Monday, February 26, 2007

Hard Work




It happens to all of us at one point and time in our lives or another...we encounter the nay-sayers, the goal-stealers, the dream-bashers, the critics. Those people who, for one reason or another, just don't buy into your inspired vision for your life. Let's be clear, not all of these people fall into this role for malevolent reasons. Maybe they're worried about you, they want you to play it safe, or they simply don't understand your plan. In short, they don't get it.

When Mary and I decided to step off of the beaten path to safety and security and chase this dream we love, we encountered our share of critics. Every now and then, we still do. Whenever this happens, we pull out an article we found a while back in Seth Godin's, Small is the New Big. It always helps us to get our hearts straight, and to remind us that those who would wish us to play it safe may not have any idea what they would be asking of us. Here is an excerpt from the article. Feel free to come back to it anytime the critics are at your door.

"Sure, you're working long, but today working "long" and working "hard" mean two different things...Our future in the workplace is not about time at all. The future is about work that's really and truly hard, not just time-consuming. It's about the kind of work that requires us to push ourselvews, not just punch the clock...

As the economy plods along, many of us are choosing to take the easy way out. We're going to work for the Man, letting him do all the hard work while we put in the long hours. We're going back to the future, to a definition of work that embraces the grindstone...

Hard work is about RISK. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under this barrier, drive through the other barrier and, after you've done that, to do it again the next day. The big insight: the riskier your hard work appears to be, the safer it really is."

Dream Weddings!

We just want to say a big congrats to Susie and Ann of Dream Weddings and Special Events, who just launched their brand new website HERE!! We were so honored when Susie asked to feature our pictures from Tiffany and David's wedding on the site...you can check them out on both the home page and in the gallery. Susie did such a great job with that wedding and really made our job a lot easier. Everything looks awesome guys!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tracie Valentino Rocks!

I just have to put a RAVE in here for our rockin' web designer Tracie Valentino. Not only is she doing a beautiful job with our new website, but she's been the poster child for exceeding expectations by putting up with all our nit-picky crap! ;) Not to mention that we change our minds every other day and she just rolls with it with a "no problem!". She's also volunteering to design both the new logo and website for The Portrait House so we're really excited to see what she comes up with. Tracie is sweet and funny and talented and has an unbelievable eye for design... If your website is looking a little dusty, go give her a call!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Starve Hunger



Last March, Mary and I agreed to help out with our church youth group's 30 Hour Famine. We thought that we would be doing them a favor in helping out...but it turned out that they would be the ones helping us. I can't even begin to tell you how blown away we were by these amazing kids. Going on hours without any food (or much sleep!) they cheerfully painted walls and swept floors for a local shelter, like that's what any normal teenager would be doing on a Saturday morning. They're such a tight-knit group and to watch them laugh, play, work, and pray together was such a powerful experience that it has stayed with us ever since. On top of everything, they raised over $4,000 for World Vision to feed hungry children around the world. We're so excited to be working with them again this March! We want to say a huge thank you to the group leaders, Judy & Monique, for their amazing vision and dedication...you truly inspire us.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Great Ones...

One of the perks to being sick is that you are forced to sit on the couch and watch marathons of TV. It's perfectly acceptable to watch a 3 hour block and not move an inch other than to flip the pillow. Normally, this might include great shows like Law and Order, Friends, or Everybody Loves Raymond, but today I was glued to the History Channel's presentation of "The Presidents." I watched from the Andrew Johnson years to FDR's 4th election. This really got me thinking about what it means to be a great leader.

It struck me that each of these men had their own idea for what it meant to be a leader... but the true greats only came about when they put helping others at the core of their vision for change. They were all just men...they had their weaknesses, shortcomings and failures; but the greats always rallied, driven by a desire to leave their world a better place than they found it. Let me be clear... Presidents don't usually get me fired up, and I recognize a great many problems with a system that has (at least until 2008!) failed to elect anyone but old white men. But I couldn't help but see a pattern in the great leaders of their time... and this of course got me thinking about the leaders that DO get me fired up: Martin Luther King Jr., Bono, and our pastor, Bill Keane, just to name a few.

It may seem counterintuitive - lead by following, get more by giving more, help yourself by helping others. Too often we feel pulled by the gut reaction to hold on to what is ours for fear of losing it. But leadership, like love, is one of those things that you will always find more of, the more you give to others. Take a chance on helping someone today...it may be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

I saw this great old Apple commercial a long time back, but most recently came across it on Becker's blog. I love what it stands for. So what are you going to do today to be "one of the crazy ones"?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bleh!



Well, it doesn't happen often, but I am one sick puppy. I always manage to get sick once a year, and thank God it's never during wedding season. The great thing about this blog is that I can share my cold with you and you don't have to worry about catching anything. I'm sure it has NOTHING to do with the sub-zero wind chills we've had here in CT, or the ice storm we had this week. I've been whimpering to Mary for the past two days, and she always just smiles and takes such good care of me. Gotta love all the chicken noodle soup, OJ, and cold-eeze bubble gum! I also love getting wrapped up in the awesome quilt her great-grandma made for her. So, here's my question to you guys: What are your must-haves when you get sick...the things you just know you'll never get better without?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Delicious doesn't even begin to describe it...

Saturday, me, Mary, and my mom took the drive out to Stonington for our tasting at Coastal Gourmet. It was SO GOOD! Eric put together the best plate of appetizers including my favorite: bite size crabcakes!! The butternut bisque with crab was incredible, and Mary loved the duck and cranberry over potato cakes... but nothing can top the statler chicken with a fig glaze, our main course... I even asked to take some of the fig glaze home. lol So needless to say it was an easy choice and we booked on the spot! If any of you brides out there are still looking for a caterer, I would highly recomend meeting with them. I can't wait for dinner in October!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

39 MP and counting...



Yesterday I got to go down to NYC to check out Phase One's hot new P45 digital back with Legends Behind the Lens photographer Jody Dole (who I'm so lucky to call my good friend and mentor). Eric at Digital Transitions was awesome! He sat down with us for over two hours showing us every function of the camera and software. It is Soo sweet! Can you say 39 megapixels baby?!? :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super Bread Bowl




So I don't claim to be any kind of culinary master, but I was rather proud of my "Colts Bread" with spinach dip that I made for Super Bowl Sunday! I also don't claim to be an Indianapolis Colts fan by any means...but seeing how my Giants fell way short of the Super Bowl this year, I thought I would pay tribute to our party hosts, Annie and Daniel, who moved to CT from Indy. Thanks guys for a great party!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

From Clients to Friends

Us photographers are always asking the question of how do we turn our clients into friends, so that by the time the wedding rolls around it’s like we’ve all known each other for years. The best answer we’ve been able to come up with is to be lucky enough to start with amazing clients!

This weekend we had one of the best Saturdays we’ve had in long time, and it was all because of our amazing clients turned even more amazing friends. First, David (of Tiffany & David fame) stopped by to hang out for a little while. It was exactly what we needed! Mary and I have really been feelin’ the stress of planning our own wedding, since we just realized we’re about to hit the 8 month mark and we still have sooo much more to do (and pay for!). David was so great about telling us how he & Tiff dealt with everything and to just trust that in the end it will all work out for a perfect day. Their day was definitely perfect, so we feel so lucky to have them as an example and source of strength over the next few months. Thanks guys!

Later we headed up to Middletown for dinner with Alana & Dan, whose wedding we’re doing this coming July. We shot their engagement pictures this past October in Watch Hill and had SO much fun hanging out with them so we were very excited when we got an email from them inviting us to dinner at their house. It was so great..from their adorable, cozy home to the incredible food to the FOUR HOURS of non-stop laughs we have not had that much fun in a long time! Alana & Dan were high school sweethearts (how awesome is that?!) and just watching them with their kindness and care for one another, it’s so easy to see that their hearts were meant to find each other. We can’t wait for July.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Faces of Change


As promised, I wanted to share more about how we're giving back to the community through our project called The Portrait House. In a mission to raise money and awareness for poverty housing, we are collaborating with photographers across the country in order to build a house for a family in need through Habitat for Humanity. The photographers involved with the project will be donating their services for portrait sessions, and in return a minimum donation of $100 will be made to Habitat. We want to photograph families, couples, children, babies, and even our furry friends! These are the faces of change! Our goal is to raise $50,000 by this time next year. So where did we get the idea...

We all know what a terrible tragedy the Gulf coast hurricanes were; but, I have to admit I had no real appreciation of the devastation, sitting in the comfort of my apt and flippin' past the news channels, until I came face to face with a family who had lost everything. The Rogers family came to us straight from N'awlins and would teach us much in the short time we were blessed to know them, not the least of which was a spicy cajun shrimp recipe that could set your lips on fire!! We were lucky enough to get to know this incredible family because of the amazing generosity of a family in our church. The Bloss family opened their home and, ultimately, their hearts, as the two families forged what is sure to be a lifetime friendship. I was so blessed to get to photograph them together days before the Rogers returned to New Orleans (their portraits are featured at the beginning of the video below). The experience sparked an idea that has turned into the dream that is "The Portrait House."

Our community is filled with incredible talent, and more importantly, incredible people. Mary and I continue to be blown away by the generosity and overall goodness in people we meet everyday. I love this quote by Erma Bombeck: "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything that you gave me." These are the kind of people we've been lucky enough to meet, and this little project of ours would be nothing without them.

Habitat's mission continues, and so does ours.
To get involved, email justin@theportraithouse.org.