ben + marriah + a story of old friendships

I was ten years old when I met one of my dearest childhood best friends, Ben. From middle school on, we raised all kinds of trouble. I have fond memories of shooting fireworks out of our friends' pants, running through crowded church hallways, and destroying many a tidy room. After we graduated, Ben met Marriah and I was just so excited. She is a picture of womanhood: strong, honest, and beautiful. I cried real tears at their wedding. Partially because I cry tears at weddings, and partially because I just love them both. 

They have since had a little boy -- John, whose enjoyment over a Starbucks stopper is the cutest thing you've ever seen -- and have added another sweet boy to their mix, fostering him with hopes of doing the best for his future. They are an example of what a family should be. 

Having friends for more than a decade is weird, guys. It means I'm old, but more than that, it means were all seasoned. We know each other. They know I'm a psycho and have lots of feelings. I know they're more down to earth than I've ever been. Here are some photos from their sweet Christmas session! It was a whopping 28 degrees when we were out, and let me tell you, two year olds do not love 28 degree weather after an hour. Though the tiniest has an incredible story, it belongs to him alone. Just know that his sweet eyes are the largest, most beautiful eyes in the world and he's discovering his grin. In a world of insanity and sad stories, these four give me a hope like no other. 

Hold your people tight this season, friends. 

katie + a poem

I love seniors. Maybe it's because I teach seniors, or that I love the idea of a good beginning. I'd given anything to relive college, so when I find seniors I love, I just kind of attack them with love. Katie is no exception. What a beauty am I right? 

Grown ups, let's do our best not to treat kids like they don't have something valuable to say. Let us not forget that it is the young ones who are the smartest, the kindest, the gentlest. Sweet Katie wants to help kiddos in foster care. The class of 2018 is full of gems. They're going to change the world. I just know it. 

Related: I've been excited about poetry lately, and Rupi Kaur has taken the modern poetry world by storm. I wanted to share her poem with you because it's phenomenal. 

i want to apologize to all the women 
i have called pretty. 
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave. 
i am sorry i made it sound as though 
something as simple as what you’re born with 
is the most you have to be proud of 
when your spirit has crushed mountains 
from now on i will say things like, you are resilient 
or, you are extraordinary. 
not because i don’t think you’re pretty. 
but because you are so much more than that.
— rupi kaur

Know a senior? I'd be honored to get to know them and shout love at them! Hit the button below to get started. :) 

walking with you, 

hd

when my story stopped being my story

There was a horrible year of my life called "post grad." Ugh, post grad is THE WORST. College is like this massive sprint and all of a sudden, you collapse across the finish line and then -- nothing. There is literally nothing. There may be a few people in the audience still (hey, mom), but really you're ushered to this new and somewhat horrifying long race. Like, cross country. And you have no clue what the heck is going on because, hello, you've been sprinting for four years. How do adult things work? What is a doctor's appointment and how do I make one? What is a budget and why do they exist to ruin all of my fun? So many questions. 

When I came back home from college, I was finishing up my master's online so I could take a job in my home state's capitol working for the government in higher education. I thought I'd found my ticket. Maybe not my lifelong ticket, but at least the ticket that would get me a pretty sweet apartment and a new car. But the thing is, I hated it. Wow, how I hated it. And suddenly, my life was a monotonous droning of policy and grad school. My only solace was a group of girls I'd known my whole life. They were a few years younger than me and, together, we opened our Bibles and navigated Titus and Ephesians. We shared our lives together. We ate Panera and cookies and looked across the tables and talked about break ups and get togethers and parents' divorces and grades and addictions. We kept nothing from each other. That time was a time of huge growth for me. I found my footing as a teacher and loved it. We sat cross legged on the floor and prayed for each other, and peeled back layers to expose the souls we'd been given. But what I learned most was that the hurting parts of me, the parts that I'd thought were dead and buried, kept cropping up. They were stories of pain for me, but life for another. 

You see, the boyfriend problems that have crippled my capacity to be in a relationship (god bless the man I love) are the hard stuff that make me want to cry and punch things. But, when I looked at the girls looking at me with relief, it was like a breath I didn't know I needed. So often, we push away the junk in our lives and live in isolation. It's a fair thing to do after significant pain -- defense mechanisms hit hard. But our lives weren't meant to be spent in isolation. Because what's happened to you, in some small way, has also happened to someone else. Maybe not totally. Maybe not in complete. But it has happened. 

Your story is invaluable because it was given to you. 

Whether you like it or not, we're all connected. Every one of us. Imagine a cord tethering us to a greater center, one that makes us all whole, but only if we truly connect. My story stopped belonging to me when I gave it to the girls' whose faces were stained with wet streaks of tears, wondering why he never called. It wasn't mine when I looked into the eyes of a girl who's lived through manipulation. It wasn't mine because it was and is now theirs. 

If you have a story to tell, I would be so honored to help you tell it. Because you do have a story to tell. The stories that make your heart swell and eyeballs well. The ones that looked like defeat in the beginning but transformed to triumph in the last seconds of the game. Those are the stories we need to hear. Those are the stories we can't push back, because they are, after all, still there. And if they're all there, and we're all connected, we might as well hand pieces of them to other people to help lighten the load. 

Are you ready to make the plunge? Comment below and let's get started. I believe in you. Truly.  

why your story is important

Let me just tell you a particular pet peeve of mine: Devaluing your experiences. Let me explain. 

There is no one in the world with your exact fingerprint. Did you know that? That is INSANE. And also pretty cool. When you're thinking about your story, I think unwillingness to share comes from two places. The first is a lie. It's a lie that whispers into the dark places of humans that says, "You are not good enough and your stupid story matters to no one." The second is that it's selfish to dwell on your own thing. Why in the world do you need photos taken of yourself when you're struggling? It's manipulation this horrible world sometimes spews at us, "Stop talking about it. Bottle it up. Let no one see your mess." 

Friends, your story is important for so many reasons. Let me list a few? 

One. Your story is unique. 

Whether you're religious or not, I think we can all agree that we're all pretty different. No one has lived the exact story you have. No one has the relationship you have with your parents. No one is married to your spouse. No one has received that one phone call that changed everything. It's impossible to lead the same life as someone else. You can't do it. And people need to know you because of it. You're special, my friend, in a way no one else is. 

Two. But also it isn't that unique. 

Sure, you have different parents, worldviews, and perspectives. But deep down, we're all pretty similar. We have such varying stories but the stories all make up this interwoven tapestry that, when you take a step back, is breathtakingly beautiful. It is a way that we can see the commonalities. Maybe you've had a stillbirth and your heart is just shattered. This is a part of your story that will never, ever be removed. But, there are others who have had similar experiences. And you are now woven to them. 

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
— Maya Angelou

Three. We weren't meant to walk alone. 

I refuse to believe that with this many people on this planet, we were made to live in isolation. We weren't. And your story is what connects us to each other. For no other reason but this, open those arms and share. We're all waiting for you with cups of coffee and hands for clapping. We are ready for your story, messy as it is. 

walking with you, 

hd

storytelling vs photography

"Good luck on your photography business!" I received the well intended message with a funny feeling. I'm not a photographer. I know, I know, I stand behind a camera, tell you to whisper sweet nothings to your loved one so we capture that raw moment, but I am not a photographer in the way the industry defines the word. In fact, I'm not sure there are words to describe a new form of media storytelling. Working with me is different than working with a photographer. And I want to tell you why.  

I am a storyteller. 

This means that, yes, I take your photos. I love taking your photos. I love looking through the lens at your true self. It is the second greatest joy of my life. But what this also means is I am not just a photographer. You won't just receive photos from me. It is my true goal and ambition to help you tell your story.

What does this look like tangibly? 

Great question. If you decide you want to tell your story (which, you totally should and click here) I want to meet you. I mean, really meet you where you are. Maybe we have coffee or get lunch or grab some ice cream. I'll get to know you and give you the chance to get to know me. We'll schedule a time to take some photos and some more time to talk and get to know one another at the same time. It's a good time, let me tell you. And then, I'll go home and start working. I'll start writing up your story to post here. I'll start designing a special-made photobook for you and your loved ones, for coffee tables and night stands, and hearts. Think of it as a journal you want to read when you're 80 to truly remember all of the little details of this season of your life; only, you don't have to write it. When all of those things are ready to go, I'll send you a complimentary print (my favorite shot of the day), a custom USB for you to download the images, and a photobook chock full of your story and your photos. 

The thing is, we're all we've got in this crazy world. Your story may be the revelation saving grace for someone reading. Telling it is therapeutic. Telling it could save another life. 

Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .
— CS Lewis

So, yes, I am a photographer in a sense that I take photographs. But I am more a writer because I write your stories. It is in the intersection that I live and love. 

Have a story? Drop me a comment below and let's get started telling it. 

(If you're a business and wondering what it looks like for you to work with me, click here for more information!)

why i'm here

When I was very young, I wrote a story entitled "Johnny's Loose Tooth" and dedicated it to my sister, Summer, whose anxiety at being the only one in her first grade class to have not had a visit from the Tooth Fairy was growing every day. I wrote it to make her laugh -- there is an incident, I believe, where Johnny ties his tooth to an iron and drops the iron down the stairs. I wanted to help. I wanted her to laugh. And I knew I could write. I was nine. 

This is Summer and me, my inspiration for the first story I ever wrote. Check out those sweet bangs. 

This is Summer and me, my inspiration for the first story I ever wrote. Check out those sweet bangs. 

When I was a freshman in high school, no one saw me without a floral journal and a pen. I scribbled ferociously in history class, bought books with glossed pages depicting photographs of Ireland, and drove my dad mad at night clicking at the keyboard on our desktop (does anyone even remember what those are anymore?) in our living room as he was trying -- and failing -- to snooze while watching basketball, a rare talent. I wrote a sum total of 204 pages about a high schooler named Grace-Tyler (double and unisex names were all the rage in these 2000s) who found herself running away from home and very quickly on the road with a band. To keep the cliche going, I wrote a horrible character -- Andy -- who was, in fact, the lead singer and, incidentally, entirely abusive and manipulative. Eventually, she found herself a nice Christian man -- Senan -- who was Irish (because why not?) who drove her from New York to California to reunite with her parents. Do they fall in love? Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? I wanted people to know and care about girls who had fallen out of school and in step with the wrong people. I wanted people to feel their sorrows and pain. 

A little while after that, I discovered Jane Austen who wrote love stories in a way I'd never seen. She wrote them with excitement, commenting on society's idiocy with dignity and satire. Her stories, though largely based on love, were much more than just a novel ending in a marriage. I was suddenly jealous of a woman who had been dead nearly 200 years: I would never be a Jane Austen. However, I persisted. Not writing was never an option. 

Creative Writing was the only major that made sense to me in college. I would have nothing else. And, after four years, I graduated with an undergraduate thesis consisting of three stories, all circling on women's experiences in heartbreak. One stillbirth, another abuse, and one agoraphobia. Lamenting to my dad one afternoon on our way to the grocery store (our own special place to talk life and decisions), I said with an exhale, "I just want to write something that matters." Ever my father, he never took his eyes off the road. "Well then, do it." 

It's hard, however, to graduate with a creative degree and have a clear cut path. How do you suddenly become a New York Times bestseller? I hadn't graduated with an accounting degree. I hadn't even graduated with an English degree. I was relatively lost on what should come next, but I knew writing would have to have a part in my drama. I found teaching on complete accident. 

Teaching had always been in the background of my life, a swirling possibility. I'd quenched my thirst for the art by teaching women the Bible at church and helping my sisters learn MLA format and proofread their papers. It never occurred to me that I could do it for real. Enter August 2016. I will never forget the first day I walked into a classroom with my name on the door outside. I was so nervous I contemplated throwing up. I was too nervous to leave the room to go to the restroom, so I waited until the bell rang at 3:30 after drinking insane amounts of coffee all day. I was petrified in every sense of the word. But I grew to love it. More than that, I grew to love my kids. They are, whether they like it or not, irrevocably mine. We laughed and cried together. We spent many days very mad at each other. And still, it was (and is) one of my most treasured experiences. 

But it is in creation that my heart lies. And for all of the times I preach to my students that they can do anything and have special-made gifts, I couldn't possibly continue to abandon my love of storytelling. So, with a lighter teaching load and a fixed goal, I set out to start. 

Start what? Good question. 

It was when I was word mapping (which is a highly effective way for me to think) one afternoon that I understood in a flash what I wanted to do: I want to tell stories. Not "telling stories" like my grandma used to accuse me of when I'd undoubtedly lied about eating another push pop (come on, those are amazing). No, I wanted to walk alongside people -- any people, all people -- and work with them to delve into the deepest parts of who they are to help tell their story with both photography and authorship. My plans grew. Soon, I was obsessive over brands and telling their stories, as well. Leveraging online presences and focusing on telling brand stories with grit and honesty, I knew, would lead to their success. Over night, it made sense. 

And so, here we are. Haley Danielle Creative was born. 

Right now, I'm sitting on my couch in my very tiny apartment listening to the 2004 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack because that's the only thing I can listen to while writing. I'm gearing up for a new school year. My life, in every way, looks so normal to me now. Finally. While I've been blogging for nearly six years, I've not ever devoted time to growing a business of my own. I've taken photos here and there and written content for others on occasion. So, in so many ways, this is so new. New in ways that make me want to hit the delete button on this post and go to bed. New in ways that make me cringe to think about promoting myself in any way. But I also know that this is my season. 

So, I'm here to stay. HDC has been on my heart for more than two years and tonight, we went live. A business focusing on telling stories with photos and words. A business that grew from my heart up out of my chest. I couldn't be more excited. It is my heart to walk next to you, helping you to tell your story with bravery and vulnerability. It is in our stories that we are human. I am so, so thankful you've read my whole story and I can't wait to know yours. Drop me a comment and introduce yourself below. :) I would dearly love to know you. 

walking with you, 

hd

how photography chose me

I didn't choose photography. In fact, I made a point not to get into photography for a long time. The market is saturated. Anyone with an iPhone 7 and the portrait mode can take a good photo and praise Jesus for Instagram apps (A Beautiful Mess's A Color Story is my go-to). It seemed like something everyone was doing and I'm an INFP, a MB type that's known for doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing just for the heck of it. :) 

I realize, too, that on a site showcasing photography and a button at the top that says "investment" and "about," this post seems a little like bad advertising. But I ask you to be raw and real and honest when you step in front of my lens, so I want to honor you by doing the same from behind it. 

Working with my parents and their apparel company and at the newspaper at my college university, I spent many, many years standing beside some really phenomenal photographers (get to know them here and here). I watched their eyes flicker with sunsets and I held their reflectors proudly, unsure of exactly why we needed them. I watched them pull up Photoshop and work magic on my eyes and our subjects' hair. Absorbing the process was invigorating. What was most exciting, though, was watching a concept I'd mentioned to them transform from a small idea to an outpouring of images that captured my heart.

Soon after, I got a new kind of creative itch. My fingertips have always twitched at the thought of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and letting my thoughts ooze out of my head, but this was new. I wanted to see the process belonging to those I'd stood next to up close. I wanted to capture moments I'd seen without having to email a photographer to help (though I loved them dearly). So I ordered a camera on Black Friday and took it with me on my trip to England and shot approximately three times because I was so nervous. Sitting with my best friend cross legged in the smallest beds known to man in a London hotel, I learned to edit and saw the fruits of creative labor come to life. It was a delicious revelation: photography had found me. 

And still, I rebelled. I would not be like them! Those who throw a black and white filter on their photos and call themselves a photographer! I was bitter and prideful. But, I continued. I carried my camera with me at all times (in a bag I'm obsessed with that you can get here). I took online photography classes (here and here) and soon it all clicked (pun definitely intended). I realized I loved photography because it was a perfect mate for my storytelling. See, I have always been a writer. My heart and soul lie in the deep crevices of the human experience and history. Without stories, literature, and history, we would cease to exist as a people. And while all of this converged in my mind, photography showed itself. And, together, they married -- my storytelling became an outpouring of creativity that existed in a harmony I had never felt. It was a way to visually piece together a puzzle. Without a story, a photo is a photo. Without a photo, a name has no face. Together, they are an unstoppable medium, ready to express your deepest joys. 

This is why almost all of my packages (which you can see here) have a "the story" option. I take pride in my photography and in offering you the highest quality experience and images to capture your heart and soul. But, I also want to know your story. The story option is unlike any other experience you will have with photography. It is a way to tell your story along with the photos you receive. After we sit down to chat -- maybe with coffee or ice cream -- you will receive a 20-page photo book with not only the images we've captured together, but your story interlaced in those images. These are for coffee tables, for sharing, for bookshelves, for family dinners. These books are for keeping track of the hardships you've overcome, the delicious joys of life, the stories that make your heart burst in your chest. 

Photography chose me because I was ready for it. I was ready for a visual storytelling because, in reality, that's what we all want -- to lock those memories safe in the confines of our heart to pull out on a rainy day. And friend, I am so, so ready to help you tell your story. Whether it be a love story, a story of triumph, a story of heartbreak and rejoicing, my pen is poised and my lens ready. All you need to do is show up. We'll make the rest work together in a wave of happiness, fun, and remembering. 

hd