Farm-to-Table Eateries in ATL

We’re longing for sunny outdoor shoots and green landscapes. Until we can shed the coats and umbrellas, I hope a look at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in Atlanta–and the vibrant shots we took of them in much nicer weather–will help those fresh summer vegetables and patio dining feel more within reach! Our roundup includes eateries that are on a mission to improve our food and how we treat animals, and to source local, seasonal food because it simply tastes better. Eating fresher and supporting the local economy and environment while we’re at it is now downright easy in Atlanta…and we think that’s something to celebrate.

Al fresco dining at King + Duke

Al fresco dining at King + Duke

1. Kimball House

Kimball House in Decatur combines fine dining with a deep respect for fresh, seasonal, locally sourced food and the farms that provide it. The result is a daily-changing farm to table menu with unusual French panache. The owners passion for preservation and old fashioned hospitality comes through in the unique building, too: A former railroad station rehabilitated in the style of the Kimball House Hotel that once graced downtown Atlanta. The restaurant’s many accolades include being named one of Southern Living‘s Best New Restaurants last year.

2. Empire State South

At Empire State South on Peachtree, Hugh Acheson from Top Chef leads the culinary team in redefining Southern food as something much more–and much healthier–than the stereotypical fried chicken and barbecue. He believes in taking advantage of the agrarian landscape around us, and it shows in the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus that draw heavily from Georgia farms and feature local yogurts and cheeses. ESS’s recipes have been printed in many national magazines and Acheson’s own veggie-centric cookbook, A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, has gotten lots of great press.

3. King + Duke

The atmosphere at King + Duke in Buckhead is defined by a unique hearth, which also drives the menu: Locally sourced, seasonal ingredients cooked over an open fire. This direct-heat cooking is combined with sustainable, organic advocacy that extends to responsible butchering. And…Chef EJ Hodgkinson is now offering complimentary hushpuppies with housemade chili jam and aioli at the bar from 3 – 6 p.m. if you order a cocktail or glass of wine. Sweet!

4./5. Farm Burger and YEAH! BURGER

I’ve grouped these because Farm Burger and YEAH! BURGER are among a growing number of area restaurants that are on a mission to show people you don’t need a fine dining budget to enjoy locally sourced, healthy food. They’re committed to improving fast food by sourcing from humane farmers who engage in sustainable, environmentally friendly practices (no harmful chemicals, no heavy processing). Farm Burger takes “local” seriously with all-natural buns, hormone-free cattle raised on Southeastern sweet grass and goat cheese from Georgia’s Decimal Place Farm. You can check out Farm Burger in either Dunwoody or Decatur; YEAH! BURGER has both West Midtown and ‎Virginia-Highland locations.

Thanks to the AJC for giving us the chance to learn about all of these great spots while shooting for their Living Intown magazine!

TMS Girl Scouts Earn Photography Badge with Life on Film!

We recently got to do something a little different that was a lot of fun: We helped The Museum School‘s Girl Scout troop earn their photography badge. It’s always valuable to reflect on what it is that makes great photos meaningful and memorable, and having the opportunity to share what we love with such a wonderful group of girls was amazing!

We kicked things off with a prep session after school at The Museum School focused on three photography principles: Fill the frame, have a strong center of interest and keep a clean background. Next the girls came to Life on Film‘s backyard studio with their own camera, and I could see them putting those principles into action. It was so cool to watch them develop their own points of view as they surveyed vignettes from different perspectives and snapped lots of shots.

The girls took advantage of just about all of the studio’s features…and the hammock and swing seemed to be at the top of everyone’s “must photograph” list.

Lyndsey worked with the girls and gave a workshop on photo editing using the basics of Photoshop. Each Girl Scout had the chance to choose their favorite photo and enhance it.

Here is a very small selection from the wonderful shots they took themselves! I love the variety and wish I could include them all. Some girls were drawn to human subjects, while others focused on the landscape and features of the yard.

Many thanks to Kate Grace, their Troop Leader, for letting us work with the girls in developing new skills. And who knows…Maybe we’ve even planted a seed in someone who will grow up to love photography as much as we do!

Date Night Ideas — Valentine’s Day in Atlanta

It’s that time again! Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Once you’ve lined up a great date, the challenge is figuring out how to spend that special evening. It can be tough to think of something to top what you did last year, or to see beyond dinner at the usual place and a movie. That’s where I’m hoping I can lend a hand. I’m lucky as a photographer for AJC‘s Living Intown because I get to shoot many of the fun, quaint and quirky spots that make Atlanta unique. I’ve taken photographs highlighting some of the best places and sights in just about every metro neighborhood. One thing they all have in common: They’re amazing date destinations!

If you want to go the traditional route with a nice dinner for two, you don’t have to settle for boring. Check out Two Urban Licks, a warehouse turned funky restaurant with a sky high wine wall and floating chandeliers. The vibe gets sultry on Saturday nights with live blues. Or, what could be more romantic than sharing a superb meal and a breathtaking view? The Westin Sun Dial, a restaurant on top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza, actually revolves with an observatory level where you get a 360 degree view of the skyline.

Maybe a nice meal sounds great but you’d like to keep things a bit more casual. I recommend the Brick Store, a neighborhood pub in Decatur. The menu offers standard pub fare like burgers but also goes well beyond (like pan-seared rainbow trout with roasted butternut squash). Another gem is Chai Pani in Decatur, serving innovative but affordable Indian street food.

After dinner, there are many options to take you and your date beyond the ordinary. The beauty of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is always a date magnet. At their “Valentines in the Garden” event you can stroll through tropical conservatories (orchid time!), dance to live music and enjoy cocktails and desserts from Atlanta caterers. Another option is Paris on Ponce‘s Luscious Love Valentine’s Weekend Event with vaudeville, cabaret dancing and circus entertainment. Or, if you’d rather keep things light, check out the Laughing Skull Lounge‘s show featuring comedy writer Emo Philips.

Atlanta also has plenty to offer if you want to step out of the ordinary with your sweetheart to experience some fine art, culture or history. There’s the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory, which is also having a special Valentine’s event with The Farmhouse at Serenbe. At the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead you can explore two historic homes, the huge Goizuetta Gardens and the Margaret Mitchell House (birthplace of one of the great romances of all time, Gone with the Wind). Let’s also not forget the High Museum for inspiring art and architecture, and the fabulous Fox Theatre, featuring a Pre-Valentine Weekend Celebration with Eric Benet on the 8th and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on Valentine’s Day.

If you’d like to make a full day of it, or a weekend getaway, try a treatment or two at Bliss at the new W Atlanta-Midtown before turning in at Urban Oasis B&B.

Even if these destinations don’t make it into your date night itinerary, be sure to add them to your list for 2015, as they’re some of the best Atlanta has to offer. Wishing you much love and happiness this Valentine’s season!

Pretty in Pink at Meryll’s Bat Mitzvah

Sometimes we have the chance to enjoy time with a client in more than one setting or during multiple events. It’s a treat to be able to capture different sides of their personalities and their interaction together in photographs. Meryll’s Bat Mitzvah, the last we covered in 2014, was one of these gems. Working with her fun-loving family was such a joyful way to close out the year. We got to join them for a portrait session, her Bat Mitzvah rehearsal at The Temple, a family gathering at their new home and a gorgeous celebration at the Piedmont Driving Club following the ceremony.

Meryll and her Mom chose their favorite photos from the portrait session for her signing book. I love that it perfectly captures her beautiful smile and her sense of humor. The shots of Meryll alone are gorgeous but we also love the ones with her family. She and her Dad, Lee, are just so sweet together! Mom Sarah is hilarious and couldn’t have been more fun to work with. Their affection is so genuine that capturing beautiful moments with a lot of personality was a cinch.

The family ushered in Shabbat by lighting candles that were a wedding gift to Sarah and Lee from special friends who were at the party. It was beautiful to witness Meryll’s friends and family reciting the blessing.

The focus was on fun at the celebration at the Driving Club with musical entertainment flown in especially from Chicago. Guests made flipbooks courtesy of Flippitydooda (Sarah’s own company) and got to take them home as favors. The flash tattoos and headbands were also a HUGE hit!

Event planners Amy and Kate from Alchemy Event Studio outdid themselves with the glitter-themed decor and delectable food. Wow!  The Driving Club is a gorgeous venue on its own but they made it truly magical–a teenage girl’s dream!

We also captured some great video from the celebration…We’ll be sharing some snippets soon!

Mazel tov on this wonderful milestone, Meryll! We were so happy to be a part of it.

2014 Highlights…What a Year!

I’m always proud to be able to capture life’s important moments for our clients… and so thankful that you appreciate the beauty and honesty of documentary style, candid photography. You offered us SO many beautiful, meaningful moments in 2014 that I feel like I need to take a few minutes to review and reflect on everything we had the opportunity to experience with you.

Even though I’ve been at this for more than a decade, I’m always humbled when Life on Film is chosen to document a sacred ritual or coming of age ceremony like a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This year’s Mitzvah events gave us the chance to capture a unique mix of serious, emotional moments and sheer fun. We saw SO much creativity in the kinds of celebrations families planned. We experienced everything from a Hollywood event worthy of red carpet coverage to a chill, at-home jam session, and lots in between.

Over the course of 2014 I felt privileged to be able to continue working with amazing organizations like The Museum School, where my son is a student, and Flashes of Hope, which inspires us to look for joy in every moment.

One really fun part of the year was growing the portrait and wedding part of our business. We covered more truly momentous, life changing events like engagements and weddings than ever before. We shot portrait sessions with passionate newlyweds and sweet, young families. It’s been a joy to capture our clients’ personalities in their photos…and the relationships and special vibe each couple or family has.

One big accomplishment for me and my team was launching our new website for Life on Film Photography. If you haven’t visited yet, please check it out at and let us know what you think!

And, last but not least, I need to mention a really meaningful moment for me: The grand opening of our new backyard studio in Decatur. This was a labor of love that I was so thrilled to be able to share with friends, family and clients for the first time. The vignettes and activities we incorporated to encourage people to get creative and have fun were a hit at the grand opening celebration and have helped us capture some incredible shots in portrait sessions over the past few months.

We’re booking outdoor Sunday portrait sessions for the rest of the winter–warmed by our fire pit and sweetened by marshmallow roasting!–and for both spring and summer. Please call us at 678-992-4588 to reserve your spot on the calendar. I can’t thank you enough for helping Life on Film have our most amazing year ever in 2014. We can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

It’s a wrap: the first family portrait shoot in our backyard studio!

Our portrait session with Katherine, Will and their two girls–Mattie and Lily–was amazing! This family’s loving and fun spirit was a joy to photograph. Their shoot was even more special to me personally because it marked Life on Film‘s first official family portrait session in our new backyard studio!

I couldn’t have hand-picked a family that I’d want to share this “first” with more. I’m lucky to do a lot of work with Katherine in her role as principal at The Museum School. I also got to document Lily’s extreme cuteness over the course of her first year.

Lily absolutely adores big sister Mattie and insisted that we get shots of just the two of them as they explored different spots around the yard.

Luckily, once we covered Lily’s personal shot list she decided it would be just fine to take some pictures with her Mom and Dad, too!

Thank you, Katherine and Will, for letting me spend time with your beautiful family! I hope we’ve captured some moments that you’ll treasure forever.

Eric and Amanda’s First Family Portrait Shoot

Over the past month we’ve had the chance to give our new studio a real workout with backyard portrait sessions. One of our favorites was working with Eric and Amanda Tucker, who joined us for their first family portrait session as a married couple. Lyndsey is good friends with the couple and witnessed the beginning of their sweet story as a guest at their September 2013 wedding. She was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to shoot their first family photos.

These two are already the quintessential “cute couple”–remember those smiling faces in your high school yearbook?–but they amped up the cute factor even more by including their fur babies in the family shots.

The pups, Shelby and Boss, were by and large cooperative and adorable–though at times understandably more interested in exploring the sights and sounds of the yard than having their pictures taken! I’m not sure exactly what had captured Boss’ attention at this very moment, but I’d imagine the chickens were of interest.

The camera loved Eric and Amanda’s snuggling up in the hammock for some great casual shots.

In the process they also provided some unexpected gymnastics for the blooper reel…and some great laughs! We might have been worried under other circumstances, but this is one strong duo! Eric is a personal trainer (who actually coached Lyndsey) as well as a natural bodybuilding competitor. He’s now studying to become a nutritionist, and Amanda is training for her first natural figure competition.

In just about every vignette and every shot, Eric and Amanda’s fun personalities — and true love — shined through. It was an honor to shoot their first family photos, and we look forward to documenting more as they continue to forge their path together.

Now Open! Our New Backyard Studio!

Last month marked a huge milestone for us: the official grand opening of our new backyard photography studio in Decatur. We held a party to celebrate everyone who contributed time, talent and inspiration to the project and to give all of our friends, family and clients the opportunity to take a peek at how great it turned out. Thank you to everyone who was able to join us!

Somehow we didn’t get the sunshine I ordered, but the cozy fire pit helped take the chill off. The s’mores definitely didn’t hurt, either.

The kids had a blast feeding the chickens and checking out the many other activities we’ve built into the studio, like hopscotch, a hammock, a treehouse and a porch swing.

I’m so grateful that my friend, Nick Edelstein, was able to lend his musical talent. His rendition of Kodachrome and other photo-focused tunes added a really cool vibe to the party while everyone munched and explored the space.

Mother Nature definitely disappointed with the temperature and gray skies. She at least partially redeemed herself, though, by contributing gobs of leaves for the little ones to enjoy.

It was really exciting to capture such great shots of friends, family and clients in our very own studio. Lyndsey and I were exuberant when we looked at all of the photos afterwards.

We’re so excited to share our new space with you. If you’d like to come by and take a look, or book an outdoor portrait session, please call us at 678-992-4588.

Matthew R.’s Jammin’ Bar Mitzvah

We’ve been to a lot of beautiful, memorable Mitzvah celebrations in metro Atlanta–big, small, fancy, quaint, and just about everything in between. We’ve marvelled at parties in elegant event facilities, enjoyed professional entertainment and gourmet catering and seen custom decorations designed by event planners. Each celebration is pretty amazing in its own unique way. Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah, which we had the pleasure of covering last month, was a first for us and equally amazing: An INCREDIBLY cool, creative and personal celebration that took place right in his own home.

What do we mean by cool, you may be thinking? For starters, they had a jam session in their own loft with guitars, piano, percussion, a saxophone and clarinet. It was a blast just to witness it and listen in.

Kim, Matthew’s Mom, incorporated many creative details into the festivities that lent a warmth while keeping the kids happily engaged. Family and friends gathered for card and board games, and many created inspiring message stones.

The celebration also included the Havdallah with the customary candle lighting and spices.

Before the party, both the rehearsal and Bar Mitzvah ceremony took place at Congregation Or Hadash in Sandy Springs, led by Rabbi Mario Karpuj.

This family exuded warmth, joy and deep pride in Matthew’s achievements. We are so grateful to have had the chance to capture their special moments.

A Museum in a Box!

We love covering The Museum School events and taking student photographs. It’s a great bunch of people, staff and students included, and I’m personally invested because my son attends TMS. If you’re not familiar with it, TMS is a local innovator in education. It’s based on the concept that kids learn best through personal exploration and hands-on learning, and is one of a kind in Georgia. We recently made a couple of visits to the school to cover their Museum-in-a-Box program, a cool way in which TMS is engaging students in experiential learning.

The grant-funded program brings amazing “museum boxes” into the classroom. Each trunk-sized box centers on a specific learning unit and contains a slew of content that helps teachers bring the subject to life.

We got to see teachers and students in action during a lesson on a Susan B. Anthony museum box. The trunk spanned everything from the toys she most loved through her commitment to concepts like equality. It seemed like the best of a field trip–real world learning–without the high cost.

We also covered a workshop where TMS teachers got to see the many different museum boxes they can share with their students. I’d guess one of their biggest challenges is what to choose first!

My right-hand lady, Lyndsey Wright, captured the scene as teachers learned how to implement the museum boxes in the classroom.

If you’ve ever wondered what a stronger partnership between local schools and community organizations could look like, this program suggests one fruitful outcome. The museum boxes are only possible via partnership with Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC); The Atlanta History Center; Zoo Atlanta; ArtsNow; Fernbank Museum of Natural History and the Georgia Aquarium.

I’m so glad we had the chance to see all of this in person because a Museum in a Box is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of…and now I’ll know what my son is talking about when he comes home raving about it!