Late last year, my mom announced to the family that she was going to officially retire. For years, we’ve been telling her – just retire, you’re so old 😉 – jk, mom! But when it finally happened, it felt like more than just an end to her days of working – but the culmination of a lifetime of sacrifice to make myself and my two older brothers the people we are today. Over 40 years ago, my parents came to America from the Philippines to give us a life of opportunity. They lived in a tiny apartment, slept on cardboard boxes, and worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. They bought their first small house in Bensenville a few years later, and have upgraded houses twice in my lifetime, all the while giving us everything we ever needed – spending way too much on those Abercrombie jeans that I had to have in high school, paying for my college education, and still to this day always willing to give me the shirts off their back (or quite literally the purse in my mom’s hand if I like it).
So while this post isn’t photography related – I had to send some love to my mom and share with all of you how awesome she is. She’s an incredibly supportive mother – never missed a basketball or volleyball game in high school, and didn’t doubt me for a second when I told her I wanted to quit my desk job and pursue photography full time, which meant EVERYTHING to me. Having that support gave me the confidence I needed, and made me believe I could do it. She’s funny, strong-willed, and deserves every bit of free time that she now has (whether you spend it selling random things on Facebook or at the casino is up to you, mom!).
I’m so glad we completely surprised you with this dinner at Gene & Georgetti – even though Dad came a little too close to blowing the surprise a few times! We love you so much and just wanted you to know how much we appreciate everything you and dad have ever done for us… now we just have to get Dad to retire 😉
My oldest brother Oliver made these BEAUTIFUL center pieces, and the place cards and menus were designed by yours truly.
Although Christina + Tom grew up in neighboring suburbs and had several mutual friends, they didn’t meet until four years after college. Good old-fashioned kickball brought them together… and through mutual friends and a couple of seasons of post-game partying, Christina + Tom officially started dating in 2013. As they rang in the new year together last year… everything came together in the first few hours of 2017. Christina + Tom had just returned from dinner with friends, and as Christina did the dishes, she thought she heard Tom say something, so she yelled out, “Was there something you wanted to ask me?” And as she turned around, she found Tom – down on one knee, and he responded, “Actually, there is something I wanted to ask you…”
VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: Enzoani, Reddington Bridal | Bridesmiad Dresses Designer: Bill Levkoff, Reddington Bridal | Tuxedo Designer: Jos. A. Bank | Hair Stylist: Amanda Diedrich, Blohaute | Make-up Artist: Joanna B. Artistry | Wedding Coordinator: Veasna Kim, Ravenswood Event Center | Florist: Erin McLoraine, Life in Bloom | Cake Artist: Do-Rite Donuts | DJ: Style Matters DJs, Inc. | Paper Goods Designer: Ann Kate Design | Ceremony Venue: Queen of All Sants Basillica | Reception Venue: Ravenswood Event Center | Caterer: Ravenswood Event Center
I’m a little late to the game on this, but 2017 was an INCREDIBLE year. I’m a big believer of reflection, and taking the time to look back through some major moments to reminisce, learn, and laugh before moving on to the new year. Here’s a look back through the year’s highs and lows, and what I’m looking forward to in 2018 🙂
To start, I don’t think I’ll ever look back on 2017 and not remember NEW ZEALAND – the trip of a lifetime. The people we met, the food we ate, the incredible sights we saw… it was like a dream. Even looking back at the pictures now, they look fake.
Above: Lake Tekapo… just driving these winding roads with the incredible sights was my favorite. Every turn was something new and even more gorgeous.
Above: our favorite little cafe, I’m not even sure what it was called but it was between Mt. Cook and Queenstown and it was so good we ate there twice.
Above: the view of Mt. Cook from inside the lodge. Mt. Cook was my favorite place on earth. This tiny little town, surrounded by nothing but mountains.
Meghan (to the front desk): “Ummm, our cable isn’t working.
Front Desk: “Yeah, that’s because we’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains.”
Meghan: “Oh, okay thanks. Bye.”
Taking a ski plane to the top of this glacier, and then hiking around it tied to a bunch of strangers was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever done – and might ever be. I legitimately thought I was going to die on the tiny little plane (it was super windy and we were flying through peaks so the wind would take control of the plane every time we came around a corner). But it was SO worth it.
Bungee-ing in Queenstown – bucket list item ✓
There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe this trip (see more of what we did on the blog at http://bit.ly/2k3MsT6). But I am thankful for the incredible time we had, Meghan’s great company (Cuba 2018???) – I just can’t say enough about New Zealand other than, I want to go back NOW.
To come back from New Zealand after three weeks of being gone was bittersweet. I obviously didn’t want to leave all of NZ’s beauty behind, but it was nice to be home and not living out of a suitcase, of course wonderful to see my boyfriend and cat (I missed them so much!), and I also knew I’d be packing my bags again in just a few days and heading to Telluride for our annual ski trip.
This annual ski trip is one of my faves that I look forward to every year. ALWAYS a good time being surrounded by mountains with some of my favorite people! Next up in just a few weeks… Whistler! After Telluride, it was back to reality. It was great to be home and spend some time with family, friends, and of course get back to work photographing my 2017 couples!
This time at home/back to work also reminded me that I don’t have to travel the world to be filled with happiness… my housewarming party was incredible (we filled the condo with 45 people!), doing Chicago things, being Godmother to my nephew, Evan, Chicago street fests, concerts in the park… all was so much fun and in the comforts of my own city.
And when I wasn’t playing, I was working with the sweetest couples…
above: Zach and Worth got engaged over Fourth of July weekend!!!! Lots of work, sprinkled with trips to the cabin, a quick anniversary trip Charleston with Dan… oh, and did I mention a Seattle/Alaskan Cruise? Thanks, Granny!
And then I came home to more incredible weddings filled with firsts…
above: I’d never seen a bride/groom do the full dance from Dirty Dancing before (btw – they NAILED it).
above: I’d never had it completely downpour an entire wedding day, and beggggg Hotel Lincoln to let us shoot on their rooftop before it opened.
above: I also hadn’t shot at the Field Museum before – and it did not disappoint. It. was. EPIC. And of course, in between weddings and work – I filled it with being silly around Chicago/Northwoods with my loves.
Another first for 2017, I’d never been to Denver twice in one month, but most importantly, I’d never backpack camped in the mountains – I was super nervous, but with the help and guidance of Mountain Man, Dan – we made it 🙂 We even came back to Denver for a night to check another bucket list item off the list: see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
I also made it out to Philadelphia for the first time to photograph my cousin, Tiff’s Maternity Photos:
The fall was filled with tons and tons of shoots. I was busier than ever (it’s a good thing!), and come November – photographed my last two weddings of the year. I couldn’t have ended it better, Nikki + Grant felt like old friends – and Jen + Tyler ARE friends and I got to celebrate with them during Cocktail Hour/Reception while my associates took over 🙂
above: if you can’t tell by my face in the picture above – Jen + Tyler’s wedding was one of my favorite nights of the year! Then came December – which was filled with lots of time wrapping things up for the end of the year, focusing on time for myself/friends/family, and most of all – just doing things that made me happy. These things included: bowling, seeing the Acrocats, getting in the holiday spirit, holiday parties, and lots and lots of cheese and booze.
What a great year it was! I know I missed a ton – one of my resolutions last year was to take less photos and be more in the moment… which was good and bad. I definitely got to live in the moment a little more, but I also don’t have as many pics to look back on so… I miiiiiight try to take a few more pics in 2018 😉 But really, my favorite moments of the year, and of life in general – are usually the moments that aren’t ‘photograph worthy,’ but are the moments that are often overlooked. The quiet moments that were unplanned, the ones that just come together organically – and sometimes the ones where nothing is going on at all. I know for a fact I was pretty darn happy when it was just myself, Dan, and the two cats sitting on the couch. OH! How could I forget – 2017 also brought us a new kitty! Hence, I said TWO cats on the couch. We were/are fostering a cat to help out her owners who just had a baby, and in the middle of us fostering the owners said they didn’t want her back 🙁 So, we’re currently trying to work that out – she’s the sweetest cat but we’re waiting to see how she settles in with our Boyd – because if you know him, he’s a little rambunctious.
Anyway, some key moments that weren’t photographed/mentioned above but definitely have a place in my heart for 2017: Dan moved in. My mom retired. Dan and I got a shared workspace for DMH Woodwork and JTPhoto. Our condo is making progress. Ate some amazing dinners: Giant, Girl and the Goat, Au Cheval, BLVD, Scofflaw, Wasabi just to name a few. Plenty of game nights filled with Blokus, Cranium, Codenames, Slap Jack, Yahtzee, Boggle, Speed… so many good things.
Phew! 2017 – what a fun year. Now, time to look forward into 2018. Sharing goals is scary. It holds you accountable, it makes you vulnerable, and it makes it real. And as much as some of you probably don’t care – here I go:
- Finish the office/studio. My goal is to start hosting clients/shooting there by the end of February. Fingers crossed!
- Stay active, eat healthier. This is the first time I’ve actually started to notice myself getting older. I need to be more mindful of what I put into my body, and make sure I’m staying strong, healthy, and active.
- Finish the spare room in the condo. We recently made some big progress on this, but now the finishing touches!
- Knock out the fireplace/redo the living room.
- Redo my website, upload more recent photos from 2017.
- Hire more associate photographers.
- Branch into more studio photography: products, portraits, branding, etc.
- Put myself first (not all the time, but more often).
I could add two more goals to make it an even 10, but those would be arbitrary – and I want to focus on achieving these specific goals – not list out two more just because. If you’re still with me this far (I’d be surprised if you were), thanks for reading. I knew I wanted to write this blog for a few reasons. I wanted to write it to make sure I went back over the past year and remembered all the great things that happened. I think these days it’s easy to get lost in a world of comparison, being envious of what others have, ya know – the grass is greener mentality. But, I always want to be thankful for what I’ve been given. That being said, I of course had my share of downs this year, cried many tears of stress, anger, frustration, jealousy – nothing and no one is perfect. But when you choose to focus on the good and be thankful for that – life looks pretty great. And this little 2017 wrap up helped me remember why 🙂 I also wanted to share this blog/peek into my life for future clients – if you’re newly engaged/looking at my work – there are TONS of talented photographers in Chicago. Forget paging through hundreds of my galleries – you like my work? Great. Now let’s connect on a different level. Here’s to every single one of you making 2018 one to remember and filling it with things to be thankful for.
things got away from me with the holidays at the end of the year, but i can’t talk about 2017 (season wrap up coming next on the blog!) without mentioning jen + tyler’s incredible wedding. as their friend, i had the pleasure to photograph the first part of the day, then hand off the baton to my associates for the second half of the night so i could celebrate with them! it was so special for me to participate in their wedding day this way, and i’m excited to share some of my favorite moments… special thanks to team JTP (allie and nicki) for crushing the reception photos! congrats jen + tyler!!! hope these photos bring you right back to that amazing day!
VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Gown Designer: Theia (Devon), Lovely Bride | Tuxedo Designer: Black Tie Formalwear | Hair Stylist: Julianne’s Salon & Day Spa | Make-up Artist: Joey Claeyssen | Videographer: Rhys Ladhani Media | Florist: Flower Fantasy | Cake Artist: Urban Icing | DJ: DJ Chicago | Paper Goods: The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly | Ceremony: St. Josaphat | Reception Venue: River Roast
Nikki + Grant. What can I say about these two? Their engagement and wedding day were both SO fun to capture. Couples like these two are the reason I LOVE LOVE LOVE what I do and have an absolute blast doing it. I’ll keep this short because the photos are just stunning. From their smiling faces, to the decor and florals, to that deep red color that I love so much… this one was definitely a favorite of 2017 – and what a great way to bring our wedding season to a close. One of the last of the year, and it was a cooooold one, but everything was totally worth it. Nikki + Grant, I wish you all of the best and I hope to stay in touch in the future!!
I spent some time with Katie + Jake in Roscoe Village during their Engagement Session. We wanted to capture their new neighborhood together so we started the cold day in their apartment with their pup and walked a few blocks around their place. Katie and I have been talking about me photographing their wedding for years now, so when their date was set and we found out I was already booked – I was heart broken. BUT, I can definitely say she’s in good hands with another JTP Photog, Nicki, – and I love that I still get to be a part of Katie + Jake’s day behind the scenes, will be working on the photos after the wedding day (pretending I was there celebrating with you, of course), and that I got to (at least) shoot your engagement! so so so happy that you’re “gonna have your own JTP photos” now, katie 😉 hope you love the photos and can’t wait to see pics from the wedding next year!
Emily is a high school senior from a small town in Michigan. Emily, her mom, and grandmother all came down to Chicago for a fun weekend and to snap some senior portraits – and we had so much fun! She loves the city, and hopes to make her mark on it next year in college. Her vibrant, outgoing personality will definitely do just that – you will thrive in Chicago! Emily, I’m so excited for you! This is such a special time in your life – so many doors are about to open for you, and I know you’ll take advantage of every single one! Best of luck to you, and ps. you look gorgeous in all of your pics (and in real life!).
Jackie + Colin didn’t let a little rain derail their plans – they decided to just go with it. To shoot their engagement session, rain or shine, cold or hot – nothing was going to stop them from having a blast. Nicole took them over to the Lincoln Park South Pond area and found the cutest little pockets of fall colors. They capped off the session with drinks on the J. Parker rooftop – and I just love the way these all turned out. Not many couples are willing to brave the rain, so Jackie + Colin – extra points to you (AND to Nicole for shooting in the rain!)! I think these turned out super special, unique, and so so beautiful – I hope you love them! Here’s to hoping for some sunshine on the wedding day, now 😉
Ada + Charlie met at McGee’s at a school social event. Ada started chatting with Charlie thinking he was also a student (even though he was just hanging out there with some friends) – and Charlie didn’t really tell her otherwise 😉 It’s a good thing he didn’t because look where that small talk got them! Throughout their relationship, they’ve become regulars at their favorite restaurant in Chicago, Ada Street. They travel in all the way from Arlington Heights to frequent this hot spot – so what better spot to spend their engagement session than exploring the area around it and ending with a few cocktails (a sidecar to be exact – Ada’s favorite!). Ada + Charlie, thanks for sharing your spot with me – I love how these turned out and can’t wait for the wedding next year!
This one slipped through the cracks of the busy season and never got blogged – which is silly because it’s one of my favorites – not just of the year, but EVER. It was my first time shooting at the Field Museum and oooooh boy could I shoot there every single day. Ashley + Vince, you know how I feel about you guys – love you both, you’re the sweetest… your day was nothing short of a Party with a capital P. We’ve already talked and I know you love the photos (yayyy!), but I still wanted to share a few of my faves on the blog. All the best to you guys – and I hope this isn’t the last time our paths cross!