Learning to Family

I still hear the boys talking downstairs about their book (if you want to call a graphic novel a book) and clicking their slap bracelet on each other's wrist. They are having a slumber party in the downstairs common area in front of the wood burner. I couldn't resist going down in the dark and snapping a few of these precious moments. I think that all the kids might become "readers" in spite of me. I am grateful.

Gates is soaking up a new book. She didn't even know I came in to take a few of her as well.

I hesitate to share how much I love homeschooling sometimes for fear of others feeling like they can't or that they would not measure up but I have to tell you.....I love it. It is so hard. It is so rewarding. It forces me to be someone I don't want to be all the time. I sometimes have to pull from the depths and try to keep my cool just to ask the question in another way just hoping that a light bulb will glow. Even glow a little. Other times, I see the children learning, sharing and loving so much that I can't believe they are mine. 

This semester we are focusing on three things: receiving, giving and honoring. In that order, we are memorizing scripture of love and covenants, everyone is reading to Bryant every day by themselves to have special time with him, and we are running about a mile every day. We being the kids. I do get out there but never make it a mile.

What's that something special that you are thinking of sharing with me? I wish you would.

Random thoughts to end. I think I have booked two weddings this week. 2018 is going to be rad. We are making headway on the Airbnb/studio. The whole family insulated the ceiling and some of the walls. We are so excited about this place and all the coolness it is going to bring. And we made Karah Thomspon's spring rolls and every bite made me love living (especially the desert ones with peanuts, frozen strawberries and apples slices.) Dead.

Deciding to Love

I have been reminded recently that my father is still alive. We still have opportunities to have a better relationship, chances to talk, opportunities to do projects together and for me to ask him advice.

He lives an hour from me on the other side of the river. 

After talking to one of my brides, I learned that both of her parents are deceased. I can not imagine. This has nudged me to work on communication problems, to try again and to keep my hands open and my heart humble. 

Life is short. Let's love this year. It will take work but it's the work worth doing.

Thanks Dad for letting me shoot a few of you after our talk on the Ocoee River, especially the image I shot for Mom. It's a keeper!!! And so are you.

Freezing Day/Warm Hearts

So many couples wait to see each other until the first look or the walk down the aisle. Hollie and Mary Beth came to me for the first time, arm and arm to the ceremony site. It was the first time I laid my eyes on them. 

There they were. Walking to their wedding. Take a moment and soak this in. Best friends walking to their wedding together. It was so sweet and intimate... and cold. About 45 degrees on top of that Bald.

This day was full of special moments, laughter and high winds. Handfasting, promises of truth and care and real times filled hearts. 

The R E A L Life

Sometimes I am taken back by the circle around me. I feel undeserving, under committed and way too fortunate. This is how I feel about my circle of friends right now. They surrounded me with blessings, stories, and warm wishes last night for a surprise birthday celebration.  I didn't plan on being in the place I am today but oh, it is so sweet.

Words of admiration, affirmation, and fondness were thrown around last night, above a glass of wine, of course. The napkins were black and pressed with starch, which is so ridiculous when trying to absorb a tear..... or two....or a waterfall. Celebrations of friendships just beginning and ones that have shared years and decades of life together. That room was filled with what every person wants. People who understand them. People who accept the real them, unapologetically. I have brought the real and the real has been accepted and I am grateful. It is too exhausting to try to fake being yourself.

These fun photos are our attempt to put together a photo booth in a very tiny room with 14 women. Thank you Chad for setting this up, it was so easy and brilliant. These pictures mean so much to me. They are my tattoo to remind me that I am loved and accepted and not alone. I see the face of God in every one of my friends and I have them to thank for teaching me how. 

I've been told to set my expectations lower so I won't be let down. I will not. I love this life too much not to live it to the fullest. I am blessed in so many ways. So here's a toast to you, the outside world of web, "Here's to life, love, and real words. Here's to accepting, serving and doing. Here's to being bold. Here's to the next half of life on earth. May we share experiences together and continue for eternity."


I’ve teach Latin, although I don’t speak it. I teach Reading although I rarely find myself with a book in my hand. No matter what I am doing, I have the urge to be building something with power tools. I have married two men named Chad.I have had a failed marriage. I have learned to trust again. I have lived in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, no where else. The first time I ever lived on my own was November 18, 2014 when I left that double-wide with three children in the car. I’ve conceived four babies, delivered and raising three, loving one only through my belly. I have sat in the front of a court room and learned what confidence really is. I have left relationships that I thought would last a lifetime and still feel the pain from that loss. I have seen love displayed in ways unimagined by friends serving those who hold to different beliefs. I have been protected by friends who spent the night just so I would not be alone. I have bought three houses, three cars and one motorcycle. I have little faith in church but love my Lord, Savior and Friend who has never left me through it all. I am have been a home health aide, nursing assistant, elementary school teacher, gymnastics coach but photography has my heart now. I instruct four little humans in academics but find that teaching the love of learning has the greatest impact. I have spent time in Peru a few times and would love to spend a season there with my family.  I love making love. I love eating great food. I love real conversations. I love who I am today.

I am 40 years old today.

“Thanks to everyone who’s stayed around but especially those who didn’t. You made me.” -Mark Maya

Photo by my lover and husband- Chad Erickson

A Comparison- Cell Phone vs. Professional Cameras with Prime Lenses

This is a simple comparison.  Enjoy. 

I have always wanted to see a comparison but always forget to shoot with my phone during a shoot.  But not this time!!! Phone images are taken by Julia's loving father, David Mays. Julia is my Senior from last night. We shot at the Folk School. LOVE that place. I shot this session with two Nikon D750 DSLR cameras with a 24mm 1.8 lens and a 50mm 1.8 lens. Edits are in Lightroom with LXC 04 C preset with tweeks to fix white balance.  All images are shot with camera and sunlight, no flash or reflectors, and the metering mode is set to shoot for the highlights (thank you Sean Carr, Twyla Jones and Brooke Allen for teaching me this.) We did have Julia's father close by to help with laughter and wrapping Julia in her scarf that she made. 

Want to talk more about photography? I'd love to!

Want me to be your photographer? I'd love to!

Want to just hang out? I'd love to!

And these are more of my favorites. Just because.

Reflections of a Completed Wedding Season and the Future

I had a conversation this week with someone asking me about shooting weddings and how stressful it must be. As I thought about what they were saying and reflected, I disagreed with them. Shooting weddings starts with our first contact, building a bond of trust and being a soundboard for my clients.  I have shot eleven weddings in thirteen Saturdays and each one was special.(Weddings love Autumn!) Some of these weddings booked a year ago in 2016 and I have been able to walk through life with my brides all along the way. I have gotten texts from brides at fittings that were so happy they needed to show me the dress and see what I thought.  I've been able to share life with a momma-bride that was missing thier baby back at home during her elopement, gluten/dairy free bridesmaids searching for yummies, a mother-in-law who shared her heart with her soon to be daughter (tears), toasts with families so supportive that I cried three times in ten minutes, a bride almost in tears because the dress was so tight that we didn't think we could zip it up (thank goodness for determination), a bride that was about an hour behind schedule coming from the salon that she thought her day was ruined (not on my watch!!!), drunk guests that needed help making it off the dance floor with the essentials covered, fabric tape, spanx, 24-hour lips gloss, tape-on bras, messy bridal bags that have somehow eaten the garter and rings, groomsmen on thier very best behavior, a groom who wept like a baby when he saw his bride for the very first time and allowed me to shoot every-single-moment of it.

The biggest thing about being a wedding photographer is being able to share these moments with my husband, who happens to be one of my favorite wedding photographers. He packs my bags, charges my batteries (in all the ways!!!) and supports me so much. He takes over when I need to get a family member who has disappeared for family portraits, he checks my settings to make sure we are synced, and he tells me when I have a killer shot.  He is always on the search for the light with me and I love that. He has totally revamped our lighting setup for our 2018 weddings. So BRING IT ON!!! 

Give me all the couples who want to be real, want to put it all on the table and love deeply. I promise to meet you were you are and walk beside you in this journey. I promise not to shoot posed pictures if you want a total candid wedding. I promise to wear camouflage to your wedding and blend in with the greenery. I promise to be your bouncer and your mirror. 

Give me all the couples who want to make their day theirs. Couples who are bold enough to wear pj's to cut their cake, moon me through the reception windows or give their daddy an extra long dance because they had to. Give me all the feels, the real stuff. I will capture it. My husband will be there too if you have a second shooter and book my Ultimate Collection. (www.chadericksonphoto.com plus www.emiliegates.com makes yummy magic together.)

(Pictured below: Chad's Savannah wedding that I second shot for him. We stayed in an Airbnb in downtown and walked hand in hand exploring the area and eating Pho. This couple was so special. One of my favorite pictures is the momma and the bench (she prayed for days sitting on that bench for her daughter and new son and the weather.... oh the weather. It was supposed to be storming that day. The last drop fell on our way to the chapel.)

Country Boy

I am not sure what is in the water in these mountains but we grow some fine boys.

This shoot was at Garrett's father's shop and Nottely Lake down in Georgia (right down the road from me.)

It was such a joy watching this sweet family support their high school senior's photo session. Garrett is attending the welding program at the college and loves his truck, of course. (First thing my husband said when I showed him my session from tonight was, "I wanted that truck when I was in high school. That exact truck. Is that his?")

A Beautiful Life

SeniorFest is something I made up. I am not sure if it is real. Most people think I am shooting a 80+ year old when I tell them I have 4 seniors to shoot this week. It is funny. They say, "Why would you shoot a senior?  Don't they deserve life?" I tell them, "Na, they want me to shoot them." 

Enjoy this beautiful senior.

A Senior Star

Chapter 1: Let me tell you straight up, Caleb here is not comfortable in front of the camera. Not at all. So I ease into the shot. I take aim. I shoot. I miss about the first 20 shots. I don't give up. I shoot again, talking to my prey all along. I hit. I show him the image. He lights up.

Chapter 2: He trusts me. He lets me see his real smile. He starts working hard for the camera and listening for my shutter. He is looking for ideas with the waterfall as his backdrop. He masters his Senior Portraits like the champ he is.

Chapter 3: His mom cries when she sees these. She loves me more. Everyone it happy...ever after.

The end.


Morgan is IT- Class of 2018

Trick or Treat.

Fall colors are late this year.

I am blessed to have such sweet clients that turn into friends. Morgan, you were amazing to work with. Don't stop being YOU!!!

Hailey the Horse Whisperer

First time working with a horse during a shoot. Hailey rocked it on the side of the highway. We loved it!!!

Here is her story with her horse. Enjoy. 

The horse in the pictures, Colby, is pretty special. Hailey's aunt had a boyfriend that was a young bronco rider from Hayesville and he and his friend died from carbon monoxide poisoning in an RV while away at a rodeo. His brother gave her aunt his horse. Hailey's granddad has kept him for years even though he doesn't like quarter horses (only Tennessee Walkers) because Colby is so special. Hailey fell in love with him and claimed him as her own. The rest is history.

New Life, New Love

You never know what is going to happen during a newborn shoot. Let me tell you. Spit up, blow outs, unending crying and refusal to be comforted, nursing, changing and changing again. Not yesterday. This little angel slept the entire time. Once, only once did she open her eyes for a second. The unexpected happened. What a dream.

More baby shoots. More new families. More love. More of this.

Katie is just Katie - Class of 2018

Let me just talk in Emilie speak here. Shooting senior sessions fills my love tank. This year I have a pile of senior sessions in the Fall. I am not sure why. I am not sure if it is because I finally learned how to use Instagram. Last year I had zero. Not one senior. This year, my schedule is almost full. It is strange to say that. I like to say that.

I have a fresh outlook finally. A more artistic outlook than before. I am not scared of light like I was in the past. I am more confident in my settings and lenses on my camera. I have an ease with the camera that has not been there before so I am freed up to find my light, find my art and know my subjects more intimately. I have waited a long time for that feeling; trying to keep patient and persistent. I am grateful to my husband and teacher of all things good about photography and camera talk, Chad Erickson (yum yum). I am grateful for a recent photography workshop that sponsored me on a partial scholarship called Photo Rehab. My knowledge grew and my outlook on my business widened. Thank you, Chadwick Braithwaite, for that (whoop whoop). I am also recently in love with a fellow photographer's work. Her name is Brooke. She and her husband have a sweet business up north (Michigan) and produce the most amazing senior photography that I have ever seen. Really, it is art. Pure and simple. Makes me want to be a senior again (all heart eyes Brooke!).

Pictures that follow are of a Lo-Cal(that is an exaggerated way to say local) girl whose heart is wide, smile is contagious and can hold her own in a bubble bath shoot. This Murphy High School Senior set the bar.

Let's make art people. The time is right. The children are getting older. The weight doesn't matter to anyone else. You are what is important. They think you are important. So do I.

I am still booking a handful of Seniors during the Fall season if it is NOT a Saturday! Weddings love the leaves. So shoot me a message.

Ritz Family

Life is too busy, too full and the kids are growing up way too fast NOT to stop and capture a family shoot. Thanks Autumn, you guys are picture perfect. Reminds me of my brother and me growing up. 

Meet Me At The Lake

This is what happens when you get two body builders and take them to the lake instead of going to a park for an engagement shoot.

More of this!

Wedding coming up in October at McGuire Millrace Farms, here in Murphy, NC. Whoot, whoot.