Ashley + Robbie // Altamont, IL Family Pictures

Apparently I never got around to blogging about Robbie and Ashley’s family session and this is probably one of the most exciting sessions I had all of last year – you’ll see what I mean as you read on. Even though it was a few months ago, I remember this day so vividly because it was the closest in my lifetime to feeling like I could actually witness a tornado coming at me. I’ve done a number of shoots of Robbie and Ashley and it’s be SO fantastic seeing them grow as a couple and as a family now with Riley in the mix and at this time she was around the last corner on her race to 1-year old. We decided to grab lunch together after church, the only part I do not remember is why we did the shoot so early in the afternoon, I must have had something that night? But in either case it made sense to quickly grab something to eat and then head out to Ballard Nature Center for their pictures. We went to subway since it was quick, and about halfway through our meal the radio starts to blare that warning signal, and it was about that point that everyone there with a smart phone had that crazy loud warning going off… Tornado Warning. At that point the lights went out and the employees of subway said that everyone needed to head to the bathrooms to take cover and they proceeded to lock the door. Locked in Subway, in a bathroom with no windows, sitting there wondering if a tornado is going to hit us? No thank you. I’m sorry but if a tornado is taking me, I want to see it coming. I want to know that I have a chance to escape it. So I did what any person would do (which every other person eating at Subway did), and I made my way to the front door where someone else had already unlocked it and Natasha and I jetted out of the parking lot. Robbie and Ashley followed close behind.

Trees were blowing side to side like crazy. Leaves and branches tumbled across the road, the sky was a mix of gray and black. Thankfully we only live about 1 mile from subway. As we pulled into our driveway, I push the button to our garage door… nothing. The power is out, we can’t open our garage door. This is an inconvenience. Especially since we have a young family coming to our home for shelter too. Then we remembered, we had a spare key hiding outside. Why you might ask? Because about 2 years ago I locked myself out of my house, but that’s another story. I open the door and take of running to where our key was hidden. The wind is swirling all around, tornado sirens fill the air. If it wasn’t an actual dangerous situation, I would have thought I was on a movie set because that’s exactly how it felt. However, unlike a movie, I kept my composure. I knew if I sprinted up our deck stairs and rushed to insert the key into the keyhole I would surely fail, so I quickly walked up the stairs, ensuring that I did not lose my footing, fall down and knock myself out (haha), slowly inserted the key into the hole and unlocked the door. Opened the door for Natasha, Robbie, Ashley and Riley. Turned around to sprint back outside, like the hero I was feeling like, and let our dogs out of their pen to get inside. Typically I have to hold onto them so that they don’t run off into the neighborhood, but I think they knew something wasn’t right and they went right inside.

Then came the waiting game. Everyone was inside and safe. So I did what any Illinoisan does when there is a tornado warning, I went outside to watch. It was the craziest thing. One side of the sky, completely black and nasty looking. The other side, sunny-blue skies. Chaos and calm. After about 20 minutes we finished our lunch in our dining room. It was still windy, but the storm had passed, and about 10 minutes later… beautiful, clear, sunny skies. We made our way to Ballard Nature Center in Altamont where we were able to do their family session and lighting was absolutely perfect for it! Fortunately after it was all said and done, there were no serious injuries or deaths. There were some destroyed houses and lots of power lines down, but we were definitely very fortunate, not only because we were safe, but also because we were still able to get in their pictures. Who knew on a day of a tornado that family pictures could be a possibility?

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