It's funny how life is such an intricate web of people and events all tangled and intertwined, everything overlapping and eventually coming full circle. As I stood waiting on the Lake Michigan shore last weekend, I found myself thinking about my life, as a child. Growing up along this beautiful and majestic body of water. All the wonderful memories that I'm so blessed with and will forever cherish. I thought about the newly engaged couple I was about to start a session with. Alexandra contacted me in January this year to see if I was available for her November wedding. My very first instinct was to say no, because I had already booked myself to capacity for the year. But, as I continued to read her email, it began pulling at my heart strings. I found out her soon to be husband was in the military... The Air Force to be exact. A branch of service I hold near and dear to my heart, since my dad was USAF for the majority of his military career. After meeting for coffee with Alex (her fiancé John is a fighter pilot and was away on active duty), I instantly felt a connection to both her and their story, and I KNEW I had to take on their wedding. As we chatted freely with one another like old pals, I found out they were interested in incorporating his "toy" acrobatic plane into the session! We would meet in Manitowoc (my hometown!) and head to the airport hangar where he stores it. My brain started to go a million miles a minute... and before I knew it, Alex asked if I wanted to go up in it after the session! Now, I can't really explain how it feels to be nervous, excited, thrilled, and scared all at the same time.... But I was undeniably all of them. I did a little happy dance but also felt like I was going to throw up.
So, months later, there I stood. Soaking in the warmth of the day and eyeing up the moody summer sky, camera in hand. The session went well... It's so incredibly easy to photograph couples that aren't afraid to be affectionate with each other! We eventually made it to the airport hangar... And there she was. The N177PS. She looked much smaller than I recalled seeing in Alex's picture. I thought to myself- dear Lord, am I really going to go up in this thing!? Well, I'm sure glad I did. I am so overwhelmingly grateful to them for giving me this experience. I'm sure for John, the F16 flying fighter pilot, it felt like the two barrel rolls we did were a walk in the park. For me? Not so much. He explained everything that was about to happen, from the necessary aggressive takeoff, that had us dang near vertical... All the way to the landing. My favorite part about this? While we were up in the air, we went looking for the house that built me (806 Summit Street!) but had no luck... I couldn't recognize anything from the air up there. One thing I did recognize though... During the first barrel roll, in the middle of my prayers, I squeezed my eyes tight, and thought of my dad. For whatever reason, I felt close to him up there... soaring high above the clouds, and I hoped he felt proud. Proud that I was chasing my dreams, and living a happy life. I could feel his presence so strongly that my heart starting racing even more, and I gave a big thumbs up to John to try a second barrel roll. The second time, I got my phone out, hit the record button, and enjoyed every second of it. With eyes wide open, zero fear in my heart, and a big giant smile on my face. I could hear my dads voice telling me that all was good and to not be afraid. That I was in good hands, and that I need to remember to thank this nice pilot for letting me experience something I probably never will again. So again, John and Alex... Thank you for the opportunity to document your love and to soar above the clouds. But most importantly... John- thank you from the bottom of my heart, for serving our country. Tears, flowing. Heart, full.