This past Sunday, Mike and I celebrated seven years together. SEVEN YEARS! We chose to forgo gifts and cards this year since wedding planning (and costs!) are in full swing. But we did enjoy a leisurely lunch at ABC Kitchen, where we shared many delicious plates of food, but mostly just enjoyed being in each other’s company.
As we said good night after watching Downton Abbey (and I had finished blubbering), Mike hugged me close and quietly said, “It really doesn’t feel like it’s been seven years.” His tone was serious, not his usual playful tone where he might follow it up with, “It feels like forever!” But he was right. Time seems to have flown by, especially these past few years. On the other hand, it does feel like we’ve known each other forever, that we’ve always been the best part of each other’s lives; I was a teenager when I met Mike and those years before he came into my life seem like a distant memory.
So in attempts to put in perspective just how much things have actually changed in the last seven years, I sat down and made a list (naturally) of all the things that were true in my life before Mike walked through the door and looked at me with his baby blue eyes:
Seven years ago…I had no idea what Dipsy Doodles were.
Seven years ago…I was single and happy to have time to focus on just me.
Seven years ago…I thought it was impossible to love a Yankees fan.
Seven years ago…I thought relationships were all give, no take.
Seven years ago…I didn’t like beer.
Seven years ago…I was content to eat dinner alone.
Seven years ago…I had only dreamed of traveling through Europe.
Seven years ago…I didn’t own any penguin Christmas decorations.
Seven years ago…I dreamed of moving to Manhattan, but assumed I would always stay close to home.
Seven years ago…I thought family was only comprised of the people I was related to.
Seven years ago…the thought of marriage scared me.
Seven years ago…I didn’t know to salt the water before cooking pasta.
Seven years ago…I thought I would only move away from my family for a job.
Seven years ago…I was a pretty terrible cook.
Seven years ago…I didn’t know that you could see someone through their highest highs and lowest lows – and still love them unconditionally.
Seven years ago…a Batman figurine did not watch over my computer each night.
Seven years ago…I thought a relationship was supposed to be really difficult most days and easy only every now and then.
Seven years ago…I thought I could either chase my dreams or have enough time and energy for a relationship.
Seven years ago…I didn’t think anyone could love bacon more than me.
Seven years ago…I didn’t believe in love at first sight.
Seven years ago…I had no idea who I was or what I wanted to do. I had no idea it would take finding my other half to begin to figure it out.
Last week was bitter cold here in New York City; the type of coldness that dives deep into your bones, chilling you to the core no matter how many cups of hot coffee you think might melt it away. I will be the first to admit that I despise this type of weather, especially as it renders my commute to and from work a frozen adventure.
But one day last week, just two short blocks from the warmth of my office, I turned my head slightly into Bryant Park and saw an ice sculpture where a fountain once resided. Apparently the water was left running during the frigid temperatures and heavy icicles soon began to form.
The next morning I brought my good camera to try to capture the beauty of this fountain, but could only manage to keep my gloves off for a few moments before I lost feeling in them and quickly returned them to their cozy cashmere home. Office workers and tourists gathered to see the massive icicles, with the New York Public Library in the background.
As I began to fill in shooting assignments (hooray!) on my calendar over the next few months, it was quickly becoming apparent that my own camera equipment just wasn't going to cut it much longer. For most of the shoots, I was going to need, if not be required to use, a full-frame camera. I sat down and outlined the shoots, calculating how much I would be spending on rental equipment just to complete each assignment. With the leftover cost, I forecasted how many additional assignments I would need to book to make purchasing equipment a more economically sound investment than just renting. And the numbers didn't lie: it made more financial sense to upgrade my equipment than continually renting. As excited as I get daydreaming about the equipment I would love to own one day, I was suddenly very nervous to make that big leap, or more importantly, need to put down the big bucks.
After my own little experiment in November, I already knew I wanted to migrate from Nikon to Canon. I calculated my budget and began considering the full-frame body options: 6D, 5D Mark II, and 5D Mark III. I tried that hefty Mark III body back in November and adored it, but my budget would only allow me to purchase the body, no lens. It didn't seem to make a lot of sense to upgrade my equipment and not be able to use it without renting at least one lens.
So I began taking a hard look at the 6D, the newest full-frame camera in the Canon line with a much smaller price tag than the Mark III. By chance, I happened to check to see the price on the Mark II was - there had been a huge price drop since the last time I had checked! Now it wasn't that much more expensive than the 6D!
Even still, I was going to come in over my budget once I added in a lens purchase (the lens decision was even more difficult than choosing the body, as I still shoot a variety of assignments at the moment. So I made a list of everything I shoot and the lenses I will eventually need and then chose the common lens.) So I began looking for used equipment and - thanks to the huge retail price drop on the Mark II AND the introduction of a new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens - I was able to purchase both! For some assignments, mostly weddings and portraits, I will still need to rent a few lenses for the day until I save up enough to invest in them, but the cost is much more affordable now that I already have this camera body.
I spent the past weekend beginning to learn the ins and outs of my new camera and loving the fact that I now have a full-frame camera to truly begin to build my portfolio. I just forgot one tiny detail: the Mark II only uses CF cards and I only had SD cards on-hand. Oops! I quickly remedied the situation by shooting tethered, so the files uploaded automatically to my computer, but a CF card is on my must-purchase list this week! And I'm also going to need to update my current photo (the one on my welcome message on the sidebar and my Facebook profile) to reflect my new equipment!
Last night as I tried to stuff a clean stack of freshly washed shirts into an overflowing, unorganized dresser drawer the feeling of defeat began to wash over me. Another week almost gone and still so much to do. So many things felt "just done enough" - the apartment was just clean enough to not be considered messy, dinner was just good enough to not order take-out, aspects of my business were just good enough to not be considered just a hobbyist photographer. Last night I was failing miserably at holding myself to a "standard of grace not perfection," and I was angry with myself for failing.
But at the exact moment that I strong-armed enough space in the drawer, as the kitchen timer was ringing that dinner was ready, and I was almost on the brink of tears, a question ran through my mind: what are you willing to sacrifice to have a shot at your dreams? I was very still, despite the seeming chaos around me. The question didn't seem to demand the typical big-picture answers. Money! Time! It seemed to be asking me to recognize the small things, that so often feel like big ones: comfort, organization, a clear schedule.
I forced the drawer shut and walked to the kitchen to put dinner together and on the table just before 9:30 PM. Suddenly these things that had just moments ago been conspiring to make me feel like a failure, seemed quite small in comparison. When I look back on life, will it be worth it to know I had perfectly organized dresser drawers, a sparkling clean house, and a gourmet dinner on the table each night if the trade-off was that I didn't have enough time to chase my biggest dreams? Or would I be content knowing that I had given up those things for a chance, just the smallest chance, at getting my hands dirty and turning my dreams into reality?
I know which path I choose. What are you willing to sacrifice to chase your dreams?
Ah, the selection of your wedding shoes. The shoes you will wear a you walk down the aisle to say "I do!". The shoes you will wear as you take your first steps together as husband and wife. That's what exuded from all the beautiful wedding photos I devoured: Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Louboutin.
And while all of those brands are indeed drool-worthy, I couldn't imagine myself teetering down the chapel aisle in five inch heels. I will be a blubbering mess as it is, so I didn't see any reason to add stilts to the equation. Though that might have been a better show for our guests!
I originally fell head over heels in love with a pair of hot pink, sparkly Kate Spade heels. I wanted them, I still want them. But even with a more moderate heel (only four inches) I would still be much taller than Mike. And since I really don't want to relive my middle school years on my wedding day, I decided flats were the way to go.
I never found the perfect pair of dressy flats. I ordered this pair of crocheted Toms, thinking they were cute and would be perfect for the reception. But then as I tried them on, it struck me that I would be standing on my feet all day long on our wedding day. I would be trekking through grass and dirt and uneven brick pathways for our beautiful photos. So maybe it made the most sense to wear these pretty little shoes all day long!
So unless the powers that be at Kate Spade decide to make a flat version of those pink, sparkly heels (let's be honest, I will not have the willpower to say no!), these are my wedding shoes! Our children might call me a hippy for wearing them, but at least my new husband won't hear me complain about my aching feet on our wedding night!
I sat in front of my computer, nervously twirling my hair, debating whether to purchase my ticket to Justin and Mary's New York City stop of The What's Next Tour. I had just finished putting my business goals into writing for 2013 and I knew I wanted to smartly invest in my business during the year. That statement can be so simple and obvious to put in writing, but I was already starting to feel overwhelmed at the number of things I felt I needed to invest in to start my business on the right foot: equipment, branding, website, blog, software...the list seemed never ending for someone with a very limited budget.
But words from a blog post by Katelyn James were ringing through my mind, louder than all of those other things, as she explained how much she had learned from Justin and Mary in the past as she was building her own photography business: "I wanted a business that was thriving…not barely surviving." I took a big gulp and purchased my ticket to Mary's portion of the day, marked the day on the calendar, and then impatiently followed along as they made their other stops throughout the country, seeing photos and reading words from those who were attending along the way.
My brain is still spinning from yesterday. I wish there was a concise way to sum up the sixteen pages of notes I took during Mary's talk, but there is no way to do so without leaving out so many important pieces. I woke up this morning feeling as though I needed another day off after an already long weekend to sit and attempt to truly absorb all I learned yesterday and recognize how I want to implement it into my own business. I'm sure so much of what I learned will weave itself through my future
posts as I put my business plan in motion, take risks, fail, succeed, and grow.
In attempts to try to sum up the workshop, I will say it's overarching goal (and achievement) was for each attendee to recognize and acknowledge their fears and then putting a plan in action to successfully overcome those very fears and go after the vision you have for your business. But this workshop hardly read like a business textbook - Mary intertwined personal stories from her life and business, her own failures, and her own journey. Throughout the five hours, I could be seen furiously scribbling everything in my notebook, occasionally crying, and all the while Mary was turning that spark within me, the one that wants to succeed at this more than anything, the one that knows this is what I've wanted to do all along, into a fire to do this thing.
Since our move south later this year became officially official, Mike and I have entered the stage of realizing we have taken many things for granted in our past five years together in Manhattan. We have entered these last five months looking through a new lens; one that reminds us we will not always have some of our favorite things so accessible to us and that some incredible resources will not always be just a few blocks away. I have mostly taken this new outlook to mean that I should definitely consume a pretzel croissant whenever I am in a seven block radius of City Bakery.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to Mike in passing that there were two exhibits I had been excited to see at The Met and, after pretending he was driving through a tunnel and couldn't hear me, he told me to pick a weekend day and put it on the calendar. "Oh, don't be silly," I argued. "One of the exhibits is there through March, we have plenty of time." To which he reminded me that there was no telling the next time we would both have a free weekend together before March. Our days, yes, even our weekends, seem to be filling up faster and faster. For five years we have lived just five blocks (though, in my defense they are crosstown blocks) from The Met, yet we have each been just a handful of times.
So on Saturday morning, we walked west and explored the 'Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop' and 'Matisse: In Search of True Painting' exhibitions. Afterwards we strolled through some of the permanent collections, on our way to Mike's favorite part of the museum: the Egyptian wing. As we walked deeper through the museum, I began to feel a bit regretful that we, or at least I, have taken the proximity of this treasure for granted for so long.
Last Sunday evening, as the weekend was coming to a close so soon after it had started, I found myself lying in bed, football on the television, unable to convince my body to move to tackle the too-long to do list I had waiting for me. The previous days had been filled with the excitement of Mike being accepted to Duke and the inevitable stress of the impending move that arrived just a few days later. On Friday night, we met friends for drinks after work and on Saturday we traveled to Jersey City to visit more friends, their new puppy, and ate a delicious dinner at Thirty Acres. After we returned to the city, we met another group of friends to celebrate a birthday. We woke up late on Sunday, still groggy, my body tired.
The whole day, I couldn't focus on working in front of my computer for too long before I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. The laundry desperately needed to be done, but the thought of having to trek a heavy basket full of clothes to the basement was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Cleaning needed to happen, but our apartment suddenly felt massive, like I couldn't possibly finish before midnight. My body and mind were exhausted and I needed rest.
Mike pulled me close when I crawled into bed, telling myself there was no time to take a nap. He knew something was wrong and when I explained how lazy I had been all day, how I had barely accomplished anything the entire weekend, he kissed the top of my head. "Everyone needs a lazy day, a true lazy day, every now and then. When was the last time you actually did nothing?"
I was quiet, honestly trying to remember the last time I had just sat, been still, took a nap, had a weekend where I wasn't trying to make progress on our wedding planning or working on my business. The last time I could remember was during our trip to Colorado - more than four months ago!
But, of course, Mike is right. Every single person does need a day now and then to just be still, to try to put their to do list away and just relax - and to not feel guilty about doing so. This is more difficult than it seems for lots of people, including myself, as it involves trusting that you can step away and that everything will still be accomplished in it's own time. It's about giving up control.
So I am going to work on just that - taking time away from planning, working, organizing, worrying. I am going to trust that those hours away from trying to manage everything will actually make me accomplish more in the long run.
In my hurry of running holiday errands, I stumbled across these cute mini books at Paper Source. I flipped through each, smiling at the advice - some severely outdated, some still spot-on 100 years later. I thought of purchasing them as a little stocking stuffer for Mike, but then worried that he would take it as me implying that I think he might be a bad husband. I tend to over think little things like these.
But my mother also found them in her holiday shopping and sent them to us with our Christmas gifts. We had so much fun sitting in our pajamas that morning, flipping through the small pages and reading some of our favorite words of advice.
Here are some of our favorite reminders:
Don't think that, because you have married for love, you can never know a moment's unhappiness. Life is not a bed of roses, but love will help to extract the thorns.
Don't say, 'I told you so' to your husband, however much you feel tempted to. It does not good, and he will be grateful to you for not saying it.
Don't go to sleep feeling cross with your husband. If he has annoyed you during the evening, forgive him and close your eyes at peace with him. 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath' is a very good motto.
Don't spend all the best years of your life pinching and saving unnecessarily, until you are too old to get any pleasure out of your money.
Don't keep the house so tidy that your husband is afraid to leave a newspaper lying about. Few men have such a sense of order as most women have, and they are naturally more careless at home than at the office. But what does it matter when you really come to think of it?
Don't try to take all work and worry off her shoulders. You can't attend to her business and your own too.
Don't say she needn't stay up for you. You know quite well that she can't sleep until you are safe at home.
Saturday was gray and overcast, but Mike and I traveled to Jersey City to visit our sweet friends, Alan and Iliza, and to meet the new addition to their family - Waverly the Goldendoodle! Waverly was already a bit tuckered out from a long walk earlier in the day, but she happily cuddled with everyone and even ran the length of the apartment a few times, chasing tennis balls and the sounds of her squeak toys. She is just as snuggly as she looks, resembling and adorable stuffed animal until she wags her tail, smiles, and sticks out her little pink tongue.
There was no question that I was in desperate need of new business cards. While I had many items to update with new branding in the New Year, my business cards needed it the most, as they still had my (soon-to-be) maiden name and old contact information. I feared someone asking for my business card and me need to stand there to cross our all of the information and handwrite the correct name, email, and website. Not exactly a great first impression.
Even still, I couldn't get myself to actually order new business cards. I scoured websites with beautiful templates, but nothing quite fit the branding I had created; nothing was perfect. I also reasoned that if I was spending so much of my own time to brand my business in a unique way, it wouldn't make much sense to have a business card that other photographers could potentially be handing out as well.
I was again paralyzed by my perfectionist nature - unable to finalize the design for fear of something not being exactly perfect. It took me registering for a spot in the NYC stop of Justin & Mary's What's Next tour to finally complete the design and order new cards. Suddenly there was something on the calendar, staring at me each time I would try to put off the designing and ordering to another day. I couldn't imagine trying to network with other photographers and not have a business card on me!
So here they are! I designed the cards with the branding I am slowing rolling out for my entire brand. I ordered from moo.com - just their standard business cards in case something went terribly wrong with the colors or the graphics. But I was happy to find even their standard paper is quite substantial and the colors were spot-on. There are, of course, very minor things I plan to make with my next order of cards. But they are now in my wallet, ready for next week's workshop, ready for potential clients. I can so easily forget in the tunnel vision of perfectionism that you often just need to begin; you must take that first step so you know how to make things better, more perfect for your brand.
I can't remember exactly when the whole process began, but between prep courses, GMATs, applications, interviews, and that tedious waiting period, it feels as though it has been a better part of a year since Mike first decided to pursue his MBA.
There were other schools in contention, but after our trip to visit Duke in October, there was a place in my heart that stayed steadfast in my belief that we would soon be calling Durham, North Carolina our home. Even when Mike lost all confidence and there was nothing I could say to reassure him, there was somewhere deep inside me that just knew.
On Tuesday, we waited anxiously for the news. The morning crept along and then it was noon; still no word. We both were sick to our stomachs with stress. The afternoon wore on. Then, at 3:27 PM my phone rang. Mike's office number. I picked up the receiver and shakily said, "Hello?" There was a long pause and heavy breathing. "We did it," I heard his voice whisper. Once I had fully processed what my heart had known all along, I managed to say, "No, you did it, honey," just before the tears of relief and joy started.
"No," Mike insisted. "We did this together."
And so, it is with much happiness that we will be moving from Manhattan, the city where we created our life together, to Durham, North Carolina in early July. That's right, just a few weeks after our wedding, we will be packing and moving south for two years. This all means lots of change - not just in where we will be living, but also in our daily lives. We will be leaving jobs and friends and our familiar routine in this city. And, yet, we are so excited!
The past few days have flown by as we have basked in the excitement, the relief of all that stress from this past year, and the inevitable need to begin coordinating and planning all that must be accomplished in these few months before summer. But every time I look at Mike, as I smile at the absence of worry lines across his forehead and excitement in his face, I am so immensely proud of him. I am proud of all of his work, of his drive, of my luck in being part of his team.
Here they are! Our save the dates have been sealed and delivered to our guests. Well, except for my parents - the postal service LOST the original, so a replacement is on the way!
As much as I adore beautiful paper, once we sat down to plan the budget, Mike and I quickly realized this would be a place we would need to cut costs in order to have an amazing photographer and super special reception. So we agreed I would try my hand at designing them.
We decided on the simplicity of a square, "So as not to dominate everyone's refrigerator space," as Mike explained. I kept the location in mind, as we are lucky enough to be getting married in the Wren Chapel at William & Mary, where we both attended as undergraduates. So I incorporated a small brick pattern on both the blue border and the envelope liner, to represent the brick pathways that wind through the campus where we first met and fell in love. To keep with the simple, understated beauty of the chapel, I kept the design uncluttered, incorporating a modern, streamlined font along with a calligraphy-inspired script font.
The save the dates were printed on the luscious Crane Lettra line, a thick, barely off-white paper with a soft texture. We chose square kraft envelopes that were all lined with the brick pattern printed on pearlescent paper. I hand-lettered all of the envelopes with white ink; it was so tedious, but I loved the end result!
Sitting there last week on a lightly cushioned folding chair, as people flowed in and out of the funeral home to pay their last respects to Mike's Aunt Louise, I scanned the room and took in the surroundings. Scattered all over the room were framed photographs: old sepia-toned photos of her parents, her perfectly-posed bridal portrait, and two huge collages of photos of her and her family throughout the years. Visitors would tearfully say good-bye and then, a few steps later, begin to smile as they poured over the old photographs, reminiscing through years of happy memories.
And then it struck me.
What we do as photographers - whether as family memory keepers, hobbyists, or professionals - is incredibly powerful. These moments will be enjoyed for lifetimes, with generations we have yet to meet. The photographs we produce will remind ourselves and our loved ones of all of the moments that made up an entire lifetime. They will remind us of bad hair cuts, bad outfits, and old loves. They will take our breath away with a Daddy walking his little girl down the aisle, with parents holding their child for the first time. They will provide a means for us to remember, be happy, be hopeful, and be thankful.
So those of us who find ourselves happily behind the camera, we have the best job in the world. But it's just as important, every now and then, to step out from behind the camera and allow ourselves to be captured in the action.
Last week I talked about my goals – both personal and professional – in the New Year and, after a very productive weekend in front of my amazing new computer, I am attacking them! Granted, many of my business goals are overarching and will continue to evolve over time. But I am starting to get to the point that I think I might need to sit down again in a few months, dream bigger, and list a new set of goals for the year!
That leads me into talking about my first big change of the year; a decision that I have wrestled with making over the past few months. After seeking the advice of my go-to businessman (my hubby to be!), talking with other bloggers, and talking with other photographers, it all came down to trusting my gut. It was time to separate my adventures in the kitchen from my adventures behind the lens.
So welcome to the official blog of Allison Mannella Photography! This is now where I will share my life, my business, and my passion for photography. And don’t you worry – when I post a delicious new recipe on Dolcetto Confections, you can be certain I’ll share the link right here!
There are more changes in the works, some known, many unknown. There are already things I know I will want to improve and upgrade, but I've decided it's time to just get started. I'm so happy you all are along for the ride!
four days into 2013, I already feel a bit behind and a little worn out. I’m finding that it doesn’t help one bit to
sit and think about how rested, accomplished, and in-control I had expected to
feel upon returning to work after a full week off. Sometimes life likes to remind you, in a very
big way, that no matter how much you plan or how many to-do lists you make, you
are rarely in control.
I’m a few days behind, but I wanted to put my goals for 2013, both personal and
professional, in writing.I want to hit
the publish button on this post and feel like I am accountable to more than
just myself for actively trying to work towards these goals.One thing these past few days have reinforced
in me is that life is far too short to not go after your dreams, not matter how
impossible they might seem on the cusp of that first big jump.
2012 began, instead of an actual list of goals, I had one phrase that kept
repeating itself over and over in my mind: "Be kind to yourself."
That became my goal for the year ahead, recognizing that I had developed
an alarming tendency to be quite harsh on myself. There were definitely
moments when I failed at this, but with each passing month, I started to be
easier on and kinder to myself.
this year there is a phrase – somewhat an extension of what I worked towards
last year - that resonated with me as soon as I read it on Emily Ley's site:
"I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection."
So fitting. This is a tall order for any perfectionist, but is a
much healthier way to approach life.It’s time to realize that though I might wish and think that I can do it
all, I just can’t – and that doesn’t mean I am a terrible wife (to be) or
person.Some days I just need to give
myself credit for the things I am already doing, besides being part of a
family, I’m also working full-time, planning a wedding, launching a business,
and gearing up for a potential move – and those are just the big things!So maybe it’s time that I stop trying to make
everything just perfect, maybe it’s okay if the laundry is a little (okay, a
lot) overflowing and the dishes are piling up in the sink.It will all get done, maybe not as soon as I
want, but it will all get done.
the professional side, I have a long list of goals of where I would like to
take my business over the next year:
just in the start-up phase, I aim to make my photography business a viable
part-time job by the end of the year.The other goals are all smaller parts of making this overarching goal
actually happen.In addition, I need to
file everything to ensure my business is set-up to protect everyone involved.
goal is intentionally a bit vague.To
save money, I will be responsible for all of my initial branding, which I need
to complete and be aware enough to update as needed.Eventually (whether this year or further down
the road) I want to invest in a designer to truly perfect my branding.
goal is also a bit vague, because, while I have a few ideas of what I would
like to do with my website/blog, the truth is that I am not exactly sure.I need to talk with other people in the field
and then just trust my gut enough to make whatever changes I need.What I know right this moment is that I am
not motivated to update my current website, which is potentially hurting my
business.So I either need to make
myself motivated or find a new system that works better.
might seem a little strange given the lateness in this post, but I need to
create a consistent schedule for blogging, Monday through Friday.
in my business, smartly.
is definitely the voice in my ear on this goal, as he is the biggest proponent
of spending money to make money.But as
an emerging photographer, I sometimes feel completely overwhelmed about all of
the investments that seem to be part of taking a business to the next level –
top notch equipment, website, blog, packaging, and workshops.Since I am just at the beginning, I will need
to pick-and-chose which investments will help me bring in the most business.
with area photographers.
not sure why, but this is one of the scariest goals to me!It wasn’t even until last month that I would
admit to some of our family and closest friends that I was starting my own photography
business!But I’ve realized you can’t
just put up a website and a blog and hope that people flock to you to have you
capture their day.It’s time to meet
some people who do this successfully for a living, learn from them, and create some
shoot a wedding.
goal completely relies on the previous, because it’s tough to second shoot a
wedding if you don’t know any photographers!I have shot some portions of wedding days, but never from the beginning
to end and never under the continuous time constraints of the day.
out at 2013, I feel a mix of emotions - excited, anxious, scared - about
everything that lies ahead. It promises to be a year of adventure and new