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May 24, 2022
It has always been my biggest dream as a photographer to be a DESTINATION photographer, especiallty a wedding destination photographer. The end all and be all for me. And it’s happening! I have shoot in Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, Bakersfield, Ventura, Sedona, Flagstaff, and in the coming year we’ll be going to Los Angeles, Mexico City, and Philadelphia! This trip in particular was really special because Kiyomi and Orlando are getting married in San Diego but they are currently living in Hutto, Texas (outside of Austin) and they asked us to shoot their engagement session in their new hometown. We were beyond excited! Not only did we get to travel to a new city, but we got to spend some time with this fantastic couple and their beautiful little daughter Eliana. I had only met Kiyomi via Zoom because she was in Texas when she inquired with me and we talked for over an hour! She was, and is just the easiest person to talk to, incredibly sweet, kind, and engaging. Zack met them both on the day of the shoot in Texas and we just fell in love with them. We can’t wait for their upcoming wedding at the Guild Hotel in downtown San Diego.
We flew into Austin Thursday afternoon because the engagement session would be on Saturday and we needed time to scout around on Friday and find the perfect location. I was hoping that we would get there in time to see the hundreds of thousands (maybe milions) of free-tailed bats come out for the night from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. There were hundreds of people on the bridge, on the grassy areas around the bridge, on rooftops, etc. waiting to see them. We waited and waited and then finally they came out after sundown so it was actually difficult to see them. When we stood underneath a lampost they were visible though and it really was spectacular. Check out more information about the bats here.
After watching the bats, we then headed over to our hotel and we loved it! Kiyomi had made a reservation for us at the Westin Hotel in The Domain which is a really hip outdoor mall with trendy restaurants, clubs, shops, and hotels. The Yard House was calling our names because a tasty dark beer was definitely needed. When we finally got inside our room we were so encouraged to see that Orlando and Kiyomi had left us a bottle of champagne with a note welcoming us to Austin. They are amazing!
Friday morning I was super excited to head into Waco to see The Silos where Chip and Joanna Gaines have basically created a stylish little wonderland for families and visitors to relax, shop, eat, and play. Even Zack was impressed! They have it all set up brilliantly! There is an old remodeled church in the center of the compound and beautifully landscaped courtyards for people to mingle and relax. Of course there are two large stores of their merchandise and six smaller little cottage stores. We were shocked that the prices were not over-the-top as we expected. There is also a baseball field for families to play wiffle ball and for dining there were numerous food trucks selling scrumptious tasty and somewhat healthy treats. The garden was lovely as well. It was absolutely worth the hour and a half drive.
Next, we headed over to Hutto to meet up with Kiyomi and her adorable little daughter Eliana in order to scout for the perfect location for their engagement session. I had contacted several Austin/Hutto area photographers to ask where they liked to shoot and I did actually get some wonderful responses. However, Kiyomi was the best scout of them all! She found the perfect spots just a block from her house and in “downtown” Hutto. Zack and I absolutely loved the places she found and if I lived in Hutto, I would be shooting there as much as possible. She showed us a beautiful little pond with purple flowers, a field of yellow flowers, and a great rusty bridge. All perfect! There were some enormous(everything is bigger in Texas!) bumble bees on the flowers but luckily it rained the next day and they were no where to be found during their engagement session.
The only bummer part of this day was that since I am from California, I knew nothing about FIRE ANTS! While scouting around in my sandals I just happened to stand on their mound and quickly realized my error! They don’t call them fire ants for nothing! Wow, I paid for that! In case you don’t know, they bite AND sting! For the next two weeks I had blisters on my feet and ankles and they itched so bad that they woke me up at night. Wow, Texas is intense!
Kiyomi had suggested we visit a little town called Georgetown since it supposedly had the cutest townsquare in all of Texas, so we just had to see it! She wasn’t kidding, it was perfectly picturesque. We had a great time wandering around the stylish and funky little stores and admiring the historic architecture. I wouldn’t have thought of Texas as a place for the making of wine but they do apparenly have vineyards and so we did a little wine tasting as well. The reds were great but the whites had nothing on California.
Since we wouldn’t be shooting until late afternoon, we headed into downtown Austin and to South Congress Street which is famous for being quirky and trendy at the same time. Super cool and filled with murals, ecclectic shops, popular restaurants, and very expensive boots! We ate at this great Mexican restaurant and truly enjoyed it. I spent much of that morning looking at the forecast because every now and then thuderstorms were predicted. However, when we looked in the sky it was clear and very hot. Very hot and STICKY, which is something we San Diegans are must not used to. Since this was the case, we had no reason to change our plans and expected a lovely rest of the day.
After resting at the hotel for a bit we headed out to Hutto to meet up with Orlando and Kiyomi for their engagement session. Unfortunately it started to rain, and then it started to pour, and then the lighting and the wind picked up, and before we knew it we were in a full-on thunderstorm! Not an ideal situation for a photo shoot! I just decided I would pray and see how it went and if it were still raining we would have a lifestyle session in their home. I did everything I could to try and stay positive and encouraging but I just felt really bad for them because they flew us all the way to Texas! Luckily, it didn’t take long for the rain to die down and then off we went to downtown Hutto, the pond, and the bridge. So much fun! They were naturals and we had a really great time together. They were so photogenic and I just loved their images! Here is link to their gallery so you can see for yourself. Afterwards we went out to eat at the Salt Lick and YUM! The company was as good as the food because this couple truly is special and it was wonderful to spend numerous hours with them and Eliana. It felt like we had known each other for years.
On our last day in Austin we decided we wanted to ride bikes along the Colorado River. Zack was bent on getting an electric bike but we tried three different kiosks and they just wouldn’t work. We settled on scooters but then when we got to the bottom of the hill to go around the river, they shut off and wouldn’t work because you’re not allowed to ride them there. What a waste of money. We ended up just walking but it truly was beautiful…and hot. If I lived in Austin, I would be running or walking this trail every day. It was stunnning. We stopped along the way for the worst smoothly we have ever tasted but enjoyed looking at the huge turtles in the river. Since we still had time to kill, we drove into the older part of Austin which was really funky and cool and very “lived in” and then headed to Lady Bird Lake to walk around for a small bit before heading to the airport. We really had a wonderful time in Texas and truly enjoyed our time with Kiyomi and Orlando but we were also grateful to come back to San Diego and our lovely home, dogs, and kids.
Nicole Reyes photography is based
in san diego, Ca