What a fun week! I very much enjoyed my time as Dear Photographer’s guest judge (Thank you so much for the opportunity Jesica!!!) And a big THANK YOU to everyone that shared their Smitten images with me! I loved see everyone’s images and there were some that just made me *swoon* and these are the ones that I have chosen to feature!

Sherida Rae Photography

My goodness when I saw this image it took my breath away! I mean how amazing is this image of Daddy and his little man?! And can we talk about the beautiful tones in this image?! *swoon* guys *swooooon*!!!



Just a few more favorites..

Anna Benton Photography

I mean come on… how stinkin cute are these two? I can only hope that my husband and I are still this smitten after one another when we are their age!

Hello Olivia Photography

The beautiful light and tones drew me into this adorable faceless image! Plus I mean, how cute is it that he has his arm draped around her?!


Sagari Caralise K Photography

I love the emotion that black and white brings to an image and this one just tugged at my heartstrings! There really is nothing like being smitten with your fresh new baby!


Matthew Davidson Photography

My most favorite part of this image is that you can see his smile lines on his face! He is so smitten with her and it totally shows!!


Joy of Life Photography

This image was the very first “smitten” submission and it took my breath away! I love every.single.thing about it but the intimacy Joy of Life Photography captured is just so beautiful!


Dear Photographer Featuring Laura Penley



February 2014

The two men in my life who helped me to finally realize this passion

Dear Photographer,

Do you remember how you loved looking through photos as a child?  Specifically, do you remember the smile that it brought to your face to revisit things like your 4th-grade field trip to Billie Creek Village?  There were some treasures from that roll, like the photo of the “I Love You” horseshoe that the boy in your life, your childhood sweetheart, made for you.  Then there’s the photo of the two of you quilting together, oh and that shot of you and your best friends, Kelly Smith, Nicholle Thomas, and Carrie Clements; the four of you just couldn’t have looked happier.  Gosh, that was a lifetime ago.

Do you remember that you used to store shoe boxes of photos in your closet and your retreat from life was to sit on the floor in this windowless space looking through them?  You could spend hours locked away in there.  Do you remember that 35mm Pentax that the same childhood sweetheart gave you for your birthday one year because he saw how much those photographs from seven years prior still meant to you?  Do you remember that a few years after that, your parents bought you a Nikon N80?  For some reason you never took the time to learn how to use it though.

Do you remember that photo you took of your parents’ car as it drove away from your dorm once they got you all settled in for your first year of college?  Do you remember the tears you cried in that moment?  Of course you do, and of course, this is why you captured it.  Do you remember when that little Pentax broke, right about the same time as your relationship with “the boy” was ending?  New chapter, new camera.

Scrapbooks were filled, shoe boxes overflowed and cameras continued to meet their expiration. The memories and photos just kept pouring in as you did your absolute best to preserve them.  How then did you not take a leap and move the dial on your camera to M, pick up a book and figure out where to go from there?  Your parents recognized your passion as did your childhood love.  How did you not?

I understand that you grew up thinking that being a photographer meant you were something like an Annie Leibovitz and, of course, you could never be her.  But why did that mean that you couldn’t be you and make your own unique mark?  What made you think that you would never be able to capture compelling photos of people or events; photos that could be felt and appreciated by people other than you?  You always believed that no one else would see the same beauty in a particular moment as what you did, and that others might in fact look at your photographs and wonder why they meant anything to you at all.  Self-doubt, it can be a real deal breaker; self-doubt, it cost you years on this journey.

It wasn’t until you entered into this new phase of your life called “Motherhood” that you began to feel these heavy feelings lift.  You suddenly had this beautiful little miracle in your arms who loved you, unconditionally, for everything thing that you were, are, and will be, and wow, that was amazing!  The world had recently entered into the age of digital photos so, instead of shoe boxes, you filled online galleries with images and you began to share those with friends and family monthly.  You clung to each and every moment with your little angel like it could be your last.  With each passing month, you took more and more photos.  Your sister, Rebecca, saw your growing desire to preserve him and she gifted you with a shiny new Nikon1 for your birthday that year and that little camera went everywhere with you.  You were capturing him throughout all of his awake hours, every single day, yet you still hadn’t made an effort to develop a deeper understanding of photography.  It wasn’t until your second little miracle arrived that this passion for photography really grew.  Once again, you were gifted with a camera by someone who saw this passion in you well before you saw it in yourself, your loving husband.

(Laughing) Do you remember that you almost returned your beautiful new DSLR because you were incredibly intimidated by the mere thought of trying to learn how to use it?  And gosh, was it big!  You were all set to send it back but then out of curiosity one night as you held your brand new baby in your arms, just as you had every night since his birth, you picked your phone up to take a look at The Pioneer Woman’s photography section on her blog.  You were instantly hooked, reading the night away in that dark room as you rocked your little one till morning. That night, that moment, it was life changing as were those seven+ months of sleepless nights that followed.  You took complete advantage of those awake hours, passing the nights by studying the camera settings that Ashley Campbell so generously would post on her blog while also continuing to study digital photography and how to shoot in Manual.  During the day, your loves allowed you to continue your learning with a ton of hands-on practice.

Here you are, a little more than a year and a half into photography, not just memory keeping, but photography, and wow what an incredible ride it has been.  You finally gained the confidence to join a photography forum at the start of the year and you even created an Instagram account.  Both of these were a big deal to you because well, your photos, they are your treasures and sharing those, is sharing your heart.   Prior to this you had only shared those pieces of you with family and your closest friends.  You acknowledged, however, that the greatest personal growth can be achieved when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, so you took the leap. Now here we are, entering into fall, so three-quarters of the way through your first “public” year, and wow what a year it has been.

You’ve found so much inspiration and growth in putting yourself out there.  You’ve been given opportunities, such as this, that encourage you to reflect on where you came from and where you’d like to go on this journey and you have developed friendships with individuals that will certainly last a lifetime.  There are a few things that I would like to always remember though.  The first one, please don’t forget to take pause in all of this.  Photography began as a passion, an outlet, make sure that it remains one to you.  While this past year has been amazing, there have been times when it has also felt a bit like a chore.  Don’t ever let it become that.  Remember to give yourself breaks, time away, so that you can be reminded of what it is that you love about photography when you pick your camera back up again.  Also, don’t forget that there are moments that simply cannot be captured.  Those are the moments that you really need to cling to, so remember to give yourself the freedom to be fully present during those times; no camera and no editing.  Speaking of editing, that’s another thing that I want you to be mindful of.  It’s understandable that you would want to grow in this area, however I’d like you to remember that those magical/dreamy photos that you have had so much fun trying to learn how to create in post, those aren’t the photos that truly speak to your heart.  It’s the real everyday moments that mean the most to you.  So, while it’s wonderful to continue to grow your skills in this area, just don’t lose sight of why it is you take pictures.  You aren’t taking pictures to figure out how to turn them into magic, you take all of these photos to preserve memories, real memories, as that’s where the true magic lies. Lastly, please continue to step in front of that camera of yours and encourage other mothers to do the same.  It is so important for children to be able to look back through their collection of memories and see their loving mothers alongside them.  I’d like to also challenge you to continue stepping in front of that lens even after your children are grown.  Capture you, tell your story, and preserve this collection of portraits well as they may just be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give to your future self and they will most certainly be cherished by those children of yours.   

Wow; less than 2 years into this photography thing and what a tremendous experience all of this has been.  I am so incredibly proud of you for finding the courage to share your photography and heart with others and I simply cannot wait to see where this journey will take you.








About the Photographer:


Hi; I’m Laura.  I’m a country girl at heart who left rural life behind to live in the city following college.  I immediately fell in love with city life and eventually with a city boy. We have two beautiful boys, 4 and 22-months, and live on the north side of Chicago.  I’m a lover of white, pretty spaces, fashion and photography.  Of the items on this list, photography is my newest love.  While I’ve always believed in having a camera on me almost everywhere I went, I never knew anything about photography until our second bundle of joy arrived and my husband surprised me with my DSLR.  As for where this passion for photography will lead me, I’m not in any hurry to figure that one out.  Right now, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing which is capturing those fleeting moments in my every day.  It is my thought that someday I might enjoy educating others, but for now, I am continuing to work on fine-tuning my skill-set and am just taking this photography thing one day at a time.

Instagram. Contact.

REDEFINE | Film featuring Storyboxart



There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

Why are you passionate about this topic?

I have had a love-affair with photography forever. Film brings me back to the beginning of my journey. I think about an image I took with my Olympus OM-1 standing on the roof-top of the world, the Himalayas. It was a life-changing moment as I stood freezing in my plastic lined boots, (in India, there was no such thing as snow shoes) staring at the white out in front of me with the guides beckoning us to keep moving. All I could think of was getting that one photo of the beauty I saw in front of me and how important this image is to me. How would I see the world if all I had was one image I could make at that given time? How would I compose it? What would I want it to be? In today’s world of digital photography, where clicks can come easy, it is something that stays at the back of my mind always.

When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?

When I started my journey in photography, shooting film was the only option so it came about naturally. In art school, my major was photography and I remember falling in love with Henri Cartier Bresson’s work. I became quite obsessed with experimenting in all kinds of light with my Olympus OM-1. Growing up in India, we had frequent electrical outages that caused frustration among my siblings. Not due to the loss of power, but because I’d immediately whip out my camera and hold them hostage by a lantern to shoot some pictures in a different light.

In the recent years, I started acquiring film cameras in various formats for mostly personal work. There is a certain freedom to play and do what you want without the worry of failure. For client work, there is an obligation to create deliverable work and often less of an opportunity to experiment. And so much of my favorite film work is personal.

So there are a multitude of reasons for loving film including the above. The association of old family photographs from the yesteryears that might never have seen the light of the day if it weren’t for film. These old photos connect me to my roots and bring back so many memories.

Lastly, I’ve always loved the process of creating art with film. From the intentional slowing down to connect with the subject, the anticipation of the outcome, and having the tangible to hold and preserve for posterity.

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique?

These are a few suggestions for someone that wants to start shooting film and without a huge investment. Film is less intimidating than you think! As a medium it is quite forgiving and more so than most realize. The easiest way to get started is with an inexpensive 35 mm camera and cheap drugstore film. You can purchase a body to outfit your existing lenses. I bought my Nikon F100 for $250 off Craigslist to work with my prime lenses. My first roll of film was a drug store Kodak 400 ISO film that I also developed cheaply out there. It was my baseline to see if the camera worked at all. Here are a few images from shooting film for the first time again after a long break.

One of my favorite film cameras is a Holga! It is a fun plastic camera that can create some surprising results. It is probably one of the easiest cameras to experiment with for multiple exposures. To create a double exposure is to create a successful superimposition of two images to create a single image in camera. I generally use 400 ISO film in color or black and white. The Holga has two “shutter speed” options and I generally use the “N” or normal option however I have accidentally used “B” or Bulb which has created some cool results. The aperture options are also very limited so I try to shoot with available light as much as possible. However, some photographers  create amazing work using their Holga on a tripod with a cable release if you are you might be inclined to try.

Buy a Polaroid Land Camera! With this vintage Polaroid camera, it is the closest you will come to instant gratification with film. When I first started looking for a Land Camera, I found it pretty intimidating as there are so many of them as you can see on this list. I lucked out and found a Land 100 Automatic camera for $30. I mostly bought it as I bought some now extinct 3000b film. You can still purchase it quite expensively, however a much cheaper option is the Fuji Film FP-100C for $12 for a pack. A more readily available option is the fun little Fuji Instax Camera that comes in a Mini and Wide Format.

film_storyboxartOlympus OM-1 + Kodak Gold

9_film_storyboxart-wContax 645 + Portra 400 // IFL

9_film_storyboxart_wContax 645 + Portra 400 // State Film Lab

storyboxartContax 645 + Expired Portra // IFL


35 mm film

35 mm film storyboxart

Nikon F100 + ProH400 // RPL

film storyboxart

Nikon F100 + Superia 400 // Walgreens

double exposure storyboxart
Nikon F 100 + Superia 400 // Walgreens // Double Exposure in Camera

double exposure storyboxart holgaHolga + Portra 400 // Double exposure

holga storyboxartHolga + Portra 400 // State Film Lab // Accidental “B” exposure

holga storyboxart
Holga + Portra 400 // State Film Lab

holga storyboxart

polaroid_3000b_storyboxarrtAbove images on Polaroid Land 100 Auto + 3000b

Fp100C_polaroid_storyboxartPolaroid Land 100 Auto + FP 100-C

About the photographer:

Born in Mumbai, Alpana grew up in the era of black and white television, Rolling Stone Magazine and Bollywood Cinema. Her love affair with people and spaces formed as she walked the streets of Mumbai. Currently, Alpana lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and creates authentic family portraits as well as personal works. Her work has been published online and in print with several leading publications. She is also available for one on one mentoring for photographers.

Website| Instagram Storyboxart and Storyboxartphotos | Pinterest | Tumblr

“Lost” featuring Momma Got Soul Photography



I am so excited to be asked as a monthly contributor to Dear Photographer. I mean, I think my images are okay at times. I can see huge growth in them over the past years. I feel like I finally get it, kinda, but to have validation of other photographers saying my work is more than just okay, then to ask me to write about it, I mean *swoon*, right? So immediately when I was asked I jumped up and said yes! Then I thought, oh no, I have to write something. I mean showing off a few images is one thing, but now I need to write too. I can’t even keep my own blog updated. I mean seriously, it’s been months since I’ve posted over there.

Then came the thought process of what I would post, what images I would pull from and then the heartache hit me again. It’s like an elephant sitting on my chest, thunk. I don’t have many images anymore. I have a few I could pull of facebook, or download from an online gallery, but not much. A few recent things of my kids, but nothing else. You see… I was dumb, an idiot, lazy. I did that one thing that everyone knows not to do, but we get caught up in life and we just don’t do it. We let it go, we think bad things will never happen to us… well, it did – my hard drive failed.
Now, everyone take a deep breathe and think about that. All images gone. Sure, they are on facebook, but I can’t print those. All of my personal images of my own family, kids, life before kids, gone. Client images, gone. Just like that. To make it worse, I was on vacation when it happened. My husband was home and called to tell me that my external hard drive just didn’t sound right. I was frozen with fear. I had galleries still pending to deliver, my kids images. What am I going to do?

So, I started scrambling, my own images were one thing, but what about clients. Last session I shot – still on my SD card, sigh of relief. Session before that – the one I just finished editing before driving to Georgia, gone. Two sessions before that, one I found on a thumb drive from my sales session with them, sigh of relief. The other one, the client happened to order an album of the entire session through Miller’s, they still have the images on the server and they shipped me an archive CD, sigh of relief. I had just started the transition into selling clients beautiful art to put on their walls, instead of handing over an online gallery. This saved all my other sessions. So all in all, I was only looking at the loss of one gallery, but all my personal images and portfolio work was gone.

So I call my IT buddy, and say “help me!!!” He looks at it and says “good luck.” I move up the ladder to the next IT guru, my Uncle in Arizona. He says his business generally can recover 70%, overnight it from Florida. No such luck, I’m in the lucky 30%, so off it went to the big guns. Ship it to Missouri, and after days of anticipation over a long holiday weekend, the final verdict, most of it can be recovered for the tune of $1230.00. My heart is screaming at me, “find the money and pay for it!!!” My wallet is screaming at me foul obscenities to get lost! In the end – I paid it, partly because of the guilt that it was my own stupidity for losing my images. I knew better, my back up drive was sitting in the box, just waiting to be unpacked and hooked up. I had heard the horror stories from others, I knew what could happen, but I let life get in the way. I looked at that box everyday and thought, as soon as I am done editing this session I will hook up that drive. Just let me finish this piece of marketing and I will hook up that drive. Tomorrow when I get up, I am going to hook up that drive. Well, it’s hooked up now…

I can look at the previews of my images, all 39,262 of them, and see what I lost. It’s like looking at a piece of warm apple pie, but not being able to eat it. It sucks. Hopefully my new drive with old images will arrive this week. I can bet you it will go on my new hard drive that is mirrored to another hard drive and will go into online galleries, plus I am going to put each client session when completed on its own flash drive to store in a fireproof safe. I will add more prints of my own on to my walls, and I will tell others. Learn from my pain, mirror your drives, use online back up services, do something!!!!

So, here are few of my favorite images. They are saved from Facebook, unable to print, due to low resolution. They are my personal images, of my life, the ones that are important to me. The ones that I have lost the digital negative to, with hopes that they will be returned for a big price tag.


An image my husband took of me and my daughter.


My mother and my kids just before she started Chemo treatment for breast cancer.


My mother and I after her first treatment of Chemo when we both shaved our heads.

MGS_1002 copy


MGS_-2599-Edit-2  MGS_-2915-2 MGS_-3584-Edit MGS_-8046  MGS_-3633MGS_-5741-Edit-2


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