Kelsey and Kevin met many years ago and are now ready to tie the knot! For their engagement session, Kelsey asked if I had been wanting to shoot anywhere (a photographer's dream!) so I mentioned, that if they were coffee people, there was a really cool coffee shop called East Pole Coffee Company. I contacted the owners (who you may recognize from their modeling days at the Big Fake Wedding) and we started planning! After the coffee shop, we headed over to a nearby park for some outdoor photos and photos with the pups!
In light of Irma, I decided it was time to share some views of the Caribbean in it's sunnier days. I'm so glad I was able to visit these places and hope that the towns and the people are safe and recover well. Our hearts go out to you!
This year for our mother/ daughter trip my mom and I decided to go on a cruise. I'd never been on one before and they're actually pretty affordable. We started researching and I came across one on Royal Caribbean that listed Havana, Cuba as a port of call and that was that.
A week before our set sail date, the President announced that he was cancelling Obama's policies about our relationship with Cuba, which meant our ship might no longer be headed to Cuba. Thankfully, we were still allowed to go as planned. If you're interested in traveling to Cuba, you can read up on it here. In summary, there will be no more independent travel, but group tours will be allowed.
Day 1: June 21, 2017 - Tampa
Mom and I arrived to Tampa the day before and we were able to go to a Tampa Bay Rays game. If you haven't learned already, I love baseball and I love travel so getting to visit a new ballpark to check off the list was awesome. Also, Tropicana field was like none other. I had the hardest time wrapping my brain around it because it was INSIDE. This makes complete sense for Florida as it is either very hot or very rainy. It wasn't crowded and it also happened to be $2 hotdog night! We ate our hotdogs and had some OJ (tropicana field... it felt appropriate) and went and saw the live devil rays in their tank. The next day, we checked onto our ship, The Empress of the Seas, and began our journey!
Day 2: June 22, 2017 - Key West
On Thursday, we woke up to the bluest water I have ever seen. We docked in Key West and explored around. Technically we were still in Florida just with more chickens.
We took the trolley and saw the Ernest Hemingway House, the lighthouse, and stood in line to take a photo with the Southernmost Point in the Continental US. We found the Starbucks because we wanted Key West mugs to add to our collection, but apparently those don't exist... just Florida. (Starbucks, if you're reading this, please make a Key West Mug. Thanks!) Key West is mega touristy and while I enjoy some touristy things (like famous buildings and museums 'cause I'm a nerd) I'm more of a go where the locals go kind of girl.
If you've ever been on a cruise, you know that they provide various forms of entertainment. One of our favorite activities was the guest lecturer! She is a professor and has lived in Cuba and our nerdy selves loved listening to her about the people and giving us lots of helpful insight for our next day in port.
Day 3: June 23, 2017 - Havana
On Friday morning, we woke up in Cuba! Falling asleep in one country and waking up in another is a unique experience that I hope everyone gets to try at least once. It took forever to actually get off the ship and into the city. We signed up for a walking tour as there is very little information about Cuba on the interwebs including maps. When we were in Paris, we downloaded city maps from google to our phones so that we could still make our way around without internet. You can't do that for Havana. It's blocked.
Eventually, we made our way through security and customs and exchanged our money. Got that Cuba stamp in my passport! Note: There are multiple currencies in Cuba. There are CUP and CUCs. The CUP is the Cuban National Peso for the local Cuban people. CUCs are the Cuban Convertible Peso, which is supposed to be equal to the US dollar. After fees, it comes out to about $0.87 on the dollar. Be careful though because 25 CUPs are worth 1 USD. Always check your currency.
I feel like I learned so much about Cuba and it's culture that there may not be enough room in a single blog, but I can share some of the highlights. Finally walking out into the city after so much anticipation was amazing! You walk to the Plaza Vieja and the city is alive with hustle and bustle and antique cars and vibrant people everywhere.
We took the walking tour, which actually also turned into a partial bus tour as well. They took us to a place where we could try Cuban coffee, cigars, and rum. While I felt the tour was a bit too long and I would have preferred to walk around on my own, we learned and saw a ton. We eventually broke off from our group (I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T do you know what that mean?) and got lunch at a local restaurant, bought some treats on the street, along with some cigars, coffee, and rum to bring home, and explored more on our own. We went to the Camara Obscura, which is super cool and only cost 2 CUCs. It's this crazy lens that projects the city in real time. It's not recorded or digital. It's on the roof of a building in one of the plazas and also has a great view of the city. Next time, if there ever is a next time, I'm jumping in a taxi and heading out to see the rest of the city.
Day 4: June 24, 2017 - Cozumel
Cozumel was actually one of my favorite stops because our activities (or funtivities) were some of my favorites. We debated back and forth about what we wanted to do and I'm so glad we chose what we did. We booked the Jeep Tour. These Jeeps were old and falling apart (I'm talking exposed wires, non working dash, and alignments that would make you drive in circles.) . I'm pretty sure none of these cars would have passed an emissions test in Atlanta, but that just made it more authentic. :) We made some friends who happened to be in our tour group the day before and jumped in the jeeps. We drove first to a beach to go snorkeling, which I'd never done before, but was so fun! Our guides were really great too because no activity felt too long or short and we got to experience it all. After snorkeling, we drove over to a little beach where we were originally supposed to go, but the water wasn't clear enough for snorkeling. Then, we went to a lighthouse which had some pretty views and some giant waves crashing on rocks, which is my fave. We also saw some mayan ruins before heading back to the ship.
Day 5: June 25, 2017 - Day at Sea
On our day at sea, we avoided the pool since that was where everyone was going to be. We got some coffee and went to a second (yep) Cuba lecture by the same professor. I still find it all fascinating and it was nice to be able to hear more since having experienced a little bit of the culture. For the rest of the day, we hung out and read books and just enjoyed some rest after exploring 3 cities in 3 days.
Day 6: June 26, 2017 - Arrive in Tampa
Landed back in Tampa and made our declarations.
Have you ever been on a cruise before? If you have, or want to go on one, where would you want to go?
My journey to becoming a full fledged, full time photographer was a slow, yet also quick one.
I got my first DSLR (aka “fancy camera”) when I graduated from UGA in the spring of 2011. It was fun to play with and took way better pictures than any other camera even on AUTO. I was the friend that brought it to tailgates and trips and my camera would get passed around so we could document the day’s activities. This was also during the time when “Facebook Albums” were pretty prevalent and you had to try to come up with witty album names.
It wasn’t till maybe a year later when a recently engaged friend suggested that I take their engagement photos. So I did! And I have been photographing them ever since :). We could probably have some kind of art exhibit of the Tuttle family and the evolution of Holly Von Lanken Photography… maybe one day. ;)
Anyway, I loved getting to photograph them! It was so much fun and it made them happy.. which made me happy!
I was at the stage in my life when several friends were starting to get married and I would volunteer to take engagement photos for them for fun/practice/as a wedding present of sorts. At this point in time, I never would have thought I’d be where I am now - not that I have “made it” by any means, but where I am in that I am my primary provider and I can sit at my computer at home at 11:36am on a Wednesday drafting this blog post.
So let’s fast forward a little bit..it’s circa 2013 and I’m stalking Kaitie Bryant’s website almost daily and learning as much as I can. If you know me, you know that when I get interested in something, I will research it till no end. Around that time, I worked up the courage and asked Kaitie if I could shadow/ follow her around at a wedding just to see what it was like… and she said yes! And it was awesome! At this point though, I still never considered that this could be a job or even a side hustle for me. It was just a fun hobby.
At the end of that year, I was in my friend’s wedding. The photographer for that wedding was Chloe Giancola, whose husband was one of the groomsmen. At the reception we got to talking and I asked to second shoot with her and she said yes! I ended up second shooting with Chloe for the greater part of 2014. I learned a lot from Chloe and was able to see how the flow of a wedding day went. I learned to shoot in RAW and in manual that year. It was an excellent year of growth. During this time I was also going to workshops and doing more research and toying with the idea that this could be an actual business. Still I never dreamed it would be a full time gig, but could be a hobby that paid for itself because let’s be real - photo gear is expensive. I made a really terrible Wordpress website, which hopefully the world will never have to see. I really hope it’s not still alive somewhere in the depths of the internet. I made some homemade business cards - also pretty embarrassing - and continued to invest in learning this trade.
Things turned when I booked my first weddings during the later months of 2014. I had been told, “If you’re going to shoot weddings, you need to have a business license.” So that’s what I did. I did more research and learned everything I could about business licenses, taxes, and all that other nasty legal stuff that if you’re going to have a company, you need to know. In October 2014, I officially launched “Holly Von Lanken Photography”.
Also, can we give a quick shout out to the first weddings - the couples who trusted me the most and decided to take a risk? Thank you Andersons and Timmons! The Timmons booked me first, but the Andersons were the first wedding I shot that was “mine” in January 2015.
From there, things grew. During all of this, there was a lot of prayer. I prayed and asked God if this was really something I could or should do. I prayed that I would do a good job and that the couples would love their photos. I prayed that God would send me the “right” couples - not the couples who had the most aesthetically pleasing weddings (although that’s always a plus), but those who were excited to get married and weren’t going to sweat the small stuff and who I genuinely liked. These are prayers I’ve prayed many times and will continue to pray along with many others.
God kept answering my prayers. I remember praying to shoot 5 weddings in 2015. I thought that was a pretty good goal for having shot zero in 2014. I ended up shooting 12.
I may also need to mention that during this time I was also working full time as a teacher, teaching high school Spanish. I really did enjoy teaching and I loved my students (most of them ;)). However, it became really difficult to do both full time teaching and photography. Plus, I was driving about an hour to school and back every day. More prayers were prayed about what I should do and probably for another year of prayerful consideration and meeting with Shanna Skidmore, a creative business consultant, I decided to make the switch to full time. I finished out the 2015-2016 school year and then jumped into full time photography life.
This summer marks the completion of the first full year of full time photography and I’m so thankful for the clients, vendors, and friends I’ve met along the way. It’s been good to reflect on various things about my life and my career being one of them. The Lord is ever faithful.
I wanted to share this story for this anniversary of sorts, but also for other creatives because I’ve been there. I know about the long hours, the considerations, the one million resources out there that everyone tells you that you “need.” I’ve found some of my most helpful encounters came from being able to sit in front of another human being and just talking. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in webinars and online courses and there are great ones out there. They are perfect for reaching the masses, but there’s still nothing like a face to face meeting over a nice warm cup of coffee or working with someone in a hands on environment to learn.
If you’ve made it this far, I congratulate you.
With all that said, I want to give creatives starting out more opportunities for one-on-one, face-to-face meetings. This is why I decided to start offering mentoring sessions for small creative businesses. This could be a one hour conversation over coffee to figure out the government side of a start up. It could be to get clarity or work on action steps to achieving your goals. It could even look like setting up processes to make your business run smoothly. I also realized that there are those out there who need some practice with using a DSLR camera whether simply for themselves, to hone their skills, or because they run their own businesses - maybe not even a photography business, but want to know how to take better images of their products.
If any of this sounds like you, I’d love to chat and help get you where you want to go. Thanks so much for reading and being along for this crazy ride.
Word to your mother,
Heather and John are actually from the northeast, but are traveling to the south for their wedding at Chateau Elan next month! On one of their planning trips, we were able to meet up for their engagement session! They wanted to do something more "Atlanta" so we went to Ponce City Market! It was so fun and I can't wait for their winery wedding at Chateau Elan!
How/ Where did you two meet?
John and I met through Match.com. A friend of mine created my online profile as a joke because she wanted me to get out and date more. After a few weeks, there was some interest from some guys, but John's profile caught my attention. Thankfully he sent me a message. We planned our first date to be a sort of "happy hour" meeting. We met for drinks at World of Beer in Stamford, Connecticut. It started at 5:30 and we finally decided to leave around 9:30. Probably the longest first date I've ever been on. :-)
How did he propose?
He proposed in the rose garden of the Bronx Botanical Gardens on June 4th 2016. It was all a surprise and after a long trek across the gardens. It was the perfect setting.
What has been the hardest part about wedding planning?
Doing everything long distance, John starting a new job as a surgeon, and pretty much 75% of the wedding being DIY. :-) We will survive this though.
If you've been following along for a little while, you've seen this lady's face before. I met Brianne a couple years ago when we met at a bridal consultation. One of her bride's was meeting with me about potentially shooting her wedding and even though Brianne and I didn't get to work together on that wedding we became friends and have gotten to work together since!
Recently, she decided to branch out on her own after having planned for a few years with another planner. I loved getting to shoot some branding photography for Brianne and am excited to share some images from our session!
Read below for some words from Brianne, of Brianne McMullan Events, herself!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I am the owner and heart behind Brianne McMullan Events, and we specialize in planning unique weddings for sentimental and sophisticated couples here in Atlanta and all over the Southeast. I am also a wife to an amazing husband, a cat mom, a margarita/chips & queso lover, and a Netflix connoisseur. I love creating & designing, and even though I am extremely introverted, I love working with people and supporting others.
How did you get into wedding planning?
I grew up passionately pursuing a career in elementary education and was thrilled to land an amazing teaching job when I graduated, but realized fairly quickly that the burnout I was experiencing day-after-day and year-after-year wasn't sustainable. I had a wedding of my own and realized throughout the process that planning weddings combined many of the qualities in a career that I value the most: working with people, serving and supporting others, creating beautiful designs and aesthetics, and logistics. I reached out to wedding planners here in Atlanta and was lucky enough to find a perfect position as a part-time associate coordinator for an established company. I worked with them for a couple of years, learning the ropes and gaining ample experience planning and designing weddings, as well as marketing myself and selling my services. Afterwards, I launched Brianne McMullan Events!
What are your current favorite color combinations or trends?
I am so excited to say that I think bold, crisp colors are becoming more popular! I love designing weddings that infuse deep jewel tones - think emerald, sapphire blue, or ruby - or that have bright and fresh color palettes! We were in a phase for a while where many brides were requesting neutrals and blush tones, which I think will always be in style, but I am excited for the challenge of incorporating bright hues into tasteful and sophisticated designs in the coming seasons.
Are there any trends that you'd like to see left behind?
While I think that burlap and mason jars have finally gotten the message, I'd like to put the final nail in the coffin. I also think that brides look at popular trends and feel like they have to jump on the bandwagon, but I would encourage every couple to pay more attention to incorporating personal details that speak to their story.
Any advice for couples getting married?
Stay focused on your marriage throughout your planning. Planning a wedding is so exciting and it will be an amazing day, but trust me when I say the best is yet to come! Keep your marriage at the heart of all of your decision making, be sure to talk about your marriage often (and attend premarital counseling if you desire), and continue dating each other throughout the process!
Any advice for new wedding planners just getting started?
The best advice I have is to put yourself out there. This could mean reaching out to other vendors to connect, blogging, attending networking events, or asking planners who are a few steps ahead of you for opportunities to gain experience. Oh--and don't be afraid to invest wisely in yourself. Workshops and trainings can be scary to invest in when you aren't making a huge profit, but the knowledge you gain can be invaluable.
Favorite Atlanta venue(s)?
I love venues in Atlanta that have pretty outdoor and indoor space, providing various settings for each moment in the event. Some of my favorites are the Atlanta History Center, The Estate, and Summerour. I also really love the sleek, modern look of Ventanas, and if you are looking for views of the Atlanta skyline, it is a hard one to beat! To be honest, there are so many great venues in Atlanta that it is hard to narrow it down!
What is something about wedding planners that many people may not know?
Wedding planners spend an average of 200+ hours planning your wedding. We are so dedicated to our clients, and are committed to saving them time, keeping them on budget, and eliminating as much stress as possible. Hiring a planner is an investment in your wedding, but in many cases planners can keep you more on track with your budget than you can do on your own because of our expertise and knowledge of industry standards. I also think couples feel that if they hire a planner, they won't have as much control over the wedding, but I think the opposite is true! In fact, I believe hiring a wedding planner who is able to completely grasp the vision for the wedding enables the couple to make educated decisions about their design and their vendors that will precisely deliver the look, feel, and experience that they were hoping for (and more!).
What are your hobbies/ non wedding related activities?
When I am not planning, I can be found spending time with my family and friends, trying new restaurants or visiting tried and true favorites, attempting to cook (we use Blue Apron), attending a barre or spin class, or enjoying a latte at a local coffee shop.
After planning your own wedding, was there anything you wish you did differently knowing what you know now as a professional?
I definitely would have done a first look! I was pretty stubborn about that one, but I would have wanted more of a relaxed timeline immediately following the ceremony instead of trying to cram in all of my family portraits and couple photos. Of course, my style has evolved now, so I would probably design a different aesthetic. I also forgot to get in my photo booth, so I would do that. But really, it was a perfect day and there is not much I would change! It was so much better than I had imagined it.
For Jessica and Tom's engagement session, we had a perfect Atlantan morning exploring the Inman Park neighborhood. We started off enjoying some coffee and croissants from Bread & Butterfly, a cute little cafe that reminded me of Paris. Then we took a stroll through the neighborhood, found one of the Tiny Doors, and the park! I can't wait for 2017 and all of the amazing couples that I'll get to celebrate!
Congratulations, Jessica + Tom!
I recently got to spend some time with my friend, Noi, of Noi Tran Photography. This lady is a super talented film photographer in Atlanta and I'm so thankful I got to spend more time with her. We met up at Cacao in the Virginia-Highlands, but after a minor mishap we relocated to Noi's home for a simple indoor session. I love how these photos turned out and I hope you enjoy getting to know a little about me and enjoy watching me get ready to send off Mr. & Mrs. Collin's Wedding.
Thank you again, Noi, for the beautiful photos. To see this session on Noi's blog, head over to her website HERE.
Things I enjoy: coffee, this outfit, beautiful photos, film, and calligraphy. It's all right here in these photos. I believe the experience you get with a wedding photographer shouldn't just be on your wedding day. It's a culmination of everything from the engagement session, to planning how the flow of the day will go, all the way down to the package that arrives on your doorstep. One of the things I want to offer my clients, in addition to beautiful images, is that they are delivered just as beautifully and wrapped up in love. Here are just a few things I include in each set of wedding packaging.
Calligraphy is by my talented friend, Mallory, of Castle Paper Co.
Once all the packaging is together, it gets wrapped up in love and sent with a hand written thank you note. I believe in thanking my clients. They could easily have chosen one of the many other talented photographers around and so, each wedding is an honor and a privilege that I get to photograph. They let me into their lives and their families for a day and it brings me much joy to create something beautiful for them.
Thanks again, Noi!