Tag Archives: Angie Day

The Indian Peaks Served Two Ways


My whole life, the Indian Peaks have been my playground. Some of my earliest memories take place on the mucky shores of Long Lake. Back in the early ’80s, there was a decaying cabin in the shallows there, and a tiny beach about 20 square feet in size lay tucked in the grasses and willows right by it. My brother and I would spend hours drawing in the wet dirt with sticks while my Dad fly fished from a belly boat, the jagged peaks — Pawnee, Shoshoni and Navajo — rising above the valley that stretched to the west.


Years later, when I was in high school, my Mom and I finally ventured beyond Long Lake to Lake Isabelle, and the thundering waterfall that pours out of its eastern outlet. Here, down among the bluebells and shooting stars, I thought how nice it would be to have a child some day, perhaps a daughter, and show her the wonders of nature — like how the wildflowers below Lake Isabelle grow out of rocks, their persistence a testament to a higher power at work.

Maybe I’d name her Isabelle.


Fast-forward to this past year, and Hailey’s pregnancy, and those closest to me (including my Mom and my best friend Matt) were convinced that if we’d have a girl, she’d be named Isabelle.

Of course, it didn’t end up that way. For one, Twilight or some damn thing made it one of the most popular girl names of the moment. For two, Hailey and I went to Lake Como in 2005 and found a little town that meant a lot to both of us, and here we are, with a girl named Varenna.

Nonetheless, the meaning and the feeling of the Indian Peaks and sharing it with my daughter, is something that has been top of my mind this summer. She’s five months old, so that “higher power” is a bit over her head, but she loves the woods and the fresh air. A few weeks ago — on a Friday off that I truly earned — Hailey, my mother, Varenna and I, went for a short hike to Mitchell Lake, one valley over from Long Lake and Lake Isabelle. It was short and sweet, but to walk with the three women of my life through fields of wildflowers for the better part of a day is something I will cherish forever.


Two weeks later, I returned to the Indian Peaks with my best friend, Matt. He probably needs little introduction since he’s been on this blog so many times, but it was another unforgettable hike in the Indian Peaks — because of equal parts terrain and time and stories with a man I’ve known since I was 4 years old.

Matt and I experienced the Indian Peaks in a very different way than I did with my girls. Starting at 9am, we climbed up the valley that stretches from Eldora Ski Area to Arapaho Pass. Dipping into the valley base to cross the North Fork of Middle Boulder Creek at a waterfall, we looped back and up the ridge to Diamond Lake, before continuing through the woods and up through amazing meadows to an unnamed ridge at 11,400 feet that faced south to Mount Evans.

Matt was his usual enthusiastic self, up there. “Awww, man. This is awesome!” Me? I kept making HD videos of the tundra and the clouds, which were moving across the mountaintops at a pace I’ve never seen before. For better or worse (most likely worse) I approach video like a still composition, and have no editing skills. I’d upload them here, but they’re 100MB each and I don’t have the patience.

We reapplied sunscreen and descended the mountain back through hip-deep wildflowers. At Diamond Lake, we scrambled onto some boulders that jutted out from the creek outlet and watched the clouds roll by. Not a bad way to pass a summer Sunday in Colorado…

Speaking of which, Hailey, Varenna and I are about to embark on a 6-day odyssey through Southwestern Colorado: Colorado National Monument, Ridgway, Telluride, Mesa Verde and Pagosa Springs. Should have a ton of updates in the coming weeks.

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Portraits For Our Baby’s Room

Aunty Amy … married to my brother Ben and mother of Andrew, Isaiah and Jeremiah

(Click on each image for a larger view)

A few months back, I mentioned on the blog that we were working on a series of photos for our baby’s nursery. We just entered the third trimester, and we now have a crib (minus the mattress). Above the crib is a wide wall that can accommodate 10 frames at 8′x10′.

So here’s the concept: We want our child to know that they always have their family close by. So, beginning in August with Hailey’s brother and sister-in-law, we’ve been photographing them on a white backdrop. Rather than do just a headshot, we thought it would be fun if each image captured the playful, inner child of our parents, our brothers and sisters, and our nephews. On Thanksgiving Day, we completed the shoot. This post is devoted to the ones we’ve selected to frame.

Uncle Benji and Cousin Jer’

Cousin Andrew

Cousin Isaiah

Grandpa (Hailey’s father)

Nana (Hailey’s mother)

Funpa (my father)

Oma (my mother)

Uncle Jason (Hailey’s brother)

Aunty Ali (Jason’s wife, Hailey’s sister-in-law)

There are more images of Jason and Ali from a post I did in September.

What I’ve come to realize is that these images are a family heirloom, something to treasure more than any antique. At age 1 or 2, just as our son/daughter is beginning to figure these relationships out, these pics will be their guide. By the time they’ll be in high school and college, this will be a snapshot of who we were back then. Such an awesome family … we’re thankful for each person within it.

Can’t decide whether we should complete it with pictures of the two of us being playful or not. I don’t know … the kid’s going to be seeing plenty of us!

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The Reitzug Family Reunion (The Cousins)

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(Click on each photo for a larger version)

Last week I was able to get a post up on my Mom’s amazing family, The Reitzugs — mainly, generations 1 and 2. Well, they’re back on the blog, this time, generations 3 (which I belong to) and 4. Rather than try to make sense of this massive family tree, I’ll just do this.

ABOVE: Elsa, daughter of my cousin Holly Rydel … I think I’ll entitle this sequence After Effects of a Blue Raspberry Lollipop.

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ABOVE: Aidan, Jimmy and Nick Reitzug, sons of the oldest cousin in my generation, Joe Reitzug and his wife Stephanie.

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ABOVE: Mark, Peter and Damian, three of the four Leonard boys (their brother Andrew, couldn’t make it to the reunion due to his house selling). As you can probably note from their choice in sunglass styles, they’re all outdoor-active types. Mark and Peter schooled me in soccer on the final night and they were, um … well, my teammates.

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ABOVE: Mr. Andrew Gunnison Day. My nephew, my bud, and popular star of such previous blog posts as Us Kids Know and Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitchers.

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ABOVE: Byron Lillie and Kate Balerud. Kate took the 40D from me at the tail end of the photo shoot and did a sequence of shots of Hailey and I jumping in the air in front of the white backdrop. Through no fault of Kate’s, they will not be posted on this blog. Let’s just say that I look like a complete bozo.

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ABOVE: Alex Reitzug, son of Aunt Maria, trampoline extraordinaire and a fellow photog.

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ABOVE: Isaiah and Jeremiah Day, my nephews. See also Us Kids Know and Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitchers.

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ABOVE: Amy Bierman and Randy Rydel (left); Rebecca Reitzug (right). Amy and Randy are roughly the same age as Hailey and I, and we spent a good deal of time hanging out with them at the reunion, including two memorable meals in downtown Santa Fe. I also got to know Rebecca better this go around … we’re about 10 years apart, but with each reunion, those age gaps matter less.

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ABOVE: Quinlan and her mom, Mary Beth TeSelle. At left, Quinlan is showing off her fabulous Fourth-of-July-themed rub-on tattoo.

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ABOVE: Nick and Guilia Reitzug with their son Lorenzo (left); Stela Reitzug (right). Nick and Guilia live in Rome, and were kind enough to host us for a few nights when we visited last year. This year, we got a chance to reciprocate in Denver, and carpool down to the reunion in New Mexico (with a stop at the Great Sand Dunes). My cousin Stela is headed to Kosovo right now for missionary work. She’s originally from Albania, so the trip is holding great significance for her.

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ABOVE: Elsa with her grandpa Mat (left); my mom Angie with her oldest brother Henry (right). OK, so this isn’t generations 3 and 4 as promised, but I had to include them because they are two of my absolute favorite shots. If you are wondering where my preoccupation with cameras comes from, look no further than the ‘Zugs.

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And finally, I have to include a shot Hailey took of me with my mom Angie and brother Ben. Dad had to return to Denver the day before, so we’ll have to do a reshoot to get the true family portrait.

As soon as the family book and family tree are done, you know me, I’ll get another blog post up. I loved this gig, and am looking forward to shooting more family reunions, especially with the white backdrop.

Contact me if I can offer this service at one of your own family reunions.

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The Reitzug Family Reunion (The Siblings)

2009-07-05-Reitzug-2064(For a larger view of each photo, click on the image)

I’m finally getting around to posting images from a very personal project I did over the Fourth of July weekend, something that had been a year in the making. Hailey and I were in Los Alamos, New Mexico for the Reitzug Family Reunion, a once-every-threeish years kinda event that centers on my mom’s incredible family of 8 siblings (she has three sisters and four brothers) plus all their kids, grandkids and now great-grandkids.

The Reitzugs, in many ways, are a classic American story — a family of German immigrants who sought opportunity in Indiana in the 1950s. My grandparents endured WWII in East Prussia, as well as the economic difficulties immediately after in West Germany where they settled. Knowing this backstory — and seeing where the family is today — is part of what makes these reunions so extraordinary.

This family never ceases to amaze and humble me with their togetherness, their charm, their love and their deep friendship with one another. I’ve oriented this post on the siblings, the eight children of Nikolaus and Elisabeth Reitzug, my grandparents. My next post will open it up to the fun and shenanigans we had with my cousins and their kids.

Above is my Uncle Mat (left), my Omi (center) and Uncle Rick (right).

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This is Omi, my loving and kind grandmother. As I schemed out this portrait project over the last few months, this image of her was exactly what I was hoping for. A portrait of the Reitzug spirit — confident, charming, fun loving, good natured and compassionate. When it was Omi’s turn to step in front of the white seamless backdrop, she hammed it up a bit and gave me that smile she’s known for. This was about midway into the shoot, and by then nearly the entire family was gathering around to watch, laugh with and tease one another. It truly lightened the mood and made for an unconventional family portrait session.

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Above are the two oldest siblings, my Uncle Henry (in the left photo) and Aunt Monika (in the right photo) with their spouses, Anne and Ed, respectively. Henry is my godfather and did a reading at our wedding. He’s an incredible individual who has volunteered with Northwest Medical Team, an organization that does similar work as Doctors Without Borders. Last summer he was in Darfur for a few weeks.

Monika and Ed live in Massachusetts and have four amazing sons spread out around the world. You’ll see a great shot of three of them in the next post.

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Above left is my mom, Angelika, with my brother Ben. At right is my Uncle Rick with his wife Mary. Rick is a professor and is a passionate advocate for the rebuilding of New Orleans. He’s made several trips down there to volunteer in the clean up and rebuilding efforts.

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Continuing down the line we have my Uncle Mat (left, with his wife Connie) and our reunion hosts, my Aunt Maria and her husband Bill. Both Mat and Maria were frequent visitors in Denver when I was growing up, so its always fun to reconnect with them at these events. Maria’s oldest son Alex is also a passionate photographer and he spent a weekend with Hailey and I in 2008.

Also last year, when Hailey and I went to Seattle, we were able to have dinner with Mat and Connie one night. They’re an extraordinary couple: two people you could chat with for hours. At this reunion, we dined out again with them, this time with their son Randy and his wife Amy, as well as Peter, one of Monika’s sons (are you confused yet? That’s really my goal). It was an epic two-hour dinner at my favorite place in Santa Fe, Cafe Pasqual. Look it up if you’re ever down there.

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Moving along, the seventh sibling is Marcy, pictured here with her husband Gustavo and son Jacob. Gustavo is Ecuadorian, and at the last reunion, he gave us some perspective on the country we were about to visit in spring. This go around, we let him know how that trip went. I haven’t blogged much about Ecuador, mostly because I set the blog up more than a year later. It’s where we photographed the tanagers. Anyhow, Gustavo is always the star during the traditional Reitzug Reunion soccer game, although this year (sorry Gustavo) he might have been shown up by my cousin Stela. (Once again, are you keeping track of all these names?).
Finally, there is my Uncle Chris, the youngest in the family. He’s pictured above with his daughter Emily, and at right is his wife Sherri and their son Zach. I love that shot of them. For some perspective, Chris is a year older than my Uncle Henry’s oldest son Joe. There are pictures of the two of them, uncle and nephew, playing in the sandbox together. Again, I know that this must be confusing … all the more reason to do this kind of project and bundle it into an interactive family tree so that it makes sense. Not that I’m promoting a new product from the folks at Tanager Photography and HeyDay Creative or anything—

Chris deserves a huge thank you. On Saturday evening, his last evening at the reunion, he asked if I was going to set up my photo booth and do this project. I’d been on the fence about it all night — people were all spread out, and the kids were all ecstatic at the pile of Legos Maria had provided at her house. Bottom line, I didn’t want to bother people and I was psyching my self out. The whole project seemed overwhelming, and I was having too much fun just conversing with folks.

But Chris and Amy (my sister-in-law) gave me a nudge and offered to help set up and wrangle people together. It got the project off the ground, and I was able to photograph the few people leaving the next day. On Sunday morning, after that initial ice-breaker, I set up the studio all over again and everything just clicked. Most of the images in this blog and the next post occured in a one hour span before church.

So an enormous thank you to Chris and Amy for the big nudge to get going on this project. And a huge thank you to the entire Reitzug clan for diving head first into it. I really appreciate it, and hopefully, when the family tree and bound photo book is all done in the autumn, the Reitzug family will, too.

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Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitchers

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Vacation days are for the taking, especially this time of year when the paycheck arrives in your mailbox with more PTO hours than you know what to do with (and a memo from HR saying “use ‘em or lose ‘em”). Now, of course, I try to stash my PTO like a squirrel stashing nuts (three weeks in Italy, anyone?), but I must say, Wednesday’s day off was one of the best days of the year.

We went and baked Christmas cookies with our nephews: Andrew, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

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Hosting the festivities was my mom, who the kids affectionately call “Oma” (German for grandmother). Joining Hailey and I — and meeting the twins for the very first time — was Hailey’s mom, Diana. The kids took to calling her “Nana King.” Things got off to a rip-roaring start when Hailey and Nana King turned the mixer on and sprayed powdered sugar all over Hailey (above left). The kids, undeterred, snitched sprinkles off the kitchen table.

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I started off by helping the boys with icing the gingerbread cookies. Those metal canisters aren’t easy to operate for 5-year-old fingers (let alone 3-year-old hands). As I showed him how to push the tip down to dispense the icing, Isaiah had a great idea: “in my mouth?” He tilted his head back and opened wide.

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Pretty soon, the boys were in the mood to leave the kitchen and go play, and that pretty much ended up being the rest of my day. Isaiah dumped a deck of animal flash cards on the floor, and Jeremiah promptly showed me which animals were what (above left).  St. Nick had also recently visited, and delivered some cool kitchen-tool figurines for the boys. A man with a spoon head. A man with a spatula head. A man with a whisk head. Andrew quickly noted their “bungus”  and I only encouraged him to say “bungus” some more by taking pictures of Mr. Spoonhead’s “bungus.”

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Is that Colonel Klink hiding in the pantry (below)?

Each one of these boys is a natural comedian. Andrew and Isaiah can be absolutely rubber faced sometimes, coming up with these hilarious expressions out of nowhere. And Jer’ — Jer’ just knows how to make up a good time with any toy.

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The boys and I went downstairs to the living room and played dodgeball for an hour, but to make sure we didn’t break any of Oma and Funpa’s stuff, we rolled the balls at each other. Isaiah — always the independent, self-entertaining type — decided he’d rather play pretend and be a doggie. So as I rolled balls with great velocity at Andrew and Jeremiah’s feet, Isaiah would crawl over with a ball in his mouth, drop it and pant. So we played fetch, too. His idea. Honestly.

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After about two or three hours of cookie crazed mayhem in the kitchen, Oma took a break to carry on the renewed tradition of reading “The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher.” I just looked this out-of-print book up on Amazon and its paperback is selling for $200! It’s a great book, one from my childhood, and for the past five years, Mom has dusted it off and read it to Andrew, and now, the twins.

It’s a cute story about a goofy fur-covered villian with feathers and wings who steals an entire town’s Christmas sprinkles. The whole village cries, and a determined little boy sets off to make things right again by retrieving the stash of sprinkles.

Below you can really see each boy’s personality: Andrew, rapt with attention; Jer leaning forward into the story and scanning the illustrations, Isaiah hanging back and listening from afar.

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I was charmed by Jer during the reading. He’s very sensitive — a kid with a lot of heart. During the part of the story where the villagers cry about losing their sprinkles, Jer wore this concerned look on his face:

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After the reading, it was time to suit up and sled before the sun slid behind Carpenter Peak (which happens at 2:30pm this time of year). Andrew, Amy and I went down to a slope below the house which Funpa had recommended. Shortly after we arrived, Oma showed up, towing the twins. Jer — as it turns out — is a little daredevil and loves sledding. I mean, check out that smile…

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Amy and Andrew went down the steeper part of the hill. Despite Andrew’s reservations, he joined Am’, only to roll off the back ten feet down the hill (below). Then I took Jer down the steep part. I somehow managed to spin us and go down backwards…whoops.

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Back at the house, Hailey and Diana were busy putting on the finishing touches on the brandy balls. Isaiah parked himself at the table next to Nana King and told her about the cookies (and pretended to be a doggie again). A few more snitches, a few more sprinkles, and then it was time for the kids to pack up and head back home to Colorado Springs with Amy.

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Below are just two of the seven types of cookies made. On the left, Amy’s hazelnut chocolate chip cookies, and on the right, Mom’s German linzer cookies. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll go have one here.

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