shelley elena photography

Jake & Meredith are married!



Though Meredith and Jake were recommended to me by another photographer (yay photog friends!), their wedding day didn't feel in any way as if we had just met 4 months ago.  From their first email to me, we connected over a passion to see marriage reflect God's love and beauty.  It was such a pleasure to get to know them (and discover all of our mutual friends!) and their wedding truly did show off their joy in the Lord and each other.  Their wedding was also the first that I had a chance to shoot at the gorgeous Heritage House, built and run by a long time family friend of ours in Dripping Springs!

I'm a total sucker for sentimental touches and symbolism, so with all the meaningful surprises Jake left for his bride, like this door hanger and lilies of the valley, I was in heaven photographing them all.


Katie of Little Yellow Flower Design delighted us with her sweet and simple, but whimsical florals - she even included green berries in the bridesmaid bouquets and boutonnieres!  I love that creativity.


Isn't Meredith just stunning?!


I love that the girls wore skirts and cute tops!  It definitely goes to show that breaking wedding norms can totally pay off!


In photographing Jake and his dapper groomsmen, I was struck by what a blessing it is that he could stand up on his wedding day surrounded by solid men who have been witnesses to his character to years.

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I am completely in love with Heritage House's reception hall, and Jake and Meredith's simple decor fit so perfectly!

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Jake and Meredith also created door prizes and handed them out to the couple who'd been married the longest, had the greatest age difference, etc, which was a fun way to engage with their guests!

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I have lots of favorite things about this wedding, but one of them is that instead of cake, the bride & groom had Amy's Ice Cream and personally served homemade cobbler to their friends and family!

JM20 JM21Congratulations, Jake and Meredith!  May God continue to pour out his love and grace in your marriage!


Jordan & Randy are married!

J&R1 One of my goals as a photographer is to improve with each wedding because I know that each wedding I can learn from my mistake.  Inevitably each wedding poses some challenge, whether it be tough lighting, technical difficulties, or a shortened timeline. But every once in a while, a wedding comes along where everything I've learned falls into place and it all works out perfectly!  This was one of those weddings...a gorgeous happy couple, a super fun bridal party, perfect light, amazing vendors, and an awesome party!  Jordan and Randy are the kind of people who make me love my job even more than I already do.

Linda of Breathtaking Blooms set the stage for the wedding with gorgeous pink and white flowers everywhere, making Reunion Ranch the perfect vintage country wedding venue.



Jordan's gorgeous dress, which she trusted us to bring outside, was the epitome of a princess dress and actually comes from Alfred Angelo's Disney line of dresses!  I'm a sucker for a good fairy tale love story :)


Maybe I should send this to Alfred Angelo for advertising.  The prettiness is almost too much for me to handle.


My friends Haylee and Macy (so grateful that their family recommended me to Jordan!) made the sweetest junior bridesmaids!


Nice rustic burlap details showed up all day!


Good-ness, Jordan!  SO beautiful!


I've got to give a little love to the guys, too.  They were looking pretty schnazzy, and I even got Zack, one of the ring bearers to show them how to be rock stars!


Before the ceremony, Jordan, her bridesmaids, and her wonderful mom took some time to pray for the wedding and more importantly, Randy and Jordan's future together.  Their prayers reminded me how special it is to begin a marriage with the surety and solid foundation of a relationship with God, and the joy that He takes in displaying His love through marriages.


The ceremony archway was decorated beautifully with flowers and lace.







Light!!! Pretty, pretty light!  And such happiness to go along with the pretty light!  The post ceremony moments are some of my favorite because I get the couple away from the hubbub for a few minutes and they can be all excited about being married!



Party time!  Reunion Ranch is perfectly suited for vintage, country chic receptions!  I love the heirloom tables that are becoming popular because family histories are so special in celebrating the foundation of each person entering to a marriage.


Tree trunk centerpieces.  Need I say more?


Simple white cakes and more tree trunks!


One of my favorite things about Reunion Ranch is that they have someone work a spotlight during important moments.  Hello, backlighting!  Jordan's dad's toast ranks among the best toast/welcoming speech I've ever heard, since he included a story and photos of the first time that Jordan brought Randy home to meet her parents.  Her mom and dad dressed up in old-fashioned, super conservative clothes and interrogated him.  He passed the test, and it's a pretty awesome story now!  To make it even better, Jordan's parents dressed up in other over-the-top outfits and then had the guests vote on which photo was the real one.  I just about died laughing (quietly, of course, gotta keep up the professional appearance).


Ok, so I have too many favorite moments in weddings.  But this was so awesome!  During dinner, the groomsmen rushed over and grabbed me to get a spontaneous shot of the bridal party posed as the last supper.  Thanks to someone's smartphone, they pulled up the painting and figured out each person's pose.



Many thanks to my friend and fellow photographer, Becca for helping me and getting these great shots from the balcony!



I love a good toast.  It's easy to be too cheesy, too short, too long, too personal, too impersonal, but the bride's brother and the best man seriously nailed it.  Funny, heartwarming, inspiring and a little emotional.  If you need tips, ask these guys!






Congratulations, Jordan and Randy!  It was a joy to be part of your wedding!

JoJo & Randy-1

Fun and exciting updates! I'm so proud to finally share my new website and promo video! It's been a long process, but so worth it. The website has been a thorn in my side for a while, and though it's not perfect yet, I'd rather have an imperfect website than agonize over something that I never publish. It's the same address, so make sure to take a look around :)

Even more exciting is the fact that I have the most wonderful promo video! My two creative partners-in-crime, Carlos Barron and Antonio Banda meet up monthly to brainstorm and embark on creative projects just to keep our artistic brains working. Our second big project involved producing a video to share who I am and express my love for photography and I couldn't be happier with it! Though collaborating can seem intimidating because of artistic differences, it reaps so much fruit when unique talents and perspectives add to the final product. I'm so grateful for the time and talent Carlos and Antonio put into making my promo video!

P.S. The super fun song is Circus of Love by Benjamin Dunn, licensed by the Music Bed.

Katy & Colton!

I'm still filled with so much joy from Katy & Colton's wedding!  After living with Katy's sister, Kirsten, in college, I felt completely part of their family and I'm pretty sure that everyone who knows them would say the same thing.  The wedding took place under the giant pecan trees of Katy's grandparent's land in Holland, Texas.  No other place could hold such special meaning for Katy & Colton, since Katy grew up visiting the River House (as they so fondly call it), it's where the couple spent so much time growing in friendship and love, and finally where Colton proposed to Katy last year.  The wedding truly could not have happened without the amazing support of the wonderful people who love Katy & Colton.  From the ridiculously gorgeous wedding cakes made by Katy's aunt, to the meticulously crafted details made by Katy and her sisters, to the flowers done by the bridesmaids (and me!  I'm good at tying ribbon now!) everything was a cheerful act of service to a couple who lives to love and serve.

The girls got all prettied up in the guest house, still outfitted with dollhouses from years of granddaughters' visits.

I just could not get enough of the peach, mint and baby blue details, executed in perfect rustic style.  Since Katy & Colton both have huge hearts for missions, a travel theme was woven throughout the day, including the amazing invitations that they made themselves.

Did I mention that they had a crazy big wedding party?  11 bridesmaids, 11 groomsmen, 3 flower girls, and a ring bearer.  However, I know that they couldn't imagine not including a single one of these fabulous people.  I was honored to spend the night with the girls and see why Katy loves all of these ladies!

P.S.  Cutest flower girls EVER.  I could have done a whole blog post on just their adorableness.

They may have been a bit difficult to get on, but the groomsmen had some of the most creative boutonnieres I've ever seen, dreamt up by Katy.

This is what happens when I tell Colton that I want to take his picture.  This is also why Colton is a great youth pastor haha!

First look!!! Pretty much had me crying right here.  Katy & Colton saw each other for the first time on their wedding day in the same place they got engaged and the same place they would get married in a few short hours.  It was so sweet to see them get a chance to pray together and just enjoy a moment away from the craziness.  And they made those doors, of course, adorned with the verse from Song of Solomon, "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

So many awesome people in one photo!

My wonderful second shooter and I scurried around before the ceremony started, trying to capture all of the amazing details put together by Katy and her friends and family.

The guestbook was a globe!  I might have to steal that one day...

Peach roses, burlap chevron table runners, and globe centerpieces?  Too much prettiness for me to handle.

I love these people!  And their different expressions of joy (mixed with all kinds of other emotions, but mostly joy) :)

They had so much fun dancing with their ribbons!

Favorite moment:  I've never seen people radiate with joy as much as this moment.

I love the way that Katy & Colton's wedding showed honor to their friends and family, and more than anything, the way that they wholeheartedly praised God for his goodness.

Mad props for my second shooter, Cassie, for getting the shot during communion!

Such a great first kiss and exit!

Colton & Katy shared their first dance under the pecans before we snuck away for a few photos of just the two of them.

And this is the part where I died and went to heaven.  Look at the light.  Feel it's glow.  Make fun of me all you want, but few things make me happier in life than sweet radiant sunlight.  Getting to photograph newly married people in that light is a bonus!

Back to the reception!  I can't get over how amazing those cakes were.  And the dinner was breakfast!  Pancakes at a wedding?!  Heck yes.

So after toasts, food, and dancing, Katy & Colton left, now husband and wife!

Congratulations, Katy & Colton!  Y'all's love is a beautiful picture of God's love for us, and I'm so blessed to have had the chance to photograph that love!

Mary & Evan are married!

Yay!  Mary and Evan are married!  I love how fun and unique they are, and their personalities were definitely shown throughout their wedding.  Having grown up in a home school group together for most of their lives, Mary and Evan got to know each other as friends before falling in love.  But falling in love with your best friend is how it should be anyways, right?  Mary and Evan have such a sweet comfortableness together, one that allows them to feel totally free to be themselves!

Their wedding was also probably one of the chillest (who knew that was a real word?!) I've ever photographed.  The entire time that she was getting ready, Mary skipped around and just exuded happiness.  The Georgetown Community Center in San Gabriel park provided a lovely setting for their lovely day.

Perfect example of Mary's uniqueness:  She had her David's Bridal dress customized with navy ribbons and beads AND she made the beautiful flower headband for her sister!

While getting ready, Mary's phone started making strange noises and she looked confused.  That confusion turned into delight, however, when she realized that months and months ago, she had set an alarm for their wedding day.  How cute is this?

I also loved how they incorporated lots of different elements into their wedding that honored their families, like the silver anniversary shoes from Mary's grandmother.

Despite the ridiculous heat, I made the bridal party venture outside for a few photos.  They were very brave!

In a few brief moments of cloud, we enjoyed the beautiful San Gabriel Park.

I feel like not many people know about the sunken garden in San Gabriel park, but it is quite pretty and even had flowers in the middle of the summer!  But the poor garden flowers were slightly overshadowed by the beautiful (and giant!) bouquet from the Flower Box.

Finally though, it was actually time for Mary and Evan to get married!

Despite a bit of difficulty getting the groom's ring on his finger, a VERY stubborn unity candle, and lots of laughter all around, we got to cheer as they walked down the aisle as husband and wife.

The joyful moments right after the ceremony make me happy!

I have to say, my favorite of the purple details was the cake from Paige's Bakehouse.  Because it was a Reese's cake.  Oh my goodness, so delicious.

The Georgetown Community center has such pretty light!

Before the dancing began, Mary & I snuck away for a few moments to trade her veil for a flower crown from AmoreBride and I got to take more photos in the pretty soft window light.

Mary is a dancer and teaches dance, so naturally, she and Evan's first dance was very graceful and romantic.

Based on the photos below, I think I'm partial to father daughter relationships.  I can speak from experience and say that that relationship is very special (shout out to my dad- I love you!).

Woohoo!  Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas!  Thanks for letting me be a part of the first of many happy happy days!

Pedernales Falls Engagement Shoot: Madi & Nick!

One of my favorite things about living in the Hill Country of Texas is that I'm surrounded by this beauty so unique to Texas.  Others may say that it can't compare to the majestic mountains of Colorado or the beaches of California, but I'll always be loyal to central Texas! Because of my appreciation for the Hill Country, shooting one of my dearest friend's engagement photos at Pedernales State Park was a dream come true.  We braved the slightly toasty summer evening to explore the river and all rocky goodness.  I can't put into words how much I love Madi and Nick, so I'm going to let my photos do most the talking since photography is my love language.  You will see from their photos what awesome, joyful, funny people they are!  I've had the privilege of being friends with Madi through our awkward middle school years, different rough relationships, the growing into ourselves in college, and as Madi and Nick fell in love!  I liked Nick from the start because 1. He does an awesome Russian accent and 2. He didn't hate me after I spit water all over him at something funny he said.  True story.


We started out in a sunny little meadow (aka my happy place).


Look how fun...but you'd never guess what they were laughing at!  Prime example of why they were made for each other.


This next part was a little tricky...we may or may not have gotten lost looking for an epic set of waterfalls.  Instead I just found pretty wheat grass!


Despite our little detour, we made it to the falls at the perfect sunset time!


Madi's adorable dress and boots were perfect for the country setting.  Maybe not so perfect for leaping across rocks, but still worth it!




Sunset, water, reflections, rocks, people in love!!!  Happy photographer!




ImageA perfect ending to a beautiful evening!  And now I want to go camping at Pedernales...

Life is awesome.

It's just crazy that this little person didn't exist, and now he does.  I'm so thankful to know that he will be loved.  I'm praying for all the little people (and big people) who don't have someone to love them and hold them and treasure them.  If you're looking for a good book to stir your heart and a good cause to help make sure that a few more little ones are loved, check out Kisses from Katie. And know that you are loved.

Grant & Mikaela!

Image While at Southwestern, I had the pleasure of getting to know two older students, Grant and Mikaela.  At the time, they weren't dating and I never would have put them together, but God has written such a beautiful story for epic, bouncy, bold Grant and sweet, quiet, wise Mikaela.  During a conversation with Mikaela once, she told me that God loves to use earthly romance to teach us more about His heart.  At the time that didn't make any sense to me, but now I can so clearly see that truth in their relationship.  It was such a joy to witness and capture Grant and Mikaela's love for one another and for their precious friends and family.

ImageThe girls began getting ready at a friend's house, which provided such a classically beautiful backdrop for the preparations.  We were all in love with Mikaela's necklace from Lulu Splendor.


Of course, coffee had to be part of the morning, since Grant and Mikaela are huge fans of coffee.  And see what I mean about such a classy house?  My mom saw the next photo and said, "Oh, it looks like that belongs in Downton Abbey!"


I then went and picked up Grant for their first look.  These photos perfectly describe his personality.  We had about 20 minutes before Mikaela would arrive so Grant had plenty of time to pray and read his Bible.  But as the time drew near for them to see each other, Grant alternately got really emotional, bounced up and down with excitement, and then would be super suave for the camera.


Finally, the moment arrived!


I know it was so special for them to have time together before everything got crazy.  And I had time to get lots and lots of beautiful photos!  Not that it's hard with these two.  I have way too many photos because Grant and Mikaela make every photo stunning!


Can you tell that they were excited?


We then headed to A&M to meet up with the bridal party for photos!


That's one good looking group, if you ask me!   I loved getting to know some of the bridal party because I could see exactly why they are all so dear to Grant and Mikaela.

Of course, Grant couldn't let the girls get away with taking normal photos, so he epically photo-bombed one of their pictures


The weather was perfect until the very end, when it started raining lightly.  But nothing could dampen their spirits (see what I did there?).


Both the ceremony and reception were held at the Aldersgate Methodist Church in College Station.  Like I mentioned earlier, Grant and Mikaela are huge coffee drinkers so I was pumped when I saw the church's coffee station had a little sign that I could borrow for their ring shot.


Mikaela and her mom did most of the planning and organizing and decorating, but Mikaela's friend, Michelle, did a fabulous job putting together the bouquets.

After prayer with her older sister and mom, the time came for Mikaela to take her dad's arm and walk down the aisle to her new husband!


One of my favorite parts of the entire day was during a time of prayer with family and the bridal party.  Of course, most people had their heads bowed in prayer, as well, but I caught Grant sneaking a peek at his bride.  My heart filled with joy seeing him look at her with such pride and adoration.


YAY!  Married!  Time to celebrate!Image

In one of the most creative set ups I've seen, they had arranged the sanctuary to be both the ceremony site and dinner hall.  So instead of sitting in rows and then moving lots of tables, the guests were already at their table!  I loved the lavender and crystal decorating the tables.  The chocolate covered almonds didn't hurt either.


Again, Grant and Mikaela are so blessed to have such awesome people in their lives.


First dance as husband and wife!Image

This next photo may be one of my favorite wedding photos ever.  Even through a photograph, their love and tenderness is almost tangible.


Halfway through the father-daughter dance, Mikaela's whole family jumped into a choreographed dance, eventually adding the whole bridal party and Grant's family, as well.  And one of my favorite things EVER- spinning dancing circles!!!!!  So fun!


The gorgeous (and delicious) cheesecakes and cupcakes were provided by Fabulous Fare.


These little girls were pretty much convince that Mikaela was a legit princess.  Which she is, of course :)  Happy and full of delicious food, we then all danced for joy!


In sending off the happy couple, the sparklers couldn't even compare to how bright Grant and Mikaela's smiles were.  I'm so excited to see their love grow and impact everyone they meet!


Crystal Colorado

You send me angels You send me air

Like a crystal Colorado

You take me there

                -Crystal Colorado, Alpha Rev

The air in the mountains of Colorado refreshes me somehow.  It's crisp and clean and pure.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very loyal to Texas.  But Colorado has this invigorating quality to it that I just love and can't really explain.  Since my trip was infused with music and organic beauty, I thought that quoting one of my favorite bands, Alpha Rev, would be appropriate.  Their third album, City Farm: Roots was completely funded by fans and was recorded simply for the love of music and creating.

I am in awe of mountains.  Nothing else to be said there.

So how did I end up in Colorado?  One of my dearest lifelong friends, Jenny, currently calls Colorado home, so I couldn't resist a visit while I had some free time over the summer.

Jenny teaches music at Orsch, undoubtedly one of the coolest schools I've ever seen, and I got to enjoy playing and running and skipping and cartwheeling with the sweet kids there.  It's not often you get to play with a cowgirl, a princess, and the cutest raccoon ever, all in the same day.

I also had the privilege of photographing two sisters and another girl who took on the "Passion Project" of writing and recording their own songs.  These young ladies have beautiful voices and hearts.

Not only does Jenny inspire youngsters to pursue music, but she lives to make beautiful music herself!  I convinced her to let me take photos for her upcoming album with amazing original songs (like this one).  Or at least maybe if we all gang up on her, she'll actually record more of her songs!  Maria, Jenny, and I drove up and up and up to catch a gorgeous sunset over the Blue Mesa Lake.  While Jenny usually moves too quickly and freely to be caught on camera, I couldn't get over how much of a connection she had with the camera.  Dancing through the golden sunlight pouring over the mesa, we created some of my favorite images yet.

I'm showing serious restraint in posting a few as I did, just FYI.

We're now going to take a commercial break to recognize Subaru, the official sponsor of outdoorsy Coloradans.  Doesn't this photo just make you want to load up your camping and climbing gear and go on an adventure?

Ok, and now for possibly my favorite photo I've ever taken.

Maria and I had to get in on the pretty light before the sun set, too!

This past year, I've fallen in love with rock climbing, so I got to go bouldering under the bright blue Colorado sky!

The final thing to check off my Colorado to do list was seeing the stars in their untainted-by-city-pollution glory.  I still have a lot to learn when it comes to long exposure star photos, but it's a start!

Katie & Aaron!

I love meeting my brides through other couples who's wedding I've shot because I really do consider being hired through word of mouth one of the greatest honors!  Katie and Aaron are high school sweethearts who just adore each other, as you will be able to tell from the photos.  Aaron faithfully serves our country in the Navy and I love that they chose to reflect that in many of the details of the wedding.  The whole day was such a sweet celebration with family and friends and I love knowing that Katie and Aaron have a wonderful group of people who will love them and support their new life together!

I'm always so excited to shoot a wedding at Kindred Oaks, since it never fails to be beautiful and I get to work with the nicest people.  Zuzu's Petals created phenomenal florals that fit in perfectly with Katie and Aaron's black and pink color scheme.  Katie's mom hand stitched the ring bag.  As I've said before, I love the little things that make each wedding and each couple unique.

Meanwhile, my awesome second shooter, Carlos Barron, got these great first two shots of Aaron getting ready.

Time seemed to fly by as the girls finished getting ready, and before we knew it, it was time for Aaron and Katie to get married!

Wedding ceremonies usually make me a little emotional, but man, this one got me bad.  I mean, look at their faces!  So beautiful.  I'm really thankful that Carlos got the photo of Katie and her dad walking down the aisle, especially since they have such a close relationship.

We had to race to get the last light of the day, but it turned out perfectly!  Aren't the LOVE letters awesome?

Katie surprised Aaron with a slideshow of photos throughout the years of their relationship.

Congratulations, Katie and Aaron!

Bridal Attire: Alfred Angelo
Hair & Makeup: Razmataz Salon
Caterer: Capital BBQ
DJ/Photo Booth: Complete Music
Florist: ZuZu's Petals
Stationary: Works on Paper
Ceremony Music: Hyde Park Strings
Bar Service: Hill Country Events

Kelly & Chewie: Hummingbird House Wedding

Can I claim divine intervention for Kelly & Chewie finding me?  We met at a bridal show, but clicked immediately and then discovered that she knew a bridesmaid in another wedding I had shot.  It wasn't until we met over coffee that we discovered the craziest connection of all.  The pastor they were doing marriage counseling with and who would marry them is the same pastor whose family I live with right now!  Like I said, divine intervention.  And I'm so happy to call Kelly & Chewie friends now!

Kelly & Chewie's beautiful wedding took place at the stunning Hummingbird House in Manchaca, Texas.

There sure were lots of beautiful things (and people, course) to photograph!  And those boys.  Goofballs!

Yay!  Time to get married!

I just couldn't get over the way that Kelly & Chewie looked at each other.  So much sweetness and devotion.

The unity sand spilled during the sand ceremony, making a great sermon illustration about marriage.  Messy, but beautiful.

The golden sunlight was so kind to the beaming newlyweds (and their stinkin' adorable son, Isaiah).

I love how they incorporated elements of Chewie's Nigerian heritage throughout the wedding!


Such a joyful celebration, and quite a fun party, if I do say so myself.



Congratulations, Kelly & Chewie!

Meredith & Jason are married!

I'm so excited to share some photos from Meredith & Jason's wedding!  They are such wonderful, sweet people who are seriously in love.  The grey and yellow color palette was gorgeous, and Green Pastures in South Austin made the perfect backdrop for a spring wedding.  I loved how laid back and relational the whole day was; Meredith and Jason really got to enjoy spending time with their friends and family.

Meredith started her day by getting her hair done at Urban Betty and then visited Makenzi Laine for her makeup.  Meredith is just a beautiful person, but these ladies really showed off Meredith's beauty perfectly for her wedding.

We then headed to Green Pastures to finish getting ready!  When we arrived, the flowers had already arrived and looked a-mazing.

See what I mean?  Beautiful!  (That applies to both Meredith and the flowers)

Jason and his friends hung out in a very cool lounge/bar room, but it turns out we weren't supposed to go in there.  Oops.

I loved the way that the grey and yellow color scheme ran throughout the little details of the day.

And then it was ceremony time!

Jason and Meredith and I snuck away for a few minutes to take few photos alone before the reception started.  Bamboo forests are definitely my new best friend.

The great thing about weddings without a lot of activities is that I get to spend extra time taking pictures of the adorable kiddos that inevitably show up at weddings.

Congratulations, Meredith and Jason!  Y'all are awesome and I know that many years of happiness will follow this joyful wedding day!


Austin & Taylor are engaged! And lit Tangled-inspired lanterns!

Here is a (much) longer post of Taylor and Austin's engagement shoot full of sunshine-y goodness and lanterns!  These two wonderful people met in high school and dated all through college.  I personally had the good fortune of meeting Taylor at Southwestern.  Since she got Austin hooked on coming to terranova, the church we both attend, I got to know Austin, as well.  Austin, Taylor, and I share a mutual love for the movie Tangled, so I was ecstatic when I found out that after he proposed, Austin and Taylor lit floating lanterns together!  AHHH so cute!   Then you can imagine my excitement when they decided to let off lanterns again during the engagement shoot! If you didn't pick up on it from the title, I'm slightly obsessed with the floating lanterns.  And now with Taylor and Austin's engagement photos.  Enjoy!

After exploring Zilker Botanical Gardens for a while, we headed to Mount Bonnell to release the lanterns.  Since it was the most gorgeous day ever and we arrived around sunset, it was a little crowded, but we found our own little alcove away from all the people.  The sunset did not disappoint, and we then successfully released the lanterns without setting anything on fire!

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns!  (That's my heart singing from happiness.)

Congrats on y'all's engagement, Taylor & Austin!  It was a joy witnessing and photographing y'all's love!

I am not alone

I am not alone

In case you haven't heard, I entered the Prosper community's photo contest and would love love love if you'd support me at I'm number 20, so keep scrolling down to vote for me! More importantly, the story behind the photo:

The assignment was to create a self portrait with some encouraging "I believe" statement and its scripture reference. Since it rained the whole time that the contest was open for entry, it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. Saturday night the rain finally slowed down and on my drive back from a church event, I noticed that the mist made all the lights glow beautifully! Luckily I had my camera with me, so I stopped in the Georgetown square and set up my tripod. I loved the way the photos came out, but they felt so lonely!

As I was thinking about it, however, I realized that many times in my life I have felt very lonely, even when surrounded by people. Now however, even when I am physically alone, I know that my God will always be with me. My mind quickly went to Isaiah 49:15-16, which has been one of my favorite scriptures since I learned of Jesus' breathtaking love four years ago. It says that even if my mother and father forsake me, my name is written on the palm of God's hand. I love the intimacy of hands, so the thought of my name inscribed on the palm of God's hand strikes a deep chord in me. A year ago, I just about fell over when I realized that my name was physically carved into Jesus's hands with the nails he took for me! Woah. So much tenderness, paid in blood.

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Today marks the beginning of my 40-day journey through Prosper, a devotional for photographers by Scarlett Lillian, of Scarlett & Stephen Photography.  You can read more about it on the website (and even see me quoted on the promo video!  Eek!), but it’s basically a vulnerable collection of Scarlett’s prayers, struggles, and triumphs throughout her years as a photographer.  I can already tell that God’s going to use it mightily to push some buttons in me concerning my business, but more importantly, my relationship with Him. You are currently reading my first assignment: to write a blog about my heart for Jesus Christ.  I’ve written about God before, especially when it comes to seeing His beauty in nature,  His love on mission trips, or His glorious humility at Christmas time (my personal favorite), but my blog is not really a place where I’ve been very vulnerable.  Consider this my first attempt!

This devotional could not have come at a better time, because recently each day brings some new opportunity or accolade concerning my photography and with the increasing attention, seeds of doubt and fear try to take root in me.  It seems like pride would be the more obvious stumbling block, but the real thing that threatens me is fear of failure.  An ugly voice whispers to me, “What if they expect great things from you and you can’t deliver?” or “What makes you think you know what you’re doing? Now you’re going to disappoint everyone.”  In the photography world (particularly wedding photography), confidence in yourself is a must, so my confession may not be the wisest business move, but I guess that’s what vulnerability is all about.

Fear of failure certainly isn’t a new struggle for me, but you wouldn’t guess it looking at my life.  I’ve mostly excelled at what I’ve done.  Whether in school, sports, or organizations, the more I've achieved, the greater the dread in my heart that I’m just fooling everyone and I’m not actually competent or talented at all.  That fear used to cripple me inside.  But something’s changed.  I met Jesus Christ, and he’s patiently teaching me that he does not despise my weakness or my fears, but loves me unconditionally and wholly.  He loves me in my successes and my failures.  Nor do my successes or failures define me, but only his love, which never changes.  I still struggle with doubt and it’s coming up currently with my business, but I know I’m not alone.  His power is perfected in my weakness, because then His light shines through.  I trust God to take care of me, to show me His eye for beauty, and to give me His love for people.

"And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered." 2 Chronicles 31:21

Beauty in black and white

“When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” -Ted Grant

This morning I completed (for now, at least) a display of photos at the Cianfrani coffee shop on the square in Georgetown.  You should go see them!  Since most of my time photography-wise is spent taking and editing work for clients, I loved the opportunity to revisit some of my work that simply came from my love of travel and people and beauty.   In particular, I fell in love again with a few black and white photos from over the years that I wanted to share.  The first, I took at a 70th wedding anniversary party in Austin.  Last year I won Southwestern University's Brown Symposium photo contest on conversation with the photo and still love the connection you can see between these old friends.

The photo of the soldier is from Munich, where I traveled with my family and brother's soccer team in 2008.  Since I had only had my Canon Rebel Xti for a month or two, I can definitively point to that trip as the first time I really fell in love with light.  I was so blessed to have Michael O'Brien offer his wisdom about photography and life during the long bus rides through Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic and take so much inspiration from the way that he relates deeply with everyone he photographs.

The slightly creepy old house sits just off of Highway 29, east of Georgetown.  Every time I need to remove myself from the concrete and city life (it's a city compared to where I grew up, ok?), I drive out east and can lose myself for at least an hour exploring the country back roads.  This house is one of my favorite finds and I've photographed it several times.  One of the color prints is in Cianfrani, as well!

The last two are from my mission trip to Tanzania in 2010, an eye-opening trip in so many ways.  The poverty broke my heart and reshaped my view of the America Dream, as I expected.  What caught me off guard was how easily I could related to the joys and struggles of the people I met, despite our vastly different life experiences.  The children started off being super shy, but after we talked to them through our translator  and started to play games, they wanted to know everything about us and my fancy camera.  In a different village, I talked to this woman for a long time, hearing about her very hard and lonely life.  However, it was sad to see how she had turned in her loneliness to alcohol, the smell of which emanated from her strongly.  What was even more wrenching was the fact that I knew we were going to have to drive away and not have the chance to show her the love available to her, despite any tragedies in the past.  I'm so thankful I had a chance to connect with her even for that brief time, though, and capture a glimpse of her life in a photograph, which is essentially why I love each of these photos: they're a brief glimpse into another life, another time, another soul.

Heather & Nick's Wedding!

Heather and Nick became Mr. and Mrs. Ortner on January 13th, 2012 and it was glorious.  I know Heather from church and was excited for pretty much the past 8 months about the wedding, especially knowing Heather's super classy style and fun personality.  Sure enough, the wedding did not disappoint.  More than anything though, I love that Heather and Nick's wedding wasn't just about a day, it was celebrating the fact that God brought these two together for the rest of their lives. When I arrived at Arbor Pointe, the reception hall where everyone was getting ready, I was blown away.  Not only is the venue itself gorgeous, but all of Heather's hard work paid off and it looked stunning, with a romantic, Victorian-inspired theme. But I'll show you that stuff later!  I like to be chronological so we'll start with the girls getting ready.  To date, this wedding produced a few of my most favoritest detail shots ever:

P.S. Heather made her bouquet and her mom made the garters.  Do you think I can convince them to go into business with me?  They'll make stuff and I'll just take photos of it.  I think this is a good plan.

Look at these gorgeous girls.  They are wonderful and make awesome models!

I can't get over how beautiful Heather was/is all the time.  My sweet second shooter caught this next photo, which I adore.

Now, on to the very dapper men!

The light outside was heavenly.  And Nick looked as awesomely cool as every groom should look on his wedding day.

We then headed over to the Texas Baptist Children's Home chapel, where the ceremony was to be held.

I love the delight in the Lord and delight in one another that shone so clearly throughout the ceremony.

I know I've said this countless times before, but I love my job.

Now you get to see reception photos!  So many beautiful details!

They even had a hot cocoa station!  And combining two of my favorite things, Heather found unique gourmet popcorn and displayed it in an old suitcase for favors!  The beautiful cake was created by Classy Cakes by Lori and the grooms cake (Heather and Nick both went to Tech) was made by my wonderful friend Sonnet, of Sweet Intentions.

Can you tell this was a fun wedding?!  And it just kept getting better!  Gobo Entertainment did an amazing job with lights and music to make the reception quite a party.  But by now your eyes are probably glazing over from all the photos, so I'll try to wrap it up.

Yes, that is the bride doing the splits in her dress.  I hope everyone else is as ridiculously impressed as I am.

Congratulations, Heather and Nick!  Y'all are awesome and I know your marriage will be too!

Cuteness overload (aka a baby and people in love)

I really should be asleep right now, not working on a blog post, but I got caught up in editing photos and I COULDN'T KEEP THE CUTENESS TO MYSELF.  Also, apparently the later it is, the more dramatic my writing is!  First up are a few photos of Heather and Nick's engagement session.  One of the things that I love about wedding photography is getting to know awesome people, such as Heather.  Over the past 9 months Heather and I have enjoyed many wedding talks over coffee that turned into talks about life, God, marriage, and other fun things.  So after all that talking, it was awesome to actually take some photos!!!  Next are photos of one of the cutest babies EVER, so stick around.

So now get ready to fall in love with one of the happiest, most adorable babies I've ever met.  Sawyer also has some of the coolest parents ever, so I can't wait to see what he's like when he grows up!  It was RIDICULOUSLY hard to choose only a few photos for a sneak peek, so enjoy!  I'll definitely share more later. In the meantime, merry almost Christmas!

Emma is a Senior!

I know that I'm getting old, because I keep telling people like Emma how weird it is that they are driving or graduating, because I remember when they were just a little squirt.  Ok, so I don't use the word 'squirt', but I'm sure that Emma is getting tired of me exclaiming over the fact that she's a senior!  Seriously though, I've known Emma most of my life and I loved spending time with her wandering around South Congress and Barton Springs.  She is a beautiful person on every level.  Since I'm living in Georgetown now I don't get to see Emma as much as I used to, but luckily we run in the same circles when it comes to Christmas parties, so I've gotten to keep up with her over many games of fireside Rock Stack :) See what I mean?  Gorgeous.  The light couldn't have been better!

I loved all the pretty blue walls to show off Emma's pretty blue eyes!  We then wandered over to Barton Springs and got some AMAZING shots showing Emma's dance skills.  Even though it was about the fifth time I said, "Wait, I have one more idea," our sunset silhouette photos were totally worth sticking around a little longer!

See what I mean?!  Ahhhhh I love my job!!!