• Aug23

    MeFoto A0350 Travel Tripod

    It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked about gear on the blog, so in light of my recent obsession with my Fuji X-T1 camera, I asked my wife to get me a new tripod specifically meant for smaller cameras for my birthday. She delivered with the MeFoto BackPacker Travel Tripod – And she made me this awesome raspberry-filled almond wedding cake too:


    Anyway, I took a closer look at the tripod this morning and this thing is pretty awesome for what it is.

    MeFoto A0350 Travel Tripod

    It’s only 12.6 inches long when folded up, and it expands to 51.2 inches. It also only weighs 2.6 lbs. While I prefer a much taller and heavier set of legs for my Nikon, the whole point of the Fuji is to minimize your gear. It’s a camera that makes you want to always bring it with you. So for traveling, I can take a tiny tripod like the MeFoto and fit it in my bag without really noticing it.

    MeFoto A0350 Travel Tripod

    It has twist locking legs, which I prefer because with one twist of my hand I can unlock all 4 joints on a leg. They also minimize the bulk of the whole thing. The ball head has an Arca-Swiss style compatibility quick release plate, which is cool because you can get an L-Plate without changing out the base. That’s a great thing on such a small ball head for shooting in portrait mode so the camera’s weight can remain centered and balanced. There’s also a little bubble level built into the head, which is always a time saver when setting up a landscape photo that you want to be level. Sure, the X-T1 has a level built in, but this saves you time while setting up before you even get the camera mounted.

    MeFoto A0350 Travel Tripod

    Hold on, I just remembered that there’s still cake in the house…



    OK, so the other thing that really impresses me about this set of sticks is the versatility of its design. Because the legs fold up over the ball head, you can invert the tripod to get down low!

    MeFoto Flipped

    I was a little concerned about the overall height of the tripod, as one of the reasons to want a travel sized tripod is to take self & family portraits while on a trip. I setup the tripod fully extended and stood as close as I could to fill up the frame from waste-up. I think for this purpose, the angle is flattering enough, and if I were standing in front of something that I’d want included in the photo, it would work. Please take no notice of the 14 year-old trying to photo-bomb this shot – f/1.4 FTW!

    MeFoto A0350 Travel Tripod Selfie Test Shot

    My first impression of the MeFoto BackPacker Travel Tripod is that this thing is loaded with great features and the only compromise is its height, which for what it’s designed to do isn’t a deal-breaker. You wouldn’t want this as your main tripod for professional work, but if you’re someone who leaves the tripod at home because it’s too inconvenient for you to lug a giant pro set of sticks around, then something like this is the way to go. I’ve yet to try it out with any long exposures, but I was impressed to see that it does feature a retractible hook to hang a weight (more than likely your camera bag) to help keep it steady in the wind. Also, in theory the lightness of the tripod shouldn’t be a problem with a mirror-less camera for long exposures since there’s no vibration caused by a mirror flipping up.

    Now, I think there’s still more cake left…

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  • Jul4

    Mackenzie With A Sparkler

    It’s been a very busy year so far – July 4th seems to sneak up and remind me just how fast time slips by. I’ve been busy growing my other business while still working this one. In fact, I surprised my crew yesterday by dragging in a light and a backdrop to the office for some surprise headshots:



    Speaking of headshots, I’ve been doing a lot lately for various professionals in the area. A few years ago, you could only thrive from doing headshots in a major market, but because of social media every professional needs one, not just actors and comedians.

    Here’s a couple I did this past week:

    Dr. Kelsey Harris Headshot
    Dr. Kelsey Harris

    Molly Slade
    Dr. Molly Slade

    I’ve also discovered that my Fuji X-T1 is quite the capable headshot camera. The two headshots of the guys in my crew were taken with the Fuji, while the two doctors were taken using my Nikon D800. While the flexibility gained by the controls, full frame sensor, and lens selection of the Nikon are paramount to shooting professionally, the Fuji’s results are almost indistinguishable when the output is simply an internet profile picture. The only drawback I found with my current lighting rig is that I need to close down the aperture on the Fuji a couple of stops because it shoots natively at ISO 200 and it’s a cropped sensor. That leads to more depth of field when shooting with strobe lights. For headshots like these, it’s not a problem though. For creative portraiture using these strobes it might be limiting, but I think a ND filter or two would help in that case. The look of a lens at it’s proper focal length that you get from a full frame sensor when compared to a cropped one can’t be beat, but like the US Soccer team’s performance in the World Cup game against Belgium, it comes really close by giving it its all – And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    Sorry, I fell into a technical wormhole. Back to the photos…

    Sottile Theater Installation Obey
    Shepard Fairey Installation At The Sottile Theater

    If you haven’t stopped by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to see the exhibit of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns, you’ve got ’til July 12th to do so. The work is amazing and inspiring. Shepard Fairey has a few installations in the Charleston area, including the one above at the storefront of the Sottile Theater on King Street. There’s also a few murals that he’s put up, such as this one on one of the College of Charleston’s dormitories:

    Shepard Fairey Mural in Charleston, SC
    Selective Color Still Lives!

    I do love some street art. In the right places, like the back alleys of the city where people store their trash, they bring color and joy. I find the story told by the street artists to be just as compelling as the story told by the architects on the main streets.

    Fire Escape
    The Other Part Of King Street

    On another note, every once in a while I get reminded of just how amazing the camera in my pocket (the iPhone) is. I snapped this little dragonfly while walking into a client’s office the other day:

    Dragonfly posing for an pic!
    Dragonfly Instagram

    I also got to go to a wedding that I wasn’t working at for the first time in a looooong time. I still managed to take a few photos, but only because I wanted to, not because I had to!

    Samantha & Jerry
    Samantha & Jerry

    Samantha & Jerry
    Samantha & Jerry

    I’ve been seeing as much music as possible and spending some great time with my daughter in the process. We had front row center seats to see the Head and the Heart and Valerie June recently:

    The Head and the Heart in Charleston 2014
    The Head and the Heart

    "Time tells all, but we only get a little slice of it... Then we gotta change" #ValerieJune
    Valerie June

    At the start of the summer I surprised my daughter during our “school’s out weekend trip to Disney World” with a visit to Universal Studios to see Huey Lewis & The News!

    Huey Lewis & The News at Universal Studios
    Huey Lewis & the News

    Speaking of Disney World, I captured this family photo with a Rokinon fish-eye lens on my Fuji X-T1 while we rode Primeval Whirl in the Animal Kingdom:

    Animal Kingdom 2014
    The Nienstedt Family

    And while we were walking through Epcot’s World Showcase, we ran into some old friends. It’s Paulie Latex and Jenny Jelly of Latex Generation fame! Paul used to sing and play guitar in my band and Jen was our merch girl. I wrote a song about them when we were teenagers about how they would never last. I then wrote a song a few years later about being astonished that they were still together. Now they’ve got 3 girls and have been together for somewhere near 20 years. Holy crap was I wrong!

    Latex Generation Family Photo Disney World 2014
    Photo by Mrs. Edel

    Local artist Patch Whisky asked me to shoot some of his artwork to be reproduced as prints that he’s now selling on his website. It was a different animal to shoot his monsters, but they sat well for the shoot…

    Patch Whisky
    Patch Whisky

    On the topic of artists, I sadly had to say goodbye to one of my favorite artists who gathered his family up and moved to the West Coast. Here I am getting one last tattoo from Rob Junod at Holy City Tattooing Collective:

    Getting the Junod one last time (In Charleston) #holycitytattooingcollective #tattoo #IWantYourSkull #nipslip #organicsweater
    Rob Junod & a Shirtless Me

    Rob’s wife, Amanda Rose, is a talented hair & make-up artist. I worked with with her recently for Shelly Waters, who hired me to shoot the cover of her upcoming CD. I’m bummed that the Junods had to leave, but I’m happy to see where their journey takes them as they are both immensely talented.

    Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose
    Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose

    And finally, since we’re on the topic of tattoos and art, my wife Amy paid a visit to Margo at Holy CIty Tattooing Collective just yesterday to start work on a new piece on her bicep. It’s just an outline in this picture and it already looks amazing!

    Amy's New Tat Sunset

    I think that about wraps it up for this post. We’re planning a road trip later in the summer, so hopefully I’ll capture some fun photos of that adventure. It’s gonna be filled with plains, trains, and automobiles for sure!

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  • May29

    Willie Nelson B&W
    Willie Nelson | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Last year I entered the world of mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras with a score on the Canon EOS-M. I love that camera. The touch-to-focus LCD screen is amazing only because it’s just like the way I use a camera phone, but it also has the option to actuate the shutter when you touch-to-focus (which is doing my phone one better). Anyway, the love affair with the EOS-M got cut short because of one glaring issue – Canon gave up on the system and there’s no glass for the damn thing. I looked at the options out there and as far as lens selection goes for a APS-C mirror-less class of camera, it really came down to Sony or Fuji. I’ll just say it – I have no love for Sony’s cameras (even though they make excellent ones). They’re just not for me.

    The Replacements in Atlanta
    The Replacements | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    My first digital camera ever was a Fuji Finepix (which I still have stuffed in a drawer) and I’ve always had fond memories of that P&S. I had no hesitation diving right into the Fuji X system of cameras and lenses. There are things about the Canon I wish existed on the Fuji (mostly the touch screen), but everything else on the Fuji blows it out of the water. I’m happy to have a useable viewfinder in such a small camera. I’m impressed with its tilting screen (It was used a lot for the images in this post). I’m overjoyed at the WiFi capabilities. But most importantly – There are amazing lenses galore and they keep on coming out with new ones!

    Avett Brothers at First Flush Festival 2014
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    The Fuji X-T1 really has the ability to blur the line between fun camera and work camera because for a lot of applications, it’s results are of professional quality. It’s also lightweight, I can push photos right to my iPhone and post them just as I would from my phone’s camera, and I’m able to tackle difficult lighting conditions because it gives me choices. Not only choices in fast lenses, but expandability due to it’s hot shoe, PC port, and WiFi remote control. It’s also the first camera I’ve ever owned where I enjoy using it to convert RAW files right in camera. I can quickly get a great looking jpeg out of the camera and post it online immediately. It’s truly revolutionary in that respect.

    Cusses Live At The Charleston Pour House 4/19/14
    Cusses | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 18-55mm

    There comes a point with professional photography when it all turns into actual work. When you start looking at your camera as a tool that you use to do a job, and not as a magical box that you create memories and artwork with, that’s when you start justifying “play” cameras. The truth is, modern pro cameras and lenses are too damn good. They’re very efficient and they are designed to be world-class tools of a trade. The size, control system, and aesthetics of the Fuji X-T1 make you want to experiment. I know when I put it up to my eye in public, nobody is asking if I’m working. It’s under the radar enough that I can walk into almost any location with it on my shoulder without so much as a cursory glance from the powers that be. The only time I get comments on the camera is when I hold it up at a show and the people behind me can see the review images on the LCD screen. I’ve received business cards and/or email addresses scribbled on scraps of paper from the people standing or sitting near me at every show that I’ve shot for this post.

    The Replacements in Atlanta
    The Replacements W/ Billie Joe Armstrong | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    So, enough gear talk. You can see what lenses I’ve been sporting underneath each image in this post. Part of the fun of going to a show for me is capturing a piece of the performers while they’re in their zone. I’ve shot from the photographers pit in the past, and it’s not the same as being out in the audience. Sure it’s safer, but it then begins to feel like work. I’m not there to work – I’m there to have an experience… To have fun. I love music and I love photography. They’re a perfect match for me to have fun with. Hopefully you can get a sense of that from these images – They’re truly a labor of love.

    Gillian Welch
    Gillian Welch | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 18-55mm

    And The Devil Makes Three
    The Devil Makes Three | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Fitz & The Tantrums at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC 5/15/2014
    Fitz & The Tantrums | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Alison Krauss & Union Station
    Alison Krauss & Union Station | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Avett Brothers at First Flush Festival 2014
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Hayes Carl in Atlanta 2014
    Hayes Carl | Fuji X-T1 | Rokinon 8mm Ultra Wide Angle Fisheye

    Fitz & The Tantrums at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC 5/15/2014
    Fitz & The Tantrums | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

    Avett Brothers at Charleston Tea Plantation @theavettbros
    The Avett Brothers | Fuji X-T1 | Fujifilm XF 55-200mm

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  • Jan26

    You Never Know…

    Posted in: News

    Cover of Post & Courier Screenshot

    I jumped on Facebook this morning to a message from a friend linking to this article about the state of tattooing in the Charleston area. I was a bit surprised to see my “selfie” as the lead image of not only the article, but as the top story on the front page of the Post & Courier’s website!

    Traditional Dagger Tattoo With Fire Ant Hilt and Palmetto & Crescent Moon Pommel

    After a minute of surprise, it kind of made sense to me – The tattoo in question is a Lowcountry tribute, with its fire ant, crescent moon & palmetto tree hilt/pommel. The idea I had was to incorporate a fire ant into a traditional tattoo dagger, and Jason Eisenberg over at Holy City Tattooing Collective made it way better than I envisioned. The reason I wanted the design was due to my recent discovery that I’m allergic to fire ants and how it made me feel like the south is trying to do me in – But what doesn’t kill me…

    This is my #tattoo #sleeve that @MargoVenomous did for me at #holycitytattooingcollective in #charleston #sc featuring original art as well as elements of the artwork of @tatunga @caiakoopman @patchwhisky #art #ink #chsart #firedragon #demon #lowbrow #pop

    The part that does kill me (and every photographer who gets their photos published) is that you never know which photo an editor is going to use. And it’s never the ones you work hardest on! This photo of my sleeve just above represents many hours of sitting in the shop as Margo Venomous worked her ass off putting ink into my arm. It features multiple designs from some of my favorite pop-surrealism artists that Margo expertly corralled into a very Todd Schorr-esque mural on my flesh. I shot it with a full lighting setup and spent time putting it all together in Photoshop. They didn’t want that, instead they used a selfie that I quickly shot in my bathroom mirror to post on my personal Facebook page to show off my new ink.

    What I’m getting at is that how we shoot is never as important as what we shoot, and the story that the shot is illustrating is the most important thing when it comes to getting published. Even if it’s a damn selfie.

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  • Jan4

    White Keys

    It has been awhile since I’ve added images to my Fine Art Gallery. The image above is a brand new image that I created just moments ago, while the other four images are ones I created in 2013. The following two images were created recently while staying at Occoneechee State Park in Virginia. The first was at sunrise on Christmas Eve, while the other was taken the day before during a rainy sunset.

    Occoneechee State Park Sunrise

    Occoneechee State Park Rainy Day Sunset

    This next image was taken during a commercial shoot for a local magazine here in Charleston. It’s a group of Citadel cadets standing in front of a construction wall off of King Street that people have been writing their dreams on. I happened to get a girl walking by in this shot:

    Citadel Cadets

    And finally, this is an image I’ve posted here before. It’s Sullivan’s Island at sunset on a glorious summer day:

    Sullivans Island Sunset in July

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  • Dec7

    Dereon - Help-Portrait 2013

    That picture says it all. Little Dereon was the first to come visit us in the atrium at MUSC Children’s Hospital on Friday for our annual Help-Portrait event that we organize there every December. She was also the last to get her photo taken! It took her a while to warm up to me, and she wanted to watch the other children with a curious eye to see what the deal was. The whole morning she was wearing a mask that covered her beautiful smile, and when she finally built up the courage to get her picture taken, she took off that mask and instantly transformed into an excited and confident little girl. I couldn’t think of a better story to explain what our Help-Portrait event at the children’s hospital means – It’s a way to make these kids and their families feel normal.

    Joe Help-Portrait 2013

    The holidays are an emotional time, and to add the struggle that these kids are going through is not easy to say the least. To give them any experience that lets them feel like regular kids is important in keeping them hopeful and strong. We’re just but one event of the hundreds of different kinds that are held every year for the hospital, but to see the happiness in Danielle’s face and the gratitude from her mom, you can see why we get so excited for this event every year:

    Danielle - Help-Portrait 2013

    How about little Kloeiann, who came out like a rock star? We had her and her mom design a sign for her to hold up for one of her pictures, and very awesome is quite appropriate for her 🙂

    Kloeiann - Help-Portrait 2013

    We also had a frame crafting station set up for the kids to design their own picture frame to put one of their photos in.

    Crystal - Help-Portrait 2013

    Thanks to Amy, Crystal, & Christina who volunteered to make this happen with me again this year. Also, thanks to the staff at MUSC Children’s hospital for letting us do this every year!

    The photos are up on my gallery here, and there’s also a set on Flickr.

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  • Dec2


    I’m not one to get into the whole brand war when it comes to “stuff”. I really do make educated guesses about the equipment I use for the specific jobs they perform. That said, every DSLR I’ve owned has been a Nikon. The reason has nothing to do with the quality of the system or anything like that. They just feel best in my hand. It’s the one “stuff” decision that has nothing to do with specs or functionality. It’s based purely on ergonomics and the way I use the camera.

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    I have been on the hunt for a “Family Camera” that suits my nerdier photography needs. I love my Nikon P7000, but when it comes to low-light conditions, its small sensor leaves a gaping whole in its functionality. The newer Nikon 1 system uses pretty much the same sensor. I’ve been lusting over the micro 4/3’s systems, but I’m weary that their small sensors will leave me wanting just a little more than they can deliver also. When Fuji came out with the x100 and put a APS-C sensor into it, I thought “That’s it”, but it’s just too expensive to justify as a family camera. Sony has a fantastic system with the NEX line as well, but unfortunately the interface on those is way too nutty for my liking. Being quite happy with my iPhone, I gave up on paying much attention to what’s been going on in the world of small mirror-less cameras. I didn’t even know that Canon tried and failed miserably with the EOS M earlier this year. Their failure = My gain!

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    So, why would I buy into a failed camera system? Short Answer: I got one with a lens for well under $300. This camera has the same sensor as the Canon 650D, and it costs a fraction of the price of anything even near it in it’s class. Why is it so cheap? Because reviewers panned the camera into submission. The camera sucks at autofocusing in comparison to other cameras in its class, but Canon recently upgraded the firmware to greatly improve the M’s performance. Now I can even focus on a honey bee’s ass!

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    I learned about the camera at this year’s BarCamp when fellow photog Phillip Guyton let me play around with his EOS M. As annoying as on-screen controls can be, the touch screen combined with some really smart layout of the controls make for a great compromise for those of us who’ve been using iPhones for many years. I was immediately obsessed. It’s almost everything I want from a walk-around family camera. Sure, the auto-focus issue can sometimes be a challenge, but I was able to hand the camera over to other people and got great results:

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    Also, it has a hot shoe! Yay for off-camera lighting. One of the first things I did was grab a remote trigger and use on of my Nikon flashes in manual mode to see how it works (It gets a 1/200 sync speed btw). Here’s one of the images I made while I tested it:

    Dee Dee Ramone

    What other stuff can this camera do that my iPhone can’t? How about slow shutter speeds! I took this shot of a fountain inside the Polynesian resort in Disney World this past weekend:

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    The M also has much better dynamic range than other compact cameras. While not nearly as good as a full-frame Nikon, this little guy is pretty damn good in a tough lighting situation (that’s not noise in the 2nd shot – it’s foam flying around as simulated snow at the Osborne Family Christmas Lights in Epcot Center):

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

    After spending the holiday weekend with the M, I’m happy to say that for the price of the camera, I definitely have found my “Walk-Around” system (and then some), and would happily recommend it to any photography enthusiast!

    Disney World Thanksgiving 2013

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  • Nov12

    Just a quick update on my Movember campaign. I’ve teamed up with Dollar Shave Club to try and raise some funds for men’s health. If you sign up for their razor subscription this month, please use this promo code:


    When you use my pro-MO code MOVEMBER094 they’ll donate $10 to my Movember page to help fight prostate and testicular cancer. You get great razors for a few bucks a month, we beat cancer. Everyone wins.

    Here’s my week 2 progress photo:

    Movember 2013 Week 2

    Thanks for reading!

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  • Nov11

    Ashley And Set

    Gotta Love a Low Country wedding in the fall. On a beautiful day back in September, Ashley and the ladies in her wedding party polished up their boots…

    Ashley And Set Boots

    Ashley Set Prep

    It was a perfect day out at The Gatherings of Dorchester to get married. It can be a gamble having a wedding outside in the south, but this day was absolutely perfect.

    Ashley Set hands

    Ashley And Set

    Ashley Set Cake

    Ashley Set hands2

    Ashley And Set

    Ashley And Set

    Ahh, to be so young and in love. So much energy & passion. I hope one day, when they’re old and gray, they can look back at these photos and smile like it was yesterday. Congratulations Ashley & Set!

    Ashley And Set

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  • Nov3

    Movember 2013 JoeL8X - Week 1

    It’s that time of year again folks. The air’s a little crisper, the trees are full of color, and I’ve shaved my mustache in an effort to raise awareness about men’s health issues as well as raise money for the organizations that are fighting the good fight.

    This year I’m flying solo as a “MoBro”. Can we lose the “bro” monicker though? Seriously, the term “bro” makes me think of beer coozies and fist bumps, and that’s just not me. Anyway, here’s the link to donate through my page: MoBro.co/joeL8X. I’m thinking of doing some fun stuff to raise money this year, so be sure to follow me here, on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

    If you don’t know about Movember yet, you can read all about the organizations vision, values, and goals here.

    Swingin' at the #coastalcarolinafair with @frostymac #fair #swing #ride #charleston #sc

    While I’ve got your attention, the Coastal Carolina Fair is in effect again. All the rides, attractions, and deep fried things that probably shouldn’t be allowed near a deep frier are available for your enjoyment at the Ladson Fairgrounds.

    More importantly, I’m proud to announce that my daughter Mackenzie has won 2nd place in this year’s photography contest for division 3 (Students)!!! She entered shots she made during last month’s World Wide Photo Walk, and her shot of a rusty old bicycle bell earned her a red ribbon.

    Mackenzie Wins 2nd Place at the Coastal Carolina Fair Photography Contest

    Next up in the information department is that Halloween was this week, and of course my family had to pose for pictures in our costumes:

    Halloween 2013

    Kegan’s buddies came over and were promptly stuck in front of my camera. Some kids are so cooperative in getting into character. These kids rule.

    Kids Halloween 2013

    My Satyr costume was inspired by this new Halloween themed tattoo I got from Rob Junod over at Holy City Tattooing Collective:

    I got my #Halloween #tattoo by @robjunod at #HolyCityTattooingCollective in #Charleston #SC Check out that #Satyr fiddling the night away! I admire his goatee...

    In sadder news, we lost a New York legend last week. Lou Reed passed away after losing a battle with liver disease. When the kids and I carved our pumpkins, I decided to make mine a tribute to one of rock n’ roll’s most influential people. From the left to right, it’s Mackenzie’s “Hedgehog-O-Lantern”, my “Lou-O-Lantern”, and my son Kegan’s “Boo-O-Lantern”:

    Pumpkins 2013-6

    The sadness didn’t last long in our family though, because the day after Lou passed away, Karlina Josephine joined the world:

    Brian & Mira's Baby Girl

    Welcome to the family, kiddo. Brian & Mira are going to be great parents to you, and you will have more professional photos of yourself than any other kid in your neighborhood, so just accept it and be prepared!

    Brian & Mira's Baby Girl

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