Romantic Gothic // Ethereal Canyon Bridal Session

This 'gothic' styled bridal session was inspired by all things bold and romantic. I chose a darker pallet because, I don't know about you, but when I hear the word bridal I automatically picture a brighter, softer pallet and I really wanted to challenge myself to do something that I hadn't really seen done before. I wanted blacks, and deep rich purples and reds and I have to say.... this amazing team of vendors absolutely nailed it.

We played around with harsh light and shadows, smoke bombs and vine walls. Believe me, it's worth looking through all the way to the end and I hope that you feel empowered and inspired once you get there.

Be bold. Be different. Be you. 

Xx,

-Summer

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Jacy + Dakota :: Phoenix Arizona Couples Session

Happy almost weekend, everyone! 

These past 3 weeks have been packed full of information and I am still trying to sort through all of it, but today I want to share something that has been on my heart.

At the workshop I recently attended (Over Yonder Hideaway -- Hosted by Cody & Allison, Hinterland Stills, Grace + Jaden, Twyla Jones, Michael Cardwell, and Nicole Seligman -- 100% recommend!) we were encouraged to find out why we do what we do and to come up with a brand/slogan, if you will, that describes that. I am not sure if I can actually make this my brand since I am stealing it from the movie Cinderella, but the phrase "be kind and have courage" keeps ringing in my head and I'll explain why...

I've always been a huge advocate for being kind to anyone and everyone. I just think it's the right thing to do. Have you ever heard the phrase, "Do unto other as you would have them do unto you"? It is known as the Golden Rule (and is also found in Luke 6). Have you ever been treated poorly by someone? They maybe said or did something rude and it left you feeling less than? You didn't like the way that made you feel, did you? So why would you in turn, make someone feel that way on your own accord? You shouldn't. That is why I love the first half of that saying, "be kind and have courage". Just be kind. Treat others with respect. It's not always easy, but doing what's right rarely ever is.

The second half of that saying, "have courage" speaks to me personally in a huge way. I'm not a very confident person. I second guess myself constantly and it's usually easier for me to not do things out of fear or anxiety. But to have courage means exactly that: "the ability to do something that frightens one" ....Wow. That definition left me speechless. It's okay to be afraid, but don't let that fear stop you from putting yourself out there. Fly across the country and hangout with 20 strangers in a cabin for a week. Road trip down the coast with one of your friends and experience how big the world is outside of your small, mid-western town. Do something that excites and terrifies you at the same time. You might end up hating it -- you might end up loving it; at least you will be able to say that you did it and you put yourself out there. :)

So there's my two cents as you head into your weekend... Be kind. Have courage.

xoxo, Summer
 







 

Caitlin + Luke :: Snow Day

Happy Saturday, friends!!

I am about to head out to the state of Washington for an incredible workshop and I am so so excited! But before I go, I thought I would do something that I hardly ever get around to doing -- blogging! And what better way to do so by sharing two of the sweetest photographer friends who just so happen to also be married! <3 <3 <3

Caitlin and Luke are local to the Bloomington-Normal area, and their hearts are on fire not only for their clients, but also for other photographers and creating community between one another. It's something that we all like to call "community over competition".

The photography business can be dog eat dog (I hate that phrase, but it fits perfectly) to say the least. And I get it, it's natural to look on other photographers work and think how much better than you you think they are, or that you'll never be as good as them. Believe me when I say... I have been there. In fact I was there for about 4.5 years. Now, I'm not saying that I think I am better than anyone else now, it's just that I have finally found my 'niche'. I daily look up to hundreds of photographers--near and far; but I am confident in the work that I've been producing... at least for the last couple months ;) I still have days when I am utterly defeated, but I've learned to take those days and to challenge myself... refresh my drive and re-discover why I fell in love with photography in the first place.

Anddddddddd now you know that I go off on tangents. My bad. Back to my main point! 

I have followed Caitlin's work for about 2 years now. She was just dating Luke and they were just starting to work together and I remember just falling in love with her heart and her passion and her overwhelmingly joyous spirit. They LOVE what they do and it is so contagious. When I finally got to sit down with them in person and get to know them, I wasn't surprised to find that they are just the same in real life. So sweet, so caring, so JOYFUL. I don't think it's possible to be around them and not smile <3

Don't take my word for it though. Take a peek for yourself :) We met up on Tuesday after the most beautiful (out of nowhere) snowfall and although it was cold, judging from these two, I don't think you would ever know.

Caitlin and Luke, thank you for being the sweetest friends and for always encouraging community amongst photographers. You two are the BEST and I hope that you love your photos and being in front of the camera for once <3

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Marcus + Nathalia // Intimate Florida Wedding

This was my first wedding of 2017 and I tell you what.... it is going to be tough to top. Nathalia is my husband's cousin. When she got engaged 6 months ago, I secretly hoped she would ask me to photograph it but convinced myself that even if she didn't ask me, I would at least get to be a guest! 

When she first emailed me I was ecstatic; then the nerves kicked in because for a lot of his (Adam's) side of the family, it would be my first time meeting them and first impressions are huge. I kept thinking all day **don't blow this, Summer** but everyone was so kind and so sweet and definitely made this blonde girl feel like part of the Colombian family. <3 (and if you know anything about them you know that dancing is a significant part of their culture. Thankfully they accepted my dance moves.)

I knew Nathalia and Marcus were classy and had amazing taste; but not even I could have dreamt about how PERFECT their day & location was. Adam and I showed up early to capture some details of the venue, and I kid you not I about passed out from excitement as I walked in and looked around. And it just got better and better as you walked further through. An incredible ceremony spot just showered with palm trees, the most beautiful bridal suite for her to get dressed, and the reception space... OH MY GOSH. Just wait until you see those photos... Your jaw will drop, I'm sure, much like mine did.

Nathalia & Marcus, I can't thank you enough for allowing me to play such an honored roll in your big day. You two are flawless and I am so thankful to have spent the day experiencing your love first hand. <3

James + Emily // Backyard Wedding

James + Emily... Where do I even begin!? I went to elementary school with Emily and I knew she was going places because she was the most athletic person I had ever met (in my short life span at the time, maybe even still to this day ;). I wanted to be just like her. She beat out pretty much all of the boys during recess (sorry guys... you KNOW it's true). She went on to other schools and continued to excel at sports. Then she met James in high school, who is equally athletic and incredible at everything he does. 

When she contacted me to photograph their wedding, we met up for coffee to talk about her vision for everything, and that's when I knew I was going to be in photography heaven. Everything was so down to earth, bohemian and relaxed. There was simple elegance everywhere you looked. Not over the top to distract away from the real meaning behind the day... just decorated enough to point to the two of them. It was perfect.

We started out the day with thunderstorms... like massive downpour. Driving to the Airbnb was actually terrifying because I couldn't see anything on the highway. But as I pulled into the driveway it had slowed to a steady sprinkle. When it was time for their first look it was overcast but no longer raining (the you LORD). So the first set of images are a little bit calmer and moodier; but as soon as it was time to walk down the aisle... the sun came out and stayed out for the rest of the evening. If that isn't a miracle, I'm not sure what is. 

James and Emily, it was such an honor to photograph your wedding day. Thank you for letting me play a part. <3

Venue: Hartzold Family Farm

Dress: Grace Loves Lace (Vida Gown)

Suit: J. Crew

Bridesmaids Dresses: Show me your Mumu

Rings: Etsy

Florist: Frilly Lily 

Hair: Fringe Salon (Lauren Boylan)

Make Up: Fringe Salon (Ashley Frasier)

Rentals: The Event Experience Company

My Love Story // Personal Post

Today marks One whole year of being married to my best friend. I know that' a cliche, but I'm not sure why, because if you ask me, you should absolutely marry your best friend.

I see a lot of posts about people's first year of marriage, and one common theme that I always come across is that 'marriage is hard'. Marriage, like any relationship, is never perfect, but I don't think that that means it is hard. Maybe I just got really lucky, but truthfully marriage is the easiest thing I have done.

Adam is the one thing in this world that just makes sense.

He keeps me calm. He keeps me grounded. He encourages me. He inspires me. He makes me laugh more than anyone. He is the most thoughtful man I've ever met. He holds me when I cry. He gives the best advice. He's wise. He's hardworking. And he loves me with everything that he has.
 

Although our story started 4 years ago when we met playing soccer, I'm going to start from his proposal. Adam placed the order for my ring shortly before I found out that my dog, Lexi, had cancer. He knew that she meant the world to me but knew that she probably wouldn't make it to the actual proposal, so he set up a photoshoot with him and Lexi and the ring "asking" for her permission. 

You can read the full post here <3

We had a 4 and a half month engagement, and thanks to so many amazing friends and family, we had the most picture perfect wedding day and I still look through the images and can't believe it wasn't all just a dream. Thank you to everyone for all of your help and hard work, and for your encouragement and love throughout this first year <3

Now on to the really good stuff....

September 6th, 2015

Truly the BEST day ever. 

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All photos by the fabulous Meredith Washburn <3
 

Kyle + Mallie // Peoria, IL Engagement

These two... I just have no words.

Dreamy. Romantic. Sweet. Sultry. 

Kyle + Mallie, I literally cannot wait for your wedding day.

Thanks for hanging out with me and saying yes to all of my crazy ideas. You're the best kind of couple <3

Elizabeth // Central, IL Senior

I have known this sweet girl and her family for just about 4 years now. I remember playing games at their house with some guy that I had a crush on (that would later turn out to be my husband) and all of their family and friends. They are the world's most gracious family; their doors have always been open to anyone. :)

I took some photos of Elizabeth 3 years ago and I remember thinking how far away her senior photos were. Then 3 years went by in the blink of an eye, and here I am today sharing this insanely gorgeous young woman with you all. 

I'm so proud of the young, bright, cheerful woman that you've grown into, Elizabeth. I can't wait to see the bright future that unfolds ahead of you <3

Side Note: I love posting the "blooper" shots of people genuinely laughing. They bring me oh so much joy! Closed eyes and all <3

Quick story: We were trying to get this shot of E in the crosswalk amidst the traffic, when this police officer pulled up and asked me to come over to talk to him. I completely thought we were in trouble, but he was so sweet and asked if he could help us and stop traffic so we could get the shot. Seriously!? So memorable :) Obviously we asked him to hold her balloons and to take a photo so we could show off how nice he was! Thank you, Officer!!

Once the sun was set we did some experimenting with smoke bombs. Seriously SO cool. Love these few images.

 

I also want to give a shout out to her talented sister, Kristen, who is also a photographer, for sharing Elizabeth with me. I think we can all agree that when you have a model like Elizabeth, everyone wants to get her in front of their camera ;) 

 

Grant + Kalla // Madeira Beach, FL Engagement

Grant and Kalla are getting married the day after tomorrow, so I wanted to share their romantic beachy engagement. We started off on Madeira beach, eventually working our way inland to do a little bit of long boarding (how cool are they, seriously?!) and ended with an incredible sunset...and quite possibly a mini water fight. <3 Thankful that these two let me parade them around the beach in front of a bunch of people all while pretending no one else was watching ;) 

 

Congratulations Kalla and Grant!

Ashley + Will // Normal, IL Engagement

World, meet the most joyful couple in all the land. 

...But seriously.

Ashely & Will made me laugh and each other laugh the whole time. Their love is so sweet and so evident. I dare you to scroll through these images and not smile :) **make sure you get all the way to the bottom if you want to see some magical photos**

Here are a few words from Ashley telling about her and Will's love story...

"So, I met this guy ... he had long Matthew McConaughey hair, a charming smirk, and was goofy as all get out...and I was kind of digging it.

The early days of our relationship were based on fun, attraction and the simple idea that "this makes me happy." 

Will and I were content with our way of life, but then the unexpected arrival of our sweet daughter ROCKED our world. We were in awe that God would bless us with this precious gift, despite of our lack of respect for His plan for marriage. God's grace drew us back to Him and to HIS design for love and marriage. His way calls us to holiness, not just happiness.  It is based on selflessness and grace, not merely enjoying each other.

With the arrival of our daughter, our paradigm for love and marriage shifted toward God and toward each other. Now our relationship is centered on the Lord and His will. If I have learned one thing on our journey, it is that God's way is the BEST way. His design for sacrificial, holy love is just beautiful and far more fulfilling than the cheaper alternative of "this makes me happy."

I am beyond  thankful for this amazing man that pursues our Redeemer and who loves me like God loves. I am just blissfully, profoundly in love with the most sweet, wild, patient, generous, kind, and goofy man.  Our love for each other only makes us love the God that brought us together even more. I truly think I am the luckiest girl on the planet because I get to spend the rest of my days serving God alongside of this handsome fella."

Right after a dragonfly landed on his shoulder and only slightly freaked him out ;)

Right after a dragonfly landed on his shoulder and only slightly freaked him out ;)

The sun was set by this time and we were losing light so we were about to wrap up our session, then I asked if they would possibly be interested in playing around in the creek. (Because water photos are my FAVORITE and it was dark so I knew they would probably turn out epic) They looked at each other to think it over and well... I'll let you decide their answer for yourself :)

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Gina + Wesley // St Louis Engagement (Part 1)



In honor of my best friend getting married in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS, I thought I'd share more from their engagement session <3

 

You see, I met Gina when I was 4 years old. She was that little neighbor girl whose backyard touched my backyard from around the corner; and she is one of the most meaningful friends because we have lived life with each other. She saw me through every stage and trial of life, just as I did with her.

I can't even begin to count the late night talks that starting with tears and ended with laughter.

The cinnamon rolls (2 and a half each to be exact), the chocolate milk and the occasional donut for breakfast. 

The lemonade stands on the constitution trail and setting the sprinkler under the trampoline thinking we were the smartest kids on earth.

All of the games we made up, talks about what we wanted to be when we grew up.

How we promised to never wear makeup or the color pink and to be tomboys for the rest of our lives... which obviously didn't happen ;)

 

And then one day we grew up. We didn't get to see each other nearly as often, but when we did get together everything always picked up right where we left off. I think that that is one of the most beautiful parts of being friends with someone for nearly 20 years. They know that life happens; they understand not being able to talk daily. And even when you guys disagree or have an argument-- you know they will still be by your side because you've been through way too much together. Relationships are hard and can be messy. But when you put the time and energy into restoring it, I promise you that it is so worth it. <3

 

...and now I'm tearing up!

 

Gina and Wes, I am so flipping excited for you two. You guys truly were made for each other and I can't wait to stand up there and witness as you guys commit forever to one another.

It is going to be the most beautiful of days!

 

 

And because I just can't say it enough--I love you both SO MUCH!

 

 

 

 

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Jake + Danielle // Miracle Baby

This post is so very close to my heart. Jake and Danielle have been trying to grow their family for years now. I asked Dani to send me a paragraph (or 2 pages) explaining what all they have been through because there are so many other couples and individuals out there going through extremely similar circumstances.

I hope that in reading their story you will find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that you also find hope for the future <3

 

From Danielle:

"When we started our 'baby journey' 3 years ago, I never thought the word 'infertility' would be brought up. I figured that Jake and I would try for a few months and that eventually I would become pregnant. Little did we know...

After a year of trying to conceive and still no pregnancy, my doctor suggested that we try an IUI (intrauterine insemination). We thought, 'sure, why not?', and figured that we would become pregnant right away. But after 3 failed IUI's, our doctor called us in and told us he thought it was time to send us to an infertility specialist.

Our world stopped.

After much thought and even more prayer, Jake and I decided to go meet with our new doctor. He reviewed our charts and decided it would be best to move forward with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). It was a term that we had heard tossed around before, but never gave much thought to what exactly it entailed. After countless shots, medicine, and  more appointments than I ever imagined, we were on our way to Indianapolis for the retrieval of all of the eggs I was supposed to have produced. But after my procedure we got bad news -- the majority of my eggs were not fit for transfer. After a 5 day wait we got that call that officially none of my eggs made it, and that the transfer was no longer possible.

Our world stopped a second time.

I became depressed and started questioning God's sovereignty because I couldn't see the bigger picture.

It turns out that I had endometriosis. Once I had the surgery to correct it, and once I was fully healed, we started the IVF process for a second time. But something was still not right. The doctor told us that this time around they retrieved even fewer eggs than the first time around. 

How is that even possible? I had surgery to correct my endometriosis. It all started to seem like such a waste of time and effort. Not to mention emotionally draining.

Since the chances of me getting pregnant with my own eggs was slim to none, we were told that now we needed to search for yet another option-- an egg donor. We weren't thrilled with that news, so we spent time thinking and praying once again. After a few weeks we decided that this was the route the Lord was taking us, so we began to search high and low for the perfect egg donor; and after a while we got a call from one of our nurses saying that she found us the perfect match. It seemed to good to be true, but she was right--she was everything that we were looking for.

We got all of the paper work started and had to wait a few weeks so my cycle and our donor's cycle could get matched up. As we were waiting patiently, however; the unimaginable happened.

My period was late.

How could that be? My period has never been late. We knew it was a long shot, but we decided to buy a pregnancy test.

It turns out that God wanted to do things His own way and on His time because...

I WAS PREGNANT!!!!!

After 3 years, 3 failed IUI's, 2 failed IVF's and finally finding an egg donor -- we conceived naturally... on our own.

If it weren't for Jake's constant love, support and encouragement I would have given up on being a mommy long ago. We heard a quote at church that said "When everything seems like it's falling apart, that is when God is putting things together". 

To all of you other hopeful mommies out there-- hang in there and don't give up faith. 

God is SO good <3" 

 

 

DJ + Haley // Normal, IL Wedding

It's hard to even know where to begin with these two. You see, Haley is a photographer as well and I can honestly say that I have loved her work from the very beginning because I actually met Haley 3 years ago when we took a photography course together. 

It's amazing the people that you get to meet because of photography. I not only get to work with people on the happiest day of their lives, but I get to develop friendships and relationships with them. I have so much love for all of my brides & grooms it's kind of crazy.

It was really important to DJ and Haley to have not only outdoor images, but specifically bright and sunny images. We met up the Wednesday before the wedding and were finalizing details and we joked about how the weather was calling for cloudy and rainy all day, but somehow we were going to "pray the rain away". (Which is a very common thing to do if you are a photographer in general) I promised her that no matter what, rain or shine, the day would be perfect because regardless of weather, they would end the day as husband and wife. 

Fast forward to Saturday morning, it was dark, gloomy and raining. DJ's mom went out to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought umbrellas for the whole bridal party, because rain or shine we were determined to take photos outside. We looked at the radar and hourly forecast and it wasn't looking very hopeful. But, as we prepared for the first look- there was a break in the rain. Amazing! But still no sun.

Then, after the ceremony finished we all headed outside of the chapel for the bride + groom send off, and what did we see?

SUN!

From then on through the rest of the night we had the most beautiful sunlight, with only a few clouds, and an incredible sunset. You should have seen the look on their faces. It was truly pure joy. 

 

Dj and Haley, thank you so much for not only choosing me, but trusting me to play such a huge role in your big day. It was such an honor to witness first hand the devoting of your lives to one another.

Oh and I hope that you LOVE your images <3 

A very special thank you to all of the amazing vendors that helped to bring this incredible day to life!

 

Dress: Cloud Nine Peoria

Suits: Churchill's Formal Wear

Flowers: Floral Designs Ltd.

Rings: Bremer Jewelry

Hair: TM Hair Salon

Makeup: Megan Hoesly

DJ: Faith Rinker

Donuts: Grove Street Bakery + Dunkin Donuts

Event Planner: Haley Wollenberg ;)

 

Mila // One Year

I remember when Nick & Kelsey first told us that they were expecting. They decided not to find out the gender throughout the pregnancy; we referred to her as "baby M" and everyone was convinced she was a boy. I remember praying for you, sweet baby M, and wondering what you would be like and look like. It turns out that you are the sweetest, happiest and smiley-est baby I have ever met. 

Mila Elizabeth you are so loved. I can't wait to keep watching you grow <3