Wainwright House Wedding: Naomi and Ben

Sweet. Down-to-earth. Deeply connected. It’s not just that I enjoyed spending the day with Naomi and Ben, documenting their relationship, friends and family, and not enough that I loved the choices they made for their wedding day … I respected them. At every point they chose to focus on the deep relationships they had with friends and family, and keep things simple and beautiful. When I walked in to the Wainwright House, Ben was already at work helping to build his own chuppah (and doing a great job — if I built one I’d nervously watch out for even light winds). Family dogs ran free, even breaking loose into the reception at one point. Along the way the great team at Ruby Stone Productions kept the day well-styled and running smoothly, so that everything just felt easy and fun.

Thanks for Braham Rhodes and Ever Lopez for helping on this wedding, with Ever coming all the way from Mexico!

Brooklyn On My Mind

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This picture from a recent engagement shoot with Brett and Annette makes me happy because it makes me think of home. I’ve just settled into Barcelona where I am working away, sitting an at Apple store just because it’s the only place with decent upload speeds I’ve found in the city, but I have happy thoughts of my clients, and of my own soon-to-return life in Brooklyn with a lovely lady and a feisty dog.

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

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

Stage 6 at Steiner Studios Wedding: Miranda and Vanessa

At least three of the 10 funniest speeches I’d heard at weddings all year were at Miranda and Vanessa’s reception, and during the third I couldn’t hold back both a shocked laugh at some strange synchronicity: When Vanessa first met her future roommate (and speech-giver), she’d asked her: “Are you the best at anything?”

I am fascinated by people who are among the best at things, the weirder the better. What drives them, how to their brains work, what are their daily lives like … these questions itch at me. I have an ongoing photography project devoted to it, but it’s been put on hold for … well … the entirety of my wedding photography career. Oops.

But life has a way of coming full circle, and this same career brought me to document the glorious wedding of Miranda and Vanessa. At the time, Vanessa had been alluding to her apparently masterful Minesweeper record, but in most circles she’s better known for poker. Suffice to say I made sure to never bet anything with anyone at the wedding.

And for at least this day, my questions were answered — what drives them forward is an incredible bond of love and joy, and deep commitment to friends from all circles of their live. It was as calm and beautiful a day as I’d ever had at Stage 6 at Steiner Studios, because for someone who has mastered a sport famous for steely intensity, it was simply … chill (for a wedding).

Miranda’s kindness and warmth kept things throughout the day, right to asking me whether I could teach them how to Dougie. Sadly it never played, but we shared a gorgeous night on the Steiner Rooftop, with my second Sidney Morgan and Photo Booth master Steven Tang. Thank you, Miranda and Vanessa, for having me document this day; you’re the best.

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

The Bejewled Sea

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I am so blessed to be surrounded by so much amazingness every weekend. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this month alone I’d be writing a novel somewhere around the 80,000-page mark, so you can imagine how hard it is to condense this stuff into a few words in blog intros. So just … wow. Here’s one from yesterday. So much more to come.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 31-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the 70-200mm f/2.8G VRII (equivalent of 104mm f/1.4 according to Brett’s calculator)

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

A Hard Day’s Light Painting

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At the end of Kristen and Steven’s wedding we decided to have some fun with light-painting, with a few twists … it’s a testament to the D4 that it can do astrophotography at f/5.

it was only afterward that the venue told us about the bobcats…

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

Don’t Rain on My Parade

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Weather geekery has it’s rewards.

At 3:15 p.m., before the ceremony, dark clouds started to roll in. Jillian looks at them nervously and says to Ryan (the other Ryan) “IS it going to rain?”

He says “No, we’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know …”

“You’re going to be OK,” I interject. “It won’t rain until just about the end of your reception, when it doesn’t matter anymore, but when it does come it will come fast and hard.

She considers it. “OK, him I trust.”

Six hours later, we stop outside for a quick night portrait. This scene is pitch black. 0.8 seconds, ISO 3200, f/1.8 — black to the eye, not to the camera. As we start, a few rain drops come down, and then a few more. I know to hurry. Since we were using video light and a long(ish) exposure, you get a different sort of effect than freezing raindrops with a flash. I like it, a different sort of accent to the scene. We shoot fast, I get them inside … and then the skies open, rain streaming down the windows.

Geeks have their day again.

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

Big announcements all over!

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Yesterday I was honored to be on CreativeLIVE, the biggest educational program in the photography industry. It was wild being on camera live in front of thousands of people, and I applaud them for how they handled the insane logistics of Photo Week, their most ambitious program ever. My talk was on overcoming common problems on wedding days, with a focus on using compositing to overcome bad light, as well as a quick creative tool. We made the photo above, which only has one light source for both the warm and cool light, in 30 seconds of shooting and 15 seconds of Photoshop. Since I had three full hours, I also made sure we didn’t miss the forest for the trees — while it is easier to teach portrait techniques in this sort of format, the bulk of our time as wedding photographers, and the most uniquely important part, is documenting people and families on an incredibly complicated, emotional day. I spoke to ways to keep the fire inside you that will make EVERY photo better, as well as some important tips for increasing documentary skill. You can buy the program here for $49 — almost 40% off the regular price — here. Buying this session is the strongest possible vote you can give to tell CreativeLIVE to bring me in for a full three-day session (viewable for free!). Part 2 is here, I had the only double-length session so I’ll see if there’s any way to bundle them.

But there’s more…

For years people have been telling me that they’d love to try “The Brenizer Method,” but they just can’t figure it out. It can be really tricky until the light bulb goes off for the first time, and there are a lot of little tricks that can help. So I’ve been working tirelessly to produce an incredibly thorough video that takes you through this from start to finish, conceptualizing to shooting, to post-processing. And I want people all over the world to be able to afford to learn this, so I’m releasing it for just $10 with a pre-order of $8. Find out more at chill.com/ryanbrenizer/brenizer-method.

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!

New Leaf Cafe Wedding: Brenda and Solomon

When you take two people with something like nine degrees between them, and you surround them with their college professor friends and family, there are some things you might expect, like the heartfelt, clever, well-executed speeches, or the performances of classical music by some of the groomsmen. You may not expect breakdancing. But Brenda and Solomon’s wedding hit all of these notes and so many more, from a gaggle of adorable flower girls dressed as fairies, to a beautiful ceremony at the surprisingly pastoral northern tip of Manhattan in the New Leaf Cafe, and exquisitely managed details (that I may add in a director’s cut of this post — I’m posting from the road at the moment).

In fact, there was so much to pack in that I found myself desperately wishing that the wedding day were longer, not something that often happens after a full day of beating myself into a pulp to get the best photos I can at every moment. When their friends finally let loose on the dance floor, it was like a coiled spring ready for release. These professors can party.

Thanks so much for having me share this day, and thanks to Pieter Sientara for his help.

A Taste of Things to Come

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I’m working on a little somethin’ somethin’, and The Markows are one of many who have helped with it. More details soon.

Most of you are looking at this and thinking how fabulous Stephen and Julianne are. But those who have taken a lot of Me Method photos are thinking “All those parallel lines and no stitching errors? What strange magic is this?” Well, sometimes a new dog can learn old tricks. More soon.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 71-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 105mm f/2 D DC (equivalent of 30mm f/0.58 according to Brett’s calculator)

Venetian Wedding: Erica and Dan Eric

Filipino weddings tend to be an incredibly vibrant mix of deep ceremonial meaning and broad family ties, with more people in the processionals than even attend many of the weddings I shoot. These both lead to a deep sort of community investment in the wedding … or in other words, people are ready to party.

How do you take this energy and turn it to 11? First, you invite a LOT of people, whom The Venetian does a great job at housing in style.. Second, you be twin vibrating bundles of energy like Erica and Dan Eric. A couple that taught everyone how to Dougie for their first dance, and who had her father do a mean Beyonce impersonation for the father/daughter dance. There is warmth and then there is Erica, who at a number of times throughout the day would stop whatever she was doing and give me a hug. “I’m so glad you’re here!”

I was glad too. Glad to be there with such amazing, crazy people. Glad to share the day seconded by the amazing Tatiana, who also got her share of hugs, and my intern Leah. And really, just glad to show you these photos.

The Girl Who Lived

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If you don’t know Kelsie’s story, read it now. Just three months after a car accident that should have killed her, after injuries so terrible that just hearing them described made one of our friends pass out, Kelsie is here, she is beautiful, and she is strong.

Also, she is legal! (Today is her 21st birthday.)

This was shot 1/3rd of a second, hand-held, and lit by an iPhone, finally making use of that crazy 12-24 flare.

This was an important shoot to me, and I spent too much time during it mucking about with behind-the-scenes video, which is a whole new ball of frustration. At the end of the shoot, after equipment failure and getting chewed up my mosquitos and threatened by a large pack of raccoons, we walked back to the car. On the way back, I stopped and looked at this scene. “What’s the story you wanted to tell? What’s the photo you wanted to take?” I asked myself. “It’s time to think like a photographer.” And so we took this.

Kelsie also recently released her first original video. Enjoy her skills:



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