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!