Photo of the Day: Multitasking

There will come a day when only the professional photographers know how to put the camera down and enjoy themselves unrecorded.

Photo of the Day: Depth of Feeling

Photos like these are why I am a “moment junkie.” This is a cheerful hug between the bride, her father, and her grandfather, right after Viviana and her grandfather had a featured dance. Is it envelope-pushing art? No. Is it a picture that will have meaning for Viviana for the rest of her life? I’d imagine so. Let’s not forget that weddings are about moments like these more than centerpieces.

But here’s a bone for the photo-geeks as well: This photo was taken on the D3s at ISO 10,000, with no noise reduction. The mixture of such a high ISO with flash is why the picture is sharp but still lets in all that colorful background ambient light. What a crazy camera.

Wedding: Viviana and Henry at Fordham University

The wedding was at Fordham. The groom went to Fordham. I went to Fordham. My assistant went to Fordham. I shoot for Fordham.

(Sorry, Viv. Penn State is a good college, too.)

I knew Henry a bit when we were in school together, and I’d been looking forward to this one for a while. We’re talking about a couple who met in salsa dancing class — if that isn’t the recipe for an awesome reception, I don’t know what is.

And it didn’t disappoint. From a ceremony at the gorgeous Fordham chapel to a colorful and energetic reception, it was a blast the entire day. And that’s not to mention the groomsmen’s hilarious stop at White Castle on the way to the reception, or Henry bringing in a singer to re-enact a classic moment from one of Viv’s favorite movies: Coming to America.


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Photo of the Day: Shoes and Stripes

I shoot detail. I don’t really show a lot of it, especially on the blog, because … I don’t know, it just seems so easy, at least the way wedding photographers do it. Awesome things are presented before us, and we make them look the way they are. Not the hardest part of the job, but wedding publications eat it up. Too much of this seems unbalanced to me, like centerpieces are more important than love and friends and family.

Still, details are important, and shooting them is fun when you can be creative. And it was rarely more fun than with the geeky and stylish do-it-yourself details of Karen and Kamil’s wedding in Malibu yesterday. More to come.

PS: Since my hobby is making life difficult for myself, I made this not-easy by using an extremely touchy manual-focus lens and having to hold the camera upside down to get the flash where I wanted it.

Engagement: Karen and Kamil

Here is another case of “We just did the engagement shoot, and I’d better get the images out because the wedding is tomorrow!” It does have a certain efficiency to it.

Karen and Kamil have flown me out to California to document their Malibu wedding, and if I thought I was excited before, I’ve reached Ludicrous Excitement after how much fun our engagement shoot was at their alma mater, Harvey Mudd College.

Have you ever seen Real Genius? If not, go rent it. It’s one of the best movies of all time. If you have, though, you remember a scene with a dorm literally bursting with anarchic, geeky energy in every corner. A place like this could only exist in the movies, right?

Wrong. West Dorm, where both Karen and Kamil spent all four years, surpasses every stereotype of every college movie I’ve ever seen. There are pirate flags, and bonfires, and motorcycles, and shopping carts with Pabst Blue Ribbon cup holders. It is college at its most primal, both revelled in and enjoyed ironically.

For the first time, I actually can’t show some of my favorite images from the shoot, because so much of the West decor is Not Safe for Work.

So when I tell couples to find places that have meaning for them, and not just the prettiest possible place, I mean it.

Photo of the Day: Party with the Ram

As I’ve said before, with flash composites (like most wedding photography), it’s not what you can do, it’s what you can do quickly. This was four shots, composited together for optimum lighting, and the whole thing was done quickly enough that you could stand on snow with open-toed shoes.

Maybe I’ll do a speed challenge at my April 16-17 workshop, which still has a few slots open. Sounds like fun.

Photo of the Day: Bring the Drama

Given that Viviana and Henry met in dance class, I knew they could be up to making their presence felt in a big scene. Adding to the drama is a backlight from the Sledgehammer of Light, each strobe at half power.

Photo of the Day: Reflections on a Ceremony

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This week, while I am in California to visit family, teach a bit, shoot some portraits and document an awesome Malibu wedding, I’ll be using the Photos of the Day to tease the next wedding I’m processing, the union of Viviana and Henry.

Keep in mind that I say the following as a go-to photographer for just about every major Catholic organization in New York City, from hospitals to charities to the diocese to Fordham University (where this ceremony took place): Catholic ceremonies can be hard to shoot. The churches are large and dark, but most importantly the ceremony is focused on a beautiful and deeply spiritual interchange between the priest and the couple, which means for about 45 minutes their back is to the congregation, and to me.

This is fine with me. Weddings, after all, aren’t about me … and ceremonies doubly so. But even more than that, there’s nothing I love better than a challenge. I don’t even think about darkness anymore with good hand-holding technique and the Nikon D3s. But I still like to try to find new angles and variety, so here I rested a wide-angle lens above an unused piano for a unique view of the ceremony.

Wedding: Emily and Myles

With their engagement shoot still fresh, I was thrilled to start my 2010 wedding season with Emily and Myles. I knew from experience that not only were they passionate and fun, but boy do they know how to throw a party. I have never before seen a bride even consider doing The Worm at the reception (at the great Scarsdale Women’s Club). She thought better of it, though. Of course, the party was destined to be fun the moment the bridesmaids were given their garters, complete with flasks.

But the wedding was as elegant as it was fun, with a ceremony and mass at the intimate and gorgeous St. James the Less in Scarsdale. Among Emily’s accoutrements were a veil that had been in her family for generations and a ring from the 1800s!

Thanks guys and congratulations!

Big post to follow. Hey, it’s a new year and I’m excited.

Also, video lovers and camera geeks will want to see this capture of the Last Dance, filmed on the D3s at ISO 12,800.


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(Story) of the Day: Moments, My Dad, and Me

An interesting thing happened the other day. I was on a forum where wedding photographers were talking about their favorite images from their own weddings. The vast majority of these were cute, quirky moments that captured the personality of beloved friends and families, not the amazing portraiture that we photographers tend to focus so much energy on. Now, I LOVE portraiture. I love bringing out the best in people, and I love showing people that yes, they CAN be photogenic. But my heart truly lies in the capture of moments. There are few greater compliments I can receive than one like these, from a recent couple: “This picture you took of my Mom laughing is the first picture I’ve ever seen that actually looks like her!”

Why is that? Part of it’s that I have a naturally quirky sense of humor, perhaps. Part of it is that I started out as a photojournalist. But the largest part, I think, is that I never for a second have to question the value of these types of photographs, because they are the ones that keep memories of my own father sharp and vibrant.

My sister just launched the Robert Brenizer Memorial, which is a brilliant way to use new technology to keep his memory alive. Dad would have loved it: I can’t count the times over the years that I have been thankful that he was a giant geek when it came to the latest and greatest gadgets. That meant that, although he died in 1987, we had not just countless hundreds of photos of him from the cameras he collected or encouraged my mother to buy, but hours and hours of VHS video of him from 1983 on, because he HAD to be the first one in town to get a VHS recorder, even though you literally had to carry the VCR around with you as you recorded on an incredibly cumbersome set-up.

Thanks, Dad.

I know I’m biased, but he truly was an extraordinary man, and is my constant role model for how to live a decent life. Consider this: In 3rd grade, I moved to a new school district after he, at age 46, had finished a military and business career and decided to be a high school physics teacher. When he heard that I was being picked on for being the new kid, he planned and got approval an assembly on the basics of physics that would make me look cool. Just think about that — not only did a guy who had been in a school district for a couple months get approval to launch his own school-wide assembly, his plan was to teach physics to 3rd-5th graders in ways that would make them think it was really exciting and cool, and it worked. He got his entire high school class to come in and act out different roles and skits, showing that they were also excited about physics, at least when it was in his hands.

He was brilliant. He was the kind of person who could read a series of books on home repair, and then help build a house from scratch. I can’t even pitch a proper tent. The angriest I ever saw him was the day of the Challenger explosion. I was home from school, and we were watching it together when it exploded. He had been nervous all morning because of the cold weather in Cape Canaveral, and as soon as the fact of the explosion sunk in he was yelling “It was TOO COLD! How could they do that?!?” Things that came to light only hours and days later — frozen o-rings, jargon the general public had never heard, were things that he guessed immediately. With years of experience as an Air Force instructor, he knew all about launch factors.

But the most shocking thing about that day, given how important it was, is how fuzzy my memory is of it. Was I home from school sick? I can’t remember. What were his exact words? I can’t remember. I remember the couch, and the TV, and how the importance of it all sunk in from his emotions, but after so many years I have nothing but vague impressions. Without photography and video, that’s all I’d be left with. And without photography that captured the way he acted, the way he moved through the world and cared for people, all I’d remember is what he looked like when he was looking at a camera, not who he was.

Thanks, sis, for the memorial site. It’s perfect.

Next Workshop! April 16-17th, 2010

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Our first workshop was a huge success (you can read reviews here), and so we’re going to get one more done before the season starts in earnest. This will be the last weekend workshop I’ll be able to offer for a loooooong time.

It would be great if life were always fabulous, if the light were always perfect, if everything happened according to your schedule, if your subjects were always naturally comfortable in front of the camera. But that’s not the world in which we live. So my workshops focus not just on tools that will let you create beautiful imagery, such as “the Brenizer Metho”d of bokeh panoramas, but how to make the most of less-than-perfect situations. What do you do when you want to create dramatic lighting, but it’s high noon, you have a giant wedding party, and one tiny little speedlight? What do you do when you want to create great portraits, but it’s pitch black out? What if the weather is horrible and you can’t go outside, and you’re left with no obviously interesting locations to shoot in?

These are the situations I and other photographers face all the time, and I’ll show you how I work through them, as well as showing you advanced tools for artistic expression like quick-and-easy flash composites, mixing strobe and continuous lighting, and basic flash techniques that guarantee perfect exposures every time.

But photography is more than just exposures. There will also be discussions of documentary style, how to make uncomfortable subjects comfortable, and how to further develop your own artistic style.

Lastly, these workshops are great opportunities for networking, and I want you to have as much fun as possible, so there will be a social mixer at the studio on Friday night (April 16) as well as the full-day workshop on Saturday (April 17), as well as official hotel accommodations for those who need it. Both the mixer and the workshop will be at the fantastic 2 Stops Brighter studio.

And, because I think some workshop prices are a bit nutty, all this is just $350.

To show interest or sign up, e-mail me here!

Photo of the Day: “You SAID ‘Swing Your Partner…'”

One of the questions I got on formspring was “How do you get people to do such crazy things at your weddings?”

I don’t.

I don’t think my clients are much crazier than average (well, some of them are, and they know it). For example, this shot was taken at a wedding that had very little dancing at all. Capturing moments comes in three parts. 1) Learning human behavior enough to anticipate them. 2) Learning your equipment enough to take well-exposed (and hopefully well-composed) shots without thinking first, and 3) learning to be unobtrusive enough that people won’t become shy around you. Even though most of the guests were just enjoying great conversation, I knew these guys were going to get crazy, and they did.