Thursday, January 31, 2013

the New Zealand Experience| Part 1 | 1.31.13

About a year and a half ago, I stumbled upon IPS (Institute of Photographic Studies).  Actually, Mom stumbled upon it!  She was looking around on my Facebook and found an ad for IPS on the side of the page.  I never click those ads, but Mom did. (It took a long time for us to convince Mom that a browser pop-up exclaiming "you've won a free trip to Hawaii" was usually a scam.  But she's doing better.)  

However, IPS is far from a scam.  It has been such a blessing to find this group of Christian photographers who are about changing the world by sharing the Gospel through their lives and their photography.  Rowan & Jocelyn are the masterminds behind IPS.  (They really rock, and Baby Boy RoJo is gonna rock too, when he gets here!)  By the end of my first class with them in San Antonio, I knew I was hooked.  So I took a second class in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  And then, when I heard about PhotoEX: New Zealand, I knew I was supposed to be on that team.  God confirmed that for me in the months leading up to the New Zealand Experience.  Mom and I spent an extreme amount of time meticulously shopping for the right gear.  Jill and I worked for about 3 days to pack (and repack) everything I needed for a month of exploration into my suitcase.

(Mom, Dad, Jingle and I before heading to the airport. Yes, I did pack for an entire month in that green bag!)

So many people made sacrifices of their time and money to enable me to be part of this experience.  I want to say THANK YOU!  Thank you for being part of my trip.  You gave in ways I would never have dreamed!  Right up until the day I left, people were still giving financially - and many people were praying for myself and my team every day.  I can guarantee you that we felt the power and support of those prayers, and still appreciate it today.   

Over the course of the month, my team was privileged to participate in over 20 photography projects.  We didn't start small, rather, we were pushed out of our comfort zone right from the start.  October 28th - we pulled into Camp Karunga and were met by a group of excited students who are a part of the Headspace program.  I can't think of a better way for us to have kicked off our trip than to hear their stories.  (Headspace is for high school graduates who want to take a year off after graduation to really focus on strengthening their relationship with God and seeking direction for their future.  They also spend 10 weeks serving in Thailand!)  I had the opportunity to be the interviewer as we videoed the students.  It was a blessing to hear how the Lord had been working in their lives, as well as the changes this past year had brought for them.  

After interviews, the Kiwis (a.k.a. New Zealanders) took us to Bethells Beach.  Yes, that is black sand you see!

Normally at a campfire, we Americans would make s'mores - but when in New Zealand... do as the New Zealanders do!  So... we made damper!  (Basically bread on a stick.)  Everything is better over the campfire though, right?

Something that really attracted me to this trip is the fact that we wouldn't be staying in one location.  We traveled from the northernmost tip of the North Island... all the way to the southernmost tip of the South Island!  Almost everyday we drove on to see something new.  (And really - what better way to do it?!)  

(Below:  Jocelyn & I, during our Fish n' Chips break overlooking Lake Taupo.)

Arriving in Hawke's Bay, we divided into different teams for various projects around the area.  My assignment: images for promotion of the Napier Sailing Club.  It was a new challenge, something I'd never done before.  But that's what PhotoEX: New Zealand is about - learning more and pushing hard.  I'm proud of the images and brochure that my team presented to the Club!

Next up, a light party at Village Baptist Church in Hastings!  What is a Light Party you might ask?  It's a fun alternative to trick or treating for Halloween.  We had a blast!  The church provided games, barbecue, and a program presenting the Gospel to finish out the night.  Half of the team manned a photo booth for the attendees while the other half covered the event with a journalistic eye.  We caught the action as it happened, and had the opportunity to talk to the people.

When you live with someone in very close quarters for a month, you really get to know them.  The Lord definitely hand picked every person for this trip.  I was blessed with a team that was serious about what we were doing, and worked very hard to do their best.  
"As iron sharpens iron,
so a friends sharpens a friend." 
                                                 - Proverbs 27:17
From the very beginning, our team leaders encouraged us to be open with each other.  We followed their advice, creating strong friendships and a tremendous sense of community that has lasted long after our trip. 

The lifestyle in New Zealand is quite different than here in the States.  It moves at a slower pace, and somehow feels more rugged.  While on the South Island, we lived in campers.  During the day, we would split up and take different routes to our next campsite, taking time to explore all along the way.  I enjoyed the feeling of freedom - to just stop and wonder at the beautiful creation God made. 

Another example of one of our stops... the Gates of Haast.  
While these might seem like small rocks, trust me - they aren't!  Some of them are the size of a house!  (This particular day, our assignment was to photograph waterfalls.  Um... CHECK!)  ;)  

Our crew was so excited when we finally made it to Queenstown - the "adventure capital" of the world!  Truly, you could do anything you wanted to... everything from spending the day on a farm, jumping out of a plane, or riding horseback to the filming location of the Lord of the Rings movies.  Since you can't be in the "adventure capital" without taking time to have an adventure... we took a day off.  :)

And since we at IPS really like good food... our day off started with brunch at Brazz on the Green.  In the picture below you'll see that I am drinking my very first EVER iced chocolate.  That, my friends, is good stuff.  (By the way... brunch was followed by an afternoon "snack" at Fergburger, pizza at the house for supper, another iced chocolate while out and about after supper, and finishing the day with "Hokey Pokey" ice cream before turning in for the night.  So you can see... there was no shortage of food on our trip.  But hey - exploring makes you hungry!) 

So what did I do in Queenstown?  (Other than eat.)  :)  I went... JET BOATING!  Oh man, that was absolutely invigorating!  These little boats zip along at top speed and do 360 degree spins, all within the confines of incredibly tight canyons.  Multiple times you think you may not make it off the boat, but don't worry... you do!  

Below: just off the jet boat... looking a little wind blown. :)

But the adventure isn't relegated to Queenstown.
We found it all along the road...
In the adventure of getting the perfect shot...

... the adventure of a polar plunge ...

... or the adventure of story time with Weston Brown.  :)

While the month long trip holds a multitude of memories, a favorite time definitely surrounded the pictures below.  My alarm went off that morning at 4:45 a.m. ... but I woke up at 4:56 a.m. - only FOUR minutes before the van was slated to leave.  Talk about a mad dash! 

It was still dark when we arrived at Te Mata Peak, and really the only thing you could see were the lights from the city behind us.  But then, the sky began to lighten in shades of yellow, orange, and pink - and slowly, the sun came up over the ridge.  Now, I've seen plenty of sunrises in my day, but this one was different.  Number one: we were in New Zealand... it was gorgeous.  Number two: because of our time zone, we were some of the first people in the entire world that morning to see the sun rise!  

I was given strict orders before I left Texas to NOT go near the edge of anything that had an edge to fall off of.  That morning at Te Mata Peak, I was definitely tempted to break that rule.  (But it was 5 a.m. and I wasn't completely awake so I followed orders and kept my distance from any edges.)  However, as you can see, not everybody's mama told them this.  Those little people all along the ridge are IPS students.  :)

Mount Cook: the tallest mountain in NZ, measuring at 12,316 feet at it's peak.  New Zealand boasts a vast array of foliage, and the landscape seems to change with the blink of an eye.  One day you're having a bonfire on a beach, and the next you're standing at the base of a range of mountains. 

The first night that we made it to the South Island, I found Jocelyn sticking her head out of the camper door, staring up at the sky.  This was kind of a big deal considering the fact that it was freezing!  So I checked it out too, and was blown away!  The stars on the South Island will do that to ya!  About 7 of us stayed out late this night to get a sweet night shot, and I wasn't disappointed in the result.

"... the moon and stars rule over the night, 
for His steadfast love endures forever."
                                            - Psalm 136:9

(Below: Campsite by Franz Josef Glacier, taken sometime a little after midnight.)

We were extremely honored to have such an encouraging group of leaders.  Mark, Rowan, Jocelyn and David all pushed us towards growing and changing.  Our month together truly was about..."whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus..." (Colossians 3:17) 

In New Zealand, I learned more about the importance of my camera.  It isn't just something to take pictures with.  If I use it properly, as a tool, my camera can tell a story.  So many stories around the world go untold. As photographers (and regular people too!) we have been given the power through our lenses and our words to change that.  For me, meeting new people and seeing new places is a reminder that every story is important.  Every story is important because we are a people whom God has created, lovingly and uniquely.  

God created you special, and wants to use you for a purpose.  So tell me, what's your story?  


P.S. - Our team also spent an amazing week in Fiji!  We got to put our training to use, serving the Lord! More on that, and our leaders coming soon. :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

a real cowgirl! | 1.28.13

Believe it or not, Jill & Kay Photography was not the first business dream Kay Lynn and I had.  First, there was the paper products business where we made custom gift tags and mini scrapbooks.  Our product line even made it into stores!  (Well, the lady who cut our hair let us display them on a shelf in her shop.  I think we sold about $15 worth in 4 or 5 months.)

Moving on. Our second business idea... a party-planning business!  Picture it - Party in a Box, owned and operated by Jill & Kay.  That's right!  The plan was to create various party themes and pack all the decorations and favors into a box, and viola!  Party in a box!  (That idea never quite got off the ground.  However, don't steal it, cause I'm thinking about adding onto the photography business one of these days.)  :)

Throwing Larkyn a surprise party combined our first two business ideas with the photography business... and we were pretty pleased with the result!

While Larkyn and her folks were visiting us from Kentucky, on the morning of the big party, Kay & I took Larkyn out for a real Texas photoshoot.  :)

"Wagon Wheels" and "Texas Twists."
(A.k.a. hot dog on a pretzel and sliced up swiss rolls.)
REAL party food.  :) 

"A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face..."  
                                                     - Proverbs 15:13

As a kid in central Alabama, I remember several birthday parties that took place on our carport.  I don't know why I thought it was so cool, but let me tell you - a party on the carport is where it's at!  (Mom, in case you're paying close attention... for my 24th birthday I'm hoping for either a science fiction themed carport party or a Tangled (Rapunzel) carport party.  Please don't forget the piƱata.  Thanks.)

To our favorite cowgirl, Larkyn: we had so much fun being part of your birthday celebration!  We love you!  (Come back to visit us soon!)  ;)


Monday, January 14, 2013

bridal fair | 1.14.13

We have long looked forward to the opportunity to be part of a bridal fair.  But it was always one of those kind of "far-off" dreams.  Well... not anymore!!!  Yesterday, Jill & Kay Photography had their very own booth at the Wedded Bliss Bridal Show in Longview!  

Hours were spent tossing around different backdrop ideas.  After a dozen different thoughts, all going in different directions, a rough, white-washed look won the contest.  We were SO pleased with how it turned out.  (Especially since we came out of the process with very few splinters!)

Our first Texas wedding was proudly displayed in a canvas grouping.

The runway show drew quite a crowd, and rightly so!  The gals who modeled the dresses did a great job.

You may not realize it... but truly - Jill & Kay Photography  is a family affair.  Mom is with us on just about every photoshoot and Dad calls himself the "silent partner."  (But I think "quiet" is more accurate than "silent.")  :)  And for the show - Dad built our backdrop, and Mom helped us run errands and put packages together... and so much more!  Truly - we couldn't have done it without them.

(And a special thank you to Mr. Maurice, who helped us haul our backdrop to and from the convention center!)

Today, we had a mini shoot on our carport to show off a few of the elements of our booth that you might have missed if you were at the fair, and that you definitely missed if you weren't there.

This old fan came from my Pa-paw's attic.  When we asked if we could have it, he couldn't figure out why in the world we would want to take it home.  (It doesn't work and it weighs a ton.)  I called him today to tell him how many comments we received on that little fan, and he promptly informed me that he wants it back.  (I say... tough luck Granddad.)  ;)

Our hot chocolates were a huge hit yesterday - with brides, grooms, and moms alike.  Plus, it was the perfect day for hot chocolate... seeing as how it was just downright COLD.  (And thank you so much Mrs. Sandi, for helping us put these together while you were on vacation in the Lone Star state!!!)

For our brides: a special package of information complete with a pennant and hand stamped tree.

We enjoyed the opportunity to show off some of the old cameras we've been collecting.  Though a few people commented on the fact that they actually used some of them when they were younger.  :)

Congratulations to Chelsea Q. for winning our "I'm the Bride" tote yesterday at the fair!  And out of 219 entries... congrats to Jennifer B., who won a free session from today's drawing!

We had an absolute blast being able to participate in the bridal fair, effectively kicking off the new Texas version of Jill & Kay Photography.  We are so looking forward to the photographs and relationships that will come in 2013!

We'll leave you with a short video clip.  It might amuse you... it definitely amused the vendors around our booth! :)

"... a cheerful look brings joy to the heart."  - Proverbs 15:30

Jill & Kay