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smith family photography

Play Ball!

Softball and baseball season in Central Texas is a BIG deal. Heck, softball and baseball season in our household is a BIG deal!

Softball and baseball season is literally the beginning of our family! In 2010 my oldest three children were playing baseball and softball in Riesel since Marlin did not have a league. At the end of the season one of my boys was picked up to play on a baseball team in Mart to help them advance through the playoffs and hopefully make it to the state tournament. The coach that picked him up would later steal my heart as the season continued.

Fast forward to the following year, we exchanged vows on the shores of Lake Waco during the day and that evening we had a baseball game in Axtell. After the game we stopped by the Prairie Hill Store for ice cream. That was our eventful honeymoon! Every year on our anniversary we make it a point to go to the Prairie Hill Store for ice cream whether or not we are heading home from a baseball or softball game.

We both LOVE this season! Texas summer nights are amazing - with the exception of June bugs and mosquitos! It is very chaotic with all the practice and game schedules for each child. But you just roll with it and figure out each day as it comes. Next week is the week of the softball playoffs which will determine which two teams will advance to the state tournament. Lily and Sadie will be playing in Groesbeck while Gracie will be playing in Valley Mills. We are very excited for all the girls, but honestly we are all slightly bummed that everyone will be split up rather than cheering on each other at the game.

Our family is close knit during this season, coming together to support one another. It’s not just our family, it’s bigger than that. It’s the entire ballpark community. The kids roam around the ballparks playing with the other children. They beg their parents for money to buy junk food at the concession stand so they can share it with their friends. The parents cheer on all the players, not just their own. Everyone genuinely wants every player to succeed and do their best. It’s difficult to explain unless you’ve experienced it for yourself.

Many lessons are learned on that field and ballpark. Teamwork. Attitude. Persistence. Passion. Leadership. Dedication. Faith. Mental toughness. Hard work. Inspiration. Encouragement. Support. Focus. Strength. Motivation. And all of these lessons help prepare you for different areas in your life off the field.

Remember...you’ve got what it takes so be willing to give it everything you’ve got.
— unknown

So as the playoff tournament is just around the corner, we would greatly appreciate good thoughts for all the teams - especially for the Mart 6U Smith team and the Groesbeck 15U Chiglo team :)

mart_6U_smith_softball_team_2019
Groesbeck_15U_2019

Serendipity

Serendipity (n.) finding something good without looking for it

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Justin and Lauren were average children in average families. They both grew up spending lots of time at bowling alleys due to their parents being on leagues and hanging out with friends. Justin and Lauren were friends from the beginning. They each attended the other’s birthday parties until Justin turned six when his family stopped bowling.

Years later they met again in high school. This meeting was chance and brief.

Fast forward a few years when Justin and Lauren met for the third time. This time they met at their place of employment, On the Border in Waco, Texas. Justin worked as a busser and server while Lauren worked as a hostess and server. They continued developing their friendship and it didn’t take long for them to begin dating.

They went to Freddy’s in the Baylor area for their first date. Justin explains this date as the beginning of a great friendship.

Exactly one year after their first date Justin proposed to Lauren while they were on a cruise. He wanted it to be memorable so he chose that particular date, which also just happened to be elegant night on the cruise.

He asked. She said, “YES!”

He asked. She said, “YES!”

Justin says they were definitely meant to be be because they couldn’t be more of a match. They have most of the same attributes, and some differences. That mix of similarities and differences is what makes their bond even stronger.

Justin and Lauren will wed on December 14, 2019 in Mart, Texas.

The Miracles Grow

September 1, 2018 William and Victoria said, “I Do,” in front of many family and friends at their wedding in Temple, Texas. You can read more about their love story and their wedding day here.

Fast forward to March 30, 2019, another special day involving their family and friends. This time they are gathering to celebrate William, Victoria and Baby Liam with a baby shower in Groesbeck, Texas. But first, they had their maternity portrait session scheduled for that morning. And the weather was calling for showers and strong winds as a cold front was projected to move into the area. But you wouldn’t know that based on the sky that particular morning.

As I was driving to the location for the session in Personville, Texas, I kept thinking to myself that the day was absolutely beautiful and William and Victoria would have a perfect conditions for their session. The sky was cloudy, but the clouds were just thin enough to filter the warm morning sunlight. No sweater or jacket was needed. The wind was not blowing. Simply put, it was a picture perfect spring day in Texas!

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I believe all babies are miracles. William and Victoria’s life is a daily reminder of a miracle. When William was 22 years old he had a brain aneurysm. He was in a coma for two weeks. Slowly he began to heal and nearly one month later he spoke for the first time…on Victoria’s birthday. And one week later he was discharged to a rehabilitation center where he had to learn how to walk, talk, write and eat again after the aneurysm and strokes from the brain injury. William is now working on earning a degree through Texas State Technical College.

Nearly four years later, William and Victoria are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their baby boy. A miracle.

hammond-maternity-smith-family-photography-2

From looking at these maternity portraits you wouldn’t believe it, but that storm they were predicting rolled through about five minutes after their session ended. It began to rain and the cold wind blew in! Miraculously, we were able to finish their session before the storm hit!

Miracles. They surround us each and every day. When I’m around William and Victoria I am reminded of that. And for that, I am thankful.

If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you’ve forgotten you are one.
— unknown

Introducing *NEW* Mini Session Contests!

New for 2019…MINI SESSION CONTESTS!

I believe in offering low cost themed mini sessions for families. Most families don’t want to spend a lot of money on a full session for any holiday. They just want a few fun portraits of their kiddos to document the holiday. That’s it. Most of these portraits won’t even make it to the wall! They will be shared on social media and then placed in a file on the computer. Sad, but true.

With that being said, I LOVE these fun, quick sessions! Kids are excited and the parents are so relaxed just watching their kids have fun since it’s not a super formal session. Kids can be…KIDS!

This year I have decided to change some things up with regards to mini sessions. I want to foster a lasting relationship with the participating families and I feel like the old way of doing things was not matching my brand. Each mini session is just that, a super quick session, BUT there is a new twist! These are now mini session contests - which just means that one image from each mini session will be entered in our monthly contest. The family with the most “votes” will win a complimentary 8x10 print, as well as a complimentary mini session for the next theme.

Here is the schedule of the mini session contests for 2019:

  • February - Valentine’s Day

  • April - Easter

  • May - Seniors

  • June - Couples

  • July - 4th of July

  • August - Back to School

  • September - Pet

  • October - Halloween

  • December - Christmas

Each ten minute mini session will include your choice of two digital images and one photo from your session will be entered into the contest. The sessions are only $45 if you book during our special pre-booking events or $50 if you book during a regular booking event.

If you’d like to be added to our email list so you’ll be notified of our pre-booking events, just fill out the form below and I’ll get you added.

Name *
Name

S'mores

I still remember the day I met you and smile because it was the best day of my life.
— unknown

Brad and Oryenne…best friends throughout high school in Riesel, Texas. They were voted as the most musical guy and gal their senior year. They were also announced as the Band Beau and Sweetheart their senior year. When everyone looked at them they knew they’d be a couple. Someday. In fact, many believed they were actually a couple already!

2017 - Senior Session between best friends

2017 - Senior Session between best friends

During this best friend senior session of their senior year of high school, they found “their tree” on the banks of the Navasota River in Limestone County. You can read more about the “Friendship Tree” here. A year and a half later, they’d meet again at “their tree” on their way to another photo session together.

2018 - A quick stop to visit “their tree” on their way to their camping themed session

2018 - A quick stop to visit “their tree” on their way to their camping themed session

In late 2018, Brad and Oryenne are finally an “official” couple. They wanted a fun session together as a couple so I suggested a camping themed session centered around them making S’mores. They only had one request. They wanted to actually make REAL S’mores with a REAL fire. Easy enough!

Life is S’more fun with you!
— Anna Johnson Smith

Mike and Mysti: A Wedding Proposal

For years now I have wanted to photograph a wedding proposal! And I finally had the opportunity to do so on December 22, 2018 in Mexia, Texas.

Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day.
— unknown

One day I decided to post a simple ad on Facebook that stated I was looking for someone that would be proposing to the love of their life within the coming weeks. Within a very short amount of time I was contacted by one of my favorite client’s that informed me that her daughter’s boyfriend was going to propose to her daughter on December 22nd and asked if she could pass my information along to him. Of course I said she could! A few minutes went by and my phone rang. It was Mike, the daughter’s boyfriend! He was very interested in working together to create a unforgettable proposal that would be recorded in still photographs, as well as captured on video. Through these still photographs and video clips a slideshow would be produced for them to keep forever.

Mike informed me that Mysti really wanted professional portraits taken of them with holiday decorations in the background. That is where I came into the plan! We had a beautiful location chosen by the river, however Mysti had to work late that day. In fact, she didn’t get off work until nearly 5:30! By the time she would be ready for a portrait session it would be pitch black outside. We decided the river would not work due to the absence of light and decided to find a location in downtown Mexia. As I drove around I discovered a street that was super cute and had holiday decorations, with one storefront (Sassy Sisters, a boutique store) particularly decorated AND they even had a porch light turned on! I snapped a few photos and sent them to Mike for his approval. He thought it was perfect and then brought the ring to me so I could put it in it’s secret place.

The secret place was on a Christmas tree in plain sight near a peppermint ornament that was hanging on the tree. I figured Mysti wouldn’t notice it since she would be facing my way for the portraits and she was a tad irritated having to work so late. I made sure to snap a photo with the ring behind them in plain sight and then it was time to put the plan into place. I looked at Mike and he slowly stepped away from Mysti and got down on one knee as she was turning around to look at the tree after I asked her, “What is that in the tree?” She didn’t notice the ring right away and needed a bit more pointing from me, but she still did not notice Mike on his knee either! Suddenly, she noticed the ring and was so elated!

This experience was so much fun! In fact, I think I’m addicted! I’m a sucker for a good love story and Mike and Mysti’s love story is definitely one of my all time favorites!

Special thanks to Sassy Sisters Boutique in downtown Mexia, Texas for the use of your front porch and holiday decorations!

Christmas Mini Session Recap

This past year we introduced holiday themed mini sessions. We offered Easter, Fourth of July and Christmas themed mini sessions and I met a lot of wonderful families at each one. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we plan on offering many more in 2019! We still plan on keeping them short and sweet, but the products offered for each theme will vary. And that excites me so much more than handing over digital images since I am a product based photography studio!

We are still in the planning stages, however I’m not only thinking themed holiday sessions, but what about a session for your favorite fur baby? The sky is the limit and I’m ready for an even better year in 2019!

We wrapped up 2018 with two days of Christmas Mini Sessions, one day took place in Waco and the other day took place in Groesbeck. Both were beautiful locations!

Here’s to an even bigger and better 2019!

We’d love to hear your ideas for 2019! Please feel free to drop us a comment and let us know what you’d love to see offered!

Over the Years: Tana and Layla

The other day I was talking to my favorite person (my grandma Jo) on the phone and we ended up talking about the career paths we chose.  She was a nurse for most of her adult working years and I was an elementary school teacher for five years until I decided to resign and begin my photography business.  She told me there have been times when she thought about doing something besides nursing, but looking back now she couldn't imagine doing anything else.  She LOVED nursing!  Then she asked me what I career I would have chosen if I could start all over again.  As I thought, I honestly couldn't think of any other career choices I would have made.  

I loved teaching, but I didn't love the confines of teaching.  I loved that no two days were ever the same.  I loved having to adapt and be flexible throughout the day as different situations arose.  I loved the students and coworkers.  But I did not love the schedule.  I felt very confined.  When I decided to resign I immediately felt a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could now breathe freely.  

I absolutely LOVE being a photographer!  I love nearly everything about it - besides paying taxes.  I love making my own schedule.  I love creating wall art for families that will be treasured for years to come.  I love it when clients tell me that my work captures so many emotions.  But most of all I love meeting new people and connecting with them!  I love to capture them year after year and create beautiful wall art that showcases their family!  For this reason I have decided to begin a series which focuses on my loyal clients over the years titled, "Over the Years."

TANA AND LAYLA

Meet Tana and Layla, the gorgeous mother and daughter that I am lucky enough to photograph every year since 2015! At that time Layla was so little, just two years old! She was so full of energy and really made us work for each and every shot! Since that first session at Tonkawa Falls in 2015, I have captured their incredible bond in four other sessions. Layla is now five and has the same beautiful smile as she did when I first met her! This year’s session was a little different for them. And Layla was a little jealous. This year’s session included Tana’s fiance, Guthrie, in some of the poses. The two will soon be married and Layla is still trying to learn how to share her mommy. I absolutely love being their family photographer and I am looking forward to many more years of capturing their memories!

2015 - Family Session. An adorable two year old, Layla.

2015 - Family Session. An adorable two year old, Layla.

2016 - Family Session. This session was so sweet! Like momma, like daughter…absolutely stunning!

2016 - Family Session. This session was so sweet! Like momma, like daughter…absolutely stunning!

2017 - Fairytale Session. Layla had a birthday approaching and it was going to be Princess and the Frog (her favorite) themed so she had a session where she dressed up and posed like Tiana.

2017 - Fairytale Session. Layla had a birthday approaching and it was going to be Princess and the Frog (her favorite) themed so she had a session where she dressed up and posed like Tiana.

2017 - Family Session. For this session they ventured out to Limestone County for a rustic session at the family ranch.

2017 - Family Session. For this session they ventured out to Limestone County for a rustic session at the family ranch.

2018 - Family/Engagement Session. Layla is a little jealous about having to share her mom nowadays!

2018 - Family/Engagement Session. Layla is a little jealous about having to share her mom nowadays!

Tana and Layla (and Guthrie) are the PERFECT clients! They value photography and understand the importance of capturing the memories of their family over the years. We are comfortable around each other, which really shines in their images. Days after this session I saw a job posting Tana posted and at that time I had two kids (adult kids) looking for jobs. I sent them her way and she put them to work! I can’t thank her enough for that. Seriously!

Let what you love be what you do.
— Rumi

THIS IS THE THIRD FEATURED FAMILY IN THE "OVER THE YEARS" SERIES.  CHECK OUT OUR OTHER FEATURED FAMILIES!

  1. The Wier Family

  2. The Lopez Family

Strong As An Oak

September 22, 2018 was the first official day of fall. The PERFECT day for a wedding - especially for a bride that loves all things fall! And the weather on this particular day definitely felt like fall! It was very cool, with a light breeze. The sky was filled with clouds, but the rain stayed away. It felt like a crisp, fall day at Vintage Oaks Ranch in Axtell, Texas.

When I first met Tobie and Chad at their engagement session in November of 2017 I knew they were meant for each other. They just had “that” connection.

I could instantly tell how they felt about one another.  They genuinely love each other on a deep level.  They have the type of love that is full of compassion, support, respect, and encouragement.  When I asked Tobie to tell me their "story," she explained this very type of love. - With You I Am, blog about their engagement session

A collage of images from  Tobie and Chad’s engagement session.

Their wedding day was filled with just as much love for one another! I don’t know how else to explain it other than contagious. You just look at them and you can’t help but smile.

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groom blog smith-family-photography

The ceremony took place at Vintage Oaks Ranch in Axtell, Texas and began at 6:30 pm. And just as you would imagine, it was filled with emotions…which included happy tears.

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Mr. and Mrs. Walker!

Mr. and Mrs. Walker!

Even Tobie’s grandmother was included in the day in a very special way.

Even Tobie’s grandmother was included in the day in a very special way.

Tobie and Chad, I am beyond honored that you asked me to help capture the memories on your special day. Marriage is a journey that goes much further than your beautiful wedding. This was just the beginning of the path you’ll travel together as you overcome obstacles and weather the storms together - forever. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness!

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Vendor Credits

Venue: Vinatge Oaks Ranch, Axtell, Texas

Coordinator: Kaylen Dunks

Florist: Penny Lenamon- owner of Rusty Rose

Cake: Simply Delicious Bakery

DJ: Johnathan and Christina Price

Makeup and hair : Susana Rocha and Laura

All dresses: Georgio’s 

Tuxedos: Men’s Wearhouse

Officiant: Jimmy Cotton

Invitations: Flatt Stationers

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the memories for Tobie and Chad!

Names Carved in a Tree

August 4, 2018 was a very hot day, like most days in August in Central Texas.  But this particular day was very important!  This particular day was the day that Kelsey and Hunter would say, "I do," in Palmer, Texas.

Kelsey and Hunter

Kelsey and Hunter

It all started with a simple introduction by Kelsey's sister.  Hunter asked for her number and they began talking.  Soon after this initial meeting, Hunter showed up at Kelsey's workplace one afternoon and said that he wanted to give her a ride home from work.  Kelsey told him that she would like that and she returned to work to finish her shift.  

At the end of her shift, Hunter was there to pick her up.  He said they had to go out to eat dinner first before he took her home.  They had an amazing meal together where they enjoyed each other's company.  After dinner they went to spend some time at Lake Clark, where they continued to learn about each other.

As time went on, Kelsey and Hunter fell in love and continued to visit Lake Clark.  It became "their" spot, which they marked by carving their initials into one of the trees.  Eventually Hunter decided it was time to "pop the question."  But where would he propose?

You guessed it!  He proposed to Kelsey at Lake Clark in front of the tree where they carved their initials.  The same tree where they had their first kiss.  And the same tree where he told her that he loved her for the first time.  It was absolutely perfect!  Kelsey and Hunter were engaged!

When their wedding day arrived, they were both excited - yet nervous at the same time.  Their wedding was simple and beautiful!  But they said the best part of the entire wedding day was relaxing with each other after the wedding was over.

Coslin Wedding, August 4, 2018

Coslin Wedding, August 4, 2018

When I asked Kelsey if she had any advice for couples that were planning their wedding day, she jokingly replied, "Don't do it!  Elope!" as she laughed.  

Plan realistically. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and save.
— Kelsey

Vendors

Ceremony Venue:  J Bar C Cowboy Church, Palmer, Texas

Reception Venue:  Coslin Party Barn

Florist:  Jessica Land (Hunter's sister)

Cake Artist:  Renaissance Cake

Make-Up Artist:  Katie Durham

Hair Artist:  Katie Durham

Bridal Gown:  David's Bridal

Officiant:  Charley David

Stationary:  Cheryl Rogers

Better Today

Zach and Harlee said, "I Do," on July 7th, 2018 in Groesbeck, Texas at the Groesbeck Convention Center on a day dotted with isolated thunderstorms that completely cleared out by the time of their ceremony.

Meeting you was fate. Becoming your friend was a choice. But falling in love with you was beyond my control.
— unknown

Zach and Harlee met through work.  Harlee told me that meeting Zach was that day was the "craziest thing" since it was during an intubation.  Harlee works at the local hospital and Zach is a paramedic.  After this crazy meeting, she told her coworkers that the she thought he was SO cute!  

Fast forward a few weeks and these two saw each other yet again at a local convenience store.  They talked a little bit and decided to hang out with each other that night - nothing fancy, just sitting around a fire at Zach's house where they literally talked about everything until 3:00 in the morning.  As the night progressed, a horrible storm came in and Zach invited Harlee to stay the night rather than driving home in the storm.  Zach gave Harlee his bed while he slept on the couch.  That morning he woke Harlee up with an amazing breakfast complete with French Toast, bacon and eggs.  

Harlee told me that this "date" wasn't a typical first date, but nonetheless this was their first date and she had a tremendous amount of respect for Zach after this date because he treated her with respect by watching out for her during the storm and taking care of her as well.  

That December Zach proposed.  They went to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and during one of the days they decided to get on a bus to take a helicopter tour.  The helicopter took them on a trip over the Grand Canyon.  During this trip Zach pulled out his phone and asked Harlee to watch a video.  The video was a video of his three children asking Harlee to be their stepmom.  It was the sweetest thing she ever saw!  Zach then showed Harlee a ring and asked her to be his wife.

Harlee's bridal session

Harlee's bridal session

I first met Harlee at her bridal session where I learned a lot about her, however I did not meet Zach at this time.  I knew he had to be someone special because it was obvious that Harlee adored him!  When I first met Zach at the wedding, he was extremely calm and almost always had a smile on his face.  Seeing Zach and Harlee together was a beautiful thing, but what made it even more beautiful was seeing Zach and Harlee together with Zach's three children.  They each looked at Harlee so lovingly throughout the entire wedding day, especially during the ceremony!  Harlee expressed how much she loved Zach's children when she told me that when when she married Zach she also took on a huge commitment of parenting as well.  She now has three beautiful children that she loves with everything within her!

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie with their three children.

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie with their three children.

I am always in awe at each and every wedding (and this wedding was no exception).  Every wedding is completely different.  Every wedding has a different feeling about it.  Every interaction between the bride and groom is different.  During the ceremony, Zach and Harlee symbolized their bond with a Unity Braid Cross.  These can be purchased online, however Harlee's father made it for them.  In fact, he made many of their decorations for the wedding.  There was so much meaning behind all the details!

Unity Braid Cross made by Harlee's father

Unity Braid Cross made by Harlee's father

Always keep God in your relationship. Choose to love each other even when you struggle to like one another. Always make time for one another, even when it seems impossible. Surround yourself with friends that will support your relationship and strengthen it. Learn to listen to understand, not just to respond. Put old relationships in the past, and don’t compare it to y’alls relationship. And never keep secrets or lie to one another.
— Zach and Harlee Barkouskie
Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie

Harlee and Zach, I always find a song to dedicate to newlyweds.  Finding your song made me really think!  I wanted to find a song that talked about the love for you two have for each other, but I wanted something that went above and beyond that - a song that could also depict the love that you both have for your children.  I listened to song after song, but none of them felt right until I stumbled upon this one.  It was completely new to me!  I played it over and over, just to make sure that it was "the one."  And it definitely is "THE ONE!"  Harlee and Zach, I hope you always remember that you are each "Better Today" because you have one another in your lives each and every day, and even more so because you are blessed with three beautiful children each and every day.  

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the special details and memories on this extraordinary day!

Vendors

Ceremony and Reception:  Groesbeck Convention Center

Coordinator:  Glenda Bennett (mother of the bride that did an EXCEPTIONAL job)

Florist:  Penny Lenamon at Rusty Rose Flower Shop in Groesbeck, Texas

Cake Artist:  LaNei Cadenhead at Butter Cup Bakery in Centerville, Texas

DJ:  Colby Blacknall

Makeup Artist:  Shelby Ellison (sister of the bride)

Hair Artist:  Meredith McClinton, Hubbard, Texas

Bridesmaids Dresses:  Georgio's Bridal

Bridal Gown:  David's Bridal

Tuxes:  Bealls

Officiant:  Clint Mello (ordained/uncle)

Invitations:  Shutterfly and Walmart

Security:  Limestone County Sheriff's Department

Fourth at the Fort!

Our Fourth of July Mini-Sessions were so much fun this year!  In the past we partnered with My Little Play Place in Waco, however when they closed their doors we had to find a new partner.  This year I decided to work with Old Fort Parker in Limestone County.  The property at the Old Fort provided the exact backdrop I was looking for with our All-American themed set complete with Coca-Cola and American flags so I decided to ask permission to use the property.  

Each session was 10 minutes in length and includes three digital images of the client's choice PLUS two adult passes for admission to the Old Fort at a future date during normal operating hours.  

Each session was 10 minutes in length and includes three digital images of the client's choice PLUS two adult passes for admission to the Old Fort at a future date during normal operating hours.  

It was important to ask for permission to use the grounds as it is private property and trespassing is a serious violation in Texas.  The Old Fort also has an active shooting range that is used after hours.  This is another reason to ask permission to use the grounds.  It would be awful to have people using the grounds when someone shows up to shoot their firearm!  

History of Old Fort Parker

You can watch a short two minute video about the history of Old Fort Parker here.

"The Parker family, members of a group of pioneers settling the Brazos Trail Region in the early 1800s, arrived near the future site of Groesbeck in 1833. Determined to make a go of it despite the longstanding presence of Native American populations throughout the surrounding countryside, the Parkers proceeded to clear brush, plant crops, and build a stockade known as “Parker’s Fort.” The fort was constructed of split cedars, anchored in the ground and rising approximately twelve feet. Blockhouses were built in opposing corners, providing a view of the landscape (and as aides in defense). Within the stockade walls the family and fellow colonists built two rows of log cabins as living quarters, completing the project by March of 1834. Despite the stockade’s heavy construction and defensive features, the colony came under a successful attack by a band of local Native Americans and, once it was over, all members of this small pioneering community were either dispersed, kidnapped, or dead. Nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker would be one of the kidnapped victims, launching a legacy of assimilation and tragedy that tops the state’s list of historic frontier legends. Fort Parker, abandoned after the attack, disintegrated with age. In 1930 the first replica of the fort appeared on the site, followed by a rebuild in 1967. Today, Old Fort Parker provides a living history interpretation of early life in the region courtesy of the Fort Parker Historical Society and the city of Groesbeck. A full, year-round event schedule includes trail rides, festivals, and celebrations. Rental facilities are also available for family reunions, weddings, and private parties." (Texas Brazos Trail)

Special thanks to Sarah and her staff for doing all they do to preserve Old Fort Parker.  If you'd like to plan a trip to visit the fort, you can find information on their website.

I Loved Her First

I loved her first
I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she’d find you someday
But it’s still hard to give her away
I loved her first
— Heartland

February 10th was a HUGE day for our young daughter, Lily.  She was going on a date with her dad!  They were going to the Daddy Daughter Dance in Riesel, Texas.  

Lily was so excited when she heard about this date!  She had to go dress shopping, shoe shopping, and we couldn't forget the accessories!  Her older sister curled her hair before the big day and then we went to Groesbeck for a photoshoot.  It was truly a magical day for Lily!  And the best part was that she got to spend the entire night dancing with her dad, being treated just like a princess - just like we hope she's treated in the future.

Although the dance was a lot of fun, I feel that it taught Lily some important lessons about life and relationships.  

daddy_daughter_dance_smith_family_photography

Fathers have a HUGE impact on the lives of their daughter.  The role of the father is one of the most important in a daughter's life.  A father can set the standard for how a girl should be treated - as someone special.  Little girls seek approval and attention a lot!  If she is getting that from her father, it satisfies her needs.  If she does not receive that attention, she might seek it elsewhere.  Fathers often have busy lives due to work demands.  When a father gets to spend quality time with his daughter she is being told she is important and that her dad is making time for her and only her.  She is special and should be treated as such.

I do understand that not every little girl has a father in her life.  But every little girl can have a positive role model in their life to show them that they are special.

HO, HO, HOPES!

On December 19th I took photographs of kiddos and their families with Santa at a Christmas event for the HOPES program.  The smiles were contagious to say the least!  What is HOPES you might ask?

Kenda with the HOPES program taking time to visit with Santa at the HOPES Christmas Event.

Kenda with the HOPES program taking time to visit with Santa at the HOPES Christmas Event.

The HOPES program serves families in McLennan County that have kids ranging in ages from prenatal through Kindergarten. It is a free program where the parent educators come along and support the parents with their child/children. The visits usually consist of a parent child interaction that involves items that they most likely have at their home already, child development, and overall family well being.

Children that participate in the program are better prepared for kindergarten. Once a month HOPES hosts a group connection which allows the families to come together and participate in family activities or where the parents can learn from each other.

The December group connection was focused around Christmas. We were lucky enough to have volunteers to play Santa (Richard Aleman) and take pictures (Smith Family Photography). Kenda stated that she "felt that pictures with Santa were a big deal since the majority of our families do not have the opportunity to get them done." HOPES will be printing the pictures and giving them to the families. Each child was also able to receive a gift through generous donations. HOPES was able to serve 26 families that night (almost 90 kids)!

One huge component of the program is literacy and providing board books to the families, both English and Spanish. Many of the families now read books as a family, which is something that was not done before being a part of the HOPES Program.

The HOPES program is always accepting board book donations in both English and Spanish if you'd like to donate.  If you'd like to donate books, please call Kenda at 254-732-0482.

 

Jessica and Matt's Love Story

Jessica and Matt...soul mates.  

Some people believe in love at first sight.  Others believe in the idea of soul mates.  Jessica and Matt are soul mates.

Jessica and Matt

Jessica and Matt

I've photographed their family on multiple occasions over the past few years and when they asked me to photograph their wedding on August 12, 2017 I was honored...and surprised!  Surprised because I honestly thought they were already married!  

Jessica and Matt's love story began with an online dating service, Christian Mingle.  Matt's profile said he lived in Waco, Texas and he caught Jessica's eye.  She's been hurt in the past so she was cautiously, yet optimistically, looking for her Prince Charming.  They began talking on the phone and she realized that he did not live in Waco after all, he was actually living in Wisconsin where he was born and raised.  Jessica admits that at that moment she thought to herself, "Great, I finally meet someone that seems nice and normal and I've actually been catfished."  But Matt was not being deceitful.  In fact, he said he lived in Waco because he was moving to Waco in the near future as he already put in a job transfer to the Waco area.  He originally wanted to move to Waco to be closer to his two daughters.  Meeting Jessica was just one more reason to make the move.

Before Matt was transferred to Waco, he spoke to Jessica daily for several months.  Both of them explain their relationship as a "good friendship."  

Matt eventually moved to Waco and Jessica helped him get situated into his new place.  She helped him unpack and get him settled into his duplex.  Jessica even showed Matt around Waco.  She took the time out of her day to make sure he knew how to get to his office, as well as other places he would have to go to.  Matt admits that he couldn't believe how thoughtful she was during this time.  He found himself not being able to take his eyes off of her.  She was absolutely beautiful and he was mesmerized by her gorgeous smile.  He knew he was starting to fall in love.

Over time, Matt earned Jessica's trust and friendship.  Eventually he also earned her heart.

As time went on, Matt knew he wanted to ask Jessica for her hand in marriage.  He asked her three children for their blessing and with their approval, he began planning.  During their family vacation in Wisconsin, Matt would put his plan into action.  He gathered all the children onto one side of his parents house and he got down on one knee.  They all called for Jessica and when she walked to the side of the house, she said, "YES!"  

Jessica and Matt decided to take the engagement slow.  Neither one saw a need to rush into marriage.  That is until Jessica became ill.  She was hospitalized and Matt was her angel through the entire ordeal.  She realized that Matt was her Prince Charming and she didn't want to wait any longer to become Mrs. Leonardelli.  They began planning their perfect wedding.

The details of the wedding were absolutely stunning!  Everything was so thought out.  Jessica planned out everything meticulously and credits Google and Pinterest for all the ideas.  Everything worked with the venue, Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center, perfectly!

Jessica's favorite part of their wedding day was having her dad there to walk her down the aisle and hearing the vows Matt wrote to her, as well as saying her vows to Matt.  Matt's favorite part of their wedding day was also the vows.  

Quotes From the Bride and Groom

Ladies, wear waterproof mascara! You WILL cry!
— Mrs. Jessica Leonardelli
There’s a belief that soul mates are tied together by a cosmic string. One way or another, they will always find each other. From Wisconsin to Texas, our string pulled us together.
— Mr. Matt Leonardelli
wedding_castle_heights_bijoux_event_center_smith_family_photography

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing memories at Jessica and Matt's wedding on August 12, 2017.

Simple Guide for No Regrets

If your walls could talk, what stories would they tell or would they be silent?

Over the past three years I have heard the same regrets over and over...  

  • "I have so many photographs of my oldest child, but I hardly have any of my younger children."
  • "I wish I would have taken more family photographs that included the parents and grandparents."
  • "I'll just wait until I lose some weight."

Procrastinating is easy.  The truth is that life doesn't pause for us to lose weight or give us extra time to take family portraits.  We are only given so much time.  

I've been thrilled with the recent increase of families that are including grandparents in their family sessions!  I hope this trend continues because I truly believe these photographs will be cherished for YEARS to come.

I've also made it a point to have parents get in a few of the poses with their children, as well as have parents take a few photographs with one another.  Many couples haven't had their photograph taken since their wedding!  

Below is a guide so that there are no regrets later.  It's not a program.  There's no contract to sign.  Just have your family photographed!

One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.
— Paulo Coelho

New Product Alert: Hard Cover Books

We are excited to announce a new product - Hard Cover Books!  These books are perfect for almost every client because it allows you to show your friends and family all the photographs from your session in a professional quality book.  It will be a true keepsake for your family for years to come.

Each page of the book is designed and then placed inside your online gallery for you to view prior to purchasing.  The pages are professional matte paper that is known for its archival quality and timeless appeal.  

The covers include a variety of eurohyde or art cloth covers and are customized with foil stamping.  You can even add a custom cover with an image from your session for an additional fee.  

Foil Stamping on the cover

Foil Stamping on the cover

Another option to the cover is opting or a windowed cover.  This further allows you to customize the cover on your hard cover book without an additional fee.

Windowed Cover

Windowed Cover

I will have a sample hard cover book for you to look at during your session, as well as a Canvas Gallery Wrap, a Wood Print, a Vivid Metal Print, prints from various labs and cards.  If you've had a past session, but are interested in a Hard Cover Book, please let me know and I can design one for your past session.

Big Family Session? No Problem!

When was the last time you and your entire family got together for a family photo session? If you have a big family it may have been years since your last photo was taken. While arranging these types of shoots can be difficult, they are worth it!

Our very own large family portrait.

Our very own large family portrait.

Whether you’re introducing a new family member or getting ready to celebrate a family milestone, you’ll want memorable photos. So just where do you begin when planning for a fun shoot you want your family to enjoy?

Large family portrait of the LeNoir Family.

Large family portrait of the LeNoir Family.

A lot of families often ask about location, wardrobe and pose ideas. This is always the fun part for me because I get to see the personality of the family come out. Shutterfly created a great resource that helps with all these topics. You can check out their large family photo guide and share it with your family to brainstorm more ideas.

Higgins Family large family session.

Higgins Family large family session.

The most important part to remember is that I’m here to make your photo session unforgettable. Whatever makes your family feel comfortable is exactly the direction you should go!

Large family session to celebrate grandma's 75th birthday...

Large family session to celebrate grandma's 75th birthday...

...and another celebrating grandma's 85th birthday!

...and another celebrating grandma's 85th birthday!

Bluebonnets! A Texas Tradition.

I moved to Texas in the summer of 2007 so I experienced bluebonnets for the first time in the spring of 2008.  I was amazed at how beautiful all the highways became as purple flowers bloomed and lined the highways for all to enjoy.  Surprisingly, this was the first year that I offered Bluebonnet Limited Edition Sessions.  I just assumed that people just took these photos very quickly on their cell phones and moved on down the road, but I quickly realized that this was not the case.  So many people want professional photographs of their loved ones in the bluebonnets!  They want WALL ART of their loved ones in the bluebonnets!  

After three years of clients asking me if I offered Bluebonnet Sessions and me telling them that I did not, I finally decided to give it a try and I must say, I was impressed.  I only offered four sessions and they filled up quickly!  I'm in love with each of the sessions and I'm going to give you some tips to taking your own bluebonnet photos that you can use now while we still have some as their season is coming to an end.  

Tip Number One.  Photograph in the early morning or late evening hours.  I know these hours aren't ideal, but once you experience the light at these times of the day you will never go back to noon bluebonnet photos.  I've had a number of clients that are amazed at the difference this makes!  This portrait of the Loewen Family was taken around 9:00 am on a Monday morning.  Dad JUST got off work and their baby normally naps around this time, but they are very happy they adjusted their schedule for one day to make this happen.

Loewen Family at the abundant bluebonnet field at Spring Valley Elementary in Hewitt, Texas.

Loewen Family at the abundant bluebonnet field at Spring Valley Elementary in Hewitt, Texas.

Tip Number Two.  Take your bluebonnet photographs when they first bloom before they get trampled down.  I prefer to take them at my husband's family ranch in Limestone County for a few reasons - the patch is on private property so I'm the only photographer that uses this area for photographs and it's safe.  It's away from roads so little ones are not going to run around accidentally run into traffic.  I encourage kiddos to have fun at their sessions and this is the perfect place because there is an abundance of area to run around and enjoy themselves to let loose some energy between poses.  This portrait was the first bluebonnet session of the season.  Notice how full and tall the flowers are!  It makes a difference, trust me.

Johnson Family at a fresh bluebonnet patch on private property in Limestone County.

Johnson Family at a fresh bluebonnet patch on private property in Limestone County.

Tip Number Three.  Always bring a blanket or stool to sit on.  Some people do not like to sit in the flowers.  It can be overwhelming when they are almost as tall as you when you're sitting down and they are completely surrounding you.  I always bring several different things to sit on - a blanket, a metal bucket, and a wooden crate.  Sometimes I also bring a red wagon.  Baby Caleb loved the red wagon!

Baby Caleb enjoying a wagon ride in the bluebonnets.

Baby Caleb enjoying a wagon ride in the bluebonnets.

Tip Number Four.  Get on their level.  Often times people stand above the person/people being photographed and just snap a quick photo.  That works for a quick snapshot, but if you're wanting something a little more posed try bending down and getting on their level.  During sessions I squat, kneel, even lay on the ground to get different angles.  For a group portrait such as this one of the Schmedthorst Family, I wanted all of them looking directly at me so I could see their faces.  This meant I had to sit down and get on their level.  Since mom was in the middle, I needed to be level with her.  

Schmedthorst Family in a patch of bluebonnets at eye level.

Schmedthorst Family in a patch of bluebonnets at eye level.

Tip Number Five.  HAVE FUN!!  AND STAY SAFE!!  Before sitting little ones down, do a quick check for ants, snakes, and other creatures.  You can't see them all, but you can check the immediate area you are going to use.  I've learned this lesson the hard way...and continue to learn this lesson the hard way (I'm pretty stubborn apparently).  I always check for my clients, but obviously never check where I'm standing or sitting.  More than a few times I have stood in a fire ant pile to get that "perfect" shot.  One time, I even SAT in a fire ant pile!  So be mindful when entering a patch of bluebonnets and remember that insects and creatures call that patch home.  

Due to the great success and demand of this year's Bluebonnet Limited Edition Sessions, we will offer them again next spring.  Mark your calendars because we will begin booking them in February of 2018.  The best way to be notified of special sessions is by subscribing to our newsletter.  You'll receive our monthly e-newsletter, blog articles, special deals, and be notified of bookings before I post them on my page.  If you'd like to subscribe, just fill out this quick form.

Priorities

Priorities.  Such a big word!  We all have them and they vary significantly from person to person and from family to family.  There's no right or wrong.  It's simply a matter of perspective.  

I found myself looking at my own priorities this past weekend and I realized that I had a different set of priorities for myself, my family, and my career.  They all weave together, yet remain separate.  Here's the list I came up:

Myself:  My health is my priority - physical, mental, and social/emotional.  I don't like feeling less than 100%.  

Family:  Anyone that knows me knows that I care deeply for my family.  I'd seriously be lost without them!  A priority for my family is to remain close and capture all the memories that we can while we can.  Sometimes memories are captured on camera, yet other times the memories are just captured in our minds.  

Career:  I made the decision in 2012 to resign from teaching and stay home with my children.  This meant our family's income was going to drop.  I started my photography business as a side job to earn some money to supplement my husband's salary.  Since that time, my business has grown more than I could have ever imagined and it is now a sustainable source of income.  It is now my full time career.  The entire reason for working at it so hard is to help provide an income for my family that will enable my husband and I to give our children everything that they need...not want...but need.  It is my priority to make sure that I am contributing financially to our household.

I challenge you to think about your priorities.  What is it that you value for yourself, your family, for your career?  Do your actions reflect those priorities?  How do you know? 

I'm friends with many of my clients on social media.  I hope they see these priorities in my life and realize that I am a genuine, caring individual that values everyone because I believe that everyone I come in contact with has something to teach me.  We all learn from one another...sometimes we learn lessons from others....sometimes we learn facts....and sometimes we just learn how to be a better person.  

I truly appreciate every one of you and I want you to know that I have learned a lot from each of you.  I LOVE learning!  After all, I'm an educator at heart.