My friend Emily Brown is the founder of MbarM. She creates the most amazing, leather products that I've ever seen, concentrating mostly on custom-designed bags. (Seriously. If you feel like being blown away by gorgeous leather designs, go look at her website and Instagram under @mbarmleatherdesign)
A couple of weeks ago she asked me to take some 'out and about' pictures of me with the knapsack she made for me a couple of years ago. And I was thrilled to oblige. :p
The knapsack in question has something of an interesting story - I obtained the original bag from my grandfather several years ago, as a regular olive-green military bag. To my understanding it was used during his military career as a Marine. I'm not sure when it came into his possession but I do know that he was on active duty during World War II, the Korean war, and maaaaybe Vietnam? (I'll have to double-check on that last one)
I used the bag for 4-5 years, every single day, to the point that the cross-body strap disintegrated and I was reduced to using the backpack straps clipped together to carry it over my shoulder. Then those straps were starting to give, and the body of the bag was starting to disintegrate in earnest. (Dragging it all over the great outdoors of Colorado probably didn't help either)
It finally got to the point where I couldn't use the bag anymore, and I put it in my closet for several months since I didn't have the heart to throw it away. And then I had the great idea to send it to EB to see if she could recreate it for me.
Thankfully she agreed to take it on! After a few weeks, the 'Wade Knapsack' was born (named after my grandfather)
Most of the hardware is from the original bag, and she had the brilliant idea of incorporating the serial numbers in windows on the front and back. The leather is like a bomber jacket -- it took a few months to break in, and the longer I use it the softer it gets. What gets me is that I've not conditioned or treated it in any way, but it's still beautiful and lustrous.
I look forward to using this for the rest of my life....and probably passing it down to some younger relative because I fully expect it to last longer than me. :p
A last note on the actual photos: I took them all with my camera, a tripod, and a self-timer. It's been years since I attempted such a feat...as a result I'm rather proud of how they turned out.
On the first Saturday of May, concurrent with the Kentucky Derby, Equestrian Bridges had their 5th annual mini derby!
For the uninitiated: the Mini Derby is a Kentucky Derby watch party/fundraiser for an organization that provides equine therapy for children with mental and behavioral issues. I had the honor of volunteering and working with the organization for several months, and just recently stepped back down to the role of volunteer. The video below gives a pretty good idea of what they do....so if you have 15 minutes you can give it a watch.
The actual mini derby is truly a blast, featuring live music from Backroad Anthem, mini horse races, pony rides, a petting zoo area, food trucks, mint juleps, a silent auction, and lots of cute kids and their parents all dressed up to the nines.
Our therapy horses were all in an arena just outside the main event and proved highly popular with the local kiddos. (Because who wouldn't want to pet a mini horse?)
I do think that the mini racing horses (not to be confused with the therapy horses) were a huge hit, because there's nothing quite as hilarious as watching miniature horses racing each other.
This little rock star won every. single. race. Not even kidding. And she would kick the tar out of anyone who tried to pass her.
This little girl and her mother had matching hats. The cuteness overload was very nearly deadly.
Frosty (the horse) spent quite a bit of his time voluntarily allowing people to pet his face while the other horses were distracted by the hay in their pen.
A few of the therapy minis were walked around inside during the event for even more petting!
I love seeing kids' faces when they get right next to a horse (big or little).
(Was that cheesy? Probably. Do I care? Naaaah.)
This weekend I'm home-away-from-home in Illinois, visiting family and steeping myself in the nostalgia of being in the place that shaped me. For 23 years I lived in the same small, sleepy town, surrounded by cornfields and taking the slow route in life. I left because I felt like I was stuck in a rut, doing the same old thing, seeing the same old people, blah de blah de blah. I do see Arkansas as 'home' now. But going back to Illinois tends to ground me a bit.
There's a lot to be said for going back to a place and remembering when 9-year-old me did this, or 12-year-old me did that, or the one time my brothers caught the field next door on fire, or when the horses got out and we had to chase them across two streets and a highway before catching them, or teaching the dogs to pull a sled...there are many, many memories wrapped up in this place.
In keeping with that nostaligic, feel-good theme, today's post is dedicated to the things that currently fall under my 'favorites' category. There are lots of things that I like in this world, but each week usually brings at least a few things to the forefront that I can't get enough of. My tastes are a little eclectic, so I hope you bear with the apparent randomness of my thought process.
So with no further ado, here we go!
#1: This song:
I love John Mayer. (Or his music, at least--on a personal level he kind of annoys me) But his music has seen me through more of my life than I care to mention, and out of all the music I listen to, I actually own most of his albums on CD rather than just digital files.
This song has literally been playing on repeat for the past couple of weeks whenever I get the chance because I love it so much. Gah.
#2: This poem:
Erin Hanson is a gifted, wonderful, amazing poet. I have her book of poems and the ones not listed in the book are on my Pinterest boards.
This one has been reminding me to slow down and s a v o r life. (This is much easier said than done much of the time.)
#3: These adorable waxed canvas bags:
I love to make things, and sew bags/quilts/pillows/etc as the mood strikes (and time allows). I saw these little gems on Pinterest and fell in LOVE. I'm not exactly a hippie-dippie 'save the trees' kinda person....but I do believe in being responsible for what we have, recycling/reusing when possible, and wasting as little as possible.
(Plus who WOULDN'T want to have 'brown paper bags' that will last for years? I'm definitely a fan of the idea.)
#4: Myers-Briggs testing results:
According to the test found on this website, I'm an INFP (Introversion Intuitive Feeling Perceptive). Doing some reading on it has given me some insight to my strengths and weaknesses....especially recently, when certain events have had me questioning some of my basic traits and perception of reality.
#5: Being home.
I don't have a picture to encompass this sentiment, but I've only been in Illinois for 7 hours and I'm already reminded why this is one of my favorite places to be. It rained today and even the rain smelled better....walking barefoot in the wet grass afterwards was heavenly....my dog has been thrilled to see me....my mom and I went for a bike ride that was glorious....it's just been good so far. This weekend will be just what I've needed as of late.
On that note I'm going to sign off....thanks for reading my inane babblings and I will be back on Monday!
Last week, the day before the foxhunt, I attended my first Instameet.
For the uninitiated: an 'Instameet', at its most basic, is where photographers organize a meet-up through Instagram. These usually seem to happen in larger cities (from what I've observed), and the purpose is to meet local Instagrammers, take interesting pictures, explore an area of the town/city, etc. We all were meeting in Bentonville, so the title of this post is our hashtag on Instagram. If you have IG, there's more photos to be found there!
I heard about the meetup through Zak Heald of Intercut Productions. (I started following him on IG last year....or was it two years ago? Time has flown here in Arkansas.) It was on something of a whim that I decided to go...it was a Friday, I needed to get out of the house, and my introverted self was actually wanting to go out and see people.
(If you're an introvert, you grab onto those moments because you KNOW it's only a matter of time before you talk yourself out of seeing people and into wearing comfy pajamas while watching Netflix. The struggle is real.)
We all met at the Buckyball in Bentonville (a sculpture outside the Crystal Bridges Museum), and aside from Zak I didn't know anyone. (And when I say 'know' I mean 'recognized his face'.) But thankfully everyone was super nice and after the initial awkwardness, I had a really great time.
Whenever people hear that I'm at an event/store/interesting place by myself, the immediate reaction is 'that's so brave!' I think it has less to do with bravery and more with if I waited to have someone to do things with me, I'd never do anything.....but I digress.
Buckyball! (It lights up at night. Very pretty.)
When joggers get asked to take the group picture.....this happens.
(Snagged this picture in a crummy screenshot from my phone off of Zak's Instagram....so all credit where credit is due)
Zak and Ashton, doing #anythingforthegram
I kind of adore detail shots (and unique things like a Cadillac covered in coins)
The parking garage just off the Bentonville square had the best view of the sunset (which wasn't as spectacular as we had hoped for, but it was still a good one). And in the meantime, we played with portraits!
Snagged from Ashton's IG story....check her out if you get a moment, because her photography is moody and dreamy and to die for.
The setup of the above photo, as seen by Scott (his photos are also moody/dreamy/to die for)
After the sun set a few of us had a little adventure walking to Ashton's house so she could drive us back to our cars....not that we couldn't have walked back to our cars, but by this point it was dark, some of us had NO idea of the area, etc. (We met her parents and they are ADORABLE.)
There's rumors that another Instameet will be organized within the next few weeks....and I hope to attend when it happens! If any of y'all are in Northwest Arkansas and looking for something to do I highly recommend finding a group to wander around and take pictures with (if that's your thing, of course....and even if it's not we had a pretty hilarious time).
I moved to Northwest Arkansas in October 2014, not knowing anyone aside from my aunt and uncle. For most of the previous year I had been in Colorado working as a wrangler on a dude ranch, riding a variety of different horses, working long hard hours, and essentially having the time of my life. (No time to go into it now...but hopefully that gives what follows a bit of context)
I spent the next couple of months settling in and staring mournfully at every horse in every pasture that I passed. (To be horse-crazy and horse-less is a terrible thing.)
Around December, I took it upon myself to fix this quandary, and turned to the first thing that I could think of: Google.
(Before you hate on Google: through it I found the ranch, the salon where I chopped my hair off in Colorado, and it has assisted me in countless measures in the past. But I digress.)
I Googled horse barns in northwest Arkansas, put together a list that seemed likely, and made a few phone calls. For brevity, let's just say that the first place was all right, but too far away. The second place wasn't quite as far, but still a fair distance (especially since I wanted to avoid having to drive much). The lady there, Diane, was super nice--I had called and asked a few questions, and she invited me out on a Saturday to help feed and get the feel of the place.
After a couple of hours opening gates and meeting horses and traveling hither and yon on the back of a 4-wheeler, Diane mentioned that one of her students might appreciate having a riding buddy. She gave me the name and the address for where she worked, and the next week I made a little side trip to meet Sabrina.
Again, for brevity: I met Sabrina and her husband Danny, we chatted for a while about what I was looking for in a place to ride, and I went out the next day to meet the horses. She and her husband had just gotten a few young horses back from the trainer, and that first evening I rode a colt named Peanut. (He only kicked out twice. XD) The next time I rode an older horse, then a younger one, then the older one again...and before I knew it, Sabrina, Danny, and I were riding horses several times a week. In addition, the second time I was over Sabrina invited me to supper. The third time I was invited to Danny's mother's for supper (she lives on the same property, in a different house). The fourth time, it was assumed that I would join them for supper.
Since then I've been over there quite a bit (it was 2-3x a week for a while there, and right now it's once or twice a month. Hoping to remedy that soon.) It blows my mind to see famous Southern hospitality in action, in addition to their generosity in allowing me to come whenever I want to play with their horses.
Anyway, through Sabrina I've been introduced to the local foxhunting club. The actual 'hunting' season is from October to the first weekend of April. I went to the opening hunt for 2015 and closing for 2016, skipped opening for 2016, and attended closing for 2017.
I've ridden a horse over there to walk hounds during the summer, but kind of prefer to take pictures during the actual hunting season. This is partially because I LOVE taking pictures of everyone in their hunting togs, and partially because I'm a little nervous to ride in such a large group.
(Before I continue: 'walking hounds' is when a few riders go on horseback to take the hounds out for exercise a couple times a week. It's the perfect opportunity to introduce a horse to the 'hunting' atmosphere.)
I have the majority of the pictures from the day listed under my Photography tab....but I'll go ahead and post a few of my favorites here.
There was a photographer and a journalist from Arkansas Life magazine doing a story on the hunt. The funny part is that I had the idea of covering the hunt in a news-story fashion, but had no idea who to contact regarding the story. (I may have been sliiiiightly jealous that someone else had the same idea :p ) I had paid to ride on the 'tally-ho wagon', but worked up the courage to ask the photographer, Wesley Hitt, if I could tag along in the truck. I'm extremely glad that I asked, because I had a blast following a 'real' photographer around.
There's SO MUCH I don't know about the business side of photography....but every day I'm learning!
Danny and Gracie
The closing hunt was fabulous as usual, and I loved tagging along to get pictures!
(Next goal is to be able to take pictures on horseback while participating in the hunt....think it's too crazy? We shall see.)
After the success with getting hired by Kyle on Thumbtack, I have kept up with the site in hopes of getting more clients. So far I've been....mediocrely successful. (Is 'mediocrely' a word? My spell-check says no....but I don't care.) I think I need more reviews and examples of what I can do....for now I'll stick with it.
Thanks to sticking with it, I was hired not long afterwards by Jeremi and Eva! This couple needed some simple headshots for Linkedin, resume, website, etc. Originally we were going to shoot at Lake Fayetteville. Thankfully I arrived first to make sure there were some good spots...I then had a panic attack because there were NO GOOD SPOTS, and then called them to suggest meeting at the Fayetteville square instead.
(At first I was worried that they would think I was flaky, but thankfully they were super easy-going about it)
Also, I canNOT get over how spectacularly gorgeous Eva is.
I love this one because right beforehand I said "Look at your husband - it makes you smile", and it got her to laugh.
I call this one 'the smoulder'
This beautifully dramatic spot was the entryway to a business on the square....I'm guessing it was black marble? The light was gorgeous too.
We played around with some couple-style poses....
All in all I had a great time meeting some new folks through Thumbtack! This business headshots gig is pretty fun too - I hope to be doing more as the opportunity arises.
When I first moved to Arkansas the only people I knew here were my aunt and uncle. Those first few months I spent a lot of time at their house...I enjoy their company but it was also because my highly introverted self had no idea how to go out and find friends. (Hilariously, one of my first NWA friends I discovered through Google - but that's another story for another time.) Obviously that has not remained the case, as I've developed friendships through work, church, and volunteer opportunities (and Google, of course).
I joined a Facebook group a few months ago sponsored by some amazing photographers, Amy and Jordan Demos, while going through their photography course...part of the reason was to improve personally, but I also was really wanting to see if there was anyone in the area who would like to meet up to toss business ideas back and forth, try out some different techniques, etc.
I've almost always been in the position of teaching other people (not saying that to brag by ANY means, it's just your average person doesn't spend hours poring over certain topics to learn more about them), so being around someone who knows more is something I really crave.
Enter Candace! (Take a second to look at her website, I'm in love with the style)
Our first meeting was in Fayetteville, when Candace had asked me if I wanted to tag along with a shoot for a couple she knew. I pounced on the opportunity to meet up AND take pictures of a beautiful couple, so after coffee at Arsaga's we walked to the University of Arkansas campus and spent about a couple hours taking pictures, trading back and forth on technique, etc.
I had never used a reflector (for bouncing light back on a subject) or the Expodisc (which creates perfect white balance), and she had both for me to play with. Life. CHANGERS. They are amazing tools and I can't believe I've never used them before!
After that first meeting we decided to meet up again at Lake Fayetteville to do some practice shooting (I was working on white balance consistency and posing ideas). I can't speak for Candace, but I certainly had a lot of fun!
You would never know that this green wall was the side of a pavilion and that there was a trash can just out of view....ahh, the magic of cropping ;)
Attempting the Expodisc in this area resulted in some VERY warm photos....but I'm still hoping to get one and figure it out for a more consistent output in the future.
I'm not sure if this is a confession or a bragging moment....but through the process of editing these pictures I learned how to 'brighten' eyes in Photoshop. The technicalities can be kind of confusing if you don't use Photoshop--suffice to say I was quite pleased with the results and hope to get better/faster at it.
After the lake we went to Tacos 4 Life (my first visit--I've already gone back once since then) and took advantage of their huge, amazing windows. I haven't seen a whole lot of the 'reflection' portraits, but they are so dreamy and mysterious-feeling that I'm sure I'll be doing more in the future.
See what I mean?
Pro-tip: make sure the sun has set or at least is not glaring across your subject's face when trying this technique.
Candace very generously gave me permission to use some of the photos she took of me for my Facebook page and website, and for that I am HUGELY grateful. I'm also looking forward to meeting up again and trading some more business ideas/working on photography ideas!
In February I joined a website called Thumbtack. It's a platform by which people who are needing a service - for example, photography - can advertise their need, and professionals can offer quotes in an attempt to meet that need. I stumbled across the site in January, and figured 'eh, can't hurt to try it out'.
After sending out several quotes (6 or 7, maybe?) I was hired by Kyle! He needed some business headshots for his new website. I've been delving more into the business headshot side of photography, and really enjoying the process/wanting to do more, so the opportunity was really an answer to prayer.
We met outside the library on the University of Arkansas campus - the day had been gloomy and rainy, but thankfully it cleared up just in time to get a few shots.
On a funny side note: I used to be extremely nervous to meet strangers in person, especially if it's through the internet. (I blame it - with good reason - on a very bad experience with an online stalker. Which is another story for another day.)
However, last year I decided to try out online dating. The process of going out with a variety of strangers really expanded my comfort level, to the point that as long as it's in a public area I have no problem meeting pretty much anyone at any time. I didn't really think about the parallels of online dating with putting forth a professional presence until after I joined Thumbtack....but it's really quite similar.
Except the pressure to follow up with clients regarding referrals/reviews/etc is NOTHING like the pressure to follow up on a date. AT ALL.
Kyle is a super nice former CPA who is branching out to become a consultant. He was easy to work with and didn't mind when I did some gymnastics to get a better angle (I was crouched on the wall for this picture).
I had Kyle do some more casual poses....it was a great way to showcase those delectable columns. (The architecture on the UofA campus is pretty amazing.....just sayin'.)
All told my first experience with an online client was a major hit! Since this session I've had another person hire me through Thumbtack, which I'll be blogging about soon.
Melissa is one of the first people who befriended me when I moved to Arkansas two and a half years ago. We met at church, and since then she has included me in dinners and outings with her family, we've served together on the worship team, started a couple of ladies' groups (one of which is going strong in its second year!), worked out together when she still lived five minutes away, and she has always 'had my back' while I've figured out this whole living on my own thing.
(She DID help to set me up with a guy, which turned out disastrously....but I forgive her. And her dad for instigating. :p )
I approached Melissa at church a few months ago about doing some headshots for my portfolio and her professional presence....and thankfully she agreed. (Not that I expected her to refuse but there's always that niggling doubt that I'm annoying people when I ask to take their picture)
It was a bit overcast on this day in particular (middle of January), but I've been doing some practice with natural diffused light and the cloud cover was PERFECT...if I do say so myself. :p
We meandered around her yard on the farm looking for some nice spots - this one you can't even tell that I had her huddled under a pine tree and I had tied a branch back so it wouldn't hit her in the face. (Ahh, the hidden secrets of setting up nice shots!)
This is one of my favorites because I caught the perfect genuine smile with the little tiny scrunch to the nose. (Did I say something funny? I don't even remember now.)
While Melissa was changing clothes I coaxed Buddy the horse over with some sweet feed....in between chewing and dribbling grain he very graciously posed for a couple of pictures with his ears forward. He's really quite photogenic as well.
One of my other favorites....a sweet little moment with a beloved pet....
(Also because I Photoshopped a pole and a bucket out of the background, and you can't even tell. But I digress.)
I LOVE this sweater.
Her folks live nearby, and they have approximately 8 million goats.
That may be a slight exaggeration. But not by much.
One goat (with babies) thought we might have some food....the rest didn't stick around to find out.
Proof that Melissa is outstanding.......in her field.
I couldn't resist, y'all. Puns are my love language.
I love this one too! Very natural and the goats are just so darned cute.
The baby goat looks like it's smiling too..... (In reality it was shivering from the new experience of being held, but it was a remarkably good sport about it all)
Melissa was a remarkably good sport for me as well, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to take her pictures. Thanks, M! :)
Sessions, life updates, and musings.