“Great photography is about depth-of-feeling, not depth of field.”
This is likely the most currently popular quote about photography. I’ve seen it attributed to W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, and countless other masters, but as near as I can tell it goes back to 1987 and Peter Adams (no relation). Now, if anyone should want to argue against this, it should be me. I’m well-known for a technique to increase depth-of-field control beyond normal physical limitations. Heck, it has my name on it. But no … I feel this quote more and more deeply the more that I shoot. After all, I could take photos with impossibly shallow depth-of-field right now, in my apartment. And yeah, they’d look kind of cool. But instead I’m out there weekend after weekend, reveling in the chaos and joy and affection unfolding in front of my lens on wedding days.
In so many ways, Trish and Bill’s wedding brought this all into sharp relief for me. We start with the couple themselves. Bill has the kind of laugh that you have to join in on, the attitude that yes, life is supposed to be fun and we’re all in this together. It would be hard to get the two of them to stop smiling even if I wanted to. Even if we were strangers, I would have looked back on this day fondly.
But no, we share countless connections. Their wedding took place just miles from where I was born. When I walked in, I saw the coordinator I’d been e-mailing back and forth with … and realized she was a classmate I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. I went to elementary school with the pastor (who likely gave the funniest wedding speech I’ve seen in more than 300). I spent half my time growing up at my grandmother’s house, next door to one of the best men. And yes, that’s my mother popping up in some of these photos, since she’s a co-worker and apparent co-conspirator with Bill. And the reception was at the same venue that I photographed the first wedding I ever booked (but not the first I had shot), oh so long ago.
But there’s more. Because I have these connections, I learned that Bill’s lovely grandmother had died shortly after the wedding … but she made it to the ceremony. Those photos matter … not just to Bill and his family, they matter to me. It reminds me of my great-grandmother, who hung on at the hospital until I was born. She saw me, she held me, and she died a few days later. All I have of her are stories … and photos.
This is why. Magazine articles and awards and and workshops and the like are all very nice. They keep me fed, make me proud, and allow me to get hired for more weddings. But it’s times like these that remind me of the central paradox of weddings — we take getting married, something that can be very quick and easy, and we make it very, very hard. And yet it’s worth it. Because each envelope we lick, each seating chart we pore over, every place card we carefully pick out … each are a person, a relationship, a history. And that is worth capturing.
Thank you, Bill and Trish, for having me document all of this.
One of the problems with the Brenizer method is that it’s hard enough to pre-visualize and execute a multi-image panorama of a portrait, and much, much harder if you want to have a sense of motion or candid dynamic emotion in the image. But no one said this job was supposed to be easy.
Now that the season is just about to slow down a bit, I will first be making sure my fall clients are taken care of, but then working on the how-to to end all how-tos for how to do these sorts of photos in all their iterations, taking people from “the What method?” to flawless execution, for a cost that you could probably pay just by scouring your couch cushions. Watch for release in early 2013.
Camera: Nikon D600
Lens: Lens: 35-image “Brenizer method” panorama with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 30mm f/0.5 according to Brett’s calculator)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is one of my favorite venues anywhere in the world, much less in the NYC area. When clients even mention it I start thinking about the beauty of the Rockefeller farm, and the food … oh man, the food. Jingjing and Yixi had the same thought — they wanted to have an intimate wedding for themselves and about 30 of their close friends and family, and what better way to share that experience than over a fantastic meal?
They are warm, caring and kind — the sort of people who, when doing a picture of all their Columbia friends said, “Hey, Ryan went to Columbia! Get in here!” They take the people around them and make them friends. That is a relationship I am thrilled to document. The gorgeous venue just doesn’t hurt.
And so, apparently, do some South American wedding traditions. Between the stunning bride and the wings she was wearing, we got some attention from New Yorkers. Nothing gets New Yorkers attention. I’ve seen topless women walk by a few blocks south of this spot with nary a startled look. But we did it.
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Wedding photographers see the world a little differently. Our weekends are on Wednesdays, our crunch time might come at 10 p.m. We measure time and history a little differently too. Yes, I will always remember how kind, smart, and funny Linda and Joseph are. I will remember their laugh, the way they celebrate with friends and family. I will remember the intimate beauty of the Harold Pratt House, the deft planning of Christine at Exquisite Affairs Productions.
But I will also remember this as my first wedding where the guests truly owned Gangnam Style.
There’s elegance and grace, and then there are elegant, graceful people willing to dive through someone’s legs to re-enact a Korean music video. These are my people.
Thank you to Dennis Pike for second-shooting, and being awesome in general.
The highest compliment I can give a wedding is that it made me wish I was a guest. Not only was I itching to get out on the dance floor with Megan and Michael — the entire affair was so stylish that I left thinking “Man, I have to get a new suit.”
Yes, I expected style from the couple that brought me the Mad Men-themed engagement shoot, complete with newspapers actually from 1963. But pair that with with a ceremony in a midtown terrace and a decorated-to-the-hilt reception at Bridgewaters, and it was a fantastic day throughout. Now about that suit…
I got an e-mail from a client this week that said “I can’t believe I’m going to say this but THANK GOD it was raining.” It wasn’t Joey, but it could have been — or at least, thank God it rained when it did.
They had a gorgeous ceremony at the Wainwright House, without a drop or an ominous cloud anywhere. But I pretty much run an entire weather van out of my pocket on wedding days, so I kept eying the sky for the storm that I knew was coming.
And it came, just as soon as everyone was back safely in the tent. The Dark Sky app has been my constant companion in a season of rapidly changing weather, and I got asked Joey “So, it’s about to rain in three minutes. Can we do a photo outside that will take two minutes?” Despite her fantastic dress, she was brave, and we got it.
It was an intimate wedding marked by intensely deep connections between friends — such as a maid-of-honor who had “Groom” tattooed behind her ear because of how many times she and Joey had dreamed of staging a wedding as kids. Joey has had her dream wedding planned for a very long time, and I’m so glad she got it, and that the rain only helped.
Thanks to Dave Paek for assisting!
It was quite a week, but now we’re getting back to normal here.
Of course, with Susanne and Jason, it’s better than normal. Because they decided to celebrate their 15-minutes-old marriage with a stop by the carnival behind the church. No Photoshop effects here, just panning.
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6
Sometimes fate knocks on your door … and sometimes it brings cake.
I’d met the incredible cake-maker Hope from A Little Imagination Cakes at a Grace Ormonde event and I started thinking: Hey, your cakes are incredible. Why don’t we destroy one? Wouldn’t it be great to get a bride and groom just going nuts with it? Man, who could we find for that?
A couple days later, I get an e-mail from Christina. She wants to do a Trash the Dress session … but she really wants to trash it. No “just wading into a puddle and getting it a little wet.” She has a Vera Wang gown, and she wants it to go out in style.
Christina and Brian had a comic book-themed wedding, and Hope went all out to make an awesome DC-hero themed cake for them — AND recreated their fantastic save-the-date on layers of the cake itself. All this for something we were about to smash to tiny bits. That’s love of craft.
And smash we did.
This was an awesome day. Thank you Hope, thank you Christina and Brian, and thank you Dave Paek for great assistance.
I don’t do as many destination weddings as I could because, in NYC, destination weddings come to you. Yes, I would love to go to Scotland and shoot a crazy celebration in the lush highlands, but I could also have clients like Dana and Jamie, you bring all of their guests and the band in from Scotland to celebrate at Midtown Loft and Terrace, a five-minute walk from my studio. And on a Wednesday, no less.*
It was an amazing day, especially thanks to the guidance of planner Christine at Exquisite Affairs Productions and the help of John Edgar and assistance from Dave Paek. John actually grew up in Scotland, so he was my cultural attaché. But even he couldn’t fully translate the heavy dialect of the grandfather’s nonetheless hilarious speech.
Randy kids, wild adults, waving kilts, grand marches, and lots and lots of alcohol. All of the destination, none of the plane travel. Thank you.
*I support this trend. I’ve photographed weddings on every day of the week in 2012, which is not a common feat.