SCHMOE FAMILY || Goleta, CA || This sweet mama and I... we've been friends for years! Friends in the way so many relationships seem to start these days. With a mutual love for photography, Brooke and I connected on Instagram when Stella, her oldest, and Francesca were just toddlers, and her Maggie was a baby. Living 3,000 miles apart with same-aged daughters with the same white hair, Brooke and I often commented back and forth on how fun it would be to meet some day. For a whole year, we participated together in a group photography project, learning much about each other as we regularly shared images and commentary of our children growing up.

In the years since, Brooke's become a mother a third time, commuted long distances putting herself through school to become a midwife, graduated and begun working in her chosen field, all while maintaining the most gentle and idyllic online presence against the backdrop of her fog- and horse-lined family ranch in Florida. We all know what we see in pictures and what people post online isn't their complete story, but on meeting Brooke at sunrise here in Santa Barbara two weeks ago tomorrow, I'm telling you . . . she was exactly as I'd imagined. I can't accurately express how special it felt watching the five of them walk up the hill at Ellwood to meet me on the last day of their vacation, having driven hours in darkness to do so the very day they flew back home.

Brooke, Nate and I watched their children and the day awaken as the sun rose above one of my very favorite spots, bringing light to a place she'd told me more than once she'd love to see in person. With these pictures, I hope I've been able to preserve not just a beautiful family in a picturesque place, but how neat it is when people who'd most likely never have met get the chance to do so, not even thanks to the overall power of the internet . . . but of one singular app. It's the needle-in-the-haystack-theory come to life-turned fun memory we all now have.