Super Cool

I like to think I am super cool. Truth is, I *might* be cool but super cool… probably not. 

I was never cool enough to learn how to skate on a half-pipe...or even a quarter-pipe. But I do know how to use a skateboard.

 Years ago, I lived on the Indian River Lagoon for several years and would jump on my neighbor's windsurfer and just go and go and go forever until my arms were about to fall off. That same river is where, in my first years of college, I practiced with the rowing team and watched the sun rise. That was cool.

I grew up in Florida and have never surfed. So embarrassed to say that out loud. Never had the courage to surf. I think I was scared I wouldn’t have the strength to push down the surfboard under the waves to get out past the surf. 

I feel stronger now.

Here I am 20 years later. Living in the mountains in NC and I feel so SUPER COOL. I think it is because I love what I am doing. 

I adore homeschooling my kids although it has its challenges and I feel like a bad teacher sometimes. 

I absolutely love photographing weddings and being a part of that process with my clients.  

And I must be cool because my husband takes pictures of me all the time (although sometimes I suspect he is just geeking out over a new lens or camera and I am a willing and convenient model). 

I guess what I am trying to say is this: I feel so good in the spot I am in. I look back on some pretty rough patches in my life and I know where I am at this moment. 

I see happy kids. I see a flourishing business and a full calendar. I see happy guests at our Airbnb and treehouse. 

I want to pinch myself. I am not just cool. I am SUPER COOL. Right now. At 40. I. Feel. Super. Cool. 

I want to go hang gliding sometime this year. Who wants to join me? I have no interest in jumping out of a plane. I want to own a paddle board but I don't want to plunge myself under the raging rapids of the Ocoee in a kayak. Ok, maybe I will settle for just… cool.

What does an "In-Home Family Session" look like?

In-Home Photo Sessions are where it is at. I say this as a photographer who loves to document real life and real things. I love to get immersed in my clients’ actual yard, pets, playground and home… rather than dressing the kids up to go somewhere pretty but unfamiliar, with everyone posed on a blanket smiling at the camera.

Here’s the difference

It is so sweet to walk into a play area and see what little hands are touching during the day and capture that in pictures.

Plus, my clients love the idea of planning a flexible schedule to make sure we work together after nap and meal times.  r.

I tend to set all of my shoots for about an hour. That gives us enough time to play, to change outfits and take little people for potty breaks. More than an hour and everyone is exhausted from all the interaction with the camera. Less than an hour and we miss a hug or a kiss.

Here’s what an hour with this Jennifer and Phillip’s family meant: Porch with family and dogs, tent play in living room, kids in the playroom, plus reading, playground, sprinklers. That was the plan. We mixed the order around with a storm approaching but were able to catch it all.

I was totally in love with the session. Dogs were stubborn, parents comforted each other, the toddler guided the session (or so he thought). But, everyone was happy in the end. Especially me! 

There is nothing like ending a session in the sprinklers shooting Dad doing handstands to entertain the family. 

Life is delightful. Delight in it!

Documenting Life, Documenting Love

Every year I have the honor of working with my friend, Bridgette. She lets me know months in advance that she wants an anniversary or family shoot. 

She makes me wait. Months of waiting for the shoot. Sometimes seasons! 

You see, I am happy to wait because I love to work with her and her sweet family. They make me laugh. They push me to my creative limits with their height (what tall boys!). 

I love the way Bridgette's husband looks at her. 

And the best part is her smile.

In fact, I know deep down that I should probably pay her to take photos of her, instead of the other way around.

This year I asked Bridgette to come to The Holler House to take some lovey pictures of her and her man. He is a shy guy, so this is as open as he wanted to get in front of the camera. 

I loved every second of this shoot. What a treat to watch this family grow together over time.

Family session pics will be posted separately (because I have to drool over Bridgette a bit longer.)

Figuring Out Life

When my friend asked me to shoot her family portraits, I was excited. I just didn't know (nobody knew) that she would be diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks after mentioning the idea of a family shoot. 

After her diagnosis, we hurried to get her on the calendar. This turned in to very serious session, not only for her but for her girls. 

This was the last celebration together before the big surgery. 

This was the last nursing for her youngest child. The baby years had come to a close. The next chapter in childhood was about to begin.

I watched, while looking through my lens, a teenager comfort her mother as she looked her straight in the face and said nothing. She just held her. There were no words needed to show her support.  

I watched a mother say goodbye to the baby years knowing that her body would no longer supply nutrients to her daughter. 

I saw three lovely females be still and breath each other in; all so different yet all the same. 

This shoot changed my way of seeing things. We only get what we get and then it is gone. 

Love deeply. Love fully. Be loved.

If you need a family shoot and don't think you have the means to make it happen, write to me. We can make it happen. It’s important. Don't let time pass you by.

They Never Stop Growing

Why do our babies keep growing? Here are answers.

-to wrap their arms around us until we can hardly breath

-to make our hearts explode with love

-to entertain us and make us cry with laughter

-to give us new babies to love

BAM!

-

Talented, Talented Friends

The act of creating beautiful photos means so much to me. And living in a community surrounded by art and beauty brings out the best in me. 

Recently, I was hiking to Panther Top, a local mountain, with two close friends. There, we met a sweet family that has a vacation house in our community. 

The lady said how much she loves it here and how inspired when she visits this place. The air, the freedom to be who you are, and the slower pace of life let her completely express herself in her art.

I think of friends who create and I stand in awe. They are regular people who create unreal work. Meet Allison Haigler, owner of Pelagic Art.  Allison creates one-of-a-kind, handmade books and journals. She is also an amazing teacher. 

I can't wait to make a leather journal using Allison’s lessons and place my family pictures in it. A hippy journal that will stand the test of time.

What kinds of things are on your creative bucket list?

What is your favorite medium to work with?

And what will creating them mean to you?

 

A Nature Lover's Wedding

Rock climbing- check.

Endless mountain views- check.

Marry your best friend- check.

Amazing clouds- check.

Lovey time together- check.

Wayah Bald is public land (Nantahala National Forest) set high up on top of a mountain overlooking the rest of the world. North Carolina is perfect for destination weddings. Get married and honeymoon here in the mountains. Plus there is an amazing lookout tower that looks like a castle.  When you choose to get married up there, you are saying yes to adventure. Yes to the most amazing clouds and open spaces to take in together. Yes to your budget. And yes to the freedom to explore!

Please marry your love in the mounains!

Venue- https://nantahalaweddings.com/

 

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!!!