Ryan Brenizer Workshops: Early 2013 recap

I realized sometime last year that I no longer really have an “off season.” I do, however, have a somewhat sane season, and that is soon coming to an end. Even then, though, it’s hard to stay idle for one simple reason: I really like my job. I get twitchy if I’m not telling stories, creating images, and trying new things, and the winter and early spring are perfect time to take some of that energy and share it with others through workshops.

In February I had my first international workshop in London — I figured it would be a bit tricky to host a workshop abroad, so I figured a hop across the pond would be the easier than starting in translator territory. And we had a great time even though there London was in a freezing spell and the studio manager, apparently unaware of basic principles of convection, put the heater on the ceiling. But we kept our coats on and had wonderful experiences, from working with the fantastic Claudia Nallely to competitive foosball matches after each workshop.

I also learned I have so much in my head from shooting 325+ weddings that eight hours is a staggeringly short amount of time. The perfect length for a workshop, I think, is either 20 minutes or six months. So I’ve strengthened a lot of the free continuing support I provide to participants with separate portfolio reviews, continued online help, direct access to raw files for some of the trickier techniques I use, etc. This continued networking also allowed me to use feedback from members of every workshop I’ve ever given to create an even better, more formalized structure, one that I believe in more than ever, dividing the overlapping worlds of being a better photographer and being a better professional into two days. I debuted this at a workshop this past weekend at the studios of InFocusNYC Photography, and it went better than I could have hoped for. The studio was the perfect space for the group (and properly heated!), studio managers Pete and Daria were incredibly helpful, and I had an all-star cast helping out, from my studio manager Wendy lending her perspectives on the business day, to amazing past couples of mine I was thrilled to see again: Elizabeth and Anthony, Ariana and Eric, and Chika and Andrew.

Much like I learn to be a better photographer from every wedding (which is why I shoot so many!) I learn to impart the hard-won lessons I’ve learned the more I teach, and I enter 2013 more excited and confident than ever about future workshops. Now, of course, I just have to figure out when and where these new ones can fit given the beginning of crazy season.

I also highly recommend the InFocusNYC studio for other events, and for those looking for studio shares. I believe they still have a spot or two open.

Worth the wait

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This image was a composite AND a panorama, but that wasn’t what made it so hard. No, it was the Universal Law of Shooting in NYC: When you have scouted a location, and the whole time you scouted there were no people there, and you really need no people to be there, right as you’re ready to shoot a hundred schoolchildren will flood the scene.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: 8-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 42mm f/0.68 according to Brett’s calculator)

Foundry Wedding: Annie and Bill

I love a good party, and it seems like weddings at The Foundry are always fantastic parties. There must be some sort of neural connection between the preferences that make people love the dark brick and ironwork of the space and of a propensity to do the chicken wing on the dance floor. I don’t have to tell you that Annie and Bill were extremely fun; you’ll see that below. But they were also laid-back in a way that we forget New Yorkers can be, focused on just a great time with each other and their loved ones. In fact, family was so close that Bill’s sister served as Best Woman, complete with a tux just for the ceremony. Whether it was searching for the right-fitting female tux, a giant pile of cheese instead of wedding cake, or the beautiful hanging lights, they made sure that this day was their own, and I was happy to record it. Thanks to the fantastic Dave Paek for doing another great job as assistant.

The Red Balloon

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I’ve never actually worked with a big heart balloon on an engagement session before … seems a SoCal staple … so when Florencia and Jay brought one I figured we’d put a twist on it.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 135mm f/2 D DC

Stage 6 at Steiner Studios Wedding: Anna and Steven

We’ve been having some pretty terrible weather in New York this year, but the grey, cold skies opened up for Anna and Steven’s wedding at Steiner Studios, giving us some time to traipse about Brooklyn. I love doing Russian weddings, even though it always reminds me how rusty my Russian has gotten since college (these days I am pretty much limited to being able to ask where the post office is.) There is so much focus on family, and it is always a great party, especially when Anna and Steven’s friends give a surprise (and surprisingly great) Russian pop performance at the reception. Thanks to Dave Paek for assisting!

NYC workshops April 13-14

What better way to get attention than photos of the gorgeous Kelsie in the Nevada desert? I’m hosting my first NYC workshops in a year on April 13 and 14, heavily tweaked to get the absolute most out of our time for new ideas and evolution as a photographer and a businessperson. See more information here!

A lot of the tweaking for this came during my preparation for my recent WPPI speech. I took only a brief break to photograph Kelsie out in the desert, including some fun with Polaroids on the Mamiya RZ 6×7.

Tappan Hill Wedding: Stephanie and Scott

Great friends, great food, laughter that wracks through your whole body, work friends showing surprisingly awesome dance moves, cheeky grandparents, two kind and soulful binding their friendship and partnership … and SNOW! I love this job, I love Tappan Hill, and I love these people. And thanks to Kacy Jahanbini for fantastic assistance.

Quick hits from the weekend

I’m in the air over Iowa now on the way to WPPI, where I will close out the party with a lecture on what to do when you’re shooting a wedding and everything seems to be working against you (otherwise called “most weddings ever.”) What better way to get ready for it than shooting two weddings? So much more to come; here’s a quick fix:

Green Building Wedding: Jenna and Aaron

I’m pretty sure this is the soonest after a wedding that I’ve ever blogged the images — chalk it up to a pre-WPPI convention burst of productivity. But also these make me excited for a number of reasons. First, Jenna and Aaron are awesome, hilarious, and brilliant. I really love how frequently the best man and maid of honor speeches mention how freaking smart my couples are, since if smart people hire you, maybe you’re doing something right. Aaron, after all, if the sort of fellow who had Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, a thoroughly impenetrable book, out as pleasure reading. Sadly there were more important things going on than for us to sit and share a dialectical chat.

But also this was my first wedding since being named of the top 10 wedding photographers in the world by American Photo magazine, and my first wedding since the Foundation Workshops. Contrary to what you might think, the former fact never entered my mind all day. But Foundation loomed large in my mind — I have spent my entire career working as hard as I can to show lasting moments, people’s personalities and how amazing they look at their wedding day, but the intensity of the Foundation Workshop made me work harder than ever at being a perfectionist along the way — stressing over every millimieter of what is and is not included in each frame. Of course, sometimes the moment is strong enough that you just go for it — the ring bearer kissing his brother was impossible to frame perfectly, but even just mentioning the existence of the photo made their mother break out in a huge grin.

Also, though for a mix of modesty and SEO purposes she doesn’t want me to mention her name, I was joined by the amazing T, and she KILLED it. Lots of great photos, and even when running the photobooth she managed to take a simple setup and create art! I’ve never been so tempted to put photobooth images in a blog post. Thanks, T!

I’m so excited for 2013, and this was a great way to kick off the main season!

Bayard’s Wedding: Sarah and Alex

Sara and Alex’s wedding at Bayard’s was all about family … really. They struggled with changed dates and planning to make sure that Sarah’s parents could be there from the Philippines, and even just weeks before they still weren’t sure that they could make it. Thankfully they made it for a beautiful-but-freezing winter wedding. St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral is a gorgeous place for a ceremony — and apparently completely unheated. But whether in the church or on an icy Wall Street walk, there was little but ecstasy in Sarah and Alex’s minds, and it was infectious despite a few blue fingers.

More Play, and Slowing Down

Belt Craft Studios is filled with enough vintage-y props to launch a thousand styled shoots. When I saw them, my first thought was “How perfect for so many wedding photographers who are not me!” The images that tend to drive me forward, of course, are the moments, the illustration of real personalities and relationships and histories. But that’s silly, of course. From a viewer’s perspective, there is no me, there are only the photos — and perhaps I appear later. In Paris the other day, I saw an amazing Joel Meyerowitz retrospective at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. The same photographer who spent years stalking streets with a small-framed Leica, documenting fleeting moments in color and shadow, also lugged around a gigantic 20×25 to create a completely different body of work.

As I mentioned in the last post, I had iterations of this specific idea in my head for many years, but I’ve also in general become fascinated with the process required to make it … slowing down. Instead of creating hundreds of pictures on an engagement shoot, what could I do if I worked to produce just five? Three? One? Not the right choice for all clients, but for some it could be perfect, and push me forward in different ways.

It may surprise those of you who haven’t worked for a while as a photographer, but it takes a lot more time and effort to create three photos on a shoot than to create 100. Claudia already has hundreds of photos of herself in bridal gowns, so for her actual bridal session we made just three. Here is the second:

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Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Olympus 12mm f/2

Come With Me

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I’m in Europe, where I’ve just got done teaching two London workshops and am currently taking two days in Paris. It was an absolute blast with fantastic attendees, and a fair share of beer and foosball (or “table football,” as it is called here.) But some of the things I stressed were pushing yourself into places you don’t usually go, and working with clients for creative results, so I thought “well, let’s actually practice what I’m preaching.”

As part of the trip, I was reunited with Claudia, a great model who moved off to Germany after getting married, but in the process she never had any wedding photos of her own! So we arranged a bridal session. The problem before me was this: I knew we could get gorgeous photos. She’s gorgeous. I could put her in decent window light and take a snap with my iPhone and it would be gorgeous. And if I’d been doing a couples’s shoot I knew I could find the uniqueness in their relationship. But her husband couldn’t make it from Germany, so how do you shoot a bridal model’s bridal photos without it looking like just another bridal modeling session she’s done? We’re celebrating the real thing here.

I reached back to an idea I’ve had for many years, and I realized this would be the perfect time to put it in practice. And, more importantly, it was fun. Belt Craft Studios was a perfect place for this, with all sorts of props that we re-appropriated, but also a bunch of stuff that we simply stole from our apartment. This was one of the tableaus we created. Thanks to Tatiana Breslow for assisting, and to Claudia for being an amazing bride, and really working her core strength for these.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6

New Studio Madness with Dominique Dicaprio

A while back, I closed the lease on my new studio and thought “What trouble could I get up to with an empty apartment?” There could be few better partners in crime than fantastic model and actress (and budding photographer) Dominique Dicaprio, running through all sorts of techniques that are hard to pull off on a wedding day. We wanted to make some crazy pictures, and of course the more that you practice wild techniques, the easier it is to actually pull them out at a wedding — it took some time to make a 75-image panorama of moving people one of my “safe” techniques.”

Most of these are with the Nikon D4, but one of them is with the Sony RX1, which is on my pile of “things to review when I break my femur and am actually forced to stop shooting and travelling so much.” The best thing I can say about it is that other than a lucky guess, there’s no way to tell — it has every bit the quality of a high-resolution dSLR in a much smaller package. But I am addicted to viewfinders, so the default lack puts me off a bit.

Thank you Dominique!