Sunday, May 17, 2009

A New Addition

There has been a new addition to Sara Montgomery Photography. We have a new baby!.... a Mac...... I am so excited to say this beautiful 20 inch flat panel monitor and fancy pants G 5 tower will now be processing your fabulous images!!!

The story behind this fabulous new addition is even better than the computer itself. I went to Olympia on Mother's day weekend to spend some time with my family. I was completely SHOCKED to find out that my amazing family came together and surprised me with this computer as a gift.

I am still very humbled by this gift. I have been drooling over Macs for years. I am so excited to learn this new system... so excited to start some more advanced processing on my images and SO excited to dive into all of the features of this GREAT computer.

I really REALLY need to thank my family.

Thank you for being so generous, for seeing potential in me and my love for photography. Thank you for the role that each of you have played in my life over the years and the relationships that I have with each of you. I LOVE YOU ALL.

Monday, May 11, 2009

From Maternity to Mommy

When I was pregnant, I felt a bit insecure about my size and my huge tummy, and I would shy away from anyone who wanted to take a photograph of me. Today, when I think back about my pregnancies, I wish I had more photographs. More images to help bring my memories to surface. OK, so maybe I do not want to remember much of the first five months when I could barely survive the nausea, but I sure do wish I could feel the flutter of my little girls wiggling around in my tummy. If it was as I remember, Ava would lay around almost all day and move slowly with a few big rolls and somersaults every once in awhile. And Olivia... Olivia would be doing gymnastics all night long in there as if she was planning on winning a gold medal on the floor exercise.

I think this is one of the reasons I love doing maternity sessions. I do not want other mothers to miss out on capturing these moments. I want them to feel as beautiful as they look. A few years back, I worked as a nurse in the birthing center. It was an amazing experience for me. I loved helping parents and families through the experience of welcoming a new child into the world. I found myself near tears every time I heard the first breath of a newborn. Now, I love helping families preserve those first moments forever through photography. I am LUCKY!

A few months ago I had the chance to have a session just like this with a family of three getting ready to expect number 4.... a boy! After we took some great family images, just mom and I headed out to the beach for some great maternity portrait shots. We had a beautiful day in February, and we took advantage of it. This mom was such a trooper... even though it looks beautiful, it was still a bit chilly... thank goodness she had some extra hormones to help keep her a bit warmer!
There are so many great images from this maternity session, it was hard to pick out which ones to share. These however are a couple of my favorites. I love this one because I can see the excitement and curiosity on the face of soon to be big sister...I can see the quiet confidence in a daddy's smile...
... and the calm security of a mother's hand as she holds her tummy and new babe.
Not only was I blessed with the opportunity to have this maternity session, but just days after it was over, I was invited up to the hospital for a newborn session. It is always an honor to come shoot a newborn at the hospital, but this time was especially amazing. This family waited to introduce their new prince to his sister until I was there to take photos of the meeting!

Hospitals can provide some rather challenging situations for a portrait session, we are always somewhat limited with lighting and location, but every time I do one of these sessions, I realize how amazing they are. We always end up capturing once in a lifetime images. This time however, we had everything on our side... a brand new baby boy, a gorgeous family, and a beautiful city... When you look at these images, most of them you would never guess were at a hospital.

How much would you have given to have this be a view out of your hospital window! I was totally jealous! I am actually pretty surprised that I got this shot through a window!
I love this image of daddy with his new son.
It was so fun to watch everyone explore this new little guy.... look at his cute lips and the shape of his tiny knees, he is a complete miracle.I love the swirl on the top of a newborn's head....OK.... check out these big eyes. I love this little girl. She entertained me all day with her silly smiles, her unicorn, and the sweet kisses she gave her new brother.And last but not least... some family photos. I love these images. I love how dad is looking at his new son while mom is looking at her little girl as a "big girl" for the first time.
This next image I love for very similar reasons.... this time the momma and daughter are looking down at this beautiful new baby in awe while daddy is loving his girls.I wish you all the best as you begin your life as a family of four with this little guy. Enjoy the sleepless nights, the first smiles and giggles, the tiny toes and soft cheeks... Thank you for sharing this special time with me!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Living Life.....

Have you ever been to The Great Wolf Lodge? It is an amazing water park and hotel. The whole focus of this park is family and fun. Our family was fortunate enough to spend a night there a couple of weeks ago. We had a great time. Our girls were both too short for majority of the water slides, but we (as any good parent would) taught them the art of deception. They would stand as high as they could on their tippy toes and were able to make the height requirement for most of the water slides there.

We had a carefree weekend playing in the water, sleeping on bunk beds in the kid cabin, eating, using magic wands to find treasures, winning BINGO, swimming, playing in the wave pool.... did I mention playing in the water.... It was a great happy-go-lucky weekend of pure fun with the kids.

We checked out of our room, but then used a day pass to get as much use out of the park before we had to go home, we wore the kids out. Olivia could barely stand up when we went to the locker room to shower and dress for our ride home. It was a Monday, a pretty slow day, and we were the only people in the locker room (which I am always thankful for!), we took showers and were trying to pull our clothes over our damp skin without slipping on the wet floor when one other person came in to shower.

I did not even look up at the new addition to the locker room, I was busy trying to keep Olivia awake and tending to various bruises and scrapes that Ava had acquired while in the wave pool when I heard Olivia say, "Mommy, Why doesn't she have any hair?" Now, remember we are in an empty locker room, and if you know Olivia at all you know she has impressive, even though you could hear a whisper with no problem, Olivia's question echoed through the empty showers.

I quickly glanced up to find a young women not much older than myself getting ready to shower. She had one tuft of dark black hair right at the base of her skull. Even though she was in a swim suit, the evidence of multiple major surgeries were easily in view. I immediately thought of my dad. I thought of when he had cancer and of how I would feel when we would go places while he was receiving treatments. I can feel the stares of strangers and looks of pity from people we did not even know. I can hear the blowing of the Oxygen tank, I can see his bald head and his pale skin. I can hear strangers and friends alike desperately trying to find something to say to us to make themselves feel more comfortable, like "Oh... this weather sure has been crazy...." while they smiled awkwardly. Just like it was yesterday, I can hear people searching for conversation to try to avoid the giant elephant in the room.... CANCER.

When Olivia asked this question, I quickly realized that I would not make this beautiful woman feel the way we did when we went out on the town for some fun in the midst of torturous cancer treatments.

I looked at Olivia and said, "Honey, She is sick, I bet she has cancer." We all three looked up at this women. I could see her shoulders drop with relief and she immediately began pouring her story out to the three of us.

My carefree weekend of playing, swimming, splurging, laughing and love seemed a little selfish now as I heard her explain that when she was 34, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy and a complete hysterectomy as well as aggressive treatment to try to save her life for herself, her family, and her three young children. She continued saying, "I really thought I had beat it, and my family started to move on and then last fall... I am 37 now... I came down with a horrible headache. I immediately when to my doctor to see if there way anything wrong."

She stood in the locker room with her feet apart and her arms straight out to her sides. At our house if you do that action, it is followed up with, "I am thiiiiissssss big." But for her, she said the doctors told her to stand like that, close her eyes and see what happens. She said she did as they instructed and she immediately fell straight backwards. She was sent immediately for a scan and within an hour and a half, she was told the news. A brain tumor.

Not just one brain tumor, but three. The largest was over 5 cm big. Without pity, but with respect, I asked questions, I explained to my children a bit about cancer and reminded them about their Grandpa Rick.

Our new friend was not just diagnosed with three brain tumors, but three brain tumors and the word "Terminal". She said, "they have done everything they can for me and now I am terminal. I am here just having fun with my family." She looked down at Olivia and Ava and said, "the medicine my doctors gave me made my hair fall out, but my family took my real hair and had a wig made for me, isn't that great... I am not sure the chlorine would be very good for it, so I did not bring it to the pool."

We finished dressing, wished her luck and headed on our way home. We pushed open the heavy door of the locker room and went out to meet Zach. Back into the noisy pool where people were running, playing, laughing without a care in the world. The same way were were minutes before. Minutes before we met our new friend. I thought of our weekend in a whole new way now.

We drove home and I thought more and more about this beautiful woman. I thought about her family, I wondered how old those three kids were, how much time she has, when her next treatment might be... how glad I was that my children were able to meet someone like this. Someone like my dad who (even though he was sick) he lived... he did not live with cancer, but he lived life to the fullest, ever day that he had.

I am not sure how many times I have thought about my friend, but it has been daily. I did not ask the girls much more about our experience with her, I felt like it had been enough in the locker room, and honestly when they are three and five, I did not feel like I needed to define terminal to them. Especially when this woman was not living as if her days were numbered. That is not what she would want my girls, or anyone to remember her by.

This past Sunday at church, after communion, Ava asked if she could go light a candle for someone. There is a little table in the corner of the sanctuary where you can say a prayer, light a candle and then place it in some soft white sand to glow and burn for the remainder of the service. We knelt on the pad and she took a candle and lite it saying, "I want to pray for the lady at the water park."

Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched her place her candle, hop up and headed back to our seats. My heart was full with her prayer. When she got to her seat, she kicked the pew in front of us twice...oops...sorry to our neighbors, she picked up a pen and paper from the pew and prepared to doodle. From being in kindergarten, she is ready to write her name on top of every page, and she could tell this card wanted her to do the same. She asked what the card was for, and I told her it was a prayer request card.

Ava said, "I want to pray for the lady from the park." I simply asked her what she wanted to say, and she told me one word at a time so that I could help her spell it out. In her beautiful hand writing, with a few backwards "D's" and "S's" , she finished the sentence...I would like to pray for..............."my friend who lost her hair."

After the service, she walked right up to the pastor and turned in her card explaining who she was praying for. What a blessing this woman has been to me and to my children. I have been reminded about the importance of caring without pity, about listening and understanding, about fighting and determination, about appreciating mothers and family and LIFE.

I do not know this woman's name, but I do want to pray for her, pray for her family and pray for her life. I hope that this Mother's day, as you are hugging your mother, your sister, your wife, your friend, or your kids, you can say a special prayer for my friend. This amazing mother... who is living the remainder of her young life with her family and a smile on her face. She is living life, she is not living with cancer, she is not terminal, she is ALIVE. Alive in so many ways, and now alive in me and alive in my kids.

Happy Mother's Day to my dear friend.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Day In The Life of A One Year Old !

The first year of life... It goes by so quickly... I look at my kiddos now, they are 3 and 5, and I just try to remember how little they used to be. How their hair looked after sitting up from drinking a bottle... crawling army style on my belly to sneak out of their room after finally getting them to sleep, the way their heads fell backwards when they laughed...Time flies!!! I was able to relive some of my memories and helped another family capture their own memories a few weeks ago during a session for Miss Reilly who just turned one.

I have been fortunate enough to see Reilly three times during her first year. Her parents bought a "Watch Me Grow" package. This is a great package. It includes three full sessions for the first year of life... If any of you who have recently seen me for newborn sessions are interested in doing a couple more sessions during the first year, contact me and we can work you into this special!

I am sure you have not forgotten Miss Reilly... she was just a perfect newborn. I met her when she was just 7 days old. We got some of my favorite images to date from this little babe during this session. You will have to check out some of the images from our first session.***Reilly's Newborn Session***

The second session was when Reilly was six months old. A lot happens in 6 months. I loved her pudgy arms, her inquisitive looks and her laughter. Reilly's family and I had totally bonded by this session. Reilly and I even got to spend a little one on one time where I was able to capture this shot...To see some more images from the second session, click here...***Reilly at Six Months***

And now.... onto ONE YEAR! Can I just say, there is something I just love about seeing a one year old.... This session was one of my favorites ever... we truly were able to capture a day in the life of a one year old. I do not care who you are, if you have kids, your memories will be brought to the surface through these images. I know mine were.

Reilly still has her beautiful soft brown hair... her sweet little locks look adorable with her little pink bow. She was curious and familiar enough with me to sit on this great rocking chair with her mommy's baby blanket while we captured some great portraits of her.After these portraits, we just had a great afternoon letting Reilly be Reilly. I know that this family will never forget who Reilly was on her first birthday. They will never forget those piercing brown eyes and the way she tilts her head when she smiles...Reilly is already motoring around with great skill... what could be better than stairs to a one year old? How about Stairs with a wonderful window at the landing that is just the right height to gaze outside at daddy working in the yard.On to the cake! I was so excited when I got to Reilly's house to see that her mommy had a birthday cake. After we played a bit, visited with grandma, played with sister, and opened presents... we had cake!

When I first became interested in photography, I took an image of Olivia on her first Birthday. To this day, it is still one of my favorite shots of her.... so I was THRILLED to have the opportunity to capture images of Reilly with hers!She did not waste any time digging in... who would... it was a tasty looking cake. After making a complete mess of the high chair and kitchen, we moved on to.... the bathtub of course. Now, we all know there is no way I am going to miss out on some great tubbie shots... I have to say, these images by the tub are some of my favorites from the session.It was so much fun to see her get excited about the tub. I love the image of her watching in anticipation as the tub was filling for her. Then she went over to pick out some of her favorite tubby toys. Of course she selected my favorite, the classic yellow duckie and headed for the bath.

What was that I was saying earlier about her soft, sweet hair.... HA ! I love this shot of her towel tried hair after the bath. I just love her big brown eyes and how her hair sticks out in every direction!A clean kiddo with damp feet running on the kitchen floor in a diaper... can you hear her feet on the floor? Can you hear her hands on the glass slider as she tries to give her buddy a kiss?It is the simple things like wet foot prints, cake, bath time, and bows that we as parents just never want to forget. For Reilly and her family, I am so thrilled that we captured so much of her first year. You will have these memories forever. You will never forget those chubby thighs, the feel of her soft cheek, the shape of her lips and her dark lashes...........what a fabulous little girl you have. Thank you for sharing her first year with me!