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Friday, August 22, 2008

Back to School Event Cancelled

Due to a family emergency, I am going to have to cancel the Back to School Event that was scheduled for August 29 and 30. Those who have already placed a deposit will have the choice to reschedule their mini session, or receive a complete refund, and I will be contacting you individually to arrange that. I'm very sorry if this causes any inconvinience for anyone, and hope you will understand I need this time to support my family. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Last Day in Switzerland

Yesterday (Tuesday) we went to some old Roman theatre ruins in Avanches. I would have loved to do a family session here! The possibilities were endless for groupings with all the different levels of stone and grass.

After that, we went to Morat, an old city that still has part of its medieval wall in tact. This was exactly what I'd pictured when I thought of what Europe would be like be. Buildings here are hundreds of years old, and the place itself looks like a fortress. I told everyone in my group that I was done taking photos, but after we arrived, I couldn't help myself. Every time I turned around, there was another beautiful scene that I had to shoot.
Below is the outside of the wall. It looks like a castle! (I'm still not giving up on the idea of shooting a Scottish wedding and touring some of those old castles....)
There are several old rickety staircases that lead to the top of the interior wall. This one was built to connect with the church in the village. You could see the interior of the church from this window.
On top of the wall you could see the whole village. This made me want to sing "Chim chim Cheerie" from Mary Poppins!

Lastly, inside the village center:

Today we are packing and relaxing. We said several goodbyes yesterday, and I wasn't expecting that to be so difficult. I don't know if I'll ever see some of these people again, and I feel like this whole experience has bonded us together permanently. We talk of coming back, and of them visiting us, and I just pray that someday either of those possibilities will come about. I love everyone from my new Swiss Family, and I will miss you after I go home. God bless you all!!

With all fondness,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy Cows come from Switzerland

We've been doing some more touring the past three days, but I've been really bad about writing down names of places and stuff. Frankly, I'm exhausted, but I don't want to miss anything so I just keep shooting everything and then being really glad I did. Here's some happy Swiss cows, and some details from a very old smoke-house.

I know that a lot of people are really excited about my Switzerland images, and I am so honored and excited to have been able to share the experience with so many people literally around the world. I do have to ask everyone to please exercise integrity, and not take my images off this blog for your own use. I have a charity project brewing that will involve these images, so aside from it being illegal, it will also be detrimental to a good cause if my images leave my blog. Thanks to all!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Without further ado...

Here are some highlights from the event of the year. I just want to say to S&T thank you so much for giving me this unbelievable opportunity. In the future, when I look back on this amazing journey, I will remember it not because of all the cool places we've seen, not for the cheese or the chocolate, and not for the gorgeous scenery. When I remember Switzerland, it will be because that's where I met the rest of my family. Thank you so much for taking me in as one of your own.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Don't let the suspense kill you

I know there are a LOT of people waiting to see wedding images of S&T. I've currently spent all day working on getting them on the computer, but as I have over 1500 images to go through, it is going to take me a lot of time. Please be patient and keep checking back as I hope to have the whole wedding processed and complete before I leave Switzerland. Here's a little sneak peek to whet your appetite. I love S's emotion and complete radiance in this image! Wow, let me just tell you, this was one amazing wedding...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Days 6 & 7

Wednesday: The Alps

We got up very early yesterday, and after a tasty breakfast of muesli (my brother used to rant and rave about this stuff after spending a couple years in Germany. I would think, "oh, no, not the muesli stuff again! But now I totally get it. This stuff is GOOOOOD!) Anyway, we headed out to the Alps. It turned into a gorgeous day, not too hot, not too cold with lots of sun. We rode an open-air train on a cable up the side of a cliff (105% grade! That was pretty nerve-wracking.) and then hiked around this lake. We had a picnic lunch with plenty of cheese and relaxed by the water's edge for a bit, and then finished our walk around to catch the train down. There are no words to describe how beautiful it was up there, nor will any of my photos even begin to give you an idea of what it really looked and felt like to be up in these majestic mountains with water, green plants, and clouds showing off everywhere. It was truly awesome.

Once again, I have to give C my thanks for shooting the REAL alpine beauty! I was on this suspended cable bridge, swaying in the breeze, on tip-toe, dangling my camera off the edge just trying to get a shot. Yes, I think I may need some professional help...

After our hike, we drove to Luzern. It was quite a shock to all of us to go from serene, quiet mountains to a hectic, bustling city. We saw the bridge and water tower, and a church, and then left quickly because none of us wanted anymore big-city experiences! Holy cow (no pun intended), it really made me appreciate what a unique opportunity I've had to stay in this little village, where tourists don't flock. This is how I want to see Italy and Scotland. Anyone know of anyone getting married there? No, seriously....

On our way home from Luzern, we stopped at this little village to see if we could go in the castle. Unfortunately it was not available for tours that day, but I really liked this shot of the church that had been built over the ruins. It's got lots of those great Swiss shutters and windows that I love.

I'm supposed to ask T if he recognizes this expression...

Today (YEAH, TODAY! I'm finally on the right date!) we went to the Bern temple. It was nice to take a break from busy for a few hours. I know this is a totally generic boring shot, but frankly, I was totally photographed OUT today. I didn't feel like shooting anything. I did force myself to make a couple exceptions.

Bern was nicer than Luzern. We did quite a bit of shopping, and saw this old clock tower. I'm such a lousy tourist... I don't know its name or how old it is. Like I said, I was kind of tired today.

I may not post for a couple days. Tomorrow will be full of wedding preparations and set-up. We've promised to peel all the potatoes. Then I'll be working all day Saturday, so I don't imagine I'll have much time to do any posting. I do want to thank everybody who are following this blog. I have been checking my stats, and it has blown my mind that there are so many of you out there checking out my vactation photos! Thanks to all, and keep praying for no rain on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 5 - Say Cheese!

Tuesday, Day 5:
We only did one thing yesterday, but in my opinion, it was one of the coolest things we've seen here. We got to tour a little local cheese factory. I hesitate using the word factory, because it is a small, six-man operation, and a lot of the work is still done by hand. It was fascinating learning how these local dairies and cheese makers work. The farmers bring their milk to the factory twice daily after milkings - straight from the cow, no pasteurization or processing of any kind. The raw milk is made into cheese in less than 24 hours after it comes out of the cow. It is cooled, re-heated, and the enzymes and bacteria are added. Then it is placed in a large machine that separates the whey from the curd. Before the cheese is pressed into the molds, each cheese is given a tag with the date it was made, the maker's name, and an INDIVIDUAL serial number, so every cheese is truly a work of art. Here, the owner (right) and his apprentice are putting the tags in the molds.

Then the top of the press comes down and presses the cheese into the molds.

After the cheese is pressed for 30 minutes, they turn every mold by hand so they can press them again for 40 minutes.

After being pressed, the cheese goes into a brine solution for 24 hours. Ok, this part was really interesting. Did you know that the softness or hardness of a cheese depends upon how long they leave it in the brine? That's why hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano are saltier than soft cheese. Cool, huh! After it comes out of the brine, it is placed on Red Swiss Pine boards (no other wood works - it gives the cheese a bad color.) and then into the cellar for ripening.
The cheese below is called Tete de Moine. It is a very unique cheese made only in this tiny little region of Switzerland that we are in. There are very strict codes and regulations that the local farmers have to follow to be able to sell their milk for Tete de Moine, and the name is regulated throughout the world so that nobody else can call their cheese Tete de Moine. This stuff is DIVINE too. They shave it, not slice or grate it, with a traditional wheel. There will be lots of it at the wedding, so I'll post what a Tete de Moine rosette looks like then. The owner was telling us that this stuff sells in New York City for $100 a pound (these cheeses are a little over 2 pounds each.)

This is the cheese-makers own special cheese. He's won several gold medals for his cheeses in national competitions. Can you believe I get to buy and eat this stuff? How did I get so lucky?

The cheese above isn't ripe enough yet. Once it gets to a certain stage (some cheeses in here were over a year old) they coat it with an herb mix to enhance the flavor and then ripen it some more.

This photo is specifically for C's brother in law who loves Gruyere cheese....

We had Gruyere today, and I still like the Tete de Moine better! Ok, twist my arm, and I'll eat more of this stuff too...

This cheese cave holds over 400,000 cheeses. Can you imagine if any mice got in here?

The finished products in his store. The tag says, "Swiss Product from the Corgemont Cheesery." Coregemont is the village the wedding will be in. The bride's father sells his milk for Tete de Moine cheese, so I feel pretty darn special to have seen this whole process first-hand from cow to store.

Ah, cheese! American cheddar will never be enough after this... Hey, if anyone wants to know more about Tete de Moine cheese, go to http://www.tetedemoine.ch/. If you click on dairies, we went to the Corgemont dairy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Day Four

I'm so confused on days. What day is it? Which day did we do this? I feel like I've done a month's worth of stuff in less than a week. Yesterday (I think!) we went to a couple different places. First, we walked to the oldest oak in Switzerland. It's over 1000 years old. It was pretty cool, but I loved the water lillies in the little pond on the hike up better!

I love that C is taking pictures of me taking pictures. I don't ever have images of me!

Can you see the face in the oak's trunk? Cool, huh!

After that, we went to a little medeval town called Saint-Ursanne. It was kind of touristy, but for good reason. It was very picturesque and quaint. My favorite part was the church, and finally acheiving my dream of photographing an old European church. This first image is the gate to the village.

This house was on the river outside of the village. I love the shutters and flower boxes on the houses here. I want to come home and put shutters that actually work for real on my house.

I'm posting this image specifically for Kim. Do you remember when C did this to you when you guys were in Paris? Some things never change.

After touring, it was back to the farm. We got to see them shoe the horses. The blacksmith had a little oven in the back of his truck that he heated the shoes in. This was really cool to watch, but SMELLY! The horses hooves stink when the hot shoe is burned onto it.

Isn't this a yummy barn? This is where the wedding is going to be if it's raining. Harsh lighting conditions, so I'm still praying really hard for NO rain.

This great guy had a huge itch. This image just cracks me up.