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.
The Outer Banks is essentially a skinny sandbar with the real estate mixture of beach boxes on stilts and 23 bedroom mansions fit for kings. No matter the place you stay, the fact remains that the Outer Banks thrives on a tourist economy more than anything so we WELCOME them because without them, the economy would cease to exist (in my personal opinion).
Being an OBX native, I have a Google Document of information regarding of recommendations that I give to friends before they visit the Outer Banks for the first time. This Google docs has changed over the years as establishments have come and gone but my top five favorite things to do at home have remained the same.
For day 18 of the 30-day blogging challenge, I talk about home and the best local and touristy things to do.
1. Fishing: You would basically be an idiot to travel several hundred miles and cross two bridges and NOT see the Atlantic Ocean. But if you want to see the Outer Banks from a different perspective, I recommend fishing off shore. Whether it be a charter or on your lil tugboat, take in the beauty of the Outer Banks by inhaling salt air all around you. My husband will 100% vouch for this because he left Red Oak, NC to go fishing in Hatteras just about every weekend in his teenage years. If you need a recommendation for a crew to go out with, e-mail me and my husband, Jess will feed my ear with all kinds of names.
2. Kitty Hawk Kites: This is kind of a three-fold recommendation because this company offers three major things to the outer Banks public: Since it was founded by John Harris in 1974, to initially provide instruction, products, and service to the burgeoning new sport of hang gliding, it is now a business that has expanded into flight school, aviation and outdoor sales and retail. So basically, you can go hang gliding in the morning, and go shopping that afternoon. It's a BEAUTIFUL way to see just how tiny the Outer Banks is, get overwhelmed by how life is larger than you and just drop everything and go shopping for some new outdoor gear because you wanna go explore it all with your new R.E.I's.
If you're afraid of heights, just go across the street from Kitty Haw Kites and hike up Jockey's Ridge, which is essentially the largest sandbox in the country.
3. Live Music Scene: Oh my gosh, I'm not just saying this but the Outer Banks is home to some of the most talented musicians I know and they have all this drive to make it through an Outer Banks winter by singing at restaurants every single night. They are passionate about what they do so they will never fail to entertain you with their melodies. Check out the Outer Banks live music calendar here to see where you should go for dinner and catch a show while you're at it!
5. Nags Head Woods: Again, dog mom here so nature walks are right up my alley every time I go home to the OBX because I love exercising and I love exercising with dogs even more. Nags Head Woods is home to some of the most beautiful marsh and forest trails that it's literally one of my favorite places to visit in the the entire island. Every time I go, I see something I've never seen before. Not because it's a big sanctuary, it's not, but because the seasons change, the tides change, the trails meander and it can all seem a little new no matter how many times you take a walk there. Full disclosure, please wait till a frost to go if you don't want to worry about ticks! It is nature after all and nature brings bugggs.
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!
I was having dinner with a great friend @laurieclaire last night and she was talking about how her boss @lizcarrollinteriors has her own incredibly successful business, raises her kids, loves her husband and still makes time to give back to the community almost every week. Hearing this story inspired me to give back this month in the best way I know how: Photography.
For ONE day only, I'll be offering 8 FREE 15-minute portrait photography sessions in downtown Wilmington on Wednesday, September 19th from 5:00pm until 6:45pm.
All donations will go toward The Care Project, a non-profit dedicated to bringing hope to families who have children and/or adults with hearing challenges through counseling experiences aimed at the processing of the emotional stages of grief. As I myself am significantly hard-of-hearing, this non-profit hits close to home for my loved ones and me.
The Care Project offers retreats and workshops for families with children and young adults with hearing loss. At these events, these families get to see they aren't alone and that it will indeed be okay. That life doesn't get harder, it'll get easier.
The sessions will take place at the Downtown Wilmington boardwalk at the end of Market Street: 1 Market Street, Wilmington, NC
You will receive 3 retouched digital images delivered to you via the e-mail that you use when you book your session.
Who can go? Need a headshot? Book a session! Need a holiday family photo? Book a session, but 1 family max please. If you show up with 15 people I will be a little perturbed.
How do I prepare? Look snazzy and be ready to go at least 5 minutes prior to your slot session. Time is of essence, no outfit changes please.
How quickly do I get photos?
For more information beyond what is provided, feel free to shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
If you don't live in the Wilmington area and would like to donate, please visit The Care Project website
To book your session,
please visit visualsbyhelen.com/careproject
FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE.
PLEASE AWAIT A CONFIRMATION FROM ME AFTER BOOKING.
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.
Day 13 of the 30 work day blogging challenge, here goes nothing.
Thirteen is a magical number, it brings bad luck or it brings nostalgia for movies like 13 Things I Hate About You (one of my favorites because, romance—duh).
I’m a 95% positive person and hate is a strong word for me so please don’t take it literally when I say that I hate being creative. Just having an influx of creativity can have some drawbacks though (in a humorous way). In every day work life, it could lead me to spending way too long on a graphic design project and not able to settle because it’s not creative enough or it’s not unique enough, when really, what I’ve created usually does the job. Usually when this happens, I end up charging for less time because I know in reality I should not have been spending as long as I did on it. A part of me believes this stems from my people-pleasing personality—making sure my clients are 100% happy and continue to need me. Another part of me is a digital art perfectionist and another tiny part of me just wants it to be the best work I’ve done yet. That’s the competitive nature in me.
For example, there was this Music with Friends ad I had to design a few weeks ago for a Houston magazine called City Books and I was given about 10 hours notice (no one’s fault, just a calendar mishap) and I had to design something to advertise an upcoming Mavericks and all the personality they embody. I had to make it FUN to join Music with Friends and to watch legendary artists at an incredible venue in Houston, Texas. I was stumped after several hours of working on it in a coffee shop. I couldn’t make it POP, or at least I didn’t think I could. Then this past week, I had to make another ad for different upcoming show with Gladys Knight and I had two weeks notice so of course the pressure was off, but still— I ended up liking this one SO much better and of course I spent way too long on this one as well. My creative perfectionist side was at a full fledge 100% nerd status.
Here’s a comparison of the two ads:
On the same token, being creative with food photography can be tricky too. When I try to do food photography, I end up thinking things like “Now why on earth did the chef put a horrible piece of lettuce under this gorgeous steak?” Sure, that’s attention to detail, but when you’re on a time constraint and on a social media agenda, you can’t worry about that nonsense.
Being creative can even affect the way I speak to people via e-mail. I kid you not, I try to find the most creative way to say the most simple things ie. “I would be honored to be your wedding photographer,” and I catch myself saying things like “Darling, I would be over the moon to capture photos that would make you and Doug cry when it’s all over. These photos are going to be the photos you’ll treasure forever.” Then I hit the backspace before I even re-read what I just said because who needs that kinda cheese?
In the private life, being a creative makes me want to do things like buy the coolest lamp in the world. Overhead lighting is the death of me, so everywhere I go, I somehow manage to find the neatest lamp in the place. One time, I even asked a restaurant if they’d sell a lamp to me when it was clearly not for sale. It’s weird I know, but lamps can make a place so welcoming. My poor husband has been listening to me talk about lamps for a godforsaken amount of time (he’ll vouch for this) and keeps telling me to wait to buy furniture until we have our own home. I can never bring myself to buy them anyway because are they really worth two, three hundred dollars? What makes them that valuable? The lampshade must have come from Jesus himself, my lawd. Let it shine in that store. I ain’t going to get it when I can buy three weeks worth of groceries for that amount of money. But then I come home and look at my ugly target lamps made from China. *sigh*
Having creativity is definitely something I appreciate every day though— it allows me to think outside the box. For example, Jess and I have been looking at potential houses to buy and I immediately visualize how much better it could be with that wall knocked out or that carport turned into a master bedroom, or that bathroom with new tile. But of course, the creative side meets the rational side when I realize that we don’t have a million dollars or a show on HGTV for a home renovation.
13 things I hate about being creative:
1. Makes you spend too long on projects.
2. You notice little things like a bitty piece of lettuce in budget food photography projects.
3. Lamps are everywhere you go and you want to buy all of them to make your house pretty.
4. You can visualize a ranch house into a $500,000 floor plan you can't afford.
5. You spend 8 days trying to name a cat a cool, memorable name and you end up at Jazzy?
6. You feel like you have to have photographs all over your house because you are after all... a photographer.
7. You spend a grand for your master bedroom fabric because you think that's what creative adulting means.
8. You wish that all your Instagram photos and postings were consistent but you really just don't have time for that.
9. You think that every inspirational quote is generic when it might change most people's lives.
10. You do out-0f-box things and people don't give you credit. Once I tried to convince a company that had a penguin logo to hire me by hiring a bakery to make sixty dollars worth of custom penguin cookies for them and a week after I delivered cookies to them, I see that they tried to claim it was their idea when they tried to deliver cookies to their clients as customer appreciation token. See photo below for proof.
11. You are constantly coming up with marketing plans for your business but never have time because you have to put your customers first (as you should).
12. Creativity involves all the software these days so you have to subscribe to use anything nowadays. For example, creative cloud, I ended convincing myself I needed the entire adobe platform versus just a couple of softwares.... why?
13. You never know when to stop. You'll find yourself blogging at 11 o'clock at night so you can maintain a 30-day blogging challenge because you feel like this is how you stand out. Irony right?
Do y’all relate to this nonsense at all? Do you think I’m babbling? Probably. But hey, I’m trying to be creative just writing that sentence so I better stop before I re-read this hellish blog I just wrote on the fly.
Changing the subject: I often get asked about cameras from friends because apparently I look knowledgeable in that area but I’m about as educated as you are until I force myself to just peruse the online market. For Day 14 of the 30-day blogging challenge, I’ll be talking about my equipment, how I shopped for it and what I recommend camera enthusiasts to look out for in the research and shopping process. No, I’m not going to have a bunch of lingo in this blog post—it’ll be in English.
Aforementioned penguin cookies.
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
For those of you who are just now tuning in, I am doing a 30 work-day blogging challenge to force myself to share more about who I am, what I do and what everyday life is like so that you see I’m just as human as you are. Last Friday, I challenged myself to do three new things I’ve always wanted to do in our hometown:
It's actually ALOT harder than it looks if you don't want to keep your eyes open! My favorite might be the family photo with Belle and of course the fail pic of her and me together. She hates getting her ears wet so she was shaking her head and I was avoiding the splash.
So sometimes you plan on things but other new things end up happening. For example, on Friday, my husband found a house that was about to come on the market today and we became really interested in it. We thought we loved it so we had to spend the weekend with my aunt who’s in real estate, trying to prepare for the possibility of making an offer and even drafted a personal letter to the owners. After looking at it this morning however, we came to discover it was in a pretty bad flood zone and the backyard was saturated even after no recent rain. Our hearts sank but we knew we couldn’t justify having to pay extra insurance and the likelihood of giving Belle a bath every single day because the girl loves rolling in mud. It’s okay though, Jess and I kept telling each other, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. God has a plan for us… we’re just really excited to settle in our first home. No sense forcing the home buying experience though. It was the first house we have had serious interest in since we’ve started looking a few months ago. You have to have your first right? We found ourselves learning about what to look for during a showing and we learned so much. We still have a lot to learn though in all reality. Does anyone know anything about buying a home for the first time in today’s market? What would you look for? We are taking all the advice we can get.
For tomorrow’s post, I’ll be blogging a wedding I photographed back in May. I just recently found out she’s pregnant, so I’m extra excited to go back through these photos and remember how life is just one precious fleeting moment after another and we need to savor every bit. I love watching my brides and grooms become parents because it means marriage is making them stronger together and helping their family grow.
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.
Staying in touch with my long-distance friends is one of worst habits.
I have amazing memories with even more amazing people but I neglect to keep asking questions about their lives and staying tuned in. For example, I have only talked to two people this week that were in our wedding... You'd think if I celebrated a huge milestone with them, I'd celebrate every day life with them too. Read more about my bad habits that I'm fully aware of in today's blog.
Bad habits sound negative to most people, but to me, bad habits just sound like a side effect of being human. Everyone has them, it's just a matter of whether or not they realize it. I took a poll from the general public asking if people would anonymously submit their bad habits to me and I was pleasantly surprised in the answers—some of them bring such a good laugh but some are really humbling to see how honest people are with me. Here's what habits you told me about:
-Drinking a bottle of wine every night (actually got this three times)!
-Picking my nose until it bleeds.
-Throwing recycled goods in the trash out of laziness.
-Only taking poops at work to avoid using TP at home.
-Always saying no when someone asks about hanging out.
-Not washing my face before bed.
-Biting my cuticles.
-Sitting. It's been 5 years since I last exercised.
-Binge-watching Netflix until 2am almost daily.
-Throwing my cig out on highway. Oh and smoking.
-Shameless self-tanner so I'm permanently orange.
-Farting and blaming it on other people.
-Going straight to the junk food aisle every time I'm at grocery store.
-Never keeping cash on me + using my bank cards.
-Rarely tipping Uber drivers.
-Feeding the dog scraps after dinner and now it's 15 pounds overweight.
-Smoke too much pot that I don't know how to chill without it.
-Can't be alone so I find a new friend to hang out with every night even if that means spending money each night.
-Eating ice cream every night before I go to bed (and sometimes not brushing my teeth so I can savor the taste).
-Not drinking enough water.
Self awareness can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to bad habits, but it could also lead to making a change if you don't like the bad habit. I've been around a lot of people that have been critical of themselves, saying they could do this better or that better but cut yourself a break. As long as you don't have habits that hurt other people, it's not the end of the world. If you do have a habit that negatively impacts those around you, then do something about it. Be the change.
Here are some of my bad habits. They may seem silly but they are things I do too much:
-Impulse purchases on Amazon. Last week I bought joint-pain management weed treats for Belle after seeing her having a hard time getting up and down off the floor. Too early to know if it is working yet but fingers crossed it takes the edge off of her arthritic pain.
-Not stretching with the group at the end of workout at Orange Theory classes because I'm too impatient.
-Putting WAY too much salt in everything I cook. It just makes everything taste so much better!
-Leaving my clean clothes on a drying rack for over a week.
-Not immediately cleaning my hair out of the shower. I shed way too much and I'm fully aware how gross that is.
-I don't make the bed every morning. In fact, the bed is unmade now.
-Not calling my family on a more regular basis. (I love you guys).
-Not reading the news (and informing myself) enough. Jess, my husband, told me about this national murder case about Mollie Tibbets yesterday and it was the first time I had heard about it even though it had been on the news for over a month.
-Not telling people how I really feel right away. I usually delay and let it build up.
-Being too cheap that I end up buying a poor quality products when it's important enough to splurge. Example: Buying Pantene conditioner that makes my hair falls out so I switch back to the expensive stuff.
-Not going to church when I'm actually home for once.
-Eating at Tower 7 every week and ordering guac and extra chips.
-Taking so many photos of Belle and never doing anything with them. Here's a framer:
Another bad habit is that I never offer to drive when I'm with my husband. Jess is definitely the driver in this relationship. I'm also really bad at distracting him. (We were parked for this photo though haha!)
Tomorrow's blog post will be about tonight's adventure to a place we have never been before, just 16 miles down the road. On the Cover page of Our State Magazine, they feature a restaurant called Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach in the NC by the Sea edition. This little gem is about to get a few more visitors.
Yesterday I batched wedding photos into two categories, keepers and deleters and then I found this gem that I had to send to the bride while she was still on her honeymoon. This is how I feel every day when I accomplish everything on my to-do list. She's my spirit animal!
After yesterday’s blog post I opened up the floor to what today’s blog post should be about. According to the survey, y'all seem interested in what my typical day is like. Y'all— I'm really not that interesting but this question was asked several times so I'm not going to deprive you of your wishes. Keep in mind, I never have the same day twice so this is a rough timeline:
6:30am | Wake up and hit snooze (once or twice admittedly).🤷
7:00am | Actually wake up, feed Belle, drink coffee, and watch the Today show for news and weather. 📺
7:45-8:15am | Answer e-mails from my photography and graphic design e-mail accounts (Yes, I have separate emails for both to better keep up with my separate clients and I have that many to go through that it takes all of 30 minutes). 💻
8:15-11am | Jam to loud music from Spotify and carefully edit + retouch photos from recent photo sessions or weddings. 🎧
11am-12pm | Graphic design work for small businesses I help on a regular basis. 💭
12pm-12:30pm | As marketing director for Rooster's Southern Kitchen, I'll screen for negative feedback to relay to management and respond to positive reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp + Facebook. 🐓
12:30pm-2pm | Eat lunch (usually dinner leftovers) and do one thing that helps promote my business, i.e. post an ad, print materials, work on blog, etc.🍴
2pm-5pm | More photo editing (I have to spread it out throughout the day so I don’t drive myself crazy because it can get tedious after several hours. For perspective, an 8-hour wedding takes about 16 hours of editing). 📷 Here's my favorite photo I've edited today so far. The color + vibrance reminds me to stop and smell the flowers, literally and metaphorically.
5pm-5:30pm | Work on blog content or schedule a post on social media for my clients and/or myself.
5:30pm | Orange Theory Fitness class or an evening photoshoot depending on day.🏃♀️
6:30pm | Grocery store run since store is next door to gym🥫
7-8pm | Shower + Cook dinner. Let's be real, Jess is the master chef and I'm the sous chef. Tonight we're having short ribs, sautéed squash zucchini and onion and mushroom risotto. 🚿
8pm-10pm | Eat and watch Parks and Rec with my husband (Don’t judge us. We like having something funny to watch at the end of the day and neither of us had ever seen it so we started the season together).😂
For today’s self-promotion project (that occurs every afternoon), I started on making some more soft-copy portfolio books to give to potential clients with small businesses in Wilmington. This is a culmination of both my photography + graphic design skills. My goal is to bring these books to small boutique clothing businesses looking to gather lifestyle or product content for their websites, blogs, social media posts, and social media advertising. Those of you that have a small business probably know how important it is to stay relevant to your fans online so by having a whole lineup of professional photos on standby takes almost all the work away for you in the social media realm. You just figure out what product(s) you want to promote that day and roll with it. I got about halfway done with this 20 page portfolio. MY goal is to have this sent to printers by labor day weekend. Crossing fingers.🤞 Down younger is a couple of teasers for you:
To sum it all up, I sit in this desk chair for about 8-10 hours a day and my goal is to get up more often to walk and stretch. We all know sedentary lifestyles aren't good for you so why do we continue to do it?
For tomorrow's blog post, I'm going to talk about all (okay most) of my bad habits so you know I am just as human as you are.
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?