Our Story

I've realized that, in the past year, I've had very little to say in the public forum about my personal life. That is in part because I don't feel the need to publicize everything that happens and also in part because I want to find the right words. Images so often seem to state what my vocabulary seems unable to do. However, I want to share this story with you all - it's one of my favorites. 

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

April 30th, 2017, (a year ago today) my parents questioned a young man at length in our dining room - trying to get to know him and his intentions with their only daughter. (That's me, by the way.) The conversation took about an hour and a half, which felt incredibly long. To some, this may feel like an old-fashioned and silly thing, but it was important to me that my parents have a say in this decision, especially since I had ignored advice they'd given in the past and regretted it. They are full of wisdom, and they love me, so I would have been a fool not to have them involved.  At the end of the "interrogation," my parents gave their permission for us to date.  


This man's name is Joseph. He's an adventurer, a dreamer, and has a strong character I admire with all my heart. He is constantly serving others, even if it is inconvenient for him. He doesn't take himself too seriously and makes me laugh all the time. More importantly, from the beginning of our relationship, he has ensured that our focus remains on God. I could spend a great deal of time talking about the attractive attributes I see in him, but I'll limit myself for the sake of keeping this brief(ish). 

Our relationship has always been long-distance due to Joseph's work. Whenever he was able to visit Knoxville, we made the most of our time together. Looking back, it's crazy how much we were able to fit in this past year - kayaking, rock-climbing, water-skiing, swing-dancing, biking, camping, and plenty of hiking. We made sure to fit in some more "normal" activities as well, knowing that life is often made up of the mundane things like cooking, yard work, and so forth. While the distance has been difficult, I believe God has used that to help us learn how to communicate better and be patient with one another. That isn't to say we have it all figured out (marriage will be a life-long learning process), but that being apart so much forced us to be more intentional with what we say. We've written quite a few letters back and forth, spent numerous hours on the phone, and talked on FaceTime when we both had WiFi. 


On December 1st, we got engaged. If you want more details on that, you'll have to head over to our wedding website. The very short version is that, I didn't see it coming, Joseph was very sweet, and I said yes. In some ways, it seemed quick to be getting engaged after dating 7 months. Then again, my parents met, got engaged, and were married in approximately 7 months...so it's all about perspective. The months since have been filled with some wonderful premarital counseling with a couple from our church, planning for the big day, and figuring out where we'll live after the wedding. 

Speaking of the big day, it's less than a month away! We are in the last stages of preparing for the wedding. It has had its difficult moments, but it's been encouraging to see friends and family members willing to help us (my mother and Joseph's mother are making most of the food!) and counsel us. We are well aware that the wedding is just the beginning, and basing our marriage on God's word is the most important thing - not having the right flowers or the perfect tie (there's a story there, believe me). May 26th, here we come! And all the days afterward. 

- RS

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

Photo Credit: McNeeley Ann

Twice the Fun

Part of me just wants to not write a blog post for this and say, "SCROLL DOWN AND LOOK AT THE CUTENESS!" That might be a bit on the lazy side though, so I'll write a little for those who want to read and the rest of you can scroll right on down to the photos of the babies.

My cousin had twins this past April - two adorable boys. I drove from Tennessee to Oklahoma to visit them in May (and to take photos). I was able to stay with my cousin and her family for a whole week. My cousin is someone I consider more like the older sister I never had. We spent holidays together, built blanket forts, and share a lot of the same interests. We even studied the same thing in college. So, don't be confused when I refer to these boys as my nephews. (Let's face it, calling them my first cousins once removed is a little ridiculous anyway.)

Because my visit was somewhat longer than my typical newborn session, I was able to be patient and get a lot of photos in various outfits. The knitted hats you see in these pictures were made by my mother - she gets a huge thumbs up for doing all that work. And the boys get a double thumbs up for looking so precious in them!


I think the photos of my cute nephews speak for themselves. It's hard to believe they're already five months old now and so much bigger than they are in these pictures. They are little miracles! I can't wait to see them again and watch as they grow through the years ahead.


- R.S.

Doig Maternity Session

Family is a big deal for me. If you've met me, chances are good you've heard me tell some story about some crazy thing my family has done. I'm close to my parents and brothers, for which I'm incredibly thankful. So, when I see a family growing and get the opportunity to help capture that, I'm super happy! This was recently the case for Alex and Amy, whose wedding I covered a while back. (You can find that post here.) They told me they were expecting a baby boy in the late spring and wanted me to take both maternity and newborn photos. This was great news and, of course, we started making plans right away for their sessions.

We decided that IJAMs would be a great spot due to how varied the scenery is all within the same location. The weather that day was beautiful and the soon-to-be parents were full of energy. It was a real treat being able to catch up with them! Here are just a few of their pictures:

You can tell these two were excited about welcoming their little one into the world! (I say "were" because I'm writing this blog post after having already done their newborn photos...yes, I'm a little behind!) Seeing a family grow will never get old. I immediately start imagining all the fun times they'll have together, the laughter they'll share, and the opportunities they'll have to learn from one another. What stories will they be telling in the years to come? I'm looking forward to hearing them, that is for sure.

Be on the lookout for the post about the arrival of baby Ben! He is a cutie!

- R.S.


Sokoloski Wedding

A few weeks ago now I had the fun experience of capturing Scott and Trina's big day! I met them last year as a result of them getting my name from the Bridal and Beyond bridal show here in Knoxville. We hit it off during the consultation and I was intrigued when they told me their venue - the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Having never shot a wedding there before, I guess you could say I was pretty excited about it. I mean, it takes a pretty awesome couple to decide they're going to say their vows in such a unique setting! They let me know that they wanted to take lots of funny photos and really enjoy everything the space has to offer. Those are the sorts of things this photographer loves to hear from clients!

So, in the months between our first consultation and the wedding day, we corresponded fairly regularly (I'll be posting more about my process at a later time). We got the schedule pinned down, discussed what images were a priority, and all the other wonderful details that go into planning a wedding. Needless to say, my second shooter and I were looking forward to this particular job.

Now, we have been having what I like to call "whiplash weather" lately, which meant we weren't sure if we would be able to take any pictures outside or if it would be too insanely cold to be outdoors. It turned into the most gorgeous day! We had blue skies, warm weather, and even ended up with more sunlight than we needed. It poured in through the enormous windows resulting in some lovely indoor light for the bridal portraits, first look, and ceremony. I was one happy photographer!

Here is a tiny slideshow from their wedding:

Their full wedding site is up and can be found here: Sokoloski Wedding

I have to say this may have been one of the smoothest wedding days I have ever covered. Everyone involved knew where to be and when, which is rare in the world of weddings. They were all goofballs and easy-going as it gets. There were even a few instances of things happening earlier than planned! It was great!

Well, I'd better get to planning the next wedding I'm covering! If you or anyone you know is looking for a wedding photographer, please don't hesitate to contact me. I would love to meet and discuss your big day.


R. S.


Photography Gear

This past weekend I shot a wedding at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame - a wonderful and unique event I'll be blogging more about later. One of the venue employees is in school for photography and struck up a conversation with me about my equipment. I realized that some of you may be curious about my camera and lenses as well. So, I sat down and wrote this blog post for you!

I suppose I'll give you a very brief history of my equipment. (I won't bore you with tales of my first digital camera...I'm skipping to what I used when I began shooting for pay.) When I was in high school, I won a video contest through Panasonic for a claymation I'd produced - a video which showed all the death scenes in Hamlet. The prize was a video camera, but I asked for a DSLR instead. Since that was cheaper than the original prize, they had no problem switching for me.

Within a few months (give or take), through a long string of events I won't go into now, I ended up with 5 lenses for this camera, none of which I had to pay for. God blessed me with equipment it would have taken me forever to save for (and probably wouldn't have bought if I'd had the money because I'm terribly frugal). For those un-familiar with the Lumix cameras, they use a mirrorless system. This makes them both silent and more compact. I learned so much with it and even used it for the first several weddings I shot, like the one this image comes from:

About a year and a half ago, it was time to purchase something new. My beloved Lumix had been through the wringer and needed to go into retirement. I'd gone as far as I could with the small sensor and other limitations of the system. After consulting with some fellow photographers and doing a great deal of research, I decided to purchase my current camera - a Nikon D750. (In case you're curious, her name is Lucy, after Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia because of the way she sees things that no one else can see.)

Along with this full-frame camera body, I also have three lenses - a 50mm, a 70-200mm, and a 24-85mm. They've served me well so far. I also purchased my first external flash and remote as well as a diffuser, which have been fun to play with. I'm still partial to natural light, but having a flash ensures I can always get the shots I need. I've learned new techniques, tackled bigger projects, and enjoyed having a camera that can keep with me (at least for the time being). I plan to continue doing so until I outgrow this camera too, though I imagine it will be while!

If you have any more specific questions about what I use, how I process images, etc., I'm all ears!

-R. S.

Sara's Art - An Interview

Back in December (yes, I know I'm a tad late with this), I had the pleasure of taking photos for an amazing fellow artist - Sara. She wanted to make sure she had pictures taken with her most recent piece before delivering it to her client. Can you blame her?


I mean, it's difficult to believe it's a painting and not a photograph! Personally, I love hearing about the experiences of other artists and learning what they really enjoy about their work. And, since I already know her so well, I thought I would ask her to answer some questions for you guys! Here's our little interview:


How long have you been painting?

I did my first painting, in acrylic, my junior year of high school in 2012. I painted one or two more in high school but really focused most on graphite drawings. Since my first painting I have done 5 in the last 5 years in acrylic as photo realistic pieces. More recently I have attempted oils for the first time in a more impressionistic style, which I really enjoy!

Are you self-taught or did you go to an instructor?

I really consider myself to be both self and instructor taught. When I was about four, I would wake up early by myself, prepare crayons and paper, turn on the TV and draw with Bob Ross and other featured artists. I have since always had a passion for creating and have learned a lot just through practice. I did, however, have an amazing art teacher in high school from whom I took four classes over four years. She was so encouraging of her students, which I think is what I needed most. She taught us how to see and then how to represent that on paper or canvas – with light, shapes, perspective, negative space… everything. I did not paint much in high school, but, regardless of medium, I really think it is all about learning how to see first and then second how to represent that through the movements of your hand as you create a piece. A lot of what I do though I do not think was taught or learned – I truly believe it is just in me. People ask me all the time how I did pieces or certain aspects of my paintings. My answer is always the same… “I don’t know, I just do it.” I have heard it described as an artist’s language – like how you talk and the certain words you use. Some of what you say is learned from what is around you but at the core it is just YOU. This is how I feel about my art. It’s a piece of me and I don’t think all of it was taught.


If you could describe your style in a sentence, what would that sentence be?

If I had to describe my style in one word even, I would say it is “evolving.” I started in photo representation or photo-realism but have more recently fallen in love with impressionism. I can’t say I have one particular style yet – I am still trying to figure out which one I want to pursue and which one connects and speaks to and for me more than the others.

What is your favorite medium to work in and why?

I love paint… any kind of paint. I like acrylic because of the detail but I also love oil because of its lack of detail. I guess that means my favorite medium depends on what I want to create in that moment.

About how long do you spend on each painting?

The time I spend on each piece varies significantly. It depends on how much concentrated time I can give it each time I sit in front of the canvas, it depends on what subject matter I am painting, but it also depends on what style I am pursuing in the piece. It really ranges from 45 minutes to 80 hours. However, I like to think though that every piece takes as long as I have been alive to create because with each piece I am building on everything I have learned – creatively but also personally.

When painting or drawing, do you have a specific type of music you like to listen to?

The music I listen to completely depends on my mood and what I am painting. Sometimes I listen to pop music or movie soundtracks, but my favorite go-to playlist is Ben Howard Radio on Pandora. The music is so creative and for some reason really connects to me and brings the most creativity to the canvas.

Where do you find inspiration for your art?

I find inspiration in a lot of things. I think we all are inspired by things we connect to emotionally based on our past, current situation, dreams, fears, etc. Because of this, when I look at something and think, “I just HAVE to paint that,” I know I have connected to it somewhere within me and that the possibilities of what I could create from that connection could be really special. Specifically, though, I absolutely love light and how it moves on, through and around objects or nature. I think it catches my attention the most.

What are some new techniques and mediums you would like to try or learn more about?

I have A LOT of learning to do, and I am very excited about it! I really have not painted all that much so I just want to spend as much time with a paintbrush in my hand as possible. Right now I am really trying to learn about oils and Plein Air painting, so I can practice being freer with my brushstrokes and colors as I try to develop a more impressionist style.



As you can see, she is incredibly talented at what she does! If you would like to contact her to purchase a professionally made print or commission an original, here is her contact info:

Sara Seaman

Acrylic and Oil Painter


(865) 851-5939

This interview is a first here on my blog, so if you really like it, please let me know so I can be sure to post more like it!

- R. S.

Mother's Music

For those of you who follow my instagram account (@ThousandWordPhotography), you may recall that I recently posted a photo of my mother playing piano. It quickly got more "likes" than any other photo I had ever posted. Clearly, it struck a chord with people (once again, pun completely intended) and I feel it is worth writing a blog post about.

My mother took many years of piano lessons when she was younger. I believe she even toyed with the idea of majoring in music during college, but opted for an engineering degree instead. Needless to say, music is a huge part of who she is. We have that in common, along with a great deal of other things. The piano we have now is one she purchased for herself before she even met my dad. It still plays beautifully in spite of all the things we've put it through. At one point, we had to have the key tops replaced (I'd picked at the edges of them as a little kid - not something I'm proud of), but that's about the only real work on it I know of.

Once my mother had me and my brothers, she didn't play very often. A mother of four insane children doesn't often have time to sit down. Besides, playing music might give us cover to get into some sort of mischief. If she was at the piano, normally one of us was with her, receiving a lesson we didn't want. I can't imagine how frustrating that must have been for her. So many times since then I've wished I had listened to her instructions more and not argued so vehemently that I could not, in fact, count and play at the same time. (Since that time, I have learned to play at a decent level and I'm still pretty sure I can't count and play at the same time...but you'll be glad to know we don't fight about it anymore.)

Now that we are all grown, I've noticed her playing a little more often. One afternoon, I heard some beautiful music coming from the basement - and I immediately knew who was playing. Grabbing my camera, I headed down the stairs to sneak some photos. She realized I was there pretty quickly, but didn't mind. After all, she's used to my camera antics. Watching her fingers fly across the keys has always fascinated me (and made me a bit jealous, if I'm being honest). It is such a precious thing to watch someone play who thoroughly enjoys it, especially when you know how hard they work and how little they get to do so. If you know anyone like my mother, I'd encourage you to sit down and really listen to their music sometime. I think it will be time well-spent.






Sally's Session

Have you been enjoying all this warm weather we've been getting? I know that thoughts are conflicting on the subject. Some are complaining that we really haven't had winter, and others are happy they can wear t-shirts in January/February. As a photographer, I'm pretty thrilled to have warm weather to take pictures in. My fingers aren't freezing as I use my camera and my clients' noses aren't turning red. It's great!

One of my most recent sessions was with a family friend of mine named Sally. She's a life coach, and was looking for some professional portraits for her website. I was thrilled when she asked me to take pictures for her. Catching up with friends is always fun! I made a day of it and drove to Bristol for her session. We took some photos in her home, where she does a lot of her correspondence with clients:

Her dog is adorable, so we had to make sure he was in a few pictures!


Then, because the weather was so nice, we drove out to the park and made some pictures there. As you can see, she was in short sleeves and it was no big deal when we moved outdoors for more photos! While I know some snow would be nice, this photographer is cheering on the sun, right along with Sally:


Her positive attitude is infectious, and I left the session feeling uplifted and encouraged in what I do. You can definitely tell she knows how to do her job! 

Well, until next time, enjoy the sunshine!

- R.S.

Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope you're enjoying time with your loved ones today (and perhaps some chocolate goodies as well). To be quite honest, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write in celebration. All I knew is that I wanted to write something. It only seemed right for a wedding photographer to acknowledge the holiday.

So, what did I decide to treat you to? I figured I would list the top five things I LOVE about photography! Without further ado, I'll get started.

5.) One thing I really enjoy about photography is how versatile it is. Within one medium, you can get an enormous range in styles. I first got into photography while taking pictures of plants in my garden, from which I moved quickly on to portrait photography. Currently, I'm enjoying extremely abstract photos with lots of bokeh in them:

4.) My camera makes me feel a bit braver. And yes, I realize that may sound like a silly statement, but it is the honest truth. My family knows that I have a fear of heights, as well as a fear of looking goofy. Oddly enough, both of these fears go away when my camera is in my hands. I don't care if I'm on the edge of a cliff if I'm doing it to get a great picture. (Don't get me wrong - I'm still not being foolish on a cliff-edge, I'm just not scared.) The same principle applies when I may look silly in order to get a client to laugh or to get the perfect angle. With my camera around, I don't mind a bit. For this particular shot, I stood up on top of a moving vehicle:

3.) This one goes along a bit with the first thing I listed - I love how there is always more to learn about photography. I can never know all there is to know about photography. It is constantly morphing into something new. I have a habit of telling people that I hated school, but love learning. I've never been fond of standardized tests or busy work, but I have always been interested in discovering new things. With photography, I can never get bored. It's awesome!

2.) Another thing I love about photography is the way it captures details. I've always been a detail-oriented person. If I've talked to you in person about taking pictures, you know that, until I was almost ten, I had never seen the stars. Sure, I knew they were there, but I'd only ever seen them in pictures - not in the actual night sky. In light of that (pun definitely intended), I could only see details in things that I was close to. I needed glasses...badly. Photography gives me a way to hold onto details that I remember spending a lot of my life not seeing. Stay tuned in the future for an entire project that centers around this fact.

1.) Finally, and most importantly, I love photography because of the people it allows me to meet or catch up with. I love making new friends and celebrating milestones with them and their families. At almost every wedding I shoot I end up crying because I'm so happy for the couple. Then, I also get the clients I've known for years - friends I get to catch up with on a regular basis because I take their pictures. It's such a blessing to have a job that allows for that. My clients are such lovely people!


Now you've gotten a little taste of why I love my work so much! Do you think my camera will be my valentine?


- R.S.



Logan + Axie

I was texting my friend, Axie, one Friday about taking a trip to the Tri-Cities to see her and have lunch. We'd settled on Saturday (the next day) and were trying to decide where we wanted to eat. Since I moved away to Knoxville, we try to stay in touch and visit when the opportunity arises. Then, I received a text from her wherein she informs me that she wants to talk about me taking pictures of her elopement the next day. (Keep in mind that her wedding date was set for about a month later.) I'll admit I was a little surprised, but I replied that we could definitely talk about it over lunch.

Axie quickly clarified that she meant she needed to talk to me about taking pictures because they were eloping on Saturday. My reaction was first, "Wow, okay, that's totally not what I thought you meant!" and then, "I'd better get my photography gear ready to go!" Although they were technically eloping, we decided that we'd take photos as if it was their wedding since, for the most part, it was. They had a lovely service overlooking the lake, wore their wedding clothes, and everything.

With the typical wedding I shoot, I have things very planned out. I go back and forth with my clients about the schedule for the day to ensure that everything runs smoothly, that their priority images have been planned for thoroughly, and that everyone is on the same page. Obviously, this was a spur-of-the-moment job - an adventure to say the least! It was a blast to work that way for the day. I don't want it to become the norm because that could get nuts, but it was very freeing as an artist to take everything as it came.

Without further ado, here is a slideshow of the pictures. If you'd like to see their full preview, simply visit my facebook page!