Signy & Patrick's Fairy Tale Virginia Wedding in the Mountains

va-wedding-photographer
7-virginia-wedding-photographers
va-wedding-photographers
7-virginia-wedding-photographers
8-virginia-wedding-photographers
3-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photographer
8-virginia-wedding-photographers
3-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photographer
3-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photographer
5-mountain-bride-wedding-photographer-virginia
1-mountain-bride-virginia-photographer
4-mountain-bride-wedding-photographer-virginia
9-shenandoah-wedding-photographer
3-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photographers
3-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photographers
9-shenandoah-wedding-photographer
3-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photographers
7-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photographers
8-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photography
0-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photography
0-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photography
2-shenandoah-woods-wedding-photography
5-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-intimate-photography
4-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-intimate-photography
8-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-intimate-photography
1-intimate-artistic-va-wedding
2-intimate-artistic-va-wedding
6-intimate-artistic-southern-wedding.jpg
3-barefoot-bride-va-mountain-wedding.jpg
6-mountain-wedding-photographers
4-mountain-wedding-photographers
7-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
1-fairy-tale-wedding-decor
8-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
4-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
5-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
5-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
5-blue-ridge-mountain-wedding-photography
0-virginia-wedding-photography
2-virginia-wedding-photography
0-virginia-mountain-wedding-photography
9-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photographers (1).jpg
7-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photography
9-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photographers.jpg
4-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photographers
5-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photographers
0-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photographers (1)
3-mountain-bride-virginia-wedding-photography

Signy and Patrick had such a clear vision for their Virginia wedding in the mountains - they wanted it to be dreamy, like a fairy tale, saying their vows in front of the people they loved the most, tucked away in the woods. Their closest friends and families all gathered in the cabins of  Shenandoah Woods in Virginia's gorgeous Shenandoah Valley in October at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains for their wedding one Wednesday afternoon. 

I'm all about doing things untraditionally when it comes to your wedding, and airing on the smaller side of a guest list is almost always a wonderful decision, in my experience. Signy and Patrick did just this, and small, intimate weddings like theirs are always some of my favorites. They were able to spend so much time with each of their guests and it didn't seem like they felt overwhelmed like they "had to make rounds to greet all the tables" during their reception. Everyone they invited was either a family member or close friend, and that speaks to who they are as a couple - they deeply value and intentionally prioritize their close friends and family. 

Weekday weddings are also some of the best, and I wish more couples would take the plunge and would say their vows on Wednesday like these two. Usually the biggest hindrance is that everyone I talk to about this is afraid their friends and family won't be able to get off of work in the middle of the week, which I completely understand. That being said, Signy and Patrick pulled off their Wednesday wedding beautifully, and they kept their guest list minimal to ensure that everyone they wanted there could make it to their Virginia wedding venue for their wedding on a Wednesday.

Finally, their vision for their wedding was so focused because with help from their families, they made all of their wedding decor and details by hand. This is really incredible given that their wedding had some of the most intricate details I've seen at an outdoor wedding. Whimsical, gold details with jeweled fairy tale-esque pieces made the entire day feel like we were in a storybook. Another testament of having a strong and clear wedding vision like theirs - you can make your wedding the way you want it to be without spending all the money on decor. 

If you can't tell, I love these two and being part of their wedding was such a privilege. Thank you both so much for letting me be part of your day - so many congrats to you two and so much love from Nashville.


For more wedding inspiration similar to Signy and Patrick's style, take a look at Christian and Teddy's intimate Iceland wedding that also looked like a fairytale! 

The Getting Ready Guide (For Best Wedding Photos)

The morning of a wedding is one of my favorite parts of the day. There's an electricity in the air, the kind that only comes from intense joy and excitement (and that really good playlist your friends made you). All of this makes for really beautiful photos, especially the storytelling kind. 

I can say that some of my best memories come from the morning of my own wedding when it was just me with my mom, sister and best friends from college drinking endless cups of coffee, dancing and getting hair and make-up started. These moments are incredible to document, no matter what you choose. Some weddings start with a huge brunch for the bridal party, others with sunrise yoga or a morning hike and some with a slow morning at home. More than anything, these moments need to be entirely you and no matter how you start your day, it's going to be amazing. By no means is this guide a list of "have-tos" - my hope is that it serves as an aid to help us work together to make the most beautiful getting ready photos for you that we can.


1. Lighting

One of the questions I'm asked the most is where lighting is best throughout the entire wedding day - but especially in the getting ready moments. It's common for the bridal party to get ready in a hotel room, a bedroom or a kitchen and while this makes sense for space, good lighting is often hard to find in these places. (For tips on lighting for your entire wedding day, feel free to wander over to my lighting guide which goes more into depth on all of this!)

getting-ready-tips-wedding-day

The most ideal situation is that there are two windows in the room on different sides so that the whole room is lit well (and that also helps me get those great candid shots of your best people sipping mimosas and hanging out on the couch). The farther you are from a window, the harder the light is to work with. That being said, I completely understand that this isn't feasible for every wedding. Regardless of what the room is like, the bride should have her hair and make-up done (if at all possible) next to a window. I can't stress enough how important this is - and I'll have her put on her dress next to a window, and the veil, and the shoes, everything. 

After communicating with your hair and make-up artists, I almost always keep all lights in the room off so that the gorgeous natural light from the window can fill the room in a beautiful way. No one wants that ugly yellow or orange glow around their face that so many overhead lights in places like hotel rooms/salons can cause. 

getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding

Pretty light like this also gives us so many more opportunities to take some gorgeous bridal portraits after the getting ready process is finished. (Jesse and Lacey's wedding in northeast Minneapolis was one of my favorite getting ready locations I've ever had - see their full wedding here for photo inspiration!)

To sum up, the worst places for lighting in getting ready locations will always be in a dark room with no natural light source (ie, a window) OR in a situation where the bride/bridal party is positioned away from the windows in a darker corner. 

2. Location

As I said above, it makes so much sense that so many people traditionally choose to get ready in hotel rooms and odd rooms of their homes because it makes logistical sense (ie, there's more space or there are more outlets in the bathroom). I completely understand this and no matter the getting ready location, we will work with it. 

That being said, in my experience the best getting ready locations are ones with good lighting (see above!) and unique locations. Why not look and see if you can find an Airbnb close to your venue instead of staying at a standard hotel? Airbnbs can really give so much character to the first half of your day (which typically includes your detail photos, getting ready photos and sometimes even bridal portraits). Typically they're even less expensive than hotels and way more fun to spend the night before in. 

Finally, if you invest time into finding a great getting ready location, make sure the clutter of the morning is at least somewhat contained. No one wants to see suitcases, make-up bags and clothes everywhere in their wedding photos. I'm not saying every inch of space needs to be picture perfect, just try to keep it "real life" while also being mindful of mess throughout your getting ready space. 

getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding-photography

Another option would be asking a friend or family member who owns or has access to a beautiful space with natural light if you can borrow their house/apartment/studio for the morning. If you're wondering about whether a space is well lit, feel free to reach out! I'd love to talk with you and help in any way that I can. 

And sometimes there are hidden gems for getting ready locations in your own home - if you have rooms that are well-lit, large windows and a clean looking setting (white walls are a plus!) or even a nice screened in porch (see image below!) these can be incredible locations for your wedding day that you already have access to. 

best-getting-ready-photo-tips-wedding

3. Hair and make-up

Hair and make-up running late is the number one stressor on a wedding day. Running late so early in the day can push the entire timeline back a full hour or more. What suffers then are your photos - photo time is crunched into a tiny space that doesn't allow us all of the time we need. At times, I've seen hair and make-up go a full two hours later than planned. 

How to avoid this? Hire a professional to do your hair and make-up. They're much more apt to stick to the day of timeline and they know exactly what they're doing. The last thing you want to be concerned about on your wedding day is whether your make-up and hair looks like you want it to, and with good professionals, it absolutely will.

Finally, add in some extra time for you to relax and enjoy your morning, because it's your wedding and you should do exactly what you want to do before the day actually starts. One of the biggest things I stress to my clients is that your wedding day shouldn't be a like a photoshoot - it should be your celebration, with your people, and I'll be there to document everything as the day unfolds. If you have a favorite place to get lunch, plan time to grab lunch with the people you want to spend time with the most. If you're into hiking, go on a morning hike before you get ready - grab that extra cup of coffee - take time to do your favorite yoga practice - make this time of day uniquely yours and I promise you won't regret a second of it. 


I so hope this getting ready guide was both informative and helpful - feel free to drop me an email at nicola@nicolaharger.com with any questions!

I'm always here to help. 

Iceland Composite Photography: When Everyone Gets the Flu in March

It's March in Tennessee and the weather is slowly getting warmer, but the world outside my front door is still brown. I feel this way every year at this time - I'm itching to make new work, I want to create something even if it's just for myself, and I want to push myself to do new creative things.

So I set up shoots - five of them - with friends or friends of friends just to get humans in front of my lens to play, to explore. And then the flu hit - because it's winter, the flu is still going around and so everyone in Nashville is sick and all of my shoots had to cancel.

Frustrated, I turned to Photoshop one rainy Friday afternoon in my office with no intent of making anything worth showing. An hour later, I found myself looking at this: 

iceland-wedding-photographer

And I love it. It's not perfect, by any means, and some composites like this work and others don't - but this one feels right to me even if it's only for me. I felt a huge creative release as I played around in Photoshop, taking a waterfall image I had taken in Iceland at the last light in December and merging it with a silhouette of Jesse and Lacey from their wedding in Minneapolis a few years ago.

Iceland is such an eerie and magical place that it only feels natural to make composites from the landscapes I've seen and photographed there. My favorite part of this image is how Lacey's wedding veil blends into the waterfall and that everything is soft and fading into shadow. 

I'd love to hear if this speaks to you or not - what does it make you feel? I'll be posting new composites soon - or check out my Instagram to see the most recent work. 

 

 

Why You Should Visit Iceland in Winter

iceland-in-winter-travel-tips

I was lucky enough to return to Iceland last December, my third time on this desolately beautiful island. Iceland never disappoints, and that's the only way I know how to describe it. All the hype is real, all the social media posts are true, it's magic, it's incredible. The best money you could spend in 2017 is on a flight to Keflavík, no matter the time of year - and I'm going to tell you why. 

My last two trips to Iceland were in the summers 2013 and 2016, when everything is lush and green and the weather is my favorite (typically in the 50s/60s) and the sun doesn't set until 10pm, a forever golden hour which us wedding photographers love. A few months after my last trip this summer, I booked a last minute destination wedding for Iceland for December and couldn't wait to see this tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic deep in winter, when the tourism is slow and the roads are quiet - everything I wanted in a trip to Iceland in 2016 (the hype is real but the amount of tourists visiting and cars on the roads has gotten crazy compared to how under the radar Iceland was even a few years ago).

That being said, visiting Iceland in the winter requires an intense amount of extra planning and caution (but the flights are cheaper, win!) Everyone always jokes that if you don't like the weather in Iceland, just wait five minutes - it's constantly changing, from sun to rain to storms in what feels like seconds. You understand how crazy this could be in winter months then as you add in icy roads, low temperatures, storms, insane winds and not as many people around to the dangerous weather mix. The most insane part of all of this is Iceland's daylight hours are cut short in the winter with only about 4 hours of (somewhat) daylight - more on that below. 

Despite all of this, I somehow got my best (my only but still the best!) sister-in-law on board to come to Iceland with me, and we spent the better part of a week driving the Ring Road in winter. I wanted to share our top travel tips, advice on what to plan for and favorite parts of Iceland's winter with you. 

why-you-should-visit-iceland-in-winter
visit-iceland-winter.jpg

Weather

I have to start by saying that we only saw snow a few times, so unfortuantely I can't speak much to a snowy Iceland driving experience. I was disappointed at first but in some ways it made our week so much easier to not have to deal with most of the roads being closed or getting stranded in a tiny town on the coast or other stories we read on blogs before heading across the Atlantic. One thing that did really surprise me was that the green mountains of Iceland that I love so much (if you haven't, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a must-see as he travels to Iceland) turn a stark yellow in the winter, a strange kind of beautiful that frames the island's desolate landscape so well. That might be an obvious thing to many of you, but Iceland's green mountains are so iconic to me that it was a strange kind of change, like a quiet one, but it fit Iceland's winter color palette perfectly.

It really wasn't that cold. The wind was probably our biggest enemy as we drove across the island (keep reading for rental car vehicle tips below!) especially if we were in wide-open places without our yellow mountains on one side. At times the wind was so intense that we couldn't open our 4x4 Subaru's door - and other times it was almost like you couldn't walk without falling over. And the wind was what made us feel cold, not the actual temperatures themselves.It rained or sleeted for the majority of our time there as well (don't worry, it was way more fun than it sounds!) so packing layers is essential to having a successful Iceland winter trip. We kept extra warm clothes in the back of our car and planned waterfall excursions at the very end of our days so that when we got soaked, we could drive only a few more hours to our Airbnb for the night instead of having to sit in frozen clothes all day. (Also, lots of Vitamin C to stay healthy and not get sick was huge for us!) 

If you're going to take anything away from this article, take this - as you make your way through Iceland this winter, make sure you check the road conditions each day before you set out at this link and know that "spots of ice" really mean "it's really really icy here", "slippery" means "sheets of ice on the road" and if a road is marked impassable, it absolutely is impassable. Overall, the roads were mostly fine for us and they do a good job of keeping them clear during the winter. 

As the week went on, I realized that if there had been snow many of the places we went would have been inaccessible - trails close right away (the path to the top of Gulfoss, shown below, is only open when there's good weather/no snow) and the hiking was hazardous enough at times without it, so maybe it was a good thing that we had little snow. 

gullfoss-waterfall-in-winter-iceland.jpg
The wind was probably our biggest enemy as we drove across the island (keep reading for rental car vehicle tips below!) especially if we were in wide-open places without our yellow mountains on one side. At times the wind was so intense that we couldn't open our 4x4 Subaru's door - and other times it was almost like you couldn't walk without falling over. And the wind made it incredibly cold. It rained or sleeted for the majority of our time there as well (don't worry, it was way more fun than it sounds!) so packing layers is essential to having a successful Iceland winter trip. We kept extra warm clothes in the back of our car and planned waterfall excursions at the very end of our days so that when we got soaked, we could drive only a few more hours to our Airbnb for the night instead of having to sit in frozen clothes all day. (Also, lots of Vitamin C to stay healthy and not get sick was huge for us!) 

Winter daylight hours

This is the craziest part of our trip to me.

The sun rose at eleven each morning and was gone by about three-thirty or four in the afternoon. If you think about that for a second, you realize how insanely short the winter days are for the Icelandic people - and they didn't understand why anyone else would want to be in Iceland during these winter hours. Almost all of the local people we met asked why we would come to Iceland in the winter. We would laugh and say we wanted an adventure, and they would shake their heads, amused.

It was a surreal experience, for sure. We would usually be on the road by eight or nine in the morning and it would still be dark like the middle of the night. The hour before sunrise or sunset wasn't pitch black - it was like the most vivid blue hour I've ever seen, starting out very, very dark, and gradually getting lighter until the sun itself would be up. The first few days our bodies had a hard time adjusting to the time because we couldn't understand it was late morning when the sun rose or not feel like it was time for bed by four in the afternoon when the sun set. Reykjavik of course was the easiest place to fill our evenings, as there's so much more to do and so much more to see, but the smaller towns were harder. If we were in a tiny town (or not a town at all) overnight, by six or seven pm we would try and make the most of our nights by finding a place for dinner or a pub or spending time planning the next day in our warm Airbnbs' across the country.

We probably only saw the sun itself only once or twice in our week in Iceland - even when the sun is up in the winter (in our experience) it was still incredibly overcast and the sky seemed dark. Below is a portrait of Trina that I took at ten am at the Glacier Lagoon - as you can see, it's gradually getting lighter but everything is very blue and still pretty dark as sunrise would come in an hour at eleven. 

And, as much as I wish we would have seen the Northern Lights, we didn't - so if you go and you see them, I want to hear everything. 

-glacier-lagoon-winter-sunrise-iceland

Planning 

The difference in the need for planning visiting Iceland in the summer versus Iceland in the winter was more extreme than I imagined. A huge pro to visiting Iceland in the winter is that everything (food, gas, lodging) is a little bit cheaper than the prime summer months. This was a win in our book. That being said, the below things are essential to planning your winter trip.

Things to note about the difference between summer and winter in Iceland - so many grocery stores, cafés, restaurants and hotels in the smaller towns along the Ring Road are closed for the entire winter season due to lack of tourism (except for crazy people like us!) This isn't the case in Reykjavik, of course - I'm talking about smaller towns like Selfoss and Hof where many tourists don't usually wander in winter months. It should be obvious that you should have your accommodations booked for a winter trip before you start your Ring Road driving, as many of the hotels and Airbnbs may or may not be open or hosting at that time - but I was surprised at the number of grocery stores and cafés that were closed for the winter season (and of course Google will tell you that they are open, so remember that as you travel). I'm typically pretty laid-back when it comes to travel anyways, so maybe it was also more extreme for me having to plan out where or what we would eat for each meal on each day of our December trip where as in the summer I could more so decide the day-of what the plan would be. We made sure to stock up on groceries to cover meals for a few days at one of Reykjavik's cheapest grocery stores, Bonus, before hitting the road. As the island gets more desolate on the east side, it's almost important to make sure you have an emergency stash of groceries and bottled water in your car as you drive just in case you were to get stranded somewhere and/or (in a much less extreme case) couldn't find dinner or groceries close to your Airbnb that night. If you're really in a pinch, most of the gas stations in Iceland sell basic sandwiches inside, but they are very expensive compared to anywhere else you might find food. And absolutely fill up with gas whenever you can - some parts of the island don't have gas stations and you need to plan accordingly! 

Depending on what the weather forecast and what your plans are, choose your rental vehicle and insurance wisely. I'm never one to go all out on car insurance when I'm renting (in fact I always turn it down since my own car insurance covers rental cars) but when in Iceland this past winter, we decided to rent a 4x4 Subaru that would help us get around the island in case of bad storms and bad roads (looking back, I wouldn't say four wheel drive is always necessary, as much as car rental companies will push it on you. But, because the weather is so unpredictable, I'm glad we had it) and we choose to add on all the necessary insurance. Yes, it was painful to pay out that much for the insurance, but I read so many travel blogs before getting to KEF that told warning stories of rental cars getting damaged on the south coast by ash and sand (yes, that's a real thing!) and so we added on Budget's Ash and Sand Protection as well as the daily insurance fee. That crazy wind we talked about above? I'm so grateful that we had a 4x4 vehicle to battle the winds, even without the snow we were expecting. The peace of mind was worth it (and that's not something I say lightly, because I hate paying for insurance I don't need!) 

Finally, I would make sure that you have some kind of data plan that covers you while you're in Iceland in case of emergencies. I used my iPhone to navigate us around Iceland (even though it's really just one big road, let's be real) and because I'm with Sprint, they don't ever charge me extra for using my data plan overseas (which is exactly why I have Sprint). My service was great for the most part, which was also great for peace of mind in case we got stuck somewhere far away from anywhere else. If you're really trying to save data while you're there, you can set your Google Maps to navigate to where you want to go while you're on wifi at your Airbnb or hotel, and then put it in Airplane mode and your GPS will keep moving without using additional data to get you to where you need to be. 

Whatever you do, make sure you download the 112 Iceland Emergency App - an incredible safety tool that allows you to check-in with your location if weather suddenly becomes impassable or if you're feeling unsafe before calling in for help, and then if you do find yourself in an emergency, the app sends a text to an emergency response station with your GPS location. I only had to use this once on our trip, when I was driving by myself from Reykjavik to Selfoss for the wedding I was photographing early one morning and the weather turned crazy - wind and rain and sleet so strong I could barely see. I checked in with my location a few times just in case I had to call for help later, and thankfully the winds relented and I made it to my destination with no problems. 

photographer-visit-iceland-in-winter.jpg
-visit-iceland-in-winter
6-winter-mountains-iceland-visit

Wherever you go, I can say confidently that you'll find fairy magic in Iceland. North Iceland is desolate, beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the country - the beauty here is unmatched and still feels untouched. South Iceland will show you Vik's stunning black sand beaches and tiny colorful coastal towns that seem like fairytales with incredible seafood. If you go far enough east, you'll start seeing glaciers and signs for reindeers - like a magical Christmas wonderland with tiny fishing towns that don't seem real. Reykjavik in the west has some of the best lobster soup and adorable coffee shops (Reykjavik Roasters for the win!) that you can curl up in to stay warm and take a break from the wintry outdoors. You really can't go wrong. 

Hopefully all of this information has been both informative and exciting to read as you plan your winter Iceland trip. I'm so excited for you and would love to hear some of your own adventures in the comments below - adventure calls! 

-why-visit-skogafoss-waterfall-in-winter

If you wanted to take a look at the wedding I photographed while we were in Iceland last winter on this trip, check out Christian and Teddy's Winter Iceland wedding here! Cheers! 

Why I Love Wedding Toasts So Much

Toasts at Nashville wedding receptions are always one of my favorite parts of the day, and let me tell you why. It's the time of the night where all the stress has evaporated - you're with your people, you finally got to sit down, maybe you got dessert and it finally hits you that you're actually married, as of today.

And then your favorite people in the world are handed a microphone and they talk about you. The good, the bad, maybe childhood stories or college years of drama, or maybe it's just about what you mean to them and how you've impacted them for the better. I love hearing more about the relationship between the couple and their best friends, their parents, their families, and seeing them well up with laughter or sob with tears as their loved ones toast them on their wedding night is an incredible thing to document.

nashville-wedding-photographer

So of course, the above photo (one of my favorite images of 2016) deserves a whole write-up of its own when it comes to talking about why I love wedding toasts! This shot was taken at Meredith and Andrew's wedding reception at one of my favorite local wedding venues (CJ's Off the Square in Franklin, TN) and it's beautiful to me because the emotion is so rich and so deep. 

What makes me love this wedding photo as much as I do? It's the energy (and the little ring bearer in the corner who looks exhausted from the day with his striped straw!) Laughter from all three, the handing-off of the microphone from one to the other, the way the bride is at ease but also not sure what's going to be said next (we've all been there).

I took this image and it quickly became one of my favorite photographs from all of my weddings last year, because I believe it really tells a story. You look at this photograph and you can feel what they're feeling, you can feel what that moment was like, for a second. Toasts are an incredibly moment to be a part of - and that's why I love being a wedding photographer. 


Some of my other favorite real, emotion-filled moments happened during Madilyn and Benj's wedding in the mountains of North Carolina. Check it out here!