Susanna--A Classy Cowgirl

I taught high school seniors for ten years. Ya'll--it's rare that you come across a girl as classy, genuine, and kind-hearted as Susanna is! I first met Susanna out at the Dabney Farm. She was one of the instructors. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word to offer any time you passed her in the barn. A few months later, my daughter tried out for the pre-jv drill team at Dabney Riding Academy...and made it. Susanna was her coach.

You don't often see Susanna without Waylon, her Great Pyrenees at her heels. Waylon has become the barn mascot and even rode in the Christmas parade with some of the girls on the Diamond D Cowgirl float (complete with a Christmas bow). I asked Susanna how she had come up with his name. She told me she loved Waylon Jennings and his music, so she named her dog after him. If Waylon can't be found hanging with Susanna, you can probably find him napping in one of the empty horse stalls in the barn, or if he's lucky, in the air-conditioned office.

Susanna just radiates happiness--you can't be around her without smiling. Not only is she an instructor and coach at Dabney Riding Academy, but she is also on their Professional Drill team--The Diamond D Cowgirls--and she often travels with them performing across the country. This classy cowgirl loves her teammates, her family, and Jesus. She's very involved in her church, and she lives her beliefs. Her faith is an integral part of who she is, and I am beyond thrilled that she is teaching my daughters...I want my girls to grow up to be strong, classy, faithful women who aren't afraid of hard work...and Susanna is a perfect example for not only my girls, but the many other girls who ride at Dabney Riding Academy.

Chateau Elan Proposal

Tanner and Laura Beth are two people dear to my heart. I've known Tanner for years--my husband coaches for Tanner's father at Norcross High School, so I've known Tanner since I started dating my husband in 2004. It seems like just yesterday that Tanner was in middle school, and running the ball out to the referees at the Norcross High games. A few years passed, and Tanner was a junior sitting in my British Literature class. He was always fun-loving, full of smiles, and polite. He was as a teenager, and still is, the epitome of a gentleman. He played football for Norcross in high school, and I went from watching him run the ball out as a child to playing on the team. Now, he coaches at Norcross with his dad, brother and my husband.
I first met Laura Beth at a Christmas party when she was helping with the children. Her mother was my daughter's pre-school teacher. Natalie, my daughter, would tell me when Miss Laura Beth would visit her class, and she was excited when she got to play with Laura Beth at the party. Laura Beth is the epitome of a southern lady--just like her mother. She is always extremely sweet and polite, and has a smile that will light up a room.
Tanner and Laura Beth's story began when they were only children. They are only a few weeks apart in age, and were raised in the same church. They grew up together, went to school together, and have known one another essentially their entire lives. When Tanner called me to ask if I would take pictures of their proposal, I was thrilled. He arranged everything, and I met his friend (and another former student) Hamp, at Chateau Elan while Tanner and Laura Beth were eating lunch. We went to Tanner's truck, found the box of rose petals, and arranged them in a row of the vineyards. Hamp went to go meet them inside while I hung out and waited. A few minutes later, I got the heads up text from Hamp, and pretty soon they were rounding the corner of the vineyard. It took Laura Beth a minute to realize what was happening, and then she was in disbelief as Tanner got down on one knee to propose. After the initial shock, the first thing she said (I told you she was a perfect southern lady!) was "Did you ask my parents?" In a world where tradition seems to have gone by the wayside, it was refreshing to hear her say that. Of course, Tanner did--(these two were raised right ya'll!) and there were lots of hugs and tears that followed.
I have been blessed to be a part of quite a few special memories as I've gravitated toward being a full-time wedding photographer, but I have to say this particular memory I was able to capture will always be one of my all-time favorites. These two sweet, southern souls have come full circle from childhood friends to soon-to-be husband and wife, and I couldn't be more excited for them! Congratulations Tanner and Laura Beth! May God bless your engagement, marriage, and lives together--thank you for allowing me the privilege of capturing this special moment for you!

It all Started in Atlanta

When Stephanie told me the story of how she and Joe met, I had to laugh. We were about halfway through their engagement shoot at McDaniel Farm Park, and I was enjoying listening to their stories and watching them interact with one another. I had no problem picturing what Stephanie described: after spending the evening trying to catch Joe's eye, she finally walked right up to him and let him know that she had been attempting to get his attention all evening.
Although Stephanie and Joe live in Cincinnati, they wanted their engagement pictures here in Atlanta since this is the town where they met. Both went to business school at Emory, and we went back and forth about a good location that would reflect their personality and the town where they met.
When I first met them in the parking lot, Stephanie promptly informed me that they were not very photogenic. Five minutes into the shoot and she and Joe were all smiles. They were genuinely a fun couple to be around, and their chemistry was evident as they walked, laughed, and flirted during their session. I hardly gave any direction--they made my job easy--I just had to follow them around and capture their natural interaction with one another! We got some amazing pictures, and they will be fun memories for them to look back on one day. In June, Stephanie and Joe will marry in New York. I wish them the very best as they begin this next chapter in their lives. May your marriage be filled with blessings and laughter! I am grateful I was able to capture some sweet memories for you!

Bryan and Kristin

It was an absolute honor for me to get to photograph my brother's wedding. Sure, growing up we didn't like each other most of the time...we fought and drove our parents know--the typical "She's looking at me....he's on my side...."etc...but as most siblings do, we eventually grew out of that phase. I think one of my favorite years was when we were in high school together--I was senior, and the drum major for the band--Bryan was a freshman and a drummer. Know what that meant? That I got to tell him what to do--and he actually had to do it! (That's not why it was my favorite year...okay, maybe a little...) but I woke him up every morning and drove him to school. I drove us home from band practice every day. I'm pretty sure he missed me (a little) when I went away to college at Newberry. We had fun times...once, when we were home alone because our mom was having surgery, and Dad was staying with her at the hospital, he even blew up the grill when we attempted to cook dinner for ourselves...and it jumped a foot off the deck and singed his eyebrows. One year, not too long after I was married, my husband was away for Valentine's Day. Bryan was single. He called and asked what I was doing, and followed it with "This stinks let's go out." And my brother took me out to dinner on Valentine's Day. He's cut trees for me in the yard, and cut my grass a few times when my husband was swamped with football season. He makes me laugh every time I talk to him, and I love him more than he probably knows.
I also have to say that Bryan is one of the hardest working guys I know. He started working at Top Turf in Lawrenceville, Georgia when he was 15 years old. When he graduated from Loganville High School, he went to work with the landscaping crew for the county, and to this day, he still is working both jobs. It's at the Top Turf job that he met his bride, Kristin. They've known each other for years, but their paths never exactly connected at the right time. Kristin worked in marketing in North Carolina, and then eventually came back to work at her dad's company where she reconnected with Bryan.
I remember the first time I met Kristin--I was doing some fall photos of my daughters and my niece, Bryan's little girl. Kristin came to the park and she was incredibly laid back and sweet. She seemed very genuine, and we chatted as I finished up pictures. I offered to take one of her with Bryan. Kristin was just dressed in some comfortable work out clothes--she hadn't come prepared for a picture--but she shrugged and said "Sure!" It struck me that most girls who were super self-conscious wouldn't be caught dead in a photo with yoga pants and no make-up, and but her response reflected Kristin--she is who she is and she's comfortable and confident in her own skin. I liked that.
Bryan and Kristin share a love for running--they often train and run races, including the Peachtree Road Race every year. They are casual and fun to be around, and Bryan can have you laughing in minutes.
My brother went through some challenges and difficult times--and those challenges helped shape him and make him who he is today. He just kept walking forward, and in walking he crossed paths with Kristin. I'm grateful he found someone who he can run with, bike with, and work out with. I'm grateful he found someone who he can cook with, (because he's a master on the grill ya'll!) laugh with, and joke with. I'm grateful he found someone who makes him happy...and makes him smile. He doesn't know this, but when I was up front ready to shoot the ceremony, I watched him for several minutes. His head was bowed, his eyes were closed, his hands neatly folded in front of him as he waited for his bride. I know what was going through his head because I know my brother...and I know he was reflecting on all that has passed and brought him to this point in his life. Watching him made me tear up...but they were happy tears...because I know he's finally found someone special to share his life with, and I couldn't have been prouder as I watched his smile (through the camera lens) when his best man tapped him and told him to look up and see his beautiful bride.
Kristin, thank you for making my brother happier than I think I've ever seen him. I'm thrilled to have a sister (I always wanted one...and probably would have eagerly traded Bryan for one when I was a little girl) but I'm thrilled things worked out as they have. Welcome to our crazy, loving family--and may God bless your marriage and your beautiful life together. I love you both!

Roanin--from Rescue to Rescuer

In July of 2013, Kristen accompanied Leslie, the owner of Jacob's Ladder Therapeutic Riding program to check out a little roan pony. There was nothing spectacular about him that day--he tried out well, but the next day Kristen just couldn't get him out of her head. After agreeing that he was a good fit for the program, the decision was made to bring Roanin to live at Jacob's Ladder. After a few weeks, it was evident he was a different horse than Kristen and Leslie had previously observed. He became shy and difficult to catch. There was just something about the pony that tugged at Kristen's heartstrings, and she volunteered to work with him. She would stand for sometimes an hour in the south Georgia heat just waiting to lead him in. She faced challenges with Roanin that forced her to grow as a horsewoman and learn about natural horsemanship. Kristen learned Roanin could not be rushed. He could read a person and their energy before they even got close to him. After a brief trial and appearance in the program, it was decided Roanin was not a good fit and his temperament just wasn't a good match for children. Knowing the bond they had developed, Leslie offered him to Kristen. She had dreamed of owning her own horse since she was a little girl, and he finally came home to live with her in the spring of 2016.
In August, I remember Kristen calling to tell me Roanin had developed a severe condition called Laminitis. This is a condition in which the tissues in the hoof that bond the hoof wall to a bone become inflamed. It causes severe pain and is incredibly debilitating. In Roanin's case, after lying down, he could barely stand. He was unable to walk and would stand still in the pasture shifting his weight. He was given a 10% chance of recovery because of the severity of his condition. Kristen refused to give up on him. 10% was enough for her to pray, fight and do everything she could to save the little roan pony who had stolen her heart. She had piles of sand brought in for him to stand on, and gave him round the clock care and medication. One dark day, Kristen told Roanin that if he was done, to let her know and she would let him go. She desperately wanted him to live to see her wedding day, because, in Kristen's words,
"God brought him to me at a unique time in my life. It was three months before I left my ex-husband. Roanin helped me find who I was again. He showed me love and together we learned how to trust someone again. God used him to help me see who I was in the Father's eyes. He gave me a safe place to run when part of my life was in shambles. When we are connected, we speak a language that exists without words. He helped me find my confidence and self-worth."
As Kristen's best friend, I can attest to God's use of this horse to help her through one of the darkest times of her life. I knew how special they were to one another. After lots of prayers, Roanin began to improve. It gave her a reason to hope. Her prayers were being answered.
I was prepared to receive a phone call from her, and make a four hour trip to Valdosta just to take some special photos of them together. One day she called--but it was to tell me he had improved. Instead of a somber drive, I made an excited drive--a trip to capture her bridal portraits and include this special little horse who had defied all odds. This picture says it all--you can tell how much they love one another, and it was my favorite from the shoot.
Today, Roanin is healthy and is even able to be lightly ridden! Kristen said one of her favorite things about the bridal portrait shoot was watching Roanin interact with me. I was pretty surprised after knowing his history that he walked right up to me to check out my camera. He stood still while I stroked his nose and scratched him behind the ear--and he even nuzzled my hands looking for a treat. It was an all-around special trip, and he is a special horse! Kristen may have rescued Roanin and given him unconditional love and a forever home--but I know he rescued her in a time that she needed unconditional love, and for that, I'll always be grateful to him.
You can check out the Jacob's Ladder Program in Valdosta, or donate to this non-profit organization at this link: