Photo of the Day: Gone De-fishing

I don’t often work in extreme wide-angles, but sometimes it’s a great change in perspective. And there are few wide-angle lenses as crazy as taking a fisheye lens, in this case the Nikon 16mm, and “defishing” it in software. In terms of this lens, I’ve found that Lightroom 3 actually does a better job of getting it perfect than Nikon’s own software.

Sherlynn and Michael: Four Seasons, Singapore

Singapore. Crazy.

I’ve talked before about what an honor it is when a couple flies me into Southern California to shoot their wedding, because there are so many great photographers who are closer. But Singapore? You know who’s closer than me to Singapore? Pretty much everyone. So I knew going in that Sherlynn, Michael and I had a shared vision for how we could capture their wedding. What I didn’t know was that the wedding itself would be as great as Singapore is humid. (Did you know that Singapore is the city closest to the equator? It makes packing a lot easier when the suggested clothing is “as little as possible.”)

What can I say about these children of the world? People ask me if the couple is from Singapore or New York — honestly, I don’t know how to describe where they live, and neither do they. Singapore, New York, Melbourne, London — they have boxes all over the place. You might see the photos below differently when you hear that Michael’s brother is a vocal dead-ringer for Heath Ledger.

Three days in some of Singapore’s most fantastic locations, from a Four Seasons wedding reception to portraits in the National Museum to times that felt just like a jaunt around the city with friends, it sounds grueling but it actually gave everything a far more relaxed air than just doing a 20-hour-long traditional Asian wedding in one day. Never before have the wedding party and I stopped during a wedding-day portrait shoot to sit down and have some lunch. Fantastic style, including a Vera Wang wedding dress, doesn’t hurt either.

It was more than a pleasure to spend this time with Michael, Sherlynn and their families, it was an honor. And yes, we took a few pictures along the way.

PS: Michael, I’m sorry I never ate the durian.

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Rachel and Jonathan: Garden City Hotel Wedding

In turns gorgeous and wild, classy and fun, Rachel and John had a fantastic wedding at the Garden City Hotel. The fashion was top-notch at this wedding, with a gorgeous wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses so nice that, when I saw the first bridesmaid, I thought she was just a guest with impeccable taste. And then I saw five more.

The reception was something else entirely. I’ve worked with this band before, and they are always fantastic, but I have never seen them respond and rock out with this much energy — and, after talking to them, neither have they. The father of the bride got up to sing, half the band ended up writhing on the floor, the lead singer started playing the guitar with the microphone — it was probably the best rock performance in the NYC area that night, and it just happened to be at a wedding. I credit Rachel and Jon’s incredible energy for the performance.


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Danielle and Andrew: Blue Hill Stone Barns Wedding

I work in so many wonderful venues all over the world that it’s hard to pick favorites. But when a couple tells me they’re having a wedding at Blue Hill Stone Barns, I get particularly excited. You see, I love food. Some people call this being a “foodie,” I call it being a functioning human being. But in any case, there is nowhere I’ve been so devoted to reverence for food — from a gorgeous, pastoral farm setting where the ingredients are grown and raised, to exquisite preparation, just writing about it makes me want to go back there. But I get even more excited when I get to photograph a wedding there with a couple as classy and as fun as Danielle and Andrew.

I could talk about how amazing and strong their family connections were, about how down-to-earth they were the whole day, about the gorgeous ceremony, the exquisite details of the reception, and the food … oh, the food … but mostly I’m excited about the photos, so I’m going to get out of the way and show them to you.

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Julia and Seth: Battery Gardens Wedding

Julia and Seth had a gorgeous day for a seaside wedding at Battery Gardens. They both have incredible spirits — Julia didn’t stop going all night even though she had a flu on her own wedding day. And Seth was hilarious, and more than a bit of a ham — I’ve never had an image review session where I kept seeing the groom turn and wink at the camera.

The details were elegant and beautiful, and the light on the ceremony? Well, only the editor in me was able to stop from showing 100 or so photos. Congratulations, guys, it was a fantastic day.

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Notes from PhotoPlus

Quick note: Photoplus Expo is in town, and, since I’m represented in some way by the three largest camera-sellers in the Western hemisphere, they’ve given me a shiny new press pass to check out the gear! I’ll be sending updates of my take on new gear to my Twitter account (I just can’t get used to saying I’ll be “tweeting”) — if you’re interested in new stuff, you can see that here! Or in the handy tab on the left-hand side of the blog.

Kat and Tim: Florentine Gardens Wedding

I knew that I was going to have a great time documenting Kat and Tim’s wedding — after all, we’d already broken into a school. It only gets better from there. And of course, it was that and more. The Florentine Gardens are a great spot for daytime wedding like theirs because the venue can completely seal off the outside light when it wants to, creating a night-time feel conducive to the kind of crazy dancing and partying that was out in force.

And you know that the day was filled with adorable children in matching outfits when my girlfriend can’t stop looking over my shoulder when I’m editing, saying “Look at the MUNCHKINS!” And yes, they were insanely cute.

But you’ll see for yourself.

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Jamie and Phil: Westin Governor Morris Wedding

Phil told me that when they decided on their awesome chuppa with the reflective floor, they’d said “Ryan’s going to love this.”

And they were right. And with a couple and their families who were so much fun, I loved the whole day. The decor was fantastic — the ceremony was played to a round with the guests facing them, the reception was gorgeous, and the talk of the cocktail hour was a bartender who can best be described as a love child between Lady Gaga and a table — and the day was lively throughout.


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Wedding: Robin and Sam at the Galapagos Art Space

I knew that Robin and Sam’s wedding at the Galapagos Art Space would be something special with just four words.

Catered. By. Dinosaur. Barbecue.

Now this isn’t just because Dinosaur Barbecue is amazing (it is). More important, it takes a special kind of fearlessness and focus for a bride to willingly surround herself with barbecue sauce on her wedding day.

Even having looked forward to this from the time I booked them, the day exceeded expectations. A thousand personalized touches, fantastic friends, great music, an unorthodox space used to the fullest, and a beautiful Brooklyn day made it a wedding to remember. Congratulations Robin and Sam!

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How I Spent My Weekend Vacation

Being a wedding photographer is a wonderful, amazing life, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. But it’s also not for the faint of heart — in the long run this profession requires endurance perhaps even more than talent. I had to look back at the calendar to realize that my last weekend off was March 13th and 14th. And, looking at my computer’s records, I spent a good part of that weekend doing my taxes.

But there is something harder than being a wedding photographer, and that’s being a wedding photographer’s significant other. They don’t get to temper the off-kilter work schedule with all of the incredible joys of sharing wedding days with amazing couples, or the honor of documenting so many amazing experiences. Poor Wendy did not need to look at her calendar to know that March was the last time we had spent a few consecutive days together. Does she sound patient and long-suffering? Well consider this — we started dating seriously in February. The woman is a saint.

So I blocked off this past weekend to bookings, and we headed up to the Hudson Valley to see the fall foliage and relax for a bit (even so, I processed an engagement shoot and ,ost of an amazing wedding you’ll see shortly). And it was incredible. First we stayed at the Mohonk Mountain House, an amazing resort that I knew from a wedding I shot there years ago. Absolutely gorgeous. We scrambled up a tricky mountain path called The Labyrinth to see a wide valley full of fiery foliage — and we liked it so much that we put the camera down and did it again for speed.

Next we stayed at the Cromwell Manor Inn, a charming bed and breakfast with an innkeeper filled with stories ranging from quaint to bawdy, and incredible, extravagant breakfasts. Certainly the first time I’ve had Basque cuisine at a B&B. With a hay ride, a trip to the Storm King Art Center, a few gallons of apple cider, and massages for the both of us, I’m renewed and ready to finish the season.

And I took some pictures.

This is really what our view from our window at Mohonk looked like. I felt like “Double Rainbow” guy.
Wendy indulges me as I do an 18-image “Brenizer method”
But she’s happy anyway.
“Regular-style” panorama
I did a 12-image Brenizer method of this to see if my software could handle it. It did much better than I expected.
Dancer+hay bale=instant fun.
We’re a power couple.

Workshop photos: 28,800,000 Percent

It’s been a week full of teaching for me. First I gave a lecture on flash composites at Adorama on Monday, where I also taught the additional, MacGyver-friendly lessons that yes, you can use an Adorama plastic bag as a flash modifier, and yes, you can use gaffer tape to mend a pair of jeans. It’s the photographer way.

Then came the big show, a day-and-a-half-long workshop aimed squarely at photographers knee-deep in the business of wedding photography. This was a more talking-heavy workshop than some of my previous ones, since I wanted to share any and every business trick I’ve learned along the way to building a successful photography business — and I left nothing out. I don’t have any secrets — if you want to be a successful photographer, work hard, capitalize on whatever luck you have, and don’t stop working hard. That’s about it. If your business model is based on not letting your competition find out your secrets, then, in the Information Age, you might be on shaky ground.

Still, we did some shooting, because we’re photographers after all, and I wanted to show both how I work with clients, and some of the things I do to solve problems in photography. The first is how I stopped being a slave to the sun. If you only like shooting outdoor portraits at golden hour, then you’re going to run into some interesting problems on hectic wedding days — or maybe even cause them. Sometimes you’re going to be forced to shoot at noon, and sometimes the best decision will be to shoot in the dark.

Since it was a night-and-day workshop, we got to tackle both. First, night:

We did a number of different night tricks; this one was based on the idea that sometimes your best friend at night is as weak a light source as possible. To get the tonality I wanted from the background, I had my Litepanel Micropro, which was my key light, just about set to “OFF.”

Next, day:

Wait … day?

Yes, I wanted to show that you don’t have to be afraid of daylight, that a speedlight can easily conquer the sun if you use it right, and that you can have the choice to have nice, blue skies even in a backlit, bright, cloudless mid-day sky, like we had.

But I really like to drive home a point, so I thought “Why stop at blue? Let’s take this glaringly bright sky and make it black!” So I went to 11 — f/11, ISO 200, 1/8000th of a second. Obliterating the sky. No dodging here — other than a bit of a crop, this is right out-of-camera. And it only took two SB-900s to light.

Here’s the really geeky part. A few back-of-the-napkin calculations showed me that in the first photo, my exposure settings are 288,000 times as light-sensitive as in the second photo. With the right techniques, we really can conquer any situation, day or night. More important is that they’re still compelling photos, thanks mostly to my wonderful subjects, Mae and Kelly.

Who said mixing linear and logarithmic math couldn’t be cool. Am I right?

Well, I think it’s cool.

Photo of the Day: Streets Ahead

Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 70-200mm VRII

I don’t do a lot of family shoots, but when the best man from one of my recent weddings said he wanted some captures of his beautiful family, I knew it would be a good time. And man, it was. To get all sorts of angles of three energetic, playful kids … if I did more shoots like this I’d never have to go to the gym again.

As someone who basically grew up like Huck Finn, with a 300-acre backyard out in the middle of nowhere, I’m always fascinated by kids who grow up with the city as their playground. But whatever this family is doing, it’s working, since everyone was an absolute pleasure.

They decided to run a little race down a cobblestone street. Little brother here was a big fan of false starts — he took off when I said “Ready!” But no one seemed to mind.