Mission Styled Shoot Out
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
I was on maternity leave when I was dreaming of the perfect summer wedding. I was envisioning peach, greens and golden tones. I had to find the perfect venue to offer a European vibe without traveling overseas. In Texas there are very little options for that type of look. I kept coming across barns, ballrooms and the typical ranch wedding venues that you see in the south until I stumbled across Mission Concepcion.
Mission Concepcion is a 17th century historical catholic church that is part of the UNESCO World heritage site that preserves four of the five Spanish frontier missions in San Antonio, Texas. The missions were established by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity among the local natives. At first glance you might not see the potential to set up the perfect summer wedding inspiration however; if you think outside the box like I do you will realize there couldn’t be a better location in Texas.
In February I packed up my little one who at the time was 3 months old along with my bestie Asia of Asia Christine Photography and we hit the road. We drove 273 miles for a day trip to view the historical site and find the ideal area for my tablescape and props. Prior to my arrival I had no idea of what to expect. I had seen images online but the images did not really do the location justice. Standing in front of the church I realized my project that felt so big at the time felt so tiny and unimportant. Looking at such a historical site I was immediately overtaken with emotion. As I stood outside looking up at the church I had chills going down my spine. I felt for a second that I had stepped back in time to 1716 when the church was established. I could hear the church bells ringing, people gathering and people praying. How many people have called this place their sanctuary? How many baptisms, weddings and funerals has Concepcion seen? The amount of history was incredible. The church is a treasure to not only Catholics but to the world. I couldn’t believe the amount of emotion I felt standing outside of the church that day. I realized then how important and how much this shoot would mean to me. Not because of the images but because this shoot and the images could spark up interest for others which could bring more money into preserving the history.
After we toured Concepcion my bestie and I decided it was time to hit the river walk and find some good old Tex-Mex. We found a delicious place called Rita’s On The River and we chatted about my plans for the upcoming shoot while enjoying enchiladas. I strategized about how I could bring Spanish European vibes to the shoot in honor of the Spanish missionaries who founded the beautiful church in the 17th century. Seeing as this was a historical site I really wanted to incorporate the history into my story.
My strategy and plan:
The most important part of a styled shoot or real wedding planning is to make sure you have the right team in place to create your vision. You have to make sure that everyone who is a part of the magic understands exactly what the vibe is or else it will not come together the way you want. Every detail has a purpose and is essential to the story you are trying to create.
Anytime I am planning a shoot I research. After viewing the venue for this project I knew I wanted to incorporate a Spanish European vibe which meant my details had to match. I went antique shopping and found this beautiful vintage decanter that I could put wine in and style on the table. I wanted to do this because growing up in the Catholic Church we would drink wine aka the blood of Christ during mass. I also went to several stores searching for Figs and papayas to style with the flat lays and the table décor. Both of those fruits are found in Spain and Europe. Touches like this help build a story in your images. Detail photos are essential to your wedding day story. We as humans forget things and the smallest detail can bring back a memory of a moment in time so do not take them for granted. I can’t stress that enough. Details are everything!
Obtaining the permit:
I would like to make it seem as though everywhere I go people roll out the red carpet and are honored to have myself and all the photographers photograph their venues however; that is not always the case. If I am being honest some venues are extremely difficult and The National Park Service is one of them. There were many times that I thought obtaining this permit would be the death of me and that I should just call the whole thing off. The National Park service holds all the power to some of the most EPIC locations so you never want to be on their bad side. I reached out to the park in February before my road trip to gain clarity on their process and send them a copy of my business insurance. I was given a to do list by their office that contained very specific details and request.
When I say specific I mean their office had to know exactly where I wanted to place my table, exactly where the models would stand, how many florals/props would be on site and the exact number of photographers and crew (including my little one). I thought this was very extreme seeing as though I have worked with many venues in the past and have never been asked to provide such a specific plan but seeing as though they held all the power I had to do as they asked.
After the park reviewed my request and permit I was hit with the harsh reality of a NO. When I completed my permit I requested to use the San Jose and Concepcion however; the park stated San Jose was hosting evening mass and had to reject my request. Although heartbroken I had to accept it. In addition, the park placed my entire request ON HOLD. Even though my shoot was on hold by the park I had to continue planning because as they say… The show must go on.
Fast forward to April 5th 10 days before the shoot and my plans were still in limbo with the National Park. I reached out to the park to check the status and was told a manager and senior ranger would be in contact. A few hours later I received a call from the head honcho. He wanted to go over my plans because he was nervous about the number of people, the props and if one park Ranger supervising would be enough. My anxiety at this point was sky high. I discussed every single detail about the shoot all while trying to convince him that one park ranger would be plenty. When we got off the phone I was extremely worried that I would have to cancel the shoot. At this point I had already invested about $1,000.00. I really couldn’t understand why he was so concerned because all the participants were professional adults and we did not plan to climb the church walls or light a fire LOL. A few hours after our conversation I finally heard the news that it was approved pending my final check to shut down the venue for a private event. Relief doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
The day of my shoot:
The morning of my shoot I arrived at the National Park Headquarters with my little one and Asia. I turned in my check and I asked once again if I could shoot at San Jose just in case the park had a change of heart. Of course in true NPS fashion they shut me down and rejected my request. That was when I came up with one of my worst ideas to date… I decided it would be a great idea to ask the church permission instead. This was a horrible idea like a I wish I could go back in time and slap myself type of wrong idea.
I arrived at the San Jose church administrative office about 4 hours before the shoot. I spoke with the receptionist and office manager and asked very nicely if I could host the shoot outside from 6:30pm-8:30pm. The office manager had no issue and gave me the green light but said I have to have the park ranger with me. I was super excited and left with the biggest smile on my face. I called the head honcho back to tell him the good news and that’s when the most awkward silence in history happened. After about 45 seconds of pure silence the park Ranger said “That is not cool. Not cool at all. The church said yes but the NPS said no and that is that. Mass is going on and we refuse to disrupt them with a bunch of photographers and models.” I thanked him for considering and apologized profusely. I guess my thought process and approach was “Church over state” however; that wasn’t the case anymore. Approach aside I was dead wrong for that but I was so excited about the shoot that I allowed my creative side to take over and I completely forgot about the importance of mass. Needless to say that is not my proudest moment.
Later in the day I arrived at Concepcion about 15 minutes before our scheduled shoot. Although my permit was from 4:00pm-8:00pm I was unable to set up until 5:00pm sharp. Ideally I like to have the set up complete before the photographers arrive however; this would not be the case with this shoot. We had to make it work with the guidelines given so we sat there and waited. Right at 5:00pm my team and I set up in 15 minutes or less. The models arrived on time and began working the camera right away. Everything was perfect! The colors, the décor, the team, the gowns, the models… PERFECTION.
Although there were many hiccups along the way in putting this shoot together I honestly couldn’t be more proud. Well unless it had it been at San Jose just kidding. On a serious note I will go back and host at San Jose in the future so I can bring my original plans to life.
I do want to say a special thank you to the National Park service for all of their hard work in preserving and protecting our national treasures like the Missions. On the evening of my shoot 4/15/19 The Notre Dame Cathedral burned down. That was a very painful loss and really made me appreciate and understand why the National Park is so strict. When you are in charge of protecting history you have to say no for the greater good. I am so proud to have this type of history in my home state of Texas. Thank you NPS for protecting this national treasure and allowing this shoot to take place.
Below are some of my favorite images from my “Mission shoot out” captured by the talented Lauren Marks Photography.
Vendor team: Creative design/styling/planning: Traveling Shoots With Taylor Instagram: Traveling_shoots_with_taylorCo-planning: Rachel Rose Weddings & EventsMakeup: Taylor Glam Linen: AM Linen RentalDecor/styling/tablescape/draping: Warehouse Rose EventsBridal gown: a&bé bridal shop dallasStationery: Scripting Bird CalligraphyFlorals: GardeniaModel: Augusthemodel & Themaxwolf
Photo of me and my little one behind the scenes at the shoot captured by: Swan Photography