2016 was a roller-coaster for all of us. Election years have a habit of doing that. Some more so than others. Well, this one was a doozy. But you already know that. Don’t worry – this won’t be a political commentary. Nah, this post is about finding the gems in an otherwise lackluster year that saw our nation at its worst. But despite all the negative, there is still a lot to be thankful for. Most wedding photographers like to post a highlight reel of the year from their wedding work. I’m taking a slightly different approach. Yes, I will celebrate some pretty awesome wedding images in this post, but I also want to highlight some personal triumphs we experienced this year as well as some observations. I’ve always believed that I’m a photographer that just happens to photograph weddings and I think this post falls nicely in line with that ethos. Weddings and life are intertwined. You can’t separate the two. I believe this post captures that ideal. Enjoy!
1. Seeing the Colosseum. Seeing the Colosseum was one of the most memorable moments of 2016. Who am I kidding – one of the most memorable moments of my life! It’s not everyday you get to gaze upon a 2000 year old structure. Standing outside, I was in awe of its enormity. It’s a massive structure! To think that it was built without our modern technology is truly astounding to me. Inside, I felt engulfed. The Colosseum’s expanse makes you feel incredibly small. I also couldn’t help but feel a sense of familiarity. The Colosseum is really not any different than our modern stadiums. And the events that we celebrate today aren’t much different than those held in the ancient stadiums of some 2000 years ago (well, minus the brutality and bloodshed of course). And you know what? That’s comforting to me. Something so beloved centuries ago is still beloved 2000 years later. Makes me think that, even though centuries have passed, we aren’t that much different than our Roman ancestors.
2. The simple things. We were lucky. Our apartment was just a block (barely) away from the Piazza Novona. We passed through the piazza on a daily basis. I found myself wondering why we don’t have piazzas in the states. I guess we’re just not as openly social as the Romans (and the other myriad of European countries that have piazzas). Kinda sad actually. I loved the energy of the piazzas we strolled through in Rome. People of all walks of life mixing and mingling and some just people watching. I love the image above. Arguably my favorite of the trip. Why? Because it’s the epitome of Roman life where people are always out and about, socializing and communing together, enjoying the simple things in life. You just don’t see this in the states. Maybe in our parks, but definitely not our cities. We could learn a thing or two from our Italian friends.
3. Family. We don’t get to spend a whole lot of time together as a family. We see each other sporadically during the year, mostly during the holidays. Typical, right? It’s hard to get together with friends and family in our modern world especially when you live in three separate states. That’s what made this trip extra special. This was actually the first time we had all traveled together. It was a trip of a lifetime and we’ll cherish those memories forever. Experiences are funny things. There’s no tangible reminder of your time (well, maybe a souvenir from your favorite espresso shop), but you always carry the sights and the smells and the memories with you. It’s like you never left. Reminds me of a quote a friend of mine once said, “Some people collect things, I collect experiences.”
4. Breathe. This image taken back on a frigid February evening is a wonderful reminder of the beauty that is all around us everyday. Yes, traveling to Europe is an amazing experience, but we have amazing experiences right in our back yard. Experiences that can take your breath away, like the moon rising over the Long Island Sound. It’s a reminder that we sometimes just need to stop and breathe and take in our environment. You don’t have to get on a plane to see the world. You can see it right in your own backyard.
5. Photograph the ones you love. Oh my god am I in trouble! My mom HATES having her picture taken! LOL … deal with it mom! I love this image. A simple moment in the backyard during what was supposed to be a headshot of my dad for the church directory. Like the moonscape image above, this image stands as a reminder that spending time with family is so very important in life. Yeah, selfies are cool, but don’t forget to photograph the ones you love. Years from now you’ll be glad you did.
6. Watching your kids thrive. It has always been a dream of Summer’s to ride horses. Over the years, she has begged us to take her horseback riding. A few lessons here and there and we kinda thought she’d get it out of her system. I mean every girl goes through a ‘horse phase’, right? Yeah, not Summer. She was always persistent in asking us to take her riding but, honestly, we never had the time. Well, one day, the chance of a lifetime fell into her lap. On one visit to our local Cafe for a waffles and bagels, Summer and Deb struck up a conversation with their server. Turns out she worked at a horse farm right down the street. You can imagine what happened next – Summer ‘interviewed’ at the barn a week later and was mucking stalls that same day. Since September, she has maintained a 4 day/week schedule at the barn along with riding lessons twice a week. All this and she made honor roll in her fall semester. As a parent, there is no greater joy in life than seeing your kids thrive.
7. Weddings and life are intertwined. I purposely didn’t do a typical highlight reel of my weddings this year. I wanted my year in review to be more personal, more relatable, more true to life. And this image is the perfect example of that. It doesn’t look like your typical wedding photo, does it? It looks like it could have been taken any ol’ random day. Well, truth be told, it was taken during the bride’s getting ready portion of the day before everyone had gotten all dolled-up. I’m all about capturing real, candid moments and this one is the epitome of that. It’s warm and intimate and full of love. The bride was completely blown away at the thought and effort that went into creating this scrapbook for her. Weddings are special for a lot of reasons, but for me, the #1 reason is relationships. And the best relationships are there for you every single day.
8. Age is just a number. The older I get, the more aches and pains I feel every morning. Couple that with the fact that there seems to be a new ‘latest thing’ social media app everyday and you can feel downright ancient. Snapchat? I’m just getting used to Instagram! I know. I know. What can I say I’m old school, but I’m coming around! I love this image above because it reminds that age is just a number. If you wanna take a pull off a flask of whiskey at 87, then hell yeah go ahead and do it! There’s not an app for ‘acting your age’, so don’t!
9. The Guitar Groom. This image made the list because it exemplifies everything I love about weddings. This wedding was a party first and a formality second. Love that! I think this wedding is a shining example to all engaged couples out there that your day can be whatever you want it to be. There’s no need to stress about trends or what other brides are doing. Just be yourself and have fun! And if that includes grabbing your telecaster and belting out a few chords of Bruce Springsteen at your wedding reception, then Rock On!
10. Return to prominence. I am a huge lacrosse fan. I started playing lacrosse my 7th grade year after seeing UNC win the Men’s National Championship at the University of Delaware in 1984. And of course being in a family with strong UNC ties, I was raised a Tarheel. Now, I didn’t actually go to Chapel Hill but I did attend their lacrosse camps a few times growing up. I also took a few courses on campus over the summers when I was home from college. Caroline blue runs deep in my family so it was a BIG DEAL when Carolina won the Lacrosse National Championship this year. Coach Breschi’s crew ended a 23 year playoff and championship drought. The last time the Heels had played post-season lacrosse was 1993. It warmed my heart to see this program get back to prominence the way it did this year. And as luck would have it, the men’s team wasn’t the only national championship team at UNC this year. Yep, the Women’s Lacrosse team also won the National Championship. No wonder the skies were Tar Heel blue this past Memorial Day Weekend.
Comment below to share your favorite moments of 2016.