Without a doubt, October was the most beautiful month of 2008 here. The weather was usually perfect, the leaves were great, and Howard and Annie made the most of it at the gorgeous Surf Club in New Rochelle. It was a wonderful interfaith marriage ceremony. As the rabbi noted during the ceremony, “Secular marriages are wonderful things, but there’s also another, spiritual level when you get married by a priest or a rabbi. When you get married by a priest and a rabbi? Watch out!” And the fun continued through the night … I’m pretty sure Annie is the first bride I’ve seen do an air guitar routine on the dance floor. 10 shots from the night follow, but I recommend viewing the slideshow to get the whole story.
When you cross a cinematographer and a doctor, what do you get? A fantastic wedding at NYC’s Yale Club, and two people not afraid to shake up the tourists at Grand Central.
It’s a whole new experience to shoot a wedding filled with cinematographers. People kept coming up to me and clapping me on the back. "That shot you just took … that was a great frame!" They didn’t need to wait to see the photo, pre-visualization abounded.
I featured Emily and Jeffrey here not long ago when they got engaged, showing off the “bokeh panorama” technique I invented, so what better than to do it again when they were married? To turn the Christmas lights behind them into a fiery glow, this image is actually the product of 17 images taken with a wide-open 85mm f/1.4 on a Nikon D700. This allows for a much shallower depth of field than you’d normally get at this frame of view (not to mention that you could basically make a print the size of a billboard from this).
Another from my shoot with Dr. Jim Fisher, author of the forthcoming “On the Irish Waterfront.”
Shooting notes: This shot uses the wonder of Auto-FP mode on the SB-900, which uses rapidfire pulses instead of a single flash to allow syncing at any shutter speed, even, as I used here, 1/8000th of a second (to get those ominous clouds really dark). You lose a lot of power, though, so I was holding the flash attached to a a Lumiquest Softbox III just an inch or so outside the frame, very close to his head. Fired at 1/2 power. Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8.
Who knew that a couple who works in international policy could be so darned hot? I knew this would be a great wedding after Eva, Cris and I had a fun, very New York engagement shoot, and the wedding day itself was also as Manhattan as it can be: the ceremony and reception were at the Terrace in the Sky, next to their (and my) old stomping grounds of Columbia University, where they met. It was a beautiful day — I think October had the best weather this year by a country mile — and it continued well into the night. I shudder to think of how many languages were spoken by the collective guests.
I’ve noticed a bunch of people leaving comments on my wordpress blog, and I really appreciate it … except it’s not a “real” blog. It only exists to funnel personal posts into my Amazon blog without broadcasting it to Amazon’s main page (anything I post directly to Amazon gets posted to the main blog). To see all of my content without truncated images, you have to go to http://www.amazon.com/ryanbrenizer or follow the RSS feed there.
The title is a ruse: I rarely have anything like a “typical” day.
I know there’s a lot of interest among photography enthusiasts about “what would it be like to do what I love for a living?” Here’s just a snapshot of what my life is like:
8:00: Wake-up, check through e-mail, answering replies and moving things along with about 10 different clients.
9:30: Get on a train for a quick shoot at Fordham University, one of my favorite corporate clients (and my undergraduate alma mater). I planned to arrive there early, which is a good thing because there was a fire on the track, holding me up for half an hour. Preparation kept me from keeping the former New Jersey governor waiting.
11:45: Head into the city for a meeting with a previous wedding client discussing options for professional albums (see her wedding slideshow here)
1:00 p.m.: Especially after the morning’s track fire, I decide to show up for my evening job WAY early. I take the subway down to southern Brooklyn, find a hole-in-the-wall Cuban restaurant that kindly seats me next to a power outlet, and use my laptop to process photos, including the slideshow for Shanté and Akili.
4:30: The day’s big job, an opening of a major research center for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Mayor Bloomberg gets a tour and speaks. A philanthropist himself, he seems genuinely interested in the work the researchers are doing.
Midnight: Get home, scan through e-mail again. Send off a wedding album order that has final approval, process some quick selections for commercial clients, and book a flight to Florida for a destination wedding.
And that was a Wednesday. Things really pick up on weekends. The short answer for “should I become a professional photographer” is “are you passionate enough about it that you can work on other people’s schedules and projects, all day, every day?”
I certainly am, but I’m a bit crazy.
Mea culpa. I’ve been racing so fast to get photos and products to my wonderful clients that I haven’t had the time to properly tell their stories here. I have a lot to say, though, so I’m going to try an interesting challenge: I will post something to this blog here every day for the next 25 days (behavioral theorists will note that’s long enough for an action to become habit-forming). Some of it will be discussion of photography tech, some of it will be tips, and some of it will be write-ups of the fantastic weddings and events I’ve been lucky to shoot, such as the fantastic wedding of Shanté and Akili.
Talk about a power couple: BOTH Shanté and Akili are surgeons. It’s only fitting that a young couple who has worked so hard to get where they are got married at a castle — the gorgeous Lyndhurst Manor in Tarrytown, NY.
If you have the time, I strongly recommend viewing the full slideshow of the wedding. Both of them looked awesome, and the party was energetic, to say the least.
The 63rd annual Alfred E. Smith dinner was an historic opportunity for both presidential candidates to relax, have fun, and poke fun of themselves, each other, and to a large degree, Bill Clinton. It was likely the the last time the candidates will publicly meet before the election, and I was honored to be chosen as the official photographer. The event raised more than $4 million for Catholic charities. I got more photos of Obama for the simple reason that he arrived earlier, but everyone seemed in surprisingly good spirits after a long, exhausting campaign. Here is just a small sample of the evening’s events:
Among the luminaries was former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger
Senator Barack Obama meets New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “How’s your dad?” He asked.
Obama shakes hands with a supporter, wearing the bracelet that was a major subject of the first presidential debate.
Obama speaks with Senator Charles Schumer.
Obama and McCain speak to the Rev. Cardinal Egan. At left are Cindy McCain and Geraldine Ferraro.
Soprano Renee Fleming sings Ave Maria
John McCain had perhaps the funniest moment of the night at the end of his speech, where he set up unrealistically high expectations for Obama. “It will be the funniest 15 minutes of your life … if not, it will bring shame on this event and its hosts.”
McCain’s campaign photographer takes a cell phone shot as he speaks.
Senator Hillary Clinton greets supporters.
Mayor Mike Bloomberg sports a flag pin and a NYC pin.
Comedian Mo Rocca and broadcast journalist Katie Couric smile after the event. Rocca joked that he is making this his Christmas card.
Watch for the back of my head on C-SPAN tonight. The Al Smith dinner is a super-high profile charity drive for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and likely the last time that Obama and McCain will appear together before the election. Other than one photographer from each campaign, I am the only photographer allowed on the premises tonight. It is an incredible honor that the Archdiocese has selected me for this and I can’t wait … my tux is ready!
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was proud to win a Top 10 award in the most recent WPJA contests, since these are filled with many of the most talented wedding photographers in the world. Imagine my surprise when I checked my mail and TWO Top 10 awards show up — I had also won in the “Weather” category! That makes three for the first half of 2008, out of two contests. Since these are the only two photo contests I’ve entered since 2001*, I’m pretty happy with the results.
*Normally I’m not a fan of contests, but the WPJA was one of the first things that made me realize that the wedding photography aesthetic was changing a great deal for the better from “roses in brandy snifters.”
Question: Which of these is an ultra-fast prime lens, four times as light-sensitive as pro zoom lenses?
It’s a trick question: They both are. In fact, both of these lenses have the same focal length and aperture. On the left is the tiny Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AIS. On the right is the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4. You might ask: Why the heck is it so huge? Part of it is the addition of a fast, silent focus motor, but most of it is Sigma rethinking what the role of a fast 50mm lens should be.
The optical formulas in most 50mm lenses date back decades, to when they were the absolute standard lens, sold included with most new SLR cameras. They were optimized to be light, cheap and, when you closed the aperture a bit, sharp as heck. It worked great, since without modern autofocus systems it was hard to shoot them wide-open anyway. "f/8 and be there," the saying went.
Flash-forward to today. SLR autofocus, for all its quirks, tends to work astonishingly well. Moreover, zoom lenses have taken the place of the kit 50mm lens, and with computer-aided design even most of the cheap ones are pretty darned sharp at moderate apertures. So if you’re going to shoot at f/8, why not have the convenience of a zoom? The main advantage today of prime lenses is that super-fast aperture for low-light shooting and paper-thin depth-of-filed — but most 50mm lenses, designed for a different era, aren’t all that great wide-open. Heavy vignetting, low contrast and choppy bokeh abound. (The brand-new Nikon 50mm f/1.4G isn’t available for testing in the States … yet).
Sigma, normally branded as a budget lens company threw a curveball, deliberately over-engineering a lens to make a better, more expensive version of what other companies were offering.
Did they succeed? Yes. The new lens is an optical marvel, sharp and contrasty even at f/1.4 and with a smooth rendering of out-of-focus areas that, while not quite as good as the best portrait lenses such as the 85mm f/1.4, at least isn’t completely outclassed by them, like every other 50mm I’ve ever used. It focuses quickly, silently and (at least on the Nikon D3 and D700) quite accurately. You can read a detailed technical report at DPReview.
But that doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the lens for you. Look at that picture at the top again. I can stick the Nikon 50mm in any pocket I have, even pants pockets, meaning there’s no reason not to take it wherever I go. To try that with the Sigma, you’d need MC Hammer pants. It’s hefty, feeling a bit unbalanced with smaller camera bodies. It takes big 77mm filters, which is great for pros with expensive zoom lenses since you can use the same lens caps and filters, but for most users it just means more expensive accessories. And then there’s that price tag — $500, twice what some of the competing lenses sell for, and five times as much as the manual focus lens pictured.
But if that’s not a deal-killer, here are some samples of the stellar image quality. Clicking on the photos will open larger versions.:
Lit by a store window. 1/50th, f/1.4, ISO 720
The highest recommendation is this: It was good enough that I bought one for myself.
I’ve entered the prestigious Wedding Photojournalism Association contest twice now, and for the second time in a row have gotten a Top 10 finish! Since so many of the winners are from places like Malaysia and Italy, it’s amazing to know that my images were selected among the literally millions of pictures WPJA members take each quarter. This image of Heather and Noam took 8th Place in “Emotions”:
Well, here’s something new — I shot Yelena and Wassim’s engagement session the day they got married! Fresh from City Hall, this great couple took me down to the financial district where they used to meet for lunch every day and then up to Central Park. They later had a fantastic wedding for friends and family that you’ll see here soon!