Four Reasons We LOVE Our Sienna(s) | Life By The Sea

If you’ve known us since the beginning of last year, you may have seen our car accident that happened in March of 2017. We were heading down a dark country road, it was raining, and a girl ran a stop sign plummeting into an SUV, we were hit by both of their cars and it was incredibly awful. I remember KNOWING it was about to happen, tensing up, hearing the girl scream in the other car and I couldn’t help her, and worst of all – having the biggest fear of my life thinking of how terrified I was to turn around and see if my girls had made it. The longest, THE LONGEST, absolute longest millisecond of my life. That fear can still paralyze me to this day if I think about it long enough – but I learned a lot about the van we chose that day and as of yesterday, we are THREE TIME Toyota Sienna owners.

Some links from related blogs:

Four lessons from our car accident
Celebrating that we lived
Post accident video update 

So why did just yesterday we purchase our THIRD Toyota Sienna? Just barely over a week ago… Hurricane Michael (the one that unfortunately destroyed the pan handle in Florida :() brought double the wind speed we anticipated and all of a sudden, much of the Outer Banks including our neighborhood became flooded and we lost BOTH of our cars. My first thought was NO – WE NEED a Sienna! And this is coming from a girl who doesn’t really care about material things, being luxurious, or having THE most expensive. I don’t care what people think regarding those things either, but one thing I DO like to do is attain/invest a product I believe in because it works and it works WELL.

And the Sienna? It works WELL. The best of any car I have ever driven in my life! Here’s why we LOVE the Sienna:

1. SIENNAS ARE BUILT INCREDIBLY STRONG. As much as I want to get to lighter things, I have to discuss the safety aspect first. When we were in our accident, we were told so many times “thank GOSH you were in a Toyota!” – and I have to agree! I mean the way we were hit and the severe impact that we experienced could have gone much worse, but the framing and build of this car is amazing and SO solid. We feel so grateful that our girls were protected and although I took a huge beating, it was because of the airbag hitting my face and because of the way I curled up in the seat up front. If you want a solid, strong vehicle to transport your family in… this is it.

2. SO MUCH SPACE IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. LOL! No really, if you look at the outside of the car, you don’t think it has the space it does on the inside but that is another reason we LOVE Toyotas. They don’t have a lot of chunky plastic taking up space inside the car. This is the only van Mike hasn’t hit his head inside of, lol, because after the accident we had a few rental vans and we can attest that they totally didn’t compare at all. The way these Toyotas are made is just so smart and so family friendly. The trunk is DEEP and spacious, the back seats are not completely crammed the way others that we have ridden in were and if you have kids, you know that having a little extra space during transport makes all the difference in comfort, convenience and the things you have to haul along with you!

3. USER FRIENDLY AND EASY TO GET USED TO. Simply put, the buttons all make sense. Where things are makes sense, it’s SO easy to navigate after just a few drives and as far as we’ve experienced, Toyota doesn’t overcomplicate things at all when it comes to your general dials and controls. This is important to me because once I borrowed my friends fancy car and I felt like I was in a spaceship and it totally overwhelmed me, LOL! Then again – you know I love simple and simple for me is best.

4. THEY FEEL LIKE A SECOND HOME. And this is important to me. We travel frequently for work and bring the kids often times to be dropped off with their Nana and Pops and I need comfort and ease on these drives. It’s so easy to make a Sienna your own, to customize it on the inside how you like and need. With the user friendliness, it feels welcoming. With the space, it’s easy to find a place for a basket with diapers, wipes and other baby things. With the big trunk, it’s so easy to put your bags in the back and have room for your feet and other things you’ll need more readily available. Siennas are fun and they just make SENSE for families. We will always be grateful for our first one that saved our lives and for every Sienna we ever own afterward 🙂

Thank you Michael Jones at the Virginia Beach CARMAX for your help yesterday! We appreciate you SO much!


Want to keep up with an Outer Banks mama of three sweet (and oh so wild!) little girls shooting weddings & small business photography while making time for the things that matter most? Click on the links below and let’s connect!


Courtney + Will | Rustic Riverside on the Potomac Wedding

At the end of the night… Mike and I drove down the foggy dirt road and said over and over, “that day was perfect”. I mean – you guys, even with the unexpected slight heat wave on an October Sunday wedding day in beautiful Leesburg at this top notch venue… this wedding couldn’t have gone better. It was ideal beyond ideal and that is not something you typically expect to go into, but I TRULY BELIEVE the how lenient the timeline was and how laid back and hilarious Courtney and Will are made everything as perfect as it was!

The toasts, the first look, the barn reception setting, the joy… it was all too incredible. We kept talking about how much we loved them even when we got to our hotel 40 minutes away with Taco Bell in hand, LOLOL!

Courtney and Will, this was such an honor for us, we will never forget this day and how kind the two of you were toward us, this will be a wedding we ALWAYS remember!! 🙂


Ceremony and Reception Venue:  Riverside on the Potomac

Florist:  Flowers by Lisa

Hair & Makeup:  Eye Do Makeup & Hair

Catering:  Savoir Fare

Event Coordinator:  Savoir Fare

Band:  Bachelor Boys Band

Bridal Boutique:  Elegance by Roya

Bridesmaids Dresses:  The Dessy Group


A video from us:



Same Day Slideshows at Weddings | Photography

I can’t believe we haven’t shared this one yet?! We’ve been doing this for YEARS! If you aren’t sure what a same day slideshow is – allow me to be the first to explain 🙂

A same day slideshow during a wedding is when we quickly choose and edit a few images (anywhere from 5-12) to present during the reception to the couple & their guests. We LOVE doing this because the couple usually doesn’t expect it and they’re so excited and surprised, but also because after all the hustle of the day – they get a moment to SEE the beauty in all of the chaos! We’ve had brides cry, their parents cry, their grandparents cry…we’ve had so many people huddled around going “ahhh!! awwww! OHHH!!” and it’s just the biggest joy on the wedding day for us to be able to provide this little sneak peek to them!

A couple of questions to answer FIRST before getting into the how!:

Do we always do them? We ALWAYS try to for full weddings (days where we shoot 6 or more hours) – but we can’t always get them done. As long as we have a full scheduled break in (which is required in our contract…we eat when the dinner STARTS, and I eat while I select and edit the images) then I can pull it off! If our break is cut short or we’re getting our break pushed back, I may not be able to make it happen. Another instance when we aren’t able to pull it off is when we have an extremely limited amount of portrait time and therefore didn’t get a lot of portraits to show in a slideshow!

When do we do them? During our dinner break as mentioned above! We are SO THANKFUL for the wise vendors, planners and venues who know photographers need to eat first to get back to work ASAP. If it weren’t for them – we probably couldn’t pull it off! We then run the slideshow normally for about an hour on either a dessert or guestbook signing table.

Do I have to do one? No! You really don’t have to do this just because you’re shooting weddings! It’s just a way we elevate our client experience and serve them well on their wedding day. It makes us so happy to do it!

What do you use to show the slideshow? I bring my laptop with my and it’s a MacBook Pro Retina Display.

So how do we pull this off from start to finish? Here we go!

1) First things first, we ALWAYS get a break during the reception! I tried looking it up online because I was pretty sure there was a law about it via the U.S. Department of Labor, but I didn’t see that it was an actual requirement…BUT, as your OWN advocate and business owner and CEO of your company, you need to put this in your contract or make it clear via communication that a meal break will occur. I have a thirty minute meal break while the wedding party and guests eat in my contract and this is the PERFECT time to sit down and get my slideshow started!

SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT forget to communicate with the DJ/band/wedding planner/your couple that you are stepping away for a minute! This way, you don’t miss a surprise dance or event that needs to be photographed while you’re eating/doing the slideshow. ALWAYS make sure the people who prompt these moments (DJ and planner most likely) are aware that you are on break.

2) Next, I get my laptop and my card reader out of my ThinkTank rolling bag. I sit down somewhere with a table or chair (or sometimes on the floor, lol) and get out the memory card from my ShootSac that I know the portraits are on. Mike goes to get our food and drinks while I’m setting this up, and then I open Photo Mechanic (software for culling) so I can look through QUICKLY versus the slowness of Lightroom. My Lightroom isn’t even slow – but it’s nowhere near as fast as PM is!

3) By this time, Mike is back and I have the portraits right in front of me opened in Photo Mechanic for me to start choosing the images for the slideshow. When Mike gets back with our food, I start calling the file number of the image to him and he starts typing them all in a text message to me as I go through. He literally just lists them out and then when I’m done, he sends it to me and I open those file numbers in Lightroom OR he reads them to me if I’m too lazy to read them myself, LOL.

4. I upload the slideshow images into Lightroom and then quickly edit them using my own preset I made if it’s in my typical golden hour situation and if not, I just manually edit them accordingly! I think this is the part that stresses people out the most. If you take a LONG time to edit, it would be tricky to pull this off but because we shoot consistently with the same settings and style and mostly in the same kind of light for portraits, it’s easy to edit them fast.

5. We then do a repeating slideshow in Lightroom…take it to the bride and groom and show them and voila, we’re done! Then as the night goes on it’s so sweet to see the guests be happy and excited over the images for the bride and groom and just get to experience this unexpected moment. We usually put the laptop away after about an hour.


Peter + Shelbie | Kill Devil Hills Engagements

Oh my freaking gosh. I can’t even deal. You get in the water and you have my HEART! HAHA! Peter and Shelbie got a golden day but their sweetness together was the most golden part of these engagements. I loved the way that perfectly squeeze and laugh and go with the flow so naturally, relationships like this are such a gift and for me behind the camera, they are AMAZING! Starting with the dune grass and walkway and golden sun and ending up cooling off in a slightly aggressive ocean, LOL, this was just all around a wonderful time with them! Thank you two lovebirds for this joy!!!! 🙂


Shelbie + Taylor | Virginia Beach Engagements

In the beginning of my career, I met this sweetheart Shelbie in Key West at her sister Ashley’s wedding. I will never forget thinking how hilarious the two of them were together when the girls were getting ready and thinking how lucky I was to be around such a sweet group of people. When Shelbie was recently engaged – it was the biggest compliment and joy to hear from her and Taylor!!! I love these two together and their SWEET little girl Hylah got to make an appearance and was definitely stealing the show and my heart and I loved every second of this day!! 🙂 Taylor and Shelbie, thank you for the honor of documenting this life season of yours!! 🙂