Fresh 48: not just for humans anymore | Fairbanks Lifestyle Photographer

In recent months I've had not one but TWO sets of friends ask if they could set up Fresh 48 sessions to document the growth of their families - but not because they were welcoming human babies.  Rather, each family was stepping into the animal kingdom. 

I can't even tell you how much I loved this idea. 

Ada adopted two kittens, Bluebell and Rosie; and Ali, Bradon, Eli, and Emi adopted a silver lab named Ru.  And the cuteness just did. not. stop.  

I absolutely loved the opportunity to take the lifestyle approach into documenting such a fun family milestone.  It's no secret that I love portraits that break all the molds, and I love that I have friends and clients who have joined in me in thinking outside of the box.  (I'm so proud!  Sniff, sniff.)  

2018 Mini-Sessions, Events, & Scheduling

updated 5/17/18

For all the planners out there - here's how 2018 is shaping up around these parts!  In addition to births and the custom lifestyle sessions I offer all year long for families, maternity, and fresh babies, the following are all the organized "events" and mini-sessions I'll be offering through the year.  I hope one of them will be right up your alley!  

In most cases, exact dates will be determined later on.  Events are subject to change and cancellation.  If you'd like reminders about any of these events, please sign up for my e-newsletter or follow me on Facebook.  

Monthly: Catch Me If You Can Milestone Minis

Generally offered on the third Saturday of the month, Catch Me If You Can Milestone Minis are a short, sweet, and affordable way to capture all the ages & stages of baby's first years.  RSVPs required.  *There will be no CMIYC sessions in September or October 2018.*

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February and June: Perfect {Professional} Headshots

Professional headshots are a must-have for your CV, byline, social networking profiles, and 'About Me' page.  Every few months, I try to offer a day of headshots with a professional makeup artist on site, a full prep guide, and an array of delicious beverages so you can confidently knock this giant item off your to-do list.  To see the results of past headshot events, please see here and here and here!  The next installments of this series are planned for February 25, 2018 and June 24, 2018.  The comprehensive fee for this session is $250 (a tax-deductible expense if done for your business and/or professional life!).  To reserve your spot now, please contact me.

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June 3: Spring Blossoms at the Orchard Little Sessions

Longer than a mini-session but shorter than a custom session, Little Sessions (30-40 minutes) at Clair's Cultivations' fields of fruit trees off CHSR are a wonderful opportunity for portraits in the loveliest of surroundings.  At $195, these sessions are a SMOKIN deal, people.

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Mid-July: Little Sessions in the Peonies {at Alaska Peony Flowers}

Longer than a mini-session but shorter than a custom session, Little Sessions (30-40 minutes) at Alaska Peony Flowers' fields of flowers in the Goldstream Valley are a wonderful opportunity for portraits in the loveliest of surroundings.  At $195, these sessions are a SMOKIN deal, people.  

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August 11, 2018: Babywearing & Family Mini-Sessions

Babywearing portraits are some of my favorites - documenting such a sweet benchmark.  Families (and non-babywearers) welcome.  These quick 15-minute sessions are $89 and are a great opportunity to knock some family portraits out to preserve the summer sun all year long. 

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August 20-24, 2018: Little Sessions at the Orchard

Longer than a mini-session but shorter than a custom session, Little Sessions (30-40 minutes) are the perfect opportunity to capture the peak of fall in interior Alaska for families and couples alike.  We'll be on-site at our local Alaskan orchard (off CHSR) for invite-only U-Pick evenings, August 20 - August 24.  you're invited to grab your favorite baskets and hit the apple trees for a sweet evening of picking & portraits.  The fee is $195 (and apples are $3/pound!).  

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Mid-September to Mid-October: Sarah Lewis Photography is on Sabbatical!

With the notable exception of birth stories and Fresh 48 sessions, I will not be taking any sessions from Mid-September to Mid-October 2018 so I can focus all my attention on school portraits!  This seems like a good time to mention it: if your school, preschool, daycare, program, or group is in need of some good old-fashioned portraits with a modern edge, send them my way!  I'd love to fit a few more schools onto my 2018 docket.  

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Mid-September: Client Appreciation Event - Complimentary Back-To-School Portraits 

Short, sweet, and way better than boiler-plate!  I'm excited to invite my existing clients into the studio for an invitation-only day of complimentary school-themed portraits to really mark the milestone of the new school year.  

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October 31: Client Appreciation Event - Complimentary Halloween Costume Portraits

As a gesture of thanks, for Halloween 2018 I'd like to invite all my year's clients to the studio for a complimentary in-costume portrait!  

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Early November: 5th Annual Winter Mini-Sessions at Running Reindeer Ranch

2018 will be the fifth year Running Reindeer Ranch and I have collaborated to offer brisk but quick 15-minute winter mini-sessions!  Man, they're a lot of fun.  We're aiming for the first weekend of November.  Booking for these $175 sessions will begin at the beginning of October.  

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And last but not least - 

My favorite, my absolute favorite type of sessions, are the ones we custom-design to document your family.  If more than a mini-session is what is in your heart, let's get rolling on session design!  Families, Births, Fresh Babies, and more - I love going into detail to create a session that will document your family's personality just as much as it does your faces.   These sessions are available year-round, though I do take a limited number per month, so contact me sooner rather than later to reserve yours!  

And now, for something completely different | Fairbanks Cosplay Photographer

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many.  This is especially so for those who have a FAVORITE character.  Outside of Comic-Cons, Halloween is the one day a year that everyone is invited to really lean into costuming to the fullest extent.  

Jolene numbers among the cosplay devotees.  She loves Halloween and she loves being Harley Quinn.  She spent most of a year gathering precise pieces of her costume, down to nail polish, faux tattoos inked by a professional, and an exact replica of Harley's graffitied bat.  This was Jolene's second Halloween dressing up as Harley, and she contacted me in September after a realization: if you spend most of the year in anticipation of Halloween, you should probably get more than blurry iPhone photos snapped by less-than-sober friends by which to remember the night.  

So this year, she hired me to design a session to document Harley Quinn a la Jolene (with a few special appearances by other friends, including Batman and Deadshot).  This was far from a typical session for me, and it was a lot of fun to meet an entirely new set of challenges in order to capture the Halloween experience Jolene wanted.  If you happened to be driving on Airport Way the Friday before Halloween just after dark and were wondering what on earth was happening in the Kodiak Jack's parking lot (a ring of parked, running cars, lightstands and umbrellas, a crowd of people, all in the freezing rain - ) ... yeah, that was us.  It was cold, wet, and an absolute blast.

Non-traditional family portraits: recent favorites.

Perhaps my favorite part of custom family sessions is the process of creating at least one non-traditional family portrait.  It's kind of like solving a riddle: how do I (somewhat organically) get everyone into the frame?  And once I get them there, how do I portray the family authentically, as more than a sum of its parts - preserving at least a hint of the laughter, energy, noise, and personality uniquely inherent to every group.  

I love a good traditional image, too - everyone smiling at the camera.  I call it the "Christmas Card Picture."  I will admit, even I usually end up putting one of those on my personal holiday card, so great-grandmas and far-off cousins alike get to really see how big the kids are, etc.  

But for a canvas in my home?  Personally, one of these is what I'd want printed huge on my wall.  

What about you?  What do you have on your walls?  

Thankful.

I'm having a rare, very picturesque holiday moment right now.  The house is toasty with the glow of the woodstove and delicious smells waft by; the turkey is brining; the baby is napping; and the big kids are relaxing with daddy.  Sure, the floor is filthy and a million other things that need to be tidied are calling my name...but this moment is too delicious not to lean into it a little.  

A picturesque holiday moment, and perhaps also a stereotypical one, as I've been reflecting on the theme of being thankful.  *Cue sentimental music* Seriously, though, too often we're prompted to consider thankfulness only through the lens of loss - only in comparison to the misfortune, tragedy, loss, grief, and trials of the rest of the world.  Kind of like how I only remember how extremely grateful I am for good health when I've narrowly avoided a brush with influenza, or how we may pause to remember how lucky we are to have a home to keep us warm and safe only after listing to stories of home fires and homelessness on the news.  Basically, it's the "eat your vegetables; there are starving children in India" vibe in a nutshell.  

Not that this a bad thing, necessarily.  It's kind of unavoidable, and am empathic awareness of others and the global community is something to strive for in many ways.  But the ever-presence of this lens came into focus recently as I've caught glimpses of a different kind of thankfulness.  

It's a pure sensation.  It's elation and joy, and a momentary suspension of fear and trepidation.  It is completely of the moment, and it's likely to cause goose bumps.  

I was invited to document a friend's redeployment ceremony earlier this month as he returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.  This image, which I took moments after he was finally returned to his family's arms, is what first struck this Thankful chord.  

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Alan's face.  He is completely and totally present.  He's not thinking about the last nine months or the next five minutes; he is completely in that moment.  It's a strange kind of zen to find in the middle of a heart-wrenching event, but I think it makes it all the more remarkable.  His face says it all.  

And so today I've been thinking about how fortunate I am to have access to these moments of pure thankfulness, even if only to document them.  And I thought I'd share a couple of them here.  

Happy thanksgiving, everyone.  

4th Annual Holiday Mini-Sessions at Running Reindeer Ranch: Nov 5, 2017

UPDATE: Sold out for 2017!  If you'd like to get on my mailing list so you can get advance notice for 2018's sessions, you can sign up on my Contact Me page

I can hardly believe it, but it's that time of year again!  My last mini-sessions of 2017 are coming up this weekend, Sunday November 5.  This will be the fourth year in a row Running Reindeer Ranch and I have collaborated to offer these unique, amazingly fun sessions done on location at the ranch in the Goldstream Valley.  

It can be a little chilly, but these sessions are short, sweet, and SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  Watching kids light up at the sight of the reindeer ambling up to them never gets old!  

The inclusive fee of $150 covers your 15-minute session, 3 to 5 digital images, and a print release.  Sessions will be held from 11 am - 5 pm on the hour, twenty after, and forty after.  You can reserve your slot here!  

Here are just a few favorite images from the past few years' sessions.  Just imagine one of these on your holiday card this year! 

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Featured on the Huffington Post: National Midwifery Week 2017

National Midwifery Week was earlier this month, and though I do tend to think we should shout our love for our midwives from the rooftops EVERY week, it's still lovely to have a week during which to formally give thanks.  

The Huffington Post celebrated this "holiday" of sorts by compiling 30 photographs of midwives at work.  I'm thrilled to have an image included.  Definitely click on over to see all 30 photographs - they're amazing.  

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Pssst.  Love this image, but left wanting more?  Click here for the full birth story, authored by none other than the beautiful mama pictured here. 

Ella Grace: Fighting PFIC at Seven Months Old | Fairbanks, Alaska

This is Ella.  

Ella.

Ella.

This is Ella's mama.  

Kassandra.   

Kassandra.  

And this is Ella's family.  

The whole crew.  

The whole crew.  

This is Ella moments after she was born.  (Yup, I was there.)  I think you can feel the ecstatic reverence of her family's gaze in this picture; she was an answer to their collective prayers, and they chose Grace ("God's favor") as her middle name to codify how thankful they are to have her.  Attending her birth was one of the more remarkable experiences I've ever had.  

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Ella Grace is seven months old as I write this.  A little shy of a month ago, everything changed.  Kassandra texted me over Labor Day weekend to let me know they were in Anchorage in the Providence PICU.  Ella was in liver failure.  

I can't convey how shocked I was to hear that.  Liver failure??  This of course pales to what Ella's family was experiencing.  (*This seems like a good time to note that this whole entry is a paraphrased summary of second-hand narrative - there are of course a lot more nuances to everything.  But this is the jist, as much I've been able to piece together.)  After months of mild but nagging concern, Kassandra and Mike again brought Ella into Urgent Care, never expecting that they would be aboard an air ambulance to the PICU mere hours later.  All told, they spent a week in Providence with little more than the clothes they had thrown on that Monday morning.   

Ella improved rapidly.  She was able to leave the PICU in favor of a regular children's ward room after a few days, and soon they no longer felt she was in liver failure, but referred to the episode as a liver injury.  But they still didn't know why.  There were a whole lot of tests and a lot about what it wasn't (and a lot of stuff on the "wasn't" list was GREAT stuff to have ruled out!), but by and large it was still a mystery.  The Ryan family was discharged and able to come home to Fairbanks (while still remaining in close contact with Ella's new specialists in Anchorage) still waiting on answers.

The day after they returned home, you could see how improved Ella was - barely a trace of jaundice even in the whites of her eyes.  There was so much relief in her improvement.  

Why yes, I  am  a living Cabbage Patch Doll.  

Why yes, I am a living Cabbage Patch Doll.  

But it didn't last.  Slowly, her liver enzymes started to show deterioration again; she had to wear little baby socks over her hands to stop her from scratching the terrible itching; and jaundice begin to creep across her complexion again.  At this point, the Ryan family prepared for a trip to Seattle Children's Hospital for a camera-assisted liver biopsy and exploratory surgery.  

As it turns out, one of the dozens of tests they'd been waiting on came in with genetic results just before they left for Seattle.  The biopsy surgery went well (apart from being terrifying, of course), and the next day, they got the news that the biopsy confirmed the test results.  

In Kassandra's own words: Yesterday’s biopsy confirmed [Ella's] diagnosis of a very rare genetic disease called Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis, or PFIC. she has a mutation for Type 1, and for Type 3. However, since she only has one mutation for Type 1, they aren’t diagnosing her as Type 1, because it typically takes two mutations for Type 1 to present as disease. So she is officially diagnosed with PFIC3. In most cases, Type 3 is “better” to have than Type 1, but not always. This disease presents differently in everyone, and it’s not common enough for them really to know what to expect for Ella. At some point, she may need a liver transplant. Or her liver could stabilize and potentially be ok.

There was talk of removing her gallbladder, but that won’t be happening at this time, and we are praying it becomes a non-issue entirely.

PFIC is characterized mainly by the intense itching that comes from bilirubin build up in the system. We have a starting medication to try to help keep it at bay that we will use as needed. And other options to try later if it doesn’t work.

The biopsy also looked to see how damaged her liver is. Untreated PFIC will often lead to cirrhosis, and they wanted to make sure Ella wasn’t heading in that direction already, and she’s not! There is some very light scarring at this point, but nothing that they are terribly concerned about, and that will continue to be monitored as well.

So now the plan is simply to monitor her. We will need to return to Seattle in about a month for a follow up, and we will repeat labs at that time. In the meantime, we will continue the medications she is on to help keep her bile thin, and to help supplement her vitamin levels. We will also keep doing weight checks at home.

... we were devastated by the news we were given. Today we have more hope for a full life for our girl. This isn’t the answer we were hoping for, but God is still GOOD. We still trust Him and the purpose he has for Ella. I know we will have hard days, especially given that we really have no concrete answers here. But God is faithful and he will walk through this with us! Thank you all so very much for your continued prayers, they have carried us through this very stressful and uncertain time. 💕

Kassandra's strength humbles me greatly.  I have so much admiration for her ability to be grounded yet hopeful, joyful, in the face such unexpected adversity.  

If, like me, you're aching for any way to extend a little love and support to the Ryan family during this time, you're in luck.  Friends set up a You Caring page to collect donations to help offset all the incidental costs of travel and out-of-pocket medical care.  In addition, donations of Alaska Airlines miles would be incredibly appreciated - if you'd like to donate miles to the family, please contact me directly for info.  More than anything, the Ryan family would appreciate your love, thoughts, and prayers for Ella and their family.  

Shortly after sharing the diagnosis, Kassandra wrote this on her Facebook page.  I just wanted to take a minute to say a huge THANK YOU. It does not feel like enough, a simple “thank you”. But I say it from the bottom of my heart. I am so blown away by the support we have received from everyone, even complete strangers to us have donated to help offset the costs of all that Ella is going through. It has been such a blessing for covering the cost of simple things that would have been stressful without this help. Such as meals when we are out and about, and when we were in the hospital, and supplements we got for Ella today. Little costs that really add up. And these funds will help us cover Ella’s main med that she is on (that thus far, insurance is refusing to cover) for the near future. Every single one of you who have donated have really helped to lighten the load in a big way, and we are just so grateful. I never expected to receive the amount that we have. So thank you for giving so generously, each and every one of you. It means so much!

Fairbanks, I love watching you rally around the people you love.  You rock, little city.  

Ella's YouCaring page is here.