Wedding: Ela and Joe at the New York Country Club

I don’t think there’s much I can say about this great wedding at the New York Country Club featuring chill guys, hilarious, hammy bridesmaids, and a firecracker of a bride that the pictures don’t show. Secret handshakes, golfing at twilight, squaring off for a guys-versus-girls rendition of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”? It’s in there.

OK, just one thing. Polish people are hard-core. You think it hurts getting pelted with rice coming out of a church? The Polish tradition is to throw coins. That’s tough.

What a great day.

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Photos of the Day: Soulja Boy and Keri Hilson in Concert

Yesterday I was selected as the photographer for the launch of five new products in Monster’s Beats by Dre line, a series of high-end headphones (and now a high-end iPod dock) partnered with hip-hop legend Dr. Dre and a series of other celebrities, from LeBron James to Justin Bieber.

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(I love photos that look totally surreal even though they’re basically out-of-camera; this was just a white balance and contrast shift)

I have a feeling that publishing unapproved candids of Dr. Dre is the kind of thing that would lead publicists to shove flaming bamboo shoots under my fingernails, so I’ll hold off on that. But I also had the run of the place for the launch concert featuring Soulja Boy and Keri Hilson.

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Soulja Boy makes it rain $100 bills as his pants finally give up.

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Keri Hilson, a split-second before the curtain opens.

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That’s some microphone.

Workshop: “Lessons Learned the Hard Way,” Oct. 12-13

As previously announced, I’ve got a workshop coming up on Oct 12-13. Everything is set, and I’m really excited about how it’s going to turn out. Unlike the previous full-day workshops, this one is aimed squarely and solely at people who want to be in the business of wedding photography. And I’ve based everything around this idea: What do I wish I’d known when I started shooting weddings?

Years ago, when I entered this industry, I had already spent years as a photojournalist and a photographer for Columbia University, but there are a lot of things you have left to learn about how to translate that into a world of clients and of running a business and of the very specific skills required to do your best job on wedding days where it sometimes seems that everything is working against you, and you have absolutely no room for failure.

I like simplicity. I base my wedding packages on the simple question: “What would I want from my wedding photographer?” And so what I will be giving is exactly the workshop I wish I’d been able to attend years ago.

How to make your mark? How to stay passionate? How to make very particular clients happy? (Among other things, there will be a mock client meeting where you’ll see me handle every difficult question I’ve ever heard) How to run a business without running it into the ground, even if you’re the type of person who hyperventilates when you see a spreadsheet?

And we’ll be shooting, not just to take cool photos, but to solve the sorts of problems that are the common bane’s of a wedding photographer’s life. Bad weather (we’ll fake it if we have to), bad lighting, bad locations, tight timing, awkward subjects.

Let’s face it — a lot of people can take photos of a model on a tropical beach. You could make that look good if the camera went off by accident. But it’s the ability to solve problems that makes a wedding photographer consistently successful, and there are a lot of lessons I’ve learned along the way, mostly the hard way. By the end of a day and a half, I hope we’ll make them a bit easier.

Only $500, and six slots left (as I write this). E-mail ryanbrenizerworkshops@gmail.com for more information and to sign up.

I like pictures, so here’s one I made at the last workshop.

Photo of the Day: The Color of Night

The Color of Night

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Nikon 45mm f/2.8 PC-E

There are so many reasons to love the high-ISO capabilities of modern DSLRs, but more than anything I love that, with the right lenses and careful technique, we can actually take portraits and casual photos at night, that really shows wsa night looks like. Night is not the bright blue lighting cinematographers have had to use for decades to connote darkness. It is a barely grey darkness punctuated only by the things that humanity have made, the areas and objects that we deem important enough to light up when the sun goes down. It is many-colored, shiny and complicated. I love it.

I sometimes will be out shooting people at night with the tiniest of lights or no light at all, and I will see other photographers walk by , and I know they think I’m nuts. Right after this shot, a team walked by with a battery pack and a giant octobank on a boom. The way that you’re *supposed* to take photos at night, the way that destroys the night. It’s a good way to shoot, too — octobanks are killer light sources. But I love the freedom of choice.

What Ryan Brenizer Loves: Junebug

I am very happy to be added to Junebug’s exclusive list of best photographers in the NYC area. They limit each metropolitan area to a select number of photographers and it’s quite an honor to be selected in New York because, well, we have the most people, and so many talented people flock to what I like to call “an amusement park for workaholics.”

As soon as I discovered Junebug, I knew that they were a publication that really “got” photography, feeling free to publish images just because they loved them, whether or not they showed the latest styles in centerpieces. It is an honor to be on their list of photographers they love.

I wrote a little personal statement for them, might be worth sharing here:

I have been blessed by photography. It has filled me with purpose and joy, and taken me places I never thought I’d go. I have covered three U.S. presidents, been blessed by the Pope, and been stared down by Muhammad Ali. I’ve shared a laugh with Smokey Robinson, and had a picture I took of him used when he received a lifetime achievement award. I’ve photographed a 110-year-old woman as she told me what it was like to climb onto the torch of the Statue of Liberty. I was chosen as the only independent photographer allowed near Obama and McCain in their last meeting before the 2008 election. But I have never felt so blessed by photography as when I am photographing a wedding. At weddings, we are most visibly ourselves — the walls we walk around with come tumbling down under the forces of joy, anxiety (and sometimes a bit of alcohol). To document that experience, the relationship of friends, families, and a couple launching a new stage in their life, is an incredible feeling. When a client says “This is the first picture of seen of my parents that actually looks like them!” I feel like I’ve done something with lasting value. And to do that with so many wonderful couples, from down the Manhattan street to as far away as Singapore, makes it all the better.

I am a storyteller and a problem solver. When I am posing you, I work to make you comfortable enough to find the real emotions and expressions within you. And when I am documenting the day, I work to make you comfortable enough to forget I’m there.

Photo of the Day: Through the Trees


Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 70-200mm VRII

Tree branches made a great texture for this shot of Svetlana and Dmitri (whose wedding is tomorrow!) but I was a bit nervous about police seeing me poke my lens through the trees at a couple making out at the park.

Luckily, no arrests were made.

Photo of the Day: Our Own Railroad Car

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Lighting: Three SB-900s

Once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
through valleys
under stars
I dream of touring like Duke Ellington
in my own railroad car
–Ani Difranco,
self-evident

Wedding: Elizabeth and Aaron at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

Elizabeth knew two things going into wedding planning: 1) This was the man she wanted to be married to and 2) She wanted her last dance to be Modern Love.

Spoilers: She got both. And along the way she had a gorgeous, intimate wedding at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. With great friends, gorgeous weather, catering by Abagail Kirsch, and starting the day at the Ritz-Carlton, it’s hard to go wrong.

Elizabeth is originally from the South, and there was an air of Southern gentility in people such as her grandfather, who walked her down the aisle and gave a moving speech at the reception.


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Greetings, Photoshop and Lightroom followers, on the “Brenizer method”

The official Facebook and Twitter pages for Lightroom and Photoshop, with more than a million followers between them, are discussing the “Brenizer method” of stitching for depth-of-field purposes today. The actual links are a bit twisted around, and it might be hard for people to find their way to my content, but still, there might be some new viewers here today. So hello.

I have plans in order to do a proper video tutorial on this, but my photography clients come first (and I have a lot of them), so I’ve put it off until late fall. But here is my original post on the matter, and you can see a lot more samples here.

In the meantime, here’s an old video laying it out. Sorry for the terrible sound, and my hair at the time:

On the fun side, I’ve often wondered why, with eight million viewers to my photo stream on Flickr and many more on my blog and Facebook, I get so little hate-mail. Exposing this to a million new people today might change that. Greetings! But to head the hate-mail off, no, I didn’t come up with the name. I called it “bokeh panoramas.” I like to think I have more methods left in me.

Photo of the Day: Their Own World

Their Own World

30 images with the new 85mm f/1.4G.

One of the nice things about the Brenizer method is that the massive resolution compresses away noise when printing or displaying. This was ISO 10,000, which normally pushes it a little even for the D3s.

EXIF and GPS

Wedding: Shakun and Tim at the Thatched Cottage

I knew I was in the right neighborhood when I started being neighbors with clients as awesome as Shakun. She is a pop culture maven. I ran into her at a coffeeshop last week, and she texted me “Don’t look now, but I’m standing next to one of the Real Housewives of NYC.” According to her sister, Shakun knows pretty much everything there is to know about pop culture, and I believe it.

Shakun and Tim had a great East-meets-West wedding at the Thatched Cottage in Long Island. They managed to work in elements from Hindu and Christian ceremonies, as well as a few twists of their own, such as a children’s processional in a red wagon that was as adorable as it sounds.

I don’t need to tell you they looked great — you can see that for yourselves. But I can say that it was a thrill to document a day filled with secret saxophone serenades, impromptu bollywood lessons, and the occasional backflip.

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Review: 85mm f/1.4G

All images in this post were shot at f/1.4, except for the first-dance, where I stopped all the way down to f/1.6. The new lens is stellar at f/8, but so are a lot of cheaper and more versatile lenses.

I picked up Nikon’s brand-new 85mm f/1.4G just in time for a wedding at the Four Seasons in Singapore. Not a bad place to test it out, I thought.

Nikon has been doing a lot for professionals since the release of the Nikon D3 in 2007, including a fantastic range of new professional lenses. Except for exotic telephotos, though, few of these lenses have been direct replacements for older models — the 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24m-70mm f/2.8 both extended the range of previous pro zooms; the 24mm f/1.4 was wider than the 28mm f/1.4, which had been discontinued anyway, the tilt-shift trio brought new functionality, etc. Only the 50mm f/1.4 AF-S had brought modern tech to an older specification of lens, and reviews were mixed, due to slow autofocus.

So what could Nikon possibly do to improve one of its all-time legendary lenses, the 85mm f/1.4 AF-D? So much has been written about this lens, particularly the wonderful way it renders image backgrounds at wide apertures. It is an amazing piece of glass that turns almost anything it’s pointed at into eye-candy — you can see some of my work with it here.

So how do you improve on a masterpiece? The most obvious area is mechanical design. The earlier 85mm was released in 1995, when I was still in high school messing around with a Minolta SR-T 101B. Its build is absolutely professional, but it has a few quirks. Most obvious is the metal, screw-on hood — once you put it on, you might as well leave it on forever. It doesn’t reverse for storage and, much worse, it’s just hard to remove. On two different copies while trying to take it off I unscrewed the lens in half! (It screws back together, though). Also, the manual/autofocus adjuster was incredibly wonky. Lastly, they removed the aperture ring, which is good and bad — taking it off makes a lens a bit sturdier and weather-resistant, but it means you can’t use the new lens on older film cameras, and it will be much, much harder for me to freelens with it. And then, of course, there’s the …

AUTOFOCUS

Like most fast 85s, the old 85mm f/1.4 wasn’t the fastest-focusing lens on the block, although it seemed like a screamer compared to Canon’s 85mm f/1.2. The new lens has an AF-S motor inside the lens, which makes it much quieter and more fluid to focus, since it doesn’t have to engage the camera’s motor to make small focus adjustments. The new lens is quite capable, but people who expect it to be as speedy as, say, the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II will be disappointed.

It’s hard to directly compare the autofocus of the old and new lenses, because the old lens’s speed was driven by what camera you were using. On a camera like my D3s with a giant motor, the old lens is actually FASTER at zipping from near-to-far focus. On a tiny-motored camera like my old F80, the new lens would be much faster, and on a motorless camera like the D3100, the old lens wouldn’t focus at all.

The important thing is common usage, and in that, the new lens should give most people better results. The updated autofocus makes the new lens much better at tiny focus adjustments, which is great for tracking moving objects or using continuous focus mode. I NEVER, EVER trusted continuous focus mode with the old lens, but with the new one, especially with outer focus points, it seemed to be the best way to do the job. That was a big change for dancing coverage, for example. Overall, a noticeable improvement, but not a revelation.

SHARPNESS

The new lens is sharper. That’s all there is to it. The old lens was always regarded as “more than sharp enough,” but never in the same class as Nikon’s sharpest lenses. The cheaper 85mm f/1.8 was sharper edge-to-edge in the f/8 range, for example. But the new one may change that. It’s sharp, really REALLY sharp, right at f/1.4. I can’t give full-res versions of client images, but luckily a few local monkeys decided to help me out.

Links:

Full-size JPG

RAW file

COLOR:

Like most recent Nikon professional lenses, the new 85mm has a markedly richer color transmission than older models. It also renders photos a bit warmer than the old lens, which might mess with the heads of people in fields where a few degrees of white balance really matter, like studio and product shots. Here is a comparison, taken with the same white balance, same picture controls, same exposure, everything. The old lens is on the left, and the new lens is on the right.

Like the old lens, there is a bit of color fringing wide-open if you look really, really closely, but there is a bit less of the old purple-blooming problem.

CONTRAST:

The new lens has somewhat better contrast in normal situations, and WAY better contrast in backlit situations. Again, here is a comparison — old lens on the top, and new lens on the bottom.

BOKEH:

This is a big one for 85mm f/1.4 aficionados, who are as nuts as I am about the way the lens renders images. The good news is that they are very, very similar in all of the direct comparisons I’ve done. This doesn’t mean the lens is perfect — pixel peepers might go crazy over the slight doubling in the bokeh in this worst-case scenario, but that it seems just about as near-perfect as the old one, and that’s high praise. More direct comparisons will be linked at the bottom.

SAMPLE PHOTOS:

Good autofocus and contrast in tricky lighting

Foreground bokeh everywhere!

Sharp focus and great rendering into the interior of a car

The AF was quick enough for candid moments, even if AF-C mode

Very good flare control

Even monkeys love Nikon lenses

Great example of sharpness wide-open (Link to full image)

Comparison shots: (old on left, new on the right, shot with all settings the same)

CONCLUSION:

The original lens was a staple in my bag for years, and now the new one will do the same. Will it revolutionize my shooting? No. The AF-D will always be an amazing lens, particularly for cameras with good focusing motors. My photos will be slightly sharper and with more natural contrast, but I’ve never looked at a photo with the old lens and regretted using it. But the mechanical differences are stark, and you never know when that slight advantage in autofocus will make or break a killer image. For me, as a professional photographer who’s working just about all the time, little differences justify the upgrade. For you, it’s a personal choice.

The old lens is recommended for:

•Bargain-hunters

•Manual film camera aficianados

•People who want a lens hood that can double as a weapon

The new lens is recommended for:

•Resolution-seekers (D3X owners plus any future high-resolution cameras)

•Users of cameras without AF motors

•People who want the very best and don’t care about the law of diminishing returns.

Is this the best fast 85mm on the planet? For me it is, since it’s the best one that will fit on the ridiculously awesome Nikon D3s. So it will stay in my bag for some time to come.

Want to buy either? Why not do it from my links as a thank-you for risking monkey-attack from this review. I make 99 percent of my income from actually shooting, so I hope you see this review as unbiased and even-handed.