I’ll do a real “look back at 2013″ post on a week when I’m not shooting two weddings, but on a personal level this one is the only photo I need. 2013 had so many incredible ups and downs, but through it all it was colored and flavored by my extraordinary girlfriend Tatiana. My life has changed in so many ways … and I’ve eaten so many fantastic breakfasts … thanks to her and her spirit. And I can’t wait until 2014 and all the rest because of her.
The world is a pretty cool place. I sit here in the winter wonderland of upstate New York snowfall, the snow thick and clumpy in the ways that only last for about two hours of an average New York City Year, and I think “I want to shoot a wedding right now, right here!” I travel to lands of palm trees or ancient architecture or exotic locales and I think “Give me a wedding party to play with, right here!” I understand the draw of variety and the exotic … but it doesn’t pull at me as hard as it might, because my neighborhood includes places like the Gramercy Park Hotel, a five-minute walk away. And I know that there are people freezing in the snow or melting under and equatorial sun who are aching inside for a wedding as elegant, as personal, as painstakingly gorgeous as Merris and Michael’s.
Hurricane Sandy was a giant pain for me, like many in the region — a week without power right in the middle of peak season, and five or six weddings put into varying degrees of disarray — but good can come out of the darkest days. In this case, Sandy set the scene for a portentous car pool with Merris and Michael, which lead to this day. It was such a fantastic event to document, a real forging of a new family with heaps of raw emotion, and it was made all the more fantastic because I joined the fantastic Tatiana to photograph this day.
Congratulations Merris and Michael — let’s hope for continuing love and fewer hurricanes.
As a long time New Yorker and Manhattan-based wedding photographer, I’m used to things most people aren’t — the subways underground and constant sirens fade into the background music of my mind, and my sense of personal space was left behind somewhere in the Nineties. But I get excited by exotic things like “trees” and “leaves” and “grass,” so I was thrilled to take a road trip up to Walpole NH in the fall to shoot Demere and James’ backyard wedding.
There’s a certain poetry about transforming a space you have a long history with into a wedding venue. Weddings are so much more than a simple day or a collection of Pinterest boards and Etsy favorites; it’s the connections you’ve spent a lifetime building that make it worth the pain of actually planning a wedding. And those relationships made this day a joy throughout, well worth the 13-hour round trip.
Thanks to David Pun for assistance and being a great road trip buddy.
I really want to blog Demere and James’ fantastic wedding but my computer is in the shop, so you’ll have to hold on a little bit with just the magnificent ending.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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)
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
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.
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.