studio lb BEST OF 2019
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2019 was the hardest year for me personally. After weeks of agonizing over what our life might look like with a Trisomy 18 baby, our sweet Cecilia made her entrance early, and her time with us was very, very short. I vowed to cherish each and every day that I’m given, and 2019 ended up being a year of so much growth and focus. My life revolved around the things that were important to me, and the things that were not so important were easy to brush off (hence my lack of online presence this past year).

Before we knew Cecilia had Trisomy 18, I had limited the amount of work I would take on, knowing that I would want to cherish the summer with my family. I just didn’t know how *much* I would treasure that time.

When I was working, I was gifted the most wonderful people to be around. People who were also living their days intentionally, and making the time to celebrate each other. This filled my heart just as much as those days at home with my family.

In 2019 I spent time gardening, adventuring, celebrating all seasons of life – from small moments to big ones – and I know that each person I had the honor of spending time with this year was for a reason.

I spent time with ‘new’ couples, and with couples who I’ve known for a while, and are so close to my heart – time with them was like going back in time, when everything was ‘normal,’ and eventually when a tear would slip out of my eye, I was wrapped in a most sincere hug.

In 2019, I was able to document big, new beginnings, but also in-between, just as important memories: a birthday, a family vacation, a military spouse reunion, a man’s last ‘good’ day with his whole family before cancer took over. One thing I’ve realized this year is that each day is worth celebrating, no matter the circumstances. I am so honored to have witnessed all kinds of memories for the people in front of my camera.

In February, a new ‘season’ of our lives began – grieving the loss of our daughter. I also carved out a pocket of time that month to do something to make my mind switch gears. One afternoon, I met Dustin + Cahri for some beautifully cold engagement photos. Cahri and I grew up in the same town, and seeing her so happy and comfortable (despite the wind blowing flurries of snowflakes into her face) with Dustin (who has also suffered the loss of someone very close to him) was just what my heart needed that month – to see an example of the beauty of life after loss. I will forever be grateful for this sweet couple.

Then, later in the summer, I was reunited with a client-turned-best-friend who helped me through some of the hardest days of my grief. Over ten years ago, Marcy lost her baby girl, and all this time later, she still had the insight to know what I was feeling and when, and to have just the right words to make me feel better. Being able to see her and hug her in person was so uplifting. Being able to wander and have fun with her and David in the Badlands was the icing on the cake.

And who can forget this super fun kayak adventure with Matt + Ashley?! I mostly spent the afternoon in ‘video’ mode, but I love this photo because it perfectly encapsulates their genuine happiness and love, plus the peace and simplicity of their favorite place to kayak in the Black Hills.

I got to spend time with Fabian + Alysse and his daughter before their September wedding, and I’m now a fan of Wyoming and the color yellow.

Cody + Justine’s anniversary adventure was a little less adventurous than we planned, because we got two feet of slushy snow at the end of May which prevented us from hiking the trail we wanted. But it was still adventurous in the way that every day is what you make of it, and we had a pretty great time.

I realize this is probably a ‘standard Pinterest pose,’ but what I loved about this moment was that Cody was trying to remember the words to their first dance song, and all he could come up with was the title, so he kept repeating it over and over. :-D

Weddings are so full of different kinds of emotions and memories. I love how the mood can change from serious to hilarious so quickly! Here, Alysse’s mom and sister are helping her into her dress – there were lots of people in this room watching, but the connection between these three was so beautiful.

And then this beautiful staged moment, where Cahri’s mom pretended to fasten her dress, then joked to the other girls, “How’d I do?”

Again, another beautiful moment followed by a good laugh – Cahri’s phone didn’t recognize her wedding-day face, so she had to type in her passcode.

p.s. I still love the intimacy of a first look – no one else around, just a soon-to-be husband and wife sharing how excited they are!

Let’s focus on the kids a bit, shall we? They’re easily the most entertaining part of a wedding. Here, the bride’s nephew shares a single Goldfish cracker with the groom just before the ceremony (in case he was hungry).

…and this gaggle of a miniature wedding party to start the ceremony. Check the next photo for the little boy who ‘got one’ with his fishing rod mid-processional. ;-)

Then, the bride’s reaction as she followed all that cuteness.

Some first looks aren’t as secluded as the one I showed earlier, but even with all their guests between them, this groom had quite the beautiful, intimate moment with his bride as he saw her for the very first time in her wedding dress.

There’s nothing more intimate than an elopement, and I loved all the uninhibited emotions showing up this day!

Danny gave a tearful speech for his vows, and then we all shared a little chuckle as Mary, their officiant, was prepared with tissues for the couple.

Another laughable moment was when Tane forgot Elle’s ring and had to use his sister-in-law’s ring during the ceremony – this was the moment he had to explain what happened to the pastor, while Elle looks over at the ring’s owner! I love how this little detail (which could be a huge detail to some) was so funny in the moment because it didn’t *really* matter (he could have used a ring pop, just how he proposed) and they still joined their lives together as one that day.

These kids had the best seats in the house for this wedding!!

And this pastor made the.most.amazing painting for this wonderful couple (see the original blog post for more of that story).

I like to focus on the couple during the majority of the day, but I’m also always looking for little moments that make their day so unique, like parents holding hands, or grandparents comforting tired babies.

That moment when you’re all ready for the family photo, but then realize the bride’s brother wandered off, so we’re *all* waiting for him to make his way back! Again, notice the joy in this moment!

These next few photos are from a wedding I never shared on the blog. The groom’s job doesn’t allow him to share his face online, and he doesn’t really enjoy photos to begin with, so when this day arrived, I was so excited about how in-the-moment and accommodating he was to any and all photos, I was more focused on getting them a whole bunch of moments for them to treasure forever. The blog was the least of my concerns that day. I did get these few without his face showing, and it was a beautiful day, so here’s a few for me to remember what a blessing this day and this year was. (Because let’s be honest, most days I didn’t want to show my face anywhere, but it still ended up being a beautiful, memorable year.)

Aside from ‘new’ weddings, I had the pleasure of working with past wedding clients in new phases of life. This is Beth and Kasen, who wanted some professional head shots, but we spent most of our time together goofing around and catching up.

Eric and BMae had their first baby! Another evening spent being goofy and chatting about life. When I sent these photos off to them, Eric said, “wow, we look way cooler than we are in real life!” Hahaha! So, if you’re ever worried about being too dorky for pictures, just know that I see you and I love you, and it is possible to have fun *and* make beautiful photos. ;-)

Danny + Chanda originally wanted their elopement to be at sunrise, but when I heard they had a little girl, I was glad they changed their ceremony time to when she would be happiest. Wedding days should be as relaxing as possible – there’s no reason to add stress to the day just because of what the light might be doing!

Because really, who cares about the light when your son thinks that dandelions are for tasting, not blowing? It’s all about the memories. ;-)

I was so, so, so excited to see Jesse + Elizabeth again seven years after their wedding, and to meet their daughter! But the circumstances were less than ideal – Jesse’s dad had been diagnosed with cancer, and this would be their last time together as a family.

We only had a few minutes with Jesse’s dad before he needed to go back inside to rest, and my favorite family photo is this one, where he’s looking down, admiring his granddaughter.

Okay, wiping away my tears now, Andrew and Tremaine were back in the hills to celebrate their son’s first birthday (with a really yummy donut) and their sixth wedding anniversary!

Then there was the Robbins family, who spent a week enjoying the finer things in life at Custer State Park – playing with rocks, and throwing them in the water. :-)

And finally, the most beautiful, honest, romantic reunion I’ve ever witnessed. Andrew was overseas for a year, and from the moment he was back in Meghan’s arms, they were inseparable – even waiting for his luggage! (Also, notice the lady in the chair who also obviously felt the love in this moment.)

Seriously, is this not the most romantic baggage claim moment you’ve ever seen?

So, from my family to yours, thank you for making this year way more beautiful and memorable than I thought it could be. I heard recently that, “Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson) So, thank you to all who have shown and shared love your love with me this past year, and allowed me to love you back in the way I knew how (with my camera, and spending quality time together).

Let’s keep sharing the love, and savoring those ‘everyday moments’ in 2020! :-)

dustin + cahri MARRIED!! Custer State Park wedding
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A couple months ago, I asked Dustin and Cahri what they were most looking forward to on their wedding day. They said, “Not thinking about anything else besides how much we love each other, and celebrating that with all our favorite people.” And that’s exactly what happened on the first day of their marriage.

Witnessing a couple see each other for the first time on their wedding day is always a treasure. Their biggest smiles, sometimes tears in their eyes, the tightest hugs, and the stepping back to really get a good look at each other – all of it is so genuinely beautiful!

Just before the ceremony, Cahri’s nephew shared a goldfish cracker with Dustin – he thought he might need a little snack. :-)

Dustin and Cahri were able to have their pastor from Bismarck come down to Custer State Park for their wedding, and him being there to officiate made their ceremony the most memorable part of the day.

Dustin + Cahri’s pastor invited them to turn and look out at everyone gathered for their wedding, and I could see the feelings of love and gratitude wash over them.

Another wonderful thing their pastor did was paint this painting for them. He explained how when he paints, he starts with the darkest darks and the brightest lights, which resembles their lives in the most beautiful way. Having been through some of the darkest darks, we are able to appreciate the brightness of the light in our lives. There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

One moment I love to wait for and watch unfold is the ‘just married’ hugs after walking back down the aisle. And of course, the hugs from loved ones.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it agin – photographing sisters’ weddings is one of the greatest honors for me as a photographer! These two beautiful ladies had the most perfect-for-them wedding days, and they, along with their husbands and family hold a very special place in my heart.

Dear Cahri + Dustin – Thank you for sharing your beautiful relationship for all of us to witness. You, my friends, are a light for all of us to follow.

dan + chanda MARRIED!! Sylvan Lake elopement photography
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“Real but also silly.” My favorite kind of people, and those are exactly the words Chanda used to describe herself and Dan! They brought their parents and their daughter to the Black Hills to witness the first moments of their marriage, then they all went out for some old-timey photos. A pretty great blend of ‘real and silly’ if you ask me! :-)

They started off their elopement with a first look, giving them a chance to soak it all in and enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills (and each other). ;-)

Since their little girl was all smiles, she joined in on the little love fest for a few family photos before the ceremony.

Mary Maisey-Ireland of Your Joyful Wedding does a fantastic job organizing and creating the most personal ceremonies!

Dan + Chanda’s heartfelt vows had us all a little misty-eyed!

After exchanging vows and rings, their little girl joined in for a feather ceremony, which Mary put together the most beautiful words for:

“Feathers have been used in our homes and on our bodies since we first caught birds. They decorated our hair, our garments, our hats. They warm our bodies in the form of down jackets and soften our beds as pillows, mattress toppers and comforters. Some of the world’s greatest literary works were penned using feather quills.

“For some cultures, feathers represent our connection to the spirit world. Native American tribes believe that hawks and eagles carry our prayers to the Great Spirit. The Iroquois used feathers to express gratitude for the bounty of the earth. Christians imagine that angels’ wings are made of feathers.

“Feathers can be about inspiration, about surpassing our limits, taking flight as it were. They can be used to tickle, and they can even remind us to take ourselves lightly.

“All of this symbolism is so fitting for a family. May you use your love to warm and comfort one another, to inspire each other, to give thanks to each other and for the gifts in your life, to exceed any self-limiting beliefs you may have about yourselves, and to remember to always find something to laugh about.”

All of the beautiful-ness you see here was put together by Sarah from The Vintage Lease – she brought the food, arranged the table, and put together the bouquets (and even had extra raspberries just for Dan + Chanda’s little girl while they enjoyed their breakfast/scenery).

*clink!*

Soaking in that Black Hills view!

cody + justine ADVENTURE!! Custer State Park anniversary photos
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Cody + Justine had planned to go on a hiking adventure while they were here in the Black Hills to celebrate their second anniversary. Mother Nature had other plans. Just days before they arrived, we had 24+ inches of slushy snow, and the trails were still covered in ice by the time we had planned photos. Since we didn’t have any ice cleats with us, we opted for an adventure with less hiking, but we still had a great time!

Since Cody + Justine were nearing their second anniversary, I asked them to dance and asked what their ‘first dance’ song was. It took them a beat to remember, but it all came back to them and Cody even sang part of it to Justine.

We wanted to get some glow-y sunset photos (at the top of the hike that didn’t happen), and the sun was already much further North than I had expected, so we literally chased the light and scrambled up a hill to catch as much glow as we could!

Lastly, Justine brought this balloon ALL THE WAY FROM MINNESOTA for some special photos. Turns out even the slightest breeze makes photos with a balloon pretty tricky. And hilarious. ;-)

Cody + Justine – I hope the rest of your time here in the Hills was wonderful and that you got to do a bit more adventuring despite all the weather-related issues! I had a wonderful time getting to know you, and my husband and I have already adopted your mozzarella cheese analogy.

ALSO, thanks for being kind enough to entertain my trials as a videographer.

tane + elle MARRIED!! Rapid City chapel wedding
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One of the greatest adventures in life is marrying your best friend. Tane + Elle made the first day of their marriage uniquely them by planning a small wedding at the Chapel In The Hills followed by pizza. However, all the unplanned moments are what truly made their day an adventure – one they’ll never forget!

Let’s start with the kids – they’re always the most entertaining! ;-) Allow me to give a little commentary on the following photos… First, one flower girl got a little carried away with her duties and started tossing petals prematurely, but both girls helped pick them all back up just in time. Next, one ring bearer hooked grandma’s hand (while Tane’s twin brother guarded a bouquet), but thankfully someone realized it before causing any damage! Whew! Finally, it was time to toss the petals. And the littlest ring bearer of all got stuck in a crack.

The fishing poles were the perfect last-minute addition for Tane + Elle’s wedding. They were going to have ring pops on the end (just like how Tane proposed) but I think this way turned out just perfectly (even with leaving the hooks on). :-)

I LOVE the look of excitement/entertainment in Elle’s face as she rounded the corner to see the hilarity of all the kids ahead of her, and Tane waiting for her!

Shortly after the ceremony started, Tane + Elle looked around at all their guests, and I love how they are each having a moment with everyone there with them!!

When I first arrived at the chapel for this wedding, Elle wasn’t sure if they remembered the marriage license. Turns out, Tane had it packed. Whew! But then, right before the ceremony, Tane realized he forgot the rings. This moment is when he’s telling Elle that he borrowed his brother and his wife’s rings.

Such a beautiful moment made even more memorable!! :-) The pastor had just talked about how they will spend their lives asking each other for forgiveness, and Elle said, “I forgive you already!!” when Tane put his sister-in-law’s ring on Elle’s finger!!

Just after they were announced as husband and wife, and they walked down the aisle, Elle had to stop and hug her brother (and the flower girl who came rushing over)!

Elle’s next hug went to her father-in-law… as Tane’s brother helped with the bouquet again. He should really get a best man award – offering to hold flowers *and* let his brother use his wedding ring. :-)

These next few photos are ones that I usually reserve for the annual ‘best of MOMENTS’ blog post – the hugs shared between best friends and grandmas.

And of course, showing off ‘the ring’ that wasn’t actually her ring. So funny, and something they will all laugh about and remember for so many years!!

Waiting for that one last person for the group photo like…

Snuggle break!!!

Elle had Victoria’s Garden do the bouquets and they were SO SO lovely!!!

Fun fact: Elle and Tane are both twins!!!

Another fun fact: it SNOWED just days before their wedding… at the end of MAY!!! You can see some of it leftover in the shadows next to the chapel.

Couples who can laugh and have a good time on their wedding day are destined for a great marriage! Bonus points are awarded for awkward hugs.


Since they had their ice fishing poles for the wedding, we did a few fun, silly photos down by the stream (turned river because of all the aforementioned snow)!!

Tane + Elle – Thank you so much for having me document just a sliver of your marriage. It was such an honor to watch you truly enjoy every single moment of your day. I wish you all the best!!