Recapping & Reflecting {2013}

This gallery contains 27 photos.

With Christmas right around the corner, and the new year quickly approaching after that, I thought it would be a cool idea to reflect on this past year. 2013 was a great, solid year for me, professionally and personally. I … Continue reading

Mint Chip Sugar Cookies

There are two very special kinds of cookies that I’ve been making ONLY at Christmas time for the past 6 years. Of course this year, I can’t find the cook book they’re both in!!! So I decided to try something new…EEK! But luckily they turned out DELISH! So here is the recipe.

Prep time: 15 Min.   –   Cook time: 1 hour

Serves: 4 dozen


  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • a few drops of green food coloring (I used about 3 drops, use how many you want to make the cookies the color green you like)
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. Andes Crème de Menthe Baking Chips
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips



  1. Cream butter and sugar for about three minutes. It should be fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, green food coloring and peppermint extract. Cream for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Measure dry ingredients in a separate bowl or sifter. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix until combined.
  4. Add mint and chocolate chips. Gently stir to until incorporated.
  5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookies using a 2 Tablespoon size cookie scoop.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch for the cookies to begin cracking. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes. Transfer to cookie rack and finish cooling.

Note: If you choose to use a smaller cookie scoop reduce baking time to 8 minutes.


Why my favorite thing in the whole world to shoot is {weddings}

Weddings were not what I originally wanted to get into. I had this dream of being a high fashion photographer for Vogue magazine, and traveling all over the world being able to shoot Lara Stone, Gisele, or Doutzen Kroes. But I was definitely kidding myself…I am a home body. There is no way I could live that life! I need to be around the people I love, need to hug them, and dance with them, and laugh with them. And you can’t do that to the fullest behind a phone or a screen.

So, once I realized that I could not do that kind of photography. I went to school that day and talked to an advisor that told me that the program I was in (media & communication arts) was really geared towards web/graphic designers, game designers, etc. and that I was going to have to do all my own searching to find a studio to work for because they really had not contacts to provide for me. When I got home, I cried on my bed for two hours thinking I would never get to do what I wanted. Then I started surfing the web, I think I googled something like “photography studios metro detroit”. I then proceeded to send 10 emails to each of the first ten studios that came up in my search. I heard back from none of them. Then, a week later, on my birthday, I got a call from my now boss, Jason Samkowiak of JS. Photography saying that they were looking for a second shooter for weddings, and that he could use me that weekend. I said yes, got all of the info, and we hung up. Then I was like…omg what am I getting myself into!? Wedding photography sounds awful, long hours, bridezillas, drunk groomsmen. NO THANKS.

I should have known I would fall in love immediately, because I am a huge romantic sap. Are the hours long? HELL YES. I come home with every joint in my body aching, and usually with a headache. There are DEFINITELY some bridezillas, but I haven’t come across one I can’t handle (yet). And there are definitely ALWAYS at least one really drunk obnoxious groomsmen, but they aren’t hard to handle either.

Other photographers I’ve talked to (mostly ones I went to school with) almost seemed to have this snarky, har har, oh bless your dear sweet heart, attitude when I said I had started doing weddings. Almost like they were looking down on me for doing that because it’s cliché, and mundane, and not REAL photography. I have two theories about this.

Number 1 is that they have never shot a wedding before and CLEARLY have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

Number 2 is that they have tried it in the past and failed miserably because you know what? IT’S F***ING HARD. Between the time crunch, having to manage the bridal party & newlyweds families, making sure you get all the shots that they want and you NEED to get, and LOADS of other unexpected things that always come up…it’s overwhelmingly exhausting. AND YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT. Because guess what, you can’t redo a couples first kiss at the altar after they’re pronounced husband and wife, you just CAN’T. You can try to re-pose it if you don’t get a good shot of it, but it is NEVER the same as that first time. And if you don’t get that shot, you WILL hear about it…from multiple people…over the next few months…and you will be humiliated.

Besides that…the 3 hours you have between the ceremony and reception you think you have? HA. You will probably get half that time because between driving to locations, getting everyone to LISTEN to you so you can pose them, and wardrobe malfunctions…the moments just slip away faster than you can even being to imagine.

And then there the people (and they are at EVERY wedding) that come up to you at the reception that say “oh did you get a shot of this? did you get a shot of that?” (which are always shots that are must haves that I do at every wedding) And I want to say “you know what? No I didn’t! This is my first wedding I’ve ever shot by myself and I have no idea what I’m doing!” Then I want to snatch the stupid dinky little Canon powershot out of their hand and chuck it into a pond.

PHEW! Rant over…can you tell what really pushes my buttons? LOL. But all the whole reason for this post is to share why I love shooting weddings…so FINALLY…here it is…

Every couple is different, every ceremony is different, every reception is different, every detail is different. Weddings are not all the same. Every couple puts some kind of personal touch on their big day that makes it “them”. The sacrament of marriage is holy and beautiful and something to be cherished, and none of that is seen more than on a couples wedding day because it is one of the most important days of your life. The love in their eyes is undeniable and remarkable and helps remind that even in this crazy world we live in, amazing things still exist.

I really do think that having the wedding (and husband) of my dreams has molded me into a better photographer. The sole factor being that my perspective has changed. I’ve been a bride, and that makes a HUGE difference because I’ve walked in those shoes. I know now how every single little detail is important and that brides want their hard work documented to perfection. I know how long it takes to plan a wedding and how fast the day actually goes when the day finally comes. I know the kind of comfort and reassurance you get when everyone from the photographer to your guests tell you how awesome your wedding was.

The food gets eaten, the dress gets put in a box, the flowers wilt, and people forget. What helps remind you of how amazing it was is photographs. You display them proudly on Facebook and in frames at your house as a reminder of that special day. And on days your spouse is being really annoying, or did something stupid, you will pass them in the hallway and glance at them and they will remind you of how happy you were that day and how blessed you are to have them and it will start the resolution process. I know this because I’ve lived it.

The incredible emotion on your face the day of your wedding that is captured in a photograph cannot be matched, duplicated, or redone. For me it’s the happiness in a brides voice and on her face when she sees her wedding photos for the first time. That is what I live for.

And here is a really good example from a shot I took this past May


Why I {love} shooting film

I would like to share my honest view of film vs. digital within my own field of expertise as a pro digital and hobbyist film photographer. I have never shot film for any of my professional work, only in school and on my own personal projects. But I am a huge admirer of a few great pro film photographers and a continuous student of photography – both in the film and digital arenas.

I “learned” photography on a film camera (my mom’s Minolta Maxxum 5 to be exact), I learned how to dodge and burn with random objects that were lying around the dark room, and I learned to develop that film with my own hands in a dark room. The overwhelming satisfaction you get when you put that 8×10 print through the dryer, take it out into the light, and see the finished product is intensly gratifying. And honestly, so is the fact that you have to BE PATIENT with it. You can’t see your image right away like you can with the digital cameras, which also means you can’t see if you got the shot or not. Which I happen to love in this “instant gratification” world we live in where everyone and their mother that picks up a digital camera thinks they’re a photographer…

I can definitely attest that film has several advantages over digital – mainly, the dynamic range (or, ability to preserve details in highlights and shadows over a wide range of stops), and also the forgiving nature of film when you overexpose it. It’s very difficult to blow out film even with overexposing by 2-3 stops – and the highlights with film roll off beautifully. In that regard, you can relax a bit when you’re shooting film (especially if you have a great photo lab to develop and scan it, but that’s another topic altogether.)

However, film does have a couple of weaknesses as well. Buying, developing, and scanning film is getting quite expensive. And the FACT of the matter is that you can’t take as many images if you have to continuously change rolls of film as you can when you have a 32GB CF card in your camera. Another disadvantage? You can’t back up film; if something happens to your rolls between shooting and developing, that makes for a very unhappy photographer – and an even unhappier client.

Don’t get me wrong either, I love digitial photography, but it also has its weaknesses. The biggest weakness is dynamic range. My Canon 5D simply will not handle light as well as film will, and the light will not look as soft and even as it does with film. But I think this problem will improve over time with digital cameras, as newer models with better sensors are developed. Now, that being said, you CAN compensate this weakness by shooting in RAW format to maximize the recovery of details in highlights and shadows, and by working on improving yourself technically so that you achieve more consistently precise exposure. I always shoot in manual/RAW and spot meter, which is a huge help. I know before I press the shutter if I still have enough details in my highlights and shadows where it’s important to have detail. This is the result of lots of practice – and I’m still always working on improving my exposure.

At the end of the day, it would take a lot of convincing by a very persistant bride for me to shoot a wedding now a days on film. For me, it is just simply to risky, but I do have to say, I might start bringing my Minolta with me on wedding days as a back up 😉


Just {Breathe}…

Over the past 2 months, I’ve been raising money for the American Lung Association so that I could participate in the Detroit Fight For Air Climb. Let me explain a little bit about it…I basically raised money to get my ass kicked! But it was worth it, and it was a small price to pay considering the thousands or millions of children in this country with asthma, teens who are pressured to start smoking, and people with lung cancer and emphysema.

You’re probably thinking…well what did she climb?, well…we climbed all 1,035 stairs of the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. I had a very difficult time doing it this year compared to last year, I actually added about 5 minutes onto my time from last year! I definitely didn’t train hard enough!

You’re also probably wondering why on earth I would willingly subject myself to such torture. The reason is simple, My aunt Sandi died in August of 2010 from small cell lung cancer. We climb for her. She was a smoker of 50+ years, but by the time she quit, it was much to late. I also handled and dealt with the situation very poorly…my idea of dealing with it was to pretend it wasn’t happening and to totally remove myself from the situation. I thank God every day that my mom, my now late grandmother, and two cousins (her two daughters) have forgiven me and that we were able to move on and have a fresh start.

My cousin, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Keith, couldn’t climb with us this year because they’re having a baby any day now!!! AHHH!!! But my other cousin Sam, two of her friends, Joe, and myself did the climb. I think next year we’re going to just volunteer, and luckily they need photographers…so sign me up! 😉



Yes, this is me [bragging]…

When Joe and I first got engaged, I dove head first right into planning. But holy crap was it hard! As much as I loved planning every detail myself, and loved that Joe wanted to be so involed, I totally see now why people hire wedding planners (and appreciate them more too). But luckily, the only aspect of planning that ended up being an issue was trying to find our flower girl, Summer, a dress…who woulda thought? So we just ended up having one made! Which was also less expensive than purchasing one.

The way God has blessed my life never ceases to amaze me, because our wedding day was absolutely perfect in every way shape and form. The only thing that could’ve been REALLY bad was a few of us almost getting arrested, but we didn’t! PHEW… 🙂 I am a former pessimist, and kept waiting for something to go horribly wrong, and the closer the wedding got, the worse my anxiety about it got. But of course it was perfect and we had a BLAST, and went by in the blink of an eye like everyone said it would.

The first vendor I booked was obviously our photographer, obviously. This was easy, because I am lucky enough to work for the wonderful Jason Samkowiak of JS Photography. He is such an amazing boss, it’s crazy. He frequently throws things at me that I’m not sure I can handle, but then I tell myself…he clearly has faith in me and that is a big deal and must mean I am capable. Which I always find out that I am 🙂 Being a “wedding vendor” myself, I simply must shout out my other vendors right now because they all totally kicked ass. Rod Burnette of Music Box Productions kept everyone shaking it on the dance floor all night long. Amy from Shutterbooth kept our guests having a blast all night when they were off the dance floor. And Andrew Dubats of Platinum Inferno Entertainment captured our wedding day perfectly.

At the moment Joe has this scraggly beard and way to long of hair, so looking at these makes me happy because it proves that he cleans up good when he wants to 😉









{Seniors} Jeff & Jason – 2013

I frequently tease Joe about how when it comes to siblings, I got the short end of the stick when we got married because I ended up with three new little brothers. I can’t deny the fact that I got blessed with wonderful in-laws though, including my 3 new little brothers. Now, when I say “little” I don’t mean that they’re babies…John is 21 and goes to college at Marian University in Indianapolis, and is hands down one of the funniest people that I know. Jeff and Jason are the babies, they’re 18 year old twins and in their senior year of high school. They couldn’t be more different though, besides the fact that they aren’t identical, their personalities are also totally different. I do love all three of them though, and wouldn’t trade them for anything! And I had the honor of taking Jeff and Jason’s senior pictures! Jason’s shoot was super fun because he was down for anything, he was scaling buildings to get up to a fire escape, and climbing HUGE trees at a park that we went to. Jeff gave me a harder time…LOL. He wouldn’t smile with teeth unless Joe was in the background doing something goofy (which isn’t out of the ordinary). Both (well all three actually) are handsome little devils, so naturally the photos turned out great 🙂

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