I always strive to capture my images as close as possible in camera, except of course  retouching.  But sometimes an image involves a little more effort to create what I had envisioned.


This is one of my favorite senior pictures from last year!  It’s also very meaningful because this girl happens to be a good friend of my daughter and spent hours upon hours in our home through the years.  🙂


Hailey is an amazing runner!  I thought it would be so fun to have a running picture on our track in her prom dress.   (I mean, how often is a prom dress ever worn again?)


The day was so gray and humid.  Hailey curled her hair before the session, but with every passing minute, her hair fell just a little more.  She was such a sport!  I was having a hard time creating a capture where my off-camera flash caught her at just the right moment as she ran and looked back at me.  Some images had hair across the face.  She came back to our starting point several times and ran for me.


Finally, I had an image with the flash exactly where I wanted it.  Mission accomplished – almost.  I knew I could make this picture even better.  🙂


So, I took out the fence in the background that was going through her head.  I changed out her legs from another image where I liked the running position just a little better.  I added some pieces of hair with pretty light from another picture.  I dropped in a prettier sky – the sky we should have had at this time on a day with a perfect sunset.  Then, I added some light rays.


Did it take a little time?  Yes.  Was it totally worth it to me?  Yes!


I love capturing a stunning image, but I also very much enjoy creating one!

God Has Perfect Timing

February 19th, 2019

I have been reading the  New York Times #1 selling book “Girl, Wash Your Face:  Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Are Meant To Be”  by Rachel Hollis.


Last night’s reading was Chapter 10 – “The Lie:  I Should Be Further Along By Now.”  I have been thinking about a key phrase in this chapter today – God has perfect timing.


There are so many times in my life when I thought I knew what would be best for me and my life and God had other plans in store.


God has perfect timing.


When I was in high school, I didn’t have a boyfriend.  I thought I might meet a guy at college.  For some reason, I thought that this person would become obvious to me in the first year or two at my school, Luther College.  When I started my junior year, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to happen for me, at least not now, and I didn’t think about it anymore.  Halfway through that year, I met my husband.  There was a time when I wasn’t sure I would meet someone.  But, there was a reason that I didn’t fall for someone else or someone else didn’t fall for me earlier, because God had an ultimate plan.


God has perfect timing.


Two weeks after we were married, my husband started medical school.  It was such a stressful time in our lives.  We had to take out loans just to live, praying for a day when we would be able to pay them back.  During these years, I started to see our friends having children.  Other medical students were having kids.  It just didn’t seem fair that we had to struggle so hard daily that children weren’t even an option at that time.  But I also wondered, would I be able to have children if we waited?  Wasn’t it better, or more reliable, to have kids earlier than later?


God has perfect timing.


After 4 years, my husband’s family practice residency began in Mason City, IA.  Many other residents and their spouses were having babies at this time.  We still did not feel prepared.  In his second year of residency, we were ready to have a baby.  But, it didn’t happen according to our time table.  Month after month went by and we finally decided it was no longer a good time.  A due date around the time my husband would start a family practice position and we would be moving would be too hard.  And then, Surprise!  I was pregnant with our son, Bo.  And at 30 weeks, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma.


I was watching “The Talk”  today and one of the guests was Courteney Cox, who is hosting a series called “9 Months”, where women were followed through their pregnancy.  One woman was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after she found out she was pregnant.  She was facing the decision of whether or not to have to have an abortion to save her life.


Because God has perfect timing…


…I didn’t get pregnant earlier, when I had hoped,  and when I might have had to face this same decision.  I was far enough along that we could have our baby at 35 weeks and I would be able to start treatment.  Both my son and I lived!


We did not know if after treatment we could have any more children.  And then with God’s perfect timing, we found out we were expecting another child, a girl, 3 years later.


Our children are the biggest blessings in our lives!  Because they were born when they were born, they had amazing friend groups in school, wonderful experiences,  and played sports with their incredible teammates.    With God’s perfect timing, I look forward to seeing who they will meet for their future spouses (who are, by the way, going to be SO LUCKY!), whom I pray for now daily, and their children.  Those families are going to be SO blessed!


My career in photography came with God’s perfect timing.  I went to college and acquired a degree in music education.  I knew in my heart that this was not the career for me halfway through my senior year.  In “Girl, Wash Your Face,” Hollis talks about “maybe a goal wasn’t ever meant to be yours.  Maybe you are destined for something so much cooler…  Nothing has been wasted.  Every single moment is preparing you for the next.”


I felt so bad about not using my education.  I was so incredibly hard on myself.  I did not treat me with the kindness that I would a stranger.  I called myself a loser, useless, a burden….


It wasn’t until 15 years later that photography, a life-long hobby, came into my life as a career.  I have had the opportunity to celebrate and capture lives, special occasions, and milestones.  I have recently been inspired to explore some other areas of photography.  I am still growing into the person I want to become.  I am looking forward to new experiences!  I know that they will be coming because…


God has perfect timing.

Even the Dog….

February 16th, 2019

Nobody is immune to retouching when it comes to my photographs.  Not even our dog.  🙂


When retouching clients, my family, or myself, my goal is to make everyone look like they do on their very best day.  Everyone looks a little “fresher” – eyes are a little whiter and a little less red, lashes are a little darker, circles under the eyes are lighter, wrinkles are softened…  I believe that this IS who they are!  This IS their spirit!


Here is a recent picture I took of our dog, Riley.  This is her soul, her beautiful spirit!   Her fur had a few spots that were uneven and there was spots with some separation.  Her eyes had “sleep” in them and some hairs across the pupils.  I saw the white underside of her bandanna, her ears didn’t appear as full as they usually do.


I started out with my color image, retouched the areas I just mentioned, converted the image to b&w, cropped it a square and extended the top of the photo, then added a great texture to the top.


This image is by no means competition-worthy, but I love it!   It  is priceless to me!  🙂


In the future, I will show a before and after of a person retouched – a picture of myself.



Following Through

February 8th, 2019


“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”  Eleanor Roosevelt.


This year I made a commitment to consciously work at creating a life with no regrets.  Big goal.  But what is a goal without a plan?


Step 1 of creating a plan?  Getting physically stronger.


The last years have included problems with my knees and I’ve had ongoing back issues for many years.  After a 5-year break, we have a family vacation planned!  Actually we have a plan for the following summer, too.  🙂  I want to be stronger!  I want to fully enjoy these times with my loved ones and not worry about my back or pain.   I want to walk, to hike, to explore, and concentrate only on having fun!  Therefore, nearly every day has included exercise with the goal of building more muscle.


Step 2?  Writing daily goals.


Days seems to go by too easily when I don’t have a daily list of things I want to accomplish.  I have been writing my list of realistic expectations I have set for myself each day.


Step 3?  Have more fun!


This is a big one!  I have many friends that I would like to get together with more often.  I have been able to spend time with some of them.  I will continue to reach out to those I haven’t seen in a while.  My husband and I have made dinner and movie dates with friends.  We will have more people over to our home this year.  Just for fun, I am working on some music so I can perform a couple of songs with a 2nd grader.  It’s going to be a blast!  I’ve always wanted to go zip-lining and our family is doing just that this summer!


Step 4?  Work on new aspects of my business.


I have some personal goals.  I also intend to compete in competition again next year.  I took a 2-year break with the busyness of having a high school senior followed by health issues.  I can make time now.  I get excited by the process of bettering myself!  I’m happier when I feel I am moving forward and building my skills!


Step 5?  Better myself with reading.


I have a good friend with whom we’ve created our own little book club.  We are currently reading one together and discussing over lunch.  It keeps me motivated and accountable to read the assignments we have created for ourselves.


I will continue to work on the follow-through of my goals this year.  🙂  2019 is on a good start!


My Little Haven

February 1st, 2019

What to do on a sub-zero day in northern Iowa?  It’s not hard for me to retreat to my office in our home.  It’s my little haven!  My daughter has said, she never wants to work in a cubicle.   But, essentially that’s the environment I am in most of the time when creating images.  It is a time for me to thoughtfully pour over every image I shoot.    I actually really enjoy this alone time.


Very little of my time is spent shooting.  It is more often spent creating special touches, retouching, and combining multiple images of many subjects to create one “perfect” picture. “This picture would have been our ideal choice.   If only so & so had the smile they had in this other image.”  Ta Da!!!  I make that happen!  And it gives me such great joy to create an image that my client will love!



No Regrets

December 8th, 2018

“At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.  You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, a parent.”   Barbara Bush


This quote came across my Facebook today.  It’s a rather simple sentiment, and yet so very wise.  What matters the most in life?  Of course it’s spending time with those who mean the most to you.


Now, with it being finals week for my kids at college, I would not want to say, “Don’t study for that test, because the results really don’t matter.”  Because trying your best at everything in life is also part of growing.


But in the long run, what will we remember?  What will we cherish?


This was a year that I wasn’t really ready to talk about until now.  I put my photography business on the back burner this summer.  In June, for the second time in my life, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Even as I type right now, it still seems surreal.  For some reason, my life has been filled with many health issues.  I’d like to say I have no idea why.  But, I think I kind of know.  My experiences have made my husband a better physician so that he may, in turn, help others.  But I can’t lie, I think he’s learned enough through me already.  My soul is tired of this….


As we were getting ready for a graduation party and an exciting softball season, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I didn’t publicize it.  Very few close family and friends knew because, honestly, I was embarrassed.  I had been helped so much in the past when I had Hodgkins lymphoma.  I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.  I got through it & I am now clear.


I am sharing this now perhaps because I guess I’m finally willing to let go of the pain.


I am back to working in my studio and focusing on the things that really matter to me.   At the end of your life, what will you regret?


Al and I have already made attempts starting this last summer to get out of our comfort zones and do more, to have more experiences.  We have had friends over for dinner or gone out to eat.  I have made more effort to go out to lunch with people who matter to me.  I made my husband, who likes to stay clear of crowds, go to the county fair every day and attend his first demolition derby.  We will continue to look for more experiences to spend time with our friends and family.


I look at the pictures of these goofballs and know just how very blessed am I.


We spend our lives getting sucked into work and obligations, and these things are very important.  At the same time, we have intended to have fun experiences with our family and friends, many of which have been pushed to the wayside of “someday.”


When is “someday?”  What if “someday” never happens?


So, we are finally looking at scheduling that vacation, going to that concert, having those friends over to eat, calling that person I haven’t seen in a while…  I have a list.  🙂  This is the beginning of the rest of our lives with No Regrets!



Wishes & Dreams

March 14th, 2018


Today, I was in Des Moines and wandered for a bit in Jordan Creek Mall.  While I was there, I came upon a little box.  I knew that I needed to purchase this for my daughter.  The top simply said, “Wishes Box.”  When the lid was opened, it revealed a message, “Encourage yourself for your journey to be the best version of you.  Write down your goals, dreams & wishes.  Read them back, remind yourself of what you want & who you want to  be.”


When I presented this to my daughter after I returned this afternoon, she said, “This is what you have always told us, Mom!  Write down your dreams!”


This is a lesson I learned long ago, before books such as “The Secret” were published.


When I was young, my mom taught me the value in writing down my hopes and aspirations.  She told me that if I wrote down the things that I desired,  God would answer my requests.  So, I would take a sheet of paper and write down various goals and put the list in my Bible.  I would often forget I had put this list in my Bible or its cover.  When I would stumble upon it later, my wishes would have all come true.


Now my wishes were not things such as “win a million dollars” or “discover a cure for cancer.”  They were personal goals or types of people I wanted to come into my life.  Although truthfully, there really are no restrictions one has to put on a “Wish List.”


This not so small lesson that my mom taught me is one that I have passed on to my children.  Truthfully, I don’t know why these things come to fruition.  I do believe that when you put your feelings and requests into writing, there within lies a power.  It may be that now that the universe knows your request, it chooses to answer you.  Maybe it’s because now that you are aware of your goals, you personally work harder with focus.  It could be purely God’s almighty power granting your wishes.  It could be a combination of all of thee above.  I just know that this absolutely works and is true.


Years ago, when I ran my Longaberger business, I deliberately wrote down my goals at the beginning of each year.  Without fail, I would achieve them.  When I started my photography business, I wrote down every aspect that I wanted to incorporate into my studio.  Once again, every year I achieved these goals.


I have now witnessed my children incorporate this principal into their own lives.  They would volunteer that they had written down their goals or I would ask them if they had a chance, yet, to make their “List.”


Now, as powerful as I know this is, I haven’t written down my personal goals in a couple of years.  After my former experiences, it’s silly, right?  Truth?  I’m not really sure what my goals are right now and I haven’t wanted to take the time to really, REALLY, think about what I want.  That takes personal insight.  I’m getting closer to knowing what I want to do…  I will take the time to really assess what I want when my kids go to college this fall.


I do know what I want for my children, though.  Go figure….  🙂   I want them to achieve their personal goals (their list is private), whatever those goals may be.  I want them to attract beautiful spirits into their lives. I want them to find meaningful love and to always be surrounded by family and friends who have their best interests at heart.  I want them to be healthy and happy.  The list isn’t long, but it contains the meaty, important things.


My personal list?….  It’s coming….





The Countdown..

March 4th, 2018

It’s coming closer, it’s the way it’s supposed to be, I celebrate the changes, and at the same time I mourn a little.  I’m no different than any other mom and don’t ask for or expect sympathy.  When your life has evolved around your children’s lives for the last 21 years and your youngest is about to embark onto the next phase of her life, it’s scary for her and it is scary as a mom.


First the questions arise,  “Did I do everything I should have?  Did I say the right things?  Did I offer good advice?”


But then there is another aspect to this new phase.  A personal reflection and honestly some fear.  My identity has evolved around being Mom for 21 years.  And of course I am still Mom, but it’s different when you are not involved on a day-to-day basis.  I will now have more personal time.  What will I do with that time?


Well, I know first, I am going to clean my house, as in REALLY clean/purge.  Everything is coming out of every closet, every drawer, every cabinet one room at a time. I will be putting these items into the middle of each room and I will be sorting like none other, armed with garbage bags.  “Do I use this?  Does this bring me joy?”  If not, it’s gone.


But after that, what will I do?  There is some fear.


I’ve been through this before, with our son.  We dropped him off at college.  I sobbed the whole way home.  But then, I dove back into being there for our daughter and watching her participate in her many activities.


Empty nest….  I’ve been asked many times how am I going to handle it?  I don’t know…


Will I expand my photography business?  Will I do less?  I know I want to learn some more skills…  I have an interest in digital painting…  Will I volunteer?  Will I do something else?  I’m used to this busy pace that I have lived for the last many years.  Will I like a slower pace?  Will I want to stay as busy?


Things I will not miss – hours of bleacher sitting with my bad back, traveling many hours for sports events (although, honestly that isn’t done, yet, either with our son’s college track schedule.)


Well, for right now I will take a big breath & try to relax in the midst of my anxiety.  Here’s something I can exercise – meditation (I almost typed medication) and a friend has been teaching me more about essential oils.


I am concentrating on our daughter’s upcoming events.  PROM! Her dress is GORGEOUS!  We are making hair, make-up, nail appointments.  She will be BREATHTAKING!!!  I’m so excited for her!  GRADUATION PARTY!  I love decorating and her event will be filled with pictures, large and small!  GRADUATION DAY!  Oh, man, my eyes just welled with tears, okay not welling, running down my face just thinking about it.  I am so very proud of her!  SPORTS!  Track followed by her favorite, softball!  COLLEGE ORIENTATION and MOVING DAY!


Changes abound for her and for me.  One never stops being a parent, children need their parents at every age, it just changes….


There has to be a few more things to look forward to, I’m just not sure what they all are, yet.  I see grandchildren in the future!  🙂  But no one is ready for that, yet!  One day at a time… it’s going to be okay!

An Anniversary

November 10th, 2017

This year has been a good year!  We have experienced many moments of joy in 2017!   This year also marks an important anniversary.


There is one part of my past that occasionally comes up in conversation, but usually I try to tuck in the back of my memories because it was painful.  Cancer – the word that nobody ever wants to hear.  I was shocked to hear it when I was 29 years old and 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, our son, Bo.


It did not seem fair to mix what should have been nothing but a joyful moment, the birth of our son, with staging of my Hodgkin’s lymphoma- having my spleen removed along with my 35 week infant.  The year 1996 was one of the most stressful years of my husband’s and my life.  We moved to a new town when Bo was 3 weeks old, my husband began his career in family practice, we had a baby with colic, we settled a new home, and I began 7 months of chemotherapy.  The treatments would wipe me out for days.  Church volunteers took over watching our son on these post-chemo days.


We somehow got through it all.  And 3 years later, God blessed us with the most amazing gift, our lovely daughter Emma.  She is a true miracle to us because there were no promises I would be able to have any more children after everything my body had endured.


So it is worth noting that 2017 marks my 20th ANNIVERSARY OF BEING CANCER-FREE!  I have the most amazing family I could ask for and I have more blessings than I ever thought were  possible!  I am so very thankful!

Revisiting the Past

September 18th, 2017


This weekend, Al & I went to see our son run for UNI in a cross country meet in Madison, WI.  I have to admit, when I found out that we would be going back to Madison, I was excited!  For we lived there when our marriage was new and our lives were young.


The cross country meet took place on Saturday, September 16th at 10:30 a.m.  The meet was over around noon.  I looked at Al and said, “Let’s check out State Street!”


State Street is a walking street in Madison that leads up to the state capital.  We had not been there since we moved in 1993.


We married in August of 1989 after we graduated from Luther College in Decorah, IA.  It was 2 weeks before Al’s medical school started.  We moved to a sketchy part of town, because it was all we could afford.  Al began medical school and I worked days, nights, and weekends to assist in making our ends meet.


It was a very hard time in our lives, we had immense amounts of stress surrounding us.


We found refuge during this time by walking State Street hand-in-hand, looking at the unique shops, listening to the street musicians, and getting an ice cream cone.  On an occasional Saturday morning, we would check out the farmer’s market.  We would get a bag of cheese curds (so fresh they squeezed!) and a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade.


Last Saturday, when we arrived at State Street, I was so excited.  “The farmer’s market is still going on!”  It felt like a wonderful dream!  I could not imagine when, with our busy schedules and the 5-hour drive, we would ever make it up to the farmer’s market around the capital.


We celebrated by getting a bag of cheese curds, munching (or should I say squeaking) our way around the square.  Our visit was but a couple of hours, but the happiness remains with me!


Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home2/michelle/public_html/wp-content/themes/salerno/index.php on line 317
      107 E. Overmeyer Drive - Algona - IA - 50511      515-295-6128