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Elopements are where my heart comes alive. They are where I feel the most creative and the most connected to my couples. We are able to have so much time together to celebrate life and love and spending a lifetime with an incredible partner. There is space for all the things a couple wants to feel or needs to experience during that day, which in turn allows me to capture moments and connections I wouldn't otherwise be able to.
We did a styled shoot with Melissa and Josh a while back, and they loved it so much they decided to actually elope in a similar way. Just the two of them, myself, Shannon and Andrew from Fox & Owl Studio, sharing laughs, eating cake, popping champagne, and romping around in the golden woods we love so dearly.
I'll be manifesting my goal for many more elopements like these in 2018
This is going to be tough for a lot of people to hear...
But it's time for me to share an observation that I think needs to change.
Statements like "Aren't they beautiful?", "Look how gorgeous", "These two are babes", "They are the freaking cutest", are overwhelmingly common these days in relation to wedding or elopement photos. You know you've seen it, you might have even done it yourself. But here's why I think you should think twice before you combine statements like that - especially with the photos of white, hetero, thin couples.
First things first: I'm a firm believer in the power of language. The words we use and don't use form our cultures and alter our perceptions. I don't believe "free speech" is at stake due to the compassion it requires to use inclusive and connective language rather than destructive and divisive words. The fact that we have politically correct terminology is proof that we are moving forward as a culture to recognize the variance in the human experience and are purposefully sensitive to the weight of that change. Free speech to me does not mean you can say whatever the heck you want and that political correctness is holding us back from saying the "honest" things. That is hate speech.
So now that that's clear - let's talk about beauty.
The media is a mix of visual imagery and words, and therefore could have an even more powerful effect on culture than just words. This is what we are a part of every day as wedding vendors on social media now - we are creating the culture around weddings with our images and our words.
So when we post pictures of white, hetero, thin couples and mainly focus on their looks, all we are doing is perpetuating the long-held and incorrect belief that people who look like that are the most beautiful.
If that's what your clients mainly look like, do you really believe that to be the truth? I doubt you do, and I hope you don't. If you do, I don't know how to reach you quite yet... So mainly, I'm sure it's really nothing you've ever thought of before because that's all you've ever been taught and shown in media. Plus it's easy to just talk about surface level looks when we want to post a picture of something we just created, right? We want to share it with the world and we think it's beautiful, what does it hurt? But I'm asking you to think a bit harder about what your putting out there and it's effect on people. At this point I'm practically begging it, because the fact that there is only one magazine I know of that makes it a priority to talk about all aspects of the wedding day other than looks AND includes couples of all colors, shapes, sizes, and looks is proof that we are still in a standstill on beauty expectation in the wedding industry.
Shouldn't weddings, a celebration centered around love and connection be inclusive to all people?
(Shoutout to Catalyst Wedding Co. - I'm so thankful for you!)
So, what can you do?
For a start, instead of talking about the visual aspect of a couples wedding, talk about what they said, how they acted, moments that connected with you - literally anything else. I honestly think it would be better to just say nothing at all rather than comment on their looks.
If you want to go further, make diversity in your portfolio a priority.
Our words and our images are powerful - why don't we try and use them as a force for good instead of perpetuating the same self-deprecating and unrealistic standards our consumeristic culture has been pushing for so long now.
Inclusivity, self-love, and connection are well worth it, I promise you.
Need a few more places to put on your bucket list?
I asked around, and some lovely people shared the most beautiful place they have ever seen.
Lists like these make me realize how lucky we are to be able to travel.
They make me realize how incredible our earth is.
They make me realize how diverse our planet is and the importance of that (reminding me of how equally important human diversity is!).
And they make me realize how much we need to take care of our earth, to keep it healthy and be grateful for all it provides us with.
(This could also be a list of badass places to get married!)
evergreenerafilms (us!) - The Herman Gulch Trail (photo above) is one of the most gorgeous hikes I have ever been on. It is a little hidden gem that we found randomly on our drive back from Vail, Colorado and decided to conquer. It isn't easy but the view changes throughout the whole hike, allowing more and more beautiful scenery each step you take. You end at a natural lake high in the mountains, a blue so light its almost white.
carolynmariephotography - In the US, definitely Zion National Park. The view from Angels' Landing was indescribable. Completely took my breath away. Outside the US probably the Azure Window on the island of Gozo, just off the coast of Malta. We went snorkeling and I've never seen water such a rich, deep, clear blue. And the sunset was incredible!
_chelsealane_ hiking the coast in Cinque Terre 😮 and hiking all around here! (Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C.)
sambusch3 Definitely Mt. St. Helens. I didn't have a permit to hike the whole thing, but the grounds were breathtaking in the spring!
sewtheland Top of Mt. Whitney! 14,500' !
wildflowerbridal Ngorngoro Crater- it was like the Garden of Eden!
bossybetsy Wharton Beach or Hellfire Bay, Western Australia. HANDS DOWN!
onebluebike Definitely the Grand Canyon!
colleenjm The last big trip my family took was to Canada and I have to say one of the most breathtaking places I have been to was taking a hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House. I will never forget that adventure!
coppercauldroncheese Redwood National Park in California!
its_rachelreed Machu Picchu! A mountain like no other!
editorkristina The jungles of Panama!
I recently realized how much I love to hear about where people have traveled - why they fell in love with a place and what they learned along the way. I have found that there is so much to learn from other people's adventures that can bring inspiration to our own. Therefore, I wanted to create a place where people can share their experiences and give tips to others who want to follow in their footsteps.
I have pooled a few lovely people's stories (including my own) for this first blog post in a series. I hope that their tips and personal details bring you both enjoyment, encouragement, and inspiration to travel and experience the world more deeply and appreciatively. And maybe one day you will travel to one or some or all of these same places shared and experience the beauty for yourself. Enjoy!
(If you have a favorite place you have been and want to share it, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to list it in the next blog!)
I started my career as a photographer.
If I'm totally honest with myself, I think my interest in photography occurred because I always wanted to be an artist but never thought I had enough skill and vision to physically create something brand new with my hands. I'm not a terrible painter or a horrible drawer, I'm decent, but I am also very impatient. I never wanted to work on something for more than a few hours in order to see the final product. This lead me to find ways where I could experiment with light, color, composition, and balance and receive more immediate gratification. (Funny thought, now that I create videos and the final product takes days, weeks, or months to complete.)
Photography wasn't as popular of a career when I was growing up, as it is now. Therefore when I went to college I didn't really think I could focus on it as my major. I fought my heart and followed my mind for a while. I dappled in Graphic Design, and then Psychology. I even went so far as to try and do a double major in Psychology and Photography because I still didn't know if I could make a living through photography. Eventually I realized that I was being silly, I couldn't take over 20 hours of classes a semester and still enjoy life, so in a roundabout way I declared myself as a Technical Photography major at Appalachian State University.
After graduation I moved back in with my parents. Thankfully my parents are some of my best friends and moving back home was easy and comfortable. It wasn't the most fulfilling experience, feeling as if I was taking steps backwards instead of forwards, but I continued to remind myself of the gift it was. I was able to live cheaper, travel with a friend in Europe for a while, and explore what my next step in life would be without the stresses of life weighing down on me. And I lived in a beautiful place while being surrounded by people who love and support me.
Eventually, my career as an entrepreneur began under the simple name of Kathryn Ray Photography. I wasn't quite sure what I felt passionate about the most yet, but I knew I just had to start somewhere. I explored all different types of photography options, some enjoyable and some not so much: senior portraits, real estate, weddings, editorial, and families. In the meantime I started to indulge my interest in video. I had never gotten the chance to take any classes in our degree program but I still wanted to learn, so I decided to teach myself. I started creating little mini films of nature and people in my life. I would stay up for hours late at night, sitting in bed with my laptop atop the comforter, editing and exploring in my personal video projects.
I loved it. I got to choose the music that set the mood. I was able to capture movement and tell more of a story. I was able to add sound effects and choose where each clip belonged and match scene changes with beats in the song. I was my own movie team and it felt exciting. I knew I had found something I was not only capable of doing, but wanted to do for people.
Thankfully a friend allowed me to film her wedding very last minute and even paid me enough to cover my expenses plus some. I am forever grateful. Her kindness and belief in me in that one moment has brought me to this point in my life doing a job that I love and serving lovely people.
As time went by and I began to do more films under Kathryn Ray Photography as well as photography, I knew it just didn't make sense. I wanted to do mainly wedding films, but my name didn't reflect that. I also was working at an Elementary School at the time in order to pay the bills while my business grew, but I found that I was drained and exhausted every day after work. My introverted, highly-sensitive nature didn't have what it took to work 2 full time jobs. Especially not one interacting with hundreds of children. I had to make a big and scary decision.
At the end of that school year, I decided I wasn't going to return. I chose against a steady income with benefits and a retirement account to instead have an unsure inconsistent future doing something I enjoyed, and I'm so glad I did. I spent that summer planning, rebranding, and not long after Evergreen Era Films was created!
It hasn't been easy. Starting a business is confusing and it takes a lot of work to figure out what steps to take. You have to be very proactive and do a lot of research. There are also many days of doubt and insecurity as a creative and a slowly growing business owner. There have been many days I just flat out ask myself "Am I going to make this work?", but I just continue to do whatever I can to learn and grow and serve people the best that I can.
Then there are those days that feel great and encouraging and exciting. Days when I've sent off a film for a couple and receive back a kind and warm message about how much they love it. Days where my creative friends tell me how much they admire what I have done and see the beauty in what I do. Days when I realized I set my own schedule and can work hard as well as give myself grace and rest when I need it. These are the days I work for.
I believe that my background in photography plays a big role in the work I create now. I came in with a trained eye for balance, frame, composition, and color. I didn't come in to this industry knowing just the technical details. I didn't come in to this with tons of fancy gear and a focus on what kinds of "perfect" shots I can get. I came in to this by choice because of how much I love the stories that can be told through video and how interactive it can be. I came in to this knowing that I want to tell peoples stories in the most honest way possible and it's not about the gear that I use but the feel and the moments I capture.
How thankful I am that I allowed myself the time and the honesty and the trust to follow what what I wanted for myself. How thankful I am for all the people who have believed in me and supported me, whether it is by kind words, monetary compensation (I'm talking to you wonderful parents), assisting me and encouraging my dreams (yes you, Ian Selig), or hiring me as your videographer. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You have changed my world.