Wednesday, June 3, 2015

End of Life Photography: Greg {Melissa Texas Hospice Photography}

I posted on Facebook last week about an upcoming birth I'm excited to be photographing for a client this Fall.  New life!  Capturing those moments?  It is beyond an honor.  During the last birth I photographed, I was moved to tears.

Such a tender moment!

I expect the tears will fall again this October.

The beginning of a life is truly beautiful - a scared moment.  The end - though oftentimes not as beautiful - is equally sacred.  These are moments that should be photographed as well.

Earlier this year I was honored to photograph such a moment for a very sweet family. 

With what she thought was merely weeks left for her adored step-dad to walk on this earth, Lauren contacted me and asked me if I could meet their family out at her mom and step-dad's house for one last family portrait session.

It was to be a celebration of a life lived well - one that was coming to an end sooner than expected.  We acknowledged the pain and loss that comes with having to say good-bye and celebrated the special time left to hold on to the loving relationships that had forged deeply over the course of a lifetime.

Nothing formal.

Nothing posed.

Just one small family being open and honest with their love for one another - and taking the time to express that love in a deep and profound way.

And, again, I found myself moved to tears...

{Watch the VIDEO here}

I had worked with Lauren and Richie before.  They traveled 2 hours for a creative portrait session with me a while back.  When we first met, I was immediately drawn to their friendly, down-to-earth and upbeat personalities.  As I got to know Lauren better through Facebook, I came to adore her quirky sense of humor and positive, up-beat outlook on life.  I had seen pictures of their cuter-than-cute daughter and was excited to finally be meeting her.

While I knew it would be great seeing them again, I wasn't prepared for what I was about to learn from them - lessons that I would take with me just one month later as my own mother-in-law was put on hospice.

Lauren, Richie and Corrine live 2 hours from her mother and step-father.  Yet every weekend they would make the drive to spend time with her step-dad who was dying from cancer - soaking up every ounce of precious time left with him that they could.  Both she and her husband work full time jobs.  That didn't matter!  They put aside their need for rest and relaxation, dropped everything and made that drive every single weekend.

Every.  Single.  Weekend.

To love on Lauren's mom - who was her step-dad's primary care-giver - and give her much needed respite from the long weeks of caring for her sweet-heart.

To fellowship with the man who had raised her as his own and poured his heart into her life - helping to make her the woman she is today.

To be together.

Lauren, Richie, and Corrine understood what is important in life.  They put their needs and desires aside and were completely selfless in how they loved on Lauren's mom and step-dad during those long last months.

And, I was honored to witness and photograph that love.

What an amazing gift!

And why wouldn't they show this kind of love?  They had the perfect examples.  For years they have been privileged to watch Lauren's mother, Beth, model this selfless love in how she cared for her husband throughout his various illnesses.  He was the love of her life.  Her soul mate.  And her actions proved that it was true!

And though he faced countless physical limitations, he faithfully loved on Lauren and gave her a fun-filled childhood. He was a rock she could count on.

How precious it was to listen to Lauren relive her childhood memories of her life on the ranch with her parents.

I have no doubt that Lauren and Richie were able to give so freely of themselves because of this love they had received and witnessed themselves over the years.  So, for months, they dropped their weekend plans, hopped in their car and drove for two hours to do whatever they could to bring joy into Beth and Greg's life. 

Was it hard?


Was it exhausting?


Was it rewarding?

Beyond what you could imagine.

How do I know?

Because I lived it too.  I, too, have cared for someone in their last, dying days.

The last entry on this blog is of Lauren and Richie's sweet Corrine.  In addition to our special session with Lauren's step-dad, we took a few moments to celebrate Corrine's big birthday.  If you notice, that was posted nearly 7 months ago.

I haven't blogged since then for a very good reason.

I, too, was called to care for a dying loved one.  My husband's mother had been suffering from Atypical Parkinson Disease for close to two years.  We moved her into an assisted living home - just two months before my session with Lauren and Richie's family.  By January, Steve's mom was bed-ridden.  The progression of her illness was so quick and so severe.  It was absolutely devastating.

For the last 40 days of her life, we loved on her and cared for her - much the same as Lauren and Richie and Beth had been doing for Greg for many months prior.

Watching my mother-in-law's physical body fade away was one of the most difficult experiences I have ever had to go through. And, I know this is true for Lauren, Richie, and Beth as well.

It's so very difficult to let go!  As the video from this session posted below will show.

I'm so very grateful I was able to witness the love and compassion Lauren and Richie had for Beth and Greg.  To see the sacrifices they were making on their behalf motivated me to want to serve my own mother-in-law with greater love and selflessness.

I adored this family before.  But, now, they will always have a very, very special place in my heart.  I'm so very blessed to have witnessed their love before I had to go through it myself.

Because it is hard!

It is beyond imaginable to sit by someone's bed side knowing there is nothing you can do to keep them from slipping away.

It is heartbreaking.

I'm so thankful, Greg had his family surrounding him during those times.  What an honor to witness their love.

So touching!

If you have a loved one who is in their last days, consider end-of-life photography as a living heritage you can leave for generations to come.

The video posted above is in honor of Greg and all the care givers out there who love and care for the dying.

May the dying find eternal rest.

And, may those left behind find comfort and peace in knowing that they have been loved well by their loved ones and that they in turn have loved their loved ones well.

Many Blessings,


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Corrine is Two! {Melissa, TX Photographer}{DFW Photographer}

Terrible Twos?  I don't buy it.  I never have!

Oh, I know this age has it's struggles as we seek to mold and shape a little one's feverishly emerging personality and will.  But, overall, two year olds are ever full of joy, playfulness and wonder.  They grab life by the horns and enjoy the ride for all it has to offer.

Corrine is a perfect example.

She just recently celebrated her second birthday.  Happy Birthday, a couple days late, sweet girl!  And, in my opinion, she's flesh and blood proof that the twos are most definitely NOT terrible.  They are incredibly and undoubtedly TERRIFIC!

They absolutely are!

Spending time getting to know Corrine and scrolling through these images from her session was a wonderful little walk down memory lane.  My husband and I have raised two children who have both made it beautifully (and graciously unscathed) past their twos.  One boy - now 10.  One girl - now 8.

We are beyond blessed!

Before I share Corrine's pictures, I couldn't resist posting a couple images of our Stephen and Alden from when they were both two.

Stephen is still focused, determined and inquisitive.  Alden is still full of smiles and lovely silliness.

Spending time with Corrine was a great reminder of the wonder, the joy, the happiness, and the all-around AMAZING that is the twos!


When did my children get so big?

I LOVED this age when my children were younger.  And, every time I photograph a small child my heart aches a little knowing that these days are long, long gone for our little family.

...until grandchildren enter the picture some day - Lord willing!

The twos are WONDERFUL!

It's the age when their little personalities really start shining through.  They are curious about everything. You start to see little glimpses of the little adults they will some day grow to be.  They are learning to be independent.  They are FULL of life - and generally love everything about it.

If we look past the power struggles and learn to see them for what they truly are (our children coming into their own), then as parents we can start enjoying the ride more and more.  If you are struggling with the twos, I encourage you to let it go and choose to focus on the wonder of it all.  It will be over before you know it.  Daily, these little two year old wonders give us a little push toward joy and happiness - if we let them - something we desperately need as the demands of adulthood threaten to suck the life and joy out of us.

I choose joy!

I choose to embrace more of what overflows naturally in almost every two year old I know.







. . . the list goes on.

Go ahead.  Take a look at these images of sweet Corrine.  Tell me you're not smiling from ear to ear by the end of this post.  Tell me you don't want to play.  Tell me you don't want to laugh.  Tell me you don't want to hunt for that long lost childhood stuffed pal of yours.

That, my friends, is the power of TWO.  The power to turn your frown upside down and reignite your passion and joy for life.


It may just be my new favorite number!

Isn't she a DOLL!!!!!

If that doesn't make you a believer, then I don't know what will!

. . . . . . . . .

There were lots of fun pictures with mommy and daddy and grandma and grandpa that day.  Those will have to wait until after Christmas cards are sent out.

Some things are worth waiting for!

. . . . . . . . .

Thanks for visiting my blog!  If you have not yet liked our page on Facebook, I'd be so grateful if you took the time to do so HERE.  And feel free to leave some birthday wishes for Corrine below.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Dallas Arboretum As Seen Through My 100 mm Macro Lens {Dallas Arboretum Photography}{Dallas Landscape Photographer}

I've taken a rest from blogging as of late.

Have you noticed?

Business has been great!  But, between being a wife and a mother to two beautiful, active, and busy children, there has been little time left to blog all my client sessions.  Keeping up with Facebook is a job in and of itself.  I've made a conscious decision to leave more time for my family this year, and blogging every single client session has simply not made the cut.

And, I am happier for it.

And, my family is as well.

Speaking of happiness...

In the craziness of running a business (and a family), I've found that it is absolutely essential to take time out to invest in Tammy.  After all, we can nurture our business, we can love on our husbands, and we can care for our children, but if we neglect ourselves...everything else suffers.


I spend time with my friends.

I watch my favorite television shows.

I take walks with some pretty terrific neighbors.

I host a Bible study in my home.

And...I pursue my love of photography JUST FOR ME!

Last week was one of those days where I invested in myself.   My parents were in town and we had decided to take a day to explore The Dallas Arboretum.  I packed my camera that morning with the sole purpose of shooting for personal enjoyment.  I had no intention to please a client, to make a sale, or to promote myself or my abilities.

I grabbed my camera FOR ME.

As a creative person, I have this inner drive to express myself and to illustrate the beauty I see around me.

So, I planned on stopping at whatever caught my eye and taking as long as I needed to take to capture it in a way that was pleasing to me.

Was I worried my parents would get bored of my frequent pit-stops?

A little.

But, I tucked that worry away and decided JUST TO PLAY!

As I downloaded the pictures later that day, I smiled from ear to ear.  I'm not a painter (or at least I don't think I am), but I felt like one as I viewed my screen and saw my imagery come to life.

And I was energized and renewed in my spirit.

I gave myself a little challenge that day.  I headed out to the Dallas Arboretum WITH ONLY ONE LENS!  A Canon 100 mm Macro lens.  No wide angle.  No zoom.  Just one fixed length lens.  And, though we were visiting in the middle of the annual pumpkin patch extravaganza, I vowed to focus mainly on the other elements of Fall at the Arboretum.

It turns out THERE IS MORE THAN PUMPKINS at the Arboretum this fall after all.

Take a look!

My dad (a photographer enthusiast) and I loved taking shots of these water droplets.  When I showed them to my daughter later that night, she was delighted. "Oooh!!! They are like little sparkling diamonds!" (said in her most dramatic and exhilarated little girl voice)

And they are!!!

Of course, there were plenty of traditional Fall scenes to capture.  You want pumpkins, scarecrows, and gourds?  

Here you are!!!

Did you notice something in those last two images?

What pumpkin did I choose to photograph?

The uniquely colored one.

The oddly textured one.

These are the things that capture my eye...

I love what a day with my camera teaches me about myself!!!

It thrills me to think what a day with your camera would teach you about yourself!

Here are a few other scenes from the Pumpkin patch...

If you look closely, you'll notice that I only took ONE PICTURE with a human in the frame.


Here's my revelation on that:  When life is hectic and you are trying to slow down, when your day to day centers around serving and being with others, and when even watching television without the interruption of little (and big) voices chiming in seems impossible...

Sometimes you just need peace and quiet.  

I think leaving people out of my images was a way for me to embrace solitude.  Though I was surrounded by thousands of people, I was quiet in my spirit and enjoying the peace that came with it.

But, just in case you think I've lost my passion for people photography.


I did squeeze in several lovely portraits of my parents that day.  But, you'll have to wait to see those.  In my not so humble opinion, my parents are pretty special!  And, they deserve a post all their own!

(Funny aside...)

As we headed out the door, it didn't surprise me one bit that my parents were conveniently color coordinated.  After all, it has become a tradition.  Each time they visit and we head out to the Arboretum, I create a few portraits for them.  They know me so well.  It tickles me that they were prepared!    

(One last aside...Can I just say how fun it has been to blog again!  I missed it!)

So, how did my photographic experiment pan out?  What did I learn in my adventure at the Arboretum?  Was a day away from the busyness of life worth the investment in time away from it all?


In addition to unwinding and de-stressing and spending a lovely day with my parents, I learned a lot through my little photography experiment.  Here are a just a few lessons I learned (or re-learned):

It is possible to unwind doing something you love.

It is possible to create beautiful imagery with just one lens.

If you are patient, you can create beautiful art - wherever you are - even with thousands of people sprinkled around you in a widely popular public garden at their busiest time of year.

You can compose a shot, see it through your lens, and decide it's not as good as you thought it was going to be.  It's okay to NOT click the shutter.  Let's be honest.  Sometimes what you envisioned in your mind isn't quite what you see through your lens.  There's no law that says you have to take every picture.  Be selective in how many times you click the shutter.  It's perfectly acceptable to walk away from a shot!  What do you think film photographers had to do years ago?  They didn't have the finances to support taking every single picture they saw with their creative minds.  Learn from them and learn how to be selective in the art you choose to create.  I would say I chose to NOT click the shutter at least 1/4 of the time during my time at the Arboretum.

I tend to see the world close up - macro style.  Time and time again, while composing a shot at the Arboretum I realized that I was overlooking the larger scene to zero in on all the tiny details.  Take a look for yourself.  Revisit this gallery I just posted.  How many large scale scenes do you see there?  How many wide-angle vistas?  Not many.  Part of this is due to the lens choice of the day.  But, mostly it is due to my personal style.  I'm a detail gal.  I'm zoomed-in and zeroed-in on everything going on around me.

That shows up in my photographic style.

No wonder my favorite lenses are my 70-200 and my 100 macro!

What about you?  Are you wanting to zero in on your personal style?  

I challenge you to do a similar photo excursion yourself.  Click away all day.  Be sure to click the shutter for only those scenes that speak to your heart - that move you.  At the end of the day as you sift through your images, you'll discover what it is you are drawn to.  If you pay close attention, you'll discover incredible things about your personality as well.  

For me, I've come to realize that this zoomed-in approach I have photographically spills over to other areas of my life as well.  It's who I am.  I notice the details.  I see beauty in unexpected places.  I WILL find the typo in every book - if it exists.  I notice people (and things) who may otherwise go unseen.  I see the story within a story.  I see paint splattered on the sidewalk as a work of art.

It all makes for a very intense personality (or, so I've been told).  But, it is who I am.  It is who I was created to be, and I embrace it wholeheartedly.

It's eye-opening - what photography will teach you about yourself.


How about you?

Aren't you just a little curious to find out what your photographic bents can teach you about yourself?

Ask yourself these questions:

When I step out with my camera and lens in hand, what do I focus on?  

What do I see?  

Am I drawn to people, pets, stories, or landscapes?  

What lights a fire in that creative heart of mine?  

I'd love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below.  Let's talk about it.

Happy Fall, Y'All!!!!


p.s.  I'm obliged to say Y'all.  I've been a Texan since 1997, after all!!!