No fancy photos in this blog post. Just a good 'ol post with iphone pics of our first born daughter! This photographer forgot her camera bag in the midst of all the 1 am commotion of water breaking and 8-minute apart contractions! Peyton Ellis Powell arrived early despite being breach and came into the world via c-section. Named after two strong and amazing women in our family, we can’t wait to watch her grow. We love you so much already Peyton. Lucky is an understatement.
Love, Mom and Dad
1/23/21• 4:40am •7 lbs 9oz 21 inches
Well... believe it or not, my husband Jess and I are expecting a beach baby around February 2nd, 2021...and it's a girl! We are over the moon, and if we're being honest— we were completely shocked when we found out about the sex yesterday afternoon! We were both convinced Baby Powell was going to be a boy. Mainly because I have been so so blessed with mild pregnancy symptoms so far, but clearly all those midwife tales are a hoax. That doesn't change how excited we are though. Just a shift in perspective thinking about the future. Jess has his hands full with what will soon be 5 girls in our house (2 female dogs, 1 female cat, baby girl and me). HAHA!
When we found out we were pregnant back in May, we knew we wanted to eventually get a genetic test called NxGen, an informed, noninvasive prenatal test that an expecting mom can take as early as 10 weeks to make sure the child is healthy and as should be as far as chromosomes + sub chromosomes go. This particular test also allows the parents to find out the sex of the baby earlier than most find out. The accuracy rate is around 95%. Every doctor's office acts independently when it comes to labs they contract out to do diagnostic work. My sister and sister-in-law in Raleigh had a similar test but it was called something different because the bloodwork went to a different company. Their experience encouraged us to do the same so we could be as informed as possible with our first child.
So a wonderful patient navigator named Jessica at Glen Meade Center for Women's Health at Autumn Hall, made sure I had a printed copy of these results in my hands yesterday morning after a long 6-business-day wait. I took the envelope straight downtown to where Jess works and we opened it together right outside his office on a park bench at 10:30 in the morning. (We obviously couldn't wait till after he got off work that day!) After we found out the news, we texted my friend and occasional associate photographer, Sydney of What Sydney Sees to see if she would be up for a spontaneous drone announcement. She just got her drone license about a month ago so we knew she would be perfect for the job. We knew exactly what we wanted, something that highlighted both our beautiful hometown and our joy for adventure and we made this shoot happen that very evening in less than 30 minutes.
So here we are at 13+ weeks. The baby is the size of a lemon, and we're chuggin' along, eating, sleeping and planning a lot. We are currently in the process of adding onto our home to make more room for our little bundle and for family and friends to be able to come visit while we figure out parenthood. I am excited to share progress photos as we move along in both construction and in baby bump size! This bump isn't very visible right now so that's why we didn't do any up close photos of the belly. I have not gained any weight but have a little pooch that most people would not notice, but definitely rocking some very big cheeseburgers up top that most people would notice if they know my former flat-chested self. Mamas constantly tell me that every pregnancy and every body is different so expecting mamas, I'd love to hear from you and how it is going for you! Thank you to those of you who have reached out saying we're in this together- it is such a reassuring feeling having our corona babies together!
To all the women out there who are trying, Jess and I know how fortunate we are to conceive a healthy child and are so appreciative that God gave us an extra human to love. We are in no way flaunting our blessing, just sharing the news and being transparent as we have nothing to hide. If you are trying, and want to be a parent more than anything, know that it will happen, one way or another. God has a plan. If he has a plan you don't like, please feel free to yell, cry and pray to me. I'm here for you.
To all my couples and clients, I want you to know that this pregnancy should in no way affect you, your wedding or event. The due date timing was perfect in the sense that I should hopefully be ready to rock and roll for wedding season starting mid-April (with lots of help from my amazing associates!) I just kindly ask all my couples and clients who would like an engagement, bridal or portrait session to please schedule your session before January 1st just in case Baby Powell comes early.
We opted for a very short session with Sydney and were very happy with just a handful of these beautiful photos because I'm actually very shy in FRONT of the camera. Especially now more than ever because I'm not able to enjoy some cocktails beforehand! Jess is the exact opposite and is a total sweetheart about photos. I thanked him for doing this photo shoot with me, he simply smiled and said "I knew I signed up for cheesy milestone photos when I married a photographer."
So the countdown begins! 27 weeks to go. Thank you all for your love and support for Baby Powell. It means more to us than you'll ever know.
poor jess, he has one more girl to worry about.
Don't get me wrong, I love my grandma and we have a whole lot in common—we both love to read, we both love to be outside and we both love our families to pieces, but one thing she isn't fond of is dogs. She would be perfectly happy never seeing another dog again. HAHA. Mind you, she has been traumatized by a few rowdy ones and that's all it took on her thin skin and frail bottom. So you can imagine her surprise and her fake excitement when I told her about her new great grandchild...a furry one at that. Abby came into our lives on February 9th and it's been a whirlwind of poops, pees, barks and snuggles. We just love her so much already. As you can tell, Belle, our old grumpy farting machine loves her too. We were surprised because she still doesn't get along with our cat, MG, even after a year. Labs have an unspoken bond I suppose.
We adopted Abby to give Belle some companionship and to give Abby a great mentor into adulthood. Our close friend Brian has bred a few labs and decided to breed my sister and her husband's dog's sister. So it's a family affair to say the least. We loved how Porter (sister's dog) came out obviously so we wanted one of our own. The funny thing is MG came from Columbia, NC and that's where Abby came from too, so there is something to be said about Eastern NC sugar.
More puppy love coming your way this year. In the meantime, back to your regular program of weddings and romance.
The year 2018 was a beautiful year both professionally and personally. I met the most amazing couples, families and human beings and truly adore each of them and their unique stories. Jess and I went through a few big milestones ourselves including love, loss and new joys. Thank you all so much for an unforgettable year. My goal for 2019 is to remember to count our blessings and to take more time to pause because a year goes by so fast. Taking photos professionally sometimes has me neglecting to take personal photos so another goal is to take more photos- even if they are crappy ones-because life is fleeting and the memories are what we have to remember it by.
Visuals by Helen is expanding the team for 2019 and is now hiring a photographer intern to hang out and learn about how to be a creative entrepreneur.
As a PAID photographer intern, you:
-Train as a wedding photographer associate—taking photos at 150+ person weddings.
You would get the less-pressure jobs such as detail shots, behind-the-scenes, getting ready photos and can be present for the fun bride+groom photos too.
-Train as a portrait photographer associate at family and individual sessions.
-Learn how to cull images after shoots, organize, back them up, edit and store away for later-use.
-He or she must have personal DSLR (Nikon preferred so I can offer lenses from my bag).
-He or she must have personal laptop.
-All extra equipment is a plus.
-Competitive hourly wage of $20/hour at weddings with room for financial growth if candidate brings hard work and talent to the table
-$10/hour at portrait sessions as these are less physically and creatively demanding.
-Paid drive-time to shoots at .50/mile.
-Must live in Wilmington, NC area (where we're based).
-Eager to learn and deliver excellent customer service skills (aka, be bubbly as heck).
-High School diploma or GED strongly preferred but not required.
-1-2 years of background in people photography.
-Ability to work long hours on your feet and get in weird positions for the artistic shot.
-Must be go-getter and able to go through motions without having to be told.
-Must be flexible and able to work weekends occasionally.
-Must be okay with going out of town for weddings occasionally. (YAY for traveling to new places!)
-Reliable, insured vehicle and valid U.S. driver's license (so you can come to office or leave early from weddings and get back home).
To apply, please submit your resume, details of your camera bag and a photography portfolio to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember that 30-day blogging challenge I tried to do back in September? Well, I only lasted 23 days and those 23 days weren't even consecutive if I'm being honest. Here's what happened: life.
Life threw us some curveballs:
1. Hurricane Florence forced us to evacuate and we were gone for 10 days. It also felt like I was throwing it in people's face by posting blogs during the aftermath of hurricane because that meant I had power when millions of people were lucky to find a way to charge their phones.
2. My husband and I bought our very first house and that was not the easiest process in the world. We had an incredible realtor so if you need a recommendation, holler my way. But my takeaway from the home buying process is to shop around for your mortgage consultant advisor BEFORE you know going under contract on a house. Find someone you trust and someone that will get you the rates you deserve based on your credit score. Find someone that will sit down and explain to you exactly what's going on and what each document means no matter how tedious it is. Find someone that will explain a document to you instead of saying "Here sign this." Incredible customer service is valued and goes a long way when you're about to spend a lot of money.
3. After losing Jazzy to a coyote in July, we had been on lookout for kittens to adopt and were flabbergasted with how many offers we got from folks trying to find kitten homes. That being said, we ended up adopting not one, but two kitten rescues while continuing to care for our 9-year-old lab.
So needless to say, I stopped focusing on blogging, and started focusing more on home life, working with the current clients I have and how I could make more money to afford all these life changes. Adulting is hard let me tell you. It doesn't get easier—no sense in lying about that, but it does get more rewarding. Now I'm a proud mom of three furry girls that are now my co-workers and a homeowner with my husband.
I know I don't have to explain myself as this challenge was self-propelled anyway but I did it for a reason, to share with you more about who I am. This, I can continue to promise so check in from time to time. Won't be everyday but it will be purposeful words. This 30-day challenge taught me a few things:
During Jess and I's evacuation, we made a trip to Raleigh and upon a night out with our family, somebody came up to me (that I've never met) and said "I thought I recognized you from your blog!" I kid you not, that actually happened and it was the strangest moment of low-key fame I've ever had... in a good way. It's flattering realizing that people like you are reading these very words. Many people are even writing e-mails with questions especially about my hard-of-hearing upbringing. There seems to be a lot of myths I need to debunk about what it means to be hard of hearing. I'll go through them one by one.
1. "Oh you're deaf, okay you can't talk on phone."
I can't tell you how many customer service representatives tell me I need TTY (teletype)—like Lord, if you already know what I need, go ahead and fix the problem I'm calling about. TTY stands for teletype machines and they are used by SOME people who are deaf or heard-of-hearing to communicate by typing or reading text. I can talk on the phone jussst fine. Go ahead, call me and let's talk!
2. "So if you don't hear very well, you must do sign language."
No, not every hard-of-hearing or deaf individual chooses to American Sign Language as a form of language. Every child or adult makes their own decision but our family decided for me to be mainstream in my communication skills: good ol' fashioned talking. Sure I get insecure if I sound "deaf" when I don't have my cochlear hearing devices in, but I'd rather sound deaf then have to learn a language only about 250,000 people know how to speak (ASL). If someone is calling my bluff, I just do stuff like this:
3. "Bet you can't hear me right now."
Yes, I can hear you. I have cochlear implants that serve as a fancy aid. The better question to ask a deaf or hard-of-hearing person is "Can you understand me?" Even if I have my cochlears in, I might not understand you for many reasons: you're talking too fast, you're covering your mouth (so I can't lip read), you're mumbling, you're speaking too quietly or there is background noise.
4. "OOh, I bet you take out your device when you don't want to listen to someone."
This is actually an insult to me sometimes. You basically just assume that I got three five-thousand dollar surgeries so I could not hear you on purpose? No, I want to hear you, no matter how annoying you are. But that's my personality. Every deaf person has a different personality. If someone really got on my nerves, I'll do what every hearing person does:
5. "How do you watch tv?"
Closed captions are my best friend. My sweet husband has gotten so well-trained that he turns on captions by default without me asking and if we're somewhere else, he'll ask for me sometimes. My family says they still watch tv with subtitles because they got so used to it and liked the funny *sighs vigorously* subtext that came with it.
6. "I bet you wish you could hear."
Let's put it this way, if I could hear, I just know I'd eventually lose my hearing in old age because I LOVE loud music so I'm just beating everyone to the punch and not crying about losing something I never had to begin with. Again, hate it when people assume that being deaf is the worst thing in the world. I gots food, I gots family and I gots a home—that's a lot more than I need.
Thanks for reading Day 23! You're pretty much a total rockstar for reading lots of words. See you tomorrow.
I've been pretty mad and hard on myself for not even being able to keep up with a 30 work-day blogging challenge. Today I was supposed to be done with the challenge and here's day 22 instead. Life has thrown a lot of curveballs lately, and we're all just trying to adapt as best as we can. Jess and I had to evacuate from a hurricane that devastated Wilmington and surrounding areas— the surprising thing is, we got given a hard time about leaving—as if evacuating wasn't sexy and bold enough. That we weren't staying to help when it was all over, guilt tripped at every corner. Not calling anyone out, but here's the thing—when we left, the hurricane was projected to be category four, and there's nothing sexy about being stranded on a roof. There's nothing sexy about purposely putting yourself at risk just so you can tell a story later or save your insured property. Of course there are those who couldn't evacuate due to finances or extenuating circumstances or those who had to stay behind and work—obviously that's an exception.
On our 15+ hour detour home, we had the honor of being able to celebrate two beloved friends, Lauren + Wayland on Saturday. They were actually supposed to get married in Atlantic Beach. As you can imagine, Flo messed that up too so they relocated the festivities to the triangle area with the Friday night being at Carolina Country Club in Raleigh and Saturday night being at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. They legit planned a wedding in SIX days and as a wedding photographer, let me tell you, that is phenomenal— and it goes to tell you that long engagements are overrated. When there's a will, there's a way. Lauren and Wayland had a will to get married and they did it beautifully. It was so hard to not bring my portrait mode out and take pictures all night. I actually got accidentally photobombed by the photographer's camera and took it as a sign that I needed to enjoy the evening with my own two eyes. Thank you two for giving Jess and I a reminder of what life is really about: love, family and friends. Congrats to Lauren and Wayland—y'all belong together and we all know it. Here's to forever.
On Friday, it will have been three months since my lil fur-baby rescue cat Jazzy was killed by a coyote. For those of you who don't know me, Jazzy was my first "child." She was my first pet and meeting her was all an accident. Yes, an accident.
I was on a trip to Raleigh to visit my big sister and her husband, pumping gas at the White's gas station in Mann's Harbor, a little town just over the bridge that goes to Manteo, NC. Out of the corner of my eye, I see this blonde eight or nine-year-old boy crossing a four-lane highway with something in his arms. "Hmm, strange." I remember thinking and before I knew it, he was standing right in front of me with a tiny little fur ball in his arms, a kitten barely a month old—severely malnourished and shaking in fear. Blue eyes staring back at me. He asks me meekly if I'd like to have her—that his cat accidentally had babies and she was the last of the litter and they couldn't afford to keep her. The gas pump clicks in its completion so I check on it and then I see the boy in the corner of my eye again—he's running back across the highway‚ hands free. My passenger door was open because I had reached in there to get my wallet and just below the seat, I see the kitten curled up right next to my stinky tennis shoes on the floorboard. She was already struggling to keep her eyes open —she was three seconds away from nap time. My heart melted and I plugged in a new destination: Williamston Vet (next semi-big town I'd drive through in my trip to Raleigh). I needed to know how I was going to keep her alive that day.
Turns out she was flea-ridden and hadn't eaten in three days but as soon as I saw she was healthy otherwise, I knew I had to keep her. Mind you this was the most spontaneous move I had ever done. But she got me through breaking up a two-year dead-end relationship—she was the companionship I needed to encourage me to break things off. She was not only my first child but the cat responsible for changing my life. If I hadn't gotten her, I would not have ultimately met Jess. Sounds like crazy logic I know but Jazzy did more than just meow. She saw me through the biggest times in my life, rode on huge car trips with me and was my number one office co-worker.
On the night of July 23, my parents were visiting Jess and I in Wilmington and brought their dogs whom were wild with curiosity for her (as you can imagine, chill cats don't usually love hyper dogs) so we put her outside while we were eating (she was a very well-trained indoor-outdoor cat). We called her in before bed but she didn't come but figured she was afraid of the dogs and she often was nocturnal in the summer because she wanted to escape the heat. The next morning Jess found a pack of fur and her punctured collar in our yard and came to me with an expression of concern. He knew July 22 was the last time we will ever see her. I couldn't believe how long it took me to stop crying because I felt like I failed her.
With that said, on the three-month anniversary of her death, Jess and I have been compelled to search for another kitten rescue. If you, or someone you know has a litter of beautiful furry kittens (long-haired female preferred), Jess and I would love to have their contact information. As there are enough abandoned, unwanted or unhoused kittens out there, we are not interested in a bred kitten. We want to celebrate Jazzy's life by finding another rescue to love and raise.
We promise we're good parents, what happened to her was a freak thing and we have made a promise to not allow our next cat out at night no matter the circumstance. We are so looking forward to filling in the hole Jazzy left in our hearts.
This time last week, Jess and I were trying to figure out what to do and where to go as Hurricane Florence's projected path was anything but predictable. We didn't know if it made more sense to go North, West or South because Florence basically doing the cha-cha slide gaining strength to become a potential category four storm. As I am from the Outer Banks and have survived terrible category one and twos, we weren't about to see what category four would be like in our hometown of Wilmington, N.C. During all the projections, the one constant seemed to be landfall between Atlantic Beach and Wilmington so we knew that much and decided to make a spontaneous decision to evacuate to Nokomis, Florida. We have a dear friend whose dad has a rental property in Florida so we took him up on his offer and tried to rally our families to come with us. To no avail on our persuasion skills, we ended up just packing up two weeks worth of clothes and our fur-baby Belle and taking the 9 hour trek to the Sunshine state by ourselves. Jess and I made the last minute decision to leave N.C. because we knew with the size of this hurricane, everyone was going to be affected no matter what direction it took.
It has been heartbreaking seeing all that has been going on in Wilmington and surrounding areas and watching our loved ones struggle through 4 days of no power, downed trees and damaged property. However, we are so grateful to hear everyone is safe-and-sound so far. Between rising flood waters and bands of storms packing tornadoes, we know it's not over 'till it's over. Jess and I are unable to get back into Wilmington due to the rivers surrounding Wilmington being at a record all-time high. Wilmington is essentially an island. At one point, the only way there was by boat or plane. We have decided since we own no property yet and we are both able to work from home— to let the first responders and linemen do their thing before we come home. We have felt so grateful that were able to evacuate at a low-cost because we know that's not the opportunity that everyone has. That's why we've been low-key about where we've been for the last six days.
I'm going to take a wild guess and say you've probably gotten enough of destruction photos from North Carolina so I wanted to share some images from Jess and I's stay in Nokomis, Florida. Fun fact, Florida basically calls Summer, the Winter down here so there is hardly anyone here. Nokomis rests on the gulf side just South of Sarasota and here happens to be where the Red Tide is—meaning floating dead fish everywhere. This is what the Florida coast line goes through after prolonged periods of warm weather and warm water generate disease through bloomed algae called —it ultimately prevents oxygen supply to the animals of the sea so they suffocate slowly to death and end up upside down on the surface of the water. The toxic algae bloom has been killing marine life and apparently triggering respiratory issues among some residents and Gov. Rick Scott has been pouring funding into resolutions and cleanup for the Red Tide. Residents are getting increasingly frustrated for clean water. We have been blown away with how much this affects the sea-side towns and how it affects the fishing, the tourism and even the few residents that are here. Apparently it's been the worst this year than it has been in a long time. Usually lasting three weeks, this year the Red Tide has been spanning three months and counting.
Jess and I tried to go 25 miles south and see if there was any pools of unaffected areas but didn't have much luck except a few catfish. While the water is slowly regaining its blue color, it's still very much a graveyard of the sea animals. We didn't take any photos of that because it's just truly disturbing, but this goes to tell you that everywhere in the world, there are places dealing with their little environmental crisis. For Florida, it's the tide, for North Carolina, it is the hurricane. At the end of the day, you just gotta remember we have a lot to be grateful for. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful, safe and strong country like America.
Huge thanks to the Schlegel family for giving us a home away from home for the last six days. Thank you to our friends, neighbors and family that have been checking on our home. We can't wait to get back and start our road to recovery back in Wilmington, NC. Wilmington, let us know what you need us to bring. Stay tuned.
So...the talk of the hour seems to be the impending Hurricane Florence. My way of coping: Whipping up two tomato pies since Florence has gotta like Italian food right? As we live in Wilmington, Jess and I have gotten so many sweet texts from friends and family sharing concern for our hometown and asking what we're going to do. Here's what we're going to do: We're bookin' it out of here. As of right now, the forecast model is calling for a direct hit and then it's just going to sit in water off the coast for at least three days. This is the absolute worst forecast because the longer it sits, the more damage it creates. Eastern North Carolina is about to get a rude awakenin'. This coming Friday, I was supposed to capture Clara and Zack's wedding at Kitty Hawk Pier but unfortunately those plans have been postponed until further notice. My soul actually feels for them because they are so ready to be married and now they have to share their big weekend with our Italian neighbor to the East. Weddings aside, people's lives might change forever as we know it so it has been a very anxious couple of days for us North Carolinians.
In the meantime, we'll be taking photos of everything in our house for inventory in case we need to claim our renter's insurance, packing up our five cases of water, batteries, desktop computer, three camera bags, our boat, dog, and our beloved paintings from Granddad because we don't know what this place will look like when we get back.
Please pray for every single person who calls the coast of North Carolina, home. We need it.
Ps. This may go without saying but we may lose power, which results in not being able to keep up with the promise of the 30-day blogging challenge. Forgive me if this happens but will tune in with all the updates if the wi-fi keeps chuggin' along.
Clara and Zack were supposed to get married in Kitty Hawk this Friday but the Outer Banks has been issued a mandatory evacuation for visitors and residents due to the unwanted and impending arrival of Hurricane Florence. Life as we know it means that this pier might not even exist this time next week. As of right now, forecasts are calling for this ~450 mile wide and possible category 5 hurricane to directly hit Jess and I's home of Wilmington. Let's just say this 30 work-day blogging challenge might have to be put on hold. Prayers for everyone who calls North Carolina home.
A lot of people cruise through my Instagram and say "Oh wow so you do only weddings?" That's actually one of the biggest misconceptions about my photography business.
The truth is I just tend to do a lot of wedding posts because I do more of them than anything else just by chance. It doesn't mean I do not enjoy the family portrait session, the birthday party, the newborn portrait, the graduate celebratory shot, the model portfolio or the professional head shots. The reason why I've done more weddings than anything is most likely because of how the market is coupled with how much people love to get married!
When the market is good, people are making more money, taking chicks and dudes on dates and falling in love with them and before you know it, they're asking me to be their wedding photographer. Everything else is more "trendy" for the lack of a better way to say it... Weddings are the biggest constant as people have been getting married since the dawn of time.
Family portraits are a matter a targeted sentimental demographic of folks who want to treasure the little milestones here and there. The birthday party is rare because most people have cell phones with incredible quality cameras and the traditional headshots are not as needed now because due to a modern day trend of "lifestyle" photos. People want to see you in your element and get a "lifestyle photo" rather than a traditional studio photo. LinkedIn is probably the only thing that keeps headshots a popular phenomenon. Otherwise, everyone uses "lifestyle" photos for their websites and profile pieces. They should though—what you look like at the studio is not really what you look like in real life. When it comes to selling yourself, people want to relate to you, so lifestyle photos are the best way to go.
This is all purely my opinion though. I just wanted to showcase all the little things I do so you know that while yes I LOVE romance and weddings, I also love to do all of this too:
small business ie jewelry + clothes:
Dog Portraits (Yes you read that right, they are children to most people).
Family Portraits (Lifestyle):
Family Portraits (Posed):
Newborns and Infants:
...and Weddings (obviously):
Pretty big variety right? That may scare some people if they think that means I don't have a specialty—but I do... People. Almost every one of those photos involved a person. There's a reason I'm bubbly, it's because I feed off human exchange. My compulsive drive to make you happy is what propels me in this customer service business!
WOW. Jess and I had our first Labor Day Weekend here in Wilmington and we entertained his folks, his brother and brother's girlfriend and it was the best time spending it with family. There must've been something in the air though because I got several wedding photography inquiries on Sunday and Monday for folks that got engaged on Friday or Saturday. Patriotism must bring out the romance! So when newly engaged couples approach me for wedding photography packages, they ask me about prices and then almost all of them asked me who I hired for my wedding.
Photographers are one of the first wedding vendors that couples tend to reach out to so for me, a lot of thought goes into the best custom palette of wedding professionals for each and every couple. I tell each and every one of them to take their time and get to know these professionals because they are the people that bring your wedding together. They are the ones that you spend most of your time communicating with during your engagement and if you love them, you will love being engaged because you will see how easy it's supposed to be despite contrary belief.
After Jess proposed back in November 2017, I told myself one thing: that I want it to be about the sanctity of our marriage... not about koozies, flowers, dresses, bridesmaid gifts, or any of that tangible mess. I made myself promise to never bring any stress on my family, on my fiance and his family because stress meant that it was forcing something that wasn't supposed to happen.
I know you won't believe me when I say this, the tangible things I spent about three seconds on, the wedding vendors however, I spent forever on. Here is the dream team that helped Jess and I make our day so special and why we chose them. Keep in mind that every one has different taste, different priorities, and different sentimental reasons for making decisions. Keep in mind I was the last of my family to get married and I'm a wedding photographer for a living so naturally, I just wanted to marry my sweetheart and be done with it. Don't feel like you're making the wrong decision just because I wrote a blog post about it.
The wedding ceremony venue: St. James Parrish
Not trying to fool anyone here... we aren't the greatest Christian couples out there—we barely make it to church whenever we're home but Jess and I made it clear from the beginning that God is always first and that's why we wanted a spiritual wedding. We didn't want to forget what it was all about in all the glamor that weddings can create. We went to St. James Parrish before we were engaged and felt like it was a church we could connect with so it made absolute sense for us to get married there. Another drive to get married there was for sentimental reasons. My aunt and uncle got married there over 25 years ago and are still happily married and greatly involved with St. James.
Reception Venue: The Surf Club
Okay, like I said, last one to get married so we had to go all out and let everyone be able to invite everyone so we needed the space to accommodate that! The Surf Club fit the bill after looking at all the venues that Wilmington had to offer. We also loved that it was by the ocean which made perfect sense for us since Jess grew up fishing on the Atlantic and I grew up a beach girl from the OBX.
photographer: matt mcgraw
Jess basically put me in charge of this for obvious reasons (that he was about to have a photographer for a wife) but I promise I kept asking him what he wanted and he seemed to be completely nonchalant about it. So let me tell you, this was the hardest decision to make probably in the whole wedding experience because I loved everyone I talked to. Everyone had their own personality, their own style and their own way of approaching me, a potential client. The problem was that I had to pick one.
I narrowed it down to picking a Wilmington photographer because of three reasons: 1. I wanted to get to know other photographers in the area as Jess and I had just moved here 2. I wanted to support the local Wilmington economy 3. It was my gut instinct to hire someone within a 30-mile radius (I know super silly but go with it).
When I met Matt, he supported me with open arms since day 1 before I was even engaged. He welcomed me into a photographer's industry and not only encouraged me to network more and more, but he also referred me to business he couldn't take care of personally. That little bit of compassion went a long way on making a first impression on me.
Videographer: luke brown of light cannon films
Let me preface this paragraph by saying that videographers are not required for a wedding—at all. I am just a highly sentimental person and know how fast weddings go by so I wanted a way to literally pause on all of it after it was all over and see everything I missed. There are also some moving memories you cannot capture in photography—as much as I hate to say it as a photographer. It's true.
I ended up finding out about Luke Brown through my wedding planner (I'll get to her after this) and feel so fortunate to have found out about his name. His artistic but romantic style was everything I wanted. You'll see why when you watch the highlight video yourself.
weekend-of Wedding coordinator: Amy mcgraw of Do me a Favor Weddings
Amy happens to be the wife of Matt McGraw, our wedding photographer, but I met her separately through a networking meeting before Jess and I got engaged. We hit it off right away because she was so easy to talk to and just like Matt, as welcoming as anyone can be.
So I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't really need her to plan anything—I was in the industry so I knew the motions of wedding planning. I just personally needed her to be there to tie it all together when the weekend finally arrived. My family is so selfless that they would have done everything Amy did, but that's exactly why I hired her myself. I wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and leave all the itinerary action items to her. She not only excelled, she exceeded my expectations. She took care of me like I was her family. She is multitalented so she did flowers, venue set-up, tended to bitty crisis items, and everything in between.
Cake: Cakes by Carla
Went with a local lady that does cakes out of her home. Total inside scoop from my aunt who lives here as well. Our priority was not spending thousands of dollars on sugar. This yummy 5-layer bad boy only cost $400 (average is $1,500 for that size).
Hair: Ultimate Hair by Chelsea
Okay, the one vendor I didn't go local on was one of my very good friends from Jamesville, NC who has her own salon called Ultimate Hair by Chelsea. She's one of those people that fits me into her calendar on her day off when I only give her a week notice. That's how sweet she is. I wanted someone I knew well because after all, you hang out with all day when you're getting ready. Of course she's talented too, but I'm already biased there. What's even cooler is that she enlisted some help from another hair stylist I knew. Her name is Fharren, so I felt like we were all friends just chilling on the porch getting pretty.
makeup: flawless makeup by Isla
For anyone that knows me, you would know that I'm just not a makeup person. I splurge on foundation and by splurge it's $50 on something that lasts almost a year. The rest of my makeup is all drug store nonsense. Needless to say, I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to painting on my face. Isla from Flawless Makeup by Isla was a contact through my wedding coordinator, Amy. I had her do a test run with my bridal portraits and absolutely loved how she intertwined both the natural but glamorous look so I knew she was the right fit. I also loved how she went into the wedding day thinking she was only going to work her magic on three or four girls but ended up doing the entire house of girls because everyone loved how talented she was. The even more amazing fact is that she STILL finished on time whilst also making all my sisters, mom, mom-in-law, and aunt feel confident and pretty. Sometimes this isn't always the case with makeup artists because some ladies get traumatized through a makeover that's so intense to the point where they don't even recognize themselves and it actually moves them to tears. That's why I always recommend to my brides to do bridals because it's a test trial with the dress, makeup, hair and you also get to savor feeling like a princess .
Rentals: Party Suppliers and Rentals
We rented the Surf Club intentionally because they included chairs + tables but we wanted to spice up the tables with some pretty linen. I knew one of the owners of the place, Ashley from working at a non-profit event called The Care Project and remembered she worked in the event rental business. She took care of us like we rented out the whole store when in reality, all we got was just a few orders of beige textured linen!
transportation: azalea limousine service
We had a budget but also had about a 23 minute trip from the church to the Surf Club so we could only afford to transport immediate family and bridal party (Didn't make sense for us to order 16 different Ubers to get everywhere and too risky for them to be on-time). Azalea Limousine Service gave us a great deal after we told them what we could really pay. I think it helped that our wedding was in the off-season though! Brides and Grooms, negotiate! Everyone is always trying to make a buck so it usually ends up being a win-win.
Flowers: lydia Hines + close family friends
This was another contact from my aunt who lives here. Lydia doesn't market herself to the public and does word-of-mouth and referral weddings. We feel so grateful to have met her as she had several weddings in one weekend and still made time for us! Her talent coupled with Amy, the coordinator and our close family friends, we were able to put on wedding decor at an affordable cost.
At the end of the day, you are going to get married and that in itself is a treasure to experience. Don't forget to cherish it because after all, it only happens once! (I'm going to be naive and pretend like divorce doesn't exist in this blog post).
See you lovers tomorrow for Day 16.
Ps. Jess, thanks for letting me broadcast our wedding photos all over the internet. Love you husband!
I get asked what's in my camera bag A LOT! Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered people think I'm knowledgable about tech stuff so I'm happy to offer insight. So I thought today would be a good time as any to do a detailed post about all my gear and what I use for shooting for Day 14 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge.
At the end of the day, it's up to you to do the research and figure out what you are and aren't looking for. The biggest advice I can offer is going to a Best Buy or local camera shop and hold the cameras themselves to see what speaks to you. See how the body is laid out and if it's easy to learn. Figure out what brand you want and stick with it because it's an investment. You'll want to gradually buy more and it's easier to buy within brand line. Keep in mind the value is behind the lens, not the camera itself. Lenses are versatile across camera bodies and are made to last several through generations of technology upgrades. For a big bang for your buck, B&H Camera is a good place to shop but price compare all over online no matter what, to make sure you aren't getting ripped off. Retail value is inevitable in the shopping process but surcharges can be avoided.
Camera Bodies: I currently shoot on the Nikon D810 for all my work and have a second D810 body as an insurance policy in case anything happens to my main camera body. I also like to have one camera with a long lens and another with a short so I don't have to spend time switching lens out. It's important to have two camera bodies on me especially after booking important jobs. You wouldn't want to have to cut a shoot short because of some sort of technical difficulties. The reason for two of the same cameras is so that the quality and color is consistent across the board for the images I produce.
85mm f1.4: The 85mm was the first lens I ever fell in love with and in turn started my obsession with manual shooting a few years ago. When I first purchased it, it didn't come off my camera for months. Even though I have a variety of lenses to choose from, the 85mm is my go-to for portraits because it allows me to not be on top of the person for the up-close look and occasionally for shooting on location when the background is too busy and I need to blur it up a bit to give it that finished look.
35mm f1.2: The 35mm is another great all-rounder lens for me—it's one step away from being a macro lens so it really gets the wide angle look without the price tag. I find that this lens is on my camera the majority of the time. I love shooting with portraits with it (as unconventional as it may be). The 35mm is sharp 95% of the time, even when you shoot with a wide open aperture of 1.4. I only shoot with a wide aperture for personal work, and usually bump up the aperture to 2 or more when shooting for clients.
24-55mm f1.4: This wide angle lens is a compelling wide-angle perspective combined with an ultra-fast f/1.4 aperture that serves the needs of demanding photographers in exacting conditions like weddings where time is of the essence. This is my 3rd most used lens. It also has VR compatibility so I am able to do some video footage if needed.
70-300mm f4-5.6: This telephoto lens is obviously good for situations where you need to zoom in from a stationary spot. Example, churches with strict photography policies and you gotta prop up in the back and get all the action at the front.
55-300mm f4.5-5.6: More flexibility in this telephoto lens with the extra 15 mm compared to the 70-300mm, and it's also good when you don't want to start out with so much zoom while on shoot.
Speedlight SB- 900: First off, I tried to buy the 910 but with it being ~$800 for one flash, the SB-900 is next best thing. This bad boy has so much lighting power that sometimes you could mistaken a dark day with sunshine just from the light this flash provides. I use this flash on body as well as remotely for strong backlight. ~$300
Speedlight SB-700: Great option when you don't need so much power or light, but just enough to avoid unwanted shadows. This flash also provides a great option for remote flash lighting. ~$350
Induro Tripod: as tiny and insignificant as it looks, this guy is actually well over $400 on a good day —these suckers aren't cheap but they are quality and its sturdiness and light weight will outnumber any other competitor tripods out there. I've been in some sketchy terrain situations and this tripod has never let me down. *Knock on wood.*
D12 Multi-power Battery Pack: Batteries have one constant. They will die. So yes, battery packs are a huge plus. Again, this luxury isn't cheap at ~$425 but it can save your neck. It also offers the option to shoot portrait without having to cock your head sideways.
Memory Cards (not pictured): With long days of shooting, comes a lot of pictures, like thousands so it should come as no surprise that you should invest in several memory cards. Most of my CF cards are either 16 GB or 32 GB Rugged (temperature and shock resistant). I keep them small to force myself to change out often for a liability reason. The idea of having all my photos on one card gives me so much anxiety if something were to ever happen to them. Card Corruption is a very real occurrence and has even happened to my second-shooters from weddings. If you have a shoot with less pressure, it's good to have a large SD card to allow you a full day of shooting, come home and download and go back to work and not worry about deleting right away. The provides you the comfort of having the original copies until you have the time to double check and make sure that all the images downloaded correctly.
What I take with me. Now, all this gear is super heavy and not always needed for every single shoot. Depending on what I am set out to work on for the day, I pick and choose the gear I need to take with me for the day. The gear that is always in my camera bag includes: 2 camera bodies, all my camera batters + memory cards and all the little extras such as water and food. The gear that I pick and choose what to take with me include: lenses and speedlights. The majority of the time I only take 2 or sometimes 3 lenses that I might need for a day instead of all them, so I don't strain my body when I have to walk around with my camera bag. With all the equipment, it can easily feel like 50 pounds after 5 minutes. After every wedding with two cameras on my body, I always wonder how I'm going to survive it when old age sets in. Between being on your feet for 8 plus hours and carrying 25-30 pounds on you— It's a very physical job so it's important to drink LOTS of water and get a good night's sleep.
Okay, I know that was a lot of words for a picture world so let me know if you have any questions about gear. There's no silly questions either—you don't know if you don't ask.
I know y'all are happy it's Labor Day Weekend so go enjoy it! I will check back in on Tuesday with Day 15 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge.
The million dollar questions: Is creativity genetic? Did I inherit my creative abilities or is that all a myth? Is creative thirst from from learned behavior? Is creativity a result of nature or nurture? I decided to finally do some research and find the scientific answer to those questions since the opposite of art is science. According to John Paul Garrison, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Georgia, his research pointed to personality traits such as being artistic and creative being tied to genetics. does indeed point to personality traits and variables being tied to genetics. But James T. Arnone, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Biology at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, says pinpointing the actual genes that determine creativity is complex and that creative biology isn’t cut and dry. “Take music creativity and talent, for example,” Arnone says. “Anyone who has played an instrument has heard the old colloquialism, ‘practice makes perfect.’ This is absolutely true.” So take photography for example— practice makes perfect so my skills in photography have naturally gotten better since holding a high-end camera for first time at age fourteen. But that still doesn’t answer the question, did I get it (creativity) from my mama?
My granddad, my mom and my mom’s sister all seem to portray characteristics of the right-brain (intuition, creativity and free-thinking). My granddad, Dr. Fred is a retired doctor of 60+ years turned oil painter, my mom, Sue, is a retired nurse turned restaurant connoisseur and acrylic painter and my aunt, Hope is a real estate agent and interior design fabric expert. So essentially the whole maternal side of my family has got a whole lotta artsy fartsy.
The introduction into the creative world likely began with my granddad. He taught me how to paint at 7 or 8 years old in he and his wife's home in Aulander, NC. One of the first paintings I ever did with him was an abstract watercolor painting of goldfish swimming underwater. Apparently it won some kind of award, but I think the judges were biased because everyone loves Fred and it was obvious he had a strong influence in the painting hah! That painting embarrassingly still sits in my parent's house today with the ribbon perched on it.
My mom and I used to go with my granddad to painting workshops in Beaufort, NC back when I was in middle school (2000's) and we both watched Granddad’s magical acts with his paintbrush and felt inspired to work with an empty canvas. My mom considers herself a dabbler and amateur artist but if you want my (biased) opinion, I have five framed paintings of hers in my husband and I’s house. That’s not amateur, that’s talent! With some help from her interior designer friend and my dad, she managed to also redesign an entire building that used to be a franchise restaurant, Western Sizzlin and turned it into Rooster's Southern Kitchen on the Outer Banks. Let me tell you, it's a whole new world in there.
These black and white photos are from 2004 with one of my first Nikon cameras I worked hard to own after bussing tables all summer! On the left, my Granddad is painting a waterfront scene of Beaufort and on the right, my mom is the long-legged lady with her blank canvas that eventually became a work of art. I genuinely tear up thinking about the power of Icloud today because it has saved these fourteen year old photos that I will treasure forever.
This is my aunt Hope and I on my wedding day and behind us you can see parts of my mother-in-law and parts of the outdoor porch that Hope designed from scratch using the space she and her husband had in their backyard. Even from the little bits of this photo, you can tell she knows what she's doing. (I spy a Carolina blue ceiling)!
My aunt Hope used to work in a custom fabric store helping customers design aspects of their home, whether it be pillows, curtains, bed skirts, headboards, you name it, she knew how to do it. So it should come to no surprise that she helped me design my husband and I’s first headboard and bedskirt about a year ago. It was the most grown-up purchase I had done but I was proud to work with my aunt on it and see her creative genius firsthand.
So is it learned behavior or genetics? I think it’s both. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to be creative and don’t have a inherited bone in your body, then go do something creative anyway. Go get lessons and inspire yourself. Limits only exist if you let them.
In tomorrow’s post, Day 13 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge, I will talk about 13 things that I hate about being creative (or rather the downsides and humor behind having a full-fledged creative gene). And yes I just made a reference to the Julia Styles + Heath Ledger movie 13 Things I Hate about You.
Now stop reading my nonsense and go enjoy this weird Wednesday.
For Day 11 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge, I'm giving some love for newlyweds Emily and Brian who got married on May 12, 2018 in Columbia, North Carolina. The reason for the shoutout is because we just found out they are pregnant! My husband is very good friends with the groom, Brian, through fishing and Brian was even in our wedding as a greeter. This couple is very near and dear to our hearts so we are so excited to see their family grow! Look at those good looks... they are going to have some stunning offspring.
Their Scuppernong River wedding was absolutely exquisite to say the least. The guests enjoyed the beautiful view, a radiant sunset and the even more pretty couple right in their hometown. Thank you guys again for allowing me to be a part of such a special milestone. You deserve a two-fold congratulations on two big life events in 2018. Gimme me all the stories on parenthood because I need some tips!
Martell's Edenton Party Equipment & Rentals
Visuals by Helen
All photos in this post provided by iphone 8.
Someone told me once: Go on at least one adventure a week. Doesn’t matter how far, doesn’t matter how crazy—just do something you haven’t done before. That’s what keeps you happy. That someone was my granddad of all people. He told me this was the secret to his and his wife’s 60+ year marriage. This makes complete sense for people like Jess and I because we aren’t static people, we love doing new things or at least doing same things with new people. We often talk about how we have to make at least one new friend a month because it gets so easy to become comfortable and cliquey.
Our weekly adventure happened yesterday evening — We went to the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar with some friends we hadn’t seen in over a year that live in Carolina Beach along with a friend we hang out with often. We had all never hung out before so it was a double whammy of an adventure and it was the best of them. After a few mojitos, live music and fireworks, we meandered over to the Lazy Pirate for some bar food and more live music. Belly laughs and good cocktails made this adventure a Summer favorite. It’s also an adventure worth recommending to folks that visit Carolina Beach or surrounding areas. The atmosphere in both places made us feel like we were in a completely different world. The town and Tiki Hut itself has been featured on the cover of Our State magazine so it should come as no surprise that it is a coastal gem that garners a lot of positive experiences.
The Tiki Time adventure got me thinking… what if I challenged myself to do three things I’ve never done before over the weekend, right here in Wrightsville? Then I made a list of three things I’ve always wanted to do:
I spy with my little eye: A couple on the verge of making out. I Didn't even notice this when I took the photo! Still capturing love off-duty.
Okay, before you assume I’m some kind of nomad here’s a little context for the number I came up with: I chose to go to boarding school with a scholarship at age 15 (and loved every minute of it), so each time I moved at the beginning and end of each year in high school and every time I moved in college for new leases or summer sessions, and every time I moved after college totaled up to 27. So there was 12 years between all of that to make that kind of damage and it’s not even over yet.
In June of 2017, Jess and I were living in Charlotte before we decided to take the leap and move to Wilmington for his job. Not only have we fallen in love with the 28403 zip code, we have gotten our engagement photos here AND got married here. On top of all of that, we have decided to get pre-approved so we can buy our forever home after renting for over a year and a half. There’s no other place we’d rather be. Here are five things we love about where we live:
Tomorrow’s blog will be completely up to you. Submit the subject below and I’ll give you all I’ve got!
30-Day Blogging Challenge | Day 4| How does my Hearing Loss Affect my Job?