Monday, December 24, 2007

Miss South Dakota USA

A couple of days ago we had the wonderful opportunity of photographing Charlie Buhler, Miss South Dakota USA. Kari booked everything while I was outdoors in an engagement session (freezing our tails off), and as soon as I got back to the studio it was go-time. Nothing typical about this one.

In one word, Charlie Buhler is deserving of a crown.

Charlie was charming.
She was soft and respectful to everyone around her. Her friends and family sat in on the session, and even Jack the Studio Cat was pleased with her so much that he purred and gave her his welcoming approval, weaving in and out between her feet in a figure-8.
Charlie laughed and giggled, and with her disarming smile and her dancing eyes, the ice broke around any silly precognitions of how I imagined the shoot might go. Before I knew it, there we were, photographing Charlie Buhler and not just Miss SD USA. In front of me was the real Charlie, and that's when things clicked.

Her authenticity is something she couldn't cover up even if she wanted, and that's what I think is great about Charlie. She's not some kind of made-up doll that a stiff breeze could blow over. Charlie Buhler is overflowing with poise and determination.
I have to say, I don't know the rules as to how they picked this young lady to represent South Dakota for Miss USA. It may have been based on her stunning beauty and her level-headed responses to questions, but I don't think they knew just how right on the mark they really were.

How can I say that with such certainty?

Folks, when it came time to venture outdoors into the icy December chill, Charlie didn't hesitate.
When we stepped into the snow and the blustery wind, I thought for sure a Miss USA would call the shoot and head back for warmth and sanity...but when I asked Charlie if she'd cross an open field in below-zero wind chills, with nothing warmer than her sweater, she jumped at the opportunity with a smile. When we shot pictures on an icy bridge with the wind whipping the frost all around us as we stood over a frozen creek, I had on gloves and boots and a warm goosedown winter jacket...
Charlie had on her smile.
The snow was deep as we ran across the open field and when I looked back behind me, there was Charlie, a former track star, running exactly in my footsteps, giggling, having no trouble at all. It could have been August.

I gave her every chance to turn us back and go indoors, and instead Charlie was aglow, a breath of fresh air on a very cold winter day. She was strong and yet courteous, charged and yet warm, making a frigid photo shoot in the South Dakota frost look like a warm summer's day in pictures.

Thanks, and Happy early-Birthday Charlie :)
By our conversation and in talking with your family, you've already won what really matters in life. Miss USA would be a simple reflection to the testament of the woman you've already become.
Best of luck to you! We'll be watching in the Spring!

P.S. With respect to the family we won't be posting any crown or sash images without express permission, and all images in this blog are protected by copyright.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Even When We Cannot See

Someone close to me this week was uncertain of his faith because he had questions. Because he didn't have all the factual evidence of Christ, he wasn't sure if he could believe. To go further, he'd heard that because he became a Christian when he was a kid that it basically didn't count... Anybody out there who can relate? Well, hunker down and grab something to drink, take a minute or two from your busy day and read.

Kari and I read Hebrews 11 this morning, simply because it was the next chapter in our study together, and it’s amazing how closely it followed what we had talked about. It’s a big part of what is so awesome to me about God’s timing, because if you didn't already guess, Hebrews 11 is more famously known as the Faith Chapter. :)

This is the link about the day my son accepted Christ.

If you asked my boy, he’d never remember the exact day. We do, of course. We took his picture, wrote in his bible, and it was a reason to celebrate. But to him, it happened, and it doesn’t matter if he can remember the exact hour of the day or what the sunset looked like. Do you think that matters to Christ? C'mon. My boy made a decision to believe, and God honored it.
That doesn’t mean that because he got saved that he’s golden. It’s not like he has a monopoly on life, some kind of Get Out of Jail Free card. There is still the consequence of temptations, his actions, his sin. That’s why the bible says to daily crucify that nature, to follow Him. Following him means that we are on a path. We can fall away, go whatever direction that we want, and I really believe we can throw away the gift that was given and be just as lost as if we were never found.
That’s the sweet and sour of having the free will to choose for ourselves. But God doesn’t forget our promises. We do.
Putting on the armor daily, being transformed by the renewing of the mind, these verses are about daily actions that produce fruit, that keep us drawing nearer to Jesus instead of falling further away. Whether we live to see the reward of that on Earth or not, we will reap it in eternity.
To those of you out there with questions, searching for answers: What you are doing, seeking Him and the truth, having questions and digging for the answers, it’s not wrong. It’s something you are supposed to do. You've got to know what you stand for. You've got to be ready to give an account.

(Heb 11:6) It's impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

It’s a daily walk, even when we can’t see. Some of the most well known Christians never saw the fruits of their faith, or had the answers written out for them.
In fact I can pretty much guarantee that what they experienced in their lives probably didn’t make any sense at all.
Stephen was stoned for standing up for his faith. He had no idea that one of the men that would watch him die would go on to become Paul, the writer of almost half of the New Testament. Fox’s Book of Martyrs is filled with Christians who were persecuted even to death … They are a testament in and of themselves. They couldn’t have known that the record of their faith would give generations the courage to stand for their own.

Faith is first, and I really believe that God meets us in that action. None of us are ever going to have it all figured out. What fun would that be to have all the answers, to know the ending before you even read the first chapter? C.S. Lewis wrote a book about being Surprised by Joy. The title says it all. The joy is finding Jesus and His signature in the most unexpected of circumstances, realizing His workmanship where we least expect it… What more refreshing way to discover this gift than to open a little piece of it every morning.

I remember the anticipation, a few nights before Christmas, when my brother and I would sneak to the tree, armed with a razor blade and Scotch tape, ready to perform delicate surgery on every present under the tree. We'd open them up just enough to see the gift, then quickly cover our tracks and re-wrap them, hiding the evidence of any fore-knowledge with a new, fresh peice of tape. That way mom and dad wouldn't have a clue... yes, we were sooooo sneaky. To me, that’s what happens when we forget what following Christ should feel like. Every day there’s a new chance to be amazed. Only we've childishly covered up and removed any evidence of that joy.

If I wake up one morning and I’m not interested, or I’m too smart to be surprised, it won’t be because I just grew up, it will only be that I’ve forgotten the cost of that gift, the price that was paid and how precious it really is.

Friday, November 16, 2007

8 Days Later

How's this for fast?
The last blog was pictures of the crew pouring our foundation....just 8 days later, courtesy of Joe and the crew at JW...shazam! :)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Adding On

If some of you are curious, we finally got the approval to add-on to our studio, and things are moving right along, thanks to alot of guys putting in some very full days of hard work.

Willy with WT Construction is contracting the work, and we've been amazed at the workflow and organization. Willy was here the minute we got our approval, even put some of his jobs on the back burner to get started on ours before the snow begins to fly.
We got to tour some of his homes this week, and I can tell you that every single one is unique and custom and downright beautiful. There's a special touch to every room that is remarkable.

My hat's off also to Gerry's Concrete for their time in this project. They were here before me (amazing enough), at the studio pouring the floor by 5 am, and last night when it got too dark to see and I thought they'd be calling it a day, they just repositioned their trucks and flipped on the headlights to keep right on working. If you can't tell from the frosty pictures, it was also bitter cold with the wind. The hot concrete came out of the truck and hit the ground steaming, and these guys took hold of that raw mud, pushing and sculpting it into a beautiful floor.

Well-spoken words bring satisfaction; well-done work has its own reward ~Proverbs 12:14

Thanks guys.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Finishing up with Senior Sessions

I had someone ask me a little while ago if all we did was weddings, based on our site.
I said 'no, we handle seniors, kids, families, maternity, even some commercial work now and then.' When they asked why all we showed was the weddings I was a little confused, until I realized they'd never been to our website (where all the pictures are), only to our blog.

Yeah, I know, I don't seem to post much about 'business' on my 'business' blog (i've never been a marketing genius, and I'm not exactly business savvy. I just take the pictures, and then write when I get the itch...didn't you know??).
Well we've only got about 2 weeks left for the rest of our senior sessions, so I thought it might be helpful if I actually posted some shots?

This is Kristi, and she hasn't even seen her pictures yet (cause I'm still editing them as I type), but I think they are just too beautiful to keep quiet about. Kristi is in drama, and she's a very intellectual young lady. It's probably a safe bet she's alot smarter than me. But hey, I think I still managed to capture that thirst for life, her spirit, which is what makes this girl so wonderful to be around...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Skewered! (ouch)

Well I’ve got a crazy kind of praise this morning…

While Kari and I were shooting a wedding an hour and a half away, their grandmother took the kids to a hayride. Logan was climbing on a bale while some kids were roasting hotdogs. The bale gave way and Logan fell, right onto a boy holding a heavy duty roasting skewer with the fork end up the air.
Where it hit was just behind his ear, and he landed on it so hard that it bent the fork end of the skewer and the handle bowed. They had to call 911 and he went into emergency, ending up with 4 stitches. A nurse on the scene said he passed out or had a seizure, she wasn’t sure which.

You're thinking, where is the praise part?
Where he landed on the fork, it entered just behind his ear and glanced off the skull. One of the hardest places on the skull, which absorbed most of the impact, and that was the reason it bent the fork. Before they stitched him up they numbed his wound and opened it to make sure the skull wasn’t pierced. It wasn’t. There was almost no blood, just a gaping cut.
When you say a prayer today, thank Jesus and give Him praise for having his angels watch over my boy. With the force of his fall, that skewer could have impaled him through the ear, eye, throat, chest or stomach. Had it been even an inch away, it could have nicked his jugular or the softer part of the skull near the temple and could have easily killed him.

We always say a quick prayer when we leave our kids, just asking God to watch over them and keep them out of harms way. We were telling Logan last night that we were glad God honored that prayer, and Logan replied, "You only pray that when you leave??? What about all the time when you're here?? You guys should be praying that ALL the time, not just when YOU'RE gone! Sheesh!"
Out of the mouths of babes...

of course, this is a great war story now, these stitches are his badge...what is it with boys and scars...

Monday, October 22, 2007

End of the Line

Took a little hike yesterday morning to clear my head and find some answers.
I got the answers, had a nice chat with my Maker, scared up a few mama deer, 2 rabbits and even snapped a few interesting pictures of some old tracks that have reached the end of the line.
And geese...of course...

this time of year, when I hear their happy-honking and carrying on, I'm drawn like a magnet to shoot them in all their glory as they float acrossed the sky. No worries, no fowl were harmed in the making of this image ;)
They're lucky, it's just the shutter of a camera they have to worry about with me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Music on the Site

We wanted to extend our thanks to the Sons of Korah for allowing us to sample their music on our website. If anyone is interested in hearing more of their work, please go to the Sons of Korah website. Their music is straight from the Psalms and the tone speaks directly to the soul. Because of their biblical roots, the words are true and God-centered. It's almost as if they are calling me, the created, from some deep down desire within to draw closer to my Creator.
We hope it speaks to you in the same way.
God Bless,

Dan & Kari

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Wedding Show

Just wanted to drop a line and say Thank You to all who stopped by at our booth in the wedding show this weekend.
I think we were there for a purpose, reasons that went far beyond the realm of wedding photography, and it was great to meet some of the people God put in front of us yesterday. While Kari and I were both a little tapped from the wedding the night before, some of your words were much needed and very encouraging :)
God Bless,

Dan & Kari

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Introducing Jess

Please allow me to introduce you to our new assistant, Jesharelah, Jess for short.
Jess will be working for us in the graphic design and customer service department, and we have high hopes for her. She's a great girl with her heart in the right place, and she is already fitting in around here. Please give her a warm welcome when you stop by.
Thanks very much!

Dan & Kari

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lifelight 2007

Growing up as a little boy in the coal town of Gillette, Wyoming we had a rough start. Our world was just as rugged as the plateaus that are so common in that part of the country.

My mom and dad played hard and fought hard, literally. Just like most of their friends, God wasn't a part of our everyday life, and while the talk was tough and everyone walked around like they were 10 feet tall, our little family struggled on the inside. We were the farthest thing from bulletproof.

To me, back then, life seemed like one great plateau. Steep and wreckless mountains and valleys, ups and downs that were never ending, just replaying over and over. With our family, things would go right, but only for so long, then level off for just a breath of peace before beginning an unchartered descent into hell. It felt like we were never getting anywhere. And even at that age a kid begins to wonder about his purpose.

My childhood wasn't anything to pity. We were well provided for, and there were more good days than there were bad.
Still, I saw my mom and dad laugh, I saw them drink. I saw the fights and I rememeber the darkest things, things I saw, sounds I heard, even the strong smells of the by-product of that world that will stay with me all my life.

It was my mom who first began to go to church, looking for anything to change our trajectory before our family smacked into another brick wall that we wouldn't bounce back from.
And she found it. Boy did she find it. She was a changed woman when she met Jesus. My brother and I were just a couple of dumb kids, be we could smell it in the air when she'd walk into a room, and all we knew was that we wanted that too. We began going to church with her, coming home and telling my dad all about what we were learning in the bible, and at first I think he thought we'd all been brainwashed. That was until the Sunday came when we all went to get in the car, and he got in too.

Life changed, and I mean it flipped. Like a switch that turns on the bulb in a dim lit room, darkness fled from my family when the light hit it.

It was magnificant. It was strong. It was sweet peace, and it was lasting.

My dad became a pillar in his faith. I'd see him in his bible every day. He taught me what it meant to study the word of God. More importantly, he led by example. I wanted to be just like him.

But, as time wore on, so did life. Our family fell away from the church, away from God, and finally away from the peace that we'd come to know.

One of the greatest things I learned about faith wasn't what anyone meant to teach me, but the lesson is invaluable and worth passing on...

This gift, this blessing from God, your Salvation... you can't have it taken from you.
The bible says we can't be snatched away from Jesus. But we can take that gift and give it back. We can set it down just like anything else in life, get busy and forget about it. It's not taken away because it doesn't need to be taken. We give it up, freely, and without a fight.

That was over 15 years ago. But guess what? Jesus never gave up. He never left my side, even when I left His. Most of those years I spent lost, just tossing whichever way the wind would blow.

Two years ago I called my mom and asked if she'd come up for Lifelight, and last year she came. It was knee-deep mud and torrential rains, and everything we had, from our food right down to our socks, was waterlogged in the first day. It seemed I spent all of my time digging out cars and trying to get a tire changed, and the only real connection I made with the festival was on the last morning, coming over the hill just as Joe White took the main stage. With passion like I haven't seen in a man, with tears and heartache he built a real-life rugged cross, swinging his ax like Paul Bunyan, pounding the nails, telling a story about a man named Jesus and the gift He gave mankind. My mom found her faith all over again, and the flame was fanned.

I remembered thinking, "Wow! If there's anyone that my dad could relate to, it's Joe White!" Rugged, to the point, no-bones straight-talkin' and in your face.
He was speaking my dad's language.

It's been a full week now since this year's festival, and only today am I beginning to form into words what I experienced at Lifelight. I'll give you, and remember this, I'll give you just a peice of the whole story. Just a sliver, because there is too much to tell, more than words can describe.

My dad decided to come, to see what the fuss was all about... Once again, he found himself in a car, on His way to Jesus.
He had two blow-outs on the trip here from Wyoming, but he still made it. He wasn't going to turn back now.

When Joe White came on stage there were distractions all around us, so we went right up to the front. Still people were talking right behind us, talking about anything and everything, not listening to this man speak. So we moved to the center, and Joe White was standing right above our heads, swinging that ax with true determination. Babe the Blue Ox was certainly right behind the stage. Yet, all I could hear was the guy next to me talking about needing to buy some deodorant, how he could really use a shower...and he was telling no lie. The Souled-Out stage was thumping and booming in the background....noise, and more distractions.

I was burning holes into peoples heads with my eyes...thinking if they'd just look my direction they'd be able to tell that I was about to choke them and bring them personally to Jesus, that it was time to shut-up. No luck.

Finally, as some kind of last resort I bowed my head and closed my eyes, and I asked God to please let my Dad hear nothing but this man's message. I asked him to snuff out the rest of the distractions and make it clear. I was frustrated. Disappointed.
I was lacking in my faith.

It wasn't until the next morning when I asked what he thought of that message, and if he could hear anything over all of the people talking, that my dad said,
"What people talking?"
I said, "All the distractions?"
and He looked at me confused,
"What distractions...I just heard Joe White."
Yes... that's him in my favorite picture below, on his knees in prayer.

I realized then that my God had it all under control, and He was meeting my dad, with or without my help, all weekend long. I realized why I was on assignment to cover Lifelight in pictures... it was to get myself out of the way, to let God work.

For as long as I can remember, when my dad would visit a place, he was always ready for the trip back home. Most times he was packing up to leave early, with a list of things to do.
When Monday morning came and everyone began to break camp, it was my dad who said something I've never heard him say in all my life,
"I'm not ready to leave...I'm really not ready to fact I'll drive all night long if I have to, I don't care. Let's just relax."
We were among the last campers to leave the grounds, in fact they cut the electricity and water as a gentle reminder that it was time to go. :)

My dad called yesterday to let me know he'd found a church. It's the same church that my family first found a lifetime ago. The pastor there knew him and used to be an elder in the church back then. Already, there is a remembered fellowship, rekindled....a fanning of the flame.

On the phone I heard my dad speak words that will stay with me forever...

"It's such an amazing feeling to be in the place that He wants us to be, to find out that He didn't give up on us."

You remember how Christ spat in the dirt and made mud, smeared it on the blind man's eyes and gave him sight? Well, he never did miracles like that the same way twice. He always mixed things up. Kept it fresh.
This time there wasn't any need to make the mud for me to dig out of, but there were pictures to take, a job to do. Something, anything to occupy my time, because I had a lesson to learn too. It's not me. It's nothing I am going to do, nothing I can do. It's already been done. That price has already been paid, and he cares more than I will ever begin to understand.
That gift isn't mine. All we can do is open our arms to recieve what He is already offering to all of us, and tell others about why Jesus Christ deserves our praise.

As for me, I can only tell you what I know. What I've seen.
He's there for me. He's real. He didn't forget. He answered my prayers. Hard, painful prayers, that my family would find their way back to Him. He's still answering them, more than I could ever imagine.
And His word tells me that He is there for you too, and He never gives up...Never.

His message, this flame, belongs to you now. Open your arms. Embrace it, let it warm you over, and watch this wildfire blaze in your life, in your family. If He is true, then you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If He is false, you still have lost nothing.

God despises the sin in our lives, and every one of us has sin. If you've lied then you're a liar. If you've stolen something in your life then you're a thief. If you've looked at another person in lust, you've sinned. These things will destroy us. From the pastor right down to a criminal, we're the same.

But when we ask for His forgiveness, when we turn to Him in humility and we acknowledge that gift that He gave on the cross, it's not that we somehow think less of ourselves, or that we become weak. It's that we think of ourselves less, and in doing so, through Him, we become strong.

Remember this childhood melody and take this with you today...
'Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak, but He is strong.'

Friends, a child can figure this out. Don't let your self get in the way.

There are more pictures of the festival here. Just click to see them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Leaving Home

I have to apologize for not blogging so much this month. We're closing on our home and just moved out... yesterday as a matter of fact. It's somewhat bitter-sweet, because part of me understands it's just a building, a bunch of lumber, and it's fading away just like anything else in this world. But it's also been more than just a place to hang your hat.
The steps, where my boy took his first major tumble in his walker, scared us to death.
The dining room where Abby was chewing on sweet corn from the garden when she was just a baby.
In the living room is where Logan accepted Christ into his heart, and on the hardwood floor in the kitchen is where my little girl figured out how to twirl in her Sunday dress...

I remember the day we had to bury our kitty in the back yard after a run-in with a son sitting with droopy shoulders on the front porch, fighting back the tears and yet happy to see me because he thought that I was going to fix his cat and make her all better.

I remember taking off the training wheels for my girl this summer as she flew down the sidewalk and took her spill into the grass. I remember putting the training wheels back on after that. :)

All of the Christmas mornings and the snowball fights, the Easter Egg hunts and the birthday parties, the early hours spent listening to the birds, sipping coffee with Kari on the back porch, smelling the lilacs bloom.

It's hard because we have a tendency to tie all of those great moments in life to a place. But really, when you think about it, the house is not really where those memories live. Those memories have a home in my heart. And it's the people that we get to spend this precious life with that really matter. They make the memories, not the house.

Christmas will still come and we'll still color funny looking eggs in the Spring. The seasons will still be sprinkled with cake and ice cream and there will still be notches on some wall, somewhere, marking the passage of childhood. With a little luck, there will be some pictures to remind the crumbsnatchers that they were, in fact, crumbsnatchers when they are older.

But as for the rest, it's just a matter of putting our trust in the only real constant. Setting our compass so we know where we're going and where we've been.

That True North is Christ, and everything else along the way is just a road from here to Him.

Happy Trails.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


We're knee deep into senior sessions this time of year, so I wanted to showcase one of our most recent favorites, Emily. Her dress was a perfect fit for her personality.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Milo & Cody

This is easily going to be one of my favorite weddings of the year.

Milo is just about as sweet and natural as they come, and she set the day on fire with her smile and her special spark for life. I saw her long, flowing hair through the lens, and somehow I immediately pictured the wild horses that we've seen galloping in the mountains back home in Wyoming... Manes, whipping in the wind.

Cody is a true cowboy, and I don't say that because of the cattle or the ranch or the hat on his head. I say it because he was man enough to care about their pictures. Because he knew how important it was to Milo, he drove around the city parks and found good spots for the pictures, spots he thought she'd love.
He was there for her, and his focus was completely on her throughout their day.
The clothes don't make the man. It's where his treasures lie that sets the course of his life and the mark he leaves behind.

The reception was amazing. A barn wall and a great white tent, setup in the middle of the pasture under God's green grass and blue sky. There was a big dance floor guilded in golden sunlight, and to me it was more beautiful than any venue or event hall the city could ever hope to offer.

We found her dad that morning amidst the bustle of family, setting up the tables, and I told him that I really liked his mailbox, a welded picture of a man on his knees in reverence to the cross.

His words were, to me, the most important of the day,

"It doesn't mean anything if God doesn't get the glory. It's all because of him."