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Hope Bray Photography bio picture

meet me here.


I absolutely LOVE photography! I started taking classes when I lived in Italy in college & I have not been able to put my camera down since then! There is a story to tell behind every photograph & my goal is to capture those stories & the moments in life that are priceless. My style is unique, & I focus on capturing life from a perspective or angle that you might not otherwise see.  I get SOOOO excited when I am editing photos that truly capture my photojournalistic style & the moment they were taken.  I am married to an amazing man named Chris & I have 3 children - Chase (5) & Ellison (3), & Payton (4 months) who are often the subjects of my pictures:) I am located in Charlotte, NC but open to travel! 

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christmas card 2012

Many of you are very aware of my obsession over Christmas cards. Generally starting in Aug/Sept. is when I start to plan for my Christmas card but I think about it all year long – what the kids will wear, if it will be the whole family, where we will do it, the date to take the pics, etc. It literally becomes an obsession. It is seriously my favorite thing that I do all year. Now I am sure that has something to do with the fact that I am a photographer but all that said I think that I take it WAY too seriously! Ironically, they never EVER turn out the way that I had hoped/expected them to. It was no different this year. I used to take hundreds of people’s family photos a year, many of them being for their Christmas cards. It never stressed me out or made me anxious when their kids acted out or did not pose exactly the way that I wanted them to. However, it completely sends me over the edge to take pictures of my own kids. If they act out it just makes me mad, and if the picture is not just how I had envisioned it then I get even more upset. The bottom line is that it is impossible to take pictures of my own kids. This year I decided to make it as least stressful as possible & to not worry one bit about the way they turned out.. I picked out their outfits in 1 hour, chose the location in 10 minutes, & took the pictures in 30 minutes. Were they the best pictures that I have ever taken? No –  (lighting was terrible & the wind was like a hurricane). Did we have fun taking them? Absolutely. And that’s all that counts. Sometimes when all else goes wrong, it is the memories that matter & we sure did make them that day. In fact, Payton asked me if we could go back & take them again the next day!! I am a HUGE fan of candid pictures & the way these pictures captures my family is exactly for who they are. I love these pictures not b/c of the lighting, the scenery, or the cute outfits. I love them b/c of the way they portray my sweet babies & their little personalities.  I know the pictures may not necessarily be my best work but those little guys in the picture ARE my best work… and God’s Masterpieces! Merry Christmas to all of our friends & family that are so very far away!! We love all of you & cannot wait to see you when we get back next summer!! XOXOXOXOXO!!!




There are 2 things that I will miss the most about the schools here.

1. uniforms (they look so sharp in them & there is no fight about what to wear in the morning)

2. year round schools

The kids go to school all year with a short summer break (6 weeks). They have 4 terms per year (school year starts in Feb.) that are a total of 10 weeks each. In between each term they get a 2 week “holiday.” It is fantastic. By 10 weeks everyone needs a break & usually families all holiday together somewhere fun. It sort of forces you to plan a vacation or travel together which is excellent for families. If you can’t travel or take off of work then there are heaps of holiday programs that you can put the kids into that are super fun! My kids were on holiday a few weeks ago. The first week they were in tennis camp & the 2nd week we went on holiday to the Coromandel Peninsula (home to one of the top 10 beaches in the world)! We have the nicest friends here who offered us their bach (vacation home) for the week. It was wonderful!!! To get there we had to drive 2.5 hrs. around some very windy & narrow roads. However, those roads happened to be overlooking the ocean so it was totally worth the drive. Every now & again the 2 lane roads would become one lane (even on bridges) so it was a bit scary but a VERY beautiful! Chase was getting a little car sick so right when we got off of the mountain we pulled over so he could get out & get some fresh air. The nicest Kiwi man ran out of his house to see if we were ok. I told him what was going on & a few minutes later he came back out of his house with an orange drink for Chase. Reason # 3,003 why I LOVE the Kiwis!

The first day we arrived we decided to go to Cathedral Cove. This was the location where The Chronicle of Narnia: Prince Caspian was filmed.  We packed a picnic lunch & had to hike @35 min. to get there. It was unbelievable! There was a giant cliff going out over the ocean that was open underneath. You could walk from one side of the beach to the other under the cliff tunnel. We stayed there & played at the beach for hours.

The 2nd day we went to Hot Water Beach. It was amazing as well (but what place isn’t amazing here??)  In certain spots under the surface of the sand, there is geothermic activity  that makes the water boiling hot . We bought a big shovel & dug our way to the hot water. The kids absolutely LOVED it!  It was sort of a chilly day that day so we stayed in our hot tub until the kids fingers & toes turned to prunes:)

The 3rd day we woke up it was raining. No biggie – it rains here everyday so we thought it would surely pass over but not a chance!  So, we spent the day being lazy – playing cherades, watching movies, & drinking hot chocolate. It was a relaxing day that we all needed but would never have taken unless it had rained – thank you, rain! The  very last day we were there was really special. On one of my runs I had come to an area called The Reserve.  To get there you take a short hike down a windy path and finally end up at the beach. When I got to the beach it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The water was calm like a lake & very blue. A few feet down the beach there was a rope swing where you could swing out into the water. We surprised the kids on the last day & took a picnic lunch down to our new secret spot. You should have heard them squeal when they saw the rope swing. It was such an awesome morning on the beach there. Ellison found so many starfish that she could not keep count of them & Chase would not get off the rope swing. We were so sad when we were packing up the car to go home. It really was a magical place & a perfect holiday for the Brays. A big shout out goes to Jeremy & Anna Stanley for letting us use their bach! Chase said it best –  ”that was the best holiday I have ever had in my whole life!”

On a side note…. After we returned from holiday & started to get back into the ‘ole routine of school, etc,  is when my first wave of homesickness hit me. I was honestly not surprised at all when I started to miss some of the familiar things & people back home. After all, now that we are pros at moving I kind of know what to expect. I generally LOVE the novelty of a new place, new & exciting things to do, etc. for the first few months. Then by @ 3-4 months when I start to feel settled is when the homesickness starts to kick in. I start missing the little things – my YMCA workout buddies, Target, my car, the grocery store, knowing where things are & how to get places easily, & everything that is familiar to me.   But really what I miss most of all is the people who know me the best – the people who I can just be myself with – my friends & my family. However, from experience by 6 months I am cruising again & loving it. By 9 months it feels like home & by 12 months it’s time to go & I cry like a baby b/c I have to leave. SO, when this first wave of homesickness hit me it came with great familiarity. Thankfully I knew it would be gone as soon as the first 70 degree day hit….and I was right:)

Cathedral Cove

the cathedral

just a teeny little rock on the beach

my babies:)

my kids call these “poopie birds”


what an awesome playground for the kids!

this makes me so happy:)

American redneck baby

the 2 naughties

a wandering hobo from Canada took this picture for us & then tried to hitch a ride… ha ha!

the hot tub!

hard at work

time to go home

my boys

every kid’s dream




waitomo glow worm caves

Now this was an adventure! Chase had his 7th birthday on September 30th. One of the things that he was dying to do even before we moved here was to go to the glow worm caves. So, I found this adorable little B&B online that we could stay at & we headed there last weekend. The scenery on the way there was absolutely stunning. There were rolling hills of green grass filled with cattle as far as your could see with little streams running through them. Chris was listening to the Braves game the whole way & I was breaking up fights in the backseat & catching up on Facebook. I love technology. We hit the Waitomo glow worm tour on the first day for a 3 hour tour. For the first part of the tour we walked into a cave that was completely dark with nothing but our head lamps on. When the tour guide told us to, we turned off our lamps & all around us were nothing but thousands of little glow worms lighting up the caves. Kind of gross but really kinda cool & the kids LOVED it! Then we stepped onto a small boat & again turned off our lamps & took the rest of the tour on a boat in total darkness & silence (well, besides Payton of course). Never seen anything like it EVER! We had a short afternoon tea then headed to the next cave by foot. The tour guide said he & his friend had personally found & excavated this cave over 4 months. He told us there are hundreds of unexplored caves in Watitomo & you could happen upon one at any time – crazy! After the tour we headed to the B&B. I guess we really were in the middle of nowhere in NZ b/c the B&B was actually someone’s home! Apparently that is normal here but it was really different to us. They live upstairs & we stayed downstairs. It worked out great though b/c she fed the kids dinner then our kids played in the playroom with their daughter while we ate dinner. We asked our hostess where to go the next day to see some sheep shearing & she sent us to her friend’s farm up the road.  The next morning, after a huge homemade breakfast (with leftover fresh eggs to take home), we headed to her friend’s farm. Her friends had just taken over the farm & had not advertised it yet so we were literally the only ones there. It was an unbelievable experience for all of us! The farm owner asked the kids to help her do some “chores” around the farm b/c she was getting ready to do them anyways. They all 3 got to feed baby lambs out of baby bottles, feed the cattle, & then help to shear a rabbit (she did not have any lambs to shear)! After all of that she let the kids ride her horse. It was wild! Definitely a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us. We feel so beyond blessed to have the opportunity to live here so we are trying to make the most out of every experience. I heart NZ:)

getting ready to go caving!

this picture cracks me up!

my little jet-setters

nothing like this little P!

getting their instructions for the cave

their favorite treat:)

this horse loved Chase & followed him around everywhere!

how cute!

that smile lasted a really long time..

We called this the Wildabeast. When he tried to bite Chase we were laughing so hard!


We visited Piha several weeks ago on one of our “adventure Saturdays.” It was cold & rainy & not the best day to go to the beach but we decided to go for it anyways. It was well worth the hour drive (and the cold) through some pretty rough roads! Literally right when we pulled up at the beach the rain cleared up & we had a picnic before we hit the beach. The kids had so much fun exploring & climbing on the rocks for hours! Piha is known to be a pretty rough, wild, & rugged west coast beach. There are rip currents there & it is a very unsafe place to swim. In fact, there is a show in NZ called Piha Rescue where they tell all of the stories of people who get into trouble at Piha & need to be rescued. Thankfully it was not warm enough for us to swim that day! We finally found a spot where we could climb all the way to the top of one of the rocks that overlooked the ocean. Chris & I took turns climbing up there with Chase & Ellison. When I finally got to the top of the hill, I just looked out across at the ocean for a while. Although you cannot see Australia from Piha, it was crazy to me knowing that it was thousands of miles away right from where I was standing. It also made me realize how far we were from the US, & everything we know to be “home.” The whole time we were climbing I kept hearing that song in my head by Gungor called “Beautiful Things.”  I sang it over & over in my head thinking about how God really does make beautiful things out of the dust. When I was looking at all He had made around me in Piha, I was just in awe. Everything was so big & so beautiful that I know it could only be created by Him. When I started to walk down from the hill, Chris & the kids had left me a little message in the sand. I love them. SO so much!



this girl LOVES her daddy

my boys


this is so VERY P!

my favorite picture of all


family adventure Saturdays

it has been quite a while since I have posted & there is good reason for that. My family is coming to NZ in Jan. & I have been very busy planning our trip to the South Island. As a mom we have so little free time anyways but these days all of my free time has gone to planning what is turning out to be an amazing trip to the part of New Zealand where Lord of the Rings was filmed. I cannot wait!

Anyhow, wanted to share with you what we have been up to. We are only here for 1 year & there is so much to see that we feel like we need to make the most out of every moment. That is why we came up with Family Adventure Saturdays. Basically, every Saturday we find a place to take the family that is new & exciting. It can be an hour or so away or it can be 5 minutes away – as long as it is fun & we have not done it before we are game to go. It looks like I have some catching up to do on the blog about Adventure Saturdays as I have not posted in a few weeks!

A few Saturdays ago we went to a place called Devonport that is only 20 min. & 1 bridge away. The kids absolutely loved it! On this small island town there are caves with tons of tunnels in them that date back to WWII. We told the kids they could bring their torches (flashlights) & we could go exploring through the caves. They were in heaven! The weather was pretty crummy that day so whenever the rain started we would hide out in the caves until the rain passed over. It actually rains in Auckland EVERY day – literally. However, the good thing about the rain here is that you never know it is coming & before you know it, it is gone & the sun is shining again. Makes it a little bit difficult when you line dry your clothes, but we make do:)  Because we live in St. Heliers (on the coast), we can look out from our beach & see  the Devonport coast. Whenever I go running along the bay I look over at Devonport & smile when I think about our day there. Like many of our other adventures here it was only a few hours but I think it is one day that none of us will ever forget.

And to the story of the mysterious greeting card. Many of you that read this blog are on facebook & many are not. So I have to apologize if you are on facebook &  have heard this story before but I wanted to repost it for the friends who are not on facebook. Some of you know that I used to have a photography business in Charlotte, NC. It was really a lot of fun for me & there are days when I really miss shooting as much as I did back then. When we get settled back in Greenville next year then I might pick it back up but for now I am just enjoying shooting my own sweet family & our fun memories as an American family living in New Zealand. Last year, when we moved to San Diego I was contacted by a graphic design company asking if they could use a picture that I took in NC for some greeting cards & calendars. I agreed thinking that they would be distributed in Rite Aid or Walgreens – things that I see there but never would actually buy. Well, forward one move to New Zealand & it is a different story entirely. I walked into a little gift shop in the village that I go to often. I was buying something small to put in a care package that we were sending back to the US for my nephew’s birthday. When I went to pay I glanced up b/c something caught my eye. I double took then walked over to it. It was a picture that I had taken back in Charlotte on a greeting card in New Zealand! What?? I immediately recognized the picture but could not get over that it had made it all the way here?? I was in such shock that I told the clerk that I had taken the picture on that greeting card. I don’t think she believed me b/c she picked up the greeting card & turned it over & said “is this your name on the back?” Yep, it sure was! I cannot even begin to tell you what a strange feeling it was so be in a different country & see your work for sale there. I did buy the card & I posted pictures below so you could see. Check out the price!!! I cannot believe they are selling it for so much but then again EVERYTHING is expensive here!!! I have some more “Adventure Saturdays” pictures to post so will update again soon – until then, love to you all!

ps – if  you don’t hear from me for a while it is b/c my kids are on “holiday.” The kids are in year round school here which I really find quite nice. They go for 10 weeks at a time & then get a 2 week break. The cool thing about NZ is that during those 2 weeks if you can’t “holiday” with your family (which most people do go away) then there are TONS of camps, activities, etc. for your kids to do. My kids are in tennis camp this week in the mornings & then this weekend we are headed to Waitomo to see the glow worm caves  - yahoo! Next week we are going to stay at a friend’s bach (vacation home) in Coromandel peninsula. It is where part of Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was filmed. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited for our holiday!!!

my everything:)

another one of Chase’s masterpiece’s

sister love

can you tell who are the only kids that will let me take their picture?

the 3 bandits.

getting ready to go in the caves

this could be trouble for the girls

until they get their own cannons..

we call this “little boy heaven”

greeting card cover!

inside of card

check out the name & then check out the price!!