Photo of the Day: The Beginning of a Long Journey

Here’s a bit of nostalgia, a nice moment from the first wedding I ever shot as the primary photographer. The ceremony was out on a little island, and the groom, an extremely athletic Man of the Mountains, rowed them both out there in their own canoe. I think I may have been standing up in another canoe to get this shot, which shows that I was never very bright with my equipment.

Photo of the Day: Big Sky (and Flash Composite comparison)

The threatening rain was worrying for a bit at Karen and Aaron’s wedding, but the timing worked out perfectly, cooling the day down and giving us a great sky.

We had about five minutes to do group photos at Brooklyn Bridge Park, so I did a quick, three-shot flash composite of the wedding party and then a very quick flash-free shot with the kids in it. I talked a lot about flash composites and the possibilities it opens up at my Adorama lecture yesterday, so I thought I’d show a quick comparison from two sorts of shots in the same place and conditions:

Photo of the Day: Maybe Weddings ARE for rock stars

How cool was yesterday’s wedding? The bride and groom danced to Langhorne Slim. And I don’t mean a recording … he performed for them.

If you don’t know who Langhorne Slim, is, well … Bruce Springsteen’s a fan of his. That’s a pretty good recommendation.

I’ll see some of you at my talk today at Adorama!

Wedding: Allie and Vilas at TriBeCa Rooftop

Tribeca Rooftop is a gorgeous venue for anybody, but it was uniquely perfect for Allie and Vilas — they live about 20 feet away. There’s nothing like the convenience of being able to stop by your (awesome) apartment if you need something during the day. And what a day it was — the rain held off, allowing a gorgeous ceremony on the roof, and the reception hall was stunningly decorated, including hundreds of carefully hung tea lights over the dance floor.

There were enough little touches that even some of the venue operators (who have seen a LOT of events) were marvelling. “How cool is this?” One of them asked me about a plaque that spelled out their new name, entirely using architectural detail from around the city instead of letters (watch the slideshow to see it — consider that the director’s cut).

There was a personal emergency for the couple before the wedding (that I won’t describe for privacy reasons), and it made the day and the throng of loving, joyful friends and family all the more poignant. It was a joy to document the day for them. Congratulations!

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Wedding: Rachel and Matthew at Battery Gardens

It was never hard to see the love that Rachel and Matthew had for each other. When I do a first look with couples it’s always an intense moment, and you never know how you’ll react to intensity. Just because you may laugh or be shy for a moment doesn’t mean you are any less than wildly passionate about your soon-to-be-spouse. But when Matthew and Rachel looked at each other and both started sobbing openly, there’s no mistaking that.

I always love shooting at Battery Gardens, one of my most frequent venues and one with an extremely helpful staff, and it was great to be back on a fantastic, sunny day. The wedding, an interfaith event with both a Christian minister and a rabbi, was touching throughout, and the day was filled with great details such as Rachel’s ring, an heirloom from the 1800s. And then, of course, a great party broke out.

Congratulations Rachel and Matthew!

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Photo of the Day: Love by Night

From the archives: Two years ago. (Man, time flies). This was the shoot that helped me realize that, especially with newer DSLRs, the most romantic time to do engagement shoots in NYC is at night. There are a few more technical challenges, but it’s worth it.

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Photo of the Day: While the Day Away

With my background in photojournalism, I love the idea of bringing a documentary feel to couples’ portraits. Every gesture and expression tells a story, of course, but I like to see how your love really plays out, how you really express it with each other. Of course, it’s also fun to have someone prod you along to get you to do things you might not otherwise, like kiss in the middle of traffic. But when I saw Rachel and Jonathan’s comfy couch, I knew we had to do some shooting there to see love in its natural environment.

Photo of the Day: Water Fire

Water Fire

Basically no photoshop; a bit of contrast in the sky.

It was a wet Wednesday for Elyse and David’s engagement shoot, but we braved it anyway. I spent a good chunk of the time lying in puddles to get the best angles, and it was worth it. This is why I don’t wear designer clothes on most of my shoots.

Sarah and Larry: 5.15.10

There are a lot of general rules you find once you’ve done enough weddings, and one of them is that generally during daytime weddings, when the light is streaming in, nothing is hidden and you have to deal with the consequences of your alcohol consumption for the rest of the day, the dance floor doesn’t get quite as rowdy. Luckily, my clients tend to be rulebreakers, and Sarah and Larry rang in their marriage at the Bridgeview Yacht Club with fun, laughter, fake mustaches and the first time I’ve seen a bride do a split on the dance floor.

But before the merriment, the ceremony was held at the church Sarah grew up in, Our Lady of Peace in Lynbrook, NY. It would be a gross understatement to say that the priest knew Sarah well. I shoot a LOT of Catholic ceremonies — I’m one of the favorite photographers of the Archdiocese itself — and I’ve never seen a priest give a copy of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” to a couple during the ceremony, or allow them to give a speech from the pulpit! All of this made for a warm, caring environment throughout the whole day. Congratulations, you two!

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Unsung Heroes of Wedding Photography: Fred Rogers

If you want to know anything about why wedding photography is important, a good place to start is this guy:

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Yes, Mr. Rogers. As I go forward in this industry, as, after 120 weddings or so, I can no longer see myself as a fresh young upstart, I’ve been thinking a lot about the focus of my photography, the meaning, the whys more than the hows — and it’s hard to think of a better role model than Fred McFeely Rogers.

Now, people familiar with my MacGuyver obsession may say that I was overly influenced by the television I grew up with, and you’re probably right, but hear me out. Fred Rogers was about as close as 20th Century America has to a living saint. He was one of the most famous people on the planet, but as far from a “rock star” as you could ever imagine. He lived simply, and he never lost sight of what his work was really about — primarily the education of children, but also imparting the central message that we are unique, and that our uniqueness is wonderful. And nothing got in his way — with kindness and determination, he saved public television and he saved the VCR, because they helped him do his work. If you have never seen the video of him testifying before Congress, watch it. It’s amazing — his earnestness and intelligence utterly melts away the cynicism of career politicians for one of the few times in recorded history.

He was the antithesis of cool. He was skinny and nerdy and drove an old car, and he wore the same sweater all the time. But cool didn’t matter — he had a job to do, and it was important. Watch his acceptance of a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Watch him stand before a lot of cool people and remind them that there is something so important.

We are in the middle of a deeply weird change — wedding photography, the red-headed stepchild of artistic photography, is becoming cool. People want to do it, people look at you approvingly when you tell them that you do it for a living, heck, you aren’t even publicly shamed quite so much at art schools if you dabble in it. This is awesome, and amazing, and has opened up so many new possibilities for photography in the industry. But I always try to remind myself that what we do is more than cool. By documenting the one of the most important days in someone’s life, we are writing social history for our clients, for their friends, for their families.

I spend a lot of time at most weddings just looking for perfect expressions. These photos are rarely cool and virtually unpublishable — they don’t tell much of a story, they don’t help future brides plan their wedding, and they don’t really help other photographers learn how to take good pictures. But when a couple comes up to me and says “This is the first picture of my mother I’ve ever seen that actually looks like her!” I feel like just maybe I’ve done something important.

People let us in. At weddings, between the joy and the anxiety and sometimes the alcohol, the walls that we walk around with come crashing down. In many ways, people are most themselves. We have the opportunity to document their uniqueness, the way they express joy, and that is something I want to stay focused on. Beyond the cool portraits, the Brenizer methods and flash composites and jaw-droppingly expensive equipment, sometimes I take photos of people that look like who they are, and I love them.

As he said in his acceptance speech: “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. … Think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.” In other words, the people who we invite to share our wedding days. That is exactly the thing we have the power to document.

There’s no one way to do things. As I said, being super-cool has opened up so many new possibilities, allowing all sorts of couples to get photos that represent their style of expression. Be the Fonz of wedding photography, the Jack Kerouac, the Robert Capa, the Annie Liebowitz. I want to try to be more like the Fred Rogers.

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Photo of the Day: A Great Day to Be Married

A Great Day to be Married

Today’s photo is from a wedding I shot … today. Efficiency, that’s how I roll.

I love shooting elopements. Such simplicity, just focused on those closest to you and each other. And it was a heck of a day for it.

Three Sb-900s at left, but held together, not the sledgehammer arrangement, so that I could trigger them all with a SU-800 on a bright day.

Julie and Yoni: 5.2.10

It was a beautiful if steamy day for Julie and Yoni at the Edgewood Country Club. I loved every aspect of the decor, including a gorgeous chuppa — and I suppose I should, since Julie told me she got the inspiration from another one of my weddings! From the details to the dress, they both did a great job planning this. Since Yoni manages people on crazy deadlines for a living, I’m sure that didn’t hurt.

Yoni actually first approached me for this wedding before he was even engaged! He had a good feeling it was coming, and we’ve also had a lot of interaction with photography. He’s attended one of my workshops, helped out at a wedding, and we’re going to be working on some exciting projects once he’s back from his awesome-sounding European cruise honeymoon. So yes, I was excited to play a role in this day.

Congratulations, Julie and Yoni!

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