someone pinch me

i couldn't think of a more amazing, incredible, magical way to start 2012... while on vacation in nevada, i decided to change up my website design a bit.  in the process, i realized that i never received a year's worth of contact messages (sent through my website).  one of those messages was sent in october -- from kaitlin, director of communications for the foundation for tomorrow (TFFT). she was inquiring if i'd, by any chance, be interested in photographing for TFFT. after emailing back and forth over a day-and-a-half, it was official...

i will be photographing the foundation's RIDETZ-2012 fundraiser ride in tanzania, from june 8th - 19th. it's a 400-mile bike ride from kilimanjaro to the indian ocean.


Over 46 million children in Africa never step foot in a classroom, and in Tanzania alone there are over one million orphaned children. TFFT’s mission stems from a desire to improve the quality of education while also increasing orphaned and abandoned children’s access to schooling in Tanzania.

and the story, as shared by kaitlin, on how TFTT got started, takes my breath away --

In 2004 Meghann (the executive director) spent a summer in Tanzania researching for her dissertation and volunteering at Nkoranga Orphanage. During her time at the orphanage, she became especially close with Helena, Usufu, and Matayu, orphaned triplets who were four years old at the time.

There are over one million orphaned and abandoned children in Tanzania, and, because of this staggering number, most orphanages only have the resources and capacity to care for children under the age of five. Therefore, with their fifth birthday, children who have not yet found a home "age out" of orphanages and are pushed to live on the streets.

Helena, Usufu, and Matayu were approaching their fifth birthday, and Meghann could not bear to think of what would happen to them. Feeling helpless, she sent an email to her family and friends explaining the situation and asking for contributions to send the children to boarding school in Tanzania where they would receive quality education and have a nice place to live. She received an overwhelmingly positive response, and Helena, Usufu, and Matayu became TFFT's unofficial first Scholarship Students.

The triplets are now vibrant eleven-year-old tweens--you will meet them this summer! They are thriving at Usa River Academy, the private boarding school in Tanzania where the majority of our Scholarship Students attend school. We currently have 76 children on full scholarship, and that number will increase to over 80 in 2012.

i cannot believe i'm going to have this life-changing opportunity. how did this happen? to me? i feel more than blessed. AN ABSOLUTE DREAM COME TRUE!!


so grateful for the magical gifts i received last week from one of my clients. francesca emailed me this so kind, heartfelt note, after seeing her photos...

deb, we all can learn to take pictures by reading manuals, going to workshops, using photoshop. but what you do... you CAN'T learn. it's in you. it's the power to understand the little glimpses of bliss that can show up on a daily basis. it's SEEING what, as mothers and fathers, we feel in our hearts. as I told you before, you gave me the pictures that I carry in my soul but now I can print them :) hope you get back two-fold what you give to people like me. and its not just the pictures.

and then i got this hand drawn beautiful portrait in the mail of...ME.  :-) notice the awesome beads at the bottom of my dreads.  and i so love the heart on my dress and my colorful camera...along with being surrounded by hearts and flowers.  who could wish for anything more?!

here's a few photos from our session together, in chicago.

their middle child is their wonderfully spirited one [with the best dimples ever] and i so love the face she gave me in the photo on the right.

and you can read some of francesca's thoughts about our time together here.

francesca, thank you for entrusting me with your family's photographs. thank you for your hospitality. thank you for your kindness. can't wait until the next time!! ;-) xo.

being grateful

i love this womani am grateful for this woman and all she shares with us she reminds me what it means to be good and grateful and not-so-serious in this crazy, mixed up world of ours

while in kansas, i started a grateful 365 project. to be completely honest, something went off course and i never finished. and then we moved. and then i was sent really off course. but seeing hailey's video has me longing to start another one. although i'm taking the daily pressure off and simply calling it my 'grateful project'. can't wait to see what comes of it.

how can anyone ever go wrong with a project that reminds them of all they have to be grateful for...each and every day.

hope you enjoy the video...

please don't forget to check out their 365 grateful site --

last but not least, here's a few photos from my 2010 (iphone) grateful project...

beyond the assignment | forever seven

max mikulak...

forever seven.

this morning, i received an email from jason houston that max's series, forever seven, has been published in issue 3 of fraction J magazine. and i couldn't have dreamed of a more perfect theme to have max's photographs be a part of -- beyond the assignment.

For this issue of Fraction J we were looking for projects with several specific traits. The work, first had to be journalistic, at least in the sense that it was a reaction made in real time to real events and a subject's story truthfully told. But the more important distinction was that the photographer stuck with the work, not from any attempt to create something sellable for some specific market, but because it meant something to them—and where. The photography also has to be a functional element of the concerned involvement, but not the reason for it. In the end it was very difficult to draw these lines and find that balance, especially when it came to the personal documentary projects, many of which were reflecting on external situations. But in the end, the portfolios we ended up with span an appropriately broad and inspiring range of responses.

i hope you'll take a look.

thank you fraction J for this incredible opportunity to share. i am so, so grateful!!

thankful for

life. love. family. my children. hope. today. tomorrow. photography. my home. inspiration. coffee. happiness. new friends. old friends. a day at the beach. a clean house. my husband. hoodies. journaling. a great pair of boots. a beautiful sunset. a crisp breeze. family pets. dreaming. hoping. believing. military. peace. opportunities. safety. comfort. health. a good book. memories. freedom. optimism. wonderful neighbors. email. dreadlocks. a great snowfall. encouragement. a tough workout. nachos. sincere apologies. music. hugs. the arts. incredible schools. cochlear implants. a handwritten note. getting along. rest. laughter. reconnecting. travel. being respectful. passion. strength. cell phones. dinners together. technology. smiles. random acts of kindness. family traditions. autumn leaves. each new day.

happy thanksgiving!!

is there a perfect time?

a friend posed this question today on her facebook wall:  what is holding  you back from booking a family photo session? quite a few women (moms) quickly commented that their weight is holding them back, which made me really sad. and a few posted money, which i understand but i also believe that there's enough photographers out there to cover everybody's budget.

this all led me to thinking about the perfect time.

is there ever a perfect time to have photographs taken of your family?

i posted on our wallflower friends blog today about an awesome article i read, which had the overall theme of taking the time to slow down and appreciate life and the everyday beauty that surrounds us.  in a swirly kind of way, i feel what i shared there and what i'm sharing here is totally intertwined.

it's so easy to say -- i'm too fat. i have too much going on. we're too busy. maybe next year.

but i just want to say STOP IT! we need to take the time to appreciate the value of family photos, if not for ourselves (because we're too fat or whatever), then for our children.  in 20 years, your children are not going to say,

i really love this photo of my family but i wish my mom had waited until she lost some weight.

and i think about steve's mom, who died when she was 40, only months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. steve was five at the time she passed away. he cherishes every single photo of his mom (not just the ones where she was thin, beautiful and looked perfect).

and kirsten sandstrom, who recently passed away at the age of 37, leaving behind a husband and three young boys. i don't think for one second that those boys will look at photographs of their mom (who pre-cancer probably wished she could have lost some weight) and see her as anything except the most amazing and beautiful mom there ever was.

we never know what tomorrow will bring our way.  and life is quickly racing by; before we know it, our kids will be grown and leaving the house.


i hope that this will inspire someone, who might be waiting for that perfect time or to lose a couple of pounds, to book a!

and let us all try to slow down, remember what's important and see and hear the everyday beauty that surrounds us. © deb schwedhelm | tampa family photographer

be grateful

let us be grateful to people who make us happy;they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. - marcel proust

a couple days ago, i asked sky if she would do some pictures with me,

just for a little bit...please.

sure, she said. just for a little bit.

we went out, behind our house, for about 15 minutes -- that's all we had until sunset.  but i was grateful for any amount of time, especially since i hadn't shot in a while.

when i photograph sky, she always (almost always) goes with the flow of my ideas.  i don't really have to give her much direction.  she just does.  i just shoot.  we get each other that way.

and when done, i never forget to thank sky and tell her how great she did.  i don't ever want to take that special time she gives me for granted.

when tucking her that night, i asked her if she knew what a great model she is.

i know, she said, with her sweet, sly sky grin.

good, i replied, with a smile on my face.  you should!

and i was so very grateful... for everything.


yesterday, i received this this book for christmas, from my dear friend, steph.  every year, she seems to find the perfect book for me.  the kind of book that inspires my heart to be better and do greater.  the cover of the book became my grateful | 365 image for yesterday.

today, i wanted to share a few of my favorite excerpts from the book.

how many people does it take to make a difference? one one song can spark a moment one flower can wake the dream one tree can start a forest one bird can herald spring one smile begins a friendship one handclasp lifts a soul one star can guide a ship at sea one word can frame the goal one vote can change a nation one sunbeam lights a room one candle wipes out darkness one laugh will conquer gloom one step must start each journey one word must start a prayer one hope will raise our spirits one touch can show you care one voice can speak with wisdom one heart can know what's true one life can make a difference that difference starts with you. [unknown] you are not here by mistake. around the world and down through the ages there has never been another you. and there will never be another you. the miracle of your existence is now in your hands. you are here for a purpose. you have something that only you can give to the world. take time to consider what it is. some questions to ask yourself: who am i? why am i here? what am i doing for others?

if children with terminal cancer can find love, peace, joy and beauty in their day--and they do--why don't we?[dan zadra]

if you have even one close friend in life, you are blessed. the best way to keep a friend? be one.

don't be beaten down by naysayers. they'll call you a dreamer, a do-gooder, a romantic. every time you stand up for a good cause, someone will roll their eyes or tell you to sit down. there will be lots of people who can give you all the reason why you can't or won't improve the world. it's up to you to remind yourself of all the reason why you can and will. optimism and pessimism are both choices. which do you choose?

your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. if you haven't found it yet, keep looking. don't settle. stay hungry. stay foolish. [steve jobs]

this book is amazing. i've shared just a teeny fraction of the goodness in this book. inspiring words and quotes and interactive--asking questions, with room to write your answers.

something i've thought about is that maybe once a month, i could pick out a question | topic from the book, write about it here on the blog, with the hopes that it would inspire others to think and write about it too. and keep us thinking throughout the year. hmmm...maybe once a month? yes? no? thoughts?

thanks steph for always inspiring me to be a better person and truly make a difference in this world.  powerful stuff sweet friend!!

snow day

the conversation yesterday morning went kind of like this... her: i think one of the things we should discuss at the workshop is the importance of shooting often; you just need to get out there and shoot. every day, if you can. i don't do this but i should. i want to. me: yea. but you have to remember that some of us live in the snow and it's freezing right now. her: well you can still shoot. me, making excuses: like i really want to shoot, when we've been cooped up in the house for days. and like the kids really want me to shoot, when they're constantly bickering with each other. and me. her: i think it's part of improving, growing and getting out of a funk. you just have to shoot. me: well it's not going to be happening anytime soon here. her, i'm guessing: *rolling eyes*

after i picked up ryder from preschool, the snow started falling.  i was grateful for our first big snow storm and it's accompanying beauty.  well, it wasn't really the first storm, but it was the first to happen during the day.  and we were loving it. so on the drive home, ryder and i stopped in an open field and i took my iphone grateful | 365 shot for the day.

later, as i watched the snow fall from the comfort of my warm living room, leah's words rang in my ears. i thought...

it really is so beautiful. maybe i can convince one of the kids to come out front with me for just a couple minutes. for just a few shots. nothing big.  just something in the snow. we're in kansas...for only one year. and we might not get another good snow like this again. it's been so long...i need to shoot.

i asked sky first because she is typically the most willing of the three.  and she agreed. we went out in front of the house, for just a couple minutes.  till sky wiped out. her hands covered in snow and freezing, that was it and we went inside. i immediately plugged in the card and was so excited to edit a few of them. it's like a part of me was alive again. having not shot in what seemed like forever (except with my iphone), it felt so good. you see...when i don't shoot for a long time, this door opens (the wrong door) and self-doubt always seems to sneak in.

what happens if i've lost it? what happens if i go out and shoot and they all suck? i'm in a funk.

after getting a taste of it, i wanted more and begged sky to go with me, on the walking path behind our house...for just a few more minutes. just a few more shots. and she agreed again. :-)

excitedly (me more than her), we walked down the completely snow covered walking path. the snow was still falling and it was so, so beautiful, quiet and pure. just she and i. magical! sky played along with my excitement and let me shoot away. gloveless, i continued my hands couldn't take it anymore.

i share this because i really do believe you have to shoot often. every day if you can. it's funny how we can convince ourselves at times that we're in a funk. that we just can't shoot. that we suck. whatever. it's during those times, those times where self-doubt somehow snuck in, that it's most important to just pick up our cameras and shoot. something. somewhere.

thank you leah. for being that little voice that reminds me and pushes me. and doesn't accept or believe all my excuses.

here's some of my favorites.

getting my shit together

in my efforts to begin organizing myself for the year ahead and yes, getting my shit together, i just wanted to share a bunch of...stuff.

first, i want to share a bit about facebook (FB)--an online community full of networking opportunities and a wealth of information.  if  you've never been there, i highly recommend it.  it's amazing the help i've received from folks on FB...and the friends i've found or who have found me.  here's my personal page and business page.

since not everyone, who reads my blog, is on FB, i decided to share a few things here that i recently discovered and|or shared on FB just today.


i'm finally feeling better today (after suffering from a terrible stomach flu on new year's day.  what a way to bring in the new year, huh?!).  i was actually recovered from the puking yesterday, but the dehydration was still hugely kicking my ass.  so now that i'm better, it's about getting organized.  and that begins with grocery shopping, since i have nothing in the house.  not having a clue what i wanted to cook for the week, i posted on FB, inquiring if anyone had any great recipes they could share.  and i learned about these great recipe sharing sites:

smitten kitchen orangette allrecipes (actually an old fav)

i've printed out some super yummy recipes and will head to the grocery store in a bit (after the construction guys are done working on the walls in our 5th bedroom). my plan is to buy a clipboard and put it on the kitchen wall with the week's recipes clipped. kind of like this (love her series of inspirational clipboards).


our KS house is already rented and we're looking at real estate in tampa. this whole thing is rather surreal. we've been here six months and are moving in six months. oh. my. gosh!!

steve is dreaming of building in tampa, although i'm not sure it's going to be possible in the area we want to live.  our location options are based on the communities middle and high school (kiele's school is our priority).  and for the moment, we're house hunting in the 33629 zip code of tampa (palma ceia area).

but, if we magically happened upon cheap land, here's a couple homes that steve and i would love to build.  maybe after our sailing adventures. sure can't hurt to dream! the spirit of palo alto the Xhouse 2


i'm planning my spring trip back to san diego for client shoots, sometime in april or early may (leaning towards late april). if anyone is interested in a client shoot during that timeframe, please email me. i also plan to do client shoots in san diego and NY in the fall. it's so exciting to have clients across the nation. i guess that's one of the perks of being a military-family photographer. needless to say, i'm blessed and grateful.


speaking of grateful. my plans were to start my grateful | 365 project on jan 1st; however, my stomach flu trumped that idea. and so i begin today.  you might remember me blogging about hailey's inspirational 365 grateful project in the past.  my plan is to do simple iphone photos for this project and will print them (probably in a 5x5 book) at the end.

today (01 | 365), i am grateful that my kids play so awesome together. sometimes it amazes me. don't get me wrong, they do have their fair share of typical sibling bickering, but most of the time, they play like this. and it melts my heart.