Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011


as you read this, I am blissfully off the cyber grid as my husband and I are somewhere off the coast of south america – finally on a honeymoon. but because I missed monday moments last week, I wanted to make sure I posted something while we were gone. and it’s all about one word – gratitude. see I am the type that is more likely to focus on the one thing in my life that is bothering me, not behaving or not doing what I tell it to do. whatever this thing or issue may be, I will let it suck up my whole day and sometimes several. it is so pathetically easier for me to get caught up in the negative that I am unable to relish the positive. and there is SO much in my life and business that is so much more than I ever imagined it would be!! so while in vegas for wppi I was able to look at what matters – what REALLY matters. not getting the right color of paint for the studio – doesn’t matter. that my jeans are a little tighter since I quit smoking – doesn’t matter. that I won a lot of $ in vegas and continued to lose it all but $100 – doesn’t matter (I still left with $100 I didn’t have to begin with – so yay!) . here’s what matters: what does matter is that I spent a week with 3 amazing women and artists – talking life and photography with kristie, joni and maria was such a gift. being able to hear and learn new things from other photographers at wppi that I really admire was just what I needed to shake me up creatively and personally before entering the 2011 season. knowing that with kristie, we have brought our studio to a place I never dreamed it would be – welcoming jillian and mel to take this journey with us only makes it sweeter. and more than anything, to have the support and help of the best husband in the world makes this girl a complete fool when I choose to wallow in the crap instead of living fully in this life that I am so so lucky to have. I felt a contentment that is true gratitude during our last night in vegas as kris, joni and I inhaled tasty crepes at a cafe in the bellagio after making our way down the strip, shooting photos as we went. I mean – this is my job? this is my life? I’ll take it – with whipped cream on top!

February 18, 2011


kris and I were so excited for jen and brad’s wedding – it was the best way to kick off our 2011 season. a gorgeous february day with one of my favorite couples! we arrived where they were getting ready – jen at her parent’s house and brad right next door at their house. the hair and make up were complete when we got there and jen was SO ready to get in her dress and get this day started. although she was fighting a pretty harsh cold, nothing could tamper her excitement – as I unzipped the dress bag to shoot her wedding dress, her eyes just sparkled!




because they were getting ready so close together in location, we were shooting the girls outside when brad left for the church. jen’s bridesmaids were quick on their feet and came up with a brilliant solution!












during brad’s best mans toast, he made a beautiful reference to dragonflies and handed jen this gorgeous pin – perfect for the rings!



loved the emotion of the whole family during the father/daughter dance….




work that frosting girl!



jen and brad – kristie and I absolutely loved spending the day with you. we were laughing as often as shooting as it was a truly joyous day. cold or no cold – you glowed, loved and laughed all day and were amazing to witness and an honor to document!

February 14, 2011


a few weeks ago, roland and I went to old town alexandria for a short getaway. thankfully we have friends who do for us what we can’t seem to do for ourselves. although we’re rectifying this in a couple of weeks by finally going on a honeymoon – we aren’t great at just leaving and taking some time just for us. so our amazing friends ann + randy, along with their son bryan and his wife mel got us 2 nights at the fabulous hotel monaco and a very yummy dinner at the chart house. the saturday we were there, we wandered the streets, visiting local shops and gawking at the architecture of the old buildings. if you’ve never been to old town, you simply must go. it’s a great place for anyone to visit, but it’s a photographer’s dream! as I’m apt to do, several times a day – I felt the need for coffee, so we ducked into a starbucks. as we were sitting there, planning which way to go once we warmed up a bit, roland saw a dog sitting there with his owner and motioned my eyes toward the dog. now I have been known to just wander away from a group of friends to go visit with a dog – I’ve even done it during an e-session. I can’t help myself – I am 100% a dog person and so is my honey. naturally, we had to knock on the window to say hi! once he looked at us, he didn’t look away so I took a couple of photos. the owner then noticed her distracted pup and saw me through the window waving at her pooch and snapping away. if she thought we were weird, she didn’t let it show and smiled at us – because I would wager that she too is a dog person and that’s just what we do. and because it’s valentines day and he’s just too cute… a photo of my love


February 10, 2011


we LOVE valentines day! and we think it comes at a perfect time of year – when it’s all cold and gloomy outside, as the song says – we’ve got love to keep us warm.  so in that spirit we want to have our first contest of 2011. we want to hear your love stories – funny, sappy or just some old-fashioned romance.


for us spending a few days reading love stories is the perfect way to pass the blustery afternoons of february. we ran this contest last year and heard some amazing tales of first meetings, proposals and surprise anniversary celebrations. here’s how it works – send us your story via email to rayevalion@gilletteportraitarts.comwith a photo of you and your honey. the entries will be taken until midnight on valenine’s day. we will spend next week reading every story entered and a winner will be announced friday february 18th – right before we leave for vegas for wppi!


so what’s the prize for the winners? an on-location portrait session and a FREE 11×14 gallery wrapped canvas! we’ve got our coffee, we’ve got our tea and are ready to read some romance - so email us today and let’s feel some love!


if you’ve tuned in to the blog in the past week – you’re familiar with this mini-series of blogposts we’re doing featuring some of our favorite couples who have stayed in our lives since we first sat down with them to plan their wedding photography. you can either scroll down to see our first story of jenni and tim, or you can click here. today is tell the story of sarina and john and how much they and their family have come to mean to me.


as I stated in jenni and tim’s story – I was a nervous wreck at my first official wedding show as gillette portrait arts. fortunately, I had my mother who was a marketing guru and as outgoing as they come with me. so when I noticed certain couples who I knew would be fun to work with, I would give mom a little nudge. such was the case with sarina and john – as you can see from the photos, they are a gorgeous couple but what struck me was their amazing energy and love with each other and that they were both in all black. all black says one thing to me - city folk and I wanted to work with some out of towners! like jenni + tim, sarina and john signed a contract before leaving the show. what I learned about them at the show was that they were from philadelphia and getting married in dewey beach delaware because they love the beach. back then I didn’t know some of the important questions that you should ask and as a result I had NO idea the size of this wedding until I rolled up to their hotel on wedding day. there was literally a bus waiting for us to gather up all of the females (18 in all) who were going to the salon – which by the way was completely rented out specifically for sarina and her bridal party. nor did I know that it was going to be a cross-denominational ceremony with a rabbi and a priest, under a chuppah, on the beach with 40mph winds. to be honest, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know because I would have been scared out of my mind. this was only my second wedding as gilletteportrait arts and it taught me more on one day than 15 workshops and seminars combined!  sarina even had 2 maids of honor – her best friend jen and her sister helana


the wedding was also the first time that I met sarina and helana’s parents, sam and jackie – these are 2 of the most amazing people I have ever met and I fell in love with them as soon as I met them


sarina was my first bride-turned-mother and when she was in the final stage of her pregnancy, I drove to philadelphia to shoot her maternity session. we also had a session at her parents house for the “furr-babies”



pregnant with first child gavin on the left and gavin years later as an amazing big brother to baby johnny on the right


sarina and john with baby gavin at the beach




when sarina was pregnant with her second child sydney we weren’t able to do a maternity session because my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and all available time was spent with him. 2 days before  I was to shoot the wedding of one of sarina’s best friends meghan, I got the call to come to my father who also lived in philly. my father passed away at 2am on meghan’s wedding day. as I walked into meghan’s house, sarina greeted me with a hug and asked how dad was. I pulled her into another room and explained what had happened but that I didn’t want meghan to know because this was her day. To be honest it was good for me that I had to work that day because it’s difficult to be upset when surrounded by so much joy and it made me focus my attention elsewhere than my grief. sarina shared the information with her parents and helana and when potential rough spots came up – like the father/daughter dance – they as a family were there for me and I am forever grateful.

when sarina got married, helana was dating a man named walt. They were so cute together that I had stalked them on the dance floor and had taken tons of photos of them. helana had been plagued with health problems since she was an infant and as a result was small – but what see lacked in stature, she made up for in personality! helana sparkled and had an amazing spirit – so when she called me to tell me that she and walt were engaged I was thrilled!! we decided to shoot their e-session in love park. because of their height, helana and walt could easily fit underneatht the LOVE sign and made this photo possible which is one of my favorites ever!


as their wedding day approached, some not-so-great things happened. sarina was now pregnant with twins and on a long duration of bed rest. shortly after twins johnny and gemma were born, johnny suffered severe complications and had to be air-lifted for heart surgery. being the loving aunt that she was, helana worried herself literally sick – being hospitalized with pneumonia a couple of months before wedding day. when I got to sam and jackie’s house the morning of the wedding, helana was frail and weak – but SO excited! she had looked forward to getting married ever since she was a little girl and she was beautiful.


sarina, john, gavin, sydney, johnny and gemma at the wedding



2 days after the wedding, I was back in snow hill and that morning I had gone into town to run a few errands. when I came back there a missed call from sarina but no message. I called her back and knew immeidately that something was very wrong. sarina was sobbing just saying “my sister” over and over again. when she caught her breath, sarina told me that as they were landing in florida for their honeymoon, that helana had become unconscious and was rushed to the hospital. sarina was on the way to the airport with sam and walter’s dad to go to florida. not knowing the specifics of helana’s condition, she asked me to get some wedding photos on the blog as soon as possible which of course I did. once they were in florida, it was clear that helana was gone and sarina contacted me the next morning to let me know. I traveled to philadelphia the next week for helana’s funeral. still, several months later I can’t put into words how much the whole situation affected me – helana was such a special person and I miss her. I kept in close contact with the family and went to sarina’s house to spend some time with her and mom jackie. during the visit I photographed what sarina and jackie call their “medicine” when they would almost be overcome with sadness these amazing kids would bring  joy and gratitude and their love got them through this nightmare and helps them to look forward to the future.


sydney the ham




I can’t imagine what my life and my business would have been without meeting you at that show. you are real and treasured friends and I love you all so much. I’m so lucky to be the photographer for your big crazy family and treasure all the time we have spent together. xoxox

February 07, 2011


at the beginning of 2011 I saw twitter feeds and facebook posts galore of “365 projects” done by other photographers meaning that they would take a photo a day and post it for the whole year – all I can say is god bless you. it’s not only that I don’t think I have the time for such a project, but I don’t have the desire. for me, I feel like I would just take a photo of basically nothing just to fill that days post – plus it’s been done… a lot. but what I do envy is that inevitably, projects like these make it almost impossible not to shoot photos of your everyday life – and it holds you accountable. 1 day a week – I thought to myself – THAT I can do and it will make me pick up my camera to actually shoot the goings-on in my life. so monday it is – and not wanting to be bland, it has a title: monday moments. each monday I will post something that for whatever reason, I’ve shot solely for me. some may hold a lot of emotion, some may just be visually interesting. but I will post it once.a.week! to begin this blog feature, I think it’s only fitting that we start with a MAJOR beginning. these photos are of our new space – the new home of gillette portrait arts. as you can see it is large – and light filled – and needs a little love……


I’ve always been a fan of clean slates and blank canvases – I’ve also been blessed to have more of my fair share of them. they are always accompanied with so much excitement and anticipation as well as the evil second cousin twice removed…. fear. maybe it’s because I’m a gemini or the way I was raised, but it’s easy for me to embrace change - but big, potentially life changing happenings can throw me in a panic or fill me with doubt and doom. so before making this move I talked to my friends – my sounding board – the people who have always known me better than I know myself. and I was told over and over “you’ve worked so hard” “you’ve been doing this for so long” “this is what you gave the palette up for” and the one thing I can never seem to wrap my head around “you deserve this”. because really – I don’t know of anyone who when they see their business grow and big things start to happen are totally cool with it, like they knew all along that it would go this way. starting anything new, whether it’s in business or life is taking a leap of faith with all of the associated risks and possibilities of failure – and I’ve been known at times to be a negative nancy. the day I opened the doors to the palette my friend alice, who sadly passed away shortly thereafter, gave me a magnet that read “leap and the net will appear” and it was so perfect for that morning and that beginning of an amazing journey. in fact, our new space was once home to alice’s book store and that alone means a lot to me.


so this morning was the moving of the big furniture and all of the canvases + framed photos. tomorrow kristie and I will play with where we’ll do what as far as a shooting area and client consultation seating as well as paint choices and basic decorating – the fun stuff.   oh! I forgot to mention that already there is a coffee bar – color me thrilled and utterly caffeinated! all day I thought how lucky I am to have kris as well as new additions mel & jillian (and of course my hubs who did all of the heavy lifting xoxo) – about all of the fun things we have planned for this space – about all of the clients over the 8 years of gillette portrait arts whose faith in us has lead us here. and as I sat on the floor of our new home all that kept going through my mind was written on that magnet that I had just unpacked and a thank you to my friend – I’m leaping alice!


so basically winter for a wedding and portrait photographer usually revolves around ALL of the “things you meant to do” the previous year, but were too busy to tackle. it’s also time for meeting and booking with new clients and THIS year it also entails moving to a new studio space and taking on several new members of our team as well as preparing for wppi and my first real vacation in almost 10 years. let’s just say that I’ve become a tad overwhelmed at times. being overwhelmed, for me, can manifest itself in several ways – either it’s challenging and empowering or it’s peppered with panic bordering on full fledged crazy – right now I think I’m somewhere in the middle, oscillating from one to the other. in these moments, I’ve learned – at least for me – if I can take a step back  from whatever it may be and make a mental list of 5 things to be grateful for as it pertains to said issue, then it doesn’t seem so big and scary. I don’t seek gratitude as often as I should and when I try it’s not always easy for me to find – but when it comes to my business it’s blazingly clear. it’s my clients – pure, simple and basic. yes I love what I do for a living and I love love Love the people who work with me – but at the end of the day if I didn’t have people in front of the camera… well, whatever would I do? and particularly in the type of studio we are, it lends itself to create not only amazing business relationships but true friendships – couples who grew into families of 3, and then 4 and even one family of 6! I have had the honor of documenting pregnancies, newborns, birthday milestones and the weddings of siblings. some of my closest friends started out as brides (and some grooms too!) so I thought I would dedicate several blogposts in the next couple of weeks to these amazing people and friends that I adore – I was looking for gratitude and realized I am truly blessed ……

so we’ re beginning with jenni + tim. I first spotted jenni, her girlfriends and her mom at my first wedding show as gillette portrait arts. I was clueless – apart from shooting some friend’s weddings and some smaller ceremonies on the beach at OC – I was a fine art portrait photographer. I didn’t have the information on my handouts that brides wanted to see or official albums to flip through – and I was terrified, so talking wasn’t really happening. thank GOD for my mother who came with me – “what?!” you may ask “you brought your mother with you?” yes I did – but you had to know my mother. I’ll be writing a post next week about both of my parents and you’ll get to know cornelia a bit better – but let’s just put it this way…. she’s wasn’t a shy woman. plus she had been in marketing and advertising my whole life. so when I saw jenni, I elbowed mom and said “I want to work with her” I just knew it from a place I would later recognize as an artistic instinct. when jenni & company got near my booth, mom turned it on and suddenly my little pamphlets and photos didn’t seem as pathetic and I was able to speak with confidence about photography – I may have not had all of the “stuff” but I knew how to shoot and connect with people. by the end of the show jenni had signed a contract and it was my first official wedding as a studio. (I also sicked mom on another couple that day and their post will be coming soon)  


jenni and tim had their wedding on a friend’s property only about 10 minutes from my house. it was a gorgeous day but ominous clouds lingered above – during the whole ceremony it looked like the skies could open any minute – but they didn’t. in fact, once I was with jenni and tim in a field of summer flowers, the sun actually came out. jenni looked skyward and said “thanks dad”.  her father had passed away from cancer and my mother had just been diagnosed so little did both of us know at the time how helpful jenni’s example would be for me when I was later married.


they told me on tapas night that they were expecting their first child – “oh my god!! we have to do a maternity session!!” I squealed and jenni indulged me :) rogan was born on may 30th, 1 day before my birthday and when I went to the hospital to see the new mama I had never seen her happier


can’t forget the original “kids” dogs bogey and kona






now baby number two I figured out by myself. as they were on most thursday nights, jenni and tim were seated by the dessert case as I came into the palette. I sat down with them and then realized that the table looked a little wrong – instead of jenni’s glass of red wine, there was what looked to be a sparkling water or soda – instead of the rare tuna she loved sat a cheese tray. “is that soda?” I asked, pointing to her beverage and when she looked at me, I knew. I hooted and I hugged and because the palette’s a small place with a lot of regulars who had come to know jenni, tim & rogan other tables joined in – of course my manager/friend and mother of 3 hope had already figured it out.


evan was born on november 1st – a mere 35 hours after jenni and I had our girls afternoon of lunch & pedicures


jenni & tim I love you and your family so much. I am so grateful to have you and your friendship in my life. I feel so lucky to be “aunt raye” to your beautiful boys and  will be honored to act as your personal paparazzi forever!

February 01, 2011


we finally got it together! hope is one of my closest friends and back in the early fall we had tried to get another session together with her and all of her kids – but with schedules being what they are and the fact that her youngest taylor was leaving for college, we did a mini-session of just her and taylor which you can see by clicking here. so when christmas break rolled around is was the perfect opportunity – the weather was VASTLY different but the love between one of my favorite families was awesome as always!


oldest jessie – the only child not to work at the palette with us


I asked all of them to give me the look that they wanted to give me on our busiest night at the palette where… shall we say… I could be a *little* bossy – yikes!! :)


moose – my executive chef extraordinaire



taylor – home from school and had a boyfriend at the session with us!


god bless moose – the lone male in a family of women – gotta love it!