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Iowa Maternity and Family Photographer

Ashley and David have become good friends to me over the past 6 years. Although I can't remember the first time I met them, I knew they were cool older college students, and yet I somehow scored an invitation to their wedding! It was a gorgeous day, and a sweet memory. Just a few years after that, they came to work at Iowa State...and I've been able to spend lots of time with them, through work and fun. David has introduced me to my favorite game (Codenames, seriously, you need this in your life!) and Ashley mentored me last year over lots and lots of coffee. It was SO fun to find out this spring that their family is expanding, and "Lil' Party" will be joining the crew in just a few weeks! We cannot wait to meet her (& find out her real name). These two will be fantastic parents, & it's going to be a sweet new season of life for them!

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West Des Moines photography
Ames Iowa family photos Ada Hayden

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Honey Creek Resort

Our staff team and the rest of our region headed to Honey Creek Resort at the end of September. I'd never even heard of the location, but it ended up being a highlight of the fall! Honey Creek Resort is right on beautiful Rathbun Lake (you can jet ski, kayak and paddleboard on it), there's a golf course, and a state park--all right there. Inside, there's a wonderful lobby for lounging, conference rooms, a sweet restaurant and bar, and best yet...a waterpark! Although it's built for families with young children, some of my co-workers and I enjoyed it regardless. ;) And outside, you'll run into lots of wildlife (we saw quite a few deer) and could explore for hours on end. Some of the girls, Sarah, Liz, Emily & I all went out to explore at sunset and I snapped a few photos out by the water. I definitely hope to go back soon and would recommend anyone looking for a weekend getaway to check out Honey Creek for your next trip out of town!

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wedding at honey creek resort moravia Iowa
wedding at Honey Creek Resort Iowa
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honey creek state park

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Celebration Farm Wedding || Katie & Jackson

Katie and Jackson's wedding day was beautiful, from start to finish. These two had been waiting for well over a year to get married--and excitement was in the air! Katie and the ladies were up early, happily getting ready at the home she grew up in, before heading over to the Celebration Farm!

Jackson and Katie's first look was so sweet--they wrote letters to each other and read them. I loved that! If any of my other couples want to do that...count me in! Also, it was a bit muggy and hazy from the wildfires happening in the country--but the clouds covered up the sun during the ceremony--which was so perfect. It made the heat more bearable for guests, and not squinting possible for the bridal party!

There is more I could share, but I'm going to just share the photos and let you enjoy this beautiful day for yourself!

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Dan & Danae's Engagement Session!

A few years back, I got a request from my friend Ben...he was getting ready to propose to Joria, his girlfriend, and one of my childhood friends. We set up a plan, headed out to Big Woods Lake one sunny afternoon, and the rest is history.

Now, just a few short years later, Joria's younger sister, Danae is engaged! She mentioned that her wedding will be "woodland" themed and wanted some of their engagement photos to fit that. Without thinking, I suggested Big Woods in Cedar Falls. It wasn't until we were out there that I remembered the connection to Joria's own engagement! I love when life intersects like that. :)

Dan and Danae are so sweet together. They were constantly affirming each other, holding hands, and saying sweet things! I'm excited to be part of their wedding--my first 2018 wedding, not even a week into the new year! It's going to be a fun day, I have a feeling. ;)

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Des Moines Senior Photographer \\ Sydney

Make no mistake
We’ll live while we’re young
We’ll chase down the sun...
Let’s live while we’re young
— Johnnyswim

It's been a dream of mine to shoot some epic senior photos in Des Moines for a while--and in August, it finally happened! I got an email from my dear friend Brittney's mom that her younger sister, Sydney, is going into her senior year of high school & they wondered if I did senior photos? OF COURSE I SAID YES! Senior pictures just happen to be one of my favorite things to photograph. We set a date and time, decided to meet in Des Moines, and prayed for good weather. As you will see, the weather was absolutely perfect!!! Golden light, a little breeze, and the feeling that summertime youth will never end.

I love just about every photo from Sydney's session! She made it so easy for me. Also, she came super prepared with 5 outfits, nails done, and even got her makeup done! (For real, airbrushed makeup is an AMAZING thing!!) However, I had to pick just a handful of Syd's photos for the blog post. Scroll through them below, and turn on some Johnnyswim while you do! 

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My fall schedule is filling up fast, but I do have a few week evening spaces in October and early November for family sessions or engagement sessions...2018 brides and seniors, I'm still booking for next year. Shoot me a note if you like what you see!

With love,
Amelia Renee

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Steven & Madeline's Wedding

I am so thankful to have been the one to document Madeline and Steven's first day of marriage! These two are beyond the best together, and I loved how joyful and God honoring the day was! The way Steven looked at Maddy all day, and the sweet way she always rested on him, shows the deep level of love and tender care they have for one another. These two tied the knot at Trinity Bible Church in Cedar Falls, and held their reception at the beautiful Old Fifty-Six Barn in Grundy Center!

Enjoy a few of my favorite moments and photos from their wedding day!

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Once the girls were all ready, we headed over to the first look location. Since their reception was at a barn, but too far away to get to before the reception, Steven and Maddy decided to have their first look at the barn where we shot their engagement photos! I love the consistency in that. Plus, it was a gorgeous spot!

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Vendors
Venue: Old Fifty-Six Barn in Grundy Center
Flowers: Bancroft Flowers
Caterer: Moment in Thyme
Event Planner: Ladybugs

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Cedar Falls Senior Photographer: Anna

Hello there! It's been a hot minute since I blogged--or really have done much of anything photography related, beside show up with a camera in hand at a session or wedding. August was CRAZY for me (two jobs make for a busy schedule!), but September is finally allowing me a little space to breathe again & get into a normal schedule. That means editing and blogging and new photos to share!! 

Anna is such a sweetheart. She runs for CFHS, and also enjoys hanging out with her friends when she isn't in class. Her older brother goes to ISU (Go Cyclones!) so while she doesn't quite know where she wants to end up after high school, I'm rooting for Iowa State. ;) Enjoy a few of my favorite photos from Anna's senior photos!

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Ames, Iowa Portrait & Wedding Photographer

Sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers
We’ve got to stand up for each other
Sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers
We’ve got to fight for one another
— Drew Holcomb

Summertime always flies by too quickly! This year, being in Ames allowed me to enjoy a slightly slower pace of summer (at times) and also take a lot more photos. My sister came to town and we decided to see Wonder Woman (SO GOOD YOU GUYS)—but beforehand, I stopped by a local field to take some photos with her. Ya know, gotta make those summer sister memories! ;) Also, don't you love that Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors shirt?! I'm maybe obsessed with that band (and Ellie Holcomb.)

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Love Always,
Amelia Renee

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Iowa wedding photographer: JP & Miranda

Better than I was
More than I am
And all of this happened
By taking your hand
— Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Miranda & JP are just too cute together! The evening of their session was full of slow wanderings around their rural Iowa town and countryside. We started off in a park, then moved to downtown Atlantic, and finally ended up out on JP's family's land! These two met on Valentine's Day (isn't that just adorable?!) and although sparks didn't fly that first night, over time, they became interested in each other and have been together ever since! Not literally—Miranda has been studying at Iowa State University, while JP has been working on the farm. He's a legit cowboy! That means there's a real good chance these two could be the Pioneer Woman & Marlboro Man of the midwest. ;) I'm excited to explore more of Atlantic with them when they get married in March!

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Love Always,

Amelia Renee

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Downtown Des Moines Engagement Photos

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Downtown Des Moines Engagement Photos

Can’t say how the days will unfold...
Can’t change what the future may hold...
But I want you in it,
Every hour, every minute.
— Grant Gustin

Megan and Kelly met up in Minneapolis in early 2015—in a bar, hit it off, and have been together ever since! I love that! How fun that they could totally star in a television show…they've already got the meet cute! ;) What I really love is what Megan told me in one of her first emails to me. "Kelly proposed to me on December 1, 2016 in New York City in Central Park during a carriage ride at night. Yep, pretty magical!" They will get married this December 1…an exact year from when Kelly proposed! Isn't that gorgeous!?

Since Kelly had to relocated to Des Moines for his job, we decided to shoot their engagement photos there. Megan will be moving down after their winter wedding in Ankeny, and then the distance part of their relationship will be over. I'm betting they are excited about that! Megan and Kelly really balance each other out in personality and interests. They enjoy vastly different music, for example…which I said means they just get to keep learning new things from each other! We started off at Grey's Lake in Des Moines, and then moved up to the Iowa Capitol building (and even found a rooftop to catch those last rays of sunlight!).

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That Des Moines skyline will forever have my heart! It's been a dream of mine to shoot engagement or wedding photos here at sunset—so glad these two were accomadting of that!

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Danggggggg girl—work it!

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Check back in December to see Megan & Kelly's wedding photos! I can't wait:)

Love always,
Amelia Renee

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Cedar Falls Family Photographer

One of the joys in being a photographer is that it's a natural way to connect with people…including friends from my high school days! It's wild to believe that my class graduated from Cedar Falls High seven years ago. What's even crazier, is that I haven't seen many of my high school friends since then. So much can happen in seven years, so when Annie emailed me about updating their family photos, I jumped on that! 

Annie married Josiah a year after we graduated, and they now have two adorable little boys! Their family is fun and caring—I could tell just how close they are when their oldest told me that his favorite superhero is his daddy. *cue all the heart eyes* It was a treat to shoot some family pictures for the Smith family…you just can't go wrong with cute little dudes in chambray, right?!

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Ames, Iowa Senior Photos

I hope your week is off to a good start—mine has been busy (I'm in-between apartments right now) so I'm staying with a friend, jamming out to boy band music and ready for some more coffee with my lunch! This senior photo session was a blast to photograph, and I'm excited to be blogging it today. Kelsie will be a high school senior this fall, and she's just so full of joy and life and giggles. It wasn't hard to be comfortable with her as we wandered the beautiful Iowa State University campus, and a gorgeous field just south of Ames, for her senior picture session. We even got to use some fun balloons (since she'll graduate in 2018)—although I did learn that you have to ask for helium at Hyvee—oops. Made for some extra laughs, though!

Iowa State University Senior Photos
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girl with fan in formal dress
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high school senior spokesmodel Iowa
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Love Always,
Amelia Renee

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Mason City Engagement Photos: Lindsey & Matt

Matt and Lindsey met last summer out in Colorado at Eagle Lake Camps. Lindsey wasn't interested in a relationship right away, but Matt was definitely smitten with her! It took some pursuit and prayer before they decided to move forward…but when Matt finally asked Lindsey to be his girlfriend in August on the top of her favorite hike at Glen Eyrie, she said yes with a kiss. ;) And, just 7 months later, Matt asked Lindsey a different question in that same spot…to which she said yes again!

This summer, Matt and Lindsey are again working for Eagle Lake, and so we made time to meet up in Mason City to photograph their engagement session. The evening was perfect, and they seemed to have fun! ;) After seeing how their images turned out, I'm even more excited to photograph these two as they marry in beautiful Silverthorne, Colorado this October! 

Clear Lake Engagement Session
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Outfit change….I loved Lindsey's long dress, and simple but gorgeous jewelry!

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Edge Corps: The Final Summit

I love these people—it is amazing to me, how a group of 60-100 souls can go from strangers to family in a short matter of time. Most of these (now) friends were strangers to me until just over two years ago in mid-2015…actually, I didn't meet many of them until November of 2015, or even May of 2016! We've only spent about 20-25 days together. That hasn't stopped deep friendships from forming (and some of those friendships have even turned to marriages). And one cute baby so far! ;)

Edge Corps class of 2015…thanks for being the best out there. It's been an honor and joy to serve on campus ministry staff with y'all, and I look froward to seeing some of you in November, Lord willing, and others of you around the country (or the world!!) throughout the rest of our lives!

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Ames Senior Photos \\ Lydia: Class of 2018

Lydia is one of my senior representative models for the class of 2018 in Ames, Iowa! That means that if you want a discount on your senior photos in Ames, or you go to Ames High School, this gal is your new best friend. 

It was a blast photographing with Lydia! She has lots of spunk, and lots of ideas. We started out getting some photos of her in her cowgirl hat on this old bridge…I love when we get to find hidden gems on senior photo sessions!

Ames Senior Photos
Top Ames Senior Photographer
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Next up: flower crown time! Lydia has a friend who makes flower crowns for special occasion, like prom (and senior photos)! It was gorgeous—I seriously wanted to steal it for myself. ;)

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flower crown Iowa Des Moines fashion Senior Photography
flower crown Iowa Des Moines fashion
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fashion photography iowa photographer

Lydia plays on the Ames high school tennis team, so we swung by the courts to grab a few photos of her in tennis gear. She's only been playing competitively for a few years, & she definitely must be the cutest gal out there…and the one having the most fun!

Ames Tennis girls High School little cyclones
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Ames Tennis girls High School little cyclones

2nd to last, we stopped at the Furman Aquatic Center in Ames. Lydia works there, and the management was gracious enough to let us come snag some photos of her in her weekly stomping grounds. She does a variety of jobs here, so we tried to capture the essence of a few of them!

Furman Aquatic Center Ames photos
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We finally ended the evening with a few more photos in a new dress…and more flower crown photos, of course! Lydia completely rocked her entire session, and I'm confident she'll do the same with senior year and into college.

fun senior photos adventures Ames
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lydia sturgeon ames iowa
summer senior portraits field Iowa flowers
Cedar Falls Senior Photos
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Flower Crown Senior Photos Cedar Falls
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Ames senior photo photographer
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girl with haybale senior photos
Ames senior photographer photos for class of 2018

Which photo did you like best? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Amelia

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4th of July in Ames, Iowa

This has been my first summer in Ames, and although it has been busy and mainly packed with work, there have definitely been some great moments! A highlight will definitely be going to the Reiman Gardens for the 4th of July celebration. They throw it the night of the 3rd, probably so that adults who attend can sleep in the morning of the 4th. ;) 

The gardens were crowded with hundreds of people, but there was still plenty of space on the lawns to set up blankets or lawn chairs. We brought in dessert and wine, and sipped while we wandered through the flowers and fun art exhibits. A band played music by the butterfly wing, and children ran around waving balloon swords and animals. It felt festive, but not overwhelming…the perfect mix!

Reiman Gardens Ames Iowa
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reiman gardens wine alcohol wedding 4th of July
Reiman Gardens Fireworks

The morning of July 4th, the city of Ames hosts a free pancake breakfast. City counsel members, firemen, and local police were around to chat with locals. The pancakes were tasty—but Chris Cakes always does a great job! After the breakfast, the parade hits the downtown and was lots of fun to watch, as well!

I loved getting to walk around, see a few friends, and observe local citizens all decked out in patriotic colors. This was a fun way to practice my street photography as well! Ames, you've done a great job…I can't wait for the 4th of July in 2018! 

Ames 4th of July Parade
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Ames 4th of July activities parade
Ames 4th of July activities parade
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Ames Iowa Downtown Ames

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Cedar Falls Senior Photography Session

Clare met me for coffee in April, and I just knew from the beginning that she was the kind of gal I wanted on my Senior Model team! [If you live in Cedar Falls or Waterloo & want a deal on your senior photos, mention to me that you know Clare!] This girl has a heart bigger than Texas, sees the Lord in the details of life, and cares about each and every person she encounters. Not only is her character amazing, but she is talented. She writes for the Tiger HiLine, the CFHS newspaper, and has been in theatre productions at Cedar Falls High School…where she will be a senior this fall! It was so much fun to photograph her senior photos…and I can't wait to see what adventures her senior year (and beyond) hold for her!

We started off wandering the downtown Cedar Falls area, found some beautiful flowers (one of her only requests!) and then finally made our way outside of town to chase the sunset. You just can't go wrong shooting in a field in June at sunset in Iowa! (Oh…and we ended with some 4-Queens Ice Cream!!) I hope that these photos capture just how joyful and sweet Clare is—of course, they don't compare to being with this gal, but maybe you can just pretend. ;)

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Mid-week encouragement for you

Let's get real today, ok?

I started my ‘business’ with a Canon Rebel, the kit lens, and a cheap 50mm lens. That’s it. I had a few basic pieces of equipment and a lot of dreams…and nothing else. I read the manual, I looked up FAQs and tutorials online, and I practiced. And practiced. 

Practice, and patience, and humility, are the keys to success. You've got to persevere, and there are days you won't want to. That's ok! But then you have to wake up the next morning, and decide, "Do I really want this?" If you do…then you keep going. Praying, sweating, and sometimes bleeding.

Progress is never easy. But, it definitly is worth it if you really want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Each person's gold is different! Yours might be making a difference in the world of sex trafficking overseas, or helping unwed mothers learn to parent well. Maybe your gold is giving back to your community through a thriving fitness center, or creating a space full of good food and coffee! Whatever your dream, keep pushing towards it, friends! Progress will happen.

I created this graphic from a quote I loved (and posted it on Instagram yesterday). Today, I felt the desire to share it here with you all today! Feel free to pin the below image on pinterest, or share it on social media—someone else might need a little encouragement, too! And just so you can see that progress does happen…below are some embarrassing images form my "just starting out in photography" days. And a few more recent ones. ;)

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I have a lot of feels about engagement sessions!!! Firstly, they're so much fun! What better than a date night that you get to dress up for and have adventures together?! But that's another blog post…this is about the quality of your engagement pics. ;) 

Below: the very first engagement pictures I took. Notice that their faces are pretty dark (you can't see the guy's right eye!), her swimsuit tan lines are visible, & it's definitely not a flattering pose. (Today, I'd have at least shot at a side angle…us ladies always like to look our thinnest/best!)

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Below: a photo from a recent engagement photo session in Clear Lake. This is a genuine moment—you can feel the joy on Anna's face! (Not to mention the natural lines in the background draw you in towards the couple, and the lighting and editing are much, much better!) 

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Below: on the left is a photo from my early days of portrait/engagement photos. The emotion is genuine (win!) but their face are actually not in focus (a big no-no in photography) and their faces are just a little dark for my taste. Also, Adam looks a liiiiiitle like he is choking Kassie. Oops!!!

On the right is an image from engagemet pictures the other night. The lighting and editing (it is usually a mix of both) is so much better, the pose is more natural, and they look like they are IN LOVE! Such a win for the good guys there. ;)  

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The next two images are from weddings. The top image is the wedding I photographed…I had basically no experience, and this was the shot I got of them leaving the church. Notice the hand and small child's head in the forefront of the photo…cringe!

The lower image was photographed at a wedding last fall in Des Moines. Similar lighting and exit…but I have such a better handle on how to use my camera, settings and editing—plus, where to stand to get the image so you can really see the bride and groom's faces!

bad beginnger wedding photos
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Finally, senior photos! Wow…I've come a long way!

On the left, one of my first portrait sessions with Naomi. We found a random bike that I thought would be "cool" to include. It could have been, and the composition is neat, but the photo doesn't really catch my attention. Her pose is also a little awkward…oops!

On the right, one of my senior spokesmodels from Cedar Falls! This was a candid moment, the wind caught her hair, and Clare was laughing about it. The lighting was soft on her face, the background is out of focus so that you look at her, and she is the lightest part of the image..another thing that draws your eye. (Don't you notice now how much your eye focuses on the white stairs in Naomi's photo!?)

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Clare-1118.jpg

 

That's all for today! I hope that this has been encouraging for all of you out there desiring to see progress in your work!
It may take time, but it will come if you keep working and learning!

Love always,
Amelia Renee

 

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My Summer Soundtrack

I remember when Spotify first came out. I was really just starting to listen to music—honestly, I mainly used CDs and the radio then!—and couldn't figure it out for the longest time. (I really liked Pandora in those days, because it introduced me to new music, and I don't think Spotify discover was around yet.) One of my favorite photographers posted about listening to Foster the People on Spotify via social media (I think???) and so I gave it a shot. It took a while, but I finally made the transition to Spotify about two years ago and have hardly touched any other music listening service!

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My senior year, I figured out that I could pay $5/month for Spotify Premium (student version)...and loved it. I tried going back to the free version, but man, it's hard! $10/month is really reasonable for unlimited music, being able to listen ad free, and even being able to download playlists! This last year, I've really dug into using Spotify Discover. My favorite thing is that each Monday, the personalized Discover playlist reloads! I've discovered a ton of music artists that I love. 

Summer always seems to bring new music on the radio, concerts in the warm evening air, and tunes that will remind you of "that summer when…" for years to come. If you love finding new car jams and tunes to sing to as much as I do, this is the post for you. Below, you can find some of my current favorite summer songs!


I Was Born— Hanson

Touching Heaven—Johnnyswim
This song (and band) came on my radar this spring, and I just adore them! They played at Wooley's in Des Moines, but I wasn't able to go. Someday, I hope, I'll get to see them live!

Bus Stop— Andreas Moe
I found this song via Spotify radio and it's one of those great tunes that you just immediately love! Andreas' sound is a lot like Ed Sheerin, just less known. ;)

Something Just Like This Coldplay & The Chainsmokers
You've most definitely heard this song on the radio, but it's catchy and fun. A classic band, and a new one. How does it get better?!

The Cure— Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is not always my go to artist, but this song is pretty good. Check it out!

Cumbia— GAWVI
I just want to dance to this song while the sun sets in South America. Or something. (Latin music is just in right now! Desperado anyone?!)

Yours if You Want It—Rascal Flatts
I listened to pretty much just classical, Christian, and country music in high school. Now, I listen to a much wider variety of tunes…but especially in the summer, I return to country! Rascal Flatts will always have a place in my heart, and I'm super excited that this song feels just like everything summer should, and sounds like classic Rascal Flatts. <3

I'll probably end up with a playlist at the end of the summer featuring these songs, and more that I come across over the rest of June and July. What songs have you discovered lately? I'd love if you share your current tunes in the comments so I can listen to them as well!

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Andrea + Gabe

One look at you; my whole life falls in line.
I prayed for you; before I called you mine.
I can’t believe it’s true...
I get to love you.
— Ruelle // I Get to Love You

Andrea and Gabe's wedding day has been a highlight of my summer! Although we hadn't met in person until their wedding rehearsal, the soon-to-be bride & groom made me feel welcome and at ease right away. Saturday dawned, and any chance of rain almost disappeared. It was a warm and sunny day…just perfect for June, and especially for taking wedding photos outside! I'm so thankful these two trusted me to travel to St. Paul, Minnesota to be capture their wedding day. 

Andrea and Gabe married in the chapel at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, their alma mater (where they met!). It was a sweet and simple day, full of kind people and lots of laughter. A highlight of the ceremony was definitely when Gabe played a song he wrote for Andrea…I don't know if there was a dry eye in the room! The reception was nearby at the New Brighton Community Center, for a late lunch, dancing, and Andrea surprising Gabe with brand new, matching ukelales! These two know how to love each other well! 
Shout out to Sue of Jubilee Flower Studio for doing an amazing job with the flowers! 

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