Reconnecting Through a Camera – Elena’s Sunset Shoot

December 8, 2017

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Around two years ago as a high school senior, I picked up my mother’s around-seven-year-old camera and decided this would be the next thing to teach myself. With my kit lenses in hand (I’m currently cringing at the thought), I forced my friends to model for me, and they kindly went along with it. 

One of those supportive friends was Elena Merhaut, and after two years, she’s become an even better model, and I have (hopefully) grown into a much better photographer than I was back then. 

Photography is one of the most incredible and rewarding things to do as a career, and I am not just saying that out of personal bias. It not only has the incredible ability to document time as it passes, but it also brings friends closer. College is hard. Things change from seeing someone every day for years to not seeing them for months…or in this case, a year. But pictures have that affect on people. They open conversation and tell a story. It makes a potentially awkward situation into something fun. And this photoshoot was amazing because it was so much more than a gallery of pictures: It was a reunion between old friends.

To start the shoot, Elena brought me a latte, which was completely unnecessary, but it proves she knows that the way to my heart is through sugar and caffeine in a cup. Flashback to when I would leave school and come back with frozen raspberry mochas for the two of us. Essentially, coffee has been a solid part of our relationship.

Elena has always been quite a trooper, but boy was she tough on this one. If you live anywhere in Ohio, you know you never can tell what the weather will be like, so planning shoots as a photographer can get tricky when the weather is changing from a nice, comfortable temperature to what feels like Antarctica. Of course, this was one of those absolutely freezing days, and don’t let her cool composure convince you of otherwise. Holding a camera steady while your teeth are chattering is quite the challenge. (Thank goodness for vibration reduction). Fall is gone for sure, with the wind blowing at what felt like a billion miles per hour and the air cold enough for snow. But there was Elena, standing in a huge muddy field (so there was absolutely no blocking that wind), with a t-shirt and a light sweater. Needless to say, we couldn’t feel our toes or fingers by the end, and we took some necessary breaks to warm up in our cars.

Of course, a high school reunion would not be complete without David Labra – another awesome friend of mine and Elena’s boyfriend.  If you know David, he is a very outgoing, fun, spontaneous person, which only added to the shoot. (He also sings and plays a variety of instruments in a band with his brothers called “The Labra Bros,” and if you haven’t heard their music yet, you are missing out. There is a crazy amount of talent in that family so go check them out!!)

I will say that out of the variety of sessions I do, my favorites are probably couples because I think there is nothing sweeter than seeing that kind of happiness in two people. But to add to my already deep love for love, it is even better to see your friends still so happy together. Honestly, who doesn’t love a high school sweethearts story? You just can’t stop your heart from warming of happiness.

Things like this make the six-year-old hopeless romantic in me come out of hibernation, and as a result, I always seem to have a motion picture type vision. By that I mean The Titanic and The Notebook kind of expectations in my head, but the best part of real-life couples is just that: real life. So while my vision was more of a cute, “I’m so happy to see you” jump, what I actually got was David almost dropping Elena in a series of very silly pictures. And that turned out to be much more perfect than what I had in mind.

To be completely honest with you, I prefer these over the ones in my head. Real relationships aren’t perfectly posed moments and they aren’t a movie. Genuine happiness shows so much more in these candid pictures than they would have in anything I could have thought of. It’s that real-life twist that makes these the best. Just look at how hilarious those pictures above are!

But with the crazy silly moments, comes adorable ones such as these. What is so great about these two is that even when I do pose them, they make it their own with real smiles and laughs. Too cute!

After forcing David to take some pictures, it was back to Elena’s shoot. Social media has been all over lighting effects with glasses, prisms, mirrors, etc lately. Naturally, I wanted to jump on the band wagon, and got a rose-gold pair of glasses from H&M. They worked perfect with Elena’s second outfit, and she totally rocked the look. You go girl!

Look at that sunset! Golden hour is by far my favorite time of day to shoot. There is just nothing that quite beats that glow and cotton candy sky in pictures, so when Elena requested a time frame with that exact look, I was super excited. 

Fun fact: The pictures with glasses were all taken on a basketball court in the middle of a playground. She also never needed posed. This gal is a beauty and quite the natural. Not that that really surprised me because she always does and has looked like a model. She’s got a gift for sure.

As a huge believer, I will say that through this entire photoshoot, it was getting more and more evident to me that Jesus really does have a way of using everything we do in life to connect the dots for us. Times like these make me feel so blessed to do what I do, and this truly helped remind me that no matter the time or the distance, true friends never really leave you. Who knew that a camera could bring old friends together?

I am so so happy life brought us back together, Elena, and I am very excited to see what crazy adventures we take part in next! Thank you for being such a huge support starting from day one, and for cheering me on as I’ve grown. I will always be grateful for that and for you.

Elena Merhaut

December 2017 

  1. hannah mattix says:


  2. Judith says:

    Coffee is definitely the way to my heart as well! 😀

  3. These shots are awesome! As a dad, coffee is the way to go for me. All day, every day.

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