Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best and Worst of 2011, pt 2

Hey everybody!

I've never told you the story about where WE were when the Joplin tornado hit, and how we just missed being in the center of the storm. Until now.

Meredith and I were making the drive from Fayetteville to Joplin and decided to make a pit stop at Starbucks in Rogers for a quick pick-me-up. We were running a few minutes ahead of schedule before Ellie was going to meet us at Meredith's parent's house on the east side of Joplin anyway.

As we approached Joplin, the sky looked black. I mean BLACK. It was hailing on my ol' blue Jetta but being a stubborn male driver, I pressed on (sorry Mere). At the intersection of 71 (I-540) and I-44, we saw trucks overturned (I thought there was a wreck), but then Mere spotted twisted metals signs and cars flipped on the other side of the highway as well, and we knew a tornado had come through. Apparently we had missed it by a mere few minutes. Thank you Starbucks addiction.

God knows I'm stubborn and I believe he was looking out for us. He wasn't ready for Ellie to be without her earthly father (frankly, neither am I!).

Oh. Ellie. She was supposed to meet me. Where was she? Tried to call. No signal. With a hand-written note taped to the front door of Mere's parent's house (telling her to STAY THERE!), I jumped back into my car and started driving through the insanity that was my hometown looking for my daughter. Her house was hit, but nobody seemed to be there.

It was, in all honesty, the most terrifying moment I've had being a dad. The not-knowing was overwhelming. I wanted to scream and cry and run... I was as desperate as I've ever been in all my 31 years.

Then, my phone received a signal. I made the call, 4 hours after the tornado ripped through the city, and was finally put at peace. My girl was okay. (still chokes me up)

The days that followed were both heart wrenching and heart warming. Seeing Ellie's eyes fill with fear the next night when the winds began to blow again was so terribly difficult, but my need to be a foundation for her overpowered my empathatic fear and sadness. On the other hand, it was truly a blessing for Ellie, Mere, and me to be in a position to help so many. Giving money and water and food and clothes was such a gift from God, and I'm glad Ellie was a part of the rebuilding right away. I believe it has had tremendous value added to her character.
I know this is hard to see - it's a full panoramic of the damage done by the May 22nd tornado. Click on it to make it way bigger.

And this is the remains of Ellie's Nana's house. Luckily she was in the process of moving and wasn't home.


In the midst of the chaos that night, and my head spinning from trying to find Ellie, I couldn't think of any of my other family members and friends in the area. I had heard from my parents and brother, but it wasn't until I was in front of Tom's house that I realized he was in the thick of it. I jumped out of the car and ran into his house yelling his name. He answered with my name and out of the darkness he appeared with a big ol' bear hug. I couldn't help but sob. At was at that moment that he and Emily told me of their heroism of rescuing (and pulling) bodies from the nursing home that sat at the end of their block. Knowing they were okay, I collected myself and continued on through the torn town.

At the end of the night, as Mere and I were driving a sleeping Ellie to Fayetteville, I spoke aloud to Meredith, "I think my grandma passed away." It was just a feeling I had. When we arrived home, I got the email from my sister that it was so. I wrote a blog post as a tribute, and was honored when it appeared in the Kansas City star (because I want the entire world to know how sweet my grandma was), but even more so when the preacher quoted it at her funeral. I later learned that some of YOU blog readers hosted blood drives in her honor. I was so humbled.


Because we had lost someone so close, we were invited to the memorial service for the victims at MSSU (my alma mater), where Ellie, Mere, myself, my brother, and his family sat just a few rows away from the President of the United States as he comforted us with words of encouragement. I'm happy Ellie got to see the president, and I feel like she grew up 10 years in those 5 days. She saw devastation, but she also saw hope in the most despairing situations she might ever be faced with.


Reinvigorated, we decided to write a post for our friends Tom, Emily, and Chloe to help them out. They lost everything and we wanted to help on as big of a scale as possible. We were overwhelmed with the support YOU ALL showed in sending clothes, money, even furniture to our friends.

And then we got the really good news. The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had taken our nomination and Tom's family was getting a house!! Shut the front door! We got to stand behind them as they received their new house, and here's a shot I got of the family for their Christmas cards.


Ellie wanted to do her own part for the rebuilding and hosted a lemonade stand, which raised more than $700 that she donated to her school! Man, I love that kid! Here's a video we made to create a little buzz. We also uploaded it to facebook where it spread like crazy.


Though this was one of the most difficult things we've had to endure, the Lord was looking out for us and the entire experience helped shape us more into the image of God. I'm so thankful that Ellie is safe, but even more thankful for what it has done for her character. I know that Jesus loves her little heart more than ever.

Talk to you soon,
Dale



Friday, December 30, 2011

Best and Worst of 2011, pt 1

Hey everybody!

Wow, 2011 was a very roller coaster-y year! One of the best moments of my entire life, and one of the worst moments, were separated by only two month. Today and tomorrow I'm spending a lot of time reflecting on the blog about 2011 (both personally and professionally). Many of you have been with me along the ride, so this might be a stroll down memory lane for you as well!

The first few months of 2011 were action packed! The first four months I spent time in four different countries on three different continents!
Ellie, Mere, and I got to head over to Italy and France for our wedding and a workshop, which is without a doubt the highlight of my year.

We got to walk throughout Florence while we were there, and this image of Ellie still makes me laugh (remember boys are gross!)

But then I really got to be Dad O' The Year when we took her to Paris and shot a portrait session of her there. BANANAS!!!

She also got to play a little when she was there.

And then we came back and had a reception all our friends and family could attend.

And then it was honeymoon time! Meredith and I fell in love with Mexico when we shot a wedding there in 2009 and were so happy to find a resort that is our perfect paradise. I didn't even do a blog post about it (surprisingly!) because I wanted it to not be work!

The most out-of-character trip for me was my journey to Ghana with non-profit friends, Art Feeds.


As much as I love traveling, I love being home. Meredith and I have been blessed with a home we love and have made our own. And apparently Meredith has some sick design skills because our house was featured in Celebrate magazine! We were truly honored!


Speaking of being featured, one of my proudest moments wasn't being featured in fancy magazines or on the best national bridal blogs, but in my hometown newspaper of Joplin, MO. I felt like I had truly MADE it. It was very special for my friends and family to see that my work was being celebrated.


On the workfront, we launched the Benny Booth, which has been a source of hilarity and good times at many a wedding this year. We have a pretty unique way of shooting these and we're constantly expanding our backdrops to match every wedding style. This hilarious shot is of two of our very favorite couples, taken at the Benny Awards.


I was also asked to speak at Photo Ignite, at WPPI (our biggest tradeshow) to more than 2000 photographers! THAT'S nerve racking! Click here for that blog post.

Lastly, in other awesome news, we were featured on Style Me Pretty, only the biggest baddest bridal blog in the biz. Twice.


Okay, I realize that was all only good news and the "best" of 2011. But stay tuned. Tomorrow, I'll be hitting the worst fast and furious.

Talk to you soon,
Dale



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Taffy's Website Shoot, the finale!

Hey everybody!

As much as I love the shots we've shown of Taffy so far... THESE are my favorites!








Talk to you soon,
Dale

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Cinemagraph with Taffy!

Hey everybody!

I've been working more on Taffy's fabulous website session and I whipped up another cinemagraph - a moving picture! It's not a video file, it's not a flash document, it's a picture (I think that's the coolest part!).



And some of those old fashioned non-moving pictures. :)




Talk to you soon,
Dale




Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grade Card Time: 2011 Goals/Resolutions

Hey everybody!

I know there are a few days left in 2011, but that's close enough to figure out how I did on my 2011 Goals and New Year's resolutions I made back in January.


1) Read 3000 pages. DONE! My favorites from the year are definitely the Hunger Games series!

2) Write 300 pages. 1/2 done - dang! I do have my book available in the iTunes iBook store, but I haven't written as much as I'd hoped. Looks like this one is getting carried over to 2012.

3) Be more efficient in business. DONE! We've revamped a couple key elements in our business that make us even faster on getting you images quickly, fulfilling your orders quickly, and working smarter instead of harder.

4) Book 30 weddings. DONE! We booked 37 weddings this year - kind of a lot, but not too much to make us go crazy. :)

5) Cook my way through a cookbook. DONE! I changed this one so that I could learn a wide variety of cooking styles. I have ready Tom Collichio's Think Like A Chef which was really great and taught a lot and had some great recipes. I recommend it!

6) Blog every day of 2011. DONE! (I promise, the last few days of 2011 there WILL be a fresh blog post - haha!) On Jan 1 I will have blogged for 1096 days in a row. Whew!

7) Be published on 3 national wedding blogs. DONE! Click here to see all our features this year.

8) Go to a country I've never been to. DONE! I went to Ghana this year!

9) Go to a state I've never been to. NOT done, but close... I'm going to New Orleans, LA, on the 14th.

10) Stay under 170 lbs. DONE! I'm currently still at my wedding weight: 158-9 lbs!

I give myself a "B+" for this. Maybe an "A-" :)

How'd you do? I'd love to hear!

Talk to you soon,
Dale

Monday, December 26, 2011

Taffy's Website Shoot, with a Cinemagraph!

Hey everybody!

We recently photographed one of our favorite people on the planet: Taffy! She's gorgeous, she's funny, and she's talented!

This shoot is for her soon-to-be-released website! We thought we'd do a couple cool backdrops, as well as something super cool (scroll down!)





I think someday soon, cinemagraphs will be all the rage, particularly with websites! Don't you think they're rad? Leave a comment below!



Talk to you soon,
Dale



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ellie Reads the First Christmas Story

Hey everybody!

Ellie's grandma got Ellie the book of the First Christmas Story, and Ellie read it to everybody before we opened presents on Christmas Eve. It was super sweet! I, of course, recorded it. :)


Merry Christmas to your family from the Benfields!



Talk to you soon,
Dale

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Look Closely! Merry Christmas!

Hey everybody!

I've made a Christmas Cinemagraph for you! What's a cinemagraph? Instead of explaining right now, I figured I'd just show you! Look closely at the image below - you're not going crazy! :)

Merry Christmas!



Talk to you soon,
Dale

Friday, December 23, 2011

Neal's Proposal at Old Main!

Hey everybody!


Lauren had a very fun job recently: she got to photograph the most important moment of Michaela's life. :) Neal, who is awesome at planning (with some help from their friend Laurel), contacted us to help him capture him popping the question at Old Main.

Guys who are reading this and are planning on proposing soon, make sure you get your proposal on camera! She will thank you for it!!




Talk to you soon,
Dale

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ruby Claire's First Baby Portrait Session

Hey everybody!

I must be biased, but I think these are the cutest kiddo pics ever! I already love this sweet little baby girl, born to my good buddies Nic and Lori. She did so well during her portrait session - was nice a quiet when she needed to be, and nice and awake when she needed to be. Not to mention, she has such a pretty face and the greatest little details on her newborn body - eyes, ears, fingers, toes...
And how about this smile?!! Ah, my heart melts.


My favorite first family portrait...









Congratulations to Nic and Lori! Love you guys!

Talk to you soon,
Dale



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Introducing... Ruby Claire!

Hey everybody!

Oh what fun! This sweet baby girl was born December 9, 2011, to our favorite friends, Nic and Lori. This 5lb 12oz baby girl is so stinkin' precious, I just want to eat her! I'm going to show some more images tomorrow, but I wanted to put up a sneak peek for ya! Isn't she gorgeous?



Talk to you soon,
Dale

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why I Love My Photo Lab

Hey everybody!

Today's post is mostly for photographers (if you're one of our clients, you can assume the same thing about Mpix as MpixPro, so feel free to read on!). I love my lab. Since I've been been in business, the Miller's family (that means Mpix, MpixPro and Miller's) has been my preferred lab. Have I tried other labs? Sure. Have I been as impressed? Nope.

Miller's has an amazing turnaround time on prints - 24 hours, and has next day shipping. That means that when my clients needed last minute gifts this week, I was able to fulfill them on time and get them delivered in time for Christmas! Yay! You'd think that with everything running at top speed the quality goes down. Nope again! In 13 years of using one of them, the only returns I've ever had to do were because of shipping (oh, fedex...) - Zero for color. And I order pictures. Alot. :) Because of that record, I now just drop ship all my print orders straight to clients (now THAT'S trust!), and I usually get to dress it up with boutique packaging (see the pic below!).

So, this is my big ol' public "THANK YOU!" to Mpixpro and Miller's for taking care of me and my clients again this year! You make me look good!

Merry Christmas!



Talk to you soon,
Dale

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Card Outtakes

Hey everybody!

Each year, Mimi finds to-die-for outfits for her annual Christmas cards. This year was no exception. I thought I'd share a couple images from the her Christmas card shoot of her granddaughters, Margaret, Caroline, and Ellie. We also tried to get some with their crazy dog, Remington, but as you'll see from the first image... it was kind of impossible.




Talk to you soon,
Dale

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Melissa and Ben's Tulsa Engagement Photographs

Hey everybody!

Mere and I made the short jaunt to Tulsa recently to photograph fellow foodies, Melissa and Ben. I love shoots where we spend the entire time talking, and since we all share a love of yummy food, we had plenty to discuss. The day was chilly and windy, but we fought back and defeated the elements with some beautiful shots. I love photographing engagements in Tulsa - so many great places to shoot! Here are my faves:







Talk to you soon,
Dale

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Molly and Nick's Bella Vista Wedding

Hey everybody!

Molly and Nick's wedding was held at the gorgeous Mildred B Cooper Chapel in Bella Vista. The glass chapel was gorgeous, even on a rainy day. Maybe ESPECIALLY because it was a rainy day. The cloud cover was gorgeous for some portraits outside the chapel, and we didn't have the crazy backlight that we normally have to do with when it's super sunny.
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
I love this sweet moment when her sister gave a touching (and hilarious) toast.
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding
Mildred B Cooper Glass Chapel wedding

Talk to you soon,
Dale

Stone Chapel at Matt Lane Farm wedding: Anna and Shelton

Hey everybody! Wonderful wonderful. That's how I want to describe Anna and Shelton's wedding day at the Stone Chapel at Matt La...