Mindfulness in Manhattan: A Walk to Change Perspective

“At what point do I then stop enjoying my life for its own sake and start doing things just for attention?”

Traveling, in particular, has time and again led me to that question. Did I order that steak tartare in France just for the ‘gram or do I actually want to eat it? (Tartare makes for terrible photos but is, in fact, delicious. Next question, please.) Did I rent a car and drive through Northern Spain for a good story? (Yes, but if the primary aim was to swap amusing stories with my well-traveled grandparents then no harm done.) Did I stay up till 3am sharing my blog posts to my Instagram story while in Ireland with my family rather than resting up to enjoy another full day? (Yes, and boy could I have used that sleep.)

When Dad and I went to Manhattan for a day in July, spending our afternoon walking the 160 blocks from Penn Station to the Cloisters, I was able to take that question one step further: even in a public sphere, when is it time to put the camera away not only to be more present myself, but to allow my prospective subjects to maintain their privacy?

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September 28, 2019 Mountain Wedding in Downtown Asheville, NC

For the very last photos of their Charlotte engagement session, Laura and Chris (per Chris’s half joking idea) ran through a fountain. We finished our photoshoot all laughing; them completely drenched, Emmaleigh’s shoes and pants soaked through from holding a flash, me nicely dry but nonetheless ecstatic about our photos.

A few weeks later, Emmaleigh and I stood on the balcony of the penthouse suite of the Indigo Hotel watching an enormous rain cloud roll over West Asheville towards us, this time quite a bit less excited about the impending drenching.

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August 3, 2019 Magical Garden Wedding at Haiku I Do || Asheville, NC

Fal and Richard had quite the week leading up to their wedding: medical boards on Tuesday, moving on Wednesday and driving to Asheville on Thursday. So, come Saturday, it seemed almost surreal that they’d been able to pull everything off. As they were sitting on the floral sofa under the twinkle lights taking their couple’s photos, in the middle of gazing lovingly at each other Richard suddenly gasped and threw up his hands, “We really did it!”

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In a Manhattan Minute: Runway Edition

We flew over a fluffy blanket of clouds, adding to the coziness of the picturesque scene. Every break in the clouds allowed a glance below at the city lights, the oranges and yellows delightfully contrasting with the blue sky.

Most amazingly of all was the heat lightning. The first bolt glided effortlessly across the horizon, lighting up the seemingly-dusk sky. Here again, my understanding of timing and weather failed me as each flash created its own “sunrise,” painting the horizon a pale pink and yellow.

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In a Manhattan Minute: Stories from Newark

Airports are [metaphorically] lawless places. Your flight’s delayed at 9am? Whiskey with breakfast. Get caught up in rush hour traffic en route to the airport? Cut in front of 2— people through security by only asking the travelers at the end of each row if you can move ahead of them. Sleepy on your redeye back home? Use your backpack as a pillow, jacket as a blanket and stretch out right there on the carpet.

Airports are at once the best places for people watching, and the only location where you can get away with doing whatever less-socially-accepted thing you need to do to get through your travels sanely without being critiqued too harshly. Within reason, of course; if you take up both arm rests, I will judge you.

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June 22, 2019 Fairytale Garden Wedding at Homewood || Asheville, NC

Not often do I get to say this, but I actually knew the groom before the bride did! Q and I both came to Asheville in 2011 as student athletes, and since my freshman roommates were all on the women’s soccer team, I befriended many on the men’s side as well. I photographed both Q’s soccer matches and his graduation photos, so when I got a text from an unknown number while I was working in NYC saying “Hey! Are you free June 22, 2019? Tara and I would love for you to shoot our wedding.” I was understandably thrilled! Well, first I had to figure out whose number it was, then I was thrilled.

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June 8, 2019 Wedding at The Laurel Room at High Vista || Asheville, NC

My absolute favorite thing about being a wedding photographer is getting to see families work together to make their bride and groom’s day the most special possible. For Lauren and Alex, while the weather wasn’t what we’d hoped and several plans had to change, we got to see just how loved and appreciated these two are by all their family and friends. Even better, the rain stopped just enough for us to run outside for photos against the perfectly misty mountains. It was such an honor getting to spend the day capturing the new Mr. and Mrs. Wall’s love for each other. 

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May 18, 2019 Mountainview Wedding at the Crest Center || Asheville, NC

Wedding days are often a great metaphor for life: you can plan for months or years to have that “perfect day,” but no matter how foolproof your strategy, things will never happen quite that way in real time. The beauty of wedding photography is that when things go off course (and timelines go out the window!) we’re there to document families, friends and our fantastic wedding industry colleagues working together to help make each couple’s day, as Emmaleigh says, “perfectly imperfect.”

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May 11, 2019 Garden Wedding at Ijams Nature Center | Knoxville, TN

Getting to go home, photograph a wedding for someone I’ve known through running for a decade, sing every verse of “Rocky Top” and capture the pure joy of two people and their families coming together to celebrate love, was everything I needed. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came together amidst stressful circumstances to pull off an absolutely gorgeous wedding last weekend!

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Travel Albums: Manhattan, NY Vacation Photos

For a decade or so, every year for Christmas I gave my dad a scrapbook of that cross country season’s shenanigans. When he retired from coaching, I worried that I’d have to find a new Christmas project, but realized I could do almost the same thing, just with our travels instead! I had to wait until March this year to give him his present since we had to postpone our annual trip until February, but I’ve always been the master of spreading out holidays.

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Travel Prints: Manhattan Film Photography

The only place I’ve photographed more than my hometown of Asheville is New York City. In the past year, after 3 trips, I’ve shot somewhere close to 15 rolls of film in Manhattan alone, which has given me the chance to practice my street photography in the city which birthed the genre.

There’s not much I can say in the way of describing each location that I haven’t said already, so instead I’ll share my aim for each type of film and why I chose to use it at that time. This is, by far, my favorite set of travel photos to date because I was finally comfortable photographing people at close range, so I captured a wide mix of photos of people going about their day, environmental portraits showing people interacting with the city background, and architectural shots.

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Amber + Chris's Elopement at the St. Jude's Chapel of Hope in Asheville, NC

Susan Marlan of Beloved Ceremony officiated the simple ceremony, and because this was a “true elopement” I also got to serve as a witness. Just after the bride and groom exchanged rings, and just before their first kiss, Chris leaned forward and rested his forehead against Amber’s, where they simply stood breathing each other in for a few moments. It’s these moments, the quiet and intimate scenes, that impact me the most - both as a photographer capturing the emotions before me and a human who feels everything deeply.

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Parent Photo Albums || Nicole + Chris's Highland Brewing Company Wedding in Asheville, NC

I loved giving people gifts. I love even more getting to make said gifts. From age 5 onward, whenever I could, I handmade all family Christmas gifts, starting as early as June to ensure that everyone’s was completed on time.

So, to be able to incorporate gift giving into my business has been a real pleasure. My favorite product that I started offering last year was a parent album, a smaller version of each couple’s photo album showcasing almost exclusively the images that the couple, the parents and siblings are in. This way, each parent gets their own commemorative album tailored to them, highlighting the moments that they were a part of.

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Maya's Old Town Alexandria, VA Portrait Session

The excellent thing about candid portraiture, particularly that which seeks to capture each subject simply as they are, is that it doesn’t require experienced models. In fact, for me, one of the greatest pleasures of running a photography business has been getting to create someone’s first ever portrait session, to give someone the gift of confidence through looking at photos of themselves that capture their essence in a beautiful way.

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Engagement Photo Album || Tara + Q's Zillicoah Beer Company + Beaver Lake Engagement Session

They loved so many of the photos that rather than try to narrow it down further, we decided to include near-duplicates (or at least photos in very similar poses/moments) which made for an interesting design challenge combining quite a few photos into one spread. I love the cinematic quality to their album because of this - as if each photo sequence is its own storyboard for a scene in their romantic flick.

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Ireland Day 1 (and Only): Leave it to the Universe

We didn’t talk much on our walk. The single track trail commands visitors’ silence both because of the treacherous footing and the single-file necessity. This seemed nature’s design as I became much more aware of my surroundings as I simultaneously became lost in my own daydreams. Something about Ireland (and Scotland, too) send my already active imagination into fantasy hyperdrive.

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Photo Album || Keya + Eric's Engagement + Elopement Weekend

My goal was to make the two separate photoshoots blend together into one cohesive story about their lovely weekend, although we only spend about 5 hours total with them. As we ended our engagement shoot (see the full post here) with the most beautiful summer sunset leaving our couple in awe, I decided to set the scene with this opening photo of our Blue Ridge Mountains bathed in color. Photos-wise, from there I moved forward chronologically, ending our first day’s image showing Keya and Eric walking into the distance, alluding to their walk towards their future as husband and wife.

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Spain Day 3: New Horizons

To me, the idea wasn’t complete without a little “danger” so my plan was to throw off my dress as I was running towards the water and sprint in just in my underwear. Mind you, the water was probably only 50 degrees and there were still people walking at either end of the beach as well as along the boardwalk. But it was dark, I didn’t know anyone else there, and I was ready to practice being bold. So, I took a deep breath, tossed my dress to Erin and dove under the waves. I came up breathless, shocked from the cold even though I knew it was coming. I ran back in, ready to get warm. But somehow, I still wasn’t satisfied. I hadn’t fully reveled in the feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. So, I ran back in and this time held my breath under water for a few seconds, coming up to stand in the waist deep waves while I gazed into the vast, dark expanse.

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