Remembering Hal...

On September 1st, 2018 the world lost one of the most loving men we’ve ever met. Today, we wanted to take a moment to introduce you to him.

Two summers ago we were hired for one of the most challenging shoots we’ve ever done… that still, to this day, was our greatest honor. The Sewell Family asked us to take their final family photo shoot with their beloved husband and father, Hal.

Hal had been diagnosed with ALS, and over the summer, his health had begun to decline. They knew they wanted family photos taken before the disease progressed any further. So we met them at their land in Centre, AL to capture an afternoon with their family.


It was a blazing hot day in the July sun. We knew that Hal was requiring assistance to stand and walk. The family wanted photos in certain special places near their home - and we were all determined to make that dream a reality. But we were also anxious about how Hal would do standing and walking in the heat. Within moments of the first photos - everyone was dripping with sweat. It was truly a miserable time of year to do an outdoor shoot!

But you’d never have known it - looking at Hal.

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We have taken a lot of photos in “less than desirable” situations. Hot wedding days are one. You inevitably get shots of people looking tired, frustrated, and obviously *over* the idea of taking photos. It’s hard to “fake it” when you feel uncomfortable. But in even the midst of the heat, with his physical limitations - Hal never did anything but smile. And I mean - he really smiled! Not some contrived, fake “smile for the camera”. Every single time I looked at him… he looked so genuinely happy - because he was surrounded by the people he loved the most in the world.


“The JOY of the Lord is my strength.”

When I think of that verse - I think of Hal… and all of the ways he held on to joy, gratitude, and LOVE even in the face of a terrifying, debilitating disease. But that’s just who Hal was - a man full of joy and love. You could see it when you looked at him… and you could feel it when he looked at you. It’s hard to explain it… but when you walked into a room with Hal, you just felt LOVED.


I have to share a little more from this shoot than I normally would - because you really need to know what was happening “behind the scenes” this day. You see - it wasn’t just the heat, and his sickness that Hal had to put up with during this family session…. he also had to deal with a very rambunctious little girl (who was NOT part of his family)! That beautiful Sewell daughter-in-law you see pictured is our daughter’s favorite “Auntie Beth”. Since this session was scheduled last minute (and Beth thought it would be okay) we brought our little miss, Kate, along for the shoot. We had NO IDEA that she would be a terrible distraction though…. jumping into every other shot! (Even after we had prepped her to be our “helper” and promised lots of fun once the shoot was over.) You might think that she just wanted to be the center of attention - but the truth is - she’s normally nervous around people she doesn’t know. And while she knew and loved Auntie Beth & Uncle Paul - it was her first time around Hal.

So imagine our surprise when she kept running to HIM!

Kate wanted to stand by Hal… to hug him… to snuggle up beside him (and she ran to him as quickly as she could, every chance she got!) I have to believe it’s because she felt the same LOVE we always felt around him. She was drawn to him (and he instantly adored her!)

You would think they were the best of buddies from looking at these shots!

But to be honest - her jumping into their photo session was wearing on us…

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As I said - it was HOT. We were chasing the afternoon light, and working hard to get all the shots in that the family wanted. As her parents - we were frustrated that she was costing everyone extra time… and worried we wouldn’t finish what we needed to, because of her distractions. But I couldn’t stop the shoot to manage her behavior (the sun was setting!)

I was pretty sure Hal had to feel the same way. After all - this was an extremely special shoot with his family. And he was the one dealing with the symptoms of his disease - all while bearing the suffocating heat. He kept reassuring us that Kate was FINE - and stopping to hug her every chance he got… but I felt sure that once I got home and reviewed the hundreds of photos shot - we’d find several of him looking at least a little frustrated with our daughter’s interruptions. (Who wouldn’t be?!)

But instead… I came home, looked through the photos, and sobbed. There wasn’t a SINGLE photo of Hal looking anything but blissfully HAPPY. Even when this little girl he barely knew was costing him more time in the heat… he was looking at her with love. Every single shot - his eyes sparkled with joy. As a matter of fact - his entire family looked the same way! (Proof, to me, of how he and his precious wife Marcia led their family with LOVE.) I was so moved.


We didn’t have the opportunity to know Hal long - but we are still in awe of how we watched him LOVE people. And we are still challenged and inspired by the example he set for those around him - to put love into action. At his funeral, the pastor shared a note from his Bible, where he’d written to “Make your love a DOING kind of love”. And story after story shared told us that he had done just that. Hal loved people so deeply - and he showed them that love in tangible ways. He was continually serving others… I’m certain, with the same LOVE and JOY we saw that day during his family photo session.


A year ago today the world lost a kind, humble, tender, generous, joyful, selfless, LOVING man. It will never be quite the same without him - but we are watching his family carry on his legacy of love in so many beautiful ways. Sewell family - today we grieve with you, and we also celebrate Hal’s incredible life and love. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for the honor of taking these photos for your family. We will cherish this time spent together - and the opportunity to witness Hal's LOVE and JOY up close - forever.

Kayla & Austin :: Park Crest (Hoover, AL)

"For better, for worse, 

for richer, for poorer, 

in sickness and in health, 

for as long as we both shall live.

We’ve all heard these vows a time or two. Those of us who are married have even said them out loud. But few couples actually get a chance to live out these vows - long before they ever make them.

Kayla and Austin had the beginnings of a traditional love story. High school sweethearts, they met at 16 and dated throughout their Junior and Senior years. They planned to go off to Auburn together for 4 years of college too. But one word brought all their plans crashing down. Cancer.

Kayla was diagnosed in May of 2013. She courageously went to Auburn anyway - and kept up with her classes while enduring treatment. But life looked a lot different than the carefree college days she and Austin had hoped for. Instead of just football games, band parties, classes and cram sessions, her days were full of surgeries, radiation, hair loss and hospital stays. But through it all - Austin was right by her side. We have all witnessed his love and dedication to Kayla, and we were thrilled when his title changed from “boyfriend" to “fiancé” this April, and then to “husband” in May!

Kayla and Austin planned a quick destination wedding in order to keep things intimate (and to keep costs down). On May 21st they said “I Do” on the beautiful beaches of Turks and Caicos, with their families and a handful of their closest friends. But those of us back in Birmingham were not about to let them miss out on the big celebration they deserved!

You see, Kayla has done more than just courageously fight her own cancer these past few years (as if that wasn’t enough?!) After she was diagnosed, she vowed to help find a cure. So she founded Open Hands Overflowing Hearts - a nonprofit that is dedicated to raising funding for research to find a cure for pediatric cancer. While going through treatment herself, Kayla has helped raise more than $1,000,000.00, hosted countless fundraisers, celebrated the survivors, honored the lives of those taken too soon, and encouraged so many others facing this terrible disease. She has given herself fully to her cause, and watching her courage, passion, and committment has been nothing short of inspiring.

So as soon as she shared her wonderful news, we knew we wanted to do something special to bless Kayla, her (soon-to-be) husband, and her family. (And we weren’t surprised to find out we weren’t the only ones who wanted to do something special for this incredible couple!) Kayla has been an inspiration to her whole community, and so many people wanted to help her celebrate this wonderful moment in her life. And so, in just a few short weeks, wedding planner Mimi Bittick had put together an extraordinary event - at no cost to Kayla, Austin, or their families. A hair and makeup artist, flowers, food, photography, music, ice sculptures, a get-away car and a beautiful event facility were all provided free of charge, so that Kayla and Austin could celebrate here in Birmingham with every single person who loves them.  

It was a beautiful night. Every detail was absolutely perfect! And to see these two love-birds in all their happily wedded bliss… there are hardly words to describe it. Just look at how they look at each other! Isn’t it obvious how much they each are adored?

Once I pulled myself away from staring at the stars in their eyes, I realized Kayla was dancing on top of her husband's shoes. She did this, barefoot, all night long. Is there anything sweeter than that?

The whole evening was full of sweetness, and it was so much fun to capture. From the adorable kids who took over the dance floor, to the elated friends who gushed over the happy couple, and the utter JOY on their families’ faces - it was a special night.

In a world that is full of negativity… this event helped restore our faith in humanity. Throughout the night, we met person after person, and company after company who happily donated their services to make this event possible. Time and time again we were reminded there is still goodness, kindness, and generosity in this world. And if anyone deserves to be at the receiving end of goodness, kindness, and generosity - it’s this couple! 

People say that marriage is about refinement… and that love isn’t really true until it’s been tested. But Kayla and Austin’s love has been tested and tried - and come through the fire as pure as gold. Mr. & Mrs. Funk - thank you for reminding us that hate doesn’t win… hardship doesn’t win… cancer doesn’t win… LOVE WINS.  

Hotel Finial :: Old Hollywood Glam

Our Hotel Finial Styled Shoot continues! If you missed Part 1, check it out here. Today, we're revealing the final images of Look 1 - along with a few of our favorites from Look 2 and Look 3! 

The word we used as our inspiration for this shoot was TIMELESS. As we worked to style each of the 3 looks, we went back again and again to timeless dresses and vintage accessories and props. We wanted to focus on the 128 years of memories our beautiful venue held. Hotel Finial was built in 1888, and we wanted our models to look as if they would fit into multiple time periods throughout the hotel's history.

We finished shooting our first look in the McKleroy Suite. We just couldn't resist a few shots with this gorgeous champagne and gold decor!

Once we pulled ourselves away from this beautiful room - it was time for a quick change into our second look. For our next two looks, we dug even deeper into "Old Hollywood Glamour"! 

Look two was a Private Collection, fitted ivory satin gown, with a sweatheart neckline and plenty of bling! The groom stayed in his charcoal gray tux, but changed his tie and boutonniere. Both the bride & groom's gorgeous threads were once again provided by Alexander's Prom & Bridal Shop in Anniston, AL. 

We switched to deep red roses for our boutonniere and bouquet, and added some additional roses as decor. These were provided by Alexander's Flowers and Gifts in Anniston, AL. 

Our hair and makeup artist, Christin Ray, took the bride's updo down, and pinned loose curls swept to one side. She also deepened her eye shadow and liner, and added a beautiful red lip to complete Beth's "glam" look!

We started our 2nd shoot in the Kirby Suite - where Modern meets Old Hollywood Glamour! We love how these turned out! They were the perfect play on the "past-forward" style of the hotel.

Then we went downstairs for another mini-reveal with the bride and groom. These two are just the cutest... we loved working with an actual engaged and in-love couple!

And before we knew it - it was time to move to our final look of the day! This gorgeous red peplum Tony Bowls dress was a showstopper! For this look we shifted to a high-end, glamour engagement shoot. 

We ended the night by clearing one of the gorgeous dining rooms so this lovely couple could dance beneath the light of the chandelier. If that dress doesn't deserve to be danced in, I don't know what does!

Just look at the way these two look at each other. Congratulations Beth & Paul on finding the one your heart loves! We are so looking forward to your actual wedding day! 

*Stay tuned for one more blog featuring a video of our gorgeous Hotel Finial Styled Shoot! But until then, be sure to check out all of the incredible vendors who made this shoot possible!

Credits - [Photographer :: RJackson Media | Venue :: Hotel Finial | Decor :: Patsy McKinney, Above & Beyond | Stylist :: Ericka Jackson, RJackson Media | Hair & Makeup :: Christin Ray | Wedding Gown & Tux :: Alexander Formals | Florist :: Alexander’s Flowers & Gifts | Models :: Beth Milam & Paul Sewell ]

Hotel Finial :: Styled Shoot

This Spring, we had the incredible privilege of creating a styled shoot at Hotel Finial in Anniston, AL. Originally built in 1888, this historic hotel was a private residence for 128 years. Later it became the Victoria Hotel, serving hundreds of visitors to the Anniston area. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair over time. In 2015 Del and Ginger Marsh decided to revive the hotel and bring back its former glory. (And we're so glad they did!)

It has been amazing to watch the transformation this hotel has undergone, and it was such an honor to shoot the first bridal photos after the renovation - before it opened to the public! Every vendor we worked with on this shoot absolutely fell in love with every detail of Hotel Finial, and we hope that after you see these photos, you'll fall in love with it too!

Our model for this shoot was a beautiful young bride named Beth. We started our day with the "bride" getting ready in the Kirby Suite. (More glimpses of this room to come in our next blog!) Our hair & makeup stylist, Christin Ray, fell in love with the natural light in this room. She did a beautiful job on Beth's loose, classic updo and gave her the perfect makeup for a springtime wedding!

From there, we moved the bride into our favorite room - the Wilson Suite. This room is incredible - from its aqua walls, to the beautiful bay window, and gilded accents. It was the perfect backdrop for these breathtaking bridal shots. Who knew that something as simple as putting on your shoes could be this beautiful?

Our flowers were provided by Alexander's Flowers and Gifts in Anniston, AL. This bouquet of coral and peach roses created such a beautiful palette for a springtime wedding! 

This stunning gown, and the tux for the groom were provided by Alexander's Prom & Bridal Shop in Anniston, AL. The gown is a Private Collection piece in ivory tulle with a sheer neck, lace bodice, rhinestone trim, and beautiful sequin, bead, and pearl adornments. From the cap sleeves to the full tulle skirt and buttons down the back - it's a timeless look for any bride. 

While we finished up with our bride, the groom was busy getting ready in the McKleroy Suite. Paul is actually marrying Beth in a few months, so this was a little bit of a preview of what's to come for them! He expressed that he was a little nervous about seeing his "bride to be" (even if this wasn't their actual wedding day!) 

Beth admitted that she too had butterflies as we got closer and closer to the moment Paul would see her for the first time in a wedding gown! You can see the excitement on her face as she waited to go meet her groom!

Once our models were ready, we decided to do a real "first look" with the two of them. We had the groom wait at the foot of the stairs, while the bride walked down to surprise him.

Beth and Paul were so sweet! They were truly excited and even a little emotional. This was almost like a dress rehearsal for their big day in August!

As you can see in these photos, the new style of the hotel is "past-forward" - holding true to the historic victorian architecture, original floors, chandeliers, and stained glass windows - while embracing a modern touch with glamorous decor chosen by owner Ginger Marsh and interior decorator Patsy McKinney of "Above and Beyond".

Every detail of Hotel Finial has been carefully selected. Ginger and Patsy couldn't have created a more beautiful location for a wedding, and they're now adding event planning to their plate with their new business, "Beyond the Finial"! So if you're looking for a timeless, unique location for your wedding day (or any special event), we would definitely recommend booking the Hotel Finial!

*The Hotel Finial Styled Shoot continues! Stay tuned for another blog to come with our 2nd and 3rd glamorous looks from this day!

Credits - [Photographer :: RJackson Media | Venue :: Hotel Finial | Decor :: Patsy McKinney, Above & Beyond | Stylist :: Ericka Jackson, RJackson Media | Hair & Makeup :: Christin Ray | Wedding Gown & Tux :: Alexander Formals | Florist :: Alexander’s Flowers & Gifts | Models :: Beth Milam & Paul Sewell ]

Waiting for Baby Patch

About a week ago, we met up with our dear friends Katie and Patrick for a quick maternity mini-session. May in Alabama is not the time for a pregnant woman to be outside in the heat for long... so we worked quickly to get a few special shots of these two and their sweet dog Lu, before their baby boy arrives!

We are so excited to see this wonderful couple welcome their son into the world! (Not yet named, but lovingly nicknamed "Baby Patch"). We are counting down the days until we get to see them as a family of 3. (Ahem, I mean 4 of course. Can't forget sweet Lulu! That puppy is going to be the best Big Sister ever! ;) Congratulations Reed Family!