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Living Memorial Reef | Oahu, Hawaii | Desjar Photography | Personal

Bob Smolen’s legacy now lives on amongst the sea life in the pacific ocean off the beautiful Hawaiian coast of Oahu.  He wound’t have had it any other way and neither would the Smolen Family.  I have been documenting all events to our Hawaiian trip from the beginning to end (You can read about the first part HERE).  We’ve all had a sense of closure when the memorial was completed on Feb 11th, two days after Bob’s birthday. We were relieved that everything went as perfectly as we had hoped.  This was a valiant effort by all parties involved, all the way from the creation of the memorial to placing it in its final resting place.  It was such a collaborate effort and it truly was a beautiful thing to witness and document for those who couldn’t make the trip.

I think its fair to say that we all hope when its our time to go, we are loved by as many people as Mr. Smolen was.  This memorial ceremony brought 25+ family and friends together from all over the nation; from Alaska to Florida, and everywhere in between. Most of the people who participated in this memorial were friends that Bob made throughout his life.  In true Bob fashion and spirit, we all came together in paradise to place his living reef into the ocean, what he felt as being the closest thing to heaven while alive.  His family put it perfectly when they said, “he is now building his own underwater community.”  We are all certainly looking forward to going back and visiting, to see ocean life flourish and grow all around his new resting place.

DSC_6348 DSC_6344 DSC_6352 DSC_6349 HawaiiMemorial10 HawaiiMemorial11 DSC_6372 DSC_6376 DSC_6381 DSC_6383 HawaiiMemorial12 HawaiiMemorial1Map of the location, but we renamed it General Smolen’s Crater ;)

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The gang is all here! DSC_6458

A HUGE thank you to the divers/crew of Island Divers who were with us all week throughout our dives, got me certified, and were instrumental in getting this memorial, not only safely to the bottom of the ocean, but for allowing it to happen at all! You guys rock! HawaiiMemorial13 DSC01662-2 DSC01672-2 DSC_6524 HawaiiMemorial14 DSC01665

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HawaiiMemorial16The coins that are placed on either side of the reef is Bob’s final military coin, which he and Robby (his son) designed before his passing.  The coin reflects his most recent career and passions.  His passions (picture below on the left) USAF, black labs (his 2 favorite furry children named Angus and Phoebe), diving, and Steelers (raised in, and spent a large potion of his life in Pennsylvania).  The other side of the coin shows Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, his last job, after retiring from the Air Force as a Major (2 Star) General.


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DSC01769Bob’s wife, Adriane placing a traditional Hawaiian floral leis around his neck

IMG_0129_2Family, always and forever



The underwater photos are not mine, I had enough trouble just focusing on breathing ;) Thank you to Dave (and for the amazing videos!), Mike, and Eileen for your underwater photography skills! I thought shooting above ground was a challenge, underwater photography is a whole other game and art form! I hope to one day “dive” (pun untended) into underwater photography after I gain more experience and improve my scuba diving skills.

If you’re ever in Oahu and want to visit General Smolen’s Crater while scuba diving, here are the coordinates: 21.269659,-157.723575

© Desjar Photography 2015 | Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Central VA and Destinations Worldwide

Candy + Dave | Hawaiian Beach Wedding | Destination Wedding Photographer

I was beyond excited to photograph a wedding while in HAWAII! I had never met Candy and Dave prior to the trip, but they were extremely good friends of Bob’s (you can read about what brought us to Hawaii here).  He would always joke with them “when are you guys going to get married, why don’t you just go ahead and do it!”  They certainly did and with the help of Hawaiian Barefoot Weddings, it was the most perfect, intimate beach wedding.  I am honored to to have been a part of it and thank you both for allowing me to share some of your gorgeous photos.

“We were privileged to share our exchange of vows with friends and family at the Pipeline, off Sunset Beach and honored that our wedding concluded a very special week.  The week began with a reunion to celebrate Bob’s life and say goodbye as we placed an underwater memorial to create a living reef. We finished with a gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean punctuated by the roar of awe-inspiring waves as a backdrop for our wedding and the expression our of love, friendship and caring.”

- Candy and Dave

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Let’s give this a try … HawaiiWedding-363The Group!


Robby manned the camera while 5 of us with our flash lights from our cell phones did this:

How many tries do you think it took?! Haha
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© Desjar Photography 2015 | Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Central VA and Destinations Worldwide

Baby Oliver | Lifestyle Newborn Photographer

Baby Oliver was only just a week old when we took these lifestyle portraits at the home of his newly proud parents, Mollie and Jeff.  He is SO adorable, tiny, hardly fussed, and pretty much stayed awake the entire session! My favorite was his little man wrinkles and peach fuzz :)

I can only hope I’ll be able to continue to document Oliver as he grows, I don’t have one of my own, but I’ve heard countless times, how quickly time flies. DSC_7828 BabyOliver DSC_7848 BabyOliver2 DSC_7932 DSC_8011 DSC_8009-Edit DSC_8028 BabyOliver3 DSC_8016 DSC_8017 BabyOliver4 DSC_8055 BabyOliver5

© Desjar Photography 2015 | Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Central VA and Destinations Worldwide

A surprise proposal … in Hawaii!! | Destination Wedding + Engagement Photographer

Where, do I even begin?! This is the first (of many) posts about our trip to Hawaii and to start things off, its all about Emily and Chris … a surprise proposal in paradise!

Chris and Emily have been dating since 2002, of course like any relationship, taking some breaks in-between, but they always found their way back to each other.  Emily is my boyfriend’s younger sister and it has been amazing getting to know her, their family, and her boyfriend Chris.  I feel so blessed to have been part of this monumental trip and get to spend so much time with them.  I was SO ecstatic when Chris told us he would be proposing during the trip and was all for my idea of capturing it on camera while staying out of sight.

The morning of Feb 9th Chris, Robby, and I went on a “run” to scope out the location on the beach near our North Shore rental house and our potential hiding spots. If you read the previous post about why we were in Hawaii in the first place, this day was very special.  It was Bob’s Birthday, the day the memorial was set to take place that evening, but due to inclement weather it was postponed, perhaps he wasn’t ready to be laid to rest in the ocean just yet.  Once we heard that it would take place later in the week, Chris decided he would propose that night, solidifying just how meaningful this day would always be, now for two reasons.   The evening came quickly, everyone in the house was getting ready for dinner, as were going to be heading to the opposite end of the island to Waikiki to Bob’s all time favorite spot, Duke’s.

Chris, Robby, and I road our beach cruisers to Ehukai Beach just before sunset, Chris set up the blanket, bottle of champagne, two glasses and rushed back to the house.  He was insistent upon taking Emily for a walk along the beach to watch the sunset and thankfully, she obliged.  Once we saw them coming, it was a mad dash to get to our spots, which for me was hiding behind a life guard tower until the coast was clear, Robby hid in some bushes.  Chris knew that once the sun started to melt into the ocean, he didn’t have much time, we saw him get on one knee from afar and continued snapping away.  I felt my inner ninja as I tried to move closer while army crawling in the sand and then I see Robby step out of the bushes and walk nearly right up to them!! I am thankful now because he got the close shots, but I was WAY too nervous about being seen and ruining the private moment, I guess big brothers can do whatever they want! Emily confirmed later that she never saw us, phew!!

Chris designed the ring himself, making it truly one of a kind, even engraving the inside of the band, ‘Emily & Chris.’  He chose aquamarine as the precious stone, knowing thats what Emily would have chosen over a diamond because the blue coloring resembles the ocean, which her Dad loved so much.  No doubt Bob was there at that moment and I’m positive that he is very proud of his youngest daughter and soon to be son in law, Christopher.

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© Desjar Photography 2015 | Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Central VA and Destinations Worldwide

We’re off to Hawaii!! | Personal | Desjar Photography

By the time this posts, I will be high above the clouds on my way to HAWAII!! Although I am beyond excited since I have never been, the 30 of us going carry a heavy heart, as this journey, ultimately came about to celebrate the life of a truly great man.  The plans began shortly after my boyfriends father, Bob Smolen passed away this past May when he lost his battle with cancer.  Amongst his many accomplishments when he was a Major General in the United States Air Force, he was an avid scuba diver, his favorite place being Hawaii.  His family and friends were going to carryout his wishes of being cremated and scattered in the Pacific.  Although, in true Smolen style, they wanted to go even further, so Robby (my boyfriend), his sisters Mandy and Emily, and his mother, Adriane all collaborated to come up with a Living Reef Memorial.  I never knew such a thing even existed, it is simply amazing, especially for those who have a love for the sea and marine life.

“The life that is created from the ashes of the departed is in perfect harmony with the circle of life, and leaves a positive footprint that will forever life on.  No other burial option can offer the benefits of a Living Reef Memorial.”

The Smolen Family still wanted more, although the reef would have Bob’s ashes, they wanted it to resemble him.  Robby thought of an old friend from the Art Institute of Pittsburg where they had met.  His name is Leslie Meier, a talented Industrial Designer, whom they commissioned to build a sculpture of Bob, then would work alongside Robert Sarnie, the man behind Living Reef Memorial, who would provide the base.

This was months in the making and was not always easy.  Keep in mind Leslie is in PA, Robert in CA, we are in VA, and both the sculpture and reef needed to get to Hawaii.  It truly is amazing the magic that can happen when talented artists work together.

I can happily report that both have arrived in Hawaii and we all cannot WAIT to see them in person upon our arrival.  30 of Bob’s close friends and family will all be there for his memorial this Monday, Feb 9th, on his Birthday, where most of us will be diving to witness the placement of his living memorial on the sea floor.  We will pin the location so when we go back and visit, we will be able to see what kind of sea life has bloomed!

I plan to keep social media to a minimum, but will be posting some photos on my Instagram, feel free to follow along! Can’t wait to post photos of the trip when I return. Robby and I will also be shooting a Wedding while we’re there too!! Gah!! Dream come true!

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© Desjar Photography 2015 | Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Central VA and Destinations Worldwide


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