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OMG I Love Your Photos! What Camera Do You Use?

Alright y'all. Enough with this question. Honestly, it's offensive and degrades our work. Let's clear some things up. 

My camera is not what is doing the work that results in these amazing photos. Ok yeah, of course it's doing some of the work, but it's not about the camera. It's about the user. You could buy the most expensive, newest, top of the line photographer and not be satisfied because you don't know how to utilize your camera to it's maximum potential.  

With that, I personally use Nikon. It's what I know the most about. My mother had a Nikon when she shot film. I am by no means a brand snob though. I have worked with Canon and Olympus. And that's just camera brands. There are many more and there are different brands when it comes to lenses as well. So when I get the question, "I want to get into photography, what camera do I buy?" I can't really answer that for you. It's all about what you are hoping to get out of it. I can make certain recommendations, but honestly, I'll probably wind up looking something up on Google just like you. It takes research to figure out what camera is going to work for you personally. Comparing and contrasting and reading reviews. And again, that's just the camera body. There are so so so many different kinds of lenses out there and again, what you buy depends on what you're using them for. I personally think there is a bit more snobbish behavior surrounding lenses than cameras. There's just endless factors. The focal length (zoom vs prime), the aperture and F stop, the sensor size (DX vs FX), autofocus vs manual focus, the noise they create, and the glass they're made with. Seriously, there is so much research to do, and it's all about what you want to be able to do. 

Now if I haven't already overloaded you with all the variables when it comes to choosing a camera and lenses, there is a whole other field of photography that can make an impact. That, is editing. You can do amazing things with photos in post. But, you cannot fix everything. So it is still very important to know how to use your camera and all it's settings. And I cannot emphasize enough how important lighting is. Lighting is key! For example, if you're into natural light like me you could love a certain area, but you have to watch where you're standing and where whatever you're photographing is and everything in relation to where the sun is. It could turn into a silhouette shot or have funny shadows across it. Of course, sometimes you're going for that kind of shot. It's a learning process. I'm learning new things all the time. Learning through experience and learning through other photographers. 

I branched off a little. Editing. You can make a big difference in your photos depending on how you edit. Personally, I'm trying to enhance my skill so that I don't have to edit as much, just make minor adjustments here and there such as contrast and brightness. But you can do so much more when it comes to editing, which can completely change the vibe of your photo depending on what you do. I can't really describe it. But photography is just so much more than buying a camera, pointing it at something, and pushing a button. It's having the knowledge of what will make that photo look good, knowing how to utilize your equipment, and knowing how to enhance your image naturally. It is a subject that needs to be endlessly studied and practiced. Buying a DSLR does not a photographer make. And neither does portrait mode on your iPhone. 

Winter Photography

How beautiful those photos are that have beautiful fluffy white landscapes, evergreen trees dappled with snow, and perfect flakes fluttering down from the sky. 

Gorgeous, yes. Deadly, maybe. 

Oh I'm kidding it's not actually deadly but winter photography is nothing to be taken lightly.  Seriously, if you want winter photos that badly, be prepared. Especially if you want to try to deceive the world into thinking you're not actually risking frostbite for these winter wonderland portraits and that oh this thin sweater is totally warm enough I'm totally not cold. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love winter photography. Snow can be a beautiful backdrop and landscape to work with. Certain things need to get taken into account though. If you are not a fan of the cold, watch the weather. There can be warmer days where snow is still around. Choose one of those days so you don't suffer and you don't freeze your photographer. If you're on a deadline and can't wait on the weather, I recommend going with actually dressing like it's winter and bringing hand warmers and even blankets. Seriously, if these are for your own memories or to also give to family, it's winter. We all know it's cold. You don't have to act like it's not and dress like it's not. Winter is all about the sweater weather! Wear that snowflake sweater with your pom pom hat and mittens your grandmother knitted you and your fuzzy snow boots. Plus, things like the hats and the blankets and scarves can be cute props/additions that enhance the photo and give you those warm family winter vibes. Yes I just used warm and winter in the same sentence. Now, if you really want to wear something totally not weather appropriate, well then, no complaining allowed. And also you might want to carve out a chunk of time to give yourself opportunities to get back in the car and warm up in between shots.

Winter photos really do take more time in general because you need moments to warm up. And be considerate of your photographer. You never know, the shot you're dying to get might require them to sit in the snow. And yes, I have personally done that before. Plus, if we lose the feeling in our hands, we'll lose our ability to push the magic button that preserves those moments in time.  

Ginger Flame in Europe

I can't believe I traversed three countries in two weeks. Talk about a whirlwind adventure. 

First things first, I just want to say, Lufthansa airlines, you rock. I am by no means an airline connoisseur, but I was definitely a fan. 

Moving on...let me tell you about Finland. We (my travel buddy Natalie and I) landed in Helsinki and then got picked up by a friend and drove to Turku (which used to be the capital of Finland). Majority of our time was spent there. Beautiful city divided by the River Aura and we could walk everywhere. Awesomely this is the location of the whale tail fountain sculpture entitled Harmony by German artist Achim Kuhn. Also along the river are giant awesome ships. Legitimate giant pirate ships. So of course this is where the Tall Ship Races happen. Even cooler, some of these ships are converted into restaurants. And of course, with such an history and presence of ships, there's got to be a museum, right? That can be found in the Forum Marinum which also has the ship museum Suomen Joutsen. And anyone who is reading that is an art fan too, fantastically right outside the museum is the giant daisy sculpture. I was thrilled to find both of these pieces in Finland. Now we didn't actually go inside of Turku Castle because of course the only day we could go, it was closed, but it was still cool to see the old architecture. We also stopped in to Panimoravintola Koulu, an awesome pub. Now I am not a beer fan, but I had a blackcurrant hard cider that was absolutely delicious. And of course it was a really cool atmosphere inside too. I definitely recommend this pub as a place to visit. 

One of my favorite spots we went to in Finland was the town of Naantali. Incredibly cute town and we got to do some hiking too. It was beautiful there. For some reason rocks all covered in moss is whimsical to me. When we got to a higher vantage point that overlooked the Port of Naantali, the water was like glass and it was foggy and just gorgeous. Also we got to walk around Moomin World, which was closed for the season but it was still cool to explore. 

Top favorite spot in Finland was the forest in Helsinki, which I'm pretty sure was the Nuuksio National Park. Absolutely gorgeous. I was in photography heaven. It was slightly treacherous though because the trees were so thick, that all the ice had not quite melted yet. So while it was not super cold considering we were in Finland in the beginning of April, all of the paths were covered in ice and trying to travel smart, I neglected to pack my ice hiking traction cleats. Darn it all. But it was still really great. The rocks were covered in moss and all the trees were so tall and it was just beautiful and whimsical and I've never been hiking in such a beautiful area. Here's the sad thing though. I got sick so I did not get to do a whole lot of exploring in Helsinki because we were only there for about two days. But it's a coastal city with fantastic architecture. 

My sickness continued to plague me into the first day in London. Which basically ripped my heart out because I've been dreaming about going to London for years and never imagined I would ever actually be able to go and we were only going to be there for four days. So what did I do while I felt like crap? Watched Doctor Who obviously. Because what else is there to do while you're chilling in bed all day in London. It was beautiful, really. But then English drugs saved the day and I started to feel better and dreams came true.

The friends that we stayed with were some of the most amazing hosts. Anywhere we wanted to go, they made sure we got there. You know typically when you're an American traveling abroad, you try to blend in and not look like a tourist, but in London I did not give a crap. I was so excited and wanted to go to every attraction possible. First order of nerd business, I got to see a Tardis. Oh yes, a Tardis, just outside of a tube station. I was ecstatic. You know, took a couple selfies, the usual. Next, I got to walk across Abbey Road. Abbey freaking Road people. Only The Beatles could make a crosswalk famous. Downside/public service announcement, Abbey Road is a legitimate street where traffic still comes through, so if you're in London and want to get yourself an iconic photo walking across the street (like I of course did with Natalie), just be considerate of cars driving through. And you can't go to London without getting a photo with a red telephone booth. If you don't, you're just weird. Seeing Tower Bridge...I really can't describe why I love London so much, because just seeing Tower Bridge, not even walking across it or riding in a classic double decker red London tour bus, I was just so happy. And let me tell you, I was so giddy when I saw Big Ben. I am a giant dork. If Natalie wasn't afraid of heights we would have gone on the London Eye, but it was still awesome to see across the Thames. I'll just have to go back to London to do more stuff. 

Alright, now unto the less walking around and seeing stuff, and more the going and doing stuff stuff. That sentence made complete sense. Anyway, remember how moss covered things give me whimsical feelings? Well the abandoned church St. Dunstan's in the East is mossy and covered in vines and is totally gorgeous and I took some portraits of Natalie there which you can find in the portrait collection. If you're a fan of museums, you've gotta visit the British Museum. We didn't have an awful lot of time to spend there, but it is so big and magnificent. I really want to go back and spend more time there. And we managed to stop by Buckingham Palace. It was at night, but it was still cool. And the flag was up which means the Queen was in. But I'm pretty sure it was past her bedtime so she didn't come out to say hi. Oh! Camden Market!! How do I describe Camden Market...It's like Parkleigh meets Hot Topic. If you don't know what either of those places are, it's like artsy meets punk. There is literally everything and anything there. Natalie bought herself an awesome leather bag. I bought one of my best friends a handmade leather notebook with hand cut plain paper. And just a little down the street you can get a tattoo and a piercing. Restaurants, shopping, and art. It's really something you have to experience. 

But there is more to England than just London. We got to go to Stonehenge. Who takes the Pandorica takes the universe! There's my nerd side again. Anyway, because it's been around so long and it's such a tourist attraction it's starting to deteriorate a little so to protect it you can no longer walk around inside of it, you can only walk around it. LOTS of people there, but since it's such a large area you can definitely manage to get pictures without any other people in the background. It was really awesome. Then we headed down to the coast and went and visited Durdle Door. Another gorgeous place. Honestly it reminded me of the coast in Italy. The hike down to the beach was definitely a hike, but it was totally worth it. Yeah I probably sound repetitive and redundant by calling a lot of places gorgeous, but it was. On the way back to Hayes we drove through the New Forrest as the sun was setting and it was beautiful and (even though I'm afraid of them) we stopped along the road and saw some wild ponies and they came right up to the car. That terrified me, but it was really cool seeing horses in a natural environment. 

Airport plug, I had a layover in Heathrow when I went to Italy and thought it was an awesome airport. Easy to traverse and navigate. This time, we flew in and out of Gatwick. Also easy to traverse. Both get good votes from me. 

Dublin!! Bus system is totally confusing. Or maybe I'm just a dunce. But anyway, Dublin is great. We got to tour the Guinness Storehouse (again not a beer fan but Natalie is) and it was a really cool experience. Floor after floor of things to see and do. The best part for me was the Gravity bar at the very top of the building which provided a 360 view of the city. And of course just walking around the city. I am a big fan of cobblestone streets and old architecture and Dublin definitely has that. We also took an afternoon and headed to Malahide and got to explore the grounds of a castle.  Something else that was cool is that while we were in Ireland, this was around the same time that Ed Sheeran's album Divide was released and yeah I got a little giddy when we were walking down Grafton Street (famous shopping strip and Natalie got herself a new claddagh ring). Of course also at this time Ed Sheeran was in fact in Dublin for a concert which of course we could not afford. So we went pub hopping. There is a lot of history in the pubs in Dublin. For example, McDaids has high ceilings because it used to be the morgue. Another notable and famous pub is The Brazen Head. Fantastic food, awesome atmosphere and people. It is the oldest pub in Ireland having existed since 1198, so it is over 800 years old. You can just feel the history while you're sitting at the bar. The gentleman who was attending to us had been there a long time himself and was super hospitable and kind. He even let us step behind the bar for a photo. The last place we hit up was the Oliver St. John Gogarty pub so that we could of course eat some more Irish pub grub but also we got to experience amazing live Irish music. Awesome way to finish out the trip with a bang. 

If I ever find myself in Finland again, I would love to go more north and explore more forests, maybe run into a reindeer. Of course as long as he didn't find out that I ate a reindeer last time I was there and there was no risk of death. London, there's just so much to see. I need more than four days. And Ireland, definitely need more than two days there and I really want to go more north. I must see the Cliffs of Moher. I hear they're insane. 

Nashville

Nashville. The city of music. Even if you're not a country music fan per say, you'd still have a great time. Let me recap.

The very first night we got there we went to this bar called The Family Wash. Great food, they even had vegetarian options for my sister (in fact a lot of places did) and the very first performance we saw was a local college student at Belmont University, Anna Vaus, who also received the Miranda Lambert Women Creators scholarship. Completely adorable and had an amazing guitarist and stringed bassist with her. Next was this completely adorable and funny duo, Stranger Things. But the cool thing about them is the fact that, they had been writing together for years, but are only recently a singing duo, and they got called up to write a song for the movie that's coming out this year, Dog Years with Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winters. But that one song turned into eighteen, and now fourteen are going to be used in the soundtrack. Crazy awesome, and I got to see it all, just by walking into a nearby restaurant. 

Friday we headed down to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It was awesome seeing the history, but then again, I'm a museum person. Favorite part was the wall of Gold and Platinum Records. My family spent hours there. But alas, because we spent forever there, we had to grab some food and then get going because we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. But let me talk about the food first. We hit up this little place called The Pharmacy. I am a huge fan of burgers, and this was one of the best burgers I have ever had. Should you find yourself in East Nashville, you must go here. Plus, it was a cool atmosphere, the service was great and fast too. But the Opry. The Opry. One of the coolest experiences ever. They still broadcast on the radio and do live advertisements, and they perform in little half hour stints. I recognized zero names on the program but they totally did not disappoint. And now I have a list of new people to look up and download their music. And what is more fantastic, bless my mother, we were given a backstage tour. It was extremely cool to learn about the history of the Opry and how it worked and to step into some of those dressing rooms where legendary people chilled out before they stepped onto that historical oak circle that survived a flood and the best part was, I got to stand on that oak circle too. Nope, totally wasn't speechless and overexcited. It was good. I was totally fine. 

 Saturday brought city exploration. I'm talking about Honkey Tonk Row. Strip of nothing but boot shops and restaurants with live music. Nashville is basically all about the music and the food. You can find both everywhere. Also, Nashville is like one of the top cities for bachelorette parties. I tried counting how many we saw and legitimately lost track. Definitely a good city for a good time. 

The next day my mother and sister went to the hair show down at Music City Center because that was the whole reason for the trip, so my dad and I were let loose on Nashville. Started out with coffee and scones at Three Brothers Coffee. Definitely a good place, plus it's a great place for you instagrammers because there's an artsy alcove. Check my instagram page to see what I'm talking about ;) Then we took a stroll through a park and found the Parthenon. Rome, Italy has one, Athens, Greece has one, and Nashville, Tennessee has one. Why not. It actually started out as a temporary replica of the one in Athens but people liked it so much its permanent now. We didn't go in, but it was cool to walk around it. Really cool bronze doors that are identical to each other on opposite sides of the building and they weigh seven something tons each. Then off to the Harley Davidson store we went, well, because I was with my dad. But what was really cool was going to Antique Archaeology. You may recognize the name of this store because it belongs to the show American Pickers. Gotta say, there was a lot of cool stuff in there. And there's a bunch of other little shops and even a brewery in the same building, also worthy of seeing. Word to the wise though, there was a line to get in because it's not that big of a store and it's famous. 

Last thing to talk about. The Bluebird Cafe. Mega famous. All the cool people go there. Which is why I didn't get in. Just kidding I didn't get in because we didn't make reservations ahead of time and it is the tiniest little place ever and there was a long line of people waiting (some people got there at 1pm and the music starts at like 6:30). Reason being, the show Nashville got this little cafe uber famous, but it's well known because songwriters come here and sing the songs they've written for your favorite country music stars. No stage, just chairs in a circle in the middle of a room surrounded by tables for all ya'll to sit and listen. But you must must go here and you really really need to make reservations ahead of time. 

I think that pretty much sums up everything. I had a great time in Nashville, and I definitely recommend it for a weekend getaway. 

Reality Check

Attention all Brides, Bride-to-be's, wedding-obsessed, and Pinterest-addicted people. This is a reality check.

Now I just want to let you all know, that this is not coming from a snide, 20-something who is pretending to be a big shot professional. I try to act in a professional manner, yes, but I by no means try to act under the pretenses that I have the same amount of experience and knowledge as established professionals. This is just a little informative article, coming from a photographer, about what really goes into this job. 

Where do I begin. Probably with the fact that, photography is an incredibly saturated market. It can be hard to establish yourself. Especially with the age old cycle of, you can’t get hired without experience, but you can’t get experience without being hired. Even if you aren’t being paid, someone will be taking a chance with you. I’ve been there. I worked weddings for long time family friends of mine for free when I first started off. And anyone who has been involved in a wedding in any way, shape, or form, knows that a wedding is a very, very long day. Long days call for stress.     

Have I mentioned that a photographer has a very stressful and demanding job? There are many variables factoring into this day going smoothly. Which pretty much never happens. Between the hoards of equipment we bring, making sure all of it works, making sure we remember where it all is, making sure we don’t forget or break any of it, to the guests and you and your family. Yes, we are involved with all of it. Not only you, the bride and groom, but also your mothers, fathers, siblings, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, any other relative that is removed but still family, and of course the friends that are basically family and make sure you know this. Yes, thank you for contributing your vast photography knowledge and your unbridled opinion about how I’m supposed to do my job, please take a seat now, your head is ruining my shot. 

Moving beyond everything that happens in the course of the day, a big thing photographers are competing with these days, is Pinterest. Yes, the online version of hoarding where you can get ideas for everything. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest is amazing and I myself am borderline addicted, but its not my Bible. It is a fantastic way to get ideas for the kind of style you want, but something more important is making sure the photographer that you hire works with the kind of style you like. Every photographer has a different kind of style. Don’t cheap out and hire a photographer that is, well, not expensive and try and make them do what you want. I’m not saying that they couldn’t. But I am saying that photographers are artists. They are creative. Do not try and mold them the way you want them. Pick a photographer who has a style that matches your vision in the first place. If you really want quality photos that you will love forever, you will pick your photographer based on their style, not their price.