Wedding Day Disasters and How You Can Avoid Them
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Every bride fears having a wedding day disaster that they can’t fix or recover from, and I can tell you from photographing dozens of weddings a year for the past 9 years, something usually DOES go wrong, but it’s never something you can’t recover from, especially if you have a positive mindset! Here I’m sharing the “disasters” I ran into and how they were solved:

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Dress Wont Zip

Yes, I experienced the dreaded broken zipper. Luckily, it was a bridesmaid and not the bride, but the effect was still devastating. As the girls were getting ready, minutes before we needed to head upstairs to get in place for the ceremony, the maid of honors dress split wide open. We tried safety pins, but unfortunately the dress was a little tight so those didn’t hold. We tried duct tape inside the seam (more on when this DOES work!), but that didn’t hold up either. What on earth did we do?! Some blessed soul had an emergency kit with a needle and thread and we literally sewed the dress together as she was wearing it.

Lesson learned: bring a needle and thread that matches all dress colors!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Botched Boutineers

Real talk here: boutineers are such a pain in the butt. Of course, they add elegance to the suits, match the florals that the rest of the party is carrying, but attaching them is always, ALWAYS a hassle. I’ve been to so many weddings where the groomsmen have no idea how to attach a flower to their suit with a single solitary pin without making themselves object to bloody torture. I’ve learned how to attach boutineers with my eyes closed, so I’m happy to help. Most times though, the stems are wrapped so tight, or there is wire under all that floral tape, so that the inserted pins bend, break, or stick whoever is trying to wrangle them. The solution? Ideally, talk to your florist about adding a fastener as they make/wrap the stems. Magnets don’t work, so don’t even attempt that. If you’re in need of a quick fix, have an extra box of pins handy and use two per boutineer!

Lesson learned: expect the boutineer pins to break and bring extra!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

No One’s Calling Shotgun

Little details get overlooked all the time, but when your bridal party is standing in a parking lot wondering what to do next won’t seem like such a little detail. One wedding I photographed had the girls traveling from the getting ready location to a picture spot pre-ceremony. While the bridesmaids had rides to the ceremony with family members all squared away, this quick detour left them all stranded. My second shooter and I were able to pile them all into our cars and get to the location and then back to the hotel where their rides to the ceremony could pick them up at a certain time.

Lesson learned: hire a nice photographer, and ask everyone in your bridal party to arrange a ride for themselves!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Dirty Dress

Every bride worries about looking perfect all day long, and I usually tell my brides to anticipate some kind of dirt, stain, or mark on their dress. It’s okay. It’s going to happen. One time I had a bride DRAG her dress through the muddy ground for some portraits outside after the ceremony. When you’re in the moment, it can be tempting to just book it to the next thing, I totally understand that! This bride was an amazing sport to not be deterred by the less than idea conditions outside, but when it was time to be announced in for the reception, the dress had to be cleaned up and fast. I had some baby wipes in my camera bag from a cake smash session earlier in the week, and would you know, those wipes did wonders on getting the dirt out from the delicate lace and tulle, and covering large areas at a time for a quick clean up.

Lesson learned: bunch your dress around your knees when walking outside, and grab a pack of shout wipes for your emergency bag!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Bustle Hassle

I love a great wedding dress train - its so classic and elegant. It’s important, though, to give it the time and attention it deserves as a major part of your wedding day wardrobe. Trains are like a member of your bridal party: they need their own space in the car, their own designated time to get ready, their own coordinator to be put in a certain place during the ceremony, and their own plan for dealing with disaster! I’m talking bustles here. Whether you do a ribbon tying method, buttons, or snaps, make sure that the final length of your gown BUSTLED is correct for the shoes your going to wear at your RECEPTION. I had several brides rip their bustles right out, and their dress material, because their dress was too long after it had been bustled and they took off their heels. What did we do? It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but duct tape inside the dress works well to keep ripped apart bustles in place. I’ve also tied ripped material together for brides so the damage would travel further up the dress.

Lesson learned: take your reception flats along to the seamstress putting in your bustle and make sure it’s high enough and secure! Also take someone in your family or bridal party along to learn how to work the bustle system put in your dress!

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Bouquet to No One

There’s nothing more awkward that chucking you bouquet behind you to all the single ladies - and then NO ONE wants to catch it and it just flops on the floor. Yep it’s happened so many times. Unless your bridal party is full of gals and guys that are single, you may seriously want to reconsider this tradition. More and more brides are opting NOT to do the bouquet toss because it seems a little mean-spirited to parade your single friends around, and it usually ends up awkward.

Lesson Learned: Unless you have bridesmaids that are single and PUMPED for the bouquet toss, you may want to toss the toss.

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

No Wifi - So What?

I’m sure you know that DJ’s don’t cart around CD’s and records anymore to their gigs, but did you know that a lot of them rely on STREAMING music into your event? That means wifi! I’ve been to a few weddings and heard HORROR stories from people as well where the DJ didn’t have wifi and have nothing to play for the wedding, or was missing key songs because they didn’t have them in their library! What did they do? At one wedding, a bridesmaid ended up hooking up her phone to the DJ right through an aux cord and played the needed songs as she treated from youtube with her cellular data.

Lesson learned: ask your DJ if they need wifi capability in your vendor meetings, and ask your venue if they have it!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Rain on Your Wedding Day

It might not be the most appropriate song to play at your reception, but rain on your wedding day ISN’T the disaster that some make it out to be. I’ve photographed a few weddings in the rain, and if the forecast is calling for showers a week out, I have had that conversation with my brides and made a contingency plan. When the location and aesthetic is right, we have used covered bridges, we have also used umbrellas for some bridal party shots if there are enough to go around! Finding a covered staircase or entryway is also a great option for group portraits in the rain. Some of the most beautiful and dramatic bride and groom portraits can be taken in the rain when the lighting is dark outside, so don’t get too sad about some drizzle!

Lesson learned: check the forecast, plan alternate photo locations that are covered, buy umbrellas for everyone, and trust your photographer!

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May the Fourth Star Wars Wedding with a Sheetz Run
Bridal party in front of sheetz for a wedding day sheetz run

You may have seen other May the Fourth Star Wars Themed Weddings, you may have even snuck a Sheetz Run into your wedding day plans, but you haven’t seen anything like this one! Normally, light sabers and Mac n’ cheese bites don’t necessarily go together, and they certainly aren’t a normal wedding day accessory, but Sam and JJ were unapologetically themselves this past Star Wars weekend when they infused light sabers with their love of apps and Galliker’s tea and pulled off a delightfully unique start to their forever!

We hit 4 different towns in 10 hours, and the force was definitely with us to get everything done and running smoothly all day! The day started in the Hilton Garden Inn where the girls got ready, then we ended up in Homer City for the ceremony! The beautiful church with stunning stained glass was a perfect place for the I-do’s (and the “I love you…. I know’s”). After that, we were off to Blairsville to the Pine Ridge park for some epic light saber battles and some snuggling under the flowering dogwoods.

Then of course the Sheetz run! These Sheetz Freaks (and their entire bridal party!) were great sports to stop at the Blairsville store off of route 22 and grab some one-of-a-kind wedding photos! We snuggled up by the Soda Cave, kissed by the MTO touch screens, and celebrated a surprise double order of Mac-n-cheese bites by the smoothiez signs outside! Once these freakz got their fill, we were off to Portage for their Star Wars themed reception! There, guests enjoyed tasteful black and gold decor (shoutout, Pittsburgh Steelers!) and an epic Star Wars themed processional, cake topper, sweetheart table, and photo booth!

Enjoy the highlights, you will, from this perfectly “Martin” day! Sam and JJ, thank you for becoming such great friends and for trusting me to capture such amazing, unique, vibrant personalities!

The Vendor Team:

Gown: Essence of Australia - Tamzen’s Bridal (Carlisle, PA)

Bridesmaid Attire: David’s Bridal

Groomsmen Attire: Jim’s Formal Wear

Rings: Littman’s Jewlers

Hair: Paige Walter

Makeup: Beauty by Bethy Mae

Photography: Jill Gearhart Photography

Videography: Bridge Perspective

DJ: Royal Heir DJ Services

Photo Booth: BOOTH222

Cake: JMP Cake Designs

Caterer: Remini Catering

Florals: Clear Spring High School Agricultural Department

Venue: The Royal Ballroom, Portage

Photo Locations: Pine Ridge Park, Blairsville | Sheetz, Blairsville

Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn, Indiana

 
 
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Indiana Theater and Yellowcreek Senior Shoot | Indiana Area Senior High School Photographer
Indiana Area Senior wearing a denim jacket and sunhat for a senior photo outfit

Senior photos don’t have to be in a studio, against a plain background, and otherwise boring besides your sparkling personality. I am obsessed with finding places that match your personality, your favorite outfits, and showing off the beautiful town where you spent some of your best memories!! If you want senior photos in cool and unusual places, you found the right person! Suffering from senioritis? No worries my friend - this shoot went from inbox to delivered in 5 days so there’s no reason to stress if graduation is right around the corner!

We started our awesome session on the rooftop of the Indiana Theater (it’s ok - I’m allowed!), grabbed some cool urban-grunge shots in the neighboring alley, fire escape, and parking garage, then put our rainboots on and trekked to Yellowcreek! Even though a tree fell over the steep, muddy trail we had to drive down to get close to the parking area, we all agreed that it was worth it to get some gorgeous shots! Changing outfits was easy in my pop up changing tent, and even though it was a little windy, we used that to our advantage with Emerson’s gorgeous, long curls to get some movement in the photos! Hope you enjoy som of my favorite snaps from this seriously gorgeous session!

 
 
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Allegheny County Courthouse Wedding with Pittsburgh Bridges
Wedding couple on the Grand Staircase at the Allegheny County Courthouse

Pittsburgh’s iconic yellow bridges are a background that is timeless year round, a beautiful setting for wedding portraits that look great even if nothing is in bloom. If you pair that with a sweet, small wedding ceremony in the stunning architecture of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Courthouse, you have a timeless and unapologetically Pittsburgh wedding day! I was blessed enough to assist and shoot for a wonderful new friend and mentor Jenna Sasala of Jenna Hidinger Photography, and in this post you’ll find some of the awesome images from our day together!

Allegheny County Courthouse

The Allegheny County Courthouse is a National Landmark, and surprisingly the perfect place for weddings too! The grand staircase shows off the building’s beautiful arches and Romanesque architecture. The staircase is plenty wide to accommodate large bridal parties, and the windows at the top of the stairs allow plenty of beautiful natural light in for perfect portraits! There are lots of spots for post-ceremony portraits as well including wide window sills for sitting, incredible layers of passageways and stone railings to give the appearance of being back in time in a castle far, far away (or Hogwarts, as I liked to imagine!) You can check out this site to learn all the details about booking the courthouse for your ceremony!

Mellon Green Park

Located in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh as just a few minutes walk form the courthouse is Mellon Green Park, a beautiful patch of green tucked amongst Pittsburgh’s most popular buildings downtown like the Omni William Penn Hotel and the US Steel Tower. Weddings inn Pittsburgh don’t just have to be all architecture and urban vibes - this sweet little park has plenty of flowers, trees, benches, and a beautiful water feature.

Andy Warhol Bridge

Right beside it’s more popular brother, the Roberto Clemente bridge, the Andy Warhol bridge is the perfect place to get your “yellow bridge” wedding pictures while not getting trampled by PNC Park foot traffic. It’s unique placement, too, allows for some great cityscapes in the background - especially if you are getting married at the Renaissance Hotel (it’s right in the background!) Just a close walk from several parking garages, this is the ideal spot if you want maximum Pittsburgh in your photos with minimum effort.

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Spring Blossoms for Your Senior Session in Indiana PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

If you want your senior photos to truly stand out from the crowd, you need to include an element that makes them unique (besides YOU of course!) and a perfect way to do that is with the gorgeous, flowering trees of spring! Carrie and I had the best time finding the prettiest blooms - and they are only around for about a week or two each year! Luckily for you, in about 2 or 3 weeks these gorgeous trees will be flowering again and you definitely don’t want to miss it!

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Sunset Family Photos | Indiana PA Family Photographer
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

The Drew family has grown up right before my lens, and I am so blessed to call them friends and clients! When I first met them, Max and Alexa were just little tikes, and I swear Kenny and Maria don’t age! This sweet family called me in to photograph their 10 year anniversary, and we had an amazing time playing in the sunshine on their property in Shelocta, just outside of Indiana, PA!

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How to Batch Edit and Delete iPhone Photos
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If you want to clean up your camera roll to prepare for a new phone, or if you get the dreaded “not enough space” message - here’s a short and sweet tutorial on how to batch edit, save, and clear out your iPhone’s camera roll using your mac (sorry Android friends, you’re not invited to this party!)

First a little humor: I love my husband dearly - but he has a severe case of butterfingers when it comes to his phone. A few weeks ago, he dropped and smashed his phone (a loaner phone from a friend because he dropped and smashed his previous one…), so we took it to a local place to be fixed. I think he had it for about two days, when he purchased a screen protector (because, track record) and dropped it as he was pulling it out of his pocket to apply the glass. Smashed. Good news for me though - I always get the new ones when he smashes his to smithereens!

How To:

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Mac and use the spotlight search (magnifying glass at the top right of your screen) to find “Image Capture). You can also find this via your Applications folder.

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2. Now you can see all photos and videos on your camera roll. You can click to highlight one, and then shift+click the last photo in the batch if you want to move or delete all photos between the two you clicked on. (*hint: once they are all highlighted, you can command + click to “unselect” photos.)

3. To delete the photos you highlighted, click the delete symbol on the bottom left (pictured below)

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4. To save the photos you highlighted, click on the drop-down menu next to “Import to” on the bottom left (pictured above).

5. Create or choose a folder on your computer where you would like the photos to save (pictured below). I chose “other” so I could create a folder wherever I wanted - like on my external hard drive!

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6. Click “Import” and the highlighted images will save in the folder you just chose. Now you can repeat these steps to delete them off your phone!

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Rooftop Sibling Photo Session at the Indiana Theater | Indiana, PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

There’s nothing quite as fun as exploring new places - especially if you have to be daring and reckless to get there - with your sibling! How many of you got in trouble growing up snooping around places together that you shouldn’t have been?! These sisters were not only up for an adventurous photo session in 50mph winds (WHAT were we thinking?!), but they also didn’t bat and eye when I suggested we climb 2 stories onto the roof of the iconic Indiana Theater on the Main Street in town. (

I was luckily enough to develop a friendship with Christine back when we worked together, and her younger sister Alex is just as sweet and has become a friend over the years of their “sister shoots” we’ve all experienced together! Since Alex lives in North Carolina, this sister shoot was even more special because it celebrated the bond these two have that is stronger than all the miles between them!

I can’t give these girl enough credit for sticking through some tough shooting conditions - since we could all only be together that particular day, we made the best of it and got some really cool urban shots! If you’re into industrial (or are just into Christine and Alex!), you’ll definitely love these photos!

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How To Stay Focused and Motivated (or how I do at least!)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Let me preface this with: I do NOT always have my “stuff” together. I am NOT a lifestyle coach, a business coach, or a coach of any kind - just a person, just like you, who has a list of crap to get done every week, distractions to navigate, and lots of people that rely on me. I’ve been told a lot, by a lot of different people, that they admire how “productive” I am - and this is not a humble brag, but more a reminder that perception is reality and even though YOU may not think you had such a great day, people SEE that you are out there crushing it!

It’s my heart to see people achieve a stress free but productive life that so many of us want, because so many of us wrap our value and identity up in what we can achieve and the quality of our free time. Here you will find an honest, clear, and maybe unconventional approach that works for me to set goals (kinda) and to love yourself and what you do regardless of what everyone else is doing.

Do You Set Bad Goals?

I’ve thought a lot about goals all of my life. I’m sure you can relate to this too: in school we hear that we have to set goals, we have to set them in our workplace for sure, we have health goals, project goals, on and on and on. But no one ever teaches us HOW to set goals, and achievable ones at that. The type A, perfectionist personality that’s both my blessing and curse wrestled with the idea of goals for a long time. My education background taught me that goals should be measurable and specific. Cool. But sometimes, the variables are out of your control (like making X amount of money, booking X amount of clients, etc.), and so the process is then out of your control too.

So how can we create measurable goals that we can achieve if the outcome isn’t directly related to our work? Unpopular opinion: I don’t set goals. Because I don’t measure them like I should, and I’m not motivated by broad, long term goals as much as I am short term ones. Don’t get me wrong, long term goals are great and necessary for setting you on the right path toward achieving something, but if you don’t know how to break down the steps to get there, it can be super overwhelming to the point where you want to give up (i.e., the first 6 years of my business!)

A few tactics I like to use are: making a to-do list for the week and NOT a longer period of time like a year or quarter (more on that in the Boundaries section), staying motivated by simply being MY best and not THE best (more on this in the next Section), and giving yourself GRACE upon grace upon grace for being a normal, busy, screw-up sometimes.

What Motivates You?

When I got married and had to live with another type of achiever, I quickly learned about the different types of motivation. I am not a super competitive person, but my husband sure is. We both get super discouraged by comparing ourself to others (hello, Instagram!), but while he is driven to be better than them, I just want to crawl under a table and eat Takis and feel like crap about myself. If you feel like joining me under here, let me tell you a hard lesson I had to learn: it’s OKAY to just do YOUR best. It’s okay to do just ONE thing on your to-do list. It’s okay to just do one thing to propel your business forward in a day, even if that’s just answering your emails or posting on insta. As long as I am taking a step in the right direction, no matter how small, it’s ok. I am internally motivated to be better than I was yesterday, last week, last year. But that doesn’t mean adding more and more things on top of the number of things I did yesterday. A lot of time it’s setting a standard for yourself and just maintaining that, allowing yourself time to dream of your growth potential projects when your to-do is to-done!

Growth Potential Projects are things that answer the “now what? question. Things like innovative ideas, creative projects, networking leads, or just something NEW to try out (and maybe fail at) to push your standard a little higher, in your own time, when you are ready. For me that means my “off-season” (now!) when I don’t have a ton of weddings and the to-do lists are a little shorter! Would you believe me if I said you probably already have a list of growth potential projects? It’s called your Pinterest boards! I’m here to push you to actually DO those pins and not just collect them. When your daily list is done, fill your time with THAT instead of just vegging out. But if you need to relax and veg some times, that’s okay too! Click here for a list of growth potential projects that could benefit a small business owner!

What Kind of Learner Are You?

I am FOR SURE a visual learner. I tell my teams at church that if they want me to remember something, they have to text me because if I only hear it, it’s gone the next day. If you find yourself forgetting things unless you write it down, if you can’t understand how something works unless you see it, if you like actual books over audio books, if you make lists, if you remember faces but not names, you are likely a visual learner. By knowing the type you are (click here for a good quiz to see!), you can set yourself up for success. Having a written out list that I can see and reference helps me stay focused throughout the day, but if you’re an auditory learner, try making voice memos as ideas pop into your head that you can go back and reference when you find you’ve completed at task.

Do You Have Boundaries?

So by now you know that I love lists. And it was WAY too easy to let them take over my life. It took a patient husband and years of just maturing to accept that I don’t HAVE to cross everything off of my list each day. For the past several months, I switched from a daily to-do list to a WEEKLY one and let me tell you, it’s so life giving. It’s so much easier accepting that tasks aren’t crossed off when I have all week to do them. And yes, there are things that have to be transferred to next week’s list sometimes too. I try to be very strict with myself and not do any work after dinner or on the weekends - no emails, no calls, no editing unless i’m way behind. Do tasks and responsibilities pop up over the weekend? For sure. But I store that away in my mind or a quick note on my phone until Monday morning when I dump everything out on an actual paper to-do list for the week that STAYS at my desk. It helps me keep home for relaxing and makes it the sanctuary it’s supposed to be. It also helps with being intentional about spending time with friends and family.

Surround Yourself with Your Support System

One of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself or my business is reaching out to other people in my industry to just BE FRIENDS. It instantly puts things into the CORRECT perspective when you can be friends with these PEOPLE and not be jealous of their BUSINESS. Some of my very best friends are my direct competition, and I honestly want to celebrate their successes with them because I care about THEM. There is plenty of business in this world to go around, and as long as you compete with YOU to be better than you were in the past, you are winning.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to meet up and play around with one of my dear photographer friends Kate of Opal and Jaye Photography. She has been such a treasure in coaching me in social media strategies and just being a constant encourager and inspiration. We both are obsessed with color, and use that to draw us together and help stand out in a market saturated in light and airy photos. During our afternoon together, were totally losing our minds over NYC’s new museum, The Color Factory. Check out some of the fun highlights of our adventure, shot and edited by Kate!

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Valentine's Wedding at the Rustic Lodge, Indiana PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Besides their love for their Sphynx cats Luka and Loki, Kenny and Christi are completely in love with their best friends - each other. These two knew each other all the way back in elementary school when Christi actually hated Kenny! Luckily, she decided that her opinions at 7 years old my not have been correct, and gave him another shot! I loved getting to know these two over coffee a few months ago, and quickly realized that if you ask Kenny about his cats and he lights up - but not quite as much as he did all. day. long. at his wedding. There’s not a single photo he’s not smiling in - be it that he felt super shy and awkward, or my favorite explanation, that he was totally in love with his bride and having the best day ever!

There were so many sentimental touches at this wedding, and a lot of really sweet tributes to Christi’s late father and brother. Her bridesmaids showered her with touching gifts such a shoe charms with these men’s initials and birthstones so they could “walk her down the aisle”, a beautiful bracelet featuring a portrait of her brother, cameos of her brother and father on her bouquet, and her brothers watch, which she presented to Kenny as a gift for the morning of the wedding! (I had strict instructions that the only stipulation with the “watch shot” was that Kenny take off his Livestrong bracelet for the photo, and I didn’t even have to ask him! Already learning that a happy wife = a happy life!).

The rose and burgundy touches and chocolate kisses favors at the tables gave this sweet wedding a Valentine’s vibe without being over the top. White fitted chair covers rented from White Lace totally transformed the Rustic Lodge. I had my wedding there too almost 7 years ago and was shocked at the change these seat covers made! I also had serious envy of her blush pink Moraliee by Madeline Gardner gown and totally would have picked the exact same one if I could get married all over again!! Christi also did her own stunning wedding makeup and hair and it was absolutely perfect! She shared with me that she honed her skills watching YouTube videos and practicing on her mom!

I hope you enjoy all of my favorite highlights from this sweet day!

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