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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!

flatlay product photographer iowa best music of summer 2017

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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Iowa Senior Photographer: Sneak Peeks!

I am so excited to be photographing so many wonderful seniors this summer and fall! If you are looking for senior pictures in Cedar Falls or Ames (or really…anywhere in Iowa!) I would love to chat with you. I believe in senior photos be personal and fun and an experience where you walk away feeling loved and beautiful. (Or handsome, if you're a guy.)

Senior photos capture such a special time in life—the end of your youth, and the beginning of new things! Like college, and all those AP tests. ;) Let's celebrate your senior year…and life!…together!

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Ames, Iowa Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer in Ames, Iowa (Ledges State Park)

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Summer Giveaway Winner!

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Summer Giveaway Winner!

Wow! I was blown away by the number of you all who entered the giveaway! It was so fun to hear your favorite summer drinks…I may be adding a few new drinks to try this summer. :)

amelia renee photography coffee

For this little contest (although can I really call it that?!), I entered each name into a spreadsheet by entry time. Them, I used a random generator to output a number, and each number corresponded with the winner. Without further ado, this winner of the Mini-Session is….

Alycia Smith!

summer giveaway winner
 

Congrats to you, girl! I'm excited for us to find a time this summer or fall to hang out & make some fun photos and just have a blast together! Shoot me an email, and we will start planning your session. :)

And the two winners for coffee giftcards are...

Heather Loftus and Merci Day! Woo-hoo! Just email me via my contact page, and tell me your address and coffee shop of choice if you're in the CF/Ames area…or your pick of coffee chain if not. :)

Thank you to everyone who entered—it was so fun for me to get to do this!

And, be on the lookout for some FUN senior sessions on the blog in the next few weeks! I'm so excited to have an awesome team of Senior Model gals to represent me to their schools this year! These ladies are just a blast, and you'll all want to be best friends with them, too. ;)

 

Love always,
Amelia Renee

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Ames Engagement Photography: Joelle + Kyle

Hey pretty lady won’t you come my way
We got nothing going on today
I got two arms and you belong in the middle
I’ll be the big spoon if you’ll be the little
— Grover Anderson, "Little Spoon"

Joelle and Kyle bring out the best in each other. Kyle is the tall and steady to Joelle's shorter & spicier self. (I'm short too…so I think I can say that! ;) I've known Kyle since we spent a summer in Florida with 150 other college students from the midwest, and I met Joelle when I transferred to Iowa State. It was so much fun to hang out with them in May on the perfect summery evening and photograph their engagement photos in Ames! I can't wait for their wedding this September. Joelle told me they want it to be fun, yet relaxing and homey. If anyone can pull that off, these two can!

I love growing and experimenting as an artist…so I asked Kyle & Joelle to humor me. I love the rich look of these next few photos!

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Finally, we headed downtown Ames to finish up their engagement photos in a more urban setting!

Des Moines award winning wedding photographer

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June GIVEAWAY!

That's right, you all—I'm so excited that it is summer (and that everyone seems to be in love & either getting engaged or married!)…so I'm hosting a sweet little summer giveaway! One of the fun things about being a wedding photographer in Iowa means enjoying warm weather with couples in love. I want to treat my blog readers, and anyone new here, to the chance to win some fun things!

This is for any of you! Are you engaged? (Or almost?!) Or, are you still single and mingling, and ready for some summer fun? Either way, you're able to enter!

 

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GIVEAWAY DEETS!
-One winner will receive a free Mini-Session! (Cedar Falls/Ames/Des Moines area)
-Two winners will receieve giftcards to the coffee shop of their choice (some limitations may apply).

Ready to enter?! Here's how it works!

  1. "Like" Amelia Renee Photography on Facebook, tag one friend in my Facebook post, and then comment on this blog post with your favorite drink in the summertime. (Mine is usually an Arnold Palmer!) 
  2. Extra entry: click "share" on my post from Facebook (make sure it's set to public, so I can confirm that you've shared it), and comment here that you did that below.  
  3. Extra entry: Instagram the Giveaway graphic (tagging me @ameliarenee!) and then comment below for each entry—with a link to your post!
  4. I'll enter each entry (I'll check & use each eligible comment on this post) in to a spreadsheet, and randomly draw the name of the winner next week!

 

The contest begins now, and you have until Monday, June 12, at midnight CDT to enter! The mini-session can be used towards a family, anniversary, senior, or engagement session (…really, anything you can dream up)!

Good luck, and I'll share the winners next week! :)


You thought I was done?! THERE IS MORE EXCITING NEWS!
Brides—I am SO excited for the 2018 wedding season, that I'm offering $100 off for any new 2018 wedding bookings this month! 

If you know a bride-to-be, share this with her! If she books me (make sure that she tells me she heard about the June special from you!), you'll get a special little Thank You gift! 

Basically...

summer giveaway

That's it for today, friends!! Can't wait to see who wins next week!


*15 unique persons must enter for contest to be valid* 

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Scenic Route Bakery + Asian Fusion= love

Des Moines Engagement Photography:
Naomi + James 

Naomi and James met in college at Northwestern in Orange City. Together, they make a kind and quirky pair! After graduation, these two packed up their dorm rooms and met me in Des Moines for their engagement session. We started out at Scenic Route Bakery, wandered around downtown, took a few photos in front of the Iowa State Capital, and even teased the rainclouds a bit with an umbrella! Naomi and James were so much fun—I don't think we stopped laughing and talking their entire session…so much so, that I drank two tumblers of water at dinner! (Check out Tacopocalypse for the best Asian-Mexican fusion I've ever had.)

Naomi and James will be moving to Omaha after they get married—and have dreams of loving on low-income families, youth in the community, and probably every person they run into. ;) I have no doubt they will do just that!
They get married in Omaha in September and I. Can't. Wait!!!

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Garden of the Gods Photography

Friends. 

This crew of humans are just a few of the fantastic folks I've had the pure pleasure to meet during my time working with campus ministry. We headed to the Garden of the Gods to take some photos…and shoot. They all could have modeled for careers instead!

Here's some "fashion inspired photos" (and some goofy ones) from our time out in Colorado Springs. Yeah? Yeah.

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Des Moines Engagement Photographer \\ Elizabeth & Chris

It's always fun to find out someone you know is engaged. It's even more fun when you find out…and had no idea they'd been dating someone! Haha! That's exactly what happened here. I've known Elizabeth and her family since childhood. Her younger brother is getting married in August, and I'm photographing his wedding (so excited!). One evening, I was at Wal-Mart, on a late night grocery run, and out of the blue got a text from Elizabeth asking if I was free this fall for her wedding. I was shocked, but thrilled! Fun to find out she'd been seeing Chris, and they'd gotten engaged early this winter. Now they're getting closer to their September wedding, and I can't wait to photograph it in Des Moines!

Since Chris lives in Omaha, we coordinated their engagement photography session for a weekend that he was already visiting Elizabeth in Des Moines. Her one request was that we do their engagement photos at the Des Moines Farmer's Market! I was pumped—it'd been on my bucket list to go, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. We figured out the May 6 was the opening morning…and so we put it on the calendar and prayed against rain. ;) Sure enough, it was bright and sunny! 

We started out their session at the gorgeous Iowa State Capital building…and then moved downtown to the Farmer's Market. There are loads of fresh flowers and bouquets, so Elizabeth convinced Chris to buy her some. Plus, they work great for photos and brightening up an apartment, right?! ;) So…totally worth it!

These two are planning to show off their favorite photos at the reception (I can't wait to see how they use them for decor!) so I'm blogging just a few favorites. Hope you enjoy them!

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Colorado Fashion Shoot

Ok…this wasn't actually a fashion shoot. But it could have been! These friends are all super stylish and secretly models (I'm pretty sure of that!). These are just a few of my favorite frames from our time doing "fashion photography" at Garden of the Gods. ;) More (with some rad color shots!) coming soon!

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Clear Lake Engagement Photography | Anna & Jordan

Jordan and Anna met in college at North Dakota State University (Go Bison!). Jordan remembers seeing Anna at the first meeting for a ministry group, but they didn't actually begin to get to know each other until they both joined leadership the next year. They've been dating for a few years now, and last fall, Jordan proposed to Anna over Thanksgiving break—it was just them, sweet, simple and perfect, if you know either of them! 

Anna and I became friends through our jobs in college ministry. She's been the best person to be honest with…or weird with! Anna brings out my quirky side (I recently "meow-ed" at her for no apparent reason…even to myself!). It's just so easy to be comfortable with her! Since she's such a dear friend to me, it was a joy to have her ask me to be her wedding photographer. Anna and Jordan live up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so we compromised and met halfway in Clear Lake, Iowa for their engagement photography session! It was pretty chilly, but that just gave them more reason to snuggle close. ;) (We even got a few photos outside the classic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake!) Enjoy their engagement photos! And look forward to this fall...I can't wait to photograph their beautiful garden wedding this September in Minneapolis!

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Friday Fun!

 
fun wedding photography des moines

Photography by Rachel Nerison

Happy Friday, friends!

I did an introduction & some fun facts about me over on my Instagram the other day, then realized I hadn't done that here in a while! If you don't have Instagram, I'm reposting those facts (and adding a few more)! If you do have Insta but don't follow me—let's be friends there! :) 

In case you didn't know, I am a wedding and senior portrait photographer serving Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Falls and anywhere in Iowa (or the world)!

1. I'm 5'1" on a good day. I just bought my first sandal wedges (pictured left) and I think they are going to change my life! I may wear them to every session this summer...

2. Ranunculus are my favorite flowers, but I've never actually seen or had any in real life. Mainly, I just pine over them on Pinterest and Instagram posts. (I've realized that I might have photographed some in bouquets without knowing it, though!)

3. Adoption & foster care are two of the biggest things on my heart. I dream of welcoming in many children to my someday home! 4 to 7 kids (total…biological and adopted) is my dream.

4. I lived overseas as a kid (Japan and Germany!) and am itching to get back. Anyone need a travel buddy?! Other places I dream of traveling: Hawaii, South Africa, Thailand, China, and Canada!

5. I love coffee but sometimes, it just doesn't love me. Most days, I'll just settle and order decaf. Or, I'll grab tea. Rose tea from Stomping Grounds in Ames was my absolute favorite tea, but they discontinued it. Green tea with lemon or camomile are close seconds.

6. Favorite colors are over-rated. (That's how I say I'm indecisive and can't pick just one.) Can I just say glitter is my favorite color?!

7. I rarely get comments on my blog…but comments make. my. day. Leave me a comment below and share a fun fact about YOU! 

I'm heading to Colorado for 10 days after a 7am engagement session tomorrow…so I may be quiet here for a week or so. However, I'll be shooting an engagement photography session at the Des Moines Farmer's Market (the opening day, no less!) so get excited to see those photos soon!!! 

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Rachel & Geoff | Des Moines Anniversary Photos

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Des Moines is such a gorgeous city, and springtime might just be the peak of that beauty. If you've ever been to WaterWorks Park in Des Moines, you'll agree with me! The cherry blossoms on the trees make it seem as if you're living out a fairytale. (Or, maybe walking through a perfume factory?!) I love shooting weddings and engagements in Des Moines, which will be definitley happening this summer. However, this was an anniversary session!

 

My time with these two was short and sweet—but full of fun and sass! If you're married and don't have kids yet (or do!), an anniversary session is the perfect way to have a memorable date night. Get dressed up, and kiss a lot…what else could be better?! ;) Plus, you'll cherish photos that document your love as it grows and deepens. If you're looking for something fun to celebrate around your anniversary (or any other time), consider this for your next date night!

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Rachel wanted a few new headshots, so we snuck those in on the end—opting for the bright pink trees! I love how they turned out. :) Here are two of my favorites!

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Waterloo Family Photos \\ G Family

I've been able to do 2 sessions of this family (last spring's here!) and it has been just a blast to watch Emma grow up! This was my favorite session. Not only was the light and weather perfect, but Emma is talking and old enough to really have fun with. ;) She let me pick her up at the end of the session and actually didn't want to let go! Hahaha kids really are the best thing.

I am so glad that Katie suggested doing photos out by the bluebells! The Katoski Greenbelt Trail is known for its carpet of tiny blue and purple flowers in Cedar Falls and Waterloo. People come from all over to take strolls, picnic, or take family and even wedding photos among the bluebells! We definitely caught them at just the right time, too!

If you're interested in a family photo session of your own, I would love to connect with you! Just shoot me an email via my "contact" page up top.

Des Moines family photography, Ames family photography, Cedar Falls family photography

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Dress for the Sesh: Engagement Photos!

Are you planning your engagement photos and wondering what to wear? Sometimes it can be overwhelming when trying to come up with 2 or 3 outfits for not just you, but your fiancé as well! Today, I'm going to share some tips about dressing for your engagement photos—with some examples from my past couples! (And I might just throw in a few things I'd love to see on my brides and grooms this summer during engagement portraits! I love styling, and most likely your photographer does as well, so always feel free to ask for advice or feedback before a session!)

1. Do dress up! This is one time where you can get as fancy as you want, and have good photos to prove it! ;) Go big or go home, right? Plus, most of my couples have at least two outfits (sometimes three!) to wear for their engagement session. Bring a formal outfit, and then something a little more casual or even everyday—I can guarantee it'll add some confidence to be dressed up and looking good! Ladies, consider a longer (formal or not!) dress for one of your outfits. They're classy, elegant, and look good on anyone. Plus for us shorter gals, they make us look a little taller. ;) Pair them with an awesome pair of heels or wedges & bam! You'll look amazing!

BONUS! I'd LOVE to see one of my brides wear this for an epic engagement shoot this summer! Click on the image—it's from Lulu's and would be a stunning buy!

BONUS! I'd LOVE to see one of my brides wear this for an epic engagement shoot this summer! Click on the image—it's from Lulu's and would be a stunning buy!

 

2. Do accessorize! I love when gals incorporate a favorite scarf, hat, blazer, or statement necklace! It just adds a fun "pop" of color & fun! For guys, watches, ties, suspenders, hats, or even vests or blazers (we'll get to that in a minute!) are some great ideas. 

(Above, Brittney did a great job of wearing bright sandals, a complementary cardigan, & simple but standout necklace! You could modify this even more, and the guy could wear a patterned shirt to add even more style.)

(Above, Brittney did a great job of wearing bright sandals, a complementary cardigan, & simple but standout necklace! You could modify this even more, and the guy could wear a patterned shirt to add even more style.)

BONUS IDEA: incorporate a blanket, or other fun prop! This neutral-toned blanket was perfect for warm snuggles. 

BONUS IDEA: incorporate a blanket, or other fun prop! This neutral-toned blanket was perfect for warm snuggles. 

3. Don't try to match…but do complement with your outfits! You can tie in the same colors with various prints and accessories…or you can choose complementing colors and prints. Also, neutral colors are "in" right now (minimal and all that) which I personally like wearing (espeically in the winter)—but if you pick neutral/dark colors for one outfit, maybe pick something with fun color for your second!

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(Above, Rachel and Nick's outfits are some of my favorites—and this was a few years ago! The vibrant colors and mixed patterns they chose were so fun and played well off of each other.)

(Above, Rachel and Nick's outfits are some of my favorites—and this was a few years ago! The vibrant colors and mixed patterns they chose were so fun and played well off of each other.)

Note: Be careful with really thin stripes or checks. They sometimes photograph weird! Lauren's shirt was just fine, and I also highly suggest pairing patterns (like plaid, floral, or polka-dots) with solids or other prints for added texture (instead of just wearing plain t-shirts)!

Note: Be careful with really thin stripes or checks. They sometimes photograph weird! Lauren's shirt was just fine, and I also highly suggest pairing patterns (like plaid, floral, or polka-dots) with solids or other prints for added texture (instead of just wearing plain t-shirts)!

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4. Utilize layers! Especially if you're shooting in the early morning (when it can be cool), a jacket, blazer, vest, or even a flannel can be just the thing. I've yet to have one of my grooms wearing a blazer, but I've seen it done & it can bring a whole new level of class! (Maybe that will change this summer...)

5. Be YOU! Pull in pieces that photograph well, but also reflect your personality, fashion sense, and interests! Make sure to wear clothing that makes you feel confident. So, don't wear a strapless dress if they make you feel uncomfortable! Also, know what flatters your body type and coloring. If you're a redhead, probably don't wear pink. If you're like me, I know that my skin tone is more yellow than pink & bright yellow is just a weird color for me. Also, in general, more fitted clothing is more flattering! 

That's it for now! What did you find helpful? What questions do you still have?! I would LOVE to hear your thoughts/questions in the comments—leave one below! And for you families and seniors, I'll be posting a similar blog post in the near future!

With love,
Amelia
 

 

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Ames Prairie Moon Winery Wedding: K & J

Touch my soul and hold it tight
I’ve been waiting all my life
I won’t scar your young heart
Just take my hand.
— Tori Kelly

Oh, where to begin! These two. Katie and Jake met at Iowa State through the same campus ministry. At first glance, they appeared opposites. He was, through and through, a farm boy. She was also from a small town, but had dreams of moving overseas. Jake is tall. Katie is …not short, but not as tall as Jake. ;) Jake started off quiet, Katie's personality matches her brilliant hair. 

However, the Lord had plans for these two! Katie recruited Jake to go overseas one summer (to Mongolia!). They started hanging out, talking, and the mutual interest grew. Surprise, surprise—they started dating. And got engaged! And that brings us to a month ago. March 18, 2017. The day Katie and Jake married, surrounded by their family and best friends…including a few from around the world! It was a day to celebrate…but first…everyone had to get dolled (and guy'd) up. :)

Next up: the first look. Oh, it was sweet! Also, even though the sun was harsh and the wind just as harsh (in a cold way)…we found a spot at the reception location, Prairie Moon Winery in Ames, and it was just perfect for the big reveal!

On to bridal party portraits! I am going to be real—March is a hard month to make pretty portraits. Everything is still dead, and you don't know if it'll be warm or snowing. I knew campus would at least provide us a few options for open shade, and some evergreens. Iowa State's campus is never a bad choice…it's always gorgeous! ;)

We headed back to warm up inside (it doesn't look it, but it there was a bitter wind.) The musicians began to warm up, the girls put finishing touches back on their makeup, and the ceremony began!

Post-ceremony, everyone heading next door to Prairie Moon. White Willow did an amazing job with the decor—all the greens and white tones were perfect. Katie & Jake's wedding party also did a great job on their entrances. (After being a bridesmaid in 3 weddings, I can attest to how hard it is to come up with fun things to do in the two seconds you think about it before walking in front of 300 people!!)

Cake cutting. Jake's mom put (plastic) spiders in their cake. It was great!

We snuck out to grab a few more portraits in the golden light, around the winery. I narrowed it down, but it was hard! These two rocked it.

Oh—you thought we were done? NOT EVEN CLOSE! Y'all …these two are getting about twice what I normally give out for weddings! This is a new record for me, blogging-wise, and otherwise. Maybe I'm just going to overshoot my 2017 weddings this year? Bring it! Too much pretty!

Vendor Details
Ceremony: Christ Community Ames
Reception: Prairie Moon Winery
Catering: Hickory Park
Videography: Jason & Emily Stuhrenberg
Katie's Dress: Orange City Chrysalis
Bridesmaid's Dresses: Sarah Wood
Event Coordinator: Taylor H. at White Willow Events
 

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Greenhouse Portraits | Jordyn

Where better to go when you want it to be spring, but Iowa isn't quite over winter, than a greenhouse!? I stumbled upon this darling Antiques & Greenhouse shop last summer—it is full to the rafters (literally) with treasures! This sweet space is the only place I buy my succulents (and they've got plenty of mugs and pots to pick from, too). If you ever need a place to wander and relax…or are looking to purchase some plants or fresh flowers, give them a try. Apparently, they have baby goats and ponies in the springtime…I'm hoping to go back and give them a visit soon!

Jordyn cultivates such a unique style. It's very "skater/minimalist/artist" and I just knew the Greenhouse would provide a beautiful contrast to her style. This was our first time working together on a shoot, but Jordyn was fantastic. I'm hoping we can collaborate again in the future! 

I'm now booking Senior Portraits for the Class of 2018! If you want to take part in your own unique shoot, connect with me via email.

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Little Man

A baby is born with a need to be loved - and never outgrows it.
— Frank. A. Clark

I spent an afternoon with this sweet little guy. His dark curls snagged my heart the first second I saw him, and we had the best of times together! Babies are truly my first and greatest love, so it a treat to get to know this one. He is definitely loved & the sweetest thing! If you have a baby (or babies!) I'd love to spend time playing with them, snuggling them, and maybe even photographing them!!

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Winter Reads

This winter hasn't been ideal for reading, in that it has been so warm! I could have used a few more snowstorms to ensure a cozy reading day…or two. Good thing that hasn't stopped me yet! The local public library is probably one of the most dangerous places for me. I could spend all day there, reading my time away. Growing up, my dad would always say, "You can waste your whole life watching movies." It's true. I know I could do that! But it's even easier for me to spend all my time reading. I have to be careful! It's been a learning process, and now I know to only get a few books at a time. Otherwise, bedtime gets pushed back until way too late!

Anyhow, maybe you're looking for some book recommendations. If that's the case, you're at the right place! I've been reading a mix of literature and non-fiction. Comment if you've read one of these books…or if you have any suggestions for my next trip to the library! And keep an eye out for my mini-reviews on Instagram, using the hashtag #ameliareneereads!

1. First up, "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini. Oh my. This book was fantastic. I found it on the Book Club shelf, and my eyes gravitated to it after realizing the author wrote "The Kite Runner." (I read that over the summer on my way to Mongolia, and am still trying to get the guts to watch the film.) I loved the mystery of not knowing the characters at the beginning, the interwoven stories, and the bittersweet ending. This book also covers many years, which helps me understand the history of war-ravaged Afghanistan (alongside a few of the other books you'll see below!)

2. Oh my—"The Dressmaker of Khair Khana" by Gayle Lemmon. This is one of the two non-fiction book I've decided to highlight! It's written so well, you'd think it was a novel. When the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996, overnight life changed for women. They were unable to work outside the home and attend school. This is the incredible true story of women who fought for their livelihoods, families, and freedom. An inspiring story, Kamila (the dressmaker) is a woman who changed her neighborhood and world.

3. There might be a theme in my reading tastes lately, huh? ;) This is another true story—biography style. I read this book FAST, and really want to re-read it again, more slowly. "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" is the fascinating story of a young man who grew up in a conservative Muslim home. Over many years, through conversations, and research (in which he discovers hard things about his background) he comes to a point of asking this key question: "Who are you, Lord?" 

4. I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time, on the Instagram recommendation of another photographer! Last time I'd checked, the Ames Public Library didn't have it. Stumbling on "Station Eleven" in the Book Club section, I was more than thrilled! I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic literature, so this was right up my alley. However, it felt a lot more realistic than some! Emily St. John Mandel writes in a back & forth way between characters, allowing you to see multiple sides and yet not understand the full picture until the end. Wonderful for keeping you on the edge of your seat!

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