Andy + Megan | Fall Wedding at The Barn at Rayne Run, Indiana PA
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Even though this wedding was early in early November, we really got lucky with a gorgeous and vibrant Pennsylvania autumn where the leaves decided to change AFTER Halloween, giving us some of the most stunning and colorful fall wedding portraits!

Andy and Megan were some of the sweetest people I ever had the pleasure of working with! These two met when they were I grade school, and I was thrilled to learn that Andy’s older brother got the very special job of being their chaperone when they were dating!! Andy and Megan also went to college together, and needless to say they are best friends - you can that tell right away when talking to them! In fact, they are so precious together that it was hard for me not to ball behind my camera seeing Andy so emotional over seeing his gorgeous bride for the first time!

The timeline for this one was very unique but made my life sooo much easier as the couple opted for a first look before the evening ceremony! Megan and her mom made really smart decisions about the when and the where for photos, renting photo time at the beautiful Barn at Rayne Run in Marion Center for the first look and family photos before everything got started. Then, the ceremony and reception were at separate locations that fit the size of their crowd and the time of the year! Just wait until you see the vibrant orange trees at the barn!!

These two have a beautiful future ahead of them, all built on a strong foundation of faith. Andy is planning to be a Chaplain in the military, and Megan’s parents both work in the church they were married in! I Megan’s grandpa was also a minister and co-officiated their beautiful ceremony in Clymer!

I hope you love some of the highlights of their day - and as a fun bonus I threw in the snapchat video I took of us as we drove to the ceremony!!

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Driving the bride to her ceremony!

Quinn + Whitney | Windber Country Club Wedding, Johnstown PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Whitney and Quinn had a beautiful fall and winter themed wedding at the Windber Country Club in Salix this past October. With lots of jewels, white pumpkins, pearls, ivory and red, her decor was equal parts Cinderella inspired and charmingly rustic with colorful nods to the upcoming Christmas season! There were also so many special moments with family, including a lovely ceremony officiated by Whitney’s grandpa, and her younger brother Nebraska stole the show on the dance floor all night!

6 years ago I was lucky enough to photograph Whitney for her senior photos where we had lots of fun wading in streams for some unique shots - and she was just as adventurous as a bride! Her 4 inch heels didn’t stop her from walking around the golf course without fear, and when we found a mushy spot, her Prince Charming picked her right up and carried her!

This was also one of the most fun and rowdiest bridal parties I had the pleasure to work with! Everyone was so so kind, and I was happy to be treated as a friend all day. One of the groomsmen even took an interest in photography and was thrilled to practice taking some shots with my backup camera during a few down-time moments during the reception! (most of them were blurry but back-button spot-focus is hard to just pick up!)

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite shots from this fun and unique wedding!

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Setting up a Christmas Tree Siphon | Fleming's Christmas Tree Farm
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There's two schools of thought on Christmas trees: real? or artificial? There's definitely pro's and con's to both (I think my definition of purgatory is fluffing artificial tree branches for eternity), but one of the biggest con's to a live tree (the watering part) can be solved once and for all by reading this awesome "hack." Side note - my husband hates the term "hack". You should text him right now that you're reading about my tree hack. He'll love it. 

Growing up, we always had a live tree. My dad was firmly on #TeamReal, and I remember fondly the sight of his legs sticking out of the tree as he watered it with an empty 2 liter bottle. Brandon and I have carried on this tradition, and how lucky are we that we live in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, Indiana PA?! Every year we head out to Flemings Christmas Tree Farm and pick out the perfect tree. Three years ago, I got a little tired of the 2-liter method, and went searching for a better way to water the tree that didn't end up soaking me or my carefully curated and wrapped Amazon haul. Behold, the tree siphon. Using things you can find at home and at your nearest hardware store, you too can keep your presents nice and dry and stop army crawling under your festive shrubbery.

I hope you enjoy some sweet and fun photos of our annual trip to the tree farm! Keep scrolling for the how-to details on setting up the tree siphon!

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How To Start A Tree Siphon:

Materials:

  • 3-4 feet plastic hose (1" diameter or less),

  • empty gallon jug with the top cut off. The opening should be big enough to put your fist through.

  • 4 cup glass measuring cup or other container to pour water

  • empty box big enough to hold the gallon jug and container using to pour water, wrapped like a present except for the top (left open)

  • wrapping paper

  • sharpie

  • 6" cut straight section of plastic hanger (optional)

  • zip ties (optional)

Method: 

  1. Place your tree in the stand and secure it, but don't loosen the bailing ropes yet.

  2. Keeping track of how much water you put in, fill the base of the tree stand until its 2" or so inches below the brim of the stand.

  3. Place the gallon jug in the wrapped box.

  4. Pour the same amount of water into the gallon jug as you did the tree stand, and draw a line on the jug with a sharpie where the water stops. This will be your water line so you can see what's in the stand at all times.

  5. Place the pouring container in the box beside your jug of water.

  6. If you are using the hanger piece and zip tie, place the hanger piece along the end of the tubing and zip tie, creating a "splint" at the end of the tube. Place this end (or just AN end if not using the hanger) into the tree stand.

  7. With this of the tubing securely in the stand, place your thumb over the other end of the tube

  8. Move your thumb just slightly back from completely covering the tube, and put the tube and your thumb in your mouth and being sucking the air out.

  9. Yep. You read that right. You WILL get water in your mouth. Sorry if that grosses you out, but it's so worth it not to crawl under the tree. Simply spit the water out, covering the tube with your thumb right away each time. You don't want to let air back in the tube.

  10. Once all air bubbles are out of the tube and it's completely filled with water, cover it with your thumb while it's still in your mouth. Look at the end of the tube where you're holding it. There should be no air in it at all. Keeping your thumb on the tube as you suck out the air helps IMMENSELY with this. Trust me.

  11. Put your entire hand (with the tube) into the gallon jug and submerge it.

  12. Let go of the tube and push it to the bottom of the jug.

  13. You may see little particles flowing through the tube. This is a GOOD SIGN!

  14. Slide the wrapped present box with your jug full of water and pouring container under the tree.

  15. Go brush your teeth.

  16. The next day (and after), re-fill the jug to the water line.

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Karate Twins | Senior Session at Yellowcreek Park
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Sometimes even when it’s gross and rainy out, your senior session can still be amazing, like Josh and Jacob’s shoot at Yellowcreek Park in Indiana, PA. Josh and Jacob are twins (obv!), and definitely have similar interests like karate and their love of the outdoors, but when I finally got their names straight and spent a little time with them, I discovered they are definitely very different! Josh was the goofball of the group, hugging trees and sticking his tongue out - and I was excited to grab a few candid shots showing that side! Jacob was very outgoing and enjoyed making small talk - he plans on being a PA someday, and I think his easygoing personality will benefit him greatly! Josh is thinking about going into the military, and his polite and attentive nature with take him far there, too - not to mention the discipline both of them have learned through years of karate! They are both 2nd degree blackbelts in Tang Soo Do karate, and were very knowledgable. It was fun for me to learn about what “correct” form is and to get the timing right for kicks and punches! (Big shout out to my friend Jackie for letting me rent out her studio for these shots!)

Both boys were very friendly and good sports, not letting the cold, drizzly day before we got to the studio get the best of them. So what happens when you schedule a senior session and the weather is just awful? I know it sounds super “basic”, but base it off of your hair. If you have hair that tends to frizz, and you don’t want that in your photos, then it would be best to reschedule. Literally anything else, like mud, snow, drizzle, light, can be overcome with a creative photographer and a willing subject! Downpours can also be fun - but maybe for the extreme among us! I’m okay under my umbrella if you want to get drenched, we can create something awesome!!

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Anniversary Session at PPG Place, Pittsburgh
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You spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your wedding gown, and hopefully that cash means you feel like a million bucks on your big day, so why should the fate of your gown be a dark and lonely one in a garment bag in the back of your closet? It's becoming more and more popular for couple to schedule anniversary sessions where the gown gets to come out of retirement, and a bride gets to feel just as special as she did on her favorite day.

A few of my friends have done this, and if I still had my gown I totally would (more on that HERE), so when Kelly approached me about doing an anniversary session (I was a bridesmaid for her wedding), I was SUPER excited. We had such fun planning a mini wedding day, Kelly calling on some of the best local vendors in the industry to get her ready for her re-debut as a bride! Her gorgeous, soft up-do was done by Hannah at Cameron's Salon, the stunning makeup was courtesy of BethyMae, and of course, a girl's gotta accessorize! Kelly got a custom necklace made by Rosie at Miss Pie Jewelry!

Kelly and I have been close friends for quite some time, and there's not much she loves more than catching up with friends over a cup of coffee from the Commonplace (except shopping, of course. And LuLaRoe). Luckily her hubby also likes coffee, so it was natural that she and Jamison started off the anniversary session with a waltz into this super cool coffeehouse to share a cup in their Mr. and Mrs. mugs!

We intended to cut into their cake from yester-year, but none of us realized that it was akin to a delicious frosted glacier and would take several days to thaw out. There's your pro-tip: a week before your anniversary, set a reminder on your phone to move your cake from the freezer to the fridge. After the frozen cake and the hot coffee (and a few shocked stares from college students cramming for finals), we headed to Pittsburgh to get some magical photos in front of the Christmas tree at PPG Place.

As you can imagine, we got some crazy looks as we ran around both Indiana and Pittsburgh in the 17 degree weather in full wedding regalia, but I think you'll agree the end results are worth it! My awesome friend Jackie from J.jae Photography let me try out her super cool Mag Mod flash modifier, and when you throw in the gentle snowfall with this dreamy backlight, well, you just gotta see for yourself!

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Senior Session at Point State Park, Pittsburgh
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Cas may live in Indiana, PA, but for her senior photo session she really wanted a more urban, big city feel, which is why we ended up at some of the coolest places in Pittsburgh! If you’re a senior, I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend some time talking to your photographer to let them know your interests, talents, hobbies, and vision for your shoot. We were able to incorporate Cas’s love of color, art, coffee, music, and urban life by having a little bit of knowledge about the area and a whole lot of knowledge about what makes her unique!

We started out at Randyland, a wonderfully fun and quirky (and colorful!!) public art spot in the North Side of Pittsburgh. You can check out more about it here!

As a coffee connoisseur, Cas and I thought it would be appropriate to do a few shots after downing a cappuccino in the city’s best coffee spot. Luckily right down the street from Randyland is Commonplace Coffee in the Mexican War Streets area. We did a few shots in front of the town houses that line Buena Vista street before heading to the coffee shop. The owner was very kind to let us capture some snaps while we enjoyed our lattes.

A shoot in Pittsburgh would also not be complete with some of those iconic yellow Pittsburgh bridges, the Point State Park fountain, and the 3 rivers!! We headed to the fountain right at dusk to get some truly breathtaking and twinkly shots! Also, have you ever seen a bassoon at the Point? Well, you’re about to!

I hope you enjoy what was probably my favorite senior sessions ever (the fact that we ate IronBorn Pizza for dinner and Millie’s Ice Cream for dessert didn’t hurt either!)

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Steve + Brianna: Family Farm Wedding in Indiana, PA
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Steve and Brianna tied the knot this past weekend at Brianna’s family’s farm in the beautiful Brush Valley, Pennsylvania, just a few miles down the road from Indiana. I was so excited to photograph this beautiful wedding as soon as I spent a half an hour on the family farm riding around in their ATV a few weeks before the big day. Normally a beef farm, the grounds were transformed to be fit for a sweet and romantic wedding - Brianna’s dad even gave up his hay barn and hung chandeliers that he “might just keep up” now that the festivities are over! One of the best parts of the day, however, was seeing the bride ride in to the ceremony on the hay wagon! The ceremony was held at a small country church right up the road from the family farm - the same church Brianna’s parents were married at!

Steve and Brianna met when they attended Penn State, studying agricultural programs, and now live in the eastern part of the state working on a dairy farm. Steve milks the cows and Brianna manages their nutrition. How heckin’ cute is that?! I had no idea how intense dairy farming was until spending some time with these two - which was a rare occurrence since Steve only gets a few days off a year or something crazy like that! He even took a call during photos to answer questions about feeding and started that call with “Sorry I missed you, I was getting married.” For real?!?! He’s so dedicated!!!

The dairy farmer theme really came full circle for me when I saw all the “dairy” touches at the reception: the “BondsSayIMoo” hashtag, the cheesecake wedding cake, cowtail candy favors, the cute cow decor - but all tastefully done. (Let’s talk about that cheesecake for a minute - this angel of a bride gave me a WHOLE one to take home. Yes, I happily accept tips in cheesecake.) I hope you enjoy some of my favorite shots from the time two dairy farmers said “I Moo.” So cheesy. Yay dairy puns.

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Autumn Family Session at Blue Spruce Park, Indiana PA
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Blue Spruce park is one of a few hidden gems in the Indiana County region that is perfect for family photos. Because of the beautiful (but not too big) lake, mossy areas under beautiful trees, footbridges and creeks, and amazing golden sunlight in the evenings, it’s definitely a favorite! It’s also easy to find and offers a great playground for the kiddos after a successful session!

I have had the pleasure of photographing Kristen and Shane for years now, starting with their amazing wedding in 2012! Now two more sweet faces are a part of the gang! Here’s some of my favorite shots from their family session at Blue Spruce last weekend!

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Wedding Day Time Wasters
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

The thing that contributes most to a stressful wedding day is not having enough TIME!! I’m sure you’ve planned out all of your events and your timeline is perfect (still need timeline advice? Click here for this freebie timeline tool download!), but that doesn’t mean time won’t be wasted on your wedding day! Wasted time can put a lot of pressure on you, your vendors, your bridal party, and your spouse! It can mean that photos get cut short, dancing gets cut short, people have to rush to get ready, or guests have to wait longer, just to name a few. Have I scared you yet? Not my intention!! Your biggest asset will be having a calm, collected attitude, and the ability to roll with anything that comes up definitely means that you will be totally fine! So if knowing event times and details stress you out, don’t worry - share this post with your maid or matron of honor, your mom, or any other trusted friend (but not someone that will turn into a drill sergeant!) to watch out for these minute-hogging pitfalls and to steer clear of them to help keep things moving along.

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Pack Your Bags

If you’re the kind of person that often says “where’s my _____?”, this one is for you! Two nights before your wedding (yes, two), pack a suitcase of ALL the things you need to get ready for your wedding. Things like undergarments, toiletries (perfume, etc), cell phone chargers, special props for photos, hair accessories, gifts, tips and final payments in their own envelopes, and of course your emergency kit items must all be gathered up well in advance. This is also a great time to make sure all of your details that your photographer will want to photograph are in their own separate box or suitcase. Things like your shoes, jewelry, garters, and invite suite are a great place to start!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Transportation

It’s very helpful to figure out ride situations BEFORE your wedding day. I was guilty of this one too, so no judgement here my friend! Make sure each bridal party member has a seat in a vehicle to and from both the ceremony and reception. If you are doing a shuttle for your guests to arrive at your ceremony, give some extra time for your ceremony to be delayed due to late comers catching the last shuttle, or communicate well and early that 2:00 means 2:00, sorry not sorry!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Don’t Wander Off!

This one is especially important for weddings where the ceremony and reception are at the same location: if you want family photos done directly after the ceremony, let the people who are in them know well in advance. I tell my brides to talk about this with their family and bridal party at the rehearsal, that way, they are already in the mind frame of “sticking around” after the ceremony for photos because they saw and rehearsed it the night before. This is probably the BIGGEST time waster of all, and I would never want you to have to give up a photo because a family member has wandered off. Let them know early, and let them know multiple times!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Clean Up Crew

After you finally have Uncle Bob standing in place and the family photos are taken, designate someone that is not in the bridal party or a part of photos to come to clean up the church or ceremony site. Unsuspecting bridesmaids taking time to rip off pew bows and gather up your unity candle will just push the start of photos back. This is also a great point to remember at the END of the night too! Figure out who will gather up all your personal decorations and belongings like your champagne flutes, signs, etc.

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Receiving Line

Don’t get me wrong - I love receiving lines! If giving your guests a hug or a handshake right after you say I do is important to you, then set aside at least a half an hour for it! As soon as the ceremony is over, the photographer’s clock is ticking. Help him or her along by keeping things brief and focused! If you need a restroom break, now’s the time to do it!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Table Visits

After you and your groom eat dinner, it’s normal for you both to visit each table and say a brief hello and thank you to your guests, but it can be really hard to tear yourself away from conversations and keep things moving so that your DJ has enough time to fit all your events in. A good strategy is to eat first and eat relatively quickly, so you can start your visits as your guests are just starting their meal. Another tactic is to play good cop, bad cop with your spouse. If one of you gets wrapped up in a conversation, the other can politely interrupt and say “we should probably get over to the next table.”

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Let me leave you with this bit of advice: if you surround yourself with people you trust, feel comfortable with, and who are experienced, you will float above any small little ripples that come up during your day. Think of your bridal party, your family, and your vendors like your shield - you don’t have to feel, or deal with, any stressors as long as someone is aware they can happen, and you have breathing room in your timeline to let the day play out as it will.

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Creatives and Burn Out: You Are Enough
 Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Hi friend! This is a personal blog post, which I love to do every once and a while. Transparency means so much when getting to know your photog! If you want to see more portfolio-like content, click on over here!

When people talk about burn-out, it's generally meant that they feel overwhelmed, over scheduled, stressed out, in a rut, passionless, cynical, "over it", hopeless, on and on. It might seem like someone who's in a creative field - who's constantly CREATING something new, something fresh, something exciting - would find it hard to reach that place, right? Maybe you are a creative reading this, and find yourself comparing your work to others, struggling to find your passion, not looking forward to things you used to? Maybe you haven't blogged in two weeks (ahem) and you are just wanting a break to actually be at your house and spend time there, maybe even clean it? (that always gets pushed to the bottom of the list!)

Burn-out is real, and burn-out is relative. Not everyone can produce the same amount in a day, whether that be photos, social media content, articles, products, whatever whatever whatever! I often have to check my heart to not only stop myself from judging MY performance against others, but others against mine! How terrible does that sound? If you are treating others, and yourself, based on what you/they produce, you need to check that at the door. Give yourself, and others, grace! It's okay to leave a few things unchecked on your to-do list. Nothing is as urgent as taking care of yourself and your soul.

I feel that transparency and self-care, along with ALLOWING yourself to put on the brakes every once and a while is NECESSARY - and definitely something I struggle with a lot. Get coffee with me, and certainly you will hear the phrase "I never feel like I'm doing ENOUGH." And I know a LOT of other people that feel this way too. You set a standard for yourself, and if you don't meet it, you "fail." But I realized recently that standards HAVE to be fluid. Your "enough" is based on a million things that are NOT constant like time, energy, commitments, health, family... so why should your standards be rigid if the rest of your life is not? 

If you a religious person, you may have heard the phrase that "Jesus is enough." That sounds amazing and is probably on a t-shirt somewhere, but what does that actually, tangibly mean and how do I live my life showing that I believe that? I'm sure the answer is different for everyone, but what I've found is that to embrace that God is enough and not rely on yourself means that first you set realistic standards of what you CAN do. Be honest with yourself. Then, you do what you CAN in a day given all the factors against you. At the end of the day when you're looking at all the things you didn't get done but wanted to, you then CHOOSE to not worry, be thankful for what you DID get done, and literally just relax and take time to recharge. Some pastors call that "resting in grace" - and I had to figure out what that tangibly meant. I spend so much time and mental energy thinking about what I HAVE to do, that figuring out what I WANT to do with my free time (that I have to MAKE) was a challenge. But now, I realize that's what "resting in grace" means for me: just rest, and stop freaking out, because God's got you and it's going to be okay.

You may know that almost 3 years ago now I lost my father to a really aggressive cancer. I often think about how he worked so hard as a mechanic his whole life, with the goal of retirement and adventuring with mom, taking trips, and filling his time with memories. Luckily, dad also knew how to enjoy life right where he was, and often took trips and had adventures (not to mention a million hobbies) to enrich the everyday life instead of just grinding away for that "someday." It took me way too long to realize that this is the key to happiness for a "type A" like myself - make time for rest and fun in the here and now.

Before he passed, I inherited his old Canon A1 film camera, and recently committed to learning how to use it and shoot on film. It's a completely different beast than digital, and the thing I've loved most about film is that it FORCES you to go slow, wait for the moment, notice all the details, and value the experience. Digital cameras can rapid-fire off shots like a machine gun, and while that's definitely my go-to for client sessions to ensure I don't miss anything, film has been an amazing antidote for burn-out for me because of all the reasons above. Any time I go on an adventure, the film camera comes along - not so I can "work", but so I can be more present. I'm still not perfect at it, but I'm having a great time with it, and it's a way to keep dad with me in those adventures he loved so much too.

If you are experiencing burn-out, I encourage you to tap into your curiosity. Learn something, pick up a new hobby, inject some "different" into your life. It will give you a distraction, a spark, a reprieve, and you just might discover one more thing that you're awesome at! Hope you enjoy these highlights from a few of my adventures this summer, all shot on film and with dad's A1!

 My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

 Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

 More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

 Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

 Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

 Found a lot of minnows!

Found a lot of minnows!

 The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

 Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

 Pier at Ocean City.

Pier at Ocean City.

 My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

 My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

 Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

 My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

 More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

 The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

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