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.

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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.

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The groom, through the best man’s glasses

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You. Better. Work.

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

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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.

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Do you take this … cupcake topper?

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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,.

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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:

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(That’s my messy handwriting)

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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

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Wanna experiment?

Shock it to Me

This entry is directed at my current clients and clients-to-be for 2009, but I won’t mind if you listen in. It contains a really good idea you can steal. After all, I stole it.

John Michael Cooper, who is 10 pounds of awesome in a five-pound bag, gave a fantastic lecture at the Digital Wedding Forum. From light-painting subjects to complicated Photoshop layering to use the same flash countless times in the same picture, he sent everyone there scrambling to their notebooks for techniques to copy. But the thing that really held my attention was a throw-away comment: “I ask my clients for 10 minutes to try something that may or may not work.”

Brilliant.

I’ve been struggling with a dilemma for pretty much my entire career as a wedding photographer. The best photographers don’t just push the envelope, they push beyond it — which means they fail, quite a bit. But when it works, it really, really works. Generally speaking, though, that’s not the best way to shoot a wedding. “Sorry guys, I tried this great technique, but it didn’t work, so there are no photos from the ceremony. I hope that’s OK.” You have to play it safe. Now, I’ve spent thousands of hours working to make sure that I can do some pretty crazy things and still know that I’m going to get photos exposed exactly the way that I want. But I’m absolutely at my happiest when I take a wedding photo different than what I’ve seen before. My bokeh panorama technique has been great for that, since as far as I know no one has ever used that at a wedding before … ever. But I practiced and practiced it until I knew I could make it work on a wedding day, and now it’s a fairly safe part of my repertoire. Gotta keep pushing that envelope.

So … will you give me 10 minutes at your wedding? 10 minutes to try something that could be fantastic, or could totally fail? I’ll spend the rest of the day working and pushing the envelope, but give me 10 minutes to bust out of it and play around in the mailbox. If you do, you could get some great shots that look nothing like your friends’ photos. And you’ll be paying it forward … the crazy stuff that I can make work on a wedding day will quickly move from “experiment” to “part of the repertoire.”

So … will you give me 10 minutes?

Emily and Jeffrey: 11.23.08

View the slideshow here!

You know, most couple are lucky enough if they have a fabulous wedding, surrounded by loved ones, laughter, and great food, but Emily and Jeffrey got to do it twice in the same day! The marriage ceremony was at the fantastic River Cafe in Brooklyn on a freezing November day. Apparently this is the best view of Manhattan anywhere, because even despite the cold we saw seven or eight other wedding parties wander by! Without a doubt ours were the most fun, though, especially the ladies who were willing to freeze in their dresses for good photos! This is when being able to work quickly comes in handy, but I couldn’t resist a little “OK guys, just hold that pose for … twenty more minutes…”

After that, the wedding party headed to Queens for a giant Chinese reception, complete with Emily’s outfit change and course after course of delicious food. On the way in between, I designed a slideshow of the wedding ceremony, which allowed the 80 percent or so of the reception guests who weren’t there to experience the full day. I was sore but ecstatic after two separate ceremonies, but not nearly as much as the couple.

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A New World

The Groom's Secret Service

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An ever-changing world

Just in case my blog didn’t have enough typos already, I’ve discovered the WordPress application for iPhone, which I used to give appropriate credit to David Williams in my previous post. I may use this space for fleeting photography-related thoughts that are not quite fleeting enough for Twitter.

I’m on my way to two client meetings now. I have a nice little space in my office to greet clients properly, but a lot of the couples I work with are nose-to-the-grindstone New Yorkers, so I come to them when I can. While packing, my old RAZR phone fell out of a drawer,and I realized something: the ever-changing tech world drops values more than we may realize. While it’s shocking that a phone that, just a few years ago, was a super-expensive luxury item is now too cheap to bother selling, it gets worse. How much would someone have to pay *me* to go back to just a normal cell phone, even a sleek one? North of $1,000, for sure, given how useful smartphones are for small businesses. How much would someone have to pay me to shoot weddings with my old “Frankencamera,” the Fuji S2? I shudder to think.

How quick people are to adapt to their environments. I did fine with that old camera, which churned out great files for its time. Before long we’ll all wonder how we could have shot anything without ISO 5 billion, as we watch the burgeoning field of “inside a closed refrigerator” photography.

What piece of tech would you never, ever part with, even though you were decently happy before it existed?

Alexandra and David: 12.6.08

View the slideshow of this wedding!

This wedding couldn’t have come at a better time. I recently got back from a seminar where I heard the great Australian portrait photographer David Williams talk about the importance of families, and of photos in our own personal histories. At the end of the day, what we wedding and portrait photographers do isn’t about equipment or Photoshop actions or textures … it’s about documenting the stories of friends and families, and shaping memories. And I felt that so keenly at the wedding of Alexandra and David.

You see, once upon a time, there was a bride named Marisa. New Yorker through-and-through, as you can see below:

Giving the (ring) finger

I shot her wedding in May 2007, and had an absolute blast. Marisa had a sister, Natalia, who was getting married in November. “I LOVED your photographer,” Natalia said, “but I want to get married in Miami. Where can I find someone like him down there?”

Marisa said, “you know … I don’t think Ryan would mind leaving New York for Miami in November.” And so I shot Natalia’s wedding:

Kiss by Dusk

It was an especially great compliment to be flown down because, as of the last census, South Florida has 156 wedding photographers per square foot. It felt like a personal reunion as much as a wedding, and I left with a glow, loving life and my job.

You can probably see where this is going. There was a third sister, and her name was Alexandra. With the help in particular of her amazing mother, she was able to plan her wedding all the way from Singapore, where she and David live. It helped, of course, that she saw what had worked and what didn’t for her other sisters … and hiring me was a foregone conclusion. Our first client meeting basically boiled down to … “So, do you book the flight or do we?”

It has been such an honor to shape so much of a family’s history, to walk into a home during bridal preparations and see prints of my work hanging on a wall. It’s times like these that even a 14-hour day doesn’t feel anything like work. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that the wedding was at the fantastic Red Fish Grill in Miami, not a bad place to be in December).

I’m only sad that I’ve run out of sisters.

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Greetings from Miami

Lifeguard Off Duty

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