Behind the scenes - ELEMENTS photo shoot

Behind the Scenes of a photo shoot

In my previous post I showed you all the final images from my photo shoot for Erin Gates' spring line but here I'd like to draw back the curtin a bit and chat about the behind the scenes.

Since Erin and her team couldn't come down for the shoot, I had to style and produce the shoot on my own and recruit a few locals for some help.  The pillows were all shipped down from New York and I traveled with all my gear (and two children) by plane, but I wanted to leave the accessorizing and prop shopping until I got down to Georgia.  First and foremost, for logistical reasons, I physically could not bring everything 1000 miles.  Secondly, I wanted to shop the shops down there to make sure the shoot had that low country vibe.  Luckily St. Simons Island, GA is ripe with some fantastic shops.  Vine Garden Market was treasure trove.  I picked up flowers, accessories and books there.  The Market at Sea Island has fabulous local goods and pantry items. (P.S. I am obsesses with Georgia Olive Farms Olive Oil and Dot and Army table linens.  Both items all made in Georgia and both really great quality!  I love seeing what shops in different parts of the country curate and offer.  It can be so different from region to region.

Vine Garden Market

Johnson Van Interiors is a no longer a retail space but their design studio it still a great inspiration and wonderful to pop in, say hi and flip through their amazing fabric library.  Talk about organizational goals.

And of course I had to pop into the amazing Dee Simmons Interiors.  Her design reputation and the amazing Lindsay Adelman branching chandler drew me in.  (I had already purchased my branching globe chandler, and I just installed it last week.  I am in love.)

And this custom Dee Simmons designed horn scones was AMAZING.  Just wish my photo wasn't so crappy.

Scouting Locations

I was fortunate enough to know my shooting location quite intimately, as it was my family's home.  I had already planned out some locations in my mind, but I was pleasantly surprised once I did some scouting shots how new amazing little spots gave just the perfect white light, almost like a studio.  Not to mention my mom's succulent game was on and strong.  They just love that Georgia humid heat.

Day of the Shoot

With my inspiration, prop and flower shopping complete I was ready to get down to the shoot.  I hired a local assistant (and sometime babysitter to my kids) to help with the shoot.  The stuffing and re-stuffing of pillows alone took half the day.  She was a rock star, and there nothing better or more southern than your photo assistant showing up in monogrammed leather riding boots...and getting Chick-fil-a for lunch.

You can't tell form the photos but it was POURING down rain that day.  We literally had to watch the radar and time our outside shoots down to the minute, but a good rain also leaves the foliage looking glossy and saturated with color.  Overall the shoot was a lot of work, but a lot of great photos also came from the shoot.  A win.

Congratulations to Erin on a gorgeous spring collection.  I can't wait to see...and shoot Fall 2017. 

Spring Refresh

I recently did a photo shoot for the spring 2017 collection of ELEMENTS by Erin Gates.  Most of the pillow are now available on Wayfair with the rest to come soon.  At that price point you can totally justify a spring refresh.  New accessories can totally change a space.  

Now when Erin and I were talking about this shoot in January, we had the challenge of being in New England, but needing a warm weather location.  You can't exactly sell Spring pillows with snow on the ground.  Luckily I had a trip down south planned, so they shipped me all the samples and I set up a photo shoot down in Sea Island, GA.  

I love how the softer spring light had already arrived down there and the colors just popped against the lush background.

You can't go wrong with a good nautical blue, and I love how you can mix and match her patterns. 

These tropical corals really give some pop.  Also note the gorgeous custom Dunes & Duchess luggage rack we got to use as a prop.  Thanks Stacy!

What can be more spring than green?!?!    Switching up this set form the coral pillows to the green, really shows how a space can transform with just accessories. 

The perfect blush, this would be so pretty in a nursery. 

As always, Erin can do amazing things with neutrals. Part safari, part classic, you can't go wrong.


I had so much fun, shooting and producing this shoot.  Next up I'll give you some behind the scenes form the shoot. You wouldn't know it form the photos but it was pouring down rain for most of the day!

Irish Castle Fairy Tale

My week in an Irish castle

Happy St. Patrick's day!  I figured this was the perfect day to share the trip we took to Ireland last August and specifically, Ashford Castle.  Erin Gates also, graciously posted it on her site today, but I wanted to share it on my site too.

Last summer my family and I had a true fairy tale vacation…we went to Ireland and stayed in a castle!  A real life castle.  This place is all your Downton Abby fantasies come to life…on steroids.

The medieval castle dates back to 1228, but there is nothing archaic about this place.  The wikipedia page on the history of the castle is here, and the hotel page is here but let me tell you about our trip in my own words. 

Two years ago the entire castle underwent a major renovation.  Every inch of the place was meticulous restored, renovated and furnished; marble bathrooms, historic oil paintings, gorgeous antique furniture and decor, and silk wall coverings in every guest room (my two-year old may or may not have put a milk stain on one…)  The property covers 350 acres with multiple gardens, woods, a clay pigeon shooting corse, stables and a falconry school.  Yes, a falconry school!


Front entrance complete with refurbished Land Rover fit for the queen and the friendly doorman Patrick, who also recommend a great restaurant in Dublin owned by his cousin of course.

Irish wolf hound statues guard the front.  While real wolfhounds, Cronan and Garvan, lounge in the great hall each morning after their walk, because what is an Irish castle without an Irish Wolfhound or two.


The Interiors

As I said, the entire castle underwent a major renovation and restoration 2 years ago and no detailed was spared. They even have a line of wellies in every size at the front door…because this is Ireland after all. 

The great hall and corridors are complete with a chess set fit for a Lord (my little Lord) and formal oil paintings of your dogs…as one does.  Not to mention a gorgeous billiards room, bar, wine cellar, spa and movie theater.  The place literally had EVERYTHING!   

My Parents room was located in the original gothic wing of the castle and had the most amazing decorative pieces.  Malachite obelisks and fish eye eagle mirror for the win!  (Just looked it up and this type of mirror is called a Regency Gkirandole.)                                 


Our room, was in the newest wing because we needed an adjoining door to the kids room, but it was no less spectacular.  Silk wall coverings with matching canopy bed, antique caned bench and a painting of Lord Fancypants to watch over it all.    


The Gardens and Woods

We spent our days wandering the grounds, exploring the gardens, playing in the old ruins and “hunting for dragons” in the woods.  The kids just ran wild.  It was wonderful.  (Warning, upon arrival, awaiting each child on their bed was a robe, slippers, cookies and plastic sword.  Giving a 2 and 4 year old a sword in a castle filled with antiques and Waterford Crystal gave me a slight heart attack so we tried to regulate sword usage to outside only.  Let just say we helped chop many a boxwood.)


We were there for 5 days which gave us plenty of time to soak in all that beauty and try a few activities as well. 

The sables were just a short walk away and filled with sweet ponies.  Ridding on an Irish estate really completes the castle dream, no?  I fear I have ruined my daughter for life.  This place is like Disneyland but for real.  “Not every trip is going to be like this honey.”  

Not to miss out on other Downton Abby type activities, we tried out hand at clay pigeon shooting.  My sister and I did our best to play the part…lets just say, she is the Mary and I am the Sybil :)  And our instructor, Tim, was wonderful and looked everybit the part in his wool and tweed.  

Also on the property is Ireland’s School of Falconry!  Yes, basically real life Hogwarts.  We didn’t do the private hawk walk but we did pop in and visit the birds.  Hawks, falcons, owls, you name it.  I kinds of wish we had done it, but as spoiled as we are we literally couldn’t do everything.

Village of Cong

Not to be forgotten is the darling Village of Cong.  A short walk from the castle there are some pubs, a few book stores, shops and some old Abby ruins.  The 1952 movie The Quiet Man staring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed there.  With the addition of a gas station or two, not much has changed.  There isn’t even an ATM.  My sister and I loved getting up early to take a walk through the woods to town and then back to the castle for breakfast.  Again…living out our Downton Abby fantasies. 

Hope y’all enjoyed my trip to Ireland.  I know we sure did.  Sláinte and Happy St. Patrick’s day to you all.  


All photos ©Sarah M Winchester













Shop Local

With the weekend starting and 9 days until Christmas, I had to give a little plug to some Boston area shops, that are not only wonderful shops, but also happen to have some of my art for sale!

M Flynn

40 Waltham Street, Boston, MA M-F 11-6, S & S 11-5

This jewelry shop is owned and run by 2 lovely sister Megan and Moria (Irish much?)  They asked to feature a series of mine for the Holidays and I had to go with my Paris Series. This series arose from a love of those quiet Parisian moments, a cafe on a rainy night, the Metro stop swooshing by, graffiti on a bathroom wall, or the Louvre museum at closing time.  Quiet, calm, sexy, saturated, all those things Paris can be.  I wanted to grab them in a photograph, tuck them away and bring them home.  More than just a postcard from the city, but to capture the thoughts and feelings Pairs induces.

They also have some carry-all pouches in which I had some of my favorites photographs from my catalogue printed

Not to mention they are featuring a beautiful line of jewelry designed by my dear friends Erin Gates.


Elizabeth Home Decor

242 Commonwealth Ave. Chestnut Hill, MA. M-F 10-5.  

Elizabeth's shop is brimming with home decor goodies, include some of my framed art as well as some of my prices turned dink coasters and more carry-all bags.  As well as tons of art and beautiful ceramics form my old studio mate Jill Rosenwald, whose work is all make right here in Boston.

Lark Hotel Pop-up Shop

144 Newbury Street, Boston, MA.  Tues-Sat, Dec 13-17, 11:00am-8:00pm, Sunday, Dec 18 11:00am-6:00pm

Basically this is a shop featuring everything you find in one of their gorgeously designed hotels.  From sheets and wallpaper, to pillows and accessories. They are showing my photograph Bimini Reef, which is also in their Martha's Vineyard hotel The Christopher. Not too much time left for this pop up shop, so if you are walking around Newbury Street this weekend "pop" in :)  

I'll images by me except for the Lark Hotels pop up shop image. 


Deck the Halls with EVERYTHING


As I mentioned before, I LOVE Christmas.  I am Clark Griswold and Buddy the Elf rolled into one.  I think I began planning my Christmas decorating scheme this year some time in October, when I told my husband I wanted to...big news...change where we normally place the tree!  He laughed and dutifully indulged me by pretended he had been thinking about that too.  Well we have been busy decorating the house.  I'm not going to lie, I am pretty pleased with how things came out.  This is our 3rd Christmas here and I think we may have mastered a Christmas decorating plan to repeat in years to come.

The Foyer

This year we also decided to put the tree right in the foyer.  I love that you can see the tree from almost any room, and you instantly see it upon entering the from door or walking down the stairs.  



The Library

Bay Leaf garland draping the fireplaces in out Living Room and Library.  They smell amazing even as the dry.  Also, I got these stocking by John Robishaw years ago, but finally had our names monogrammed on them this fall by Hempsted Thread.  Now if only we could convert those fireplaces to working year please Santa.  Also, a special thanks to Libby Silvia from Art Style, who let me borrow that cool "Rising Moon" blue dot painting by Stephanie Henderson.  After I sold my Live Oaks piece, the wall was quite bare and I needed something for the holidays.  

The Living Room

More bay leaf garland, some little lemon cyprus trees, a plaid throw, and some wonderful angel print pillows from outsider artist R. A. Miller, my mother and aunt gave me years ago along side Christmas books from other great artists, Eric Carle and Howard Finster.  A nod to our family's Georgia and Massachusetts roots.

The Dinning Room

I potted lots and lots of Paperwhites.  The smell is a bit strong from my husband, so we have had to move then around a bit, but they are just so Christmassy,  especially planted in the silver Paul Revere bowls tied with some ribbon.

I love my blue and white ceramics and I  was inspired by a recent photo shoot with Shelter Interiors to place them on the dinning room table.  I loved them there so much, I didn't want to move them for the holidays.  And  thanks to my mom for bringing these gorgeous orchids to Thanksgiving dinner.  I haven't killed them yet! 

Christmas is T-minus 9 days and our house is bursting with excitement.  I hope every one is having a wonderful Holiday Season



Concord Holiday House Tour

This is no secret to any one who knows me, I LOVE Christmas.  So last year when I got to photograph one of the home on the Concord Holiday House Tour I was in candy cane heaven.  The vibrant home was all decked out for Christmas by Megan Pesce of Megan Pesce Interiors.  The place was warm and colorful and gave me major Christmas goals. (I have actually been a busy busy elf, decorating away and will share my home photos next week.)

 In the meantime here are all the photographs of that Christmas heaven and here is an article in New England Home Magazine with Meagan spilling all the history and design detail.  

A Scottish Highlands 40th Birthday Party

Last Tuesday my husband turned 40 years old!  While I love love love hosting parties, I hate for them to be about me, so I figured this was the prefect opportunity for me to throw a dream party, without it having to be about me...that and I wanted to celebrate my husband.  A party all about him, surrounded by close friends and family who know him best.  Inspired by the Instagram stylings of @AtlantisHome,  I took the idea of a Scottish Highlands dinner party and ran with it.  Considering my husband much prefers a good glass of scotch to birthday cake, I thought it would be perfect. 

I had my mom ship me her silver candelabras, picked up some schootish wool tartans and silver bowls at Brimfield and picked the Union Club of Boston for the event.  Considering it was founded in 1863, what better old-school/old world place to have this dinner.  An old club for an old man...although I'm not far behind on the 40 train so I shouldn't talk:)  Luckily, my husband's friends and family are anything but stuffy so I knew the party would be a lively one even amid the formal setting.

We laughed, we drank, we told stories about him, we ate, we drank....we had a blast.  Happy happy 40th Steve.  I can't wait to see what the next 40 years brings. 



Photo of the room and table by me.  Party pics by our friend Steve O'Brian, who graciously snapped some shots so I could enjoy the party.

The Poet of Prague - Josef Sudek

Photographer Josef Sudek , or the Poet of Prague as he became know, has long been a favorite of mine, ever since my graduate school photography professor,  Pradip Malde (also another amazing photographer) introduced me to Suede's work.  At the time I was studying large format photography and platinum-palladium printing over a crazy hot Chicago summer.  My boyfriend had just broken up with me and was fully immersed in that whole, art school "who am I" world.  Sudek's images seemed so melancholy, so thoughtful, so relatable, yet distant at the same time. 

With news of a Josef Sudek exhibition in Paris this summer, The Intimate World of Josef Sudek, I once again dove back into Suede's work.  Sadly I will not be jetting off to Paris to view the exhibition but I have been viewing it online and I have ordered the catalogue.  I find new inspiration in his work.  Gone is the art school girl, searching for answers in bars, museums, and coffee shops, and in her place is a busy mom of two little ones, a wife and a working photographer.  In our technology fueled world, flushed with images of pinpoint digital accuracy, Suede's work seems almost painterly and perhaps other worldly.  

Here are some of my favorites.

Here are some from the exhibition in Paris.

Behind the scenes - anatomy of a photo shoot

What goes into a photo shoot?  I have been asked that question many times and depending upon the shoot, the answer varies greatly.  In my years spent as a commercial photographer I have experienced may different locations, elements and factors.  From photographing a mason laying block 54 stories up, overlooking Miami Bay, to literally carrying models on my back during a particularly wet and muddy spring fashion shoot.  

Over the past 3 years my commercial work has been focused solely on interior and architectural photography.  Perhaps it is my love of art history or my own labor of love in renovating our 1880's home, but there is something about the world of interiors and architecture.  I have found it to have so much amazing talent, who are also the most fun people to work with.  A day on an interior photo shoot can be long, but we always seem to have fun.  For that reason, I thought it would be fun to share what a day in the life of an interiors photo shoot looks like. 

5:45 am - My 4 year old is usually up sneaking into our bed and my 2 year old is calling for me from his crib (although recently it has been all about dada.)

6:15 am - Alarm goes off.  Even tough I have two little alarm clocks who are more precise that a swiss time piece, we still need a reminder that snuggle time is over and it is time to get moving. 

6:15-7:45am - Our morning routing is a finely orchestrated (chaotic) system to get everyone up, fed, and dressed in some sort acceptable, weather appropriate clothing.  I get the kids dressed and down stairs.  Our babysitter arrives to help finish up breakfast and the packing of snacks and lunch while I run upstairs to get dressed.  All showering must be done the night before because there is now way I have time to do all that in the morning.  I would have to actually get our of bed at 5:45 and I am not willing to miss snuggle time. 

 On shoot I want to look professional but I also have to be able to move around, climb, and be on my feet all day.  Which is why for a photo shoot day, I usually rely on some type of skinny jeans/pants, a silk top (Tibi and Rag and Bone are my favorites) and flat shoes, (Chucks, Vans-like sneakers, or a pointy toe flat if I am feeling fancy :)  P.S. this not my closet but a shot from a photo shoot I did for a store interior.  I WISH my closet looked like this. Uniform certainly dressing makes life easier.


7:45 am - I am literally waiting for pre-school door to open at 8, so I can drop my daughter off and then rush to the shoot location.  For earlier shoots or further destinations I enlist the hubby, babysitter, mother-in-law, legal driver with a pulse, you name it, to do the drop off.  

Then it is off to the shoot.  Again, all camera prep, packing of gear and organization has been done the night before.  Sometimes I even get to hop over to Nantucket for a shoot.  By ferry or by CapeAir (or Cape"scare"), I don't care.  I love those days.  

Arrive on location - I think my mornings are chaotic, making sure I have all my gear, etc., but my clients and their stylists have usually been prepping for the shoot for days if not weeks, shopping for styling props and getting the location all ready.  Not to mention, usually a pre-dawn trip to the flower market to get fresh flowers for the shoot.  Their cars are packed to the brim with all sorts of goodies.  My friend and talented designer, Erin Gates does a great break down of what an interiors photo shoot looks like from her end in her book Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life

Shooting - The actually shooting of a space can be quite calm.  I think that is what I love it so much.  For a full day shoot I have usually done a scouting trip, so I know approximately which angles and shots we want to get.  It can really make the difference. 

Then is it just taking time to play with lighting (only natural lighting if possible ) and micro adjust elements in the room.  Lamps moved a centimeter to the left, rotate the flowers a quarter of a turn counter-clockwise, reorient the entire rug, ya know...the little things.  My goal is to recreate what it feels like to be in the space through photography.  Do I use the sunbeams shining through the french doors, or do I defuse the light to make it more even?  Do we use that extra chair peeking into frame, or remove it entirely?  I love the collaborative nature of an interior shoot and often have the designer peeking through my lens or right over my shoulder as we create.  I also have my laptop tethered to my camera so we can really "see what the camera sees."

5:00/6:00 pm or when the sun sets - Photo shoot days are long.  We often eat lunch standing and are constantly moving around.  One day I logged 40 flights of stairs and 18,000 steps on iPhone health app.  And depending upon the time of year we are often racing to get that last shot before the sun sets, which is why summer can be quite the busy season.  It is amazing what cameras can do these days but there is only so much you can do without good old natural sunlight.  

Post Production - No matter how great the lighting is on location, or how perfectly we have arranged the flowers, there is always post-production retouching to be done.  Sometimes it is as easy as dodging in the view from the windows, (but not too much because you don't want the photo to look fake or have that terrible real estate rendering look), other times more extensive retouching is required or requested.  It is all about creating what the eye naturally sees.  How it would look if you are in the room?  High-lighting the design and the feel of the room.  

Just me, my computer and photo downloads (and lots of coffee and snacks:) 

Then I Dropbox link the photos to my client, pitch stories to publication and try to get those beautiful spaces seen.  

New York New York

Last weekend I had the double excitement of not only getting two nights away in Manhattan (sans kidos) but I got to have a little reunion dinner with 21 of my college sorority sisters....yes I was in a sorority.  A sorority girl?!?!?!  Yes.  Not the exactly the cool girl image you might expect/want in a photographer, but I had the time of my life with these girls in college and it was so fun to see where we all are now.  Whether we are now practicing law, teaching barre, working in finance, a marketing genius for Disney, a busy mom or shooting photographs for a living, after a few glasses of wine we all seemed like those same college girls, trying to figure life out and have some laughs on the way.  Love you girls.  Let's not wait another 10 years.  oxox

Added bonus, I found myself with a little time to kill Sunday morning so of course had my camera on hand and walked around the city for a bit.  I know, I know, New York City as a creative inspiration is as stereotypical as a blonde sorority girl from the south (mind you I may have grown up in the south but I went to school outside Philly), but cliches have their reputation for a reason and I never cease to find thought and emotion when walking around that city.  

Some girl time and shopping on Saturday also let to some pretty cool patterns and shape inspiration at the Céiline boutique in Soho and the new Barney's downtown.

Loving the minimalism and geo vibe.  Throw in some gold accents and you had me at Céiline luggage handbag. 

New York in the evening can be quite magical.  Cue the Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City voice over about how hopeful New York is....blah blah blah :)


But there is just something about a quiet New York.  Walking around, early Sunday morning, before most of the city is awake is particularly special.  A place that is usually so busy and crowded it practically a ghost town.  The city that never sleeps...except on Sunday morning.