Aviation Inspired Engagement Shoot | Elaina + Rohan

Aviation Inspired Engagement Shoot

Ahh, yes yes YES! I am SO excited to share this engagement shoot with y’all today! Meet Elaina and Rohan, another one of our incredible 2017 wedding couples who are getting married this November at The Oaks at Salem!  We had such fun during their engagement shoot and honoring Elaina’s late father, Phillip, made this day so incredible special for all of us.

When we started talking about engagement shoot locations Elaina had an awesome idea – for us to drive down to her hometown of Laurinburg and use her fathers PT-17 Stearman, to honor him and remember his great love for flying. This Stearman was a PT-17, meaning that it was a primary trainer for WWII.  All pilots would learn to fly in a Stearman before going to fight for our country. The Stearman was Phillips pride and joy, and therefore, now very much Elaina and her families great love. Elaina has literally flown her whole life.  Her mom was still flying in the Stearman with her Dad when she was 9 months pregnant with her. Rohan has also grown into a love for aviation, and thankfully, was able to ask Phillip, for his permission to marry Elaina before his passing. 

You can read more about Phillip, his life, and his love for aviation in his obituary at the bottom of this post. 

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I am so grateful we were able to honor Phillip in this way. My hope is that these photos help carry out the memories of his love for flying, and his love for Elaina, while welcoming the new love Elaina and Rohan have created. We love you guys and feel so honored to photograph these momentous moments in your life.

“When I look up at the sky, I will remember you are with me. Always.”


Phillip M. Essey Jr. was born on March 20, 1945 in Lumberton, NC to the late Phillip M. Essey Sr. and Kathleen Dillard Essey. He spent an idyllic childhood in Maxton, NC, where his parents instilled a love for God, family, and friends.

From his early years, Phil’s most cherished dream was to fly. As a teenager, he would venture to the Laurinburg Maxton airport and hang around, offering to sweep out hangers and wash airplanes in hopes to be offered a ride. Thus, began the close relationships with many seasoned pilots.

In 1968, his dreams of flying came true when he purchased a Super Cub project that many friends spent hours helping him restore in a building in downtown Maxton. Then, in 1973, he purchased a 1941 Stearman, which quickly became his pride and joy. He later had the Stearman restored, and was honored as the best warbird at several fly-ins. Over the years, he met some of the great aviators in aviation history.

In 1987, Phil purchased his own grass airstrip in Laurinburg, NC. A few months later, he married his wife, Helen Patricia Essey, who shared his vision for the airstrip: to create a place where aviators of all kinds could meet, learn and share their passion about aviation. On any given Sunday, different pilots from all over — War Veterans, commercial pilots, crop dusters and student pilots — were happy to share their love and interest in aviation at Phil’s grass strip.

Another of Phil’s hobbies — collecting and restoring John Deer Tractors and hit and miss gas engines — began his many trips to Denton’s “Ole Time Thresher Reunion” each year. In general, he was a collector and enthusiast of all things antique. What he loved best, however, was sharing knowledge with his students. Thanks to his penchant for sharing wisdom, Phil was a teacher for 33 years, teaching both shop and science. He also taught hunting and boating safety for the wildlife department for 20 years. Through his love for airplanes, tractors, teaching and wildlife, he made numerous lifelong friends, whom he valued and cherished. Family was important; he loved his wife, Pat Essey, son, Alan Townsend, and daughter, Elaina Essey, unconditionally.

Phil Essey was a man who lived the epitome of the American dream. He knew that with hard work and good values, he would achieve anything he pursued. He was fortunate to see many of his goals come to fruition, and he inspired others to do the same. It was apparent to anyone who met Phil that he loved people; he consistently found reasons for holding them to high regard. Treating others with the utmost loyalty and respect was something he took to heart. On December 25th, 2015 surrounded by family and loved ones he left us to be with our heavenly father. He will be greatly missed by those who loved and cherished him and forever in our hearts.

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