A Trip to Ohio and a Family Reunion


Going Back Doesn't Always Mean Going Home... And That's Okay. 

I have mixed feelings about Ohio. On the one hand, it's where I grew up, and I have a lot of great memories from some of my formative years and my very early adulthood. On the other hand... There are concrete reasons why I felt the need to move to Wisconsin in 2006, and those reasons persist (not that Wisconsin doesn't have its own share of issues). My hometown of Dayton, Ohio was an economically depressed area before it was cool, has an incredibly high crime rate (they go hand in hand really) and does not, or at least did not, really invest in education. Boarded up buildings and houses aren't an unusual sight and you always want to lock your car doors immediately when you get in a car (a habit that I've maintained even in Madison, Wisconsin). Beyond that, my most important life events, at least in my adulthood, have all occurred in Madison, and so, really, Dayton doesn't feel like home to me anymore. It feels like a place I'm remembering from a dream, or like a glimpse of another lifetime. Someone else's lifetime, since I don't really feel like the same person I was when I moved to Wisconsin at age 21. For all its faults, Ohio does have my family (my Mom's side, and Rob's family also lives there), Bill's Donuts, and a noticeable lack of mosquitoes going for it, all of which I enjoyed while I was in town recently. 

I drove into Ohio on my birthday, with Ben in tow, and arrived super late, after running into unexpected (but also kind of expected) construction on Interstate 70, and a particularly intense summer rainstorm. Friday morning, after I had slept off the drive, and eaten a celebratory cupcake, my Mom, Ben, and I drove to Yellow Springs, Ohio, one of my favorite places in the state! We took Ben around to the local shops, including Dark Star (my all-time favorite used comic and book store), and a number of little artist shops along the town's main drag. We ate at the iconic Ha-Ha's Pizza (known for their delicious whole wheat crust and unique toppings, like falafel), and then took Ben to Young's Jersey Dairy Farm, a childhood staple if ever there was one. Ben didn't have much of an interest in building magical childhood memories by petting the goats or cows, but he was very interested in the ice cream, so that's something. Then Ben and I visited with my best friend (friends since the ripe old age of 3) and her family, our kids staying up way past my bedtime playing video games and catching up. I don't get much sleep when I'm in Ohio, since everyone stays up so much later than me there! 

Saturday was a day of rest, at least until the evening. My Mom, a licensed massage therapist, was nice enough to spend her weekend time giving me a massage, which I desperately needed (did you know driving for 9 hours is hard on your back?) and after that she and Ben and I watched Moana (I love that movie!) and then left for the little family reunion being hosted at my cousin's house. My Mom's brother, Denny, was also in town with his wife, which was great timing, since it's been 12+ years since I've seen then, and they had never met Ben, since they're in Georgia and we're in Wisconsin. It was wonderful to catch up with everyone. I went into picture-taking mode (because of who I am as a person), but luckily I eventually ran out of camera battery so I actually put the camera away and had some great catch-up conversations with family. Ben got to run around with his 2nd cousins (my cousin's kids), and we all had a rousing game of badminton (does anyone still play that? Just us?)

It was awesome to see everyone, and I simultaneously wish I could see my family more often and also have no desire to move out of Wisconsin (or back to Ohio). Kind of the catch 22 of leaving your home town or home state... You build a new home, and a new family (through marriage, birth, adoption, friends, etc.), and you get busy, and you live your life, and it gets weird, but still wonderful, to go back to your old state, your old life, every now and again. The saying you can't go home is true in a way, because it's your concept of what home is that changes. Wisconsin is home now, and I know that as much as I know anything. I love it here, and I love the life I've built. But even though Ohio isn't home anymore, it doesn't mean I can't go back, and enjoy a little time in that past life, with people I love very much. It means I'm lucky enough to have both a past I'd want to visit every now and again, and a future I'm looking forward to. 





Kimberley + Jason: A Dr. Who Themed Madison Wedding


This Dr. Who themed wedding was out of this world! 


Kim + Jason have a love of all things Dr. Who, and their wedding was not only a tribute to their their love for each other, and their family and friends, but also their shared love of the Doctor! Jason was dressed as the 11th Doctor (sonic screwdriver, and all) and Kim had on a gorgeous custom-made Tardis dress. The best man was dressed as the 10th doctor, and the bridesmaids were dressed in matching Dr. Who dresses, and a number of guests also dressed the part as well! 

Kim + Jason's ceremony was short, and sweet, and officiated by Kim's brother. It ended with a symbolic hand-tying ceremony, which the couple opted for instead of a ring exchange. After the ceremony, Kim + Jason greeted their guests and then we spent some time walking around the Olbrich Botanical Gardens taking photos of the two of them practicing their first dance (with the best man there providing dancing tips). From there, we headed over to the Goodman Community center for a fun, laid-back reception, featuring a ton of adorable dancing children, including the couple's two kiddos, and, you guessed it, a Dr. Who-themed cake! 

Kim + Jason's wedding day was an awesome celebration of the commitment of thees two super neat people, and we couldn't be happier we got to celebrate with them! 


p.s. If you want to check out their awesome engagement photos, click here! 


Here are the vendors (with links) that made this wedding day awesome!

Ceremony Venue: Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Reception Venue: Goodman Community Center

Caterer: Goodman Community Center

Cake: Curtis & Cake

Hair & Makeup: Union Hair Parlor


Photography 101: 4 Tips to Get You Started


So you want to get into photography, but aren't sure where to start... 

We've been there, believe me! It can be intimidating to love something a ton, but not be 100% sure (or even 50% sure) how to get started! We've put together some tips for beginners that will give you a great jumping off point! 

Tip # 1: Getting Started with Equipment 

Our philosophy on photography equipment for beginners is largely that you should focus on practicing with what you have, rather than falling into the trap of thinking better equipment will automatically make you a better photographer (spoiler alert: it won't). That being said, there are some things to think about when it comes to what equipment you might need, and some questions to ask yourself. 

Are you a Nikon or a Canon person? 

Not sure? That's okay! They're both wonderful! We happen to use Canon, so this post will largely feature Canon recommendations, but both have great starter options! B&H Photo, Amazon, and Best Buy all have periodic sales and specials to look out for when it comes to getting started with a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera! B&H Photo is also a reputable source for used camera equipment, including DSLRs. 

Starter DSLRs for Canon Users: The Canon T6 and up (also known as the Canon Digital Rebel)

Starter DLSRs for Nikon Users: The Nikon D3400 and up

Will you be photographing people, landscapes, or close-up macros (flowers, bugs, tiny things, etc.) or a mix of things? 

The answer to this question will determine which type of lens could be right for you. 

For People and Portrait Photography: A 50mm 1.8f lens is a GREAT portrait lens, does well in lower light, and is an affordable prime lens (prime lenses do not zoom, except the old-fashioned way, which involves you moving closer or further away from your subject).

For Landscape Photography: A wide angle lens is going to work best, generally anything 28mm or wider, with a 2.8f or lower capability.

For Macro/Close-Up Photography: A 60mm or 65mm 2.8f macro lens is a great introduction to macro/close-up photography! I would definitely recommend going used on this one, from a reputable source, such as B&H Photo, and if you're purchasing the Canon 60mm 2.8f macro lens, please note that this lens is only compatible with Canon's crop-sensor camera bodies, and is not compatible with full-frame canon cameras (such as the 1D, 5D, or 6D). 

For Mixed-Use Photography: Just can't decide between what type of photography you like? Something like a prime lens 35mm or a zoom lens that can maintain a consistent fstop (aperture) throughout the zoom are great 'all-around' options! We would generally recommend avoiding zoom lenses where the aperture changes depending on how far in or out you are zoomed. 

Will you be primarily photographing indoors or outdoors? 

This will determine if you might need to invest in something like a simple speed-lite or can go without. If you're primarily photographing outdoors, don't worry about off-camera flash for now! If you're primarily photographing indoors, a small speed-lite flash that you can use to bounce flash off of ceilings, and maybe a diffuser could be a good investment. The Canon 430EX Speed-lite is a great place to start! 

What is your equipment budget? 

If you're a beginner, it may be on the smaller side, and that's okay. What that means is you'll want the best lens for your intended use that fits within your budget. We do not recommend going into debt for your photography equipment. A great way to save is to purchase used equipment from reputable sources. It's a win/win! You can potentially afford "nicer" gear for less money by buying used. A great source for used equipment is the used section at B&H Photo! Check it out here. 

Once you know the answers to these questions, you'll be well on your way to determining what gear you need to get started, and how to budget accordingly. Just remember, just like buying a guitar doesn't make you a great musician, buying all the great gear in the world doesn't make you a photographer if you don't put in the hours and work necessary to hone your craft. There are no shortcuts with art, just passion. 

Tip # 2: Getting Started with Editing

Hey, we get it, editing software is not cheap, and a lot of it, even the professional stuff, isn't all that user-friendly. But editing is a great way to really make your images stand out, and to take your photography to the next level. Our first tip for editing greatness? Shoot in RAW! Then, if you can swing it, Adobe's Creative Cloud offers a subscription that includes Photoshop (not particularly user-friendly if I'm being honest) and Lightroom (freaking amazing, super biased) for under $11 a month. This is a great deal, but it is a subscription model, so if you aren't ready to commit to another monthly bill, then check out free RAW editing software, such as Darktable, which is a great, and free opensource alternative. Last editing-related tip; Try not to go too nuts on filters (But if you do, it's okay. We've all done it). 

Tip # 3: Getting Started with Community

Since we recently did a post on how to connect with other creatives (check it out here), I won't reinvent the wheel here, but suffice it to say that it's easier to stay engaged and enthusiastic about your craft if you've got a good creative community around you! Word of caution though, comparison is the thief of joy, so definitely do surround yourself with an awesome creative community and definitely don't do too much comparison, lest you accidentally discourage yourself. 

Tip # 4: Getting Started with PRACTICE! 

Okay, so, this isn't a sexy tip. I get it. I, too, want to be an awesome rock star without practicing. BUT... That's not how reality works. Or dreams, that's also not how dreams work. And the truth is that you don't get better at something without practicing, and as I mentioned above, having the best gear in the world doesn't mean anything at all if you're not using it. Having the best editing software in the world doesn't matter if you're not figuring out how to use it and experimenting with it, and having a love of photography without actually taking photos makes you a fan (which is also cool), not a photographer. If you want to be a photographer, go photograph stuff. Seriously, it's that simple. Photograph things every day. Find beauty in the overlooked. Figure out what you most love to take photos of, and take more of those kinds of photos. Figure out what scares  you to take photos of, and then take more of those kinds of photos. Take photos of EVERYTHING, and then take some more. You got this! 


Hopefully that gives you a good place to start! These tips are (obviously) not all-inclusive, but stay tuned because we are working on a 'leveling up' version of this post to talk through next steps once you've worked on the items above, and if there is anything at all that you'd love to see us write a future post about, please email us at robandsamphoto@gmail.com and let us know! 




Monica + Daniel: A Queer as Hell, Non-Binary, DIY Wedding!


Monica + Daniel and the technicolor wedding! 

I would expect no less from two people as cool as they are!

Monica is a spectacular and colorful non-binary person (they/them pronouns), and is one of my favorite humans on earth (being a former roommate of mine, and just generally magical), and Dan has become another favorite of mine in the time that I've known him. He has even second shot on weddings with me when Rob had a schedule conflict!

Monica and Dan met at a Books in the Buff reading (if you're in Madison and they ever do one of these again, check it out!) and they've been inseparable ever since. When they decided to get married, they knew they were going to do it their way, and that was that. For the past year, they've been hand-folding rainbow colored origami cranes and flowers to decorate their yard with for the wedding day. They opted out of exchanging rings, and instead exchanged a beautiful mask (for Monica, from Dan), and a kick-ass Alien cane (for Dan, from Monica). Monica's metal antler headpiece was the star of the day (by the end of the night, nearly everyone had tried it on). More than 10% of the guests were wearing Kilts (mostly of the alternative variety). Instead of a wedding party, they had their guests link arms with them and walk them up the aisle! They didn't really dig the 'husband' and 'wife' labels, which also didn't really apply to a non-binary individual, so Monica opted for 'WifeKing' as their official married title, and Dan opted for 'Champion' as his. I love this so much! 

During planning for the wedding day, and in talking about wedding details, Monica and I also noticed that there wasn't a good gender-neutral term to replace 'Bride', so Monica, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the definitive, gender-neutral replacement for 'Bride' was 'PRIDE'. You're welcome! 

Monica + Dan are two individuals who live their life openly, proudly, and without reservation. Their love and care for each other, and their friends and family is amazing, and truly, a picture is worth a thousand words here because I can't begin to describe the awesomeness of their wedding, and also the two of them as people. 

The wedding day was perfect, and ended in the queerest way possible; A double rainbow. A very fitting end to a very colorful wedding! 


p.s. Monica will be writing a guest blog post about navigating the wedding industry as a non-binary person, so stay tuned! 


Here are the wedding vendors (with links) that helped make Monica + Daniel's day amazing: 

Ceremony + Reception Venue: Their house

Officiant: Chris Marshaus

Event Coordinator: Karen Corbeill

Photobooth: Peek-a-Booth, handmade by the amazing maker, Karen Corbeill 

Hair: Janet Lust

Headpiece (Antlers): Idolatre Clothing Co.

Majora's Mask: SkinzNhydez

Wedding Desserts: The Chocolaterian Cafe

Catering: Banzo

Table + Chair Rental: A La Crate Vintage Rentals

Papercrafts: Handmade by the PRIDE + Groom, and super nice friends


Jenny + Brad: A Sunny Olbrich Botanical Gardens Wedding


Jenny + Brad are exactly as laid back, happy, and fun as you would expect two people who met at a music festival to be...

Which is to say, very.

When Jenny was talking with us about how they met and their story, one of the things that really stuck out to me is the sense of family that they have, as a blended household. Jenny has a daughter, and Brad has a son and a daughter, and although the road was not always smooth, their kids get along great, and they have this wonderful way of interacting with each other and their kids that was a joy to capture! As Jenny put it, they have each other's back, and are truly partners, in every sense of the word, and that's what, at its heart, a marriage is supposed to be. 

We arrived at Olbrich Gardens to photograph their wedding, and the day was already sweltering! Jenny looked gorgeous in her dress, and I was so impressed and happy that she decided to go without makeup, since, as she put it, it's just not her thing. There is so much pressure on women in particular to be "perfect" on their wedding day, that I was super excited to see someone so confident in their natural beauty on their wedding day. 

Jenny + Brad did their first look by the willow tree in the Olbrich gardens, followed by their gorgeous and heartfelt outdoor ceremony, surrounded by their friends and family (and with their kids making up most of the wedding party!) After the ceremony, we spent some time with the wedding party (they do a great Brad impression!) and then just the couple, wandering around the lovely grounds and snapping some photos. After that, we headed over to the reception at the East Side Club where Jenny + Brad had karaoke, danced their first dance to Radiohead's 'All I Need', and indulged us in grabbing some sunset shots, where we got some super pretty pictures of the two of them and Rob got to photobomb a few teenage girls taking selfies. Win/Win! 

We're so happy to have gotten to celebrate with Jenny + Brad and their loved ones, and hope you enjoy the pictures! 



Here are the Vendors (with links) that helped make their wedding day awesome! 

Ceremony Venue: Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Reception Venue: East Side Club

Bridal Gown + Accessories: David's Bridal

Bridesmaid Dresses: David's Bridal

Groom's Tux: Men's Wearhouse

Groomsmen Attire: Men's Wearhouse

Officiant: Joan Page

DJ: Jukebox Bandstand

Cake: HyVee

Catering: Upstairs Downstairs



Come In From The Cold


Do you ever feel like a tourist in your own life? 

And not in a fun "Oh isn't my life exciting?!" kind of way. More like a feeling of maybe not quite fitting in, or just being on the outside looking in. 

I have a particular affinity for a Joni Mitchell song called "Come in From the Cold", and of course the lyrics are amazing, because Joni Mitchell is a ridiculously talented artist, but also because a chorus proclaiming "All I ever wanted was just to come in from the cold..." really speaks to me in a way I can't quite put my finger on. 

This vague 'outside looking in' feeling persists in most situations, and has, for most of my life. Feeling like a guest instead of at ease when visiting family in states I no longer call home. Not feeling queer enough in LGBTQ spaces because I'm married to a man and so it isn't apparently obvious that I'm not straight. Feeling a little out of place in the leadership team at my 9-5 work because I don't have a college degree, don't own a single power suit, and am not particularly good at networking. Feeling like an outsider in creative circles because I get nervous around large groups of people, particularly people I feel are considerably more talented and successful than I am, and so have a hard time not just reverting to quiet observation instead of interaction.

I don't know what makes that feeling go away. I thought it would be achieving some measure of success, so I would feel "legitimate", but, unless I just haven't hit the right level of success yet, I don't think that's it. So, if it's not success that makes imposter syndrome go away, then how does one overcome that uncomfortable feeling of not belonging? Asking for a friend. (Just kidding, all my friends have their shit together way more than I do, or at least are very confident in not having their shit together). 

I wish I knew what the magic combination of success, confidence, talent, and stick-to-itiveness is that makes one feel like they have a definitive right to take up space in circles they would be otherwise welcome in, save for their own inhibitions and fears. Since I don't have that recipe yet, I'm just taking it one step at a time. I'm attending regular creative entrepreneur meetings, I'm having fun with our photography clients and continually learning better ways to serve them, I'm attending Pride parades and equality marches, I'm doing my best at my daytime work to not feel like a fraud, though I draw the line at purchasing un-ironic power suits. And what else can one do really, besides keep moving forward? 

What do you do that helps you when imposter syndrome comes on strong or when you feel like an outsider? If you do nothing else, just remember that you're not alone.