Category Archives: wedding

Central Park Boathouse wedding: Jennifer and Marc

Sometimes love is stately, refined and intimate, romantic and quiet. Sometimes it is messy, raucous and public. The vast majority of wedding-related media focuses on the first aspects, but my favorite weddings are the ones that show both: Two people deeply, obviously in love, showing it through countless intimate, gorgeous moments together … and then, as they say, it all comes out on the dance floor. Weddings are public celebrations, so let’s set aside decorum and show how deeply, broadly, and loudly we care about our guests. Let’s get crazy.

Jennifer and Marc’s Central Park Boathouse wedding perfectly exemplified all of this. It was hilarious and heartwarming, wonderful and wild, and made full use of this strange but fantastic record string of nice-weather weekends we’ve been having. (I can’t tell you how much wood I knock on every time I talk about this.)

And I got to share it all with Tatiana, once again proving herself to be the biggest secret weapon in the world of wedding photography.


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Harbour Island, Bahamas wedding: Ann and Bill

This is Harbour Island:

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You see that tiny, glowing beacon in a place so quiet and dark and peaceful that stars New Yorkers have never dreamed of come out to shine? That is a place to get away, where a plane to a different plane to a boat to a golf cart will take you to beaches of pink sand, perpetually pleasant afternoons, and a simple feeling of “This is it. This is what it’s been all about. This is what you were waiting for.” Sort of like marriage.

I love when I get to shoot for the same family again. I’ve shot for sisters, brothers, and cousins of previous clients, but Ann and Bill’s wedding was the first time I got to photograph the wedding of the father of a previous client, Jessica. When you come out to a remote island and spend the day as two photographers among only 40 guests, you really have to integrate well, and Ann and Bill made it so easy. They were warm, as happy as you could imagine in such a perfect setting, and so deeply connected to their friends that the bridesmaids, daughters of one of Ann’s friends, felt like members of the family.

The wedding was perfect against all odds — the weather holding strong even though the eight weather apps my paranoia requires told me that it rained on every other Bahaman island at ceremony time. A raucous young brass band led the guests from an intimate dinner to a beach reception, which was more wild than 40 people should have been capable of. (This is another advantage to the highly-walkable, virtually car-free island: No reason to stop partying.)

It was an honor just to be here, a pleasure to spend the day with these people (some for the second time), and one of the highlights of my entire year that I got to do it all with the amazing Tatiana.

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Review: Nikon Df

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45mm f/2.8 PC-E, ISO 100, 1/1000th

The Nikon Df is sort of a strange camera to review … or at least a strange Nikon. In the DLSR era, Nikon has succeeded by trying to make their cameras as functional and simple as possible … but no simpler. Leave it to weirdoes like Fuji to make quirky cameras with non-standard sensor arrays, or let fresh-and-hungry Sony take huge chances like releasing a $3K camera with no viewfinder and a fixed lens — Nikon would keep making solid, efficient cameras. And, in the words of Henry Ford, pros you can have any color they want, as long as it’s black.

But 2014 is a very different world for camera makers than 2004 or even 2009, and Nikon is waking up to that. Few people need decent point-and-shoot cameras any more than they need to walk around with a compass, map and pocket calculator — our phones have them all. The only way forward to profit for camera makers is to do the things that phones cannot do. The most obvious is to harness the power of a big sensor. But from a marketing perspective, there’s something else: we want to stand out. Thanks in large part to cell phones, more photos are now taken each year than in the entire history of photography before 2010, a DSLR is a conscious choice to say “There’s more to me than selfies.”

No wonder, then, that cameras have turned to a brand that these disruptive, futuristic devices cannot do at all: Retro. The Fuji X100 blew the doors off, shocking any executive that just thought about specs. Cameras like the OM-D and X-Pro1 followed, and their popularity showed that photographers wanted more than just good pictures, they wanted the act of photography to be an experience.

The Df is Nikon’s entry into this space, and everything about the release materials shows how much they are emphasizing the experience of photography over simple, numerical specs. For instance, here is the environmental picture from the Nikon press room for the Df next to the environmental shot for the similar-specced D610:

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The D610 photo shows the same sleek, modern image that Nikon tries to impart with all of its cameras, while the gorgeously styled image of the Df implies that this is a camera Indiana Jones would pack right next to his bullwhip. The Df is about how it looks and feels as much as the images that it takes.

All of this makes it something of a strange camera to review. You can look at the image above and already know if it speaks to you or not. If the retro styling and dials grafted onto a modern dSLR makes your soul sing, if it would revive your love of photography, if it would make you get out there and take pictures you weren’t taking, then this is a valuable camera for you.

But as a constantly working professional, I’m entirely unsentimental. I’ve owned two gorgeous Noct-Nikkors … and promptly sold them because they made me nervous. I need gear that does its job well, gets out of the way, and can be bashed against a rock or two and keep going. But because I carry two cameras for thousands of hours each year, I join many pros in aching (literally) for something smaller and lighter, a D700 for the new decade. And so the idea of having a sensor like the D4′s — with beautiful color, low noise, and high dynamic range even at high ISOs — in a smaller body is deeply appealing.

So, for the market, the Df is caught between two worlds: Is it a camera just for the nostalgic manual-focus users or is it something that could be a pro’s main camera? As a modern Nikon dSLR with a fantastic sensor and perfectly good specs it can serve both roles well, but it also falls a bit short in either direction.

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28mm f/1.8G, ISO 3600, 1/125th

The Good:

The Nikon Df really is nice and light and (compared to my D4′s,) quiet and small. It is very well-balanced with smaller, lighter lenses (like manual focus lenses), and I really liked pairing it with the light, awesome-for-the-price 28mm f/1.8G. Its less obtrusive profile and shutter made it just a bit easier to get closer, to capture moments of people as they really are, not how they react to having a camera around. And the fantastic sensor made it easy to freeze action in all sorts of light. The room above was not nearly as bright as the photo makes it look, and the Df is shooting at ISO 3600 with nary a spec of noise and lots of fine detail. I could have left my 28mm glued onto it and been happy, but it also works well with large lenses that don’t truly balance with any camera, like the 70-200. It’s the mid-range lenses like the 24-70, heavy but tempting for one-hand use, where the small grip causes ergonomic trouble.

Despite the styling, this has everything you expect from a modern Nikon … other than video capabilities, which were deliberately left off. It has reasonably fast operation, feeling less sluggish in basic operation and buffering than the D800 but not as effortlessly speedy as the D4. I was able to shoot large “Brenizer method” panoramas without getting into the sort of annoying buffering problems that the D800 would bring:

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105mm f/2, ISO 100, 1/2000th, 65 images

The relatively small size made it a fun camera for personal use, although the bag you’d need for this wouldn’t be much smaller than for a D4 set-up, especially once you pack the same lenses and flashes. Still, Tatiana and I had fun just messing around with it:

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Again, the sensor is as good as anything with dynamic range, color, and low-light performance. The photo on the left was taken in light you could barely see in, while the one on the right mixes full sun with shadow, and the Df can handle them both admirably:

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The Almost (For the retro-friendly user)

The image on the right above is from the manual-focus 50mm f/1.2, another lens that not only balances well with the camera, but looks darn good. Clearly one of the perceived user bases for this camera are older photographers pining for the feeling of a Nikon F, and with a closet full of manual-focus glass collecting dust. The Df exposure dials are clearly designed to work best with cameras that have aperture rings, just like the ones in the promotional image. Nikon has an long history of incredible lenses, and the Df pays homage to them, including some retooling to allow older, pre-AI Nikkors. But there are two problems, one that I don’t care about and one that I do:

1) The market base that cares most about the way cameras and lenses look and feel are the ones most offended by the existence of plastic. They remember the days when plastic in a lens or camera meant “Danger, Will Robinson!” This doesn’t bother me much, but it is noticeable when paired with older lenses.

2) More importantly, the Df makes no special effort to be the manual-focus lens user’s friend. There is no focus peaking in live view, no easily swappable viewfinder screen, just the same iffy green focus dot we’ve had for more than a decade. This is something that is conceivably improvable in firmware, though I imagine these days a firmware tweak that in-depth would just mean releasing a “Dfs.”

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The Almost (For the modern-minded photographer)

This one will be a bit nit-picky, and I apologize. For a better explanation, let us also call this section: “Hey Nikon! What we really need is a new D700 with current tech!”

First, Tatiana pointed out something ironic — with modern, aperture ring-less lenses, the control make it harder to work in old-school, complete manual mode. If I’m shooting ambient, I’m a heavy auto-ISO user, allowing me to follow the moment into whatever light it takes me, but she had more trouble with the camera simply because she embodies the sort of purism the marketing campaign plays to.

The camera only goes up to 1/4000th, but this doesn’t bother me much — I shot just fine for five years with the D3 and D3s, which may have done 1/8000th but only went down to ISO 200, amounting to pretty much the same thing. A bit worse is that it shares the AF system of the cheaper D610, instead of the high-end AF of the D800 and the D4 lines. I never had too much trouble with the AF, but it didn’t wow me either — the AF points are so tightly packed that you end up focusing and recomposing quite a bit.

But for me, all it took was one thing to rule it out for me as a backbone of a pro system in 2014: The Df only has one memory card slot.

“No problem,” you say. “I’ve shot many times and never had a memory card problem,” you say.

You’re lucky. Shoot some more. Anything that has a non-zero chance of happening WILL happen if you shoot enough, and in weddings I do everything I can to reduce to chance of image loss to as close to zero as possible. Because it does happen. Just last year I had a memory card failure so total that if I hadn’t been shooting to two cards more than a third of a wedding would have been lost to the ether. Any one-card camera I’ve used on weddings, like the Canon 6D, Olympus EM-5, or the Df, has to merely be one of many cameras on the job or my well-earned paranoia kicks in. To add insult to injury, the cheaper D610 has two card slots.

Sadly, one feature the Df does share with the D610 is the crippled live view exposure mode. Again, it is ALMOST there — the back LCD is clear and sharp, and it has far less lag than the D800, but you cannot preview exposure like you can with the D4, D800, D3s, and others. Live View exposure preview is a godsend in many situations, allowing you to work more quickly, focus in the sorts of insane low-light that the Df sensor is capable of shooting in, and in particular when using the manual-focus lenses that this camera is styled for.

This camera was a huge risk for Nikon, and I admire their willingness to make the move. But risks don’t always pay off perfectly. I imagine we’ll get a Dfs some day, but I’d be shocked if it had top-of-the-line AF. Maybe, hopefully, it will have multiple card slots. But I could easily see them making the manual focus experience even better, putting it in line with the best-in-class. Ironically, though, along the way they may realize that the people most crazy about acquiring and shooting with old lenses these days are the video shooters, so we’ll see if they give them a nod as well.

I had a great time shooting with this camera, and it is the right camera for some people out there, just not quite for me. It’s not a D700 update with modern sensor and dual-cards, but sadly nothing is.

More Photos with the Df

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Layers of a Lovely Day

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Sometimes the problems solve themselves, at least when you have brides like Jennifer, awesome enough to brave a forest trail in a gorgeous couture gown. We’ve had this strange but beautiful thing where all the rain and nasty weather has fallen on weekdays. The New York Times even had to point out that there is no reason for special seven-day cycle in the weather. Me? I credit karma.

Apparently the reason that sometimes you come to my site and there is no site here is that someone out there has been attacking ryanbrenizer.com for a long time. We’re working on fixing it, but in the meantime, please hold back for a bit, Mr. Cyber-Jerk. I have so much great stuff coming to the blog this week, from gorgeous weddings to camera reviews, that we’ll probably bring the site down all by ourselves.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G


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Sacred Oaks at Camp Lucy Wedding: Taylor and Brandon

In the world of modern families, we might need some new descriptors. It may sound mostly confusing to say that Taylor is my step-half-neice, but the important thing is that she’s awesome. She’s filled with warmth and giant smiles even when she’s not getting married, so all of the beautiful lighting at Sacred Oaks at Camp Lucy was redundant; she could have lit the whole thing by herself.

It didn’t matter that the off-again, on-again rain turned on again, disallowing the gorgeous outdoor ceremony they had hoped for, they were far too excited for that. And man, I know Texas is proud of a lot of things, but the Austinites’ performance on the dance floor should be high on that list. This would have been a fantastic, uplifting experience even if it didn’t allow me to see my sister and her family, or if I wasn’t seconded by the fantastically talented Tatiana. But I was. Thank you for experiences like these.

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Watching over Cristian (Viña Santa Rita wedding)

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This is probably my favorite “tilt-shift candid” I’ve taken. The groom, named Cristian, prays during his wedding ceremony in Viña Santa Rita – Copiapo, Chile. Thanks to Kyle Hepp for having Tatiana and I tag along for this gorgeous wedding. She’s just posted more photos and the slideshow on her blog: http://www.kylehepp.com/2014/03/matrimonio-vina-santa-rita-2/

Lens: 45mm f/2.8 PC-E
Camera: Nikon D4


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Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove wedding: Jossie and Andrew

Often, the weddings I shoot have been a long time coming for couples. I photographed a couple who had been together for 16 years and whose official wedding theme was “Fricking Finally!” But in a way Jossie and Andrew’s wedding felt like it had been a long time coming for me.

Six years ago, I’d already been shooting weddings for a while, but I knew next to nothing about the wedding industrial complex, or the photographers in the industry. I was entirely steeped in the work of photojournalism, looking at images off the newswires each morning as well as classic documentarians such as Capa or Smith, but I didn’t know a Jerry Ghionis from a Jessica Claire. I decided it would be fun to network with some other photographers in my area, so when I read about Mystic Seminars — then just a one-day affair in a single hotel conference room — I figured it was worth the chance, and took a snowy drive up I-95.

I met some great people that day and picked up some good tricks, but I wasn’t prepared for some skinny, dapper dude named Ben Chrisman to get up on stage and blow my mind. These weren’t images of cut-and-paste, church-then-banquet hall affairs. These were long-multi-day documentations that dripped with life, energy, and creativity. He’d taken similar inspiration from war photographers like James Nachtway, and had even studied under some, and was quite open that when it cant o choices of an easy life versus art, he chose art. I met him on stage after, and told him I’d buy him a drink and we’d chat about Robert Capa someday.

It took a while, but I bought that drink. Years later, we’re now friends, dance partners,, and colleagues. But when he called me asking “Hey, I’d love to shoot with you sometime, do you have any weddings left this year?” part of me still went back to January 2008′s feeling of “Who is this guy?”

I’m so happy that we got to collaborate on Jossie and Andrew’s Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove wedding, because it was crazy in all the best ways. Jossie is a dance instructor, which is always a good sign for someone who loves crazy receptions, and she told me beforehand that the “crazy dancers” would be out in force. And I thought, “You bet they are!” — with her dance students all over and props in every corner of the room, people were tearing it up.

I didn’t realize that in South American and Latin culture, the “crazy dancers” meant Rio-style costumes, stilts and drums and absolute insanity. We never left the confines of the building the entire day, but it felt like a cultural exchange and as much an extravaganza as a wedding.

Thank you Jossie and Andrew for letting us in to this ludicrous, hilarious, fantastic day, and thanks to Ben for the collaboration: we got the drink, but there’s a lot more to say about Capa.

And incidentally, six years later I am also speaking at this upcoming Mystic Seminar in less than two weeks. Who knows what future speaker will be in the audience?

(A good chunk of the photos are by Ben; the watermarks are automatic to avoid orphan works in the Era of Pinterest.)


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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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Heck of an Exit

Heck of an Exit

I really want to blog Demere and James’ fantastic wedding but my computer is in the shop, so you’ll have to hold on a little bit with just the magnificent ending.

(If the color looks off, it’s because the color profile isn’t sRGB. View in Safari or Chrome another modern browser that reads color profiles!)

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G


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Gramercy Park Hotel wedding photo: Love from the ceiling

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Thanks to a glitch with my Web host, it looks like I haven’t posted anything since September. Not so! I’ll repost some content when I get some chance, like an amazing Indian wedding and a shoot with Stephen Colbert, but in the meantime I’ll give you something new. It’s not often that I pull out a stepladder during a wedding reception, but the fantastically lit ceiling of the Gramercy Park Hotel called for it. I can’t wait to show this whole wedding, and I love that incredible venues like this are a five minute walk from my studio. Thanks to my beloved Tatiana for having me aboard!

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


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The Next Step

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I discussed in my recent CreativeLIVE talk that there are ways to push beyond your normal envelope while still doing your duty to your clients, and also that good photos require a lot of intentional choices on behalf of the photographer. Here’s a breakdown of all the thought that can go into a capture of 1/1000th of a second:

For this photo I wanted to provide a different spin on the standard first-kiss shot, coming in from behind and shooting wide. This would replace the standard isolation with an image that shows the family in the background and a unique element of Kristen and Steven’s wedding — two officiants, a rabbi and a priest — in the foreground. They are coming together not just as individuals, but blending religious and cultural traditions, and so they are framed right in between, with their joy palpable. But that standard shot is important, so I also made sure that my second shooter Jashim got a nice, safe 70-200 shot from the front. I try to use foreground elements to block out less important background elements, like Jashim and the videographer, and while not perfect the framing and depth of field de-emphasizes them. Had I moved over more, I might have committed a more important sin of being obtrusive at this important moment. With the openness of the layout and the joy of the moment I was able to dart in and get this without taking away from this celebration for the audience. For me, the best wedding moments are both symbolic and particular to the couple. Most importantly, there is a combination of being ready for the shot, standing in the right place at the right time, followed by a hundred tiny decisions in a few seconds to make it right. Move, wait, move — and along the way don’t make it about yourself.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G


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