Good MORNING from sunny Orlando! I’m sort of sad we missed the 8-12 inches of snow that fell last week, just because of how pretty I’m sure it was, but I’ve been sporting sundresses and short-sleeved tops these past few days, so I’m not all that sorry. It’s been so wonderful to get away for a little bit to simply enjoy being alive with Matt!

Hogwarts at Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Abby Grace Photography

The main purpose of the vacation was to come down to see our Washington Nationals play in spring training, but while we’re here, we’re also taking advantage of the other fun stuff Orlando has to offer. Like HARRY POTTER WORLD! We went yesterday with my best friend in the world and it was a.maz.ing. Sarah’s a closet HP fan, so we had so much fun geeking out over all the little details in Diagon Alley & Hogsmeade! And tomorrow, we’re going to Disney!!

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • If you ever buy a chocolate frog, the folks at Honeydukes will advise you to eat the back legs first so it can’t hop away. The more you know!
  • Watching Nats games from as close as our seats have been at spring training has totally spoiled me for regular season. Thank goodness for StubHub, because I’ll never be satisfied with nosebleed seats again!
  • Guys, the new part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is even BETTER than the first one! I didn’t think it was possible, but they’ve outdone themselves.
  • Vacation: where the calories are made up and the carbs don’t matter.
  • No but seriously. The calories don’t count, right?
  • Because I’m going to have another butterbeer today.

I can’t wait to share all my photos from Universal, but for now, here’s our group as Sarah & I geek out over being at Hogwarts!

Hogwarts at Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Abby Grace Photography

Happy, happy Monday! We’re off to explore!

  • Ally Skeer - I hope you are having SO much fun! I can’t wait to hear about the new parts of HPW!!!!! Secretly (not so secretly) jealous of your adventures in the sun!ReplyCancel

  • Jeannie Mathews - So jealous. We decided to skip our Florida trip this year, and last week we were asking ourselves “WHY???” BTW, if you buy those close-up seats at Nationals Park buy on the 3rd base side – gets shade a lot earlier on those baking hot summer afternoons. Enjoy your trip!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - loving your pictures from your trip. Knowing we’ll be going south next week keeps me from being jealous. Have fun!ReplyCancel

  • Jaclyn - Haha I love your enthusiasm for Harry Potter. I thought I was a huge fan because I love the movies, but you definitely have me beat by a long shot!ReplyCancel

Moving out to Sterling wasn’t my first choice, but it was where we found a house, so Sterling is where we are. I wasn’t thrilled about it at first, but the longer we’re here, the more I love it. A lot of that has to do with the fact that two families from our church are within a quarter mile walk, and since moving, we’ve had SO much fun spending time with these two couples + each of their sweet daughters, both born within 5 days of each other last fall. If I get baby fever, I’m blaming it on Flo & Nicki.

Snow days are a time when I’m particularly thankful for these friends- when the snow started falling hard, I called Flo and asked if I could pop over in a few minutes to take some portraits of her and Terry in the snow! Lucky for me, they said yes, so I grabbed my mk3 and walked over. Matt stayed inside with Baby Elsa, and though it was fuh-REEZING and the snow was whipping like crazy, we had a wonderful time!

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And then Matt called Alan & Nicki to see if they’d want to come over for a movie and some hot chocolate, and I asked them to come ready for portraits too. Once again, Matt stayed inside to babysit little miss Charlotte, and the three of us tromped outside for a round of chilly photographs. It was SO much fun- having the chance to photograph friends is one of my favorite joys, because knowing them makes capturing their love authentically all the more enjoyable and easygoing.

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Terry & Flo, Alan & Nicki, thank you for being willing to brave the frigid cold for my sake! Matt & I are so, so grateful to live so close to each of you- it makes snow days unimaginably awesome :).

  • Caili - The SNOW! So magical, Abby. I love the one of her laughing over his shoulder! I’m such a nerd, though, because I saw the first picture and instantly worried about your equipment getting wet. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - how sweet that you have such good friends! Beautiful photos.ReplyCancel

  • Jaclyn - I am sick of the snow and the winter but this was too cute to not look at. Such a fun shoot! :)ReplyCancel

  • Mona Balentine - these are so awesome! you captured fun and joy and love!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - These are so beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Rici - So much snow! Wow Abby, it looks like incredible fun!!ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Oh yes living in walking distance of church friends. I have a bunch of my campus crusaders in 10 minutes walking distance. Hear you 500%
    And I am so sorry to leave it behind soon.
    Hope you enjoy every day of it. ;)ReplyCancel

I remember the first time Matt & I had to spend the night apart after we got married- I was still working my corporate job and I’d been sent to Lawton, OK for a Comms thing. We’d been married something like two months, and I thrilled at the chance to wake up and see him next to me, so the prospect of a few days spent without my best friend was a source of contention for me.

And then you meet people like Kam & Erin, he an officer in the Navy and she an officer with the US Marines. Stationed on opposite sides of the country, they couldn’t take a honeymoon right after their wedding because they both had to report back to base. During their session, Kam said something about being “up to 85 days,” and after asking what he meant, he told me that was how many days they’d had together since their wedding in November of 2013. And he said it with JOY, not with anger; smiling over at his bride, he was grateful that they’d had as many as 85 days in each others’ company as husband and wife.

Kam & Erin, spending time with you both was so life-giving! Thank you for the chance to be reminded of how precious time with your spouse is, and that time together is to be cherished. I love watching you treasure each other!

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Williamsburg anniversary session photographer- Abby Grace

Williamsburg anniversary session photographer- Abby GraceWilliamsburg anniversary session photographer- Abby GraceWilliamsburg anniversary session photographer- Abby GraceWilliamsburg anniversary session photographer- Abby Grace

Hey, remember that time last week when I hosted a workshop on a Monday and TOTALLY blanked on blogging? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that! I didn’t realize I’d forgotten to blog until Monday night, and at that point, I was already sprawled on the couch with a glass of champagne, donning my best pair of sweatpants. C’est la vie!

Guys, I’m not usually the person to wish away weeks at a time by saying “I just want it to be Spring already,” but… I’m really tired of winter. I never though I’d get sick of snow, but we’ve reached the point where frozen precipitation is starting to make me angry. It’s snowed/iced three times in the last week, and when you have two dogs who have to be walked separately? Ice is a big problem. We had to get Lily a set of socks because her feet keep freezing whenever we take her out in the snow, and 65-lb Sirius is a puller (we’re working on it) so walking him on slick sidewalks? Nightmare. I’m definitely ready for warmer weather!

snowy Virginia anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

On that note, Matt & I are heading down to ORLANDO this week!! I’m so excited!! Matt’s always wanted to see Spring Training so we’ll be at two Nationals games, and then we’re also visiting Disney and (of course) HARRY POTTER WORLD!!!! We haven’t seen the new part they’ve opened up, and my best friend Sarah hasn’t seen any of it, so we’re going with Sarah & Dan and it’s going to be epic. I’m going to start fasting now to prepare myself for all the butterbeer I’m going to consume. I’m also pretty stoked for the chance to wear short sleeves and see my favorite palm trees! I lived in Orlando growing up, and going back always makes me giddy in a way I haven’t been since I was 7. I can. not. WAIT.

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past [two] week[s]!

  • Don’t leave brie on the table unattended. Especially an entire slice of it, especially when your newest dog’s head reaches table-level. I left a whole wedge of creamy brie alone for FIVE SECONDS and came back downstairs just in time to see Sirius grab the entire glob of it and attempt to wolf it down before I could intervene. Fortunately, a whole wedge is difficult to swallow with only five seconds to do so, and I got it out of his mouth before he could claim victory. Jerk.
  • Mouth Party Caramels: dangerous to keep around the office. I’ve ordered a bunch of them for an upcoming project and have instructed Matt to hide them until it’s time to package them up, they’re that dangerous.
  • Anyone else watch The Walking Dead? Rick Grimes, you seriously need a shave, my friend.
  • Also, I haven’t watched last night’s episode yet, so no spoilers!
  • I saw The Washington Ballet’s production of Sleepy Hollow a week and a half ago- PHENOMENAL. Definitely different than my typical fare, but the music was on point and the choreography was really fresh! They had a guest ballerina from ABT and watching Xiomara Reyes dance was utterly enchanting!

The best part about living within a five-minute walk from two couples we love dearly is that we get to hang out a lot. But the second best part is that they’re available to model on short notice when it’s blizzard-ing outside!

snowy Virginia anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Monday!

  • Ally Skeer - Abby – I ordered 5 and a half POUNDS of Sea Salt Caramels from Mouth Party for a project… and I think that a pound of them is already gone. They are so dangerous. I think Matt needs to come hide mine from me, also.

    CANT WAIT for Wednesday, and bon voyage! #frozenbutterbeerovereverythingReplyCancel

  • Lindsey Chambers - I figured I’d post this time so you know I read it. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Sami Orndorff - Two things — A) Have you tried Sirius with a Gentle Leader leash?! We got one from Graham a few months ago and it made ALL the difference!!! B) I just realized Sirius’s name is a shout-out to HP. #fail #whoami? Which means that now this is three things…C) I had no clue you were from Orlando too! I lived there for two years in elementary school — what a small world :) Have a blast & soak up some warmth, chica!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kerith - I couldn’t use a gentle leader, Onyx hated it so much she ran her face into the ground until she bled trying to get it off. But the Easywalk from Petsmart that hooks in the front? Took walking from a strength exercise to a pleasant experience. SO much easier. I swear by it.ReplyCancel

Voting in the Shoot & Share photo contest- what I

I’m not the only one who’s literally had HOURS of my life sucked into voting am I? This thing is addicting! I think it’s because it sort of feels like gambling- you never know when one of YOUR photos might pop up, so I keep telling myself “just one more round. Ok, two more. It’ll definitely come up in the next grouping!” It took me hours to choose my final set of images to submit, and it’s a huge thrill whenever I see that one of mine is still a contender!

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, go HERE. The contest is the largest in the world, and there were more than 115,000 photos submitted this year! So naturally, the range of skill and talent is super varied, and I’ve actually discovered a lot about myself and my tendencies as I’ve been voting. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. I take way too many “bride looks down at her shoulder” photos. It seems to be a default for me when I can’t think of anything else to do, and the more photos I see pop up in the contest of a bride simply looking down for seemingly no reason, the more it’s turning me off. So this year, I know to make a more concerted effort to mix up my solo bride portraits!
  2. The colors of a film photo have no equal. I’m so glad I shoot anniversaries with a combination of film and digital!
  3. When it comes to the families and children categories, my favorite images are the ones where people are completely ignoring the camera. Kids being kids, dads and moms being goofy or playing pretend with their little ones.
  4. Fake “authentic” moments really turn me off! I promise to never try and force those again, because if I feel awkward viewing them, I can only imagine how my couples feel.
  5. I love things that make SENSE! If a photo doesn’t seem logical to me, I probably won’t vote for it. That’s my type A personality coming out, that is.
  6. I heart wide, epic shots. I should take more of those!
  7. If there is a: tulle skirt, set of twins or triplets, Harry Potter reference, or puppy in the image, I’m going to vote for it. Every time.
  8. If there is a: ballerina with under-developed technique, someone blowing glitter/snow/confetti at the camera, or a fake snow overlay, I’m not going to vote for it. Every time.
  9. Does it make me a total narcissist if I freak out and screen shot my images every time they pop up? Because I definitely do that.
  10. The simplest images are often my favorites! One of my favorite J&M sayings in regard to crazy photo techniques is “just because we CAN, doesn’t mean we should.” My favorite newborn images are the ones that show infants in settings that feel most natural- in their momma’s arms, or simply swaddled in a comfy blanket. The overly-manufactured, overly-processed, overly-posed images just aren’t my thing.
  11. Sometimes, I can’t tell if I’m voting for the content of the images (i.e. a gorgeous dress), or skill of the photographer who took the photo (i.e. how well they captured the light).
  12. I really want to shoot at Glacier National Park!
  13. Voting for my friends’ images is JUST as fun as seeing my own show up!
  14. Someday, I want to photograph a wedding where the reception takes place outside underneath hundred of cafe lights.
  15. If you ever feel the need to be taken down a few pegs, just sit and vote in the contest for a while. I’m overwhelmed by how much incredible talent there is in the photo world- it’s insane!

Voting in the Shoot & Share photo contest- what I

How about y’all? What are thing you find yourself gravitating toward as you vote?

Happy Friday!

  • Thuy Minh H. - Glad to see I’m not the only one voting for hours, and getting all excited when one of my photos appear. I even take screen shots when it happens…ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Herrinton - YES! I feel like I’ve learned SO much by voting and totally thought I was crazy for feeling that way! It has definitely inspired me for this upcoming wedding season!!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn Grace - I agree, it’s been really fun to be almost subconsciously honing your style by finding out what you gravitate towards in voting! I’ve seen several of your images and I haven’t even been voting that much. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - My husband & I took the trip of our lifetimes (so far) this past Fall when we went to Glacier, Yellowstone, & Grand Teton Ntnl Parks. And I have to say Glacier was our favorite. We saw 4 bears, 4 big horn sheep, numerous mountain goats, & a ton of other wildlife, not to mention gorgeous glaciers! We felt like we were in The Sound of Music. It’s a must-see, must-photograph location for sure. Yellowstone & Grand Tetons were epic too, no doubt, but honestly Glacier was our surprise favorite.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Schrad - I love this post… You crack me up! I have my things that get automatic “yes”s and “no”s too. My photo or my friends’ photos = yes. Railroad tracks = no. Dogs = yes. Overly staged newborns = no (if I have a choice). I am also now very anti-blowing things at the camera. And I’ve become biased against images that are clearly from styled shoots that are in a category other than styled shoot. Maybe shouldn’t be… but I am. The contest has been amazingly educational and now that we’re in Round 7, it’s getting harder and harder to vote because the images are just so good!ReplyCancel

  • ashley mitchell - Can’t.Stop.Voting. I have voted for many of yours m’lady!!! :)ReplyCancel