Nashville’s documentary wedding photographer
and headshot studio.

Hendersonville wedding venues | Historic Rock Castle

I had a lovely time photographing a beautiful and fairly intimate wedding at Historic Rock Castle and wanted to give them a shout out. The historic limestone house built in 1786 by settler, Daniel Smith, is the oldest house in Middle Tennessee, and housed his descendents for 200 years. Thanks to the efforts of grounds staff and local historians, the house has been restored to its original condition. The house backs up to beautiful Old Hickory Lake and sits on many lush green acres, surrounded by a quiet Hendersonville residential area. Nowadays, the historic lakeside property is used for group tours, community events, and has become one of the most popular Hendersonville wedding venues.

Hendersonville wedding venues
Historic Rock Castle
Historic Rock Castle

 

The Rock Castle house boasts a beautiful lush garden.

Rock Castle garden

With this lovely lake as a canvas, how could you go wrong? This ceremony was under a tent because of slight drizzle that day.

Hendersonville wedding venues

Very reminiscent of an old British village pub setting, inside the house.

Rock Castle Hendersonville

Because of the historic value of the house itself, there is limited access, but there is access to the gift shop for changing quarters, rest rooms, and other amenities that couples and their guests need. Ceremonies can be in front of the house, the lake, or anywhere on the grounds. There is a large covered pavilion for receptions. We put it to the test, as there was light rain all evening, no one got wet, and the catering was safe from the elements.

It’s a simple, but elegant facility, keep in mind it’s seasonal. But with the lovely gardens, historic house, and lake as a canvas, as well as some bank canvas, it’s easy to see why Rock Castle is one of the most popular Hendersonville wedding venues.

 

Why no second photographer?

I have plenty of wedding photographer friends from all over the world, all who are very different from the other. Just as I am different from other local Nashville wedding photographers I am friends with. Second shooters are a common wedding blog topic and a common selling point of many wedding photographers. There are some wonderful world class teams out there. There are also a slew of very mediocre or horrid ones too. I also know some world renowned wedding photographers and have been mentored by them, who document weddings solo. Why no second photographer for some?

Wedding blogs and other photographers create the dogma –

Personally, I admire any skilled wedding photographer who develops their system, whether solo or with a second shooter. I don’t care HOW they work. I also don’t care what camera they use, the camera is a tool. There’s no direct correlation to the quality of wedding photographer / storyteller they are, because of using or not using a second photographer. Of course a husband and wife team will tell you that a married team is what you need because they understand love. Who could blame them? Use what you can use. Easter dresses and suits, Sunday school, white picket fences, puppies, and happy families drinking hot cider with a cinnamon sprig around a fire. Yeah, that’s all a fine image, but once again, there’s no correlation with that and photographer(s) qualifications, or the quality of the finished product.

Let’s not forget the random wedding blogger. Brides and engaged couples listen to them, and they have great influence as they’re seen as a neutral party. Yet, most of them have probably never set foot at a wedding as a professional service provider. One piece of advice may translate well for some, not for others. This is where I would challenge prospective clients to think for themselves and use logical reasoning.

As for me, I have built my system over the years based on my experiences, most effective and efficient means of working, and style of storytelling. Others have built theirs differently, which is fine. This is not to discourage or disrespect anyone who works differently, only to put a different viewpoint in perspective. I work solo, with an off-camera lighting assistant. I value that type of assisting more than I would a second shooter, which for me would add redundancy, clash of storytelling style, and extra intrusion. Why no second photographer for me? I’ve photographed over 200 weddings and I’ve never used one. I rely on my sense of observation and fluid motion to document real human emotion, in both the critical moments and open reception, even the outtakes in between.

Being a documentary wedding photographer, my aim is to be very non-intrusive and deliver a consistent signature style of work, that flows together as a powerful story. My lighting assistant works with me to ensure no waiting for setup, and we position ourselves to get the lighting characteristic I want. One really good wedding photographer is more than capable of telling a story effectively. It’s just a system that has worked for me. Obviously, a couple who wants more portraiture than I do wouldn’t choose me to begin with, if they paid attention to the portfolios vs. what they want.

Bottom line- I could TELL you anything, none of it should matter. If I show a prospective couple a sample wedding album, or online gallery, that is what should be the decision maker for them. Not the fact that I use a second shooter, etc. If you like how a photographer’s work flows, how their storytelling is, and personality, there’s no reason to want it differently because a random blogger says so, right? If a second shooter is part of another photographer’s system, that’s great. The question should always be, WHO is that photographer, primary or second?

I’ve seen this countless times on community groups. “Oh, my second shooter backed out, I need a second shooter for this weekend, anyone interested”? At that point, they’re hiring someone potentially unknown, at the last minute to save face with the couple, basically heaping a second shooter in. What value can that have? Better them than me.

A wedding photographer should be hired for signature style and qualifications, not bragging rights or showmanship. I’m an author. I didn’t have a second writer. Movies don’t have two directors. I remember attending a wedding as a guest. The second shooter was in the back of the chapel doing almost nothing. The primary ONLY noticed the couple. I sat there and saw an adorable toddler age boy protruding in the aisleway snacking on crackers. Neither of those two captured that. Tunnel vision. Sure, it was a portrait heavy event, and they split that up, but nothing I saw made me question my own approach, though theirs is different. It’s about where you end up, not how you got there.

What is documentary / photojournalist wedding photography?

Different styles of wedding photography are not usually considered or used as a basis of comparison when engaged couples are shopping for the right wedding photographer. However, they should be, so the couple gets the style of wedding photography and experience on their day that they desire. I cannot tell any couple what they should like or want, but I can definitely answer, in its correct context, What is documentary / photojournalist wedding photography? My approach is pure documentary / photojournalist for the whole entire event, except for 15-20 minutes of group portraits. That’s the only time I direct or orchestrate. When described like that, in simple terms, no matter how some try to complicate things, it comes back to this.

bridal prep

 

Baseline / critical moments –

I know timelines and always make sure I document the baseline moments, of course. As well as some location details. To my knowledge, any professional wedding photographer of any style would do that.

documentary wedding photographer

What about group portraits?

Everyone will work slightly differently there. I send couples a list (up to 8 combinations and 15-20 minutes) so they can tell me their desired portrait combinations. Though most of my couples don’t want want to stand and pose for two hours, getting some of those is important to most people. This presents accidentally forgetting something important.

The whole reason why a couple would hire me is because they value the magic in carefully documented candid moments, genuinely freezing human emotion in time. If a couple wants large amounts of portrait work and some candids mixed in, that would indicate they have a different preference, defeating the purpose of hiring a documentary photographer. I do it this way so I have ample creative freedom to do what I do best, and keep my style of storytelling consistent. Part of the draw is a non-intrusive experience and the couple being able to enjoy their event with minimal intrusion.

Terian Farms wedding ceremony

Besides the portrait time, I follow the event, and watch for the sweetest, most energetic moments that happen on their own. Whether it’s during a baseline moment, or open reception time, if you watch for it, there are all kinds of expressions and emotions to document. Most people are more themselves and come out of their shell when they are in their natural element. One I do not disturb. From the getting ready time, critical moments, dance floor, open bar, the entire event (except portraits), I’m blending in with the guests and working as a fly on the wall. (Unless the couple needs me for anything specific).

What is documentary / photojournalist wedding photography? It’s a simple approach that requires some going against the grain. But results are timeless and packed with emotional storytelling.

Abandoned Nashville book

Yes! The time has come, not only am I a published author in my second year of the adventure, with my abandoned series books. But my new Abandoned Nashville book is now on sale at booksellers (regional availability) and online / Amazon. The irony is that the city has endured so much gentrification over the past several years, almost all the former abandoned locations in the book are now leveled. Nothing, or almost nothing like that still stands in Nashville anymore.

Abandoned Nashville book

My adventures in this book were at the huge abandoned Madison Mill, which has been undergoing renovation. Also the former Greer Stadium, demolished. Have you ever wondered what the old Starwood Amphitheater looks like these days? There is all that and more. Documented in the nick of time. Please visit my new author website for updates and more information, sales links, and lists of brick and mortar booksellers who offer my books. I hope you will check out my new Abandoned Nashville book and I appreciate your continued support of my exciting venture!

Saturday night Downtown Nashville proposal | Zach and Abbey

I received a text message from Zach on a Thursday evening, as he had planned an impromptu trip with his hopefully soon to be future wife, Abbey. He had hoped I could document the Saturday night Downtown Nashville proposal he planned to do. I assured Zach I had his back, and it worked out perfectly for that night, weeks in between weddings. He wasted no time getting down to business and wanted to make sure her experience was as memorable as possible. Fortunately, it was all that and more, once we worked out logistics and the rest was up to them.

Saturday night Downtown Nashville proposal
Nashville proposal
Nashville proposal

Part of the service I offer to out of town clients hiring me as their storyteller / documentary photographer is serving as a tour guide of sorts. Helping them find the most fun things to do that only locals know about, so they have a more authentic Nashville experience, restaurants and parking recommendations, etc. I want the couples to enjoy and not stress every unknown detail. I’m truly happy Zach and Abbey had a memorable time here.

 

Nashville proposal
Nashville proposal

Zach and Abbey met in college and have enjoyed social circles for 3 years, but weren’t sure their future was each other! Now they have finalized forever! The love and energy the couple radiated was contagious, even a few bystanders quietly enjoyed their moment! Abbey knew the proposal was coming, but not sure exactly when, where, or how. That’s part of the beauty of these proposal photoshoots. Joy and excitement mixed with the element of surprise. I hope you’ve enjoyed this couple’s story, and photos from their Saturday night Downtown Nashville proposal.

 

Nashville proposal