Thowback Thursday: A Wish of a Lifetime

(As the Twin Cities gear up to host the upcoming Superbowl and the Minnesota Vikings head into an important playoff game this weekend, I can't help but have memories of this awesome day which appeared on my blog September 23, 2015.)

He grew up an orphan on the streets of Duluth, Minnesota. He is an 83 year old Korean War Veteran, a loving father, and a diehard Vikings Football fan.

Ford Lund's incredible sacrifice for this country is characterized by the letter of condemnation he received for his bravery during the Korean War. While in combat, he crossed the front lines and brought back two wounded Greek soldiers who had been hit with mortar shells. He was recognized with letter of commendation for bravery and is one of the only two American soldiers who were able to wear a Greek Army badge on their uniform.

Ford and his family have been fans of the Minnesota Vikings since their first game in 1961. In fact, a Vikings game in 1961 was the first and only Vikings game that he has been to in his entire life. Ford and his family have watched the Vikings play every Sunday for decades, but due to health issues and financial constraints, they have been unable to go to another game. To him and his family, the Minnesota Vikings are more than a sports team, they are a family passion and a recognition of their home state.

Thanks to Wish of a Lifetime and the Minnesota Vikings, Ford's dream to go to another Vikings game became a reality on September 18, 2015, when they flew Ford and his son Tim from Montana to Minnesota for an unforgettable Vikings weekend. 

I was honored to be invited to be the event photographer and to document the experience for this charming man and his son. 

Meet Ford Lund, as he does a little wheeling and dealing from Ziggy Wolf's office!

Halls are lined with memorabilia and photographs - symbols of the Viking's legacy dating back generations.

Ford and his son, Tim, were given a tour of Winter Park, meeting key personnel and places.

Stepping on to the turf at Winter Park's indoor practice field.  PS.  It is surprisingly soft!  Babies could lay happily on that stuff!

Ford was invited to watch morning practice with Executive Director of Community Relations, Brad Mason.  Due to security and team privacy reasons, we were not able to photograph the players engaged in practice.  However, Ford's smile says it all!

Ford was invited to the closing huddle with players to give the final break. 

Ford was invited to the closing huddle with players to give the final break. 

Coach Zimmerman introduces Ford to the players, telling of his amazing legacy as a soldier and fan.

I know nothing of football.  So, when the crowd surrounded him, I brazenly pushed my way through the wall of men, ignorant of who they were or what they did - simply so I could capture Ford.  Imagine my surprise the next day when I realized who they were.  Oh... hey there, Adrian Peterson.... Vikings Running Back.  Sorry for the elbow in the side and kick to the knee!

Ford gets his #28 jersey signed by Running Back, Adrian Peterson.

One of the sweetest and most lighthearted moments came when Ford delighted in knowing he could also keep the pen!

One of the sweetest and most lighthearted moments came when Ford delighted in knowing he could also keep the pen!

Tim also got his jersey signed by #22 Safety, Harrison Smith.

Quarterback #5 Teddy Bridgewater stayed behind to sign his own gloves for the gents.

Quarterback #5 Teddy Bridgewater stayed behind to sign his own gloves for the gents.

Ford meets former NFL player turned Vikings Offensive Line Coach, Jeff Davidson.

Ford practices his flex with an image of Adrian Peterson for inspiration.  "C'mon Coach... put me in, I'm ready!"

After practice it was a quiet moment to simply enjoy the experience.

Ford would next be interviewed for the Viking's documentary show - Beyond the Gridiron.  (Look for video clips on their website when they are posted.)  He spoke of his long standing love of the Vikings, and what a great coach he saw in Bud Grant.

Then the interview turned to speak of Ford's time in service.  His eyes dropped and he quieted as he sank into his chair.  Seeing the change, I realized that like most audiences, we saw his medals and valore - wanting stories of his time in deployment.  Yet, he only saw the battlefield and what dark times transpired during his time in Korea.  He son says he doesn't speak of it often and on this day, that remained true.

Then, it was his son Tim's turn for interview.  He laughed and smiled as he spoke of his loving father and what a happy childhood he had with him.  Through Tim, we saw the gentle heart of a loving father and dedicated Viking's fan who raised his entire family on this beloved Minnesota pastime.

Teddy Bridgewater's gift to the boys as a proud son enjoys this special time with his father.

A person's life can be changed by the kindness you show.

Wish of a Lifetime is a non-profit organization whose mission it is to shift the way society views and values our oldest generations by fulfilling seniors’ dreams and sharing their stories to inspire those of all ages.

Seniors are nominated by others and then a team at WOAL go to work to make it happen!  To learn more about this great organization, visit their website!

PS.  After a day at Winter Park with the Vikings, Ford and his son were guests at the Vikings game against the Detroit Lions.   (Ford - you must good luck because Vikings had a grand win at 26-16!)

 

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Vermeer!

There is nothing more humbling than being asked by another photographer to photograph their wedding day.  It is even more humbling when the big day comes and you find yourself in tears watching this couple embrace their future with God at the center of all things.

Watching Madalyn & Logan step into their future together was such an honor and a true delight.  From the 75 clear and sunny day, to the loving friends and family that surrounded them, the wedding was perfect from the moment the morning came.  As a strong Christian myself, I was in awe seeing the many ways in which their spirituality was embedded into every moment of the day. Soon, I will post a full story of this day, but for now, here are a couple sneak peaks at their day.

PS.  Thank you to Eimilie Chellberg for working with me as my second shooter!  You are a rockstar!

A Day in the Presence of Love

When I first started committing time to photography, my greatest joy was spent in the presence of young couples.  Seeing how they navigated the space between them, the gentle touches they shared and the glances between them told it all.

Recently, I was given the honor of being asked to photograph the wedding of two beautiful young people, one of whom was a photographer herself.  As we moved through their engagement session, I delighted in the opportunity to see not only the vibrancy of true love, but also the fun of youth and two personalities perfectly matched.  They are destined to live a very blessed life with joy, love and caring at every turn.

Please join me in wishing Madelyn and Logan a beautiful life together!

Engagement_Madalyn_Logan_0010.jpg

And she said YES!

I don't know if anything can ever compare to the moment you are standing with your camera waiting for that moment when one person will stand before another and ask "Will you marry me?"

Last night, Caroline and I had such an honor when two high school sweethearts traveled from Bemidji to enjoy a vacation in the big city.  It was a surprise proposal and a moment when my being there would be a secret and a gift for her.  What Miss Amara did not know was that Nic and I had become old friends by then, talking many times via phone about his love for his girlfriend and the many plans he had for this important night.   Though it was incredibly cold and my camera lenses definitely did not like focusing in the frigid temps, it was a wonderfully clear and crisp night.

When all was said and done, it was a moonlight stroll across Stone Arch Bridge and a surprise performance along the way by the band Timeless of "You Dance' by East Mountain South that brought Nic to his knee with the all important question.  Amara said yes, and it was a perfect evening as the musicians, Caroline and I celebrated with them in their joy.

Congratulations to Nic and Amara! 

PS.  Check out Timeless and their great music on Facebook or their website!
 

Enchanting Light

These past few weeks have been a snowstorm flurry of activity as I worked to wrap so many portrait, wedding and event sessions.  It is that time of year when photographers must put away their cameras and spend so many more hours locked behind a computer screen bringing to life the images that will become a legacy for each client's family.

Today, as I spent yet another hour editing, I was captivated by the beautiful setting sunlight that came pouring through my window.  It has been such a beautiful early winter here in Minnesota, I realized that I had not taken the time to truly appreciate it.

So, for ten minutes, I put down my laptop and picked up my camera.  It was me, my pajamas and the Mother Nature's golden light, but for one moment, I felt energized and remembered everything I love about being alive and being a photographer.

Through the Eyes of a Lens

I love Minnesota!

I love that every season brings with it a new breathe of beauty, texture, color and details more breathtaking than the last.  Once the fire driven color of fall leaves have given way to the ground, there is a touch of sadness that life is passing.  Looking out over so many fields this time of year, it is easy to blow past the rolling hills of brown as sad remnants of summer.  I hear so many already yearning for spring.

But, as a photographer, I tend to embrace this time and encourage everyone to pause and take a closer look.

When I step to this field and lift the eye of my lens, it is this delicate texture that I see.

On this perfect fall Sunday afternoon, I don't know what was more beautiful, the delicate pale textures that remained or the elegant beauty of Inver Grove Heights senior Alicia.  Working on this girls preview will definitely be a task I look forward to!  Until then, everyone... enjoy this most perfect Minnesota fall!

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Looking back at the journey of one's life, it is easy to forget how every choice begins and what influences guide you along the way.  I have changed a lot over my life and spent time with so many diverse, colorful and kind people. 

This past summer, I was honored with the opportunity to reconnect with a former high school classmate when I was asked to capture her children in a fashion driven photoshoot.  Though I hadn't seen Stacy in over 20 years, I delighted in the opportunity to visit her family as they vacationed in Minnesota after years abroad - enjoying a roadtrip to Detroit Lakes and a weekend with three of the most beautiful towheads you have ever seen!  (Plus, how can you not love shooting dresses shipped in from an Australian designer just for the occasion!)  It was a great time reconnecting and hearing how our journeys had taken us to different places in the world, yet mirrored the same path as parents.

Our session together would take on multiple chapters.  First, a vintage style concept influenced by the stories of Box Car Children, then on to the personal interests of each child.  From Princesses to Flash to Mermaids, it was a wonderful day in the imagination of children and a series I won't soon forget.  Seeing them reminded me how much I adored being a parent and allowing that imagination that brings life and color to our world as adults.

There are many images to come, but for tonight, enjoy a look into our time with Neren, Phillip and Nila. 



Seeing More Work Published!

In all the wonderful craziness of summer weddings, military events and other photography events, I have been delighted to also see more of my photography published.

This time, it was finally receiving my finished copy of Samantha Rei Crossland's new book 'Steampunk & Cosplay Fashion Design & Illustration' that brought me added joy.  

Samantha and I worked together on her 2012 line 'Second Star' where I photographed her Peter Pan inspired collection before heading into Minneapolis Fashion Week.  Since then, Samantha has gone on to release two more collections, including  'Isabelle et Collette' - a 1940's French inspired look of two lovers and 'Black Pearl Lounge' - a 1920's Shanghai collection that premiers this past season.  With a tag line of Beauty. Strength. Rebellion.,  Samantha strives to help women feel confident, strong and comfortable in their own skin. Trust me when I say, you need to check her out at www.samantharei.com.

For me, it simply another treasure as I realize my dream - to spend my days surrounded by creative people doing creative things.  I never imagined I would see my work published, but this past year alone has brought such a reward three times!  Such wonderful blessings and joy!

Here is a sneak peak at Samantha's new book and some of the pages and the back cover where my work appears.

She Said YES!

I have known Caroline for 20 years.  Actually, I have known her since I heard that first heartbeat and felt that first kick.  She is my youngest daughter and most driven child.

I remember the first day she showed me a picture of Johnathan, telling me he would be a perfect model for one of my shoots.  She didn't know him, but in an army uniform he easily stood out in high school.  (Facebook is wonderful for stalking, isn't it?!)   Of course nothing became of it and life went on.  Then one afternoon a year later, she burst through my door bouncing so excitedly like a puppy about to piddle on the carpet when you return home.  She could barely contain her excitement but the smile across her face said it all.  She had met Johnathan and he was wonderful.

Two and a half years later, he is down on one knee and she said yes.

I wish their story was a simple as that, but the truth is, Johnathan is also my son.  Okay, I never carried him and I have only known him for a couple years.  But, together we have journeyed through a lot and he has become an integral member of our family and my life.  Sitting here, all I can say is how proud and excited I am that... My son is getting married!  My daughter is getting married!  Better yet, they are marrying each other and I couldn't be more happy.

Thought life will be full of challenges as he continues his military life at Fort Riley Kansas and Caroline completes her college education here at home, I know they will be happy.  They want the best for each other and somehow find a way to balance that with what they need for their own lives.  This next year will be a rollercoaster of activity, but in the end, I simply want to say thank you Lord for blessing them both with the perfect person for them.  May you continue to guide them through life and bless them as you have always done.

These formal images are part of the 'rouse' John and I planned for the engagement.  What started with a formal photoshoot in downtown Saint Paul, became an intimate proposal in Mearse Park before moving to dinner at the St. Paul Grille and an evening at Radisson Blu Minneapolis.  The next day?  A surprise going away party for John in Minneapolis with all of our family and friends.  (Talk about an adventure of secrets and lies!  I have never told as many as I have while planning this weekend!)

These casual photos are from the next day, when Caroline was finally 'in the know' and we had a ring to photograph!  :)

 

 

Check out other sessions featuring this fun couple!

Trash the Dress? No way!

I have been honored to know Alissa for many, many years.  I have loved her for her wild spirit, outspoken nature and joyful heart.  In recent years, I have seen this heart grow to include Michael and the joy between them as they married and began a life together.

Before her wedding event took place, Alissa was already planning her Trash the Dress shoot with me.  Normally, this is a day filled with water, mud, paint, even fire.  (When brides go out and simply enjoy a modeling session where anything can and will happen to her dress.  I mean, it's not like you are gonna wear it again!)

Alissa was a perfect candidate for that.  The problem?  Um, hello!  Have you seen how gorgeous that wedding dress was?!  There was absolutely NO WAY we were going to do ANYTHING that would destroy this gorgeous work of art.

So, with a gorgeous fall afternoon in tow, we simply headed out to one of my favorite parks and captured time.  Beautiful simple moments between two hearts - something that a busy wedding day left so little time for.  We didn't need to trash anything.  The beauty of what had been built between Michael and Alissa over the past 4 years was all we needed!

And, in the first 10 minutes, we had already captured all I ever hoped for. 



Stepping Together

I have been blessed to meet and work with many photographers on many different subjects.  But, this day, it was an opportunity to work with a photographer as she worked to capture the most important day of two people, one of whom was her goddaughter.

Serving as a second shooter, my role was easy.  To simply capture the moments in the day.  Yet, when the day was done, I was left with the knowledge that I would carry with me something amazing.  I had witnessed the start of a new life as two people stepped together on one path.

Though I would only know this couple for a few hours, I am honored to have been witness to this day and to have spent time with their families and friends as they celebrated a beautiful day and a new legacy.

Congratulations, Jessica and Brad!


Welcome to the World, Maylee Renae!

In recent months, I have been delighted to work more and more with Caroline as my second shooter.  Capturing weddings, engagements, special events... it has all been delightful.  Then this weekend, I had the honor of stepping back and working with her as her assistant on her first principal shoot.  While I worked more closely with the baby, it was Caroline who took the camera lead and captured today's beautiful post.  Congratulations, Caroline, on a beautiful session.  The following is her blog post.

This weekend, I had the amazing privilege of photographing my dear friend's 6-day old daughter.  I have been so lucky to watch the amazing miracle of pregnancy working side by side with my Sherwin Williams Manager, Katy. The questions and curiosities of what was to come were so much fun to hear. 

Together with her husband, Matthew, they weren't sure if they wanted to know the sex of the baby, but sure enough before long, they excited announced they were having girl.  Though they would not reveal her name until after she was born, I enjoyed guessing every day and watching her excitement as the due date got closer.  (Her commitment to lifting 5-gallon paint buckets at 8-months pregnant was more than admirable!) 

Finally, on September 20th, I got a text, "That was so instense." I responded in confusion. Beautiful Maylee Renee had been born at 8:36pm weighing 6 lbs, 10 oz.

Congratulations, Katy and Matthew, on your darling baby girl!

Sergeant First Class Shafer... Meet Your Son!

Being engaged to a soldier, you will often find me watching videos of military homecomings.  Beautiful families being reunited, children surprised at community events and, of course, my favorite, the first time a baby meets their daddy.  However, Friday, I was blessed to be a part of this heartwarming event first hand as Superior, WI welcomed home 95 soldiers from 950th Engineering Company after ten months deployment in Afghanistan.

On this day, it was the Shafer family, excitedly awaiting the return of their husband, father, and son.  There are no words to adequately describe the grace and beauty Amanda carried as she attended to every detail, from her perfectly manicured nails, to the personalized shirts the boys were wearing.  The bundles of energy played joyfully with others, excited by the crowds and activity, while the youngest Shafer simply slept the time away in the stroller.  (Well... until, Daddy arrived, then it was all smiles!)  To look into that beautiful baby face, you saw the face of his father and the recognition as each smiled in declaration... 'I know you'!   This was the first time they would meet, but watching them together, you realized they have known each other for some time.

To the Shafer family, I want to simply say thank you for sharing this day with me.  I was honored to share in this moment and will forever remember this experience as excitedly say "Welcome Home" to Sergeant First Class William Shafer and the soldiers of the 950th EnCo.

~ Caroline Anne

The Shafer's were interviewed by Fox 21 TV as part of their coverage of this exciting event.   Click on the link below and watch the video!

Welcome Home, First Lieutenant Troeger!

This beautiful Friday afternoon was a long awaited joy.  A moment when a wife, a son, a mother, a father and a sister would lay their eyes on their beloved Kyle and know that after ten long months in Afghanistan, he was finally back where he belonged.  HOME!

I have been honored to be a member of the Welcome Them Home organization for several years.  This network connects families of returning soldiers with photographers who can help them capture this day.  I have been fortunate to be a part of these events - both the departure and the return, for many soldiers and I can tell you this.

It never gets old and it always makes me cry.

To Kyle... Welcome Home and thank you for all you have done!  To Shannon, Ryan and all the rest of the Troeger family, enjoy this time as your beloved soldier is home!

Rainah... Your Daddy is Home!

With 95 soldiers returning home this week from Afghanistan, there are so many little boys and girls who will again know what it means to have Daddy there to scare monsters away, play games, read stories and share hugs.  They have given up the past year so that other little boys and girls who they have never meant will have a place to play safely with their own Daddies and time to simply be children.  They have heroes they do not know and sacrifices by other children they will never meet.

For one little girl, this hero is Staff Seargant Olson.  She is lucky, because on this day, her hero came home to her and brought with him so many smiles that again return to her beautiful face.

Welcome home, SSG Olson.  Your family has been waiting and we welcome you to a wonderful Wisconsin weekend and Labor Day Holiday!  

Congratulations, Bryanna and Zach!

This weekend Caroline and I were blessed with the honor of photographing the wedding of two very charming people.  Sprinkled with inspiration from Disney, Star Wars, Cinema  and theatrical references, the wedding of Bryanna and Zach was a celebration of fun, love and family.

I have always been known to cry during weddings.  They are always such wonderfully inspiring events to be a part of.  Yet, somehow, this one touched me in such a way.  Maybe it was seeing how perfectly matched this couple was, the genuine care they had for their friends and family or simply knowing that in this moment there was nothing more blessed by the hand of God.

But for this wedding, I found myself crying again later as I reviewed the images later to prepare for culling and editing.  So many sweet moments and so many fun details!  Zach and Bryanna... I wish you all the best and every happiness!  Soon, I will post are more comprehensive post about this great day.  But, for tonight, a couple quick images and a very heartfelt congratulations!

With a quote like this opening their wedding program, you know it is going to be a fun day!

A gift for the flower girls - Ring Pops!

I love this capture from Caroline!  You don't see the rain that was falling, the people holding umbrellas over the bride and groom as we set up groupings, or the many sets we photographed.  It is just a beautiful group of people and a gorgeous Minnesota location!

A Disney Engagement - Chapter Two

And so the journey continues with Bryanna and Zach's engagement . . .  This time, we venture into the dramatic and romantic love of Little Mermaid's Arial and Eric.   While fairytales cannot hold a candle to the real romantic love of Bryanna and Zach, it was a fun day to explore this contemporary Disney story.  (PS.  This musical is especially close to their heart as Zach proposed to Bryanna on a Gondola while recreating the beautiful boat scene - complete with Kiss the Girl playing in the background and a photographer lined up to capture the moment!  Now THAT is the way to do it!)

To see chapter one of their engagement story - 101 Dalmatians - click here! 

A Disney Engagement - Chapter Three

In the final chapter of their engagement session, Bryanna and Zach choose to explore the charming and youthful love of Peter Pan.

While everyone remembers this tale for Peter's flights, Neverland and Captain Hook, I love this story for how Peter and Wendy navigate blossoming love for the first time.  A thimble, an acorn and a very jealous Tink!

These two loving hearts have since tied the knot in a beautiful, fun and memorable wedding.  However, before I post the albums dedicated to that time, I wanted to give pause for this last engagement story.  Enjoy!

PS.  To see the other engagement chapters, go to the following:

Congratulations, Alissa (and Michael)!

There is something so beautiful about watching a girl grow and evolve into the woman she is destined to be.  To see her face obstacles, challenges and opportunities and come out the other side with a strong heart and willful spirit.

Such is the case with Alissa.  I met her during her high school tenure with the theatre program I was volunteering and saw her perform in multiple shows, photographing her as a performer and eventually a senior.  Then college life came and she was off on a grand adventure pursing a dream.

The greatest delight I have had in knowing Alissa all these years, is seeing her find a man deserving of her and loving of all the amazing talents and passions she possesses.  Michael is a fun and supportive man and seeing them during their engagement session, I know their upcoming wedding and marriage will be yet another wonderful journey in her life.

Congratulations, Alissa and Michael!