Silver Lining

Hello, lovely friends

I know its been a minute or two, so I have a lot to talk about.

First, because I have to, let me tell you about one of the most incredible things to ever happen to me. This is a SUPER personal story, one I’ve told many, many times over my life, but a few months ago, it got a new ending. In a week or so, I will actually blog about work, but not today.

In order for me to tell it, I’m going to try and be considerate of all the people involved, while telling it from my personal perspective. Its not meant to be anything except the story of Me and my Dad,

here goes…

So I have to start way back in the late 70’s;

My mother was married to her first of 3 husbands, R, and they had 2 sons, Chad and Nathan. They had been having some problems in their marriage and were on rocky ground. My mother got pregnant with me and I *believe* they were separated by the time I was born, and eventually got a divorce.

I grew up with my mom, a single mother, and was always told that R was my biological father. I saw him often when he dropped my brothers off for the weekend. He was never rude or mean to me, but he told me for as long as I could remember, that I was not his daughter.  Being a kid, and only having my mother as a resource, I thought he was just being a dick. I never felt connected to him, so I was always in a state of confusion when he was around. I want to re-iterate, R was never unkind to me, just matter-of-fact with our relation to each other.

(side note-I just want to add that I had many amazing uncles in my life, and still do, that were more than happy to love me and guide me and let me give them my school-made fathers day cards over my childhood. Without them, I don’t know what I would have done)

Fast forward to 1995; for various reasons that I wont get into, I was asked to do a DNA test with R.

So I did, 100% thinking it would prove that he was my dad and then we would move on from there.

You can imagine my surprise when the test came back, and he wasn’t my biological father. I had no idea that was even a possibility. I was completely blindsided, and mostly devastated because it meant my brothers were only ‘half’.

At that age, at that time, it ruined me. I felt betrayed and lied to, and I felt sorrow for all the time I had lost.

Again, my friends and family helped me through it and when my mother told me my real Dad was a guy named Ian, I couldn’t wait to meet him and try to have this father-daughter relationship that I had wanted my whole life.

The 4 months from when I got the results back, to when I tearfully called Ian, were torture. I couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t phone him and let him know about me. As a kid, I couldn’t imagine what that looked like for her, either; having to call a guy 17 years after ‘dating’.

I carried his phone number in my back pocket every day, for over 100 days.

Through a series of dramatic events, it all came down to a little road trip to Vancouver, to meet up with my mother and go to meet my Dad.

We met. It was clumsy and uncomfortable. His wife was there, and TBH, she didn’t care for me, or the situation.

We spent time together only a few times over the next 2-3 years; always painful and awkward and terrible. It was not the relationship I had hoped for. Over the years he began to avoid me all together. I called him to tell him when Jeff and I got pregnant, hoping the thought of a grandchild might soften his heart and he would let us in. It didn’t.

When we got pregnant with our second son, I tried again, but to no avail. He wasn’t interested in connecting with me at all, or my kids.

In 2014, I had recently become a stay at home mom and found myself slipping into a bad space (in hindsight, maybe a bit of PPD)

I reached out again, *one last time* and Ian told me in a very straightforward way, that he didn’t want me to ever contact him again. He didn’t have any other kids and he didn’t want any.

I hit what became my rock-bottom.

I felt helpless and unloved and lost, for I had two parents that were letting me down- not willing to work on building a healthy, loving relationship with me.

I was talking on the phone with Jeff one night, crying mostly, about how sad I was and how I *just needed to do something else. I needed to leave the fucking house and not drag my 2 toddlers along. I needed to have adult conversations and be creative and bring home some money and, most importantly, feel good about my life again.

With his blessing and encouragement, I signed up for photo school at SAIT.

I had no idea what the outcome was going to be, but I knew it would be something; something I truly loved and something that made my heart happy, and something I knew I could get better at.

I saw a therapist and she helped me get through that rough time. I didn’t realize how much it helped until I was at school a few months later, chatting with other photo-nerds, and realized I felt good. Like better than I had felt in a long time. The cloud had lifted and I took a hard look at it-I came to understand that I need to be creative to be happy. I need to, for my heart, soul, and mental health.

So I carried on, and as you know, I’ve been busting my butt, Mom-ing hard, and doing what I love and living a pretty happy life.

The thing is, I never had proof that Ian was my Dad. I had asked him to take a test with me 5 years ago and at first he had agreed, but eventually said he didn’t care enough to make it happen. I really wanted proof.

So here we fucking go;

I was gifted an Ancestry.com test for Christmas, and sent it in. The results came back reasonably quick, and low and be-fucking-hold, there aint no Ian, or his family, in my tree.

W.T.F.

I couldn’t eat, sleep, or function well for about 5 days. My brain was broken, my stomach was in knots, my heart hurt, and I was in shock.

Jeff arrived home the next day and thank god-he was there to keep the house running while *Mommy had a melt down* and also, to be my moral support. I am lucky to have friends and family that were with me through this shit-show when I was 16, and now again at 40. My support team was huge and unwavering, I could not be more blessed.

So, through the ancestry site I was connected with a second cousin, Lisa. I shared with her a bit of my story and let her know I was (desperately) looking for my Dad. She put me in touch with another gal, Alyson, who is a “DNA-angel’.

Alyson had found lost family through a DNA test as well and spent her life helping others to find theirs. She truly is an angel, and without her, none of this would have happened.

So we connect and I let her know as much as I could and she did her thing. For 5 or 6 weeks, I was on edge, constantly looking at the site to see what other information she was adding to my family tree. It was excruciating, because I was so scared I had missed him. What if he had passed on? What if I missed my chance?

I had obviously gone over in my head, the scenario in which I find him, hes alive, and he doesn’t want anything to do with me. Everyone kept warning me about this possibility, as all I could say was “well, I lived through that. Twice. I could do it again, if I had to”

Finally, sweet mother of god, finally Alyson contacts me. She gets me on my laptop and explains to me whats going on. In the weeks previous, I had seen my Dads name on my tree, but wasn’t even looking at him as a candidate. Ancestry has its own algorithms and had showed me a girl, Sam, living in Australia, as my cousin. I had contacted her and let her know what was going on. I was convinced that one of her uncles was my dad. But she didn’t have any uncles, and there was some messy adoption stories from her mothers side of the family. I thought I had hit a dead end, until the day Alyson called.

She had done all the work to find out that Ancestry had gotten it wrong; Sam wasn’t my cousin, but in fact my niece. Her grandpa Al in Kamloops (my hometown) was my Dad. Sams mother, Ann, is my half-sister. (another dream come true)

Sam had contacted her grandpa (my dad) to let him know that there was a girl looking to ‘fill in some gaps’ on her family tree. He and his wife, Terrie, told Sam to give me their phone number and for me to call anytime, as they were eager to help me.

I went on Facebook and sought out any info I could- my Dad is not on Facebook, but his wife is. So I did the thing, you know, stalking? (lol) and combed through her photos, until finally… I saw my Dad.

I messaged her immediately and (without being specific) told her I was looking for information about my family. She told me that her husband Al knew quite a bit about the family and had an amazing memory, and that he would be able to answer any questions I had. I promised to call the next day.

I had his phone number. I knew his name and what he looked like.

I was in such a state of shock, I didn’t know what to do with myself; so I promptly drank a glass of wine, called everyone I knew, cried my eyes out, and danced around my kitchen. Weird right? Whatever.

And here it is;

I barely slept. I woke up and just tried not to have a mental breakdown. I considered every possibility; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I told myself that I would be ok no matter what, because I had already been through the worst. I felt like nothing, nothing could be more awful than going through what I had already, for 40 years.

So I pick up the phone and I call him. He answers, as hes expecting my call, and is gracious and kind, right off the hop.

I ask him a few questions to confirm that he is my Dad (as Alyson had recommended) and then got right into it;

I asked him if he knew a woman with my mothers name, he said he did. (and he kind of chuckled when he said ‘I know her very well” lol)

He told me he used to spend time with her and a large group of friends in a small town, just outside Kamloops. He knew she had been married but didn’t know about any children. I told him that she was my mother, and that the research Alysson had done shows that He, in fact, was my father.

He said “what? Who’s your father?’

I laughed and said “you are!”

He said “when were you born?’

I told him, and he laughed as well, because his memory is so frigging sharp, even at 72, that he knows hes my Dad.

So we had a short conversation and then he asked me to call him back in a few hours. My heart sank and I thought ‘what if this is it? What if he decides he doesn’t want this and he never answers the phone again when I call’?

I hung up, cried, laughed, freaked out, and waited a few hours to call him back.

When I did, he answered (THANK GODDD!!) and I could hear him smiling. I asked how he was, and if he was ok with all of this.

His response?

“this is the best day of my life; my family just grew by 5”

Cue. The. Fucking. Tears.

We talked for quite awhile, covering a lot of ground; I asked him about his relationship with my mother, his childhood, his wife, and anything else I could think of.

He asked me questions too; what was my favorite color, food, drink, place to travel. What kind of music do I like?

It was magnificent. He was there, and he was happy, and he loved me already.

We made plans to meet up a few weeks later when Jeff got home from work. And we did.

Jeff and I packed up the ol’ Mini van and drove 7 hours to my hometown. We spent the night with one of my child hood friends (Christine-I cannot thank you enough) who had been there for me when I was 16 as well. We woke up, left the kids at Chris’s house, and drove down to my dads.

We met at his front door and I didn’t even cry. I hugged him as hard as I could, I looked into his eyes and saw my other half; the half that had been missing my whole life. The other human who created me, who I was half of.

There’s no way I can adequately describe my feelings-I was overwhelmed and honestly, probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. He wears hats like me, too, which is cute AF.

We went to his neighborhood pub, alone, so we could have a talk and drink a cider together. The waitress brought over flowers and a card,  (as my Dad had been in earlier that day to arrange everything for me as a surprise) He also gave me a hat belt (? Is that what they’re called?) to match his, so we could be twinnsies. (ARE. YOU. KIDDING.ME. RIGHT. NOW?)

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We sat and ate and laughed and told each other straight up, what our lives were like. All of it. We talked about jobs and childhood and lost loves and how my Dad was a boxer, and a pretty damn good one, and he could probably knock out your Dad, to be honest. (;))

We went for a drive and shared a cigar and listened to music and he took me back to his place, where Jeff and the kids were waiting with my new step mom, Terrie.

We all cried and hugged told stories and drank ciders and laughed and laughed and laughed.

It was one of the best days of my entire life. I can’t put it into words, there are none to describe it.

My kids call him grandpa. He and Jeff love each other. Terrie is a wonderful woman who has welcomed all of us with open arms and a big heart.

It couldn’t have gone any better, even in my dreams.

Since then, we spent some more time together, and we chat almost every day, sending photos and heart emojis.

Ill be driving out to Kamloops over the summer with my kids so we can stay with him and Terrie and most likely, share more stories and laughs.

My Dad is kind, honest, funny, and hardworking. He likes adventure and music and sharing love.

And the best part? He wants to be my Dad. He wants to be a grandpa to my kids, a father in law to Jeff. He wants us to be a family.

The photo I was dying to take of him. handsome isn’t he?

The photo I was dying to take of him. handsome isn’t he?

 

I called him on Sunday, fathers’ day.

For the very first time in my life, I called my MF Dad on fathers’ day, and had a beautiful, loving conversation. wow.

Here’s to many more…

Love you Dad, thanks for being everything I ever wanted, and more than I could have hoped for.

See how everything just works out? My previous situation with Ian led me to becoming a photographer. Everything happens for a reason, right?

I will blog in the next week or so, to actually talk about work stuff, but I had to get this story out first. Its just too good not to share :)

 

Chat again soon, my lovelies, please don’t hesitate to share this and spread the love

 

Xoxoxo

Reens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can't you hear me knocking?

hello, you beautiful people, and happy MF new year!

I hope that 2019 brings you all the health, wealth, and smooches you can handle xo

Now, onto business; I haven’t blogged in about 8 months, and I’m telling you right now-there’s no way I can jam all of the awesomeness I’ve experienced in that time, into one little post. So instead, I’m going to try to graze over it, and chat about the highlights :)

May was kind of the official kick-off to Wedding Season for me, but I was able to do a few other sessions as well. Family, engagement, and collaboration sessions, plus meetings wherever I could squeeze them in.

I also put a beautiful chair in a creek and asked my friends to bring their babies for some photos-sometimes I get an idea in mind and need to work it out-I’m so thankful my friends humor me and let me indulge in my weird shit, while photographing them and their little ones.

It’s easy to capture their love and sweetness (and maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky, a temper tantrum;))

It was getting busy, but I had no idea what was to come…..

June was the first month that I had 3 weddings booked. It was a little insane, as 2 of them took me out of town (which can make for a long day) but I love the opportunity to have a little time to myself before/after a wedding, mostly to crank up my stereo and sing as loud as I can with no one else in the car (my poor children)

I kind of figured 3 weddings/month would be a good limit, as editing photos is by far the most time consuming part of my job. I love editing, don’t get me wrong, but as each wedding requires 10 hours minimum, I knew I would be pushing it for time.

I drove out to Banff, to the Buffalo Mountain park lodge-it was probably one of my most scenic locations, and it took my breath away. I was so happy to be able to spend more time in the mountains and relish in the upcoming summer warmth.

*fun fact-did you know? Banff and all mountain parks require a special permit for a calgary-based small businesses. And they are not cheap! Just over $200 for only ONE day-compared to Canmore, which offers a 3 day license for just over $100.

I closed out the month with a wedding that I had been so anxiously awaiting. It was my *second favourite of the year. Im allowed to say that, right? It was my number one, until I took off to BC in September. But more on that later...

I met with Louise and her family last year, and I knew immediately that it was going to be a great day, based on their easy going mannerism and the way we all got along. Everyone made me feel so welcome, it was like they were family. I adore you, Vincents!!!

The ceremony location was out at the Coutts center in Nanton, a spot I had heard only good things about. It did not disappoint-the variety of backdrops for me, as a photographer, was staggering. Louise and Damon are such a stunning couple, and so in love, it was so simple for me to capture the chemistry and adoration between them. 

I also took one of my top 3 favourite photos of 2018 that day-

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July brought me something incredible-my very own studio.
The NVRLND building is located in the heart of YYC, in an old, derelict building that had been rumoured to be a brothel, just a few years ago. It had been transformed in to a collective for creatives; every room houses a different artist-all types-under one roof. It was affordable and clean; a blank slate, so I jumped on it.


Finally a space to be able to spew all my girlie, boho, weirdness all over the place, with no rules. I am also able to store most of my props, furniture, backdrops, and decor pieces, and still have room for a bar (the coffee kind, and a maybe little champagne)

one of my closest friends, Lindz (of Raelee Beauty Services)

one of my closest friends, Lindz (of Raelee Beauty Services)

I also had 3 weddings in July, but only 1 was a full day, the other 2 being just a few hours each.

It was busy, as I was also trying to make use of the new space, so I did some boudoir/dudeoir sessions to get used to the light.

I had also asked friends to recommend some charity events to me that needed a photog, and was connected with Jason, a local barber who had started an organization-streetcuts barber-to give away free haircuts to the less fortunate. I love being able to help out whenever I can, and it was a great fit as Jay and I got along really well! I also headed down to okotoks to help him out with a charity barber competition, and met some AMAZING people! I had so much fun, I didn’t want to leave ;)


One of the weddings I was part of in June, was a 30 year anniversary vow renewal. To be clear, Blaine and Maryann renewed their vows, on the exact day they first got married, 30 years earlier. This was such a special affair, with another couple I was so blessed to meet. From the instant we sat down for coffee, there were hugs and laughs, and such a feeling of friendship, like I had known them my whole life. We had such a great conversation that first day, and I was so excited to see them renew their vows. I will forever have a little spot in my heart for them, and will always feel lucky they chose me.

The Azuridge, Priddis Alberta

The Azuridge, Priddis Alberta

The ceremony itself was out in Priddis, at a venue called the Azuridge. I had shot a wedding there last year, but had a terrible experience. I was happy to see the staff had been shuffled around and the service was back where it should be-impeccable. 


Just when I thought I couldn't be any busier, I shot 5 (yes, for realz) FIVE weddings in August. 3 full day and 2 smaller packages.

It. Was. Insane.

At this point, I had fallen behind, for the first time ever, on deadlines. There are no words for me to express my remorse, and my regret, for those clients who received their photos up to 6 days late. (most were 3-4, but still) Almost everyone was understanding and sweet, thankfully, but it didn't help my sky-rocketing stress levels to know I was not fulfilling my end of the deal. I had never been in that situation before, and it was crushing. All I could do was offer everyone a wedding album or free session to make up for it.  
I thought 90 days was adequate, but I didn't take into account that I had a baby, one that was crawling and teething and requiring so much more of my time, mostly for snuggles. I also have a problem saying no. Obviously.

Remy and Me  Photo taken by my husband

Remy and Me

Photo taken by my husband

There were many, many times when I asked myself "Why did I start a business? Why didn’t I just do the SAHM thing, and let that be enough? Why would I take on all this work, and struggle, and stress?’

I felt like a failure, even though everyone told me I was excelling. Anytime I’d chat with a friend, they’d say

‘wow! your business is really taking off!’

I’d smile, and NOT tell them how I wasn’t sleeping enough, I wasn’t getting to the gym as often as I was used to, how my house was always a little bit messy, and to be honest, I was falling apart.

It was a weird time.

Then I would remember; I do it because I love it. I do it because I need to work-to be creative and meet people and share energy, and to feel like I'm doing something important; something that matters, to me and to others.

I do it because I want my husband back in Calgary, and I need to bring home a little bacon for that to happen.

And, more than anything, 'cuz I just love to turn on my camera.

So, 5 weddings in August, right.

lets break this down-

H&K, a wonderful, sweet couple, with a unique love story, got married at Gathered, a remarkable location just outside the city. It was very similar to where my husband & I got married; a working farm with a shack for the food to be cooked, and a gorgeous, clear tent, filled with edison-type hanging bulbs. So simple and rustic and elegant-plus the best frigging corn bread I've ever had in my life. Not to mention some pretty outstanding donuts-made fresh-to finish off the night.

This is one of my most recommended locations in and around Calgary, hands down.


The next day, it was all about E&B, music nerds like me, at one of the coolest DT wedding venues. Brian also gave his bride the best (and I mean Best) show at the reception, that I will probably ever see. An angle grinder, some Ginuwine, and some Channing Tatum-inspired moves. It was absolutely unreal-a moment I will never forget. Then topped off with MJ? Yeah, I was done. Throw in a killer lip-sync battle, and this was probably one of the best receptions I saw all summer. Nice work Brian!

I also managed to snap another of my favourite photos of 2018 at this wedding; Beatles inspired, of course.

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then! K&C. This wedding had the most popular wedding date of the year (08-18-18) and had been booked early on the previous spring. These guys had the biggest wedding party I had ever worked with, and it was such a great time! Despite the smoke in the air from the fires in BC, Kayla and Colin made the best of the day!

I would have to say, this bridal party was my favourite, because it was so big, and they all made it so much fun to be around them all day! My cheeks hurt from laughing by the end of the night :)


B&J, and M&K both had smaller weddings, coincidentally at the same location in bridgeland, in DT calgary. Brian & Jess had a pop-up wedding-my first! We met with the officiant, chose a spot in the community garden, and went for it! It was short and sweet, and I was in awe to see such a unique ceremony. Brian and Jess are also fitness instructors at my gym, so I’ve known them for a few years, and loved them (even when cursing their names while grinding away at Goodlife)


I actually managed to even do a few other sessions in Aug, including my own family, because, you know, I like to push myself to the absolute limit. Or I’m a sucker for punishment, whatever.


September. Ahhhhh, september.

The kids went back to school, the baby found a regular nap schedule, and I found some time to get caught up. I also managed to squeeze in 2 weddings, a 40 year old cake smash in the mountains (YESSS!) and a trip back home to BC to visit friends and family. Another bucket list item was checked off when I got to photograph a gender reveal for my cousin and his family. (its a GIRL!)

My first wedding of the month was at the Lougheed house, an old, historic building in DT. It was a venue I had been DYING to shoot at, and was overjoyed when Allison and Rob hired me. Their love story was one of my favourites-they had dated in high school, and were madly in love; Ally, a good girl and Rob, her bad-boy boyfriend with the sweet car. As most teenage relationships go, they had a fight and broke up at a party one night, and lost touch for 20+ years, only to reunite, and fall madly in love, all over again.

Talk about your sweet love story! 

Moving on to my most favourite wedding of the year-Jen and Sean had the most romantic engagement story I had ever heard, and just sitting with them, you could see that their chemistry was off the charts.

I had referred one of my closest friends-Lindsey-for hair and makeup, so her and I headed out of town one friday afternoon, down the 93 to BC. It had been so long since I had driven that road, I had forgot how beautiful it was. We were able to stop for photos along the way, which was so fun!

We went to the resort and met up with another one of my best friends, France, as she was watching the boys the next day while I worked. We cruised around beautiful Fairmont, ate delicious food, and enjoyed the scenery.

The wedding day was perfect-Jen and Sean are easily two of the most relaxed and laid back couples I had ever worked with, so everything went smoothly with no stress. The ceremony was at the Fairmont resort, overlooking the valley. Stunning views and more wonderful people to keep the mood upbeat and stress free. And, Jen and Sean’s first kiss, was THE BEST FIRST KISS I HAVE EVER SEEN!!

So to recap; road trip to BC, hanging with two of my besties and my kids, perfect weather and an amazing couple, with killer food and a gorgeous venue.

this is why it was my favourite. 

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Bazang! 

I rounded out the month with some fall-minis  at confederation park, and geared up for October, my first wedding-free month since February. I had some more family sessions and an engagement shoot in Big Hill Springs. I also crammed in some fashion work for a local high-end second hand store. It was so remarkable to spend time with fellow boss-babes and collaborate on something we all love! I made some great connections, one in  particular with a gal who I’ll be working with on a monthly basis-Danielle is a stylist who puts her whole heart into everything she does.

I also got to leave town with my husband.

Jeff and I hadn’t been alone for more than 20 hours, in EIGHT frigging years-Im not even kidding. it was pure bliss to have him all to myself, uninterrupted, for 4 days, and in NYC, no less.

We ate, we drank, we shopped, we went on a romantic carriage ride in central park, went to a comedy show in times square, got caught in the rain, got a little bit drunk in Grand Central Station with a chilhood friend, saw the 911 memorial, and smooched our faces off. It was my most favourite adventure of the whole year.

photo by: Valentin Collective, NYC

photo by: Valentin Collective, NYC

November brought another trip out of the country when I went to Cancun for a destination wedding with Lindsey, Monte, and their friends and family.

It was just a quick 5 day trip, as I had a wedding to get back to in YYC, but we made the best of the short time frame.

Bride and brother in-law, doing the Titanic thing!

Bride and brother in-law, doing the Titanic thing!

The ceremony almost got rained out, but luckily it only lasted a few minutes and the sun came out again!

I have to say, this group of people were amazing-I felt so welcomed and invited by everyone, I was so sad to say goodbye. One of the hard parts of this part of my job is getting know people, and spending some real quality time with them, only to return home and realize I barely have enough time for my usual friends, let alone a fabulous group of 20, fun, hilarious people. These guys tho, stellar group.

I finished off the year with 3 more weddings, including another in Mexico, (I know, I’m super lucky) and another in Canmore. All 3 of these were again, filled with great folks, all kind and lovely.

I also set up a few Christmas sets in studio and ran minis and full sessions-they turned out ok, and I learned a lot.

*Note to self, get lights*

My family was able to join me in December on the Mexico trip, which was a change of pace, but fun! We had some pretty incredible times, and not only did my boys get better at swimming, we released baby turtles into the ocean at sunset. It was one of the most memorable, awe-inspiring moments of my entire life.


…which brings me to my third and final most favourite photo of 2018…..

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If you’ve read this far, (and I’m wondering how many do!) I’d like to thank you, from the bottom of my tired-ass heart. This has been, by fucking far, the most challenging year of my life, but also the most rewarding. I busted my ass, harder than I thought I could, and barely managed to hold on.

Its been a wild god-damned ride, but one I am grateful for.

PS. thank god for coffee, and smooches.

nothing but love,

Reens xo

I just wanna stay up all night with you....

Well, its been a minute hasn’t it?

I’ve recently accepted the fact that I cannot sustain a weekly blog. Or a monthy one. 

 

As you can imagine, things have been a little crazy over here the last 5 months. Blissfully, beautifully, insanely crazy.

I have never been so empty, and yet so full, so tired and yet so awake, so exhausted, and yet so fulfilled. 

To begin, I’ll start with the best part, the birth of our Little One, Remy.

He was scheduled to be delivered on December the 29th, via c-section. On the 21st, I went to see my Baby Doc, as I hadn’t seen her in a while and I was getting concerned about my blood pressure.

Sure enough, she confirmed that I was developing pre-eclampsia. (note to self-always trust your gut! I knew something wasn’t right and I made the appointment)

So, at 1130am on a Thursday, I was told that I would be having my third baby early, like now early,  as in, tomorrow early (the 22nd)

Surprise!

 

I got in my car, I called a few friends, and I was a bawling mess; because I was so happy the wait was over; I would be holding my love and getting to smooch him a full week early. Because my hospital bag wasn’t even packed yet. Because I was mega hormonal. Because I was horribly, unbearably uncomfortable. Because at almost 40 years old, growing/birthing babies at my age is hard(er). Because I hadn’t finished folding his clothes and organizing his room yet. Because Jeff was arriving back home in Calgary in exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes and I knew he had things he wanted to finish in the next 7 days as well. Because, my last, my sweetest little baby, would be here with us for Christmas, and what a beautiful gift, what a great time to come into this world :)

I drove to the airport, and through tears, I told my husband that we had to go home and pack, and Grandma needed to come, and sleepover, because we were having a baby in the morning, and, and, and.... you get it. I was an emotional disaster. There was a whole lot more going on involving me monitoring my blood pressure and some tense moments, but what matters is-the next morning, Jeff and I drove to the hospital, the same one where Kash and Atty were born, and settled in, to welcome Baby Remy Wilson Brown into our family.

There were no complications, no dramatics, nothing out of the ordinary-we had a wonderful medical team (all female, just sayin’) at the Rockyview, and he came into this world surrounded by love and happy tears. It was amazing. The Drs even allowed Jeff to take this photo, baby still attached, umbilical cord hadn’t been cut yet. I'm pretty sure it’s the greatest photo Jeff has ever taken.

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Being as old as I am, (40 at the end of this year)  and knowing the toll this takes on my body (despite being a gym nerd and considerably healthy-ish) we knew going in that I would get the ‘ol Baby Factory shut down while they were in there, and that Remy would for sure-sies, be the last baby for us.

 

He has been the sweetest, calmest, most chilled out little baby you ever did meet. He smiles constantly, between naps and feeding, that is. We couldn’t have asked for a more healthy, charming, and beautiful little boy. I have already taken thousands of photos of him, and I'll share a few at the end of this post.

Introducing our older boys to the new baby was a heart-melting event; they are so in love with him-fiercely protective and already stepping up and helping out like big brothers should. Having 3 boys in my life...wow. just wow. What am I in for? Madness, I presume, but it will be beautiful, no doubt.

 

 

I should mention how grateful I am for a partner that was able to go into ‘action mode’ and be there for me as I prepared for surgery, had Remy, and spent two days in hospital recovering, while he cleaned the house, prepped the babys room, took care of Kash and Atty, did all the grocery shopping and cooking for Christmas celebrations for a few family members, and generally just ran the house perfectly for a few weeks so I could concentrate on breastfeeding and healing.

I literally have the best husband on the planet-hands down! ...aaaand in case you don’t believe me, here’s a few photos of him being a super Dad ❤️

So, a mere 32 days after Remy was born, I went back to work-taking the whole family with me out of the city to Canmore, a gorgeous mountain town not far from us.

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I was there to photograph a wedding between a bride and groom that I hadn’t actually met in person yet, which was a first for me.

N&J were a super sweet couple; they had a great network of friends and family that made the trek to Canmore for their celebration. They were married and had the reception at The Cornerstone Theater, which is a STUNNING venue that I had been anxious to work at. It did not disappoint!

We did formals at Quarry Lake, my own familys favorite summer time swimming hole! It was snowing ridiculous amounts when we first arrived, but it subsided pretty quick and we were able to get some decent shots of the mountain backdrop.

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I spent most of February just concentrating on family and bonding with the baby, trying to figure out the new routine after Jeff went back to work out of province. It was actually easier than I thought, and we all kind of settled in pretty good, and pretty quickly. I was able to do some valentines minis, and had a blast shopping for props to add to my ever-growing collection.

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March came and I got back at it; studio sessions (7 sessions in one day, the most I've ever done…which got me to thinking…..more on that later) also a small east village wedding, engagement sessions, easter minis, and meetings with perspective clients. I also did my first session with a lovely young lady who is already a pro model. At the tender age of 16, she is a natural! and super sweet as well. 

I love spending time with my kids, the baby especially, but I really loved getting back to work and finding that momentum again.

I had set a goal for myself to try and double last years weddings (9) and book 18 for 2018. I wasn’t sure that it was possible, especially because I live and work in a city that is inundated with so much talent, its ridiculous.

Last week, however, I booked my 18th wedding for the year, in gorgeous Mexico! Jeff and I had been talking abut heading south this winter for a bit so it fell into place perfectly. It will be my 3rd destination wedding, and I’m looking forward to getting better at shooting in full sun/beach conditions.  

 April brought another wedding, (K&A…swoooooon!!!!) I also met with a local studio about renting permanent space (more on that next time) and participated in some fun stuff with my family.

 

At the end of 2017, I started working with the AARCS (Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society) as a volunteer and was asked to work a conference put on by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. I was happy to gain a little experience in event photography, and put some good karma in the bank.

When I was a kid, I volunteered at the SPCA every Saturday for years, and later on in my teens with various events around my hometown. As a teenager and into my adult years, I simply couldn’t find the time (or so I thought) to volunteer, so I didn’t. Jeff and I had talked about doing little things here and there to be supportive Calgarians, but never put anything into action.

Last fall, I asked on social media for anyone to recommend charities that might benefit from a photographer, and I was put in touch with 3 😊

AARCS is one, Families Fighting Cancer is another, and PACE KIDS is the last one, all of which I will be donating hours to this year.

Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and to give yours to an organization is priceless. Im so happy to be able to help anyone, anywhere, in any way that I can! 

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This month for work, I have a few smaller sessions, one wedding out of town, meetings with clients and studio peeps, and a few other photoshoots that Im very excited about!

One in particular involves some of my favorite mommy friends! I really want to give my TRIBE something they will love forever and ever, so I am concocting a styled shoot, gathering props, and making a list of names-I’ll only have a short time to get in as many as possible, but I think I can get it done? Stay tuned for some fierce forest photos!

But for now check out these beautiful boys- they fill me up with more love than I can ever put into words xoxo

 

I know I’m forgetting a bunch of things, but this is long winded enough, right?

Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far, and I’ll post again soon as I have a few things to talk about ;) 

All the love, and then a little more,  

Reens

xo 

 

 

smooth sailin'....

Hello friends :)

This will be my last post of the year, and what a year its been! I am ASTOUNDED to report that my website has seen almost 7000 visitors since January! Whoohoo!

 

I finished the season out by shooting a small wedding at the beginning of the month for R&G, a lovely couple, on a day that turned out to be absolutely perfect! (In YYC, its rare we have a 10C day in December!)

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I am spending the next little while doing as much editing as I can before Little Remy comes near the end of the month. This pregnancy has probably been the hardest one yet, for a variety of reasons, but that's for another time, or another blog...

At the end of November, we lost our 20 year old cat, Fenster, after a short but rapid decline in his health. He followed me home when I was just 18 years old, meaning I've had him for more than half of my life. He was the best little kitty you ever did meet, and my heart will never be the same without him. Miss you buddy xo

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onto more positive things....

When I made my business 'official' in January, I really had no idea how things would turn out; 

Would I crash and burn?

Would I make enough money to buy a new camera and other gear?

Would I fail spectacularly and run away with my tail between my legs?

Would I succeed beyond anything I could imagine?

The answer is yes and no to all of these questions; I certainly did better than I hoped for, and yet not as good as I would have liked. Let me explain;

I booked more weddings and other sessions than I would have expected. My work was ok, I mean I definitely improved over the last 12 months, this I know for sure.

Am I where I want to be?

Not really.

I am an insanely impatient person and I had hoped my skill level would be beyond were I am currently, but I also have to realize that this doesnt happen over night. (Or 365 nights)

The areas I feel like I need to improve in are these;

Delivering more photos for weddings; I am very much a 'quality over quantity' type of person. I want to give out 200-300 AMAZING photos, as opposed to 800 kind-of good ones. I also realize that is limiting me. Some people WANT 800 photos.

So my solution is to meet in the middle; I am going to do my best to shoot more, and NOT BE SO PICKY of what I THINK is good, and what will MEAN something to the bride and groom. When I cull through photos after a wedding, I scrap any photo that is anything less than perfect (in my eyes) If a photo still manages to move me, emotionally, even if its less than 100%, I'll keep it, but realistically, I should stop being so damn hard on the technical aspects of the photos.

My QC might be a little too strict. I realize this. Its because I want everything to be perfect and thats ok, but I need to give myself a little grace. I'm still relatively new at this, and I'm still learning. 

I have seen some wedding photographers that give an average of 50-100 photos AN HOUR! What? How can you be delivering that many shots, and they all be stellar? I literally have no idea how its possible. 

I prefer to spend my time in the editing process and giving shots that are all swoon-worthy.

I prefer to make sure that all imperfections in each photo are taken care of; I’m talking about giving a nip/tuck to each member of the bridal party, (if asked for) also, brightening teeth and making sure your eyes are sharp and everyone looks flawless. Also, making sure its composed as close to perfect as possible; rule of 3rds, cropping, straight horizons, the contrast/shadows/highlites/saturation for every photo is spot on. 

These are the details I focus on more than the number(s).

Maybe its wrong, maybe I need to focus less on the tiniest little details and start putting out higher volume of photos....

This is a balance that I have to find for myself; to keep the integrity of my work at a place where I'm happy, and also to keep clients happy with the product they are purchasing.

Managing my time a little better is the other thing I need to work on. 

being a stay at home Mom, with a husband who works out of town 3/4 time, and trying to grind away at building a business (plus hit the gym 4x week, and have a social life) is challenging to say the least. But I’m working on it! 

The 3rd thing is that I need to put fair prices out there for myself, and for my clients. 

I realized that for every hour of shooting that goes into a wedding, I spend double that on editing. So for an average day, say a 10 hour wedding, I spend an additional 20 editing. 

Thats 30 hours of work that goes into the process, not including all the other stuff; marketing, online advertising, blogging, meeting with clients, reading, practicing....

Its a lot right? 

Its been good for me to assess these numbers, also including what I spend on gear, websites, business cards, insurance, business license, gas, and MORE gear! 

And so, after a year of figuring out the details, my packages will be adjusted after Jan 1st, and I also will be offering more services that have been requested.

So, I DID succeed enough to be able to buy a new full frame camera, 2 new lenses (1 was a gift from my husband, check out my facebook page for that tear jerking post) an external flash, an new laptop for editing, many, many props, back/floor drops for studio work, and pay for all the associated expenses with running this business. 

I cannot tell you how happy I am to be able to run this thing, and be able to make enough to have it support itself. 

Through all the trials and tribulations this year, this is what I've learned;

Dont be afraid to amend my contract

I had to change things up at least 6 times over the year, learning as I go, and adding things I hadnt thought of when drawing it up. I will probably amend it a few more times over the next year and beyond, to make sure I cover my ass, and my clients asses are covered too!

First come, first serve

I am mortified to admit that I held on to specific dates for brides who inquired, turned others away for the same date, only to have the first bride go with another photographer.

Lesson learned. I will never, ever let that happen again. Period. The first one to put a deposit down, gets the date.

Dont give away work for free

I have been shortsighted. By giving away my work, to friends and family, at little to no cost, it undervalues myself, my work, and my efforts, and it goes under rated. That's the nature of it though; I know my friends and family appreciate it, but when there is literally NO VALUE put on my time and work, people don't treat it as a valued service. By placing a monetary value on my work, and getting friends and family to sign waivers and contracts, they take it more seriously, and they take ME more seriously. I know my friends and family want to help me succeed and do what they can to get me to my goals, so as of next year, everyone pays...(sorry, not sorry)

Do charity work

....Except Charities. A long time ago, I learned from one of my teachers in a completely different industry, that a percentage of everything you do should be for free; to a good cause and/or to someone who needs your services but cant necessarily afford it. Ive never forgotten that, and I have been in touch with 2 charities for the upcoming year. I will be doing some work with one of the many Cancer charities, and some other work for an organization called Pace Kids. Stay tuned for more details in 2018!

Add more services

As of next year, I will be offering photobooth services, separately and included in my deluxe package. I will also be including engagement sessions for the Wisteria package. I will be adding the option of buying prints and albums (along side of the digitals) as well as metal prints, large scale canvases, calender's, and even phone cases! For major holidays, I will be offering cards, and for maternity/newborn sessions, I will be offering birth announcements. I realize that some of these services are easily done at your local Costco, or online, but if you're not tech-savy or concerned about quality, I would love to be able to assist in getting these products, and getting them perfect the first time! I also have been in touch with a few videographers in the area, and have made some connections in that field so if anyone needs a referral for video services, I can recommend a few, at different price points.

I want to be able to provide as much as possible, to make things easier for clients. Honestly if I could, I would offer day-of co-ordination and wedding decor rentals, but alas, one thing at a time.....

Don't be afraid to change up your business plan

Owning a business is not the easiest thing in the world, but holy shit, is it ever awesome! I love being able to do what I want, set my own schedule, go through all the growing pains and learn every day. I love connecting with people and celebrating the big moments in their lives; getting to be even a small part of that is humbling and I never take it for granted. I will be doing things slightly different in regards to images expected/delivered for the new year. I currently have a website that clients can upload JPEGS from, but I'd like to just use that site for sneak peeks, and deliver custom flash drives for every session. I want to ensure that the quality is impeccable, and never compromised. Emailing, sending over FB, and even uploading via online gallery, can leave images compressed and/or degraded, and not always suitable for printing. I want to ensure that clients have TIFF (high res, good for enlarging) and JPEGS for sharing online and social media. 

This year has been one of the best in my life; following my dreams in this business, having 2 healthy boys to keep me on my toes, getting the surprise! of another boy on his way, having the most supportive husband (who never fails to show me love and encouragement in all the ways that matter) and being surrounded by friends and family, who also show me unwavering love and support on this journey.

I had no idea, that in December of 2017, I would be blogging, pregnant AF, have a collection of amazing camera gear, have a portfolio that I'm proud of, and be on track to hit my goal of 18 weddings for the upcoming year. (fingers crossed)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who have been with me through the mistakes, the fumbles, the growing pains, the learning curves, and still stood by to support me and my dreams!

I do this because I've loved photography my entire life, but also because I want to be able to provide an income for my family. My husband has sacrificed a lot over the last 4 years to provide for us and our kids, and the greatest gift I can give to him is to do my best to give back; to contribute something financially to the household so he doesn't have to fly to a different province every month, just to give us a nice life. His dedication to us is unparalleled, and I want to show him the same devotion. If i can do that, and also follow a lifelong dream, than, how can I not? 

 

I look forward to showing you all our new son, as soon as next week, on my SWP facebook page! 

I wish you the happiest of holidays, the merriest of celebrations, and all the yummy food you can handle! I myself, cannot wait to have a mimosa on NYE :)

Love, always,

Reens xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

Everything, now

well hello there! I wanted to touch base before the month of December as its gonna be pretty crazy! Especially for me and my family, as we are preparing for the addition of our 3rd baby, and winding down work for the rest of 2017. 

my boys, playing, in the warm fall weather

The last month has seen many, many hours of editing, meetings, and SO much time behind the camera; at the beginning of Oct I did 12 shoots in 10 days! It was awesome but I can honestly say, I probably overloaded my plate a little. I'm the kind of person who hates to turn down the opportunity to work, so I scheduled a ton while Jeff was home. I am thankful to have a partner who is so supportive, and doesn't mind doing ALL of the cooking, cleaning, and child minding so I can focus 100% on my work-Thanks Handsome Husband!