Monday, August 17, 2009

Lance and Laurie's "Will You"

Laurie is one of the coolest people I know. For the longest time, I knew her as "Little Angel", the strikingly appropriate camp name given to her at birth by her parents. We worked at Forest Home's Junior Winter Camp way back when... and we enjoyed many late nights talking and laughing as roommates. As we grew older our paths parted for a while and the next thing I know I'm hearing talk of a boyfriend from her older brother. Finally the day comes in June... this guy proposes and she says YES! :)

It wasn't until I got to spend some time with Lance and Laurie that I really got the bigger picture. I asked Lance to tell me their love story... because I had only heard bits and pieces from Laurie's brothers. As I listened... I got that oddly familiar tugging sensation on my soul... the kind of sensation that happens when I see God so clearly involved in someone's life. Their stories make these pictures all the more sweet... like sugar on summery ripe watermelon....

Their families had been friends for years, but neither Laurie nor Lance had ever paid much attention. Laurie was the straight A beauty who got accepted to California State San Luis Obispo. Lance was the strapping young guy who went off to serve his country with the United States Army... and even though their families were close, their paths never crossed....that is... until tragedy struck.

In 2007, Lance was injured in Iraq. He wasn't just injured... he was hanging onto life. The short list of his injuries included 3 shattered vertebrae shoved into his spinal cord, all the bones in his chest were broken, he had a collapsed lung, his heart was bruised, both his eye orbitals were crushed, his face had been crushed, and it took about 70 staples to hold his face together by the time the many doctors had done their best to fix everything. He spent a lot of time in many hospitals... and doctors didn't think he would be able to walk again. All this to say... his injuries were tragic and his family back home was devastated. The tiny light in the midst of all this tragedy was Lance's faith that God was not finished with him yet. He clung to that hope in his pain and suffering, in his fear and disappointment.

His story inspired many people through the email updates his mom so faithfully sent out. And it was through these emails that Laurie fell in love with Lance's character and faith in God. She noticed there was something different about Lance... something that transcended the fact she had never met him. They wouldn't meet until later.

After spending some time in a hospital in Germany, then traveling to Georgia to recover even more, he had the chance to come home for a week to be with his parents in San Luis Obispo. While hobbling around the kitchen in his neck and back braces, he noticed a picture on the family refrigerator. The picture stopped him in his tracks and he asked his mom immediately, "WHO. IS. THAT? She's BEAUTIFUL!" The picture was of Laurie. (insert sappy "aw's" now) It was love at first sight for Lance.... and before he left for an insanely long recovery period in a Georgia hospital, he told his mom... "Mom, I know you're always right about things when we argue, but I'm going to be right about 2 things this time: One, I'm going to be completely better, home with you, and retired from the army by July 2008 (10 months from then). And two, I'm going to marry Laurie Kohlenberg." She laughed at the thought of both of those things, and saw him off. Little did she know.... he would be completely healed, home again, and retired from the Army all by July 2008. And little did she know, that Lance and Laurie would fall in love... forever.

Again... stories like this, of people whose paths cross simply because they're following the voice of God... they remind me of how intricately involved He is in our lives. Makes me wanna jump up and down, raise my arms in triumph, and shout His praises into the vastness of creation. (kinda dramatic, but it's true)

So for this shoot, I was really excited to shoot with a thematic purpose... I wanted to capture the tension of being in love, the sense of heading out on an adventurous journey, and the tender connection between two lovers. We all had so much fun on this shoot, and I'm so excited with the results! Without further adieu, here's the mini photo story of Lance and Laurie...

Many thanks to John and Christina Kohlenberg for the AMAZING vintage suitcases, and to Christopher for being the best prop/bag carrier of all time! :)

I can't wait for Lance and Laurie's wedding in November... it's going to be so much fun!

P.S... Lance... you're awesome.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Stealth | Shoot: Billy Jack and Alissa's "Will You"

We knew it was coming. The minute we saw their smitten faces whispering sweet nothings laced with words and sign language foreign to everyone except themselves..... we knew. This is it.

I've been friends with them both for years prior to dating each other and as I've observed and watched them together, it's clear to me how amazing their relationship is. They bring the absolute best out in each other, they're freaking HAPPY together....I couldn't wish for a better match. From the bottom of my heart and back again, I'm SO HAPPY for you two and I can't wait to see how huge your love will be as your roads merge to become one. (tears...)

His proposal was nothing short of excellence (not surprising at all) and her reaction was priceless.... Here's the short version... He took her on an adventure all around LA, Orange County, and San Diego to visit all the memorable places they had been throughout their relationship. From her sorority days at UCLA to long talks in a favorite coffee shop called Claire de Lune in San Diego, they visited and reminisced about their love story. It was at this particular coffee shop on a specific couch, in which they shared some milestone moments... and on Wednesday night, it was there that BJ decided to ask Alissa to spend the rest of their lives together.

As I was situated in the balcony above the targeted couch area hidden by a customer's bags and my own black hooded sweatshirt, I watched them silently through the lens of my camera... waiting anxiously for the moment he pulled out the little white box and got on one knee. It seemed like forever, but finally the moment came and I watched him sneakily pull the box out of his pocket while she wasn't looking.... I saw him say an opening line leaving her in blank readiness for him to finish with his pertinent question... I saw him kick the table back and get on one knee. Immediate realization and shock swept over her eyes as her hands moved reflexively up to her face... she said yes. Her emotions, exploding like fireworks, signaled to the baristas that it had happened and they all ran out cheering and congratulating them. And on cue, all the family and friends who had gathered in secret outside the store paraded in adding to the excitement and celebration. It was an evening to remember... not just for them... but for all who were present. August 12, 2009 was a night to remember their journeys and to celebrate their love.

Here's just a glimpse into the night... from a stealth shooter's perspective...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sneak Peek: Billy Jack and Alissa's "Will You" Stealth Shoot

So I'm STILL working on a bunch of things all at once... even this late, but I wanted to share my excitement that two very good friends of mine are ENGAGED!!!! :) Congratulations to Billy Jack and Alissa! I'm so excited for you and documenting this huge day in your lives brought me incredible joy... brought Stealthy tears to my eyes! :)

Here's my favorites from this Stealth Shoot.... more to come... I PROMISE!

"Welcome and thanks for stopping by my blog! I've discovered recently that, in addition to photography, writing is a passion of mine and I've loved including you all in my personal journey this past year. So please feel free to read about my adventures, comment often, and enjoy my photos!"     - Kate Noelle | International Wedding & Portrait Photographer |