Author: Amanda Wilson

Making Words Beautiful – An Artist Profile of Victoria Fiaretti of Wood & Grace Handlettering Boutique.

 Greetings!  Today I want to introduce something special, a new blog series called Meet the Artist.  In my line of work, I’m fortunate to get to meet and collaborate with a ton of amazing artists, small business owners and creative professionals.  Victoria Fiaretti, of Wood & Grace Handlettering Boutique is all three.  I first heard of Wood & Grace when my sister, Ashley, was gifted a beautiful hand painted wooden sign at her bridal shower with her wedding date.  It was such a unique and special piece that stood out among the common registry items  in her shower gifts.  (*Disclaimer – brides still definitely need and appreciate their registry items!  I know I needed and am still using the silverware, plates, towels, and sheets that I got at my own shower!)

After Ashley’s shower, we had the pleasure of photographing a ton of Victoria’s work popping up at weddings all over the place!  From custom invitations, to signs, place cards, hand written vows, and handmade gifts, her pieces were consistently the most personal, sentimental, and unique wedding details we were shooting.  Last week on a snowy thursday morning, Victoria was kind enough to welcome me to her home studio for a look behind the scenes.  It was such a pleasure to watch her work and hear about what inspired her to start Wood & Grace.  She does everything by hand, no stencils, decals or cookie cutter templates.  Each piece is designed  with love in every brush stroke, and under the watchful inspection of two rambunctious kittens.  Her husband, Donovan, is her “carpenter in residence” and the other half of her labor of love.

I asked Victoria to share her thoughts in her own words.

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What is your inspiration when creating new designs?

I love to seek inspiration through other creatives!  I follow all types of artists’ work, not just artists that do things similar to what I’m doing.  I love romance, earthy tones, nature, things with an organic feel to them.  When I first meet with a new couple, I ask a lot of questions about them and their relationship.  I find out what details are meaningful to them and highlight them in my custom design.

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What are the benefits of hiring someone like you?

Many of the brides I work with compliment me on my ability to streamline and refine the thoughts and choices they got so frustrated with prior to our meeting.  Wedding planning is not an easy process when you go it alone!  By knowing styles and trends, and listening to what is in my brides’ hearts, I’m able to piece together the ideas they haven’t been able to find, and match them to the feeling they want their wedding day to have.

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What steps do you take to ensure that clients have an amazing experience when working with Wood & Grace?

I love communication!  As much as brides are willing to tell me, I want to find out!  I want to get to know the love that they are celebrating.  It’s all in the details.  When I know what’s important to a couple and what makes their relationship special, then I’m able to customize their wedding to showcase THEM.  Your wedding day is once in a lifetime, you shouldn’t have to settle for something generic.

I want to help make planning your wedding as hassle free as possible.  That’s why I believe so passionately in good communication and have easy to use online contracts and secure online payment processing where everything is spelled out so you have nothing to worry about!  Every step of my process is organized according to your needs ensuring that everything will be on time.

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What is your favorite detail you’ve created?  Is there anything that you’d love to create but haven’t been asked to yet?

I was once asked to make a custom sign for a Marine returning from overseas.  His fiance was going to be there to meet him and wanted something special to hold up!  It said “Life takes you places. Love brings you home.”  It wasn’t the most elaborate piece that I’ve ever made, but it meant a lot to me knowing that it was the first thing he was going to see when he was welcomed home.

I have so many ideas for things I want to make in the future!  Right now though, I would love to make hand painted place cards.  I just got some fabulous cotton rag papers in that would be perfect for watercolor.  I’m also always on the look out for a couple with a really powerful story.

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What is your WHY?

Because I know that words can be used to hurt.  And I want to make words BEAUTIFUL.

My business is a labor of love that was birthed from my own wedding experience.  I believe that if you think enough about how to honor your partner in the details, that’s a great sign of how you will honor them in life.  Each couple’s wedding day should be a celebration of THEM.

Taking time to honor the details makes for a more meaningful wedding.  And a more meaningful wedding makes a more memorable occasion.  Those meaningful memories are what will remind you on hard days of the powerful commitment you made.

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Victoria Fiaretti

website: http://www.woodandgraceboutique.com/

facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WoodandGrace

instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/woodandgrace/

I hope you enjoyed meeting Victoria as much as I have!  Whether you’re planning a wedding, celebrating a new baby, or looking for the perfect gift, Wood & Grace can help make your words of love into beautiful art !

Imaging USA 2017 – San Antonio!

Every year I run away for a week to a photography convention called Imaging USA. It’s hosted by an organization of which I am a proud (though not loud) member; the Professional Photographer’s of America. It’s hosted in a different city each year that’s easy to get to in the off-season winter months. Recently, we’ve been to Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, and this year San Antonio. What happens at a photography convention? Think of it kind of like Comic Con for people who love making images. We all get together nerd out over new camera gear, new ideas, rehash old problems, make new friends, etc. This year was no exception. The count was estimated to be ten thousand photographers in attendance. That’s a lot of selfies. When we show up and take over a city, it seems like there’s a pop up photo shoot on every corner complete with lighting assistants dragging stands and models working in front of the camera.

   So why go to Imaging USA?

For me, it’s a chance to recharge my batteries. Making a living in a creative field is hard, and being a self-employed small business owner is even harder. Each new year brings a ton of challenges that have to be worked through. Especially for photographers in the north east, just when you think you’re past the halfway point as far as the workload of the year goes, the leaves change. We work as much September to Christmas as we do in all the other months of the year combined. Mother Nature likes to separate the herd by putting on a fall leaf finale that CAN NOT be ignored. Imagine running a marathon and then discovering on mile 22 that they decided to double the course length and from here to the finish line you have to sprint. That’s what it’s like to get through “busy season” at the end of a long year of shooting. Christmas is a finish line usually worthy of a good exhausted collapse. I clean up my house, have my family over for food, open presents, and then hibernate in my Netflix cave for a solid week. On my beanbag. In my Grinch sweatpants.

  After the fireworks on New Years Eve, the sun comes up and it’s game time again. Gotta train. Gotta update, innovate, motivate. The first wedding of the new year will be approaching and it’s like my super bowl. I’d wear war paint if I could. It’s the perfect time to gear up for the next season by going to Imaging USA!   Photographers come from all over the United States and stay at hotels near the convention center of the hosting city. Remember that scene from Goblet of Fire when all the different schools show up for the Triwizard tournament? That’s what the first night of Imaging USA is like. You can tell all the people of the northern states apart because we show up in shorts like we’re visiting a tropical destination. (San Antonio in January was pretty much like Pittsburgh in early June. It even smelled like spring dirt.) We meet up with friends from home as well as friends we usually only get to see online! The conversations are always the same. “What did you do this year? What happened that was CRAZY? Did you see the latest *insert nerdy camera equipment reference here*?”

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  Once the convention officially kicks off for the first day, we all rush off to class like we’re back in college. There’s room assignments, lectures, live demonstration lessons. Big topics this year were lighting, posing, sales, albums, and what to do with a drone. Growth. This is always my big motivator. How to outdo myself from last year.

Want to know what’s really bothering all the photographers of the world? Here it is:

  • Why don’t people DO anything with their photos? Why does our work seem to always be condemned to the digital dungeon?

  •  Why are people so afraid of BIG pictures?

  •  How do we get people to stop hating themselves and see that they are all each uniquely worthy of being seen inside a frame?

  •  How do we make enough money to pay the bills when our job is to sell a “luxury item” in these uncertain times?

 

And you thought it was just clicking a button.  Photographers as a whole are OBSESSED with figuring out what you – our audience/our clients and our friends think. We spend lots of money to go sit in rooms together in big groups and talk through every client discussion we’ve had all year analyzing it’s nuances collectively and trying to figure out what was really going on behind the scenes. We want to know how we could have done better. Trust me, classes are mostly heavy. One I attended this year reminded me of a Martha Stewart recipe, it should have been titled “The 777 easy things you need to be doing immediately or you’re probably a big failure.” Insert laughing/tears emoji here. Classes can be heavy. Sometimes it’s just the kick in the knees you need though to push you through an obstacle. Like this blog post. (Look, Ma! I’m talking about my feelings! )

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It’s not all hard work and introspection though. If classes are the motivating buzz kill of the convention, then the trade show is Christmas morning. All the big names come out and show off the best and brightest they have to offer. I get to walk the floor and spend time talking face to face to the vendors we use to make all of our prints and products when we’re back here at home. We talk about what we love, and also about changes we’d like to see in the future. They listen intently because they want to know what WE think too! It’s also a time to say thank you in person to the people whose names I don’t know and whose hard work is rarely recognized who lovingly bind the wedding albums I shipped to clients the week of Christmas. They are the same hands that packed boxes and boxes of prints tied with ribbon that were given as gifts. These are the people who take the photos we pulled out of light and love and thin air and put them physically into the world in a way that people can hold in their hands and make permanent.

Much, much love to our print lab, Millers, in Pittsburg, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri.

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      ^^ This dog’s name is Nikon !                                                                                   ^^New album covers from Millers I can’t wait to share!

Here are some cell snaps of the happenings at Imaging USA over the past couple years!

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When we come back from Imaging USA, I always feel recharged and ready to take on the next year! Stay tuned in the future for some of our photos we shot in Texas throughout our trip to the hill country! Follow us on instagram at @photosbyaw for photos of cute critters and terrific travels, and at @storiesbyaw to see what’s happening with all of you, our clients!

If you’re a photographer and want to join the community, get in on the action at www.ppa.com !

Fall Mini Sessions ! | Northmoreland Park

It’s been six years, but this October I’m happy to announce fall mini sessions!

 

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So what’s the difference between mini sessions and a regular session?

  • Regular sessions are booked on the date and time and at the location of your choice, while mini sessions are at a single location and you choose from available time slots.
  • Regular sessions are one to two hours in length, mini sessions are just 30 mins!  This means there will be just enough time to get some great shots, but no extra time for things like changing outfits, etc.

Contact us to book your spot today!  If you’re already worried about how you’ll dress your family, check out this post on what to wear for family photos!

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Indiana County PA Wedding Photographer | Jimi & Leeona

Today I’m sharing an anniversary post for some dear friends who were married in one of my favorite small towns in Indiana County, my home town of Saltsburg!  Jimi and Leeona are two people with some of the biggest hearts you’ll ever meet.  Whether it’s taking in fur babies off the street, or volunteering for the YMCA, they bring smiles wherever they are.  Here’s a look back at their sunny September wedding.

 

We started the morning off with the girls getting ready at Jimi’s grandma’s house.  I loooved her cast iron collection and her kitchen had beautiful light flooding in!  Leeona had a photo of Jimi’s proposal on the beach out on the counter.  The light was perfect the day he asked her to marry him too.

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Alexis, Leeona’s maid of honor, embroidered a handkerchief for her to carry down the aisle.  I can’t wait till next year when Alexis gets married and I get to see everyone again!

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Leeona also had gifts for the girls, monogrammed burlap purses.

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Before she put her wedding dress on, she took a moment to sit down and read a letter from Jimi.

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The ceremony was at Saltsburg Presbyterian church just over the river in Indiana County.  I met the guys there for a few photos before the guests arrived.

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Jimi’s face watching his bride come down the aisle was priceless.

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Their guests filled the street and greeted the new Mr. & Mrs. Smail as light flooded in through the double doors.  Afterwards, we took some photos around the outside of the church and walked through town.  Saltsburg has tons of historic buildings along canal street, an herb garden, and a view of the river.

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These are some of my favorite photos from the whole day.  A reminder not to take things too seriously at a wedding.  Leeona’s little brother and sister were a part of the wedding party!

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Happy anniversary you two!  Here’s to many many more!

What to wear for family photos

Fall is coming.  The end of the year is coming.  The pressure to make your Christmas cards is coming!  This means that time is running out to schedule your annual family photos.  One of the biggest reasons I hear from people for why they don’t have their family photographed is that it’s too hard to get everyone together and dressed.  Here’s some tips for what to wear for family photos that will help everyone look and feel their best and have you loving your images for years to come.

Remember department store portraits in the 90s?  Everyone wearing the the same color and matching outfits?

A lot of times people worry that if they don’t match their outfits that they won’t look like they “go together”.  That’s not true.  Great family photos are when the relationship shows through the posing which is MY job 😀 😀 After all, baseball teams wear matching outfits and they don’t look like a family.

These days, color themes have totally evolved and aren’t really themes at all anymore.  **Real talk: this is what I used to see all the time: everyone in jeans and white shirts, everyone in jeans and black shirts, everyone in khaki pants and matching shirts.  I have to say my personal pet peeve for photos is when men show up in khaki shorts and a polo shirt of any color.  Because getting men to dress up is hard.  I know!  I married that guy that goes to work every day on a construction crew and wears dirty jeans and neon yellow t-shirt with tar stains on it.  And he USED to think that khaki shorts and any shirt with a collar (polos mostly) was “dressing up”.  And he HATED to dress up because he never liked how he looked and was afraid of looking silly.  That’s because khaki shorts and a polo shirt is pretty much the mom-jeans-and-a-cat-sweatshirt of menswear.  (I warned you there was gonna be Real Talk.) But men don’t usually spend time in the day thinking about these things so they don’t know this is WHY they hate “dressing up”.  The struggle is real for us women who have to dress ourselves, find outfits for the kids, and then get our husbands to wear something nice as well.  Polo shirts are great for a day at kennywood or a trip around the golf course, but not great for family photos.  Rather than trying to get everyone to match, I really think photos with just a little coordination are great.  If everyone kind of wears just whatever they want without communicating, things can get a little out of hand with one branch of the family dressing everyone like it’s summer, and another branch of the family dressing everyone like it’s cold out OR there’s that one person that shows up in a bright loud color or big striped pattern and sticks out like a sore thumb cause they’re the only one.

Here’s some good tips for what to wear to get your group together outfit-wise:

1. Neutrals are always safe.  Grays, browns, charcoal colors, black if you accent with some jewelry or a different colored shirt underneath. Not only do neutrals blend nicely with most scenes, they also blend nicely into the decor of your house so that you can frame and display your photos in any room all year long!

2. Layers are everyone’s friend. Accessorize. Layers and things with collars, buttons, pockets, different colored cuffs, a scarf, a hat, jewelry etc break up the center mass of any human and keep the viewer’s eye moving. (If your man is fighting you on this, explain to them that it’s like camouflage.)  This means when we look at the photos later, we spend more time focusing on our expressions and less time focusing on what we feel our flaws are.  (We’re all human, we all do it.)

3. Dress for the weather of the season and the location.  There’s no point putting kids in tights and patent leather shoes and then standing them in a field.  It would be like showing up at a formal wedding in a tank top and swim trunks – if it looks out of place people will seem uncomfortable.

For September in Pennsylvania, the landscape has a lot of yellow in it as we begin the transition to fall.  Some great colors to work with are Navy Blue, Browns, Greys, Dark Purples, Medium to Dark Greens, etc.  When we get a little later into fall, neutrals and darker jewel tones like burgundy are beautiful.

 

Here are some photos from one of my favorite fall family sessions.  They nailed it with their outfits, felt comfortable, and had a great time!

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Joy did an amazing job dressing her family for their photo session!  She went with jeans, different shades of burgundy, and added a little pattern with Steve’s shirt and G’s boots!

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For another look she went with navy, grey, and a nice fall plaid with navy in it.  Even their dogs coordinated!

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Don’t be intimidated by dressing your family for photos!  Start with one piece you really love – whether it’s your favorite dress or a shirt that looks great on someone and then build on that.  Don’t let worrying about what to wear stop you from being photographed, it’s worth it!

Summer Schenley Park Engagement | Leah & Glenn

Leah and Glenn are getting married this weekend and it’s time to look back and celebrate their engagement one last time before they tie the knot!  One of their favorite activities is going for a run together or taking a long walk with their dog, Kaia.  Last summer they were living in Pittsburgh and Schenley Park was one of their frequent evening hang outs.  We met up and walked the trail near Panther Hollow at sunset and caught the last vibrant colors of the evening on top of the overlook.  They even used the first photo below as their save the date they sent out to their wedding guests!

 

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Kaia frequently stole the show till their friends came by to pick her up so they could continue with photos dog-free.  Kaia happily trotted off to their car leaving us to feel like the parents whose kindergartner runs off with a smile and zero separation anxiety.

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That moment when you’re trying to smile and look casual and take some photos and your dog suddenly starts digging a giant hole to China in the middle of a public park!  I love outtakes!

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This might be my favorite photo of the three of them as a family.  No faces, but a great moment celebrating how they love to spend their time together.

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The best view of the city from Schenley Park is on the hill dubbed the overlook.  We made it there just as the last rays of sunlight were fading and the sunset colors lit up the clouds.  The city skyline in the distance begged for a silhouette shot.  I love how it turned out and will always be symbolic of the time they spent living together in Pittsburgh.  Since last year, Glenn has taken a position at Penn State and the three of them moved across PA and are now exploring trails and park together near State College!

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They’ll be back this week though for their wedding ceremony and reception at the Pittsburgh Aviary!  I can’t wait to hang out again 🙂

Saint Vincent Basilica and Lingrow Farm Wedding | Annie + Dan

Happy Anniversary to an amazing couple!  Annie grew up in Latrobe, PA but it wasn’t until she moved across the pond to the UK that she met Dan one night at a bar in Southampton.  Not only was he handsome, he was intelligent, insightful, and made great conversation.  After a year and a half of dating and long car rides where Dan plays the DJ, (one of Annie’s favorite things about him), they decided they wanted to be together for all the years ahead.  For their wedding, Annie and Dan invited all their guests from the US and the UK to come to the Basilica at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania where Annie’s family has been celebrating weddings for generations.  Their reception was held at the beautiful Lingrow Farm which they chose for it’s unique rural American setting and peaceful location.

 

The morning started off at Annie’s mom’s house in Latrobe just a few miles from the church.  The light was beautiful inside and out, just like Annie.

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We met up with Dan and his groomsmen on the campus at Saint Vincent and did some group photos outside the church before the ceremony.

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Since Annie’s father had passed away, his good friend stood in for him to walk Annie down the aisle.  It was joyful and emotional all at once.

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Some details I loved during the ceremony, including the ornate woodwork inside the basilica and the fact that guests embraced traditions and fashions we don’t see very often at traditional American weddings these days.  There were lots of beautiful hats and feather fascinators in the audience.

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The best part about a wedding at Saint Vincent College is that you get to take advantage of the campus grounds for photos.  We visited Sebastian’s Garden and few other buildings.

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After the vows, guests were transported through small towns and past rolling cornfields to Lingrow Farm for the reception.  The venue features an original Pennsylvania bank-style barn that was part of a horse farm which has been converted into unique event space.  Annie and Dan brought their own style to the party with teacups of flowers, burlap, and paper hearts made from used books rescued from the discard bin.

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One of my favorite details of their reception was the display of weddings photos from family and friends taken of them on their own wedding days.  It was great to see how styles have changed over the years.  We loved this idea so much, we did it at my own sister’s wedding a few weeks ago!

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Annie and Dan also had three stunning wedding cakes for guests to enjoy!  Two “naked” cakes and the center cake was traditional British wedding cake, (which we Americans would recognize as the fruit cake we eat at holidays), decorated with sugar flowers.

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When you have a wedding in the country, you never know when nature will show up!  This little guy was almost tromped on in the grass during portraits so we rescued him and gave him his photo shoot debut before returning him to the yard.

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We loved their guestbook with it’s custom wood cover highlighting the coming together of two families from two different countries.

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After dinner, we took the couple outside for some private photos during the golden hour before sunset.

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Meanwhile guests enjoyed take-home snacks from Pittsburgh Popcorn Company.

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Annie knows all of my own favorite dance moves!

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The night ended around the bonfire out by the barn with s’mores for everyone.

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Happy Anniversary Annie and Dan!  Hope you guys get to go on a great anniversary celebration trip soon!

Miss and <3 you guys!!

 

Point State Park Engagement Photos | Christina & Corey

Christina and Corey are getting married in just two days!  Today, we flash back to their engagement session last July in Pittsburgh.  We started out shooting with the skyline and dodging the geese along the north shore and then finished out the day with a spectacular sunset at Point State Park!  By the time we were done, we had crossed two bridges two times, walked from the science center to allegheny landing twice, highlighted their love of baseball at PNC park, and put in a total of four miles on the fitbit!

 

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We loved shooting through sunset because we could play with the light.  A good sunset yields soft natural light photos, colorful silhouettes, and the opportunity to use some off camera flash for special effects.  It’s a great reason to schedule your engagement session and your wedding photos to shoot through the golden hour in the evening!  (Bring snacks though, shooting hungry and walking four miles is not for the faint of heart!)

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Christina and Corey are tying the knot on friday at Succop Conservancy in Butler, PA!  We can’t wait to share their wedding!

Oakmont Engagement Photos | Carrie + Jimmy

Carrie and Jimmy are getting married this coming weekend and last fall we met up at Dark Hollow Park in Oakmont, their favorite spot to walk their five (yes 5!) bulldogs.  I loved their story from our first meeting when Carrie pulled out her phone to show me photos of Jimmy popping the question with a puppy proposal at the airport!  He told her that they were going to pittsburgh international to meet some friends who were flying in for the weekend, but in reality Jimmy had secretly purchased a very special puppy from out of state and it was arriving by plane that evening.  While they waited outside the arrival area, (Jimmy had a friend stationed inside the airport lounge with a camera at the ready) a man walked up to Carrie and said this is for you [from Jimmy] and handed her a beautiful little ball of fur with a pink collar and a tag that read “Will you marry me?”  <3

I had such a great time getting to know the whole gang!

 

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Getting five dogs to all look at the camera and smile is no easy task next to a busy street!

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^^  This was the shot I pictured from the first time we met to book their wedding, all of the dogs, on the street in Oakmont with their wedding date!  In just four days, the date that was saved will be here!  Carrie and Jimmy have also made a wedding album registry so that friends and family can gift them pages for all of their photos to go into a beautiful book to be enjoyed for years to come.  If you’d like to contribute, check out their homepage: Carrie and Jimmy’s wedding album registry .

I can’t wait to celebrate with you guys, see you saturday morning!

Laurel Highlands Engagement | Kristie + Chuck

When Kristie and Chuck told me their proposal story, it was clear there was a special place we needed to go for their engagement session.  Kristie has so many happy memories with her father from Deer Valley YMCA camp. They spent many weekends there for Daddy-daughter camp when Kristie was a little girl.  She and her father would go out on the lake, hike to the spring, and climb up the mountain to the big overlook.  Sadly, Kristie’s Dad passed away when she was fifteen and they weren’t able to continue making such beautiful memories.  Fast forward many years, Kristie had met a great guy named Chuck at Hofbrauhaus while she was out with some friends and they had been dating for over a year.  Chuck knew that he wanted to ask Kristie to marry him but he wouldn’t be able to ask her father for his blessing first, so he did the next best thing.  Chuck asked Kristie to take him to see the summer camp she had loved so much and go on a hike with him to the overlook he had heard so much about.  It was there overlooking the lake in the place where she had made so many memories with her dad that Chuck got down on one knee and proposed.  I was so glad that they shared their story with me and wanted to go back to the place where it all began at Deer Valley.  Thanks to Mother Nature putting on her best fall colors, the view from their proposal spot over the laurel highlands was a show stopper.

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Plenty of Mountain Laurel in the Laurel Highlands!

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deer valley ymca engagement

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ymca camp engagement

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We shot all the way through sunset and into the dark the night of their first session.  It was a long drive home and the area was so remote, we saw a baby bobcat cub cross the dirt road in front of my car!  Since we weren’t able to include Kristie and Chuck’s two fur kids in their first session, we met up again a few weeks later at Northmoreland Park.  I got to meet their two rescued greyhounds, Miles and Chloe.

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I love Chloe’s one ear in the air.

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I can’t wait for saturday to shoot their wedding at Lingrow Farm!