For the past three years, we’ve made it a new year tradition to compile a list of our top highlights from the year passed. We think it’s so important to spend some time looking back before we can really start looking ahead, so, in keeping with tradition, we’re sharing our 16 in ’16 to finish off our week of highlights! (You can see our 15 in ’15 here!)
So, in no particular order, let’s dive in!
Renewing our Vows
There was nothing more special this year than renewing our vows in the middle of a lavender field in the South of France. You can read all about that experience here. Now that we’ve experienced it ourselves, we encourage all married couples to find a time to get to renew the vows they made on your wedding day. It was such a beautiful reminder of what a gift our marriage really is.
Seeing Hamilton on Broadway
If Spotify tracked the number of times we streamed the Hamilton soundtrack from start to finish in 2016, they would probably realize they were severely undercharging us. It went with us everywhere. Editing weddings? Hamilton. Driving to a shoot? Hamilton. Road tripping through Europe? Hamilton. We brought Hamilton to over two dozen cities this year, as Amy mastered the fastest, hardcore raps you’ve ever seen a white girl spit out, and Jordan spent his time belting out the romantic Eliza ballads in a key that has yet to be officially recognized by musicians. We’ve bought all the paraphernalia (consumed the books, streamed the documentaries) and even toured Monticello with our fellow Hamil-fan, Anna.
We dreamed of what it would be like to see the show on Broadway. To be in “the room where it happens.” We’d already resigned to waiting until the show toured Arizona in 2018 and were signed up to be the first to know about local tickets, knowing we’d have to wait years to see it. But this Christmas, Jordan planned the surprise of a lifetime for Amy. After we photographed a wedding in Baltimore and spent a few days with two of our closest friends in Lancaster, P.A., Jordan not only managed to GET HAMILTON TICKETS but secretly plotted to extend our trip, all without Amy knowing. We spent an entire day enjoying New York at Christmas time and then GOT TO BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. We knew every word to the show (and worked hard not to sing along) and it was every bit as incredible and beautiful as we could’ve imagined. A serious masterpiece. Amy basically didn’t breathe from the moment it started until the moment it ended.
The Year of AJ BABIES!!
Now that we’ve been photographing weddings for over five years, our AJ Bride family is multiplying like crazy!! And. we. love. it. It’s so, so fun for us to watch our sweet clients’ families grow, and this year has definitely felt like the year of the AJ BABY! (Yes. AJ Baby! Our new favorite phrase coined by one of our couples). We had the honor of doing a few epic maternity sessions for a few of our past couples this year, and even meet some of the newest little ones in person at our annual AJ Bride Party. The number one phrase of this year’s fishbowl game was “AJ Baby,” which as you can imagine is quite a fun one to watch people act out. One of our brides joked we need to get personalized onesies for all of them, and all we have to say is we’re not ruling it out.
Teaching our First Sermon
This year, some dear friends of ours, started a church in Phoenix with a heart for reaching people who feel left out and forgotten. Their motto is “You are loved. You belong.” and we love their heart for loving people like Jesus. So, when they asked us to speak about marriage at Agape one weekend this summer, we said yes in a heartbeat. Then we felt honored. Then we felt unequipped. Then we said, “What the heck are WE going to preach about?!” THEN… we remembered that the best way to tell people about Jesus is to share how being a Christ-follower has changed our life. So we did. We talked about something we have experience with — marriage — and how when we live by the two most important Commandments (1. Love God with your whole heart. 2. Treat others how YOU want to be treated.), recognize, fully understand and communicate our daily expectations and most importantly keep Christ at the center, we’re able to revel in His plan for our marriages.
Our European Road Trip
One of our biggest professional highlights this year was definitely being flown to Italy by our sweet clients, Ashley and Troy, for their ten year anniversary in Tuscany. It was a dream job all on it’s own. Then when we discovered that two of our closest friends were ALSO going to be in Europe to photograph a wedding they’d booked in France only three days after our job in Italy! What are the chances?! We were all pretty convinced it was fate. So we rented a car, all piled in and ROAD TRIPPED through Europe with Katelyn and Michael.
It was so incredibly cool to see the countryside of France, the opulence of Monaco and the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps all by car! Road trip tip: everything feels more epic when you stream the soundtrack to Pride and Prejudice while you drive. Michael is basically the world’s best road trip DJ. You’ll have to try the Pride and Prejudice music the next time you’re somewhere new!
Also, one big note that we COULDN’T blog about back then is that Katelyn was PREGNANT!! On the roadtrip!! Through Europe!! She was SUCH a trooper being crammed in the backseat for hours upon hours every day with all our luggage while Michael and Amy rapped Hamilton at the top of their lungs. It’s a wonder we didn’t all kill each other! The highlight for us was definitely renting a boat in Lake Como. Just the four of us! No captain! Only Michael! The feeling of the Italian air hitting our faces while we passed all the incredible villas lining the shores of Italy was such a surreal moment, and the dinner afterwards overlooking the water was seriously perfect.The lowlight? Getting trapped on the top of a mountain in Switzerland and having to beg for our lives for a Swiss man to get us down!
Launching the Shooting & Editing Course (and it getting featured on HUFF POST!!)
We believe with our whole heart that success isn’t for the chosen few. It’s for those who choose. The problem, though, was that a lot of photographers didn’t even have the choice to choose the thing that would make themselves better photographers, because the tool or resource they desperately needed to catapult them to the next level was only offered one place, a few times every year, at a price that’s too high — and they couldn’t take enough time off from their jobs and families to make it happen in the first place.
We wanted to change that by producing an affordable, accessible online course that put photographers on a fast track in ten hours – the system that took us 10,000 hours to perfect; so they could get off the starring blocks faster and get into the game sooner than we did. We’ll never forget what it was like to be first-year photographers. We felt alone and scared. We had so many questions and it felt like we had to search for hours and hours just for one answer. That’s why we created the Shooting and Editing Course. To date, it’s been one of the most fulfilling things we’ve done in our life, because it’s changing the lives of photographers — but it’s also changing the lives of the clients they’re able to bless.
We were beyond thrilled to see it was chosen by THE HUFFINGTON POST as a top pick in their Ultimate Gift Guide for Photographers!!
More Intentional Time with Family
In 2015, we lost Amy’s beloved grandma. It was a painful reminder that time is short and our amount isn’t guaranteed. So, one of our 2016 goals was to make more time for the people we love most: our families. So whether that was flying to another state for a graduation, getting up before the sunrise to be there when our niece and nephew woke up on Christmas, spending more time with our siblings, or planning dates with our parents, that’s what we did — and it was, by far, one of the best investments we made this year.
Disney Cruising with Jen & Aaron
There was nothing like being the only adults without children on our first ever Disney Cruise! We can now say with confidence that Disney created the best at-sea experience we’ve ever had. Made even better with Pirate Night. To which we showed up trying to look like ACTUAL pirates. Jen and Aaron, in true Olmstead fashion though, even found a way to make THAT look hot. We should have known. All that to say, traveling with them on this ship was a total highlight of the year.
Before we traveled to the Arctic Circle, the only thing we knew about Iceland was what Jordan knew about it: that Team USA defeated them in D2: The Mighty Ducks at the Junior Winter Games. That was it. Which is why (as desert dwellers) we were WHOLLY unprepared for the frigid temperatures, gusty winds and the fact that everyone there actually looks like a legit Viking. If Amy was taller, she would’ve fit right in. Jordan CLEARLY did not. In fact, we’re pretty sure (as a Greek) that he was the darkest man on the island. Best Part: hiking to the geothermal river and swimming in it. Worst Part: getting out of the geothermal river, freezing, stripping down in a field in front of sheep, putting our wet clothes back on and hiking an hour home. Actual Worst Part: Gulping a liter of water not realizing it was SPARKLING until a few sips in. That’s what jet-lag and not reading Viking will do to you. p.s. If you ever go, as soon as you land, you’ll get the distinct feeling that you’re in a place that’s half a-nuclear-bomb-went-off and half Narnia minus the hobbits.
The Cotswolds, England
One of Amy’s FAVORITE movies of all time is The Holiday — which takes place in a magical little pollyanna village a few hours outside London called The Cotswolds. When some of our best friends invited us to join them as an extension of our Iceland adventure, we couldn’t turn it down. Highlight: Claire, the owner of the AirBnb cottage where we stayed, recommending the frozen food section of the grocery store for dinner instead of eating out every night. She was 100% right. It was quite good. And so cozy. Because we got share family meals around a dining table and retire to the living room for wine, cheese, games and good conversation. Lowlight: Jordan. Sitting on the opposite side of a rental car. Driving on the opposite side of the road. LEAVING LONDON AIRPORT AT RUSH HOUR ON A FRIDAY ON A THREE LANE ROUNDABOUT ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. We had a good talk with God after that adventure. Apologizing for the words that came out of Jordan’s mouth… and thanking him that we were still alive to thank Him.
Taking The AJ Workshops to the Desert
A few years ago, it was our dream to teach in-person workshops to photographers from all across the country right here in our hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2015, it happened! We opened registration hoping to teach one. By the end the year, we’d taught six! This year, we taught five more, and added an extra layer by taking all of our attendees into the Sonoran Desert for the first time to shoot among the cacti and rattlesnakes. Just kidding, the rattlesnakes weren’t home. One crew even got to experience a real-life desert dust and rain storm during Monsoon Season. They’re called haboobs. And we’re not kidding about that. You can google it. Not sure who got to name the haboobs, but they definitely missed.
Watching Our “Uncle” Shake Hands with the President
It was a give-you-chills kind of moment. Sitting in stands overlooking the Rocky Mountains. The shining sun and a bright blue sky as the backdrop. Watching the President’s motorcade pull into the stadium. Then rows of airmen march in.
Once their grown children moved out and on with life, Amy’s grandparents became foster parents, falling so deeply in love with a baby at 60 years old, that they adopted him. That’s what made this moment so special. Watching Patrick walk across the stage to receive his diploma from the Commander-in-Chief, yes; but even more so seeing the pride in Grandpa’s eyes when he did. Because even though in that moment the world was seeing a strapping, handsome young man shake the most powerful person in the world’s hand, Grandpa must’ve been seeing that little baby boy who could’ve been God knows where, but instead was placed by God in their hands. We are so proud of our Uncle Patrick.
Doing a Honeymoon Session For Some of Our Best Friends in Prague
Some of our best friends have family in Prague in the Czech Republic — which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The East’s Paris, some even say. So, Melissa and Braedon invited us to crash the tail end of their honeymoon for a few days in the Old City, we couldn’t pass it up. Other than shooting an anniversary session for them on the famous Charles Bridge at sunrise, there was another highlight: the conversion rate! Fo REALS. Dinners are less than five bucks. Just don’t be like Jordan, and order TWO dinners because you can’t decide what you want/can’t read the menu because that does NOT help with the waistline. (See next highlight)
Living MUCH Healthier Lifestyles
Growing up, we were both competitive athletes. So we got used to eating what we wanted, when we wanted it, with absolutely no consequence for our waistline. Then we got married, started working like maniacs, hit our late twenties. Magically and overnight, it all caught up with us. The lowlight? Jordan trying to fit into one of his wedding day suits AND NOT BEING ABLE TO BUTTON THE PANTS. The highlight? Finding a Barre studio and Crossfit gym that we both love.
* Jordan fits into his pants again.
** Please pay a little less attention to the second paragraph in the next highlight
The Gilmore Girls Revival
Amy fell in love with Gilmore Girls before she even fell in love with Jordan. Back when it aired live on the WB (with the dancing frog in the top hat – anyone remember that?) during her high school days. She roped Jordan in while we were in college. She bought all seven seasons on DVD (which we still have) and we binge watched them (before binge-watching even had a name) while the rest of collegiate humanity went “out” to “party,” we had our own party with Taylor Doose and Paris Gellar. After our college run, we had those DVDs on a pretty consistent rotation from there on out. We even brought them on our five year wedding anniversary cruise. So when Netflix fist started streaming Gilmore Girls, we were pumped. Because it meant we could stop traveling with our BOX SET.
As you can imagine, when news officially broke that the Gilmore Girls were COMING BACK, we almost died. We started plotting immediately for our watch party with Jordan’s little sister and mom. The day after Thanksgiving we planned a marathon day where all we’d do was hole up in our condo and binge watch all six hours. On the menu? Pop tarts. Mallowmars. Chinese takeout. Pizza. Burgers. Fries. Red vines. And of course, coffee.
Writing SIXTEEN Highlights for this Blog Post!!
We’ve decided that’s a highlight in and of itself — because this is A LOT of writing. We might need to hire a grandchild to do this for us in 2050.
Catch up on past years in review here:
See this year’s best of posts: