I came from Fredericton, Stephanie & Tyler came from Charlottetown, we met in the middle in Moncton. A fortifying drink at Tide & Boar kicked things off, and then an hour of wandering downtown. I’m so looking forward to heading to the island this summer for their wedding!
Can I admit that I really just want February to be over? I didn’t imagine it would be this way – after all, when the month started we were already off on our great adventure to the American southwest, and on February 2 we got engaged. What a brilliant start to the month! And since we got home there’s been a flurry of wedding planning, Olympics-watching, and student lecture giving, but frankly it all fell apart at exactly the moment Dagobert died, and now I am just going through the motions. I miss him endlessly and on those moments I don’t, I realize that I’m not missing him and then I feel bad about it. Then we were hit by the double-whammy: learning that our other cat, Ophélie, now has the same disease. I want to walk it off, but the sidewalks are slick with ice; there’s nowhere to go. Literally, but figuratively, too.
I think of myself as a happy person and I know that it won’t be that long before I feel happy again. For the moment I can only focus on the good things that happened: photographing Rachelle & Stephen at the ranch in Wickenburg, Stephanie & Tyler’s engagement and Rachel & Kev’s wedding (both are coming soon!). Silly dogs who are all the same, whether they’re in the desert or in the snow. Clinking glasses of champagne while wearing jeans and polar fleece. A surprise excursion to a jazz concert, which was a lovely escape. The unbridled energy of our niece, who always seems happy to see us. Stephanie giving me a collection of Martha Stewart Weddings 8 years in the making, which now I get to thumb through and dream. The days are getting longer, and someday soon it will be warm again.
It was our last night at the ranch outside of Phoenix when Rachelle, Stephen, AG, and I decided that hey, best be doing those shoots we’d talked about! It was a race against the sun, situated in between horseback riding and our last fantastic dinner of the trip. It was game-on, game-off style shooting – a first for me. It was dinosaur-walking, hair-sniffing, foolishness. It was so much fun.
As soon as AG and I started spreading the news about our engagement, everyone had two questions: (1) when’s the date? and (2) who’s the photographer?
The date question boggled my mind. Were we supposed to have already picked a date? Do people just typically pull one out of thin air? Is it common to figure this out on the very day you become engaged? All I knew is that I needed to get home and actually look at a calendar… and possibly more importantly, consult my photographer on her calendar, because yes I already had the answer to question #2 in hand.
Being in the wedding photography industry means being constantly exposed to some seriously amazing work, and it could have been a decision that I wrestled with for ages… if I were planning to use my wedding as a method of gaining face time with someone who wouldn’t otherwise give me the time of day. Or if we were planning our wedding with a goal of having it published, or hoping that it will somehow raise my profile amongst other photographers. (That’s a real thing that happens, sometimes.) Or if we were interested in looking like people who are the polar opposites of our actual personalities.
Instead, it was easy, because we knew we wanted someone who treats us like worthwhile people even before a cheque has changed hands. We knew we wanted someone who cares more about being a great photographer than being a great brand. We knew we wanted someone who prioritizes capturing the big laughs and the little moments. (Someone who is so obscenely creative that I might feel sick if I weren’t too busy being moved to laughter or to tears with each image.) We knew we wanted someone who will be our friend on our wedding day, but also the days before that and the days after that.
AG and I have been photographed professionally four times to date. Each experience was great in different ways, and I love the photos from each session. Yet, there was only one woman who truly fit the bill. One who made us laugh until we almost cried, who made images that I treasure for the way they captured us, and above all, who made us feel like friends. Luckily there was one magical date that we both had free on our calendars, and that’s how we answered question #1. Kismet. Ryan MacDonald is going to be our wedding photographer, and we are so, so, so excited to have her.
Originally our trip was going to be a simple matter of flying into and out of Phoenix. Then of course we realized that we needed to take a roadtrip to the Grand Canyon. That turned into consulting a map and deciding Monument Valley was another must-see… so in the end we flew into Salt Lake City, had an incredibly whirlwind visit there, and then drove 6+ hours by night to reach our hotel in Monument Valley. We stayed right inside the Valley – on Navajo Tribal land – at The View, a hotel that certainly lives up to its name. Waking up to a snow-covered desert was a remarkable experience (and feeling the sun as it burned that snow away over the course of the morning was great for these snow-weary souls!), as was driving around the Wildcat Trail.
In the afternoon we left Monument Valley, en route for the Grand Canyon. The stunning landscapes we saw along the way were nearly as magnificent.
Big bear, little bear, buddy bear, baby bear… it didn’t matter that some of his nicknames contradicted each other, they were all his. Little man, lovebug, el gatto, monsieur. Our handsome dude, our big grey cat, our baby, Dagobert.
Unlike his “sister” Ophélie (a classic example of the independent, slightly-disdainful type of pet cat), Dagobert was all thinks-he’s-people love, our constant companion, so present in our lives. He sat in his own chair at the dinner table for every meal. He slept not just on the bed, but on a pillow, wrapped around my head. He welcomed us at the door when we got home, and followed us around the house all day. Every morning for years he’d get up with André, and then as André left for work he’d creep back into bed to nap with me. During the day he sat on my lap as I worked at the table, during the evenings he’d curl up beside us or at our feet. He’d sit on the edge of the bathtub as we showered, park himself in the middle of my yoga mat if I dared try to practice at home. He knew how to open doorknobs, and had a fully formed set of charades to demand for food. He loved to be “scooped” up and to be the meat in a hug sandwich (we often joked that all our affection for each other was demanded to be expressed as affection for the cat.) And yes he could be an asshole – flinging things while staring at us, jumping onto the table to eat a 1/4 pound of butter, stomping on my hair at 6am to get fed. Yet somehow we always managed to not just overlook this naughtiness, but actually dismiss it as part of his charm.
In 2010, just before we were about to travel to Nova Scotia to photograph my first ever wedding, he took very ill, and we thought we might lose him. Indeed, the first vet we saw recommended putting him down. Fortunately we sought a second opinion, and it turned out that with a simple medication he was able to bounce back. Our friends rallied like an incredible team – every single time we travelled for a wedding, or for fun, or for Christmas holidays, someone came in every day to care for him. He lost a lot of weight – from a max 22 pounds down to around 7 – but never lost his personality.
Unfortunately borrowed time must eventually run out. When we returned home from our trip to Phoenix we noticed that he was acting a bit differently, but it didn’t seem serious. It escalated quickly: on Thursday I noted that he was hurting, and Friday I read the signs and spent the day crying, petting him and telling him how handsome he was and how much we loved him. We took him to the emergency after-hours vet clinic, leaving him there in a heated kennel, with an IV sticking out of his paw, so hopeful that he might bounce back. That didn’t happen, and it was only about an hour later that we got the call.
What should have been perhaps the most romantic Valentine’s Day of our lives turned into the most devastating, wrenching mess. I’ve experienced death, heartbreak, the loss of a friend. Just not all of those things at once. Dagobert was 19 years old. 19! The human equivalent of 93. He lived a long, long, happy life and was incredibly spoiled; his decline was blessedly swift. We got every minute of love we could get out of that cat, and he leaves a huge hole. The grief is overwhelming, and we are slowly getting through it.
He didn’t photograph particularly well – he hated the camera and as a result all of the pictures make him look serious and kind of mean, but anyone who knew him knows that he was the most huggable, loveable, personable squishy lap cat in the universe. And we miss him so terribly much.
Alright, can I be honest? I’m finding it pretty hard to get back into the swing of my work life after this trip. I have images to share… but I haven’t even dumped all my cards onto my computer yet. I have ideas for posts… but I just want to watch the Olympics and thumb through magazines and plan my wedding! For the first time I’m in the same headspace as my clients and it’s amazing you guys get anything done or send me coherent messages because all I can manage is “OMG!” So I need a little more time before tackling the trip. Here’s something else I’ve been holding on to:
Recently my album company made a huge overhaul to their album offerings: the same beautiful photographic prints inside, but all-new covers, more than doubling the number of available colours, adding cover embossing, and new dustcloths. I’m smitten, and wanted to share a few shots of the book orders I did before Christmas. I have a brand-new album info sheet and pricing ready to go, so if you’re interested in purchasing an album for your wedding or portrait session, please get in touch!
When we planned this trip, it was to roadtrip to Phoenix from Salt Lake City. That very nearly didn’t happen, as we missed a connecting flight in Denver. After 24 hours awake at that point, and not another flight for two days, I found myself standing in the customer service line, crying. Then suddenly through some serendipity the plane came back to the gate, we boarded, and the fun began!
The first day we spent the morning in Monument Valley, beautiful and quiet. We hadn’t bargained for how bitterly cold it was, though. That afternoon we hit the road to the Grand Canyon, arriving just in time to catch the sunset from the desert view watchtower, and decided to get up early the next morning to catch the sunrise.
The alarm went off at 6:30 am and we began layering clothing to brave the temperatures. Unfortunately I’d managed to lose my gloves overnight, but we ventured out anyway, arriving at Mather Point about 10 minutes before sunrise. It was a clear morning, and the sunrise was absolutely beautiful. We each took tons of photos. We were getting ready to walk to a new location when André asked how my hands were. I said “cold, can I wear your gloves?” and he reached into his pocket, said “maybe this will warm you up,” and put a ring in my hand.
I was astonished. I’d expected plenty of things from this trip, some of which I got and some I didn’t, but one thing I certainly hadn’t expected was for THAT to happen. I said “Oh my god!” and immediately burst into tears. After a few minutes of cry-hugging, I had to prompt André to say some specific words: he asked “will you marry me?,” I said “yes.”
I’ve not ever devoted that much mental space to imagining what our proposal might look like. I suppose I imagined that I might be wearing make-up, rather than my retainer. I didn’t imagine that André would be wearing a pair of pyjama pants under his regular pants. I didn’t imagine I’d ugly-cry forever, even though I really should have suspected as much. That’s us, though, real and unvarnished. We can’t imagine it happening any more beautifully, except perhaps if we’d had the foresight to shower.
I have so much more of this trip to share, but I thought that should be first. In retrospect, it’s a little bit funny that I was crying in an airport while André was sweating out a diamond ring in his pocket.
And yes, we know who we want our wedding photographer to be. Wedding planning, we’re working on it.
AG and I have had an epic roadtrip! From Salt Lake City through the Grand Canyon to where we are currently – at a dude ranch just outside of Phoenix. I’m attending a conference this week, so no new blog posts, but I look forward to sharing all our adventures when I get home!
After a nice break in December, January marked a return to shooting and sharing photo work! I ended 2013 with Molly & Andrew‘s wedding, and started the new season immediately after that with Jared & Yolanda. I photographed two engagements: Amy & Matt‘s ice Saint John shoot, and Ashley & Hannah on actual ice; Chantal & Claude’s maternity shoot; and shared a warm blast from the past with Stacey’s summer boudoir shoot. I also shared some of my favourite images from 2013, and some of my goals for 2014. My work appeared in Saltscapes Magazine, two new projects launched – Maritime Weddings and Western Light – and of course being included on Weddingbells’ list of top photographers.
Besides that, spent a lot of time with my grandparents and especially poring over the family albums (I’ve been sharing some photos during Throwback Thursdays on Instagram, as well as my holiday roundup); celebrated my birthday first with AG and later with friends, food, and Cards Against Humanity; and picked up a long-abandoned sport by going to the rink for ice skating. I ate a half-pound Reese Cup (over two days) and got our Christmas tree down before February. Shared what to wear when you’re shooting in weather so cold frost forms on your camera, and a much more personal story about my family.
Now we are off to our first great adventure of the year. 2014 is off to a swell start.