Even before I became a parent, I had a healthy respect for the unique magic of photography. But once my girls came along, the way I looked at what I do changed in an essential way. More clearly than ever, I understood the crucial importance of preserving those delicate moments that are there for the blink of an eye and then gone forever. In this way, Lori is a woman after my own heart. When one of her big “milestone” birthdays was approaching, her husband Graham wondered briefly what to get her, but it didn’t take long for him to make up his mind. Lori loves creating a photographic record of her family, and Graham knows it. As a gift, he decided to get Lori not one but TWO family sessions with me. I already knew Lori and Graham because I was their wedding photographer back in 2008. Needless to say, I was so excited to help Graham craft this incredible surprise for Lori.
Our first session was just with Graham and the two kids, Connor and Kaylin, and Lori had no idea what we were doing. I met them late in the afternoon on the Midtown Greenway, and we got some beautiful images of the three of them. Connor and Kaylin were so lively and sweet. At 4 and 6, I wondered if they would be suffering through some of the same rivalries I see in my own kids, but they played so well together and were such good listeners when I needed them to follow my direction.
During the shoot, we wandered along the greenway, stopping here and there for images. I could see immediately how much the kids adored Graham, and how comfortable they all were with one another. They seemed to delight in the knowledge that we were working on a surprise for their mommy. When the excitement for the experience became a little much, I would ask Connor and Kaylin to make silly faces for a shot or two, and then give me sweet faces like they would give to their mama. Holy moly–those two melted my heart! We ended the session at a fountain and the kids splashed around a little—until Connor nearly fell in. All in all, it was a fantastic shoot, and mission accomplished.
Over breakfast on her birthday, Graham presented Lori with a slideshow I created for him of some of his favorite images from the first session, and then he told her that there would be a second shoot, this time with her included. Lori’s reaction to the images of Graham and the kids from the first shoot was just what Graham had hoped for—sweet tears—and Lori was delighted to take part in the next round.
We all got back together in November. This time, we met at the UNCC Botanical Garden to catch the last of the beautiful fall color, and I was so happy to see Lori and Graham together in front of my camera again. That their love is stronger than ever couldn’t have been more apparent. It was so heartwarming to remember them as they had been nearly 10 years ago, and then to see them in their new reality as parents of these two amazing kids.
These sessions were pure fun, and I truly cherished the opportunity to reconnect with this beautiful couple and their sweethearted kiddos.
When I was a kid, I spent all kinds of time on farms; my dad was in the farming biz at various points, as was my grandfather. When I went to college, I spent a summer sustainable development internship living on a farm. I milked goats at sunrise, tended to sheep and chickens, managed a productive organic garden, made cheese, slept on a cot in a barn with spiders for roommates–it was all very quaint—take my word for it. Suffice it to say, I adore farms. The fields, the animals, the smells and sounds, and even the slower and more deliberate pace of life.
So when Alicia Wagner, once an event coordinator for Charlotte Country Club before leaving for North Corner Haven, got in touch about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance. Partly I was so excited because I’d had so many fantastic experiences with weddings coordinated by Alicia at CCC, but I also just wanted to get back on a farm. The whole deal went to an even sweeter level when Alicia told me what I’d be shooting. It would be a party with the vibe of an “adult hippy day camp.” The guests would be shooting clay pigeons, fishing, taking farm tours, playing with goats, wearing flower crowns, and the like, all while donning some pretty spectacular apparel from Capitol, the luxury clothing boutique in Charlotte. Capitol, owned by Laura Vinroot Poole, was throwing the party to commemorate 20 years of business—the invitees were her loyal clientele, Capitol employees, and more than a few members of Charlotte’s elite. So, a gorgeous natural setting, beautiful clothes, incredible flowers and food, and happy people. I was sold, and so curious to see how it would all come together.
The answer: ridiculously, absurdly pretty. For one, the farm itself, which is located just outside of Charlotte in Lancaster, SC, is beautifully appointed. The mix of gorgeous vistas and rustic structures offered about the most amazing photographic palette I could have asked for. During the party, workers from the farm made rounds with a baby goat and a baby cow for guests to interact with (pretty stinkin’ cute), or guests could visit with Beekeeper Bill as he worked with his colony. The flowers, provided by John Lupton, set the perfect bohemian vibe–you’ll notice many of the guests even wearing flower crowns in their hair, which made everything look even more magical–especially when they hopped in the baby blue, ’74 VW bus which doubled as a photo booth. There was a tree swing adorned with flowers for guests to enjoy, baskets of Kantha quilts to snuggle under once the sun went down, bonfires for added light and warmth, and candles and twinkly lights everywhere you looked.
And then there was the food. The party was catered by Jim Noble, the owner of Roosters and King’s Kitchen. If you have ever eaten at one of his other establishments then you know–the food was incredible. His new venture, Noble Smoke, will be arriving soon in South End. Anything he didn’t provide was sourced from North Corner Haven itself; their contributions to the menu included the pork butt, the spare ribs, and the greens and veggies for the salad. From what I could glean, this is the basic philosophy of North Corner Haven, to provide for the events that take place there as much as they can from their own stock.
The soundtrack for the night was provided by Lee Fields and The Expressions. They rocked, and it shouldn’t go unsaid that Lee Fields has been throwing down his soulful sound since just about the dawn of time; his first release came in 1969, right when the R&B sound was born. He and his band provided the perfect compliment for the party. That man was pretty awe inspiring.
I had such a fantastic time capturing this party. Congratulations to Capitol for 20 years of success, and to North Corner Haven for the unveiling of such a lovely and truly unique venue. I hope to return many times, shooting weddings or parties, or really just to walk around and love on some animals. I could listen to Bill talk about bees for hours. Next time I won’t wear black though. Bill advised me to keep a little distance from the colony as we chatted so they don’t accidentally confuse me for a bear.
Venue: North Corner Haven
Event Coordinator: Alicia Wagner of NCH
Host: Laura Vinroot Poole of Capitol
Floral and Event Design: John Lupton
Catering: Noble Smoke
Photo Booth: The Little Blue Photo Bus
Rentals: Old South Vintage Rentals
Stage and Rentals: CE Rental
Lighting and Audio Visual: Eye Dialogue
Thank you to my second photographer, Emily, who helped to create this beautiful collection of images.
Caroline met Michael when she started her job at Fleetmatics, where Michael was already employed. At a company function, the two had a drink together and exchanged numbers; a couple of weeks later, Caroline walked into Michael’s office and announced: “I’m going out for a drink after work, with or without you!” Michael’s answer was “with,” of course, and they’ve been together ever since. Leading up to their first date, Michael just remembers telling everyone how impressed he was with Caroline, and it didn’t take long for him to realize that he was falling for this girl, who was as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. Fortunately, she felt the same way, and these two sweet people quickly fell in love.
When Caroline and Michael were trying to figure out how to celebrate their birthdays last year, the idea of an out-of-country trip popped up, and they went with it. They chose Jamaica, because they love a good tropical clime, and Michael decided to set up a “pop-the-question” package with the resort at which they’d be staying. After dinner one night, they went for a walk on the beach, and written in the sand beside a little hut were the words, “Will you marry me, Caroline?” The ring Michael proposed with has a center stone of just over three carats, another carat in a halo around the stone, and then one more carat down the sides of the ring. A stunner.
When it came time to find a local photographer to capture the engagement portraits for their destination wedding in Nashville, Caroline and Michael made their choice and headed off to their first engagement shoot. You’ll notice I said “first,” which was not a typo… Their initial photographer sounds like…an interesting sort. He started off the session by insisting on a drink in the studio, and then he dragged Michael and Caroline (who had gotten her hair and make-up done for the occasion) around the woods forever in their fancy clothes. As he ferried them to a new location, he cracked a beer for himself in the car and drove like a maniac. For the last series of images, he had Caroline and Michael climb into a fountain and then took photos while his assistant splashed water on them. All in all, a pretty horrific experience.
When Caroline contacted me in the hopes of scheduling a second engagement mini session with me, I was hesitant. I don’t typically offer mini sessions. However, after hearing what they endured with the first photographer, I was delighted to have the opportunity to give them a better, and much more relaxing, experience.
We met up at the UNCC Botanical Gardens, one of my favorite places to shoot. Caroline and Michael were incredibly tender and loving with one another, and I could see immediately how happy they are as a couple. The way they spoke to one another, touched one another, and looked at one another said everything. I think it all comes through in the images. Everything just fell into place so naturally as we made our way through the gardens.
Today, Caroline and Michael will tie the knot in Nashville, TN. Although I won’t be capturing their big day, this won’t be the last you see of this adorable pair. We have plans to reunite for a family session in the fall with Michael’s two sons and the family puppy in tow. I look forward to meeting the two little guys that mean the entire world to Caroline and Michael and capturing the love they share as a family.
Location: UNCC Botanical Gardens
Hair & Make Up: Lovely by Lindsey