One from Taylor and Brandon’s rainy but beautiful, crazy wedding. Southern wedding portrait at EV -1.4 (geek speak for ludicrously dark).
We’ve been up to a lot of big things behind the scenes over the off-season, and the biggest is a move to a new studio in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn! It’s coming together as a fantastic place for meeting clients and being relentlessly productive in style, but as a photographer one of the things I’ve been most excited about is the lighting. We have the place tricked out with Phillip Hue lights, smart LED bulbs that can transmit 16 million colors, controlled by software on your phone.
So I thought we’d get a little crazy. This whole scene, from key lights to hair lights to rim lights to the tonality on the walls, is lit just by the two light fixtures you see, and a third Hue on an extension cord, composited into a LOT of frames.
Yes, this is how Tatiana and I amuse ourselves on a Tuesday night. We get to create something a bit different than I’d ever seen before, practice iterations of some new techniques we’ll be tweaking a lot this year, and have a great time doing it.
Three little words. Marriages are based on three little words, and it was three little words that let me know this wedding would be an absolutely amazing way for me to start 2014. Lip. Sync. Contest. And not just any lip-sync contest, but one that morphed into a surprise flash-mob performance of “What Does the Fox Say?” to the bride — this all adds up to the perfect combination in my eyes: We take this marriage and our love seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We can have an amazingly beautiful day, and look fantastic doing it, but stay focused on celebrating that love with friends and family in a big, loud, hilarious way. I don’t know if the Crest Hollow Country Club knew what it was in for with Mabel and Anil, but they have already given me a great feeling about 2014.
As I said last year, a funny thing happens over the course of taking a few hundred thousand photos. Each individual photo is about the subjects, the moment, the emotion, the story … but over time, in a big enough collection, it also becomes a self-portrait of the photographer. These are the stories I see and the way that I see them. And so this is not a “best of” list, because picking the “best” out of so many photos would probably give me a nervous breakdown, but this is a portrait of who I was in 2013.
I’ve devoted my life to documenting love, but in 2013 I felt it in ways I’d never imagined — both inside myself and the sort of effects that love can have on someone. In short, all the clichés can be true. No matter how silly or treacly or saccharine you may sound, you probably aren’t saccharine enough. Love changes everything, and it makes things worth changing in the first place. If I had energy and fervor to document it in all its forms before, now I burn with it, and I cannot wait for my shared story to continue.
Often, the weddings I shoot have been a long time coming for couples. I photographed a couple who had been together for 16 years and whose official wedding theme was “Fricking Finally!” But in a way Jossie and Andrew’s wedding felt like it had been a long time coming for me.
Six years ago, I’d already been shooting weddings for a while, but I knew next to nothing about the wedding industrial complex, or the photographers in the industry. I was entirely steeped in the work of photojournalism, looking at images off the newswires each morning as well as classic documentarians such as Capa or Smith, but I didn’t know a Jerry Ghionis from a Jessica Claire. I decided it would be fun to network with some other photographers in my area, so when I read about Mystic Seminars — then just a one-day affair in a single hotel conference room — I figured it was worth the chance, and took a snowy drive up I-95.
I met some great people that day and picked up some good tricks, but I wasn’t prepared for some skinny, dapper dude named Ben Chrisman to get up on stage and blow my mind. These weren’t images of cut-and-paste, church-then-banquet hall affairs. These were long-multi-day documentations that dripped with life, energy, and creativity. He’d taken similar inspiration from war photographers like James Nachtway, and had even studied under some, and was quite open that when it cant o choices of an easy life versus art, he chose art. I met him on stage after, and told him I’d buy him a drink and we’d chat about Robert Capa someday.
It took a while, but I bought that drink. Years later, we’re now friends, dance partners,, and colleagues. But when he called me asking “Hey, I’d love to shoot with you sometime, do you have any weddings left this year?” part of me still went back to January 2008’s feeling of “Who is this guy?”
I’m so happy that we got to collaborate on Jossie and Andrew’s Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove wedding, because it was crazy in all the best ways. Jossie is a dance instructor, which is always a good sign for someone who loves crazy receptions, and she told me beforehand that the “crazy dancers” would be out in force. And I thought, “You bet they are!” — with her dance students all over and props in every corner of the room, people were tearing it up.
I didn’t realize that in South American and Latin culture, the “crazy dancers” meant Rio-style costumes, stilts and drums and absolute insanity. We never left the confines of the building the entire day, but it felt like a cultural exchange and as much an extravaganza as a wedding.
Thank you Jossie and Andrew for letting us in to this ludicrous, hilarious, fantastic day, and thanks to Ben for the collaboration: we got the drink, but there’s a lot more to say about Capa.
And incidentally, six years later I am also speaking at this upcoming Mystic Seminar in less than two weeks. Who knows what future speaker will be in the audience?
(A good chunk of the photos are by Ben; the watermarks are automatic to avoid orphan works in the Era of Pinterest.)
Teresa and Dan fairly drip with humor, savviness, and charisma, even on a normal day, so adding the warmth and fun of a crazy wedding day (especially with Teresa’s Fox 5 News fellow broadcasters, a profession not known for shyness) to the beauty of a Pleasantdale Chateau wedding, and I knew we’d have a good time.
Normally, a wedding day that involves going back and forth from New Jersey to Manhattan on a Friday sets of giant “Danger Will Robinson!” klaxons in my head, but with my “pessimistic so you don’t have to be” planning and their relentless cheeriness, we made it through the sea of tail lights without dampening the day’s excitement one bit, and in return got a gorgeous church and one of my favorite wedding venues within hundreds of miles.
Doing a nearly three-hour-long tutorial about every aspect of the panorama technique that has come to be known as “The Brenizer method” was a daunting task, but I didn’t realize the most daunting part would be after the video was completed. Sadly, the site that originally hosted our content was quietly going out of business the entire time, which made for a bit of a bumpy ride. But happily one of my former clients helps run the world-class movie-hosting site VHX, and he has helped us get it up and running again!
We have good news, better news, and best news. The good news is that this new site should be very responsive to sellers and to my requests. The better news is that this version of the video has been upgraded thanks to lots of viewer feedback, including subtitles in one section where the sounds of the city made it hard for some people, particularly non-native English speakers, to hear. The best news, though, is that we are working with VHX to give free access to everyone who purchased the video from the previous host.
Yes, we are working hard behind the scenes to make sure that I earn as little extra money as possible. Keep that in mind during my business lecture in a few weeks at Mystic Conferences.
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: 25-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro (equivalent of 40mm f/0.8 according to Brett’s calculator)
When I saw these lights at the Crestwood Manor, I couldn’t help myself, and did what may be my biggest panorama ever: 143 frames, 281 megapixels, effectively a 24mm f0.45 lens.
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.