Emily and Ryan

My dear Emily, I’ve never seen you happier than you are when you are with Ryan. What a gift to be able to spend the rest of your life with one who so clearly loves and enjoys the woman that you are. You make everything more fun, and your wedding day was no exception. The crowd who traveled from near and far to celebrate with you in the mountains is a testament to the investment you and Ryan make in your relationships.

You entrusted me with the honor of capturing your wedding day. Thank you for believing in me and insisting that I be your photographer! It was more exhilarating, more exhausting, and more fun than I ever thought it would be.

Best wishes to the newly Nolands!

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Germany

A recent stay in Europe began with a few days in Munich. It’s a city proud of its history of brewing beer and building BMWs. Somehow the third largest city in Germany manages to feel clean and quiet.

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Just 20 minutes outside of Munich is the Dachau Concentration Camp. Opened in 1933, Dachau was the first camp the Nazis operated in Germany. For twelve years, thousands of prisoners lived and worked and died on these grounds. We listened to stories of suffering and brutality while we stood in the rooms, in the cells, in the chambers where it had occurred. edit-27

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One rental car and two hours on the autobahn found us in the southeastern corner of Bavaria. A region rich in history and natural beauty, it is home to small mountain villages and fairy-tale palaces. We had just enough time to roam the streets of Berchtesgaden and the grounds of this royal residence.

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One last stop before leaving Germany. The view from the top of Mount Jenner, overlooking Lake Konigssee.

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Nashville

Last fall, my sister and brother-in-law moved across the state line and settled in the Music City. Not quite a year of living in Nashville, and they seem to feel right at home. In a city where the foodie scene is booming and live music venues are on every corner, one weekend is not enough.

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Beach Week

Every summer I get the chance to spend a week vacationing with my family. And most summers, those vacations take place along Florida’s scenic Highway 30-A. Powder white sand and turquoise waters have drawn beachgoers to this area of the panhandle for decades. Pastel colored beach communities have been developing along the highway for as long as I can remember. And year after year, we find ourselves coming back, ordering the same dishes at the same restaurants, riding our bikes along the same pathways, and watching the same sunsets. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Glacier National Park

In the northwestern corner of Montana, among the peaks of the continental divide, are one million acres of protected splendor. A paradise of wildlife and mountain peaks. A place to experience the grandeur and the creativity of our Creator.

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Anyone wanting to drive the width of the park, must take a journey on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The only road to traverse the park, it is 53 miles of narrow and winding pavement. The curves are harrowing but the views are majestic. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see cars making their way up into the mountains.

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If Glacier National Park is on your bucket list, go now! Scientists studying this area are estimating that all the glaciers may disappear by 2030 if global warming continues at the current rate. Today, there are about 25 glaciers remaining in the park.  One of the largest, Jackson Glacier, is pictured below.

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This park is home to black and grizzly bears. This guy was our closest bear encounter

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Hendersonville

 Michael and I recently took a weekend trip to the mountains. We booked a room in Hendersonville out of convenience. It’s close to Asheville, where we planned to spend some time, as well as the state park where we planned to do some hiking. We did not intend to spend much time in Hendersonville, so we were pleasantly surprised by the charm of this small mountain town.

The historic downtown is clean and walkable. There is a long list of local restaurants that all looked amazing. And best of all, we happened to be there during the annual Garden Jubilee. The streets were filled with flowers and shrubs, herbs and vegetables, all locally grown and all for sale. I’m a sucker for a street festival and this one was beautiful.

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Bachelorette Beach Weekend

This girl had lots of reasons to celebrate. Fall break from her masters program was going to be spent at the beach with her friends and sisters. And the weather forecast was perfect.

This was the scene when I arrived – the bathing suit clad bride dancing on the porch to music streaming from her tablet. Her enthusiasm was contagious. The bachelorette weekend was full of good food and fruity drinks, silly games and silky gifts.  Thanks to everyone who helped to make it so special!

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Florida beach conditions in October are idyllic. The air is warm, the sand is cool, and the humidity is low.

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We love you Leah!

Ambergris Caye, Belize

It was a Thursday when Michael turned in his two weeks notice. Making the decision to leave his employer of eight years was not an easy one. For weeks he had prayed about the decision and sought counsel from friends and family. There was such a sense of relief for both of us when a decision was finally made. And there was also the realization that there would be a week between the end of the old job and the start of the new job. We decided that a week of unemployment was a great time to take a trip.

There wasn’t much time to plan, so after some TripAdvisor research and a quick check of our skymile balance, we purchased two plane tickets to Belize. And a week later we were getting our passports stamped in Central America. We spent five days on Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize. It’s a top destination for travelers wanting to dive and snorkel because the world’s second largest barrier reef is just a mile off the coast. While the highlights of the trip were definitely our snorkel tours, the time spent at the resort pool wasn’t too bad either.

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San Pedro is the only town on Ambergris Caye. The roads are narrow and the buildings are bright. Locals and visitors get around either by bicycle or golf cart. From almost any point in town, you can catch a glimpse of the turquoise waters on either side of the mile-wide island.

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This is one of my favorite photographs from our trip. I’m so proud of this man for the hard work that he does and the intentional way he lives his life. Looking forward to seeing more of this big beautiful world with you.

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In Katrina’s Wake

It was August when Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the gulf coast. In the hours that followed, entire cities were crushed by the storm. Lives were lost, families were displaced, and homes were destroyed.  Nine years later, Katrina’s presence is still felt on the coast. Her footprint is everywhere.

In Bay St. Louis, along the Jordan River, sits a once grandiose home. Built on a Coca Cola fortune, the acreage includes two homes, a boathouse, and what appears to have been grazing land for buffalo. The scene now is eerily reminiscent of Gone With The Wind. Approaching the house, I felt like Scarlett returning to a war-torn Tara. The exterior walls survived the hurricane, but the interior was ravaged by the storm. And for nine years, it has sat untouched. My friends and I scooted past the “private property” sign and made our way down the winding driveway to get a peek at the ghost mansion.

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Mat Kearney is one of my all time favorite artists. I’ve heard him say that his inspiration for the song “All I Need” were friends who had to flee their home during Katrina, leaving behind all that they owned. These lyrics took on a new meaning for me as I tip-toed my way through the broken glass and sagging hallways.

“The walls are shaking, I hear them sound the alarm
Glass is breaking so don’t let go of my arm
Grab your bags and a picture of where we met
All that we’ll leave behind and all that’s left”

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A Weekend on the Coast

In the fall of 2002, I began my freshman year of college. I was in a small town in a new state and feeling very far from home. Living on the same floor of a gigantic freshman dorm were four girls who would turn out to be the most beloved part of my college career. I would not have made it through those four years without these friends. Now, over ten years later, we live in five different states and these days, opportunities to be together are few and far between.  We worked hard to find a weekend to reconnect this summer and it was well worth it. By plane and by car, we all made our way to the coastal city of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi for a long weekend together. Being with these women is easy and fun and they make me laugh like nobody else can.

This is for you my ninth floor ladies!

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It was a weekend of good food and southern beer. It was spent reminiscing about our college days and sharing about our lives now. There was music and laughter and lots of sunscreen.

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The weekend also included a surprise announcement from my friend Leslie.

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“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” – Aristotle

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