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TheAmy Allender Blog is where you can find all the latest projects, freshest faces, and most current happenings from Amy Allender and The Art of Living Project.  Here, you’ll find inspiration for everyday living, Christian devotionals, awkward moments, design inspiration, and tales of my misadventures as I navigate life in Minot, North Dakota {or, as I call it…Practically Canada.}  I would sincerely love to have you follow along.

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Three Generations {Sunflower Sneak Peek}

family photos in sunflower field

A couple weeks ago I was invited to capture some very special family photos.  You may recognize some of these precious faces.  I’ve photographed Jenna {remember her awesome senior portraits?}, and Kate {wedding, engagement, puppy portraits}.  But on this {very hot} evening we were on a mission to get some unique photos of the women of the tribe.  I loved gathering in with three generations of Christ-loving, fun, beautiful ladies.

 

The collage below is a compilation of my favorite images from the whole session.  These weren’t moments that I orchestrated, by telling them to hug or look at one another.  These were moments that just happened.  Tight squeezes, head to head, frozen affection that will last a lifetime.

grandparent photos

Oh.  And I couldn’t leave off tonight without throwing in a few of my other favorites…Like this one of the coolest little boy I’ve ever met.  He patiently waited while the ladies were in the spotlight.  He generated smiles from them with his adorable, juice-box sipping antics.  Who doesn’t love a cold Capri Sun on a hot day?

sunflower mini session

sunflower mini session

I’m so glad to know these beautiful sisters!!

sunflower mini session

sunflower mini session

Cassie: Class of 2016 {sneak peek}

classic senior portraits

This is Cassie.  During her session I took to calling her Sassy Cassie…like she’s never heard that one before…  Not because she was super sassy in her tone or attitude–but because she has total control over her face and can put out the fiercest “sassy-vibe” I’ve ever seen.

 

I love it.  It’s a quality I admire, since I have almost no control over my own facial expressions whatsoever.

 

Anyway.  She is gorgeous and funny and smart and plays the violin {how cool is that?!}  I loved hanging out with her. Traipsing around downtown Minot…stumbling across the coolest, most colorful wall I’ve ever seen, and sweating it out in the 100˚ heat wave…it was all fun with Cassie.  And I wasn’t kidding about those temps.  She might look cool as a cucumber, but the air certainly was not.  And neither was I.  By the end, she still looked fantastic…but I had belly sweat and back sweat seeping through my shirt.  Wait–was that too gross to broadcast?  That’s a prime reason why it’s good to keep me behind the lens.

 

Now…without any more talk of sweat stains and sassy attitudes.  Check out Cassie–class of 2016.

garden senior photos

grunge urban senior photos

How cool are these?  Major props to Cassie for overcoming her dislike of heights and rickety walkways to get this shot!

colorful senior photos

This colorful wall in my favorite photo-alley was a pleasant surprise!  I shot Kylee’s images just a week earlier and this was no where to be seen–I love the way that black top really pops against this super-colorful background.

downtown mirrored senior photos

violin senior photos

Of all the images from her shoot, these with the violin are my favvvorite!  The colors, the shapes, the lighting…I love it all.  I think Cassie looks gorgeous a violin in her hands.  Am I right?

 

I loved shooting these images.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:  Seniors are my favorite!  Cassie’s session was a total blast.  I’m so glad to have gotten to know her a bit and wish her the hap-hap-happiest senior year ever!

Kylee Class of 2016 { senior photos }

balloon senior photos

Meet Kylee.  She’s in the class of 2016–in case you hadn’t figured that out just yet.

 

On the day of her session I was pleasantly surprised when we met up downtown and were joined by an entourage of four of her dearest friends.  Including this pretty face you might remember from last year.  To say that this was a session like no other is totally true.  It was loads of fun having extra eyes on hand to make sure things looked just right, and extra personalities around to generate genuine grins.

 

Oh…and I should mention that it was during Kylee’s session that we encountered the most awkward moment I’ve ever experienced on a shoot.  More on that later.  Right now, sit back and enjoy these summery senior photos.

alley senior photos

lace and leather senior photos

Is it just me, or have the 2016 seniors been impeccably dressed?  They’ve all looked fabulous in a classic kind of way.  I am head over heels for this leather and lace look Kylee brought to the table.  Just stunning.

 

girl basketball senior photos

Okay.  Just look at those eyes!  They are so. pretty.  Seriously.  No enhancement required.  They are just that blue.  That sparkly. It’s really out-of-this-world beautiful.

girl basketball senior photos

This one right here.  Below this text.  This one might just be my very favorite of the whole session. Again, it has a lot to do with the eyes.  {This time I’ll use the word dazzling to describe them.}  But the fading light, her relaxed face, and that green Practically Canadian grass also have a lot to do with it.  What do you think?

park senior photos

Okay.  So here’s where the awkward moment comes up.  Kylee brought balloons to use during her session…which I thought was an awesome idea.  Balloons are totally fun–remember Jenna’s photos?  Anyway.  It was the perfect night for balloons because there wasn’t a lick of breeze–so instead of fighting the wind, they just floated beautifully vertical.  Lovely.

 

After we were done and heading out to get some countryside photos we loaded up the cars.  We were parked close to each other.  Four teenage girls, one mom and one photographer who seems a magnet for awkward moments.  The car doors were open and the girls were shoving balloons back in the van.  The parking lot was now like a maze of girls, women, doors and props.  Okay, now you have the scene.

 

Up walks two women.  Middle aged.  Well meaning.  They approach the girls, “Congratulations!” one exclaims to Kylee.  There’s a weird pause–none of us know where this is going.

 

Kylee:  Thaaanks….?

 

Walker:  This is so exciting…that it’s a girl.  Is it your first?

 

Okay.  Hold the phone.  WHAT?!  They think this is a maternity shoot?!  Are you crazy?  This does not look like a maternity shoot.  Not. one. bit.  There is no bump.  There is no daddy.  Why would we be toting around an entourage for maternity photos?  There are so many questions in my mind.  And for once, I was stunned into silence.  Kylee’s friend Gen spoke up, “Umm…these are senior photos.”

 

Walker:  Oh my gosh!  I’m so sorry.  We just–saw the balloons–pink–I’ve never seen that done for senior photos–sorry–geeze–okay, well–congratulations on your senior year–ha–haha-ha…

 

So. Weird.  Then as they tried to walk away we were all caught up in the maze of car doors and people and props that I mentioned earlier.  There were a lot of “excuse me’s” as the ladies tried to walk away.  I’m sure they were totally embarrassed.  But honestly…The take away from all of this is:  pink balloons don’t always mean baby.  Actually there are a lot of take aways…but we don’t have time for that.  I’ve got more photos to show you.  Needless to say, this session is not one I’ll quickly forget.  But we all had a good laugh about it.  I’m just glad Kylee is such a good sport.

 

dirt road and wheat field senior photos

Is there anything prettier than this golden haired girl in golden fields of wheat during golden hour?  I think not.  I’m a huge fan.  And a huge fan of the soft, pretty colors in this outfit.  And I guess that brings us to the end…or does it?

 

No.  It does not.  Because I couldn’t leave without a collage of the entourage.

best friend senior photos

Don’t forget to vote in Kylee’s B&W vs Color contest.  Help her win a free print.  Visit the Facebook page {and like it while you’re there} to cast your vote.

The Rodgers Family 2015

Large family photo

I am so excited to be sharing the Rodgers Family’s 2nd Annual Photo Session with you today.  I love repeat clients–so I was super pumped when Janet emailed and asked if I’d be interested in getting together on their farm again this summer for some photos of their gang.  Sometimes large family photos can be challenging–but these guys made it as easy as eating ice cream after dinner.

 

You can see last year’s images here.  And–if you want a closer look at the senior in the house…check out Sylvia’s senior session here and here. read more…

Sylvia { Country Senior Pictures }

Yesterday I showed you part one of Sylvia’s senior portraits–senior pictures with her best friend Anna.  Tonight I’m delighted to showcase solo images of Sylvia.  So many things worked in our favor on the evening of her session…lovely temperatures, very little wind, wild flowers growing along deserted paths, mosquitoes were scarce, and the sunset was the kind that causes you to stop and remember that the whole world is a masterpiece.

 

Yes, it was pretty spectacular.  And her photos are some of my all time favorites.  Gorgeous, fun, country senior pictures.  Flannel, trucks, pretty dresses in deserted places, dirt roads.  I love it.
vintage truck senior pictures

{Can we pause a second to marvel at her hair??!  I’ve never seen more beautiful, real, untreated hair.  Seriously.}

flannel senior portraits

denim senior pictures

See that image on the right?  It’s one of my absolute faves from her session.  If you think it’s pretty in color–just wait until you see it in B&W.  Head over to the Facebook page to vote for which version you like best.  If at least 40 people vote Sylvia will win a free print of the favorite!

formal dress senior pictures

vintage car senior pictures

dirt road senior pictures

As usual, I’m grateful and honored to be the person Sylvia chose to capture this special season in life.  It was so much fun photographing her {and Anna too} and I wish her the very best senior year ever!

 

Amy

Sylvia and Anna { Best Friend Photos }

I really like repeat clients.  It’s super fun to see how people grow and change between sessions.  So I was absolutely tickled when I was asked to photograph Sylvia’s senior photos.  I’d met her last year when I photographed her family–her large, gorgeous, family–on their lovely farm.  This fall she starts her senior year and we had so much fun shooting her senior photos…especially since her best friend Anna joined us!  Senior photos and best friend photos — it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

I spent the evening with these upstanding young ladies and their mothers.  From the train tracks to a vintage truck parked in canola–I can’t imagine cooler locations to photograph.  In fact–Sylvia’s session was so outstanding that I decided to break her preview in to two parts.  Tonight I’m showcasing photos of the two girls together.  Tomorrow, I’ll be showing off solo photos of Sylvia.  So be sure to come back for more.  {Side note…these are literally some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever taken.  I think it has something to do with the perfect light, and their salon-magazine-hair…seriously, isn’t it just so pretty?}

 

Without further ado–enjoy Anna and Sylvia:  best friend photos.

best friends rail road tracks

best friends rustic

best friends truck photo

I seriously love these.  And I cannot say enough positive things about these two.  Smart.  Funny.  Giggly.  Bible-loving.  Christ-following.  Power friendships like these give me confidence that the future is going to be awesome.

 

Remember to come back tomorrow to see Sylvia’s images.

 

xo–Amy

Sydney { Class of 2016}

A few days before Sydney’s session I was driving north of town and was utterly taken aback by the gorgeous canola fields.  I’m telling you–there is really nothing more stunning than a Practically Canadian summer.  Nothing.  The countryside is simply breath taking and the weather is sweet.

 

Anyway–back to canola.

 

I had this thought–I’ve done sunflower sessions and snow sessions, but never canola sessions.  Suddenly it just seemed silly.  Why wouldn’t I take advantage of fields of waist high yellow flowers as far as the eye could see?  Ideally I would have offered mini sessions in the canola–but that just didn’t pan out.  Instead, I took Sydney there with me for some canola field senior pictures.  And I’m so glad she was game to come along.  The air grew cooler, the sun dipped low and we spent the golden hour in the golden fields.  I’m super pleased with the results and I’m thrilled to be sharing some of my favorite images with you today.

canola field senior pictures

If you follow the Facebook page, you might have seen this image that I created.  This happened during Sydney’s shoot.  A family on horseback came trotting down the tractor path as we were finishing up.  They’d braved a slow walk past a clump of field bee hives swarming with very busy buzzers.  I’d driven past the hives earlier in the day scouting our location.  They swarmed my car and gave me a creepy Hitchcock-eerie feeling.  When I asked them about the ride past the hives one of the girls said, “Those were NOT there last week.  It was like fear factor.”  They were eager to ride away from the bees, literally into the sunset.

enjoy every sunsetenjoy every sunset

Anyway…back to Sydney.  In addition to amazing shots in the canola, we also got these.  Seriously some of my favorites from the night.

field senior pictures

If it were up to me every hour would be sunset and every photo would be in a field.  But that would be pretty darn boring.  So we also shot around town–and I wasn’t disappointed with our location choices.  Seriously.  Sparkly skirt + shabby alley??  Yes, please!

alley senior photos

urban senior portraits

Oh, and did I mention she’s an athlete?!  I worked up a sweat climbing high enough to nab this one…but the result is worth it.

Senior Sports portrait

The downside about Practically Canada {okay besides the long commute between towns, and subzero winters} is that road construction has a very limited season.  Currently our downtown streets are all torn up.  Cons: We wandered around, unable to figure out how to get to places I had in mind to shoot.  Pros: There was no traffic and we nabbed a super-cool photo in the middle of the street…until a construction crew drove heavy machinery through and gave us a weird look.

downtown senior portraits

Which brings us to the end of Sydney’s preview.  It’s been sweet, hasn’t it?  I’m so glad she chose me to capture her senior portraits.  Remember to head over to the Facebook page and vote in the B&W vs Color challenge to help Sydney win a free 8×10″ print of the winning image.

golden hour senior portraits

Mr & Mrs Borseth

It seems like eons ago that I shot Anne and Jay’s g-g-g-gorgeous wedding.  In reality it was only weeks ago…but I suppose that’s how summer goes up here in Practically Canada.  We wait for it all year long, then before we know it it’s practically fall again.

 

But, today’s post is far too warm and sunny to spend our time talking about dropping temps.  So instead, let me tell you what an immense privilege it was for me to be a part of this big day.  There is nothing that delights my heart more than watching two people who love Jesus, commit to one another in marriage.  I love weddings that put Christ at the center–it’s such a beautiful picture.  A miniature, mortal diorama of the love Christ has for His church and the love and submission we are called to give Him.

 

Anne and Jay’s big day was beautiful on all the levels a day can be: spiritually God-honoring, picture perfect weather, DIY decor that will make Pinners drool, delectable home-cooked food, beautiful singing, and a crowd of friends and family that filled the dance floor.  Now, without any more chit-chat…let’s relive the day.

bridal prep

wedding prep

first look

If I did my wedding all over again…I’d do a first look.  It’s so special for the bride and groom to have a few minutes together alone before the craziness sets in.  {Well–alone except for a creepy photographer standing off to the side…}  Anne and Jay exchanged some meaningful gifts during these moments and their sincere reactions are really what the Art of the Moment is all about.

prewedding

This ring bearer…he’s too much.  He’s just. so. cute!!  You might even recognize him from last winters Christmas mini sessions

wedding

Oh, did I mention that Jay sang a song to Anne during the ceremony?  Yeah, he did.  This couple is just that precious.

wedding party

bridal portraits

Now. If you are into crafts, DIY and all things awesome…take a moment to go to the bathroom right now.  If you don’t, I’m afraid you’ll wet yourselves with giddy excitement when you see the adorable reception details that Anne coordinated and crafted {along with help from friends and family}.  Okay?  Scroll down…but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

reception details

Chalk board signs.  A cookie bar.  A COOKIE BAR!! A pop corn bar. One of the cutest photobooths I’ve ever laid eyes on.  Gorgeous graphic printables. An awesome kids area. Cupcakes galore. Ball jars.  Wholesale roses in DIY arrangements.  {Read…they did their own floral!}  Color me impressed.  This was a seriously gorgeous fete.

dances 1

I only post my favorite favorite images here in the preview…so I love all of these–but I really, really love those shots from the father-daughter dance.  What a moment.

cake

reception

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Borseth.  I’m so very honored to have spent the day with you and your amazing families.  Your images are all done and will be in the mail to you tomorrow!!

Mikaela Class of 2016 {Sneak Peek}

USA

This is Mikaela.  She’s crazy photogenic.  Like, seriously.  I photograph a lot of people–and I love them all–but she was seriously easy to shoot.  She’s natural and confident in front of the camera, and magically has complete control over her face.  {Something I’m still trying to master.}

 

I had a great time hanging out with Mikaela and her family prop-hauling, bubble-blowing, hair-fixing, pose-suggesting entourage.  She asked for shooting locations that were unique, she was up for pretty much anything, and she specifically wanted some shots standing in the water.  I think the session we put together answered that call.  The class of 2016 senior season is shaping up to be my best ever.

 

volleyball senior portraits

Mikaela is the first athlete I’ve ever photographed with gear.  And it was so. much. fun.  Especially the part where her mom and uncle were holding a {surprisingly heavy} volleyball net up in the background.  It was so kind of Surrey to unlock the school for us so we could get this shots on her home court.

 

And speaking of school spirit…I think Surrey’s bleachers are just darling.  So I insisted that we take a few shots there too.

bleachers

From there things got a little itchy.  If you’ve looked at my other work, you might have noticed that nearly every senior shoot ends up in an open field somewhere.  Mikaela was no different.  Like I said, she was a sport–wading into tall grass, looking beautiful with gorgeous back lighting…all the while being eaten alive by North Dakota’s state bird–the mosquito.  By the end of this series, I was literally shooing the blood suckers off her arms and legs in droves.  She might feel differently…but I think the end result was worth all the swatting.

senior portraits field golden hour

glitter

The last stop of our photo-adventure was the back side of Roosevelt Park.  It took a lot of scouting to come up with this place, but I think it’s absolutely perfect.  And isn’t that hat precious?!  She’s so cute.  Not to mention that our day was perfect too–I mean how often in Practically Canada do you get an evening with absolutely no wind?  Look at this super still water!

{And, I should add that we owe a big THANK YOU to our amazing bubble blowers.  They risked falling in the river to help us get these shots!}

bubbles senior portraits

Okay.  I mentioned earlier in the post that she wanted some images in water.  Well…this is what we came up with and I’m pretty much in love.  That’s why I saved them for last here.  The lighting, the sunset, the water…stunning.  These photos are cool.  And that’s all there is to it.

senior portraits in water

So there you have it.  I am so happy with the way these photos came out and I hope she will be too!  As you can see, I had a lot of favorites from this session…so I had a VERY hard time choosing just one for the B&W vs Color challenge on the Facebook page.  So I didn’t just pick one.  I picked two.  Be sure to head over to Facebook and vote for your favorite.  If enough people chime in with an opinion, Mikaela will win a free print!

The Basement { Part II : Closets and Contractors }

I’m kind of a hypocrite.  I have a very strong dislike of wood paneling.  But if I call it bead board and plan to paint it white…suddenly it’s chic to me.  I can’t explain my thought process.  At any rate, the stairs and laundry center are lined with bead board.  And I like it.

basement bead board

For me, one of the hardest parts of a project is outsourcing the stuff we can’t do ourselves.  It’s not a control thing.  I like skills…but really, I don’t have a desire to be a master plumber or a wiring guru.  It’s definitely not that I think I could do better.  Some things I would gladly leave to the pros.  Maybe it’s the money.  Maybe it’s that I don’t know enough about construction to know what is fair or what is necessary–so I get flustered.  It’s just hard.

 

But, there comes a time on every major project that a contractor is needed.  So, after the studs were up and the walls were framed in…it was time for me to make some calls.  I guess that’s the other hard part about contracting jobs out:  the calls.  I don’t know who to call.  Half the time I don’t even know where to start.  And after a terrible experience with an electrician during the bedroom remodel…I’ve been a little wary that I’d get another dud.

 

When I look for a contractor here’s my basic process.  Step 1.  Ask for referrals.  From real people.  That I really {at least kind of} know in real life.  The Internet is good for reviews, but I trust a face to face review over five stars on Google.  I ask around at church, the gym, the coffee shop…basically anywhere I can get a small-talk conversation going about my latest project.

 

Step 2.  Internet.  I like to cross check word of mouth referrals with the what people are saying online.  If asking around didn’t yield any results I go to Angie’s List.  It’s a bonus if they are registered with the BBB.

 

Step 3.  Call at least three.  Get them to come out and give you a quote.  See what they think would be best for your project.  I give preference to contractors that don’t look at me like I’m an idiot when I explain that we’d like to do part of the work ourselves…and who don’t seem judgy that a girl is lining up the project.

 

We got three quotes on electric and three quotes on plumbing.  And as luck would have it, they were able to come during the same week.  That was really nice because once the studs were up there really wasn’t much we could do ourselves until the fancy stuff was taken care of.

 

During their estimate visits, the electricians brought a slight code violation to my attention.  Turns out you can’t put a circuit panel in the back of a closet…awkward.  Really, it makes perfect sense…but we hadn’t thought about it.  As to prevent a fire hazard…we changed the layout of our closet.

 

You can see the closet in the photo below.  The panel is that open boxy thing right under the joists to the right of the window.  Originally the closet would have gone all the way to the ceiling and been flush with the side of the circuit housing.   To leave it exposed we created a shelf/cubby closet next to the full height closet.  Make sense?  I don’t look at it as losing closet width, but gaining a cubby and a shelf.  {Lemonade, am I right?}

basement closets

The electricians came and did their preliminary work and told us to call them back to the job once we had the drywall and ceiling in place.

 

The plumbers came and did something similar.  They roughed in the basic set up then came back to finish.  This meant we got to go shopping for the fixtures we wanted.  After weeks of 2×4’s and toe nailing getting to even think about shower stalls and sinks made it feel like we were getting places.

 

The plumbers were kind enough to let us fix the concrete that they had to jack hammer up in their process.  It took an afternoon for Derek to get it done…but in the end we saved about $300 by doing it ourselves!  {And it was pretty easy with the help of that darling baby cement mixer we rented for $20!  Notice the girl with the bad back…who was unable to lift or help in the concrete process at all was calling it “easy”…}

basement bathroom

Next time I write about the basement I’ll show off the bathroom {it’s nearly done now!} and I’ll tell you a very embarrassing story.  But right now, I’m off to sort some more senior photos and cut some door casing.

 

Amy

Well, hello there!

Hi. I'm Amy. Thanks for coming by. I'm in to trying new things and learning to live better. I hope you'll hang around...together we can come closer to mastering the Art of Living.

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