Just over a month ago my dear friend, Allison Warmuth, was killed in an accident in Boston. When I first began to grieve for her, ‘Allie-Memories’ flooded over me. I found that random things would trigger the recall of a once forgotten memory. And those were painful, but somehow soothing as well.
When I wrote a blog post in her honor, sharing my heart, I kept wondering – did she know? Did she know how much we cared about her? How much she touched us? Impacted our lives? The doubt swirled around in my mind… I must’ve at least told her how I attribute the fact that I ever dated my husband to her match-making…. Didn’t I?
In my weary search for some sort of elusive closure it dawned on me to read through our old Facebook messages. That’s where I found it. Sweet truth amid the pain. And that’s when an idea was formed- and it settled into my heart. A simple little idea- for Allie.
I could never tell all the people in my life ALL that they have meant to me. I am overwhelmingly blessed. But I could tell one. One person. Some of what I adore, what I cherish, or how they changed me.
For the next year I’d like to shine a light on someone each month who I am so grateful for, but who may not even know the extent of it. I’d like to call it #ForYouForAllie. In no specific order, just whoever “God sticks … in my mind”.
I’d be honored if you, whoever you are, would share a quick memory, or a ‘thank you’, or whatever you feel is right, with someone God has placed on your heart #ForYouForAllie.
At the end of each post I would like to share a memory of Allie, however elaborate or simple, because - trust me- she is stuck in my mind <3
I have always enjoyed working with kids- but Catherine made me yearn to be a teacher. She pushed me so far (but so lovingly!) out of my comfort-zone that I’d sometimes feel nauseous. When I was content to standby as an assistant she handed me a blank lesson plan and told me I was teaching once a week. She poured over those lesson plans- challenging me, adding scripture, and somehow always seeing the good.
Her passion for Children’s Ministry is something I have seldom seen rivaled. To teach children The Truth, in an amazingly FUN way- I didn’t even know it could LOOK like that! Catherine would write catchy songs, dress up in costumes, play games, and be silly- all as she shared the Gospel. She’s emphasized the importance of memorizing scripture in an exciting, encouraging way. I still have our weekly verses stored in my heart.
Her humble, beautiful, friendly personality won us all over – and her God-given gift of teaching sparked a passion in me that has never gone out.
I remember Catherine sharing a story about how she was babysitting one day and the baby was uncomfortable and wouldn’t settle. So she prayed. And sang hymns. (I’m pretty sure it was for hours.) And this may sound silly but it was the first time I had ever heard of someone comforting a baby this way. Now twelve years later, when my own sweet babies won’t settle and I pray over them or sing hymns about their Father to them, I think of Catherine. Every. Single. Time.
Catherine is like a life-camp-counselor. She could even make cleaning fun. Every day we would bounce out of bed eager to see what she had in store for us. Sometimes it was simple, other times elaborate, but it was always wonderful. From running in formation while shouting cadences that ‘We are soldiers of the Lord!’ (We were preparing for our ‘Lord’s Army’ theme), to helping me troubleshoot how best to reenact God using Elijah to call down fire (sparklers- if you’re wondering ;), it was some of the fondest memories of my life. I often joke that I have never been so poorly paid, but so thoroughly JOYFUL, as I was my summers on CE.
One of my clearest memories of working at camp is Catherine having us sing “Now Unto the King Eternal” in a round. It spoke to my heart and I find myself frequently humming that hymn to this day despite having never heard it sung again.
Catherine saw the hand of God in every situation we encountered. When she had to have her heart monitored she told us how neat it was that our theme was all about Jeremiah 17: 9 – and now she had the perfect analogy for a ‘sick heart’.
She is doing great work for eternity. She always has been.
My son constantly listens to her CD, Word on the Street- this editions is teaching kiddos about the book of Ephesians. And I am always refreshed by her honesty, humility, and encouragement each and every time her face pops up in my newsfeed.
Catherine, I am grateful beyond words that you were placed in my path. The Lord has used you to shape key parts of who I am as a person, and often, as a mama, and I am eternally grateful for that. I love you, sweet friend, and I hope our paths will cross this side of heaven <3
My memory of Allie is actually tied into Catherine. You see, Catherine had all the Christian Education workers walk around with a blank piece of paper taped to our backs so we could anonymously encourage one another. It was a favorite camp-tradition of mine. I displayed my completed paper in my classroom but upon walking in the next morning I noticed one more sweet note had somehow been snuck in during the night. It read:
“Hey Sweetie! I think you’re great! You make me laugh, and you are so beautiful. These kids are so lucky to have you. <3 Allie”
There are perks to your aunt being a photographer- as (hopefully!) evident in the upcoming photos - which are simply oozing with my niece's cuteness, if I may say so myself! <3
But it also sometimes means that your 6 month session occurs much closer to your 9 month milestone than your 6. But, sweet Hayley, these were worth the wait!! I just adore your smiley, silly personality and truly ADORE photographing you, beauty girl!
I'm so glad you're my niece- I love ya so! <3
When I purchased my first ‘nice camera’ I had two goals in mind:
Initially, I was thrilled with my camera and everything it was producing. Then I began looking at my images with a critical eye- instead of my gushy, emotional, mom-goggles (hey, those are okay sometimes, too!) And I realized I was not where I wanted to be and I had no idea who to ask to get there!
So, if this is you, or you’re just considering purchasing your first DSLR, here is some insight that I wish I had when I first started out.
First off, the thing I wish I knew was that purchasing a nice camera doesn’t automatically mean you will get the results you envision. (Breathe in, breathe out- you’ll get there!) Further, this is actually a GREAT thing- your camera can do more than you imagine- you just have to learn how to ‘tune’ its settings.
How to Beat those Fuzzy Images
On the top of your camera you will see a dial. It’s most likely set to ‘Auto Mode’ which for Canon users is a green rectangle and for Nikon users literally says ‘Auto’. This means you are letting the camera do all the decision making and it is making its best guess at what you want it to do every time you click. If you rotate the dial to ‘TV’ on a Canon or ‘S’ on a Nikon it changes into Shutter Priority Mode. You are still letting the camera do much of the guess work but now you control the shutter speed- basically how FAST you want the camera to take a picture.
Every camera is a little different but on the right side of your camera you will have another dial that will change the number of your speed. If you have active kiddos, rambunctious furbabies, or a squirmy new babe this is the easiest way to ensure that they are in focus.
I typically keep my shutter around 200 for images of my kiddos and my clients. (That number is really 1/200, meaning it is capturing the image in one two-hundredth of a second).
Getting that Beautiful Blur
This is achieved based on your Aperture. (Don’t be afraid, it’s not as scary as it sounds ;). So you know how we repositioned our dials? Now set it to Av (Canon) or A (Nikon). Now the camera is letting you adjust your depth of field (Layman’s terms? How ‘blurry’ your background is) while guessing your shutter speed once again. Please note, your images may be out of focus in this mode if you’re shooting a moving model so I suggest practicing on a person (or object) that will stay put for you. The lower you set your aperture the more bokeh (blur) you will create. There’s a happy medium here because you run the risk of losing the crispness of your subjects if you shoot too wide open. Practice, practice, practice!
Also, I highly recommend using a prime lens (non-zoom lens). I personally find them much crisper and you can purchase a 50mm 1.8 for under $100. That was my first prime and it was perfect for starting out!
Now you may be asking, what if I want the beautiful bokeh AND control of my shutter speed? Well, then my friend, you want to switch your dial over to M (Manual) where you will be setting everything up yourself! (You can still leave your ISO on auto to start).
Adjusting + Editing Images
I cannot recommend Lightroom enough for beginning your editing journey. If your exposure, white balance, crop, etc is off you can easily adjust for it. It is a lot more user-friendly than jumping straight in to Photoshop and can handle a multitude of basic edits. You can actually ‘rent’ Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe for $10 a month. They usually offer a free trial month if you’d like to play around first.
A SAFETY PLEA
In a digital age, it’s easy to see images through Pinterest or social media of adorable babies in creative set-ups and think ‘I can do that myself’. (Especially if you’ve just been gifted a camera to take photos of your precious new baby).
Unless you have really researched the safety measures put in place, PLEASE do not try to recreate it on your own. In many, many instances the image is actually a composite (two or more images combined in Photoshop to appear as one image) and that newborn is not actually dangling from a tree limb, left alone on a high object, holding his head up alone in the ‘froggy pose’, etc.
There absolutely ARE adorable set-ups you CAN safely do at home but PLEASE research the difference.
Give yourself GRACE
I myself am forever learning how to improve my photography. As my mother’s favorite poem warns:
“If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
A humbling yet encouraging reminder, don’t you think? Give yourself grace. Even the most acclaimed photographer would not excel at absolutely every area of photography and editing. There’s always something to learn :)
Even being a photographer I still enlist the skills of others to capture our family’s portraits. It’s just too much to coordinate everyone, keep my kiddos attention, get them to look at the camera, keep them happy, all while still looking semi-sane in the photograph as well. Swap with a friend, hire a professional- just GET IN THE PICTURE! Because you were there, too- and your loved ones want to remember it!
Along with giving yourself grace, I want to include- don’t put pressure on yourself to capture EVERYTHING. You will burn out!
Yes, document the beautiful life you’ve been blessed with- but also remember to LIVE it ;)
Behind the Lens:
Jessi lives near Rochester, NY with her handsome hubby and their two 'Lovebugs'.