Owl Spotting!

I’ve been going out to the desert for scrapbooking weekend retreats for a few years now - at least since 2012. I’ve heard stories of the owls who nest in the large tree just in front of the main house. But they’ve been elusive for me. For a while, they nested elsewhere. So, when packing my things ~ including camera gear, because, you know, the photographer within ~ I picked up my long lens… and put it back down. I had been taking it for years and never used it. So this time I left it home.

And this time, the owls were back!! We could hear their “hoo hoo” calls in the morning & evening. A few of us saw them, but I just couldn’t spot them by myself. Renate showed me where the nest was - with the two juveniles inside!! Such a sight. The big eyes and curious looks were directed right at us. Just amazing fluffy little gremlins. Even though they were still young & in the nest, they can fly.

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No sight of the parents this time. I did see one fly just before dinner on Saturday. Gliding with wings outstretched ~ WOW!! Grace and smoothness and danger.

After that, every time I walked by the tree I looked up. Probably not the best thing to do while walking but I managed not to trip. And I spotted them again. One of the adults and one of the juveniles just hanging out on a branch. They looked at me, not really concerned but certainly curious. They are magnificent! And big. And their heads do really swivel around sooo far. There’s a photography saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. Same with lenses… so the best lens was the longest I had with me. Not ideal, but at least I have photos to remind me of the beauty of these creatures.

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Can you spot them here?

Can you spot them here?

Moral of the story ~ expect the unexpected, look up, be present to the world, and always take the long lens!

These owl photos are available as prints in my Nature and Fine Art gallery store. For details click HERE.

Mustard Field Adventure | a personal lifestyle photo session

Sometimes you just need to take time to get outdoors and wander in nature. That’s what we did here in the local mustard fields. The rain upon rain we had earlier helped created these beautiful fields of wild mustard. This doesn’t happen all the time, and it is such a fun place when it does.

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It was so much fun to spend time with these two! It was a beautiful afternoon and there were new smells everywhere! And a yellow lab’s gotta sniff, you know! But she was a really good girl. She almost disappeared in the mustard, but came running when called. Being outdoors with your human in a new place is a great day for a dog! It was a great day all around for us people too. Walking on the paths there were times we were surrounded by the mustard ~ it was taller than us!

Did you know personal and family photo sessions don’t need to be the just “stand there, look at the camera, smile.” kinda boring experience? It can be so much more! Expressing your personality, your family’s fun things to do, capturing your joy ~ that’s what makes my heart sing. Taken at your home or at a favorite place. Just you doing the things you love. I’d love to capture those beautiful, everyday moments. The ones you love and want to remember.

Click HERE to learn more about my sessions and pricing. Let’s play!

If you’d like to see all the photos from this session, head over HERE!

Long-time friends are Best

Recently, my hubby’s friend and roommate from the Air Force came to visit. Thanks to the internet, they got back in touch a few years ago, and have continued the friendship. Those friends who knew you when and know you today are just the best!! It was a short visit, but such fun to see him after many years. I’d only met him briefly once and was glad to get to know him.

George’s visit was certainly not an “everyday” experience - but one we hope to do more often than every 20 or so years!. Just as I believe that photos of the everyday are special and to be celebrated, I know that these extra-special, infrequent moments of life are even more precious. So I braved the sighs of “not another photo,” and enjoyed capturing some of the moments with these two. Actually, the guys weren’t too bad about it!

We went to pick him up at Union Station in downtown LA - a place we don’t visit often. While waiting for his train to arrive, what’s a photographer to do but take photos! Such a cool Art Deco building, built in 1939 and still showing all that classic beauty. Just being there takes you back to a time when the train was a major form of public transportation. And when life was lived at a (seemingly) slower pace. And the birds came indoors!

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We realized that we weren’t sure what George looked like now (& vice versa), so the guys were texting back and forth with what they were wearing. They’ve adapted to technology pretty well. Couldn’t really miss my hubby in his Hawaiian shirt; and I forgave George his Penn State tee-shirt!! But we found each other. And sometimes, even for the photographer, getting the moment quickly means a less-than technically perfect photo! The honest smiles and emotion wins over slightly missed focus ~ don’t you think? Then we headed back to our house, for cocktails on the veranda, dinner, and almost endless story-telling and laughter. Even Knarley hung out with us.

It is my joy and privilege to document these super special times, along with our everyday. I love telling the story through photos ~ when we look back at these in years to come we will say, “I remember that visit!” And that makes me so happy!! How about you? What do photos of times gone by evoke in you? Comment below and let me know

And remember, I’m available to document your special or everyday moments ~ because each day is new and the everyday is extraordinary! Click here to visit my Investment/Comment page for details.

Feet...

I’ve been thinking of feet ~ my feet specifically & feet in general. After my second foot injury, well, feet are naturally on my mind. This time I was in a boot and/or on a knee scooter for over four months. Which made life challenging and had a big impact on photography & my business. But I’m healed and back and ready to go!! And so thankful for that. My feet have taken me through this life and have (mostly) gotten me where I need to go. And I’ll bet yours have too. And we rarely think about them. Feet are just overlooked. But…

Is there anything cuter than babies feet? Chubby little nuggets of goodness! Or toddler feet when they are just learning to walk & always seem to want to be in your shoes? Or little kid feet when they are running all over the place? Then there are marching band feet ~ all going the same place at the same time, hopefully in step! Family feet ~ oh how they change over the years. Praying feet walking a labyrinth. Sports feet ~ teaching our kids & teens life lessons. Beach feet. Hard-working feet. Resting feet. And don’t even get me started on puppy feet! And those things we put on our feet…

I don’t have a foot fetish (really!). I am simply grateful for these hard working body parts that are often ignored. The details of our lives make up the whole. I think photos of those details (and that includes feet!) can give a glimpse into our lives, just as they are right now.. What do you say?

I say “Hurray!” for feet! And we can include some “footage” during your session! Check out the gallery below & let me know your thoughts.

Taking time to pause, look, reflect

When I first started in photography, I had a habit of saving EVERY photo I took with my new Nikon D7100 camera. Every single one. Now, digital is “easy,” some say, because you can shoot as many photos as you want and just delete the bad ones. But apparently not that easy for me. Oh, the ones that were out of focus, the ones with eyes closed, the ones where there were strange expressions on faces (you know what I mean!), the ones of the dog’s tail because he was moving too fast - all those were easy to delete. But choosing one or two out of the twenty (or more) I had of that flower or the ocean or the beach was way hard. So I kept them.

Then my photography instructor asked me, “Why are you keeping them?” I answered, “Because I took them and might need them.” He then questioned, “Are you ever going to show all of them to anyone?” I admitted, “Not likely.” And with that the Delete key became a friend.

Now, I’ve learned to be more selective in what and how I shoot to capture the joy I see in life. I keep only the best of those shots I take; and I only share the best. Because my best is what you deserve to see. Sometimes there is a photo that tells the story I want, and it isn’t one of the best - maybe a little out of focus, or the composition isn’t great. But the telling of the story takes precedence and I’ll keep and share it in order to tell that particular story.

Sharing those few, best, story-telling photos along with inspirational scripture verses or quotes is my passion and one of the things I love to do. I hope to give you a reason to pause, look, and reflect. To slow life for just that moment and appreciate. To let God Speak to you in the little things.

With that goal in mind, I’ve created a calendar: 2019 A Year of Psalms - God Speaks in the little things. Taken from the God Speaks Daily Inspiration posts, are 12 photos and verses from Psalms, one for each month. My hope is that when you glance at the calendar every day, you find a moment to stop and know that God Speaks in the little things.

The calendar is available online in the STORE or direct from me if you are local.

To learn more about God Speaks, visit the daily inspiration on the web or on Facebook.

30 days of thankfulness

So here I am, in a boot on my right foot with a scooter to use all around so I don’t put much weight on the foot. What is a photographer to do? Being limited physically makes it hard to get out to places to shoot, hard to carry my camera around, hard to get the perspective I want. I needed something to motivate me to do the best I could under the circumstances. Enter a 30 day photo project!

My theme was thankfulness. My goal to take a photo every day of something that I am thankful for. And I did it! I might have gotten behind in posting, but I did shoot daily. Even if it was just around my house. Even if it was more photos of my dog. Trying to shoot with intention and purpose. And it made me think all day long about what I am thankful for. There is so much!

Some of my favs and the entire list are below. You can see all the photos HERE!

thankful for:

  1. my hubby and 29 years of marriage

  2. the 2 gentlemen who walked the neighborhood picking up trash with long grabbers

  3. all the fun times represented by these corks in my wooden bowl

  4. blue skies & puffy clouds traveling through Chicago O’Hare

  5. the penny candy store to feed the sweet tooth, complete with sweet shopping baskets

  6. this afternoon to kick off the “shoes,” sit for a spell and read a wonderful magazine with an amazing photo on the cover

  7. all the wonderful memories at this (likely last) visit to the Toledo Museum of Art and for the Lori Lefever jazz quarter at the Friday Music program

  8. for Agnes, the magical, mythical unicorn & friends who knew I needed her

  9. being back home with my little guy (& my big guy!)

  10. for my hubby going grocery shopping with me to push the cart, get things off the shelf, & schlep bags!

  11. these two [hubby & grandson] being able to spend some time together

  12. my Aunt Margaret, who instilled a love of music in general, and church music specifically, in me

  13. our future first-responder, who is ready for any emergency

  14. all the little details that make our home by the sea OUR home

  15. the friendship these two [hubby & “Goose”] have had for so many years

  16. when the entire process comes together and I shoot a photo, then edit it just so - makes my creative soul happy! (shot yesterday, edited today)

  17. all the boxes, etc. moved from my aunt’s home arriving safely today, including an old trunk - a beautiful addition to the bedroom

  18. my good friend who drove me to the foot doctor & the wine store, and let me buy her lunch at a new place

  19. my contemplative prayer group and the peaceful lady in the stone I saw this morning

  20. my aunt’s wonderful chiming clock hung in our living room! And for our friend who hung it for us

  21. all of God’s creatures - this big moth landed on my entry sign yesterday

  22. grocery delivery

  23. all things fall: cooler weather, football, and pumpkin… in this case, pumpkin soup

  24. my family (human & canine) and our evenings together

  25. our dog walker who brings back a tired puppy

  26. an uncrowded afternoon at the movies

  27. the beautiful sky behind our bell tower cross on my way to choir rehearsal

  28. even the little things in God’s created world - this air plant is growing despite much neglect on my part

  29. coffee, specifically PSL, and a good friend to share it with

  30. my church community and our beautiful building to gather in

What are you thankful for? I challenge to you find one thing, just one thing, every day this month of October and write it down. You will be amazed!


Birthday Field Trip

Remember when you were little & each birthday was a big deal? Turning 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 was anticipated and looked forward to so much. The excitement would build for months. Soon it becomes 13 & 16; then 18 & 21 are the big ones. After that we skip ahead in 5 year increments, sort of ignoring the ones that come in-between. Then it becomes 10 years, which are the ones we now shy away from. For to say we are going to be 50 seems a far cry from 5; & 60 seems a far cry from 6. 

But, I think, by the time we are coming face to face with the big 5-0 or 6-0 (and beyond) it is truly time to celebrate the unique individual that God created in you. And that's what we did for my good friend. We planned a day of something new and different. Something out of the ordinary. Something where we could get away from our daily lives and just have fun.

None of us had been to the Getty Villa, so it was a surprise visit for the birthday girl (even though she guessed!). What a beautiful place! Everywhere you look there are amazing antiquities and beautiful grounds. We visited some of the galleries, the gardens, and took a culinary tour of the herb garden,

We laughed a lot. We ate great food. We were driven to and from our destination. And of course, I took photos. Because what is a party without them! 

Click on the photo to see larger & move through the gallery.   To see all the photos from this fun day, go the the Event here.

Project Something Beautiful: MOTHERHOOD

Motherhood count for my Grandma Larrow: 1 daughter and 3 sons

Motherhood count for my Grandma Weber: 1 daughter and 2 sons

Motherhood count for my mom: me

Motherhood count for me: 1 step-daughter (and 4 fur-babies)

Counting things is one way to describe them, by no means is it the only way or even the best. But how can I describe Motherhood? In thinking on this, I realized that we carry parts of our mothers within us, our birth mothers and all who had a hand in raising & supporting us; and not just in our DNA. Thus, I think of my mom and my grandmothers and my "other mothers" (those not related, but who were there for me).

As I've grown, I realize that I don't have many memories of my mother; I don't have a lot of childhood memories really. So I can't tell you stories of my mom & I when I was little. I do remember as a teenager, we didn't get along. Not all that unusual, but still sad these many years later. After I moved away to college, well, how much time do you spend with your mother at that time of your life? And then I lost her. It was way too soon. My mom died when I was 24; she was 57. We never had the time to become friends, to work through the teen angst and get to the adult appreciation. But I hope that she has watched over me through the years and that she is proud of the woman, wife, step-mom, grandma, and person I have become. 

For my daughter, the daughter of my heart, I hope that you will remember the times we shared, from when you were young and until I am old. Watching you with your son is one of the best things in life. Hearing him say, "Mama, I like you" fills me with joy - because I like you too!! You are a wonderful mother. And for my grandson, I hope that we are able to create many memories together (you know there will be photos!). I love you both with my whole heart.

On this Mother's Day, remember and celebrate the women who make a difference in your life and in the world. May it be a special day.

This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on MOTHERHOOD, check out Tina's blog: Love Came Down Photography

Tea & Tulips in the Garden

Spring means tulips! And being outside, and tea in the garden, just because we can. Or a little rose vino if you are so inclined. Because what could be more civilized? 

And because things aren't always what they seem, the final photo is a pull-back showing the "garden" in its full, reality based mess!

I would love to capture the joy of your tea party in the garden, or just in your house!!

I hope you enjoy!

Click on the photo to see larger & move through the gallery.

Project Something Beautiful: HESITANT

I can’t count the number of times in my life I’ve been hesitant, overcome with fears & doubts & uncertainty; the times I just sat there because I couldn't make a move. Those seem to be the times that weigh heavily on my heart. Like the time that a friend invited me to go with her to England, where her daughter was living. Great opportunity that slipped through my hands like ice cream on a hot day – because I hesitated. Or when I had multiple job opportunities but let the one I really wanted get taken by someone else (but the one I took worked out just fine in the long run).

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But just as important are those times where I’ve jumped in with both feet. No hesitation, even if there should have been some (isn’t hindsight just a kicker?). Some turned out great, like the 1927 Spanish style house just a few blocks from the beach we bought “on a whim,” when we weren’t even looking to move; bought because I knew we were meant to live there. Some others were not so great. But when I jumped in, I took action and moved in a direction. No longer stuck in one place.

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So, what is the key in all of this? How do I know when to hesitate and when to jump? The answer is that I don’t. Many times I feel as if I’m spinning in circles. I ask for advice from my family and trusted friends. Ultimately, I'm the one who has to choose.

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But as I’ve gotten older and more grounded in my life and my faith and who I am, I know one thing for certain. Whether I hesitate or jump, God is right there with me. My rock and my refuge. And "I will put my trust in you." (Psalm 55:26)

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This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on HESITANT, check out Tina's blog here: Love Came Down Photography

Project Something Beautiful: DETERMINATION

Recipe for DETERMINATION

TOTAL TIME NEEDED: a lifetime

YIELD: self-satisfaction & joy

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: variable with each passing day/month/year

Take equal amounts of:

  • Dreams
  • Hopes
  • Courage
  • Fearlessness
  • Strength
  • Self-Worth
  • Willpower
  • Focus
  • Passion
  • Intention
  • FAITH
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Mix well.

Pour over any doubt, fear, hopelessness, despair, discouragement, indecision, hesitation

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Repeat as needed.

"Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That's what little girls are made of."                                                              -Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer

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This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on DETERMINATION, check out Suzi's blog from the other side of the globe here: Moments by Suzi

Project Something Beautiful: BALANCE

Equilibrium, evenness, aligned. All synonyms for Balance. We all want our lives to be in balance. And that often means easy. As with so much, we think that if we can only balance work and family and play and grocery shopping and laundry and doctor visits and sweeping the floors and, and, and that we will find that magical place where all is right in our world. 

But true balance is not found from the things outside of us. It is the balance between self and soul. Between darkness and light. Between the devil and God. That is the balance that matters. I speak not because I have this figured out. I speak because I fight for that balance. It isn't easy. I don't think it's meant to be easy.. 

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I hadn’t really thought of it in those terms before last Saturday night/Sunday morning. But now things seem more clear to me. I had a terrible night. Still sick with a cold, restless body with pains everywhere, restless mind that couldn’t let go, restless soul that could barely offer a prayer for help. Flailing arms and legs. Rolling from side to side. I was struck with the conviction that I was losing everything important to me in this life. Fear and anxiety, a sense of coming apart. Struggle. Finally, I slept for a few hours.

When I woke I had the clear & distinct feeling that I had been through something very profound during the darkness. I had wrestled with the night, with the dark and come through victorious into the light. Even when I could not hold onto the words to reach out to Jesus, he was with me in that place. I had no choice but to surrender and let go. To trust. To believe. And I was given back the balance to stand on my feet and exault in the goodness of the Lord.

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This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on BALANCE, check out Chanelle's blog from the other side of the globe here: Chanelle Megan Photography

Project Something Beautiful: REFLECT

What a word for the beginning of the new year! This is a time when many stop to reflect on the past year and set goals for the new one. However, in contemplating this word, I ended up at a different place. Reflect - to mirror.

When we first looked at buying this house we now live in, we were struck by the huge floor to ceiling mirrors flanking the fireplace in the living room. This room is right when you walk into the house. The previous owners had already moved out and the house was empty. Those mirrors looked like something out of a department store; they were an eye sore! We commented, that they "had to go." 

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But once we moved in and filled the room with our furniture, we realized something - those mirrors reflected so much light into the room. By reflecting the light and the room, those mirrors made the space feel so much bigger, so much brighter. In fact, many of our friends thought the room extended past the fireplace and continued on the other side. Needless to say, they are still there today. 

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Likewise, I want to be a reflection - I want to reflect God's light and love and grace and compassion and healing and hope out into the world. God has given me so much in this life. I can only pray to be his mirror and make everything and everyone around me brighter. This is the one year anniversary of my joining The Order of the Daughters of the King. I wear the cross of the Order every day, and I ask, "Lord, what would you have me do?" I am so grateful for another way to reflect God's love through service, prayer, and evangelism. 

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This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on REFLECT, check out Suzi's blog here:  Moments by Suzi

ENGAGE 2018

Happy 2018!! If you're like me, you can't believe 2017 is gone and we are looking to a new year. Which brings lots of new possibilities. I am super excited to see what wonders will come in the next twelve months. And in preparation, I decided that my "one simple word" for this year is ENGAGE. To me it's about being in the moment, looking for ways to make an impact, finding what I can do to make a difference, risking the unknown.

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ENGAGE also means reaching out in new endeavors, taking a chance, not being afraid to fail. And with that said, Dawn Switzer Photography is launched in 2018. 

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Here's to a wonderful year of engagement!!

Project Something Beautiful: STILL

Originally published September 16, 2017

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STILL

Calm. Quiet. Reflect. Peace. God. Breathe. Me. Rest. Difficult. Fleeting. Worth fighting for.

I am blessed to be able to start my day being STILL with God ~ to me, these go hand in hand. I read his Word, I write my prayers, I meditate, I reflect, I breathe. And I feel the stillness within, and peace.

 

But then the day moves on and that stillness is left in the dust as I take care of the seemingly millions of little things and some big ones. There always seems to be one more thing that needs to be done; one more something. One more way to keep moving. One more thing for my brain to focus on, to worry over. One more, one more, one more... I want my stillness to be with me throughout my day. I need that grounded feeling to stay balanced. By dinner time, usually earlier, my morning stillness has evaporated, not to be found again until the new day dawns. And my soul is unsettled.

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If I can only stop for a bit in the midst of all the movement and recharge. I need to be still. I remember a meditation prayer taught to me about a year ago by Rev. Judy Yates Siker during a woman's retreat ... and I take some time to breathe.

 Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know

Be still

Be

 

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And I am made whole.

Meditation ~ Psalm 46:10

 

This post is part of a series and a blog circle titled "Project Something Beautiful," exploring our lives and emotions. I'm so excited to collaborate with this wonderful group of talented women. For more on STILL, check out Britney's blog here:  Britney Wharton Photography