Advocacy & a Crown: Capturing Mrs. Maryland at the Baltimore Buddy Walk

I first met Kayla Schadegg earlier this year at an event with the National Down Syndrome Society. When I first saw her, she was decked out in a dress and a tiara and I soon learned she was Mrs. Maryland.

It was only later at another NDSS event that I realized Kayla was the proud and loving momma to Kerrigan, 3, who has an extra chromosome and an extra-big smile.

Kerrigan is such a huge reason behind so much of what Kayla does, including her work with and platform for Mrs. Maryland. Her motto is “strongoverwrong” and she shares her message of hope and advocacy whereever she goes.

After sending her some photos from the Buddy Walk event in New York City in September, Kayla asked me if I would capture her time at the Baltimore Buddy Walk in October.

I loved the opportunity to witness not just Kayla and her loved ones, all forming part of “Kerrigans Krew”, but also to be a part of two different large-city Buddy Walk events in one year.

Kayla was the emcee of the event and not only started the official walk but also introduced Baltimore’s mayor and special guest speakers and handed out awards to the top teams and individual fundraisers.

She does everything with passion and excitement and it has been so amazing to see and understand Kayla in all of her many hats.

Be sure to cheer her on. Enjoy these peeks into this fun day!

Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome
Wendy Zook Photography | Mrs Maryland at Baltimore Buddy Walk, Baltimore MD photographer, Down Syndrome Awareness, NDSS, Buddy Walk, Down Syndrome

A Momma and Her Kiddos: Family Photos Among the Pine Trees on a Farm

While most of my photos take place at some of my favorite waterfront and forested locations around Lake Linganore, every once in a while, a change of scenery is needed. It’s exciting to find a new location now and then, especially with a returning client and their family.

For Mindi’s section with her three children, we explored a nearby Christmas tree farm to capture beautiful greenery and backdrops.

Mindi has overcome intense difficulties and battles of strength over the past couple of years and in that time she has never wavered in her incredible ability as a mother to her kiddos. She’s patient, strong, funny and so loving. I love watching her in action as a mother.

During our session, the kids were free to explore, run, jump and, perhaps most fun of all, photobomb one another in glee and fun.

My favorite part, however, might have just been watching Mindi love on her kids and her kids love on her. Their bond is so beautiful and so strong. There were hugs, squeezes, tickles and so many giggles.

It is my hope that you can feel the joy in these images — and this great love, too. Enjoy the peeks!

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Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD family photographer, Frederick Maryland family photographer, Christmas Tree farm family portraits, family portraits in Maryland, Maryland family photos, MD family portraits, Frederick Maryland family session

Lakeside Love and a Sunset: Capturing a Momma and Her Kiddos

Marta is an incredible inspiration as a mother -- in 30 minutes time with her and her children, you can see her strength and love. You can feel the joy she brings to her son and daughter. Their laughter rings loud and gleefully whenever they are together.

Marta reached out to me in the midst of a difficult period in her life. She wanted photos that would capture her children and their love to begin this next new chapter of hope.

We explored the beach and esplanade area at Lake Linganore and followed the kiddos as they laughed and played together. They ran, jumped, played with toys and even dug their hands into the sand at the beach. We watched the sun fall onto the water.

I also loved that Marta’s mom and her partner joined us for the session. Their love for one another and for their grandchildren was so beautiful and powerful.

Love comes in so many different ways and is my favorite thing to capture with my camera.

Enjoy this peek into Marta and her family’s day at the beach.

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Capturing a Family in All of Its Realness and Silliness: A Lake Linganore Family Photo Session with Wendy Zook Photography

I know that everyone wants a “perfect” family photo session -- all group hugs and posed moments -- but I really believe there is beauty in the more “imperfect” moments.

I’ve photographed Michelle’s family several times now and I feel luckier and happier each time I do. I have captured her and her daughter playing in the snow and family photos last year and now these fall family photos this year.

Last year, we laughed because little Dean was bribed with M&Ms that became visible during big smiles throughout most of the session. And this time, Skittles were on hand and Mom and Dad actually urged him to give me some smiles with the Skittles showing.

I love families who appreciate the “real” moments and embrace the candid, the silly and the authentic. Dean with the Skittles in his mouth is just one example of this and they were some of Michelle’s favorite photos.

During our session, we let the kids take charge and explore some forested lakeside paths here in Lake Linganore. We still got the posed moments and the group hugs, but we also captured those candy-filled, grins, too. And that’s a complete story, I think.

Enjoy these peeks!

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Focus On: Brianne of Beyond the Lynk

I believe in a world where we cheer one another on and we don’t see any other entrepreneur as a competitor. (It’s why I love the Rising Tide Society so much!) I love when I see other business owners support one another and I can’t possibly count all of the times I’ve been inspired or motivated by another business owner. It can be a lonely world, sitting in a corner of your home, balancing the roles of parenthood, wife, photographer, creative and just overall human with obligations to friends and the house and hobbies and passions. It feels a lot less lonely when you celebrate all the other people who get it.

Our first Focus On is a spotlight on Brianne Lynk, the owner of Beyond the Lynk in Upstate, NY. Enjoy this peek into her business, her balance and her dreams. Be sure to follow her, cheer her on and stay tuned for more entrepreneur spotlights every two weeks.

Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society

Hey! My name is Brianne Lynk and I am married to my best friend and we have two kids together, Jameson who is just about 4 and Emersyn who is 11 months. We are located in Upstate NY and have always lived here, born and raised. I am the owner of Beyond the Lynk, I started this in July of 2018.

This was supposed to be a hobby of mine to make things for myself and my kids, I love matching them and wanted to be able to create on my own. It quickly turned into a business when I shared a photo of my very first piece. I was 6 months pregnant with our daughter at the time and business picked up rapidly. Looking back, it is kind of crazy how fast it grew and how much I worked while pregnant, with a toddler and then right after giving birth, during the busiest time of the year.

I was a nanny for several years prior and in June I found out I would not be returning in the Fall. My boss was a teacher and the kids were headed to school full time. I was taken aback and really worried about bills and bringing another life into this world in a few short months. I had my machine and materials waiting for me to open then for an ENTIRE year; insane, I know. I needed that boost of losing my nanny job to get me to pull everything out and learn. I also longed to be a stay at home mom, I did not want to rely on my husband or put all the pressure on him to pay our bills, so this was another way for me to bring in something, even if it wasn't going to be a lot, I had a little bit of money that I earned. It made me feel less guilty about shopping for the baby or buying myself lunch when I really needed that Panera salad.

Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society

I would say I spend anywhere from 25-50 hours per week working. The hours vary based on my daughter napping, my son's school and sport schedule, my husband's work schedule, whether or not I have someone to hang with the kids for a little bit or not. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, like any business answering emails, phone calls, messages. Creating invoices, creating new designs, launching those designs. I have a Rep Team and working with them has helped a bit with advertising, I still do a lot, but they help get my name out there as well.

Work life and personal life balance is something I try to work on daily. I have told my son that if I am working and he wants to spend time with me I will stop what I am doing, within reason, and spend some time with him. This also goes for our daughter who can't quite tell me, but she sure shows it. I try to work the 2.5 hours Jameson is in school, as long as Emersyn is napping. I also try to get up a bit before them to work some in the morning and then again at night when they go to bed. The holiday season is really hard, it is so busy then that I struggle with stopping what I am doing to spend time with my family. My husband works a crazy schedule so that is another struggle I have, thankfully, I have my parents close by to help out. I would say on a scale of 0-10, I am at about a 6 or 7.

The biggest challenge in owning my own business is telling people no. I do not like to turn down work, I love what I do and I want to do it all for everyone. I have learned over the past 14 months that sometimes I have to take a step back and say 'no.' Family has to come first, I have to have a life outside of work, breaks are needed-- and with that, taking breaks is my second biggest struggle. I. Need. Vacation.

Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society
Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society

My proudest moment would be the huge wedding orders I have received. While party packages are my favorite thing to do; who can not love matching family tees, party decor and then seeing everything come together, weddings are a HUGE deal and someone trusting me on their biggest day, makes me feel so lucky. I have also done a few fundraisers, and I really love doing those as well and giving back to a family in need.

The hardest part of this business would be realizing that not everyone is always going to be happy. I took an order, did my proofs, had things approved, sent photos throughout the entire process, was told to keep going just to have spent 30 hours on said project and told "it's not what I wanted," and from there getting a negative review. moments like that make you want to stop, but going through the conversation and contract, I knew I did everything that I could, sometimes, things are not meant to work out and you have to reflect on those moments to learn and grow for the next time.

It is extremely important for me to support other small business owners, especially local ones. I always try to shop small and local first. My children are brand reps for a few of our favorite small shops (Doodle & Jack, Elle Belle Baby, BabyMeBeautiful.USA, Stone & Blush, & Tiny Trends Bowtique) I support local photographers, always, I never go to the corporations for photos, and when a friends or family is looking for something I always try to recommend small over a big box store!

Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society
Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society

I would love to open up a store front one day. I would say that is in the 5 year goal range, not only to host my products, but to bring in items from many small shops. I would love to have all of my favorite shops in my store. A shorter term goal would be to have my business offer more items to complete outfits. I am not sure if that will be collaborating with another business, learning something new, or brainstorming with someone else and having them join my team.

I love what I do. Looking back on that day I was told I would no longer have a nanny job I wish I didn't cry the whole way home, I wish I knew I would be doing something knew and exciting. I love being able to create, work from home, have my kids with me and do something I love. Join my Facebook VIP page (Beyond the Lynk- VIPs) for exclusive giveaways, sneak peeks and fun games! Planning a party or family trip? Love graphic tees or home decor? Be sure to contact me for a custom order!

Focus On, Beyone the Lynk, Rising Tide Society


How can people find you?

Website: https://etsy.me/2WmbDUn

VIP group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1058651680987732/?ref=share 

Facebook page: Facebook.com/beyondthelynk

Instagram: instagram.com/beyondthelynk

Email: beyondthelynk@yahoo.com


Oh, boy! Capturing the fun and joy in a family of boys at a lakefront family photo session

Watching repeat clients and their families return to in front of my camera is one of the greatest joys of my business. I first met Brooke and her family last Autumn while her husband was away on a deployment. I loved hanging out with Brooker and her two oldest boys. We explored, ran around and captured some fun moments of them with their mom.

This year, Brooke asked me to capture her, her husband and her boys with their new baby brother. Exploring another Lake Linganore neighborhood area with this now family of five was so special. I loved watching the middle brother love up on his new baby brother and I so enjoyed seeing the eldest brother explore the woods, throwing sticks and collecting rocks.

Brooke is an incredibly positive, upbeat, patient mother to her boys and I love watching her in action with them. Her boys have unique and differing personalities and it’s a privilege to capture each of them individually and as a trio.

Both sessions so far have been full of joy and love -- from a mom and two boys to a family of five. Enjoy these peeks into their most recent family photo session.

Wendy Zook Photography | Maryland family photographer, Lake Linganore family photos, family photographer in Maryland, MD family photos, Frederick MD family photographer, lakeside family photos
Wendy Zook Photography | Maryland family photographer, Lake Linganore family photos, family photographer in Maryland, MD family photos, Frederick MD family photographer, lakeside family photos
Wendy Zook Photography | Maryland family photographer, Lake Linganore family photos, family photographer in Maryland, MD family photos, Frederick MD family photographer, lakeside family photos
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Wendy Zook Photography | Maryland family photographer, Lake Linganore family photos, family photographer in Maryland, MD family photos, Frederick MD family photographer, lakeside family photos

Lakefront Family Memories: A Lake Linganore Photo Session with a Family of Five

This family includes one of my dearest friends in Maryland and her gorgeous family. Rachel and Adam and their kiddos have been an important part of our lives since we moved to Lake Linganore just over two years ago. Their eldest daughter has been in our daughter’s class two of the past three school years and are two-thirds of a self-proclaimed “Pirate Crew.” We go camping together and have enjoyed numerous birthday parties, ladies nights’, playdates, Girl Scout events and more together.

Rachel is a fantastic mother who always only yearns for more and better time with her two girls and one boy. She actually even makes the outfits for her kids for their first day of school and photo sessions -- the dresses you see the girls wearing (and her skirt!) in these photos were all made by Rachel, late at night, in the quiet of her home after bedtime.

We met for our session near a trail by the dam at end of Lake Linganore, right in front of their home. We used the beautiful early-morning light peeking through some mountain haze for photos along the water, the path and even on their dock.

I love the wildness and freeness you feel with this family and in these photos -- joy and exploration and giddy fun.

Enjoy this peek into a day in the life of this important family with perfect details, huge smiles and a lot of love.

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Focus On: Diana Wei Fang of The Finer Points

I believe in a world where we cheer one another on and we don’t see any other entrepreneur as a competitor. (It’s why I love the Rising Tide Society so much!) I love when I see other business owners support one another and I can’t possibly count all of the times I’ve been inspired or motivated by another business owner. It can be a lonely world, sitting in a corner of your home, balancing the roles of parenthood, wife, photographer, creative and just overall human with obligations to friends and the house and hobbies and passions. It feels a lot less lonely when you celebrate all the other people who get it.


Our next Focus On is a spotlight on Diana Wei Fang the owner of The Finer Points in Washington, DC. Enjoy this peek into her business, her balance and her dreams. Be sure to follow her, cheer her on and stay tuned for more entrepreneur spotlights every two weeks.

Focus On: Diana Wei Fang of The Finer Points, Washington DC, Entrepreneur spotlight

Introduce yourself! 

Hello! My name is Diana Wei Fang and I own The Finer Points. I aim to partner with small businesses and help them to achieve their goals, whether that be in social media, event planning, or general admin skills (you know those clients waiting for you to return their email and you will get back to them… when you have time. Who can relate?). I’m based in Washington, DC, but I have clients from all over!


When did you start your business? What inspired you to do this?

I started my business in April of 2019 after my friends repeatedly told me I should start my own business. It was a moment where I had a personal failure, that gave me the push to “just do it”. I’ve always had a desire to partner with other creatives and small business owners, but it was my friends who dreamed on my behalf first.


About how many hours a week would you say you spend on your business?

I spend roughly 6 days a week, 50+ hours a week on The Finer Points. Learning the newest marketing strategy, engaging on social media, and networking are most things I do that aren’t “seen”. I also research a lot of products and platforms for my clients to see if there’s a better system for them. I like to test things out before suggesting them to my clients.

On a scale of 1-10, how balanced would you say you are between your work and family/personal life?

I try to never work on Sundays. It’s a rhythm that works well with my schedule. However, work-life balance isn’t something I strive for. For me personally, once I understood that this wasn’t achievable, I was able to be more present in my daily life. If I’m working, I try to be fully present and work. Since I’m single, I don’t have to run home to make dinner for a family or have kids to put to bed etc. However, I do try to be fully present when I’m with my friends and their families. If I’m babysitting so my friends can have a night out, or having dinner with friends, I try to put my phone away. My clients all know that I will get to their emails as soon as I am able. Waiting a few hours to hear back from me will not make or break a business deal. Am I perfect at this? No. Do I check my phone if I’m the first one to arrive at a restaurant? Yes. Having a start-up means there’s always something to do. But I aim to live life to the fullest. I also outsource a lot of things that gives someone else income, while allowing me to do more productive things. For example, I have a travel agent. Instead of being distracted by alerts of when flights are cheapest and deciding when the perfect time to purchase a hotel deal is in the middle of the workday, my travel agent does that for me. Small thing, but MAJOR in terms of staying focused throughout the day. I also hired an accountant and a lawyer within the first 30 days of starting my business. While I do my own bookkeeping, there are things that I allow for my accountant and lawyer to handle so that I can stay 100% focused on my clients. Decision-fatigue is real and protecting what I’m distracted by allows me to be present when I’m working.

Focus On: Diana Wei Fang of The Finer Points, Washington DC, Entrepreneur spotlight

What would you say is the biggest challenge in owning your own business?

Mental acrobats has been my personal biggest challenge. Even though I’ve worked with organizations, creatives, and small businesses for 14+ years, it’s daunting to do this without the backing of an established organization behind you. Am I as good as I thought I always was? Have I been pretending this whole time? Then I take a deep breath and remember the facts: I successfully fundraised HK$18.6M for a non-profit child advocacy organization. My previous organizations have been awarded for “best social media” in their respective categories. I have invested blood, sweat, and tears into these businesses and they have thrived. I am not a fraud.

What has been your proudest moment/greatest victory as an entrepreneur?

The fact that I haven’t folded yet, is probably my greatest moments. It’s a daily choice to keep doing what I do. To get up and partner with another business’ vision – to give my all so that they’re thriving – it is not easy. But yet, I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything else. I’m proud of how The Finer Points is doing as I’m entering into my 6th month of business. I’m grateful for the clients who took a chance on a brand new business owner.

What is the hardest part of being a business owner?

If I want to be isolated, it’s very easy to do so. I have to be intentional about meeting with others and imparting all that I’ve learned for the next entrepreneur and small business owner. The lie that I’m alone can be an easy one to believe. The reality is, I’m not. In Washington, DC alone, there’s 140,000 small business owners out of 633,000 residents! Community is out there. Support is out there. Just have to put myself out there. Also, networking. Talking about myself and what I do is VERY hard for me (these questions are helpful).

How important is it to you to support other entrepreneurs and business owners? What are some ways that you try to do this?

Oh man. This is so important and probably my favorite part of being in this community. Even before I had my own small business, I have loved to partner with others. Besides engaging and liking their posts on social media, I try to hire and buy from small businesses as much as I’m able to. That travel agent I told you about? Small business owner. My accountant and lawyer? Small business owners. The photos hanging in the house I live in? You got it- they’re small business owners. I’m intentional about who I may see when I go out as well. If it’s an event where photos will be taken, I will for sure be wearing something from a small business owner - you never know who will see the photo! I love cheering on someone else’s success. I’m even trying to get a hashtag going, #makeDianajealous. I want to see you living your best life. Post them on social media because then I get to cheer you on!

Focus On: Diana Wei Fang of The Finer Points, Washington DC, Entrepreneur spotlight

What are your one-year and five-year goals for your business?

One year goal: just make it. Real talk. Haha!
Five year goal: making the business scalable.

What else would you like to share? 

I just want to say, it’s okay to ask for help. It’s a form of self-care. Just because you’re a small business owner, doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.

How can people find you?

Email: hellofinerpoints@gmail.com

Instagram: @thefinerpoints

Website: thefinerpoints.co


See more of our Focus On Spotlights!

A Boy and His Momma: A Giveaway Session That Gives Back in Love

Laura first contacted me as a very excited and grateful winner from a giveaway I did with a local family event last year. She was yearning to capture her son, Ethan before the next phase of childhood flew by them without any images to remember it.

Laura and Ethan have had a difficult year and as our session came closer and closer, I was so excited to give them one morning of fun, adventure, love and peace. I couldn’t wait to sneak mom into the photos, too, and I’m glad she didn’t say no. It’s so important for mommas to get into the photos, too, regardless of what they’re wearing, how they feel about themselves or anything else. I want all these child clients of mine to be able to remember their parents through images.

We met in Lake Linganore at the edge of the lake where it meets the dam. We had water, forests, paths in various backdrops during our session and it quickly became one of my new favorite locations for neighborhood photos.

Ethan was such a joy. He kept collecting acorns and leaves to show me and his mom and I loved catching his great smile and hearty laugh. The way he loved on Laura, too, was so beautiful to witness -- so many hugs and kisses and “I love yous”.

Enjoy these peeks at an early-morning, lakefront session between a momma and her boy.

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Switching it Up: New Headshots for the Colder Months for this New Market Photographer A Headshot Swap with Photography by Virginia

Photographers can be the WORST photography clients. We know too much; we think too much. Is this an odd angle for my body? How’s the background for bokeh? Is this sun too harsh here? We are the WORST. I especially hate being in front of the camera. I don’t like the spotlight being on me and I get way too much inside of my head.

But, having some fresh and up-do-date photos of myself that fit the current seasons and weather, my new desired “feel” for my business and that show off my new haircut is so important.

As much as I LOVE my headshots from Amanda Hedgepeth, beach photos while wearing a summer-y dress just don’t always work for Maryland wintertime.

If there’s one person I can trust to listen to my crazy ideas (“What if I just hold a leaf out in front of me?” “Can I quickly put on my Rising Tide Society shirt?” “Can I just read?”), give it to me straight if my awkwardness has reached new levels or give me great ideas of things to do, it’s Virginia. She lives super-close to me here in Frederick County, Maryland, and has been my second shooter for a few local weddings. She always makes me laugh.

We each had different ideas of what we wanted our photos to look like and I think we captured our personalities and styles so, so well. I *LOVE* what Virginia captured. I can’t wait to use these photos not just for a stand-alone profile pic, but for social media and future business and personal blogs and just to remind myself that maybe being in front of the camera isn’t so bad after all.

Enjoy this peek into a very windy day filled with laughs as we explored a variety of places in New Market.

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A Family of Four at Sunset at the Lake

I’m feeling so fortunate this year that my Fall family photo sessions are a beautiful mix of return clients (thank you for trusting me again with this honor) and new faces that have allowed me the joy of capturing memories of their families.

When Meredith first reached out to me, I had seen her name and heard of her through different neighborhood circles and events but had never actually officially met in person. And I’d definitely never photographed her beautiful family before. And it was such a joy!

We met on a gorgeous Friday night, almost at sunset, at a neighborhood beach here in Lake Linganore, Frederick County, and allowed her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son to explore the nearby trail and beach. We caught some sweet daddy-and-daughter kisses, mommy-and-son hugs and so much fun adventuring candid moments.

My son, Zach, knows their son and I loved chatting with Meredith especially about the boys and all the kids’ school time. 


You can truly feel the love between Meredith and her husband and between all four of them. It was such a joy meeting them and I’m hoping that they become those repeat clients who continue to trust me in capturing their memories in future years, too.

Enjoy this peek!

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Returning Clients and a Sunset Photo Session on the Beach

I first met Jen and her beautiful family last winter after her second son was born. We held an in-home lifestyle newborn photo session at their gorgeous home in December. I loved watching Big Brother hold the baby with such joy and admiration. And Jen is such a natural mother -- she is patient, kind, graceful and so giving.

This Fall, I’ve had the honor of capturing their first official photos as a family of four. We met at a local neighborhood beach with a sunset and a shimmering reflective lake as our backdrop. The boys loved cuddling together and playing in the sand.

Jen is so beautifully gorgeous -- inside as well as on the outside -- and seeing her in that easy motherhood role with her boys was so special to me. They twirled, ran together, held hands and enjoyed time together exploring the area together.

Jen told me later that she was in happy tears when she saw the final photos from her family session and that is just beyond wonderful to hear. We only get so many years -- and so many autumns -- with our children -- how lucky we are to be able to freeze time now and then on each phase in life.

Enjoy this peek into this incredible family of four and all of their joy and love!

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Focus On: Kristina Dowler, Virtual Assistant and Photographer in Stafford, VA

I believe in a world where we cheer one another on and we don’t see any other entrepreneur as a competitor. (It’s why I love the Rising Tide Society so much!) I love when I see other business owners support one another and I can’t possibly count all of the times I’ve been inspired or motivated by another business owner. It can be a lonely world, sitting in a corner of your home, balancing the roles of parenthood, wife, photographer, creative and just overall human with obligations to friends and the house and hobbies and passions. It feels a lot less lonely when you celebrate all the other people who get it.


Our first Focus On is a spotlight on Kristina Dowler, the owner of K. Dowler Photography (and eventually Dot the I’s Outsourcing), in Stafford, VA. Enjoy this peek into her business, her balance and her dreams. Be sure to follow her, cheer her on and stay tuned for more entrepreneur spotlights every two weeks.

Introduce yourself!

Kristina Dowler. K. Dowler Photography (and eventually, Dot the I’s Outsourcing). My business started as family photography.  But now, the primary focus of my work actually winds up being my virtual assistant services for other small business owners, though. I’m located in Stafford, VA, but I work with clients all over the country as a virtual assistant (VA) and content creator. 

Primarily I help clients with blog writing/SEO optimization, social media content creation, Pinterest management, and client management (workflows, scheduling, etc). 


When did you start your business? What inspired you to do this?

I received my first camera from my grandmother my senior year of high school. She bought a “fancy camera” for our trip to NYC and then didn’t learn how to use it. So I did. I walked all over NYC taking photos of show posters and I was hooked. In college, I started to take things more seriously. I had a few mentoring sessions, second shot some weddings and took a ton of promotional photos for friends and their recitals, projects and so on. It went from there. I closed the business when I got married and started working in an office but then realized I wasn’t going to go to graduate school and re-opened the business. A few months later, we moved into our townhouse. That summer, I started noticing there was a need for people who could write and manage calendars, bookings, and other behind the scenes work among business owners. I met with another photographer here locally about my photography actually but during our chat, came to realize my skills could be used other ways. After that, I started connecting with business owners and offering virtual assistance. It grew from there. Through word of mouth, a great blog post by Nicole Starr, (and lots of luck), I grew my VA work to a place where I could leave my office job and stay at home with my son when he was born in January 2018. That was such a blessing and absolutely terrifying at the same time!! 

I still offer photography services but, to be honest, the VA work pays the bills (well, my part anyway). I’m in the process of designing some templates and other means of passive income now too as I move towards wanting to work less so I can be with my son.

As far as what inspired me? My son and my husband. Especially once I knew I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to find a way to be home with him when I could and still provide. I love writing; I love organization; and the skills I had at my day job of a research assistant really fit well into this kind of work. I’m not sure if I was inspired or if it just happened to be a good fit for me. But, once I knew I was really helping business owners have time for their families, lives, projects… I was hooked. A side note...I wanted to be a therapist and work with those suffering from trauma for the longest time, and still do. I want to help people. My whole life has been built around serving and loving others. Right now, in my life, this is how I’m helping people. (I will tell you it took therapy of my own to come to terms with that!). 

K. Dowler Photography, Virtual Assistant and Virginia photographer

About how many hours a week would you say you spend on your business? What are some of the behind-the-scenes things that your business requires that people may not realize? 

Whew. Let’s see here… David goes to daycare three mornings a week for 5 hours each time. So that’s 15. I usually still try to work during his naps in the week, so anywhere from 8-12 more hours. So that makes… 23-32. I’d say safely, I work at least 25-30 hours a week. Most of that is working on client work and not necessarily building my own business. One of the goals I have for the fall and winter is to spend some of the time David is not in daycare (his naps!) working on building resources for other business owners, future VAs, and clients. 

People think that all I do is sit at a computer all day and sit on social media. I spend a lot of time there, yes. But I do so much more than spend all day surfing Instagram. I write blogs, I optimize posts and websites to help my clients reach their clients. I do write social media captions… but I also spend time researching, interacting with posts, and finding ways to make my clients stand out. I create graphics, write newsletters, and send way too many emails. But it’s all worth it to know that my clients get to have breathing room in their own lives. 

On a scale of 1-10, how balanced would you say you are between your work and family/personal life? How do you try to balance both worlds?

Oh my goodness…. I’d say I’m maybe a 7. My husband would probably say less! I really struggle with this. I’ve always felt like I have to be doing something - even before I went full-time with this. And now, I feel like I always have to be on, always have to be perfect, and available. That’s not the case and that’s how I’ve gotten burned out before. We took a big trip to Disney this summer and I realized just how burned out I was. On that trip, I vowed to make changes. I’m definitely still learning to balance things, but I try every single day to be better.

A few things that helped majorly:

  1. Take your work email off your phone! I met with a friend at lunch the other day and he was flabergasted I don't’ have it on my phone anymore. But it’s so freeing. I will say I do still spend too much time on social media on my phone, but at least I’m not sucked into work every second. When I have emails on my phone, I’m more tempted to check them and feel like I have to pull out my laptop and work. Which is terrible - especially when it’s just me and my son! 

  2. Daycare! I didn’t know if we’d wind up using daycare for our son. But now that we’ve started, I can’t imagine going back. Those 15 hours are golden for me. I can work, knowing I won’t be interrupted or have to stop. I can focus and be totally in office mode! It’s hard to come out of it some days but when I see how much I accomplished, it’s amazing.

  3. No work in the evenings. I’m still really struggling with this one but evenings are the only time I get my husband and son in the same room at the same time, except on weekends. And as I get ready to start playing cello for a new show, that will change. I have to heavily safeguard my evenings as family time. Some weeks I’m really good at this. Others, I’m not. When I’m sick or have lost day work hours, I will cram a few hours in the evenings. But I always feel guilty. So… take my advice, and just WALK AWAY until the morning. 

  4. Have off days. While I’m still working this out too, I try to remember the days that David isn’t in daycare are about him and me. Sometimes this means we catch up on errands. Others we spend all day playing outside and doing the things he loves. Some days it’s a combination. But having the bulk of the day to  take care of the house, errands, and be with him make me feel more in control the rest of the time. 

  5. No more work on vacations. Unless it’s an emergency (and let’s be real, I’m not a doctor so my work isn’t really an emergency), I’m making an effort to not work on vacations. This means I have to hustle leading up to it but vacations really need to be my time to relax and be with family! I didn’t work in Disney this summer and it was beautiful. For all of us. I could be present, I didn’t need my phone, I slept better even. 

I’m not perfect when it comes to balance. I started therapy in June for anxiety/anger stemming from postpartum life and work and I’ve learned that my boundaries have to be stronger so I have room to breathe. Everyone’s will look differently but know that there’s no wrong way to create space in your life. And I promise, the world will not end and your business will not die if you walk away for a day or two… or even a week. Taking time away is HUGE. 

What would you say is the biggest challenge in owning your own business?

I have two: Balance and TAXES! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way! It’s hard to feel like I can take time off. But I didn’t start working for myself to work all the time. I’m still struggling with that, but I’m trying. I know when I take my time off, relax, and refocus, I’m a better mom and business owner in the end. I feel like the other part of this is learning to set boundaries for myself and my clients. I’m the kind of person who feels like I have to respond as soon as I see something or someone will leave me/not want to work with me. But I have to give myself room to breathe. Email has to be turned off, you know? I have to learn how to say no. People will live and I’ve found that my best clients are the ones that really understand boundaries - mine and theirs. 

And taxes! People don’t realize that not every cent I make goes to us. Every single time a transaction comes into my account, a portion goes into another account to pay my taxes. I got hit with a big tax bill last year because I forgot to pay state taxes quarterly (thanks mom brain). It’s nice to have flexibility and all that, but we really aren’t millionaires!  I’m not in this for the money for sure! It’s frustrating at times to see money just disappear that way, but I know it’s necessary. 

The other thing is the anxiety that comes. I love the flexibility of what I do but sometimes it can feel like I don’t know how the next day will go. For a long time, I struggled to create a schedule because of my son. He didn’t nap well, or once he did, it changed again. That’s motherhood, right? But it has been difficult for me to adjust. I struggled to figure out how to balance things for awhile. I’m still not perfect, but I think it’s much better than it was. I have to learn to feel less guilty when I choose one over the other, even knowing at the heart of it is that my son is the most important thing. 


What has been your proudest moment/greatest victory as an entrepreneur?

Being able to go full-time was huge for me. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it after a few things fell through, but I’ve rallied. I’ve found amazing clients and knowing that I support them while they support my family is an incredible feeling. Anytime I get an inquiry because of a current client, my heart swells. I LOVE knowing my clients are happy - so those are always victories to me! 


What is the hardest part of being a business owner?

I think for me, one of the hardest things is remembering to keep my business separate from my emotions. I don’t mean that I can’t be friends with the people I work with. Because I totally am. But learning to separate something they don’t like from myself is hard. I take a lot of that personally because I love this job and my clients so deeply. So when I hear something (even a minor tweak needs to be made!), I feel like I’ve failed. People are handing me pieces of their business and I want to do everything I can to help them. I want everything to be perfect and I worry a lot about not being perfect. I don’t want to let anyone down. 

I think the other thing is just people’s expectations. People think because I work from home, I can do whatever I want whenever I want. And while I do certainly have more flexibility than so many other people, it’s not always like that. I still have responsibilities. My work still has value. Knowing that my work means something to me should be enough, but sometimes it’s nice to know other people know I’m doing something real, too. 

How important is it to you to support other entrepreneurs and business owners? What are some ways that you try to do this?

So important! My whole job literally revolves around finding ways to make my clients’ lives easier. From implementing better templates, workflows, or schedules to taking blog writing off their hands entirely…. Whatever it is, I want to find it. Outside of my actual work, I try to support local businesses whenever I can by buying and eating locally! 

What are your one-year and five-year goals for your business?

Long-term goals for me are really to develop more templates, resources, and some small education pieces for other business owners, future VAs, and my clients. I’d love to redo my website and get my VA business branding/website/social media moving forward. I think things like redoing pricing and more procedural updates are always on the calendar, too! I’m almost to a place where I really can’t take on more clients so that’s an exciting achievement too, I think. 

I’d also like to find more ways to utilize my Psychology degree… whether it’s just helping other business owners realize mental health is important or what. But I think finding ways to encourage them to take care of themselves is always a good thing! 

Our biggest long-term goal is moving my business to North Carolina (Manteo). We’d love to move our family there in the next 3-5 years and I think my business is key to that happening! 

What else would you like to share? You can share anything here!!!

Being a business owner is hard. Every day is hard - even the good ones. There’s so many things pulling you in various directions. I try every day to be a good mom, business owner, VA, wife, housekeeper, sister, daughter… and the reality is we can’t be great at everything. We can be good at one thing at a time. So try to keep your focus where it matters in that moment. If I’m with my son, I try to be 100% with him. If I’m working, I try to really focus on what I’m doing. Trying to do too much at once will make everything really hard. So find ways to make things easier on yourself! That looks differently for everyone, but whatever works - go with it! And never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s childcare, therapy, or just a giftcard for a meal out - use your village.

Despite the hardships of being a working mom, I love every minute of it. I’m thankful for the flexibility I have. I’m thankful I can be with my son. I’m thankful I can squeeze in doctor’s appointments or extra cuddles when he’s sick and not have to worry. But there’s also a lot of fear in what I do. If my client load changes, our paychecks change. A sick day for me can mean I’m behind a whole day on multiple people’s calendars. It’s a lot - it’s a balance. Really, I think entrepreneurship is about balance at the end of the day. We just have to learn to get better about it (and really prioritize what matters most to us). 

My family is my priority. Although some days it probably doesn’t seem that way to them, I do this for them. I do this so I can be there and support our family without the stress of a 9-5. But my job isn’t a 9-5 so that comes with it’s own challenges. I wouldn't be able to do this without my husband, Ryan, or my parents/sister/grandparents who help regularly with David. I do this for my son, I really do. It worries me though that someday he’ll think all mommy did was work. But I hope that I get better about building in margins so he remembers the fun stuff - not the times mommy had to sit and work.

Seriously though, a huge thanks to my family. I love them all to the moon and back and I just want to thank them for loving me even when I feel crazy because of what I do. And a huge thank you to my clients, without them, literally none of this would be possible.

How can people find you and reach out to you?

kristina.dowler@gmail.com

www.instagram.com/kdowler15

www.facebook.com/kdowlerphotography

www.kdowlerphotography.com


See More Focus On Spotlights here!

Dream Maryland Wedding Venues: The Places I’d Most Love to Photograph Weddings

When it comes to the perfect wedding day, there are a lot of factors to consider -- the couple, the details, the other vendors. It will still be a great day even if things get off schedule and even if it rains or is colder. Your wedding day will be amazing even if Uncle Bob wears blue jeans and even if your Best Man’s toast is just a little bit embarrassing.

But one of the most important decisions any wedding couple makes that really sets the tone for their day is the *where* of their wedding day.

Couples choose their wedding venue for a variety of different reasons -- availability on a preferred date or price or a friend’s great experience with them or the overall look and feel of a place.

While I’m always excited to photograph in any new places, here is my little “bucket list” if you will for places I can’t wait to photograph (and for some, photograph *again*) at in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC areas.

Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding

HOLLY HILLS COUNTRY CLUB
Ijamsville, Maryland

Holly Hills was the site of my first Maryland wedding, just a few months after we moved here. It’s also located literally five miles away from my house which is such a treat after years of long travels to and from wedding days.

But Holly Hills also offers beautiful sweeping views of the nearby hills and has an incredible staff of people who seem to anticipate your next need before you even know it yourself. I love this venue so much and can’t wait to return here!

MARYLAND NATIONAL GOLF CLUB
Middletown, Maryland

This is another scenic spot within a 20-minute drive of my home (amazing) that I’ve photographed at in 2019. When you’re inspired pulling into the parking lot, you know you’ve hit the jackpot with beautiful scenery at a wedding venue. Some of my favorite photos from Becky and Mike’s wedding day came from the edge of that parking lot with some incredible backdrops.

THE BARN AT PLEASANT ACRES
St. Leonard, Maryland

A bit more of a drive than the previous two venues but worth it for the intimacy and care for details. The Barn at Pleasant Acres is a family-owned rustic site with gorgeous modern touches -- the black chandeliers and details amongst all of the wood inside the barn is so striking. Golf carts take you to any dreamy spot on the property and staff is always around.

Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding

MORNINGSIDE INN
Frederick, Maryland

I drive by Morningside Inn at least once a week and always admire the gorgeous views and lush property they have. I cannot wait until one of my brides book this site! Rolling hills, dense trees, water and so much more -- Morningside Inn really offers an incredible variety of backdrops for photos.

CERESVILLE MANSION
Frederick, Maryland

Ceresville Mansion is definitely a wishlist item for me for its location (another close venue!), elegant building, beautiful outdoor space and well-known reputation for being an incredible venue to work with for local weddings. They become a chameleon, matching your style, the time of year, everything.

WALKERS OVERLOOK & DULANYS OVERLOOK
Walkersville, Maryland

Two beautiful overlooks in one great area -- Walkers Overlook and Dulanys Overlook are most definitely both on my wishlist. Walkers Overlook has a gorgeous colonial home and huge walnut tree to offer while Dulanys Overlook boasts two options: a large brick home and vast lawn or a wooded area and barn, both amazing! It would definitely be a joy to photograph at either location.

Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding

MOUNTAIN MEMORIES AT THORPEWOOD
Thurmont, Maryland

This is a wedding venue that I’ve just recently discovered -- and it’s located near one of my favorite parks: Catoctin Mountain. Thorpewood offers a much more natural setting and huge, beautiful grounds to explore and capture love stories around. They can accommodate 150 people at their incredible lodge building and even offer a Pine Cathedral for the ceremony. It sounds so dreamy!

SPRINGFIELD MANOR
Thurmont, Maryland

Another site with so much to offer -- one of Frederick’s best breweries, with a distillery, winery, overnight suites, 130-acre farm and of course gorgeous wedding venue with both a ballroom and a barn, plus various terraces and lawns. I could see a lot of different wedding styles fitting in just perfectly at a space like Springfield Manor.

STONE MANOR COUNTRY CLUB
Middletown, Maryland

Every time I see a Stone Manor Country Club Instagram post, I’m instantly inspired. Lawns, old buildings, sweeping vistas, stone steps… the possibilities for gorgeous outdoor portraits is seemingly endless. It’s such an elegant and grand location that will make all of my couples’ weddings feel so sophisticated and timeless.

Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding

BLUE HILL FARM
Waterford, Virginia

My husband and I discovered the tiny town of Waterford by accident driving around the Loudoun County corner of Virginia one day and it had me mesmerized -- it’s like stepping back in time -- narrow streets of 200-year-old buildings and immaculate properties. And then, to find a hidden gem tucked inside this town like the bed-and-breakfast wedding venue of Blue HIll Farm is so special! The site offers greenery and gorgeous bright white walls -- a perfect blank slate for personal, individualized portraits.


MAYMONT GARDENS
Richmond, Virginia

I was a second photographer for a wedding held at Maymont Gardens and I was in awe from the moment I pulled up to the grounds. It’s just garden after garden after garden, stretching as far in front of you as you can see. The wedding we photographed had the ceremony at the Italian Gardens and it was one of the most beautiful ceremony sites I’ve ever seen. That site featured fountains, sculptures, a 15th-century-inspired long pergola and so many gorgeous flowers. Any couple would be lucky to have a wedding at Maymont.

GREAT MARSH ESTATE
Bealeton, Virginia

Great Marsh is a relatively newer wedding venue in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and does not disappoint. I can’t wait to photograph here -- Bright, clean, crisp, elegant. 120 acres plus an incredible Georgian-era estate building surrounded by greenery. It’s a really unique and elegant location that would be perfect for a wedding day. I can imagine lining up the bridal party in front of the building and letting my couple stroll hand in hand amongst the tree-lined field or down the stately stairs. Fingers crossed for this one!

Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding
Wendy Zook Photography | Frederick MD wedding photographer, Maryland wedding photographer, Maryland wedding venues, wedding venue bucket list, Holly Hills Country Club wedding, Maryland National Golf Club wedding, The Barn at Pleasant Acres wedding, Morningside Inn wedding, Ceresville Mansion wedding, Walkers Overlook wedding, Mountain Memories at Thorpewood, Springfield Manor wedding, Stone Manor Country Club wedding, Blue Hill Farm wedding, Maymont Gardens, Great Marsh Estate wedding

I’ve had so much creating this list of dream wedding venues to photograph in that I just might have to make another list in the future! What sites would you add to it?

Thank you to all of these incredible venues for offering the most beautiful wedding day backdrops.

Wendy Zook Photography and Family in Front of the Camera: Beach Family Photos by Amanda Hedgepeth

There are a few things I know for sure:
1. Salt air and ocean waves are some of the most healing things for one’s spirits;

2. Getting in photos with my own family is a rare but important treasure;

3. Amanda Hedgepeth is not only a talented photographer but a most incredible human just brimming with compassion, love, kindness and heart.

This August, all of these things came together in one beautiful moment on a beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of my favorite places in this big ole world.

Amanda and I have followed each other, messaged each other and loved on each other for many years now but have never met in person. (Although while talking long after our session had ended and the rest of my family had returned to the beach house we were renting, she and I remarked so many times that it felt like we had definitely met in person at least once at some point -- but nope, definitely just felt that way.)

Amanda’s realness and vulnerability with what she shares to her followers and supporters is incredibly powerful. She’s talked about her health, family, anxiety, non-profit organization and so much more and it all resonates with me.

I knew that I had to see if we could make a photo session work during our family vacation this summer and when the stars aligned and Amanda was willing to travel to our beach house in Hatteras, my heart was just bursting with excitement and gratitude.

As a photographer myself, it’s so hard to be in front of the camera. I tend to overthink everything and aim for way too much perfection. By the end of our session with Amanda, however, I realized that perfection lies in messy, sandy faces and allowing snow angels on the beach and hugs that end in collapses in front of a sand dune. Perfection is capturing us -- each of us -- in our most “real” state -- whether that’s Addie’s excitement over crashing waves or Zach jumping up and down excitedly (before proclaiming, “I’m out!” with all of us laughing) or just the way Scott holds hands with the kiddos in front of the ocean.

Amanda immediately related to all of us, made us all so comfortable and, by the end, was chatting to ZMan all about scorpions and complimenting Addie on her recently-curled hair. Offering me a few new headshots at the end of our session was the icing on the cake.

I’m so grateful for these memories from one of our happy little places and can’t wait until I see Amanda again -- in real life, with big hugs and late-night chats about Enneagrams and parenting.

Enjoy this peek into my family!

Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX
Outer Banks family photos with Amanda Hedgepeth Photography | Outer Banks, Outer Banks family photos, family photos, family portraits, beach family photos, family photos on the beach, OBX