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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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28th Birthday Annual Recap

October 19, 2021

I’m officially 28!!!

Coming in hot and a little late…the theme for this year, haha! That’s okay though, because it means I’m busy living and enjoying life so if that means I’m a little late to posting then so be it.

I cannot believe my birthday has already come and passed. This year has absolutely flown by, but so much has changed – especially about me.

In spirit of keeping with the system I created to remember these highlights of my life, here is my annual birthday post with the same questions I’ll be asking myself year over year in the future. I’m excited to see how the answers evolve 🙂


1. Started Peloton (hit 100 rides, lost ~10 pounds)

Back in November of last year I tried my first Peloton cycle class and absolutely fell in LOVE! Since then I’ve started cycling 3-5 times a week and started to explore other Peloton strength classes. I usually like ending with a 10 min light weight arms class which is deceiving. Those 2-3 pound weights really get to you with the high reps!

I love the access to shorter, hyper-targeted classes so I can pair them together. I’m also really loving the bike bootcamps!!! It’s so similar to my strength training circuits paired with fun cardio and playlists that really amp me up.

I’ve really dedicated this past year to moving my body through Peloton and I’ve done over 110+ cycles, 25+ strength classes, and 8 bootcamps! I’ve lost ~10 pounds since coming back from quarantine (LOL – quarantine was actually good for me because I worked out a ton every day!) and the majority of that is fat. In the past I’ve lost weight but not in the healthiest ways and usually it was paired with anxiety and difficult times, but this time I’m feeling very toned and the healthiest I’ve ever been.

2. Made major investments in my business

This was a really big year of investing and reinventing (and feeling reenergized thanks to Creative At Heart!!!). New equipment, analyzing what was bringing me joy and what wasn’t, expanding my team and spending more time doing things I’m best at, and making some pretty big investments.

I haven’t posted a ton about this because I’m excited to launch it all at once, but I’m re-branding!!! Dakota Hersey Photography is getting a brand new look, complete with a new website. I am SO excited. I’ve been working a lot on improving the back end of client experience. I can’t wait to have an outward representation of the work and love I’ve put into my business over the years and the level of service and details I’m committed to giving my clients.

3. Started really liking wine

I guess this means I’m really an adult now right? LOL. I’ve been to Charlottesville twice this year to tour wineries and have really fallen in love with a good red wine! It look me a little while to get on board but now a night at Tarantelli’s with a bowl of pasta with sauce and a glass of cab just sounds… *chef’s kiss*

I’m still not a huge fan of whites or roses but my latest trip to Charlottesville was the closest I’ve ever been to actually finding one I like! We’ll see if that also comes with age 🙂

4. Became an…athlete?

This past year was a year of feeling like a really ~*athletic girly*~! We started off the year with a trip to Colorado with a bunch of friends to go snowboarding. I actually bought my own board and gear so I will be ready to go on lots of future trips! I made a ton of progress with being able to get off the chair lift, stay on my feet, and even do a little bit of carving. I did make it down a blue too!!!

For the warmer weather (preferred), I bought an inflatable SUP board that I absolutely love. I’ve only taken it out a few times so I definitely need to practice more, but there’s nothing like spending time on the water in the sunshine. Plus it’s a really good workout!

I’ve taken Dune out once to get him used to floating and not being afraid of the paddle so next season we will be able to take him out to run on the surrounding islands.

I’ve really been enjoying doing more physical activities by myself and with my friends. Part of my own personal growth has been challenging myself to try new, difficult things and also not being afraid to do them alone. It’s a pretty big deal that I bought the paddle board without waiting for someone else to also get one with me. It’s more than just getting out on the water – it’s felt a lot like getting to a place of independence and doing things because I want to.

5. Brought home the love of my life, Dune

I know you were waiting for this one because it’s without a doubt the highlight of my past year!!! Dune is my 5 month old Australian Labradoodle puppy. I put a deposit down on my birthday last year and waiting a long time for the perfect pup to come around. Dune is everything I could’ve asked for! He’s so cute, super spunky, obsessed with me, and we’ve had the best time learning together (even though the first few months were definitely an adjustment).

I’ve wanted a pup for so long (like since I was 5) but taking on the task of owning my OWN dog always seemed so daunting. I’m so proud and grateful that I’m in a place now that I can finally realize this dream! I’m also super thankful to my community for all of their help with watching him when I travel.

I can’t wait to see what our lives look like over the years! He’s being trained to go everywhere with me so chances are if you see me, you’ll see him soon!

Biggest business focus: Getting ready to launch some big changes. I’ve been trying to keep up with all I have going on while introducing some new things and scaling back on others. 

I have A LOT to share with you in the next few months. This past year was a lot of trying to keep moving forward when things felt like they were dragging. While things have felt a little slower than usual, it’s been a nice season of focusing on myself and trying to really plan for the future. I haven’t had a real chance to do that in a while, and it’s resulted in allowing me to truly evaluate what I love and don’t love about my life and my business.

I’m excited to announce some big changes that will fire me up and continue to help me build a life I love. I’m looking forward to the next stage of Dakota Hersey Photography…and the next stage of my own life!!

Biggest Personal Focus: Continuing to focus on my independence and making solid investments for my future. 

I’ve gone through so many stages in my life that were marked by huge milestones. There have been really high highs and really low lows. This is the first time where things feel very stable and I’ve been enjoying it…but I always want to make sure that I’m moving forward.

This past year was one of enjoying the benefits of personal work I’d done in the past and realizing new goals and opportunities to become the person I want to be – one who is confident in the decisions I make and who is very in-tune with herself and what brings me joy. Getting older is harder, especially when you reach the point where there are so many different paths and its truly up to you what you want to do.

I’m proud of myself for introducing things into my life that bring me so much joy, beyond just the business (since I tend to have my identity wrapped up in being a business owner!). There are so many sides of me and I’m thankful to have the chance to really explore and solidify those parts of myself before I enter into the next chapter.

What I’m looking forward to in 28

There’s SO much! I’m almost half a month into being 28 and I’m still wrapping my head around it. A few of the things I’m excited about I’m waiting until another month or so to share, but for now I’m looking forward to continuing to train and work with Dune, girls nights, exploring new ventures within my business and getting back to my career roots, working with some wonderful couples and seniors, and truly living in the season I’m in.

Here’s to 28!!!!


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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