Category Archives: Motherhood

Tree Woman Project: Lawson Cypress

I have had a love for trees for quite some time now, and this past summer, I was able to volunteer with a Tree Ambassador program in Seattle by photographing trees for a self-guided tree walk map.

Capturing beauty in women is also a passion of mine. When I discovered Brooke Shaden, both of those passions merged into a lovely light bulb moment: I wanted to photograph women AND trees. This little idea further grew after meeting and hearing Jeremy Cowart speak during Creative Live’s Photo Week in September. His work is amazing, and his experimental nature inspired me to just jump in and start my idea: Tree Women – and did a first try with my daughter last month.

When I posted to my friends on Facebook asking for volunteer models and help with the project, I was so encouraged. Not only did I get volunteer models, a fellow photographer friend offered to assist. The morning of our photo session, it was super windy – like storm warning the night before windy. It was so gusty, that I almost cancelled for fear that we’d be in danger, but my model/friend Tasha was sure it would be okay.

And, boy was I glad we decided to go for it. Literally, the clouds parted and the sunshine came out toward the end of our session. It was beautiful!

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Jump!
Did I mention how great Tasha was for being willing to climb and jump from the tree?!
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Huge thank you to Tasha and Chris!

p.s. Check out Chris’ photography too!

Looking Back To Move Forward

Almost 16 years ago to this day, I accompanied my Grandma to Bolivia as she was taking a sort of reunion trip. Her family had lived there during her teen years as missionaries. I don’t remember what church they were serving under, but do remember that her time there left a lasting impression. She had the heart of an adventurer, and after 50 years spent working and raising 5 children of her own she wanted to go back to explore and remember.
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As I looked through the old disposable camera photos of that trip, I smile inside and out.  I learned a lot more about her, about poverty and about how missionaries from various church groups try to help even when they can’t agree on how to work together back home.

I remember the redhead on our flight to Bolivia who was going to meet a guy she clicked with during his weeklong holiday in the states. How they were going to meet up in Argentina, and wondering at 16-years-old myself if that was such a good idea. So, I just listened to her as she excitedly told me about how amazing he was and excited she was to finally have found a guy like him.

I remember there was the restaurant in La Paz where we ate lunch. She couldn’t read the menu except for a few words here and there. I ordered what amounted to a pile of rice with veggies and a meat sauce. She ordered something that smelled like dirty socks. I kid you not. It was a yogurt like cold soup. Being the stubborn, frugal woman that she was, she finished it, holding her breath to as not to taste it as much.

I remember how after trying in vain to find her family’s old apartment in Cochabamba, my Grandma found us a Taxi that took us to a main Plaza. From there, she found her way home on foot or “shanks pony” as she called it. I was impressed at the memory her body held that her head could not as the walk took us straight there when street names were too fuzzy to recall.

I promised myself then that I would return some day and help out. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I would somehow. Well, I have finally found the how and now is the when. You see, I’m rather intuitive when it comes to my relationships in life, but I am also very practical and rely on logic for my business. I’ve decided to start following my heart instead of my head and I’m excited to see where that takes me. First up is Bolivia!

Will you help me get there? I am raising funds through Indiegogo, and offer two deals on portraits through the campaign. You get a jump start on Christmas card photos and I get to fulfill a promise I made to myself.

UPDATE:

Not the kind of update I had hoped to give!

The workshop may be postponed until spring 2015. So, I have decided to put my fundraising efforts on hold until a decision is made (they chose Sept. 1st to make the final call). I am dedicated to attending no matter when it happens.

Thank you so much for your support this far!

Dreaming big, and asking for help

When I was 20, my entrepreneurial Uncle Ron took me, and my cousin (his son) to a big business conference in Portland, Oregon. We heard from many leaders and successful business people about what it takes to succeed. The only part that really sticks out in my mind was a spot that Goldie Hawn filled. All of the speakers spoke to their climb to success and what guided them. She said something about how, when she was about 13, someone asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and she said, “Make people happy.” That was it. At the time she was studying Ballet, and was doing really well at that, but her drive was to make people happy. And with that simple intention she has succeeded.

So, as I have been trying to find my way in my own photography business, I have often asked myself, what do I want to do? I see beauty everywhere. I notice details many become immune to seeing. From fine art nature photography to weddings, these traits serve me well, but I’m still not succeeding in a way that can help me contribute to my family. Part of this is time, that’s certainly true, but part of it, I think, is that I’ve been holding back. I haven’t been completely honest with myself. What I have always done is help people.

Now this has taken many shapes, and provided many opportunities. I remember my first real job as a courtesy clerk (bagging groceries), I always kept busy and one time offered to take out the trash for the floral vendor who put together bouquets on site. She was grateful and a week later offered me a part time job. What she didn’t know is that I really wanted to work for her!

As life moved me around, I found myself oddly offered jobs literally helping others: from tutoring to baking to landscaping to wedding photography to an Internet start up to writing and a few odd jobs sprinkled in there. When I started a family, I decided to pour my heart into it, and I have learned so much more.

As our family started to grow, I could see room for me to help contribute to the family. That’s when I decided to use my photography in a way that could brighten someone’s day and fit into my full time mommy life, fine art nature photography. Two and half years into it, and tax season showed me it’s not the right direction. This has been my year of transition. I’ve taken a class on posing, a class on studio lighting, and attended a creative challenges class. All of it is leading me to the realization that I have never spoken about how I want to fulfill the desire to simply help people.

So, I’m going to put this out here on the Internet so it’s never forgotten: I want to use my photography to help people. At first I thought that it could be achieved to help capture a family’s life in an annual photo session. Then, I thought I could do it through modern portraits of women where they can see how beautiful they really are. And now I’m getting even more specific: I want to help non-profits through photography. My dream business involve doing part non-profit work traveling internationally and partly portraiture in Seattle.

In October, I will join Workshops With A Purpose in Bolivia to learn more about the Little Ones Project. Basically, it’s a work and learn opportunity: tell their story through photography while learning how to use photography to help non-profits around the world. Most other photography workshops are held in comfy retreats around the United States, and this one appealed to me because we are actually learning in the field and giving while learning.

Why Bolivia?

As their promotional video starts, “Bolivia has the second highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.” Food for the Hungry is working to provide a solution to this through the Little Ones Project – teaching mothers nutrition and proper care to grow healthy kids.

As many of you already know, feeding kids well is one of my passions. And, while I have no idea what this program teaches, I’m sure we won’t be talking Paleo and Gluten Free. It will probably be basic, and my job will be to simply help them continue to do the work. Photographs will help tell the story and gather support.

And, Bolivia holds a special place in my heart. My grandma’s parents were missionaries in Cochabamba when she was teenager. She wanted to revisit her old stomping grounds about 50 years later, and chose me as her traveling companion when I was 16 (probably because I had street smarts and was young enough to not have a family of my own yet). Ever since that trip, I have wanted to go back. It was the first time I had ever seen real poverty. I promised myself then, that I would return someday to help. Guess which city the Little Ones Project is operating out of? Yes, Cochabamba.

Why now?

The timing is sudden for someone like me who likes to plan ahead and save. I had always held this dream in the back of my mind as something I couldn’t do until I was in my retirement years and the kids were all grown up. I assumed I would have to work first to build a successful photography business, then go on trips to donate my photography services.

Now I’m learning that you can do this as a way to make a living, and the only way to see if it’s really a dream I want to keep following is to experience it. Since my photography business is already taking a turn toward portraits and away from fine art, why not explore what I really want to do? Why wait and do it the traditional way I had envisioned?

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Shout out to Studio 3 Cubed for capturing this image of me in action.

I am going to be honest. For my business, I’ve put every penny earned back into it, and this year I’m close to having a positive balance of just over $40. My biggest block is marketing and promoting myself.

So, I want to break through that block, and earn my way into this Workshop. Every photo session and every art photograph I sell between now and September will go toward my tuition and traveling costs. Not everyone can afford a photo session or needs a fine art print, and I get that. So, I’m asking you to help me book 16 photo sessions in the next two months. And, I’ll be adding a bunch of art prints to my Etsy shop to help me raise the funds ($6,000.00 will cover tuition and airfare) by September 10th.

As a thank you I will send a postcard from Bolivia to anyone who either purchases a session or  is able to refer and help me book a session or sell something from my Etsy shop.

And, yes, I offer gift certificates. I’m also thinking of doing a fundraising mini-session day so those with tighter budgets can get portraits too!

Childhood inspiration

The other day, my kids had made a mess of legos on their bedroom floor just before bedtime. Instead of scolding them, I took a moment and saw the wonderland they had created. That made a light-bulb go off above my head: childhood is full of inspiration. You never know what experiences you provide a child will blossom later in life.

Snacking in my Grandma's garden.
Snacking in my Grandma’s garden.

When I found this photograph of myself eating a strawberry in my Grandma’s garden, I smiled. She always had a garden, whether with raised beds in the city or on a few acres in the country during her retirement. Those first memories of fresh strawberries and Lemon Balm are still with me, and inspire me to garden myself.

I wish she could see me today, and come wander our community garden where I am trying to grow some of my own vegetables and give my own kids the experience of watching nature bloom. Or that my photography is inspired by nature: capturing people in their natural beauty. She really was my second photography fan, and I always think of her when I smell Lemon Balm!

So, remember that even just providing experiences for children can inspire you or them days and years down the road!

Film Friday: Mother

Happy May! I don’t know about you, but I’m already thinking about Mother’s Day…

That’s why I’m sharing this photography today – my first award winning photograph I took of my Mom, when I was 6. I won a ribbon at the Fair and was delighted. My Mom has been my number one fan and has helped encourage my creative growth. I am forever grateful!

A portrait of my Mom taken at age 6.
Won a ribbon at the fair for this, a portrait of my Mom taken at age 6.

In honor of Mother’s Day…

Mother’s Day Special: Through May 30th, book your session at the Portrait Package rate – $175, which will include your children, 10 -4×6 photographs in a keepsake box, and images on a memory stick. Additional images available for purchase at $25 each. Let’s plan a fun session that reflects what you enjoy doing with your kids or your favorite spot in Seattle.

p.s. I LOVE to use Pinterest to brainstorm ideas!

Seattle Mother-Daughter Beauty Walk

What do you do to capture a sweet, energetic 3-year-old and her Mom? Take a walk, of course! Meet Rio and her Mom, Melanie, a fellow photographer

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On Seattle’s rare summery spring day, we adventured from the University Village to the Arboretum. These two are such fun, sweet souls, it was fun to capture their beautiful personalities.

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Photographing little Rio as she explored the gardens and snuck across the bridge with her Mom trying to not wake the sleeping dragon underneath was simply adorable.

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I know how easy it is to never be in photographs with my own children. That’s why I was so happy to do this session with Melanie and Rio. Some day Rio can look back and see photos of herself with her Mommy!

Mother’s Day Special: Through May 30th, book your session at the Portrait Package rate – $175, which will include your children, 10 -4×6 photographs in a keepsake box, and images on a memory stick. Additional images available for purchase at $25 each. Let’s plan a fun session that reflects what you enjoy doing with your kids or your favorite spot in Seattle.

p.s. I LOVE to use Pinterest to brainstorm ideas!

p.s.s. Melanie does stunning work: check out her beauty portraiture!

 

Why Photography?

While sitting at my booth in a Holiday Art And Gift Show, a man asked me the best, most thought-provoking question I’ve ever gotten as a photographer.

He looked around at my photographs and made the usual small talk before asking, “So, why photography?”

I thought about it for a second, then shared my thoughts…

Photography is a way for me to capture beauty in life and share it with others in the amount of time I have to be creative.  And, I think we all need to see more beauty in life. Especially with social media making it so easy to be visually aware of all the horrible things happening in the world.

That’s not to say that I think we should ignore the bad things, because I do think that’s important so we can support those in need. But, honestly, we cannot un-see the images of damaged lives, or abused bodies. Even without a photogenic memory, these images stay with us somewhere in our brains. And, the media makes more money when they share the bad things. I don’t see enough of the good I know is happening in the world. And so, I choose photography to help me remember the beauty.

A few of my favorite things...
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. . .

As my friends in High School were taking Photography, I was painting.  I spent hours in the art classroom to complete a painting during lunch and any time I could get a pass from Auto shop class. I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil and had watercolor lessons at 7-years-old from my artist Mother.

I honestly didn’t consider photography an art form until I was 17 and in the middle of a photojournalism class when I was a freshman in college. I had to experience the magic of the dark room printing my own photos to see it. The thing is that I had assumed it was just too easy, and that real art took time to master, to cultivate. Then, my opinion shifted in that dark room.

The last painting I completed was the Spring before my son was born almost 8 years ago. Photography fits into my life better now, and with a digital camera makes it super accessible to share with more people.

So, that is why photography.

Why do you love or choose photography?

A First Family Portrait!

I had the honor of giving this beautiful family their first portrait session. They were funny, well prepared and had the most serious almost two-year-old I have ever met! He was adorable and I have to admit that as a Mom myself, I was happy to see that he didn’t take to a stranger like me with a big camera too quickly…

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Since this photo session, I’ve heard from a few other families with kids under 6 years old. They haven’t gotten a family portrait done because their kids are too antsy to sit or they don’t have the budget.

I totally understand where they are coming from, and did my best to do our own family portraits for a couple of years after baby number 2 entered the scene. But, I have to tell you something. I have only met one child who sat still and followed directions for a family portrait. One. They are children after all, and a good photographer will work with you and them to capture those heart melting smiles.

If you need a little more inspiration, Mallory MacDonald wrote a great piece about being a family photographer on LisaJo Baker’s Blog last month: Tips for Taking Christmas Card Photos.

And, as for the cost, well, all I can say is that for our family, we budget for it just like we do Christmas gifts. Our annual family photo is my favorite gift of all (and one I get to be included in).

So, don’t wait until you think your kids will sit still, because life as it is is beautiful!

Am I Beautiful or do I look like a Bobble Head?

I’ve been branching out in my photography business to include Beauty Portraits. Last week, I had booked a portfolio building session, and when my friend forgot to come, I decided to step in front of the camera myself…

Here is what I look like on a normal morning:

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Here is what I look like after some make up, brushing my hair, putting on a vintage dress and posing in a flattering way:

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I love this one above, because I secretly wish I was a movie star back in the 40’s when women wore amazing dresses that left room for the imagination. The only thing I wish I had done differently was to put my hair up and wear long satin gloves ala Audrey Hepburn.

Here is what I look like in my favorite dress:

SelfPortraitsbyHolliMargell 2{Above} My arms can’t be nearly that thin, and my head that big, but I love this dress and the background color. So, I’ll keep it:) The reason my arms look so tiny and my head so big is not because of Photoshop (which I’m still saving up to buy), but because I used a 35mm lens which warps an image slightly into a wider angle. This can be very flattering on some people who want to appear thinner than they are. But for me, I’ve got the Bobble head!

Overall, it is fun to have these photos that help me see myself as prettier, but I struggle with this idea of Beauty Portraits. I’m in favor of natural beauty, but a part of my heart loves glamour and pretty dresses. I want to help women (especially Moms) to feel beautiful, and do portraits in a way that does this without a bunch of Photoshopping to make them look fake. So, personally, I can say proper posing and a pretty dress with a dash of red lipstick did the trick for me. I can look the part of a model. But. There’s still a but tugging at my soul.

We have this culture in America that divides women: those who feel they need to “put their face on” before leaving the house and those who rebel against this, and wear their husband’s old Band Tees and jeans that don’t fit anymore. I think I want the freedom to dress how I want and not be judged, but I’d have to live in a utopia to experience that.

I think the tugging comes from this altruistic desire for all of us to feel beautiful in our natural skin. To capture that spark from the soul that makes a person beautiful. And, that doesn’t require make up or a pretty dress. But, I think sometimes putting on those things gives a person the costume they need to feel safe to shine.

 What would you think if you saw me in the polka dot dress at the grocery store?  Would I be trying too hard? Or just plain cute? Do I look like a Bobble Head?

xo,

Holli

 

 

2 Easy Ways To Take Better Mother’s Day Photos!

I love Mothers Day. I know it seems like a Hallmark holiday, but really, it’s a good excuse to stop and thank our mothers. And, I have a couple easy tips to make the most of your events full of snap shots…

1. Look At The Light

If you’re snapping photos in the sunshine outside, keep the sun at your back. This will eliminate harsh shadows and prevent such squinty eyes that you can’t see them anymore!

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2. Eye Level

If you want to avoid the double chin that happens to the best of us, keep the camera pointed at eye level. The only exception to this is children, the model thin folks, or people who want to look taller than they really are. For example, I shot this of my daughter aiming at her belly button. She looks taller and bigger than she really is. And, if you look closely, she’s got a tiny double chin going on, which in my mind adds to her cuteness;)

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I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your Mother whether you see her on Mother’s Day or not!

xo,

Holli

p.s. Shameless plug:

MDPostcard2Now that I’m expanding my photography business to include modern portraiture with a photojournalistic twist, I wanted to do something fun to debut my portraits. This Saturday, May 11th, I’ll be offering 30 minute, mini-portrait sessions for $50 at my favorite Nursery in White Center. Details here: Garden Mini Photos!

There are only 4 sessions available until Wednesday, May 8th.