Moving Forward

Back a few months ago, after hours sitting at a children’s hospital & talking to a specialist trying to find the root of my son’s chronic cough, the nurse entered the sunny exam room and took a seat in front of us stating the doctor was wanting to see our son again in 3 months.

“How does March 13th sound?”

Already drained and overwhelmed by the ton of information the doctor had laid on our family and trying to absorb every word as she talked in depth about the six medications she was prescribing, I found myself utterly distracted. “What’s going on in March?…something is happening in March…Good grief! Why can’t I remember…”

Oh right…

Obviously frazzled I scrambled around to find my phone (I was VERY pregnant, everything I did appeared to be scrambling, don’t poke fun!). I texted my best friend.

“When are you guys leaving?”

The reality sunk in. Three months is no time at all.
Some time last spring my husband & I’s very closest friends traveled to Portland, Oregon and without much mention of it, we all knew where things were headed. In the end, they would fatefully come home and announce their plans to move 3000+ miles away.

In my teen years I moved from Florida to Costa Rica and back to Florida again, living as a family of six, to divorced parents, to just my mother & I, to just my sisters & I. It was interesting. Somewhere in that mess of a few years I formed some sort of post-traumatic stress social anxiety, on one visit to Florida late in that game of moving back and forth I found a church and at that church Melissa found me. She didn’t seem to notice how complicated I was and I tried my best to stick to what & who I knew so it wasn’t until my next and final arrival back in Florida that it registered with me that this was a person who wanted to be my friend. It turned out she was nice, funny, and interesting, so friends we became!

Over the next sixth months or so I would begin to spend far too much time at her house (sorry, Robert & Brenda!), begin to date my husband (a friend of hers since childhood), and eventually become so close to her, my boyfriend, and her boyfriend that we would joke about starting a commune. I know, we sound weird, but we really hung out together THAT much and we were all in our late teens (maybe Josh, Melissa’s future husband, was 20?) and we were trying to conjure up plans to move out of our parents’ homes. It was a joke, but it felt like it made a little sense. We never did act on the idea but fast forward five years when we were all married and shopping for homes at the same time the jokes started happening again, cause we were still hanging out THAT much.

Some time in all those years of commune jokes, Portland, Oregon got involved. I’ve no idea how. I remember one night Peter, Josh, and myself, on break from our jobs at a call center, sitting at McDonalds discussing the few facts about Portland we knew. Anyone reading this and not having ever visited Lake County may not know that it’s one of those small town areas where a lot of kids complain there’s nothing to do and how one day they’ll move away, so, there’s a point in the joking about moving away that you wonder introspectively if you’re serious. You talk about it so much you aren’t sure if you’re talking about it because that’s what you’ve always done or because you really want out. They really wanted out.

Over the last 11 years, there have been countless hours spent between the four of us.  In a life that’s felt often times to be filled with enormous amounts of unnecessary drama, these friends of mine have always brought out any side of me that resembles a person of patience, rationality, and sensibility. I’m not capable of the eloquence it would require to put into words how inspired and encouraged I am by both Josh and Melissa. I think they know, the rest of you will just have to trust me when I say it’s a lot. A whole lot.

So, I sat there in that exam room three months ago and thought carefully. I like to think of myself as a strategic planner. (Really, I think I’m gosh awful smart) And I told her, unsure of what time my friends’ flight would be on March 13th, that I was busy that day. But the 14th would be perfect. The kids’ doctors are about an hour & a half drive from home and close enough to Disney that we make an extended weekend stay in Orlando when we have to go. Eventually we would end up figuring Josh & Melissa would be leaving before dawn and we would set more appointments for the 13th as well. My plan? My plan was to distract my head from processing that my best friends were gone, to keep myself absorbed in my own family, and to have my husband around in case he or I fell victim to our emotions. We’re both a little on the sensitive side. My plan worked like a charm.

And so, it’s done. Our friends moved across the country on March 13th. My kids survived another round of doctor appointments and we’re still a little achey from 5 days of walking around theme parks. Moving forward, Peter and I are really looking forward to the change. We’ve hung out with the Blount’s one weekday every week for nearly 7 years, sometimes under the guise of a Bible study or life group but for the last 3 years, just as friends who take a night to catch up, slow down, and grow together. One less night with friends is now one more night to just soak up our kids and try to get a little less caught up in the busy. We set the kids follow-up appointments for three months from now, which is June. That’s like no time. And no time plus one month is July. In July our family of five will be boarding a plane or two and making our way to our next family vacation in Portland, Oregon. Excited.

They didn’t move for no reason at all, by the way. It wasn’t without thought and consideration.
I never read much but just last week I had my nose in a book and read, “To say that geography is no longer our master isn’t to say that place isn’t important. Where we choose to live still has a huge impact on the work we do.”
Josh and Melissa, I can’t wait to hear about the work you do.

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*No mention of Conor Blount seems wrong, he’s my kids’ bff and there are lots of wonderful things a person could say about him. We’ll miss him more than a little.


Excuses on top of excuses. Being busy, pregnant, and…normal!

So, I started to blog last spring and got swept up in a whirlwind of events just a few short months later, all which lead to me telling myself I’d get back to this blogging deal…some time. I’m super great at procrastinating until the guilt fades away. Here’s a breakdown on what’s been going on for Rhonda Elm Photography & just plain ol’ Rhonda since March 2012.

  • April 2012 – We were SO busy! High school seniors came calling and man did I love it! We were shooting every weekend and I thought, “Man! I’m way too busy to blog!”
  • May – We had a houseguest for the entire month, we were STILL going strong with last minute senior sessions, my oldest sister got MARRIED!, and the day before her wedding I found out I wasn’t grumpy/exhausted/constantly nauseous because I was doing too much, it was ’cause I was PREGNANT! Eek! (SURPRISE!) AND THEN! Because that wasn’t enough excitement, we moved just a few towns over to a home with a room I get to call my studio space! ❤
  • June thru August – WHY DID NO ONE EVER TELL ME HOW HARD IT IS TO ADJUST TO HAVING KIDS AROUND ALL THE TIME DURING SUMMER VACATION?! I feel like I finally got the hang of things like a week before he went back to school.
  • September thru December – This is when some aspects of my life were purposefully slowed down (WORK!) and other aspects went into serious overdrive like the kids’ extracurriculars, violin & ballet! And hordes and hordes of doctors appointments for myself (Someone decided my pregnancy was high risk?! Everything was fine!) And my poor oldest, Noah, was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. (The coughing never ends!)

AND FINALLY, on December 31st, at 36 weeks, my family welcomed a little brother, Benjamin. He’s been a wonderful addition to our daily lives  and (so far) has been a breeze to take care of. While I was pregnant, people often told me that “3 kids is a whole different ball game” but I must say I’d rather have 3 kids than have 2 kids and be pregnant! As my daughter declared only seconds into her first visit with me in the hospital “Now mommy can be normal again!”


Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things very soon! 🙂

To be engaged.

So, having been at this a year there’s so much I’ve learned about myself and photography that I never would have guessed to be the case. Going into the business I thought I knew exactly what parts I’d love the most, I thought I knew who I wanted to photograph, and I thought I knew what would be easy.

My first paid shoot was an engagement shoot. I stumbled my way into that job with a facade of confidence. I put on my most self-assured face and told my friends, “I’d love to photograph you guys! It will be AMAZING!” I was T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D. I’m a shy soul, horribly shy, and my experience up until that point had only once extended beyond people I call family. Soon after we set a date for their shoot I enlisted one of my dearest friends to play model for me. She and I both realized quicker than quick that I needed to work on three things: directing a shot, staying calm when EVERYONE around stops to watch what’s going on, and instilling a sense of confidence into the person I am shooting.

I thought about these things, strategized, researched and went into that engagement shoot more prepared than anything I’d ever done in my life. It was an hour & half ride to the location the couple had picked out (A location I had never been to! Reason #10834 to freak out.) and there was so much knee shaking and lip biting going on through that car ride my husband, my assistant <3, thought for sure I was going to take off running for home the moment the car went into park.


The shoot was a smashing success. The couple, Neal & Sarah, were incredibly happy with the results, the internet was all a buzz about it, I didn’t fail. There were a few things that helped me that day with Neal & Sarah. Neal, was, and still is, one of the most encouraging people I’ve come across since the beginning of my endeavor. I wouldn’t be able to make the cut without verbal encouragement and that guy gives it freely (High-five, Neal!) and Sarah, well, she happens to be the most photogenic person I’ve had the opportunity to photograph, the fact that I don’t think it’s possible to catch an unflattering angle of her relieved an incredible amount of stress (Thanks for having an incredible smile, Sarah.)


In all, after being lucky enough to shoot a few more engagement sessions last summer I was really surprised to come to the realization that engagement sessions are without question my absolute favorite thing to do.

There’s so much to love about them:

  • I’m an absolute sucker for love. The excitement in the air when two people are coming into the beginning of their forever is infectious.
  • Happy people look amazing. This same excitement that’s making passerby’s glance at them suspiciously is making them glow. Engaged couples smile, they smile so much.
  • The cuddles, snuggles, and kisses need hardly any direction at all from my part. It comes to a point when it stops feeling like a photoshoot and instead just feels like I’m documenting their date. Their date at what will probably be one of the happiest periods of their lives. I always walk away feeling like I got to write a love story with photographs. I LOVE IT.

Somehow, going into this I thought for sure my favorite subject matter would be children, I’d spent a couple years chasing around my own kids, I knew I was good at it, I knew I was comfortable with it. You can’t pose a child, it’s mostly about having a conversation with them and trying to convince them you’re a good guy not a bad guy, or letting them know you have candy. 🙂 I know how to work with kids, and I enjoy it, I love it! But to my surprise, my biggest professional thrill is getting to freeze the love between two people who’ve promised themselves to each other, before the hustle & bustle of wedding planning has gotten to the best of them, before the wedding day, when it’s still just the two of them. The quiet of being ‘us’.


Changing the Meaning of Things

First of all, I LOVE Valentine’s Day. LOVE IT. The anticipation, the cards, the air of the day! The FLOWERS!!! L-O-V-E it! Always have. Growing up I was never concerned with having a little boyfriend just because the calendar indicated I should be, I was happy enough seeing everyone being kind to one another. The other realm of love I didn’t bother with until I met my husband and while he made (and still makes) a mighty fine Valentine he’s still not what makes the day for me. I like to think of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love rather than a celebration of lovers.

That said, we’ve made a vow to one another that from this point forward we’d no longer celebrate the day without our children. What?! Crazy! I know. We still need dates. And eventually they’ll find people to love. I get that. My husband and I go on dates on occasion but as our children grow older and wiser we realize that we require less “breaks” from them & they require more of our person. It’s my hope that including our children on our outings will mean they don’t grow up longing for the day someone makes them feel like a special Valentine but rather that they grow up with the knowledge that they’re loved, adored, special, and of great value on their own.

It’s worth noting that my fondest memories of my own father were of the special surprises he’d have in store for Valentine’s. While I come from a broken family, I realize that everyone, at some point, contributed something beautiful to who I am today. Thanks, Mr. Bell, an invaluable lesson I’ll be forever grateful for.


I couldn’t include a post without a single photo so the following are shots of my son’s Valentine & Valentine receiving box for his preschool class. I’m never sure who my husband and I are trying to impress, I think the answer is we’re trying to challenge ourselves and impress each other and our children. I honestly get a little nervous that it may get annoying that I include a photo of my son in most cards & invitations for things he’s involved in but I thought this idea was good enough to go through with. Enjoy!

However did we end up here? + WIN A FREE PHOTO SESSION

This December I received what I am lovingly referring to as The Game Changer. I was gifted a Canon 5D Mark II, a professional DSLR. My goal camera. The camera I’d be saving for if there was money to save.

When I opened my gift and saw it staring back at me I paused, there was an indescribable heaviness in that moment. It felt surreal (possibly due to exhaustion, presumed bronchitis, and the fact that I’m a girl…but I was stunned) This may sound silly but it’s true, I didn’t know whether I wanted to cry, laugh, jump, or scream with excitement so instead I looked up at the gift giver and smiled shyly, mouthed the words “Thank you!” and gently placed the box next to me as I returned to my duty as gift spotter for my 3-year-old daughter.

On the way home from our Christmas gathering I found myself landing on the same question I’d dwelled on regularly for the last year, “However did we end up here?”

We got to this point by the grace of God and insane amounts of support and encouragement from family, friends, and fans. I’m consistently surprised by the love you all show me and I want you all to know I appreciate every single kind word you throw my way. Every single one!

It has been almost exactly a year since I shot my first session as Rhonda Elm Photography (Thanks Neal & Sarah!) And on that note, I thought it would be an appropriate time to celebrate and say THANKS! to all of you with a photo session giveaway!

What you WIN: A FREE PHOTO SESSION (A $175 value!) – Up to 1.5 hours of shooting on location anywhere in Lake or Sumter counties, a private online viewing gallery, and 10 high-res images of your choice on CD

How to Enter: Email your name and a photo of whoever you’d like the session for to by February 15th (A picture of you, you + significant other, your family, kid(s), a friend, etc. If they’ll be in the session they should be in the photo you send)

How to WIN: An album with each entry received will be posted  on February 16th. At that time it’s your job to tell all of your friends to come check out Rhonda Elm Photography on Facebook and vote for your entry! They must ‘Like’ the Rhonda Elm Photography page as  well as hit ‘Like’ on your entry! Voting will close at midnight February 29th, I will take the time to ensure all votes are valid before the winner is announced.

Rules & Regulations:

– Rhonda Elm Photography reserves the right to deem any entry received inappropriate, you will be notified if this is the case and given an opportunity to submit a new photo

– The photo submitted should not be the work of another professional photographer

– ‘Likes’ on photos will only be counted if the voter has hit ‘like’ on the Rhonda Elm Photography Facebook page.

– Only ‘likes’ on the actual photo in the album will be counted

– The winner of the free photo session must redeem by 3/31/2012

The photo session is limited to 5 people.