Today we're going to branch out a bit from the one-tank trips I usually blog about and instead head to northwest Alabama to Dismals Canyon.
From the Dismals Canyon website:
"Intentionally private, Dismals Canyon - in keeping with its pristine surroundings - offers a quiet and unspoiled oasis in Alabama's last secret hiding place. A secluded wilderness filled with natural phenomena tucked deep within the foothills of hte Appalachian Mountains."
"Dismals Canyon is an 85 acre, privately owned and operated, natural conservatory" outside of Phil Campbell, Alabama. It was designated a "National Natural Landmark" in 1975 by the National Natural Landmarks Program. Dismals Canyon gained this designation due to the results of its geological history. "Once a primeval swamp, this area was lifted upward during the geological events of the late Paleozoic era. The draining waters helped carve the canyon and gorge system punctuated throughout by dozens of sandstone-sheltered grottoes, two waterfalls, six natural land bridges, and giant mossy boulders left strewn about by ancient earthquakes."
After paying our entrance fee, our group proceeded through the Country Store, and down several stories of steps, past the swimming hole, to the canyon floor. The trail markers aren’t always very noticeable, so be sure to grab a trail map before you make your descent to the canyon floor if you want to be able to keep up with where you are. You don’t have to worry about getting lost on this trail as it just makes a 1.5 mile loop following “Dismals Branch,” a winding stream that traverses the canyon floor, but it's nice to have a point of reference to where you are.
*Note* When you arrive and park, make sure your group makes use of the restrooms next to the parking lot as these are the only facilities on-site. (The restrooms also have showers where you can change and get cleaned up if you choose to do so.)
Our group consisted of 4 adults and 5 children and ranged in age from 70 down to 4 years old. We were all able to squeeze through every crevasse, climb every boulder, and ford every stream. The entire walk took us about 2.5 hours as we took every available side trail and stopped to let the kids splash in Dismals Branch several times. As mom to the 4-year-old, there were definitely a few areas that I was VERY nervous letting him cross or climb, but he made it with a little help from the rest of us.
Be sure to check out all of the side trails so you don’t miss the labyrinths of caverns and grottos formed by the HUGE boulders and bluffs. Exploring the side trails was the kid’s favorite parts of the adventure. They even talked all of the grownups into climbing to the top of Secret Falls to take their picture - this was definitely the steepest thing we did all day, but it’s not a part of the main trail, so attempt at your discretion.
A few things to note:
First, my pictures still don’t do this place justice! It was absolutely beautiful. My family will definitely return - but with more water next time.
Second, I didn’t take pictures of everything, because there were times when I needed both my hands just to traverse the terrain. In those instances, my camera got swung around behind me and I just concentrated on getting from point A to point B.
Third, we all finished the day with soaking wet shoes due to washed out stream crossings, and the majority of us had at least 1 scrape or bruise to tell the tale of our day. When we return, we’ll pack dry shoes for the drive home and bathing suits to change into so we can cool off in the swimming hole after our hike.
**All quoted information can be found on the Dismals Canyon website.**
Let me prove it!
Though digital images are what my Pensacola family photography and newborn portrait clients most request, I also make a point to let my clients know about the professional print and canvas products I offer! I do this for 2 reasons:
They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", right?
So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is.
I chose the 2 portraits that had gotten the most love on my Facebook and Instagram accounts from last summer’s Orange Beach family beach photography sessions and had 5×7 size prints made by my Professional Lab of choice (Millers), as well as 4 of the most common stores the average consumer uses for prints – Walmart, Target, CVS, and Shutterfly.
The 2 images below are the ones I chose.
Are you ready to start the comparisons? We’ll start with the portrait of the little girl with the sailboat in the background.
I’ll sit here a minute while the shock wears off.
I have to admit I even I was surprised at the extreme difference in some of these pictures. I knew they would be off, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad!
Let’s break it down –
Here’s a close up of the images laid one on top of the other on a white piece of card stock. This let’s you get a really good look at the color differences in the sky!
Ok, on to the second image.
The differences in these prints is MOST noticeable in the skin tone and sky color.
OOO look at all the pretty blues and greens. (There really should be a sarcasm font.)
Ok, obviously, these labs will do if you want snap shots or need 1 hour pictures printed for a school project or something where the quality isn’t that important to you. I’m not saying they don’t have their place in the market. But, if you’ve paid a professional photographer hundreds of dollars to take portraits of your family, why would you then trust a "budget" printing company over a professional printer. The professional labs that I use print on archival quality paper that is made to stand the test of time.
**Disclaimer** Obviously, lab results will vary based on location, machine used, person operating the machine, etc. This post was not made to condemn any discount labs, but to educate clients and other professionals. If you do choose to order from one of these discount printers, please do not select the “color correct” box, your photographer already handled that!
I moved to Pensacola in early 2011, and in the 7 years that I'd resided in this beautiful, gulf coast, Florida town, I had never been able to see the Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show! Don't get me wrong - I've seen the blues fly. Heck, I can watch them from my front yard at times. Plus, I've been to the practices on Pensacola Naval Air Station, and I've watched the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show in November from Fort Pickens. But the summer show, that's a commitment I've never been able to make. And honestly, with 3 kids, hitting Casino Beach at 5 am and spending the entire day in the sun was not something I was ever going to be interested in doing.
So, last August, on the day they opened up booking for the 2018 Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show, I cashed in some IHG Reward Club points and booked my family a room for the weekend at the Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach! I was FINALLY going to see my first Beach Air Show!
And for the next 11 months, I looked forward to that weekend in July like a little kid waiting for Christmas. Side note - don't buy me "stuff", gift me an experience - a state park pass, send me to go see the manatees, offer to watch my kids for a day so I can go on a photography adventure, etc! Ok, back to my story.
I blocked the Air Show weekend off on my schedule 11 months in advance to make sure I didn't book any clients (unless they were willing to meet me on the beach in front of my hotel). Then, the opportunity to take the leap into birth photography - my dream - fell into my lap along with a previous client willing to be my "first" and share her photos... and she was due the exact same day as the Air Show!
As my 4 year old would say, "dun, dun, duunnnnn."
If you've read my previous posts, you already know that I took the leap. I decided that if I missed seeing the air show for one more year, it would be worth it to start this new adventure in my Pensacola photography business. Two weeks before the air show, when my client was 38 weeks along, I went on call for her birth photography. But, as expected, the baby girl wasn't interested in an early arrival. So, I touched base with my birth client Friday morning before heading to Pensacola Beach. All was well with her and baby seemed happy staying put for the time being. I packed up my family and headed to the beach, but I also packed my photography bag with everything I'd need if I got "the call". I warned my kids that if I got "the call" we'd all have to go and my amazing on-call nanny would meet us at the hospital to get them because, though I'd be able to get OFF the island, it was very unlikely that she'd be able to get ON the island Saturday.
Then I crossed my fingers!
And it all worked out! I got to see my very first Blue Angels Air Show on Pensacola Beach, and my client's 9 lb 6 oz baby girl was born 4 days later.
In fact, the entire weekend turned out so well that I've already booked our room for 2019!
Now, if you've read my little story and are still here, I'd like to thank you with some of my favorite pictures that I took during the show.
I am a birth photographer.
You have no idea how exciting that is for me to say!
Becoming a birth photographer has been a part of my "ten year plan" for a couple of years now, but I never thought I'd be able to take the leap this soon. But, thanks to some wonderfully supportive local friends, the amazing doulas of Belly to Cradle, LLC (who have spent the past 18 months pushing me to, "find a way"), and an awesome on-call nanny, my dream has come true 8 years sooner than planned!
I am offering birth photography for those delivering in Pensacola, FL and Foley, AL.
The day that you meet your new baby is unlike any day you've ever had before or will ever have again. Not only is every child different, but every birth is different. This is just one of many reasons that birth photography has called to me. Let me be your eyes. Allow me to capture the details of your labor, delivery, and postpartum so that you can look back on this amazing day knowing that you didn't miss anything.
For me, giving birth was the most monumental, amazing, and terrifying moment of my life. But we women, we're incredible! What our bodies can do - it's incredible!
Pensacola birth photography coverage includes:
Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography offers Birth Photography in northwest Florida that is timeless and unforgettable. Located in Pensacola and also offering maternity, family, and newborn photography, service areas include but are not limited to Perdido Key, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Beach, Navarre, Pace, Milton, and Cantonment in Florida and Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Fairhope, and Daphne in south Alabama. Portrait sessions tend to book up to one month in advance, while maternity, birth, and newborn sessions should be booked early in the second trimester to ensure availability at the time of delivery. Amanda offers a high-end, full service experience including a pre-session consultation, exclusive access to her Maternity and Newborn wardrobe, an online proofing gallery to share and download your included high-resolution digital images, and an array of professional print, canvas, and album options. I can’t wait to hear from you and help create your own beautiful heirloom memories!
Pensacola Photographer | Pensacola Family Photographer | Northwest Florida Photographer | Pensacola Newborn Photographer| Gulf Shores Newborn Photographer |Pensacola Maternity Photographer | Pensacola Newborn Photography | Gulf Shores Maternity Photographer| Pensacola Birth Photographer | Pensacola Birth Photography| Orange Beach Family Photographer
A rainbow baby is one who is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, or infant loss.
This little man's parents hoped, prayed, and tried for 8 years to bring their baby into the world. Together, they suffered through miscarriages and IVF.
But, at the end of the storm waited this perfect little rainbow baby!
I was honored with photographing this wee little man's newborn portrait session at his parent's home in Pensacola when he was 20 days old. He slept like a champ through the entire session.
His mother's only request was the rainbow setup to commemorate the storms that they'd weathered. After that, I focused the remainder of his Premium Newborn Portrait session on showcasing all of the details that are so fleeting in newborns.
Are you in the greater Pensacola, Florida area and are interested in booking a Newborn Portrait Session or one of my Watch Me Grow baby plans to document your baby's first moments? Then head over here for more information!
Hi mama! I see you there, cell phone in hand taking pictures of your child(ren). This post is for you. Even though I still want you to book me for your next Pensacola family portrait session, I want YOU to be able to capture all of those great everyday moments of your kiddos lives!
What follows are 6 of my best, quick tips on how to take better pictures of your kids.
3. Have Them Interact
- with each other, with the environment, something
4. Use a Helper
Your helper is there to get the kids to look at you, wrangle the one who tends to wander, quickly brush stray hairs out of someone's eyes, etc. Their most important job is to be your spotter! Safety is my number one priority and anytime I'm at all worried, I have one (or both) of the parents "spot" their child. The picture below is a perfect example of "what actually happened" vs. the final image.
5. Change Up the Angle
You've gotten down on the ground with your kiddo. Now try taking a picture from above above your child looking down. This is a great way to showcase their face and their youth!
And one last thing. make sure you end up in some of those pictures too!
Spring, Summer, and Fall you can usually find me, an hour before sunset, on a beach somewhere between Pensacola Beach or Navarre, FL and Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, AL. Family portrait sessions on the white sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast are a thing of tradition for many both local and vacationers alike. But there's something else I'd like for you to remember when you're envisioning the perfect family portrait session -
let the children play...
Towards the end of family and child, after I've taken all of the more "traditional" or posed pictures, I often ask my clients to consider allowing their kids to get a little sandy and wet. More times than not I'm met with a look of shock and hesitation.
And, I don't push it. If you're not into it, I get it. Your kids (and you) are in nice (coordinated) outfits that you've spent a lot of time and energy assembling, and here I am asking you to let them not only get super sandy but wet too!
But consider it.
Let your children walk away from this session remembering how much FUN it was! (You might find that it ends up being your favorite part of the session as well.)
These pictures are of my own kids - taken a few weeks ago.
Did I want to load them back in my car all wet and sandy?
Had I even thought to bring towels?
Also no. (mom fail)
But when they asked if they could go splash in the water, did I let them?
Heck YES! Without a moment's hesitation.
And they had a BLAST! They chased waves, and danced, and LAUGHED until long after the sun had already crossed below the horizon. And next time, I'll do it again.
At home that night, my back floorboard was full of sand, and my seats were damp. But, the floor can be vacuumed, the seats were dry by morning, and all 3 kids burst into my office before bed that night wanting to see their pictures!
This session started off unlike any other.
In the 7 years since starting this little business of mine, not once has the husband been the one to hire my services - until Matt. When Matt and his family booked their Orange Beach, AL spring break beach vacation, he asked his condo manager for a photographer referral. Happily for me, I was that referral. After 7 years of ONLY ever being booked by women, it was awesome to hear how excited Matt was, not only about their vacation, but about booking their family portrait session on our lovely gulf beaches! He had actually proposed to Stacy on our these very sands about 6 years ago and this was their first trip back as well as their first family pictures in a couple of years.
As always, I made sure to get pictures of the kids - those are the ones that will definitely end up on the living room wall! But I also think it's super important to get a picture of mom and dad by themselves. As a parent myself, non-selfie pictures of my husband and I are few and far between and I know my clients are in the same boat!
Once all of the more posed pictures are out of the way, I just let everyone explore a bit while I capture the interactions. That's my favorite way to wrap up family sessions - and usually the family's favorite part as well.
The next time you head to the northwest Florida or south Alabama Gulf Coast, don't forget to book your sunset beach portrait session!
Springtime in northwest Florida brings many beautiful things, but my personal favorite has to be the pitcher plant.
This next stop in my "Exploring the Gulf Coast" series" won't take you too far from home at all. The area around Pensacola, FL is home to several bogs that provide the perfect environment for these fascinating, carnivorous plants. The specific species shown throughout this blog (and most commonly found along the northern Gulf Coast) is Sarracenia leucophylla.
"Sarracenia leucophylla has nodding, brownish-red flowers and clusters of erect, hollow, pitcher-like leaves. Each leaf is colored at top with reddish-purple veins on a white background and topped by an erect, roundish, wavy-edged hood.
It is highly variable with respect to its height, with plants in some localities reaching almost 1 meter (3.3 ft) in height, while in others, plants can be diminutive. A seldom seen 30 centimeters (12 in) tall dwarf form is endemic to Garcon Point n Santa Rosa County, Florida."
There are 3 areas of varying accessibility within a 30-45 minute drive where you can see these beautiful flowers blooming in the wild. And, since I KNOW you're not going to pick them or harm them in any way, I'll share those with you.
My personal favorite place to view pitcher plants (and where all of the above pictures were taken) is at the Garcon Point Water Management Area in Milton, FL. To get here, take Hwy 281 (Avalon Blvd) south like you're going to go over the toll bridge. Take the LAST possible left before the toll booth at the sign for the Garcon Point Water Management Area South. Park your car, coat yourself in sunscreen and bug spray, and put on your galoshes. Did I mention that before? Yeah, you're going to need galoshes because you'll be walking through water between 2 & 10 inches deep depending on how recently it's rained. Pitcher plants grow in a bog! My galoshes also give me a (false) sense of security regarding snakes that I really appreciate.
As you continue, the trail will narrow a bit and you'll see blue blazes on some of the trees marking the trail. The ground will change from sandy to dirt/mud and the trees will thin.
Not interested in donning galoshes and hiking through the brush? Then Tarklin Bayou State Park in Pensacola, FL or the Pitcher Plant Loop Trail at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley, AL are two other great places to view pitcher plants.
However you decide to check out these amazing plants, just remember, leave them as they are. "The plant is a listed vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The greatest threat to S. leucophylla, as is the case with most Sarracenia species, is loss of its unique wetland habitat to development along the Gulf Coast, as well as forest succession that was historically kept in check by natural wildfires.
Nestled among the pine and oak woodlands and sand dunes, just 8 miles west down Fort Morgan Rd in Gulf Shores, AL, you’ll find “Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat” – the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. As a gulf coast photographer, this refuge is an oasis of photography opportunities as well as a great way to explore nature.
The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning "safe harbor," very appropriate considering the sanctuary for native flora and fauna the refuge provides.
Many assume that I grew up in the Pensacola, FL area, but actually, I moved to Gulf Shores, AL in 2005 and then to Pensacola, FL in 2011. Growing up, North Alabama was my home. My family has vacationed in Gulf Shores or Pensacola every spring break and summer for as long as I can remember. In fact, for about a decade, my grandparents had a beach house about 14 miles down Fort Morgan Rd. The many family vacations I spent on the Fort Morgan peninsula left me with a strong love of south Baldwin County, AL, the city of Gulf Shores, and, more specifically, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge that I have spent countless hours exploring both as a child an adult.
So for today’s “Exploring the Gulf Coast” one-tank trip blog post, that’s where I’m taking you.
The refuge is open from dawn until dusk each day and is completely free! It boasts a total of 7 miles of trails ranging from the Jeff Friend Trail, a 1-mile, ADA accessible boardwalk loop, to the Pine Beach Trail, a 2-mile one-way sand trail that takes you through a maritime forest, across the land bridge between Gator Lake and Little Lagoon, and finally cuts through the brush and sand dunes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
When I don't have all day (or it's just too hot to take the entire Pine Beach Trail), I like to park half way down Mobile St. at the Gator Lake trail head. This trail is a one-mile one-way trip across a dune ridge from the parking area to the land bridge at Gator Lake and Little Lagoon. This is also the Pine Beach Trail intersection. This is a great, shorter walk where you'll see wildflowers, birds, and lizards. At the end of the trail you could choose to turn around and walk back, you could head South and continue on to the Gulf of Mexico, or you could turn North and take the Pine Beach Trail to it's trail head where you'll be about 1/4 mile down the road from where you left your car.
Whatever trail you decide to embark on, be sure you're well coated in sunscreen and bug spray and that you have plenty of water. Take it from someone who's ended the day red as a tomato - these trails spend a lot of time in full sun! Plan accordingly.
Amanda is the prop buying, location scouting, mom-bun rocking, flip flop wearing, owner/ operator/ and woman behind the camera for Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography.
We proudly provide
Family Photography, Newborn Photography, Maternity photography, and Birth photography
in Pensacola, Cantonment, Perdido Key, Pace, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Crestview, and Pensacola Beach, Florida and Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Elberta, Fairhope, Daphne, and Spanish Fort, Alabama..