When things go easily, memories are made in more than one way


For nearly 9 years, my family has done an annual photoshoot to document our journey, life and growth. It started with a maternity shoot in San Clemente, CA. With a belly full of our first child, we spent an afternoon capturing a special time in our adventure toward parenthood. While it was a maternity shoot, that was also the day that I proposed to my future wife. 

The photographer, a friend at that time, worked with me to accomplish the goal of capturing the big question, while not tipping the scales of giving it all away. The results were priceless. 

As time progressed, March became the month of our tradition. With our daughters birthdays being in April and June, and my wife’s in May, it only seemed fitting to capture these moments on the eve of their special days. 

Once my vision began to deteriorate more and the progression was clearly not letting up, We adjusted and began doing photos in our home. The lush trees, green grass and ocean breeze of our home in San Diego provided quite a nice backdrop. We pivoted easily and did not fight the change, but accepted it. 

As life progressed and our family grew, we moved. As I have shared before, it was for a lot of reasons and our new home in Arizona did not offer the place to capture our yearly tradition. At the time of moving in, we were deep into building our desert oasis and a backyard of dirt, plumbing and disaster was how it stood our first year in Arizona. Let me tell you, building a pool and backyard isn’t a task to take lightly. 


The Lesson we Learned

Our first year in Arizona, we found a neighbor that did photographs, which seemed like a fantastic fit for goals of capturing our adventure and changes in life. My wife, the orchestrator, planned our clothes and set up the event. 

Still learning about our new home, we met the photographer near the White Tank Mountains, which were only about 10 minters from our home. We arrived, ready for a memorable experience, which it was. 

At this time, I was using a cane most of the time, not all of it. I would use it in dark situations, new homes and places, but could still “see” well enough to walk during the day without it’s guidance. We arrived at the location and dressed in our finest followed this photographer into the desert. 

Now, imagine going on a hike… with your eyes closed. It’s terrifying! My wife and daughters, 3 and 7 years old at this time, carefully followed the photographer to her first location. Wearing sandals, pretty dresses with hair perfectly put together, this was not off to a great start. Meanwhile, I attempted to stumble my way behind them, kicking every rock in the desert, barely avoiding the prickly pear cacti and other natural obstacles that grow in our beautiful Arizona deserts. 

We eventually made it and were already overwhelmed with the challenges finding their way to us. A few deep breaths and we were off. Click, click, click. Now, as you may accurately assume, these photos always take rearrangement and adjustment so each and every move, my wife would have to shuffle me into place, tell me where to focus my eyes and then also fix the kids into place. The photographer stood and watched.  

Not 10 minutes have passed and we were off again to another location which was “just around the corner.” What corner? We were in the middle of nowhere and from what my failing eyesight could make out, we were not on a hiking trail of any sort. 

It was at this point our little Lyla began to lose it. Her 3 year old mind did not like the dirt between her sandals and feet and we were on the verge of a meltdown. In hopes of avoiding the event, I held her in my right arm while my wife guided me with my left. This was not going well. 

We eventually made it to the second location and did our thing as she shot away.  Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and dirty, I had the sense that it was time to call it quits and move on with our day. We began to navigate through the terrain, taking each step as carefully as possible. My wife, guiding her 6 foot husband, who can’t see, holding a tired 3 year old, navigating the ups and downs of a natural desert, full of cacti, rocks and trees. Thankfully, our 7 year old was able to  hold her own through the ordeal as I am not sure how we would have handled her not being able to! 



We finally made it back to the road, near our car, and sighed. All of us were spent after a measly 35 minutes of taking photos! It felt like a battalion death march to us and we realized that very moment just how different our family was becoming. We all cleaned up our feet and hopped in the car to just exist for a few moments. Full of relief, my wife and I shared a look of “never again.” 


It’s That Time of Year…. again…

In February, my wife brought up the discussion of our tradition yet again. Her timing, delivery and demeanor was perfect but a strong feeling of anxiety immediately popped in to say hello. In the time since our last experience, which beat us down, my vision had deteriorated greatly. At this point, I was a full cane user, unable to see an iPhone and was adjusting to this world of VERY little sight. The thought of the last experience seemed absolutely daunting. 

My response was not favorable but not without reason. My proposal was to do it at home, in our backyard which had been finished for some time. Palm trees and lush plants had taken root and the pool was a great backdrop in my opinion. If I am being honest, they would have been great photos but not the “nature” feel we typically cultivate. It would have been good, but not great. 

A few days later, my wife and I discussed the topic again and she came up with the idea of asking a local group for some advice. She took it on herself to share our story, our reality and our unique circumstances, sharing our vulnerability, to a group of local Mothers, much like herself. 

Sharing these things is not always easy. Sometimes we want to be a “normal” family but whenever we try to do that, we are constantly reminded that we just are not that way. We are unique, we require more and are different in just about every way possible. We move differently as a unit, we keep a different home than most and while we may look “normal” in a photograph, we are simply unique.

My wife’s post, while difficult to do, was a sign of strength. Strength in acceptance, confidence and actuality. I am proud of her. Despite the feelings of insecurity, her post was answered with grace, kindness and understanding. One woman, Michelle Suppes, replied and made the difference. 

Michelle, who lives only a short distance from us, was a photographer who runs her business on the side of being a full time Mother. Michelle was kind, understanding, compassionate and more than willing to work with our family! SCORE! 

My wife, the investigator, soon made the connection that Michelle had taken photos of several of our family friends and neighbors, one of them living just down our street, who is actually Michelle’s best friend! It’s a small world sometimes, isn’t it? 

On top of Michelle’s willingness to work with us, she took us back with the offer of gifting us the photoshoot at no charge. Wait, is this for real? Michelle’s generosity was touching to my entire family and my wife took over setting up the event. 


The Big Day

Here it was, time to battle the desert, fight through the environment and hopefully survive another photoshoot. I was SO excited but not one single bit. Despite Michelle’s extremely gracious offer and willingness, the stigma of the last experience was stuck in  my mind. I focused on the memories created, even though I am unfortunately losing the ability to see photographs, and charged on. 

My wife and Michelle had discussed our situation and set up the location under Michelle’s recommendation. We loaded up and were on our way to who knows what. After a short drive, we arrived and the resemblance of our last experience was present. A beautiful mountain casted it’s large shadow over the tall cacti, rocks and trees creating a wonderful scene. We parked and began to see what we were in for…

There she was, not 15 feet off of the road, completely set up with a stool and a welcoming smile. Michelle introduced herself with a sincere manner and greeted us all with enthusiasm and understanding. Wait, where’s the catch?

There wasn’t one. Michelle had specifically chosen this location with our family in mind, taking care to consider my inability to see. She choose a flat, hard packed ground, free of cacti and obstacles, just for us. To say that I was pleased would be an understatement. I kept waiting for the “just around the corner” comment but there was none. 

Michelle worked with us, just as we had known her for years. She was wonderful with our girls and had them laughing, well we were all laughing. Michelle worked with my inability to see and would help position herself and my head to be looking in the right direction. She guided us politely and respectfully and the results, well they speak for themselves. 

We took photos for about an hour. There was no meltdowns. There were no cacti stuck in my feet. There was no tears. There was no “never again” moment. 

There was just joy, gratefulness, smiles and a true sense of understanding. 

Michelle parted our way, hugging one another in the moment. Once we returned to our car, my wife and I shared a look, but it was different. It was not a feeling of challenge, it was a 

“we got this.”

A photograph session with a fantastic photographer that was accommodating to blindness


While we could not simply accept her gracious gift, we felt the experience was worth every penny we could send her way. It was not that we felt a necessity to pay for her time, we wanted to. Personally, Michelle made my day. She took a possibly challenging day and made it easy. She took her understanding of blindness and adapted to it, without forcing anything into place. Michelle, you are an amazing human, Thank You for being who you are. 

For anyone looking for photographs in the North West Valley of Phoenix, AZ, Michelle is the ONLY way to go. I’ve included her information below if you are interested in working with her. No matter your situation, I assure you that you will be pleased with the experience and results. 


A photograph session with a fantastic photographer that was accommodating to blindness


Cheers to you Michelle and thank you!


Michelle Suppes Photography

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michellesuppesphotography/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msuppesphoto

Email: [email protected]