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There is a quiet peacefulness to Brittany + Louie’s relationship. They’re one of those couples that doesn’t require much direction because their natural affection for each other is beautifully evident.

They flew in from California, drove to Asheville, and then drove a few more hours to Rough Ridge, a place they use to hike when they were dating. The travel was worth it for a light dusting of snow, incredible views, and the last warm day before the winter winds took over.

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You would think with David’s last name, that they would be entitled to a sunny wedding day. Instead, their celebration was anything by dry. However, if there were a couple that could embrace a rainy wedding day, it is Brittany + David.

The rain was persistent. It swelled with the wind, banged at the windows, and soaked through her Jimmy Choos. With the cold mist sticking to her skin, Brittany walked up to David with the biggest smile on her face.

Their family and bridal party embraced the weather just as the bride and groom had. After all, they were there for them. It didn’t matter that the wind turned the umbrellas inside out or that their dresses had three inches of water soaking the bottom of their dresses.

When it was time to make a decision about the ceremony, Brittany was adamant that it be held outside. They loved the outdoors. They loved the rain. All they needed was each other. I fully expected all of the guests to watch from inside. However, everyone suited up with ponchos, borrowed umbrellas, and they huddled around the couple as they exchanged vows in the pouring rain. After they were pronounced, David chucked the umbrella over the groomsmen, pulled his wife in for a kiss, and everyone cheered. Magic. Pure magic.

The rain didn’t halt the party. Everyone, including Brittany’s grandparents, stayed on the dance floor until the bus pulled up to take the guests home. By far, it was one of the most special weddings I ever had the honor of photographing.

Special thanks to Lucy for helping me out with this day.

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I leave every year with excitement and anticipation for the new year and memories from the previous 365 days. By far, the most significant life event for me was becoming a mom. Kittredge made this one of the most wonderful years of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and cried so much, nor felt so alive. Oh, and tired ;)

I had a truly fabulous wedding season, and I celebrated with many incredible people. I enjoyed every hike, every beautiful conversation, every photograph, every sunrise + sunset, every adventure, and every ounce of honest emotion that I was honored to witness.

With the addition of our sweet baby boy + maternity leave, I was fortunate to book most of my work closer to Asheville this season. However, I thoroughly enjoyed our travels to Colorado, Michigan, South Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and all over North Carolina for various sessions and weddings.

I have to give major props to my interns this year. Mor + Lucy helped carry me through the season with sleep deprivation and hours behind the breast pump. They were an invaluable part of my 2017 team, and I couldn’t have made it through 25 weddings without them. I also want to give endless thanks to all of my couples this year. Everyone was incredibly understanding and supportive of my maternity leave and pumping breaks.

And, of course, the biggest thanks to my husband for holding down the fort at home. For helping me through labor, long editing days, late nights, weekends away, diaper changes, chores….I could go on and on. I just adore sharing this life and being parents with you.

Sitting 40+ weeks pregnant at the beginning of 2017, I was concerned that becoming a mother would overtake my desire for this work, this art. However, it has only solidified the significance of what I do. Time is precious. Fleeting. It restructured my priorities and helped me say no to so many unfulfilling things that wasted time (read more about my 2018 goals here). I want to fill my days with my family and friends that bring an incredible amount of joy to my world. I want to spend my days pursuing this career that I love so much. Making photographs of moments that matter. Of laughter, love, honesty, creativity. Chasing sunsets, mountains, and purpose. These are thing things that set my heart ablaze.

2018, I’m ready for you.

Without further adieu, here are my favorite memories from 2017.

 

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  • jenny - these are breathtaking. every. single. image. and you are the slayer of black and white editing!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Cooley - Megan these are beautiful!! All of them make me smile! Happy 2018!ReplyCancel

  • Dee Stecco - You are so talented, beautiful!!!ReplyCancel

Bailey has been working with me for the past two months, and it’s about time that I introduced her on the blog! Here is a bit more from her:

I grew up in a small town in the foothills of North Carolina. I have always had a deep love for the mountains and the beauty I find in God’s creation. My husband and I share that same love and passion for the outdoors. We are also very passionate about serving and investing in people and building genuine relationships with those around us.

We believe that connecting with others is so crucial in life. Sharing life with other people brings so much joy and we want to spread that everywhere we go!

In the last five years I have discovered a love for photography that has only grown stronger each time I pick up my camera. I think photography, specifically wedding photography, is a natural mix of the things I cherish most in life — love and commitment, moments shared with people, and the natural beauty around us. I have always been a creative soul, whether that’s singing with my sister, doodling in my journal, making flower arrangements as a little girl, or picking up my camera. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to use photography to meet new people and serve them well on a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.

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This is part three in a series about photographing destination weddings. See part one for tips about flying first class for free, and part two for all things related to traveling as a photographer.

I thought traveling with camera gear was difficult. Traveling with gear AND a baby is 100 times more challenging. I couldn’t find many of resources online to help prepare for our first trip. Thankfully, a lot of our friends who are parents travel as much as we do, and they gave us great advice. We are certainly not pros, as Kitt is only one. However, we flew with him six times in his first year of life, and I traveled even more with my breast pump.

It can be overwhelming traveling for the first time with a baby or without your baby. Here are a few tips that might help…

TRAVELING WITH A BABY

What should I pack in my checked baggage?

We tend to overpack when we travel with Kitt. However, I’d always rather be over-prepared than underprepared. Essentials include: bedding, washcloths, wipes, diapers, pajamas, more clothes than you think you’ll need, blankets (car), jacket, shoes, baby food, toys, books, soap, nail clippers, medicine for emergencies, monitor, noise machine, bibs, baby spoons, etc.

We will also check his pack and play, car seat, and sometimes a stroller.

Does a car seat count as a checked bag?

Every airline has different policies, but Delta lets you check a car seat and stroller for free. Portable cribs are considered an additional item. You can also plane-side check your car seat and stroller, but we usually choose to check at the desk so that we don’t have to lug them around the airport. Worst case, we could always rent one from a rental car company if our bags get lost.

I also recommend purchasing a car seat + stroller bag so that they don’t get ruined while traveling. If you check both, you can stuff jackets, blankets and extra things in the bags to cushion the equipment. Once Kitt grew out of the infant seat, we bought a cheap car seat to fly with. We didn’t want to lug around our expensive, heavy car seat, and we certainly didn’t want it to get ruined.

Is it free to bring my baby? Do I need to purchase a ticket? Does he/she need ID?

Again, check with the airline, but most allow infants up to two years of age to fly for free. They have to remain on your lap (not easy with a toddler). Some parents will purchase a seat and bring a car seat for extra safety. With Delta, you have to call and add your child as an “infant in arms” after booking. They will issue a separate ticket at the desk for your little one.

You do not need to carry any proof of identification for your baby if you are flying domestically. He/she will need a passport if you fly internationally.

Yes, there are 10 bags in the photo above. Eight of those are for Kitt. 

What should I carry on the plane? Should I bring the stroller?

When travel for vacation, we will bring one backpack for Kitt and another for us. His bag usually has toys, three to four pairs of spare clothes, pajamas (if we arrive late), lots of diapers, snacks, pouches, books, and wipes. Our bag will have our snacks, laptop, headphones, nursing cover, hand sanitizer, etc. If I’m traveling for work, our extra bag will have my camera gear. We will check all clothes and such to limit the amount of things we have to carry through the airport.

Before the age of one, we felt like the ergo carrier was more sufficient than a stroller. He could sleep in it, and he enjoyed riding in it. Once he could walk, he hated being strapped to our chest. Now, we bring a cheap “umbrella” stroller instead.

How will I entertain my baby for twelve hours?

This question freaked me out the most.  I didn’t want to be that parent whose child cried the entire flight. Before the age of one, we discovered that flying itself was incredibly entertaining to Kitt. He loved looking at all of the lights and people until he was about 13 months. When he was crawling and just learning to walk, he loved exploring the airport terminal. Now, he just wants to run around, and it is far more difficult.

Bring lots of toys. Purchase a few new toys that he/she has never seen, so the novelty lasts a little longer. Kitt loves the app Peekaboo Barn, which we pull out when he absolutely needs to sit and is losing it.

Everything is a toy. Cups, napkins, snack bags, water bottles, you name it. On one flight, Kitt played with a water bottle and a chip bag for almost an hour. Don’t underestimate the novelty of these things!

Let strangers entertain your baby. I was shocked at how kind fellow travelers have been to us. If we’re lucky, the people behind or next to us will love playing peek-a-boo through the seat.

When is the best time to fly?

We’ve found that traveling in the evening is the easiest, if we don’t have layovers. If it’s past his bedtime, he will be much more likely to sleep on the plane. Otherwise, we try to plan flights around his nap times so that he can sleep. The white noise of the plane is magic.

Any other tips?

Don’t board first. Even though families flying with children are invited first to board, don’t do it. We get on the plane as close to take off as possible to limit time on the plane.

Don’t book tight connections. If you are plane-side checking a stroller or car seat, it can take a few extra minutes. Changing diapers and packing up with a baby also take extra time. It’s not as easy to travel gate to gate as it is when you fly alone.

Changing diapers on the plane is not fun. We try to time meals during layovers so that any diaper changes happen then. We will dress him in night diapers for long flights so that we don’t have to change him until we land.

Nurse on the ascent and descent to clear baby’s ears. Or, a pacifier works just as well.

Use travel time to fit in naps. We wanted to make the most of our trip, even with a structured nap schedule. To make sure that Kitt wasn’t overtired, we would plan his naps around the times that we planned to drive to hiking trails or other cities. This way, we could make sure that we didn’t have to entertain him in the car for hours on end, and he could sleep. Of course, this only works if your baby likes to nap in the car :)

Wear lose clothing if you’re nursing. Kitt always hated nursing covers, and I found loose shirts to be more effective, especially when I didn’t have time to dig out the cover.

TRAVELING WITH THE BREAST PUMP

What are the TSA rules for carrying on a pump?

TSA + airlines label a breast pump as a medical device. So, you can bring this in addition to your normal carry-on allotment. You might need to alert the desk attendant so that they don’t ask you to consolidate your bags.

A cooler is also considered a necessity for the device (or storage for baby food), so this will not count toward your baggage allotment. More than anything, it is a challenge to bring four bags. I try to fit my pump in my roller bag, if I have space.

How will I keep pumped milk cold in the airport?

The one thing that TSA is not chill about (see what I did there?) is bringing on partially melted ice. They will not let you carry on half-frozen ice packs or ice cubes. I recommend pulling ice packs out of the cooler on the way to the airport so that they are frozen when you go through security. I would not bring them if you won’t have a way to freeze them for the return trip. Yes, they will shake them and squeeze them to be sure.

If you don’t have access to a fridge/cooler while traveling, stop at gas stations to fill up on ice. My cooler keeps milk cold for at least 12 hours, so I have to replenish the cooler 1-2 times a day.

When you arrive at the airport, dump out all of the ice because they will not let you bring it through. As soon as you make it through security, find a restaurant that has a soda machine with ice maker. Hopefully the attendant will be nice and let you fill your cooler for free.

How do you clean your pump parts on the go?

Thanks to Obamacare, I received multiple sets of pump parts for free. When I travel or shoot weddings, I will bring all four sets. At a local wedding, I won’t need to wash any parts, since I have four sets. When I travel, I will rinse out the parts in the sink and then store the pump parts in the cooler. I try to re-use these parts within 12 hours to prevent contamination. This is not the most ideal situation, but breast milk is magical! It has special anti-bacterial properties, and the cold will prevent the milk from souring. Most milk storage websites will strongly recommend washing pump parts between use, but I’ve found this to be totally fine when I don’t have any other option. Of course, please ask your pediatrician, as I am not a medical professional.

Which type of cooler is best for airline travel?

I found a soft cooler at Target that has been great for planes. Hard coolers are difficult to fit in overhead bins, especially when flying on regional aircraft. And, you really don’t want to plane-side check that precious milk!

Where can I pump in the airport?

Thankfully, some airports now have pumping pods! They are amazing! ATL has them in every (almost every?) terminal. They are sanitary mini-rooms that are just for pumping or nursing.

Other airports will have a nursing/pumping room close to the bathrooms. When I’m having difficulty finding a pumping station, I will google the airport to pull up a terminal map.

Where do you pump at weddings?

Nine times out of 10, I will pump in my car. I bought an adapter for my pump on Amazon, and it works like a charm. I’ve found the car to be the most private space, which helps me relax and pump quickly.

 

 

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This is part two in a series about photographing destination weddings. See part one for tips about flying first class for free, building loyalty with airlines, and more.

After photographing destination weddings for the past 11 years, I’ve learned the ins and outs of traveling. Traveling for fun and traveling for work are quite different. Learning how to pack, price, and prepare are completely different than planning for a vacation. Here are a few answers to questions that I regularly receive from other photographers. Hopefully they will help those of you that want to shoot more destination work.

If you are interested in learning more, I offer mentor sessions locally and online. Here is a link for more info.

Should I discount?

There are many photographers that will discount packages so that they can book destination weddings. However, if you’re new to destination weddings, know that it is two extra days of work (at least), and a lot of extra stress…especially if you’re traveling out of the country. I’m not raising this point to cast blame or start a pricing debate. Ultimately, I believe that you should do what is best for your business and your family. But, it can become exhausting and expensive very quickly if you don’t plan a proper budget and time for destination weddings.

Early in my career, I discounted rates (and covered my expenses) when I really wanted to photograph in a particular place, but I rarely do this anymore. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do in life, and I find that shooting in new locations is inspiring. After 11 years of photographing destination weddings, I find that more often than not, I’d rather take on an extra wedding and use that money to book a vacation vs. book a discounted destination wedding and have to work the majority of the time. This is especially true with a baby, when every minute of time away is limited.

In summary, destination weddings do not equal vacation. If you’re looking to build your portfolio, it can be worth it to discount, but this is not sustainable for a profitable business long-term.

How should I charge the travel fee?

Custom Quote
List the type of expenses that you will incur (flight, hotel for two nights, rental car, per diem for food/parking/gas), and confirm rates with your clients before you book. If I go this route, I will usually offer a range so that they have an idea of the expenses for their budget. The benefit of this method is that your client will be covering every single itemized cost instead of having to pay out of pocket if you budget incorrectly*. If you’ve never travelled to a particular city before, it might be hard to gauge what to charge a year out when rates will certainly change over the following months. I’ve found that it can also be less of a sticker shock when you quote words (flight/rental car/hotel) vs. a number ($2000).

*I have a clause in my contract that my couples are responsible for travel costs no matter what. However, I feel like it is bad business to quote a flat fee and then go back on your word a few months out from the wedding.

Quote a flat fee
This is a great method if you travel to a place frequently. For example, I travel to NYC fairly often and know how much expenses run for a weekend. The benefit of charging a flat fee is that you can book at your convenience without having to confirm details with your couple. I’m really picky about which airline I fly (see previous blog post about building loyalty) and about schedules, especially since having a baby. I know that I will not be the best photographer if I have to wake up at 3:00a and fly for 12 hours with two layovers. I would much rather pay $100 more to have a better schedule and a direct flight. Thankfully, my couples are usually on board with paying for a better experience, but I’ve had to sometimes cover that extra expense when they didn’t want to pay for it.

Should I book my travel? Or, should my client?

Always book your own travel. I had many uncomfortable experiences early in my career when I let my couples make the arrangements. I know that they were only trying their best to fit the expenses into their budget, and they meant no harm whatsoever. However, I’m sharing these examples so that you can see that best intentions don’t always work in your favor and can even be dangerous in some situations:

-I’ve was stuck at the hotel desk, trying to get a hold of my couple the night before their wedding because they needed to confirm their credit card info (couldn’t charge it to mine because reservation wasn’t under my name). I felt awful. This has also happened with rental cars.

-Having to ride with a questionably intoxicated guest because they wanted to save on a rental car. (My couple had no clue, of course!) But, I was in the middle of nowhere (this is before Uber), and I didn’t have any other option.

-Shady hotels from lack of research. Not the greatest option when traveling alone.

It is also important to book travel in your name for liability reasons and for travel delays. If a client books your flight, you will not be able to access your reservation with a flight cancellation/delay. I’m sure that the last thing they would want to do the night before their wedding is to be on hold with United, trying to get you on another flight! I like to make it my responsibility so that they don’t have to worry about a thing.

Last, the other benefit of booking travel is to build loyalty and rewards with airlines and other companies. See previous post for more info.
 

When is the best time to book flights/rental car/hotel?
 
Domestically, I’ve found that flights/rental cars are the lowest three to four months out. For some destinations (particularly California), it can be beneficial to look five to six months out, but you have to get lucky. Hopper is a great app to track flight patterns. Internationally, it’s best to book four to seven months in advance.

For hotels, it entirely depends on the location and time of year. If you are traveling during spring break or peak tourist season, expect higher prices. Otherwise, hotel prices generally don’t vary too much, unless you are booking the week of travel.

I like to use Kayak to shop around for flights, as it is a good gauge for most airlines (minus Southwest). It’s also great to use for rental cars. Sometimes Hotwire has cheaper rates for rental cars.

Hotel Tonight is a great site for last minute hotel bookings.
 
 
What are some ways to prepare for travel delays?
 
Let me just say, you will have flight cancellations. You will have delays. It’s inevitable if you travel enough. For this reason, I always make sure I have at least an hour layover. A 1.5 hour layover is my sweet spot. Anything less really stresses me out, especially flying through big airports like ATL, LAX, DTW, JFK, ORD.

Don’t book the last flight of the day. I’ve had flights cancelled mid-day and was able to jump on a later flight and make it to the wedding.

Always fly in the day before and leave the day after. I want to give myself at least 24 hours before the wedding on the off chance that my flight is cancelled. I tell my couples that will give me enough time to drive if I had to (for east coast weddings, at least!).

Try to book seats towards the front of the plane, and try not to plane-side check bags if you have a really tight layover. These two things can save you 15 minutes, which can be make or break if you flight is delayed, and you’re trying to make a connection.
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Should I check my gear?

Do. Not. Check. Your. Gear. I should preface this advice by saying that I don’t bring a ton of lighting equipment. I know some photographers will check light stands and unnecessary pieces. However, I don’t check anything. And, I will not let my gear bag ever be plane-side checked. Why? I’ve seen (on multiple occasions), bags dropped from 10 feet off of the conveyor belt. This is obviously not good for glass and electronics. Sometimes, plane-side bags are checked all the way through for weight/balance issues or random airline problems.

Don’t let your gear out of your sight! This includes keeping it under your seat. I’ve heard horror stories of people dropping bags from overhead bins on accident, bags being stolen, etc.
 
Which bag(s) do you recommend for carrying on gear?

Ah. This a great dilemma. I have yet to find the perfect travel bag. I’ve gone through rollers and backpacks, and both have pros and cons. Here are a few that I’ve used over the years that have been reliable:

Roller Bags
+Better for your back/shoulders
+More storage
-Will always be flagged by flight attendants to be checked, even if it will fit under the seat
-Tough for destinations that don’t have paved roads (think beach weddings or third world countries)
-Heavy to lift for overhead bins

Backpacks
+Can always fit under the seat on a plane.
-Can’t fit as much gear
-Rough on your back

Currently, I use a Langly backpack, and I bring a roller bag (from TJ Maxx) for my personal things. Sometimes I will throw unnecessary gear in my roller to limit the weight on my back (camera straps, battery chargers, etc.)

How do you pack your gear? What do you bring?

I always shoot with two bodies, so I will bring my two main cameras and a backup. I will pack these with my lenses, CF cards, and flashes in my backpack. I also bring a laptop for backing up files and writing emails on the road. The rest (card reader, video light, camera strap, extra batteries), I will throw in my personal bag.

Other necessities:  two pairs of shoes, layers (especially for cold destinations), extra clothes if rain is forecasted. In general, I try to pack as light as possible. I also recommend bringing an AUX cord and car charger for the rental car.
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Do I need to obtain a visa for international weddings?
 
In short, it depends.

Do your research before booking international weddings. Some countries are very lax about wedding photographers, and others are strict. For example, Canada is extremely rigid about U.S. photographers (especially in BC). I’ve heard stories of friends being banned from the country, having their phones searched for email records, being detained just because they had camera gear for a personal vacation. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it to your couple to not have a wedding photographer, and it’s not worth the stress on your end!

Some countries will require a permit/visa fee to work in their country. The Caribbean islands are notorious for this (Anguilla, Turks & Caicos require permits that range from $700-1000). Yes, you can lie and say you are on vacation. But, illegally traveling/working in another country can get you in serious trouble and negate your contract with your couple.

I will do a lot of googling before booking a destination wedding, and I’m in several destination Facebook groups that have lots of experienced travelers for asking questions.
 
Other Tips:
 
Have multiple backups
I will carry around a hard drive with me at all times so that I always have a copy of the files just in case. Backup at least three times. If you’re going to be gone for a long time or are traveling really far away, it might be worth it to ship a hard drive home for safekeeping.

Don’t leave your gear in the car. Take it with you.

Insurance is essential.
Make sure you have insurance that covers your gear in rental cars, other countries, other states.

Book directly with the airline/rental car/hotel.
Try to avoid third party bookings, as their warranty and reservations are not as reliable. I will usually look up rates with Kayak and then book directly. Nine times out of ten, it will be the same price.