Friday, December 26, 2008

Brazil Mission Trip 2009

I am super-excited about photography for the upcoming year! One reason I am excited is that I have the opportunity to return to Rio Branco, Brazil with my church for a mission trip through a great organization called Christian Missions Unlimited (CMU). This will be my fourth time to Brazil with this wonderful organization, and my third time back to the city of Rio Branco. Our mission while in Brazil to build a physical church building for a congregation that is meeting either in each other's homes or in outdoor pavillions, but who do not have the resources themselves to build a physical church in which to fellowship. During the few days we are physically building the church with bricks and masa (cement), we are able to form special relationships with the adults and children in the area. Words can't express how blessed you are by a experience like this... Every time I go, it feels like I've been able to take away so much more than I can physically and spiritually give. The people we meet are generally very poor materially, yet they have so much to offer to those they come in contact with.

The church we built in 2005, Igreja Batista Morada do Sol.
Click here to see a link to a YouTube video from a special service there.
God has blessed me with some very special relationships with Brazilian friends, and they are people who I will never forget. I was so impacted after my first time to Brazil that I came home and immediately started taking Portuguese lessons (the native language of Brazil) so that I could communicate more effectively with the people of Brazil my next time around... Being able to speak the language actually impacted me more than I knew it could. One of the special people I met in Brazil in 2005 was a 12-year-old named Junior. We bonded pretty instantly and he lived close enough to the church we were building that I was able to go to his house and meet his family and his beloved poodle, Leon. Since he was one of my favorite new people, I took a lot of pictures of him during our short time together. We continued to write each other letters during the 11 months before I was able to return again in 2006.

Four weeks prior to my return to Rio Branco in 2006, I received word from another Brazilian friend via the internet that Junior had been in an accident. He was riding his bicycle one day and was hit by a car and had severe head trauma. A few days later, I found out that Junior had passed away from his injuries. I was heartbroken. Prior to his accident, I was looking forward to being able to see him again and to give him a hug and to give him some new presents from the United States. Instead, I was blessed enough to be able to see his family again and surprise his mother at her house. I explained to her that I could speak and understand Portuguese now, and she immediately started sobbing and going into details about what had happened. Even though I couldn't fully understand everything she said, it was obvious that she was hurting and was in a deep state of grief. I gave her a gift while I was there--a photo album of the pictures I had taken of Junior. As her eyes filled with tears once again, she went to another room and returned with a white envelope. She explained that she found the envelope, which contained a letter and some gifts that Junior had intended to send me but had never mailed. As I walked back to meet up with our group again, I was amazed at how God was able to use such a little guy to make an impact in my life. Every year now when I return to Brazil, I am thinking of my buddy, Junior... and knowing that those of us who are going to Brazil with CMU have the same opportunity to impact someone else's life... for the better... for helping them understand through our words and actions that there is a God who loves them and can give them peace and hope and fill them with a joy that they may not yet be able to comprehend.

*Just a second while I dry my eyes...* Okay.. Now onto what I am so excited about. I have been blessed by friends and family in the past for helping support me financially for the mission efforts I have been on. I am excited to say that the first $2600 I make from my photography in 2009 will pay for my entire mission trip to Brazil this year. I am excited about it simply because I'll be using the talents that God has given me to be able to give back to Him in this way... and that thrills me more than I can explain! So if you know of anyone needing some pictures that wants to donate to a good cause, send them my way!

Here are just a few of my favorite photos from my past mission trips to Rio Branco and Fortaleza, Brazil during 2005, 2006, and 2007.

One of my favorite pictures of me and this adorable little boy...

My good friend, Daniel, and me at the dedication service...

2009 Rates

I have updated my rates effective as of January 1, 2009. I am increasing my rates due to experience and to cover expenses for some additional equipment. Please contact me if you need an updated price sheet or fact sheet.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Make-A-Wish Foundation Christmas Party 2008

I took some photos for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri's annual Christmas Party last week. The afternoon was full of holiday crafts, cookie-decorating, magic balloons, games, pizza, and of course... Santa and Mrs. Claus with their bags of goodies! The kids are able to get together and have fun at this party, and it's a blessing for the staff and volunteers to be able to interact with the wish kids and their families. Here are some pictures from the party. Click on the logo below to see more photos that were posted on the foundation's web site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wadley Family

I had the pleasure of taking family photos of Santa Claus and  his family.. I mean.. well, he kind of looks like Santa, but instead of a sleigh, he has a canoe... Meet the Wadley (and extended) family. They were a ton of fun! Grandpa sure was a firecracker and had quite the personality. Amber did some interpretive dancing to Swan Lake, and we even dragged out the canoe for a fun picture on the lawn. Gotta love spontanaeity! I think you can tell from the photos how much fun this family has together...

Year-End 2008

As 2008 is coming to an end, it's been awesome to look back and see how everything photography-wise has come together for me this year...

It all started in July, when I did some engagement pictures for Charles and Alice... I had done sessions for people before, but not on a consistent basis...

Shortly after that, I kept getting contacted to do other engagement and family pictures... so I decided to start my ImagesByJen blog in October and also continued to post sessions on my Facebook page.. and the rest is history. Up to this point, I've had 1,092 unique page hits to my blog, with 373 being first-time visitors and 155 returning guests.

I've tallied up my photo sessions through the end of the year, and here are my final results (July-December):
10 families, 9 Engagement/Couple shoots, 5 portraits, 3 events, and a partridge in a pear tree (not really)... for a total of 27 sessions.

Somebody asked me recently what I was most excited about for 2009... and I have to admit, the thing I'm looking forward to the most is a new year in photography! For getting my own MacBook, getting some business cards printed, learning to do more editing techniques in Photoshop... I'm excited for warmer weather, new shoot locations, and just plain getting more experience behind the camera. I'm excited to see what doors God is going to open for me in 2009.. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Schwartze Family Pix

I used to work with Vikki at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Missouri, and I miss her dearly! I was excited when she asked me to do some Schwartze family pictures for Christmas cards. She likes the urban look for pictures, so we headed out on a very chilly, breezy morning to grab some shots downtown. We had races to see who could be the first one back to the warm van. I did ask Carl, a police officer, for some advice about No Trespassing signs, since I usually see a lot of them when I'm taking pictures (*teehee*) Thanks to him, I can now successfully avoid being thrown in the slammer (and if I'm not that lucky, I know who to call)...

See more pictures here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas at My House

I love to decorate--especially at Christmas! There are so many beautiful, sparkly things to see, and I love the soft glow of white Christmas lights... Here are a few photos from my house decorations this year. I hope they inspire you to try a few new things this year...

Prop a full-length mirror behind your themed setting for an added effect.. 
and don't forget to find a way to incorporate some lights for a soft glow...

This is a super-cheap idea... Just fill a decorative bowl or wineglass with ornaments of all kinds, stick in a flower if you want, and set them on top of some Christmas lights to illuminate them...

Got an old mirror laying around? Put a bow on it! 

More pictures and decorating ideas coming soon!

To-Do List

Ok. I knew this was going to be a crazy month, but I'm already behind... So many Christmas parties to attend and things to do! I'm a list-maker, so here's my to-do list for this week:

1. Change the header on my blog for a more Winter-y feel... (Crossed that one off!)
2. Edit Stephanie and Zach's engagement pictures... (Got 'r Done)
3. Edit Michael and Emily's "engagement" pictures (they've been married for awhile, but didn't initially get any pictures taken)... (yup.)
4. Pay some bills on my photo equipment and insurance before the end of the year for tax purposes... (Did that..yuck!)
5. Win the lottery... (waiting... waiting...)
6. Post some pictures of the Christmas decorations at my house... (Yup. Did that.)
7. Make my Christmas cards for this year... (Yeah.. so they might end up being Happy New Year cards...)
8. Burn a CD of the pictures I took at the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Christmas party... (checkity check)
9. Practice my Christmas music on the piano... (check.)
10. Take some stuff to Goodwill before the end of the year...
11. Cross my fingers that the laptop I want goes on sale after Christmas... (still hopin')
12. Scout locations downtown for Saturday's family pix... (yeppers.)
13. Put the final coat of paint on my hallway before next Wednesday... (not gonna happen!)
14. Eat, sleep, and be merry.

Whew! Wish me luck on getting all that done! (especially #5!)

Come back soon, as I'll have new pictures to post!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Four Things...

Four things I did today…

1. Ate a 25 cent bowl of Ramen Noodle Soup. yumm.
2. Tripped over my Christmas decorations that are strewn all over my living room. Squished a Christmas light.
3. Provided the most efficient and fabulous customer service any insurance provider could possibly give. *wink*
4. Laughed out loud at the Christmas movie Elf. It's my favorite. No wait... Smiling's my favorite. :)

Four things on my to do list…

1. Jump out of a perfectly-functioning plane. I think it sounds fabulous! Wanna join me?
2. Go to Hawaii and takes lots of pictures (after I win the lottery.. Hawaii's expensive!)
3. Buy a MacBook Pro. Soon. Very soon. I can feel it.
4. Pay off my student loans from college. 5 months to go!

Four of my guiltiest pleasures…

1. Diet Pepsi (which recently replaced Mountain Dew)
2. Sparkly things including: lArgE rinGs, jeWelrY, ornaMentS, gLaSs, diamonDs....
3. Spending hours looking at photo blogs on the internet. Gives me ideas. Makes me want to learn more.
4. Photo shoots. Editing. Posting pictures. Seeing smiles.

Four random facts about me…

1. I play the piano. Classical, jazz, gospel, etc. 10 years of lessons, baby!
2. I can write and speak and sing in fluent Portuguese. If you ever want to go on vacation to Brazil, I'll be your translator! Voce tem um abacaxi na sua cabeca!
3. I'm tall. (5'11"ish) And I love to wear heels. (which puts me over 6 feet!)
4. I have golden sunflowers around the pupils of my hazel eyes. I didn't know this until my optician told me. I like it.

There you go. Several useless factoids you now have the pleasure of knowing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

2 Month Blog Birthday

The numbers are in again, and it looks like November was a successful month for my blog. I had 345 visitors in October and 553 in November, for a total of 898 altogether! Not too shabby for a newbie blog! It's fun seeing the numbers come together... It looks like I've got some great returning guests... Keep coming back!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


So November was pretty busy for me as people have been wanting to take advantage of the good weather and get some pictures for Christmas cards. Obviously, the winter months are going to slow down a bit for me, since I do most of my photography outside. I'm excited to be able to use the extra time I'll have to learn some new editing skills in Photoshop. Hopefully, you'll see some nice results soon.

Please note that I'll be increasing rates starting January 1. If you're wanting to lock my current rates, please contact me to set a date.

I'm looking forward to the new year. It looks like a new Macbook Pro will be in my future in the next month or so... and I'll be getting some business cards printed up shortly after.

Thanks for all the referrals you've been giving me. Your word-of-mouth advertising is much appreciated.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving... Here are some things I'm grateful for...
1. A car that works... I've only spent about $1000 on it this past month, but I'm so grateful to have transportation that I can call mine, and I am sooo happy that it is working again...
2. Awesome friends... You know who you are. Thanks for your encouragement and your thoughtfulness.  Don't know what I would do without you guys!
3. Amazing church family... You're my #1 fans, and I appreciate your willingness to let me love on your kiddos, sing and play for you, and take your pictures... and thanks for referring me to other people for photo shoots!...
4. My family... For a brother and dad who know how to fix my car, for my mother who makes yummy noodles, and for my grandma and aunt Nadine who make me remember not to take the time we have with them for granted...
5. My warm house... I am so blessed to have a roof over my head, especially in these chilly months when so many people are cold...
6. God's provision... God has always provided for me in every way and He will never fail me.  I am reminded every day that He is faithful and that He has an amazing plan for my life...
7.  A great job... Not only do I have a great boss and fun coworkers, but I actually like my job... and an added bonus is that I get to take photos on the weekend and get paid for that too. No complaints from me...
8. For music... I can't begin to explain how impactful music has been to me.  I can't imagine my life without it. It energizes me when I need it... it can be thought-provoking... it can make me laugh and it can make me cry... I get to sing and play for church every week with an amazingly talented group of people... It blesses me.
9. My health... so many people I know have medical problems that are rocking their worlds. I am so grateful that both me and my family are healthy. I hope I never take it for granted...
10. Creativity... I am grateful that people are positively responsive to my creative work. My photography, music, and artwork is just another outlet for expressing who I am and sharing with others the gifts and talents God has blessed me with. All praise goes to God, who is the ultimate provider!

Hope you are blessed today!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kacey & David

Kacey is on the praise team with me at church. She and David have been married for a few years and wanted to get some fun pictures together. These two were so extremely easy to photograph! It's so obvious that they have such a good time together, and it wasn't hard at all to get some great shots. We had a chilly, overcast day to work with, but I think it was well worth it!

See more pictures here!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drum Roll Please... Meet Lee Ellen Starks

Here is my good friend Lee Ellen, who is an amazing musician who has the voice of an angel... We wanted to get some shots of her and her guitar for some future publicity pieces for her music gigs. Ok. So I couldn't wait to sort through her 700 pictures to look for my favorites... so here are just a few of them that jumped out at me...

Where do I start with the details? We spent a few hours in a field on a brisk 40 degree-ish morning. Our artistic vision for her photos required me to find a field with tall grass... not too easy to do at this time of year, as most fields have been mowed for the winter. But I found a field on a hill at the Springfield Lake with some tall grass, and we found a fabulous tree as a bonus. Lee Ellen wore a fabulous vintage dress for her shoot that was not warm by any means...and she was barefoot. A brave woman she is, willing to sacrifice sanity for the sake of creative art. My kind of girl! After nearly escaping being kicked out by a park ranger, we grabbed a quick bite and headed downtown to get some urban-esque shots. She was willing to do some crazy things and she helped spot some great backdrops, like a cement circle cutout at a new parking garage. I can't imagine how funny it must have looked as I boosted her up five feet to get in place... Oh! And we couldn't resist getting some pix of Lee Ellen and her pooch, Tolmi for some Christmas cards. Aren't they cute?

Can't wait to show you the rest of the pictures!! I'll be posting more info about Lee Ellen and her music at a later date. You need to check her out!

P.S. My night of editing started out fabulously. I dropped my phone in the toilet. Say a quick prayer that I haven't caused it an early death...

See 120 more pix of Lee Ellen here and here...