Tuesday, December 31, 2013

5 Straight Years of Blogging Everyday: Here are the top 5 posts

Hey everybody!

What started out as one year of bloggin somehow grew into five. I made a new year's resolution on December 31st, 2008 (Ellie's Dollhouse post started it right here) to blog every day for the next 365 days, but once I finished those, I couldn't quit.  Year two went by. Then year three. Here we are now at the end of the year as I approach FIVE straight years without taking a day off from the blog.  That's 1826 days in a row, friends!

Some crazy statistics about this:
*I've blogged more than 1/2 of Ellie's entire life, and obviously every day of Cece's life so far (even the rough ones).
*When I started daily blogging, the price of gasoline was $1.65 per gallon.
*I've received more 3.2 million hits - that's more than the population of Chicago.

There have been some really major events in the last five years that I've been able to share with you all.  Some are heartwarming; some are heartbreaking. Here are my top five posts, as chosen by me (of course!)...

5) I proposed to Meredith (click that link if you wanna see her in various stages of the ugly cry). Ellie was there, and I'll never forget what she and I discussed that night.

4) We bought a house!

3) We got married! Click the link to see some pretties from our Italian Wedding!

2) We got pregnant! It was probably this baby's fault, but can you blame her?

1) Cece was born!

Some runner-ups:
Rest in peace, grandma
One person can make a difference
Ellie's tornado benefit

Every year I do a year-in-review, in case you've come along during the middle (as most of you have) and want to catch up on some highlights (and lowlights) over the past few years...

I'm not sure when I'm going to stop this streak of consecutive days of blogging. I'm busier than I've ever been:
*wedding season no longer is just a "season" as we're shooting more in 2014 than ever before
*I've got a home full of girls
*I'm launching a 2nd business (passion project!) in 2014 that I've been working secretly during this last year
*We're continuing to produce Benfield Weddings magazine twice a year
*I'm still a consultant for the best photo lab in the country (4 years now!)
*We're traveling more for weddings than we ever have before

However, as much as it is tough for me to sit down every day and pump out a new blog post, it's therapeutic. It let's me organize my thoughts; it allows me to spend time thinking about each and every Benny bride, and how to tell her story (I love storytelling!); it allows me to decompress, give back, share, and be myself.  Why would I want to stop doing that?

Will you see another post like this in five years? Probably not. But then again, if you asked me if I'd be writing this post five years ago, I would've laughed in your face (on the inside, of course).

The main reason I blog... above all else... is because I want you to know me. I want to share my life with you, and share my heart with you. It's not always pretty pictures, or a pretty picture. Even so, you continue to come back, subscribe to, and share my posts.  I'm grateful for you.

Talk to you soon,

Monday, December 30, 2013

Benfield Photography Year In Review: 2013

Hey everybody!

Yesterday I shared my personal 2013 with you. Today I'm sharing Benfield Photography's year... which was almost as crazy!

One of my biggest feats of the year was publishing my 400+page book, 5 Minute Fix - it took a year to write and finish the book, and I am so proud of it!

This book is the full collection of my daily photo tips that I've been sending out to a great group of pro, amateur, and hobby photographers over the past 13 months. It's written in the same tone as my blog, and I cover everything from composition tools to marketing techniques to dealing with tricky business situations to how I created some of my favorite all-time images.

Another cool project I had the time to work on and finish was our very own wedding magazine: Benfield Weddings Magazine. I'd been dreaming of doing this for years, and finally gave it the attention it deserved. When we released it, it got such attention and raves that we decided to continue publishing the magazine on a bi-annual basis!
A really cool thing we got to do this year was photograph my wedding photographers: Becker and Keats.  They've become really dear friends over the past 5 years, and we had them in from California for a couple days (they had a wedding here) and got to spend a lot of quality time with them. If you're looking for a 2014 wedding photographer, you might consider bringing Becker to your wedding!

Another amazing thing about 2013 was that our senior business exploded! I haven't been able to concentrate on seniors since I started this business in 1998 (can you believe it's been FIFTEEN YEARS???), but this year I wanted to give it some attention, and I was able to photograph some of NWA's most amazing seniors!!

Another neat thing we were able to do was photograph at the new (yet old) Fairlane Station in Springdale. The venue is so neat, and the owners are really precious! Here's a shot from a styled bridal session there.  LOVE LOVE LOVE!
wedding bridal portraits at Fairlane Station in Springdale

Of course, I continued working with Riffraff, my absolute favorite Fayetteville boutique. I shot some of their big events and styled lookbooks. Kirsten, our best friend, is always so creative when it comes to these that it takes 99 percent off our workload. She's amazing (and talented and sweet and smart and creative...).

We also hired Stephanie this year, which is pretty much the main reason why we were able to accomplish all the cool stuff we've done (i.e. the magazine, the book, etc.). I'm truly thankful for her hard work and dedication to see us succeed!  She also adores Cece and is always willing to stay after to help out if needed! Such a peach!

Among our travels, which were a LOT in 2013, we hit the Bayou for Mallory and Jake's wedding. We love southern weddings... but even more than that... we LOVE SOUTHERN BRIDES! :)

Here's another...

But I have to say... as much as I love shooting in the south, or the east or west... my favorite place of all is the photograph weddings at Excellence Playa Mujeres.  I know and love the place so well (it's where we honeymooned, and have been back many times since).
Wedding images at Excellence Playa Mujeres by destination photographer Benfield Photography

A little collar tug never hurt!  Perfect moment! Hey Excellence Playa Mujeres... why not hire me as your full-time wedding photographer?  Haha!
Wedding images at Excellence Playa Mujeres by destination photographer Benfield Photography

2013 brought in some truly amazing brides.  I love my job because I love my brides (could you imagine working with bridezillas all the time? I couldn't!) Kady was one of many caring, stylish, thoughful, creative, and beautiful Benny Brides for 2013. Talk about making my job easy!

And so was Ashley! I can never do her justice with mere words... she's beautiful, hard-working, creative, and genuine!  By the way... this is the most pinned image on Pinterest from the Benfield blog from 2013... this shot is rockin! I'm so down with clients doing whatever we ask! 

2013 brought some really great news... our good friend (and Benfield employee) Chelsey is expecting a baby!  She and Josh were MADE to be parents, and I can't wait to see how ridiculously gorgeous this baby is going to be!!

In a similar story... Chelsea and Seth (one of our very favorite Benny couples) had twins this year!  Here's one of my favorite family shots of the year!  I'm so thankful for our families, who use us time and again for all their important milestones!! It's such an honor!

Gah... when it comes to MOMENTS... this one just about seals the deal. Emotion is everywhere in this picture and I'm so thankful that I'm able to be a part of so many special days in the lives of our Benny brides.  Dorothy was a bride like no other... and I have Pinterest to thank!  Even though it presents some extra challenges, we're looking forward to the future of Benfield Photography with all the traveling we'll be doing! 

Thank you 2013!  You've been so good to us, and we are truly grateful and thankful! Mere, Ellie, Cece, and I (along with all our employees) are so appreciative of our clients, vendor friends, and supportive family and friends who made this year such a success.  We love you!!

Talk to you soon,

P.S. Here are some of our features from the year.  It's always an honor to be featured in publications, and are happy to say that more than half of our weddings get featured - it's such a testament to the creativity and awesomeness of our brides!! I wish I could show all of these, but here are a few!

Also, we've once again been honored by having a Benfield Photography photo featured as the cover of NWA Wedding Ideas! Yay!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Rollercoaster Year in Review: 2013

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Dickens' words rang true this year, friends. While he was talking about two groups of people in a Tale of Two Cities, this was true in our household in 2013.

Mere and I were so excited that we were about to have a baby. Baby Cece came a few weeks early, but was healthy. Best of times. Mere, on the other hand, had to be induced because of preeclampsia and then had an emergency c-section, followed by a an enlarged heart. The days following Cece's birth were the hardest I've had to endure in 33 years. Worst of times. For more on that, you can read here.
The accompanying picture to this paragraph still brings tears to my eyes as I write this nearly a year later sitting in Starbucks (people are looking at me!)...

And though Mere had to stay in the hospital while I was home with the baby while Mere was in the hospital for the first 10 days or so, we snuck her out of her room to have a quick little reunion...

Read more about her homecoming here.

The good news is that Mere, Ellie, and I were blessed with this little babe.

After the baby Mere had to have a hysterectomy, and so we knew that Cece was our one and only shot at having a baby we could dress up. So, we decided to take full advantage...

Cece has changed our world in little amazing ways. Ellie's too. Seeing Ellie as a big sister warms my heart, as does seeing Mere as a mom. While we're still able to travel for weddings, it makes coming home that much sweeter. Especially when you come home to a happy baby like her.

My motto has always been to work hard so we can play hard. The hard work has of course been happening long before Cece (and even Ellie) came along - did you know we started Benfield Photography 15 years ago? - but this year we really got to play hard... we took our family of four to California for some major memory making! Read about it here.

And since we showed Cece's Halloween costume... here's Ellie's. She was Lucille Ball for Halloween. So presh!

And here's her recital that literally made me weep...

Then she got the news that she was going to be tested for the gifted program, which she passed!

And for Spring break, we took a daddy/daughter trip to NYC. We ate some really yummy food and had an amazing time together (and spotted a couple celebs!)

One of the coolest things that happened to her this year was making the cover of her first magazine. :)  Ellie was on the cover of Citiscapes!

In other Citiscapes news, our home got featured by Citiscapes.  We don't have the fanciest house on the block, but it's ours and we love it and have made it our home (read more here)!

All in all, it was a beautiful year, full of ups and downs, but one where I was able to grow and become closer to the person God wants me to ultimately become. I'm thankful for so many things, and even for the hardships this year gave me. I'm thankful for my sweet family, and I'm thankful for the success of our family business, and I'm thankful for YOU!

Talk to you soon,

Alaska Proposal; The Time I Almost Blew It.

Hey everybody! Did you ever know something 100% in your heart, but you almost screw it up?  So goes the story of my proposal to Tyler. ...