Hidden in the hills of TN

The city has many comforts but the wilderness, it calls to me.

Our trip to the Smokey’s couldn’t have been timed better.

Don’t get me wrong. Charlotte is a great city. We’ve been enjoying it.

But it’s a city. A really big city. The biggest I’ve ever lived in.

And we I desperately needed to get away to the countryside.

Why?

I like to think that I deal with stress pretty well.

However, add the stresses of moving to a new city, new state, new job, and new house…it all adds up and I was quite frankly overwhelmed. 

I felt off.

I listened to my soul and knew I needed to be immersed in Mother Nature.

The deers in my backyard were not going to cut it anymore.

Enter Song Sparrow Hill.

This Airbnb by Tiffanie on her family’s 16+ acre property wins the award for Most Unique and Original.

It’s tucked away in the hills of Tennessee near the North Carolina boarder.

When I saw pictures, I knew it was where I wanted to recharge and refocus.

So we were lead to our campsite by the family’s sweet and protective two dogs, Mangus and Boy.

Apparently the owners bought Boy to tend to their chickens. But once he visited the campsite, he decided to stay there. And so they had to bring another dog to fill his intended position.

I don’t blame Boy. You’ll see why.

Below is the outhouse complete with a solar bag shower, “running sink water”, and a composting toilet. It was nothing short of charming.

Oh! I should mention that ALL of the wood was logged and milled from their property! The craftsmanship is sublime.

Our hosts even baked us “sweet bread” and had fresh eggs waiting. It was meant for breakfast the next morning, but it didn’t last very long. The bread was our dessert after dinner. It finished nicely after our grilled steaks.
I mean look at this freakin’ badass tent!!
We gathered around the campfire until it got too cold.

Y’all it was so perfect. The crisp night. The fire. The warm cup of tea. The stars. Shining brightly above the silhouette of trees surrounding our tent. Perfect.

I didn’t get a photo but there was also a wood burning stove inside the tent. You can see the smoke from the chimney in the photo below. It kept us very toasty throughout the night. 

I think the best thing about this lovely retreat was no cell phone service. 

You may laugh, however I’m not kidding.

Honestly, Khang has been extremely busy with work. This is the most I’ve ever seen him work even in college.

Always talking to his team, responding to emails, or catching up with deadlines and this is all after physically leaving work. He was bringing his work home and I was sick of it. 

While talking well into the night, I teary confessed to him that I secretly wanted to stay there in the enchanting forrest disconnected from the world because our current routine at home wasn’t making me happy. 

I mean, I don’t need that much attention, but the man was working too much. 

He agreed and we came up with a solution together. 

Things are thankfully better. I don’t know how many trips we could’ve taken out there. Hah! 

This last photo was taken with Hans “freelensing”. It’s a technique where you detach the lens from the body of your camera to get different focus points.

Khang said it looks like a painting. I think that’s good haha. Regardless, I love the results and will experiment more.

Until next time, Song Sparrow Hill.

Thank you for being just what we needed and more. 

Thank you for reading and following 

along with me,

Jules.

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Cat+Halle

This session almost didn’t happen. 

I am so so happy it did.

Forget that it took us 3 months to settle on a date,

forget that we were in the good ole’ South summer heat,

and forget that her car broke down 10 minutes before we were suppose to start shooting.

Forget it all.

Because baby, this sweeet Mother & Daughter Duo was worth all the “trouble”.

My goal was to capture the light from the sun.

That’s one (of many) things I’ve been struggling with since my transition from digital.

I’m quite proud of the light captured in these photos.

A different thing I’m been doing with my film is requesting Basic scans from the lab.

It’s kinda like raw images.

It was a personal choice because I felt like I could learn more by seeing them in their raw form as oppose to having an editor work on scans before they were delivered to me.

Here’s a comparison: Basic scan vs my edits.

Very little edits.

A big advantage with film is not needing major edit changes.

Just my personal opinion, but digital will never capture the softness like film does.

Okay, back to these two precious human beings.

We started off with “patty-cake”.

Wait, I have to back-track to when I picked them up.

Halle immediately warmed up to me saying, “Your car is so cute!” With her hands in the air and everything.

She opened up to me so quickly like we had been best friends forever.

Not sure how we got on the subject, but she proudly proclaimed, “When I was a baby, I was sooooooooo cute!!!”

I remember her as a baby. Babygirl sure was a cutie. Hah!

After that, I knew we were going to have fun.

Look at those small hands with their tiny painted nails. 

Halle also found out what “Eskimo kisses” meant that day. When we got close to the beach, Halle found a seashell and that was it.

She was determined to get enough “seashells for everyone in the whole world”.

Cat laughed and endearingly looked at her little firecracker of a daughter.

And after that, I was obsessed with capturing that look of a mother’s love.

This is why I asked if I could take photos of them.

I’d been admiring Cat’s love for her little girl from afar.

You can tell they have a special bond.

And I wanted to get that on film.

“Mommy, you can have this ONE shell.” 

When I got their scans back,

I marveled at the intimacy and vulnerability between mother and daughter.

Such a privilege to be allowed to witness those moments up close. Isn’t it great that y’all can too?

Thank you so much to Cat and Halle for letting me into your little circle.

I hope your bond only gets stronger with time.

May y’all look back on these photos and remember of these early, yet precious years as a family.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Life in film

Hey y’all!

Life’s been super busy (but good) around here lately.

I’ll elaborate later when my feet stop for a minute or two.

But during all the chaos, I’ve been snapping away.

Or at least trying to.

I wish I took the time to take more.

These are all personal shots of my Family.

So they mean a lot to me.


My brother-in-law, Greg, picked this magnolia after Ngoc and I mentioned how pretty they were blooming nearby their apartment back in April.

Of course, I took a few photos.

This was my favorite.

The rest are from my time in Nebraska for my cousin’s wedding and our quick weekend trip to Austin.

I didn’t get to capture my favorite moments in Nebraska like listening to my aunts retell childhood stories in Vietnam,

talking till 4am with my sweet baby cousin, 

flipping through old family albums and laughing at the hairdo choices,

praying together around my Grandpa’s grave.

and always being just an arm length’s away from one of my many loud-all-up-in-your-business-but-you-love-them-anyways relatives. 

But I’m reminded of those fun times with these shots.

It felt good to visit Lincoln again after 12 years.

Gosh, it was work to carry Hans in the summer heat of Texas. 

Temperatures reached the three digits! 

It was worth it though.
We played with the self-timer. 

Khang is getting particularly good at taking photos of me.

I recommend everyone picking up a camera and just start capturing your significant other.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results.

Khang concentrates so hard with each photo. 

I was laughing at how serious he was on “focusing” Hans. Ha.

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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Gena+Oliver

So here’s the thing, I’ve been trying to get more serious with photography.

Experimenting with different kinds of sessions: Portraits, couples, family, still-life, personal, etc.

And what I feel most comfortable photographing are the intimate connections and spaces between humans, animals, and things.

The connections created through love.

So I approached Gena.

Not because it looked totally fun to photograph a freakin’ horse, but because I’ve always admire Gena herself.

And her apparent love for horses.

To quote her, “It’s more than a sport, a hobby, or a pet – horses touch your soul and there’s something special about being in sync with another being & working together as a team. Nothing like it.”

She’s special.

So is her horse, Oliver.

And together, they are a remarkable duo.

What I love most in these pictures are Gena’s facial expressions-the looks of love, joy, laughter, peace-and her soft touches with Oliver.

Pay close attention to her hands in these photos.

There’s so much trust between them that some people struggle to find all their lives.

The correct term to describe Oliver’s coat is “flea-bitten grey”.

Look at how darling his ears are!


Gena, you’re beautiful.

No lie, I’ve been staring at your photos and picturing them in my head multiple times everyday since getting these scans back last week.

Can’t stop, won’t stop!

This one.

It was the last shot. I asked her to take off the floral crown because I wanted to capture the glow of her fiery hair.

Le sigh.

They both live on a farm with other horse owners and horses.

Her apartment is attached to a barn.

Y’all, she basically lives in a barn.

These photos were taken in an open field next to her.

It’s absolutely lovely there and I’ve been secretly planning on how to convince Khang to live on a farm too!

I wish I took more photos of the entire compound. 

She even has a little garden of tomatoes, strawberries, green beans, and carrots, which she pulled out from the soil and gave to Oliver as a snack after our photoshoot. 

That is the dream. 

They were a dream to work with! 

Gena and Oliver, thank you both so much for welcoming me into your home. 

I hope you’ll look back on these photos as fond memories. 

Thanks for reading and following along

with me,

Jules.

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My lovely Yang

There’s so much I could and would like to say about my best friend, Michelle, who I endearingly call “Yang”, but I’d never be able to finish.

Not only because there’s so much to tell, but also due to the fact that after basically 25+ years of knowing her she still continues to surprise me with her unwavering love.

Y’all, she is the best person I know.

Great, now there are tears in my eyes as I’m typing this.

Those who know her well or even just a little will undeniably agree with me.

One of the many things I love most about her is the love and care she shows to complete strangers.

There’s so much good in her.

And she doesn’t keep it to herself. Not at all.

If you’re fortunate enough to have encountered her…I would not need to tell you how lucky you are because you would just know right away what a beautiful and kind soul she possesses.

And when you’ve known someone since babyhood, things get nostalgic.

Our friendship has seen its ups and downs.

I remember a time when I had very unpleasant feelings towards her around our middle school years.

I confided our problems to someone close to me and that person gave me the advice to just end the friendship. 

But after thinking about it, I decided our friendship was worth fighting for. 

And it makes me feel so incredibly thank you that we both fought for our friendship because it has honestly gotten better and better with age.

So here we were on what felt like a typical day.

[She’s always supporting me and my crazy random ideas]

She’s my absolute favorite person to photograph. Wayyyy before I had this new fancy camera.

We drove around for almost an hour trying to find a good place to start taking photos.

It was just two best friends catching up on life.

Her shoot is how I’d like to “model” my future shoots to come.

Just two friends chatting it up and me capturing the natural beauty in front of me.

So simple and effortless.

Minus the ant-pile I stepped in. It was totally worth it though. Ha.

For those who have always seen Michelle as a “cute girl”, prepare yourselves.

Actually don’t.

You’d be wasting your time.

There’s no way to prepare yourself for this. 

She’s a freakin’ unicorn.

Shot with Portra 800

Those to die for cheekbones.Shot with Fuji400, which is becoming my favorite stock so far. Shot with Portra 160Shot with Ektar 100

I changed these last shots to black and white because the stock and exposure I used made her skin splotchy and there was a little blur. All my fault. Not hers!

I also think the BW makes the photos more powerful and do justice to her expressions. 

I love you so much, Yang.

Thank you for being … you. 

You’ll never understand just how  grateful I am to have you in my life. 

I’m still surprised myself how you make me feel.

Last weekend, Ngoc told me a sweet story about you during your CCD days and it made me choke up with emotion. 

You’re the best.

Never forget. 

Thanks for reading and following  along,

with me

Jules.

Oh and by the way, none of these photos were edited by me.

Processed and scanned with FIND lab.

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