The Holiday Card

To me, one of the best things about the holidays is the Holiday Card. I love everything about the Holiday Card. Just the political correctness of the term Holiday Card makes me grin (and roll my eyes).

I love how every year around the first of December every trip to the mailbox is packed full of suspense. Will I get any holiday cards today? Who will they be from? I love guessing whose I will receive first (Heidi’s) and whose will come last (Ali’s, but does it cease to be a holiday card if you get it in April?).

Oh, and the Holiday Newsletter. I love the wonder and mystique of the Holiday Newsletter. Really, who is this omniscient narrator who watches over my friends and family and painstakingly records every last detail of the year for them?

I love the endless variety of sizes and colors and styles of cards, the folded card, the flat card and the mac-daddy of them all, the photo card. I love how much you learn from the photo card—who owns matching snowflake sweaters, who got a dog, who vacationed at the beach, or who had a baby. Which brings me to the Holiday Card Birth Announcement. Love it.

One of my all-time favorite holiday cards is the birth announcement I made for my sister. Pregnant with twins, she was stuck at home on bed rest and, if you can believe this, without internet access. Since she couldn’t move and couldn’t shop on-line she was overjoyed when I said I would take care of her birth announcements. It’s not every day Santa delivers 4-pound angels but that year he did and I was lucky enough to be able to design a Holiday Card Birth Announcement.

I love designing all types of stationery—holiday cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations, thank yous and especially (big surprise) photo cards. I love taking the photos and crafting a message that is fitting and genuine, and I love the satisfaction of creating a card that befits the occasion. This year the only holiday card I made was my own which, I confess, is still at the printer. But in 2012 I will be up and running again in the Holiday Card department.

Best wishes for the holidays and throughout the new year!

[…] the polar opposite of her twin cousins, who jump out shrieking “Here I am!” and fall over in a fit of giggles before you can […]

Handing Over Victory

The U.S. military handed over Camp Victory to the Iraqis today. At the height of the war Camp Victory was home to 46,000 U.S. troops. I was one of them.

There is only so much to see, and even less to do, when confined for a year to an area of only a few square miles. So, week after week, I haunted the same places carrying my camera and a sense of obligation to chronicle all that I saw.

It feels strange to me now, knowing that much of what I photographed—bombed palaces, relics of Saddam’s reign and marks of a vast and prolonged U.S. presence—will soon be gone.

I took thousands of photos while in Iraq. Still, when I left I found myself wondering whether I had captured everything there was to see. I wondered whether I had fulfilled my obligation. Now, I believe I have.

Four-and-a-half years after I returned from Iraq I finally self-published a book of my Iraq photos. Turns out, on-demand self-publishing is not the way to go if you want to sell books. The price is high, to say the least, around $150. It’s an 11×13-inch 100+ page hard cover book with a dust jacket and every possible upgrade to the paper, cover, end pages and binding, all of which substantially increased the price. My profit (as if) is only $10 per book. I’m still glad I did it and think it turned out well. The best part is that it’s done and I can now look for more reasonable publishing options.

The book is dedicated to all the men and women of the Armed Forces who selflessly serve our nation. And to my husband, Lt Col Paul Roelle, USAF, who I love, admire and respect, and for whom I would do anything (even join the Army) and go anywhere (even Iraq). And to my friends and fellow soldiers—Will Bratton (former SGT, USA); Gray Broughton (former CPT, USA); Tamara Broughton (former CPT, USA); MAJ Derek Brown, USA; MAJ Annemarie Drazenovich, USAR; Christine Duey (former CPT, USA); MAJ Benjamin Grimes, USA; CW4 Scott Higdon, USA; MAJ Jeannine Smith, USAR; and COL Steven Swann, USA. I am ever grateful to have served with these fine soldiers.

I also wish to acknowledge my friends and fellow soldiers of the 30th Medical Brigade with whom I deployed.

Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to CW4 Scott Higdon, a friend and gifted photographer who accompanied me when I photographed most of the images in this book.

You can view and purchase the book, titled Victory Over America, at The forward and photos are also posted on my blog.

Hard to Shop For

When my friend called to tell me she was engaged I was thrilled for her. That is, until she said she wanted me to photograph her wedding.

Photographing a wedding is hard work. It’s exhausting actually, and it can be stressful. When you’re the photographer you’re not there to share in the joy of the day, you’re there to capture it for posterity. In this case if something were to go wrong or, God forbid, my friend didn’t like the photos, it could end a 20-year friendship. And then there’s the sticky bit of what to charge a friend. No, this was not a good idea. It’s guest or photographer, you can’t do both.

So I told my friend I was flattered, blah blah, but no, I couldn’t possibly. She understood, but as soon as we hung up I had second thoughts. I would be there anyway, snapping away. I knew it would be a gorgeous wedding and, to be honest, I didn’t want to share the photo op. Maybe I could do it. It could be my wedding gift. What was I going to get her otherwise, bath towels?

Photographing the wedding was my gift to a wonderful friend and her new husband, and I wish that all the happiness and beauty of the day is with them throughout their lives. But would I be a guestographer in the future? I suppose it depends on how good the friend. In this case she’s one of the best.

And what can I say, she’s hard to shop for.

For more photos of Kristyn’s wedding, please visit the wedding gallery or click here.

Kristyn’s wedding was at the Morrison House in Old Town Alexandria and her wedding planners were Nicole and Sarena of Sweetface Events.

Kristyn Schrader-King - December 7, 2011 - 6:39 pm

As the subject of Cynthia’s “Hard to Shop For” blog entry, what more can I say other than she is absolutely amazing! I would not have wanted anyone else to capture the special moments of one of the most important days of my life, and I could not be happier with the result. Cynthia worked so hard and was able to point her lens and click at all the right times — Richard and I are now able to relive for the rest of our lives what was an extraordinarily happy occasion. Thank you, dear “Bingo”, for the best wedding present anyone could possibly give! You are a true talent! xxxx

michela - December 18, 2011 - 10:49 am

You are GREAT!!! I wish I lived closer to take classes from you!!! I LOVE ALL YOUR PICTURES!!!!