The past two years, we’ve tried to start a tradition of camping somewhere new. Last year, we kept it local to Starved Rock/Illini State Park. But this year, thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, we took our camping trip out west to Colorado to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. No car camping (last year was a baby step for me since I’d never been camping before!). This year, we put everything on our backs and hiked into our campsite – Pine Ridge (about 1.5 miles uphill from this parking lot). I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty nervous about it – but Dan is a pro-outdoorsman so if there’s anyone I’d follow blindly into the woods – it’s him.

It was pretty cloudy/rainy the whole drive in from Denver, so I was not looking forward to hiking in and setting up camp, but as we parked and got set up to go… the skies cleared (sort of) and this beautiful rainbow appeared. It was the perfect sign to let me know everything was going to be okay.

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As we hiked in, we were battling against the dark. Our flight out of Chicago got delayed, so we arrived a few hours later than we had originally planned. We needed to get to our campsite and set up before dark, so stopping for pictures was NOT encouraged by ranger Dan – HA! Good luck not letting me snap at least one pic. And of course since I was taking one, he decided to sneak one in, too.

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JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0003.jpgThis was home for the next three nights. It doesn’t look like much, but it was AWESOME. We had the entire campsite to ourselves 🙂 And we lucked out that this particular site had a privy (otherwise we were fully prepared and came with a shovel)!

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Yep, this is where we pooped for three days. I know it seems awful, but when I was expecting to be digging holes all weekend – this was a very welcomed LUXURY!

 

The next day we explored the area near our campsite (actually behind the privy). We climbed up the rocks pictured on the left to enjoy this view and some snacks. After our little break, we hiked up to Ouzel Falls for a light hike. This trail was pretty touristy, but still gorgeous. I’m a sucker for streams and the sound of running water, and I was feeling a little under the weather so this was the perfect easy hike for day 1. The best part was our little chipmunk friend, Alvin, that ate nuts right out of our hands… he later returned to haunt us/steal our trail mix while we were napping in the hammock.JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0005.jpgJillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0007.jpgJillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0006.jpgJillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0010.jpg This was right before I got stuck and had nowhere else to go…
JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0008.jpgThen Dan, of course, showed me up and walked across the higher, more dangerous log over the stream (left). Oh, and that hammock was AMAZING. I could sleep in that thing every day of my life. Those smiles are pure happiness (of course, this was pre-chipmunk messing with us and stealing our snacks).JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0009.jpgThe next day we spent pretty much the whole day hiking up to Finch Lake (~8 miles round trip). On the way, we saw a cow and a calf, and barely any people – which was nice. The only people we saw were 3 locals and they were surprised we had found that trail since not many people take it –  which is always a good sign to us! It was a pretty tough hike, so we set up the hammock for a little nap/snacks. Photo cred for the picture below goes to a tree branch. I hung up my camera and took it remotely from my phone. I’m surprised it turned out because it was SO windy that the camera was swaying back and forth (note my hair).JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0013.jpg
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We had such a fun time – I LOVED unplugging from the world and getting back to nature. Can’t wait for next year’s trip! Does anyone have any suggestions?? Leave your favorite camping spots in the comments below and/or hike recommendations… I’d love to hear what y’all are exploring!JillTiongcoPhotography-PersonalBlog_0015.jpg

My friends Ashley + Nick are just the cutest, and they have the cutest story to go with that. They’re high school sweethearts – first loves that went their separate ways during college and young adulthood, only to find their way back to each other years later (thank you LinkedIn!) and immediately fell back in love. Ashley + Nick, I’m SO SO SO honored to be there with you on your wedding day, not only as your photographer – but also as your friend! I know these photos don’t have the gorgeous beach that you got engaged on, but we sure did have fun – and if nothing else, we at least have the last photo (scroll all the way down).

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and this last one because… well, we had to. G and Lucy <3

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Lauren + Frank met after college through mutual friends. Earlier this year, they got engaged on their way to see Hamilton. Frank brought the ring with him, and the plan was to pop the question after dinner and Hamilton, but he was so nervous that he only managed to walk halfway to dinner before getting down on one knee and asking Lauren to be his wife, right on the Kinzie St. Bridge. The first person to congratulate them was a cab driver passing by!

Nowadays, they’re living in Wicker Park planning their wedding, sipping wine on their rooftop deck,  and getting Shake Shack before meeting with me (and not bringing me any!). Lauren + Frank, it was so much fun spending this time with you before the wedding. Here are a few of my favorites from the engagement… can’t wait for the big day!

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Em + Nick came in from London to get married in Chicago at City Hall. Before celebrating at a small dinner with their families, we explored the West Loop and snapped a few pics. They wanted to keep it simple, clean, and focus on them being natural – so we did just that and they look BEAUTIFUL. Here are a few of my favorites from their mini session on the way to Piccolo Sogno for a yummy dinner. Congrats Em + Nick!

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My friends, Jen + Tyler, met playing kickball a few years ago at the Lincoln Park fields near the North Ave. Beach. Since then, they’ve both retired their kickball shoes and spend more of their time at Wrigley Field being bleacher bums cheering on the Cubbies. Jen + Tyler are getting married in November and I’m honored to be their photographer! There’s no better gift that I could give them than to document all the special moments on their wedding day with photographs they’ll have forever. Jen + Tyler, it was so much fun having friends in front of my camera – and I’m so glad that we went from ‘this is terrible!’ to ‘this was a lot of fun!’ in just one short hour 😉 congrats you two – can’t wait for the wedding!

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Meghan + Tim met at Wheaton College and got engaged this past March. They are both very musical and creative souls – ones that are comfortable in front of the camera and with each other. They weren’t afraid to hug, laugh, kiss, show any form of affection, and just be. happy. together. MY FAVORITE types of couples to photograph. As we explored a few different spots around the Morton Arboretum – this became more and more clear to me – so the direction slowly decreased as I just let them do their thing. And I just love how it all turned out. Not to mention this session reminds me of my recent camping trip in the Rockies – all the trees, nature, and pretty goodstuff – this one just makes me happy 🙂 Congrats to Meghan + Tim! Can’t wait for the wedding next year!

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Ali is not the best at keeping up with sports. Alex having knowledge of this, took advantage of it. He told Ali that his company was doing a March Madness Bracket Tournament like they did the previous year. One day he calls Ali and says he found out the prizes for winning March Madness. He said 3rd place would receive a $1,000 gift card, 2nd place would receive box tickets at the United Center, and 1st place would be given a helicopter tour of the city. Ali quickly responded with enthusiasm about the helicopter ride because she had always wanted to do it! However, Alex stayed calm and said he wasn’t sure he would win.

Weeks went by and Alex called Ali on his way home from work saying pretty much everyone in his office was out of the tournament because their teams had lost. Ali being gullible and not caught up to date with sports was ecstatic! Alex and Ali went to Chicago Helicopter Tours and everything seemed normal. As the helicopter went up in the air Ali had her face pressed to the window in amazement. However, just as they were overlooking the sun setting behind the Chicago skyline, Alex spoke into his headphone.”Alexandra will you marry me?” Ali said YES and there was a whole lot of crying and kissing! Once they landed Alex had a limo waiting for them to take them “somewhere.” Alex told Ali it was a surprise who at this point was in pure shock and hysterics. The limo pulled up to Bull and Bear (where it all began) and Ali and Alex’s family and friends were there waiting to greet them and celebrate! It was a night that neither of them will ever forget. PS- Alex never even filled out a March Madness bracket! Ha!

Ali + Alex are two of the sweetest, most beautiful souls. From our first meeting, to the engagement session, to the boudoir session, to the wedding day – I loved every minute of working with them. I loved them so much, that I found myself celebrating along with them on their wedding day. Laughing when they laughed, crying when they cried, dancing when they danced – all while snapping photos and capturing these moments for them forever.

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VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: Alyne by Rivini, Eloise, Bella Bianca Bridal Couture | Bridesmaid Dress Designer: Vera Wang, David’s Bridal | Tuxedo Designer: Jos. A. Bank | Hair and Makeup Stylist: Brittany, BM Hair and Makeup Design | Wedding Coordinator: Jamie Bacon, City View Loft | Videographer: George Street Photo & Video | Florist: May Floral | DJ: DJ Intel, Style Matters | Paper Goods Designer: Paperless Post | Ceremony/Reception Venue: City View Loft

Xin Xin + Ryan met five years ago, and last August they got engaged. Here’s their love story the way Ryan lovingly describes it:

“Mutual friends of ours at DePaul introduced Xin Xin and I in the summer of 2012. The first night we met was at The Original Mother’s, an incredibly sloppy, late-night dive bar. Anyone who knows Xin Xin can tell you she’s anything but a drinker, so this was probably the last place I should’ve suggested meeting. Nevertheless, we talked for hours and had a great conversation…”

They obviously hit it off and things went well, because after a few years of dating, Ryan decided it was time to ask Xin Xin to marry him.

“Last August, Xin Xin and I set off for a 2 week Eurotrip traveling through London, Paris, and Rome. I knew far in advance that I was going to propose while we were in Paris, but I didn’t have specific plans for how or when I was going to do it. I was strongly regretting not having the ring on me one day when we were touring the Palace of Versailles and walking throughout this beautiful garden – so I decided I would make an excuse to go back to the hotel so I could grab the ring and propose that evening. We had a delicious and authentic French meal before walking to the Eiffel Tower to take a boat tour on the Seine River. The tour was really beautiful, although I was completely distracted thinking about what I was about to do. It was a chilly night and, after the tour Xin Xin suggested that we take a cab back to the hotel. I insisted we walk and, thankfully, she didn’t resist. As we were walking back I was scoping out the perfect place to propose. We walked upon the Pont Alexandre III bridge (which I remembered Xin Xin was admiring earlier) and, with the illuminated Eiffel Tower as our backdrop, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. I could tell right away how surprised she was. She said yes, and we basked in the moment before walking back to celebrate with some champagne and share the news with our families.”

I love sharing the words directly from my bride and groom. Nothing I could ever write or say about them would better tell their story (that’s why I stick to photos!) Their gorgeous wedding at the Langham Chicago was photographed by JTP Team Member, Nicki – and she did an AMAZING JOB capturing every moment beautifully. See for yourselves… congrats Xin Xin + Ryan!

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The first thing Nikki said when she got out of her car was – “I’m SO nervous!” I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from couples (I’ve had a few couples take a shot or two before coming – I don’t hate that idea!). But really, you have NOTHING to worry about. As long as you like hanging with your fiance – and you probably should because he/she is your fiance – everything will be juuuuuuuuust fine. Two minutes later, Nikki + Grant learned that lesson. I coached them through everything, got them comfortable, and from there – the genuine smiles just came out. And they look beautiful, don’t they?! I think so 🙂 Nikki + Grant, I had a blast with you guys! I don’t shoot around the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum often – but I might have to make it one of my regular spots. The light, all that nature, the crazy squirrels, and THAT red dress. It was all perfect. Loved getting you guys behind my camera – can’t wait for the wedding in November!

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Three years ago I photographed Kailey + Rob’s Engagement Session. Two years ago, I photographed their wedding. This year, we went back to the Adler Planetarium (where they got married) and I photographed their Maternity Session. They’re expecting a Baby Boy this October (names still to be decided!) and it really was SO special to see them again, catch up on life, and help document this next phase in their lives. Being with couples throughout the milestones of their lives is so important and meaningful to me. It’s the part of this job that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kailey + Rob, you’re going to be great parents – I just know it 🙂 It was so much fun spending time with you again – best of luck to you with the baby boy – he’ll be here soon!

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