A Last Light Family Session At Valley Forge National Historical Park

A married couple hugging and smiling during their family session at Valley Forge National Historical Park.

While sorting through these photographs (in an attempt) to narrow down my favorites to share with you, I had an overwhelming thought: these two had each found the one person in the world who feels like home, and they both knew it. Photographing their joy over this fact and witnessing their obvious adoration for each other inspired me to ask a question here.

What is your favorite thing about the person that you love? Have you told them what it is? Better yet, have you ever stopped to tell the people that you love what they mean to you? If you answered "no", why not? The reality is that you may not always be able to do it. Telling the people you love that you love them, showing them how you feel through your actions while you are able to, that is everything.

Absolutely everything.

I challenge you this. Take the time to figure out what the important relationships in your life really mean to you. Look at the connections you share with the people you love. Think about what your life would look like without that person and then celebrate the fact that at this moment, you have them. Tell the people that you love just how much you love them. Show them and tell them how you feel as often as you can.

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Now that you're making it your mission to show the people that you love just how much you love them, (and I know I’m a bit biased on this one), you may want to have that love documented.


Last Light Session on Megunticook Lake // Philadelphia Family Photographer


From the moment I started following Katharine, I knew I wanted to photograph her. The way she writes about her daily life with her daughter reads like a painting, captivating you and walking you through her journey of motherhood; through the raw moments of raising an adventurous child in my favorite place on Earth, Maine. Her words are poetic and I had the feeling her presence would be too, and my intuition was spot on. We met just before sunset and Lauralie, a child filled with confidence and joy, led the way through the woods, skipping over tree roots down the path toward one of my favorite spots in town, smiling ear to ear even while dusting the dirt off of her knees. We set our bags by the treeline and waded into the cool waters to photograph as the last of the day's light slipped from the indigo sky. Spending the evening with the two of them in front of my camera was absolutely inspiring. Katharine's gentle spirit is mirrored in Lauralie’s and the graceful way in which she navigates through motherhood is nothing short of admirable, it was truly an honor to spend the evening in the presence of such a loving connection, and even more so, to be able to document these moments for the two of them to look back on. 



I feel so eternally blessed to have been gifted with the opportunity to work with Morgan. From the moment I saw her work, I was drawn to her composition, and somewhere along the way, we met on the same wavelength of thought. This place, that had become such a dear and crucial part of my life, has been a place that resonated with Morgan's soul too, where she had dreamed of capturing a loving moment, as she so terrifically does. 

Upon her invitation for adventure, I felt honored to be recognized as a loving parent, with a joyous and loved daughter. As I timidly began to explain my life with my sweet young girl, to Morgan, and my vulnerability unfurled, I knew that my words and our story were held in compassionate and honoring hands. From the moment we stepped out into the field, I began to feel akin to her energy, and as she daringly stepped into the water to capture the unfolding moments, I knew she was cut from a similar cloth. Her ability to gleefully engage and guide my very energetic toddler's mind was effortless, genuine, and flowing, and her tender, accepting hand in aligning stray hairs was completely natural, calm, kind and comfortable. I trusted in full faith that with her eyes, we would be truly seen. The results confirmed what my heart already knew. With dreamy tones of creamy white, peachy pink, deep browns, golden light, gentle green and ink, and haunting black and whites, as well the love behind a mother's tender, helping hands, the joy in a smile, and the promise in caring eyes, it reflected back the life we live each day.

In truth, I pray that my daughter sees me, and the world sees us, the way Morgan does. In a snapshot of an hour, I know that if documentation of love is ever called for, I want it to be seen in just this light. Morgan's sense of adventure was remarkably aligned with mine and came as an always welcome reminder to drink the wild air.

- Katharine


In this moment, Laura's little hand traced across a freckle on her mothers cheek as she explained to me that it was a "fairy kiss." Her little face lit up when she told me that she had fairy kisses too, but I chose to capture her mothers expression in this moment, because in twenty years this little girl will treasure that. She'll recall ways in which her mother taught her to celebrate every inch of herself and she'll see in this the beauty and immensity of her mothers love.


A Last Light Session in Maine // Philadelphia Family Photographer


We stood by the lake to momentarily wrap up in towels and let all of our shivers out. Luke, twelve years old and a whirlwind of growth and heartache, asked why I do what I do.

"Because I think every stage of our stories are worth remembering. Even the dark chapters.”

The stories I tell are stories of truth. Life is a mess of light and shadow, and among my most treasured possessions there sits a box of 4x6 prints that tells the story of it all. It’s a reminder, it’s a memoir, it’s a piece of my history. I want to give that to others too, even when what we’re documenting is shadow, even when it’s the darkest thing you can imagine, it’s part of the story, it’s a chapter you might not want to skip in forty years when you’re shuffling through that stack of printed photographs.

I shoot for my subjects, not for me, not for anyone else. I'm not always shooting to document something from my perspective, I’m trying to capture it's from theirs. For this family, this is a time of uncertainty, it's messy and it’s devastating and the past can feel more in focus than the future. Some moments are filled with laughter and others are blurred and unclear, that's something I tried to portray in these photographs.  

There are these "rules" photographers learn, and they are so worth learning, but even more than that they are worth breaking. This collection of photographs includes some broken rules, you might notice a piece of the subject missing from the frame, you might even see some blur. It wouldn't have felt right for every frame to portray a sense of  wholeness and clarity, that’s not how it feels to have a piece of yourself missing. It is my hope that when Danielle and her boys look back on these photographs they remember how they felt in this moment, that they see in Michael’s smile a reminder of the purest joys that life has to offer, that they see the incredible strength of a mother’s unwavering heart.

There is an unspoken space that comes when people are grieving, it’s like a line drawn in the sand that you would prefer others not cross, a method of protecting the shattered and aching heart.

Morgan in her graceful and calm presence captured our family at the most difficult time in our lives. When she broached the concept of a mid-coast photo session I have to be honest I was completely torn. Through lovely sessions I've documented so much of my families growth and as the baby changes so rapidly I wanted to capture this stage too. What I didn't realize at the time was that I also wanted to capture the heartache that we were experiencing. This is a chapter of our lives, a chapter we undoubtedly will wish never existed, but it does, and we must read it over and over again in order to begin the process of healing. These images that Morgan has so eloquently produced speak our truth. Our truth and the depth of our soul can be difficult and frightening to share with others, it is perhaps not our best selves, but our real selves. 

Three short months ago, we lost our greatest love, my husband, their father, Richard. Our world, our sense of innocence, is blanketed in shadows. Our vision of the future blurred by the tears that flow from our eyes when the painful reality strikes that he will not be in it. Morgan captured our loss and pain in shadowed and blurred frames. She respected our unspoken line in the sand, our caged and broken hearts, often settling her lens where we all choose to, in the innocence and joy of our three-year-old, Michael; our light on the gloomiest of days, we find in him the greatest blessing and hope. 

We feel honored to have met such a talented and kind photographer and human being. Morgan Ellis, thank you, for your talent is in truth, and the truth can hold beauty despite the pain.

- Danielle