A Brisk January Maternity Session | NOVA Maternity Photographer

Brisk is an understatement. I've been broadcasting this to anyone who will listen because it must be shared: It was 26 degrees outside, but with the windchill it felt like 21. We were all freezing, but Julie and Richard didn't complain once. Whenever I told them to stop, drop, and shed their clothes, they did so without complaint or shivering. The resulting images are some of my favorites to date. I've been testing a theory that the best golden hours are on the coldest evenings, and this shoot pretty much closed the case.

Julie has been one of my best buds since we met in 7th grade...that's over 20 years ago. I still have some hilarious notes we passed each other in class, some holding-the-test-of-time mix tapes she made me, and even some collages we made each other out of ridiculous pre-teen magazines.

She and her husband Richard live a few states above Virginia, and were in town for the weekend for their baby shower. I was thrilled that she asked me to take her maternity photos, but slightly nervous as I watched the anticipated temperatures for the day of our shoot. But look, if anyone could do it, it's super rugged desert-raised landscape photographer Richard, and horse riding, yoga teaching, woman extraordinaire, Julie. And of course their spunky rescue, Faith. 

Take a moment to soak up the love and joy between these two. This baby is one lucky dude.

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My Own | Loudoun County Family Photographer

My kids are 3 and 1, they are my inspiration. I had been "in" to photography since my sophomore year of high school, but have gone through periods where I didn't pick my camera up for weeks and sometimes even months at a time. When I had my son three years ago, my passion for photography was reignited, and has grown stronger with every day. These years, when my little ones are little, seem to fly by, and I can't resist the urge to document...but once in a while I have to be reminded to put my camera down again and live.

My husband and I have always loved the outdoors and it's played a large supporting role in our journey together. Some of my favorite memories of ours took place in Virginia's regional and national parks, so I'm thrilled that our children already share in their parents' love for nature. An unexpected result of our family nature walks is that we've come upon new photo spots, and I've gotten to know how the light acts in these different locations throughout the year. 

Jacob is only 3, but he is already on to me when I dress him and his sister up and take them to a new park. Have you ever heard of photographer child syndrome? It's when a photographer's children are so used to being photographed throughout their young life that they are no longer interested in smiling at the camera, much less looking at it. But as a photographer who revels in capturing emotion, personality and connections, a lot of times this isn't a bad thing. Because so far, these tend to be some of my favorite images of my children. 

I just love this. On one hand, their expressions are hilarious and make me laugh. But it's also such a beautiful capture of my silly children just as they are in this moment in time.

I just love this. On one hand, their expressions are hilarious and make me laugh. But it's also such a beautiful capture of my silly children just as they are in this moment in time.

This is currently one of my favorite images of my son. Initially I posed him on the blanket in a way that I felt would work best. Never one to make my life easy, this guy started rolling around all over the place. Somehow I managed to capture this, and I love it.

This is currently one of my favorite images of my son. Initially I posed him on the blanket in a way that I felt would work best. Never one to make my life easy, this guy started rolling around all over the place. Somehow I managed to capture this, and I love it.

I recently discovered that I have a vintage quilt problem. In that I love them, and want them all. Simultaneously, my daughter has recently started playing a game at home that cracks all of us up. She brings a blanket to you, and motions that you are to wrap it around her. Then she holds it around herself and walks around the house like some kind of royalty. So for this image, we took our game outside!

I recently discovered that I have a vintage quilt problem. In that I love them, and want them all. Simultaneously, my daughter has recently started playing a game at home that cracks all of us up. She brings a blanket to you, and motions that you are to wrap it around her. Then she holds it around herself and walks around the house like some kind of royalty. So for this image, we took our game outside!

Where did she get those dimples? Definitely not me!

Where did she get those dimples? Definitely not me!

I took the kiddos here to check out the light, play some soccer and get some nice images of them. Instead I get this...however, Captures like this absolutely crack me up. Fiona wants her chair back, Jacob looks pretty proud at having stolen it from her. 

I took the kiddos here to check out the light, play some soccer and get some nice images of them. Instead I get this...however, Captures like this absolutely crack me up. Fiona wants her chair back, Jacob looks pretty proud at having stolen it from her. 

There goes the queen

There goes the queen

Hiking through Big meadows in Shenandoah National Park during the most beautiful golden hour. "Hey bud, smile nice for the camera!" Jacob does this...but it's perfect. It's my wild guy.

Hiking through Big meadows in Shenandoah National Park during the most beautiful golden hour. "Hey bud, smile nice for the camera!" Jacob does this...but it's perfect. It's my wild guy.

Maybe Gnats, maybe a facepalm. Again, if it makes me laugh, It's in.

Maybe Gnats, maybe a facepalm. Again, if it makes me laugh, It's in.

Dial back the moxie, sassmouth!

Dial back the moxie, sassmouth!

As we were walking out to the car in the morning, the light was perfect. I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and caught baby girl as she tasted a brief moment of freedom. 

As we were walking out to the car in the morning, the light was perfect. I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and caught baby girl as she tasted a brief moment of freedom. 

Then I moved a few feet and caught this beautiful moment of a toddler taking a moment to stop and smell the roses. 

Then I moved a few feet and caught this beautiful moment of a toddler taking a moment to stop and smell the roses. 

Mid afternoon sun comes in bright white in the summer as my little gymnast balances.

Mid afternoon sun comes in bright white in the summer as my little gymnast balances.

We took an afternoon hike at a nearby trail, as Jacob started messing with the dirt I realized that it softened the light and created a magical atmosphere. So i encouraged him to kick the dirt all over the place while I snapped away, and Fiona gave him the Heisman. We all got super dirty, but it was so worth it.

We took an afternoon hike at a nearby trail, as Jacob started messing with the dirt I realized that it softened the light and created a magical atmosphere. So i encouraged him to kick the dirt all over the place while I snapped away, and Fiona gave him the Heisman. We all got super dirty, but it was so worth it.

A sunday evening hike backlit by the setting sun.

A sunday evening hike backlit by the setting sun.

And an angry baby who thinks she should be allowed to scale rocks on her own.

And an angry baby who thinks she should be allowed to scale rocks on her own.

Super serious cool guy in the harsh mid day sun

Super serious cool guy in the harsh mid day sun

And a bouncy baby in the harshest of sun

And a bouncy baby in the harshest of sun

The Mortweet Family | Ashburn Virginia Family Photographer

I met mama Nadine a few years back through a mutual friend at one of the Ashburn libraries' baby story time. Looking back, I think going there was more for the mamas than the babies, I know that it gave me great practice at getting not only myself, but my 6 month old dressed and out the door. Even if it did take an hour, and even if I was wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt...baby steps right? Anyways, I could tell from the moment I met Nadine that she was super cool and that I wanted us to be friends. And lucky for me, we are!

It was such a perfect night for the Mortweet family's session, the leaves were just starting to change but it wasn't too cold yet. We had lots of room for Tyler to run, but luckily we kept most of the evening fun enough that he wanted to be near us and play. And the sun, we all know I'm a sucker for golden hour. This one was absolutely perfect.

I loved getting to hang out with these cool people, and capture the love and joy that they exude.

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The Tosh Family - Part Deux | Loudoun County Family Photographer

I've blogged about this family before, and was actually called out at this session by mama Julie for my last post which covered how I tend to have to chase after their oldest son, William, to get photos. So now I'm calling you out for calling me out for calling you out, Julie!  But this time, I didn't have to run after William at all, not that I mind having to chase a kiddo for good shots. However, dad Chris probably has a little bit of a different take on things! Seriously though, the Tosh family has mastered photo shoots. Julie is an absolute rock star at coming up with coordinating outfits for the whole family, and even thinks about breaking up the color of one son's pants, against dad's shirt. Talk about an ideal client (and friend!) 

We took images at a few different settings within one main park to add variety to their gallery, and every step of the way was so much fun. I think the pinnacle was when we moved to the final location which had these insane ball seed things all over the place. I literally just googled as "weird ball seed brain looking things from trees" and it turns out they are Osage Oranges from Osage trees. One year old Henry was the first to spot them, pointing and saying "ball!". So we let the boys play with them (don't worry, they're not toxic, in fact my google search just taught me that they're edible but it's very difficult to extract the seeds.) Then we realized that they kind of worked as a Christmas-y props, their green coloring contrasting against the red blanket that the boys sat upon. The boys loved them, and all in all, it was just hilarious.

I just had such a blast hanging out with this fun family. And look at the eyes on these boys, talk about stunning!

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My 365 | Northern Virginia Photographer

I don't know why I felt the desire to start a personal project like a 365...especially considering I was adjusting to life of a mama of two, with a 2 year old and a 2 month old. At the time, I remember asking my lifelong girlfriends for advice on a unifying theme for my 365, but I think we all knew that I was using delay tactics. The enormity of this project seemed overwhelming. And while I knew I wanted to do it, I was scared and so I tried to find ways to put it off. Which is so silly, because it was a personal project! And now that it's said and done, I am so glad that I pushed through the fear and did it. 

With that year under my belt, and thousands of RAW files on various external drives, I haven't been so proud of my creative self in a long time. It was such a positive experience, and the growth I can see in my images from September 1, 2016 to September 1, 2017 is surreal. And it's not just technical understanding of my camera, settings, light, shadow and composition, but the story, and the growth of my children over that time. Given all of the positives I took from this experience, I encourage you to consider a personal project as well. It doesn't require a fancy camera, in fact the megapixels on the iPhone camera far surpass those on my first DSLR. It also doesn't have to be a year, you could make it a 30 day challenge. If the idea of a 365 even so much as sparks your interest, I encourage you to take on a personal creative project. You won't regret it.

So if you're ready to give it a go, here are my tips on how to make it successful.

Let it Be Organic
Like I mentioned before, I became so hung up on brainstorming a theme that I let it serve as a roadblock to actually beginning. Just start! I guarantee that a theme will present itself as time goes by. And if you do have an idea of a theme before starting, that's awesome. You're way ahead of me!

In the beginning I didn't really know where this was going, so I took photos of my kids. I'm pretty sure my thought process was "Uhhh, yes. Baby on carpet. Go."

In the beginning I didn't really know where this was going, so I took photos of my kids. I'm pretty sure my thought process was "Uhhh, yes. Baby on carpet. Go."

Plan Ahead When You Can
Part of this journey meant bringing my camera with me everywhere. At first it felt cumbersome and somewhat annoying, but over time it helped me see the beauty in even the most mundane daily occurrences. Now I kick myself when I forget to bring it to a local playground, as the light dances around my son's curls.

An everyday afternoon trip to the playground can be such an amazing snapshot into life as it is today.

An everyday afternoon trip to the playground can be such an amazing snapshot into life as it is today.

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Embrace the Chaos
I really do try to keep my house clean. But I've come to terms with the fact that while I have a few toddlers running around, it just isn't going to be the pristine escape I envision. This brings me to a really odd memory. When I was in college, disposable cameras were all the rage. Do I sound like Grandpa Simpson? I feel like I did right there.  Anyways, I don't know if I took this picture on purpose or not, but I have an image of my dorm room, as it was. I remember getting that roll of film developed and almost throwing out that photo. But I didn't, and I actually really love it when I come upon that mistaken image. It's such a great window into this tiny little cube that was my home for a pivotal year of my life. 

So! I say work with the mess, shoot with it, around it and through it. Someday you'll love that window into your life as it was. 

Messes everywhere, but I will always cherish this...my crazy little guy racing his trike through our house.

Messes everywhere, but I will always cherish this...my crazy little guy racing his trike through our house.

Find even the smallest amount of light

Find even the smallest amount of light

Know that You'll Get Stuck
There will be days when you have no idea what to shoot. I reached a point where I just didn't know how many more photos I could take of my son at his train table. When you hit a wall, change something up. Try out a different lens, why not take a macro shot of Thomas on the train tracks!? Take your camera somewhere completely unexpected. I'll admit I still haven't garnered up the courage to take my camera to the grocery store, but I will. And I know those images will be a fantastic representation of the chaos in the mundane. Or try to shoot in a lighting situation that feels completely crazy difficult. You'll be surprised at the results.

Forgive Yourself
Unless you have the discipline of my man Dwayne Johnson, you will most likely miss a day here and there. I absolutely missed some days, it happens. In fact, I ended up continuing my 365 for an additional month to try to make up for those days. I remember one night I was in bed and then I realized I had forgotten to take my image for the day. I must have been feeling particularly motivated, because I got out of bed, brought my camera up to the bedroom and tried to find a random composition. I ended up taking an image of the video monitor sitting on my nightstand. It took a few tries to get the settings right given the tricky lighting, but I always stop on that image as I scroll through my favorites from the project, my angelic sleeping 2 year old. Such an everyday moment, looking at your monitor to check on your babies, and I am so grateful to have frozen it in time with that last minute capture.

But you know what? There were way more nights where I realized I had forgotten to take my daily image, and I said "oh well, there's always tomorrow." That's the nice thing about a personal project. You're the boss, you can be as hardcore as you'd like. 

Reward Yourself
I'm working on a photo book of the finished images from my 365. It won't be anything crazy, there are a bunch of companies that will take all of your files and compile them into a beautifully laid out design, ZNO comes to mind. But it will be such a great snapshot into this year in the life of my family.

Go forth and chase the light, my friends!

Go forth and chase the light, my friends!

The Choi Family | Leesburg VA Family Photographer

Right out of college I took a graphic design job at a small government contractor in Northern Virginia. The hours were grueling, the work wasn't fun, and it was quite the wake up call for me in terms of what I could expect in the real world. However, I will always look back on my time at that company fondly, as I met my husband there, and some of my best friends.

One of those friends also met her husband there.

Christina was the receptionist, the ever-friendly face of the company, and Mike was the quiet but hilarious (when he spoke up) accounting guy. I know that I rooted for them to start dating, and I think of the rest of the company felt the same. It took much longer than many of us meddlers would have liked, but eventually Mike and Christina went on their first date and the rest is history. Here we are over 10 years later, and they have started a family that I was honored to get the chance to photograph.

It was such a joy to capture their love and connection, plus they were such great sports with the heat and unbelievable amount of gnats!

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Henry's First Birthday | Ashburn VA Family Photographer

You might be noticing a theme here...I met Julie through my hospital's new moms group following the birth of my son and hers. She has been a huge supporter of my work, and has booked sessions time and again, and it's such an honor to be able to photograph her adorable guys as they grow. William, her son who's the same age as mine, gives me an excellent workout during our shoots, as I find I spend a lot of time chasing him around. But I honestly love that, I get to capture real images of who William is, mischief and all. And get to my 10,000 step goal quicker too!

Julie asked me to do some first birthday pictures of Henry along with some family shots. First off, this family always come dressed and coordinated impeccably. On top of that, Julie always has multiple ADORABLE outfit options for the boys, and for this session she even came with balloons and a birthday hat for Henry. And on top of that, they're always in good spirits and such good sports, even when nature is out to get them (sorry Chris!) 

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What to Expect for Your Session

It's not every day that you and yours get dressed up, load into the family car and head to a random location in exurban Virginia. I've compiled a list of things to expect when booking an outdoor session with Lennah Press Photo & Paper.

Light + Timing

I'm not alone in the photography world when I say that I love shooting during "golden hour" or the hour after sunrise/hour before sunset. The light at these times of day is soft, the temperature of the light is warm, and colors appear so rich and creamy. It's utterly magical, and I just can't get enough of it. There's a fleeting nature to this time of day, and the images captured within it feel like a enchanted memory to me.

Even shuffling along a dirt path can be magical with the right kind of light

Even shuffling along a dirt path can be magical with the right kind of light

Golden hour isn't actually an hour, it depends on a number of factors including the date, time and location of the photographer in relation to the sun. Some days might only have that magical light for 5 minutes, some days it doesn't make an appearance at all due to cloud cover. 

The timing of golden hour can pose problems when photographing babies, toddlers and young children who might usually be in bed during this time. I stand by the statement that I would rather have a happy child than a beautifully lit angry child. But if the sun-drenched images in my portfolio drew you to my work, I ask that you consider being flexible to scheduling your shoot during golden hour. As a mother of two myself, I understand how important routines are to a child's day. But if you think your child/children can handle it, and you can do things to mitigate meltdowns (such as pushing nap time back, bringing snacks, promising a very special treat following the session), my advice is to go for it.

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Location
I've lived in Loudoun county for 6 years, and I am still taken aback by it's rural beauty. Some of my favorite spots for photographing families are rugged and rustic...i.e. you will probably have to drive a ways to get to the location, that route will most likely include a gravel road, we might have to pause the session to swat a few gnats, and I'll almost always advise to check for ticks afterwards. I prefer locations that aren't teeming with people so that your family can relax and be yourselves, and you are free from fear of your child/children running into danger. 

Posing
I call my brand of photography "life-inspired." I almost always try to get the "grandma shot" early in the session. You know what I'm talking about, the one where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, the kind of image that a grandma would love! Once that's out of the way, we can all really relax and just have fun. You should know that I will be hands on, I will pose you, I will fix an errant hair, I will ask you or your spouse to stand SUPER close to me so that your 9 month old is looking at my lens and smiling, not off to the side. And in some cases I might seat you in a way that might feel really awkward and unnatural. But trust that I am posing you in a flattering way and making sure that everyone looks their best. On that note, please tell me if there are bad knees or other injuries I need to consider! Dads already don't care for family photo sessions, I'd hate for him to come out of it with a stiff hip or tweaked knee!

If you have kiddos, we will play games, and let them be kids! I've found that this is the best way to get real smiles, and capture lasting memories of such a fleeting time. As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Someday you won't be able to scoop your child up in your arms and flip him upside down. Let's preserve memories like that.

In many cases I will ask that you NOT look at me. It sounds like such a cliche photographer thing to say, but oftentimes my favorite images are those where it's like I wasn't even there. I want true interaction, emotional connections, and real feeling. Those are the moments I live to photograph. Life-inspired.

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Props
In the same way that I veer towards rustic settings, I'm drawn to a vintage vibe when it comes to props. In most cases I'll bring a crocheted vintage afghan, vintage quilt and a neutral blanket for sitting poses. Then I will tailor props to the age of your kiddos. For a 10 month old, I might bring a vintage galvanized steel wash basin to plop her in, for a baby that can stand supported, I would bring a crate for him to lean on. You're more than welcome to bring props of your own, but try to keep them timeless. I also have a few tricks up my sleeve if we are really having trouble getting smiles out of little ones.

Clothing
Upon e-signing the contract, I will send you a little "what to wear" guide to help you in choosing your family's outfits. First and foremost, I want to photograph YOUR family, not the family you found on pinterest. So while I offer advice for those who would like it, most importantly, you do you. The reason I send the guide is that I've found that clothing has been one of the biggest concerns for clients, and part of my job is alleviating any stress you might feel about your session.

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Ridiculousness
You should probably know that when I'm trying to get smiles out of kids, I act really ridiculous. Maybe you're laughing at me, maybe you're laughing at how badly you want to be anywhere but sitting on a quilt in Loudoun getting family pictures taken. But I just love personality, especially when it comes through in a photograph. I will include silly pics in your gallery where your husband is photobombing, or your baby is giving her brother the stink eye. If it makes me laugh, I will include it. 

Ready? Let's do this!