Warning: A Whole Lotta' Adorableness Below!

A few weekends ago I photographed a 5k for PAWS at Montrose Harbor. Check out some of my favorites of the 1,000+ dogs that were there! If you know me, you won't be shocked to hear that I wanted to take them allllllll home with me! I resisted, though, and figured the owners of all of these dogs would not be thrilled with my idea. Nor would my landlords... Anyway, let the tails do the talking from now on and see these cuties below!

Shannon & Brian - Anniversary Session

My dear, sweet & adorable friends are close to celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary! Before they got married last summer, they lived in separate cities and were long-distance. They got married in Missouri but immediately after, Shannon moved here to Chicago with Brian to officially start their married lives together. These photos are to celebrate their anniversary and to document their love in Chicago. The second I got out of the car at their apartment, this wall is the first thing I saw and told them we MUST do some photos here first!

Isn't Shannon SO beautiful?! The best part is that she's JUST as beautiful inside. She's one of my favorite people! 

Isn't Shannon SO beautiful?! The best part is that she's JUST as beautiful inside. She's one of my favorite people! 

We took a Lyft down to the Planetarium and we couldn't get close to our destination because of the U2 concert going on! We had to walk quite a ways, but we found a few spots along the way to take some photos. This grove of birch trees had the PERFECT light!

Found another spot!

Made it to the Planetarium just in time for some beautiful light, right upon sunset!

I LOVE how much these guys laugh together!

I LOVE how much these guys laugh together!

Quick impromptu dance party to the Lumineers playing across the way at Soldier Field for U2!

Quick impromptu dance party to the Lumineers playing across the way at Soldier Field for U2!

My favorite.

My favorite.

My other favorite.

My other favorite.

Oh, and this one too! Who am I kidding, they're all my favorite!

Oh, and this one too! Who am I kidding, they're all my favorite!

I was adjusting my light and told them it was a test and this is what I got! It's an outtake but I just love how silly they are.

After we wrapped up at the Planetarium and I had claimed The End, we walked toward Lake Shore Drive to try and get a Lyft. Walking through Museum Campus, I saw this view and made them stop for "one more" and I'm so glad they humored me! 

Shannon & Brian, thank you SO much for having me document your Chicago love! I adore you both and love how much you love each other and the people in your lives. 

We asked a passerby to take a photo of the three of us and the girl thought we were taking prom photos! 

We asked a passerby to take a photo of the three of us and the girl thought we were taking prom photos! 

A Day for Moms

Happy Mother's Day! I'm thankful for my own mom, first of all, for letting me be whatever I wanted to be and for always being there for me. While getting this post together, I realized that I don't have any recent photos of the two of us so here she is below with her beloved grand babies. Love you Mom!

My own two sisters are also moms now and I watch them in awe as they go down the path of motherhood. My nieces are being molded by two of the strongest women I know and I see so much of my sisters in all of them. Girl power in this family, all the way! Happy Mother's Day Lindsey & Hilary!

Here are some of my favorite client mom and mom-to-be moments from over the years. I truly adore snuggle moments and the times you think I'm not clicking the shutter. Nothing makes my heart sing louder than moments between moms and their children and I love that I get to document such amazing women in my world. 

I hope this post will help some moms avoid saying no to being in photos with their children. So often I hear moms say they only want their children photographed and I die a little inside each time I hear it. You're beautiful exactly as you are and you deserve to be in photos with your children! Your children will appreciate it SO much when they're older and they won't even notice how sleepy you think you look. They'll just be looking at you laughing/snuggling/smiling with them and seeing just how much you love them!

Although I'm not a mom to tiny humans, I am a mom to a four-legged geriatric pooch whom I love and adore as if she were a human child. 

Emmie Lou - age 10

Emmie Lou - age 10

Here's to all the moms (in every sense) in the world, including my fellow dog moms! 

Flowers for Dreams

If you know me, you know how much I LOVE fresh flowers. And pretty packaging. Put them together and I'm sold. Flowers filling the bed of a vintage pickup truck? Are you kidding me?! So when I photographed the Vintage Garage show last weekend and there were Flowers for Dreams mini bouquets there from the EBTH booth, I felt like I myself was in a dream! Of course, I had to go home with a sweet, tiny bouquet to make my home a bit more cheerful.

I have seen Flowers for Dreams around the city a few times and have seen some Instagram photos but otherwise I'm not all that familiar with them. I did a little digging and am impressed with their story. Check them out; I'm thinking a subscription of flowers would be a marvelous gift for someone lovely in my life. And it's almost Mother's Day! 

Sunshine & Relaxation

Last month I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Ft. Lauderdale with some incredible girlfriends. While packing for the trip, I made sure I threw my camera in my suitcase or knew I'd regret it otherwise. I limited myself to one lens and left the speedlights behind. Less was more because I knew myself and knew that I wouldn't use it all. And creatively, it forces me to take a minimalist approach and work with what I've got. It's a challenge! 

However, I took a lot of photos but aside from my phone, I only took my pro camera out one time because I was too busy enjoying my relaxation time! It was a good reminder for me to just live in the moment and not worry about getting a photo of every beautiful thing I observed. I was able to be present, take it all in and just enjoy what was happening around me with the great company I was with. Sometimes it's nice to just take a real break from everything, including my camera.

The few images I did take were on the beach before all of the spring-breakers bombarded the sandy gloriousness with their fraternity flags and plastic jugs full of Kool-Aid-looking liquid. 

Spring IS coming!

It feels as though we're going backwards in seasons here in Chicago! It's been SO gloomy, rainy, cold and just plain gross out for what seems like weeks. So when I had a boudoir session this past weekend and the sun decided to shine for the afternoon AND my client had fresh spring flowers, my heart exploded! 

PAWS Animal Magnetism

Last week I photographed an event for PAWS, an organization that I hold dear to my heart! If you've never heard of them, go here and read about this wonderful no-kill animal shelter here in Chicago. I started volunteering for them about a year ago when I moved here and couldn't bring my dog with me. Don't worry, she's in good hands back in WI with my mom and dad but I was missing her like crazy. I started volunteering for selfish reasons to get my dog fix, but it quickly turned into something more powerful. Every single time I go there, I cry. Every. Single. Time. It's so heart-breaking to hear some of the stories that these innocent dogs have gone through and I want to bring every one of them home when I'm there. Those dogs have done way for me than I ever could for them and I get extremely happy (and cry happy tears, of course) when they get adopted! I haven't been able to volunteer much lately because of my schedule, so being able to photograph for them was an honor. The event I photographed was called Animal Magnetism and it was SO much fun! Head here to see more photos from the event and read about how you can help.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the night, including the flowers and details of the building. PAWS left no detail untouched. If you know me, you know how much I LOOOOOOVE fresh flowers. Oh, and sharp-dressed dogs! What a wonderful evening.  

It took place at Morgan Manufacturing in the Fulton Market District in Chicago and it is a photographer's dream! Exposed brick walls, fun light fixtures, cool blue lighting on the stairs, walls made of glass blocks behind the bar and the view from the second floor is pretty incredible. Even the ladies' room was covered head to toe in detail. If I had to guess, I'd say the men's room did not disappoint but you'll have to check for yourself! If your'e looking for a venue for an event like a wedding, I'd recommend it. And I'd recommend you have me photograph it! 

Eat Chic Chicago

You may remember my collaboration with Chicago Dietitian Amari Thomsen of Eat Chic Chicago this past winter. If not, have a click here and refresh yourself! Anyway, she's back with a super delicious recipe that you must know about! Click the photo below to find out how she made these savory chicken meatballs. It was really hard not to eat this while I was photographing it because it smelled so incredible! Not pictured: my drool!

Personal Creative Struggles (Plus a cute little baby!)

If I'm being completely honest, I will tell you that I got into photography because I liked taking photos of "pretty things." I've always appreciated the small things, and found beauty in unusual places like cemeteries, alleys and everyday objects. It wasn't until I started being asked to photograph people that I really fell in love with documenting moments. And even then, it took me a long time to figure out what was missing in my work and although I truly loved it, something was leaving me feeling empty.

It's hard to explain, really, but the more I started photographing for a living, the harder it actually became for me. I get in a rut when I do the same things over and over, and I feel disconnected when I'm not creatively challenged. I've been a photographer for almost 10 years now, 7 of them professionally and though I'm always striving to be learning and growing, I finally feel like I've figured out what's been missing. It's not just enough for me anymore to take a pretty picture. I want those goosebumps when I'm looking through my camera, watching magic unfold. I'm an emotional person naturally, but when my eyes start to well up behind the lens while seeing your love pour out, I can't explain it. I want to capture those honest moments between you and your loves and I want you to feel what I'm seeing. I want your heart to explode with happiness when I show you your images! I crave shooting from my heart.

I love lifestyle sessions more than anything because I get to document real, raw moments. To me, it's all about connection. Yes, I will guide you into position and take some nice photos of your family, but my heart sings when I know you're not focused on me and just loving one another. Documenting sweet, tender moments in your world is what I live for and it's when I create my best work.

I photographed Miss S when she was a week new. A head full of hair, SO many smiles and the cutest little baby toes I ever did see! Her mama and daddy's love for her brings so much joy to my heart. It's the little moments that I want you to look back on. It goes by so fast, and you're likely sleep-deprived and may not remember a lot of things, but these photos will freeze time and each time you look back at them, I hope you smile. That's what I love about what I do. When you trust me enough to let me do my "thing" and have creative freedom, I will create magic for you. 

I will be cutting back on the number of newborn posing sessions I offer and shifting my focus to lifestyle sessions like the one above. You'll still get adorable photos of your baby, but the focus will be more on your love for your little one.  

Super Bowl 51, Lady Gaga, Beauty and Being You

Confession: I did not watch the Super Bowl this past weekend. I did, however, watch Lady Gaga's halftime performance and loved it! She's the epitome of a strong, successful, beautiful woman who doesn't give a damn what others think of her! She's so inspiring to me in so many ways and I think she's an exquisite role model. So when I started seeing all of these headlines about her body being a topic in negative ways, I was quite upset. I mean, she OWNED that performance and looked fantastic! And people were saying she was "fat" and shouldn't have been wearing an outfit that showed her stomach like that... Please! I could understand expressing opinions of her performance, music, etc since we all don't like the same things, but to attack based on appearance alone? What message does that send? Think about every woman in the world who doesn't look like Lady Gaga, and how that makes everyone else feel. Think about the message it's sending to young children. That it's ok to verbally attack someone for no reason. It is so sad that there are so many bullies in this world that are so full of hate and anger within themselves that they need to tear others down to feel better.

It saddens me to think we live in a world where young girls, and women of all ages for that matter, are taught to believe something is wrong with us if we're not physically perfect. My heart aches at the thought of my nieces, and all young girls, growing up having to constantly compare themselves to society's version of perfection and how damaging this can be to self-esteem. It's setting them up for failure so early on, at a prime time when their sense of self is developing and being shaped.

We are all unique, and we all have different bodies. No one is perfect and it's something that needs to be celebrated, not criticized. THIS is why I do boudoir beauty sessions. To help you see yourself the way I see you: beautiful, just as you are. To show you that the way you have been taught by society to see yourself is not accurate. It's not just about pretty pictures of you, it's about a sense of empowerment and owning yourself, so-called flaws and all. We all benefit from each other when we let our light shine and recognize our own value. Celebrate you!

Imagine if we all focused on lifting each other up instead of tearing one another apart. We are all beautiful in our own ways. Let's re-define "society's" definition of beautiful and start accepting EVERYONE exactly as they are.

Be you, exactly as you are, just like ^Lynnea^ does every day! This girl is gorgeous on the outside, but her inner beauty is equally stunning. Killer personality, talented, loyal, musical dancing queen with an infectious smile, killer eyes and a giant heart full of love. She welcomed me into her tribe with open arms and I am eternally grateful to know such an incredible human being. Thanks for working with me, Lady!

We can all learn from Lady Gaga and Lynnea: that it's better to be authentic than to dim your inner light to conform to a sense of "normal." Be your weird self, my darlings!

XOXO, Courtney

Sweet little T!

I got to photograph a friend's baby recently and had so much fun! His big sister is slowly getting used to her promotion and we were able to sneak in a few photos of the two of them too. SO sweet!

Coconut Pecan Popcorn - Recipe below!

I was craving a sweet snack after I got home from photographing an event last night. Currently I am extremely low on groceries since returning home from a week of dog-sitting. Alas, I raided the pantry and found some popcorn kernels and wondered what I could do with them. I tend to get the most creative in the kitchen when I'm faced with limited options! I wondered what would happen if I popped the kernels in coconut oil. To my amazement, they popped perfectly! While the popcorn was still hot in the pan, I threw in a little slab of butter, sprinkled in coconut sugar with a dash of Pink Himalayan salt and tossed it all around. Test bite was satisfying but I wanted something a touch sweeter so I melted a few semi-sweet chocolate morsels and poured it over the coconut-coated popcorn, tossed in some toasted pecans and shook it all up. Voila! Just the right amount of sweet and sassy. Kind of like me!

Now, who wants to go grocery shopping for me since I can't live on popcorn the rest of the week?!


Ingredients:

  • Pilot Knob Hull-less Ruby Red Popcorn
  • Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Madhava Unrefined Coconut Sugar
  • Butter
  • Pink Himalayan Salt
  • Chocolate Chips 
  • Toasted Pecans

I popped the popcorn in a pan and didn't follow any recipe or measurements. I just tossed the coconut oil in to coat the bottom of the pan. Popped the kernels and added all other ingredients while it was still hot. No measurements here either, just to taste. Tip: I did melt the chocolate chips with a little bit of butter, and then poured it over the popcorn. Toss to mix and enjoy!


Eat Chic Chicago

I'm so excited for you to meet Amari Thomsen of Eat Chic Chicago! We collaborated together this past December before the craziness of the holidays. Amari is a registered dietitian here in Chicago and is a wonderful resource and so full of knowledge. Also, she's so much fun and isn't she just adorable?! I had a blast photographing her delicious recipes while jamming out to Christmas music in her super-stylish apartment! 

Follow her blog for great tips and recipes! http://www.eatchicchicago.com/

Happy Birthday Calvin!

I photographed Mr. Calvin and his lovely mom this past December for their annual Christmas card and fell in love with him! He's the sweetest and snuggliest creature in west Chicago! Now that Christmas is behind us and their cards have been sent out, I can finally share this with you! And how fitting that today is Calvin's birthday. Show him some orange love! Happy New Year, everyone. 

Chicago Bucket List/ Summer in Review

I know you've all been dying to know how my first Chicago summer was and how much I accomplished from my original bucket list postWarning: Long Post Ahead filled with a ton of photos. Sorry in advance for most of the photos being from my phone and not my "real" camera. Sometimes I just want to take a break from lugging the gear around and just enjoy the moment, especially when I'm doing fun things. So the quality of a lot of these isn't up to my standard, but hey, at least I did document it! Not pictured is my most favorite thing to do: WERQ. If it weren't for my WERQ dance class and the amazing women I've met there, I don't know if I would've survived! Seriously the best thing I've done for myself and so glad I accidentally found it. Dancing among all kinds of crazy people like me, with an indescribable energy, has been so good for my soul.

But without further ado... Summer 2016 Chicago Bucket List Accomplishments: 

Run the Tiki Run - Check! Ran the whole thing! Not too shabby for not being a runner and it was my first 5k.

Run the Tiki Run - Check! Ran the whole thing! Not too shabby for not being a runner and it was my first 5k.


Explore the 606 Trail - Check!


Beach days, volunteering at PAWS, girls' nights out, Badger game parties, ladies' dinners and happy hours with some of my favorite people around.


Family time at the Bean, Shedd Aquarium (AMAZING!), Buckingham Fountain (SO beautiful at night!), cocktails at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building (BEST view of the city), architecture night boat tour, rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, and went to the Art Institute for the Gordon Parks exhibit. 


Adler After Dark at the Planetarium was an amazing experience. And the view of the city was incredible!


Got to be in the audience on The Steve Harvey Show! Wasn't on my list but was still pretty cool to see how it's done. Plus, I got to shake Shemar Moore's hand ;)


Logan Square Farmer's Market and Renegade Craft Fair - Check!


I know it's not summer anymore, but my first Blackhawks game was so much fun and they won in OT! 


I get to shoot in some pretty cool places! I did a boudoir shoot at the Kimpton Burnham Hotel downtown and it was full of so much character and beauty. I hope to shoot there again. Also did a food shoot in a really cool industrial building with gorgeous window light! 


Chicago traffic... still not used to this!

Chicago traffic... still not used to this!

Whirlyball. I did not get to this one but walked by it and want to go even more!

Whirlyball. I did not get to this one but walked by it and want to go even more!


The things I did not get to, that will carry over into next year:

  • Kayaking on the Chicago River
  • Cubs Game (A must - duh!) (Kicking myself for not having made it this year before they became World Series Champions!)
  • Great America... so close & I LOVE rollercoasters and I haven't been in years
  • Craft Brewery Crawl (Went on a bar crawl, but not a craft brewery one.)
  • Join a Beach Volleyball & Kickball league
  • Something adventurous like sky-diving!!! 
  • Touristy stuff that I didn't get to: Chicago underground tour, Willis Tower, Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry.
  • Try Pequod's Pizza - I hear it's the best (I have no idea how I have not gotten to this yet!!)
  • Check out a Broadway show (Hamilton was on my list but the tickets sold out so quickly)

Winter 2016/2017 List: Ice skating in Millenium Park, attempt to stay warm and learn how to navigate this street parking/snow mess! I'm sure there's more I want to do, but right now, warmth and hibernation is all that is on my mind!

Bryann & Derrick

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I'm feeling extra thankful this year to get to be able to do what I love doing for a living. I also get to work with the best people around that trust me to document the most special times in their lives! This was my last big event for the year and my heart is so full and grateful. 

I met Bryann a few years ago when I was living in Sun Prairie and we lived in the same building. I was having Valentine's Day mini sessions and she brought her then-two year old daughter Daylin by for photos. I fell in love with this sweet little girl instantly and have been photographing their growing family since. Last year they welcomed little Ellie and this year she asked me to photograph their small intimate ceremony where they officially tied the knot with their girls in tow. So much love and happiness! Also, don't they make the most adorable babies ever?!?! Take a peak at some of my favorite images from their day.

Emmie Lou is 10!

When I was last in Wisconsin, I tried to sneak in some photos of my little Emmie Lou in honor of her 10th canine year on this Earth, but she made it pretty hard for me. Her co-pilot Jersey, was even worse! At least that golden fall light did not disappoint. These crazy clowns are inseparable and I sure do adore them. Happy 10th to my little senior citizen! I miss your wiggly little butt every single day.

My sweet, smiley niece!

When I snuck back to WI last week, I got to spend some time with this little lady after not seeing her for over two months. At just over 4 months old, she's practically doubled in size since my last visit. Ok, I might be being a bit dramatic but she's not a tiny, sleepy baby anymore! She's now rolling over and smiling & laughing like crazy. She is the noisiest baby I've ever known (constantly cooing and screeching!) and she loves to play with her feet. Check out the many faces of Miss Skyler, I just love her to pieces! 

Chicago: Best City in America!

I will be the first to admit that I am not a diehard Cubs fan, or really a baseball fan for that matter. Don't get me wrong, I'm a girl who loves her sports, but baseball has always just been so boring to me. Give me a fast-paced college football or basketball game over baseball any day. Then I moved to Chicago, city of The Cubs- the most lovable losers as they're hailed, and got to experience the thrill, the energy and the amazing camaraderie of how loved these guys are in this city. "W" flags fly throughout the city, and my neighborhood, wherever I look. Front porches, car antennas, hanging in windows, rooftops, business storefront windows, even on strollers & dog leashes! You have two choices here in Chicago and people always ask: Cubs or Sox? Having never loved baseball, I chose the team that I lived closest to (logical choice, yes) and would respond with the Cubs, but with a disclaimer that I don't really like baseball. I know, I know. I see you shaking your heads in disbelief. 

I live within walking distance of Wrigley Field so when the post-season madness started, I heard the fireworks, the cheering, the craziness. I thought I'd heard it all... Until last night's World Series W! What a game, what a game! The second that Kris Bryant fired that ball to get the third out in the 10th inning, the streets erupted in cheering and honking car horns! It sounded like Wrigley Field was on my back porch! I can't even imagine what it would have been like had they won that game here at Wrigley. Chicago was ALIVE last night and full of so much energy, honking horns, screaming fans and fireworks. And that energy is contagious and exciting and made me feel alive and part of something so huge, a part of history. So no, though I have not been a lifelong Cubs fan, I did get to witness the most thrilling baseball games I've ever seen in my life this past week and it made me appreciate a sport that I had written off as boring. This was anything but boring. Goosebumps and so many emotions from this World Series! Though I am new here, and haven't been a lifelong Cubs fan, I still feel so proud to call this city of greatness home. Another reason I love my life here in what I believe is the greatest city in America. 

Going to a Cubs game was on my bucket list for this past summer, but I didn't make it before the playoffs started and it bums me out. Even though I'm not a baseball fan, I still wanted to experience a game and for me, baseball is much more enjoyable in the stands than on a TV. I imagine a Cubs game is intense and full of that crazy energy and I hope to get to a game someday soon. Stay tuned for a blog post about my updated bucket list and see how much I got checked off this summer! 

My Surrogate Chicago Family

If it weren't for this crazy-cute family, I wouldn't be here in Chicago today. I owe my life to them, for they let me crash on their couch month after month earlier this year. Who does that? Only the best friends ever! Thank you to my favorite Chicago family for all that you have done, and continue to do to make me at home here. I love you all with all of my heart!