Guastivino’s Wedding: Julia and Dean

I said that Danielle and Spencer’s wedding was the wildest one I’d ever been to. But what I love about NYC is that you don’t need to go around the world to find splendor and beauty, craziness and fun, when I can walk down the street to venues like Guastivino’s, the fantastic setting of Julia and Dean’s wedding. And I love that there are people like Julia, Dean, and their friends walking around this city, being all respectable and proper Manhattanites … and then, when it comes down to it, oh man, can they dance.

I had a fantastic time with Julia and Dean throughout the whole process, from the engagement shoot where he surprise-re-proposed to her (so he could “do it right” that time) to just chilling and laughing with them in the limo. (What I don’t love about NYC is that it can turn a one-mile trip to the reception into a 45-minute journey.)

It was a gorgeous and stylish day throughout, from the beginnings at the W New York Union Square to their impeccable eye for detail and jewelry (Dean is in the biz). But nothing will stand out more than the all-pervading, ligament-stretching, constant fun they all had.

Thanks again to Valerie Sebestyen for assisting!

No Rain on Their Parade

Generally when it rains on an outdoor wedding and I say “it didn’t faze them for a minute,” it’s a figure of speech. Even couples with the broadest perspective will have a minute of “Oh man, we were going to have a gorgeous outdoor wedding and now we can’t … oh well, we’ll have fun anyway.”

But Beth and Dino literally didn’t stop smiling for a second. If there were any uneasy glances at the thundering sky, any sighs, I didn’t see them. All I saw was a fantastic, hilarious wedding, the sort of day where the officiant lifts his lines straight from The Princess Bride. Brilliant.

Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G
Camera: Nikon D3s

The Sky Right Now

Not Photoshopped to heck; it actually looks like that. 23 images with a new lens I’m testing for B&H (the Tamron 24-70 VC).

You can buy a print of this here. For this I recommend a wide print like the 12×24″. The watermark will not be in the printed image.

Well, hello entire world. Nice to meet you. Here’s another one for people still looking. Single image:

(buy a print here)

NYC Yale Club Wedding: Nicole and Dave

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in midtown for Nicole and Dave’s Yale Club wedding — gorgeous enough that a marching band and gang of dancers got in on the action.

Nicole’s best friend and maid-of-honor Sharrone runs wedding videography studio Fiore Films, so she had some insider help on creating an absolutely gorgeous, elegant wedding. It was the sort of day where laughter flows into crying and back again, where hugs threaten to crack spines. The sort of day I love to document.

The reception was fantastic, largely due to the incredible performances of the Hudson Project wedding band. I can’t wait to cross their paths again.

Valerie Sebestyen was back shooting with me for this wedding, and for most of June. Always nice to bring that Oklahoma cheeriness to a Manhattan day.

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Kelsie.

I’ve already shown some of Kelsie for the Olympus review, so I figured I’d dive right in with the rest, so to speak.

One of the most important goals for my professional life is to always keep my passion for shooting. It sounds self-centered to focus on my own joy, I suppose, but really the only thing that’s going to keep me going the extra mile for clients, to keep learning and growing as a photographer and even be a better businessperson is if I keep being excited to show up to work every day. And perhaps the surest sign of that is that even in what little free time I have, I want to keep shooting. After filming an upcoming show in Boise, I had a beautiful day to spend with my friends Dylan and Sara of Sara K Byrne Photography. So of course we spent it shooting. I’d seen Kelsie’s great modeling work, and specifically her incredible hair, and I said “OK, what other chance am I going to get to shoot in the middle of a river?” Let’s do it.

And it was a learning experience. I learned, for example, that the Boise river is freezing cold even after a series of 104-degree days. Freezing cold. And that Kelsie can look great even in harsh mid-day sun. Also that the most important thing in underwater photography is figuring out how to stay down without then killing yourself. We couldn’t get the proper sort of ballast in a 9-foot pool, so the shoot was accomplished with a series of downward pushes on my shoulders by Dylan. Now that’s a trust exercise — thanks for not murdering me!

For the record, it was Sara who had Kelsie take her shirt off. Since the whole impetus for the shoot was her insanely long and thick hair, I figured it was a safe enough covering for the blog.

Olympus Tough TG-1 Review

Specs and purchasing information

Pocket digital cameras are in an existential crisis these days. Their main selling point — taking up little space so that you have something you can take pictures with at all times — is being completely dominated by camera phones. No matter how small or light a camera gets, it can never add less heft than something you were carrying around anyway. And as camera phones get better and better, the advantages in visual quality become fewer. Most standout pocket cameras these days are aiming for better quality than you get with most camera phones, either by adding larger sensors like the Sony RX100, or super fast lenses like the f/1.4 aperture in the Panasonic LX7.

But there are a few other things you shouldn’t do with a camera phone — drop it on the ground, drop it underwater, freeze it, step on it, and many other things that I have actually done to destroy various iPhones. The Olympus Tough TG-1 is built to handle all of these things, so while the quality of its sensor may not be significantly better than that of the best camera phones, you can worry about it less or get photos that are actually impossible with them. The TG-1′s ruggedness is no joke — it’s rated to be waterproof to 40 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, freezeproof to 14°F and crushproof to a weight of 220 pounds. Adorama told me that I was free to hit it with a baseball bat to test this, but I think they might have been joking. I weigh under 220, though, so I did stand on it with my full weight, and all that managed to do was turn it on without a scratch. I also put it though some other paces, as you will see below. Olympus has paired this ruggedness with a number of new improvements, such as a 25-100mm equivalent lens that is a fast f/2 on the wide end. Although it’s a slow f/4.9 at the long end, that gives you more options in the dark, or particularly underwater, where this camera really shines. Every port on the camera is double-sealed against the elements, and the lens is covered with a strong, easy-to-clean coating. Because the lens doesn’t protrude at all, the camera is quite pocketable, but it’s also surprisingly easy to have your thumb sneak in the corner of pictures if you have big hands.

Image quality:

I don’t use point-and-shoots other than my iPhone very much, so I’m a bit nitpicky. Most shots out-of-camera have a real digital look to them, with some smeared detail even at base ISO, and lots more as you go through the range. At ISO 800 or above the smearing can seriously affect your images, but the digital look happens in uncertain ways — I have ISO 200 images that are smeared and ISO 1600 images that look pretty good:

The above image is ISO 1600 in Super Macro mode, which you can see works really well. The subject matter may be forgiving, but the image shows a surprising amount of texture in any case. The TG-1 also has an LED light which can help with some macro images (though it will give an on-camera-flash look to the photo, which is rarely the best option).

In good light, the photos look nice and snappy, even of a poor subject like me:

Fill flash works decently well — it won’t overpower full sun, but here you can see even coverage of the leaves about eight feet away in the foreground:

But things fall apart a bit in mixed light, as this ISO 800 image shows:

Controls

This is what keeps the TG-1 from being any kind of true pro camera. I bet you could fix a lot of the digital look at lower ISOs in a good RAW converting program — but we’ll never know, since the TG-1 doesn’t shoot RAW. It also doesn’t have any way to let you directly control the shutter or aperture. Even though the exposure compensation is fairly easy to ride, this is a huge blow for a control freak like me, particularly since otherwise this could be a decent professional option as an underwater camera.

It DOES have a lot of “art” effects, which are generally pretty silly, and even sometimes downright frightening, such as the mirror effect:

The controls feature set definitely seems aimed at the amateur market. But where this camera really shines is…

Underwater

Underwater housing for professional DSLRs is extremely expensive, and it becomes cumbersome enough that you need to learn to shoot all over again. Being waterproof to 40′, and with all sorts of underwater options such as Underwater Macro mode and underwater-specific white balance settings, this camera is great for swimming, snorkeling, and shallow-water scuba enthusiasts, as well as people who want to dip their toe in underwater portraiture. I did just that in a recent trip to Boise with the fantastic model Kelsie, and I liked the photo quality underwater even better than on dry land! (It probably doesn’t hurt that clear water is constantly cleaning and functioning like a lens itself). All controls were easy to use underwater and easily visible — dealing with the camera was by far the easiest part of a difficult shoot.

I started with photos from very close to water level while wading in the Boise River. You could use an unprotected DSLR for this — and I did for some — but you’re really pressing your luck when you want to dip down to get a reflection. The best photos from this session had implied nudity, so I will pixelate for those of you at work, and you can click to see the actual photo:

Then we shot in a pool, with sunlight trickling in for a great effect. For the first half of the shoot I tried the TG-1′s high-speed shooting so the ripples of light would hit Kelsie just right, which is a crazy-fast 60 frames per second at three megapixels. I’m glad I switched to full res, which still is a very speedy 10fps but with a smaller buffer, because the high-speed photos do not look very good. Clearly these are just frame-grabs from video, and they look like it, with a bit of poor-video CCTV quality to them. 3MP should be more than enough for the Web, but even here, with the very best of them, you can see the difference between the high speed photo (left) and the normal res photo (right):

I do not recommend the high-speed mode for still photography unless you really need 60fps, and don’t care about quality.

But the color, the steadiness of exposure, the handling and speed were all excellent. If I spent more time around water, I’d keep this camera in my bag. No matter how convenient your cellphone is, you probably don’t want to do this with it:

More snapshots

Buy it here!

Bryant Park Grill wedding: Chika and Andrew

This feels like a long time coming. When I first photographed Chika and Andrew, they knew they were getting married … someday. In some hemisphere. But that was about it. You see, even though their ties to the U.S. and New York run deep, they currently happily live in Japan.

Sadly I didn’t travel to Japan, but they did one better and came to me. In fact they figured out their wedding based on my schedule — always the highest honor I can receive, much more meaningful than any award. And we had a gorgeous day at the Bryant Park Grill, deep in the frenetic energy of a midtown summer.

I figured from knowing them that this would be a fun day. I figured from meeting Chika’s friends that it would be a crazy dance floor. But I admit I was totally surprised that the true life of the party was Chika’s dad. That guy can tear it up.

It was a fantastic capstone on a long journey for me and a longer one for them … and hey, there’s always room for a Tokyo anniversary shoot.

The Air Up There

I’m returning from Boise now, where I shot an episode of the FRAMED show, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. So what does one of the busiest wedding photographers around do once he’s in a new town with a weekend off? Why not shoot a wedding? And then spend all the next day shooting for fun?

I do a lot of things to make sure that I keep the elemental joy of taking photos alive, to make sure that I never get to the point where clicking that shutter doesn’t sound like fun. So I shot a wedding and with my Boise-based friends Sara and Dylan of Sara K Byrne Photography, and had an absolute blast being around all the joy of a wedding day with none of the pressure. Also, it’s a lot easier to sweet talk local skater kids when the team includes someone who looks like this.

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

Banyan Tree Mayakoba destination wedding: Spencer and Danielle

I’m not saying that Spencer and Danielle’s Banyan Tree Mayakoba wedding in Playa del Carmen was wild. What I’m saying is that the same people introduced themselves to me on three separate days, because they’d forgotten we’d already met and had several long conversations.

Fun. Crazy. Awesome. Sweet. And, oh boy, endurance. This is what it’s all about. This is celebration.

These are the sorts of stories best told in photos. I’ll let you imagine the photos I’m not showing. Really all you need to know is that the last shot was taken during the reception.

Lightning Strikes Twice

120704 221806 85mm f1 6B
After the fireworks, Mother Nature decided to put on her own show.

Hand-held. I managed to hold my 85mm at 1/10th of a second, but still not an easy thing to capture. As much as I’d like to say this was all skill, photography is the art of being prepared to be lucky.

Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
Camera: Nikon D3s