Category Archives: Jennings Paige
…with no plans of curbing my addiction. 2015 was the worst year of my life. January 29th ended with our twins, Julian and Aria, being born way too soon and living only a few minutes. The rest of the year was downhill from there. It was also the year I found a new joy in the form of a Jeep Wrangler.
That summer was a terrible drought year for California, which left the river where we like to camp completely dry and sandy. In all the years I’ve been there, I had never seen the river with just clean, dry sand in it. Normally there’s about a food of mud in the wintertime and then it runs deep enough to boat in during the summer months. But 2015 was the year of no babies and no water. In an effort to find peace and happiness after the babies died, I tried to get to the river as often as I could. I was happy there. So one Spring Day, we were camping in our trailer along the river when we saw someone from another site drive a little old Jeep Wrangler down the boat ramp and into the dry river bed – and away! I had never before seen such a thing before. A CAR in the RIVER?!? And right then and there I decided I wanted to do that, too. As soon as the Jeep came back to the boat ramp, little 5-year-old Hudson asked the driver if he could ride in his Jeep. After confirming it was okay with me, Hudson got to ride in the front seat (that’s thrilling for a car seat kiddo) and went for a joyous ride in the sandy river bed. He came back laughing, winded and so happy. Gracie and I, who were too shy to ask for a ride from a stranger, were soooooo jealous that Hud got to ride in the Jeep and we didn’t.
Skip to the part where I convinced Ryan we needed a Jeep to take off-roading and I bought Sonic. Sonic is a hydro blue Jeep Wrangler Sahara edition, and besides a handful of humans, is one of my greatest loves. I talk about Sonic like he’s a person, because to me, he has a unique personality. He keeps us safe and happy.
The first couple of bouncing rides though the riverbed proved to be super fun, but also illegal. Booooo! There was one time when I took a friend for a joy ride and we wound up running from a cop who was driving his squad car from bridge to bridge along the river trying to stop me. Oops! We lost him in an orchard and then hid in a car wash and scrubbed all the dirty evidence away. After that, I began to look for other places we could drive the Jeep that wasn’t a paved road.
I thought I was a super cool explorer like Sir Francis Drake when I discovered Hungry Valley off road park between my house and the river. For the first time I discovered off-road trails, practice areas and an entire community of friendly people. As it turns out, there are off-road trails and parks literally everywhere in California! All over the country and the world, too, but CA is known for some of the best and most varied trails in the country. Most of the trails and parks are free, too, or very cheap to spend the whole day there. I thought my new hobby was going to be cheap. Hahahaha.
Do you know what Jeep stands for? Just Empty Every Pocket. I’d heard they were unreliable and overpriced and were always breaking. I didn’t know what I was in for, but I had so much fun in the Jeep, I only cared that we be able to keep doing it.
Aside from the dismal gas mileage, and the normal maintenance and expenses that come with any vehicle, the Jeep is a special money-sucker. I don’t think they’re unreliable, but they do break a lot when you beat the hell out of them off road. My first time in Sonic, I soaked the underside and the interior with muddy water driving through a water pit at Hungry Valley about a thousand times. We couldn’t stop laughing, so we just kept doing it. Round and round through the water pit until we had an audience and everyone was soaked and filthy. That was so good for my grieving soul. So what if the interior and engine compartment were never clean again? We had fun. We needed that.
Second drive, I was driving too fast on some dirt mounds at the off-road park when I went flying off of a big one and came down hard on the front tires. The dash of my Jeep lit up like a Christmas tree and I lost my cruise control, radio and other weird things. That’s how I learned to let half the air out of your tires before driving off road to keep from breaking your tire sensors like I did. Now I know, and Sonic got new wheel sensors.
But it really isn’t even the parts you break off-road that costs so much.
What really hits your wallet hard are the upgrades you insist you need for your Jeep. You meet other Jeep owners and you discover a whole world of enthusiastic Jeep junkies like yourself, except all of them have already upgraded and customized their Jeeps and now you have to do yours! There are names, decals, rock-crawling bumpers and side steps, there’s recovery gear, CB radios, air compressors and winches. There’s gears and shocks and coil overs and fenders and headlights and more. You quickly find out that you need ALL OF IT.
Then you start making friends with the people you meet on the trails and online in the Jeep group chat forums. The people (Jeeple, as they say) are so helpful and funny and a little crazy.
We started on one group run and ended up on one just about every weekend. Somebody is always going wheeling somewhere, and it’s always more fun to go with other people. It’s hard to believe that such a short time ago, I didn’t know any of my Jeeple. Now, there’s a group of about 20 people that we go off-roading and camping with constantly. We talk to each other every day online and meet up as often as possible.
I’m 100% obsessed with all things Jeep. It’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten into. One of the many gifts God gave me when he took my littlest ones. While I would rather have Julian and Aria, this new joy we have discovered in Jeeping has done a lot to heal the holes in my heart.
Around mid-2011, I got a text from this guy. It was all stiff and formal. Like “Hi Jennings. This is Dave’s friend, Ryan.” 😐 like that was it. But I was in this giggly silly mood that day, and my first thought was Hudson’s middle name is Ryan. This guy is named Ryan. So I texted him back, “Ryan! Let’s get married! That way my son’s middle name will match your first name! 😁👍🏻”
And then? Nothing. Bitter silence. One heartbeat later when I didn’t see the …typing…dot dot dot… thing, I wrote him off as a humorless tool and went about my business editing photos. I always thought my friend Sabrina’s husband, Dave, was a funny guy, but his friend was sure boring. Oh well. Also, I had no room for men who weren’t awesome in my world back then. I was 30 years old, still young and fun and full of good and bad ideas. The politician was texting me at the same time wanting to take me out again, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Then there was the old guy I couldn’t seem to get rid of. He made me laugh, so I put up with the rest of it. In any case, I wasn’t desperate for any boring losers with no sense of humor. So I forgot about Dave’s square friend. Ryan Squarepants missed out. Too bad for him.
Hud’s middle name really is Ryan, though. I can’t tell you why I wanted him to have that name. I just liked it, and I liked the way it sounded with Hudson. Before I adopted him, and before he was born, I was discussing his name with his birthmother and told her I wanted it to be Hudson Ryan. She liked the Hudson part, but said she always liked the name Ryder. I wanted to let her make that decision and give him his middle name, but I am just not a mom to a Ryder. I insisted on Ryan, and she didn’t mind. I still think that’s a classy, smart-sounding name. It doesn’t really go with Hudson’s personality, but the boy has a good name at least. He was a year and a half old and had recently been abandoned by my first husband, who had some sort of mental breakdown before Hudson was even a year old. I was thinking of all that stuff during the short text exchange with Ryan. Although I wasn’t serious about the boring guy in San Diego, I was thinking how nice it is when a child is named after their father, and their father is a good dad. My kids didn’t have a dad, which is so weird considering how much trouble it was for my ex to adopt them and become their dad in the first place – but enough about Voldemort, this story is about Ryan and Hudson.
Anyway, three days later, my phone totally blew up with text after text after text. All from Ryan Squarepants, of all people. Turns out he texted me on the way up a mountain in San Diego where he and Dave were going to camp. He asked for my number and texted hello right before losing cell service for the duration of the camping trip. He got my funny marriage proposal text and realized quite a few texts later that his responses weren’t going through. So while I was writing him off as the lamest dude on the planet cuz he couldn’t take a joke, he was trying to joke and talk right back. His responses were really funny, actually, when I finally got them three (years) days later. They started in the middle of a 3-day-old conversation all chatty and full of lol’s and stuff. Normal. The dude was normal. Then his texts became one-sided on his end and he texted that I probably wasn’t getting these messages. Then he started worrying about that (as he should have because he was already dead to me by then) and finally he set off on a five-mile hike to the top of a mountain peak somewhere around San Diego to see if he could get cell service to send the messages. He said it was a nice hike, but no luck on service. None of the messages came through until they drove back down the mountain to civilization and cell service. As another fellow camping lover, it was easy to forgive Ryan for his silent treatment. By the time I was done reading all of his messages, I changed my mind about him completely. He wasn’t boring. He WAS funny, and charming, and smart and nice. I liked him after all. A lot, as it turned out.
To make a long story short, he asked me out. We met at Disneyland and had the best first date ever. He moved for me, he proposed, we got married and he adopted the kids. Now, no kidding, Hudson is named after his dad, who he didn’t even meet until he was almost two years old. Now, all I need is some film clips to go with some photos of Ryan and Hudson together. They look alike, too, which is super weird. No one would ever guess our kids are adopted by looking, or that Ryan is actually the most recent addition to our family. But life is strange and wonderful like that, isn’t it?
I have many a story about my funny little family. This is just one of them. I want to help you tell your family story. One day, it will make the very best memories for yourself and your family. You need a Storybook Session, just to remind you what your family was like at this time in your lives. You think you have all this time, but here we are 6 years later, and I honestly don’t have that many good pictures of Hudson and Ryan. But this sequence….takes my breath away. It was shot by the fabulously talented Toki Lee in Pasadena in 2014. Hudson was 4 and Gracie was 8. Their adoption became official the following year, but Ryan was the kids’ father from the day they met. He was always meant to be the one. This photo sequence is printed on a beautiful canvas in Hudson’s room where he can see it every day and know how loved he is.
Do you have an interesting or entertaining story about your family? If so, we would love to hear it. Introducing new monthly storybook session giveaways for the family with the best story that we can feature on the blog or website. Text 805-490-1180 for more details. Win a free storybook session with me and a pro videographer and keep the slideshow! Giveaway also includes a huge spending credit for anything we offer!
So I looked at my last blog post just not and saw that it was in May. May…June…it’s July…..that’s pretty good for me! I blogged just a couple of months ago! And then I saw that it said 2017 next to the month. WHAT?! I HAVEN’T BLOGGED IN OVER A YEAR!?!?? I’M THE WORST!!! All I can say for myself is….Facebook. I live there, in iphone land, while I pretend to parent Gracie and Hudson in real life.
It’s summer, so the kids are home from school and for the first time, I didn’t put them in any kind of summer camp. They just wanted to stay home like little slugs. Gracie, at 12, is really into making art. She draws, paints, sews and sculpts all day, every day. She lives in an online art community of kids who draw things for each other and send them online. It’s awesome. I can’t discourage such a thing. Even her friends from school are artists. She has a couple of little girl friends who come over and hole up in her room with her to make art. The only time I ever see them is when they make animated videos and need to film each other somewhere outside of Gracie’s bedroom. Really, I can’t complain. As long as I leave her alone to work on her art, she’s a happy girl. She never bothers me to take her places or buy her things. She just hopes I don’t drag her away from her nest to go on a Jeep adventure. She’s sick of my adventures. The kids are kind of Jeep’d out. Not me. My Jeep addiction is going strong.
Hudson is 8 now. He was diagnosed with ADHD. We tried changing his diet, using nutritional supplements and this light/sound therapy before resorting to medication. I was hesitant to give him any kind of prescription medications due to the fact that he was born addicted to opiates when I adopted him. He has a genetic history of drug addiction, so I didn’t want to put him on any controlled substances. When Hudson was a newborn, I held him every day in the NICU while his tiny body went through drug withdrawals. The doctors kept him very sedated so he wouldn’t suffer, but it was still a terrible time for me. I’ll never forget the way he would stiffen up, jerk and sneeze a lot when he was so tiny. He had a feeding tube the first few days because he wouldn’t eat. By the third day, he took a bottle from me and ripped his own feeding tube out, though, and showed the doctors he was healthy and strong. He was such a good baby. For the first month, he was so sleepy from the anti-withdrawal medications, I didn’t even know what his cry sounded like. He barely woke up enough to fuss over a dirty diaper or hunger. The rest of the time, I just held him or wore him in a sling, and he slept. Since then, he hasn’t had any developmental delays at all. He has done well in school, except for his hyperactive tendencies. To make a long story short, after trying several holistic approaches to treat his ADHD, I finally just asked our family doctor for medication. He prescribed low-dose Vyvanse and since then, Hudson has excelled in school and at home. He’s a pleasure to be around. He’s smart. He can read! Really well! He’s a changed boy. So….in spite of my hesitation to medicate a boy once addicted to controlled substances, doing so has been wonderful for Hudson. I’m just glad we don’t have a lot of the struggles with him that we used to.
He likes playing games – any kind of game – and he’s really good at most of them. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve played his first game of Monopoly, trying to go easy on him, only to have him make huge, bold moves and proceed to quickly beat all of us. He is so good at Connect 4, he teases his opponents saying things like “don’t let me win just yet….” and then his opponent is dumbfounded and has no idea where to go next. And damn if Hudson doesn’t do exactly what he says he’s going to do. Every time. He’ll be like “I’m gonna roll a 3 and a 4, take the pirate gold, and head back to my port.” And then he’ll do it. I don’t know if there’s some career in gaming, but if there is, Hudson will find it.
JPP is doing really well this year! With a lighter workload, I’ve been able to put more time and energy into each session. I filmed a commercial for my business earlier this year with the talented Jackie Palmer Films. She managed to capture everything about me and what I do in just over a minute-long film. Check it out here: commercial film JPP 2018.
Making the commercial inspired me to offer integrated film and photography sessions, which I’ve named Storybook Sessions. Now they are my absolute favorite sessions. It’s more work for me to make a slideshow incorporating film and the final images, but the results are so worth it. These slideshows will be cherished by my clients for the rest of their lives. I can see each one of them watching it ten years from now, saying how glad they are they had it done. In fact, I want it done for my family. Emily is a photographer now, and she’s really, really good. She’s helped me film my storybook sessions, and I’ve also hired a videographer a few times. They basically film my clients while I’m posing and photographing them. Later, the final images are worked into the film clips, which are slowed down and set to music. The emotional impact is intense. Every one of them makes me choke up with tears, and laugh, and smile. Imagine how the parents in the films must feel! I need Emily to help me do my own family’s storybook session. In the meantime, here’s one I made for the Lloyd family. This is one of my first ever Storybook Sessions. Judging by the parents reaction to the photos, I’d say it was a huge success! JPP Storybook Session
I’m trying to offer discounted Storybook Sessions to my former clients so they can try it. Even if it’s something you only do once, I think every family should do it. The memories we make last a lifetime. The only regret you’ll have is not doing it more often. It’s so worth the effort. If you’d like more info on our $250 for $500 summer storybook session, call Dani at 805-490-1180. 🙂
Here’s a whole bunch of recent sessions I’ve done!
So, 2017 has been slow. Painfully slow. Mostly because we moved. We were finally able to purchase our first home. It’s a darling house in Thousand Oaks, built in 1960 but recently remodeled inside and out. The property is large, but the house is small. Whereas I used to have my studio and viewing room in my 3rd car garage at the old house, now we have no garage at all. So, I had to have a good way to continue showing my clients their images and wall displays. I had all the equipment but nowhere to put it. My solution? A custom shed built just the way I wanted and decorated to match. I found the shed online at backyards unlimited. The price included on-site installation. So one day, a guy brought all the supplies and a ladder and a few tools, and he had the entire 10×16 foot shed built, roofed and finished in one day! I think I did about four loads of laundry in the same time he erected a building. There’s a quick way to feel incompetent!
After the shed was there, we had the task of finishing it, which was actually harder and more expensive than the building itself. First, we had to run power to the shed so that I could run the AC or heat, the computer and projector, the lights and sounds. In order to run power to the shed, we first had to run a lot more power to the detached garage. We trenched the ground 50 feet from the main panel to the garage, and then from the subpanel there over to the shed. Once it had a power line, the electricians still had to install outlets and recessed lights. After all that was done, we had a new crew come in to drywall the inside. Because of the barn style roof, there was a lot of added framing and detailed drywall work. Then we painted the inside and the outside, including the trim. Finally, we laid the flooring and furnished and decorated it.
Now that all the hard work is finally finished, I have the most amazing little studio behind the house! The flower garden was my own ingenious idea. Since we currently don’t have a sprinkler or watering system in the backyard, real flowers couldn’t survive out there without diligent gardening. I’m the kind of gardener that kills any plants I touch. I have a black thumb. So…how about fake flowers!?! I went to the 99 cent store and loaded up a cartful of purple and yellow flowers of all sizes. And then for the first and last time, I was a diligent gardener as I carefully shoved about 200 fake flower stems into the dirt. I love how it came out, though! One day, the backyard landscaping will be an inspirational little walk to the she-shed through a beautiful garden. For now, it’s cement blocks, wood chips and river rocks. The shed is almost too cute for the backyard. Therefore, clients should just hold off on judgment until we arrive inside the studio.
Now that my little shed is finished, business is flowing again. It is so much easier to show my clients their images on a large slideshow than on a tiny computer screen. The emotions are lost when photography is displayed on a cold computer screen. The emotions are what I do this for! My job means nothing if I can’t see the emotional impact my images have on my clients. I get to watch their faces, hand them a tissue if they get choked up. The studio also comes equipped with this amazing wall art software which allows me to show my clients their own images in exact sizes and in room displays to show scale. Since most clients are not interior decorators with a good eye for measurements and aesthetics of wall art, the software takes all the guesswork out of it. This allows my clients the freedom to play around with their images to see what display they want the most for their home. The final products are always stunning, too. There is no way to really appreciate a fine art photograph unless it is printed on a fine art medium. The art medium brings images to a whole new level of art, and what better way to decorate your home than with the people you love most?
So, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience the studio shed has brought to my business. My spiritual baby sister and former employee of forever has started her own photography business, too! Emily Elizabeth Photography will be offering a Conejo Deal similar to the ones I have run in the past when I was just starting out in the Conejo Valley of California. I think her deal will go live on June 1st. Besides the fun session and beautiful images she will be giving to her new clients, they all get to see their photos in the new studio! I hope the space and the experience is pleasant for everyone who comes!
Here are some progress photos of the studio as it was completed between December of last year and March of this year:
Okay, first a disclaimer:
I am a real professional business owner. I am successful. I have built this photography business from blood, sweat and tears for the last 11 years. My kids have my business ingrained in their souls because once upon a time, we were forced to live in my commercial office building studio for a year and pretend we didn’t really live there. My son, Hudson, thought my real name was “Jennings Paige Photography” until he was 4! I am dedicated, fierce and intelligent about my business. This one you’re reading this blog about. I have a college degree from UCLA, and a Masters in business. Oh and I’m a good photographer! This has been my passion since I was a little kid. My mom used to trade me 2 packs of Polaroid film cartridges for every time I let her cut my hair into a little bob. Even when bob haircuts weren’t cool in the 80’s and 90’s, I got used to whoring myself out to my mom for film from a very young age. I’ve tried and failed so many times in the last 11 years running this business, but I have also succeeded and grown and gotten better at it over the years. JPP is a pretty serious business now. People know me. Thousand Oaks is kinda decorated with wall art of my work. That’s awesome. Anyway, I swear on my life, I am a real professional. You can trust doing business with me. I’m a good person, I use professional packaging and equipment (that’s proof!) and everyone unanimously loves their family photos. That’s really cool. My job is pretty damn rewarding nowadays. It seems almost too easy, compared to where I was just six years ago.
Now that the disclaimer about being professional is out of the way, let the real fun begin! Let’s focus on the personality of the person behind the camera, because that is more important than you realize. I can see it. I know exactly why my new clients are afraid to do family photos. Usually, the mom forces the rest of the family to dress up for some lame photographer who directs you about, puts you in weird awkward stiff poses and then asks you, professionally, to smile. This actually works with 1 out of 100 clients. The other 99 though? They fucking hate it. They do it, but after the shoot, the whole family is usually irritated with the photographer and with Mom for making them do that boring shit again, just for the annual Christmas card or embarrassing formal portrait on the wall by the front door. That’s a pretty accurate description of what most people expect with a professional family portrait session. Am I right? Expensive, awkward, not fun, lame thing to do just to appease Mom? That’s how most of my clients show up to my shoots. They’re fun for me, because I can take those people with extremely low expectations of how it’s supposed to go, and then I wow them with really funny antics. I tickle their kids, I make fun of their dads, I threaten to spank the parents if they don’t do what I say. I sing and dance and shake my booty at my clients. If you are one, you already know this. And you may already know that it’s the SOLE reason you like me and want me to take your pictures again with me next year. Well, also because the results are natural and real with real smiles and genuine affection for each other, which is the key to magical family photos with real depth and emotion.
You’re probably here hoping to see some new pictures, examples of my recent work, etc etc. I don’t think blogs should be about that. You can look at three pics on my site and decide if you like my style or not. For most photographers, blogs are simple marketing tools to keep people coming back to look at more beautiful photography. That’s cool, and my hat is off to those who are able to pull this off and blog on a regular basis. I just can’t. Whenever I think about blogging, I end up skipping it, because it bores ME. Here’s family number 1,623 for you to look at and know nothing about. *Snore.* Or here’s a post about my life or a story about this family that’s boring because it’s not funny. Sorry about all my previous boring blog posts (the ones that are related to the business).
See, I’m not one of those real professional photographers. Every time I try to be all professional and polite, my soul gets crushed just a little more. I worked in a corporate environment for years as a college intern. Before that, I watched my single mom and my aunt work in the same corporation – one of the huge Fortune top 50 corporations. I’m quite familiar with the bullshit it takes to act like a professional, especially in a corporate professional sense. It’s just that to me, though – bullshit. Because…..once you work in a big corporation for awhile, you learn the behind-the-scenes truth. The head of HR is having an affair with the Marketing Director’s wife and such nonsense. The new graphic designer got hired because the new accountant got her friend a job he isn’t qualified for. The factory workers’ criminal records and immigration status are overlooked at a professional corporation because the corporation doesn’t pay factory workers fair wages, etc. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. That’s pretty much my view of Corporate America. The individuals that make up a company create the work culture. That’s why some companies are awesome and respectable, while most companies are at least a little shady to very criminally shady. Right?
I’ve been trying to act professional since I started my business back in 2006. Like ohhhh, you better tone that personality, Jennings, if you expect people to respect you and pay for your photos. Maybe someone said that stuff to me once upon a time, but most likely, I just made it up in my own insecure brain and told it to myself on repeat for a decade.
2017 has brought me a completely new perspective. A lot of things I’ve been confused about are suddenly clear. I can’t go into all of them, but this one is about this business. I changed my mind about being “professional” in that sense. I think my clients like me and return to me every year because I’m actually funny and inappropriate and seemingly quite unprofessional! This was like a serious revelation. OMG maybe, just maybe, if I stop trying to be “professional” and just let loose my real personality, my business will actually grow and prosper? I guess I’m feeling confident enough to find out. I’m gonna try it. Prepare yourself. Some of you will be offended and will never do business with me ever again. Sorry, not sorry. This is an excellent way to find out if you prefer the funny inappropriate photographer, or the quiet and serious artistic type, or just the professional and courteous type. I can only relate to the first one – funny and inappropriate.
My real friends, the ones I really love to be with, think I am hilarious and I think they’re hilarious, too. Just SOME of these funny people include my besties: Nicole, Sabrina, Emily, Julie, Gracie and Ryan. Plus a ton of others who come and go in my life. The funny ones are the ones you remember and love. Just a simple self-test: would you rather watch a Ted talk or a stand-up comedian? Hopefully, if you’ve had a good life, you don’t even know what a Ted talk is. They’re about as thrilling as visiting the DMV. Whereas one line from a good comedian can stick in your brain and make you feel fondness for the comedian forever!
Now I’m not pretending to be a stand-up comedian, but my inner circle thinks I’m really funny, and I think I’m really funny, mostly. Sometimes I just amuse myself all damn day, just for the sake of comedy. In fact, Emily have been on like a week-long bender of comedy. It started with her buying a car for her and has progressed into something ridiculous. We keep laughing so hard with each other, after about 12 hours I force her to go home so my abdomen muscles can relax. Yesterday it was Korean BBQ in downtown LA, with jokes to my kids that we were actually visiting Skid Row, and then we ate five delicious slices of pie at House of Pies in L.A. Oh and we toured the GINORMOUS Scientology building, which I didn’t even know existed! It was TERRIFYING! If you’re a Scientologist, just know that you’re certifiably insane and it isn’t funny anymore.
Yesterday’s adventures with Emily and I…..completely unrelated to anything about photography or business:
Right about here is when Hudson called me from my husband’s phone and said “Mom? I miss you….Can you please come home?” To which I said, “Emily and I are finishing up eating pie, but don’t worry, we’ll bring you pie.” And then he says in a very small voice, “Mom? Can you pwease take me with you to Skid Row next time?” (HAHAHA!) “Sure, Baby. Mama will take you to visit Skid Row sometime. See you soon!”
And then Gracie texted me, asking where we were. My response and hers is shown below. Try not to laugh at the picture she sent me.