Allison’s Birth Story- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer

*Long birth story ahead.  Scroll down for Fresh 48 and Newborn Photos if you want to skip ahead to the cuteness*

As I sit down to write out my third and final birth story, I am caught in my heart a little.  I can’t believe this will be the last birth story I write.  It’s been such a privilege to create, carry, and sustain these little lives that I feel my words will fall short.

Let me start out by being honest.  Allison was such a surprise in every single way.  We had not planned on completing our family at this time.  But, I truly feel that our timing is inferior to God’s timing and He must know something that we didn’t.   After adjusting to that shock, I began to plan for another unmedicated water birth.  Then, at my 20 week anatomy scan, we found out that I had a complete placenta previa.  I was devastated.  Placenta previa has plagued all three of my pregnancies but this is the first time it was complete and that my midwives weren’t just positive it would move and it began to look like I would have a cesarean birth at 37 weeks.  But, they were amazing and continued to encourage me and we kept scanning until it did indeed move at 32 weeks.

Our second born, Natalie, had arrived at 40 weeks and 1 day in just 4 hours.  I had mentally prepared myself, not only for a 40 week delivery, but a FAST delivery.  I poured over youtube videos of home births and car births, trying to prepare my husband and I for the possibility of an emergency unassisted birth.  I was convinced that this baby was going to just fall out.   I wasn’t afraid of this scenario, though.  As a doula, I felt confident that my body was capable of delivering my daughter in any situation.

And this is where the story of the birth of Allison truly begins…

39 Weeks.  I snap my weekly selfie and note the drastic lowering of my belly.  I’d spent the weekend having a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions.   I’m extremely in tune to my body and even speculated that I would be surprised if I made it to 40 weeks.  Up until that point, I had been so sure that I’d not only make it to 40 weeks, but I’d probably go overdue just because I had ended up in L&D with preterm contractions at 35 weeks.   I was HOPING to overdue as I was very much enjoying my pregnancy despite the awful heartburn and round ligament pain.

39 Weeks, 1 day.  I wake up and spend the day wrangling my older 2 children while preparing for my parent’s arrival the following day.   All throughout the day, I was experiencing consistent contractions.  But, they weren’t lasting very long and they weren’t intensifying, so I dismissed them as being Braxton Hicks.  In hindsight, I was likely in very early labor.    I powered through the contractions while doing laundry, mopping and vacuuming floors, washing dishes, scrubbing toilets… you get the idea.   I spoke to my husband that afternoon and told him that I felt like I would be going into labor within the next few days and it was a good thing my parents were going to be here soon.    That evening, upon his arrival home, I told him that I had been having contractions 5 minutes apart but they still weren’t getting stronger or longer, so I was still convinced they were BH.   He did look a little alarmed but I assured him I was fine and dumped the kids on his lap so I could go shower and relax.

39 weeks, 2 days.  2:30am.  Natalie wakes up wanting to nurse.   She had been nursing much more frequently in recent weeks.   I brought her into my bed and nursed her on one side.  I got up to use the restroom and returned to bed where she decided she wasn’t done yet, and nursed the other side.   Being 39 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I had to use the restroom AGAIN, so I rolled out of bed and felt a pop.  Immediately, I leapt up and ran waddled to the bathroom.  Sure enough, my water had broken.  And it had meconium in it.   This alarmed me slightly, but I was too busy being more freaked out that my labor had started with my water breaking which meant I didn’t have long to get to the hospital.    It was 3am.

I woke my husband and we began to get ready.  We had to wake our friends in the middle of the night to watch our kids since my parents were not in town yet.   Natalie was already wide awake and once we woke Sebastian to let him know the baby was coming, the energy in the house just came alive.   I felt very emotional about those moments of getting them ready and dropping them off.  I knew they were going to be great siblings but there is still something a little sad about watching your babies become “big” brothers and sisters.

We dropped them off around 3:30 and hit the road.  We live about 45 minutes from the hospital, but thankfully, it was the middle of the night so traffic was not bad.  My contractions were coming closer, but still not terribly intense and about 7 minutes apart.  This was a relief because I was really trying to NOT have my baby on the side of I-78 in my husband’s company car.

We arrived at the hospital around 4:15 and were placed in our room around 4:30.  I had called my birth photographer as soon as my water broke so she arrived right after us.   I was placed on the monitor for the standard 20 minutes (more like 45…every single time.  Getting a reactive strip on my babies is almost impossible that early in the morning.  They are sleeping in there!!)   Finally my midwife comes in at 5:30 and checks me… I’m at 4cm…which means I still have a way to go.

I’m finally off the monitor and able to get into the tub, which helps my contractions IMMENSELY.  I had only barely made it into the tub with Natalie when it was time to start pushing, so I was very excited to actually labor in the tub this time.   The water felt amazing and with each contraction, my husband was there to spray water on my back or provide counter pressure.   In between contractions, we laughed and talked.  My photographer was awesome to have there.  She made us feel so comfortable and she got some amazing shots.

The midwife came in and checked me again around 7:40am and I was at 6cm.  I labored in the tub until about 8:15am when I decided to get out and get on the ball a bit. My contractions were still consistent but I was still handling them extremely well and I felt like I needed to try to get into some different positions to encourage more progress.  They also wanted to put me back on the monitor for a bit since I did have meconium in my waters and they wanted to make sure the baby was still tolerating labor well.

I believe I began to enter transition while I was on the monitors.  My contractions began to intensify and were coming much closer together and in clusters.  I so desperately wanted to get back in the tub or in the shower, but they weren’t seeing a reactive strip again.   I chugged juice, ate honey sticks, and rocked into Robert and did hip rotations on the ball until FINALLY they were comfortable enough to let me off of the leash.  I immediately went for the tub.  I had to get back in the water.   My contractions weren’t unbearable or too much to handle, but I knew I would be so much more comfortable in the tub.

I got back in the tub around 9am.   (I think…time becomes fuzzy here)  My contractions start to space out a bit.  I knew from my experience as a doula that some women get a little “break” after transition before the work of pushing baby out.   They spaced out and they changed.  They were no longer wrapping around my back and into my lower belly. Now they were starting from the top of my belly and pushing down.  I recognized this as the beginning of the end of transition and my body preparing for the pushing phase.   At this point, the reality that the end of my last pregnancy was in sight, and it overwhelmed me to the point of tears.   As I mentioned above… I LOVED my pregnancy. I loved my belly.  I loved feeling all of my babies move and kick and hiccup.  I loved dreaming about what they would look like and what their personalities would be like… and here I was, preparing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to never feel that again.   I was so excited to meet her.  I couldn’t WAIT to have her in my arms…yet part of me wanted to say “stop. Hold on. Slow down.  Let me feel one last kick.  Let her somersault one more time.  Let our hearts beat as one just a little longer….”   And, as if my unspoken prayers were heard, I felt my baby give me a little kick and I cried tears of thanks.   Throughout this emotional gauntlet, my midwife’s steady and reassuring hands cradled my face, wiped my tears, and she held space for me to process this  very profound moment.

10:12am.  My body decides it is time and begins to push.  As easy as the contractions had been for me, pushing felt so much harder this time.   With each surge, my midwife would gently tell me to let her come and my husband was there quietly encouraging me to breathe her out instead of pushing.  To let go of my mind and let my body just do what it needed to do.    It felt like an eternity, but at 10:17am, after 7 hours and 17 minutes of labor and only 5 minutes of pushing, Allison Charlotte entered this world.    I had hoped to catch her myself, but my position made it hard to reach her, so my midwife assisted me and helped me bring her up to my chest, where I sobbed with every emotion I had coursing through me.   But the emotion that was screaming from the rooftops was unimaginable joy.  She was beautiful.  A little strawberry haired baby with blue eyes.   Through my tears, I could see my husband off to the side, telling me “good job, baby.”

We spent some time snuggling in the tub until the cord stopped pulsing.  My husband then cut the cord for the last time and Allison and I became two separate hearts.   As she was being weighed and measured, I got out of the tub and, thankfully, breathing her out meant I had a tiny little tear only requiring 2 stitches.   And, full disclosure, even after just giving birth without any drugs, I was still scared to death of the injections of lidocaine they gave me before stitching me up.   I will have 100 babies drug free, just keep those needles away!!!

We learned that Allison clocked in as our smallest baby at 6lbs 14oz.  The same weight her daddy was when he was born, and just an ounce bigger than I was at birth.   She measured 20.25″ long (20″ after her cone head went down… haha)

We are absolutely in love with her and while I feel I could have all the babies in the world, we feel she completes our family perfectly.   It’s hard to believe she is 6 weeks old, today.

And, if you’ve made it this far…your reward is cute baby photos!

Fresh 48



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Sleeklens Photoshop Actions Review, NJ Portrait Photographer

It’s a pretty amazing feeling when a company reaches out to YOU and asks you to review their product.   I didn’t quite realize that I had hit that point in my career.  But, lo and behold, I recently received an email from Sleeklens asking me to review a pack of their Lightroom Presets and Photoshop Actions.

Now, I don’t use Lightroom in my retouching workflow, but I do use Photoshop so I jumped at the chance to try out some new actions.   While I do a lot of hand editing, I have a few actions that I love to use as a part of my basic workflow just for efficiency.

When I first opened the Portrait Perfection Photoshop Actions, and started to play around, I noticed that they were a little inconsistent with the prompts.    Some actions would just run, while some would provide prompts for how to use them.   This isn’t a problem if you are an experienced user of actions, but a beginner may feel a little lost on some of them.

Two points of contention, for me, were the actions that ran and flattened with no ability to adjust the opacity or mask off of the subject.  These actions are a lot more intense than I prefer for my editing style so I like to have a little more control over them.

I tend to go for a lighter and airier look for my studio work and these feel little more intense than I usually go for on newborns, but I’m excited to use these for my outdoor fall sessions.  There are some great easy processes included that can really make those outdoor sessions pop.

I really love the Light Glow and Enhance Tones packs in this workflow.   There is a lot of freedom in these sets to play around and adjust the opacity to your liking.    The Bases are good to create consistency in your images.  However, I recommend going light with the opacity and brushing off of your subject.

Here is a Before and After of an image I took last year.  In this image, all I’ve done in the edited version outside of the actions is clone out a few gnats from the girl.   As you can see, the final image is fairly warm but for a session like this…it works.

Actions used:  Portrait Retouch Fast Retouch- Skin smoother from “Eyes, Skin, Teeth”,   Enhanced Tones in “Autumn Love” and brushed off of the subjects at reduced opacity, and Light Glow in “Sunny”.

BandA Julia

My final notes on this product… If you’re a beginner to actions, this may feel a little cumbersome. But, the people at Sleeklens are really nice and there are a lot of videos available for how to use them.    If you’re an experienced actions user, you’ll find this easy to use.  I will definitely be looking more into Sleeklens’ product line and hope to use them again!

Thank you to Sleeklens for the opportunity to review their product!   I did not receive any compensation for this review.   I did receive the actions in exchange for my honest review.  These opinions are mine and based on my experience with the Sleeklens actions set. 


Third Time’s the Charm- Randolph, NJ Maternity Photographer

I have been photographing this family for a very long time.   K is one of my dearest friends and it is always such a good time when I get her and her sweet family in front of my camera.

Many many months ago, I received some exciting news from her.  She was expecting baby #3!   Of course, we were super thrilled and immediately began to plan her various photo shoots.    Back when the trees were still bare and the wind was still brisk, we did a quick shoot to announce that they were expecting their third baby boy.


Then, once the she AND the rest of the world were in bloom, we got together to make this magic.  I just can’t get enough of her beautiful glow.  She is truly meant to grow these amazing little humans and always looks stunning when she does.

Third Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity PhotographerThird Time's the Charm-  Randolph, NJ Maternity Photographer

Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer

One of the most important things to me in my business as a photographer is the trust of my clients.  I want them to know that I fully respect their privacy and their preferences regarding how and where I share their images.   My model release allows you to choose your comfort level from “Please don’t share my images anywhere” to “Print Samples only” to “Share far and wide!”

Sometimes, especially with my littlest subjects, the parents don’t wish to have their images shared.  Which is totally Ok!!   Does it make me sad to not be able to show off these sweet little cherubs?  Absolutely.  BUT… it would make me more sad to violate the trust of my client.

That said, nothing makes my heart SING like when a client revises their privacy agreement or signs the model release after a period of hesitation.   This is a huge honor to me because it shows that my clients have found comfort and trust in me.  Definitely not a detail that goes overlooked.

This little girl was one such client.   She is actually, literally, my littlest client, clocking in at less than 6lbs!    Even being the experienced newborn photographer and mom that I am, I was in awe at how itty bitty she was!   (For reference, my biggest client was DOUBLE her weight at around 11lbs by the time our session came to be)

But, she was an absolute JOY to photograph.  After a full belly and a good wrapping, she snuggled in and fell asleep soundly.   She definitely preferred her tummy sleeping position, so we got tons of that!  And for a brief moment, we caught those beautiful eyes wide open!    But first, we caught a few of her and her proud big brother having a special moment.   He was so sweet to her and you can tell right away that he is going to be not only a great brother, but a great friend.

Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer Pretty in Pink- Phillipsburg, NJ Newborn Photographer

Less Is More: Quality over Quantity- NJ Portrait Photographer

I have a confession to make.   I am a recovering  Quantity Over Quality shopper.   I was raised to always shop a bargain.  This isn’t a bad thing.  But, I was also taught to take full advantage of those bargains.   $5 t-shirts?   I’ll take one in every color.  Already have 10 grey tees at home?   Buy more because they’re only FIVE DOLLARS!!!    This has resulted in being extremely overwhelmed by bursting closets, drawers, and laundry baskets.   And, guess who can never find anything to wear?  *raises hand*   This gal.

I suffered the same fate when planning my wedding 8 years ago.   As I searched through photographers, I found that the photographers that I absolutely LOVED were not only expensive, but seemed to offer very few images for their price and had limited coverage time.    My natural instincts were to continue looking for the “best deal.”   So, my mom (always the bargain shopper!) found a friend who had a photographer sister who would do the job for super cheap.  All Day.  And provided all of the images on a disc.   SCORE!  Just our type of arrangement, right?

Not quite.  Let’s start off with the guilt factor here, okay?   First of all, that poor woman worked her TAIL off for 10 hours for peanuts. PEANUTS!!!    (And that’s just shooting time…never mind all the hours in post production!)

Secondly, my wedding photographs are beautiful…but not what I envisioned during my planning process.   I was drawn to light and airy images with a classic photo journalistic style.   My images were richer and moodier in the colors, and a little trendier in editing style.   Still wonderful memories to have, but not the ones that I was initially drawn to. (*disclaimer* I love my wedding photos.  She did an amazing job and was a talented photographer.  Unfortunately, she is no longer in business. This is intended to illustrate how shopping based on price alone may mean that your vision will have to change.)

Thirdly, and this is the big one, at the end of it all I had a disc with over 1200 photos on it.    And that overwhelmed me.   How on earth was I supposed to put together an album or choose what to print out of 1200 photos?!?!    Even uploading them to Facebook was super time consuming and tedious.  This was back when you could only do 200 photos in an album.  I never even got the reception photos loaded after the ceremony photos finally finished.    So, as I’ve mentioned previously, those memories have been confined to the disc. Locked away.  Waiting for me to find the time to narrow down my top 40 out of 1200 to fill an album.

This isn’t exclusive to the digital world, either.   When my sister married over 20 years ago, she received a box of hundreds of 4×6 proofs.   Every blink, blur, and duplicate included in that pile.   And, like me… she never did anything with those photos because it just became too daunting.

So, why am I telling you all this?   Because one of the most frequently asked questions that my colleagues and I get is “Can I have all of the photos that you took?”  and “Is this all I get?”      We understand,  it seems weird to hear so many clicks of the shutter during an hour long session and only get 10-15 final images.    Here is the answer:   during your session, we are doing real time adjustments in camera to compensate for lighting, posing, environmental elements, facial expressions, etc.     Sometimes, especially with my family sessions, I’m just snapping away as you are interacting with your family.   You may be telling a funny joke. I may get shot of you with your mouth open or with a weird expression but I’m trying to catch that moment when everyone bursts into a fit of giggles.   That organic interaction that cannot be duplicated or scripted.    That’s the image you want.  Not the one with your Kristen Wiig expression. Or, you know…this:



After your session, I carefully go through your images with a ruthless eye.  I delete anything that has eyes closed, weird expressions (unless they are just so much a part of your child’s personality.  Those are my favorites!), out of focus or light test images, and anything that is less than flattering.   After that, I discard any duplicate images or close to duplicates by choosing the very best of the 2.    So, what I’m presenting to you are the best of the best.   The images that showcase you at your very best.   Because my job is to make it as painless and easy for you as possible.   I want you to feel relaxed and beautiful or handsome and not worry about having to make decisions like “which photo do I like best” or “how am I going to narrow this down??”.  I’d much rather you be making decisions like “which album cover do I want and how many canvases?’


As I get older and as I’m preparing for our next addition, I find myself purging and simplifying and bringing things back to basics.  Because it makes me happy and it makes my life easier.  And, that’s my goal for you during your photo shoot and ordering sessions.


Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer

One of the things that I’m most excited about in this new year of ABP is that I am now offering a client wardrobe to my maternity clients.   No longer do you have to worry about what to wear for your shoot, as I have you covered!    Currently, we have 2 dresses, a wrap, and a black floor length tutu and are always looking to add more to the wardrobe!  Don’t be afraid to ask for something special!  If we don’t have it, we can order it! 🙂

I received this dress and fell IN LOVE.  It’s a little bit of sweet lace, spiced up a LOT with a deep red.   When this lovely young lady answered a recent model call, I knew this was the dress for her session.   And, was it ever.  She looked absolutely stunning!  Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer Lady in Red- Phillipsburg, NJ Maternity Photographer

Why You Should Print Your Photos- NJ Portrait Photographer

Disclaimer: This post contains images that were downloaded and uploaded again from Facebook and photographs of physical photographs. Quality may be slightly compromised in these images, but that actually is part of the point! 

Imagine that it is 60 years in the future.  Your grandchildren and great grandchildren are sitting around the kitchen table talking about you.  What your life was like. What you looked like when you were young.  If you’re still living…perhaps you’ll be able to describe yourself to them.  If you’ve since passed on…your image is left to their imagination.   Why?  Because you grew up in the digital age.  Every photo, every memory, even every piece of artwork was photographed and then uploaded on a branch of social media that has long since been defunct.  Every photo taken during your lifetime is in a hope chest, trapped on a USB stick or a CD that doesn’t play on any of today’s devices.

Does this sound unrealistic?  Stop for a second.  Have you tried to access photos posted on Myspace 10 years ago?  They’re not there anymore.  You can’t even Google them.  (I’ve tried!)    Do you guys remember floppy disks?  Even most cars today don’t come with a CD player.   And as we move to the age of tablets, we may be moving away from USB drives.

Now…let’s take a trip back 40 years…60 years.  Look in your parent’s closets.  On their walls.  In their photo albums.   You’ll probably find priceless gems like these:

My mom’s senior picture, circa 1972 or 1973

My maternal grandmother. Circa early to mid 1940s. She passed away in 1956, 2 years after my mom was born. She never knew her, as neither did I.


I got married almost 8 years ago.  Look at these beautiful images!!  All uploaded to Facebook.  If I tried to save and print any of these today, they would look tragic thanks to Facebook compression of images.  As you can see, these downloads aren’t as sharp as they should be.    Luckily, my images are still stored on a disc.  In a safe.  Not a single photo from my wedding is on my walls.   What if that disc was lost?  What if social media ceased?  This amazing day…the day I married my soul mate would be lost.

(all wedding images by Brandi Smith Photography)

This is why I strongly believe in preserving our memories in print.  I collaborate with a professional photo lab that guarantees their images for a lifetime at top notch quality.  I take the hassle out of resizing, uploading, ordering, and picking up your prints for you.   You have nothing stopping you, no excuses, from preserving your memories to stand the test of time.    Once you select your images, I prepare them for printing and order them for you.   They are delivered to me to be inspected for quality control.  Then, I personally deliver them safely to you, at your convenience.     I do understand the desire to share your photos on social media.  Many people have far reaching family and friends and this is how you communicate with them!   That’s why for every image you purchase, you also receive an accompanying low resolution, watermarked social media file for sharing.  Because, it’s hard to take pictures OF pictures.  But, there is absolutely no substitution for having those tangible moments right there in your hands.  To run your fingers across when they are old and wrinkled and to hand over to the next generation.

Who’s the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer

8 years ago, I was hired at a small insurance firm in Little Rock, AR.  During my interview, my soon-to-be boss and I discovered that we were both getting married on the same day!

Our families became friends and I worked for him until we moved to NJ 5 years ago.  The day I gave my notice was probably one of the saddest days of my life.  I was not only losing a great employer, but also great friends.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when we found out they were moving just a little over an hour away from us!!  We were THRILLED to have a little piece of back home so close!

I was even more excited when, just a few months after their move last year, they asked me to do some family photos for them.   This family, besides being super sweet and genuine, is absolutely STUNNING.  Seriously, the type of family you find featured in prominent society magazines.  They have excellent style and are naturals in front of the camera.   And their little guy is an absolute joy to photograph!   I am so excited to share these here and I hope to be honored to photograph this family many times over.

Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer Who's the Boss?- Allentown, PA Family Photographer

6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer

Remember that precious little songbird newborn from the other day?   Well, 6 months ago (if you’re doing your math, this means that she is now almost a YEAR old!) we got together for a fun little half birthday shoot.   It was so amazing to see just how much she had grown in half a year.  She was full of those fanTASTIC gummy smiles and laughs.

And, we were able to sneak in a shot of her and big brother, which we missed out on at her Newborn session.    One of the greatest things about this age is their obsession with their feet.   But, who could blame them, afterall?  Baby feet are THE best. Ever. Period. Infinity.


6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer6 Months of Adorable- Vernon, NJ Baby Photographer

In the Jungle- Phillipsburg, NJ Baby Photographer

Oh how I love a good cake smash session!!!  This little guy is a regular here at ABP now.  I’ve been taking pictures of him since he was in his mama’s belly!   For his first birthday, we got together for a fun jungle themed cake smash session.

He had too much fun eating the the cake and smearing icing on himself.   But, when it came time for cleanup, he wasn’t nearly as thrilled.   Thankfully, he settled in for a quick scrub-a-dub and enjoyed the spa.


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