Alger House Wedding: Sabrina and Kumar

When Sabrina and Kumar decided to add 1920s’ vintage elements to their Alger House wedding, they really went for it — Sabrina taught 20 or so of her closest friends how to dance the Charleston. From the couple to the guests to the venue, the wedding dripped with style. But the close connections between the guests made it something more … unfortunately Kumar’s parents were blocked by paperwork from entering the country for the wedding, so Sabrina’s family stepped in, showing that although Kumar was only legally entering the family that day, they’d already long considered him a part of it. The relatively small size allowed a casual charm, including a meandering walk from the ceremony to the reception, enjoying the late April sun in Washington Square Park.

Of course, they knew the weather would probably be perfect, because one of the many factors they considered when planning their wedding was this exchange from “Miss Congeniality.”

“Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.”
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”

Thanks to Jashim Jalal for his capable help on this great day.

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A New Day

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Yesterday I started my first-ever 365 project. The season really went into full, non-stop-work mode last week, so this isn’t the best time for some deep, time-consuming personal project, so I’m keeping it vague: I will post a photo online every day over the next year. Some of them will be here, some on the countless different social media profiles photographers tend to collect along the way, but all will be collected on my business Facebook page.

I haven’t done a preponderance of personal work over the past six years not only because I’m shooting for work all the time, but because that work is so personal. A friend of mine said years ago: “I love weddings because the kinds of photos I’d want to take for free happen there, but I also get paid for it.” Weddings very quickly allow me to get to the stuff that matters in people … the emotion, the connections, the history. It might take days or weeks for people to become comfortable with a photographer around if you’re a long-form documentarian, but on wedding days it’s so natural for you to be there, and people have so many other things to think about, that you can get into the varied, real emotional life of people really quickly.

And it also allows me to play visually in so many different ways, because your only real instruction is “here’s the time you have, let’s see what you can do.” Shooting portraits with a wide-angle lens is general rule-breaking. Shooting with a 12mm lens is general insanity. Shooting from a lower angle with … well, you get the picture. The reasons for this is that it takes all sorts of tricks and learned skills to keep this sort of shot flattering, but it can be done. And it opens up the door to creating images that look completely different than the actual scene. Here all we had was about three minutes, a parking lot filled with cars, and rapidly oncoming rain. The lens stretches the venue behind them and the tree above them into looking like they’re on the same plane; the addition of light transforms them from three-dimensional objects to shapes.

I get to play, to try things that, by the rule book, are completely crazy, and then within minutes share in the chaotic emotional energy of a wedding celebration? Most of my job is personal work.

Also, because of the in-season, mid-week timing, there are still some seats open for my May 28 and 29 workshop here in Brooklyn. I will teach all of the tricks to make images like this work and many more, and we will also take you through getting, working with, and maintaining clients. We’ve gotten a flood of people saying that the dates couldn’t work for them, so similar to some of the favorite workshops I’ve done we’re going to allow signing up for just one day: May 28, the shooting-heavy day that runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with breaks for lunch and dinner, will be $650. May 29, featuring portfolio review, all aspects of getting and pleasing clients, and running a long-term wedding photography business that sustains you financially and emotionally, will be $450 for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Both days (which is recommended) is $1,000.

Vintage engagement shoot at June Wine Bar: Michelle and Matthew

There’s vintage, and then there’s Michelle and Matthew. A lot of people dress up in vintage clothing for shoots, simply because it’s fun and looks great. But when Michelle met Matthew, she was impressed by how he looked in the 1920s strongman-style swimsuit he was wearing. She runs a blog called My Vintage Love, so a good part of their central identity looks back about 100 years.

So when Tatiana Breslow and I thought through their engagement shoot for them, we centered around some bars with beautiful interior woodwork to play off their look. The Campbell Apartments are in Grand Central, so they have to be very careful about how much photography they let in — even with prior approval, we were allowed to shoot with our dSLRs for exactly 90 seconds. One of the photos below was taken with an iPhone 6+, and I wasn’t doing it just to be showy — it was all we were allowed to use!

In contrast, June Wine bar in my studio’s Brooklyn neighborhood was so nice and amazingly accommodating that it almost freaked us out. “Why are you so nice? You know this is New York, right?”

Advantage, Brooklyn.

It is such a great thrill to work alongside Tatiana, and to see how our businesses and lives will improve as we merge in the coming year, and the thrill doubles when we work with a great couple. This shouldn’t be the last you see of Michelle and Matthew.

Next Level Workshop: May 28 and 29 in Brooklyn

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It’s been more than two years since I’ve hosted a workshop in the U.S., but we’re back! After a series of workshops around the world, and more than 100 weddings later, we’ve refined our teaching experience and are launching the Next Level Workshops. Find out more at ryanbrenizer.com/workshops!

Also, Tara Atkinson has a well-written and thorough write-up of my last workshop in Dubai, complete with behind-the-scenes images. See that here.

Review: Adobe Lightroom CC

463268 adobe lightroomIf you’re reading this, then I am already de… no, wait, I’m still getting a hang of these scheduled posts. If you’re reading this, then Adobe has released Lightroom CC, the latest in what has become the massively dominant industry standard of professional RAW processing and photo organizing. I was honored to be selected as a member of Adobe’s beta-testing team, and I can say that I have been loving every moment of testing a pretty solid product, and that I haven’t gone back to Lightroom 5 for months.

Lightroom CC has several major new features and enhancements, the most obvious being in-application panorama rendering, HDR, face recognition, and speed increases. These enhancements and others are diverse enough that most people will be really excited for some new features, and care little for others (although we all love more speed). Given that I am best known in some circles for inventing and popularizing a panorama technique, it’s not hard to guess that I was most keenly interested in the panorama features. But the devil is in the details, and after a few weeks I found myself using Lightroom in ways I hadn’t imagined.

The “YESSSSSSS”: Better speed

Speed has been the biggest complaint I hear among Lightroom users, and while whether Lightroom CC is “fast” depends on your system and subjective opinion, it is noticeably faster. In Lightroom 5 I usually would change my iMac 5K resolution to 25 percent of its full capability, just to keep things snappy. I’ve never felt the need to do that in Lightroom CC. I haven’t run numbers, but in practice it took away my biggest frustration with an otherwise great program.

Panoramas: Not quite there yet

Storyboard002Autopano Giga on the left, beta of Lightroom CC on the right

Disclaimer: I have been testing beta software. The final version should be better at everything.

Seven years ago, I popularized a panorama technique that has come to be known as “The Brenizer method.” But before it caught on to the extent it has today, I almost stopped doing it completely.

Why? Because working with the software at the time was extremely annoying. You see, Brenizer method images are often produced with 50 or more images, and the stitching software at the time struggled to keep up. Photoshop CS could produce beautiful results, but it would seemingly freeze up two-thirds into a panorama for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, and you had to leave, go watch some TV, and hope. This is painful enough with one panorama, but if you shot five to 10 panoramas per job processing them could take all day. Things got a bit better until by CS3 they were working pretty well … and then CS4 came out. They had solved the progress bar issue, but for this particular type of panorama, the success rate dropped precipitously, and there were no easy fixes. I turned to third-party software partially for better results but, even more importantly, because you can set up a batch of panoramas and leave your computer to work them all out in peace.

Sadly, even though Lightroom is the general class leader in “setting up a bunch of batch processes and walking away while your CPU spins at 400 percent for a while,” there still is no way to batch process panoramas. And unless you are a careful, tripod-using sort of pano shooter, the results are … less than stellar.

Lightroom is and has been my choice for processing panorama pieces for a long time. The “match total exposure” feature is particularly valuable for any times where you couldn’t perfectly pre-set all of your parameters. The photos above were originally four shots taken on an iPhone 6 Plus, each at a slightly different exposure — which doesn’t make for a great pano. But Lightroom not only is able to do lens corrections on the iPhone camera, it can automatically adjust the exposure variation if you know how to find the surprisingly secretive menu item.

Four images, no major wind — it wasn’t the hardest panorama to stitch, even though there was no tripod. But Lightroom didn’t do too well at it, and there was no easy way to fix it. When I tried the same pano with Autopano Giga, it didn’t break a sweat.

Promising: HDR

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HDR fans will be glad to hear that the HDR function works better in my testing, and HDR haters will be glad to hear that it works well at producing HDR photos that don’t look extremely “HDR-y”. The result pops back into the Lightroom catalog as a fully adjustable DNG file, with no inherent way to turn the tone-mapping dial up to 11. It just allows you to create a RAW file that has more bits and dynamic range than you could have made in a single shot, and then process to your choice from there. I haven’t shot much HDR over the years, but the speed, ease, and natural results of this means that I may try a bit more here and there.

Surprisingly great: Face recognition

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There are some industries where face recognition can be extremely helpful, but wedding photography isn’t generally one of them. The best potential application is answering the question “Do you have any more photos of …” but the trade-off is that creating a library of fans even for a single wedding shoot can take hours. But Lightroom’s face recognition is so great that I have made it the primary way of collecting my personal photos, even though I am a devout “new catalog for every shoot” guy who has always used other programs for this purpose.

Screenshot 2015 04 21 09 55 00But face recognition becomes extremely handy when you are dealing with a giant collection of photos of people you really care about. Just the main folder of my friends and family photos has nearly 30,000 finished photos, more than enough to become unwieldy. But when a friend asked me two days ago whether I had a particular photo of her, Lightroom was able to find it in a few seconds.

Now, by “surprisingly great” I don’t mean that the actual face recognition algorithms are any better than Apple’s or Google’s — they all work in a way that seems fundamentally like magic, but they can all also be thrown off in amusing ways, such as Lightroom thinking that the faces of 20 or so of my friends live in this Christmas wrapping paper.

No, what’s great about Lightroom’s face-recognition is the implementation. Labeling the faces in 30,000 photos individually sounds like actual torture. It’s really important for programs to have very well-worked out systems for batching as many photos correctly as possible, and Lightroom does that much better than Apple’s new Photos app.

In the Faces section you will see the confirmed faces of any individuals you have named — and these names seem to only exist on a per-catalog basis. You can drag or drop either individual images or “stacks” that Adobe has automatically created, throwing more photos on the “Ryan” pile, for example. And you can also double-click on any confirmed individual and it will start looking through whichever folders you have selected for photos that look like it might be the same person.

This allows for a very efficient batch-labelling process. For example:

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Looking for photos of my father shows that I have already found every photo that looks like him in the selected folder. But I also see a photo of my great-uncle Victor, who I haven’t created a folder for yet. Typing his name in will add him to the list of confirmed people.

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With just one or two images Lightroom already has a good enough idea of what he looks like to find more photos. I can shift-click on the images below to select them all, and with one drag not only will I have more photos labelled correctly, but Lightroom will automatically and quickly use them to get a better sense of what he looks like, and find even more photos. Lightroom will start with its best guesses, and then guess more and more wildly. Given all this, you can very quickly fill out someone’s labelling folder by starting with even just one photo of them, and selecting the photos that appear before Lightroom starts guessing wrong, even if those aren’t all of the photos you see. With this process, the guesses will quickly just get better and better.

I’ve used iPhoto, Photos, and Picasa, and Lightroom’s implementation is the quickest and most intuitive. This alone has taken me from ignoring the cataloging features to being my primary way of collecting photos of my friends and family.

There are so many things to discover in Lightroom CC. I encourage you to try it out and see which ways you’ll be surprised.

One light, many jobs

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It’s been one of those months that give lie to the phrase “off-season.” We are back from Dubai and finally over our jet lag, preparing for weddings and so much exciting stuff coming in April I can’t even stare at my calendar directly.

Here’s a shot from one of my workshops at Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. The amazing staff there worked so hard for me … maybe too hard! I primarily teach how to get good results in any kind of environment, and they wrangled up a bunch of five-star hotels like The Sofitel Jumeirah Beach, but we found a way to make it difficult. Here, one light is doing triple duty — backlight on the couple, freezing the water drops in the shower, and providing the nicely formed silhouette. Best of all, no one got wet! Ok, I got a little wet.

Nikon D750, 28mm f/1.8 @f/3.5, 1/200th, ISO 100.

Purpose.

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I’ve made a lot of changes you cannot see, but it radiates through everything that I do. People ask me “What are your goals for the new year?” But in 2015 and beyond I am trying to tear down my goals and focus on the purpose behind them. I’ve always known the purpose I have for the work I do for my clients — it is so obvious every time I share and document tears of joy, years of relationships balled up into a single shining, gemlike moment.

But why do I share? Why do I teach? Why do we photographers spend so much time talking to other photographers? To get likes? To go viral? To be a virus? If virality mattered we’d have spent the entire last year talking about our new corporate masters, Dollar Shave Club.

I share and show so that I can see as many of these wonderful moments as I can, but also so I can take part in the conversation, so I can say “Give me a spare corner of a golf course, a couple in love, and the ability to find my angle, and this is what I will do.” And it is not what you may have seen, and so I leave something behind … a moment, a way of seeing, a piece of the conversation that I love being a part of.

That is my purpose. It is not the fire that burns but the foundation we build every day we care about what we do.

Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 II

Kimmel Center Wedding: Dana and Zal

Speaking as a groom about to plan his own wedding: Zal, you’re making it harder for the rest of us. First, the proposal: Both Dana and Zal are actors, knowing that Dana’s favorite movie was “Pretty Woman,” he faked an audition for her to go try out — but when she got there, all she found was that she had been put in the right place for Zal to come up, sticking out a limo a la Richard Gere. I knew right from this description that they were going to have a heck of a wedding, but this is only the beginning. Zal had been a member of the Broadway Boys performance group, and Dana knew that he had convinced them to perform at the reception … but not that he was rehearsed and ready to perform a few song with them. At every moment this sense of whimsy and delight at marrying Dana was written in exclamation points on his face, and in every aspect of planning. I got more involved in the planning of the day than usual, helping not just with the schedule and some of the other vendor recommendations (such as our pal Paul Hairston on video) but also things like lighting design, and loved it because both of their excitement even carried through the logistics.

It doesn’t hurt that Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center is a beautiful, dramatic place to hold a wedding. It’s also big. Really big. We were wearing fitness bands that day, and I’m glad, since both Tatiana Breslow and I hit all-time records. We’d love to shoot there again for that cardiovascular fitness, if not for the beauty.

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Iberostar Playa Mita Mexico wedding teaser

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Last week Tatiana and I went down to Mexico to shoot with the all-around fantastic Tyler Wirken. It was a hilarious, wonderful heart-warming affair … and also body-warming. Did we mention Mexico is wonderful this time of year? If we tried this shot in New York right now we’d get a bunch of interesting documentation from the hospital later. More to come…

This was shot hand-held. It was … not easy.

Nikon D810, 12-24mm @ 12mm, f/14, 1/2 second, ISO 320

Onteora Mountain House wedding: Crista and Robert

I’m not going to spend too much time here, because each word I write comes between you and the photos of this fantastic wedding for a few hundredths of a second. But a lot of people ask my advice for how to have a good wedding, and my advice is the same for a good relationship: If you’re having fun, most of the other stuff falls into place. This doesn’t mean that planning isn’t important — it’s not really so much fun to have a wedding in a field during a thunderstorm because you didn’t have a good plan — but it’s too easy to forget that having fun together comes first.

So yes, it’s pretty great that Crista and Robert chose the beautiful Onteora Mountain House for their wedding, and that the weather — while chilly — allowed everyone to enjoy the mountain views. It doesn’t hurt that Crista and Robert are basically action heroes, with Robert trained in every sort of theatrical movement and Crista … well, none of Crista’s bridesmaids even batted an eye when she started walking around on her hands. But what matters is how much fun everyone had together, how deep and boisterous and joyful the connections, from streaming tears to bendy backs on the dance floor. And it’s what we all remember.

Just as importantly, I remember how much fun I had in my own partnership, shooting this with the incredible Tatiana Breslow. I will never get over the fact that the woman I fell so deeply in love with happens to also be my favorite shooting partner out of everyone I’ve worked with, that our eyes and our choices are so in sync. We are going to be merging not only our lives but also our businesses, and I am so excited for this future on every level, and to show the world what we can do together. It’s going to be fun.

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Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas everyone! What a year it’s been.

I feel blessed in the most important way: I am happy, through and through. For years I have been so lucky to have found a job that I love, that I want to do until my body can’t take it anymore, that allows me creative expression and autonomy and keeps my brain working. I know what it’s like to not have a creative and professional outlet you care about, and even though it’s hard work, it is incredibly freeing.

And now, even more so, I have that in my own life. I have been lucky my whole life, but whenever I am with Tatiana I *feel* lucky, down to my core.I have found exactly where I want to be for the rest of my life. I know what it’s like to not have this, to search and yearn, and it’s the greatest gift I could imagine.

My life is a life — it’s not all roses and sunshine. I had dental surgery this week and can barely eat delicious Christmas food. We’re still working at our computers most of this week etc. etc. But that stuff doesn’t matter. I am happy, and feel so lucky to be happy. I wish the same for every one of you.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind taking some pictures of your happiness along the way.
Thank you davina + daniel for capturing our happiness even in pitch darkness.

Ici Restaurant wedding: Ayelet and Keston

The best way to drive home the importance of every aspect of a wedding is to plan one yourself. Next to that, photograph a wedding for a family you are connected to. With Ayelet and Keston’s wedding, I found both of these worlds colliding. Not only did I get to photograph this wedding with Tatiana Breslow, the talented photographer and extraordinary person I am planning to spend the rest of my life with, but Ayelet is the sister of one of Tatiana’s best friends, Inbal Sivan, another extremely talented wedding photographer (and also our neighbor).

In some ways the pressure was on — again we were working to the standards of wedding photographer clients, and we wanted to do the best we can for these wonderful people and a family that was so kind to us … but that sort of pressure is always on. Instead, by being such an integrated part of this wedding day, and with the wedding itself being so intimate, we felt like guests happily documenting the story before us. After all, not only were we the wedding photographers, but our apartment was the getting ready space, and we even stepped in for a bit as impromptu DJs at the end of the night. Being able to see weddings from the inside-out is a refreshing experience, and reminds us again how lucky we are to tell stories of emotion and lasting importance, and to fill our days with people like these. Congratulations Ayelet and Keston.

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Sticks Warehouse Wedding (Des Moines, Iowa): Sarah and Tanner

In this industry, there is only one great, more intimidating honor than shooting the wedding of another wedding photographer: shooting the wedding of two wedding photographers. After all, not only do we know all of the ins and outs of the industry, but before even beginning our search we’re already familiar with the work of hundreds of photographers. So I was already excited to head to Des Moines to shoot Sarah and Tanner’s wedding, but it got even better, because wedding photographers really know how to throw a wedding. It can be a tough balance to plan something incredibly soulful and personal and wild and crazy all at once, but all of the notes were perfect. As someone who has lost his father, the love and honor given to the memory of Tanner’s father made me really happy that cameras can autofocus even when you’re tearing up. The details of the wedding were so well-thought-out, personal, and numerous that I even included some of them here, violating my general “details are for the wedding planning blogs” rule. I, of course, am a sucker for photography-related centerpieces. And the party pulsed with energy and vitality, a release for a couple for whom it was finally their time, a celebration to take part in, not record. Thank you so much, Tanner and Sarah, and thank you to Stephanie Marie Photography for doing a great job as 2nd shooter.

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She said “Fine”!

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She said yes!

OK, technically she said “fine,” a private joke given that Tatiana says “fine” way too much, but you get the idea. We are going to go down the same crazy roller coaster as our clients, and we are already understanding this wedding business in different lights. Like sure, diamond rings are a massive industry scam perpetuated by devious corporations … but oh my god we love ours — it’s like a constant dance party on Tatiana’s hand — and when Tiffany & Co. asked if we wanted to trade it in for a properly sized ring we said “No, resize THIS one!” And we realize how important photos are in a different way. As soon as I knew I was going to propose to Tatiana in Montreal it was obvious that I would hire the incredible davina + daniel | wedding photography to capture the moment. Daniel sent me this last night and even with everything we paid I almost don’t even care if there are other photos or amazing portraits — this is a perfect moment from the THIRD time I got down on my knee showing how happy we were once the reality of the situation started to sink in.

The proposal: I had a lot of grand ideas, but honestly I just couldn’t wait. I wanted to do this the very second after we shot our last wedding for the year. Tatiana knew that months ago, I booked the travel for a trip that would take us through 3.5 days of vacation in Montreal before spending Thanksgiving with our families. She didn’t know that I’d booked our hotel at the Ritz-Carlton, Montréal, or dinner the first night at the incredible Maison Boulud Montreal. I’m not generally a flashy, free-spending person, so she would have known something was up … so I had a plan. I ALSO booked us rooms at the Best Western down the street for last night. That way we could come off the plane and get all dressed up “for dinner” at a restaurant at the top of Parc du Mont-Royal — a restaurant that does not, in fact, exist.

I have never been to the spot, which Daniel picked, and Tatiana has never been to Montreal at all, so Google Maps led us astray and we had to not only climb up a dark muddy mountain trail in our fancy clothes, we had to crawl over four different chained off pathways to get there. All the while I’m sending and receiving secret texts from Daniel to make sure he knew where we are — and of course me, photographer that I am, makes us wander to a spot without people in the background, a beautiful reflective rainy ground, and at least a bit of ambient light, which was in short supply.

I turned to Tatiana: “It’s been a wonderful year and I’m so happy to celebrate it. But I have a few surprises for you! First of all, we’re not staying at the Best Western tonight, we’re staying at the Ritz!”

“What???”

“And we’re staying there every night!”

“Wow, wait, what?!?!”

“And there’s actually no food here, that restaurant behind us is actually a closed-off government building. Our dinner is back at the hotel.”

“Wait, what? What??”

“Also,” (and here I began to cry, as I knelt down to my bag to pull out a white-wrapped turquoise Tiffany’s box), “You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, the best person I have ever met, and I want to spend as much time of every day for the rest of my life with you that I possibly can.”

“WHAT!?!?!?! WHAT?????? WHAT????”

Daniel’s video light turns on, and man, those things are bright when they are aimed at you, and we hear cheering and the sounds of hundreds of shutters, but it a ll seems to fade into the background. I wanted her to be surprised before the ring was out, and boy did that happen. She was still in shock probably an hour later while we were doing portraits, but so thrilled. We haven’t stopped smiling for the past 18 hours, and our cheeks are starting to hurt.

We are so happy to begin our forever, to let each other and the world know that we are totally, one hundred percent committed to each other in every way, and can’t wait to spend the last half of this week celebrating with our family.

Thank you to Davina and Daniel (and associate Chris) for the amazing photo, thank you to my mom for coming with me to pick out the ring and being the best all-around, and thank you to Kyle Hepp for being my on-the-ground recon, finding out Tatiana’s thoughts on proposals in general. (Her thoughts on having a photographer there? “Absolutely not.” Public proposal? “No, just on the couch.” Sometimes you have to be a bit rebellious.)

We are just going to bask in our engagement right now and no wedding planning — the only thing we know is that there will be a good dance party. No other details.