Amy and Mike: 7.25.09

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

Mike and Amy’s wedding was multifaceted. On the one hand you had the consummate planning, the beautiful Prince George Ballroom, the guests and wedding party looking gorgeous and dapper, a touching, deep-felt Catholic mass in a beautiful church … and on the other hand you had a room full of people with such intense energy and joy that there was no point in containing it. When I finally realized that nothing short of an Act of God would tame the wedding party for a group shot, and realized that Mike and Amy weren’t the type of people to want a tame shot anyway … I went with it.

“OK … you two kiss. The rest of you? Without causing injury, be as rowdy as possible.”

The floodgates opened, and from then on the wedding was more thrill ride than work (but they usually are … shhhh, don’t tell anyone I enjoy my job so much).

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Rules for Shooting Group Photos

The Ties that Bind

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Hard-tested lens review: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

If you’re into photography, you’re probably familiar with the common format of lens reviews: Walk around with it for a few days, subject it to lab tests, shoot some brick walls to test distortion, and pass judgement.

Well, most of us don’t actually shoot brick walls for fun or profit, so I decided to be slightly more thorough with my testing of Nikon’s 24-70mm f/2.8G. Here was my method: Use it for 20 months on countless assignments, take nearly 200,000 photos with it, and grind it down from overuse until it began to fall apart in my hands, the rubber zoom ring falling off, and then the lens breaking entirely. So I know a few things about this lens.

When the 24-70 came out, it was overshadowed by the more shocking announcements of the Nikon D3 and the 14-24mm f/2.8. Whereas the 14-24 seemed to break the laws of physics, 24-70 is a fairly pedestrian range, and it may have seemed like catch-up to Canon’s, which was released in 2002.

This is unfortunate. The 14-24 is amazing, and helped win me a major award, but let’s face it — on a full-frame sensor, it’s a novelty lens with insane perspective distortion, and with a heavy, fragile front element. 24-70mm, though, is a range where the actual work gets done, where you can take photos that are more about the scene and less about wide-angle distortion or extreme telephoto compression. On a DX camera, it acts like a 36mm-105mm. That’s a range that lens-makers deliberately make anymore, but it makes for a fantastic range for portraits, from full-body to head-and-shoulders.

So, if the range is useful, how is the lens itself? Darned well one of the best lenses I have ever used, absolutely astonishing for a zoom. Let’s get into why.

For samples, here are hundreds of images I’ve taken with the 24-70.

The Bad:
(I’m listing this first, because the good list is way too long.)

•It’s a big, heavy beast. Slimmer and longer than the 28-70 it replaced, it’s still something that instantly will cause wrist strain if you hold a camera with one hand. It’s too big to be well-balanced on cameras like the D700 without an integrated vertical grip, so either a big camera or attaching a separate grip is recommended.

•Barrel distortion at 24mm, particularly when close-focusing. It’s not awful, but is definitely noticeable. If you’re shooting architecture or you really are into brick walls, you’ll need some software to straighten out your lines.

Also, I’m not the only person who’s had the rubber zoom-ring problem, though I’ve only heard of it from among seriously heavy users.

The Good:

Focus acquisition: Holy cow. This of course depends on the camera you’re using and your technique, but with the excellent system of the D3 as a baseline, this lens focuses more quickly and accurately than anything else I’ve used except exotic, extremely expensive telephotos like the 200mm f/2. The focus locks immediately and is deadly accurate. The error rate even in challenging conditions for me is well under one percent.

Color: I have never even given a serious thought to lens color transmission before using the 24-70. For me, either a lens was bad and turned your images muddy or yellow or it worked right. But right from the first picture, and across a number of different cameras, the color of photos taken with the 24-70 has been vibrant and accurate.

Build quality: Admittedly, began to stick on me — after I’d banged it into hundreds of walls, tossed it into my bag countless times, shot in the cold, in ludicrous humidity, on the beach, and done everything you’re never supposed to do with expensive gear. It’s a tank.

Sharpness: Very, very sharp, even wide-open. Certainly enough for the D3′s 12-megapixel sensor, and stopped down it should match even the megapixel monster that is the D3X

When you put lens sharpness and focus acquisition together, you get something that you can’t see in lab tests — your images of challenging scenes will tend to be sharper than any other similar lens I’ve used. The Nikon 17-55 is pretty good, but the 24-70 schools it in accuracy. Whether this lens will make your pictures better is up to you and your composition, but it will definitely make them sharper and more colorful.

The final word is this: I don’t like zooms. They’re too big, they’re not light-sensitive enough, and they don’t have the depth-of-field control I crave. But I cannot ever let this lens out of my bag.

Geeky, Part 1: Samsung 30-inch monitor unpacking

Based on what I shot last year, and that business is even higher this year, I figure I might shoot more than 200,000 photos in 2009. That’s a lot of photos to process. So I’ve put in some major upgrades to my computer system. My screaming fast Mac Pro is still being put together, but my new Samsung 305T 30-inch monitor is in! I know there’s a lot of debate about whether it’s better to have one giant screen or multiple monitors, but I’m not that much of a multitasker, and a lot of my most-used programs, like Lightroom, have singe-window interfaces. Now I can select, say. 25 images on a screen and still see enough detail to know which ones I want to keep and which are b-list.

Anyway, for my fellow geeks out there, here are some unboxing shots.

flickr_090311-103653_24_mm

flickr_090311-103736_24_mm

Top of the box. Not too many cables — if you’re looking for an HDMI connection, you might want to try another model.

flickr_090311-103818_40_mm

The cables, together.

flickr_090311-103854_40_mm

flickr_090311-104002_24_mm

I assure you that’s a normal-sized stove.

flickr_090311-111655_24_mm

I’ll be running it from my Macbook Pro until the new beast arrives.

For the photography-geeks out there, those last two are also a lesson in how wide-angle perspective distortion can make objects look bigger or smaller.

Now with video

Facebook apparently isn’t playing nice yet with easy embedding, and not everyone has or wants an account, so here is my “What’s in My Bag?” video, safely embedded:

What's in My Bag?

I get asked this question a lot, but there is no one answer — cameras and lenses are tools, made for particular jobs. So I put together a little video showing how I prepare for some very different jobs. Check it out here!

Timoria and Bob: 2/28/09, Battery Gardens, NYC

View the slideshow of this wedding here!

(Also scroll to previous posts for more portraits of the bride.)

I feel sorry for any photographer who had to spend February 28 not shooting Timoria and Bob’s wedding. I knew I was in for something special after our engagement session, but when you walk in and see a congratulatory note from Candace Bushnell, Sex and the City author, you know you’re in for a fabulous time. What I loved best was that the wedding managed to be classy and extravagant, using the fantastic Battery Gardens, but was not stuffy at all. From belly dancers to guests getting down to a gaggle of adorable children, the wedding was warm and joyful throughout. I’ve said before that one of the unique things about wedding photography is that it’s the one sort of job where it actually matters how good your 500th-best photo was that day. Well, so much was going on here that I wish I could share that 500 and more.

090228-135312_48_mm

Getting-ready photos are almost always light and airy, with a lot of ambient light. I took a lot like that too, but wanted something more dramatic here, so I actually killed all ambient by going to 1/8000th of a second and, with the blessing of the make-up artist, worked in extremely tight with a small softbox.

090228-132425_27_mm

090228-141855_85_mm

090228-145611_85_mm

The groom, through the best man’s glasses

090228-223148_24_mm

090228-224144_24_mm

090301-000131_24_mm

090301-002603_26_mm

You. Better. Work.

Believe it or not, I can actually do this move, though it’s been a while.

090228-191626_35_mm

The Dreaming Tree

Shot with “The Brenizer Method.” 30ish shots with the 85mm f/1.4 wide-open.

Timoria, Queen

Rockin' the Altar

More to come from this wedding. Much, much more.

Freada and Mike, 2.21.09


View the complete slideshow here!

From the pages of “Now That’s What I Call Efficiency!” here is Freada and Mike’s fantastic wedding from just this past Saturday! Man, I love Brooklyn weddings, and this one was oh-so Brooklyn. Both Mike and Freada started their days at their parents houses — which happen to be on the same street! From there it was on to the venue — Bubby’s Pie Company in Brooklyn, which has a great mix of the classy and the quirky, and served some truly fantastic cupcakes. The ceremony was ably covered by a pastor and a rabbi who have been working together for 25 years on ecumenical ceremonies.

I couldn’t get enough of this couple, or of the great DUMBO environment. We wandered out together on the night-time city streets, glistening with moist river air. It shows how good a time we were having that I eventually had to say “Hey … don’t you have a wedding to get back to?”

I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my first NYC wedding of the year.

flickr_090221-161101_24_mm

090221-175930_70_mm-Edit

090221-205748_70_mm-Edit

090221-210105_24_mm-Edit

090221-214534_24_mm-Edit

090221-214734_24_mm-Edit

090221-220240_85_mm-Edit

Do you take this … cupcake topper?

090221-223512_24_mm-Edit

Shining City

Not your usual yearbook

It’s been a wonderful year, and I wanted to commemorate that with an album that highlights some of the great places I’ve been, people I’ve met, and stories I’ve been able to tell while photographing weddings. So I’ve put together a swanky, stylish book from Fiano, a company that makes gorgeous wedding albums.I want to show my clients that wedding albums can be thought of as portable art galleries, so I kept the design as simple as possible, with nice big pictures — and at this album size, a two-page image will be nearly two and a half feet across! These are just a collection of themes that I liked together, not necessarily my favorite pictures or weddings, but it was great to relive so many moments that have happened in front of my camera this year.

I will be sure to show off the album itself when it comes in, but for now here is the design. Each of these represents two pages,.

blog_090226-140127

blog_090226-125429

blog_090226-125346

blog_090226-125407

blog_090226-125631

blog_090226-125657

blog_090226-125527

blog_090226-125545

blog_090226-123132

blog_090226-123240

blog_090226-123334

blog_090226-125726

blog_090226-125713

blog_090226-124321

blog_090226-124426

blog_090226-125336

blog_090226-125356

blog_090226-140141

Congratulations Freada and Mike!

Shining City

I had a wonderful wedding on Saturday, which also brought a return to the “Brenizer Method” of bokeh panoramas. The image above is a panorama of 26 images taken with the 85mm f/1.4, giving it that 3D look.

I did a little video blog focused on day-of slideshows. Embedding rarely works when I publish to Amazon (a price I’m more than willing to pay for such wonderful sponsors!), so you can also view it at this link. I love doing day-of slideshows, especially since they allow me to put up a Web gallery of selections the very next day. But as you can see from the video, it’s also all about guest reactions.

Much more to come from this fantastic wedding!

Lady in Black

I had a fantastic time shooting with Lydia yesterday. I’m prepping to do a review of my new video light equipment, but here’s a little taste:

Lady in Black

Profile in Courage

Profile in Courage

Patrice had a good career in his native Cameroon, but couldn’t stand by as he watched his countrymen be oppressed, so he joined the political resistence. He was beaten and jailed, and eventually tipped off that he was about to be killed, so he came to the United States. For more than a year, he has been penniless and homeless, but after his story ran in the New York Times, he was offered a job opportunity in Texas. I’m doing a series of high-key portraits on commission to document some of the Neediest Cases. I made this one low-key for myself by not triggering the background lights. Other than the crop, this is a straight-out-of-camera JPEG, using the native black and white mode.

Stephanie and Kenny: 1.18.09 Bancroft Hotel, Berkeley, CA

View the slideshow!
(And try not to be drinking anything, lest you snort it out your nose.)

These two crazy kids broke my system! I had resolved to myself that, no matter how much I loved a couple and the photos, I would always edit a blog post down to 10 photos and put the rest in the slideshow, so I could show a little self-restraint. But I didn’t count on Kenny and Stephanie, or their willingness to act out a skit in a Berkeley college classroom that, as a sign of the gods, already had a chalkboard filled out with equations like “2Love+ 2Love = 4Love” when we came in! The skit would have taken up half my set, but the whole wedding was so fantastic I couldn’t let it stand. So let’s start with their act:

090118-153303_34_mm

090118-153615_42_mm
(That’s my messy handwriting)

090118-153637_42_mm

090118-153747_24_mm

Kenny and Stephanie, as you might have imagined, are absolutely hilarious. In fact, professionally so — they’re both writers, and Kenny in particular works for comedic television shows, and many of his friends were alumni of his college humor magazine (watch the slideshow to see them successfully pull off a human pyramid with the bride on top!)

It was a beautiful time of year to be in Berkeley and San Francisco, and a fantastic ceremony, including touching statements from bride and groom about why they’re marrying each other, and a lengthy, poignant reading of David Sedaris. The only sad part was I had to go back to freezing New York!

Extreme Wedding Sports

090118-150657_24_mm-4

090118-151928_48_mm

090118-152926_35_mm

090118-161541 24.0 mm f_6.3

090118-171831_85_mm

090118-172719_85_mm

090118-195052_24_mm

090118-211250_24_mm

090118-211936_24_mm-2