This wasn't our first time camping through National Parks

Last July, my husband Dave and I flew the kids down to Florida to stay with the grandparents for a week while we whisked away to camp through the National Parks. The first time we did this was in 2018 and that time we went to Yosemite. It was so epic. We hadn't had a week to ourselves since having Sam in 2015, and what's better than a minimalistic trip through the mountains with a tent for two, freeze-dried meals, and no cell phone service? You might sit back and imagine a secluded tropical island where you'll sit in lawn chairs on the beach and be served cocktails with cute little umbrellas. That's great and all, but your soul will be much happier after some crazy hikes, swims in random holes, and a week in the forest with the person you love most.

What you should know before you go camping through bear country

This is BEAR COUNTRY, folks. Be ready. A dangerous grizzly walked through one of our campsites just a day before we arrived, and there were warning signs all over the place. He actually approached the person staying there and bear spray was used. Of course we stayed there anyway because the bear obviously had great taste in campsites-- this one was SOLID. Site 50, backed up into the corner of the Indian Creek campground in Yellowstone with a ton of beautiful trails behind it, and lots of privacy. This was our favorite of two campsites we got in Yellowstone. We stayed mostly in the Grand Tetons, which we thought had much more to offer. Yellowstone was beautiful, especially Yellowstone Falls and Old Faithful which you'll see plenty of photos of down below, however you can only see so many geysers and springs before they all start looking the same. Old Faithful was definitely the best site for those, and Mammoth Hot Springs was pretty cool too. We also wanted to see Grand Prismatic, however after so many geysers and springs and seeing how long the line was just to park, we decided to skip it and head back to the Tetons.

 

Packing, Planning & Going to yellowstone & the grand tetons: What to bring & what to expect

  • If you're camping and doing hikes, which you obviously are, you'll need a can of Bear Spray whether you think you do or not. Buy some before you get into the parks so you don't spend an arm and a leg once you're there.
  • Download some podcasts and music stations before you get out there so you can play them offline. We did a lot of driving around, and either the radio won't have reception at all or you'll be listening to the same local advertisements and country music for hours.
  • Download the maps of the places you want to see so you have access even when you don't have cell phone service.
  • Keep a portable charger or two with you, and charge them whenever you get a chance. The more input types the better.
  • Opt for a convertible. We would normally go for an off-roading type vehicle, being out where we were, but this time we went for a top-down commute and we both agree it was the most epic way to go. Bring a sturdy hat and some chapstick and you're golden.
  • FOOD: Get yourself some of those freeze dried camping meals. They're actually super tasty, and it's the easiest and cleanest way to eat while camping in bear country. You have to be so careful about storing food and not leaving anything with a scent around, which would lure bears to the campground. With these, you simply boil water, pour it in the bag, and let it sit for 20 minutes. Get yourself one of these little cook sets and a little stove and you'll be good to go. The only thing I will say is that Dave and I are both foodies and we actually enjoy the texture of food. Eating freeze dried food pouches does not provide much crunch. While you're out, there are plenty of stores to grab salad packs, fruit, and granola bars, and when we found a good restaurant we went for it.
  • Pour-over coffee for the win!
  • Dave brought some of these drink mixers for our long days of hikes and exploring. They were pretty great, kept us hydrated, and even kicked up our energy levels with some caffeine too.
  • Pack efficiently. It's cold in the morning and at night, but warmed up during the day. You'll want to bring lots of chapstick, a beanie and some gloves, a rain and wind resistant coat or shell, teva sandals and lots wool socks (because have you ever worn Tevas with wool socks? It's heavenly.)
  • Bring a good camera, extra CF and/or SD cards, and extra batteries. There are beautiful scenes everywhere you look. This Peak Designs holster is great if you're carrying a larger professional DSLR like I am. Bring a wide lens to capture the scenes, and if you have a long zoom lens like a 70-200 or 300mm, don't hesitate to bring it with you. Every hour on the hour, Dave would hear me grunt and groan, and he'd say, "Let me guess, you wish you had your long lens." Ugh. That was Yosemite; I definitely didn't make that mistake again for the Tetons.
  • If you want to get an awesome campsite in the Grand Tetons, you're going to have to get there SUPER early because it's first come, first serve. Jenny Lake, with only 30 something sites, is definitely the most sought after and fills up by 9:30am or earlier. We finally ended up scoring a site there the last night out there, but we got site 3 which was definitely the worst, right next to the bathroom. It wasn't the experience we were looking for. Signal Mountain fills up soon after, with an amazing sunset view from the top. Lizard Creek fills up quickly as well. We stayed at all three, but it was definitely a close call each time. Lizard Creek, site 32, was my favorite! We got a site right across from the lake and had our own private beach (photos below.) We stayed there our first two nights.
  • Go EVERYWHERE early. These attractions get busier as the day progresses, so if you want to see a bunch without waiting in lines, go early.
  • Water: Bring LOTS everywhere you go. I'm pretty terrible at drinking water -- I never drink enough -- but you don't really have a choice out there. It's dry, and you'll drink water like you never have before. We brought at least 3 full Nalgene bottles on each hike, and kept refillable jugs in the car. There are natural spring watering holes throughout campgrounds and at basically every store, so you can fill up there for free.
  • We did the 17 mile hike up to Lake Solitude from Jenny Lake and I HIGHLY recommend that you do it too. It's crazy beautiful, long, and mostly uphill. The higher up you get, the more gorgeous the views. DO NOT WEAR HIKING BOOTS unless you know that they are super comfortable. Next time I do a hike like this I'll be wearing these Salomon sneakers for sure. Also, bring mole skin in your pack for any blisters just in case. There's nothing less fun than being 10 miles out with blisters rubbing.
  • Go swimming in Jenny Lake after your hike. There are little drop-ins off the campground and the trails around the lake.
  • If you want to see geysers and hot springs, just go to Old Faithful. It's by far the best of the rest.
  • If you want to see a HUGE, ridiculously awesome waterfall, definitely don't skip Yellowstone Falls. Walk around to all of the different views, they're all worth it.
  • These camping chairs were so easy to bring everywhere with us. We would hike off into the woods, find a cool spot, break out a bottle of whiskey, and enjoy ourselves in the middle of nowhere. Or at our little beach spot, or at the top of Signal Mountain watching the sun go down, or on "Bear Hill", as I like to call it, where we totally shouldn't have been (but was awesome).

Now, some photos of Yellowstone & The Tetons

Tomorrow we are leaving for our next trip, Arizona. We will be up and around Sedona, and also Tucson for a wedding. It took me about 3 months to actually cull through my photos from Yellowstone & the Tetons, and now I figured I'd better post them before I go on yet another trip and take a year to post the next ones. These are some of my favorites from our trip. Enjoy!

I did a thing yesterday: 

I realized something big. few things actually.

I came to a big realization about myself and I discovered a few new ways to help overcome it. I didn't imagine I would have this kind of a day when I woke up. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not usually an anxious person, but there are some times when big bad thoughts catch up with me and I start to second guess my career choices and the validity of them. Just as much I worry about staying present with my kids, the house chores, and helping my husband do whatever he needs to do to be happy.  I think I start to get that thing called "imposter syndrome" where I feel like I have no right doing what I'm doing and being who I'm being and that I'm faking everyone out around me and even myself. I love being a photographer so much that sometimes I question if I have my shit together enough to actually own my own business and do what I need to do to make it survive. Following all of these amazing photographers on Instagram and seeing their unbelievable photographs and the captions beneath them does not help. I lay awake in bed at 4:30am thinking Should I be working 9-5 somewhere to afford this passion and just do it on the side? Am I even good enough at it to make this my career? Do I deserve to have the luxury of daycare? And then my kids wake up. I really need exercise, I think... but that thought is quickly replaced with all the other things and all I can actually wish for is God, please let my kids be peaceful and compliant this morning... just until I drop them off, anyway. So instead of dressing in my gym clothes I throw on jeans, hustle to make them healthy lunches and snacks for school, try to remember to pack all the things and do my best to get everyone out the door without meltdowns. Then there's the home stuff. Making sure we have our staples, keeping the house clean, tending to the animals, and right now Christmas shopping. Christmas shopping, especially for the kids, is stressful for me because really I just want to throw away everything in sight. There's just so much crap in this house and all I want is a pristine, white, empty, minimal house like all of the beautiful, peaceful spaces I see on social media. But come on, for real.... I have about 18 more years until that can possibly happen. But no, wait, I'm impulsive and messy so I know so it's never really going to actually happen because I'm going to buy them more things (mostly thrifted toys because its the only way I can get them to behave at Savers) and then these things are going to fill all of the rooms of the house and it's just going to lead to more messes and more cleaning. And then there's work. I have three days per week when from 9-4:30 I can actually get to work on my business. I can't tell if it makes me happier or more stressed, but photography in itself brings me so much joy. I do have my own business and it's just me which is my favorite part, but it also means I wear a LOT of hats. I'm the owner, the photographer, I have a studio, I'm the salesperson, the retoucher, I answer all the calls and write all the emails, I do my own marketing and social media, bookkeeping, and the list goes on. Just reading that last sentence makes my head spin! Because I really wish that I could just shoot and forget about all of the other stuff. And the idea is to grow my business every year however that in itself seems like such a daunting pursuit. How in the heck can I take on more than I already do?? Sometimes it dawns on me that even if I didn't have my business I would never put down my camera. I'd still take just as many pictures as I do now, just of different things. Does that make it a better hobby than a career choice? Is my heart in it just a bit too much? I always wonder. On top of all of this, I'm also one of the biggest self sabotagers I know. I procrastinate, buy unnecessary things, and convince myself that unnecessary things need to be done. And you can probably see now why every once in a while I feel like I'm drowning. But doesn't everyone?

So yesterday after drop-off I headed to my favorite monthly networking group called "TuesdaysTogether" put on by Rising Tide Society. The website describes it as "A meetup on the second Tuesday of every month where creatives + entrepreneurs gather together for coffee and conversation. An open space for idea sharing and goal building. Separated by distance, but beautifully united by a shared desire to empower the creative economy." And it's just that. I'd been invited by Alexandra Beauregard of The Productivity Zone via Facebook for so long but always overlooked it... until one day a couple months ago. I decided to go and take my good friend/studio mate Jamie Bannon along with me. We were floored by how much we learned that first meeting and we couldn't wait until the next one. We have attended three now and are still very much in love with this network. I have learned so much and actually won a sweet deck of Affirmation cards from Abundant Affirmations from the last meeting! Yesterday's meeting was  Self Care. I didn't expect to take as much away from this particular topic because I really thought I did pretty well at taking care of myself; I try to make time to hang with friends when I can, I have daycare three days per week so I can get things done without kids in tow, and I like to think I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. Of course today's meeting floored me once again. We went around the group and took turns talking about what we do for ourselves while we're not taking care of everything else. One said read books, another said take my dog for a walk, another said journaling..We talked about what gets in the way of this time we need for ourselves and how we can make better choices to help keep those activities a priority. Because honestly, if you can't take care of yourself then how can you take care of anything/anyone else? Alexandra asked us what our Word or Phrase of the Year would be if we could have one. There were so many different answers; Arrow, Simplify, Thrive...  I told her this quote that I keep coming back to but I feel like I haven't lived up to: "Once you know better, do better," by Maya Angelou. I told the group of my impulsiveness in so many areas of my life and business and how I'm going to strive to do better with that. I feel like this is what therapy is like.

I left this meeting with so many thoughts going through my head. I am terrible at managing my time. I have total squirrel brain. I open my laptop and before I know it I have 10 tabs open and 10 activities started; 5 hours later I haven't finished one. I don't make time for exercise as much as I need to. I have so many books I want to read but can never find the time. I always tell my husband that I just need 4 more hours in the day. Alexandra told me about this book called 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam and told me I NEED to read it because I have more time than I think I do. I also started to think about what really makes me happy. I remember a time before kids when I worked in the corporate world and we rented an apartment, when Stella was a puppy and would drag me out at the ass crack of dawn on the coldest of days to go to the bathroom. I hated it before I got out there, but as soon as I touched the cold air and saw her excitement I felt alive and well and ready to start my day. It was a blessing in disguise and I realized I miss that time outside with her. I thought about how much I love to learn whether through classes, reading, or podcasts. I know it's an investment in my time and business, but it can be so hard to get to with everything else I have on my plate. I thought about how much better I work when my house is clean, and how much happier Dave is when he walks through the door and there's no mess, and how much better we are as a couple when we fill each other's  happy tanks. Corny, I know, but so true. And I realized how much I HATE to be stressed out and scrambling in the morning and how much of an impact is has on my kids. I don't want that for us anymore.

So I returned home from the meeting and without even thinking, I grabbed my dog's leash and harness, grabbed my head phones, turned on a business marketing podcast, and took that girl on a walk. I usually listen to podcasts while retouching but I end up getting distracted by 10 other things and not listening. Dog walks fell by the wayside a while ago because my business started, I had babies, and I said I don't have time. So I combined the two activities, got in an extra long walk, breathed in that fresh cold air, and Stella & I both got what we needed. I learned so much on that walk and was so pumped up by the time I got home that I continued listening to marketing podcasts and tidied my entire house within 45 minutes. I worked on my business, exercised, took care of my dog, and cleaned basically all at the same time. By the time my kids got home with Dave I was not frazzled and frustrated because I felt like nothing got done. I was ready to be present & play, and I was in a great mood. I decided that I'd prepare school lunches directly after dinner instead of running around like a mad woman the next morning trying to prepare healthful meals before taking them to school and stressing myself out before sitting down for work. I had a great night's sleep and awoke this morning feeling completely refreshed, cuddled with Sam on the couch before getting ready, got them to school extra early without any meltdowns (which I'm now convinced are a product of my own stress), and was ready to tackle my day.

My blog posts are few and far between these days, but they are sparked when I feel like something has made a big impact on my wellness and has me excited enough to tell you all about it. These TuesdaysTogether meetings have me like Whoa. I am so, so thankful that I took a leap and tried something new, even when everything in my mind told me I was too busy to stray from the norm. The norm wasn't good enough, and I wasn't even close to where I wanted (needed) to be. I still have a long way to go, personally and within my business, but I feel like I'm so much closer than I was before I started attending. My time is worth so much more than how I've been spending it, and now that I know better I'm going to do better. 

What do you do to take care of yourself? 

Are you making yourself a priority? 

How can you change things around to make it happen and lessen your stresses? 

And here's one from my new favorite podcast by Angie Lee:

What needs to happen right now for this (work, marriage, motherhood, LIFE) to be fun?

♥️ Happy holidays to you all ♥️

Thanks for reading!

Photo cred (top image) Ashley Enns for my favorite picture of me and my baby boy. Love you, girl!!

My girl Stella, below, on our walk today 🐾

christina-wesley-photography-self-care-dog

Each time I get a roll of film back is like waking up on Christmas morning all over again. Finally getting to see what I captured, even though I know I'll have a few terrible blinks, possibly some blurriness, light leaks, and superfluous grain. There’s nothing like it. It’s something you just can’t get while you’re shooting digital because no matter how hard you try, you’re just going to look at the back of the camera while you shoot because that’s the whole reason digital is so great. And if there’s a blink, heck… you’ve likely taken ten photos in one second anyway so one of them is bound to turn out fine. But film is something you take your time with; you perfect your exposure, you wait for the right moment, you anticipate movement, and then instead of snapping ten photos... you snap one, hope for the best, and move onto the next memory. Not only because film and developing are expensive these days, but because you want to make the most out of each print. Yes, I said print.

Back in middle school/early high school was when my parents made the switch from film to digital. My dad got us a digital camera we could play around with and encouraged us to use it. Besides while I was assisting them with weddings, I was just not into it. The element of surprise was what made photography so much fun for me. Plus I had a real affinity for disposable cameras, and at times I had 3 different ones going. I couldn’t wait to bring them to Walmart “One Hour Photo”, wait the hour, and then rip open the package of double prints to see what kinds of snaps were inside. Because I probably started taking photos on those cameras months prior and I had absolutely no idea what was going to be on them. I remember going to this party in high school and the cameras I had going ran out mid-party. This kid Josh left to run to the gas station and when he came back, he had what he needed plus two more disposable cameras for me. I nearly fell in love with him; I just looked at him in awe. It was as if he handed me diamond studs, or a BLT, or something equally as amazing. I still have the prints from those cameras today. I think my last hoorah with a film camera was in 2007 when my friend Lindsay and I went backpacking through Australia, for which my dad gave me an old automatic film camera with seven rolls to kill. Good times.

After that trip I started shooting weddings more often, turned completely to digital, and didn’t look back... until this past year. Digital really is amazing; it’s sharp, the exposures are beautiful, you can see your images instantly and start working on them right away. Once you have the necessary equipment, processing is virtually free and the post-processing options are endless. I picked up a film camera again toward the end of 2016. This time, it was a fully manual Nikkormat that my dad used to shoot weddings with back in the day. He let me borrow it, along with a 35mm lens, a 50, and a 70-200 with filters galore. This camera really, really made you stop and think before clicking that shutter.

split range finder tinashoots

You have to manually expose for every picture and it has a split image rangefinder for focusing (see drawing) which means you have to look through the viewfinder and match up two sides of a scene in order to be in focus. Trying to capture a sharp picture of my kid running around using a rangefinder and 200 speed film is quite the challenge (a big reason I only use film for personal photography right now) but how the heck did my dad capture a bride and groom walking back up the aisle, or dancing, without lens blur? How the heck did he make sure all was in focus without having to shoot at f/8 all the time? I mean, he used this camera for professional wedding work as did many photographers in the 90s and earlier. It’s a trip to think about now that we have digital cameras with program modes and incredibly sharp auto focus.

Kodak Portra 800 Black and White Boudoir

35mm, Kodak Portra 800

Nikon D800 DSLR Black and white Boudoir

Nikon D800 DSLR

Not only do I love film because it makes me slow down and really think before I snap, but film images also have this incredible depth that you just don’t see with digital. I used to love film simply because of the surprise each roll brought; now I love film because I actually know how to use a camera. I'm manually exposing for each image and the look I'm able to achieve is unparalleled. Even so, each time I send out a roll, I think things like, “Why do I spend the money on film and developing when I have an incredible digital camera and can develop those images for free?” or “Why do I bother gambling with bad exposures, the possibility of bad film, grain, and bad expressions when I will never miss a moment with digital?” It’s as if I feel guilt whenever I send out a roll of film, like, digital should be enough, why do I need to spend the money playing around with film? There’s a reason film is fading out and digital is everything these days. Then, my roll comes back and it gives me exactly the feeling I crave. It’s Christmas morning all over again. My love for shooting film is reaffirmed. The depth in the shadows is perfect, the lens blur is perfect, and there are virtually no repeat photos. Yeah, there might be movement in there because I had to bring my shutter speed down in order to let enough light in and I refuse to use a flash… but for some reason, movement within film images is less offensive to me than with digital. I can't get this stuff with digital right out of the camera; it's different. I pop a new roll in, and the adventure begins again.

My dad just gave me his old medium format twin reflex YashicaMat on Christmas, so that’s what I’ll be using in 2018. Looking forward to sharing some of those with you guys throughout the year!

Here are some of my favorite shots from 2017 taken with the Nikkormat 35mm.

Hammonasset Beach State Park Kodak Portra 800Sam on bike with glasses and Stella Sam and Dave at Hammonasset state park Kodak Portra 800Sam and Stella hug Kodak Portra 800Sam eating chex Kodak Portra 800Mia rolling out dough black and white filmBushnell Park Hartford Bench BW filmSam and Dave Jay Peak VT AirBNB, Kodak Portra 800Hartford CT Building BW filmSam at Panthorn Park Southington Kodak Portra 800Sam and Dave trying on Snowboard Christmas Morning Kodak Portra 800Sam on stairs at Jay Peak VT Kodak Portra 800Tree in Bushnell Park, Hartford CT Kodak Portra 800Jay Peak AirBNB Kodak Portra 800Sam eating Raisins on Christmas 2017 Kodak Portra 800Sam Brushing his teeth with Elmo in Bathroom, BW film

I can never get more than 10 pages into Click magazine before throwing it down and grabbing my camera. Today, it got me running for a pen and paper (...well, my laptop.) I now have a couple of bones to pick. One of them is regarding my most common type of client, and the other is ...what do you even call the photography that I do?

I started thinking on these topics this morning because while I sat down to read the newest issue of Click magazine, I came across a really lovely piece called “The Truth in You” written by a photographer out in Reunion Island named Emilie Iggiotti. In her article, she writes about helping clients break free from the traditional portrait sitting and bringing some real life feeling into her sessions. In her quest to find what she really loves in regards to her photography career, she made a point that really struck a note with me. Something I never really considered before, but is very real to me. She says--

“I made a list of things I did not like in the current photography market. First, it bothered me that women are photographed and celebrated only when they’re playing a specific role established by society. She’d be photographed as a “fiancee”, then as a “bride,” then as a “wife” in a boudoir shoot, then as a “mom to be”, and finally as the “mom” at family sessions. How about the women who don’t become fiancees or wives or mothers? Is there really no occasion to celebrate and photograph them in their own right?”

Now, Emilie sure is an amazing photographer (you can see her work on instagram @Emilieiggiotti) but she’s also onto something profound. Why is it that women feel the need to wait for defining moments such as “almost married,” “married,” “almost Mom,” and “Mom” to book a portrait? There are so many other turning points and crossroads that come before these moments; times in a woman's life when she feels the most… herself for once. 

Many of my clients tell me that their session with me was incredibly empowering and really brought their confidence and self awareness to a whole new level. I can just imagine how much more meaningful this session would be to a woman who is trying to find out who she is, what she wants in life, and is looking for someone to share it all with. I mean, why wait to do something so uplifting and enlightening until just before you’re about to give a big ol' chunk of yourself up to someone else? (Or are you actually just building a whole new unfamiliar part onto your self? ...thoughts for another day...) Anyway, the point is, you don’t need to be on the verge of mother or wife to feel worthy of a beautiful portrait of yourself.

On a whole different level, this article also really got me thinking about the work I do and if boudoir is really even the word I want to use to market my business. Excuse me as I ramble aloud to you all, but I’m in search for some clarity and even some input. Yes, I photograph intimate portraits of women, but a lot of what I shoot isn’t necessarily what most would consider boudoir. (And honestly I really kinda dislike the word boudoir.) Yes, sometimes I shoot in a bedroom scene with lingerie and lace... but sometimes it’s more fashion-y, or moody and in the middle of the woods with no lingerie in sight. I don't necessarily think all of my work is considered boudoir; my portraits of women do tend to have at least a tinge of intimacy though.

Clients and onlookers have told me that what really speaks in my images is the evident connection I have with the women I photograph. This makes me really happy because that connection is what fuels my love for this style of photography and keeps me wanting more. I believe that the ability to form a bond like this with my client takes the knowledge and awareness that comes with also being female. Because here’s the thing... We are fickle, dynamic, passionate beings. I’ve never met a woman who knows exactly what she wants or who wants the same thing all of the time  ...But when she wants something, she wants it, and that doesn’t always need justification ...And women really just yearn to be understood in whichever state they’re in at that given moment. I sound like I’m talking about a child, don’t I? Ha. But in all seriousness, being a woman and sharing these understandings with my client makes session time that much more personal to both me and her. We share the connection we do because I understand where she’s coming from, wherever she’s coming from at that moment, and in photographing her I accept her in that form. We both grow personally during our time together, and that feeling of connection and mutual understanding is unparalleled. I shoot for truth; for candor. And when I find it, and she feels understood and seen, I’m reminded of why I love my kind of photography as much as I do.Enter your text here...

Told you I was going to ramble. This is also proof that baby brain never resolves itself either. I'll forever be scatterbrained.

I did realize while typing this though that I even feel these kinds of connections with my senior portrait, headshot, and family portrait clients, just as I do with my boudoir clients. Because not only am I a woman, but I'm also a mom who has been away to college. And I'm not one of those photographers who just floats through a session with a flow of poses and meaningless banter; I'm the kind that gets excited with them and talks to them about their hopes, plans, and dreams and wishes them the best. When I'm shooting a senior, those feelings of nostalgia hit me and I get giddy with excitement just thinking about all the fun he/she's going to have discovering who she is away at college. I mean, college is where I broke away from the norms of my home life and realized how I want to live my own life. I met my amazing husband some of my closest friends while I was going through all of that transition. That was a huge time in my life ...A huge, great big time that I'm super thankful for and wouldn't be the same without. And when I photograph a new family, I immediately relate to the mother. Motherhood is my most favorite chapter in life so far. I think I could talk to any mom of small boys for hours just about the everyday antics that go on. Little boys are nuts! And such little loves. Big balls of never-ending energy. And soon I'll be able to relate to any "girl mom" too, because my little peanut Lana is growing up way too quickly and I'm convinced there are differences between girl moms and boy moms and moms of both.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, I feel a re-branding coming on and all input/suggestions are welcome. Glad I got all of that off my chest! Thanks for listening, and thank you Click Mag for always keeping me inspired and intrigued.

Wow, so my last post was over 3 months ago. I told myself that with this blog, this time around, I'd do better at actually putting something up consistently and I'm totally slacking... However I do have a few solid reasons. So much has gone down over the summer. Since June 1...

I think Dave and I both finally came to terms with expecting twin girls. At first we were super shocked and, well, pretty terrified thinking about having two newborns at the same time with a toddler at home. This also meant we needed bigger cars to fit three carseats, we should probably find that house in a quiet neighborhood before their arrival, and also that we were likely going to be on one income for a while so I could tend to not one, not two, but three under three.  Then... the excitement set in! We were having twin girls and wow, our lives were about to get a whole lot more interesting and my heart just began to grow on its own. Then, we found out some iffy/scary news. We found out our (then) 18 week twinnies were being affected by TTTS in utero and that we were going to need treatment. Because without treatment, the likelihood of neither making it was close to 100%, and with it they both had a 65% chance of making it and an 85% chance at least one would survive. We had to take multiple trips down to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital for treatment. The morning after laser ablation surgery left us with only one of their hearts beating. Our "donor" baby passed away due to insufficient nutrition from the placenta; whatever she was getting prior to the surgery was likely coming as support from her connection to the other baby but with the surgery that connection was cut off. We found out that if she passed away before the surgery, our surviving baby would likely have brain damage because of the toxins passed through the vessels so it was a good thing the connection was severed. We also found out that our surviving baby's heart was under stress and that she had a couple leaky valves and extra fluid around her heart, which has since resolved itself and is no longer an issue. This was all was followed by 3.5 weeks of strict bedrest and “light activity” until birth. Our survivor twin is now doing great, kickin’ away, and we hope she is able to keep cookin’ til 38-40 weeks! Lessons I learned from this experience: Loss is never easy, but it’s doable.... Don’t EVER tell someone who is grieving that “everything happens for a reason” because that is just about the last thing she wants to hear. You may have also just become the last person she wants to talk to.... Also, I learned that you have to be grateful every damn day for what you do have and don’t let anything get in the way of that.

Since then, we’ve also had a second litter of kittens bless our household… SURPRISE! Our stray Snickers went right back at it, and call us distracted, but we were pretty much blindsided by it. We were all like, "Oh Snickers, you're getting pretty round..." "Oh, Snickers why are you so lazy these days??" "Snix, you better not be preggo again"... Sure enough, she rolled over one day to let me feel her belly and that's when I realized there absolutely were more kittens coming and soon. That was the day before she had them. 5 more beautiful kittens, 8 more weeks of having 7 cats (...and a dog, and a toddler, and a huge pregnant belly), and within this time about 3 solid weeks of Dave being the only one able to scoop 7 cats’ worth of litter. Silver lining? They are cute as can be, they all have homes lined up, and (!!) two pairs will be going home together!! That makes me super happy <3

More [super exciting] news… I FINALLY opened my Etsy shop! I honestly never thought that would be one of my things. Since the news of twins started to sink in, though, I’ve had to really think about how my photography business needed to evolve to allow for income through the first hectic months/years of their lives. Opening an Etsy Shop to sell my photographs was one of my ideas, and to be honest it was very daunting to me. I love to shoot; I really don’t love the act of selling my work. I know the value of my sessions = the value I put on spending time with my family, so that comes easily to me (adding in materials, my equipment value, insurance, post-processing, and all that other photography jazz.) But the idea of working on and selling my work to be hung in the homes of others is a bit scary for me! It’s like I’m entering into a different realm of art. Over the last couple years though I pledged to myself that I would print and hang more of my work throughout my home, and boy have I gotten good at that (sorry to Dave, who has been put to work hanging everything.) Since then I’ve had family & friends ask me if I ever sell my work and said they’d totally purchase it if I did! Also, as a donation, I printed, matted and framed some pieces for a benefit held by CTPPA to raise money for domestic violence victims, and my piece from the Outer Banks sold within the first hour! At these points I really had no intention of selling my photographs, but those bits of encouragement definitely help the Etsy idea come to fruition. And I have to say, I’m diggin the feeling of having them out there.

A few of my favorites are below! Only 8 of each image will be released for sale, so not everybody and their neighbor can have the same print on their wall. Once that image has been selected by 8 buyers, it will be retired and replaced with a new piece of work. Each will be printed on Fine Art paper as 12x18 prints, ready for mounting and framing. Some of them have been worked over in Photoshop in a "waterdrop/watercolor-esque" manner. I chose these images based on it's what I personally would hang in my own home, so the collection is pretty personal to me. Some of them I've added my favorite quotes to as options for customization. If you're interested in any of these and have questions regarding customization, please just ask!

So among all of these things, an always active Sam, and doing some big-time nesting (yes, it’s definitely a thing, and it's on) I’m really just trying to juggle my actively creative mind with “taking it easy” until she's here. My official due date is Nov 13, though a very likely side effect of the surgery is preterm delivery. While sticking with these doctors’ orders of light activity has been one of the most difficult challenges mentally, I've physically been carrying a 38wk size belly since 16wks (moms, I know you're feeling for me) so I just keep reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. And after one pregnancy loss last year and then losing one of the twins 10 weeks ago, I’ve finally started allowing myself to get excited for this baby girl’s arrival. I think I’ve finally stopped guarding my heart from the possibility of completely losing this pregnancy, and celebration mode has begun! I’ve got an amazing husband, little crazy lovable Sam, and the most supportive family and friends a girl can ask for. I absolutely LOVE what I do, I'll never stop shooting, and even though I won't be able to take sessions for a bit, the camera will never be far from my hand for long.

Wish me luck! -T

It's not a proper snowday without making homemade something. Right? I mean you have all day in the house, and with Sam not in daycare and my spunky niece Mia (above and below) with her neverending energy staying the week, there's no way you're getting any work done. Or did I? (I did get a blog post out of it!) Of course, me being me, always cooking and always shooting, my camera is always in the kitchen (sorry Dave! Loveyaaa) And besides family sessions, my other most favorite thing to shoot is a cooking session. So homemade tortillas, along with a nice big pot of bone broth, was our project for the day. Thank you Storm Stella for another opportunity to spend hours upon hours in the house cooking with the fam. Enjoy the latest BW photo series!

Homemade tortilla recipe courtesy of  Adashofsanity.com : http://www.adashofsanity.com/2016/12/best-ever-flour-tortillas/

Homemade Vegan Sour cream (BEST EVER!) courtesy of Gluten Free Vegan Pantry: http://www.glutenfreeveganpantry.com/the-best-damn-vegan-sour-cream/

Snowday Cooking Tortillas
TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas

TinaShoots.com, Christina Wesley Photography, Snowday Cooking Tortillas