Sunday, May 1, 2016

A year since...

May first will always be a meaningful day to Nathaniel and I. It's the day last year when our greyhound, Lochrima, died. Though we had ten wonderful years with her, and she lived a long life - age 13 - it's always too soon to say goodbye to your beloved.

Twelve complete months have passed since we lost her to cancer. Many clients have missed her, coming in for new headshots or family pictures, and her familiar golden eyes were not there to greet them. We have been overwhelmed, learning how many people loved Lochrima. The stack of cards was several inches high and almost a dozen clients & friends made donations to various rescues in her honor.
Lochrima, 2007 in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Which led us to wonder... how can we best honor her? As we came out of the grief of her absence, our course was illuminated: we would foster 13 dogs before adopting another forever-companion. What better way to honor our time with Lochrima than to help 13 other dogs find a love of their own? We like to think she would be proud.

Now, make no mistake, fostering is not easy. Nathaniel and I knew it was going to be a challenge. After all, when you foster, you take in a homeless animal, love it, care for it - and let it go when the right adopter comes along. Could we bear 13 more heartbreaks?

Today, May 1 2016, we are happy to report that we have successfully fostered 8 dogs.  We'd like you to meet them...

Bullwinkle, September 2015

 First came tiny Bullwinkle. At age six, this mini-dachshund found himself out of a home. His adoption group was Dachshund Rescue of North America and he was with us about one month.

Ripley, October 2015
Next, we fostered Ripley. He finished his racing career in Florida and found his way to Greyhound Rescue Inc.  Ripley was placed with a wonderful family in Baltimore - we occasionally get to see updates on his happy new life.

MariMae, November 2015
Foster number three was MariMae, a retired racer from Alabama. This girl had it going on! We really adored this southern belle - she loved to snuggle and was so smart. She learned to sit and shake paws in only two days! Who says greyhounds don't sit?

Stan, December 2015
Also retired from a track in Alabma was Stan. This good-looking dude was the shortest foster ever - finding his new home in literally one day!

Nathaniel and tiny Zoey
Itsy Bitsy Zoey dog, December 2015

We had the pleasure of co-fostering tiny Zoey dog in December, also from DRNA. This sweet pup was a mix of Chinese crested and terrier, and honestly, she was one of the most well-mannered dogs we've ever met. We were happy to see her go to a forever home in time for the holidays.

Jacks, January 2016
After New Year's, we got little Jacks. This wily fellow loved to PLAY. He could play for five hours at a time with no break. Both of us had so much fun with him - and got our exercise for sure! Lucky guy - he went home with a couple that enjoyed hiking, so he gets loads of time outside to wear him out.

Gable, February 2016
All dogs are gorgeous, but sometimes, one is a little more gorgeous. That was Gable. To call him handsome is sort of an understatement. We were happy to see Gorgeous Gabe find a home only two miles from us! We get to see him, and he's now living with his cousin, Shelley, another retired racer.

Mohican, April 2016
Our most recent foster was pretty hound dog, Mohican. Another southern belle, she came from Alabama and was a little shy. Which made it all the more disarming and sweet when she gave out a kiss. She went home with a family in Maryland, and we occasionally get update texts.

Fostering all eight of these special dogs has been rewarding. One of the most incredible parts was realizing how many great dogs are out there, looking for a forever home. Every single one of these eight dogs was loving, fun and beautiful. They were all amazing companions. It's mind bending to us how so many fantastic dogs end up in shelters or homeless  - or euthanized. Big thanks to our friends at DRNA and GRI for saving and homing these magnificent animals - we are proud to have been part of the process.

We are still five fosters away from #13. At the moment, we're on the fence about what to do when we reach #13. Should we immediately adopt again... or keep fostering to help more dogs find homes? After all, when you adopt - you save one life. But when you foster, you save two - because a space opens at a kennel, plus you can make a homeless dog transition more smoothly by training him or her to be house-friendly.

Nathaniel and I are still deciding what will happen when we get to #13. Until then, we hope that our precious Lochrima is honored by the work we have done in her name. And that all eight of our fosters are as happy and spoiled in their homes as our girl was during her decade with us.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

With a Steady Heart

Lindsay Shields isn't your everyday stylist. Sure, she's mega talented and can make your make-up and hair look like you belong on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. She directs the Academy of Make-up in Cockeysville and also is an artist at the Maryland office of Up Do's for I Do's. But she's a great deal more that her talent. She is so much heart.

Lindsey Shields, Make-up Artist and Stylist

For the past several years, in conjunction with Up Do's for I Do's, Lindsey has set up an amazing program with two area hospitals. Basically, she asks hair and make-up artists to volunteer their time, talent and supplies to go into cancer centers and give free make-overs to patients receiving treatment for breast cancer. Nathaniel & I go along, and offer a free portrait session if desired, or if a family is along, sometimes we do a family portrait.

This idea came to Lindsey two years ago when she was doing make-up for a bridesmaid who was 23 years-old and going through chemo for cancer. The young woman had
-- no brows, no hair, and no lashes. 

"I put fake lashes on, drew in brows. She looked in the mirror and started crying. She said she forgot what she looked like, " Lindsay said. "At that moment, I knew I wanted to do something to make these women feel beautiful again. I remember how my mom felt  going through treatments and how special it was to have her face on, or get her hair styled. Women lose sight of their beauty and I wanted to find a way to bring that back."

The Up Do's artists setting up at Mercy Cancer Canter
Lindsey's mom died from breast cancer after a seven-year fight for her health. The entirety of her mother's treatments included a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. After going into remission, the cancer returned and spread into her liver. She died between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2009. She was treated at Mercy, which is what led Lindsey to approach them and offer this service. 

"We were there (Mercy) a lot, so I love going there. Our experiences there are why we also offer services to the nurses too.  There was a nurse there who treated my mom and we thought of her as a friend," Lindsey explained.

Lindsey does make-up on a nurse at Mercy.
Each time the team heads into Mercy, or Holy Cross, Hospitals, they do between 12 and 17 make-overs.  Not all patients are up for the beauty treatment and they decline the service, but many women really enjoy it  - some see what's happening and request to be part of it.

For Lindsey, the process of setting up and working at these events is very personal. She often thinks of her mom. And in her mother's honor, Lindsey believes this is a good way to give back and offer something positive. 

"It feels great use what I do for a living, to really make people feel beautiful on a day that's not their wedding day –during a time when they need it the most," Lindsey said. "It’s also very emotional because when I go there, I think of what  my own family went through. I know Mom would have loved this kind of experience.  It makes it that much more rewarding."

Having portraits is part of the day for Lindsey as well. For a variety of reasons, it's not likely that the artists will run into the patients again. But giving them the option of a well-made professional picture is a gift to the women and their families, as well as a reminder of how beautiful and worthy they each are. When her mother was undergoing treatment, pictures were not taken. Lindsey reflected that she deeply wanted one more photo of her mom, and that was a gift she wanted each of the patients getting makeovers to have the option of receiving.  In some cases, it will be a marker of a period in the patient's life; in others, sadly, it may be a final portrait for their loved ones.

Beth and Serena from Up Do's, making a nurse's day a little brighter.

One of the most incredible comments Lindsey made during our interview was that she wishes people would go out and get involved in their own communities. Not just fundraising by running a 5K - not to downplay the importance of fundraising -  but actual hands-on involvement that can impact individual lives. She believes that really making a personal connection with someone can have a big impact - could change their day or change their fate. Someone could be inspired by your act of kindness to go forward and fight harder.

Up Do's and Lindsey don't go into these events to make money, gain clients or spread the word about their business. Each artists is fully committed and only shows up with the intention and hope that they can do some good, share some love, with a patient who needs it.

A nurse gets a beauty make-over.
"I absolutely plan to continue doing this. I feel like with the team involved, they want continue no matter what, too, " Lindsey said. " Everyone has been touched one way or another doing this. Our team has worked hard to be there and make it happen. And I couldn’t do it without everyone. "

Some of the Up Do's team outside the Oncology Center.

Today, April 12, 2016, Lindsey and the team went back to Mercy. Nathaniel was along to take pictures. And again, as in the trips before, all the artists were humbled by the grace, strength and beauty of the patients and nurses at the Mercy Cancer Center. No words I have can convey our amazement at Lindsey' heart to continue these events. No words can convey our gratitude for being involved. 

On a personal note, both Nathaniel and myself know what it means to have a parent with cancer. We understand the helplessness, the moments when you wish you knew what to do, the tangles of emotion when you think how damn unfair cancer is. We have been and are aware of the range of human experience cancer creates. Cancer leaves a trail of tears in its wake, for survivors, family, friends, even pets. 

Our involvement with these projects is a gift to us, too. While we cannot create any cures, at least, perhaps, our pictures can save a beautiful memory of a mother, daughter, sister, wife, partner, friend, aunt, cousin, colleague, teacher, or neighbor for others. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Celebrating 15 Years!

Back in 2000, when I had the idea to start my own "side business" doing headshots, it never occurred to me that the company would still be going strong in 15 years. I wasn't even sure back then that the company would last for 15 months! It kept rolling along though. Nathaniel joined in and well, here we are, it's 2015 and thanks to you - the clients, friends, family and vendors who have supported this vetnure -balance photography is now 15 years old!!

To celebrate, we had a little party recently at Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary in Ellicott City. It was on May 17 and despite the threat of rain, we had a gorgeous day. We wanted to share a few images from the event, and again take this time to thank YOU for the role you have played in balance these past 15 years...
The stunning grounds and manor house at Burleigh.

Display of our work, spanning fifteen years! We've been through six logos and both film and digital technology.

More of the artwork from the past fifteen years on display around the barn at Burleigh.
Some of our gorgeous flowers, thanks to Local Color Flowers.

Nathaniel with long-time client, Amy.

Nathaniel and Rissa during a toast and remarks.

Lisa from Burleigh Manor chats with Maeion, our long time beauty partner, and her hubby Lou.

Rissa catches up with long-time clients Dave and Donna, who drove in from York, Pa for the party! Other guests came from as far as West Virginia, Philly, Washington DC and even Nashville TN! Thanks to those who traveled so far to be with us.
Where would balance photo be without Ashley Riddle and the crew from Up Do's for I Do's!?
Stephen, our associate photographer of 9 years and his son, Liam. All of these pics were taken by Stephen at the party.
Debbie and Dave meet Moose the mule during the tour of the Animal Sanctuary grounds.
A huge tour group!

Arizona the rooster is standing guard over Jenny the donkey during the tour.
Lisa introduces Brenda and Liam to Lily the pot belly pig during the tour.
Iris, Ryan, Jasmine and PJ stroll the grounds of the farm as the afternoon lingers on. A lovely way to spend the day!

Again, we want to thank EVERYONE who has been part of this business for the past fifteen years. There are way too many folks to thank by name... but family and friends and neighbors who supported us in this dream to be working artists; vendors who did hair and make-up, made prints & albums, fixed cameras and computers, did our accounting and legal work, and more; colleagues who mentored us, referred jobs & took referrals, loaned us equipment and learned with us about business; our assistants & associates - there are 14 of you now in the history of the company;  and of course, our CLIENTS  - without your headshots, weddings, portraits, boudoir, product shots, albums and general belief in our talents, none of this would exist.

Special thanks to the vendors who made this party special...

Venue: Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary
Flowers: Local Color Flowers
Rentals: ABC Party Rentals and Ted's Rent-It Center
Piano: Patrick Sutter
Rissa's Hair and Make-Up: Jessica Lynn Baligush/Up Do's for I Do's
Food: Land of Kush, Dudley's Desserts
Beverages: Wine Bin and Boochleggers

~Gratefully, Rissa

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ruff Times for the Summer

Summer means long days and long weekends - and traveling. We propose that you pack up your best friend for those trips this year. And now, with the Ruff Guide to the United States, there is no reason not to take your canine companion with you. 

It's no secret that we take our greyhound, Lochrima, every possible place we travel to.  She's been in 14 states and toured mountains, beaches and cities with us. Yea, we even walked her through a shopping mall in D.C. once - no one said anything. Maybe because she's so good-looking and well-behaved?

Anyhow, with this cool new Ruff Guide, there are features and vacation spots in EVERY state that welcome houndie guests.

A few of the really cool ones: Surfing lessons in California, camping in Yellowstone Park, treehouses on the Appalachian Trail, B&Bs on Gettysburg battlefield and Gondola Skyrides. Oh - there are high end locales too - try taking your pooch to Palm Springs for some spa luxury or a tour of sophisticated Santa Barbara. How about touring a garden in Georgia?

Pretty much, there's something in the Ruff Guide for every dog and his/her person. Which brings me to the avenue by which we discovered this book: Grapehounds.  Grapehounds is an annual event - with weekends in both Virginia and the New York Fingerlakes. Basically, wineries open up their tasting rooms to hounds, and the organizer, Larry, also arranges for pooch-friendly hotels, B&Bs and camping, we as well as vendors selling collars, coats, crafts and more - oh and free concerts. The event is always a great time and we're proud to say, we've been involved as the official event photographers since the very first event.

Grapehounds is listed in the Ruff Guide - and we hope that means that even more attendees will arrive this year in both Virginia and New York to enjoy this fun weekend. Even better- all the proceeds from both events are donated to charities that work to save racing greyhounds.

Want to learn more? Here's a little taste of what Grapehounds is all about... shopping, drinking, eating and of course... hounding out!

Small businesses sell doggie wares. 

Naptime at the winery!

Strikingly handsome fellow...

Vineyards are great for long walks.

Winetasting for people. Naps for hounds.

Where are my treats?

We love North Gate - a vegan-friendly and entirely green winery in VA!

Resting after a long day touring wineries in Virgnia.

If you'd like to learn more about Grapehounds, visit their website. If you want to check out the Ruff Guide, buy a copy on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Be sure to look for our pictures in there!

Happy Summer trips - with your doggies!
~ Rissa

Monday, March 31, 2014

Getting Back to the Future

Frequently we are asked by clients, friends and associates if we are using the "latest/hottest/newest" technology. We always laugh a little, at least to ourselves, because in the world of digital photography and computers in general, the freshest thing is nearly impossible to keep up with, professionally or even financially.

Consider for a moment that more than many other art forms, photography is entirely driven by the tools used to create it. Pencils and charcoal have changed very little for artists; many chefs use fancy gadgets, but others still cook over primal, open fire; ballerinas still perform to classic scores written by composers putting pen to paper. But photographers… well, that's not the same. Of the arts, a photographer must always straddle between creator and technician.

Less than 200 years ago, photographers were creating images on plates of glass and tin; shortly after that came large and medium format film, then 35mm film. Most recently, digital photography entered the scene.  But in comparison to other art forms, save perhaps web design and other digital media, photography is among the newer means of creative expression.

While we obviously take time to learn new techniques and programs for our craft, we're strongly of the opinion that lasting media in photography is always superior to fleeting products. For example, consider the current standard, a CD or DVD. Many clients want that disc, feel more secure with it. But I invite you to look at this image and think about how much security your disc really holds…

Yes, that's right. Let's go back to the future, as they say in the movie. Many people will remember this brand name: Texas Instruments. There was a time when TI was *THE* modern, forward-thinking person's choice in technology. You know, about 20-ish years ago. But my how things have changed.

When I was in high school, Memorex floppy discs were high tech. When I carried these around in my backpack, I felt like a NASA engineer. Of course, those same computer classes consisted of learning how to log into MS-DOS and type in a paper for English class.

Shortly after came the smaller floppies. They were still "floppy" on the inside, but we had upgraded to hard cases. Gosh did I fill boatloads of these things in college and at the time, these were considered the latest, greatest technology.

Next, as a photographer, was the upgrade to ZIP discs. Many folks didn't get to use ZIP discs, as they were only around for one second.We had to buy special external ZIP drives to plug into our computers for these. ZIPs were the THING to photographers at that moment in time - about 15 years ago. We both used them in college and early in our professional careers. 100m of memory was supremely impressive.

After ZIPs came the writeable compact discs and DVDs. These are shiny, flashy and chic. They remind us of music and movie discs we purchase. But their moment is passing…  Jump drives, the Cloud and DropBox are now having their moment. It's still all information on media. You have to look at a device to enjoy your photographic artwork.

So we wonder… with the constant flow in photography of changing media, why not stick to something more classic for your images, especially for important memories, like portraits of loved ones or wedding pictures? I mean, around here, we see enough discs go bad that we use them for coasters. Discs get CD Rot; computers crash and are replaced. That's certainly not the lasting memory you want for your family portraits, wedding or even vacation snapshots.

Framed snapshot from a family gathering of Nathaniel's grandparents.
Nothing will ever replace the true elegance and timelessness of a framed print on the wall or a well made album of your favorite images.  These are the things that become part of your family, these are heirlooms.

As we all move forward in the brave new world of fast-changing technology, I hope this will inspire you to think a little more about you how store, display and value your photographs. Storage devices will come and go.  If you have a photo worth keeping, it's worth getting a tangible print of that will go into a frame or album, something you can experience for years to come in analog, with no updated gadget that needs electric, batteries or other "juice" to make it work. 

~ Rissa