If we were in a room, with four walls, it would have been buzzing.

This family of three sisters and their loving parents met with me for a shoot in the park brimming, bubbling, twitchy with excitement.  Smiles were all over the place – even as dad got used to a camera aimed in his direction – even as the girls posed for me like runway models (dude, they’re good) – even as mom pulled her whole family around her as if she could hide under them like a blanket (all moms do that!) – SMILES were every where.

And I had to laugh, especially at myself.  I’ve been working together with two business coaches and at that time we had come the conclusion that three words swirl around and in me: romantic, gracious, and whole-hearted.  And here were those words right in front of me as I caught in my frame eyes soulful and piercing, arms entwined in a knot, a family joyful and playful for me and my camera.  What a fun epiphany.

See if you can find each word, maybe even a little extravagance in these images ….

Thank you to the Ammar-Khodja family for inviting me to capture the easy affection you all have for one another.  Its a beautiful thing.
Happy to be so, Nicole Dolan


You now its been a good day of shooting one-year-old twins when you can smell the sugar in the birthday cake because its so close, its in your hair.   It was a good day. :)  About that …

Dessert first:

Boys.  This is very important.  Its your 1st birthday and since your mom & dad are already gasping (ONE!?!)  let me be the one to introduce you to CAKE.  Oh yes, cake.  Whipped cream icing.  Chocolate.  Vanilla.  Candy sprinkles.  Caaaake.  Its really good.  Once you taste it you’ll never kick your heels with delight for mashed sweet potatoes ever again.  Its your birthday!  To celebrate you each get a whole cake all to yourself (and its almost as big as you are!) complete with a banner with your name on it so I can tell you two apart.  While your mom hugs herself to keep from cringing DIG IN with both hands and eat cake by the fistful!  There is only once in your life that you will be given permission to do this!  Which is so cool your dad will record it as proof on his smart phone.

We stood back, cameras ready, nails bitten, and got this:

Earlier that day, these little turtles worked up their appetite for destruction by making a getaway for the cornfields …
and by just being handsome ….
Thank you to the ever-gracious Hill family for lending these sweet faces to me to do what I love: photograph them.  And for loving the results as much as I do.
Happy to be so, Nicole Dolan

The Rustarado is a bad-ass little piece of machinery masterminded by my father-in-law, Craig Dolan.

This is what I know:
Its a 1954 Chevrolet Pick-up Truck.
It is loud and built to be that way.
There are “air bags” in the wheel wells that lift the body for driving purposes only.  They hiss like the doors on the Death Star when the truck is lowered down to park.

Spied once on an entry form: “Original paint.  What’s left of it.”

The rat in the rear window is a squeaky toy and not nearly as menacing as it seems.
The leather is all the real deal, hand-stitched and not molding fast enough for its designer (actually, its not molding at all).
It hasn’t been washed in years except for a swipe of the dash in between car shows.
Hammered copper fender.  By hand.
The brake & gas pedals are re- purposed metal wrenches.
Its inner guts and noisy parts boggle me but the engine and the “overflow” and all the motorhead cool kid stuff are one-of-a-kind original designs by Craig.
The stick shift is a giant drill bit which is my favorite part.  I love things that curl.
The wood in the truck bed is scavenged from an old barn in Pennsylvania.
The leather stitching in the metal is where he had the lobster-like shell “taken in” a bit.
The gauge on the dash is upside-down on purpose so he can read the needle from the driver’s seat.
Its name is a play on the word Silverado.

For Father’s day a photo book was made of my images.  The package had a return address on it that said it sailed over from Malaysia so it went unopened for a while.  But now it is a well-thumbed book full of dark motor oil fingerprints leftover on its pages from all the car shows it and the truck has been to.  My daughter is busting-buttons proud of her grampa’s truck, she even made up a little “country song” she likes to sing to grammie about it.  My son smiles like a Cheshire cat at the sight of it & his body language becomes all arms a’swinging as it roars to life and lifts up from the ground.  It has become another piece of family lore to add to the stories we’ll all tell over the years to come.

These photos were taken in front of the Casino in Asbury Park, NJ and in the driveway in Manasquan, NJ.  Here are a few:

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Nicole Dolan Photographer
Lucky duck that I am, I got to work with a friend on this shoot. 
 Make-up artist Yvonne Moss (her blog here) called me up for this maternity session.  We had just worked together in the delivery room a few nights before where she served as doula and I shot my first amazing birth – more on that coming soon – and I have to admit, I was still recovering from lack of sleep!  Always game, I  checked the memory left on my CF cards and over the phone we brainstormed a location settling on Spring Lake, NJ for its dappled light and quiet beach.
Jenn’s littlest guy is almost a big brother at nearly two years old.  I loved including the whole family in this session and capturing their easy warmth toward each other.  Brad shows incredible tenderness toward his wife, which was a delight to photograph.  You can see it in his eyes.  For this shoot we meandered wooden bridges and hung out in the summer shade. On the beach, we caught the late sun and made this glowing mama literally glow.  The sky was larger-than-life that evening and sometimes those preggie bellies feel just like that, too.  Here are a few:

This is such a fun age, caught between babyness and toddlerhood.  The littlest Miss McDaniel was shy at first, clinging to her mama’s knees earning tender hugs, but as you can see, by the end of her family’s session she’d shed all inhibitions, especially when the hem of her dress got wet.  They are only so small for so brief a time; I aim for little hands, baby curls, and bare shoulders.   
Here are a few:

Family.  Whether its and-baby-makes-three, or the just-stirring-the-pot, or the single-parent-pillar effect family is the amazing literal growth of love after they’re born and growing up right before your eyes.  Family shoots are near to my heart.  No matter how young they still are or how big they’ve gotten, family portraits are photos of right now, and right now, won’t ever happen again.  Way to live in the moment. :)

For this shoot, we met at a local “secret” spot in Picture Rocks, Pa at Muncy Creek where the rock face of the rolling hills meets the water.  I was thrilled to shoot this energetic, loving family.  While I focused my lens on one sweet face the others got a break and when I put the girls on the blanket for some sisterLove the boys threw pebbles in the rushing water.  No trouble, no fuss. :)  We gave flowers to their delighted mom and dad showed up later for some topsy-turvy group shots.  Too many favorites, and a whole post coming just for the littlest McDaniel, but here are a few:

Jaime & I scheduled our session and it fell on a blustery Pooh Bear kind of day.  It was so windy!  Before our appointment, I sat brainstorming.  I thought and I thought some more.  Fabric?  Several yards worth??  Hm!  Just as I was scheming a stop at Joanne’s I ran it by my mother-in-law, wondered if she had a long flowy scarf I could borrow, too.  “Ohhhh.  What about that sari?  Remember?  The one Grandma Dolan sent me?” she says.  I had a very vague recollection and a slim memory of a friend all wrapped up in it on stage once, Arabian Surf-style.  True, Grandma Dolan was famous for her eccentric gifts but she had an artiste’s eye for originality and antiques ….”You have a sari?”  Oh yes, and its beautiful.  Metallic ocean blue with silver details.

We settled on Spring Lake in NJ to meet: the family park and its lake, woodsy paths, classic boardwalk, the beach.  Jaime is a patient and model model.  We chatted Mama Talk while we moved from lake to trees to ocean.  The sari proved to be a great wind catch, adding drama and curves.  Grandma Dolan would love the way it was finally put to good use.  Some faves, here are a few:

I was invited over for this newborn shoot on an overcast day, the sun filling the windows of a house tucked into a woodsy hillside.  Just 8 days young, this little man has the eyes of an old soul.  Sleepy boy snuggled up with his big sisters, getting lots of kisses.  Played with his grandma in the bright sun room for some more loving. And nestled in his mama’s arms, where every baby boy wants to be.  Worn out from all the attention, he slept while we dressed him up in nothing but his birthday suit and Daddy’s tie.  Here are a few:

So, they’re Scottish.  The Highland bagpipes are the ones you can hear from miles & miles away.  The Irish pipes are often called small pipes and sound as different as ukuleles do to an acoustic guitar.  Its a haunting plaintive music, the pipes.  A sound I’ve grown used to over the years being married to a piper.  St. Patrick’s day is a day of marathon piping for my family.  Parades & marching bands & suddenly every bar is a Pub for a day.  Practicing at dusk this week, I took a few shots of the pied piper getting ready to play for his tips, pints, & shots of good Scotch.
A Celtic Blessing:
May the blessing of light be on you—
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart
till it glows …
Here are a few:
                                      Happy to be so,

Maternity photography has to be my favorite trend in professional photography.  We can’t help but take pictures of our miracles, document that breath of time when they’re just newborns.  But, until recently, most women have avoided the camera “all big and pregnant.”  The curves of our female body have always been immortalized in art & maternity photography acknowledges our female shape in all its beautiful & mysterious ways.  It’s also so facinating because its such a rare time in our lives as women.  Many of us endure our pregnant bellies, shoo away compliments in polite disbelief, or find we have never felt more beautiful.  Which is why I LOVE this trend.  Its more than documentation, its celebrating & empowering – freedom to lay down any insecurities, put aside the skinny-culture we live in and just Be, caught in frame after frame of beautiful images.

For this shoot Megan and I climbed up to the attic (stairs, no ladders) and contrasted her cute bump with the stained glass squares in the window.  Later, we hung out by the big white barn waiting for the sun to stop being so sly on a cool winter’s day where we were rewarded with shadow play and a beautiful silhouette.  I asked her to profile like the rolling hills behind her, which must have sounded hilarious cause it gave us both a good laugh.  And then, a lil facepaint on her belly, her son’s name in baby-boy-blue, one of my favs because I love the blend of colors over her shoulder.  Here are a few: