Life Behind the Lens
Big Decisions are Made in the Little Ones
Thursday, August 11, 2016
By PBJ Studio
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Big decisions are made in the little ones.

This is a truth that has really struck home in the past week.  

Here is a photo that was taken at a garage sale of a clock I was considering to buy.  I love the 1950’s atomic era décor.  It was authentic, it worked, it was $10.  I had $15 and had just started my search for treasures that day.  I imagined a crazy, creative photography studio where it would hang center stage as a reminder of what I wanted to become.  The garage sale host saw that I was wavering and had me sit down to take a cell phone pic to seal the deal.  I bought it and put it in the bottom of the closet where it rested for a couple years.  I’d pull it out every so often, plug it in and wonder if it would fit somewhere in my home office.  It never did, but I couldn’t let it go.

Guess where it hangs today?  Right there next to the big screen where I show clients their portraits!

Buying the clock was just one of a thousand little decisions that brought PBJ Studio into existence. 

Some of those little (or BIG in looking back) decisions:

  •          Do I save up for that lens or do I put it on the credit card?
  •          Do I edit those photos and get them ready a day sooner or do I watch that television show?
  •          Do I increase my prices and risk losing some of my clients or do I put in more hours to meet my growing expenses?
  •          Do I spend the time and money to attend that conference or learn from that teacher?
  •          Do I try to meet the photography needs of everyone or do I focus in on a narrow market and be the best I can be?
  •          Do I post that feeling online or is that a private thought that needs to be mulled over a bit before release?
  •          Am I available to hang out with my grandchildren today or do I need to keep my office hours and get the despised bookkeeping in order?
  •          Do I need to hire an assistant or do I just need to work harder and quit complaining?

Each daily decision I made, brought me closer to the reality of having my own sustainable business. 

But having a photography studio isn’t my only life goal.  There is the balance of body, mind, spirit and soul to consider.  I have to stop and re-evaluate every so often. 

Here are my recent life-after-50 goals:

  •          be at home in my own skin
  •          be present in each moment and not just planning (my fav pastime) or reminiscing
  •          surround myself with people who love me
  •          play in the dirt with plants
  •          see new places
  •          enjoy nature
  •          make people smile and shed a few tears over what I create
  •          write stories and publish
  •          find ways to feed my creativity and push self-imposed boundaries to see what I am capable of doing in the time and space I’ve been given

As my life goals, these need to be worked out to become a daily reality.  I won't be able to address each one every single day, but in bits and pieces, with a solid plan in mind, I can eventually build them in by the little choices I make.

Three more Truths:

  •          Nothing ever stays the same. 
  •          Balance is essential. 
  •          If there is not maintenance or attention given to an area of my life, a weakness will develop which puts added pressure on another area. 

Here are a few of my current weaknesses I’ve identified:

BODY:  Do I want to have a strong, healthy body? 

Well, I need to make that decision in the snack I choose when I’m on the run between meetings.  Maybe I could do a little food prep on Sundays so it’s ready ahead of time.  Maybe I could add the Zumba classes to my calendar and schedule meetings around them. 

SPIRIT: Do I have a faith that is ready for anything life hurls at me? 

I could find an online Bible study that I listen to in the morning as I am getting ready for the day or food prepping.  (I found this link to some amazing women who share their Biblical lessons learned:  I could also save some Bible verses into my phone that I could memorize.  I learned quite a few Bible verse songs as a child. Maybe I could sing them when I am driving.  I could talk about them when I am chatting with friends or family. 

MIND:  Do I invest the time to learn so that I can hone my craft (be it photography, writing, gardening, etc.)

Here’s a thought:  I could set learning goals.  Hmmmmm.  Wasn’t there that movie where a mom learned to surf?  I don’t need to learn to surf living in Kansas, but I could learn to Salsa which would be fun and strengthen my body too.  I could add training videos to my calendar like I do business meetings so could improve my photography, editing sales and business skills.  I could be become a Business Ninja!

SOUL: Do I take the time to celebrate?

There is much to celebrate: victories, awards, opportunities, special moments, goals reached.  I need to make this a priority so I stay encouraged and motivated to look to the next challenge as a potential victory.  I can choose to celebrate mowing the lawn at the studio I dreamed for years of having – even when I don’t enjoy mowing (not even a little bit).

Here’s an oldie, but goodie:

Count your blessings, name them one by one!
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings
Name them one by one!
Count your many blessings, see what God has done!

My Name in Stone
Monday, August 01, 2016
By PBJ Studio
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Last night, I signed 13 works of photographic art for a show next Saturday, August 6th,  at the Lawrence Public Library to celebrate Breastfeeding Week.  My hand shook as I practiced what my artistic signature would be.  This mattered.  I could destroy what I’d invested weeks making in one clumsy stroke.

My name.  Such a struggle.

In the past 3 years, my last name has changed 4 times.  What was once considered a permanent part of my identity became fluid through the tragedy of broken marriages. 

I had to laugh when someone once joked,

“Hello Janene Snyder-Rothwell-Sipple-Rothwell!”

The local post office workers in our small town just shrug their shoulders and act like they’ve seen it all.  I really need to bake them some cookies.

So I dreaded putting my name anywhere because I felt its lack of permanence.  Several times I considered following Cher’s footsteps and just being Janene.

My photography mentor told me earlier this year that I needed to start signing all of my printed photographs that were bigger than 11x14.  He said that they were my artistic creations and needed to be recognized as such.

I wish I had listened to him sooner.

Last night, I permanently owned 13 works of art that I’d birthed in my heart, planned in my mind, sweated to create and then lost sleep over.  My name written 13 times with a finalizing flourish and it felt amazing.

There’s a place in the Bible where it says that God will give us a new name etched on a white stone.  I can’t wait to see it.  Without a doubt, it’ll be absolutely perfect.

All About Fairies
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
By Janene Rothwell
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I love Fairy Tales. 

As a child, I would hang in the children’s fiction section of the city library and read all the Fairy Tales I could get my hands on.  In my dreams, I would take mighty leaps and fly for a time, then descend to the ground in a stomach-flipping fall.  At recess, I brought the Fairy Tales to life on the jungle gym and soon had most of the girls in my classes following me to hear the harrowing tales of dragons and princesses in distress.  There would be at least 10 girls perched high as possible screaming at the top of their lungs over invisible dangers.  My two sisters who shared a room with me, wouldn’t let me go to sleep until I’d invented another chapter in the Fairy Tale series that starred three princesses and the nightly perils they faced. 

Now that I’m an adult and running a serious business, I considered getting my head out of the clouds and focusing on some serious, grown-up photography.  Then I saw a photographer from Canada doing Fairy portraits and my heart took flight.  I knew with complete certainty that I could fly as a Fairy Photographer!! 

Check out our Fairy Day Video on YouTube: Click here for Fairy Day Video 

When we purchased the studio, I knew that I wanted Fairy Day to be more than just another mini session.  I converted the space into a wonderland where they smell fairies, eat fairy food and listen to fairy music.  No matter how nervous they are when they enter, there is a sparkle of wonder in each costumed fairy’s eye when she first sees herself in the full-length mirror.  It’s that sparkle that says she believes she is beautiful and that she is invincible.  In that moment, I know that I’ve succeeded and everything that follows will be magical.

Sample Fairy Day Portrait Straight out of Camera:

After PBJ Studio's Pixie Dust Processing:

Fairy Days are held at PBJ Studio in Eudora three times a year:  March, July and November.  Reservations are flying off at an astounding rate.  We are fully booked a month in advance.  I recently invested in a reflective mirror that is portable so we can take the show on the road.  Next weekend we are 2 ½ hours away in Council Grove, KS, with Fairy Day.  If you would like to consider hosting a Fairy Day event in your area, here is a PDF slideshow to share with families. 


Some of my most magical fairy moments:

  • I was putting on the fairy’s wings, a brother told his sister to wait to fly until we were done taking pictures.
  • We were done with the portraits.  I leaned down to this little fairy and said, “I’m so glad you came to see us so you could be a fairy.”  She haughtily put her fists on her hips, stuck out her bottom lip and said, “I am a fairy!”
  • A mom shared during the sales meeting that her daughter was scrambling around the house pulling together several items and taking them to her room.  When Mom went to check, her daughter had a mirror on the floor and was lining up her dolls so they could put on felt wings she’d made and take their fairy pictures.  “Now lean over the mushroom and pretend to take a nap!” she was heard commanding.
  • A grandmother told me that the fairy’s mom burst into tears in the car after seeing her daughter’s images.  It meant the world to her to see her daughter so happy.

Come join us with your little fairy and see what all the fuss is about.  You won't be disappointed.

A Little Bit of Brave
Thursday, February 25, 2016
By Janene Rothwell
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How wonderful! 

You deserve it!

The ladies at Zumba crowded around to give their support.

A voice on the fringe of the group who wondered at the commotion, squealed, “You’re pregnant!?!”

Ummmm, NO.  Hold the Presses!  I need to clarify.

Last weekend, I won two photography awards. 

When I planned to attend the Kansas Professional Photographers Association (KPPA) Shutter Expo in Manhattan, KS, I knew that they encouraged submissions of your best photography.  I was to enter 4 works, give them titles and have them placed on display to be discussed and rated before the best of the best veteran photographers.  The categories were Men, Women, Children, Pets, Wedding, etc.

So I decided to be brave and took the heart-pounding plunge.    

In the darkened room, our images were projected onto a wall.  The title was announced.  Judges entered in the scores electronically.  The tally average was announced.  If one of the judges wanted to question the score, there was an open discussion between them about the merits of the work and the problem areas they identified.  Anything that garnered a 79 was brought again before the judges and an opportunity was made for further discussion and a rescore. 

When my image, Melancholy MayShell, projected I felt like a spot light was on me.  But no.  Nobody knew the artist so I was there in the dark listening to the best teachers in photography talk about what they liked and disliked about it.  In those few moments, I grew by leaps and bounds as an artist.  What was wrong could be corrected and what was good, could be made great.

Originally, I hadn’t planned to attend the awards banquet.  But after that first day of judging, I realized the benefits of making connections with people who would continue to influence me in improving my art and teach me how to grow a successful business in a small town.  My focus was to memorize name tags.  I had no idea that the night would result in trophies. I received the highest combined score for a Newcomer and 2nd place in women's portraiture! Artists whose works take my breath away, came and pounded me with congratulations and encouragement.


I find that something monumental has shifted deep inside my heart.  For so many years, I have worked in solitary and used sales figures alone to gauge my value in the marketplace.  I always wanted to have a successful studio, but now I truly want to be a great artist.  I want to learn how to tell a photographic story that will timelessly hang in the heart and minds of my community, as well as on their walls.

So yes, I am birthing -- not a child, but a great passion.  It is a passion that will direct my life and bring endless creative challenges.  When I start to waver, I will look at these stone-cold awards and know without a doubt that with a bit of bravery, I really can do it.

Lotsa Love,


Hippy Mini Session - PBJ Studio in Eudora, KS
Monday, August 24, 2015
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I love it when the creativity of my client-friends joins together with my love for photography.  The colorful Hippy Mini was born out of such a collaboration. 

The Hippy Mini Session is $55 and takes 30 minutes to produce approximately 15-25 gorgeous art portraits to choose from for purchase.  Call (785) 218-1279 to book your session while the wild flowers are still in bloom!