Family & Newborn Sessions, Joshua Tree & 29 Palms

I had the pleasure of meeting this family right around the time they were expecting the birth of their beautiful new daughter! 

We visited my favorite desert location for some family photos.  They quickly won my heart by including their fur children in this family session. 

At the bottom of this post, I've included a few of my favorite images from their newborn session, which took place a short while before this family session.  Be sure to take a peek at those, as well!

There's a lot to see in this post, I hope you enjoy the beauty of the desert, family, and new life!

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

The whole family cozied up on a blanket, with smiles all around. Love!

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

I love these.  Just a sweet boy and his dogs.  Best friends.

  Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016  www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

The fur babies needed their own moments to shine, too.  Thank you for indulging me as I share their portraits in the golden desert sun, below.

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

My heart just about explodes with love when I look at these. 

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

One-on-one time was shared with each of the children.  I think they all loved it!

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

A little bit of playtime on the dirt road.

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

And off they walked, into the golden, desert sunset.

Family session at golden hour in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Here are a few of my favorite moments from their newborn session. Soundly sleeping, we had the perfect chance to capture her sweet little face and toes!

Newborn session in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Newborn session in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Newborn session in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

I love these moments with mother and daughter, the black and white, in particular.

Newborn session in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Newborn session in Twentynine Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Couples Session in Joshua Tree

This session took place at my all-time-favorite spot in the desert.  Joshua trees, a dirt road, mountains in the distance where the sun sets... this place embodies the stuff of dreams.  Imagine my excitement when another photographer wanted photos taken here with her husband!  I was so happy to be able to make this session happen before we both moved out of the area.  These two didn't need a lot of help with posing, because, as you can see they're madly in love and they communicate it well with each other.

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

These wide-open desert spaces really allow for lots of sunlight to flood into the frame.  I love how it paints a romantic mood for these two!

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

The vibrant, pink cactus blooms begged to be captured in photos, as well, so we took the opportunity for a little leg kick. :)

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Ahhh, now you can see why this spot easily became my all-time-fave desert location!!  That sky, those trees, that sunset... all of these sights are specifically recognizable as the desert in the southwest region of the USA. 

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

I love asking people to hold hands and walk.  It always yields the most honest, raw emotions to be seen from my side of the camera.  Love. 

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

That dirt road I was talking about?  Here it is. 

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

I brought along a little blanket for a little bit of lounging around in the desert.  I didn't think about how prickly the ground would STILL be, even through the blanket!  The things you don't see in the photos.  Haha! They were champs through it all.

Couples Session, Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family Session in Joshua Tree

It was a beautiful evening when we ventured out to this spot! Technically a "wash" area in California, we needed to use my husband's truck with 4-wheel drive to get out here.  After a slightly bumpy ride, we parked the truck, took a short little walk, and settled on a little slice of paradise for family photos. 

I usually prefer to capture the little ones while they're still fresh and clean, and paying attention. ;)  So, we kicked things off with these two little gentlemen.  They smiled and played the whole time...  They were a dream!

  Brothers, portraits in Joshua Tree.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016  www.laurasuebrod.com

Brothers, portraits in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Also, I must say that I've never seen such sweet moments as this happen - completely unprompted - during any of my sessions before.  Such love!!

  Brothers, portraits in Joshua Tree.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016  www.laurasuebrod.com

Brothers, portraits in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the evening.  You can see that I included the "family walk" in the session.  It's one of my staple photos... I tend to do this in every family session! There's just something so sweet to see when families walk together and interact along the way.  I love those raw, unrehearsed moments.

  Family session in Joshua Tree.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016  www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

We captured this family photo just before the sun dipped down behind the rocks.  What a fun evening!

  Family session in Joshua Tree.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016  www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session in Joshua Tree.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Sunset Beach Couples Session With The Krauses

Sunset Beach Couples Session With The Krauses

Everything about this session with the Krause duo was MAGICAL.  Ryan and Kellee, first off, are some of our dearest friends.  I was thrilled when they let me know that they wanted some memories captured by the Hotel Del Coronado near San Diego just before we moved across the country to Virginia.  I made sure to make this happen before we had to pack up our bags and move far away!

Read More

Family Session in Twentynine Palms, CA - The Browns

Family Session in Twentynine Palms, CA - The Browns

I recently met the Brown family when they moved into my neighborhood.  New to the area, and wanting some updated photos, we met at this gorgeous spot.  We started things off just before sunset with some portraits of all four of them.  By the way - would you ever guess that this beautiful, grassy area is located in the desert of California?!  Neither would I. 

Read More

Military Homecoming in 29 Palms, California

(To read some of my personal thoughts on military deployment and homecoming, check out another blog I wrote, here.  It will open in a new window.)

 

The McNamara family

There are several kinds of photo sessions that have become my favorites over the last year and a half.  Military Homecomings land somewhere very near the top of that list!!  Nothing brings joy quite like seeing our great military personnel come home to their friends and families after a long and dangerous separation.  Friends who know that I do these often ask me how I do them without crying.  My answer?  I don't!  I end up crying every time! 

The McNamara family quickly became dear friends from the moment we met.  I've been able to photograph them through their newborn session, two family sessions, and a first birthday cake smash session.

Their adorable little man, Finn, was only TEN DAYS OLD when his dad had to leave for deployment with the Marine Corps.  I'm so grateful that they could all be together for Finn's first days!  I also can't imagine what they must have all felt knowing that they'd soon have to say, "see ya soon" and wait for their reunion, months later.

Approximately seven months later, homecoming day had arrived!! I was thrilled to be standing out at the field as mom and son eagerly awaited their reunion with dad!

Below, you can see some of the typical sights: The gear arrives, and it is hurriedly lined up, nametags facing up, so that each person's bags can quickly be identified. 

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Check this out: If you've never been to Twentynine Palms, California, please allow me to let you in on something that's not at all a secret: It's HOT. It's BRIGHT. There are NO CLOUDS in the sky. "High noon" sessions like this offer a few challenges to photographers at any locale, but it Twentynine Palms, these challenges are exacerbated, as there are typically both dark shadows and hot sun spots, and glowing perspiration a-plenty!  Also, you'll notice the bright and vibrant green grass from the field that likes to give everyone a green color cast on their skin.  Worth covering a homecoming out there, though?  YES!! :) Completely!!  Every opportunity I had to do this, I was out there on that same field, again and again!

Finn's priceless facial expression seems to hint at something like, "Mom, what's going on?! Why is everyone so excited about those white buses behind me?!"

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Everyone looks around for which camouflaged person is THEIR person.  Then, they spot each other!!  These three photos say it all as he runs closer, closer, and closer!

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

REUNITED, AT LAST!!

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

BELOW: This kind of raw emotion is as real as it gets... the moment father and son embrace for the first time after seven long months.  Last time they saw each other, he was only ten days old.  Now, he's almost seven months old!

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Playing with daddy's cover (hat).

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

More playtime with daddy!

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Showing off his son to his friends.

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Congratulations, McNamara family, and thank you so much for what you do for us.

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Headed home!

Military Homecoming Session, California. Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family Session in Twentynine Palms

I've experienced the pleasure of working with this sweet family multiple times! It's such an honor to have repeat clients.  We gathered on this day for a family session as well as to chronicle the 4th birthday of big sister!

What: Family Session

Where: 29 Palms Inn, Twentynine Palms, California

Who: The Ulmer Family

Please enjoy these sweet moments from their session!

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Family session at 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2016 www.laurasuebrod.com

Ballet Mini-Session In The Studio

Sometimes, a photographer is blessed with the opportunity to capture a family multiple times.  This sweet lady belongs to one such family.  This time around, I was honored to be able to capture her gracefulness as she was all dressed and ready for her upcoming winter ballet recital.

Considering the femininity involved with her ballet costume, we started the session with the ultimate little girl's dream: a tea party with the princess, herself!

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Every ballerina remembers starting off with a small pair of pink ballet slippers. 

  Ballet-themed Mini-Session.    Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015  www.laurasuebrod.com

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

We had fun making snow fly off of the snowflake!

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Time to practice her moves!

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

Little sister wanted her moment to pose, and also to try out the flavor of the paper snowflakes. 

Ballet-themed Mini-Session.  Laura Sue Brod Photography - 2015 www.laurasuebrod.com

White Buses...

Over the last couple of years, I've decided how to categorize white buses: They fall in the Love/Hate Relationship category of life.  

I hate white buses.  

From the moment we learn that white buses will whisk away our loved ones to a war-stricken zone, we dread the day that we'll stand by them all lined up, waving and smiling through tears.  Plans are made, revised, re-written (isn't it true- nothing goes according to plan), and we do everything we can to make the most of the time leading up to white buses.  

A year and a half ago, I stood by those buses.  I tried to be strong for my husband and for my friend, who was also there, saying "see ya soon" to her husband.  It's funny in a weird way - we all seem to carry on with small talk, sprinkle in moments of heavy conversation and prayers.  We laugh, smile, and discuss how long it will take for "it" to sink in.  Last year, I knew for certain that I'd go back home, carry on life as usual, and "it" would hit me in a week or so.  Nope.  I pulled out of that parking lot and cried the whole way back to the house.  Thankfully, I had a wonderful friend in another spouse to share life with, and neither of us had to go it alone.  It would be great if everyone had that kind of friend!

Recently, I stood outside those cursed white buses again.  This time, I stood there for my friends, as they bade farewell to their loved ones.  My husband and I walked around, visiting with friends, and praying for friends along the way.  Prayers for safety, peace, relationships to flourish, and families and friends back home were spoken many, many times.  Honestly, at that moment, I thought that day's white buses moment would be much less emotional... much easier, perhaps, since this wasn't my family's farewell moment.  Nope.  As I stood there holding my friend's baby while she tended to the needs of her other children and waving bye-bye to Daddy on the bus, I looked all around me.  I saw friends crying, waving.  I saw grandpa-aged men doing the same, waving farewell to their sons on the buses.  I saw children, mothers, friends, fiancees, and volunteers all experiencing the same air of difficult emotion mixed with patriotism that lingered in the air.  

It's an odd thing.  Picture it: There they sit, all of the shiny, white buses, waiting in a long line, idling, as final details are taken care of.  Everyone's been loaded onto the buses, and families gather on either side to catch glimpses of their loved one.  Guys (in this last case, it was all men) open the bus windows, wave, smile, and yell cheerful words to their loved ones.  This goes on until the very last moment when the buses roll out.  Then, there's that moment - the one that I hate the most.  We're all left standing in the parking lot, staring at each other from either side of where the buses sat.  It's quiet.  Someone sniffles. The buses circle around again, and everyone turns to smile and wave one last time.  Quietness, again.  The parking lot empties.  Even though I've tried to explain the moment here in writing, words don't quite do it justice.  

We gather all the courage that is within us.  Military families are strong.  We hate those buses, but we head home, ready to conquer deployment.  Do we have everything together?  Nope.  We each face our own battles at home.  For some, it's depression. That was my battle, last deployment.  For others, it's suicidal thoughts.  Some face celebrations that are missing a special person.  Do we still celebrate?  You betcha! We celebrate, still!  We reach out to friends, family, God, and the many resources that the Military has for us, like support groups, family readiness groups, Chaplains and military counseling programs.  This deployment grows us as individuals.  We quickly learn that there's no shame in asking for help.  Hindsight proves our growth - we can look back and say, "I did that! I never thought I could... but I did it!"  

...Then, word comes that those same cursed white buses will be returning.  

I LOVE WHITE BUSES!  

We get to work, right away, to make sure everything's ready for our loved one's return.  House clean? Check.  Real groceries in the fridge (so he doesn't know I ate nachos for lunch and popcorn for dinner for 7 months)? Check.  Photographer? Check. Sassy outfit for later (sorry, not sorry)? Check. Banner on the fence outside the gate? Check.  We cross fun items off that list we've compiled, which now serves as its own kind of countdown, too.  

After a few last-minute-schedule-change announcements, the day arrives!!!  Those same people who had previously stared at each other after the buses left now gather in a field, in the sweltering heat, and emotion lingers in the air, once again.  This time, the air carries the same patriotism as before, but now it's mixed with excitement, anticipation, and nervousness.  Babies don cute new onesies that read, "I've waited my whole life to meet you!" Banners read, "Get out of my way, my Daddy comes home today!", and, "I've waited 192 days to see my Marine!".  Pictures, laughter, flags, lined up rows of gear, happy conversation, bounce houses, and smiles are all common sights.  All of a sudden, someone at the edge of the crowd yells out - "I see the buses!  Here they come!"  I LOVE WHITE BUSES!! 

White Buses
White Buses

Y'all can't even imagine the kind of chaos that happens next.  Imagine a flood of ants running at you, and you're supposed to spot the one that has a different head than the others.  That basically sums up this part of a homecoming.  They're all wear the SAME outfit, they flood off of the buses, and you're supposed to find the one that goes home with you!  It's chaotic, but worth every moment!  I'll never forget screaming at the top of my lungs, "CHAPS!!  CHAAAPPPSSSS!!!".  I never saw him.  It still makes me laugh, today.  My friend hollered, "Follow me, I'll lead you to him!".  Next thing I remember, I was screaming and running toward him, crying and smiling.  I jumped into his arms.  

I love white buses.  

Thank you for reading this. I've tried my best to relay to you what happens in many families' lives.  We walk, sometimes run like Phoebe from Friends, through these moments,  knowing that we will go through these same moments again.  One beautiful day, love fell upon us and our spouses and never left.  We decided to spend our lives together, and vowed to not let anything separate what God had put together in marriage.  We said, "We're in this for the long haul, baby!".  When our loved ones deploy, other military families become surrogate family and get us through until the day those white buses return, and then some afterwards and in-between.   In all of their seeming power over us in that love/hate relationship we have with them, white buses bring us all together and teach us that we're made of a lot more than we realize, that God is still good, and that we always come out stronger in the end. Would we ever trade this life?  Nope.  Never. 


Wedding Anniversary Trip!

Recently, the love of my life and I celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary.  We've spent the majority of our marriage scrimping and saving, like many.  Finally, this year, we decided that we should actually take a "real" vacation to celebrate our anniversary!  So, we loaded up the car and took off out of the desert where we live to visit Monterey, California.  

We relaxed in a cozy bed and breakfast where we were greeted by a friendly woman at the front desk, and were also greeted by a couple of amazing free goodies in our room! Each day, we enjoyed delicious breakfast dishes and coffee, ate some wonderful hors d'oeuvres at the wine and cheese hour, and ate far too many cookies each night at the cookies and milk hour in the lobby.   A few pounds may have been gained, but we enjoyed the luxury.  :D  If you're interested in staying at this amazing bed and breakfast, I'll post a link to their site below, underneath the photos.  

As far as activities go, the whale watching tour we took highlighted our trip.  I'm not a huge fan of crowds, and neither is my husband, so he researched for days to find the best option for us.  What he came up with was perfect -- We HIGHLY recommend Fast Raft.  I'll link to their site below, as well.  The boat seats six people (seven, if you count the driver/tour guide) and travels much  more quickly than the standard, giant whale watch boats.  These two aforementioned factors equate to a very personalized and longer whale watch.  Our tour only consisted of me, my husband, another gentleman, and his son.  We were in heaven.  :)  

We also LOVED (probably a bit too much) the candy shop we visited.  Link below, haha.  

Overall, Monterey turned out to portray too much of a touristy vibe for us.  We were let down by Cannery Row and Fisherman's Wharf, as they were overrun with trinket-type shops.  Honestly, we probably wouldn't go back JUST to see Monterey.  But, if you're in the area and need a wonderful place to stay and want a top-notch whale watching tour (and... candy!!), we definitely recommend the places below.  

Here are a few pictures from our trip.  (There aren't any pics of the candy... we ate it too quickly!) 

-Laura