Sunday, December 25, 2005

Wishing you all a Peaceful Christmas...

'Up! let your face be bright, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is shining on you. For truly, the earth will be dark, and the peoples veiled in blackest night; but the Lord will be shining on you, and his glory will be seen among you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to your bright dawn. Let your eyes be lifted up, and see: they are all coming together to you: your sons will come from far, and your daughters taken with loving care. Then you will see, and be bright with joy, and your heart will be shaking with increase of delight: for the produce of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you. You will be full of camel-trains, even the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba will come, with gold and spices, giving word of the great acts of the Lord.'
(Isaiah 60:1-6)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas in Heaven

'Rita is at peace and no longer in pain...She passed away last evening and is celebrating the most glorious Christmas ever this year.'

Rita was a light in this world. She leaves behind, if only for a time, her husband Jeff, and her two beautiful little girls, Brooklyn and Autumn, as well as dozens of friends whose hearts will forever be touched by her spirit.
That light isn't gone, it's only changed. It's passed on to all of us, and it's our responsibility to carry that torch, to illuminate this world and to bathe each coming generation in the peace and love and mercy, and above all the grace of Jesus Christ. Just a babe, born in a manger, sent here to help us understand how high, how wide, and how deep, is a father's love. I believe Rita today has a grasp on just how beautiful that truly is.

If ever there was a special requirement for becoming an Angel, Rita Spyksma was it.

I wanted to pass this along, from the friends and family of Rita Spyksma:

Christmas In Heaven
I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below with tiny lights like heaven's stars reflecting on the snow.

The sight is so spectacular please wipe away that tear
for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear but the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring for it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart for I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I can't tell you of the splendor or the peace here in this place Can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior face to face?

I'll ask him to lift your spirit as I tell you of your love so then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above.

Please let your hearts be joyful and let your spirit sing
for I am spending Christmas in heaven and I'm walking with the King.

author Wanda Bencke

Merry Christmas Rita!'

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Winter Solstice.... Just A Very Special Day

December 21st was a very special day. During an evening shoot with the Big Brother organization, I began to notice a faint smell... Turned out to be the city septic backing up. We had to scramble to get furniture and prints and frames out of the way, and our studio quickly began to look like a tornado had hit as we pushed everything out of the way and waited for the calvary to show up and get things going back down the drains. Thankfully the floor is not level, so it all ran to the door and away from the working end of the studio. The actual damage was very limited and confined to the entry way and back storage area. A blessing in disguise.
In the midst of it all, after the city employees and the family and the landlord left, there was my wife and I, standing in the middle of this great mess, in the middle of the Christmas Rush...
I held her in my arms and it occurred to me that some day we'll look back on this and laugh. I swung the camera around for a rare change from the norm, and took a picture of us both.

The studio will be remodeled, carpet and tile replaced, new props, new whatever, and eventually things will get back to business. Life will go on.
But guess what?! All of this is negated by one, very, very special event that took place today...... drum roll.............ratatatatatatatatatatatattatata.
On December 21st, 2005. At 9:15 in the morning, my little boy accepted Christ into his heart! :)

He was reading the story of Baby Moses with Kari that morning for school, and in his books there are questions at the end.

Here was that question:
'When we belong to God, He has special plans for us. You belong to your family, and when you accept Jesus as your savior, you belong to God in a special way. Have you done that, and would you like to do that now?'
That sparked a conversation that we've never really had with Logan. We've always talked to him about Jesus, but we wanted this to be something he'd come to in his own heart. He said he'd never really prayed to Jesus to ask Him as his Savior, just to say thanks for things, but that he'd never realized he needed to actually ask him into his heart.
This was his prayer that Kari helped him pray:

"Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and that you rose again. Please forgive me of my sins. Thank you for taking them away from me.. Please come into my heart and be Lord of my life. You are my Savior. I Love you. In Jesus' name. Amen."

Kari said they had a great big bear hug afterwards. I realize he is 6 years old, but he came upon this of his own decision, and it's important. From here we grow closer to Christ, right?

See, I'm not going to remember December 21st as the day that half of our studio flooded or that it was the Solstice. Everything else is completely negated, it's void of any relevance in my mind, because this is the day my boy became part of a bigger family, the day Christ answered an earnest prayer of mine...and it was an answer of eternal value. :)
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

First Ever Christmas Program

I had to post of few of these for fun. Our church had their first ever Christmas Program in our new building. Kari was one of the parents involved in making costumes and orchestrating the chaos. We were up until 1:30 a.m. cutting black fabric and hot gluing the spots on t-shirts for the cows. You name it, we had it at this program. From the Harking Herald Angels to a few Lost Sheep, Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus. Even some ritzy looking Wise Men and a few fiesty Shepherds.
Abby was one of the Sheep, but she soon left the flock and followed me all over the sanctuary as I snapped off shots. Every time I'd turn around she'd be right behind me, in her little cotton-ball outfit (ahem...wool), with nothing but a big smile. Eventually she got hot and took it right off. I told her I'd never seen a lamb sheer itself :)
Logan did a great job singing the Christmas songs he'd been practicing. It was great to see him so involved. I think everyone had a great time, and we were all reminded of what all this hub-bub is really supposed to be about.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Snow Baby

This is Kassidy. We had the pleasure of shooting the Larsen family a couple of times last year. The Larsen boys are on a picture hanging on our front door, and Kassidy's newborn picture with Kris hangs on the center peg in the studio. We got quite a few shots with the boys last time around, and plenty this time right off the bat, so we got to focus in a little more on Kassidy later in the session. She's got her mama's eyes and a beautiful personality, and we really enjoyed having the opportunity to capture that.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bob and Marie

This is Logan and Abby's Grandpa Bob and Grandma Marie.
The kids look forward to going to see them at 'Papa's House' every Sunday afternoon. The world is just not in order until we get there and spend atleast an hour listening to Abby shreak while Logan chases around the tables and chairs.
Papa always warms a little soup for Abby and Logan gets his cherries. On Abby's short list of to-do's are going to pet any stuffed animals, and of course making sure a bowl of mints are put in the fridge. It's a very, very important task that she must oversee herself or it just won't get done properly. Then after supper she serves everyone our frozen, sticky treats.
I don't know what we'll ever do the day they give up the restaurant, I think two little grandkids are going to be very distraught. It's like a home away from home.
Bob finally consented to letting me photograph him. I almost fell down with a heart attack when he walked in. Marie must have promised him the Moon I'm thinking. :)

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Christmas Rush

Things have been beyond hectic at the studio the last few days as we peak with orders and shoots for the Christmas Rush. We've been inundated with to-do's, and unfortunately the Blog has taken a back seat while I work on getting my clients' prints and proofs back in time to make it under their trees. (That would be their Christmas Trees. Not Holiday Trees... Christmas Trees. I'm getting a little tired of the politically correct slant)
So, instead of writing the editorials for the Blog I'm afraid I need to be working on Christmas. I'm going to put up some pictures from one of today's shoots, and as we count down to the Christ's Birthday I'll have to let the images tell the story. They are, after all, worth a thousand words, right? I realize I'm not getting all the shoots from the week posted here, my apology to the families.
Take care everyone. Once things settle down a bit I'll get back on track. Promise. :)
......Okay just a snippet. This little one is an angel! Shelby completely loves the camera, and she made my afternoon. We've had the pleasure of shooting Shelby before, but never a solo shoot like this. Her mom got out of the shoot... this time. I let her know I never ever let the mom's out of the shoot. She's one of the few exceptions. Next time, no excuses Mom. Shelby is 18 months old, and a very bright young lady for her age. She really had a great attitude today, which made her shoot so much more carefree and fun.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jami and Patrick

This is Jami and Patrick. We'll be covering their wedding in May next year.
I met Jami first when she came along, as any great sister would, for her brother Grant's senior pictures last year. She helped handle one of Grant's passions, his 4H pig. We had a really great time that day, and then she called to book us for her wedding. That was an honor.
Today it was supposed to be warm, but we had some very blistery winds come up just before the shoot.
Jami was up to it, so we braved the winter winds regardless. She hopped out of the car without even a coat on, ready to give it all for her pictures. What a trooper!
Patrick talked her back into the coat, which a few minutes later turned out to be a very good idea, becuase the wind kicked up to make us all appreciate a little something more between us and the elements. The Merry-Go-Round was turning itself in the wind. :)
I love any chance to get out of the studio, so I of course was happy regardless. Looking forward to May. :)
P.S., Hey Grant, if you're out there, quit chasing those college girls and pick up the phone a little more often, call your sister! Jami said you're too hard to get ahold of these days. Don't you know, a sister like her doesn't come along once in a lifetime. And oh yeah, give my regards to the Ram. I spent a few years cooking a mean prime rib there back in the days when I went to school at SDSU. :)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Michaela & Tate

We get to shoot Michaela & Tate's wedding in June, and I can already tell it's going to be a good time. Tate is very easy to get along with and Michaela is a sweetheart. I don't think there is anything Tate wouldn't do for her. It's great when I get a chance to connect with the bride and groom to be. I really pay attention to how comfortable they are with eachother, and with these two it's very easy to see that they fit perfectly. She smiles...and right away he smiles... He laughs...and she laughs with him. It's almost like watching synchronized swimming or something. They are tuned in to one another. :)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Ericksons

The Ericksons are new clients for us. It's always great to photograph new families, because it's actually kind of exciting to see the different dynamics. The first shoot is always a little touch-n-go, especially with the littlest ones, because they have to decide whether or not everything is "as it should be" in our little world. Big, bright lights, a funny looking guy with a camera that is clicking away, big pieces of paper that are just dying to be colored on (backdrops)... c'mon, these are not your ordinary things to explore. :)
As soon as we get beyond that, it's fun to watch them start to warm up.
Alison was a very happy little girl, by my first impression, and little Connor was a spitfire. All boy, very much into the exploring stage of life. Zach, on the other hand, was soft-spoken and fun-loving, even a little shy to start. I helped him clean his glasses up a little before the shoot, and it made me laugh. When I was his age I couldn't stand to wear glasses, and they were always dirty and smudged with finger prints or something, peanut butter, jelly? I remember I could barely ever see through them, and I was out of place with wearing them. Zach reminded me of myself then. A little unsure, a little unsettled, but ready to become somebody. Of course, destined for some form of greatness, to change the world as we know it. :)
Jennifer (mom) was the glue that held them all together for this first shoot. She seemed to definitely have things under control. Jason (dad)is a local financial advisor, native to Sioux Falls, and he seems like a pretty nice guy.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rita & Family

I don't know how many of you know Rita's story.
Last year Rita was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer just a few days after our first family shoot with them. Rita battled that cancer for nearly a year, went into remission, and began her comeback. Then in the early fall the cancer became much more aggressive, and the doctors sent her home, because there was nothing more to be done. She was given two short weeks to live, best-case scenario...

One of the first things on this mom's list of to-do's? To have pictures taken of her family.
She didn't want to see the world, didn't want to go to some tropical paradise, in fact she didn't really want anything at all for herself. Rita wanted pictures for her husband and for her two precious little girls, so that they would have something to remember her by. As a mother, as a wife, as a best friend.
It was an honor to even be able to be a part of that day, and it's something I'll take with me, surely the rest of my life. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done to photograph a mother as she prepared, in her own special way, to say goodbye.
Rita had more dignity, more grace, and more love in her than could be captured through the lens of any camera. And regardless of how she felt, Rita, always, smiled.
Her husband was a man whose shoes I'd never wish to fill. I saw in his eyes such a deep love mixed with such a hurt, and such a deep desire to be the rock for his family and to be their strength.
Rita's little girls kept picking beautiful yellow and orange flowers for her. They even picked some for me. I still have them. I'll always have them. They are pressed.

Days passed by as her husband Jeff took the family to Disneyland so that Rita could introduce her daughter to her hero, Cinderella. I remember thinking that when that little girl grows up, she's going to discover that her mommy was the real-life version...

We all prayed, and everyone braced.
Then September passed, Halloween and Trick-or-Treating, and then Thanksgiving.
Rita had went in for testing and found that the cancer was completely gone!
No trace whatsoever!
What a miracle and an answered prayer! What a tribute to God's mercy and His grace. And now here we are coming onto Christmas. What a gift!

While she's not fully out of the woods, she is absolutely an inspiration to me and my family.
You see, through October, while we all prepared for the Holidays and went door-to-door for candy, Rita was fighting.
While we celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner, Rita was fighting.
Today, Rita is in the hospital for her liver, recovering from Shingles, fallout from the treatments and from graft-host disease. But the gift is that she's with us still, and folks, you know Rita....she's fighting.

It's not so much Rita's story anymore, I suppose.
It's also a story of grace under fire. Of mercy. Of family. Of desire. Of perseverance. Of struggle. Of second-chances. And finally, it's a story of the truest and finest of loves...
A mother's for her daughters, A husband's for his wife.
A Creator's, for His Created.

My life wouldn't be complete without seeing that kind of strength and resolve. I only hope I have a whisper of Rita's character and God's perfect grace to calm the storm when troubled waters come to visit me...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Vito and Bella

This is Vito and Bella. The story with this brother and sister is that they also happen to be the best of friends. They have a deep love and respect for one another that shows very easily in pictures, because they are absolutely comfortable together. This is something I've grown to realize over the course of the last year of pictures with the family.
Vito thinks the world of his big sister, and he doesn't mind at all when she's in his space. For a 2 year old, speaking from experience, this is very much an uncommon trait. Usually the world at that age is all about what is "mine", and that tends to encompass any object or food source or toy within sight of said 2 year old. But Vito's never come across that way to me. Instead he seems at ease with his world, maybe because he has a giant of a dad who could easily vanquish any threats, maybe because there's just a good measure of love in this family, enough to go around.
Bella is beautiful, just like her mom. She seems also to be growing like a weed, and believe it or not, this little angel has a headlock move the likes of which could make some WWF Pro Wrestlers jealous. We got to see a whole new side to this little one when she just about took her dad down for the count while giving him a hug.
Talk about tough! I'm still trying to figure out if she gets that from dad... or mom?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Quickly becoming one of my favorites, last time this family came to visit I got some beautiful smiles from mom and daughter, and now dad too.
Adriuana is a girl who seems to be very secure in her little world. She always has a smile, and her eyes dance. She never stops thinking or studying the camera, and she is always very present and in the moment. It's great to see a family with so much love between them, which of course makes them very easy to photograph. :)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas Cards

This year we've seen a windfall of Christmas Cards moving through this studio, so for the first time ever, our family has one too. :) We're big fans of keeping it simple, so with that.... Merry Christmas from us. :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kim and Russ

We had a great time with Kim and Russ. Russ is a fireman, so a few things were very unique with this wedding, like the fire engine ride to the reception, and also at the Falls. After the ceremony it was very dark outside this country church with no outdoor lights, so with the courtesy of the local firemen, we got the best lighting possible, spotlights with a touch of red and blue! If there's anything I can say about these two, it's that they are truly in love, and they are real. Russ is the definition of a gentleman and Kim has a smile that comes straight from the heart.
It was a beautiful day.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Best Organization in the U.S.

This is a good time of year to stop and recognize the Salvation Army.
3.5 million registered volunteers.
From bell ringing to helping with the community, these people make a difference. And you still can too. :)
Yet, as more and more retail chains begin to ban that familiar sound from their storefronts, it's important that we don't let our spirit of giving slip away, simply because they aren't as visible. Out of sight, out of mind. That's one of our greatest weaknesses, isn't it?
While Target recently banned the bell ringers, take note, they also announced, under rising pressure I'm sure, an online partnership, as another way of giving. Just follow the link if you still want to give.
If you'd rather give direct, click here. $.83 of every dollar donated goes to direct services funding.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thanks to Old Man Winter....

We've had several weather-related shoot cancellations over the course of the last week or so, and right now we are cranking out Christmas Cards, so I thought I'd go back through some of the more recent shoots and pick a few favorites. This is Jayna and her mom, a senior shoot in October, that was really a lot of fun. It's really special to me when a senior asks me to let her mom be in a few pictures with her. To me that's very telling of her character and also of the relationship between these two, and I have a great deal of respect for them because of that.
I've seen the shoots when they go the other way and parents are struggling with their sons and daughters, enough to recognize a beautiful friendship when I see it. And aren't they beautiful together. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Ahhh... December

This is a special time of year for me.
Always busy, of course. But oddly enough, something happens in my life almost annually this time of year. Something that marks a shift in the course. It's always interesting to discover. Could be also that I'm not walking around with the wool over my eyes as usual. Instead I'm watchful, alert, looking for it. Maybe it's there all along, and I just don't take the time.

Kari and I were reading (<---- That's Kari by the way) in a devotion through Romans 12. There's a great verse there...
'Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will is-what is proper, pleasing, and perfect. '
(Romans 12:2)

Right away after reading that I began to make a table (i have to see it in my mind).
I put every hour of the day from morning to night.
Okay, so the big things have to be first.
Time studying God's it.
Time for family....check.
Time for school....yep.
Okay....what else? We're only at 10 am....
Well, what else do I do during the day, normally?
Work. And then more work. And usually then more work after that...
Hmmm. That means already I'm spending about 85% of my day at work, 10% of my day with my family and certainly less than 5% in devotion.

Already my plan was foiled.
I have to work less, spend more time with the kids, more time in devotion.
But what about paying the bills?
But what about the days when we have shoots that run late, or Saturdays when we just leave a reception at 9 pm after a full 8 hours? What then? When the world happens?

Right away I began to get disappointed. The work will never end, the busy-ness isn't just going to go away. I can't turn away clients after 5 pm....'Sorry folks, It's time for my family, 'Can't afford to feed them, but I can sure spend my time with them!'....yeah right.

I started scribbling. Stupid plan...

That's when my wife said,
'No, no. I think you've got it all wrong. You're sitting here trying to fit God into your day, and it doesn't even work that way. God doesn't see your day like this, with little blocks of time and bar charts... He sees you, not where and when you spent your time, but what you did with it. Whatever you're doing, honey, you just do it for Him. 'The renewing of your mind.''

Isn't she so smart? Much more than me I've surmised.

I'm trying so hard to fit God into my day, when really I need only to fit my day for God.

Something else I've learned. She needs to be heard. She has a voice, and she desires reason. Too often I'm present but not accounted for. I'm there hearing her, but I'm not listening with the right heart. She has such a beautiful way of putting things, such a beautiful mind, and she could save me so much time if I'd just pay attention.
Now, this blog is supposed to be for business. I'm getting a little carried away with the personal notes these days.... chalk it up to the Holiday, the Christmas Season. There's plenty of time for work, right?