The Legacy Project | Week One: The Beginning

Francesca Russell is a photographer and filmmaker (and mom) out of Long Island and I've been following her work since I was in a street photography class with her last year. She is the queen of projects and when she shared her latest one earlier this month, I knew I had to jump on board. The Legacy Project was born out of Francesca's desire to write all her own family stories down, to be shared and passed onto her children as they get older. If I stay on track, I'll have a new post every two weeks on the blog, following the prompts Francesca gives us in The Legacy Project group! I hope to print these stories and photos in an album once I complete the project. So, without further ado...

it's a girl

Week One

What do you know about the day you were born? Where were you born? How did you get your name?

I was born on September 30, 1987 to William Whitten Cox & Coryn Brennan Cox. I turned to my mom to tell the story of the day I was born! In her words:

On Tuesday, September 29, 1987, I was 14 days past my due date with my first pregnancy. Bill and I headed to Martin Memorial Hospital (in Stuart, Florida) to forever change our lives by becoming a family of three. I was scheduled to be induced. The labor room had two beds with a curtain separating them. There was another expectant mother in labor alongside me. While we were both striving for drug free natural births, she was screaming for drugs by mid afternoon. My progress was slower and my contractions didn't become really productive until early evening.

At that time my doctor, Dr. Heidi McNaney had completed her office hours and from about 6:00 p.m. on she never left my side. Around 10:00 p.m., I was ready to push, so they wheeled my bed into a delivery room and I had to move from my bed to a delivery table.

After two hours of pushing, and after midnight, Mary Colleen was born. She was perfect. 

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my birthday

As the nurse, who was also named Mary, was cleaning her up, the Dr. and she talked about what a nice name Mary is. We had no idea whether our baby would be a boy or girl, so we had chosen two different names. The boys name we had chosen had included a family name from Bill's family and our girl's name choice was after my mom (Mary Riley Brennan) and also after my best friend (Colleen White).


Colleen (left) and my mom (right)

Colleen (left) and my mom (right)

Growing up, I didn't realize the significance of my name and didn't love it, but as I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate it so much and take pride in it. I was named after two incredible ladies - one which I have never had the opportunity to get to know, Colleen. She was my mom's best friend, and she had followed my mom down to Florida (from New York) after college. The last time my mom talked to her was on mom's 21st birthday - September 28th, 1983. Five days later, the "accident" happened. It was a day that changed my mom's life forever. Colleen and her sister,  Liz, were involved in a tragic accident. Liz was killed and though Colleen survived, she suffered a traumatic brain injury and has spent the last 34 years of her life in hospitals, nursing homes, and a group home. My mom described Colleen as an emotional person who loved deeply. She was funny, sassy and quick witted. 


Mom, Mimi & me

Mom, Mimi & me

I'm also proud to be named after my mimi, Mary Riley Brennan, who I got to spend seventeen years with before she passed away of kidney failure in 2005. Like Colleen, she was a firecracker - blunt and witty, there was never a dull moment around her. She had "busy hands" and was always cross-stitching, playing cards or knitting. She loved traveling to Disney World and Hawaii.


What was going on in 1987 - THIRTY years ago?!

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  • Ronald Reagan was president.
  • Full House debuted!
  • Gas averaged 89 cents a gallon.
  • The world population reached 5 billion.
  • "Didn't We Almost Have it All" by Whitney Houston was at the top of the Billboard chart.

Frazier Park Maternity Session | Madison + Huntsville AL Newborn Photographer

When Lisa reached out to me about shooting her maternity photos early on in her pregnancy, I was so excited! Not only because I knew how long Lisa had hoped and prayed for this pregnancy, but because she was one of Jack's NICU nurses in his earliest days. In fact, she let me change his diaper for the very first time when he was two weeks old.

She was a little nervous that she would be freezing during her March maternity session, but we ended up lucking out with a beautiful Spring day (can you tell I'm a bit behind on blogging)!

Not longer after this session, Lisa & Zach welcomed a beautiful and healthy little girl into the world, and I was able to go to their home to shoot her newborn session. I'll share those on the blog soon! 

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Fall Mini Sessions in Madison AL | Huntsville AL Photographer

I'm so excited to be offering an afternoon of fall mini sessions in Madison this year. These sessions are short and sweet, but long enough to create a gallery full of images that you can not only use for Christmas cards, but hang on the wall in your home. These mini sessions will be held on Sunday, October 29, beginning two hours before sunset. You can purchase your session in the shop! If you have any questions, shoot me an email at mary@marycolleenphoto.com.

Here are a few favorites from last year's fall sessions!

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Christmas Tree Farm Mini Sessions | Trim-A-Tree Farm Athens, AL | Madison AL

Due to popular demand, and because I love seeing your families so much, I've decided to open up a second afternoon of Christmas tree farm mini sessions! These fun sessions are held in Athens, AL at Trim-A-Tree Farms, just a 10-20 minute drive from Madison and Huntsville. These sessions include incredible cookies (from Mel's Sweet Treats!) and hot chocolate!! Head to the shop to read all the details and purchase your session! 

And, just for fun...here are a few photos from last year's sessions!

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Announcing Fall & Christmas Tree Farm Mini Sessions! | Madison Huntsville Alabama Family Photographer

Now Booking Fall & Christmas Mini Sessions!

To me, fall kicks off in August, when the kids head back to school and football season begins. So, with that, I thought I'd announce my 2017 mini sessions dates!

Cotton Field & Fall Foliage Mini Sessions

COTTON FIELD sessions will likely be held on a Monday or Tuesday evening before sunset in September in Priceville. I'll know the exact date once the cotton blooms. Send me an email if you're interested in a cotton field mini session and you'll be the first to know all the details. There are 4 spots available.

FALL FOLIAGE sessions will be held from 3:30 - 5:30 p.m. on October 28 in Madison, AL. There are 6 spots available. 

Christmas Tree Farm Mini Sessions

TREE FARM sessions will be held on Sunday, October 15 from 3 p.m. until sunset at Trim-a-Tree Farm in Athens, AL. There are 9 spots available.

How to book your mini session:

Visit the shop on my website at www.marycolleenphoto.com/shop. Add the mini session of your choice to your cart and complete check-out. From there, I'll be notified of your purchase and will contact you regarding the details of your session. Payment is due in full at booking for fall mini sessions. A deposit of $75 is required to book Christmas Tree Farm mini sessions.

All mini sessions are first come-first served and sell out fast, so don't wait! 

As always, full collections are available year round for maternity, newborn, family and senior sessions. I hope to see you soon!

10 on 10 | July 2017

This month, Brad and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Since I had a business trip scheduled the same week, we snuck away to Bridge Street for an overnight staycation. We stayed at Element by Westin and had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Connor's. It was a perfect and much needed quick getaway.

Go check out my friend, Bethany's post next....she is one of my favorite photographers and her summer photos are so beautiful and fun. She has got me wanting to purchase an underwater camera ASAP!

Inexpensive lens suggestions for documenting your daily life | Madison, AL Family Photographer

Last year, I set a few goals for myself. I wanted to apply and be accepted to Click Pro within a year (DONE!) and long-term, I wanted to use everything I've learned to help other parents better document their families and daily lives. 

I put some feelers out on Facebook to see how many of my friends had fancy cameras that they didn't know how to use. Turns out, there were a lot. So, I created a Facebook group called Mary's Momtogs to help these parents learn more about their cameras and photography so they can tell the stories of their lives in a beautiful way through photography. (disclaimer - it's not a group about how to run a photo business, nor do I claim to be an expert on all things photography and gear.) 

So, I'll be creating blog posts, documents, videos, etc to help parents that want to take better photographs of their kids. Going deeper than the portrait, really telling stories. 

Here's what I shared with the group today. 

Inexpensive lens suggestions for documenting your daily life

Most of you are using a crop sensor camera – so while a 50mm 1.8 (nifty fifty), is a great portrait lens and good for outdoors, it’s going to be tight inside. So I am going to suggest you use a 35mm focal length or wider (smaller number). I find a wider lens very handy for shooting our day to day.

The kit lens that came with your camera is okay for snapshots, but I recommended a lens with a fixed aperture (we’ll talk about why later!) of at least 2.8 or wider.

Canon suggestions:

Canon 24mm 2.8 pancake: around $130 new. This is a great inexpensive choice for crop sensor bodies. However, it will not work on a full frame camera if you plan to upgrade later.

Canon 28mm 1.8: Around $500 new, but you can find it used for closer to $300 (I bought mine used) I loveeee this lens. It works with crop sensor and full frame cameras. It’s fast, sharp and gets some fun sunflares that I like to play with.

Canon 35mm F/2 EF: The first version of this goes for about $300 used. The new version is a little more expensive

Nikon suggestions:

Nikkor AF-S 35mm 1.8G DX – About $180 new. Made for a crop sensor so if you did upgrade to a full frame, while it would be usable, it would have noticeable vignetting (black circle around frame of photo), Sharp and fast!

There are other wider inexpensive Nikon AF lenses (24mm 2.8 AF for example), however some older Nikon crop sensor cameras do not have an autofocus motor, so they would not be autofocus on your body. If you have a body without an autofocus motor, you need to buy a lens that is AF-S if you want it to autofocus on your camera. You can google to see if your Nikon camera has an autofocus motor (if it does than an AF lens would autofocus on your camera). Is that as clear as mud? Let me know if you have questions!

I currently shoot with a Nikkor 24mm 1.8G FX lens, which is about $700 new.

Other advice:

Also, do not be afraid to buy used from reputable sources like KEH, B&H, Adorama and others! You can save a good bit of money by buying used or refurbished. Sign up for the KEH newsletter and snag a lens when they have a coupon code.

I have also purchased lenses used in Canon & Nikon re-sale FB groups (that’s also where I sell my gear) but make sure you do your research on who you’re buying from! I prefer to wait for a good deal from KEH because I can return it and it comes with a 6 month warranty from them.

There are also third-party lenses out there that may be cheaper, but I have not personally used them.

 

At Home with the Dial Family | Madison, AL Family Film Photographer

Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a film photography class with Ashley Crawford. Ashley's work is bright, bold and fun. She is a rule breaker and her creativity was just the push I needed to get over the winter rut. She challenged us to experiment with consumer film, pushed film, double exposures, light leaks and more. She inspired me to purchase some lomography 800 film, which I haven't played with yet, but plan to during our Europe trip next month. 

I was excited to put what I learned to use on my friend Brittney and her family. So, on a Sunday afternoon, I loaded up my gear and film and headed over to the Dial's house! I shot a mix of digital and film. Mostly film - but it was pretty dark in their living room so I made sure to take a few digitals incase my film didn't turn out. Thankfully, it did and I just love what we got. 

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All film images were shot on 35mm film. Stocks used included: Portra 400, Fuji400h & Kodak Max 400.

10 on 10 | April 2017

I'm so excited that it's April. Although we had a mostly mild winter, I've been so ready for spring to arrive! My shooting has slowed down so much over the past few months....and I think part of that is contributed to the winter funk so many of us photographers encounter in the colder, darker months. Now that the days are getting longer, weather's getting warmer and the grass is getting greener, I'm picking up my camera much more frequently.

But, this month's 10 on 10 post is not very spring-y....that's the problem with shooting mostly film nowadays...I'm always a few weeks behind on photos. Which is okay with me. When I get my scans, I get to relive the days all over again...minus the editing (for the most part).

Here's my 10 on 10....an 35mm film collection from the past month or so. When you're done here, head over to my crazy talented friend Bethany's blog to continue the loop!

bathtime. shot on tri-x 400.

bathtime. shot on tri-x 400.

piggies. shot on fuji superia 400.

piggies. shot on fuji superia 400.

diaper changing with daddy. shot on fuji superia 400.

diaper changing with daddy. shot on fuji superia 400.

growing up too fast. shot on tri-x 400.

growing up too fast. shot on tri-x 400.

dinner with grandma jean. shot on tri-x.

dinner with grandma jean. shot on tri-x.

sunrise. shot on expired kodak max 100.

sunrise. shot on expired kodak max 100.

terrible twos in full force. shot on ilford delta 400.

terrible twos in full force. shot on ilford delta 400.

building (and destroying) blocks. shot on ilford delta 400.

building (and destroying) blocks. shot on ilford delta 400.

10 on 10 | February 2017

Due to the winter blahs and a stressful workload, I've really lacked motivation to pick up my camera this month, but I did shoot a test roll of Fuji 400h 35mm film in January that I was pretty happy with despite all the missed focus and grain. There's just something nostalgic about film that digital can't quite replicate.  Sharing a few below. Continue the circle with lovely Kristi Burton.

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10 on 10 | January 2017

Happy New Year! It feels so strange to type 2017! It seems with each day and month that passes the years get shorter and shorter. As my boys grow up right before my eyes, the quick passage of time becomes painfully obvious.

I decided to share a few photos from our Christmas festivities for this month's 10 on 10 post. This Christmas was a special one - it was the first one that all four of us woke up on Christmas morning under the same roof since Jack was born. I'm so thankful for that precious gift.

In addition to some Christmas morning photos, I had to share a few from our time spent on Wilson Lake over the holidays. It was an unseasonably warm Christmas, so being able to watch the sunset from the pier of the lake was a nice treat! I hope you all had a happy holiday with your family! When you're finished scrolling here, head over to Charlotte's blog to see her beautiful 10 on 10 post from across the pond!

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10 on 10 | November 2016

This has been my busiest fall to date and I'm sad to admit I haven't taken many photos of my own family lately. I'm behind on editing and still have sessions booked every weekend through November.

However, we did have one important event that I made sure I pulled out the camera for and that was Landan's first homecoming dance. Homecoming is a big deal here in Madison and the kids go all out for the dance. Landan took his best friend, Olivia, as his date. I also learned how to tie a bow tie for this special occasion, and I think I did a pretty good job, don't you? ;) 

Still enjoying learning and shooting film, so I threw a couple of those images into the mix too!

When you leave here, head over to the talented Cris Stephens' blog post to see her gorgeous images from this months 10 on 10!

OUR Family Photos with Mae Burke

All photos in this post were taken by the wonderful & talented Mae Burke Photography

I can't remember exactly when or how I stumbled across Mae Burke's work, but I remember that when I did, I immediately thought these are the types of images I want to create! Clearly, Mae is a pro at the technical aspects of photography but what moved me the most about her work was the connection I felt to the subjects in her photos. 

Never did I think I would know first hand what it felt like to be a subject in Mae's work! She is a well-known photographer in Texas so I didn't think I'd have the opportunity to hire her for my own family's portraits. 

When Clickin Moms announced last year that Mae would be teaching a breakout class called Moments in Motherhood: Telling Mothers' Stories Through Portraits, I could not have been more excited! Here was an opportunity to learned from the photographer I admired so much! I signed up for the live run and learned tons from the breakout. I remember being so giddy when she gave me positive feedback on my homework assignment. I still re-read the content of that e-book from time to time. 

Flash forward a few months later to the winter of 2015 and I see Mae is running a promotion on her mentoring sessions for 2016. I knew my photographic voice had grown a lot in 2015 and among my goals for the next year, one was to apply for CM Pro. I needed a mentor to give me the guidance, feedback and confidence that I was ready. I emailed back and forth with Mae and booked an online mentoring session (via skype) for May 2016. I. was. pumped! (and terrified)

Much to my surprise, in April, Mae announced she would be here in Huntsville in June to visit Lauren Sanderson (also super sweet and an incredibly talented photographer! AND she also has an awesome breakout in the CM store) and would be booking family sessions during her trip! I knew I HAD to make this happen! Within a few weeks, I paid a session fee for MY VERY OWN FAMILY SESSION WITH THE MAE BURKE! I might have cried that day.

In May, I "met" Mae on skype for our first mentoring session. Mae is not only an incredible photographer, but a great and encouraging teacher, too. She didn't tell me how to be just like her, she focused on my story, my strengths and my goals to help me solidify my voice and vision. She gave me soul-searching homework that had me digging real deep for weeks! She gave me so much confidence in myself and my work as well as invaluable advice about attracting the clients I want and running a profitable photography business. It was just the push I needed to put myself out there and begin building a pro portfolio. (side note - I still haven't applied for CM Pro, but plan on it before the year's end!) 

During Mae's visit to Huntsville, I was able to wrap up my mentoring session in person a couple days after our photo session. It was the best way to end a fun weekend and I feel so thankful to now call someone I admired so long a mentor & a friend. 

I'm so grateful for sweet Mae! From what's she taught me about who I am as a photographer and artist to what she's given me as a mentor and friend....and for these priceless images of me and my family....as we were in that moment...that I will cherish always <3

 

 

Adventures in Film!

Hello, world's worst blogger here! :)

I'd been thinking about playing with film for a long time, for several reasons. One, I work a lot. Out of town a lot. When I'm home, I'm occupied by a curious toddler. I don't have hours to sit around and cull through all the digitals I took and edit them like I used to. The idea of thoughtfully taking only 36 frames, sending them off to be developed and receiving scans and being DONE sounds very freeing! Plus, I love the nostalgic look of film & often try to emulate that when editing my digitals anyway. 

So, one impulsive afternoon when I had some extra money burning a hole in my pocket, I picked up a Canon EOS 3 on eBay from some nice man in Japan. I ordered a couple boxes of film and then when it was all delivered, it sat around for a while. In May, I finally loaded a roll of Portra 160 and starting shooting through it around the house.

I finished the roll in May while we were in Eufaula for Memorial Day visiting Grandma Jean. 

I was really happy with my first roll! I actually didn't mean to order Portra 160 but I'm so glad I did! 

I also ordered Portra 400 and when we went to the beach in July, I brought a roll of it along with another roll of 160. To be honest, I wasn't as thrilled with my results with the 400 but I have another roll in my camera now and maybe I'll like them more. This film stock is known for being more "light and airy" but it was a little too much so for my taste. It also could be something I did.... who knows. But here are a few from that roll!

I also shot a roll of P160 while at the beach and i am in LOVE with what this stock can do in full sun. The way it retains the details in all the bright highlights, while still exposing my subjects nicely is incredible! I never could get nicely exposed skin without blowing out detail in the bright sky on digital like these! 

This series of photos of Brad & Jack playing in the hotel room were my favorite! I just love hotel room light and moments like this on film! 

I'm really excited that my first few rolls turned out so well and look forward to shooting more on film. In addition to the EOS3, I also have a manual Canon AE-1 and I just bought a film point and shoot camera today to keep in my purse. Can't wait to play with those! 

All of these photos were scanned and developed by The Find Lab

10 on 10 | September 2016

I feel like I say this every month, but I can't believe it's already September. I knew the summer would fly by -- I spent half of it on business travel -- but I still can't believe it's gone. Landan started high school in August (unbelievable!) and Jack will be two in a couple weeks. Fingers crossed autumn lingers longer than summer did... Here are ten snapshots from the past month. When you're done here, head over to Breanna's post. I could gush about her incredible work all day. You'll soon see why! <3

10 on 10 | June 2016

How are we almost halfway through June?! It's time for another 10 on 10 post. After you leave here, be sure to head over to Amanda Voelker's post here. Her work is absolutely stunning! 

I thought May was going to be a slow month but, boy, was I wrong. Between end-of-school year festivities, work and general life craziness, free moments were few and far between. Landan wrapped up 8th grade, his final year of middle school (excuse me while I cry my eyes out). Somehow, he managed to stay on A/B honor roll all year while staying busy with symphonic & pep band and other activities. I'm so proud and excited to see what his high school career will bring. 

May was also a big month developmentally for Jack. He started clapping, blowing kisses and waving bye-bye on command. He started walking while holding onto something/someone and is babbling more and more. Hard to believe in a couple months I'll be planning his second birthday!

It's been consistently in the 90s here for a few weeks and we've seen little rain. It definitely feels like summer! A friend gave us an above-ground pool and it's finally warm enough to get in and swim. It has really been awesome to have right in the back yard, even if we do look a little redneck ;) The past few years, we purchased a summer membership to a community pool and while it was nice before baby, it was difficult getting to and from last summer because of all the stuff you have to load up to survive a day at the pool with an infant/toddler! It's nice to be able to walk out your back door with nothing but sunscreen in hand and go right back inside when you're ready for a break. And it's extra nice to sneak outside for an hour or two to float and soak up some sun when Jack is napping. ;)

Over Memorial Day Weekend, we headed south to Eufaula, where Brad's Grandma Jean and Aunt Reatha live. There's something so relaxing about visiting there - it could have something to do with Grandma Jean's homecooked food and Aunt Reatha's serene backyard!

I also shot my first roll of film while we were down there. I need to send it off to get developed...if any of it turns out, I'll share in a separate post. Don't forget to head over to Amanda's blog next!

a mini movie.

I have been interested in video for a while (as is my husband) and after reading good reviews about Xanthe Berkley's course, Make Films, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up! Each week, she shares a new theme and assignment. I am a couple weeks behind and will probably stay that way since I travel so much for work this summer, but I like how she keeps the materials available for six months after the 10-week course ends so I can go at my own pace. I've already learned a lot, if only I could keep my hands from shaking and hold the dang camera straight! ;)  The first week's assignment was to shoot a mini movie with "scenes from the weekend" but mine turned into "scenes from the garden" after I got some great clips of Jack getting dirty in the beautiful golden hour light. without further ado, here it is! I really love what I came up with.

10 on 10 | May 2016

I'm so honored to have been asked to participate in a monthly blog circle with 10 other photographers from across the country. Each month, we'll be posting "10 on 10" -- ten images on the tenth of the month. I hope you'll take the time to circle through and check out their gorgeous work. After you read my post, head over to the incredible Sara Garcia's post here to see her beautiful work! Sara is from Denver and I love how she captures genuine connections & emotions in stunning light. While you're there, check out her 100 Days of Summer project....ok, are you ready for sunshine and warm weather yet or what!? I know I am...

These photos were all taken on a rainy day the last weekend of April (in my true procrastinator style, I crammed) on a day home with my boys. Jack is 19 months old now (15 months adjusted for his prematurity) and his curiosity has peaked. I love watching him crawl (at lightning speeds!) all over the house discovering everything and anything. He is doing so well, "beyond our wildest dreams", as my mom always says. He has come so far since his NICU days.

Landan is wrapping up his last month of middle school and looking forward to summer. In true teenage fashion, most of his time is spent on Snapchat and Instagram, yet I am not allowed to post any photos of him (don't tell him I snuck one in this post). The past two years have been a whirlwind and somehow before our eyes, our little boy grew into a young man. One that makes us so proud at that.

Onto the photos....

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Sara's up next!