Hi! I'm Kelly Manno, a photographer based out of St. Louis Missouri. I started this blog back in 2006 to document my weekly photography adventures and before I knew it...people were actually reading it. Check back often for a peek at recent sessions or a funny story about my kids. If you would like to learn more about my photography services, visit my Kelly Manno Photography website.
Thanks for stopping by.

April 13, 2015

~ Spring Training with the St. Louis Cardinals ~

Earlier this year I had one of the coolest opportunities of my career.  I was invited to spring training to be on the production team shooting the new Homers for Health campaign commercials with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I was so excited and grateful to have this cool opportunity; I was on cloud 9.  I didn't think things could get much better until the next day.  I got a second phone call that said "Hey, can Rocky come too? We want him to be in one of the commercials with the Cardinals!"  
Most of you know Rocky was a very sick baby when he was born.  He was in intensive care at Cardinal Glennon hospital for 2 weeks.  He was given a 50% chance of survival and after having a stroke at 3 days old they were unsure if he would have lasting brain damage.

As you can tell by the photo above, Rocky grew to be a perfectly healthy 10 year old boy who loves hockey and baseball, and spends his spare time coming up with new ways to irritate his sisters.  
He is a great success story for Cardinal Glennon, and they've used him before in brochures, billboards, etc., so he is used to doing fun stuff...but when Rose said "We want him to throw out the first pitch at a game and be in a commercial with the Cardinals," I nearly fell over in the grocery store.  It seemed like I blinked and we were on a plane heading to Jupiter Florida.
On game day we were just hanging around waiting for them to announce his first pitch and some very nice man with credentials hanging around his neck walked up and said "Hey kid, come hang out in the dugout with us." I wish I could have seen the look on Jimmy's and my face.  As grown ups, we understand far more how cool of an experience that is than he does. 
Rocky smiled real big and trotted down the steps into the dugout like he was supposed to be there.  Truth be told, he knows some of the players pretty well.  I've been working for Homers for Health for 3 years, and aside from that I'm also the lead photographer for Mike Matheny's charity foundation.  So Rocky thinks it's pretty normal to hang out with the Cardinals,  but dude, hanging out in a dugout before a game goes far beyond any strings that Mom can pull.

Jayon Hayward is new to the team, so Rocky didn't know him.  As a matter of fact, Rocky walked right by him twice without asking for an autograph.  Jason Heyward is a stud, and has an opportunity to do really big things for us this year, so we really wanted Rocky to get his autograph.  My husband and I had to look like those crazy beauty pageant parents who jump around behind the judges' table making facial expressions at their daughters, because we were jumping and frantically waving at Rocky.  I started doing sign language for him, holding up two fingers, "22...22..." mouthing as clearly as I could, "Get....Number.....22's.....Autograph!" - And he finally understood what the heck we were saying.  Heyward is a big freaking dude...huge.  Rocky's face says it all. 

I've gotta be honest.  This whole day I was a bundle of nerves.  I didn't know if I was more nervous about the actual commercial work I had to do later that day, or if I was nervous for Rocky throwing out the first pitch, but the whole day was a blur.

So now it's time for the first pitch. It's not everyday your 10 year old throws a pitch in front of a bench of his heroes and a packed stadium.  I was just praying he didn't throw it in the dirt, or not make it to the plate; you know, something that would embarrass him.  But I never should have doubted him for a second.  He sailed a strike right down the middle...all the way from the regulation mound! 

Once that was over I could feel the relief for a moment but then it was time for the real work.  We had to shoot 5 commercials in 3 hours.  I was the assistant to the lead photographer/videographer, shooting a second camera for b-roll footage.  Since I was a lower man on the totem pole I didn't have any real pressure on me, but I still wanted to do a good job.

I'm sure I'm suppose to be listening in this photo, it looks like they are talking about something important, but when you see your husband taking your photo from the stands you gotta cheese out for minute.  LOL  Even though I've been working with these players for 3 years I will never for a second pretend like it's not a big deal, because it is to me.  I will always be geeked out and humbled to hang with these guys and I will always count my blessings that this is what I get to do for a living. 

I'm a natural born leader, being the boss is in my blood.  However on this shoot I was not the director, not the producer, and certainly no the boss.  My job was to be quiet, work hard, move production along and shoot video. Until it came time to cover a topic I'm and expert at...80's dance moves.

There was a line in the commercial for Trevor Rosenthal to say "Stop.  Hammer Time," and his instruction was to"do an 80's dance." - However, Trevor was born in 1990.  He delivered his line on cue and went into this awful hip swivel - it was like half Elvis and half swatting off a swarm of bees-either way it wasn't pretty... I knew I had to speak up so I just yelled  "CUT!" - 

"I can't let you do that on television," I said.  "Please let me teach you an 80's dance."  I literally handed my camera off to someone and taught Trevor the running man.  For the record, Adam Wainwright knew the running man as well, so he helped too.  Together we at least got him on the right track.   Later that night I called my mom to tell her about the shoot, what was your favorite part she asked? "I taught our closing pitcher the running man" I said, with a big smile on my face. 

Dance moves aside my real job was running the constant b-roll camera, so most of my footage got turned into the blooper real where you can see Trevor proudly showing off his new dance moves.  

And yes, working with these guys is just as fun as it looks. 

And finally, here is Rocky's commercial.  I am so proud of him.  It will be airing all Spring. 

Please take a moment to check out the Homers for Health website and consider making a donation.  Every bit helps. These players and this organization work their butts off for the kids. But they can't do it with out great donors like you. 

February 12, 2015

Watch this band nail the "Back to the Future" dance scene.

My husband picks up his ringing phone "Hello?" - "I'm gonna need a DeLorean!!!"  I blurt out as fast as a I can.   These kind of random conversations no longer surprise him, he just gets to work and find me a DeLorean. 

Let's back up.  My husband manages a band, Clockwork. Who are starting to get some serious national attention and radio play.  They've got really big things in their future and we love and support them 100%.   

So we were at one of their gigs in the fall when they debuted a new song they'd been working on.  It was called "Long Way Down" - now, I love all of Clockwork's music.  But this song was different, it sounded different. It had this cool throwback vibe and sounded like something The Beatles would have written.  It lit a creative fire in me I knew couldn't put out. 

As soon as they walked off stage and were loading gear into the van - I probably said 20 times "We have to do a video for that new song, We have to do a video for that new song!" I sounded like a broken record telling everyone who would listen. 

It was one of those nights where I literally couldn't sleep because I had so many ideas spinning in my head.  My husband and I brainstormed together over the next few days and came up with a concept that fit the song perfectly. 

We wanted to re-create the "Enchanment Under the Sea" dance from Back to the Future.

I mean, how kick ass would that be?  We knew the perfect venue in the city we could rent and started making the initial calls to see if we could pull it off.  Once we were confident we could, the next step was selling the boys. Not only would this be a big project, but 2 of these 3 are still teenagers and most of them hadn't even SEEN the movie. 
But one slumber party later they all watched the movie and came back with a giant YES!  And before I knew it, I was producing my very first music video!  I went to school for radio and television production and I was so excited to be on a set again.  We already had a great director on board so it was time for my husband and I get to work and make our storyboard a reality. 

Production is a long and tedious job, but we got to work immediately.  We started with costume shopping. 
Then on a cold day in November we turned the Casa Loma Ballroom into the 
Enchantment Under The Sea Dance!!!  
No detail was left untouched, it was gorgeous.  Seeing it in real life, I felt like I had given birth to a blue sparkly baby! All of the Clockwork family and friends jumped to help.  From the props, set design, to feeding the entire production crew.  It was a team effort from beginning to end, from a group of people who love these 3 boys to the end of the earth and back. 
The rest of that day is a blur now...but I think we shot for somewhere between 12-14 hours? These dancers were freaking champs. 

Our kids were with us nearly the whole time.  Let's just say they were a little late to school the next day :)  But how many times do you get to say your did your homework on the set of a music video???  
I took the girls home a little early, but Rocky stayed the whole time. I think they wrapped at 3am. He actually got to assist the director, who was giving him jobs so he felt like part of the crew, he was totally in his element.
 I feel like every cool experience we give them is like planting a little creative seed in their head to help them decide what they want to do with their life when they're grown ups. They know what doctors, mailmen, teachers, and other professionals do, but do they really know what film directors do?  They do now :)

First, here is a little behind the scenes peek of filming day. 

...and here it is!  The final product!  My very first produced music video!  I hope you love it, I hope you share it, and I hope you check their website (www.clockworkmusic.net), follow them on Facebook, and tell people about Clockwork, especially your teenagers. In a world of Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus the radio airwaves could use a little more Clockwork.  They write all their own songs and they have been doing this together since they were 13 and 14 years old.  No one works harder than these boys and their family, and they deserve every single bit of success that comes their way.  Support local music!  

Like the song?  Check them out on Spotify - "Clockwork - Not meant for the dark" - if you want to know my personal faves from the record check out these 5 first. 

1. All Right
2. Flaming June
3. We Stood Tall
4. Soul to Save
5. Long Way Down

Add them to your playlist today so you can love them as much as I do :)

January 5, 2015

'Be Good, Have Fun"

So I got a couple tattoos, in my friend's basement, from a guy named "Sweet Ass Lew"- that's how most really drunken stories begin.  But I promise you, I was completely sober.
I never understood why someone would get a tattoo in honor of a loved one that passed away.  The cynical side of me thought "If you wouldn't get a tattoo for them while they were alive why would you get one just because they are dead?" - and then my Dad died, and I was reminded for about the 30th time in my life not to judge other people's decisions when you haven't been in their shoes, especially when it involves grief.  Specifically when it involves grief.

My Dad died 15 months ago.  I miss him every damn day.  Sometimes I find myself streaked with jealousy and anger.  Envy of other people who still have their Dad, or kids who still have their Grandpa.  Grief can be very ugly sometimes. 

 The line between happiness and sadness is a thin one during the Holidays.  We just sort of put our heads down and barrel through it the best we can.  And I'm not just throwing a pity party for myself, my husband is hurting too.  He has lost both of his parents very close together and he was just as close to his parents as I am mine.  

Just losing one parent can be a huge blast to a little family.  If you're counting, we lost 3 of our 4 parents in 4 years.  My kids lost 3 of their 4 grandparents in 4 years. Somehow by the grace of God, we're still standing. 

When you miss someone so horribly you will do anything to feel close to them.  At times when the grief is too strangling, I'll go sit on the wooden swing he built in my backyard.  If that doesn't help I'll listen to this song,  sleep in one of his old Duck Dynasty shirts,  smell one of his old jackets.  Last month I found myself pacing the Christmas aisle at Target. My eyes staring and searching. My heart begging for an ornament to jump out and remind me of Dad.

Because your head knows they are gone, but your heart- your broken shattered heart- is desperate to feel like they are still close to you. 

I've known for a long time that I wanted to get a tattoo to honor both of my incredible parents, and I knew I wanted it to be something personal, like their handwriting.  Finding Mom's would be easy. After all, Moms do all the writing right?  They fill out the birthday cards, send the college care packages, etc.  The most handwriting I have from my Dad is a diagram of how to find the oil filter under my old Saturn.  

I searched every box and album I had at my house and my mom's house and came up with nothing.  I looked all summer long and came up empty handed, so I thought my idea would just live forever in my head. 

Then, last month I had to dig up my original birth certificate to get a passport made and my mom pulled out a box I hadn't seen before.  It was in the bottom of her closet and was somehow overlooked. I opened the lid and the first thing I pulled out was an old, yellowed Christmas Card that my Dad had written to me when I was a little girl.  He signed it:

"Be good for Santa! I love you, Daddy"

I tucked it in my purse and did the ugly cry the whole way home.  Not only did I find exactly what I'd been looking for, but I found something he would always, always tell me.  "Be Good," he would mumble as me and my teenage girlfriends we're flying out the front door for a night on the town. "Have Fun," my mom would call out, much louder than him, as we peeled out of the driveway.

And so this is what remains.  two phrases, from two very different parents, with equal gigantic amounts of love etched in my heart forever.  Now they are etched into my skin too, and when the grief is too much to handle I can look down and remember the words they wrote for me.
I know 30 years down the road, when I'm an old lady, nearly 70 years old. No matter how long it's been since I've seen my parents, hugged them, or talked to them,  I can look down at my wrinkly old wrists and feel like they are right there with me and know that in my heart I will see them again and one day we will all be together as a family again.
Oh, and "Sweet Ass Lew" is actually an incredibly talented tattoo artist in New York, he happens to be married to one of my oldest, dearest friends and they were in town for New Years :)  So we hung out in her mom's basement Friday and he hooked me up.  I will be forever thankful Lewie, you're pretty awesome. 

December 31, 2014

~ Erica & Steve ~ Baby on the way!

Waiting on a new baby could be the most magical feeling in the world.  If I could bottle it up and sell it I'd be a millionaire. You can literally feel the excitement in the air walking from room to room and just imagining what it's going to be like when he finally comes. 
Steve and Erica are very excited to welcome a little boy early next year. I had a chance to hang out with  them for an afternoon to capture some of that excitement.  Mama was absolutely radiant. 
Big sister is pretty excited too :)
The dog on the right, Bella, wanted nothing to do with me all afternoon.  The photo below says it all!  
Thank you Erica and Steve for letting me capture your gorgeous family.  Can't wait to meet the baby :)

December 14, 2014

~ Claire and Ronnie ~ Married!

Claire and Ronnie you are the best.  No seriously, you have no idea how exhausted photographers are by the time their last wedding of the year rolls around, but you two were amazing.  Couples like you make me fall more in love with wedding photography.
Claire doesn't just light up a room, she comes bursting through the windows like a rainbow raining glitter. Everybody loves Claire, and Claire loves everybody.  It was no big shock to me that she had 14 bridesmaids, the highest number of bridesmaids I've shot in 10 years. 
Ronnie is strong, humble, gentle and kind.  He comes from a family that I simply adore. He matched her with 14 groomsmen. I love the look of pride on their faces as they watch their brother and friend lift his new brides veil for the first time. 
Claire checking out her new hardware after they exchanged rings ;)
Claire was radiant.  She nailed the couture look with a fitted gown and high placed full veil, which is my absolute favorite style of veil. 
Ronnie looked ridiculously handsome, which was not a surprise to me.  I've shot 3 weddings for his family and they only produce really good looking children.  Seriously, they hit some sort of gene-pool lottery that none of us know about :)
One of the groomsmen gave a beautiful toast where he said "Claire, today was 
just a formality, because you've already been family to us for years"
So now they are married.  Husband and Wife.  I adore you guys and I think the world is a much better place with you in it.   I'm so lucky that I got to be your wedding photographer.