Complete~ NJ Newborn Photographer

We’ve come to the last newborn session from this sweet family.  I have documented so many of their special moments over the last few years.   I am very much looking forward to sharing these babies with you as they grow but right now, I am so excited to share this little tiny thing.

This sweet boy decided to break ALL the rules and came late.  After 2 previous “right on time” births,  baby #3 had plans of his own.   His mama had made such a cozy and perfect home for him in her belly and he was all too content to stick around and take advantage of the free wifi and continental breakfast.

After 6 exhausting days post date (in JULY!) his willpower finally caved and he decided to make his grand entrance and in only a few hours, he was earthside and ready to join his two big brothers.

Here he is at a whopping 16 days old!  Isn’t he the sweetest?!?

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Allison’s Birth Story~ 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

Newborn

 

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Pretty in Pink~ 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.

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.

 

Natalie’s Birth Story~ NJ Portrait Photographer, Newborn Session

Well, I suppose it’s time to finally sit down and write out Natalie’s birth story.   It only seems right that it should coincide with the debut of her newborn photos.   I want to say that this was the quickest turnaround for newborn photos that I’ve ever done, but that’s not quite the case. I began taking her pictures around 7 days old.   I finished taking pictures today, her 1 month birthday.   And, instead of the hundreds of images to sort through that comes down to about 30 or 40 finished images, I only have 16 shots that I was able to eek time out for. It turns out, it’s super hard to photograph your own life. Much like a hairstylist usually can’t do her own hair.     Anyway, I digress… onto the most important part of this story…

 

Throughout my pregnancy, I had always assumed that I would go at least a week past due as I had with my son.   Around 30 weeks, I was monitored for pre-term labor. That turned out to be fine.   And, then over the course of the last half of the third trimester, I was monitored for growth restrictions.   This baby was measuring on the small side and the midwives were a bit concerned.   It was then that I thought I might not make it to my due date at all. Everything that I had read had indicated that if baby fell below a certain percentile, they may induce for IUGR.

 

Despite this feeling, I still continued to make plans and enjoy life as usual, including a trip to the city for one of my favorite guilty pleasures (shhh…it’s NKOTB. 😉 ) 39 weeks.   I was concerned that I was going to go into labor solely as an act of universal humor.   I mean…why WOULDN’T I have a baby a week early just because I was going to a concert out of state.   But, the joke was on me and the night and remainder of that week went by with no baby.

 

My due date came and went…but the next day, my body began showing signs that labor was not far off.   I texted Robert and warned him that the baby could come that day or the next, but it would definitely be by the end of the weekend.   That night, we had dinner on the patio, and enjoyed the nice summer breeze with my parents watching our firstborn run around chasing lightning bugs and blowing bubbles.   My parents had been in town about a week and my dad had spent much of that helping us paint the nursery, so that evening after dinner, he and Robert decided to sit up late, watching movies and talking.   Robert came to bed around 3:30am.   As he fell into a deep sleep and started snoring, I got up to move to the couch to sleep in silence.   However, once I got to the couch, I began to feel strange.   A dull cramp started low in my stomach… I brushed it off as having eaten too much that night, and tried to sleep.   But another one came soon after.   Sighing in defeat, I got up and headed to the bathroom thinking it was just indigestion.   I sat in there for several minutes with nothing happening and then finally gave up and as I stood up, another cramp hit, stronger this time. I went into the kitchen and watched the clock. The minutes dragged by… and on the 10th minute, another cramp.   Just to be sure, I waited another agonizing 10 minutes and sure enough, there it was.

 

Now that I had pretty much determined that these were contractions, I woke up Robert to let him know.   However, in his mid REM cycle state, he didn’t really understand me and fell back to sleep while I got in the shower. I showered and then filled the bath tub, hoping to labor in there for a little while. I figured the contractions would stay far apart with me in the tub allowing Robert some time for extra rest and me time to figure out how to deal with the contractions effectively.   This was not the case.   Almost as soon as I settled into the warm water, the contractions seemed to ramp up. They were intensifying and were now around 7 minutes apart.   I got out of the tub and woke up Robert again, who still didn’t quite grasp the urgency of the situation.   We live 45 minutes from the hospital and had been advised to head that way once contractions hit 7 minutes instead of the usual 5 since this was our second baby.

 

I called the midwife on call and notified her that we’d be there soon and started packing my bags, stopping every few minutes to breathe through the contractions and rock on the ball.   I woke up Robert again. Until that point, he hadn’t been convinced that I was in labor, but as he came into the living room and saw my face, he realized it was Go Time.   We woke up my parents to let them know we were going and in a moment of clarity, I realized that I was walking out of that door as a mom to one for the last time.

 

We left the house around 5am.   Contractions were still 7 minutes apart but were steady getting stronger.   I wasn’t worried at this point because I had been told to expect an 8 hour labor and we were only an hour and a half in.   Halfway to the hospital, my water broke and the contractions went down to 5 minutes.   Still…not worried. I delivered my son 15 hours to the minute after my water broke.   We arrived at the hospital and in true Hollywood form, Robert pulls up ON the actual sidewalk to the Labor and Delivery ward.   So very dramatic.     We hobble into triage where I breathe through several contractions as we wait for our room and Robert goes to move the car.

 

Finally, at 6am we are in our room. The midwife checks me and, YAY!, I’m at 6cm!!!   This is encouraging because it means I am progressing and I’m 60% of the way and when you’re planning an epidural free birth, you want to be closer to 10cm than 1cm when you get to the hospital.   They make you do 20 minutes of fetal monitoring before you can move around, so I lay on the bed in agony as the slowest 20 minutes in history creep by.   But, I’m not off the hook yet.   The baby isn’t responding to the contractions the way they think it should.   The word “IV” gets thrown around and Robert jumps in with Gatorade and pineapple juice. The juice and a position change on my part gets the reaction that they want and a few minutes later, I’m off the table clutching Robert’s shoulders as another contraction ratchets through me.   They are coming faster now.   Every 3 minutes? Every 3 seconds, I’m not sure…but I do feel the pressure.   And I ask to be checked again. It’s 7am and I am now 8cm.   This is going more quickly than I had anticipated and I’m not sure that I can make it.   I ask for the tub to be filled.

 

It takes 20 minutes to fill the tub…or in contraction time, 1200 hours. I spend that 1200 hours on the table gripping Robert’s hand with each contraction and I am no longer able to keep my breathing centered and focused. I am now vocal. Keeping my throat open and face soft and letting the pain flow out of me in low moans.   Finally, the tub is full and I am all too happy to get in.   I have one contraction immediately upon entering the water and then… peace. At least 4 minutes pass where I’m laid back letting the jets hit my back and enjoying the break.   But, little do I know what I’m in for.   The next contraction launches me to my knees in the water and I can feel my body pushing. There is nothing I can do to stop it.   Fear grips me and I shout for the midwife to hurry. She and Robert both calmly tell me to let go and let my body do it’s job. This is normal. This is good. This is how it is supposed to happen.   She encourages me to reach down and feel the baby but I am so damn scared that I just shake my head.   Finally, the contraction ends and the urge to push subsides and I sit there shaking, trying to wrap my head around what I must do next.   I can feel the next contraction building. I get into a squat and try to push there and it just doesn’t feel right, so I kneel against the side of the tub and my body begins to push, and I begin to push and the sounds that escape my throat don’t even sound human anymore.   And, then another moment of peace.   But, I can’t continue to do this, so with the next contraction, I push with all my might and I can hear above my yells, the sounds of Robert and the midwife cheering me on, coaching me, reassuring me and then suddenly, I feel relief and then the baby is in my hands.   It is 7:36am.   4 hours from when I first started having contractions and a mere 36 minutes after being checked at 8cm.

 

I sit back in disbelief, sobbing and laughing at the same time. I did it!!! I did it. I.Did.It. And then, Robert tells me to check the sex of the baby. He’s known all along, but has been able to keep the secret from me.   I look down, push aside the umbilical cord and see that it’s a girl. We have a daughter.   We settle back down in the warm water, letting her stay connected to me until the cord stops pulsing. She and I locked in each other’s gaze.   The midwife and I speculate about her petite size, guessing in the 6lb range.     Finally, Robert cuts the cord and I pass the baby off to the nurse who goes to weigh her and wrap her.   I get out of the tub and walk to the bed. I have a tiny 1st degree tear requiring just a few stitches.   We discover our daughter weighs in at 7lbs 5oz and is 20″ long.   Robert brings her to me and I begin nursing her for the first time. And she is a natural.

 

In those moments…in that room…I am healed from my previous birthing experience.   I set out to experience a med-free water birth, and I did that and in doing that I set myself free.

 

It’s now been one month, and I can’t remember life without her.   Her big brother loves her to the moon and back and is always asking to hold “sister”.     And, without further adieu…. Her newborn photos:

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Sweet Baby A ~ NJ Portrait Photographer, Newborn Session

Last time we left off with our radiant mother to be, she was anxiously awaiting her baby girl.  In true family fashion, she followed in her sister’s footsteps and gave birth not very long after our session.    It’s been a little while coming, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer… This beautiful princess was such a joy to work with.  And you can certainly see her parents’ spunky sense of humor in her face.

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Welcome Baby C!~ NJ Portrait Photographer, Newborn

Remember our prompt little sprout from this session?

Well, here he is…in all his sweet newborn glory.

This little fella decided on his due date that it was time to come out.  He was born a bit after midnight, so not quite on his due date, but close enough to make that maternity session feel like it just happened yesterd….oh. Wait…  ;-P

He was about 11 days old at this session and, omg, the sweetest.  I still get a little surprised when I pick up a newborn baby. I expect them to weight 25lbs, like my toddler.  This little peanut clocked in near 7lbs and felt like a featherweight.   He was such a joy to work with and didn’t seem to be too bothered by our constant folding and rearranging and rewrapping.   Which is fortunate, because we did it… a LOT.   🙂

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