(For a larger and clearer image, click on the pictures individually.)

Wednesday was a crisp, sunny, winter morning. It was a morning that has been scheduled and cancelled several times, a fact that has been the root of many jokes and speeches in past months. On this very special morning, Fort Huachuca finally bid farewell to a Command Team like no other, Major General John Custer and his wonderful wife Audrey.
I first met Audrey Custer at a spouses coffee hosted at her home just a few short weeks after I arrived at Fort Huachuca, 2009. Knowing I was one of the most junior spouses on the block I made certain to be on time. Knowing I was one of the most junior spouses, I was nervous. I was the first one to arrive... But as Audrey gracefully fluttered around the house with final preparations, her easy nature instantly set me at ease. She was relaxed. She was kind. She was and always has been, in one word- LOVELY. How a woman with a lifetime of experiences under her belt makes everyone in her presence feel an equal, I can only hope to learn and portray myself some day. Words cannot express the impact this woman, this couple, has made on our post. It has been an honor to watch them command, to applaud their success, and to enjoy their company as neighbors and friends.

I set out on Wednesday with camera in hand, not to capture the cliche Change Of Command images that twenty other photographers on the field would certainly cover, but to record the essence of the day: Colors waving beautifully in the wind that whips down Huachuca Canyon, the 36th Army Band drumming out a toe tapping march, the smell of fresh red roses honoring a spouse's hard work and sacrifice, yellow roses as bright and cheerful as the sunshine welcoming Brigadier General Potter's wife into her new role. While most of the cameras were focused around the podium I had the delight of wandering the parade field, my favorite place to be, seeing the sequence of events from the vantage point most are not permitted. It is there that General Custer and General Potter begin "trooping the line" together; why exactly was that final contingent situated 15 feet behind the rest of the formation? Nearly skewering the command party walking by? It will certainly remain a distinct memory from the ceremony, but that is no longer the concern of General Custer as he relinquishes command, retires from the Army, and embarks on a new path, a civilian path, with bride Audrey still steadfast by his side, and a major retirement home renovation on the horizon. The formation on Brown Parade Field, situated in front of historic Quarters 1, the Pershing House, which the Custer's had the privilege to call home during their command at Fort Huachuca, was an amazing send off, and it was a honor to witness every smile and salute!

Happy "Birth" Day to ME! And a very Happy Birthday to my Middle Man! He was my most difficult to bring into this world, in fact, after his birth I proclaimed that there would be no more babies. So why should it be any surprise that he remains my most challenging child to date?! I'm praying that the terrible twos are over with, that the threes are going to be filled with patience, calm, and wonder, or at least many visits from a loving baby sitter and a spa gift certificate. He loves art, music, Star Wars, sweets, and his lovey. He also loves Darth Vader, and is affectionately known around our house as "The Prince Of Darkness" for more than one reason. He loves chicken nuggets, but won't eat real chicken. He hates the mere mention of a toilet, shoelaces that come untied, and food that doesn't resemble plain noodles with butter. As I sat tonight looking for nine of my favorite images, trying to find the faces I see on a daily basis, including the sour ones, I was flooded with love for this amazing tough guy. I was reminded of his sensitive nature, which makes him extremely tender towards others. I was reminded of his incredibly charming habits, his mischievous grin, and the joy he shows when playing Big Brother to our new Bundle. I didn't find so many images of him enjoying the little brother role he plays, insight for Mommy to pay more attention to I guess. He has fears, and great concerns. He wants a Buzz Lightyear for Christmas, and a Backhoe Front loader that beeps and talks. He is a complicated little fellow. He is the spitting image of me, then and now.

It was a relaxing and relatively quiet weekend spent at home. No out of town guests, no friends over, just the five of us; a mom, a dad, and three savages... I have some cute pictures from the weekend, the kids helping with the cooking, none of which they ate, and I mean nothing! But for now, a very Happy, very simple, Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!

No, I didn't leave him alone with a marker. No, he isn't showing school spirit for Michigan. Yes, he is breathing just fine. If you've never heard of Gentian Violet, it's an herbal supplement used to treat some conditions associated with brestfeeding. He is being treated; it stains EVERYTHING. You can readily see which fingers he favors. This was just too funny not to post. And during the week we had our family portraits scheduled! Fortunately it went away in time.

Here is one more from my shoot on Saturday. I was sitting here editing while all three boys napped (insert applause for napping miracles HERE) and when I came across this image I just sat and starred. Just because you are a photographer does not necessarily mean that you are as good in front of the camera as behind. Most often I have found that photographers are rather uncomfortable in front of the lens. I just hope when its my turn in a couple of weeks I can appear as relaxed as Sarah and her husband. I just keep thinking how neat it is to capture a mom, in her element, like no other has captured her before. I'm floating today...

It's autumn in Arizona, one of the absolute most beautiful times of the year to photograph in Arizona. Which is why everyone wants family portraits taken in November, everyone including the photographers themselves. Allow me to introduce you to Sarah Neyhart, an incredibly creative portrait photographer/gorgeous mother of one/doting spouse. I've had the pleasure of chatting with Sarah only a handful of times; but that is all that is necessary to know that you want Sarah to be your dear friend for life! Her enthusiasm for her craft is infectious, her easy going nature is perfectly charming. After connecting on Facebook I had the chance to peek into her private family albums, thoroughly enjoying her captures of handsome hubby Bryan and their darling daughter. But I also noticed a distinct characteristic that permeates my own family albums- many pictures of the husband and kids, very few pictures of Mom! I made such a remark and not shortly after the idea was born to photograph each other.

I have long debated the concept of hiring someone to do the work that I personally take so seriously. It is extremely difficult to hand over the job, especially if you are a Type A "I'll do it better myself" kind of woman, which my husband would most definitely categorize me. But the more I thought about it, seeing my family through someone else's lens would be priceless. Seeing pictures of myself with my children would be a treasure to behold. What I didn't expect as I prepared to hold up my side of the trade, was how nervous I would feel. Knowing that Sarah had never before been photographed by another professional certainly raised the bar for me. Knowing that she had ideas and a creative vision brewing in her head sent my own mind spinning - what if I don't even come close to what she had in mind?! I'll summarize by saying that the evening was filled with laughter, the most stunning light one could hope to have on a perfectly sunny autumn day, and Sarah made posing with her lovely family in front of my lens look as effortless and relaxed as when she is working behind the camera herself. Here is your sneak peek: thank you so very much for trusting me to make these memories for you and yours! See you in two weeks!

With the birth of my third child in March, boy number three, all under age four, my mantra shifted from "everything must be perfect, or else" to "Does that thing make life easier? I'll take three!" We went to the Grand Canyon, by train, so we wouldn't have to drive. We went camping this fall, in a cabin, so when it rained, and it did, we wouldn't all be miserable in a tent together. For Halloween, my husband came home with a big old grin on his face and three store bought Star Wars themed costumes. I knew my friends and family would never approve, but I leaped up and gave him a huge kiss for his efforts in making our lives easier. I'm all about making my life easier these days. Especially since the next two months are jam packed with parties, decorations, craft projects, and day trips.

Today I'm featuring a company that makes our lives easier in a big way - Shutterfly! Shutterfly lets me share my hundreds of family photos with everyone I know, for FREE! Shutterfly hosts my sister-in-law's private family website, for FREE! Shutterfly keeps all my uploaded pictures and never deletes them, even if I don't order prints from them. So last year when I spent 2 weeks photographing Christmas homes on Fort Huachuca, and uploaded them to share, and then lost all the originals when my hard drive crashed, I was able to order books and a CD wit all of those images on them to keep forever! That part wasn't free, but it was priceless!

Last year's Christmas card (shown below), designed by yours truly, took me way too many man hours to remember. And, it cost me almost $2.30 per card to print. My husband said "send an e-card" when I wondered out loud when I would find the time and energy to accomplish the growing card list for this year. As if! Christmas cards, the tangible, holdable kind, are what I look forward to. I love catching up with old friends and hearing about new babies and graduations, weddings, and big career moves. I simply can't wait to share a handful of my own photos and show off how much my boys have grown and changed since last year. In steps Shutterfly. I just visited their holiday card selection and was floored to find five whole pages of new designs that will accommodate from 1-6 of my favorite pictures. They will even print a photo inside the card AND a lengthy message so I wont have to hand write the same info in each of my 100+ cards!

What caught my eye? This card features the exact color scheme currently laid out on my bed for our upcoming photo shoot. Gasp! Yes, the professional photographer has made arrangements to be photographed by someone other than the self timer! We are having a camping themed shoot in two weeks, and this card would coordinate with our outfits perfectly! AND, I can order matching address labels! Sweet!

You're interested. No?! What if I told you that you could get 50 cards for FREE! Follow this link to learn how!

I've just finished up some images for this beauty's modeling portfolio and had to share this one. She is just so lovely, a beautiful person inside and out, and the patience of a saint. It will be a shame when Vogue finds her, I'll lose my best babysitter...

Two weeks ago I had a very interesting collection of house guests. John Chua, Canon Photographer and owner of Ad Photo in the Philippines, and his lovely wife were in my living room reuniting with my father-in-law after 35 years of working together in Manila. Joe Cantrell, another talented photographer doing groundbreaking fractal artwork out of Portland Oregon, was driving through town on his way from Oklahoma to Portland. Joe was also part of the good ol' days in Manila. He was giving an impromptu macro workshop on my dining table floral centerpiece. The weekend was full of incredible, New York Times Best Seller quality stories of wartime, love, loss, and the future of digital photography and advocacy work. I bustled like a worker bee between the kitchen, the kids, and the camera trying to keep up with everyone.

Keeping up with everyone, and feeling the need to impress and spoil my guests, I arranged for a local pilot to fly John, his wife, and myself over Cochise County at sunset to capture some desert panoramas. It was an awesome idea in theory. I did not account for extreme air sickness. I did not account for succumbing to altitude sickness either. After 2 hours at 10,000ft elevation in a Cessna 182 with the window wide open I was freezing, vomiting severely, blindly sticking my camera out the window, and feeling a distinct urge to sleep. That would be from lack of oxygen. It's taken me over a week to recover, including a side trip to the hospital for fluids and treatment for the AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). It was an experience I will never forget, and an experience I shall never repeat.

I do hope to find time to write more about this amazing weekend with these incredibly down to earth individuals who so lovingly encouraged me to continue my work and take on some new challenges. Until then I leave you with these captures (the changing quality of light amazes me- for being up there only two hours before sunset, the light changed the lay of the land so dramatically)...

I confess. Online I appear uber organized. But in real life I'm still wearing my pajamas at 2:42pm. There is no picture of all three boys in their Halloween costumes, together, because I haven't taken it yet. The Bundle's Ewok costume hasn't been unwrapped yet. It's November 2nd. Halloween came, our tiniest lad didn't sleep a wink all day long due to a cold and teething, so come 5:30pm as we are costume clad and ready to go out the door for some trick-or-treating, he was ready for bed. So to bed he went. He slept through the fun. But since I'm a mother of three, I let him sleep, because he really had no idea what he was missing. I can take the picture today, or tomorrow, or next week, and unless he reads my blog as a teenager, he will never know. But gosh, he was awake and adorable for his first trip to the pumpkin patch.

I'm happy to report that I am well again. I've been under the weather for the last week and have so many exciting happenings to blog. But for tonight I just want to post something fun, a family tradition we have where we put our newest addition inside their pumpkin! They NEVER like it at first, I have images of all three boys being lowered down inside and screaming like banshees. But they warm to the idea, they do a little teething, and I never grow tired of snapping away, capturing each unique glance.

And just for fun, because my mother loves to do this, I put them all side by side. From left to right: My first born in 2006, my middle blond baby in 2008, and to the right is The Bundle, born in March of this year.

My beautiful baby. He's 7 months old now, and though he sleeps quite well at home, the excitement of our camping adventure turned his little inner clock Topsy-turvey. Or maybe he just knows snuggling between mommy and daddy and warm flannel sheets, through the cool mountain air filled nights, is the best way to go. Either way, he had me up EARLY. And you can't have one baby awake in a two room cabin without quickly having a whole family awake. So off we went, camera in hand, on a partly cloudy morning at dawn. And His precious gift to me that day - was a sunrise like no other. Theses are SOOC images:

Over one hundred years ago, this family had the grand idea to plant Angle Orchard in the shadow of Mount Graham in South Eastern Arizona. After spending four days at Lake Roper State Park, watching the clouds hang over the mountain range, the rain coming and going over the foothills but hardly touching our cabin hideaway, it seems to be the best place in all of Arizona to plant fruit trees. It was completely by accident that we stumbled onto the orchard. The day was going to be hot and windless and we headed up the mountain for some cooler temps, a change in scenery, and a picnic. Not 30 minutes away from our campground we saw the tiny sign for Angle Orchard, leading us down a single track dirt road, deep into what I'd call.... a valley? a ravine? I'm not sure what to call it, let's call it "heaven for apples". The trees grew abundant everywhere. My only regrets of the day was that we arrived when the sun was high, not great for picture taking. And it doesn't take but ten minutes to fill a bucket of apples when you have two enthusiastic helpers and a baby strapped in the bjorn. I would have liked to linger among the trees, I could have stayed for an hour with the kittens in the barn. The host was quite gracious, letting the boys explore to discover the apple polishing machinery, the kittens hidden away in the loft, the tractors, and samples of all the apples they could pick. The golden delicious are my favorite from the day, so crisp and sweet, easily the best and freshest apple I've ever tasted. A lovely unexpected adventure, the best kind.

(Im toting my new Canon 5D Mark II, with the 24-70mm 2.8, and aside from sharpening for the web, these are straight out of the camera. Even the apple picture two down, I'm still trying to figure out what happened there...)

(Note: Clicking on the individual image to open in it's own window should provide a very clear image. For some reason unknown to me, my blog will sometimes pixelate images.)

I came home from tonight's shoot needing to watch an hour of 70's television... I think it was the hair, which is all the rage right now in Arizona. The neighborhood is fraught with long curly side swept dos that drive the mothers nuts. In steps Matthew, with an easy smile and the most playful blue eyes you've ever had the pleasure to gaze upon. I was so busy giggling over his antics, trying to coach him into a semi-serious "I'm leaving the nest and heading out on my own" look, it wasn't until I got home that I truly studied the curls. One thing was for sure tonight. The moment we started in on the bike, a relaxed, composed, confident Matthew took center stage. I've never seen him in action but any fool could tell he knows his stuff and feels good on his ride. My hope is that I managed to capture the joy, the fun, the charm of this young man, before he heads off to bigger, more challenging roads. My best wishes to you Matthew! Never stop laughing, it makes everyone around you melt!