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.

Photo of the Day: Fabulous, if Freezing

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As I teach in my classes, there is nothing new about the idea of compositing images so multiple subjects can be perfectly lit — it’s pretty much the standard in big ad campaigns, editorial shoots, you name it. But the important thing for a wedding day that will let you do it FAST. And that premium increases when you have a bridal party standing in a New York February. This took less than three minutes to shoot.

Five-page feature on me in What Digital Camera magazine!

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I feel incredibly honored to have a five-page spread featured on my work and photographic history in the magazine What Digital Camera. The spread was in the August 2009 issue, but since it primarily sells overseas I didn’t see it until now! There is an extensive look at the gear I use and a nice interview to show where I come from and where I’m heading.

Of course, as you’ll be able to see from the gear listings on the sample photos, my equipment keeps changing as I try new ways to capture photos the way I want. That means there are some new additions since the article (such as the D3s, 50mm f/1.2, 35mm f/1.8 and 24mm f/1.8) and of course a bit of gear that was swallowed by the angry god of the sea in Puerto Rico.

You can click on any of the spreads below for a larger, readable version!

Also thanks to Timothy Herzog for taking the photo of me with my kit.

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Photo of the Day: Hold Tight

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A tender hold during Emily and Myles’s first dance. Myles has these incredible hands. Thank you for responding to my telepathy and putting them in the perfect position.

Photo of the Day: Billionaires at Play

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Richard Branson gives rock star face with his son Sam helpfully sticking his fingers and his mouth and nose at the launch of Virgin Galactic in 2006.

Betcha didn’t think you’d see a billionaire with someone else’s finger in his nose this morning, did you? Gotta keep on your toes around here.

I shot this for Wired way back when.

Engagement: Emily and Myles

I just shot these photos yesterday, and I knew I wanted to get some samples out right away, partly because I’ve been excited to shoot this awesome couple since I met them at Stephanie and Wade’s wedding, partly because the geek in me was excited to test my rental copy of the new 70-200mm f/2.8G VRII, and partially because I’m shooting their wedding tomorrow!

Yes, as I tell couples, any time between 18 months and 18 hours before the wedding can work for engagement shoot, and since Myles, a coach for the Edmonton Oilers, had been spending this past year working up there, we decided to play in the cold-but-not-Siberian-cold environment of New York in February. And we had a wonderful time. If anyone wants tips on how to make sure they can bring out passion in front of a camera, try spending most of the previous year away from your fiancée in a place with cold spells almost eighty degrees below zero.

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