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.
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.
Today is Amanda and Jeffrey’s first anniversary, so my purpose in this post is two-fold. On one hand, Amanda and Jeffrey, I simply want to wish for you an anniversary as lovely as your wedding; on the other hand, I wanted to thank you for choosing me to be your wedding photographer, and to reminisce for just a moment about that beautiful day and all that led up to it.
This wedding was a little different for me because I already knew Amanda and Jeffrey before they got in touch about photographing their wedding. Just a year earlier, I had the privilege of capturing the wedding of Jeffery’s brother, Kevin, and his beautiful bride, Cori. When Amanda and Jeffrey got in touch about shooting their nuptials, I was ecstatic about having the chance to spend more time with this loving and hilarious family.
Amanda and Jeffrey met while both were temping at the same Banana Republic. Once they’d gotten to know each other a bit, Amanda asked Jeffrey to join her and some friends for a drink at a local bar but, conveniently, none of Amanda’s friends showed. Not long after, they made another date and ended up sitting by a waterfall in Alamance County. It was during this meet-up that Amanda apparently chickened out of a Nerf sword fight. Not coincidentally, this was the very spot Jeffery chose to propose to Amanda. He’d spent a year and a half learning to play guitar with his eyes on this very day, and when they arrived at the waterfall, the instrument was hidden and waiting. He played and sang their song, and then asked her to take the plunge with him.
The wedding took place on June 4th, 2016, at Summerfield Farms in Summerfield, NC. One of the things I remember most vividly about the day was the heat, a frequent challenge of being a North Carolina wedding photographer in the summertime. I was about halfway through my maternity break at that time, but had come temporarily back out into the world to spend the day with Amanda and Jeffrey. At one point in the day, I recall having to flee to the parking lot to—ahem—pump surreptitiously in my Volvo. A note of thanks here to my amazing second photographer, Nathan, for covering me on the dance floor…
Of course, I remember the wedding itself, too. It was simple and elegant. I think the word ‘thoughtful’ describes it as well as any other adjective. There was nothing over the top, nothing vulgar. More so, it was the thoughtfully chosen details—the stacked suitcases at the sign-in table; the plain white linens on each table adorned by simple burlap runners; and stacks of beloved books topped off by vases of flowers. It was beautiful, and I’m so happy I got to be there with Amanda and Jeffrey that night. An image of the wedding that has stayed with me is from the end of the night, when the heat broke and the rain came down, and how everyone just danced in the downpour. What a gorgeous way to end a perfect night.
Happy anniversary, you two. I hope this year has been a good one for you, and that the second year of your marriage is even better.
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Summerfield Farms. Summerfield, NC
Event Coordinator: Alyssa Wray of Summerfield Farms
Day of Wedding Coordinator: Nina of All Events DJs NC
Hair and Make-up Artist: Carla White
Bride’s Jewelry: BHLDN
Bride’s Dress: BHLDN
Men’s Suits: Men’s Wearhouse
Florist: The English Garden
Cake: Maxie B’s
Cupcakes: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas
Thank you to Nathan Abplanalp for your beautiful images.
The spring issue of Edible Charlotte magazine hit stands on March 1st. Find out where to pick up your copy here, or come out and raise a glass (on us!) to the new issue at NODA Brewing Company today from 4-7 pm. Grab a pint of the new Jam Session Pale Ale or, one of my favorites, the Midnight Madness Black IPA.
This issue may have been the most fun for me yet. I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Krabbe and Kathryn Spann of Prodigal Farms in Rougemont, NC. They operate a goat-centric, Animal Welfare Approved dairy, creating a variety of goats milk cheeses, chevre cakes and breads made from the milk’s whey. After spending the afternoon touring their beautiful 97-acre farm and learning how happy goats are the foundation of their business, I was delighted to be sent home with one of their goat’s milk blueberry cheesecakes and, let me tell you, it was divine!
My visit to the local muscadine winery, Treehouse Vineyards, in Monroe tapped into memories from my childhood, where I spent my earliest summers chasing my grandparent’s Saint Bernards, Ben and Buck, through my Grandaddy’s 350+ acres of grapevines in York, SC–careful to avoid the piles of boulders that my grandmother swore were rife with snakes. One sip of Treehouse’s Sweet Union during the tasting took me right back to sitting in the shade of the vines, bringing the thick flesh of a scuppernong to my lips, squeezing the freckled fruit gently with both hands, and releasing the sweet and juicy deliciousness into my mouth. Heaven–if in heaven I am wearing a terrycloth jumper.
Then I had the pleasure of working with my sweet hubby, Mark, for the piece on Southend’s own, Lenny Boy Brewing. Not another beer brewery, although I would be the last to complain if it was, Lenny Boy’s Townes Mozer is the proud producer of Raw Kombucha Tea. Although I consider myself to be a consistent purveyor of healthy eats, I had never tried Kombucha before, or “Booch” as it is often referred to by its regular consumers. It was like nothing I had ever tasted and I was hooked from the first sip. It is an effervescent, fermented tea, chock full of beneficial probiotics and B vitamins. Townes offers a variety of flavors in the taproom, open Sundays, or you can pick up a bottle at any of these local spots.
Finally, I met Ron Morgan of One Hundred Gardens who, along with his partners Sam Fleming and Charlie Oliphant, is working to connect the Charlotte community to struggling communities in Haiti through the establishment of aquaponic gardens–66 educational gardens built in the Charlotte area and 33 high yield systems sent to Haiti that can each provide nourishment for over 3 dozen people a day. As an avid home gardener, I knew this assignment was right in my wheelhouse. After spending the morning with Ron, one of the most charming, passionate and inspiring people I have met in a long time, I left feeling, as my dear friend Jillian would say, as if I could have sopped him up with a biscuit.So come on down to NODA Brewing Company this afternoon and grab your copy. Cheers![subscribe2]
Being a photographer might just be the best job in the world. Everyday it is something different. Sure, some days I am stuck behind a computer–those days are not my favorite– but everyday that I am not is entirely unpredictable. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Kat and Dave of Prodigal Farms in Rougemont, NC for an upcoming local farm piece for Edible Charlotte. I spent the afternoon touring their gorgeous 92-acre retired tobacco farm, which now functions as a goat dairy, producing scrumptious, hand crafted cheeses, chevre cakes and breads made from whey.
Ever since I spent a college summer on an organic farm in Tennessee tending to crops as well as the chickens, sheep and goats, I have had a sweet spot in my heart for farm animals, especially goats. If you have never met one personally, they are incredibly charming. My husband, Mark, and I have been in talks to get some chickens in the backyard come springtime. However, spending time with the affectionate and goofy Prodigal herd yesterday rekindled my goat-love with a vengeance. Maybe there is room for a goat or two? Who knows. I think Mark is afraid he will come home and find them in the kitchen. He should be afraid.