Monday, May 18, 2015

May Is Military Appreciation Month -- And Full of Stories for the USO

Before I started working for the USO, I never would have known that May is military appreciation month. Or what a challenge coin is. Or what PCSing means.

It's funny how a new job can open up a completely different world in an instant, isn't it?

The past few months I haven't been traveling as much for work -- BUT --  I've had the wonderful task of telling many small, everyday stories about the impact the USO makes on the lives of active-duty military personnel and their family members.

Take this little story, about a military spouse who was stranded in the Chicago airport overnight with no where to go. Thanks to the USO, she had a safe, free place to spend the night and relax while she waited for her flight the next day.

“After all that had happened that weekend, it was awesome to walk in, see friendly faces that helped me and made me feel safe."

There was this touching experience, where a worried military spouse was given peace of mind about her teenage daughter, who was traveling alone and stuck in the airport, thanks the USO.

“I can’t explain it, except to say, I am crying (again) thinking how relieved I was knowing she felt safe. Knowing she was safe.” 

Even this simple story, about a young military spouse and her baby daughter, who were able to relax during and unexpected layover, thanks to the USO, can't help but make you smile.

“I was blown away at how welcoming they were to my family.”

Sometimes, I just can't believe that I work at such an amazing organization that's committed to making these kinds of moments for military families around the world. It's stories like these -- these tiny, small, everyday moments -- that make me realize just how awesome the USO really is improving the daily lives of the people who sacrifice so much for all of us.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Behind the Scenes of My Spright [solidcore] Story and Shoot

Guys. GUYS. GUYS! New story and photos alert!

Last Friday, when I was stuck at home battling the worst sinus infection of the century (boo!), my fun little piece about DC's [solidcore] -- and its fab CEO/founder Anne Mahlum --  went live on Spright, and I couldn't be happier with the result.

See, I've been wanting to do a story about [solidcore] since the days of Fiterazzi.

Back when I lived near Union Station, I would always walk by the [solidcore] studio near Mass Ave, and would see people popping in and out of the studio drenched in sweat and smiles, and wondered what the workout was all about.

What was that weird machine they used?

Why did everyone say this was the hardest workout ever?

And what was with all the brackets in the branding materials and signage?!?

After a little bit of Googling, and reading about Anne's professional and fitness journey, I knew that the [solidcore] story, and Anne's story, was something that needed to be shared with the larger Spright community.

After getting the go-ahead from my awesome Spright editor, I reached out to the [solidcore] team, set up a time to talk to Anne, take photos of the Cathedral Commons studio and learn about how [solidcore] came to be. I even got to take a class and try out [solidcore] for myself (sidenote, I'm hooked!).

I won't spoil too much of my Spright story here (you should really go read it!), but I thought I would post a little teaser of the piece to spark your interest:

Anne Mahlum knows how to command a room.

As she walks up and down the blue-light-lined walls of a [solidcore] studio near the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, counting down the final few seconds of Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. session with Diplo’s “Express Yourself” blaring through the air, it’s clear to see that the [solidcore] founder and CEO is comfortable with being in charge.

An entrepreneur and athlete at heart, Anne has spent the greater part of the past decade spearheading different ventures with an athletic twist.

Back in 2007, before starting [solidcore], Anne built her leadership and entrepreneurial skills by founding the non-profit organization Back on My Feet, which uses the sport of running to empower homeless people to make lasting changes in their lives.

After five years of working as Back on My Feet’s CEO and helping the organization expand to 11 U.S. cities, the North Dakota native decided, in 2013, to bring a different vision to life and launched [solidcore].

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Meet the Brains Behind BaniBands Headbands in My Latest Spright Article!

Oh spring! Full of flowers, sun and ... pollen. Yuck.

This is the first year I've come down with a serious case of the pollen-induced sniffles, and it is NOT fun. Netti pot, here I come!

Anyway, I realized yesterday that I never shared one of my recent Spright articles with you guys. I had been working on this story, featuring the founder of Bani Bands Headbands, since the days of Fiterazzi, but it got put on the backburner with the merger and general life business.

I was a little worried it would never run, but thankfully, the awesome staff at Spright thought it was worth a little attention!

I won't give away too much here, but here's a sneak peak of the story to get you started:

Like many innovators before her, Renee Hanson became a fitness fashion entrepreneur in order to solve a problem.

After years of searching for athletic apparel that to fit her 5’11” frame properly, the veteran and former volleyball player grew tired of the lack of technical garments available for taller women and decided to address the issue herself. In 2008, after beefing up her sewing skills and business plan, Renee created Vertical Athletics, a special athletic apparel line designed exclusively with the taller female athlete in mind.

However, shortly after launching Vertical Athletics, Renee stumbled upon a second athletic apparel problem that would inspire her to create her even more popular headband company, Bani Bands. more here!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Learning Curve: Taking Pictures of Babies Is Hard!

If there's one thing I've learned from my recent slew of family and portrait sessions is that taking posed pictures of babies (not candid, candid is easy!) is a lot harder than it looks.

While adults understand when to look at the camera, when to smile and how to take directions, little babies -- as adorable as they are -- require a bit more attention.

Plus, sometimes, matter what you do, you just might not have what it takes to make the little one smile, which is hard to accept as a perfectionist-type photographer.

Maybe it's because I don't have kids of my own yet, or maybe it's because I just don't photograph babies enough, but at times I find taking photos of babies age two and under harder than covering even the busiest of events!

All that being said, I did have a really awesome experience capturing photos of the Maki family, who has a little one, at the Rosedale Conservancy in Washington, DC a few weeks ago.

Not only was their family so wonderful to work with, but their little one was absolutely adorable!

While I definately think that these photos aren't award winning family pictures, you know, they aren't bad by any means and there are some cute ones in the mix.

Maybe I'm too hard on myself... or not hard enough.

All I can say is that I'm still getting better, and I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to practice taking pictures of little cuties!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Cinco De Mayo & My Photoshoot With The Fabulous Alexi Tetrault!

Happy Cinco de Mayo all you fajita-eating, margarita-drinking kids! Make sure to take an extra sip of that lime-ey goodness or eat a sopapilla (or five) today for me!


In other news, I've been super duper busy the past few weeks. Between regular work for the USO (I'm getting trained in AfterEffects, woo!), side-gigs, writing for Spright, my birthday and social obligations, it's truly been a whirlwind.

In all of my busyness, however, I've had the opportunity to work with some really fantastic people, including the awesome Alexi Tetrault.

After seeing some of my photos of the Grip the Mat girls at one of their events, Alexi, who knows both of the ladies from yoga teacher training, reached out to me to take some photos of her for her new yoga and nutrition busines.

I, of course, jumped at the chance! Shooting health and fitness photos is right up my alley and much more in my comfort zone than shooting posed head shots (although, I'm working on that!).

Because I had a jam-packed schedule, Alexi and did did a double-session split shoot -- half in the morning and half in the afternoon, and it was so much fun!

In the morning, we headed to the OpenCity cafe at the National Cathedral, as well as the Bishop's Garden on the cathedral grounds. You'd never know it was freezing outside by how sunny and gorgeous the photos look though!

In the afternoon, we headed to a few murals round Adams Morgan. Alexi really wanted to incorporate the colorful fruits and vegetables on the mural in her photos, and I think we acheievd a really nice result.

Either way, I had a blast doing this shoot and am totally pleased with the results! What do you think of my shots?