Love in Louisville Part 2: the Fairy Tale

Kim and John were married on May 26, 2018 at the top of a long, winding, picturesque hill about 30 minutes outside of Louisville, Kentucky at the Horine Conference Center in Jefferson Memorial Forest.  I arrived several hours before the ceremony to scope the scene and take some pre-ceremony photos. It was unseasonably hot for May even for Kentucky at about 93 degrees, so when I entered the room where the bride was preparing, I was thankful for air conditioning! Here are some shots of the bride getting ready: 


 The bride's mother helps with the final touches to her dress. 

The bride's mother helps with the final touches to her dress. 



Make up...

 The table was set...

The table was set...

 Corsages added...

Corsages added...

 Family arrived...

Family arrived...

 Friends gathered...

Friends gathered...

Kim and John decided they were okay breaking with tradition and seeing each other before the ceremony to shoot photos and save time. But I was sad that I wouldn't capture the traditional "first look" photo - a photograph of the groom getting his first look at his bride. So we made a mock first look photo... which was a little over the top!


And it was almost go time! Kim and John posed for photos together as well as with family before the ceremony. This one - one of my favorites - shows the overlook where the ceremony took place. 

 The bride's mother, Jan with her beautiful bride daughter

The bride's mother, Jan with her beautiful bride daughter

 The groom with his mother

The groom with his mother

And it was time for the ceremony! 

I've known Kim, the bride, since I was about 16, and have always thought she favored her mother. I was shocked to see this photo in my camera when I downloaded the images. It is a photo of Kim and her father about to walk down the isle. Note they both have the same pensive demeanor and expression! Kim, you are your father's child! I'd give more than a few pennies to know what they were thinking...


One thing the officiant did during the ceremony that everyone enjoyed was revealing secret things that annoyed the bride about the groom, and the groom about the bride, and incorporating them into the ceremony. You know, those little annoying habits that get on your nerves about your significant other, like leaving the cupboard doors open...

 Secret annoyances revealed

Secret annoyances revealed

 More secrets...

More secrets...

Then it was time to get serious with the vows...



 The audience listened intently to the couple's vows

The audience listened intently to the couple's vows


Then it was time to exchange rings...


And, in no time, this short, sweet ceremony of the union of two beautiful people was complete! 


As stated in Part I, Kim and John are musicians, and a unique feature of their wedding was they both provided the musical entertainment along with their friends. 

 Singing together...literally making beautiful music together. What could be more symbolic of a beautiful marital union?

Singing together...literally making beautiful music together. What could be more symbolic of a beautiful marital union?

The first dance...


Kim's gorgeous dress was handmaid by a friend. At the bottom, Kim and John's names were embroidered in beautiful blue stitching representing the "something blue" tradition. 


After the ceremony, I snuck away with the bride and groom to a quiet place where these shots were captured. They truly represent each of their personalities. Kim, who teaches science, has always looked at the world with such enthusiasm and optimism, and I think that shows in this photo below. John's love for Kim is also evident here. 


I've truly never witnessed a wedding of two people I felt in my heart were so completely, perfectly paired than this wedding. I know that Kim and John will spend eternity together and I couldn't be happier for two of my favorite people. Congratulations Kim and John D'Amato!


Love in Louisville Part 1: the Backstory

I am a storyteller, and so, naturally, I love hearing stories from other people. I find the "how we met" story about couples one of the most captivating of stories. This is the backstory of two of my favorite people.

About three years ago, my best friend Kim arrived at my northeast Ohio home for a weekend retreat from her home in the Louisville, Kentucky area. It had been many years since our teenage sleepovers, but the topics of conversation were still along the same themes: life, hopes, dreams, and boys. 

Trying subtly to hide her giddiness, Kim revealed details about her latest love interest, John. She was cautious not to say too much as was her nature in love having come through divorce. Despite her best efforts to hide it, I could see the sparkle in her eyes when she received a text from John. 

Have you ever known someone eternally optimistic? Someone who walks through the world believing only good things? This is Kim.

I met Kim when I was 16 in a chemistry class; I hated the class, felt comparable about the teacher, and I likely owe my passing that class to Kim, who taught me to see the wonder and awe she saw in science. Indeed, she might be single-handedly responsible for instilling in me a love of nature on a deeper, literal cellular level than I previously had before. She introduced me to one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, and a love of primitive backpacking.

Once, we took a trip out west together and explored Crater Lake, Oregon and, then, Big Sur California - places that were awe-inspiring in their magnificent landscapes in the same magical way Kim saw the universe. Below are some images from that 1994 trip (click on an image to enlarge it). Note the arrow on image #3; it's pointing to an RV parked in a parking lot for a reference to size and shows just how gigantic Crater Lake is! 

Magic has always followed Kim and she seems to have accepted magic as just simply a part of her life. It's as if she has had a protective magical bubble around her for these 40-some years that's given her the excitement, wonder and sometimes naivete of a child. It was fitting, then, that she became a middle school science teacher...duh! What else could she be?!

Among the many things she is, Kim is also a musician. When she moved to Kentucky almost a decade ago, she connected with a group of musicians from The Heartland Songwriters Association of Kentucky (HSAOK). I admire her bravery! Imagine moving to a new state, and then just showing up with a bunch of musicians and playing/singing on stage!

 A photo I shot of Kim from 2010 shortly after she moved to Kentucky and connected with the Heartland Songwriters' Association of Kentucky.

A photo I shot of Kim from 2010 shortly after she moved to Kentucky and connected with the Heartland Songwriters' Association of Kentucky.

It was through the HSAOK that Kim found a new tribe of friends and, ultimately met John, who was/is also a musician. 

Kim and John were invited to perform at a guitar pull on November 17, 2013. If you're wondering what a guitar pull is, Kim describes it as a concert based on acoustic songs that showcase 2-3 different songwriters. Here is a flier for that guitar pull. 

 If you're wondering who J.D. Michaels is...that's John.

If you're wondering who J.D. Michaels is...that's John.

"I stalked him on facebook a few days before [the guitar pull]," Kim admits about John, "and I liked him immediately, but we were both in other relationships." 

Many months later, fate brought them together again...or was it divinity? Their mutual and very talented friend, Jessica Mathis, who also goes by Divinity Rose, planned a a photoshoot for John for an upcoming CD (you can check out some of her work at She asked Kim to be a part of the shoot. Kim describes it as serendipity, but I have to wonder if Jessica played divine match-maker that day. These photos tell quite a story! Jessica says they were going for a sort of Mad Max/ancient prophesy/armageddon thing and wow, I think they nailed it!

But what's interesting, in hindsight, was that this chance meeting set the stage for a wedding that is the opposite of Mad Max.

It set the stage for a fairy tale. 

Stay tuned for photos from that wedding! 

Thanks to Jessica Mathis for the use of her awesome photos in this post!

Like Rain On Your Wedding Day: Rachelle and Chris, Part 2

So, cue the music...except ... the rain kept toying with plans for walking down the aisle. Finally, the bride gave the go-ahead for the outdoor ceremony her heart was set on, and the groom walked to the alter with the officiant at 4:51 - just 21 minutes after the intended start time. 

Chris told me he didn't want to look at his bride until the minute she appeared at the alter. He nervously awaited her arrival. 

The wedding party procession began with the best man, Chris's brother Robbie, and Maid of Honor, Cameron first. 

Chris swore he wouldn't cry when he saw his bride for the first time, but I think he had tears in his eyes before he even turned to see her. I was glad I had the camera in front of my face to shield anyone seeing my own tears! It was hard to resist and the love Chris had for Rachelle was evident. 

Both of the bride's parents gave her away - something I thought was classy.

The wedding officiant said the bride and groom wanted just a few things for their special day. The first was to keep it simple and short. Another was for everyone to pray. 

Rachelle is a quiet person. Some might find her shy, but she isn't when it comes to voicing her opinion. She has a way of looking up through her eyelashes coyly when nervous that has become what I know to be a Rachelle trademark look. She didn't disappoint to flash this classic Rachelle-esque look during the ceremony either. 

The couple exchanged rings...

...and a kiss...

...and within 15 minutes, they were husband and wife! 

The wedding party, no doubt relieved that the rain held off!

I have so many photos to edit from this beautiful wedding, but here are some posed shots immediately following the ceremony. 

"Pulled Apart"

"Through the doorway"



"Bouquet Toast"


Like Rain On Your Wedding Day: Rachelle & Chris, Part 1

Click play for some music that I thought fitting for this rustic wedding :)

I had the honor of shooting an absolutely gorgeous wedding at The Barn at the Meadows  in Orrville this weekend. The couple, Rachelle and Chris, had been together for five years, and the love between them shined through. What wasn't shining on their wedding day, however, was the sun: I grew concerned when I looked at the weather forecast for their big day. Rain, and not just a little, but rain that looked from radar like it wasn't planning to leave the area anytime soon. The couple, and their families, many of whom traveled from West Virginia for the event, were undaunted. 

The Barn at the Meadows is truly a sight to see. It seemed as though the couple was meant to be married here when, as I walked around shooting all the beautiful details of the place I stumbled on this: 

I immediately fell in love with the location. So many details truly made the day unique and special, from the name of the bride and groom on the sign at the entrance, to the rustic, hand-painted decor throughout. 

I found the bride, who was nervously awaiting the 4:30 ceremony start time. Her gown was gorgeous. She put the finishing touches on her hair and make up and then it was time to slip into her gown. 

There were two factors that threatened the 4:30 ceremony target: rain and the seemingly endless loops on the back of the bride's dress that needed threaded. It truly takes an army to put on a wedding dress! The bridal party banded together, tweezers in hand, to lace up the back of the dress. 

Ever so slowly, the girls made progress while the bride patiently waited. 

I popped next door to see how the guys were progressing, and things seemed far easier. 

Finally, the bride was all laced up. Whew! 

The tiniest flower girl waited patiently...

Just then, the D.J. knocked on the door. The rain started coming down. For a few minutes, the big question was: inside or out? Half of the chairs were set up outside already, and the bride had her heart set on an outdoor wedding. So guests began making their way to the ceremony site: umbrellas in hand! And then the rain stopped...

They say rain on your wedding day is good luck. Everyone was in place. Would the rain hold off? Stay tuned! 

Landon's Birth Story: Part 2

Just when Bianca could not hold baby Landon in another second, Dr. O'Shea rounded the corner of room 236 and it was finally time to meet the little man! Truly, if we could all be blessed with such a perfect, uneventful birth, the world would be a beautiful place. Bianca pushed baby Landon out in just one push, and within mere moments, he was born at 8:34 p.m. weighing in at 5 lbs 15.5 ounces and 18 inches long. 

First moments as baby Landon enters the world and is hoisted up on Bianca's belly

Landon was so content almost immediately. He didn't cry much at all, and seemed to take everything in so easily. He looked around inquisitively at the world around him, and mostly, he gazed at his mom. 

I was so happy to see Akron City Hospital Labor & Delivery unit encouraging skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Skin-to-skin contact - immediate connection between mom or dad and baby's naked skin - is nature's way of encouraging bonding between mother - and father - and baby. Multiple studies show that it helps baby regulate body temperature, heart rate, breathing and general adjustment to life outside of the womb.

While mom and baby connected through skin-to-skin, it was dad's turn to step up to the plate with cutting the umbilical cord. 

Weighing in

Dr. O'Shea checked baby out from the comfort of his mom's arms. 

And first-time dad, Derek, gazed in wonder at his newborn son. 

Within moments, this new little family seemed easy and natural. Then, once things were settled, Landon's big brother, Noah, was allowed to see his baby brother for the first time. The look on his face is priceless. These are the very first seconds he saw his baby brother:

This is probably one of my favorite photos from Landon's birth. The joy in Bianca's face is so natural, so real, and it is beautiful to see. 

Welcome to the world little Landon. You have an entire tribe of people who love you and are so happy you are here. 

Landon's Birth Story: Part 1

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of doing a maternity shoot with an adorable family I have come to know very well. You can see that post here. I first met Bianca when she was pregnant with Noah. Now, four years later, Bianca was about to have her second child, also a boy. His name is Landon. 

Bianca wasn't due until September 7, but little Landon wasn't growing anymore so Bianca's physician, Dr. Maura O'Shea, decided to induce labor. The long-awaited day finally arrived. Bianca texted me a few hours after her 6 a.m. arrival at Akron City Hospital from her room in the Labor & Delivery department: room 236. 

We had hoped it would be quick, but Landon had other plans. After Bianca received pitocin, a medicine that induces labor and causes the uterus to contract, things were still slow-moving. Hours went by and Bianca checked in with me frequently by text. I awaited her birth nearby, camera ready! I had planned to arrive about 3 p.m. but decided to hold off when Bianca texted that she was still only 3 cm dilated; the cervix has to be 10 cm dilated before birth can occur. We continued to wait. 

About 6:30 p.m. I didn't hear from Bianca. A mean-looking storm formed over the Akron skies. After waiting 12 hours, I decided I should head to the hospital, fearing mama's silence mean it was go time. 

Bianca riding the wave of a strong contraction

I arrived at the hospital at 7:45 and things were progressing well, as I suspected. It had been hours since the nurse had checked Bianca's cervix, so we did not know how dilated she was, but from her complaints about increasing pressure, I suspected Landon would make his entrance soon!

The nurse came to check on Bianca, and sure enough, she was 8 cm dilated! It was show time, and several nurses appeared to prep equipment. 


 A nurse talks to Bianca about her progress

A nurse talks to Bianca about her progress

Tools of the trade: instruments are laid out in preparation for Landon's birth

Landon's father, Derek, talks to Bianca in between contractions

Within minutes, Landon's long awaited birth suddenly became a very eminent reality. The nurse checked Bianca again and was surprised to see black hair emerging into the world. The nurse explained that she was literally holding back baby's head as she tried to reach Bianca's doctor. For 25 minutes, Bianca held off giving birth while waiting for Dr. O'Shea to arrive! Her legs visibly shook fighting back the intense primal urge to push. Finally, Dr. O'Shea arrived. It was time. 



Bianca Maternity Shoot

I have had the privilege of capturing Noah's life since he was in his mother's belly until today. Now, as Noah enters his 4th year, his mommy is expecting his baby brother, Landon. 

Noah and his mom, who is expecting baby Landon on September 7, 2016

Last evening, I did a maternity shoot on the beautiful property I am privileged to work on with Noah's mom. And I was thrilled when she asked me to capture the birth of her new baby, Landon, expected on September 7, 2016. 

Having worked for nearly 10 years in a pediatric hospital and having two children of my own, I know what a sensitive time this is for families. I specialize in a discreet, respectful shooting style, honoring my client's privacy. And I can't wait to capture baby Landon's first moments of life! 

Stay tuned for Landon's grand entrance! 


How much should quality photography cost?

You find a photographer you like... no, adore! Their work is on point and captures exactly what you want in photos: the emotions, the feel. Their work tells a story, the story you want to remember. Then you ask the dreaded question: what do you charge?

A lot has changed in photography over the last 10 years. With entry-level DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras easily accessible at any Wal Mart or Target, the playing field was saturated with many folks who claimed to be photographers but lacked the basic knowledge of photography. 

Quality photography isn't cheap, and as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. You could go to a chain where the photos are posed, plastic-feeling and pay $19.95 for what's essentially a point-and-shoot shot from a higher end camera that chances are, the fauxtographer doesn't even really know how to operate on any setting other than "auto." But when it comes to capturing a story - a real life moment or a candid capture - that's something you just can't find in a chain. 

There is a lot that goes into quality photography, and the price point reflects a lot more than just shoot time. Not only are you paying for the photographer's time and talent, you're paying for the time it takes to process those photos. A camera is only "one tool in the toolbox." Equipment used in the making of quality photography, like Photoshop or Lightroom editing programs, computers, cameras, lenses and even web hosting costs and mileage driving to and from a shoot are factored into the bottom line. And then there is schooling. A good photographer will know the difference between bokeh and bouquet, and knows their camera inside and out. And I will tell you, we do a lot more than just stand in one place!  I work up a sweat during shoots because I like to find multiple angles to shoot from; I've even been known to bring ladders to a shoot, and during one event, I logged over 5,000 steps on my Fitbit alone! 

There are certainly good "amateur" or beginner photographers out there. Whether you use one depends on how much value you put on the shot. If you value getting that "first look" photo of your daughter as she walks down the isle, you'll pay more for the security of knowing the photographer you hire is capable of capturing that. 

Some things to look for when hiring a photographer: 

  • Do they have a portfolio? A reputable photographer will have a portfolio that illustrated diversity, composition and an ability to "think on their toes." 
  • Does their work make you feel the moment? 
  • Do they use quality gear? Although today's point-and-shoot cameras are more advanced than, say, 10 years ago, a point-and-shoot is still a point-and-shoot. No one should call themselves a "professional" photographer with a cheap camera. 
  • Do others speak highly of their work? In the age of social media (and blogs!), comments, feedback and testimonials are everywhere. Do your research. 

The average beginner photographer will charge next to nothing. A professional - someone who has years of knowledge and experience under their belt - can charge $125-150 an hour for a basic portrait session.

We all must consider our pocket books when purchasing anything. But consider your time as well and how much it is worth. You're not only investing in memories, you're taking a couple hours out of your day to attend a photo session. Make that time count with a quality photographer. You owe it to yourself and your memories to ensure that these are not left to chance. 


This post was also published on my other photography blog:

What is a marketing plan and why do I need one?

So, you had this great idea for a start up business. You secured some funding to help get your start up off the ground and are chomping at the bit to go. Then someone says, "what's your marketing plan?" (Sound of a needle scratching across an album here).

 What's a marketing plan?

What's a marketing plan?


If you're starting a new business, a marketing plan is essential for success. Marketing plans help identify who your target customers are and how to engage and retain this customer base. Marketing plans contain unique selling tactics that clearly illustrates what sets you apart from your competition. Because let's face it: there will always be competition no matter what market you're in. 


Marketing plans typically contain a distribution plan - how you will get your product or service to your customers - as well as plans for offering deals. Some deals companies typically offer are things like free trials, free estimates, give-aways, contests, referral rewards and package discounts for purchases in bulk. Marketing plans also usually contain ideas for marketing materials, or the actual ways your customers will learn about your business. These include your web site, print media, and other promotional materials. 

If you need help with creating a marketing plan for your business, Grit Grrl Media can help!