Weekend Update | Family, Peekaboo, and an Octopus

Happy Monday, dear Reader!  As I sit at my computer editing photos like a fiend, I thought I would do a quick post and share a bit of what is going on in my world.  I’m taking a cue from my good friend Amanda Wilson and doing a Weekend Update post!  (C’mon, Amanda, you knew I was going to steal that one! :D)

Last week was a busy one; my brother was home from Maine, so we drove up to Butler a few times to see him.  It was so nice to see him again; he only comes home once a year now.  We also went to a family reunion, where got to see some relatives that I have lost touch with and meet others I didn’t even know I was related to!

It was great seeing so much of my family in one week; my daughter and her two cousins had a jolly old time romping through the woods, picking flowers from my mom’s garden and splashing around with the garden hose.  There is something about walking through my parents’ woods that is so rejuvenating to my spirits.  I had many adventures in these woods with my dog when I was growing up.  These three pics were taken with my little PowerShot point and shoot camera.


My little nephew is growing like a weed and is cute as a button.  I’m no expert at compressing video for upload, so bear with the quality of this video clip.  I was playing peekaboo with him through his toy mailbox, and just had to record this with my PowerShot, which also does video, and share it with you.  Hope it makes you smile!

We must have done that a hundred times before he got tired of it. My voice was hoarse!

I shot a fabulous wedding this weekend in Cabot, PA, followed by a reception at the LongueVue Golf Club; we couldn’t have asked for better weather or a nicer couple.  I’ll try to get some pics posted soon.

And finally in other news, Oscar is growing up.  Allow me to explain…

My daughter has a stuffed octopus named Oscar, who has endured many a dress-up session, most famously the diaper-wearing phase.  Yes, that’s right; my daughter dressed her toy octopus in a diaper and pretended that it was her baby.  She has never taken a liking to baby dolls like other little girls do; all of her babies are of the aquatic kind.  Last night Little Miss decided that it was time that Oscar started wearing big-girl panties to bed.  Isn’t he a vision?

And that’s it for the first installment of my Weekend Update.  Have a great week, dear Reader!

kelly - LOL love it! Oscar looks to be in a lot better shape than Claire’s favorite doggie. How in the heck do you get such great photos out of a point & shoot??

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Alea & Michael | Carnegie Museum Wedding

I love how sweet they are together.  The way he looks at her, like he is the luckiest man in the world…how considerate and loving they are towards each other.  No doubt about it, these two are in love!  Both from New York, Alea and Michael actually grew up in my hometown of Butler, PA!  They’ve pretty much known each other forever, starting out as neighbors since they were kids, then becoming friends, and finally husband and wife.

The day began with some getting ready photos at the Westin Convention Center Hotel downtown.  Alea’s makeup was beautifully applied by Julie Marckisotto of Pittsburgh Makeup.

We had an amazing view from Alea’s hotel room at the Westin.

Michael had an equally inspiring view from  his room.

Great image on the right by Paige.

Alea finished getting ready at the Carnegie Museum Founders Room.

It’s good to have friends!

I took this image…

…while Paige took this one.

Loved the button details on Alea’s bouquet; flowers by Hepatica Florist.

Alea, you are stunning.

Eileen Twigger, the events coordinator at Carnegie, informed me that I have the distinction of being the last photographer to capture a wedding on the Grand Staircase; she went further to explain that when they would have more than one wedding taking place at the museum at the same time, the noise from people talking afterward would carry from the staircase area, disturbing the other wedding in progress.  How lucky am I to be the last one to photograph a wedding in such an amazing spot?

First neighbors, now family.  Love it.

The Hall of Architecture really is something to see.

The hall of architecture was quite dark by the time we went there for photos.  The awesome dramatic look of these two images would not have been possible without my trusty off-camera lighting.  Love this one behind the velvet rope–shhhh! ;)

The reception was held in the Music Hall Foyer.  So many ornate details.

Pretty cake by Parkhurst Dining Services, who also did the catering.

First dance.

See what I mean about the way he looks at her?  So romantic.

DJ Jeremy Ganss did a fab job of keeping the party going all night.  He is a great DJ to work with – very professional, with an understated way of keeping the events of the evening running smoothly and the party rolling without being overbearing.

The lime sorbet we had before dinner was to die for, and those pretty little cookies were awesome.  Yummm!

Alea and Michael, it was an honor to be a part of your day.  I wish you both all the best that life has to offer!



Suzanne - Wow, stunning stunning work! Beautiful location and lovely couple. They are going to be beyond thrilled wiht these images!

Amanda - What is it with you and these smokin hot ring shots?? So cool to be the last wedding on the grand staircase!

Judy Kennedy - These are very beautiful, like to know what Michael is whispering in her ear….. Can’t wait to see the rest.

Michael - Sandy – The photos look fantastic. Thank you for memoralizing our wedding. As for the way I look at Alea…I have a horrible poker face – I am the luckiest guy in the world…but don’t tell Alea (it would ruin the only edge I have). Can’t wait to see the rest of your photos.


Sandy - Lol, thanks Michael! It was truly my pleasure to capture your wedding.

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No Regrets

As I sat at my desk today immersed in photo editing, my daughter asked me to take her outside; she loves watching the bumblebees buzzing around the garden we planted this spring.  Tempted to respond with my usual, “Ok, sweetheart, let me finish this work first and then we’ll go outside…” I stopped myself.  I’ve been taking a good hard look at how I’ve been spending my time lately, and I’ve come to the realization that I am not spending enough of it with my family.  Isn’t one of the perks of being a business owner supposed to be the flexibility to make your own hours?  To be able to work from home so you can be around your family more?  But I think spending so much time around my family while working has made me complacent when it comes to carving out quality time with them.  What did I do before when I worked a full time job while starting up my business?  Where did I find the time to get it all done?  Ok, I know where I found some of the time to get it done; I went without A LOT of sleep.  I’d go to work all day, meet with a client after work, then come home and spend as much quality time as I could with my husband and daughter until bedtime.  Then, to the sound of soft snoring and the glow of my monitor as a night light, I would edit photos into the wee hours of the morning.  One can only carry on such a schedule for so long before the body starts showing some wear and tear.  That’s no way to live, and I am so grateful that I was able to quit my full time job.  Now that I have those 8 hours to edit photos instead of going to work, I’ve been getting the sleep I need, thank goodness.

When I first quit my job, a went through this amazing sense of elation at the new freedom I had–it was a fantastic feeling!  All those things I dreamed about finally came true.  Sleeping in!  Making my own hours!  Going places during the day!  Not having  to request vacation days off a month in advance!  Being a stay at home mom!  (This was the big one.)  I was positively giddy.  I expected to have more time to edit photos.  I expected to finally get the sleep I needed, and I knew I would have more time to be with my daughter.  But something unexpected also happened.  Without the defined boundaries of “This is when I work” and “This is when I spend time with my family” that came with having a job, I found that being a work-at-home mom blurred those boundaries.  I found myself mixing together work time and family life, with no real set time when I began and finished work.  I didn’t have to get up early for a job anymore, and as a result, I never turned off my night-owl mode.  I don’t know when exactly family time is, and neither does my daughter.  Not good.

Time waits for no one, my dear friends.  No one ever says, “Gee, I wish I had worked more hours instead of spending time with my family.”  I don’t want to wake up one day and realize that my precious daughter is all grown up and I missed half of her childhood.  I’m changing the way I do things, starting today.  I won’t be able to change everything overnight, but I can start with this: no matter what I have going on, I want to carve out time for my family every day.  Will I still have to work a lot of hours to get all my work done?  Of course.  Will I have to set  boundaries for my family so they know when work time is?  Definitely.  But when my daughter asks me for attention, I’m going to try not to put her request off until ‘later’; when I give my attention, it’s going to be undivided, even if it’s just to go outside and watch the bumblebees.  Here’s to having no regrets.

Suzanne - Wow, Thanks so much for writing this Sandy! I have been thinking the same thing lately. Working part time and trying to start my biz has me burning the candle at both ends. I decided to spend the day at the pool with my son. No Regrets. Love it! Photos are gorgeous!

Mary - Such an important truth… I had very similar feelings when I quit my full-time job to do photography. Although I don’t have any children yet, I have realized it’s very easy to drift back to my work instead of spending time with my husband. Good for you to recognize this now instead of later! Hope it works out well!

Sandy - Thanks, girls! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

Amanda - So true. I burn the midnight oil a lot. The worst though is that since you are your own boss – you can never really escape the boss. My day starts every morning with editing. I wake up around 7 or 8 (depending on how late I stayed up the night before) I sit up in bed, pull my laptop over to me and start editing photos. I do that for at least an hour before I even get out of bed. Then it’s breakfast – more editing – lunch – more editing – usually all my client meetings or sessions are in the early evening. So around 9pm I find myself away from home and unable to use my laptop! That’s when “my time” for the day starts. It’s amazing how many things you can actually do in the dark like walk the dog (its cooler), grocery shop (no lines), shop for houses (bring a deer spotlight)…etc. But this is no way to live. I’ve been trying to make a good go of it to make time for at least a walk every day and get some sunlight instead of glowing computer screen. My family always says that they never want to ‘bother’ me because every time they ask if I’m all caught up with editing I say no. I can’t get them to understand that I will NEVER be all caught up. If you’re caught up, that means you’re not working. You shoot, edit, shoot more, edit, edit, shoot, etc. Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be a normal person and stop working for the day.

P.S. Your new macro lens is sweeeeeet !

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Amanda & Ryan | Johnstown-Ligonier Wedding

Amy and Ryan held their beautiful wedding ceremony at St. Mary Antiochan Orthodox Christian Church in Johnstown, followed by a reception at the charming Ligonier Country Inn.  We started the day at Amanda’s parents’ home for some getting ready photos.

Love it when grandmas and dads see the bride for the first time in her dress.  I always find myself thinking about what it will be like when my daughter puts on her wedding dress.  I’m pretty sure I will be a blubbering mess.

Great shot by Jenny, who incidentally is one of my former brides!  Jenny has a passion for photography, and when together we could talk for hours about aperture, shutter speed, lenses–stuff that would probably make other people yawn. :-)  It’s so cool that a client of mine has now become a friend and a second shooter!

Just a short walk away from the reception venue was the historic Compass Inn Museum, an authentically restored stagecoach stop from the 1800’s.

With this cool antique finish to the photo, Amanda and Ryan very well could have been a newlywed couple from the 1800’s.

We found this awesome spot where the sun was shining down just perfectly.

I am loving this trend of having both a cookie table and a candy bar at the reception – the perfect sugar buzz break!

I also love the idea of having a memory table; I wish I had thought of that when I was getting married!  The sign on the table read “Family faces are like magic mirrors…looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.” – Gail Lumet Buckley

Ryan’s dad was quite a dancer!

Amanda and Ryan stole away from the reception at sunset for some photos in this gorgeous little meadow.

Amanda and Ryan, I had an amazing time with you both – thanks so much for letting me be a part of your day!



Amanda - Sandy – you rocked the socks off this wedding ! Whoa! The shot with the jewelry on the fern – BAM!!! THAT. JUST. HAPPENED.

Awesome ceremony shots, love the compass inn, love the meadow – wish I coulda been there! I would have had such a great time with you and Jenny!

Sandy - Amanda you are too funny!

Jen Mcken - LOVE LOVE LOVE :-)

Sandy - Thanks! That’s so funny, I was just reading your blog and was about to comment!

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Little Miss K | 6 Months

So nice to see little miss K again for her 6 month portrait!

Little Miss K had a jolly old time making happy squeals as she rolled around on the fuzzy blanket.  I love this stage when babies play with their toes!

Who could resist a smile like that?

Grandma  came to the studio this time–what fun!

I think these next two may be my favorites.

So good to see you again, Little Miss K!

Amanda - I love the toes and the black and white giggly eyelashes :-)

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Amy & James | Greensburg Wedding

There are a dozen reasons I could give you as to why I love being a photographer, dear reader; I enjoy making art from life and my view of the world…I enjoy the challenge of getting “the shot”…I love being able to freeze moments in time so that they can be enjoyed in the years to come…I love being able to make a living doing what I love.   But none of that matters.

I don’t consciously think about it all the time, but I’ve always known the importance of my job as a photographer. I’ve always known, but never more so than with the wedding of Amy and James. Their wedding day is a two-part story; part 1 takes place in the winter, and part 2 takes place in the spring.

Originally set for May 15th, I got a call a few days before Christmas that wedding plans were changed; Amy’s mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. There was no way of knowing if she would be able to make it until May, and so, not wanting to take any chances that she might miss this important event, Amy and James held their ceremony on a beautiful, cold afternoon the day after New Year’s, surrounded by a handful of family members at the Level Green Presbyterian Church in Trafford, PA.

Amy has a wedding photo of her mom in this very same pose, which we recreated.

Such a pretty mix of colors in her bouquet.

The flower girl was such a cutie–she gave me a run for my money as she bolted down the aisle like a little rabbit.

After the ceremony there were both smiles and tears.

It was a little bit cold outside, to say the least.  We decided to save the outdoor photos for the warmer weather in May; my faithful second shooter Amy was kind enough to stand out in the freezing cold and hold the door open so that I could have some nice lighting for this portrait.  Thanks, Amy!

Amy’s mom passed away just a few weeks after the wedding.  I felt a deep sense of honor that I was able to capture these memories for their family.



Part 2:  The Reception.  A couple of hours before the reception Amy, Jim, my second shooter Kelly, and I spent some time at the University of Pittsburgh campus in Greensburg.

I’m torn; I can’t decide which version of these next three images I like better, the vintage or the original.  What do you think?  Leave me some blog love and comment below!



Original processing:



Slightly Vintage:

Original Processing:

The reception was held at Ferrante’s Lakeview in Greensburg.

Amy and James put on a slide show for their guests that included photos I took at the ceremony.

A donation was made to the American Cancer Society in honor of Amy’s mom.

What a ham!

I wish I could have heard what she said to make him laugh like this.

I was quite impressed with this guy in front, who managed to get down low and drink from his glass without spilling a drop.

And one last kiss goodnight…

Amy and Jim, thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your two special days!

Jenny - oh Sandy. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. The pictures are lovely as always. The ring picture on the dogwood branch is awesome. I personally really like the vintage look. What I prefer in #2 though is that it is not at blurred out. What a great cake cutting expression.

Sandy - Thanks for the comment, Jenny. I appreciate your feedback! :)

Amanda - What bittersweet images – all the joy that her mom was with her on her wedding day even knowing it wouldn’t last forever. Such a responsibility each of us has as the documentors – people who take photos professionally or as a hobby or for fun are the family record keepers. True preservationists. Such beautiful memories you saved for them.

Love the shoe shot and the on location stuff at Pitt Greensburg! Where is that set of curved steps?

Sandy - I agree, Amanda. It is such a great responsibility that we shoulder, and we can’t underestimate the importance of preserving these memories for others. I have a lot of family photos taken by my dad when we were kids, and they are so precious to me. My Aunt Brenda always took a lot photos at family functions, and even came to my house on my wedding day to take those getting ready shots before my photographer arrived. I am so grateful for those pictures, because I could not have remembered those moments so clearly without them.

Btw, the shot on the curved steps is there–you must have missed it! :)

Beth Panza - Maybe its just me as the mother of the groom a/k/a “the ham” … but the black and white photo with Jim & Amy at the end of the pathway is wow, I can’t even find the right words to describe it. It actually took my breath away. I believe it would win any photography contest. All of your work is spectacular. I wasn’t able to make the wedding ceremony and truly felt apart of it when looking at the beautiful pictures you did.

Sandy - Wow, thanks so much for your kind words! :-D

Amy Vasquez - I love all of the photos! What a journey it has been, I’m so glad to have had you to document it in such a beautiful way. The shots at Pitt greensburg were just awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sandy - Thanks Amy!! It was an absolute pleasure working with you and Jim!

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Jenna & Anthony | Oakland Couple Session

I am on a roll, dear Reader–I keep working with the nicest clients ever!  I met up with Jenna and Anthony in Oakland for their couple session, and it was so great getting to know such friendly, sincere, fun people.

If I had to describe how Jenna and Anthony were together, I would say they were like two magnets who gravitated towards each other in an easy, effortless way, even when I wasn’t taking pictures…or maybe more like two pieces of a puzzle that melded to each other perfectly.  Together they give off this happy vibe that just makes you feel happy to be around them.

Couldn’t resist making my own graffiti here. :D

Did I mention that these two were a lot of fun??

Jenna and Anthony, I had a blast with you–I’m super excited about the wedding in July!  Anthony, thanks for running to get my reflector–twice–you are such a gentleman.  –Hugs,  Sandy

Amanda - This is hard to pick a favorite! I like #3 but also all of the fun jumping ones and the black and white. And the processing on the log cabin shot. I think I like them all…

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Sarah & Rob | Couple Session in the Strip

Sarah and Rob were referred to me by my good friend Amanda Wilson, and boy am I glad she did.  Such a great couple!  We had a good time trekking all through the Strip District, which is always a cool place for photos.  Three things I love about Couple Sessions: 1) They are fun!  2) There’s time to go to all kinds of cool places without the time constraints you have on the wedding day, and 3) They are a great opportunity for us to get to know each other and get more comfortable in front of the camera.

Rob was a little unsure about this whole taking pictures thing; but by the end of the session, I think it’s safe to say he was a pro.  He even admitted that it wasn’t all that bad.  Woohoo!  I’ll take “not bad” over “this sucks” any day!

Love the look they are giving me here.

We stopped at this cool place called Leaf and Bean, which is a great hangout for cigar and coffee connoisseurs alike.  I love the sign above the entrance: “Large walk-in humidor…Leave attitude outside”.  That is awesome.

Muy caliente!

Sarah and Rob will be getting married at the end of the month.  Can’t wait!!

Amanda - I’m jealous ! Why did I have to be booked for their date! They’re so much fun!

Sarah - Such a fun day! And yes, Rob gave me a bit of a hard time about taking pictures, but he survived! And everyone loved the guest book. Can’t wait to see pics from the wedding!!!!!! PS Hi Amanda!

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Sarah & William | Pittsburgh Wedding

Sarah and William were held their ceremony at the beautiful First Presbyterian Church in downtown Pittsburgh, and their reception was held at the equally beautiful Grand Hall at the Priory.  Photog friend Paige Butcher was my second shooter that day.

Sarah’s train was long and absolutely gorgeous.

Sarah carried a bouquet of white lilacs, while her bridesmaids carried purple lilac bouquets.  They smelled soooo good!

William looking handsome just minutes before marrying his true love.

Doesn’t she look radiant?

Favorite from the day.

The Grand Hall at the Priory is a beautiful reception venue, and the service was impeccable.  Plus, they were kind to the photographers, which says a lot in my book.  :0)


I love how even their cake was decorated with lilacs.

wedding cake with lilacs

Sarah and William opted for a unique and personal wedding favor/place card idea; each guest’s place card was put into a wallet-size frame, which would then become part of their favor.  They were also asked to write their special wishes for the bride and groom a special album page, which had a spot to paste a photo and then afterwards would be placed into a keepsake guest album.  I brought my photo booth set-up, so that after the wedding Sarah and Bill could send a copy of the guest’s photo in their thank-you card.  What a cute idea!

Another cute idea they had was to name their table after significant dates in their family history; each table had a framed photo of the corresponding event next to the centerpiece.

Photo booth, Truth Booth, Shot Box–whatever you want to call it, the one thing you can’t call it is boring!

Photo Booth Fun 1
Photo Booth Fun 2
Photo Booth Fun 3
Photo Booth Fun 4
Photo Booth Fun 5
Photo Booth Fun 6
Photo Booth Fun 7

Shot from the balcony at Pittsburgh

Sarah and Bill, it was an absolute pleasure being your photographer.  I wish you all the best!

Frank - Very nice images!

Amanda - Favorites: the detail shot of the train, the super wide shot of all those gorgeous windows in the church and the wide angle with the little bit of sun flare in mellon square park – that one is HAUTE :-D

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B E   I N   T H E   K N O W !