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24,000 miles, ten pounds, and a new ring. 2011: definitely.

It’s 6:49pm on December 31st. Mike and Ellie are sitting on the loveseat a few feet away from me, playing Mario Kart on the DS3. Wait. 3DS. Is it a big S or a little s? I’m so techno-lame sometimes.

I’ve spent the bulk of today going through 2011’s images, picking some out for a year-end slideshow, re-living the sessions and weddings and all the travel we did. It wasn’t the busiest year for weddings… 2012 is already shaping up to be a great deal busier than 2011. But what 2011 lacked in busy-ness, it more than made up for in just about every other way.

In 2011, we put 24,000 miles on the car, traveling to weddings in Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina, DC, and South Carolina. We stayed in seven different hotels, ate at countless fast food joints, and became really fast friends with the Gas Buddy app for iPhone. We cooked at home whenever we could, and we each gained at least ten pounds. Ellie started the second grade, turned eight years old, discovered Justin Bieber, and got her hair cut to above her shoulders. I chopped almost all my hair off. Mike grew a beard, hated it, and shaved it off. We all found out that we love scarves and thick, comfy socks. Mike and I ate some AMAZING food in some incredible restaurants, from Aubriana’s right here in Wilmington, to Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, to Maggiano’s in Durham.

2011 wasn’t just fun and travel and calories. We lost Dino, watched some good friends move far away, and went the entire year without seeing my mom or my siblings. In “this isn’t bad, but it’s kind of weird” news, Ellie gained a stepmother and stepbrother in 2011, along with a hamster named Gibble. Mike started a new job, and I reunited with an old boss who has asked me to do some contract administrative work for him in my spare time next year.

In 2011, Mike and I got engaged. (Squeeeeeee!!!!!)

One of the most significant developments from 2011 was Mike picking up a camera at a session early in the year. He’d spent years pursuing photography as a hobby, but it honestly didn’t occur to me that he might want (or be able) to do it professionally. That is, until I downloaded his images. Holy crap, the man can shoot! And, better still, he LOVES it. I’ve spent the last decade rejecting second shooter after second shooter, for reasons ranging from “your work never rises above awful” to “I can’t babysit you while I’m working” to “you smell really, really, really bad”. A good second shooter is hard to come by; an excellent one (who smells good, doesn’t need babysitting, and actually knows what he’s doing with a camera) is damn near impossible. And I somehow stumbled upon the man that not only wants to marry me (squeeeeeee!!!!), but also happens to be an excellent second shooter.

So, in 2011 I quite naturally began the transition from Charo: Solo Shooter to Charo + Mike: Shooting Team. How lucky am I, to be able to work side by side with the man I love (and am marrying! Squeeeeee!!!!!)… pretty damn lucky. (Along with this change we’ll be launching our new website soon… but… one thing at a time for now!)

And, finally… the real point of all this rambling. The pictures. The pictures of the people who made everything possible for Mike and I this year. Our clients friends, who got married, had babies, celebrated anniversaries and family reunions and birthdays, and asked us to capture their joy. In the slideshow below are 165 images of incredible couples, families, friends, who trusted their memories to us. I don’t know how best to express my gratitude and my pride, other than to commemorate their beautiful faces just one last time this year.

Happy New Year. I love you all…

[portfolio_slideshow id=5265]