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June 01, 2012

Charity & Andrew

Helen, Georgia
Charity and Andrew are two of our favorite clients and we have a little history. It started with a fabulous engagement session in Savannah in April of 2011. Dana Hornbeck, her husband Greg, my wife Barbara and I met them before we shot the engagement session at our hotel we all immediately fell in love the two of them. A month later, Charity met Barbara and I at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, in May of 2011, and we had another fantastic session, this time a bridal session; Charity's wedding gown took our breath away, but her green crinoline stole the show and brought a huge smile to our faces. During the bridal session, we had the pleasure of meeting her mother Phyllis and her friend, and maid of honor, Ashley. We were so impressed with Charity's beauty and poise and it was a real pleasure spending time with Phyllis and Ashley.
On June 4th, 2011, Charity and Andrew were married at the Holiness Baptist Church in Wray, Georgia and we got a chance to meet their families and their friends; as expected, we loved them too - what a great community of loving and caring families. Everyone was so gracious to Dana and I and treated us like we were a part of the family.

In March of this year, we returned to Wray and photographed the wedding of Jason and Courtney, mutual friends of Charity and Andrew, and it felt like a homecoming - another great experience and it was great seeing a lot of our 'old friends' and enjoying their company once again.
While photographing Jason and Courtney's wedding, Charity spoke with Dana about their Cherish the Dress session; we don't call these session 'Trash the Dress' sessions. With the gears turning in our heads, when Dana and I talked a few weeks back, she mentioned the upcoming balloon race in Helen; something I have been trying to photograph for years. Lightblubs lit up and we called Charity to see if they might be interested in coming up to Helen and doing their Cherish the Dress session during the Helen to the Atlantic annual balloon race. Charity and Andrew loved the idea and commenced to planning and coordinating our shoot. Her and Andrew came up to north Georgia for a short vacation and we met on May 31, 2012 in Helen at 6:00 AM at the City Hall parking lot overlooking the large field next to the Helendorf Hotel; the Helendorf Hotel is the official race headquarters.
I have to confess nearly complete ignorance about the subtleties of hot air ballooning. The only time I had ever ridden in a hot air balloon was in 1977 while attending parachute training in Belgium. It was uneventful until they opened the gondola door and said "...at your leisure, you may jump when you are so inclined, we are in no hurry..." - I have to confess, I was never fond of parachuting, it was a requirement if one were to remain an active member of a ranger unit, so one does what one must.
As a spectator, hot air ballooning is a beautiful, lazy and inspiring endeavor; suffice to say, each aspect I find most appealing at my current juncture in life. The colorful balloons are so majestic as they float overhead, and I as I watch them pass through the sky, they generate such strong feelings of peacefulness and tranquility. The majority of the balloons are the familiar spherically shaped balloons, as shown above, but there exist more exotic varieties, see below. And let's not forget that there are sounds, wonderful swooshing sounds as the large propane heaters suspended below the balloons make as they create the updrafts of hot air that compel these inflated giants to rise into the atmosphere. Perhaps my most favorite part of ballooning are the flames from those propane heaters as they mimic the deep and lingering breath of some unseen dragon. The magnificent flames rise and dissipate into the innards of the balloons; if you look closely enough you can witness the gentle billowing of the silk distorting and reporting the early morning sun in some of our images.

We received a thorough education from the friendly flyers who were kind enough to share their love of hot air ballooning. The kindness that we were shown by several of the balloon crews and owners was nothing short of extraordinary. One crew invited Charity and Andrew to board the balloon's basket after they graciously allowed the handsome couple to go inside the balloon as it was being inflated with a large and powerful fan while on the ground. To improve further on their generosity, they insisted Charity and Andrew climb inside the basket and be photographed while the propane supplied flames brought the balloon to its fully inflated state. After Charity and Andrew exited, they allowed me to mount the basket and photograph the flames rising into the balloon from this better vantage point, truly an amazing experience.
Another owner actually ascended with our attractive couple aboard about a hundred feet in the air while tethered to the ground. Charity and Andrew had the largest smiles I have ever seen when they exited the balloon and the zebra head shaped balloon, known as 'Mr. Z' is so photogenic and the crew could not have been any nicer. Charity and Andrew were awarded metal pins with a likeness of the famous 'Mr. Z' when both feet were firmly on the ground to help them remember their experience.
All in all, it was a magical and wonderful day; I felt nine years old again, I have not been so excited and enthusiastic for many years. I have a tendency for overuse of adjectives, perhaps you have noticed, but, in all truth, there are not enough adjectives in the English language to adequately describe the experiences of the day. What a glorious experience to arrive before the sun rise, spend quality time with Andrew and Charity, such a great couple, experience the beauty of the balloons inflating and taking flight and then to finish the shoot a little after 9 AM; it reminded me of that old US Army commercial where the narrator proclaims, "We do more before 9 AM than most people do all day." So true, and what I wouldn't give to have the opportunity to do it again and soon.
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