We met Katelyn and Michael for the first time at a conference in California. Santa Barbara to be exact. Since we’d just gone full-time in our business just months earlier, it was the first one we’d ever attended. We were true “newbies,” as Katelyn calls it. We’d had a morning of running from this and to that, and an afternoon of going to that and from this, teaching and leading our first ever hands-on session with photographers. That didn’t come out right, but we’re sure you get the point! And after that and this, and this and that, we arrived to the conference’s evening gala in the middle of a large, circular promenade. Vertical columns on the outskirts. Light-colored stone everywhere. String lights for ambiance. Mingling and giggling. Black ties. Cocktail dresses. Drinks. Smiles. And a stage patiently awaiting its turn. We walked up the steps together, hand in hand, into a sea of 400 photographers. We love people, and we love talking with people we don’t know, but this was different. Conferences are always and will always be different. The nerves come with the territory, and our hands began to sweat and shake a little bit.
Tangent Alert: Thankfully, Jordan was able to borrow deodorant from a friend. He forgot his at our $69/night hotel that didn’t have the worst reviews online. They also didn’t have the best reviews. But, nonetheless, that faux pas was avoided, thankfully, or the 400 might’ve avoided US!
As we walked up the steps from the black asphalt street and through an arch that opened into the soiree. Hands still shaking. Still sweating. But now gripping even tighter. We were slotted to speak for five minutes that night at the end of dinner, during the entertainment portion of the event called “5-Minute Fuel”, a cross between show and tell, karaoke, and Shark Tank. We’d have five minutes we were told (and five minutes only) to share something — anything — that’d either make the audience laugh or cry, or leave them inspired. Preferably, it’d be all three, we were told. No small task. No sir-ee! The truth is, we’d practiced the entire 8-hour drive to from the desert to the beach, perfecting each second, then each minute, at a time. We’re recovering perfectionists, you see.
After dinner, the testing time came, the proving ground, the main event. The round tables and their white linens were pushed to the back, the folding chairs were pushed to the front until they were hugging the stage’s feet like a child on its dad’s leg, and 400 photographers, high on excitement (and high with expectations and entertainment) quieted down and waited for the first person to step up to the mic. The first one went. Then the next. Each one adding a different flare and distinct flavor to the mixing bowl of the night.
Then, it was our turn.
We gripped hands again, holding tightly to keep each other up, and walked (one step at a time and carefully for fear of falling) made our way from our seats to the podium. As we stood there, the hot yellow lights shone so brightly that we couldn’t make out much in the crowd, but we could see four people standing in the back, and two of them were Katelyn and Michael. It was cold that night. Foggy. Dewy. His coat was wrapped around her. She was rocking from side to side to stay warm still. As we wrapped up our talk and the other speakers did theirs, like a rubber band, the promenade snapped back into place, and the buzz of conversation began anew.
Hours later (it seemed like), when the voices had dissipated and the crowd had dispersed, in a cheesy 1990’s high school movie dance scene last song sort of way, we turned around. They turned, too.We both looked up, and realized that we were the only ones left in that outdoor room. They’d been waiting to meet us and we’d been waiting to meet them. If you wanted to take it to a She’s All That level, you could say we had eyes for each other from the start. The moment came and went, a flash in the pan, but the conversation that followed went on for hours on that cold, soggy night. It was easy. It was light. It was serious when it needed to be. And it worked. It just made sense. Like a fine wine (or a good jar of jam) it didn’t need more than what it was, because it was just right. That might’ve been because it was like looking into a mirror — a sweet, Southern, red-headed, teal, and chevron one! — because we saw so much of ourselves in them, and they saw so much of themselves in us. Like a happiness drug, we were hooked, not because they’re fantastic photographers (which they are), but because they’ve got fabulous hearts. And if you’ve ever met them in person, you know that they’re even better in living color than they are online, because those smiles, that warmth, the genuinely real, raw, and authentic kindness they bring to the table of life can’t be contained by the cubically small confines of the Internet, because there’s not fast enough data speed or online storage in the world to keep up with the impact they have on it.
Katelyn and Michael, last week we celebrated our friendaversary with you by spending a few days together at our home in Arizona, and it reminded us of just how blessed we are that we were the last four people under the Santa Barbara skies that night. Here’s to fifty years of friendship, and God-willing, even more.
If you like Katelyn and Michael’s Sedona anniversary session, you might also like these destination sessions:
A special thank you to our friend and famous Venice photographer, Annamarie Akins, for letting us shoot over her shoulder and grab a few frames for our memories during her ANNAversary session with these two!
The gear used of this session: