Life Behind the Lens
Taking Time to Breathe in S. Dakota
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
By Janene Sipple
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Just last week, my husband and I were discussing how fun it would be to take a weekend trip to South Dakota now that the fairy sessions and sales were wrapped up.  We talked of all the places we wanted to see; deciding on a few must-haves and maybes.

Mike loves planes so our first stop was in Rapid City,  S.D., to watch the free air show at Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Once we passed through check-through, the crowd scattered to find a space on the tarmac preparing for the forecasted 97 degree heat.  We made our way to the shade in the wing of an F15 and set up our chairs.

I tried to keep my eyes on the jets climbing and dipping above, but I was mesmerized most by the people:  veterans, soldiers and their young families. 

There was such a look of pride on their faces.  The planes screaming and spinning above our heads belonged to them, not the military. 

With wind-burned eyes, I tried to follow the flight path across the sun and get the images that I wanted.  Soon, I had a group of veterans helping me -- "On your right!  That Sig is coming in fast!!" they shouted.  It was a team effort as I captured the gorgeous images of jets blazing with trailing smoke across the sky. 

The next day we made quick visits to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse. 

There was a great sense of awe about the places where men's hands had carved mountains into breath-taking monuments to our nation and peoples.  

What I noticed most was the quiet, peaceful atmosphere where visitors spoke in hushed tones and we offered our assistance in taking family photographs for strangers.

At Spearfish Falls, we dove into the nature trail  flanked with native flowers still wet from an overnight storm. 



The crisp air felt amazing as it filled our lungs.  I did have a slight trepidation about running into a bear, but fortunately we had no such meeting.

I had to stop at Sturgis, just to say that I did.  I actually have a hair-raising motorcycle crash story in my history so now I can add to that the fact that I've been to Sturgis.  I'll just conveniently leave off the part that it was not during bike festival week and we did so for tacos instead of memorial tattoos and beer. 

Wall Drug was all that they advertised.  I don't like touristy stops much, but it was actually fun and we stocked up on some much needed souvenirs.

We debated about taking an excursion into the Badlands due to time constraints.  Finally we decided to give the scene a few minutes from the overlook. 

When our eyes filled with the wonder of pink, striped canyons and sharp rises towering to the sky, we were stunned. 


Mike decided to take a road to see get a view from the backside.  We found more and more to delight our senses. 

We decided to join the families trekking over the paths through the hills.  I was stopping constantly to take another photograph. After being there for an hour, we were brave enough to go sit on a terrifying peak and take a selfie. 

We decided to follow one of the trails into the dry moonscape and walked almost 7 miles!  So much for just spending a few minutes there.  Surprisingly, the visit to the Badlands was the highlight of our trip.  It added an extra night to our itinerary, but we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

What is in a Name
Thursday, May 14, 2015
By Janene Rothwell
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This spring I changed my business name.  People ask why and I provide the short answer, "It is easier to remember".  But the real answer is that I am different and my business goals have changed.  This is a new beginning for both me and my work.


Just so we can be clear, PBJ is an acronym for two things:


PBJ = Photography by Janene (it's time to own my art!)


PBJ = Peanut Butter Jelly (easy to remember and kid-friendly)

Everyone was telling me that my building needed a sign:  my friends, family, clients and the Eudora City administration.  So I collected estimates on what I thought I wanted.  I drew pictures of what might work.  I dug through the internet to see what others had done. 

But it all changed one day in a town hall meeting (folks need to attend these if they can).  They were talking about Chad Musick and his work on the sign east of Eudora off K-10. 


I quickly wrote Music in my notes and determined to find him.  I dug around Facebook and found J & S Metal Art.  This is the work of Junior and Sharon Musick who are creating metal arts to market at local craft shows.  It felt like a lead so I messaged them.  Little did I know how important their son Chad, his wife Shaun and their business Metalneck Creations  would become in establishing my PBJ Studio identity in our business community.

In our first meeting at the studio, we talked about my goals as a photogra    pher and the image I wanted to present.  I showed them where I thought the sign could go on the building.  After settling on a price estimate, I emailed the logo.  He came out a couple more times, brought samples of different types of metal and discussed some additional ideas we both had for creating shadow and impact.  If I had an idea, he was willing to do what he could to make it happen.  The entire process was really quite simple.

When everything was settled, I was invited to come and watch it all happen.  Chad creates his  designs in the Musick Family barn; a place where metal becomes art.  It is clutter and rust.  It is fire and water. 

The laser sparked and within a minute I could identify the first letter.

Tears filled my eyes.  It was more than the intense light (or just being hormonal) -- it was seeing something I'd dreamed up from imagination, birth into a beautiful and solid reality. 


On the morning the sign was to be installed, I wrote Chad an email --

This sign means so much more to me than you could ever imagine.  Today, the waiting is over.  Seven years of learning and yearning to be all that is possible for business and photography has come. From now on,  I will walk,  and talk, and be, and see all that is possible.

Today,  a sign will be placed on this building that i walked past for 7 years and dreamed of it being a studio.  A sign that says that all things are possible when we wait and pray and seek and trust. 

It will not be easy.  I will work harder than I ever have and push myself out of my comfort zone into a place filled with new and wonderful sights and sounds.

I will stretch. I will grow. I will fill this space I've been given.

Thank you for making this a reality.  Can you tell that I'm just a little bit excited?

And Chad's response --

Congratulation on the next step of your journey. I hope the sign meets your expectations of the symbol it represents.



Did this sign meet my expectations?  Not at all.

This sign blasted far past what I imagined!  It is such an amazing example of what is possible in our community when we work together.  Thank you Metalneck Creations, thank you Musick family, thank you clients-friends-family who have been there with me on this often-time difficult, yet so rewarding, journey. 

I am here, doing what I love, and succeeding in it, because of you.

Please Note:  Chad doesn't accept hugs from overly-emotional business owners after a sign installation, but his wife, Shaun, is available to do so. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015
By Janene
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This blog post will set the clock on publicly beginning my journey into a world filled with laughing children, crying babies, and crazy prop finds.

PBJ Studio Magnolia Blossoms

First stop, two Name Change Announcements!  

Top Spot Photography is now PBJ Studio.  I won't immediately be killing off Top Spot Photography, but it will slowly fade away so I don't confuse anyone. The reason behind the decision has to do with where I'm focusing my future. I love working with children. I love retro 1950s (turquoise, coral, gray branding). It is the acronym for Photography by Janene (PBJ). Most of all, it makes me happy.

The other name change announcement is even closer to my heart:  my name is now Janene Rothwell. It was my name for the first 19 years of my life and I am happy to return to it. I'm still 9 years old in my heart so that is a great place to go. I Googled and found a form for brides to keep track of all the places where they need to register their new names.  It really isn't fair that guys never have to go through this mountain of paperwork.  When I consider how long things last on the internet [FOREVER], I will need to include Top Spot Photography and Janene Snyder on every search engine SEO that I use. If you don't understand that, you are in a wonderful place where butterflies land on your nose and it smells like warm cinnamon rolls (I used to live there 50 lbs. ago).

I will be photographing baby bumps, newborns, toddlers, children, seniors and families. I am contracted with Amanda's Dance Academy (The beauty of the dancers takes my breath away). Life Events such as birthdays, anniversaries, adoptions, personal celebrations, etc. are also on my radar. Weddings/Engagement sessions will not be on my PBJ plate.   

Construction: Last week, I had the awning installed. *happy dance* On Monday, the concrete guys will install the porch with rails and a ramp for the west door. I listened to you and will find a sign installer. FYI: It won't say Top Spot.

Internet: New website is running which will soon have a splash page where you can head to the STUDIO side, the BABY side or the BLOG side. If you type the Top Spot URL it just rolls over to the PBJ one. I told someone recently that my mind is doing the work of a trapeze artist, but sadly, I don't get to burn the calories!  To find the awesome new site, go to:

The magnolias trees are blooming out front which gives my heart wings and fills me with hope for a warmer day soon. Have a great day my sweets!