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Bryan & Emily Got Hitched at the Racetrack (or: Dirt Bikes, Lightning, and Macaroni & Cheese)

On April 5, 2014, I photographed the wedding of Emily and Bryan, two lovebirds from a countrified area located south of Dallas. It was a happy occasion and a family reunion in one, with loved ones traveling in from all over the country—New York, Wisconsin, and California, to name a few—to witness the blessed gooeyness.

I attended the rehearsal the night before to scope things out and was thoroughly pleased by Emily and Bryan’s location choice for the ceremony. There were puppies to cuddle, wildflowers in bloom, and some truly lovely pecan trees, not to mention the gorgeous sunlight streaming in from behind them!

Needless to say, everyone was buzzing with excitement about the big day. Emily’s nephew, Christian, seemed to be especially pleased by the chance to show off his adorableness.

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But as dusk fell, the clouds began rolling in…

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We woke to overcast skies and what must have been 100% humidity, but that didn’t stop the men from heading out to Emily’s grandfather’s land for several hours of fishing. The boys talked big, but to my knowledge, they only caught two little catfish while I was out there taking pictures :)

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While Bryan and his crew continued reeling ’em in, I made my way to his and Emily’s new apartment in time for coffee and breakfast with Emily’s gal pals. The atmosphere was heroically chill, even as the ladies began curling hair, applying makeup, and otherwise fancying up.

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While Emily was getting her hair did, I dropped by the house where the men were getting ready to grab a few shots of their short, albeit suave, prep process before they drove out to the racetrack to tie up loose ends.

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Back at the ladies’ getting ready party, Emily and her bridesmaids were nearly ready. As they finished up, I stole outside for several minutes to photograph the rings and Emily’s dress.

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The wind picked up drastically around the time that Emily was putting on her dress, so the balloons marking the route to the venue were somewhat stressed when I arrived, but they were still effective! As guests began arriving and making their way down to the ceremony site, I headed up to the rehearsal site to photograph Emily & Bryan’s burlap and blue and white-themed decor.

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After that, it was out to the pasture with Emily and her bridesmaids for group and individual portraits. These ladies really knew how to turn on the charm… and the silliness!

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With bridesmaids portraits out of the way, we headed down to the ceremony site, a beautiful oak grove that the Racetrack landscaped especially for this occasion.

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More photos of the family and reception coming soon!

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Emily & Bryan said their vows and sealed their love on April 5, 2014 in the middle of a beautiful grove of pecan trees at Freestone County Raceway, a motocross racetrack in Wortham, Texas where Bryan has so often proved his mettle on a dirt bike. The Burnetts gave me the privilege of photographing their wedding day, along with their engagement portraits, their wedding shower, and Emily’s bridal portraitsbachelorette party and bridal shower.

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Trooper Bride: Emily’s Drizzly-But-Dazzling Bridal Shoot

This March, I traveled back to my hometown of Blooming Grove to photograph  my cousin Emily and her fiance, Bryan. It was to be a two-day weekend extravaganza, complete with a bridal shoot on Saturday morning, followed by an adventuresome engagement shoot with the Mr-and-Mrs-to-be on Sunday evening.

We had grand plans for the bridal shoot—horses and dirt bikes and lots of other high-action and outdoorsy shots—but most of our plans fell through when the weather turned sour. It rained nearly all day Saturday with the temperature hovering just below 60 degrees, so we spent a lot of the day waiting (and warming up, in the case of our lovely bride) in the car for the rain to slow or stop so that we could snap a few portraits before the heavens opened up again.

Despite the overcast skies and the difficulty of keeping Emily’s dress and my gear dry, the storm did provide a wonderful soft and misty backdrop for the photos that we took in this starkly-green field of crops. I’m not sure what was growing, but the wild onion growing near the roadside smelled so nice!

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After capturing those stunning images in the field, we drove out to Freestone County Raceway, where the rain continued, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped. We were able to get several lovely shots in the very grove of oak trees where Emily and Bryan would one day say their vows before the conditions became a little too ridiculous for photographing a beautiful woman in her wedding dress! At that point, we resolved to change clothes, play with the racetrack’s resident puppies (naturally), and finish the rest of our shoot the next afternoon.

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The next afternoon, weather conditions were even worse, but Emily, Amazonian warrior princess and Tough Mudder extraordinaire, decided that we would proceed undaunted—as long as she could wear a thick coat as we moved between locations! We found a sheltered valley in the woods and finished Emily’s bridal session in style, to say the least.

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Nailed it. Ems, you trooper bride, you.

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Emily & Bryan said their vows and sealed their love on April 5, 2014 in the middle of a beautiful grove of pecan trees at Freestone County Raceway, a motocross racetrack in Wortham, Texas where Bryan has so often proved his mettle on a dirt bike. The Burnetts also gave me the privilege of photographing their wedding day, along with their engagement portraits, their wedding shower, and Emily’s bachelorette party and bridal shower.

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Ducks and Dodgeball: Emily’s Bachelorette Adventure

Let’s Celebrate Emily Weekend 2014 began with an intimate gathering of friends and family members for Emily’s bridal shower and continued throughout the weekend as the bridesmaids journeyed into Dallas for an overnight bachelorette party featuring dinner at Blue Mesa Grill, rock climbing at Summit Gym, trampolines and dodgeball at Jumpstreet, and unexpectedly, baby ducks!

Despite experiencing several unplanned misadventures throughout the weekend, I’m sure that all of the bridesmaids in attendance would agree that Emily’s adventurous bachelorette bash was still a grand success—after all, everyone held their own on the mechanical bull!

First, came the baby ducks, which we cuddled at Emily’s aunt’s house in Blooming Grove.

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The Bennetts’ dog, Gracie, is a good duck guardian.

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Eventually, we were able to tear ourselves away from the ducks’ immense cuteness and made our way to Blue Mesa Grill in Dallas to eat our weight in scrumptious Mexican food and sweet potato chips. I, for one, ordered the avocado enchiladas and never looked back!

The remainder of the evening was spent exploring our hotel and spending quality time with Emily, which definitely included some time spent driving (or rather, sitting) in traffic, a lingerie fashion show, and much giggling about the fact that Emily would be marrying her best friend in less than a week.

In the morning, we dressed in athletic attire and drove (with zero traffic, remarkably) to Jumpstreet, an indoor trampoline park with a trampoline court, a dodgeball court, a foam pit, and one fiesty mechanical bull. We spent one glorious hour jumping and cartwheeling, pelting each other with dodgeballs, attempting to stay astride that cranky bull, and trying to crawl out of the quicksand-esque foam pit before heading to the rock gym.

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Emily was a beast on the mechanical bull, as you can see.

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Such style! Such grace! Emily, you are a tough act to follow.

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The staff members at Jumpstreet were kind enough to clear the dodgeball court of other guests so that we could take some epic photos, and one of them even took a group picture for us!

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Once we were all jumped out, we loaded back into our vehicles and drove to Summit Rock Gym, which was a few minutes down the street. Since most of the bridesmaids had never climbed before, we signed waivers, got fitted for rental equipment, and completed a brief training course about safety procedures, rules, and proper climbing etiquette before we took to the walls. Summit’s staff was fun and knowledgeable, so we were able to start climbing in no time at all.

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By the time we finished climbing, all of us were thoroughly exhausted from the weekend’s festivities, so we parted ways, all the while looking forward to seeing each other again at Emily & Bryan’s wedding, which would take place in less than a week. Thank you, Emily, for allowing us to celebrate you and your beautiful adventurous heart!

“Here’s to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start.” — Jason Mraz

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Emily & Bryan said their vows and sealed their love on April 5, 2014 in the middle of a beautiful grove of pecan trees at Freestone County Raceway, a motocross racetrack in Wortham, Texas where Bryan has so often proved his mettle on a dirt bike. The Burnetts also gave me the privilege of photographing their wedding day, along with their engagement portraits, their wedding shower, and Emily’s bridal portraits and bridal shower.

national geographic traveler photo contest competition 2014

“Lone Star State”: My Submission to National Geographic’s 2014 Traveler Photo Contest

I made this photograph during a recent portrait shoot and was struck by its potent “Texas” vibe. I had already been searching through my recent photos for an image that might stand some chance of winning or even simply placing in National Geographic’s 2014 Traveler Photo Contest, which I’ve made a habit of entering every year, so I decided to enter this image in the “Sense of Place” category and tell the story of the image as a story of Texas:

national geographic traveler photo competition contest 2014

Title: Lone Star State

Photographer: Rebecca L. Bennett

Caption: Known for its beautifully rugged landscapes and its equally stalwart natives, Texas should also be known for its prairie sunsets. I captured this intimate moment in Blooming Grove, a small town untouched by industrialization and tourism, and probably one of the few rare examples of how life in the U.S.’s Lone Star State used to be (should be?).

Location: Blooming Grove, Texas, USA

Category: Sense of Place

Likes and/or shares via the contest page would be thoroughly appreciated!

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Breakfast and a Show: Emily’s Bright-and-Early Bridal Shower

It was March 29, 2014. Many of Emily’s beloved friends and family members live out of state, but those who were able to attend her bridal shower arrived at the Ackley residence bright and early and enjoyed a hearty feast of coffee, blueberry muffins, yogurt parfaits, and breakfast casserole.

The bridesmaids would soon embark upon a journey into Dallas for a bachelorette weekend of rock climbing, trampolining, laughter, and a few tears, but just then, they had all settled in to decorate granny panties, gush and giggle about Emily & Bryan’s relationship, and watch Emily swim in her freshly-acquired sea of lingerie.

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Over breakfast, Emily regaled us with tales of some of her more glorious(ly awkward) moments throughout her and Bryan’s relationship and had us all rolling by the time that our plates were empty.

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Next, it was time to bust out the granny panties. Our lovely host, Laura, explained the rules of the game: each guest was to decorate a pair of underwear and Emily would choose the pair she liked best. The competition was fierce to be sure!

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Emily even made Bryan his very own pair of granny panties, adorned with his racing number.

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In the end, each guest modeled their unique creation for Emily (you won’t be seeing those photos), but it was Laura’s design that took the prize, and so, after a few hilarious group photos, we moved on to the gifts!

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After Emily had opened all of her presents and was feeling thoroughly gooey and loved, an efficient clean-up party ensued and then the bridesmaids departed for Dallas to continue celebrating Emily with an overnight bachelorette party—and you can find those delightful photos here!

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Emily & Bryan said their vows and sealed their love on April 5, 2014 in the middle of a beautiful grove of pecan trees at Freestone County Raceway, a motocross racetrack in Wortham, Texas where Bryan has so often proved his mettle on a dirt bike. The Burnetts also gave me the privilege of photographing their wedding day, along with their engagement portraits, their wedding shower, and Emily’s bridal portraits and bachelorette party.