When I was 11 years old my mom and dad took me and my two younger brothers to Wildwood, NJ. I was so excited to go on my first (and only) real family vacation with them!
Everything was new and different. Even the grocery stores, which had boogey boards, shell shovels, and metal detectors. The ocean, however, left something to be desired. I got stung several times by jellyfish, and the cold salty water only irritated my small, jellyfish induced wounds.
The boardwalk was my favorite. Fresh, hot waffles with creamy Napolitano ice cream sandwiched between them, go-carts that we all spent hours joyously riding in circles, and games galore!
"Watch the tram-car please" is something we heard frequently as the trams shuttled people back and forth along the boardwalk. It was a marvelous time.
Fast forward 16 years. I now have my own little family: My husband, David, and our adorable two-year-old, Clementine. My in-laws have always been amazing to us. They graciously invited the three of us to share the beach house they rent for a week long every year in Cherry Grove, NC.
Clementine did not care for the 3.5hr drive, no matter how many times we told her that we were going to see Grammy and Poppy.
We arrived around 8pm, and I was ready to get to the beach. I wasn't going to waste a minute! I walked down the street, and across two intersections until I finally came to a path in the dunes.
I don't know if it was because I knew what was next, or because this is something I've only ever seen in the movies, but I was enthralled. My night got even better when the sun started going down, which lead to absolutely breathtaking views.
I set up the shot and had Dave take this photo of me.
The next morning my excitement woke me up around 6am.
From what I could tell everyone else was asleep. I packed up my camera gear and headed down to greet the sunrise!
I wasn't the only one who had this idea. As I was walking along the beach exploring different compositions, a friendly looking man on a bike approached me. He asked me about my camera and we talked photography. I learned that he lives only an hour away from me in Durham, NC. Check out his website here.
I love meeting people, especially fellow photography lovers!
I ended up getting some beautiful shots when the sun finally decided to make its appearance.
Early morning is definitely my favorite time to be on the beach. There's just something about that crisp, salty morning air.
The only people awake at 6 in the morning while on vacation are joggers, dedicated shell searchers, and photographers. The beach is serene and calming pretty much any time, but when it's empty there's a different sort of magic about it. Barefoot in the sand, salt water lapping at your ankles, and rarely a soul in sight, what could be better?
I started wondering if Clementine was awake, so I made my way back to the beach house.
She was still sleeping.
I went and got Dave and I each soy lattes at Starbucks. I'd never seen such a long line in my life, didn't matter if you were inside or in the drive-through, you were waiting at least 20 mins for your coffee. Totally worth it though ;)
When I got back a few others had woken up, but Clementine was still fast asleep. No matter, I had coffee now and some editing to do for a session I'd done the day before.
This little girl finally decided to wake up around 9:30!
Poor baby had a bad spill at Hanging Rock State Park a couple weeks before our trip, and as you can see her face was in the process of healing. She's still super cute though.
Clementine had a blast playing with Grammy and Poppy at the beach house. Meanwhile, I couldn't wait to get back to the beach!
When we all got down to the shore, it was even more fun than I'd imagined it would be!
I waded into the ocean slowly at first, waves crashing gently against my legs. It was a bit chilly, but once you were in for a few minutes the water was actually warmer than the air.
And guess what? NO JELLYFISH!
I was honestly surprised by this, because from my experience jellyfish were seemingly as common as fish. I was relieved to know this wasn't the case everywhere on the East coast.
Clementine loved it, too! She spent equal time in the water and playing in the sand.
Above is my brother in-law-Kyle, resident cool kid (or so he thinks :p).
Pretending to be airplanes and flying with Aunt Val, who is a real life pilot!
After our fun day going back and forth to the beach, we decided it would be fun to break out some sparklers when the sun went down.
Cameron (my other brother-in-law), and his girlfriend, Zoe, helped Clementine while Dave lit the sparklers, and I was behind the camera.
The sparklers inspired me.
I thought back to my photography class about long exposure shots. I knew I could apply what I learned there to make some fun images, and what better subjects than my awesome family.
First up was Cameron and Zoe, then Big Dave and Alex.
The last thing we wanted to try was to light write "SPAIN".
After a couple of failed attempts we had to orchestrate it and practice to ensure everyone was on the same page.
Finally we got it!
I've never had a better vacation in my life. Catching waves with a boogey board for the first time, riding around in the rented golf cart while Clementine napped, and even silly things like hanging clothes on the line, I just loved every minute.
I'm so grateful for my in-laws, Dave and Alex, for inviting us to stay with them. I hope we can make this a family tradition!
I hope you all enjoyed this little peek into my recent vacation to Cherry Grove, NC!