Amber Watkins Photography



fine art wedding photography
Dallas + Worldwide

8 in ’18


January 11, 2019

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The Amber WATKINS Wedding guide

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I love traditions….

So much so, that I have a list of around 20 Christmas movies I watch during the month of December. And for the purpose of this story, that list did not include Die Hard. Then I met Trey… And guess what his favorite Christmas movie is? Die Hard. So you can bet Die Hard was the subject of many debates around the holiday season. Was it a Christmas movie or not?

Nonetheless, we watched it every year at Christmas time. Because A. It’s an awesome movie. and B. It made Trey so happy.

Then here we are five years later getting ready for Christmas time, and what thought crosses my mind as I’m decorating the tree?? “I can’t wait to watch Die Hard”.

Oh no…. It had happened…. I had switched over to the dark side.

But at the same instant I realized how powerful the meaning of traditions were to me. Five years ago, I would have argued to my death that it was not a Christmas movie. But now, because we had watched it every year at Christmas time, I had begun to associate it with new memories of my Christmases with Trey. And it had taken on a new meaning for me.

So, to get to the point of all of this.. Traditions are super important. They keep you grounded and thankful and excited for life. And I’m so excited to be starting a brand new tradition this year. Taking a look back at my biggest milestones and blessings of the previous year! I love taking the time to pause and reflect on the things that changed you. The things that helped mold you. And to take a minute to be thankful for those things.

So without further ado, here are my top eight highlights of 2018!


1. Hawaii Island Hopping

Living on Oahu and working for Hawaiian Airlines made it super easy to hop over to a neighboring island for the weekend… or just for lunch (I know, tough life right?). And you better believe we took advantage of those flight benefits. It was 30 minutes from take-off to landing. That’s barely enough time for the flight attendants to pass out a cup of local POG juice (passion, orange, guava…. delicious), for you to chug it, and for them to pick it back up.

If you think hopping over to another Hawaiian island would bring you the exact same scenery, you would be wrong. Each island has a uniqueness about it. They all hold the same beauty, yet they’re all vastly different from the next.

Oahu, for example, where we lived is the most populated island. The island with the most jobs, the most buildings, and the most pollution. It’s the Dallas of Texas, for lack of a better term. There’s a city-like grind to the place. A hustle and bustle that almost makes you forget you’re in paradise. Of course the mountain ranges are just as majestic and the beaches are just as stunning.

Kauai on the other hand slows things wayyyyy down. Kauai is what you look for when you look for a relaxing getaway in tropical paradise. There’s a friendly, happy, life-is-good kind of vibe amongst the locals there. The greens seem greener, and the air seems fresher. It’s quite honestly heaven if you ask me. Oh and if you can’t tell… Kauai is my favorite island.

Maui has more of a jungle vibe. Slightly more tourists. More shops and more traffic. The long and winding road to Hana was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And I actually mean once, because we’re taking a puddle jumper down to Hana next time we visit Maui… (The car sickness was REAL you guys). In all truthfulness, the views were incredible and the adventure was well worth it.

Sadly, we didn’t make it over to the Big Island because Kīlauea decided to erupt. But we’ll make it back there one day.

Top: The view from our balcony of a sunrise in Hana, Maui I will never forget

Bottom: Waimea Canyon on Kauai, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

2. Visiting Kyoto Japan

Kyoto was by far one of my favorite vacations we’ve taken. The traditional Japanese city was stunning, and everything I hoped it would be. Although July might not have been the best time to go, we had a blast sweating and walking and climbing to find hidden temples or bamboo forests. Hey, at least we probably lost weight despite the inevitable over-eating.

Here’s a full play-by-play of our Japanese adventure. If you’re thinking about going, there’s some excellent recommendations in there for you! I’m already excited to go back to Japan someday. Next stop, Tokyo!

3. Moving from Hawaii to Texas

This one is bitter sweet. But it was definitely a huge milestone that changed my life. So, how could I leave it out?

Moving back home was a wonderful thing. I loved Hawaii, but I was homesick. I missed family and friends. I missed Texas. I missed Whataburger and Chick-fil-a. I missed familiarity.

But moving home also meant saying A Hui Hou to Hawaii. Which proved to be extremely difficult,

At the time, I couldn’t wait to be home. The main reason being that my baby nephew (who you’ll read about in #4) was born almost a month early. I was supposed to be back in Texas by the time he came. I guess he just couldn’t wait, because I got the call while I was still 3,000 miles away on Oahu.

I knew I would miss the islands once I got settled in back home. And I did. About 3 months later it hit me. I miss the lull of the waves kissing the shore. And the palm trees rustling in the wind. I miss the mountains that loomed over our sleepy little beach town.

Now that things have quieted down I can look back with nothing but gratitude for our year-long adventure. It widened our horizons, gave us beautiful memories, life-long friends, and it gave us an appreciation for home. There’s really no place like it.


4. Meeting my baby nephew Logan

My nephew was born on September 14th, 2018. Logan Nash Peters. 5 lbs 9 oz.

He’s perfect.

Since he was almost a month early, he was in the NICU for a couple weeks. But he’s tough little trooper. And he came home just in time for my sister and brother-in-law’s 4 year wedding anniversary. Now that’s a perfect gift if you ask me.

It’s amazing how much time I can spend just staring at him. Just watching him sleep or fidget or gaze around the room trying to figure out what everything is. His smile is the best thing on the planet. And he’s just about to start laughing. He’s trying so hard to figure it out!

I can’t wait to watch him grow up, but at the same time. I don’t want him to get any bigger or older than he is right at this second. Time moves way too fast. And I don’t want to blink, because I’m afraid I’ll miss something. All I really know is I’m so lucky to be his aunt.

5. Shooting an engagement session in Nebraska

After living on Oahu for a year (and being a girl who likes to drive), I was in desperate need of a road trip. So Texas to Nebraska with my sweet Dad in the passenger’s seat was exactly what my soul needed. Oklahoma and Kansas aren’t much to look at, but it didn’t matter much. Beatles music and good conversation were all I could ask for. Not to mention Lauren’s family farm outside of Lincoln was absolutely incredible.

Read all about one of my favorite engagement sessions of all time in the full blog post! I’m so excited to photograph Lauren and Matt’s wedding on the beautiful island of Oahu in ONE MONTH!!

6. Showit United Conference in Phoenix

I can’t even begin to describe my first year at Showit United… It quite literally changed my career and possibly, my whole life.

I met industry leaders that taught me nearly everything I know about the art and business of wedding photography. I hugged them and cried with them. I listened to them speak as they inspired me even more so than they already had (which I didn’t think was possible).

I made friendships that have already had an impact on my life and on my business in awesome ways. Friends that I cannot wait to squeeze next year on the first day of United 2019. Friends that make you feel like you’re at summer camp rather than a business conference.

And I spent the whole week with my fellow Dallas photographer and my dear sweet friend Alyssa Jeandron with Alyssa Grace Photography. She’s my mentor and my inspiration. One of my very favorite people in the whole world. She is talented, creative, hard working, fun, and not to mention – an incredible mother to two precious boys. The only thing better than Showit United was sharing it with Alyssa.

7. Getting my Real Estate License

This was a big one. This milestone represented a HUGE change for me. Since I graduated college in 2015 I had worked for two major airlines – Southwest Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. And when I found out we were moving back to Dallas, I automatically started hunting for jobs with Southwest or American (both headquartered in Dallas).

But I guess it just wasn’t in the plan for me. God closed that door, and opened another one (as he always does).

An entirely new career in real estate was right before my eyes. And I took it. I committed to the hours of coursework and studying to get my license. And I passed the test on November 27th.

It was a huge leap of faith for me. It took a lot of courage to push through that big of a change. But I did it. And I see now, why it had to happen. As much as I loved the airlines (and the flight benefits), I wasn’t happy crunching numbers all day. I’m a people-person. I crave human interaction. And that’s what I get to do now helping people find apartment homes in Dallas/Fort Worth.

I used to be embarrassed to admit that I worked a full-time day job alongside my photography business. However, I realize now that it’s an important part of my story. So I embrace it.

Grind in your 20’s. Build in your 30’s. Chill in your 40’s. Right?


8. Overcoming Anxiety

In May of this year I started struggling. I had been running at an extremely high pace, and it could have simply been a sign that I needed to slow down and figure out how to take care of myself. No matter the cause, I started having anxiety, panic attacks, and dealing with insomnia. Something I had never faced before.

I still don’t know exactly what it was that triggered it. It could have been the uncertainty of moving back home and having to find a new job. It could have been the massive amount of change that came with starting a new career. Or it could have been not hitting the gym enough. It could have been trying to figure out what was causing it that made it worse. Whatever it was, I had to find a way to beat it.

And I did.

After a lot of prayer, meditation (I strongly recommend Headspace), focus, lavender oil, and Kava tea… I beat it. It required taking an entire month off during the holiday season to reset and get back to feeling like myself. But I beat it. And I know I may face it again when I’m going through valleys in my life. But the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t last. Every storm runs out of rain eventually.

Mental health is so important. Self-care is SO important. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. You cannot give from an empty cup. So if you’re struggling from anything that’s preventing you from living your best, happiest life…. press pause. No matter how pressing you think other things are. I guarantee you, they are not as important as making sure you, your body, and your mind are healthy and happy.

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