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Ethan & Jessica- a Bald Head Island, NC destination wedding

It began at a bar. A bar in Monterey, California, to be exact. A bar that was crawling with service members from all different branches of the military, all of them in Monterey to learn at the Defense Language Institute. And he’d seen her before, most definitely. But he was afraid of putting himself out there, so he avoided talking to her, avoided making the first move. And she’d noticed him in class, but again- neither wanted to be the first to show interest. Both coming out of heartbreaks, both with a child of their own to care and provide for, and both wounded and scarred in their own way.

They are each other’s redemption story.

She brought him from a place of anger, bitterness and resentment, from a place where he never thought he’d be loved again, to a place of laughter. A place where he could smile and laugh with ease again. Her relaxed nature and ability to draw him out brought him back around to the guy I knew as my big brother. Jessica, you rescued him from somewhere dark, and we will always be eternally grateful to you for that. I am so glad to call you family and am PROUD to have you as a sister.

We began at my aunt’s house on Bald Head Island…

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My incredibly talented grandmother Mimi made all of the florals…

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My wonderful husband Matt took over for me during the ceremony so that I could be in the wedding :).

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8 minutes for portraits- ready? GO.

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Bald Head Island Norther Carolina wedding photographer

Old Baldy, the BHI lighthouse.

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On the ferry back to the mainland…

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I love you both, Ethan & Jessica! And thank you so much for the privilege of documenting your wedding day. It was nothing short of an honor.

Dad - January 17, 2013 - 9:21 pm

All gorgeous of course and BTW her name is GRANNA!!!!

Christine - December 23, 2012 - 7:05 pm

Beautiful 8 minute portraits Abby! You have such a gift. These are stunning.

Michelle - December 21, 2012 - 10:22 pm

What a beautiful wedding and photographs!

mollystillman - December 21, 2012 - 2:51 pm

absolutely stunning!! you can just feel the love they have for each other in these photos. beautiful!!

Jean - December 21, 2012 - 9:59 am

Beautiful photos of a gorgeous couple and a great wedding. So much fun!

TotallyNotYourBrother - December 20, 2012 - 10:04 pm

You’re a good sister. These pictures turned out better than we could have ever imagined. Thank you Abby. This meant the world to us.

Jessica - December 20, 2012 - 6:40 pm

Thank you so much Abby, the pictures all turned out amazing. You did an awesome job, and I’m so glad to be part of the family!

Megan Guernsey - December 20, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Those mini desserts look amazing! Great photos, Abby. It proves how truly talented you are that you were able to get great portraits in just 8 mins.

Hello from New Haven!

You know those times when some sort of contest makes its rounds, and you realize there’s probably no way anyone will even see your entry, much less PICK that entry as a winner, but you enter anyways because “what the heck, why not?” That was somewhere along my line of thought when I sent in my entry to Justin & Mary after they announced “The Big Next” event they’d be hosting in their Connecticut home in December. So I sent in a couple of paragraphs about these dreams that I have, dreams that get me out of bed in the morning, dreams that keep me up at night, dreams that push me out of the shower before I’ve remember to wash out my conditioner. And then I forgot about it, because I realized my odds of having a more captivating reason for needing to be there than somebody else were quite slim. But then something amazing happened. I got an email from Mary a few days later telling me, along with five other crazy awesome photographers, that we’d all won a seat as part of the in-studio audience!! It wasn’t my most attractive moment… reading that email in our little kitchen, I shrieked, air-punched, Jersey fist-pumped, and Irish step-danced my way around for a good 15 minutes afterwards. Alright, let’s not kid ourselves. It was more like three days.

The Big Next began Monday night and is going strong through this evening, and I’ve already filled up 13 more pages in my notebook with cramped notes and ideas scribbled in the margins. Far too many of the pages have stars, underlines and “IMPORTANT”s next to them, but that’s because everything I’m learning IS incredibly valuable! I’m being pushed to justify my reasoning and desires behind my dreams, which makes me realize I want them that much more desperately. We’re all being forced to take a good hard look at how we’re doing things, whether or not they’re working, and how we can make them even better for next year. And one of my favorite parts about these three days is that J&M are sitting down with each attendee to do a mentoring session about where they currently are in their stage of business, where they want to go, WHY they want to go there, and how to make those dreams into something doable. At 2:00ish today, I’ll have a chance to sit in the hot seat and talk one-on-one with Mary for an hour about my business in particular.

You guys, I’m so nervous! With the questions Mary’s already asked me and the questions I’ve been watching her ask Eryn, Kori, Gabrielle, Jen & Ashley over the last two days, I know she’s not going to let me weasel of difficult queries with frilly or vague answers. But I NEED that. I need someone to sit down with me, push all the fluff aside, and give me a realistic outside and more-experienced opinion on what seems to be working, where I’m failing royally, and how I can ratchet things up ten more notches. These past couple of days have been so healthy for my too-big sense of self-importance. Seeing these other amazing women, their hearts for their clients and businesses, and the amazing things they’re doing, it’s so refreshing to my soul.

Today’s session starts back up at 11:00 am with Kori‘s mentoring session, and I STRONGLY encourage tuning in on ShowIt LIVE if you’re looking to take things to the next level. Today’s going to be absolutely jam-packed with crazy amounts of GOLDEN information, and it doesn’t cost a single thing except your time.

Pardon the terrible quality of these iPhone photos. I made myself leave the mk3 in my suitcase :).

Here’s to getting real, REAL vulnerable in front of a lot of people today!

[...] For me, coordinating outfits takes a lot of thought and planning beforehand. When I was packing for The Big Next, I spent THREE DAYS going through my closet, trying on different outfits and modeling them for [...]

Anna Kerns - December 19, 2012 - 12:38 pm

This workshop wouldn’t be the same without you! I’ve learned so much from listening to everyone’s experiences. I’m excited to hear all the things that Mary encourages you to achieve and reflect on. It’s obvious by now, but this is really going to edify your business and relationships! Enjoy every moment, lovely.

sharon elizabeth - December 19, 2012 - 9:34 am

you’ll do great!!!! we’re all so excited for you <3

Brittani - December 19, 2012 - 8:54 am

Abby you are awesome! By putting yourself out there and making yourself so vulnerable, you will be doing BIG things for your business, and helping so many other photographers who are such a similar situation to you. Can’t wait to watch!!! I LOVED yesterday! And PS. you are SO well spoken on camera :)

Jean - December 19, 2012 - 8:29 am

You ‘re doing a great job and I’m sure these sessions are giving you lots of info that you didn’t even know you needed! It is a very exciting time for you. Love you!

Dad - December 19, 2012 - 8:20 am

OMG!!!! I am sooooo excited for you, so have a super awesome fantabulously insightful time in Yankee-land!

Anna K. - December 19, 2012 - 8:10 am

Abby I am so excited for you and the ways that your business is going to move forward! Keep asking good questions, it was super helpful :) oh, and your outfit was super cute!

Monday Mash-Up

Ermehgersh!! IT’S MONDAY! And I’m on the road up to New Haven, CT to spend three days having my mind completely blown with Justin & Mary and The Big Next series! I’m only a little bit excited. And I spent approximately 94% of my weekend obsessing over what I’ll wear this coming week. I’m in a mad rush to get out the door and on the road (typical) so this will henceforth be the short Monday Mash-Up EVER.

As usual, things I learned/things that transpired over the weekend:

  • I don’t think my older brother will ever let me forget that I used to open my eyes while we were saying grace for dinner to check and make sure everyone else’s eyes were closed. We had a family dinner on Saturday and he spent the entire prayer staring at me because he KNEW I was going to open my eyes.
  • Remember that dress I was wearing in Friday’s blog post? It’s a good thing we immortalized it in photos because I discovered this past weekend that Matt shrunk it. And because we bought it this past summer, it’s no longer in stores. AND it’s the second installment of the dress I’ve owned, since I accidentally shrunk the first one. GAH.
So long, favorite dress. I shall miss you greatly, and the way you paired especially well with my mustard cardigan and gray tights.

Photogs! Don’t forget to tune into ShowItLIVE tomorrow and Wednesday for The Big Next!! IT’S GOING TO BE SO AMAZING!

Happy Monday!

Kristin - December 18, 2012 - 12:14 pm

Watching the Big Next and love the dress. I have done that way too many times.

molly - December 17, 2012 - 12:21 pm

hahahaha i’m with you’re dad… did you open them?? love that dress!

Jean - December 17, 2012 - 7:52 am

Abby must have opened her eyes if she saw her big brother staring at her. P.S. Abby, hang onto that dress. Maybe we could recreate it in a fabric that won’t shrink. Have fun on your adventure this week!

Dad - December 17, 2012 - 7:24 am

Wellllllll?????? Did you open your eyes?

Even more things you probably didn’t know

My desk is currently awash in tissue paper, foldable paper boxes, gray ribbon, scissors, double stick tape and stationery, so I figured today was as good a day as any to do another one of these posts. I bet y’all had thought I’d run out of ways to talk about myself, didn’tcha? FOOLED. YOU.

1. I will only eat smushed grilled cheese sandwiches. This involves taking a spatula and flattening the sandwich while it’s still in the pan- it makes it more crispy, thus more delicious. And that’s a scientific fact.

2. My family lived in Orlando for 3-4 years when I was little while my parents attended seminary, so when we finally moved back to Virginia, I had no idea what a change of seasons looked like. Therefore, myself and my brothers did the only logical thing we could think of on the first day of Fall: we dressed in heavy outwear [coats, boots, scarves] and tromped outside, expecting frigid temperatures and falling leaves….only to find that it was still 70 degrees out.

3. I get SUPER weepy when Christmas music comes on right after Thanksgiving- I guess I’m just so happy that it’s Christmas time again that I cry? Whatever it is, it’s embarrassing to be driving along and then break out in tears when something cheery like Sleigh Ride comes on.

4. I will NOT write with blue ink pens. I won’t do it! It has to be black ink. Either that or a pencil.

5. I’m not the only one who collected Polly Pockets, right?

6. I’m convinced that the “Lick ‘a ‘stix” included with Fun Dip are really just long, white Tums.

7. My mom and dad never did Santa with us- mom’s thing was that she didn’t want to lie to her children. THANKS FOR RUINING MY CHILDHOOD.

8. If we’re ever fortunate enough to build our own home, mark my words: it WILL have a secret passage. I read a lot of Nancy Drew books in fifth grade.

9. I really and truly enjoy the smell of gasoline. And home garages! My Granny & Pawpaw’s garage smells sooo good.

10. I’m a memories hoarder (which is probably why I’m a photographer). I saved every single corsage from every single school dance and still have all of my old dresses hanging in the closet at my parents’ house. And I’ve saved every letter and Post-It note Matt’s ever given me because “our grandchildren will want to read them! We have to have something for them to cherish when we’re old and wrinkly!”

And because every post is better with a photo, here are those photos from the trip Matt and I took to a corn maze. Those ones I completely forgot to share? Whoops.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Thank you, random stranger who offered to take our photo!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Holy SOW, that pig it huge.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Matt playing a solitary game of tetherball.

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He’s going to kill me for posting this.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Just in case it wasn’t painfully obvious by the tiny little cow seats that this ride was designed for small children, here are all our fellow passengers!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

This is Matt’s “Can I go now?” smile. And this is my “WE’RE AT A CORN MAZE!” smile.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Ok, so I’m a believer in NOT CHEATING. The corn maze had paths that were laid out by the maze designers, then there were paths cut by cheating McCheaters. I like to refer to them as “rogue paths.” This is Matt attempting to take a rogue path and me refusing to follow. Because I, unlike SOME, abide by the rules.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyAnd then we saw a peacock?

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Friday!

Sarah B. - December 14, 2012 - 4:20 pm

I also collected Polly Pockets – in fact, I still have them! :D

You and I are meant to be friends – I would not cheat at a corn maze either!!

And also, you are so stinking cute! I love the outfit!!

Breanna - December 14, 2012 - 11:17 am

So I just found your blog last week, and I already feel like we are friends :). I had a whole village of Polly Pockets! I’m sad that they don’t make them so little any more. It’s just not the same. Hope you are enjoying a beautiful holday afternoon!

Rebekah Hoyt - December 14, 2012 - 10:52 am

You and Matt are SO adorable! I love that picture of the two of you! Also, #5 – I am convinced that I have the largest polly pocket collection known to man… or woman… seriously. I’m still proud of it and have kept ALL of them! We should have a playdate sometime. Just sayin’…

Lena - December 14, 2012 - 10:19 am

No Santa! Ahh so sad, but on a good note, smushed grill chesses are out of this world!

Anna K. - December 14, 2012 - 10:03 am

My parents didn’t tell us about Santa either!!! I was that kid that went to school and told everyone he wasn’t real, woopsies!

Rebekah Carter - December 14, 2012 - 10:00 am

I loved Nancy Drew books too. I think I have all but one of he original 56 at my parents’ house & I still read one occasionally just for old times’ sake. My parents never really did much Santa stuff w/ us either & I never felt like I missed out. I don’t want to lie to my kids either so I’ve pondered not doing Santa stuff w/ them either when we have kids someday. Maybe that is a bad idea? I don’t know. Even as a kid, I just never saw much point in Santa.

Lindsey - December 14, 2012 - 9:57 am

How fun!! These pictures are so cute – you two make the cutest couple :)

PS: I LOVE YOUR DRESSES!

Decisions on film

If you’ve poked around my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve been playing around with film! It’s been such a trip- I’ve learned way more than I ever knew possible. I’ve learned that Fuji 400H is my favorite film stock, that trying to shoot seriously without a light meter doesn’t really work for me, that medium format is my long lost sister, etc. etc. As I was working to integrate film more and more into my workflow with engagement sessions and weddings, it was causing quite a bit of… well, stress. I LOVED the images I was getting back from RPL, no doubt about it. But because I was editing my digital images immediately after a wedding or session, I was having to wait the additional 2-3 weeks to get my film back before I could deliver those images. And then there was the issue of the fact that my digital images and film images looked NOTHING alike. As it should be- they’re two totally different mediums. So I was either faced with giving my couples two different sets of images, throwing out the film ones, or going back and trying to re-edit the digital images to look more like the film ones.

I started playing around with the VSCO presets, actions for LightRoom that mimic the look of film for your digital images. I think I did alright for a while there, but something one day pulled me up short. I was looking back over my notes from WTAW and saw where I’d scribbled a few words describing my work- “organic, intimate, authentic, classic.” Those words are meant to be a litmus test for any decisions I make for my business- if I’m not sure whether or not to do whatever I’m considering, hold it up to those words. If it matches, I should be ok. If it doesn’t? It’s time to reconsider.

Film itself is organic, authentic, and classic, and my portrait style remains intimate. But me spending countless hours manipulating my digital images in post production to make them look like something else? To me, that’s not organic at all. When I describe my work as “organic,” what I mean is that I do minimal touch-ups to my images- that they’re clean, ready to be viewed without any heavy-handed editing. And as much as I love the look of film, unless I was ready to leave my digital work behind and go 100% film? It wasn’t allowing me to stay true to what I already loved so much about my work. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with editing your images with a little more of a heavy hand- for some people, that really works! But it doesn’t work for ME. I found that I was taking images that were beautiful in and of themselves and felt like I was ruining them with all of the processing I was putting them through. I managed to seriously stress myself out over it. “Matt: do you like this edited version of the photo? Or this one? A… or B? A… or B? One more time, A…” I really felt like I was having an identity crisis when it came to my work.

After months (and hundreds of dollars [and a lot of agonizing over photo edit A or B]), I think I’ve finally decided to keep film as my personal project. Because there’s no doubt about the fact that I absolutely love shooting it- it truly keeps me inspired, and I’ve loved every frame I’ve shot over the past few months! I certainly don’t count any of this time as wasted- I invested a lot of energy into something I grew to fall in love with, eventually came to decide shooting both isn’t the direction I want to take my business, and I truly believe I’ve come out as a better photographer. So while I most definitely won’t be selling my film equipment or giving away the boxes of film in my fridge, I am going to scale back to keeping it for personal work and the occasional inspiration session. Because frankly? I don’t think my clients deserve anything less than my best, and I know that now I’ll really be able to focus on giving that to them.

Happy Thursday!

 

Michelle - December 22, 2012 - 7:20 pm

Thanks for sharing! I think all your images are stunning :)

Faye Bernoulli - December 15, 2012 - 1:07 pm

I, too, dabbled with the VSCO presets, but after editing an entire engagement session with them, they looked NOTHING like my normal work. I don’t have the guts to jump into film just yet (hopefully in the near future!), but like you, it would be a personal project.

Jessica Fike - December 13, 2012 - 12:42 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I, too, started playing around with film this past summer because I love the idea and look of film. But it’s a lot of work and those images don’t at all match up with my digital images. So I was stuck. Continue with my film journey and try to include it in my business as best as possible? Or just keep it as something “fun” to do for myself and learning purposes? I think it’s clear that I need to go with the second option for very similar reasons that you’re experiencing. Hearing that you’re going through something similar is reassuring to me…so thanks. :)

Ali w - December 13, 2012 - 11:37 am

What a cool process you went through! Adam Barnes shot my wedding and delivered a ton of different looks because he shot so many different kinds of film [and digital] and that is why I hired him. But he is an “artistic” wedding photographer. I expected to come out with pieces of art, not a catalog of images who’s style all matched. I can see why you came to this decision and it’s totally right for you! If you ever want to have a inspirational film shoot let me know – I’d love to play too!

Rachel Ziegler - December 13, 2012 - 9:42 am

I love your work in film! So whenever you get the urge to play around with film I will whip up some flowers and you can bring out your film equipment and BAM you can shoot in film :D

Rebekah Hoyt - December 13, 2012 - 9:03 am

Abby, I love that you’ve been so open with your journey through film! It takes a strong person to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, what makes you the best as an artist and also what the best is that you can offer your clients. Thank you for sharing this with all of us! I am looking forward to seeing more personal projects and inspiration shoots on film :)

Christine Bonnivier - December 13, 2012 - 8:13 am

Thank you for this post!!!! :-)