on a new blog has to be a good one. It just has to be. It didnt take long for me to pick out the debut portraits to use. This is a story close to my heart.

Roughly two years ago, I worked with this amazing family. I believe it was a mini session and I remember Melissa and I falling in love with them. They had this wonderful connection and they were stunning to look at. Can I say that? Too late…well it is true. You could just talk and relate to them so easily. At their viewing session they mentioned that he would like me to work with him in a few years for his fini flight as they leave Kadena. I agreed and thought nothing more of it…

Until a few weeks ago when the call came. They were getting ready to leave and asked to work with me for the fini flight. This isnt just any fini flight – wait do you know what a fini flight is? A fini flight is the last flight that a flier will take at a school, assignment, and lastly of course for the Air Force. And that is just what this was. His VERY LAST flight for the Air Force as a Commander. Talk about an amazing experience…and he doesnt fly just any airplane either. He flies the F-15 fighters here on Kadena. Right away I loaded up on Top Gun and Popcorn and started my research only to find out I had my very own Tom Cruise who was going to helo me along the whole way.

So we sat down to talk details, placement, and the fun stuff and I started to realize this was going to be an amazing experience, and in order to get it all documented, I would need some reinforcement. That is when I called on girl pal and photographer extradonair AVIVA to the team. She had worked for me at THE Studio and I knew she had the creative eye to get the job done and compliment my overall vision. She agreed and the fun was just beginning.

The big day arrived and I knew we were in for some fun when ‘Dawg’ (my Tom Cruise) told our driver ‘Spyder’ to take us anywhere we want to get the shot…that there wasn’t a limit or a place we couldn’t go. We had ACCESS in a major way. At that moment I had no idea what that was going to mean in full until – wow- the day progressed. More on that later.

So we started getting the shots of him getting ready for his last flight. I couldnt help, being the emotional WOMAN that I am, to feel a little choked up. And mostly just honored, plain honored to be a part of it all.

I loved the way his wife looked at him….

I totally didnt mention that after he got ready and briefed we walked outside to a TERRENTIAL DOWN POUR of rain…I am not exaggerating. I think someone later said it rained 7 inches in that ONE HOUR! We didnt let that stop us, in fact I think Aviva and I both agree that it made it even more dramatic and fun…not to mention wet!

Before the flight he walked around checking out the plane and doing the pre-flight checklist??? I am completely guessing here! I was shooting one angle and Aviva got an AMAZING shot – probably my favorite of the day of her shots – it is of Dawg almost as if he is saying good-bye to an old friend…

Aviva went off to the bread wagon (our truck) to get some shots of him leaving while I stayed back and caught some of him getting ready for the flight.

Aviva was out and ready to shoot this amazing shot from the truck!

I think that guy up there may be jealous of where I am sitting….staying dry…cant say that I can blame him.

 Now that is some dedication.

And then, as if it was straight out of the movies and then fell right onto my arms as goosebumps – the rain stopped. Simply stopped right as it was time to take off…

This is the part where the amazing access comes into play. Several times we were close enought to FEEL THE HEAT from the afterburners. We followed him right down the flight line in our little paddy wagon and it was breathtaking. I was so hyped up from adrenaline it literally took me 3 days to come down off the high. Here are a few more of take off and when they were flying…

And then the sun came out while he was in the air…a few more goosebumps followed for me. And Aviva snagged this awesome shot of them overhead.

And then it was time to come back home, this time for good.

Then it was time for the homecoming! Somebody was ready :)!


 Then with tradition comes the soaking…

And then came the emotion. I love, love, love his connection to his family. You cant help but tell exactly where his heart is.


There are so many pictures that I havent even shared with you. What I cant get over is how everyone in his squadron looks at him. I have to say I have never seen it before. The wives all hugged him graciously and loved on Missy too. The tears were streaming and hugs were a plenty. It was a celebration. To end the day, everyone who completes their fini flight post their name on the WALL OF FAME…and so what a better way to end the day than with a final tap on the wall.

 A great deal of thanks to go out here…first to Aviva – who worked graciously, soaking wet, and for long hours. I couldnt have imagined doing this with anyone else. We laughed and cried together…thank you.

Here you are soaked and still smiling! It is only fair if I post a soaking wet one of me too! Thanks for the shot of me too!

And to our AMAZING DRIVER…Spyder (Spiderman) who we know would much rather be driving us crazy girls around than flying his F-15 – admit it, you know its true! You were the best…couldnt have done it without you!

To Dawg, Missy and the kids…thank you for this amazing opportunity to capture this monumentous day. I feel honored to have been a part of it. I wish you years of happiness and fullfillment. Many loves and hugs…and I will see you again at the wedding! You know the next big moment….count me in.




  • July 13, 2008 - 6:00 am

    Serena Nicole - Just checking to see if they work! Presto – come say hello!

  • July 14, 2008 - 8:41 pm

    aviva - Oh, Serena! You’re just too much. What a fabulous surprise to see this tonight! Thank you for the sweet words, and it was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience overall, wasn’t it? Thanks so much for taking me along for the ride. It was incredible, and you’re so right – the getting soaked bit was just part of the drama and memory-making madness! I miss you, girlie. So glad I can stay tuned to the big new blog with the big new photos. Congratulations on this new baby, and I can’t wait to see your adventures unfold.

  • July 14, 2008 - 9:31 pm

    Serena Nicole - Hi Aviva! Girl you are a fast one! You made my whole night – thanks so much for stopping by and your sweet words. It WAS an amazing experience. I still get hyped up just thinking of it all! Many of our blog readers don’t know (I havent mentioned it) that we did a second day with this family too…I will have to grab some pictures from that day and post them too! I miss you! Not for long though – I will be in touch very soon! Oh and for the rest of you – I will be talking a lot about Aviva in August so stayed tuned!

  • July 14, 2008 - 10:07 pm

    Katherine Brown - Serena & Aviva- Loved looking at these picture tonight! Not only did you catch the fini flight, but you caught all the emotions that go along with it as well. Beautiful!

  • July 14, 2008 - 10:26 pm

    Serena Nicole - Thanks Kat – there was so much EMOTION….and you know that is my favorite thing to capture! So I was in HEAVEN! This family rocks the emotion. I also loved that there was a natural series of events and I just got to be a fly on the wall and capture it. That was a fun change of pace for me too! I really think I would love weddings for that very reason! And well that AVIVA she was the icicng on the cake!

  • July 15, 2008 - 8:34 am

    Sarah - The flightline pictures… WOW! As beautiful as your beach photography is, I think these are my very favorite! Really different, and they do look like stills from a movie!

  • July 15, 2008 - 8:39 am

    Serena Nicole - Sarah – your the best! Thanks so much sweetie – this was so much fun for me! I did feel like I was watching a movie and getting to capture it!

  • July 15, 2008 - 3:24 pm

    Stephanie - Uh, Wow! A-Mazing! I looooooove the new website! I’ve missed you lately too and what a great suprise in my email to find you sitting there with a great big ‘ol smile! These pictures were stunning! I choked up a little bit. Nope, didn’t know either one of them at all! But I feel like I do now! And must I say…I wish I was with you in the truck! I’d ride along with Spyder any day of the week! In the rain…Or in any weather…Did I mention any day?!? Awesome! Truly!

  • July 15, 2008 - 3:32 pm

    Serena Nicole - Hi Steph! Oh my goodness you are cracking me up! Oh and that Spyder is an awesome guy too! He is so funny and nice to boot! I miss you too! I hope you are having a fabulous vacation – you so deserve it! Thanks for the sweet words you are the bestest!

  • July 16, 2008 - 8:12 am

    Erika - In case I failed to mention it, I LOVE these pictures…..!!
    I do not know this family…but I have looked at these twice and cried both times!! Just Amazing!!
    You and Aviva, Keep up the Great work! :o)

  • July 16, 2008 - 8:34 am

    Serena Nicole - Thanks Erika – it was so fantastic to work with Aviva. I wish I could do it more often! Oh no, I get the same way – teary eyed. I made a movie for him with all the pictures from the day – man I wish I could share that here some how – anyways now I can be in a store and a song from the movie will be on and I start to cry! So embarrasing!

  • July 16, 2008 - 9:02 am

    aviva - Thanks, Erika 🙂 Um. Yeah. Spyder. I’ve run into him a few times (most recently with his wife & kids at Wall-E, which was fabulous, btw) and that smile still gets me! What a doll.
    SN – getting to work with you was so fun, I would enjoy snapping photos of our kids with you for the heck of it. Great times!

  • July 17, 2008 - 6:30 pm

    Jen - I’m breathless…Serena, those were moving pictures. I know how much that day meant to Missy and her family and you captured it perfectly. Damn! I’m such a fan. 🙂

  • July 17, 2008 - 7:14 pm

    Serena Nicole - Thanks so much Jen!! Your the bestest, I am your fan too! It is so great to see you on here – made me smile!

  • August 12, 2008 - 5:07 pm

    Erin - WOW!!!!!!!!!! I don’t know these people at ALL and yet I am so emotional just looking at these photos. GORGEOUS!!!

  • August 12, 2008 - 5:17 pm

    Serena Nicole - Thanks so much Erin, they are such a great family. I am so touched that you can feel that through my pictures. So great to see you on here! How are the states treating you? Okinawa sure misses you 🙂

  • September 20, 2010 - 3:11 pm

    Erika - WOW!!!! SN, I LOVE the new layout to the Blog…the banner and the way it brings you back to old posts that are so Touching!! Oh, Yes…cried again!! Especially after experiencing my husband’s retirement this year…this has a whole new meaning!! This post also introduced me to Aviva! SUCH Beautiful Memories for this family.. captured by TWO Amazing Ladies!!! Much love and Many Smiles…

  • June 13, 2011 - 8:41 am

    Renske Snip - I love these pictures. They tell a story….
    Great work!!

The beginning…new beginnings. They are fresh. They feel so squeaky clean. That is one advantage to being a military wife. Every few years you get to personally have that new car feeling all over again. A chance to evaluate yourself, kick out the not so good, and nurture the good. That is what I love about new beginnings.

What better way to celebrate a new start than a new blog, here I have called it a journal. This journal will be a little different. A nice blend between the studio and me. I feel so close to many of my clients in Okinawa, and as our door closes here, I am not ready to say good-bye. My intention is to write about the latest studio goodness under -Naturally You- and all about me, well under -Naturally Me- sections… that way you can take or leave what you want or will.

I love that the pictures are so big here on this site. I have a custom blog in the works, but until it is officially ready, my friend Staci (long time friend – and a photographer in Germany too!) suggested I use this site. I was so tired of little pictures and the same old, same old. So I ran with it, and threw it together for you.  This will be our new home for a while until the new cutsom home is up and ready! Thanks Staci for the great idea!

Some of you know me quite well,and were probably taken aback, to see a picture of ME in the banner. I don’t get in front of the camera often but when my girlfriend Tessa asked if she could take pictures of me working – I thought how fun! She is a photographer here on Okinawa too…she is one of those top secret – undercover types! She hasn’t started advertising yet! She is great and took some shots that I will cherish for a very long time! So thanks Tess….once you are ready let me know and I will post your website too!

So the word has gotten out and I am all finished for the most part here on Okinawa! We are just weeks from our final departure from this amazing island.  I will be writing about our candid adventures to our new home in Germany under – naturally me – so we can stay in touch! And as for the journal – dont despair – I have 20 plus families to still share with you! I will keep the pictures coming all summer long!

So this will be a little, humble, journal about new beginnings and being the best we can be in this life. Please join in and share, it means the world to me and you may inspire others too.

I am heading out with another picture from Tessa! Boy do I get myself into compromising positions – smile! Yes, that is a big rock under my HEAD? I get so caught up and in the zone. Never do I come home without sand everywhere and cuts and scrapes! Who knew being a photographer could be so – dangerous – no – dirty. I guess I will just come home wet from rain in Germany! Or muddy – we shall see!

Hugs – SN


  • July 14, 2008 - 9:03 pm

    Kassia - Beautiful new blog! I love it and the big pictures…but best of all, it’s good to see some of YOU here as well 🙂 Good luck in your adventures and as you head off to new and exciting things in Germany I’ll be watching… (meanwhile I’ll be headed off to Target-less NM..ack)!

  • July 14, 2008 - 9:34 pm

    Serena Nicole - It’s Kassia! You are fast too – I bet AVIVA had something to do with that! Yeah, trust me it is hard to post pictures of myself…we are all our own worst critics arent we! But I am trying to change that :). Thanks so much for the luck – I will take all of it that I can get! NM is so lucky to get you – maybe you can convince them to build YOU a Target! If they knew how much business you would bring – that might just do the trick! It will be a great assignment – just you wait and see! Hugs.

  • July 14, 2008 - 9:37 pm

    Serena Nicole - Hey Kassia – I wonder why your smiley works and mine doesnt! You just must be really happy!

  • July 14, 2008 - 10:04 pm

    Katherine Brown - Serena! How did you do it… It’s bigger and better than before! I love the new home, it’s big and spacious and it’s so you! It’s stunning! I’m so happy I will be able to follow you to Germany and see more pictures from you. I never tire of your style… it’s classic. Blog away, I’ll keep myself posted! Oh, and Tessa, love the Serena shots… you did good 😉

  • July 14, 2008 - 10:12 pm

    aviva - SN… you do know what an aggregator is? Lovely little program (Google Reader for example) that tells you when a blog has a new post. So… though I’m fast, I’m not as fast as the people who follow your RSS feed, darlin’ – you’ll see them come over now.

    The smiley issue might be because you have a period after it. And yeah… Kassia, if you come… they will BUILD IT! Backwards? Well, whatever, when did we ever do this right?

  • July 14, 2008 - 10:23 pm

    Serena Nicole - Yes Aviva I know what an alligator is! Just kidding…yeah I guess I just never realized how fast they keep up with me thats all! You are so smart – that period will do it everytime. Silly punctuation!

    Hi Kat! Welcome!! You are the sweetest thing ever! Thanks so much for making a girl grin from ear to ear! Isn’t that Tessa great and so sweet too! I am so excited that my friend Stac shared this site with me…I owe it all to her really!

  • July 15, 2008 - 2:50 am

    Amy Rominger - Hi from Pensacola! I love the new blog Serena! I was so excited to see these amazing pictures! We are missing Okinawa lots. Can you believe that our little new born Jonathan that you photographed will be 2 years old soon! Thanks for keeping us connected to Okinawa and we wish you the best on your move and can’t wait to look at Germany through your camera!

  • July 15, 2008 - 8:00 am

    Serena Nicole - Oh my goodness Amy, TWO YEARS OLD! That is so hard to believe! I so wish I could see him now. You will have to send me a picture!! It is so great to see you on here! Pensacola, I am a Florida girl – originally! I am from the Orlando area. 🙂 Are you surviving the heat? How long will you be there? Give little Jonathan a hug from me! SN

  • July 15, 2008 - 9:30 pm

    Kassia - I wish I could say I was just GOOD like that…the fastest and first to comment on Serena’s new blog. BUT… I will admit here publicly that I check into my Google Reader at least 3000 times/day. It’s insanity. So as soon as I saw something posted from your old blog, there I was… I promise I have a life. (ok not really). As far as Target goes, maybe I’ll write a nice letter to those Corporate folks and see if they can’t pull a few strings to save my sanity…. let’s not keep our fingers crossed though. 🙂

  • July 16, 2008 - 3:53 am

    Tessa Burrows - Thanks Kat for the kind words about my photos, It was a real pleasure and an honor to get to photograph Serena at work,and to get to meet you too! you guys were great! Serena the Journal looks fantastic, it’s larger than life! it’s beautiful and inspiring just like yourself. It’s truly amazing the gift you have and it’s just so special that you are able to share it with people and give them beautiful memories that will last a life time. Those people in Germany are just so lucky to be getting you!!!! You are leaving some shoes behind!! I can’t thank-you enough for all your support and friendship, I’m glad you have this new Journal it’s going to be a fantastic way to keep in touch!

  • July 16, 2008 - 8:02 am

    Serena Nicole - Kassia, you are so silly! I have a few favorite blogs and I find myself constantly checking them too. I have a sneaky suspicion that you and I are not alone! Oh – I am keeping my fingers crossed – you have to believe!!!

  • July 16, 2008 - 8:04 am

    Serena Nicole - Ok Tessa, you are choking me up – I am holding back the tears. You are the biggest sweetheart. I am so lucky to get to call you friend. Thanks so much for your kind words. You have a wonderful carreer ahead of you and I feel lucky to be able to say that I knew you when… hugs to you my friend. SN