Senior Portrait Session: The Tucker Twins

Hey guys! Happy Friday! This week on the Blog, we are highlighting the Tucker Twins Portrait Session at Beaver’s Bend State Park in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I had the great pleasure of meeting and photographing one half of this duo, Raina, back in the spring. You can view that session with her puppy dog, Pumpkin, here. Since then, I have been itching to get this sweet girl in front of the camera. Luckily for me, Raina and Brooklyn found themselves in need of Senior Portraits and knew just who to call! I was over the moon when Raina reached out to ask about having their photos done in the fall. As the summer months went by, Raina and I kept in contact discussing their vision for the shoot while impatiently waiting for the leaves to change in Hochatown.

Overall, the girls were pretty laissez-faire about what they had envisioned though they did throw a few curveballs at me. Their requests were simple, they were both hoping for rain and they wanted to incorporate smoke bombs and smores! All of which was going to be a challenge but I was up to it and so were they. When we started shooting, I was sure that the girl’s dreams of a rainy shoot were out the window. It was a beautiful fall day. It had been all week. Russ and I even managed to get a kayak trip down the Lower Mountain Fork the day before. After scoping out a few different areas with good light, the girls threw me one last request. “Any chance we could take a few pictures in a canoe?”, they asked. Insert me jumping for joy! I was stoked. I love water shots. I love the way the water plays with the light and how the prisms bounce color and flare  highlighting the golden arch of fall in the Ouachita Mountains.

Once the girls finished up with hair and makeup, we headed to Beavers Bend Paddle Floats to jump in the canoe. I was totally blown away when they got out of the car. Both of them looked so great. Brooklyn was wearing a sheer maxi dress, black booties and her ombre made the oranges and reds in her dress pop every so beautifully. Raina showed up in an olive green mini, black knee high boots and a black and white striped top. I was so surprised by how different they both were but how comfortably they complimented one another. As the girls paddled around the cove and swim beach, I got in chest deep to capture the magic that was unfolding before me. As the sunset over the Ouachita Mountains, we made our way to the second shoot location.

We stopped by a dirt road for a few good lines and eventually made our way down to a pavilion area so my hubby could get to work on building us a fire for our smores shot. We decided to try our luck with the smoke bombs before we lost the light. This was soooo fun! Raina and Brooklyn brought white, blue and orange bombs and stated that they preferred the shot to be in a wooded area. These girls were specific about their vision and it was much appreciated. We scoped out an empty creek bed and decided it would be the perfect place to set off the bombs. We tried the white first and after we put out a small fire, we had gotten the hang of how to set up the second one. The colors were so vibrant and the girls had posed in juxtaposition which made the shots that much more dramatic. Though we scared half the park with the smell of sulphur, the images turned out beautifully. Word to the wise when it comes to using smoke bombs, read the instructions, have water available and be ready to think fast. Before you know it, the smoke dissipates so make sure to have your models ready and willing to move on a clear path.

We blew up the last bomb and made our way to the pavilion to change outfits. As we began our way back to the campfire, the first crackle of thunder made its debut. Turns out, the girls’ dreams were coming true. We were going to get rain! I quickly turned my reflector into an impromptu umbrella and we made our way to the firepit. Both of them showed up in carefully worded t-shirts, flannel and jeans. Even with the rain dampening their perfectly coifed hair, these girls braved the lightning to get a few cuddly campfire photos. We burnt a few marshmallows and then closed up shop.

At one point, Raina kept asking me about her makeup and I couldn’t quite understand why. She looked great. It wasn’t until after the shoot that I realized that my makeup was ruined, mascara running down my cheeks and my hair was a mess. What can I say? To get these shots, I had to be willing to swim in a river, run from the flames of a smoke bomb and get soaked to the bone in a full blown Oklahoma thunderstorm. All in all, this was seriously the most fun I have had on a shoot. I love that these girls provided such a heavy-duty challenge and I am grateful that they trusted me to capture these images. They say you should put your dreams out into the universe and that they will come back to you in greater folds. This shoot is proof that no matter the obstacle, one can always rise to the occasion and sometimes, even surpass it!

Harper’s 2nd Birthday Shoot

This sweet boy is 2 and I cannot believe it. It feels like just yesterday that his Momma was breaking the baby news and now, he is a walking, talking Energizer Bunny! What an amazing adventure it has been watching this crazy little guy grow up. His momma and I are quite the comrades so I have had the pleasure of witnessing Harper in all his stages. As a baby, Tiff & I would have our girl’s nights while Harp Dog would crawl around on my kitchen floor with his cow printed blanket and my sweet puppy dog, Reyna. And when he started walking, we would head to the park and practice his milk drunken stumble. Now, he just runs circles around me all the while yelling, “Nina, come on.”

Harper is no stranger to having me shove the camera in his face. I have shot his First Birthday, Halloween, Easter & Christmas photos and now his 2nd Birthday. He’s getting quite good at being the ham, a quality I am sure that he gets from his Momma. This go around would be no different. We headed to downtown Keller to check out a Dr Pepper mural and decided it was the perfect backdrop for this little dude’s shoot. Tiff, bring the  supergenius that she is, made sure to bring a bribe. We had a plan. For every giggle, Harp Dog gets an M&M. Once we got him all hopped up on sugar, the smiles came pouring out. He was singing and dancing in front of the wall. Twirling and laughing at the “big trucks” that kept flying by. He was having a ball, to say the least.

We wrapped up at the wall and headed towards a huge open field so we could play a little tag and watch the sunset. When we let him run wild, boy did he. This guy was posing behind trees playing peek a boo and waving a stick around like he was Harry Potter. It was hilarious listening to him try and yell “expelliarmus”. This boy has a way of keeping me in stitches. As the sun went down, Tiff softly sang a few lullabies in his ear to calm him down for the ride home. It worked like a charm. Shortly after dark, we made our way back to the car and called it a night. Sometimes, this job doesn’t even feel like work. Shoots like this are a grateful reminder of how joyful work can be.

For information on how to book your Holiday Mini Session in Dallas Fort Worth or the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, shoot me an email at therustienailhead@gmail.com or get all the details from our DFW Holiday Mini Session Blog or the Laurel Highlands Holiday Mini Session Blog! I would love to meet you and help make your vision come to life this Holiday Season!

One on One with Katie Norris, Founder of FOTOlanthropy

As you all know, our team has been asked to help in the coordination of FOTOlanthropy’s red carpet premiere of The Luckiest Man. In just two short days, this uplifting film will premiere at the Angelika Theatre in Dallas, Texas. This landmark second film for the FOTO crew will showcase John Paine, successful entrepreneur and family man, and his 15 year long battle with ALS. In preparation for the film’s debut, Katie Norris, Founder of FOTOlanthropy, agreed to sit down and discuss some questions about the film, her business and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

katie norris

Tell us a little bit about how and why you got started doing these films, specifically tackling stories about individuals who have overcome adversity or circumstance?

I run my own professional photography business and I love the stories I get to tell for families through my camera. I wanted a way to be able to use my talents to give back to other families who were going through difficult life circumstances and to build a community of other like-minded, servant-hearted photographers and filmmakers. It wasn’t long after I started brainstorming and talking with friends about my desire that I received a phone call from a mother who’s child was in the hospital with an inoperable brain tumor and asked if I would be willing to come take a few family portraits. We brought a filmmaker with us and Fotolanthropy was born.

Fotolanthropy’s mission has covered a multitude of social issues that the community faces. Can you go into detail about a few of the issues your team has covered and what each story represents to the families?

Our very first story was a family whose first child was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He tragically passed away a few weeks after we shared his story but his life impacted so many, including mine. We followed that up with the story of a father who had just welcomed his first child and found out he had cancer, and is now in remission.

We’ve also covered stories of dwarfism and SMA. These diagnosis are much more rare and thus, can feel like rather lonely journeys for the families that are walking through them.

Not all our stories focus around illnesses. We’ve also done stories detailing the struggles of infertility and international adoption, a wounded warrior and a family who lost their home in the Bastrop wildfires.

When someone is going through a trial, it is easy to assume that their biggest need is financial. And while that is sometimes true, people don’t realize how valuable a photograph can also be during these seasons. That visual timestamp and storytelling tool not only serves as a reminder of what a family has gone through together but also serves as a tool to help them share their story with others. What I love about each of these stories, is that although many of us may not be able to relate to the exact issue addressed, there is always a powerful message we can take away to challenge us in our own lives.

We understand this is your second film to premiere at the Angelika, can you tell us about the differences in preparing for Travis (A Soldier’s Story) and John Paine’s (The Luckiest Man) story.

Each of our Fotolanthropy recipients is facing dirrerent circumstances and our top priority is always to be sensitive to each of their individuation situations. While Travis and John are at such different places in their stories, Travis’s film is really the reason we were able to do John’s film. I’m so thankful for all the incredible opportunities we were given with Travis: A Soldier’s Story. It taught us so much, and it is what has allowed us to produce another full documentary and put on another premiere event just two years later.

You’ve met a lot of people through your work with FOTOlanthropy, is there one individual or a group of people that you would say have influenced your outlook on how your work affects the public and how you present these issues to your followers?

It would be hard to pick just one. While Reece and I remain close with Travis and Kelsey Mills, all of the families we’ve worked with have left a unique impression on us. Just last week we had the opportunity to get together with some of our previous Fotolanthropy families for a special film shoot. It was just such an amazing reminder of how much each of these families have impacted our team and how grateful I am for the individuals we’ve had the honor of working with and who have trusted us with their stories.

Onto John Paine’s story, do you feel that the promotion of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge had anything to do with your choice to showcase the Paine’s story?

We actually met John several years ago, before the Ice Bucket Challenge started, and knew right away we wanted to do his story, if possible. It just wasn’t until this year though that the timing worked out between the Paine family and Fotolanthropy for us to film.

john paine 2

How did you meet John or hear about his story?

The Paine family attends my church and my pastor shared their story with me. Many of our Fotolanthropy stories are nominated to us by others and we welcome nominations on our website.

John’s story is a remarkable one, do you have any thoughts on how John’s story has impacted your crew? Any lessons that you are hoping the audience will take away from highlighting this mans life?

I remember several years ago when one of our Fotocrew filmmakers, Jon Link, and I first sat down to meet with John Paine and hear his story. We were both in tears as we sat there and just listened, and I think we immediately knew what a powerful message John had to share.

I hope that the audience will see through John’s story that “overcoming” isn’t necessarily about getting to the other side of our mountains in life and that sometimes our tallest mountains can be our biggest blessings. John truly looks at his ALS diagnosis with this perspective: that it has changed his life for the better.

Your husband, Reece, has played a huge role in helping you put FOTOlanthropy on the map. Has tackling these serious issues brought you two closer together and any tips on how to find the time to enjoy family and life together with the stress of building such an influential company?

Reece has been the biggest supporter of Fotolanthropy from Day One. He and I are both dreamers and goal-setters, but we definitely bring different skill sets to the table. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without his loving support, his business knowledge and his incredible servant heart. It has definitely had its challenges, but there’s no better feeling than working towards a goal with your spouse and seeing it achieved. I am grateful every day that we get to do this together.

What would you say has been the highlight of putting this film together and how pumped are you that you have opened a third theater?

What people also don’t really get to see are the people behind the scenes who pour themselves into these stories and events to make them the absolute best for our Fotolanthropy recipients. Our team is so passionate about these stories and works so hard, but you never can predict how others are going to respond. We had such an amazing response with Travis: A Soldier’s Story when we premiered it in 2013, but we weren’t sure if we should expect to be able to repeat that. It has been so humbling to see how many people will be joining us to honor the Paine family on October 22nd and those who have already reached out to us from different places across the country with interest in screening the film.

Lastly, what are you most looking forward to when it comes to this premiere?

My absolute favorite moment is right when the movie ends and the audience has a chance to respond to the story. I will never forget the moment Travis: A Soldier’s Story ended and immediately everyone jumped to their feet with applause for Travis and his family. That simple, yet powerful moment really sums up why we do what we do at Fotolanthropy.

We are so thankful for our the opportunity to play a small part in the preparation of this film and to Katie, for taking the time out of her crazy busy schedule to sit down and talk with us about her business model and this life-changing film. For more information about this event and ticket purchases, check out the links below!

john paine

Helpful Links:
Website: http://www.fotolanthropy.com/LuckiestManFilm
Ticket Link: https://luckiestmanfilm.eventbrite.com
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/136612357
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Fotolanthropy
#LuckiestManFilm
Emcee: Richard Ray, Fox 4 News
Music Performance By: Jason Castro