Saturday, December 13, 2008

Have a Small Christmas

About two months ago I had the genius idea that this year we would make all our holiday gifts for friends and family. I was inspired by articles in Martha Stewart magazine ~ apparently it is "super easy" to make all natural body scrubs, lip balms and bath bombs for gifts. Martha even has tips on cute labeling and bottles. Nathaniel looked at me like I had lost my mind, pointing out that November and December for us means filling tons of orders, completing and delivering albums and doing fast-turn-around holiday portraits.

Well, it's December 13th today, eleven days until Christmas, and I have not managed to even make one bath bomb. He was totally right. What to do instead...

Being small business owners ourselves, we try to support other small business with our money. Sure, we love the bargains at Kohl's and Target. But small business really need you. In many cases, a small business is just one or two people, working what feels like a 1000-hour work-week to make their dream real.

For your shopping pleasure, we'd like to introduce you to several of our favorite small businesses, most local to Baltimore, one online in Illinois... so get going and put your dollars this holiday season into the economy & help keep a shop-keeper's dream alive!

For pet lovers
Mother Bunny is a wonderful lady. Out of her bunny hutch in Illinois, she makes the cutest, toughest dog toys you have ever seen. The bunnies come in variety of colors and textures, to suit any canine, and if your critter is smaller, try a heart or tribble toy. And not only are the toys awesome, but 100% of the proceeds are donated to non-profits that rescue racing greyhounds and put them into loving homes. Talk about guilt-free shopping! Visit Mother Bunny online and let some fluffy bunny toys hop into the home of your favorite hounds. She also makes dog collars and natural soaps shaped like dog bones (the soaps are for people).

Some of our favorite pet-shopping in the Baltimore area...
Try Pampered Paws Bakery & Boutique, located in historic Havre de Grace or the Yuppy Puppy Pet Boutique in downtown Ellicott City. Both shops have gifts, toys and more for dogs and cats.

For the stylista
Retopolitan in Ellicott City is insanely fashionable. Far from a usual antique store or vintage shop, this place is the real deal. This isn't a thrift store with worn out old crap ~ Retropolitan has style and class. It belongs in Manhattan or Boston, but the prices are way lower than folks in those area are accustomed to. Stop in to check out the wide array of vintage clothes, lingerie, shoes, hats, gloves, handbags and jewelry. You'll see some familar names, too , like Chanel and Pucci, on the racks. The homegoods are also amazing. From the collection of chandeliers illuminating the shop or the arrangements of crystal cordial glasses, you will find something spectacular for every one on your list.

Brand new on the scene is Sa Sa's, also in historic Ellicott City. It's a jewelry studio run by a charming artist named Sarah and her husband. All the work is done by her and everything is sterling silver. And totally hip. The designs are based on tattoo art. I'm very partial to her collections of earrings and she makes the most perfect, perfect silver hoops.

The store logo at Mud and Metal is "art to live by" ~ and it really is just that. Located in Hampden, this place is kitchy, crazy and completely original. We fell in love with the outrageous selection of housewares, decorative pieces, and fun, functional artwork. Everything in the shop is made by artisans and crafters from around the country. We promise, you will find something for even the person who has everything here.

For the eco-friendly
If you want to be Earth-friendly and pampered in luxury, try some bath & beauty products from Kaylala, based in Baltimore. The product line is based on emu oil, which sounds exotic (and it is), and is centuries-old Aboriginal remedy, good for everything from stretch marks to sunburn. Our favorites include their Hand Candy, the lavendar-lemonade body scrub and No. 7 ~ in the fabulous blue glass bottle. All of Kaylala's packaging can be recycled or reused and their products are 100% natural. Incredible ~ and right here in Maryland!

Always tres chic, never hippie-dippie is bluehouse, located in Inner Harbor East and a new location in Towson (we've been to both, but favor the Inner Habor locale). It's another one of those places where you are sure you just stepped out of Baltimore and straight into Soho. Everything is organic, recycled and/or sustainable, and is 100% green. They have the coolest furniture ever, Nathaniel & I have had our eye on a new bedroom set there for several months. There's stuff for home, baby, kitchen, pets, garden and even office supplies. And the Inner Harbor shop has an in-store cafe that serves fair-trade coffee and tea. Just stop by bluehouse, you will instantly feel like a cooler person.

For the Chocophile
Do you know someone who looovvvves chocolates? Try a box of truffles from Emily. She's based in Owings Mills and makes fabulous truffles and other chocolate treats by hand. We have feasted on just about every flavor she makes and though we both have different favorites, we recommend the banana cream dream, chocolate lemon tango, chocolate chili pepper, white chocolate almond, smooth earl grey, double chocolate and black sesame flavors. And that is seriously less than 1/2 of the delicious flavors she offers. The company is Truffles by Emily and you can buy in boxes of 2 to 100.

For Kids
Tired of the usual junky toys and video games? Check out aMuse, a Fells Point store committed to selling innovative toys that engage children's minds and creative energy. They offer everything from the traditional wooden blocks and cars (remember those?) to complex marble racing mazes, stuffed toys that are also nightlights that make the ceiling look like the night sky to clothing. There are toys and goodies for kids of all ages, from newborn on up. I'm rather partial to the twilight ladybug, myself.

Well... that should get you started on your shopping. As for me, I'm likely not going to be making homemade lip balms anytime soon, so I better get going myself!
~Rissa

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My employees, the worms

I am a big fan of my friends the worms. They turn my leaves into beautiful compost, which make my plants very happy and healthy.

Composting is easy. Sure you can buy fancy compost balls or bins, but I prefer a much easier method. I have a corner in my yard where I pile my kitchen scraps and yard waste in a big pile. Every couple of months I mix it up a bit. Last years leaves are now a great big pile of dirt. So this year as I raked my leaves into a great big new pile, I spread the compost from last year over my garden. It is hard to imagine using a rake right? I can't stand leaf blowers and honestly, it took me less time to do it manually and I don't mind the excercise.

The thing to remember with kitchen scraps is that only raw, uncooked scraps go into your compost. Eggshells are fine but no meat or cooked food. Meat and cooked food will compost fine but it will also attract rodents. So if you want to boost your blooms and buds, don't send your leaves, yard waste and broccoli stems to the dump, turn them into beautiful rich dirt, and get your hands into it!


~Nathaniel

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hilarious-ness

Laughing is key. You gotta have fun, or what is life worth, anyhow? We recently photographed a couple that really, really get this: Lynne and AC.

See, we knew Lynne. We photographed her and her twin sister, Leslie, a few years back, and before that, I did Lynne's acting headshots. Lynne lives near us in Catonsville, so we run into her around town -- usually at the local Indian place. : ) But we hadn't met AC yet, so because Lynne is friend and was one of my first clients almost a decade ago, we definitely had to check him out. Needless to say ~ he passed our test in under a minute.

Not only were they have loads of fun on their photo shoot, but Nathaniel & I were laughing so hard at all the hilarious-ness between them, we could barely focus the camera. At one point, I had to stop shooting, I was literally doubled over in a stomach cramp because I was laughing so much. What a ridiculous problem to have, right?

Lynne and AC were incredibly funny interacting, but they were really sweet too, and so thoughtful of each other. After the shoot, we all sat down at Sarah & Desmond's Cafe to chat (and laugh some more) over coffee, tea & muffins. We heard tales of their trip to Texas, how they met and how Lynne's dad reacted to AC's long hair. (Nathaniel can relate!).

Thanks to you both for a riotous good time and all the belly laughs! Oh -- and we have a few more of your picts on Flickr, check them out, everyone -- they are too cute!
~Rissa

We're green with pride

Balance is proud to announce we have been accepted into the organization Greener Photography!

Many of you know us, so you know our commitment to be eco-friendly in every way we can, both personally and professionally.

Our history in this movement goes back far in our lives. Nathaniel's parents are both environmental engineers (as is his bro) and they run an environmental engineering firm. Additionally, he grew up on a family farm -- in a preserved 200 year old frontier cabin, surrounded by acres and acres of farmland and forests. He's second generation green. Far from just buying recycled office paper or using CFLs, Nathaniel truly has lived the life of a conservationist from day one.

Though my tale is not so eco-fabulous as his, I started the environmental club at my high school before it was chic. Me and my dedicated group of 7 or so teen-ecologists used to literally sort thru all the cafeteria trash every few days and pull out all the recycling - glass, cans, plastics - and take them to the county recycling center. Shortly after, the school district implemented a recycling program that exists to this day. It was one of my proudest moments as a teen-ager.

Moving forward almost two decades from high school (yikes!), we are both still dedicated to preservation, recycling, reuse and conservation. Seriously, what photographer could truly say they don't love nature, don't love natural light, don't appreciate the beauty of the Earth? Even the most die-hard studio shooter has got to admit it... they occasionally take pleasure in capturing spring flowers, majestic trees, a perfect beach scape.

We were really excited to be accepted into GP and are 100% behind the principles the organization is built on, directly from their website:

Preservation

  • Preservation conserves all of the resources that go into creating photographic images. It is the single best thing we can do to reduce the impact of our photographs.
  • Reduction

  • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. While we are trying to produce the most archival products in our industry, we will do so while using the least energy-intensive products available.
  • Local Production

  • Shipping and transport are some of the biggest sources of pollution. Anything that can be produced, manufactured and assembled locally will have a significantly lower environmental impact than components manufactured overseas.
  • Cruelty-Free

  • Animals and people are as much part of the eco-system as water, air, and trees. We do not see a difference between environmentally harmful products and those produced in harmful working conditions.


  • At balance, we are constantly trying to find ways to be greener, local and sustainable. We offer green albums to our customers ~ both local, resourced and recycled (ask us-- they're too cool!), Giclee prints made on watercolor cotton rag paper and in 2009, we are going to expand our press-printed products to include more recycled paper options!

    Go green!
    ~ Rissa

    PS To all you Apple computer fans... you need to check out their new, greener laptop! This one I'm typing on is fine, but, um, as soon as I need a new one ~ the new Macbook is made of recyclable materials, runs on 1/4 the energy of a lightbulb and contains no mercury! Go Mac!

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Recycling Christmas

    Ever wonder what happened to film photography? And all those little plastic film canisters?

    Well, we had saved ours because for the longest time, Baltimore County wouldn't recycle the plastic. Then we found a use for them... a festive, happy use for them. A Christmas tree!

    Nathaniel made this little cutie from piles of Fuji Film canisters and piles of hot glue sticks. We love it. It's a reminder of all the good things in our lives this time of year.

    Wishing you all a Merry, Jolly Season!
    ~ Rissa

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    The Pretty Filter

    It seems like I just talked about this on here. Girls who don't think they're pretty in pictures. Sigh. We just met with a bride and groom, and the bride was SO PRETTY... but she told us one of her concerns was that she often doesn't look good in pictures. If you saw her, you'd get what I mean. Her features and skin were flawless, and she had great bone structure for pictures. It boggled my mind...

    Let's discuss that right now. Cuz I hear it a lot. Like at least once a week.

    First things first. When I was in my first college photography class, in the first 30 minutes the professor said something I have never forgotten: There are no bad subjects, there are only bad photographers. It was a lesson I took to heart because I truly do see beauty in the faces of my subjects. If that does not come thru, it's my fault, not theirs. Over the years I have learned more and more about light, posing, angles, lensing ~ all of it makes the person in front of my camera more beautiful in their pictures.

    In fact, many clients have asked us how it is that everyone in our albums, studio samples and websites are always pretty. It's lead to one of our favorite jokes. A question really... The first time I heard it, I laughed out loud. It originated with a couple getting their engagement shots done and the groom -- kind of a rough, ragged manly type -- blurted out... "Damn, do you have a pretty filter on this camera? Cuz even I look good!" He became one of our biggest fans and has sent us many clients over the years because of "the pretty filter." We always know his references because they come in and ask specifically for the pretty filter.

    It's no coincidence that our clients are all pretty. And we don't really have a pretty filter (sorry!), and we don't only book with gorgeous people. The common denominator is that we work really hard and make sure everyone looks great before we call our job done. A skilled photographer can bring out you at your very best. You as a rock star. And that is before Photoshop even enters the picture, too!

    We recently did holiday portraits for a returning client named Stephanie. Her old headshot was incredibly popular on our website for years because she has this huge, heartfelt smile.


    When she came back to us last week, she looked really different. Her sweetness was still there, the smile was just as warm, but she had grown up from being a cute girl to being a more sophisticated and elegant woman.

    When she saw her photos she reminded me of the guy who coined "the pretty filter" -- Steph said "Oh my God -- I look so, so PRETTY!"

    Well, duh. Of course you do -- you are pretty. And it was our job -- our privilege, to remind you just how pretty you are!

    And really, it's not just the ladies. It's guys too. Years ago we had a call from a young actor who told me first thing on the phone just how ugly he was. "I need all the help I can get -- call your make-up people and hair people, " he said. We were braced for the worst. I mean, yikes. But when he walked in... he was handsome. Not ugly at all. Photographing him was like working with a male model. His pictures changed his life. Six months later, he called and told us that he had moved out of his mom's house, got a girlfriend, started working out, found a better job -- and landed a role in a play. That's the pretty filter for you.

    So hopefully this has put to rest some of those worries about looking good in pictures. We will take care of you. You'll be gorgeous.

    Now, it's true that there are things YOU can do to look better in front of a camera. Here are some tips, and some of this is common sense, but is truly good advice...
    1) Drink lots of water & be hydrated -- it makes your skin and hair look great naturally.
    2) Get ample rest. Dark under eye circles are never cute.
    3) Groom yourself! Not to be weird... but I mean brows, nose hair ... stuff like that. On men and ladies.
    4) Take care of your teeth. A bright, beautiful smile is always attractive.
    5) Relax. Pictures are about body language, so if you look tight and tense, the people looking at your pictures will intuitively see that. Just be chill!
    6) Don't use shiny, sparkly or glittery make-up, ladies -- it reflects light back into the camera and makes you look washed out and sick.
    7) Buy and use blotting papers. They're cute little sheets of rice paper that magically suck shiny oils or sweat off your skin and don't disturb make-up on girls.
    8) Consider a professional make-up artist for important portraits and days -- they know about camera ready make-up and can contour your face like a movie star.
    9) Learn to pose. Be like Zoolander and seriously stand in front of a mirror and practice posing -- stuff like looking relaxed and having a great on-camera smile can be done easily with practice.
    10) Be yourself. Of course you want to look like Jessica Simpson or Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie -- me too! But we're not, so make peace with yourself and be who you are! Nothing is more gorgeous than that!

    And after all that... we've got the pretty filter.
    ~ Rissa

    Wine made with Greyhounds

    Peanut and Smiley are greyhounds. The hounds' parents hired us to photograph them for two reasons: This year's Christmas cards and for the next vintage coming out of Peanut and Smiley's basement.
    Maria and Jeff got some fabulous pictures for their cards because the two hounds were hamming it up big time. It is so funny how "media savvy" some pets can be!!


    As for that vintage...Jeff makes wine in his basement as a hobby. It becomes gifts for friends and donation auction items to raise money for greyhound rescue organizations. (Which makes it an impressive pressing to me!) I thought it was really cool that Jeff got to do something fun as a hobby, and also found a way to make it work for charity, too.

    One of the things that Maria said to me during our shoot was awesome. "It must be nice to do what you love," she said. It's so true. It is great! But even better than that is that other people recognize that I am doing what I love and can see it in my work and even while I'm working. For my efforts to be acknowledged by clients is so rewarding.

    And Jeff and Maria have rewarded me -- they hired me for a second time as their photographer, and love my photos. Nothing makes me happier than to go into someone's house and see my work on the wall or on a mantle.


    I have had work in museums, galleries, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, newsletters, websites, blogs, on clothes, labels and record albums.

    And coming soon, on Canine Cellars wine bottles! Look for them exclusively at your local greyhound rescue fundraiser!
    ~ Nathaniel

    the Wine Jester

    Sandy Navarro is a character. There is no other way to think of her. She's led an incredible, rich, fascinating life and has more stories to tell than women four times her age. Life has led her from South America to Hong Kong to Wall Street and now, to Baltimore.

    We met Sandy recently as a hostess at a wine tasting. She is the Wine Jester and runs a small business where she leads the most fabulous and FUN, non-pretentious wine parties you have ever seen! Don't get me wrong, Sandy knows wine. It is her passion. She researches wine, studies wine, knows wine-makers, eats-sleeps-breathes wine. Her knowledge is extensive and impressive.

    More impressive, though -- her lightness, her sense of humor and her ability to truly select the perfect bottles to rock a party. Sandy's belief is that wine shouldn't be so unapproachable. And I can totally relate to this. We've met various wine experts before in our travels and some (not all), managed to make me feel like a clown because I didn't taste oak or cherry or plum or whatever in the wine they gave me. No one outright called me a moron, but you know, you can see that look people get. You know what I mean, right? Sandy just loves wine and wants her friends & clients to share her love. She can find great things to say about $20 bottles of wine, not just $400 bottles of wine. Her excitement about wine isn't just for people who live in mahogany-paneled drawing rooms. It's for the rest of us, too.

    Between the two of us here, Nathaniel is the wine guy. He drinks wine, knows more about wine, has more experience with wines from different regions and such. I just know I either like a wine or not. I can't always explain it. What's cool about Sandy is that at her parties, she doesn't judge on your experience or lack of experience with wine. She's witty, warm and the perfect person to make even novices like me feel excited about wine.

    The business is a new concept, and we recently met up with Sandy and did some promo pix for her to help promote this new and totally fun service she offers. If you are having a holiday party, bridal shower or other gathering -- even the cocktail hour at your wedding -- consider bringing in the Wine Jester to amuse and entertain your guests with wine. Oh -- She also comes with a posse of male models in tight shirts called the "Winendales" that serve the drinks. Bonus.


    Best of luck to you Sandy! We think you're the coolest!
    Oh - and Nathaniel is still talking about that Shiraz you gave him...
    ~ Rissa

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    December Deals

    So, are you holding one of these cards? Wondering what we're talking about on the back -- the great holiday deal? Well, read on friends!

    Nathaniel & I adore Black Friday. We develop a strategy on Thanksgiving, then get up at 4am on Friday, drive to pre-planned stores and tag team thru the aisles. It's like full contact holiday shopping. We just love it.

    In the fabulous shopping tradition that is Black Friday, we've decided to enter the fray this year. We always offer a December sale on something, but this year... we're doing a crazy mad deal. On Friday morning only.

    And now it's past. The deal is over. But the December sales still apply. So props to those who got here in time, and for the rest... we still love you. And you still get the December Deals. : )

    the Recessionista boudoir shoot
    $125 + MD state sales tax
    includes a 1 hour shoot at the studio, one look, private-password protected proofing website and one custom retouched 8x10 display print of gorgeous you; additional prints, products or styling may be purchased a la carte

    the holiday family shoot
    $175 + MD state sales tax
    includes a one hour shoot with any number of family members; private-password protected proofing website and two custom retouched 8x10 display prints of your adorable family; additional prints, products or services may be purchased a la carte

    The December Specials will be available from today thru the end of December. Call us now to book your special session and get prints back in time for Santa to deliver! We'll be at 443.904.6743.

    Happy Black Friday!
    ~ Rissa

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Thanksgiving, from all of us

    It's so simple in the course of everyday life to lose site of what we are grateful for, the things & people that inspire us. We become wrapped up in our routines, errands, beltway traffic and other elements of our own personal drama. Like tunnel vision, reality closes in tightly and so many people forget the good parts.

    We are all reminded at least one day a year to give thanks. To give thanks for a bountiful meal with friends & family, to give thanks to the brave men & women who founded our great nation. And to give thanks for turkeys. Gobble, gobble.


    But gratitude is a deeply personal emotion. To explain what you are grateful for ~ what moves you and motivates you, what makes you get up in the morning and puts a spring in your step ~must be done in one's own words.

    So this Thanksgiving, the four of us at balance photography are going to tell you - each in our own words, what we are grateful for this year.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all~ we wish you a peaceful and bountiful holiday!

    Brittany
    It seems that everyday I find myself “wanting” something (and I’m positive I’m not the only one... haha) And with all this wanting it’s very easy to forget about everything I DON’T want…because of things I already have. I could go on for days – but I’d like to give thanks for all the things I don’t want –

    First of all…I don’t want another Prince Charming. Ryan Eby is easily the greatest and most influencial thing that has ever happened to me. “Love of my LIFE” doesn’t come close to expressing the insane amount of love and admiration I have for him. He inspires me every single day, and without him, I wouldn’t have SO many other things in my life that I “don’t want”….LIKE….

    My New Job!!!! Well…not so new anymore…and of course I’m referring to balance photography and more specifically Rissa and Nathaniel. If it weren’t for Ryan, I would have never found myself living in South Baltimore in a great little row house for an insanely cheap rent. I’m so grateful that Ryan got Ashley Riddle’s card for me, and I gave her a call after thoroughly exploring her website (Up Do's for I Do's) which directed me to balance boudoir…which quickly prompted me to fall in love with Rissa’s incredible work, then Nathaniel’s..respectively (as he does not help on boudoir shoots ;-) ) I wrote her an e-mail expressing my admiration and awe of her pictures, and since I was referred by Ashley they expedited my initial interview and hired me that day. I was overjoyed..to say the least..photography is my passion in life. I never imagined that just 1 year out of college I’d be “living my dream”! Corny but true…Rissa and Nathaniel also inspire me everyday, encourage me to be better, and let me express myself through graphic design and photography. WOW – I couldn’t ask for more! Ooh but the icing on the cake – they are absolutely AWESOME and spending time with them is like hanging out with my best friends. And you know I’m not blowing smoke up your butts… I Love You guys!!! Thank you for letting me live my dream!

    Something that I’ve never wanted – another family. My mom and dad have molded me into the driven, successful person I am today. My dad is the hardest working man I’ve ever known (although Ryan’s a veryyy close second) We drive each other crazy sometimes..but that’s because we’re both perfectionists and are almost exactly alike…Oooh and neither one of us is EVER wrong ;-) My mom has never let me down..she will bend over backwards, go out of her way, cancel her plans, whatever just to make sure me, my brother and my dad are happy and comfortable. It’s never gone un-noticed to me, though I may not have always said it – I’m thankful everyday for the love and goodhearted kindness she has instilled in me. And my brother…haha…my 13 year-old brother…well I love him very very very much..even though I definitely don’t say that enough because we are usually pushing each other's buttons and bickering.

    And to wrap it up…I don’t want another little beagle – Sierra has become my baby, and I didn’t think it was possible to love a dog so damn much…but her big floppy ears and sad eyes warm my heart!

    On a quicker note – I’m thankful for cookies & cream gelato, Chik-Fil-A, garlic knots, my new engagement ring(!), my amazing gym, my good health of course and being born in the grand ol’ U-S-of A!!! Happy Turkey Day Everyone!!!!!

    Josie
    As a college student, I feel like people think I'm supposed to be "having fun" and "living only for today." Carpe diem and all that. And of course, keeping my grades up at the same time. Unfortunately, I usually find myself impatiently waiting for every class to end and every Monday to go by faster; I'm always impatient for Saturday.

    I had to change something in my life. I decided to start a ritual for myself: thanking God for the falling leaves, for 50% off sales, for an extra hour of sleep. Little things I am grateful for.

    Don't get me wrong. I still count down the seconds on the clock until my algebra class is over, but I have a better appreciation and more love for each day and each little miracle that passes my way.

    Some things I am grateful for... living in a country with Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion; toilet paper (ha ha... but seriously...); my roommate; the smell of garlic simmering in olive oil; the chance to attend college and be educated; Italian food; photography; wedding cake and dark chocolate; people who care; every little thing that reminds me how much bigger life is than our human stresses.

    Blessings for a Happy Thanksgiving!

    Rissa
    Every moment is a blessing. Everywhere I look, there is something or someone to be grateful for...
    Warm towels right out of the dryer
    Houses with heat, AC, electric, plumbing
    Lochrima (our greyhound)
    Seashells found on the beach
    Hot green tea
    Snoopy
    My grandmother's laugh
    Working side-by-side with Nathaniel everyday
    My Nikons & all the other fun toys we play with
    Bellydancers
    Soy candles ~ available even at Target now
    Our clients
    How easy it has become to find veggie burgers at restaurants
    Burts Bees almond hand cream
    Word-find puzzles
    The sound wine glasses make when they clink during toasts
    Volunteers. All of them ~ Red Cross, Animal Rescue, Crossing Guards ~
    Cookbooks with color pictures
    Sunrise light
    Hearing someone's good news
    Homegrown veggies from the yard
    Kitchen timers
    Long dangling earrings
    Photoshop actions
    Avocado sandwiches on wheat toast
    Pink cell phones, fluffy slippers and lip gloss
    The scent of cookies in the oven
    High heels
    Pottery made on a wheel
    Talking with a friend for hours
    Calculators (thank heaven!)
    A goodnight kiss from Nathaniel
    Public parks
    Nurses, Hairstylists, Vets & Accountants ~ I would be lost without your services!
    Mac laptops
    Fresh flowers in a vase
    Our time with Brit & Josiecat
    All the branches on the road that landed me here, today
    Food Network & History Channel & remote control
    Silly plush dog toys -- and dogs in sweaters
    Down comforters
    Books -- lots and lots of books
    Old mosaics
    Art & Music in public schools

    I am so grateful to wake up every morning, living my life. My job is amazing, my husband is incredible and always by my side. We have a home we love, a cute little car and a totally sweet dog. On this holiday, I wish everyone good health, good fortune and a wonderful meal with someone (or someones) you love.
    Happy Thanksgiving ~

    Nathaniel
    Little things in life make me happy. Little things that happen every day that many people take for granted. I am thankful for everyday life.
    Hot coffee in the morning.
    Warm grilled cheeze for lunch.
    Good conversation and wine.
    Cast Iron griddles and skillets.
    Fresh lemonade.
    Sweet scented candles.
    A warm bed and a snuggling hound dog.
    A woman who treats you like a king.
    For people who smile and laugh with me at the post office when everyone else is grumpy.
    For teenagers who have respect.
    For the mailman and ups man who always wave, smile and say hi.
    For friends who call just to chat.
    For teachers with passion.
    For flowers.
    For art.
    For love.
    For being loved.

    The things we have in our lives are amazing. Our wealth is beyond any I have ever seen in any other part of the world. It is amazing how we come into this world in a place we didn't choose. I count a thousand blessings daily for being an American, having the opportunities and freedoms that go along with that.

    The thing I feel the most blessed and grateful for is my family. Even though they are 700 miles away I think about them every day. No matter where I go their love is with me and my love with them. Each one has shaped and influenced my life in some way and is a part of me and who I am. So if you think I'm crazy you have these people to blame! I see the faces of my family and take their spirits with me wherever I go. They are my source of unconditional love and there is no end to the love in my heart for them.

    Although most of my family is down south, the most important part is right here with me, my wife. I am grateful for her loving me in all my craziness. I am so lucky to have such an incredible woman by my side.

    I am grateful to be free to follow my dreams and live them every day of my life. To do what I want to do, be who I want to be, have the family I have, and walk through life with my incredible wife, I am the luckiest man I know.

    The Corn Family, photo by Jack Corn

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!!!

    Pumpkin Pie (or Why I Married My Husband)

    Every family has their own holiday traditions. Some traditions are very specific, others are broadly accepted and personalized by everyone. Pumpkin pie is one of those things for sure. Everyone has a memory of pumpkin pie, right?

    Nathaniel's family, most of whom are in Tennessee, have this wonderful tradition of real pumpkin pies. Not that frozen crap you buy at Giant. But real pumpkin pie.

    No joke. I think this is one of the reasons I married Nathaniel. His off-the-hook pumpkin pie. A million years ago, he walked into the college photo lab carrying a homemade pumpkin pie that he had baked himself. And I mean seriously homemade ~ the crust was hand-rolled; the pumpkin was grown at home and baked to the perfect sweetness. Nathaniel's pies are the real deal. Until you have a real homemade pie with non-canned pumpkin, you just haven't lived a full life.

    As I type this, Nathaniel is in the kitchen right now toiling over his annual batch of Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. In addition to the ones he makes for us, he now has to make several for my grandmother. She adores his pies. She starts asking for them in August.

    So for the first time ever, here is Nathaniel's pumpkin pie recipe. It is not difficult, but it is time-consuming. And worth every second.

    Nathaniel’s Pumpkin Pie
    (Makes 2, one for you and one more for you!)

    4 cups cooked fresh pumpkin (see notes below)
    4 eggs
    2 cans sweetened condensed milk
    1/2 cup natural unprocessed sugar
    1 T cinnamon
    1/4 t ginger
    1/4 t ground cloves
    1/4 t allspice
    1 t vanilla extract
    2 pre-baked pie crusts (your favorite - we do whole wheat)

    Combine wet ingredients. Mash pumpkin but don’t puree. Add dry ingredients. Mix together and pour into pie crusts. Bake for 15 minutes @ 425 degrees. Turn oven back to 350 and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and chill before serving!

    Nathaniel reminds me to tell you all that it's also good with crushed & toasted almonds on top or the traditional whipped cream. Or to mix things up, add a handful of chocolate chips into the batter before baking. He says that if you can't find pumpkins to bake, you can also use butternut squash or sweet potatoes in the same ratios for this recipe.

    How to cook pumpkin:
    For two pies, you will need 3 sugar pumpkins or a large carving pumpkin. Scoop out the innards of the pumpkin and slice flesh into palm size chunks. Place flesh side down in baking dish half full of water. Bake in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool then peel the skin off. You are ready to make pie or you can freeze the pumpkin and make pies later!

    Don’t forget to save and roast your seeds!
    ~ Rissa

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Italian Food and Supermodels

    You always hear stories of supermodels being "discovered" in the grocery store by some fashion mogul. Every girl has heard this story and secretly always wishes that one day out of the blue it would happen to her. The truth is that this rarely ever happens. One out of 10,000 girls is actually found this way. The rest have to claw their way to top on an empty stomach.

    But seriously, that one that is "discovered" is amazing. They photograph like magic and there is something about them that captures you when you look into their picture.

    Enter Bridgette. She was out with her family eating dinner at Chef Paolino (our favorite Italian place) Little did she know that Rissa and I saw her from across the room and couldn't stop talking about how stunning she was. We think you will agree she has supermodel written all over her.



    We had to photograph her. And we did. We got to her first. So when you start seeing her on the covers of fashion magazines and in advertisments, remember -- you saw her here first.
    ~Nathaniel

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Guests at the Party? Us?

    Everyone knows we go to lots of weddings. But until a few weeks ago, Nathaniel & I had never actually attended a wedding together as guests. Crazy, right? We've been talking for years about how incredibly fun it would be to attend the wedding of a friend -- without the job of creating their photographs.

    See, we've made a rule to our pals that we will attend their wedding as guests or they can hire us and we will document it for them. But we don't "just come and hang out, but also take all the pictures." Being the photographer whose job it is to cover a wedding is no small deal. Asking someone to both be a guest and the official photographer is, in our experience, truly impossible.

    At a wedding five years ago, Nathaniel was a groomsman. In addition to being a groomsman and all that entailed, he was also trying to shoot it with me. We have a pretty airtight system for covering every angle of a wedding perfectly. The two of us can move like a well-oiled machine. But with Nathaniel out-of-play at this wedding on so many essential moments, it left only me to cover as one person what we normally do as two. The pictures were still lovely & our friends were thrilled, but to make a long story short, after that wedding the either/or rule happened. We just didn't think it was fair to have only part of our usual photographic coverage for our friends.

    Since then, we have been at many friends' weddings ~ as their photographers. But we have not gotten to just sit down, enjoy a meal, dance ~ we were constantly working for our friends and family on their special days. It was an honor to document those weddings, still, someplace inside, you still wonder what it would be part of the party, not only recording it...

    What a different experience it is to be a wedding guest!

    This is us as wedding guests and yes, Nathaniel is hiding a camera in his left hand!

    Our friend Ken recently got married to his adorable lady, Nelly. And he insisted we come and just have fun. Ken himself is a wedding vendor, so he gets it, the whole "come-be-a-guest-and-also-work" thing. It's not really a realistic request and he truly understands why we feel that way from his own life experiences in the industry.

    So we arrive at Ken's wedding and our first impulse was to look for good angle for the ceremony. Duh. We had to remind ourselves -- we're not working at this one. The ceremony began and two times, I jumped out of my seat and lunged to the edge of the aisle to get a shot of the bride (yes, I admit it, we both had cameras!). Darn Rissa -- you're not working, relax! Alas, we stopped fighting it and took photos whenever we felt like it. Making sure, of course, to stay out of the way of Ken & Nelly's hired photogs and videographers.


    We had to really focus on being guests and not photographers. We gave each other a pep talk at the cocktail hour and decided to refocus our efforts on being awesome guests. The kind of guests that make great images for the hired photogs & videographers. We stood and applauded the toasts; we cheered on the cake cutting; we danced all night. Turns out that being a guest at the party is quite a lot fun!

    And in the mix a little, we still took quite a few pictures, without the pressure of being the official photographers. : )


    Congrats Ken & Nelly ~ oh, and we have some photos from the wedding for you! Thank you both for inviting us to be part of your special day ~ and giving us the freedom to enjoy it as your friends!
    ~ Rissa

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    3-2-1 Liftoff

    We have yet another website!

    Folks have been telling us for ages that moving between all our various websites is either confusing, difficult or even impossible. So we've solved the problem.

    Introducing the balance photography portal page at www.balancephotography.net.


    It links to all our different sites and gives you a little preview of what you'll find on each. There's also a preview of what our next two new websites will be in 2009: a new headshots-fashion-commerical page to replace our original site from 2005 and a dedicated family & seniors webpage. But more about that later.

    First, let's just bask in the glory of the portal page. Nathaniel worked really hard to make it happen. The rollover buttons are my favorite part. Check it out.

    ~ Rissa

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Wedding Nightmares/Dreams 2

    As the end of the wedding season 2008 is moving in on us, I felt it was time for another installment of Wedding Dreams & Nightmares. This is about mistakes brides make and they could have prevented if only they had listened... And because there is so much to dish about, this is a series. Last time we wrote about hairstylists from hell and also interviewed the fabulous hairstylist from heaven, Ashley Riddle.

    No other wedding vendor sees everything that the photographer sees. We are there all day ~ from the make-up in the morning thru the clearing of the tables at the end of the night. Photographers seriously have the inside scoop on other wedding vendors. Oh -- and we have the pictures to back it up. : )

    Today, we're groovin to the beat. Today's topic is disc jockeys.

    In doing the research for this blog, I noticed there really isn't much out there to guide brides (or other folks shopping for a DJ) on how to hire a DJ or what questions to ask. Being a photographer, we're accustomed to clients showing up with lengthy lists of "must-ask" questions from the Knot designed specifically to help brides interview potential shooters. In one hour online, I couldn't find any such list for DJs. What gives with that? I can tell you firsthand, there are some incredible Dream DJs out there ~ and some downright disgraceful Derelict DJs, too.

    What is so bad, you ask? How could playing music get screwed up? Well, try this one on: We were at a wedding where the DJ took off his shirt (bare chest - hairy belly and all) and starting spanking the bride's bottom in the middle of the dance floor. Nathaniel & I exchanged glances... just waiting for the groom or the bride's dad to start throwing punches. Flip to an elegant wedding at the Belvedere. Very posh, very upscale. And when it was time for the bride and groom to cut the cake, the DJ puts on "My Humps" by the Black-Eyed Peas. He hadn't even noticed the couple had started cutting the cake. You should see the photos of their faces and the faces of folks behind them.

    These are just a few offerings from our archives of the many Derelict DJs we have had the bad luck of working with.

    Enter John Paul Berry. He is a DREAM DJ. John Paul is the vice president of Absolute Entertainment and has been in the DJ business for more than a decade. We love working with him. He stopped by this afternoon and I interviewed him for this blog. (Thanks for your time, John Paul!)

    "People come in and ask me if I have blow-up toys and props, if I talk into the mike through songs or jump into all the pictures and my only comment is 'Who are these people?' " he said.

    According to John Paul, all of his clients have a pre-conceived notion of what they are looking for in a DJ. Do you want a party-starter? Do you want someone who isn't going to talk at all? What's your fit?

    "My style is to be more of a coordinator at the wedding," he said. "I am running the reception and creating a customized event where the music itself will be a reflection of the bride and groom to their guests. That's what keeps it interesting for me. If I had to roll out the same canned set of songs for 60 weddings a year, it would be boring."

    John Paul does the booking for not just his own shows, but also many of the other DJs that are employed at Absolute Entertainment. When someone is shopping for a DJ, he says the right fit is important, and you should insist on a face-to-face meeting at some point in the planning process.

    Because shopping for a DJ is a new concept to me, as well as to most brides, I asked what people should be looking for. It’s clear there are no standards to go by, and it’s difficult to know what someone’s style is like from a website or phone call.

    “It’s hard to say how you can know a good DJ from a bad one, because there are DJs out there who are just going through the motions,” he said. “A lot of DJs are meeting clients at coffee shops or bookstores with their laptop and it’s really hard to get a feel for their style in that scenario. You have to wonder if you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re meeting with people.”

    John Paul always does a live mixing demo at his office when he meets with people. He thinks it’s an ideal way for clients to see him in action and get a feel for how he plays music. And because DJing it his full time business, John Paul devotes a good deal of time to keeping up with technology and new trends.

    “We’re getting more into wireless systems now, and the lighting we can offer is great, too. I just saw pictures from a wedding where they used our dance floor lights and it looked very chic and sexy,” he said.

    Talented DJs are in high demand in the wedding, party and corporate worlds ~ so even though magazines say 4 to 6 months before the Big Day is the ideal time to book a DJ, you should not wait if you want to get a Dream DJ like John Paul. During busy months, like May, June, September and October, good DJs can book a year or more in advance for Saturday nights. For example, John Paul booked two of his weddings for October 2009 in August of 2008. If your wedding is during an off-month/off-day, you may have a little more flexibility and still may be able to get a great DJ 4 to 6 months before your event.

    One of the most common things associated with wedding DJs is the play list. We’ve been at weddings where brides were so strict with the play list that songs were looped two times and no requests from guests were allowed. Needless to say, that’s not fun for anyone but the bride.

    John Paul suggests that requiring too strict of a play list is like handcuffing the DJ.

    “What happens if the song doesn't fit the audience? I like to have a play list, I tell my brides I’ll use it as a guide. I tell them circle things you like, put stars next to songs you love and cross out the ones you hate.”

    The don’t-play list is more important to him, he said, than the do-play list.

    “Based on my experience, I can know what the couple will like. But this is the United States, the melting pot of the world. I need to be able to make everyone happy and play the music the guests will respond to. It’s important never to tell a guest that the bride thinks their song request is lame or corny. If a guest makes a request on the bride’s don’t play list, I allow them to make another selection off the bride’s favorite list,” he explained.

    Because America is a melting pot, many DJs are faced with blending cultures at an event. This takes experience, finesse and education to pull off. And we’ve seen inexperienced DJs totally flop at this very thing. At weddings where there was a meeting of two cultures and one was exotic, like Turkish or Vietnamese, a DJ who can’t successfully balance both traditions will not keep the guests engaged.

    “At (Absolute) we love doing multi-cultural events. It’s an exciting challenge to put together a reception that will truly please everyone,” said John Paul. “ Saying ‘I’ll play some Latin music’ is about as descriptive as saying ‘I’ll play some American music.’ What does that mean? American music is as different as country to metal. It’s not different in other cultures. You can’t stereotype it by saying ‘Oh, Latin music – sure, I’ll play some Ricky Martin.’ ”

    Our final question to John Paul and one of the worst things we’ve seen at weddings… iPods. Nathaniel & I have been to several weddings this year where there was no entertainment of any kind but an iPod plugged into a dock with speakers. Inevitably, no one dances or gets into the reception at all. Frequently, guests leave early.

    “An iPod wedding is one of the worst things you can do,” he agrees. “What happens is that it’s difficult to manage playlist, your iPod doesn’t make announcements or run your party for you. You just can't predict the people at any reception. Every wedding, every crowd is different.”

    In closing, you must find a Dream DJ for your wedding. Do it for yourself, do it for your guests, do it so your grandma is not subjected to "My Humps" when you cut your wedding cake. Find someone you trust, someone you feel in tune with. Someone who will take care of you and your event.

    “A good DJ will go far beyond playing songs from a list. They will meet and exceed your expectations,” John Paul said. “I spend the time before an event and do the work so I can really get into the couple's world. I treat each event like the special day that it is for the couple and their families.”

    You can find John Paul, as well as his awesome colleagues, Ken and Jason at Absolute Entertainment. They are all three Dream DJs and their company is based in Linthicum. We also adore Chris at Beat2Beat, who is based out of Catonsville.

    Rock on
    ~Rissa

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Shady Photographers

    What is the deal with CSI and shady photographers?

    Though we don't watch tons of TV, Nathaniel & I are big fans of CSI. I love the Miami version and he likes Gary Sinse's crew in New York the best. But what do the writers of CSI have against professional photographers?

    The first episode I ever saw of CSI, the villan was a fashion photographer who was raping models and killed one. Though I loved the CSI concept and the filming was gorgeous, I was so annoyed by this cliche "bad photographer" storyline, I didn't watch the show again for many months. So, I sit down to watch CSI again... and hey-hey, how ironic -- the villan is a wedding photographer murdering couples on their first anniversary! And then I saw my first episode of the New York CSI and check this out: a food photographer was killing people in wheelchairs.

    It's been awhile since these three shows, and I had forgiven CSI. We were finally forging a better relationship, me and crew down in Miami. Until last night, when a family portrait photographer kidnapped a baby. GEEZ! Why do the CSI writers despise us, the professional photographers of the world??

    We know lots of professional photographers. All over the country, even some in other parts of the world. They have all sorts of specialties, from weddings to commerical to fashion to photojournalism to baby portraits. They are all hard-working people. They have families, homes, dogs, car payments. They just happen to take pictures as a profession.

    In every profession, in every walk of life there are always a few bad apples... people who are shady in one way or another. It's true, yes, that there are some shady photographers out there. But there are shady everythings out there and it's not like all photographers are shady! Seriously, we know hundreds of photographers. None are murderers or baby-nappers or rapists!

    Our photographer friends are good, honest, real folks. They spend hours and hours in front of computers so clients look magazine-gorgeous. They carry 30+ pounds of lenses and lights and equipment around on jobs. They deal with parts of this profession I will not even talk about here, but I can tell you -- it's not all glamour by any stretch of the imagination! I've seen a photographer friend spend so much time in front a computer doing Photoshop, his eye burst a blood vessel. (Our rule with the computers here is that when our eyes are burning or watering, we step away from the computers... but that's still not pleasant!)

    This job is fun -- it's true, but it is hard work! If spent all day plotting crimes and avoiding the police, there wouldn't be much time for making pictures, production work, answering emails, designing albums, or other functions of the business.

    Interestingly, the CSI writers aren't the only folks out there who think photographers are shady. We were at a Barnes & Noble Bookseller recently to browse around. We sat down with some books and one I selected was a recently published guide for brides about hiring wedding vendors. I flipped open to the chapter on wedding photography and the first sentance said "Brides should know that wedding photographers are lazy and dishonest by nature." This is a direct quote and no -- I'm not going to plug her book for her by sharing the title -- I was furious that she published such a load of crap!

    Maybe her wedding photographer was lazy and dishonest, but I don't know any who are, and I know dozens. In the words of our wedding photographer friend John, "People somehow get the idea that wedding photographers make a killing but most of us just make a living." It's true! Nathaniel & I regularly work 10 to 14 hour days (not to mention the hours worked by Josie & Brittany), sometimes answering as many as 100 emails in a day, processing and retouching thousands of pictures a week, running the business and many other tasks. If we were lazy, we would have been out of business years ago. If we were dishonest, the government would have caught up by now with our paperwork. And if we were killing people, you wouldn't be reading this right now.

    So, please, give the professional photographers a little breather. We are regular folks doing our jobs.
    ~ Rissa

    PS... Here is a shot of Nathaniel & Brittany at a crime scene, covering the evidence...I mean, uh, getting some cool angles at a recent wedding. Same difference.

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Make Peace with Your Butt

    Growing up I was really shy. I mean, seriously shy. There were days that went by in elementary school when I spoke only when spoken to by a teacher. The responses were probably in a whisper. Getting past my shyness was a lifelong challenge. In high school I forced myself to become a tour guide & talked to strangers in small museum. At 18, I moved to New York City and had to talk to people ~ lots of people. At 20, I got a job as a newspaper reporter and had to not only approach random strangers and talk to them, I had to get quotes from them and write about it. So believe me, no one understands shyness better than me.

    That said, it is surprising to a lot of people when they learn that in my 20s, I was also a professional bellydancer. No joke. I took years of dance lessons, practiced for hours ~ and never intended to become a performer. It was supposed to be for fun and exercise. That all changed though when I saw a bellydancer on stage named Piper. She was elegant, fluid, beautiful, classic. Piper's dancing took my "fun exercise" and elevated it to a timeless, feminine, exquisite art form. She was so amazing, she made me want to perform publicly.

    This was a huge step to me. Dancing in front of people ~ but doing so in a scanty outfit and dealing with any insecurity I had about not only being shy -- but my body as well. Bellydance costumes are not merciful -- they call it a "bra, belt and skirt" because that's all there is to it. To wear one, dance in it and carry it off, you have to be incredibly secure. That was one of the biggest steps of my life -- putting on that outfit and dancing in public.

    But I did it. And after some time, I loved it. Bellydancing was much more than good exercise, it completely changed my life. Sure, I'm still a little shy when I walk into a room of new people. It's nothing like it used to be. Though I retired from bellydancing two years ago, the courage and confidence remain.

    I wish I could give this experience to every woman. Every woman is critical of herself. How may times have I heard it... "My nose is too big/small," "My butt is too big/small," "I'm too tall/short," "My ears look funny." You get the picture. I hear it a lot being in the photography business. Women especially always have some excuse about their personal appearance that is the reason they hate being photographed. I hear the excuses from headshot and portrait clients and brides and bridesmaids. And definitely from my boudoir clients.

    Ladies, seriously ~ ease up off yourself a bit. Embrace who you are and realize that no matter how shy you think you are, how imperfect you imagine your nose/butt/arms/ears/whatever ~ no one sees it that way except you.

    To prove it... here is me, in a bellydance costume, photographed and immortalized forever. These were my promo pictures. I do see flaws in myself in these pictures, I saw them the minute they were shot four years ago. But honestly, no one else has ever pointed them out. Knowing that, I was able to make a little more peace with my imagined flaws.


    So there. Now, a few less excuses from you. A little more gorgeous confidence, please.
    ~Rissa

    PS. If you want to step outside of your usual, I highly suggest a few bellydance classes. : )

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    A New Partner

    We've been super busy with the fall season and there's much excitement to share.

    But first, a quick note to all our old clients and of course, for the new ones: we're switching online hosts. Our new online partner is collages.net and we're very excited to be hosting our image catalogs with them.

    All of the client websites we will host with Collages will have slideshows and music (that you can turn off or leave on, as you like). You can email images to a friend, order DVD slideshows of your favorite pictures, view pictures in color, black & white or sepia tone ~ really, we love the new Collages proofing sites.

    We're in the process of switching all of our old client proofing sites over to Collages.net so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of this wonderful new photography partner. If you go looking for your old website and don't see it ~ call us, we have been emailing new links and passwords for the past two weeks.

    Talk to you again soon
    ~Rissa

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    One delicious deal

    Grand openings are always such happy times. When a small business owner opens their store front, it's a day when a dream becomes tangible. That's an incredible thing.

    Today I had the privilege of seeing a dream come true. I photographed the opening of El Nayar Mexican Restaurant on Frederick Rd. in Catonsville. We've been watching over the past weeks as the owners, the Flores family, and their friends transformed the space ~ building booths, painting, hand installing a large tiled counter. They worked tirelessly as the world went by on Frederick Rd.

    Nathaniel & I were so excited ~ a Mexican restaurant within walking distance of our house is pretty cool stuff. We could not wait for today to arrive! And as it turned out, the local Chamber of Commerce needed photos from the event, so I ended up going as an official photographer, too!


    So I know you are all waiting to hear about the most important feature of El Nayar ~ which is not the tile countertops. It's the FOOD.

    The food was great! Their housemade salsa was fresh and delicious ~ a perfect blend of tangy and slightly spicy. The guac -- which I am totally fussy about -- was also wonderful and for us, there were plenty of vegetarian options, including Mexican delicacies, like cactus salad! See, the Flores family makes authentic Mexican food. Other folks at the opening tried the chicken mole, carna barbacoa and Nayarit shrimp soup. (The Flores' are originally from a region of Mexico called Nayarit and their hometown is El Nayar ~ the restaurant is named in its honor and their cooking style is local to the region.)


    This is the real deal and speaking of deals ~ the prices are beyond reasonable. You can get a delicious & generous veggie burrito for only $3.99. Why bother stopping for fast food when you could stop at a small, family-owned eatery like El Nayar and for the same price have a homemade meal?? Dinner entrees start at the 3-taco plate for only $8.99 and the restaurant will feature daily & weekend specials as well as breakfast on Saturdays! Ever try a chorizo breakfast burrito?

    We want to congratulate the Flores family on this monumental accomplishment and tell you all ~ seriously ~ stop by this wonderful little corner store in Catonsville! They're at 801 Frederick Rd, on the corner of Mellor Ave.

    See you there!
    ~Rissa

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Pretty in Pink

    The month of October always brings pumpkins, scary costumes and now… pink wedding dresses?

    Okay, it may not make sense at first, but it has probably been impossible to avoid all the pink merchandise this month. The reason being that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

    An article out of Brides magazine was brought to my attention the other day, and I knew I'd love it, what girl could resist the title Something Pink? As I read through, I was amazed by the concept of "the pink wedding gown." Brides magazine selected 21 designers to create pink-themed wedding gowns, the sales of which will benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). (And don't worry if pink isn't your color, in most cases, the wedding gowns are sold in more color varieties than pink, like white, ivory, or blue.)

    Personally, breast cancer research and awareness is a cause very close to my heart. At the age of 33, my mother's sister, Auntie Marianne, found a lump in her breast while receiving a mammogram.

    Me, Aunt Marianne and my sister Gina

    Two years later, at the age of 59, my grandmother, my "nonnie", found the same lump; both had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    Me and Nonnie

    My aunt went through chemotherapy and radiation only to find out that her cancer had come back a second time. My nonnie refused chemotherapy because of her age, yet went through radiation.

    They are both breast cancer survivors.

    Being a woman who has a high risk of breast cancer myself, I appreciate the efforts of awareness our country sets out to establish. I love when brides support their most important charities through the little decorations they've chosen for their wedding. I love to find out that people, including magazines, small businesses, and even Girl Scout troops, are continually creating new ideas to support such an important cause.

    Go Pink!
    ~Josie

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Cocoa and Moving Boxes

    Feels like it has been quite awhile since I've visited here.
    It's all good though... we've been traveling, a lot, and more soon on that.
    And we moved into a new office/production space!

    Josie, Nathaniel & I, as well as Brittany's fiance´ Ryan, spent all day moving boxes and furniture and filing cabinets up to the new place. It's strictly for work, not for shooting or meetings. But wow ~ we love it already. So much room! We all will have our own personal workstations now. And 3 different rooms for computer production, office work and hand-assembly. We've never been able to spread out this much and it's really exciting.

    Nathaniel spent a good deal of the evening converting a closet into dream-storage for negatives, hard-drives and back-up CDs. Josie was totally awesome and cleaned the break room and kitchenette area, as well as making something like 5 million trips up and down the steps with a decade worth of negative cases. And thank goodness for Ryan ~ he helped Nathaniel carry in desks, cabinets and a huge wood & steel worktable.

    We'll post pictures soon. As soon as we wade through the boxes. : )

    For now, Nathaniel and I are drinking cocoa in the new office. Lochrima is asleep on the floor by the new bulletin board. We'll hang it up tomorrow. No need to disturb the chill mood...

    Hope you are all having as incredible a day as us!
    Till soon
    ~Rissa

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    A Difficult Good-Bye

    Usually when I see my friend Jan's name come up on my caller ID, it's like an early birthday gift. Jan is incredibly upbeat, kind and gentle-natured. She is, without question, one of the most positive people I have ever known. She herself is a gift.

    Nathaniel & I met Jan because she is a fellow "crazy greyhound person," and though it was our mutual love of dogs that brought us together, her friendship has come to mean much more over time.

    A few years back when we started our business, Jan was one of our first pet photography clients. She was one of the first people to have faith in us & our pet pictures.

    I confess that initially I felt quite "Paris Hilton" about pet photography. I mean, I have always loved all my animals and over the years I have had dogs, cats, fish, frogs, a bird and even a horse. But pet photography? Still, we started a branch of our business exclusively devoted to documenting beloved furry & feathered companions and the lives they share with their people.

    And of course, when you observe firsthand how much love is shared between animals and the humans they live with, you can't feel "Paris Hilton" about pet photography for very long. Our animals not only share our lives, they truly enhance it with their unconditional love, protection, companionship and incredible beauty.

    When we first worked with Jan, she had two male greyhounds, Ben and Jerry. They were from the same litter and had never been apart. Until today.


    Ben (in blue) and Jerry (in cherry red) go for a wade.

    The boys pose pretty! This picture has been published in magazines, calendars & even a book!

    Jan called me today and immediately from her voice I knew it was not the usual upbeat Jan I have come to know and love. Jan was crying. Jerry died this morning. He was eight years old with no known or discernible health issues.


    While there is nothing I can say or do to take the pain away or make Jan hurt less, I still wish I could. It is never easy to say the last good-bye to a dear friend, no matter if they are a dog.

    And even in the midst of her loss, Jan gave me a gift. She thanked me and told me that though she always valued the photographs of Ben & Jerry from the past several years, they mean more today than they ever have. In that moment I felt silly that I ever even thought for one moment that pet photography was "Paris Hilton." Jan gave me the gift of knowing that Nathaniel & I's pictures would keep Jerry with her always.

    Jan ~ you are so, so welcome. I wish I could do more to make you hurt less!

    Good-bye Jerry! Thanks for being such a sweet boy & providing my dear friend Jan with your friendship, protection and love for the past several years... I'll miss you!

    ~ Rissa

    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    Happy 4th Year, Baby ~

    10.02.04 was our wedding day. At this moment four years ago, we were newlyweds. We were still dancing, seven hours into our reception.

    Photo by Paul Conrad

    We got married in Brentwood, TN (just outside of Nashville) on Nathaniel's family farm. It rained all morning, but the sky cleared up in time for our outdoor afternoon wedding. Everything was so pretty, crisp ~ perfect autumn wedding.

    Photo by Paul Conrad

    About 250 of our friends and family attended the wedding. To date, we have only been at three weddings larger than our own, so when you all talk to us about "out of control guest lists," well... we get it. But having that many people all there for you is an incredible experience. There is nothing in my life I can relate it to.

    Our first dance was to "At Last" by Etta James. My long time friend Leslie Gray Streeter sang it for us. She's not just a great friend ~ Leslie truly could have been a professional vocalist. This photo from our first dance is still one of our favorites from the entire day.

    Photo by Paul Conrad

    Being wedding photographers ourselves we really went overboard on color and decor. We wanted the day lavish in visuals to make for wonderful photographs. After all, many of our friends and family are photographers. Though we hired a photographer, we ended up with several thousand pictures ~ all from amazing photogs. Talk about lavish!

    Photo by Amy Deputy

    To my Nathaniel ~ Happy Anniversary, Baby...

    I found a dream that I could speak to, a dream that I can call my own. I found a thrill to press my cheek to. A thrill that I have never known. You smiled, and then the spell was cast. And here we are in heaven for you are mine at last...

    Photo by Amy Deputy

    xoxo, Your Bride

    Full Speed

    Nathaniel loves this.
    Seriously loves it.
    He asked me to post it on here so everyone could watch this video clip.

    If you have ever doubted for one second how fast a greyhound runs, you won't after watching one outrun a sports car.
    ~ Rissa

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    Getting Out of the Virtual Casket

    It seems now-a-days, you can do virtually anything...well - virtually! Pay your bills, buy anything you need, even find your soul mate, all online. So naturally, photographs evolved for our virtual world - making film cameras nearly obsolete. We've moved onto digital cameras which equal digital images - and usually not much else.

    Before, when you would capture a great shot you couldn't wait to finish exposing your roll of film and get it developed. Remember how exciting it would be to pick up your pictures? You'd be lucky to make it to the car before tearing into them and feverishly flipping thru each one. Then you'd go home and repeat the process...at a calmer pace. Now - with our digital cameras - we snap a good shot and the first word(s) out of the "photographer's" mouth is "MYSPACE!" or "FACEBOOK!" ...Really!?! Is that really all our great shots are worthy of?? *sigh* Believe me - I do love the instant gratification of a digital capture, but what irks me is what follows....usually nothing! You upload the image to your computer and it lives out its life on your hard drive...forgotten about amongst the hundreds, maybe thousands, of other images.

    The true beauty of a photograph is not always what has been captured - rather it's ability to become eternal. (my philosophical thought for the month ;-) )

    Think about that shot of your parents at the altar, perhaps your grandparents. The paper may be tattered or yellowed - but it's tangible. You can hold it in your hands and feel its impact. Now think about showing YOUR grand kids your wedding pictures while posted up in front of a computer screen. Kind of takes away from the nostalgia...doesn't it?

    So getting to my point (yes I do have one), Rissa and Nathaniel got me an adorable photo album a few weeks back. Turns out that DAY I got engaged! My fiance had arranged for my mom, brother and best friend to be at his proposal site to capture the moment - with tons of pictures of course! So my mom burned me a CD, I uploaded the pics to my computer and looked at them over and over on my 12" macbook screen. I finally decided the momentous pictures deserved more than just their own album in my iphoto. I dropped them onto my zip drive and set off on a mission - I was going to get prints made! My first stop (Walmart) was quite unsuccessful -- seeing as every machine was mysteriously "down" and the photo lady pointed me to a nearby Rite Aid. What a hassle this was turning out to be! 10 whole minute of driving!? Were these prints really worth it?? Rite Aid reassured me and lifted my spirits by having an incredibly easy to use machine and good prices too! I got 50 prints for about $5. Feeling quite satisfied with myself I immediately went home, sorted my picture chronologically, and inserted them into my adorable album!

    Photo by Liza Hettherington (my best friend!)

    Talk about being worth a few minutes and a few bucks! I absolutely LOVE my new album with my REAL prints in it! I look at it constantly and show it off to everyone i possibly can. The ooo's and awww's are so rewarding :-)

    Don't let your pictures die in a virtual casket. Bring them to life - have prints made - whether they're 4x6's from your local Kodak machine or 24x36 metallic display prints that adorn your wall as a work of art. It's worth it...try it...you'll see ;-)
    ~Brittany

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    balance + carla

    Collaborating with another artist is always cool. What you get is twice as good as having just one artist working for you. We love Carla at carla david design. Her graphic designs are clean, stylish and elegant, and she really "gets it" when it comes to showing off photographs as a design element. Carla does custom couture invitations & announcements, as well as corporate designs. We've been a fan of her work since the moment we first met her at a wedding show. She really is a couture designer and her work truly reflects the couple whose invites she creates.

    Over time, brides & grooms have frequently asked us to "make something" with their engagement pictures, some kind of save-the-date. Okay... we can do that. Now.

    Carla has created a custom line for balance photography. It includes a very cool guest book as well as three different save-the-date options. Each item is ordered thru balance to showcase your engagement photos and is personally customized and handcrafted by Carla. Incredible.

    The carla david design Guestbook is printed on heavy card stock and features a full bleed photo on the back of each signing page. The book is bound in color-coordinated silk ribbon and for ease of signing, the pages come apart. Perfect to display pictures and guest comments at your wedding!


    The carla david design Save-the-Date photo collection...

    The first option Carla created to show off your engagement pictures is a strip magnet with three photos. It is inspired by classic "photo booth" pictures and has a sweet, lighthearted and fun vibe. The magnet is attached to color-coordinated card stock and comes with matching lined envelopes for mailing.


    To announce a more formal wedding celebration, Carla created a second magnet option. It showcases one large engagement portrait and the colors on the envelope liner and on the magnet frame are sampled directly from the background of your photo. Also features an elegant floral edging and rounded corners. Perfect for a more traditional soiree or ballroom affair.

    Carla's final offering to show off your engagement pictures in a Save-the-Date announcement is a beautiful custom 3-panel card. Pictures are printed on each panel as well as on a custom sticker seal. An elegant introduction to your guests for your special day.

    We are proud to be working with Carla to bring you these beautiful options for your engagement photos. Stop by and see them in person. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

    Thanks Carla! We can't wait to see what beautiful custom creations you make from our pictures next!!
    ~ Rissa