was a mistake for me to major in humanities. I learned so many interesting things that aren't really doable. Four years of info. Gone. So, learn video again, then DO!!!!

And to send 2014 off in style, here are some of my favorites (that haven't already been posted). Many thanks to all my clients and friends (they're pretty much the same thing)!!

Here's to all the amazing FAMILIES,

BABIES,

COUPLES,

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SIBLINGS,

PARENTS,

and PEOPLE in my world. 

I'm in love.

I am absolutely, 100 percent, head over heels, in love with birth photography.

For this, I get to be in the hospital room taking candids for last part of labor, the birth, and the first couple hours of the baby's life.

I enjoy photography in general, but after this session, Eric took one look at me as I stood in the doorway with a giant smile stretching across my face and said dryly, "So, I guess it went well?" 

There was no photographer at any of my children's births, so I can't speak on it from that end. I'm sure there's some worry about when to call me to the hospital.  Or if I'll make it in time. I hope that's the only hard part. I work to stay out of the way and not interfere. My goal is to capture these amazing moments so my clients can live them fully without worrying about recording it or about me.

As for the Ewwwww! factor people always comment on, it's just not there at all. I'm at the head of the bed during the birth, which I like for more than one reason. Hospital staff appreciate (and usually demand) it, and I'm getting a perspective close to the mother's. 

Labor and delivery can turn into a blur. We forget so much. Yet, it's something so important we think about it throughout our lives. It's right up there with marriage as an important life event, yet one we over-photograph (I know I might be alone on this opinion) and the other we under-photograph. Or rather, we have a lack of quality photographs. We all bring our cameras to the lighting nightmare that is most hospital rooms. Most of us have plenty of blurry photos with yellow adults and purple/red babies. We keep them because, even poorly executed, they are still special. With a professional photographer you get a photo that captures not just a memory, but something beautiful in all senses. 

I recently spoke to a friend who has had some really horrible birthing experiences. During her first she labored for more than a day and then, when her life was threatened, had a c-section. Birth photography is not for her, she says. She doesn't want to remember! I have no similar experience to speak from, but I'm not convinced she wouldn't marvel at some images from that time. Even with a c-section you can have beautiful photos of before and immediately after. Babies change within hours of birth! Certainly I would never want to stay if someone decided they didn't want me there. And the truth is, you might not know how you'll feel until you're in the experience. That's okay. When babies are involved, flexibility is important. That I do know first hand.

But after 5 paragraphs I still haven't told you what I love most about birth photography. I love that I'm capturing REAL moments. There is little to no posing. It's simply life. Those expressions on their faces? They would have been there, whether I was or not. This mother gets to see the love and support given when she was in labor. These parents get to see the first seconds they touched and held their son for the first time. They have photos of their daughter's first glimpse of her brother and those tender moments with him.

Seeing these can bring back all the miraculousness of that day. The pain, the joy, the love. The puffy scrunched up hilariousness that is a newborn's face. It's beautiful. Maybe more beautiful than the carefully arranged seated pose and skirt and smile that never was our lives to begin with.


This is life in it's purest state, and so it's photography's as well. No props, no trendy outfits, special lighting, or beautiful setting. You get the makeup that sticks on you through labor. Your hair might be mussed. You'll still have extra weight from the pregnancy. The baby might have birth goo all over. I don't care and I don't think you will either. 


Floating Through Life

My friend had a little birthday party. In a balloon. 

This is a friend who has led me on many great adventures. And one bad one. But, even that one misadventure had enough good views, great company, and hilariously horrible memories that I just can't regret it.

And now I have some memories hanging under a balloon.

Here's a few surprising tidbits. Did you know they can control the altitude, but not the direction of the balloon? Comforting. 

Despite this directional achilles heel, our pilot was able to touch the bottom of our basket to a marshy stream. Just for fun. He also pointed out every squirrel, rabbit, and turtle he saw. Because why else do you go hot air ballooning if not to get aerial views of the super rare and hard to come by squirrel?

I was also pretty surprised to be standing in a basket. How is there no man made material better than straw? It was kind of refreshing.

The best surprise was no motion sickness. It was the smoothest ride I've ever been on. As in, so smooth I couldn't tell I was moving. Totally surreal.

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I'm bigger now.

My 3 year old has developed a new tactic whenever I tell him he's too little to do something (like roam around the neighborhood with the older boys). He finds something to climb up on and tells me he's bigger. The first time he dragged me over to the kitchen counter and politely asked me to pick him up and put him on top. Then he stood up and stretched as high as he could so he could almost touch the ceiling and proudly stated, "See, I'm big now. I can go with them!"

This amazing girl is getting bigger, too, and is off to college next Fall. No countertop needed.

Now a Mr. and Mrs.

When you are willing to make complete fools out of yourselves in front of the camera like this: 

Why yes, Josh is popping up out of a garbage can in that photo. Why do you ask? Why no, I have never had this much fun on a photo shoot before.

Why yes, Josh is popping up out of a garbage can in that photo. Why do you ask?
Why no, I have never had this much fun on a photo shoot before.

You are also going to capture completely pure, candid (I didn't even have my camera ready!) amazing moments like this:

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Haley and Josh, I hope when life gets hard (because it will) and when your relationship is at a low (because it happens) you can look at these photos and see all the good there. The crazy fun. The love. The excitement for life. You won't be able to go back to the way things were that day. But, you can make each other laugh or find a way to show some love. And if you've lost your excitement for life, you can find it again. You never know, it might be hiding in a garbage can ;)

Spring! Poppies! Babies!

Karen feeds me. I take her photos. It works out well. Yesterday she asked me about making donuts using canned biscuit dough. The first cooking advice she's ever asked of me and it has to do with canned dough. Figures.

She wanted to do some 30 minute maple bars and I must admit, I doubted her. Everyone knows canned biscuits are used for ease, not taste. We just pawn them off on kids who don't know the difference. Or, if your kids are like mine, they actually prefer store bought to homemade. The ultimate insult.

I was wrong. Eat these donuts

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It's worth it.

See this handsome dude? His sweet family said goodbye to him this morning as he left on a two year mission for his church. That makes these photos even more meaningful. 

Getting family photos is hard. Picking clothes, bulldozing the naysayers (this is when mother's guilt comes in handy...finally that long labor pays off!), finding a good time, deciding on a photographer (or figuring out the timer button, or begging a friend to click the shutter when you can't figure out the timer button), accepting that you are not at your ideal weight, wondering if the weather will be good....none of this is easy. It's almost as hard as making your way through one of my ridiculously convoluted sentences. Don't let any of that stop you. It's worth it.

There is one thing you just can't fight against, however. Me.
I single handedly stopped a family photo when I was 16.

I was at work when my dad called to say he was picking me up early so we could rush home and get ready for family photos. This was my most hated summer job ever. I cleaned hotel bathrooms all day long (20-23) and then sat around and waited for a few hours for my dad to finish work so he could drive me home. I tell you this because you need to know my general state of mind. It shocked me how such a physical job could be so mentally draining. So when my dad told me I was going to rush home and have less than a half hour to wash bathroom scum off and be beautiful and smiley for photos I told him I couldn't. I just couldn't do it and my mom needed to reschedule.

He didn't listen. Not many people do listen to teenage toilet cleaners.

We got home. I was sullen and moody and completely incapable of functioning. Then the tears came. There I was, wrapped in towels, laying on my parents bed, sobbing. My mom was looking at me completely baffled. No one had any clue what was going on with me, including myself.  I'm thinking...actually I was probably shout-crying, "What? What are you looking at?! I TOLD you I couldn't do family photos today!" Then my oldest brother peeks in the room, takes one look at me and says, "PMS?" Mom says, "No! Really?" Todd: "Um, yeah."

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Ha! Leave it to my brother to me more in touch with my hormones than I am. In my defense, PMS was a very new thing for me and not something I could predict. Not in my defense, that family photo was killed. I don't even think it was rescheduled. All my beautified siblings took snapshots in the back yard while I bemoaned my fate as a semi-regularly irrational woman. 

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But, can I just hear one person say that 25 minutes from toilet cleaner to photo ready is asking a little much?

A Silver Lining

Continuing the tradition of only talking about super important topics, like why it's okay not to love Disneyland, I have some tragic and life changing news to share with you all:

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I will never be a good candidate for Lasik.

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I know. Cry for me.
I almost did in the doctor's office. 

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I've been dreaming about not having glasses since......I got glasses. To put on ski goggles or sunglasses. Any old pair. To lay my head down and watch a movie or read a book. To dress up super nice or put on fancy eye makeup, without immediately negating the effect with glasses. No rain drops. No foggy lenses. No glare in photos.

My life is so hard.

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Apparently, my prescription is too small. And my inability to wear contacts or leave my glasses off for an extended period without getting a headache is a sure indication I would hate Lasik. In my world, it's hard not to take this personally.

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You see, I live with a man who willed his eyes back to health. At one point in medical school Eric was studying so much he started getting headaches and blurred vision. He went to the doctor and, sure enough, came away with a pair of reading glasses. This is exactly how I forayed into the world of glasses. Except I sacrificed my eyes for a useless degree in the humanities as opposed to learning how to save lives. 

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After a week or so I noticed Eric wasn't wearing his glasses and when questioned he said he "didn't want to train his eyes to need glasses." I scoffed. And then I choked on that scoff when he went back to the doctor later and magically had perfect vision. 

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Maybe now you understand why it's easy to take this Lasik thing personally and see myself as weak. Eric would freaking force himself to like Lasik. Except he already rid himself of the need for it in the first place.

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I may have moped around a bit, mourning my weak willed ways and the death of my glasses free dreams. This morning I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror. I grimaced at the increasing puffs and bags under my eyes. And then I put on my glasses.

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Sometimes, glasses are awesome.

Life

It's easy to grimace at the idea of a birth photographer. But, the truth is, these are some of life's most powerful, precious, and fleeting moments. It's a blessing to capture them.

I am in awe.
Strength.
Love.
Family.
LIFE.

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I don't love Disneyland...and I'm still a good person.

Look, in each blog post I could talk about how beautiful and awesome my clients are. I could tell you how sessions that are all about the kids are crazy fun (and also really good exercise). Or I could go on completely unrelated rants. I think you know which way I'm going to go.

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"Seriously, if you hate Disney you're just weird and I can't be your friend." That was in my Instagram feed a few days ago. The fireworks made them cry. Their children brim with joy. And you don't need to have kids or be a kid to love it! Adults go on Disney cruises and coo about how Mickey changes his outfits to match whatever country is closest. Tourists in Europe exclaim with delight at something looking just like Disneyland (I've actually overheard this). If you like Disney, you are not alone. Picking on people that don't like it is like the popular kid teasing the weird, smelly kid (isn't there always one?). 

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Disney is a crazy cultural phenomenon. It magically (cause you all know it's magical) transcends the usual divisions of age, race, and tax brackets. So, let me tell you what life is like as the smelly kid. All you Disney lovers make me doubt myself! Is something wrong with me? Do I not have a heart? And if my kids don't love it, are they broken? Why can't we believe?!

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We took our kids to Disneyland a few years ago. Some super nice people went way out of their way to get us in for free. Free! And at the end of the day, Eric and I felt neutral about it. Imagine what I would have felt had I paid hundreds of dollars! I would describe our kids that day as solemn. And maybe confused. Why are we waiting in a giant line again? Why are you expecting me to smile? Perhaps they were just overwhelmed and inside they were full of amazement and joy. But, parents don't pay hundreds of dollars for their kids to be happy on the inside. We want effusive displays of love, darn it! Their most expressive point of the day was at the end when they threw a fit because we wouldn't pay a zillion dollars for a glowing Mickey balloon.

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The next time we were in the L.A. area they chose The Museum of Natural History over Disneyland. I kid you not.

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But then we had a third kid. Who looooooooves Cars. And is always expressive and excitable. So yeah, in a fit of ridiculous parenting, we planned a trip just for him. Our older kids just said, "Seriously?" (in an extremely disgusted tone) when we told them we were going to Disneyland. But, I was determined. And this time I was going to do it right.

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Doing it right meant pumping all my Disney lover friends for their secrets. It meant staying in a hotel right across the street and going for 2 days in a row. We brought Star Wars costumes so our kids would definitely get chosen for Jedi training. We made sure our 3 year old took a nap each day. We made a beeline for the busiest rides as soon as the park opened. We knew exactly where to stand for the parades.

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And my 3 year old loved Cars land. I'm sure he did. I mean, he wasn't very expressive about it, but he had to, right? And sure, he hasn't mentioned Disneyland since we got back, but it was worth hundreds of dollars, right? Because if it wasn't, I have to admit I'm a cold hearted, unsaveable wretch who is raising defective children. I'll lose friends. I mean, who can trust someone who doesn't like Disneyland? There's a meme about this!

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Well, I'm taking a stand, people. I'm here to say I don't like Disneyland. My family prefers science museums and $20 a day camping. I'm not going to fight it. It's way cheaper. There are no lines. They learn stuff. 

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Love me, anyway?

We have a winner!!

Something I love about family photography is the way each session is truly unique. Look at these two families: Same location. Same time of year. Completely different feel.

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Weather always makes a difference, but especially so at this location, since there is essentially no shade. Even when conditions are almost identical, however, the photos are not.  

At first, this lack of control was something I found maddening.

Now I see it as a good thing.

I should note that the photo on the right was taken by their little boy. Maybe that's why I love it so much! (Letting him play photographer was the best way to lure him away from his parents). 

I should note that the photo on the right was taken by their little boy. Maybe that's why I love it so much! (Letting him play photographer was the best way to lure him away from his parents). 

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I'm only half of the equation. Your family's the other. So, yeah, your photos are going to be completely custom! And yeah, things might not go exactly as they did in my head. But it's when I let go of my rigid ideas, and help things become more organic and fun that everyone's happier. And the photos will show this!

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It's true on the other side of the camera as well. It's great to have ideas of what your after, but don't get your heart set on a certain shot. Don't get upset when your kids aren't behaving how you expected (or, maybe I should say, if they are). We can't control everything, but we can control how much fun we have.

So, let's have fun.

Perhaps there's a life lesson here??

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On that note, I'm excited for a session with Rachel Maney. You won the contest! A free session is yours to use or give away. I'll contact you to talk details. Thank you to everyone who participated and showed me support!!

I remember...

A time when I was outside, in the sun, enjoying life. No throw up (or worse), to clean up. I had shoes on and had showered recently. There were people over the age of 9 for me to talk to and laugh with.

Good times.

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Do you ever wonder if it's better to be the caretaker or the sick one? I've been the only one unscathed by this latest round of illness (we were fools to think 3 weeks of sickness meant we'd paid our dues), but you wouldn't know it by looking at me. Why shower when you just clean up yuck all day? I can't leave the house, so why get dressed? 

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Editing these images cheered me up. This hike in Sunol Regional Wilderness happened only a few weeks ago, which reminds me more happy times are around the corner. This is another reason photography rocks. I already listed reasons #1 and 2 here. Reason #3: It can transport you to a happier time and help you see a bigger picture. 

Life is good. Even when everyone around you is hurling

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Welcome to my World

Hey all! This blog is a casual little thing designed to give you a peek into my world and client sessions. To kick it off, I'm sharing some of my favorite things. You know, like Oprah.  Except I'm not giving you anything and I doubt any of you will be squealing and gasping in your seat as you scroll down. Please let me know if I'm wrong, because I'm all for that delicious ego boost.

My absolute favorite thing to do is backpacking! My body is tested, my mind cleared, and my spirit rejuvenated. I remember what is important and where I fit into life. I am small and big at the same time. Of course, it's not always pure zen on our trips. There is usually at least one point on each trip where I wonder why I like it so much. Maybe in a later post I can share some of my favorite, least favorite times. 

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Photography. Duh, right? But really, it's changed my life. Most importantly, I can remember things. I've always loved to travel and backpack, I just didn't remember the trips I took. It is absolutely laughable how horrible my memory is. I can reread books and watch movies again and again and always be surprised. Thank you camera for acting as an external hard drive for my brain.

Less practically, photography gives me a way to capture some of that je ne sais quoi we stumble on in life. Do you ever experience something that makes you feel so much you need to capture or express it? It needs to be in a song, dance, painting, poem, something! But, then you remember you don't do any of those things? I felt like an artist with no medium before I befriended my camera. 

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Traveling. If you plan a trip and casually mention it within 30 feet of me, beware. I will be joining you. Sorry in advance, but now you've been warned. My sister-in-law just taught me the term FOMO, fear of missing out. I have that in relation to travel. Big time. One week ago I told someone we were taking a break this year with travel. Nothing out of the country. Maybe some camping and backpacking. Maybe stay at home in the Summer (gasp!). We are burned out. We are tired. Move forward one week and we are considering a backpacking trip in Iceland and a bike trip from Vienna to Budapest. There's just too much awesomeness in the world, people. FOMO!!!

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Nature. This is a bit redundant, but important enough to have it's own paragraph. Nature is a huge part of why I like backpacking, traveling, and photography. Nature is a huge part of why I like life. It makes me happy and calm and brings me closer to the divine. Some of the most amazing moments in my life are due to Mother Nature. Maybe another future blog post...

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This photo. For many reasons. It reminds me that you don't need a fancy camera (thank you iphone and apps) to capture the good moments in life. It reminds me that there are so many good moments in life. It teaches me to let go more. All 3 boys were in nice Sunday clothes and shoes (the coonskin cap was added after church, I promise) and I was all torn up over whether I should let them wade. And once they got wet despite me trying to prevent it, how far I should let it go.  I'm so glad I got over myself enough to let this snippet of time happen. Oh, and while I'm telling you all the things this photo teaches me, how about the lesson I can never quite seem to fully grasp:  that if there is water, my boys WILL get wet. Period. 

What are some of your favorite things?