Category Archives: portrait

Playing with Fire (Fiddler’s Elbow Wedding)

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Just when I think after 500ish weddings I’ve run into all of the challenges out there, life shows me how wrong I am … and I’m thankful for it. Without challenge, growth is slow and meandering.

On Friday morning, Tatiana and I got an e-mail from Kristin asking if we could do a long-exposure shot with shooting sparks. There were just a couple challenges 1) We had never taken this kind of photo before. 2) The wedding was also on Friday, and we were packing to leave.

Generally, photography tricks are modifications and extensions of existing techniques. I never would have thought up the so-called “Brenizer method” if I hadn’t already been experienced in regular panoramas, and while we’d never lit anything on fire and violently swung it around for a wedding photo, I was experienced enough in the other basic skills of night-time long exposures — such as exposing and composing a photo without being able to see anything that you’re doing — that we said we’d give it a try.

When pushing the envelope at a wedding, it is absolutely vital to manage expectations. I often ask couples if they want to take a given amount of time for something that might be awesome, or might be absolutely terrible. In the rare situation that we’re trying a new technique on the wedding day, we made absolutely clear that the result might be no photo at all, especially given that by doing this during the time of the reception we had time for only one frame.

That’s right — this photo is not only the very first time I’ve tried this technique but also, as of this writing, the last. Treading new ground on a tight time frame could only have been achieved with the capable help of Tatiana, who talked them through the posing and lit them with flash.

Important note: while I wasn’t sure whether we’d get a photo, I did make *really* sure that at least we wouldn’t set anything or anyone on fire. The bridge wasn’t just a pretty bit of symmetry for the photo — it also made sure we were surrounded by steel, concrete, and water. I was also farther away than it may look, though there is no such thing as too paranoid, especially when around highly inflammable things like lace (which we weren’t) or hair-sprayed hair (which distance and angle of velocity made exceedingly unlikely to get hit, but anything is possible, hence eager, informed consent from bride and nearby water).

Thank you Michael and Kristin for encouraging us toward creative and literal sparks.

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


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Beginning the year with a bang (Crestwood Manor wedding)

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When I saw these lights at the Crestwood Manor, I couldn’t help myself, and did what may be my biggest panorama ever: 143 frames, 281 megapixels, effectively a 24mm f0.45 lens.

And Anil and Mabel outshine it all.
Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 143-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 105mm f/2 D DC (equivalent of 24mm f/0.45 according to Brett’s calculator)


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Greetings from Spain!

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I’m in Sevilla, where I gave my first live-translated workshop today — and it went very well, so it won’t be my last. This is very much a working vacation as I have a lot of great weddings to show, but I wanted to take some pictures that shouted “SEVILLA!” while I was here. With the help of the fantastic flamenco dancer Marina Valiente and assistance from the lovely Tatiana we took to the streets for as long as we could stay warm at 2 a.m. — especially since I was lying in a dubious puddle to take this shot.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6


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Watch me on CreativeLIVE Photo Week on Thursday!

Quick Hit from this weekend

I’ll be hosting a double-length session at CreativeLIVE on Thursday from 1:45 to 5:30 p.m! For those who don’t know, CreativeLIVE is the biggest educational network in the entire photography industry, and Photo Week has been the biggest event in CreativeLIVE history, so I’m thrilled to be a part of it. This should be the working direct link to hit at 1:45 EST on Thursday!

I’ll be talking about how to do the very best work possible while dealing with the chaotic, problem-filled environment of a wedding day. Now you may think that, with clients like Jessica and Mike, and light as good as this, that this is an inappropriate image to use. But here we were dealing with the most common of wedding-day problems … a very strict time crunch. So here’s a little preview tip: The key to doing good work in these situations is the ability to pre-visualize a scene, knowing your equipment innately, and clear, direct communication of goals, costs and benefits. We were rushing to the limo and I said to Jessica, “Do you see that light over there? If we walk over there and I set you up in it just right, it will take three minutes total and you’ll get a great photo out of it. I know we’re in a hurry so I want to see what you think.” And happily she agreed.

Now, the real key then is that if you say three minutes, it should take two and a half at most. Every minute on a wedding day is precious. (And actually the shooting, including two panoramas, took 45 seconds.)

See you all on Thursday!


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A New York Story

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I try to be a storyteller, but it’s an amorphous thing. We all have a story, sure, but what was the story of your today? Was it just some stuff that happened? Was it something you learned? Something you felt? What will the story be when you look back on it later?

They aren’t simple questions, and that’s just a random day … a Wednesday, even. How do you tell the story of a place like New York? There have been thousands upon thousands of attempts, and they scratch just the surface’s surface of the complexity and the dynamics of this crazy town. Last night I saw a beautiful woman walk by openly sobbing. That, I thought, was a New York story. In the small town I grew up in, we keep our tears and our strangers separate. In New York, people’s pain is in your point, and the pain itself is part of the point. The grind of New York life is perhaps the most pervading part of the story, a rock that we dash ourselves against and that either whittles or breaks us. There’s a reason that if you make it here you can make it anywhere, or as a more recent muse put it “8 million stories, out there in the naked city. It’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it…”

There are reasons that shooting hundreds of weddings in New York have turned me into a problem solver. We have problems. It’s stressful enough just living here, even when you aren’t planning a wedding.

Or when you’re just trying to get around. Kate and Andy were married at the Top of the Rock today, and while the rain parted for their ceremony, it returned with a vengeance just after, right in time to deal with epic New York Rainy-Day Traffic. The limo driver, who had a habit of leaving us several blocks from our destinations in the pouring rain, also decided to drive right by Times Square and put us in the modern-day Bermuda Triangle of Lincoln Tunnel traffic (for out-of-towners, picture a parking lot, except with fewer moving cars). This is when it’s good for us to remember that you might not always be having fun when a photo session starts. Not only do you have the natural nervousness of being in front of the camera, you might have had to plan a complicated day, get waylaid by a limo driver, have to walk several blocks on shoes you swear are medieval torture devices … and then be happy?

But then you find your place. You hold on to the partner you crossed an ocean just to declare your love and devotion to. An iconic New York taxi drives by and reflects the American flag back into the camera. And then, at incredible odds another one drives by at just the right place as well. Yellow and red and blue all sorts of love cutting through the gray, rainy day. And you remember the most important part of the New York story: New York is hard … but man is it cool.

Thank you Kate and Andy for letting me share in your story today.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G


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Love Gives You Wings

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And so, apparently, do some South American wedding traditions. Between the stunning bride and the wings she was wearing, we got some attention from New Yorkers. Nothing gets New Yorkers attention. I’ve seen topless women walk by a few blocks south of this spot with nary a startled look. But we did it.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6


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Christina and Brian’s Trash the CAKE session

Sometimes fate knocks on your door … and sometimes it brings cake.

I’d met the incredible cake-maker Hope from A Little Imagination Cakes at a Grace Ormonde event and I started thinking: Hey, your cakes are incredible. Why don’t we destroy one? Wouldn’t it be great to get a bride and groom just going nuts with it? Man, who could we find for that?

A couple days later, I get an e-mail from Christina. She wants to do a Trash the Dress session … but she really wants to trash it. No “just wading into a puddle and getting it a little wet.” She has a Vera Wang gown, and she wants it to go out in style.

Boom.

Christina and Brian had a comic book-themed wedding, and Hope went all out to make an awesome DC-hero themed cake for them — AND recreated their fantastic save-the-date on layers of the cake itself. All this for something we were about to smash to tiny bits. That’s love of craft.

And smash we did.

This was an awesome day. Thank you Hope, thank you Christina and Brian, and thank you Dave Paek for great assistance.


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Portrait of a President

Whatever side of the fence you’re on, you can’t argue against President Obama’s smile (or Mitt Romney’s hair).

I can’t even describe how sharp this picture is at full size. I put the 24-70 aside for the last few years because it almost made things too easy and mindless, but it is an amazing performer.

Note: In all of these posts, negative political commentary against either side will be deleted. The entire Internet lies out there, waiting for your flame wars.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 24-70 f/2.8


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Teaser: Shoot with Sophisticated Weddings, Kleinfeld Bridal, and more

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I had a grand old time shooting a cover and some inside editorial photos for Sophisticated Weddings’ New York Edition yesterday. This is broadway and tv actress Synthia Link sporting a gown from Kleinfeld’s bridal, one of the many fabulous dresses they donated to the shoot (yes, we said “yes” to them.) Thanks also to Maria Perry Atelier, Ariston Flowers, Oasis Day Spa, Lisa Hubbard and Jessica Vargas for their help. This was a blast.

I’m not giving too much away here … I had to shoot under very different constraints for layout of the cover photo. But I had a horizontal in my heart.

More to come.

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6


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Julianne and Steven’s anniversary shoot

I think that sometimes the photographic community over-emphasizes the importance of portraits on the wedding day. Partially this is because weddings are filled with so many moments and connections between so many people that demand skillful, emotional documentation. But it’s also this: Awesome portraits are the only part of the experience that can happen on another day.

Of course, one argument — that it is a gigantic, expensive pain to get the outfits on and do the hair and makeup again — is very, very true. But the other thing you hear is “You will never look better than on your wedding day!”

Well … maybe. Or after all that craziness, you can say “You know what? My life isn’t over. I’m going to keep working hard, and I can look better than ever next year, and then even better the year after that.” And that calls for some photos.

That’s exactly what Julianne and Steven did. They wanted to do a shoot to commemorate not just their fourth anniversary, but all of the hard work they’ve been doing to live and eat right, with Julianne alone losing 90 pounds over the past two years.

And it was an amazing experience. They looked fantastic, their connection is so strong and visible, and I could have kept shooting them for hours. Did all the fitness work pay off? Look at that last photo and you tell me. They are wedding photographers themselves, and because the cobbler’s kids have no shoes, they told me they have no good photos of themselves together.

Well, we changed that. They said they’d love to do a shoot with me every year, and hope to look even more amazing next year. I absolutely love that attitude. As someone in the best shape of my life at the not-so-tender age of thirty-mumble-mumble, I’d love to see a lot more people do this challenge. Marriage is just the beginning of a new, even better life.


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