Tag Archives: Photography

Chitwa Chitwa Part 3 – A Bride in the Bush

21 Dec

Brett and I decided to say our vows to each other at sunset in the wide open bush of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in South Africa.  Countless emails were exchanged between our travel consultant, myself, and the amazing team at Chitwa Chitwa to create the perfect setting for our special moment.  Bags upon bags of rose petals were ordered for the aisle.  An unusual duo of musicians (a classical violinist and an African drummer ) were hired to create the perfect background melody. Pink roses were selected for bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Pink Champagne was ordered for celebratory toasting.  A perfect spot was chosen and decorated with lanterns and candles galore.  And of course, a minister was hired to bless the vows and the marriage.  For how many guests you might ask?  Well…for two!  It was just Brett and myself (and our new friends at Chitwa Chitwa). That is all you really need though, right?  A Bride and a Groom.

Very little about the day could be considered traditional.  I mean our guest list consisted of a herd of giant Water Bucks…  Also, the fact that the Bride and Groom got ready together.  I did wait to put on my dress until after they had taken Brett to the ceremony spot…but for the make-up and hair roller portion of the primping process – we were together!  The day was lovely – perfect really,except for one little, itsy bitsy glitch – but I will save that for later!

Here is the our day summed up in pictures photographed by the wonderful Stefan du Plessis.  Warning!!  Lots of photos!

Brett sees me like this every day...I figure he must like it or he wouldn't have proposed in the first place! (Although, I am not sure why I am posting it for all of you to see!)

My good-looking groom tying his wedding tie.

Oops! I guess I should have waited to apply my lipstick until after I kissed him goodbye. The groom is not supposed to have ruby-red lips, right? Brett & Morgan Hutchinson

The Dress! I designed and had this made here in Beijing. It was my something new and my something blue!

Brett on his way to the ceremony site. Just about a 5-10 minute drive through the bush.

The elegantly rustic archway that God and the team of Chitwa Chitwa created. (God because the tree became an archway when it was struck by lightning). Tristan, our ranger even made the rails on either side of the arch with fallen branches and covered them with lanterns.

Here comes the bride! (In her open-top ride...) Hair and veil be damned!

The groom - what a jack of all trades. He escorted me down the aisle as well.

The lovely sounds of Anneke Coetzer. In fact, I think their unique beat would be perfect for Hotel Costes soundtrack!

Of course I already knew that I loved this man...what I did not know is what a poet he is. Truth be told...his vows put mine to shame 🙂 Morgan Hutchinson

My turn now! I did get a big laugh from our guests (Water Buck excluded) when I pulled them from my cleavage...I mean - it's not like my wedding dress had pockets!

The prayer and blessing after our vows.

Now you may kiss the bride!

Signing our marriage certificate. This one is just for show...the real one was done back in Beijing. That said - if you are planning to wed in South Africa, they can take care of everything for you so that your marriage is also legal in the USA (or other countries for that matter).

Our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Brett Hutchinson! (Okay...to be fair - it was our third. First at the Circus of Love and second at our Chinese Wedding celebration). Third time is a charm, right? Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Popping some pink bubbly!

This might be my favorite. You can see the Water Buck in the background! Brett and Morgan Hutchinson

Just look how perfectly Stefan captured the sunset in our hands

I actually requested the photos on this termite mound. Why you ask?? Because termites are incredible. Not the "eat your deck" kind of termites. They are terrible. South African termites; however, are the bee's knees. The queen can live to be 20 years old and she can lay 300,000 eggs a day. Can you believe that? A 20-year-old insect. Plus they make their own food - it is a fungus, but still. I mean - I love mushrooms so who I am I to judge. Seriously - I heart nature.

Our get-away car! Chitwa Chitwa...you left no stone unturned. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Tristan let me use his Ranger's Rifle as a prop for a few photos. Don't get any ideas - the problem I mentioned at the beginning of this blog entry did not involve me shooting myself or anyone else for that matter!

Just before taking off for our night-time game drive. That's right...we went to see the lions eat before we ate our own wedding meal - in full wedding garb and all. Surreal to say the least!

Since this entry is already quite long…and very photo heavy, I am going to write about the wedding dinner and party portion of the evening separately.  This way I can keep you in suspense as to what went WRONG on our wedding day.  Believe me… it was pretty terrible.   But when looking back, it does make for a great story.  Stay tuned!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography

Chitwa Chitwa Part Two with Stefan du Plessis

21 Dec

On the morning of our wedding ceremony, we asked our wedding photographer to join us on the morning game drive.  His photos gave us an entirely different perspective than those that we took.  Stefan’s  pictures confirmed to us that even though we have the same camera base (Canon 7D) – skill and type of lens (but mostly skill) make all the difference!

Up and at 'em! 5 AM and ready to see the big 5!

Our transportation for the week

Brett cracking me up as usual...what "Brettism" could he have possibly just said??

Treking through the bush to get closer to a group of giraffes

Morning coffee on game drive

Chatting with the gang about the weather report...it was calling for rain that night. Rain, rain go away!

Finding our perfect ceremony spot...an open area of the bush with a tree struck by lightning forming a natural archway. Of course the crew at Chitwa Chitwa transformed it later into something even more magical!

Brett taking a little bathroom break in the bush behind a termite mound...

With Tristan and Natalee talking ceremony details. I really do prefer candid shots. Thank you, Stefan for capturing every moment of the day!

Our version of a rehearsal...

As my favorite 2-year-old little girl, Drewsie Willson would say, "I am hap-hap-happy!"

I pray that we are still making each other laugh like this 40 years from now!


Trying my hand at photographing hungry lions

These big guys took down this baby Cape Buffalo and cleaned it out within 24 hours. Their bellies were so full they looked pregnant!

Nature is amazing. So is this photo!

With a pride of 4 male lions surrounding our range rover, I love the fact that we were still more interested in each other. Or as Cory Hutchinson and Brett Sweyer would mockingly sing, "Young love!"

Sitting down for breakfast after the drive. I swear we ate more on this 3-week trip than we usually do in an entire year!

At breakfast with the sweet and very helpful staff of Chitwa Chitwa. Thanks for the paparazzi-esque shot, Stefan!

Sitting down with the minister who married us later that day. Lovely man. Jesus lover and great joke teller. Killer combo.

After this breakfast we went for massages, manicures, and some down time in the room to finalize our wedding vows to each other.  I highly recommend writing your own vows.  We  said the traditional ones as well – but saying our own made it even more special – and honestly, more real.

Wedding pictures up next!

All images courtesy of Stefan du Plessis Photography.



Chitwa Chitwa Part One

20 Dec

With the Ellies during their afternoon drink by the watering hole

There is no possible way for me to sum up our time at the Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Reserve into one post.  There were too many special moments, too many spectacular animals, and far too many wedding ceremony pictures in the beautiful bush to cram into a single blog entry.  So, I am going to divide it into three parts….the animals, the game drive with our wedding photographer, and of course the vows.  Let’s do it alphabetically.

Just getting to Chitwa Chitwa was quite an exciting excursion of its own.  The teeny tiny prop plane was manageable.  The dirt landing strip; however, was a bit out of my comfort zone.  Brett of course thought it was fantastic – he pointed it out from the sky with that, “dude, this is awesome” look on his face.  This dude didn’t find it all that awesome.  Although – it wasn’t nearly as scary or bumpy (for that matter) as I thought it would be.  And after arriving at the lodge within minutes of landing, I was thrilled that we had tested our fear factor as opposed to taking the windy 3 hour drive from Nelspruit.

Upon arrival to Chitwa Chitwa, located in Sabi Sands, we were greeted by Natalie (one of the two wonderful women – Shannon being the other – who helped to plan our perfect African Wedding Ceremony in the Bush).  While our bags were taken to our lodge, we were escorted to their lovely outdoor lunch spot situated on what is one of the largest watering holes in all of Sabi Sands.  Here we watched the hippos swim as we dined on delightful international cuisine influenced by local flavors.  During our meal, our ranger for the week (as well as Brett’s Best Man) Tristan, came to introduce himself and give us the rundown of our schedule.  That’s right – you have a schedule on safari.  This came as no surprise to us (after countless hours of research) but for those of you thinking that you might enjoy an African safari, please be sure that you are prepared for the 4AM wake-up calls every morning for game drives.  I assure you they are worth it!  That said, if early mornings truly are your nemesis, then this may not be the vacation for you.  I would also like to add a note for those in the planning or considering stages, before I start the picture show, that we were deciding between Chitwa Chitwa and Singita.  In the end, it came down to the amazing attention that Chitwa Chitwa devoted to our questions and ideas regarding the wedding ceremony.  I am confident that we would have been very happy and impressed with Singita – but for us, Chitwa Chitwa – a smaller lodge was the perfect fit.

Now on to the slide show!

A view of the elephants taken from our room!

Up close and personal with this 10-15 year old elephant.

This elephant bull roams Sabi Sands as a loner. The eternal bachelor.

These prehistoric creatures blew our minds!

Brett and a black rhino

Hungry! Hungry! Hippo! The most aggressive species in the bush. You don't want to get in their way!

This Cape Buffalo was killed by a small pride of lions right beside the watering hole the day before we arrived. Apparently, the kill happened during the lodges lunch time for all of the guests to see nature take its course first hand. Ouch!

This hyena is taking a short break after battling it out with the vultures over the remains of the Cape Buffalo.

Even though it didn't totally work out...I was actually hoping for baby giraffes to stand in as my bridesmaids...it was still a splendid sight to see these elegant creatures in their natural habitat. Luckily, Chitwa Chitwa, named for the rickety sound an old giraffe's knees, continues to have a number of giraffe's that hang out at the lodge.

One of my favorite fun facts we learned on game drive was about giraffe lashes. Apparently, their long and beautiful lashes help them to eat from some of the spiniest trees. No Latisse prescription required.

Who knew that impalas liked to chill with little birdies?

Or with zebras?

This particular vervet monkey was one of my favorites. They are extremely curious little things - they literally can't take their eyes of you. Makes a girl feel good...

Hanging out on the sunset deck before heading out on evening game drive.

The kings come out at night!

Just look at the size of its tongue! I seriously could not believe how close they let us get to them!

Evening game drive stop for sun-downers. The staff take your drink order at lunchtime and pack the Range Rover accordingly so that you can enjoy your drink of choice as you watch the sun set, while waiting for the big cats to come out and play.

I felt a bit like Cruella de Vil during our first leopard sighting. Their coats really are to die for - but their beauty in the wild is even more stunning. I kind of want to be friends with them. Although...I am pretty sure they have something else in mind other than friendship...like dinner.

We actually didn't see leopards until our second to last game drive at Chitwa. The lions had been in such full force that they were lying low until the biggest cats in the kingdom took a break from hunting.

Coffee break on a morning game drive.

It is rare to see a lioness as active as this one was during the heat of the day. Sadly, she was on a mission to find her sisters after they had a "cat fight" and separated. Doesn't that just break your heart? Just like 7th graders...lionesses have girl fights too! Do you think they also play truth or dare and freeze each others' panties?

A very special and rare breed of stork. Maybe he will bring a special delivery to Brett and me in the near future??

Our Spotter (different from a Ranger) noticed this little guy in a tree over 50 feet away in the pitch black. Isn't he cute?

Resident crocodile at Chitwa's watering hole

Game drive photo shoot with Stefan du Plessis coming soon.  Stay tuned!

Only in China

22 Sep

The only way in which my words can possibly complement the images below is by merely explaining verbatim the situation that is occurring in each one.  Not to suggest that you can’t see what it going on in the photos with your own eyes…but even after witnessing these actions with mine, I had a hard time believing it.

Picture This:  Bumper to bumper traffic across 12 lanes in pouring rain on the streets of downtown Beijing.  This makes the work of a New York City garbage man look like a cake walk.

Picture this:  A metal ladder balancing on a plastic bucket turned upside down, resting against live power lines.  Seriously.  You can’t make this up.  Also, look closely…no hard hats or any sort of protective gear.  Where is OSHA when you need them?

Football and Fashion!

11 Sep

As I type this, I am watching the Alabama Crimson Tide roll over Penn State.  Roll Tide Roll!  I love the fact that I can enjoy a cup of coffee (okay…it’s actually a diet coke) on the couch with my husband watching college football (sling box is an amazing thing) and at the same time, check out the spring 2012 ready-to-wear runways.  Football + Fashion = Fun Sunday Morning.  I am sure that a bottle of Champagne will be popped at some point in the near future to really celebrate properly…but it is only 7AM here in Beijing.  Give it time.

Here are a few of my favorite looks from the shows today:

First up, Costello Tagliapeitra.  Quite possible – two of the kindest (and unexpected characters) in the business.  These two really know how to glam up a Ms. Hannigan”esque” look.  They often use the colors that little orphan Annie’s nemesis constantly wore.  Perhaps she could have won Daddy Warbucks’ heart in one of these two dresses…

Kim Willson, Morgan Hutchinson, and Mary Kay Bowden (MMK) with Costello Tagliapeitra. Aren’t they the cutest? Love their signature look.

A few black and white looks with unique twists caught my eye at Prabal Gurung.

Sexy and delicate. A tough look to achieve.
More distressed polka dots. I love that you can see the vintage cut panty underneath.  I suppose that is the former lingerie designer in me.
I think I might even like it better as a mini without the sheer underlay at the bottom. I know –  shocking that I like super short looks, right?

Wedding gown for an edgy bride…
The Designer – Prabal Gurung

The primaries by Lyn Devon.

Red Leather – YELLOW Leather…
Betty Draper BLUE
REDish Romper Turned Gown

Christian Siriano (Project Runway Alum) quite possibly wowed me the most today.  I would seriously wear every single one of these looks.

How do I get this look before our safari in 2 weeks??  I pretty much already have the shoes…
More of that gorgeous FIRERY ORANGE. Definitely a Spring 2012RTW trend.

Absolute favorite look. Beyonce…this could be a perfectly chic baby bump concealer.
The Designer – Christian Siriano

I don’t often find looks from Rag & Bone for myself, but two looks today interested me.

Coco Chanel meets Carefree Downtown Casual. I really like the vibrant orange bra revealing itself under the sheer top.
I like the color combo.

Rag & Bone Designers: David Neville and Marcus Wainwright

From Full House to Full Frontal Fashion (okay…I am probably not the first one to say that – but it should be said again).  The Row by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen showed some utterly sophisticated looks.

I love the idea of a tuxedo jacket with a train. I think I would like this look even more with the orange bra from Rag & Bone.
Very elegant neckline. I think the look becomes much more wearable without the sheer pants underneath.
Tight tummy needed…but I love this look as a replacement to the little black dress for a cocktail party.

Images courtesy of Patrick McMullan and http://www.style.com

Pretty in Pink – Beijing Fashionista

8 Sep

It is no secret that I am a lover of fashion.  To me – clothes, shoes, jewelry (specifically bangles), belts, and hats are all small decorations of everyday life…Like sprinkles on a cupcake, they make everything better!  Apparently, my love of playing dress-up (I just couldn’t give it up after childhood!) has not gone unnoticed here in Beijing.  In fact, I was actually selected for City Weekend Magazine’s August Fashionista.  It was a super fun experience!

In addition to the crew of City Weekend, I specifically want to thank Make-Up Artist Extraordinaire, Meili Autumn.  Please check out the link to her website on the right.  It is full of fun facts and helpful tips.

Below is the link to web version of the article and a few snapshots from the shoot.


Morgan Hutchinson

Morgan Hutchinson

Morgan Hutchinson

Morgan Hutchinson

City Weekend Cover August 2011

City Weekend August 2011 Fashionista Spread

Make-Up by Meili Autumn

Costume Change!

Engagement Photo Shoot in Beijing

16 Mar

Our engagement photo shoot in Beijing had everything a girl could ask for…a Bride, a Brett, and a plate full of bugs! Okay – scorpions, silk worms, and a star fish to be exact.  BTW – scorpions and star fish are not so bad – but silk worms…they are disgusting!

Thanks to the wonderful photographers at GIB Studio, our day of picture taking out and about in Beijing (albeit freezing cold Beijing) was a true success.  We wanted an authentic Chinese feel to them – and I think we got it! From bug eating on a snack street in Wang Fu Jing to sightseeing at the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, we had a blast celebrating our engagement Beijing Style.  We also spent a little bit of time in the studio.  I have to admit that is was hilarious to see what a little ham I am about to marry!

For information on hiring GIB Studios for your next photo shoot please contact them directly:

  • 186-0127-5025
  • gibphotostudio@gmail.com
  • www.gibstudio.com
  • The Last Wonder Standing

    4 Oct

    FASHION: Red Silk Chiffon Gown with Brushed Gold Sequin Trim. Purchased at Alien Street Market in Beijing.

    The Great Pyramids of Giza will take your breath away…for many reasons.  The obvious reasons:  they are huge, they are beyond old, and one’s brain cannot even begin to understand the complexity of their construction.  In addition, it is remarkable to see how close they are to the massive city of Cairo.  Movies and pictures have always led me to believe that these enormous structures are located in the middle of nowhere; however, this could not be any less true.  But I suppose the way in which I was least expecting for the pyramids to take my breath away was in the literal sense – but that they did.

    Walking by Khufu with Jasmine

    Our day of touring began at 7AM.   Our guide for the next 2 days, Jasmine Amin(who is fantastic!) met us at the hotel and we immediately took off towards the pyramids in order to be there for the opening of Khufu (the largest of the 3 and the only one open for public entry on that day).  I highly recommend booking a private tour guide and car.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Noha, the concierge working with us at the Four Seasons First Residence, selected our guide.  We were able to design a tour based on the exact sites we wanted to see, and the hotel provided a picnic basket so that we would not get hungry during the full day of site seeing.

    By 8AM we were standing at the base of Khufu.  Jasmine had already purchased our entry tickets, and we began the short climb to the entrance of this great tomb.  We had no idea what was in store.  Khufu was constructed over a 20-year period around 2560 BC as a tomb for its namesake, Pharaoh Khufu, and it remained the tallest man-made structure for over 3800 years!

    Being Dressed Like a Local by a Local

    Standing on The Great Pyramid of Khufu

    As you can see in the picture below, the limestone blocks used  to build it are almost as tall as me.  I strongly suggest arriving early.  Only 300 visitors are allowed inside each day – once at 8AM and once at 1PM.  Of course it is cooler at 8AM, but even more importantly it is less crowded.  In this scenario, I believe that the crowd would overwhelm me more than the heat.  As you enter the hallway to the tomb, the ceiling height drops to about 3.5 feet and you begin to climb up a steep wooden ramp.  It is dark and you start to feel a bit claustrophobic – but any discomfort is overcompensated by the fact that you are climbing inside one of the Great Pyramids.  I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like Indiana Jones (albeit an Indiana Jones wearing a long red dress which I realize looked completely impractical – but in fact was incredibly comfortable and effortless!) When we arrived at the top and entered the room holding the carsophaugus (basically a granite casket) the heat and lack of air during the climb had winded me, but I recovered almost instantly as I stood in amazement.  The room, made of perfectly assembled dark granite stones was unbelievably dark, cool, and quiet.  The voices of the 10 or so tourists inside echoed in the tiny space.  Other than the tall ceilings, the room felt very ordinary.  There were no traces of golden treasures or ancient drawings.  In fact the only treasure ever discovered inside the Khufu Pyramid was a tiny ivory statue of the Pharaoh Khufu (now located at the Egyptian Museum). A flashlight revealed a small cutout (about 6″ wide) that opened to what appeared to be a very long corridor yet to be explored. It excited me to think that perhaps those naughty tomb robbers from centuries ago had been unsuccessful in stealing all of treasures left for Khufu’s afterlife  –  yet to be discovered even today.  After sneaking a quick kiss in the corner, we decided to begin our descent before it became too crowded.  I must admit that the climb down was a little more stressful…there was a 6 month old baby involved (note to self: 6 month olds are terrified of really dark and really hot cave like spaces that once held a dead body) as well as a couple well into their 70’s – possibly even their 80’s (more power to them but I was terrified of a broken hip situation).

    We reconnected with Jasmine after exciting the pyramid where we were introduced to the photographer that the hotel found for us to take pictures for a couple of hours as we toured the rest of the area.  I am actually thrilled that we booked this.  The cost was less than $250 USD (including the pictures of which there were over 300) and it took all the stress of asking our guide or other tourists to capture the most amazing photo of all time with our “small enough to fit into any size handbag” digital camera.  (I am including many of the photographers images in this entry.)

    In Front of Khufu's Boat

    In addition to the 3 great pyramids, this site is home to the Sphinx as well as a Boat Museum which houses an amazingly intact wooden boat of the Pharaoh Khufu.  We toured the museum to learn the story of how the boat was

    discovered only decades ago and how it was restored to its current state before taking a fantastic camel ride over to see the Sphinx.

    The camels are kissing too!

    In front of the Step Pyramid

    After a full morning of learning, our brains took a small rest during the 30 minute drive to Saqqara to see the very first Egyptian pyramid – The Step Pyramid built for the Pharaoh Djoser.  While it was fascinating to see the predecessor to the other 138 pyramids found in Egypt, it was a bit heartbreaking to learn that the Egyptian government is funding a project to create an entirely new facade for this structure.  I mean…I am all for restorations and improvements, but when this project is finished, the original and remaining portion of this 4600+ year old masterpiece will be completely hidden.  To me – it is such a loss.

    Rubbing the Fertility God's Belly

    From Saqqara, we made a quick stop to learn the process of creating papyrus (the first type of paper created by Egyptians) before traveling to see the ruins of Memphis, a former capital city.  Memphis is the home to many amazing statues and remains as part of an open air museum.

    Here we are rubbing the belly of the god of fertility.  Mona and Donna – don’t get too excited just yet!

    Finger in Fertility God's Belly Button

    After a long day of touring, we made one final stop to a jewelry store specializing in Egyptian style gold jewelry.  While this of course helped my energy level to pick up…I got the picnic basket out to help Brett’s!  We had a beautiful Cartouche made in 18K yellow gold with my name in Eyptian on one side and Brett’s on the other.  We felt a bit like junior high kids buying matching identity bracelets…but we didn’t care!  It was fun.

    Dancing with Wolves

    21 Jul

    Mr. Li Jiwei's "Yun. inForm. 798"

    Several weeks ago we attended a party hosted by the German Embassy and BMW.  The event launched a new BMW inspired exhibit by Chinese born artist Li Jiwei.  Though Li Jiwei’s art  installation was engaging, the far more remarkable work was created by a relatively unknown Chinese artist.  An artist who must have a thing for wolves…

    After the gallery unveiling of Mr. Li Jiwei’s exhibition, Revolverheld, a German rock band, performed an open air concert in the 798 Art District Originality Square.  As we walked into the space we were immediately taken aback by the sight of over one hundred life-size bronze wolves.  It was as if a pack of wolves decided to have a night out of the woods to listen to a classic rock band.

    Wolf pack rocking out to Revolverheld. They are so into it!

    Brett and I pretty much spent the rest of the evening taking photos of ourselves riding the wolves and posing with other various pieces of art.  Clearly, we are very classy art connoisseurs!  I expect a call from the Met any day – begging me to take the head curator position.  Here are a few of our masterpieces….

    Taking in Revolverheld on a wolf bench

    Riding a random white horse. There is an entire series of these...not intended for public viewing!

    Oh yes...this is Brett in the most cliché pose of the night. I am sure I convinced him to do this!

    I am not even sure what this is...a big baby angel? I am pretty sure; however, that I wanted to take the picture because I thought my blue jumpsuit matched it perfectly!

    Brett...looking cute as always!

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