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Fiercely Innocent

“Treat the earth well: we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
– Ancient Indian Proverb

Lately I have been wanting to something a little different with my photoshoots. I had a vision of a girl coming into her own. She dreams of the days she can be fierce and yet remains soft an innocent within herself. I was so thrilled to find that Emily wanted to do this shoot. She has a natural beauty that radiates purity. Her pensive look makes you wonder what she is thinking, but watch out, when you get to know her, the playful side comes out. In this earthy photoshoot, Emily’s resolve rose up as we asked her to pose with (Diamond) a horse she just met. Great Job Emily and a big THANK YOU to everyone who made this happen.

Photographer: Rochelle Wilhelms
MUA: Lets Make Up With Marci
Headdress: Lottie Ballou Costumes
Horse Handler: Angel Henry


How was your weekend?

This weekend I had the opportunity to watch my good friend and fellow photographer compete in the Miss Vacaville Fiesta Days Pageant. Though this was her first pageant, you never would have guessed it seeing the beauty and confidence she portrayed on stage. She is a Cheerleader for a local high school so she knows how stay composed in front of a crowd. Pageants however are different. You are judged on your beauty, poise, eloquence and interview and it takes a strong woman to put herself out there and say, “Ok, I think I have what it takes to represent my city, Go ahead… Judge me!”

When Amanda first told me she was running for miss Vacaville, we talked about what it takes to be in something like that and what it takes to win. I told her my own story of how I competed in a pageant at 16 and how I had no clue of what I was doing. Naturally, I didn’t win, I wasn’t prepared and didn’t really know what to expect. However, I did win the title of Miss Photogenic, which I am still proud of to this day. Ironic, isn’t it? Given the profession I have decided to embark on.

Upon hearing my words, Amanda said, “That is the reason, I have called you. I know my chances of winning are slim, but I want the experience of it AND I really want to win Most Photogenic and I want you to photograph me.

We talked about what makes a great image. How I like to shoot from a cinematic point of view and really create an image instead of just go out and capture what I can. We talked about lighting, dress, purpose and identity. I got into her head and she got into mine. Finally the day came and we hiked one of my favorite hills just outside of where I live. It took about 40 minutes to get to where we wanted. Steep climbing with gear, clothing, makeup and water… all for one photograph. Was it worth it? You tell me. I say yes…

Congratulations Amanda Walker… Miss Vacaville/Solano County Pageant 2013 Photogenic Winner. Here is the image of Amanda that won…

Snakes, Broken arms and Instagram | A Northern California Photographers Tale of Adventure

Yesterday I decided to get away from the computer and spend the afternoon with my kids in one of our favorite places. Up on the hills where we live is a place that only a few find, with views that remind me of the hills of Scotland… When the hills are green that is! For only a short 2-3 month season are the hills green and lush. By mid April the sun comes in and kisses the grass all day to dry it out with it’s love. These months are when we grab our water bottles and hike what is affectionately called “Old Rocky.”

Really, It’s a kids paradise! Huge boulders rise out of the ground for one to climb and claim rights to being the king of the world. Little bugs fly and crawl under rocks and cracks in the ground. And creatures: birds, cows, turkeys, even marauding rattlesnakes, it really is a place of wonder and adventure. My boys have nick-named the place “My Narnia” and anytime they can go to their “Narnia” they will go and go happily.

We decided to get ice cream cones before heading up the hill. After All, we needed something to work off; the climb is nearly half a mile of steep terrain. Plus, It gives us an excuse to justify our guilty pleasure. On the way to get ice cream we decided to call grandma (my 70 year old mom) to see if she wanted to go hike.

Let’s just stop right here.

Though it may sound weird, My mom is one of the strongest members in our family. At age 70 she bench-presses 135 pounds, hikes the mountain regularly and walks about 5 miles a day. At the gym she is affectionately called, “The Freak of Nature” (which no woman really wants to be called) but I thought I’d throw it in there so you know who I was with. Thankfully, grandma said yes to the climb and we grabbed our cones and headed her way to pick her up.

As we were driving, I noticed that some of the grass on the hill was beginning to turn slightly brown. “Oh No!” I said to the kids, pointing out that this may be our last time to climb. In Northern California, brown hills mean rattlesnakes and in the words of Indiana Jones, “I HATE SNAKES!”

As we started our ascent, I began chronicling the climb on Instagram: Beautiful bushes of purple flowers lined the path, Olivia stopping in her usual way sit sit right down in the middle of our road to Narnia, little spring flowers blowing in the wind… things that make up reasons to get outside and be thankful. Once we reached the top of the first hill, the kids climbed their favorite boulder while pretending to rule the world and pose for mom. Snap, I took a picture, posted it and then pressed on.

The second hill is quite hard, but the reward at the top is so worth the climb. One lone oak tree lines the top of the hill from the side we were on, beckoning hikers to “come up” and see more. Once at the top, a bouldered meadow gives way to a majestic view of green grass and a mountain range. It’s a view that inspires my soul and makes me want to live. Naturally, I took another picture, posted it to Instagram and moved on.

By this time the kids were already on a tree swing that some obliging hiker had rigged for the enjoyment of all. We’ve been on this swing hundreds of times and the kids were excited to find two swings now hung for them to fight over. The first swing, is made of an old bicycle handlebar tied to a long rope attached to the tree. The second swing is a seat swing. The way the first swing works is you get a running start towards a slope going down the mountain and swing out and come back. We’ve all been on this swing, even 70 year old grandma! It’s exhilarating and scary and way too much fun.  You can go at it straight like a simple pendulum or for added thrill you can start off to the side and add a circular pattern to your trajectory (it also adds centrifugal force it would seem).  Naturally my oldest went straight to the “fun” swing while the younger two took turns on the seat. I took a fast picture for Instagram, sent it off and then looked up just as my oldest son slipped from the handlebar and fell a surprisingly long distance to an unforgiving ground.

A mother knows the cries of her children, whether its a learned thing or a natural thing, a mother just knows. And I knew…I just knew it! The look on his face told me everything. The scream from his body confirmed it and then I saw his arm. Hand dangling, limp, unmovable and crooked!.

I locked eyes on my child and told him it was going to be ok. Really I was telling myself, “It’s going to be ok!”.  I threw my phone to my mom and told her to call my dad and husband and have someone meet us at the bottom of the hill. I then grabbed my son’s other arm and we began our half mile descent down the two steep hills we had just climbed.

He told me he couldn’t feel his hand. I told him that it was ok, even though I didn’t know if it was and began praying over him with each step.

“Carry me mom. I don’t think I can walk, I’m in pain all over my body!”
“I can’t carry you son, it’s too steep and we have to make it down these hills to get you to a doctor.”

This is the making of a man. This is where the boy sucks it up and focuses on what has to be done. This is where courage comes in as you hike down into the unknown, all the while your mother is screaming her prayers at God.

It seemed to take forever and yet no time at all as I tried to keep his mind occupied. We talked about how men in the military have to focus on the task at hand, even though they are hurting. We talked about the body and the way God designed our nervous system. At one point, he even joked, “I wish it was my left arm mom, so I could get out of doing homework!” We hiked and prayed and screamed and talked all the way down the hill.

“I’m right here son! I got you, I’m not letting you go.” And I didn’t. I held on for dear life!

Finally we could see the car. I don’t know what it is about pain, but the closer we got to the car the louder his screaming became. So loud, we never heard the sound of the rattle snake in the purple bushes adjoining the trail as we passed. It was only the sound of my middle child’s scream that got my attention as he stopped dead in his tracks behind me screaming, “R-A-T-T-L-E-S-N-A-K-E!!!!” Good Grief! Talk about adventure! Now there was a rattle snake separating Andrew and I from Ryan. At that point, I had to make a split second choice, leave Andrew and save Ryan from the snake or abandon my second child to his worst fear. I could see that my Mom and Olivia were way behind so I yelled to Ryan. “Run, Ryan Run! Go to grandma and hurry!” and with that I had to trust that Ryan would be ok screaming and crying his way back up the hill to his grandma.

We turned and kept going to the car. Then fear came in as I thought I could hear more snakes…
Little screams came bellowing out of my exhausted body.

And then I noticed… a man. He was walking my way and clearly could see the distress. The closer I looked I noticed he was different. He looked like a young Jesus with longer hair, except with todays clothes on. He was smiling, as if this was a time to smile and watched us as we approached the car.

“Is everything alright,” he asked. To which my thought was, nope, not Jesus! For surely he would know who I am and what has just taken place.

“He broke his arm, I need to get him to a hospital.”

“Is there anything I can do?” He asked.

My reply came quick.
“Yes, my mother and two children are coming down the path and there is a rattlesnake in the bush. Get my family off this hill safely!”

“I’m on it!” he said. And with that he walked off in his toe sneakers and went to help my frantic family.

Was he Jesus? No clue. An Angel? Not sure. Regardless, He was my Jesus Angel in Toe shoes at the time and I was so thankful for his help.

Long story short, after hours off screaming, drugs, and x-rays, it turns out Andrew had broken both arms; The one that was dangling and the one that I refused to let go of. We have a six week road to recovery from this adventure, which I am sure will become another adventure in and of itself.

Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
I’d say we’ve had our fair share. Narnia must wait till next year as we go on this new journey of healing.

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