Video: What’s in My Bag (and Why?)

I just made another massive contribution to Nikon’s bottom line, replacing my trusty D3, which I essentially ground into dust, with a second D3s. This meant that every last piece of gear I owned the last time I made a “What’s In my Bag” video has been sold, lost, stolen, or (mostly) broken. Every flash, lens, camera, everything. So here’s another one. More important than the gear are the reasons behind it — I try to only bring what I can carry to most weddings, and like to travel overseas without checking bags, so everything is carefully planned to give redundancy without taking up needless space.

The short list, for gearheads:

Cameras: Nikon D3s (x2)
Flashes: SB-900 (x3)
24mm f/1.4
35mm f/1.8
COMING SOON: 35mm f/1.4
50mm f/1.2
60mm f/2.8 Micro
85mm f/1.4G
135mm f/2 DC
70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
Memory cards: 16GB Sandisk (x4)
Sledgehammer of Light: A Manfrotto 682B and Lastolite triflash
Umbrellas and Lumiquest mini-softbox (not in video)

I also have a bunch of White Lightning studio gear, but I only bring that to weddings when there is a very specialized need, or for photo booths.

This is the point where I note that one of the advantages of living in NYC is that my apartment is made darned hard to break into.

Photo of the Day: Lounging about the Mansion

I said in my very last post that I don’t do much boudoir … and then I set out to shoot some. But you can’t blame me; my muse was my wonderful girlfriend. She’s a professional dancer and skilled fitness trainer, but, like most of the people I shoot, has never thought of herself as photogenic. If a gorgeous woman with an eight-pack doesn’t think she looks good in photos, what chance do the rest of us have? So I rose to the challenge, and we had a great time doing (clothed) boudoir in a style sometimes inspired by the noir lighting you can create when you’re doing a portrait shoot at 1 a.m., and also by 1940s pin-ups. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

But what made it even better was the setting: The Mansion in Saratoga Springs, NY. We both fell in love with the place, through and through. With gorgeous Victorian styling and a large backyard for a party, I didn’t know if I wanted to shoot weddings at The Mansion or save it for myself one day.

More to come! (You’re welcome, in advance).

Photo of the Day: Bump Your…

I don’t shoot boudoir except in very special cases, so it’s not often that I have to link a photo as potentially not-safe-for-work. But when you’re doing an engagement shoot in Coney Island, anything can happen…

But first, one a little more romantic:

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Wedding: Valerie and Matt in San Francisco

I love shooting weddings in California. Not just because the cities are great (although there is a special place in my heart for San Francisco), but because you can’t throw a 5D Mark II without hitting three great wedding photographers there, so when a couple says “We want to fly you in to shoot this,” I know that their styles and mine will mesh perfectly. That was true with Karen and Kamil, and it was oh-so-true in the case of Valerie and Matt.

I mean, all you really need to know is that they Rick-Rolled their ceremony. After the gorgeous and heartfelt ceremony (with vows that Val, of course, read off her iPhone), the strains of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up came over the loudspeakers, and the crowd went nuts as the wedding party danced their way off.

I don’t have to tell you how much fun I had; just look at the photos below and the slideshow. Their love, their awesome friends, and their care for their guests having a good time was constantly palpable. Congratulations Valerie and Matt!

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Lectures! Workshops! Oh my! Oct 11-13

It’s been a crazy season so far, but client work isn’t all I’ve been cooking up — I’ve been bursting with ideas for a “workshop on sterioids” aimed squarely at wedding professionals, from the newly minted to long-time pros. And thanks to the help of Adorama, I’m putting together a stretch of instruction, networking, and fun where even the steroids are on steroids. Here’s the run-down:

On October 11, I will be giving a lecture at Adorama for a nominal fee, all about flash composites, like so:

Love and Mansions

This part of my June lecture was a big hit, but it takes more time to really teach the possibilities and methods of it right, so for two hours I will systematically take people through the steps so even relative Photoshop and lighting novices can try it for themselves and learn what sorts of new compositions open up to you when you don’t care about getting your equipment out of the shot. Adorama are great hosts, and their facility is top-notch for this type of lecture.

The full workshop will be October 12-13 (that’s a Tuesday and Wednesday — so you can come without missing weddings). You don’t have to attend the Adorama lecture to go to the workshop, and some of the content will be repeated, but if you do go to both, I will reimburse the cost of the Adorama lecture.

What, you ask, is a “workshop on steroids?” It’s a night and a day devoted to teaching my perspectives on and answers to the unique problems wedding photographers face — and not just in photography. I will guide you through topics like:

•Effective client meetings (with demonstration)
•Differentiating yourself in your market
•Keeping your passion alive
•Relationships with other vendors, including perspectives from fantastic wedding planners

I will also make sure that the attendees have the chance to show me and each other their work and share information so we can all network with each other as effectively as possible.

And, then, of course, there’s the photography. I’m not going to take you to fabulous places with professional models and perfect lighting and scenarios you could rarely recreate during a wedding. I’m going to show some of my perspectives on turning bad scenarios into good pictures. Bad background? Terrible lighting? Nervous and awkward subjects? Almost no time? These are the things we really deal with every weekend, and will be the main focus. I’m hoping the weather is miserable on the day of the workshop, but we can always pretend.

The cost of the lecture should be about $35. The cost of the night-and-day workshop is $500, and the number of attendees will be limited to a small group. Again, if you attend both, I will reimburse the cost of the Adorama lecture.

For more information and to sign up, e-mail me at

Photo of the Day: Inner Glow

Shakun and Tim’s connection is so visible at every glance. I loved the crazy golden glow that was coming in through the leaves, and did this 16-shot Brenizer method with the 85mm f/1.4. Then I said … “You know what? If there’s a glow like that, we might want to follow it.” And that led to this shot.

Photo(s) of the Day: Be a Freelenser

I recently spent a few days in Dallas to attend a workshop by Erik Clausen (better known as Poser), and meet some wedding photographer friends. Why I have more photographer friends in towns like Dallas and Denver than NYC is one of those mysteries of the Internet. Erik did a great job with the ambitious concept of throwing an entire fake wedding to show how he would handle it. He used one of the couples whose wedding he had shot, and they had absolutely unbelievable chemistry — even though it wasn’t a “real” wedding, their emotions and her tears were.

I have been blessed with a full shooting calendar for a very long time, so I don’t get to second-shoot much. Which is a shame since I don’t get to just mess around with low-hit-rate but cool techniques, such as just playing with freelensing during the formals. So I took this time to have some fun with it.

Wedding: Karen and Aaron at The Water’s Edge in Brooklyn

Yes, as the best man noted, their names rhyme. And frankly, I think that’s kind of awesome — it shows the natural chemistry these two have. Wedding days can bring stress and worries, particularly when the weather threatens rain on and off and whenever the words “highway traffic” is involved. But the moment that Karen saw Aaron, that was it. He was it. Smiles and connection and pink socks. And you know what? The rain held off, leaving only a gorgeous sunset over Manhattan, which the Water’s Edge has a great view of.

As someone whose name starts with Ryan Kelly can attest, the Irish throw some good parties. Mix that with Karen’s Greek heritage, including traditional dances at the reception, and things really get going. But their deep affection for their friends was represented in yet another way — a close friend of theirs, the amazing singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim, performed at the reception, a performance both touching and fun.

This day was so important and meaningful in ways that are theirs alone, so for a public message I will just say congratulations to you both.

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Photo of the Day: It’s all in the Timing

It's all in the Timing

Handstand on a dance floor? Awesome!

But wait … check out the velocity of that tie. That’s no handstand … it’s a backflip!

I’ve seen a lot on wedding dance floors, but that was my first backflip.

Photo of the Day: Bliss.


Colleen and Steve take a moment on the dock after getting married at his family’s camp.

Wedding: Elyse and David at Temple Emanu-el

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about tricks like flash composites or the Brenizer Method, which I tend to use to open up new possibilities in portraiture. But my real love in photography is storytelling, and Elyse and David knew that they wanted photojournalistic coverage that would just let them enjoy their day. And why not? Elyse started her career in journalism … usually I’m the one telling stories about having to explain myself to officials on a photo-shoot, but her journalistic adventures came up several times during the speeches.

I always enjoy temple weddings, because you combine all the importance of ceremony and ritual to the marriage process, from the separate receptions of the Kabbalas Panim, to the (rainy) march to the b’deken, and the ketubah signing all before the public ceremony, but you also have the relative calm that comes from having every moment of the wedding day in one place. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the temple is gorgeous. Fitting, of course, with these too. David, no one pulls off a Snoopy yarmulke like you do.


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Wedding: Sarah and Michael at Columbia University

Sarah and Michael had a gorgeous, elegant wedding in Columbia University’s Saint Paul’s Chapel, with a reception at the Faculty House. With the fantastic help of Nerissa and Jennifer at Private Receptions, every detail was stunning, from Sarah’s unbelievable dress to a cake with some of the finest detail work I’ve seen anywhere. The black and white theme added to the urban Manhattanite feel. Yet these two sophisticated New Yorkers both originally hail from Canada — warmth and kindness are the right kinds of stereotypes for a country to have, and Sarah and Michael and their families more than lived up to it. Not having grown up in America, they are making up for lost time, now on a tour of all the lower 48 states — a fantastic idea and something I would love to do.

Words don’t do justice to how gorgeous St. Paul’s Chapel is, the fun of an endlessly energetic band, or the relaxation of guests smoking hand-rolled cigars on a terrace in the summer night. Luckily I took some pictures.

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