It’s always such a boost to spend an afternoon with a loving family, especially when the main subject is as adorable and energetic as little Anthony. It had been two years since the last time I saw him, and I loved seeing the enormous developmental leaps he’d made since then. Anthony is a little sweetheart. He’s generous with his hugs, he kisses boo-boos, and he always makes sure to ask if you’re okay. He loves reading his books, playing outside (soccer especially), swinging on anything, and goofing around with his dinosaur toys. I got the chance to see pretty much all of that during our shoot. Anthony definitely delivered.
Because it’s where Shanel, Jared, and Anthony spend so much quality time, we decided to use their lovely backyard as our main setting. Anthony and his dad kicked a soccer ball around, Anthony trotted out the aforementioned dinosaurs for a little play session, and Woody, the 4 year-old Havanese who’s essentially a full family member, made an energetic appearance.
As the sun began to set on the front of the house, we made a move to the front porch, and as we were passing through the house, Jared and Anthony decided to take a book break. Shanel says that Anthony tries to carry all of his books around the house wherever he goes, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The dynamic between all three of them was so comfortable and genuine—I got the feeling that what I was seeing was pretty much how it was all the time.
As we soaked in the last bit of sunshine on the stoop, Anthony got to show me his pumpkins, which he was obviously very excited about. Then again, this is a little boy who seems enthusiastic about pretty much everything. We chased the final streaks of sunlight down into the street for a few final family shots. It was the perfect ending to my time with this lovely crew.
It’s always nice to think back about a couple with such an adorable meet-cute, as they say in showbiz. Rachel and Mitchell are both teachers, and it just so happened that their classrooms were connected by a little office where they shared a desk for two years. I’ve written about this before, in their engagement post, but it’s sweet enough to mention again. There’s something so precious about that experience of working with another person on a day-to-day basis for months, seeing who that other person really is, and then ending up together. I just can’t let it go.
I remember officially meeting Rachel and her parents at our consult. I knew that I recognized their faces, and as I took them through a sample album from a previous wedding, I realized why. Not only had Rachel been a bridesmaid in a wedding I’d photographed years before, but she and her parents had been in attendance at the wedding featured in the album they held in their hands, and at more than one of my past weddings. Turns out the world of Charlotte wedding photography is smaller than you’d think.
Rachel and Mitchell were married at First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte on the 15th of October, 2016. Their wedding was beautiful, not only in its details and execution, but also due to the sheer amount of love so evident in the bride and groom and everyone else in attendance. First Presbyterian is one of my favorite wedding venues in town, and I love to shoot there for aesthetic reasons. There are so many little areas to do pre-ceremony portraits, and even after years of doing this job, I’m always finding new ones. First Pres is also Rachel’s family church, and it’s always a sweet thing to see a bride married in a place she holds so close to her heart.
There were so many little details I loved about this wedding. For instance, Mitchell’s wedding-day gift to Rachel was a Frisbee. That’s not a typo. But, as is always the case with these two, the gift was meaningful. The Frisbee was a reference to a work outing on which the two had gone before they had started dating. But even at that point, Mitchell knew that he was going to ask Rachel out, and so for him, that was a sort of beginning. See what I mean about these two? Along with the Frisbee, Mitchell gave Rachel a sweet letter written on roughly-torn notebook paper, the kind a high school boy might pass to his crush in class. I loved getting a few ring shots on the note.
Speaking of the ring, it was a family heirloom passed down from Rachel’s grandmother, to her mother, and then to Mitchell when he declared his intent to propose. Rachel had always loved the ring, and it’s no wonder why—it’s a stunner. I got some images of the ring on the green velvet box in which Rachel’s grandmother used to keep it. I love little details like that, the ones that really reference a family’s history.
The reception took place just a few blocks away, at the Charlotte City Club. Getting the chance to walk with Rachel and Mitchell from the wedding site to the reception site was wonderful. Yes, I was walking backwards most of the time, but the chance to capture images of two people who have just declared their undying love for one another as they walk the short distance to a huge party in their honor…priceless. And it should be said that the City Club, run by Nathan Hoffman, is one of the finest reception venues in town. The man runs a tight ship, but the overall feel is relaxed and easy. I love working there.
One of the things I remember most vividly about the reception was that Rachel and Mitchell decided to forgo a wedding cake in favor of a scrumptious cheesecake dessert bar. YUM! Another clear memory I have is very different in nature. When Rachel and Mitchell made their exit, they climbed into a pedi-cab to head off for the peace and quiet of their hotel room. But before they could get 10 feet, they ran into a bunch of…zombies. Turns out, there was a zombie-themed bar crawl going on (for those interested: Zombie Bar-ocalypse), and for a brief moment, I didn’t know if the bloody crew of zombified drinkers was going to let them through.
They made it, though, and now it’s been a year. I’m so happy to wish these two a happy anniversary. I’ll always remember the sincerity of the love I felt from you, your families, and your friends. Thank you for letting me be a part of the fun.
Ceremony Location: First Presbyterian Church
Reception Location: Charlotte City Club
Make Up Artist: Woo Skincare and Cosmetics
Hair: SH Cuts at Salon & Co
Floral Design: Lily Greenthumbs
Thank you Nathan for helping me to create such a lovely collection of images for Rachel and Mitchell.
You can see Rachel and Mitchell’s engagement session images HERE.
As a photographer, you can control a lot on the day of a wedding. You can gather information from the bride and groom—and their families—about images they are hoping for, and about the flow of their day. You can triple check the timeline, commit all the immediate family names to memory, make sure your equipment is spotless, fully charged and ready to go. You can try to make sure you’re well-rested and ready to walk out the door an hour early the day of the wedding. But you cannot, of course, control the weather.
Living in North Carolina as we do, there’s always the chance that an October wedding will fall right in the path of a hurricane; that’s what happened on October 8th of 2016, the day Susan and Charlie got married. We were lucky, and the hurricane only struck us a glancing blow, but I’ll certainly always remember this wedding, and only in part because I did all my exterior shots that day with the handle of my husband’s golf umbrella jammed down the back of my pants…
Susan and Charlie were troopers through the whole process, and in spite of the weather (or maybe even because of it, if you want to think romantically) the images from that day were beautiful.
The wedding took place at First Presbyterian Church in uptown Charlotte. It’s one of my favorite places to photograph a wedding because there are so many little nooks and crannies both inside and outside of the church where I can capture group or individual portraits. During Susan and Charlie’s wedding, we did our first look in the beautiful (and, if you believe the stories, very haunted) stairwell behind the chapel that leads to the church’s upper level. It’s one of the sweetest first looks I’ve ever done. When I work at First Presbyterian, I also love shooting in the Bride’s Room. This is where Susan had her hair and make-up done. The room is incredibly small, but it’s covered from floor to ceiling in framed photos of brides who have been married at the church. I love imaging all of their wedding days and looking at the different styles of wedding gowns and headpieces through the decades.
With our exterior options severely curtailed, I got creative with the rest of the portrait locations. In order to bring some natural light into the goings-on, I shot some of my portraits in hallways and doorways with the exterior doors propped open. A little wet? Maybe. But well worth the light. And just because I didn’t want the silly little hurricane to dissuade me from shooting outside altogether, I gathered the wedding party, posed them in a doorway, and then ventured outside into the gusting wind and rain. Which brings me back full-circle to the umbrella in my pants. Just as a marginal note, I now own the geekiest-looking backpack umbrella you’ve ever seen; it makes me look like some kind of dorky astronaut, but this was the wedding that convinced me it was more necessity than convenience.
The reception, which was not photographed, took place at Fleming’s Steakhouse. Susan and Charlie chose the location because they liked the food, of course, but also because the two of them did most of their wedding planning from Seattle, and Fleming’s was happy to make things easy.
I so enjoyed spending the day with Susan, Charlie, and their families and friends. If rain on your wedding day is truly good luck, you two must have it in spades. Happy first anniversary!
Ceremony Location: First Presbyterian Church
Floral Design: Elizabeth House Flowers
Hair and Make up: Sweet Southern Glam
It’s kind of a funny thing to photograph a family I love and respect as much as I do Bob, Jena, and little Georgia Beth. On the one hand, I’m looking for the best shots in the locations we’ve chosen, thinking my way through situations as I try to hold up my side of the conversation, etc. On the other hand, I’m looking at this trio of people who love each other so much and wondering if I could ever make it look so easy and sweet and natural with my own kids. To add to it all, I’ve known Bob since we sat together in “Coach” Ponce’s spanish class back at Myers Park High School, when he was rail thin and ran cross-country. Reconciling my two Bobs can be a little dizzying sometimes.
For our shoot, we meet up at First Ward Park in uptown Charlotte. That Bob and Jena chose uptown was kind of a no-brainer considering how important a role the city plays in both of their lives. Bob is the head mixologist at The Punch Room inside the Ritz-Carlton, and Jena runs a performing arts studio, JBP Entertainment, inside Spirit Square. Both are fixtures in this town and have been for a long time. The city really means something to both of them, and vice versa.
For her part, Georgia Beth is a natural performer. I’ve known her since she was tiny, and watching her grow into this self-assured little spitfire has been a joy. This girl is always on. She’s sassy but warm, and she knows how she fills a space. Her amazing confidence makes it all the sweeter when she crawls into her mom’s lap for a few shots, or when Bob hoists her onto his hip as though she were three instead of seven. Seeing those little glimpses of little-kidhood shine through Georgia’s burgeoning big kid persona is precious.
We make our way gradually from one corner of the park to the other, and as we walk, we take advantage of the beautiful landscaping, which is well designed and new enough that it hasn’t overgrown yet. Of all our locations, my favorite is at the far end of the park, near the Charlotte Lab School, with the cityscape in the background. When I ask Jena to crawl up on top of an exhaust grate in her heels, I’m sure she thinks I’m a little batty, but the images I captured of the Peters crew snuggled up in front of the city they love were so worth it.
My purpose here, of course, is to write about my experience photographing one of the sweetest little girls in the world, but I also need to acknowledge that this post is also a kind of love letter to the location where most of my twenty-some shoots with this family that have taken place over the last decade.
If you’ve never heard of Why Not An American Ark, let me tell you, you’re missing out. Part animal boarding facility, part petting zoo, part riding lessons provider, and part party venue, the Ark has a little something for pretty much anyone, and for kids, it’s a fantastic chance to spend some time in a safe and invigorating natural environment. Paul and Deborah, Abigail’s parents, used the Ark as a boarding facility for their two horses, Teddy and Braxton, so there was a practical reason for using it as a backdrop for our shoots. Now that the family has moved into their new home—which will have enough space to house Wilfred, their current horse—we won’t be meeting at the Ark anymore, and despite the 45 minute early-morning drive to get there…I’m really kind of sad about it.
The focus of this shoot is Abigail. She’s 9 now, but counting Deborah’s maternity session, this is the 10th time I’ve photographed her as my primary subject, and she and I have formed a connection that I treasure more than I can express. Seeing the same children year after year is one of the best parts of my job, and Abigail is so familiar with me that when I show up at the Ark, she just takes my hand and leads me and her sister Clara off into a field full of sunflowers. For whatever reason, these flowers haven’t been planted in this spot for years, but I’m glad to see them again, and so are the girls. As we walk, both of them blurt out little tidbits of information about sunflowers and bugs and the animals at the farm, and like I always do, I find myself charmed by these girls. Their connection to nature has always been so strong, so primal, and I know that Deborah and Paul have really encouraged their daughters to love the natural world all around them.
We make our way around the farm from location to location and, as we walk, we pick up a little entourage of once-abandoned dogs who have found a new lease on life at the Ark. Between little bursts of shooting images, the girls take turns holding my hand and leading me where they want me to go, and we talk about whatever comes out of their mouths—sometimes it’s school or their family, but usually it’s something about the animals.
Abigail and Clara have always amazed me, and now that Abigail is in elementary school, her world is exploding outward—this kid, a 9 year-old, is practically fluent in Mandarin. Insane. But it’s their courage and security around animals that I’ve always marveled at the most. They ride on the backs of horses with more confidence than I could muster even as an adult, and they cradle baby pigs and goats in their arms as though they were kittens. In fact, it seems like most of our shoots end up with all of us gathered around whatever pen holds the most recently born babies on the farm.
I hope I’m lucky enough to be able to watch this beautiful family grow and change from another decade (and beyond), but I’m already so thankful for the experiences I’ve shared with all of them. When I’m with these girls, my heart is full.
Happy 9th birthday, sweet girl.