6th annual walk for autism

This is my 12 year old nephew Noah at last year's Walk for Autism. And this is sweet 10-year-old Elijah:

Both of my nephews have autism. They are SO sweet and full of love and I couldn't adore anything more. For the past five years, my family and friends have walked as a team to help raise funds and awareness to battle this disorder that has reached epidemic proportions. Last year we had a team of 82 people and raised $6,000!! And we're doing it again this year!

Let me fill you in on some of the basics about this disorder.

Autism is a complex disorder that has no known cause or cure.

1 in 88 children are diagnosed with some form of autism. For boys, the number is 1 in 54.
This makes it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and span 3 general areas:
-Language development
-Social development and behavior
-Repetitive and odd behaviors

No two children with autism are alike. My nephew Elijah is more severe than his older brother, Noah. Elijah is 10 and is nonverbal and often gets frustrated with his inability to communicate his needs.

Noah is 12 and has a moderate form of autism. He communicates well and loves to help his younger brother. Both he and Elijah are in special classes in the public schools. Noah loves to learn and enjoys playing on his laptop and iPod touch.

There are some theories about the potential causes of autism. It is generally agreed that there is a genetic predisposition in children with autism that causes them to be susceptible to environmental triggers. A controversial theory that has been refuted by the medical community but is strongly held by a group of parents and some scientists is that immunization shots given at a young age trigger autism.

One last thing I wanted to share on autism--and if you're still reading at this point, you are awesome!--are some early signs of autism. These are important to know so that you can watch your own children and possibly help other parents out who you know. The earlier autism is detected the more successful treatment can be. Here are some "red flags" to be on the watch for:

No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
No babbling by 12 months
No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
No words by 16 months
No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age

Remember that autism is very complex and mysterious at this time so no two children will display the exact same behaviors or symptoms. But these are some general things to look for.

One of the most frustrating things to me is that this epidemic is largely ignored by the medical community. Doctors are not taught about it in medical school. Parents take their children in to their pediatrician with concerns about their child's development and they are told that they are over-reacting and not to worry about it. And there is very little being done to find a cure. The effort is definitely out of proportion to the size and extremity of the epidemic. It breaks my heart to think of what we, as a society, may be unknowingly doing to an entire generation of children. We've got to put an end to this disorder.

So this will be my 6th annual Walk for Autism. And I plan to keep walking, sharing and raising money until the cause and cure is found. The walk is taking place in Phoenix on Saturday, October 6th. If you'd like to join us in the walk or if you are willing to make a contribution towards helping to find the cause and cure for autism, you can join here (it's so much fun & everyone is welcome!! Make sure to select our team -- We Love Noah & Elijah! -- in the drop down) or contribute here. If everyone who reads this blog donates just $10, we would being doing something HUGE. Please consider a small donation that will make a lasting difference in a HUGE undertaking.

Thanks so much for reading! I can't wait for the day when we will look back on this time in history with gratitude that we have beaten this awful disorder!

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Frivolous Friday vol. 28

Frivolous: playful, lighthearted, trivial; the little things in life that should be savored.

Favorite Outfit of the Week: Shirt: LOFT / High-waisted skinny 7 For All Mankind jeans: Nordstrom / Wedges: Free People / Belt: J Crew / Necklace & bracelet: Charming Charlie

Highlight of the week: I was blessed to get the chance to interact with SO many photographers this week. I spoke at a local networking meeting for 50 photographers on 5 lessons I've learned in my 9+ years in business. Also had a great lunch with a Phoenix photographer and a Skype coaching session with a photographer in Newfoundland. I love the part of my job where I get to share knowledge and encourage others along their journeys!

Yes, I did this:
1 -- Bookended a 13 hour wedding with two 14+ hour travel days. I've been fairly useless the rest of the week.
2 -- Ate two pieces of cake at the wedding.

Loved seeing and cuddling this cuteness when I got home from Pennsylvania.

Celebrating: The Olympics start tonight! If you need me anytime during the next two weeks, you will find me camped out on my sofa with my Tivo remote, a box of tissue and my Dixie Dog.

Can we talk about The Bachelorette? Best season EVER. Usually the cast seems to be the dregs of society, but Emily is SO classy and she was thoroughly entertaining to watch at the same time. I'm SO happy that she picked Jef. He seems to be a really good fit for her. Any wagers on whether they'll last? The show doesn't have a good record, but I'm pulling for them!

Feeling Blessed: My weekend is WIDE open.

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For Photographers

For sale! Workflow Forms & Resources

Since reading The E-Myth Revisited a few years back, I've been on a mission to systematize every part of my business. Systemizing everything you do is SO important to giving your clients a consistent experience, being able to stay efficient with your workflow, making sure nothing falls through the cracks and creating a business that is scalable and able to handle growth. It also happens to be something I really enjoy doing. Every time I run into an issue I ask myself, "How can I change my systems in order to make sure this issue doesn't come up in the future?" And every time I want to add something new to my client experience, I ask "What do I need to do to make sure this happens for every future client without having to recreate the wheel each time?" Yep, I'm a nerd!

Over the course of 9 years, I have developed a very organized and efficient wedding workflow that offers my clients a high-end experience. In order to save other photographers -- who might not enjoy the business, organizational, and systemizing parts of their job as much as I do -- some time and headaches, I've decided to make all of my workflow forms and resources available for purchase! These are a great way to jump-start your way to an organized workflow or to take your current workflow and client experience to the next level.

You can purchase any of my workflow forms and resources under the Photographer Resources section of my website by clicking here.

This is what is available:

Wedding Info Sheet
Tips for Getting Your Best Wedding Images
Wedding Workflow Checklist
Wedding Contract
Getting to Know You Questionnaire
Final Details Questionnaire
Album Revision Form
Client Experience Surveys
Email Templates

And if you are interested in multiple forms and resources listed above, you can purchase a bundle of all 9 of my workflow forms and resources, and get a discount of over $100! Plus I throw in a .pdf of my package and pricing information!

Click here for pricing and a detailed explanation of each resource!

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MJ's Camera Bag

Weddings by MJ

Andrew & Anya

Anya and Andrew met at Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona. Anya was a dragon boat racer and Andrew an outrigger which meant they both spent a lot of time at the lake - time that Anya thoroughly enjoyed... because she thoroughly enjoyed watching Andrew smile. Then, in July 2010, Tempe Town Lake (for lack of a better word) broke. All water sports were cancelled until the lake could be repaired. And while Anya missed paddling, she missed seeing Andrew even more. She decided to take a risk and sent him an email inviting him to dinner so they could catch up. Later that week Anya and Andrew came together for the first time off the water. Great conversation and very little eating ensued and by the end of the night they knew... broken lake or not, they would be spending a lot of time together.

When Anya invited me to photograph her wedding in her home town in Pennsylvania, I was beyond excited! A destination wedding outside of Arizona in a barn? Yes please! Although I only just met Anya and Andrew in person on their wedding day, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and capturing their day -- a day that incorporated all the people and things they love.

We started at a local salon and Anya was so positive and excited about all the day held:

Then we stopped by her childhood home where Anya slipped on the first of two gowns for the day -- a Priscilla of Boston beauty:

The ceremony took place at Anya's church -- Our Lady of Mount Carmel:

Anya looked gorgeous as her father walked her down the aisle:

Andrew is Chinese Hawaiian and special leis were flown in for him and the guys in honor of his Hawaiian heritage:

What an amazing church!

Husband and wife!

Next we traveled to Friedman Farms -- a working barn, and the site of the reception. Who could ask for a more picturesque venue?

The bridal party:

And some of my favorite portraits of the couple:

The reception took place on the 2nd story of a 3-story barn on the property:

Anya changed into a beautiful T-length gown for the reception:

At the end of the night, Andrew, Anya capped off their celebration by setting off Chinese flying lanterns with their guests:

What a unique and beautiful wedding! To see even more photos from this fun day, click here to watch the slideshow!


Equipment used for this wedding: Canon 5D Mark III // Canon 50mm 1.2 lens // Canon 24mm 1.4 lens // Canon 70-200 2.8 lens // 2 Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites // Gary Fong Lightsphere // 2 Lumedyne HV Tinycycler Battery Packs // Light Stand with umbrella bracket and cold shoe

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Frivolous Friday vol. 27

Frivolous: playful, lighthearted, trivial; the little things in life that should be savored.

Favorite Outfit of the Week: Printed skirt: Sorry -- I can't remember wear I got this -- I've had it for over 10 years I think (!) / Ivory top: Boden / Nude heels: Aldo / Red belt: Target / Earrings: Nordstrom

Highlight of the week: Rain. You may be thinking, "She must not have had a very exciting week." But if that's the case, you wouldn't be from a city that average 8 inches of rainfall annually.

Yes, I did this:
1 -- Looked at Pinterest for the first time in awhile and suddenly needed a donut. And a new outfit.
2 -- Cried over an injured bird in the road. Want to cry thinking about it again.

I'm in Scranton, PA today visiting Dunder Mifflin. I'm shooting a wedding near here tomorrow, so I thought it would be fun to stop by and say hi to Pam and Jim. They send their love. Dwight does not. Stay tuned for super-fun wedding photos Monday!

Celebrating: Made it to PA in spite of United Airline's attempts to thwart us. Two delayed flights, one cancelled flight and a 1 hour line to find out we could wait two days for another flight or figure out how to get from Newark to Scranton ourselves = worst customer service EVER. Oh, how I love you Southwest. Rented a car and drove the 2+ hours in very spooky rain and fog, finally making it to our hotel at 2:30am after 14+ hours of travel. TRIUMPH!


Feeling Blessed: So thankful to have been born in a country with so much opportunity and freedom. I'm currently reading a novel based in North Korea and it's such a different world. We have no idea how good we have it.

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