Westminster Hotel Wedding: April and Rich

I always love Filipino weddings, because I feel that the culture has its priorities in the right place — deep family ties, celebrating these ties through dancing, and, of course, documenting all of this through photography. B&H doesn’t have as many DSLRs as a large Filipino wedding reception.

April and Rich had deep connections to both sides of the Hudson river, so the ceremony was at the Fourth Universalist Society church in Manhattan, and they decorated the space at the Westminster hotel to meet a classy, modern design for their reception.

The emotions were on the surface, as Rich’s tear ducts had a good workout. In this case, there was no metaphor behind the idea of forming a new family, as tender moments with Rich’s daughter and April showed. Thank you again for letting me (and assistant Braham Rhodes) tell this story.

A New York Story

130508 142002 85mm f1 6B Edit

I try to be a storyteller, but it’s an amorphous thing. We all have a story, sure, but what was the story of your today? Was it just some stuff that happened? Was it something you learned? Something you felt? What will the story be when you look back on it later?

They aren’t simple questions, and that’s just a random day … a Wednesday, even. How do you tell the story of a place like New York? There have been thousands upon thousands of attempts, and they scratch just the surface’s surface of the complexity and the dynamics of this crazy town. Last night I saw a beautiful woman walk by openly sobbing. That, I thought, was a New York story. In the small town I grew up in, we keep our tears and our strangers separate. In New York, people’s pain is in your point, and the pain itself is part of the point. The grind of New York life is perhaps the most pervading part of the story, a rock that we dash ourselves against and that either whittles or breaks us. There’s a reason that if you make it here you can make it anywhere, or as a more recent muse put it “8 million stories, out there in the naked city. It’s a pity, half of y’all won’t make it…”

There are reasons that shooting hundreds of weddings in New York have turned me into a problem solver. We have problems. It’s stressful enough just living here, even when you aren’t planning a wedding.

Or when you’re just trying to get around. Kate and Andy were married at the Top of the Rock today, and while the rain parted for their ceremony, it returned with a vengeance just after, right in time to deal with epic New York Rainy-Day Traffic. The limo driver, who had a habit of leaving us several blocks from our destinations in the pouring rain, also decided to drive right by Times Square and put us in the modern-day Bermuda Triangle of Lincoln Tunnel traffic (for out-of-towners, picture a parking lot, except with fewer moving cars). This is when it’s good for us to remember that you might not always be having fun when a photo session starts. Not only do you have the natural nervousness of being in front of the camera, you might have had to plan a complicated day, get waylaid by a limo driver, have to walk several blocks on shoes you swear are medieval torture devices … and then be happy?

But then you find your place. You hold on to the partner you crossed an ocean just to declare your love and devotion to. An iconic New York taxi drives by and reflects the American flag back into the camera. And then, at incredible odds another one drives by at just the right place as well. Yellow and red and blue all sorts of love cutting through the gray, rainy day. And you remember the most important part of the New York story: New York is hard … but man is it cool.

Thank you Kate and Andy for letting me share in your story today.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

The Moment Always Wins

130504 224936 28mm f2 5F

What we must remember as photographers that while we try our hardest to bring technical perfection to an image, there are other elements that are far more important: Emotion, storytelling, that perfect moment. At this moment, a groomsman was readying himself to jump into the groom’s arms on the dance floor. Connection, emotion, action.

This photo was taken at an adjusted ISO of 72,400.

I knew I wanted to get a lot of frames to tell the story of running and jumping, but I was shooting in a dark, hard-to-light area, so I knew my flash couldn’t keep up. I had my shutter speed at 1/250th to catch action, I had my aperture at f/2.5 so as not to be too shallow, so the only place to go up was ISO. I set my flash to a bit lower power setting to catch more frames, but still it had been working hard so it didn’t catch very many. And the adjusted ISO of the non-fired frames brings us to 72,400.

It’s a remarkable feat of the Nikon D4 and Lightroom that such an ISO even results in a recognizable photo. But of course there’s still plenty of grain. Did the guests mind? Does it ruin a moment between loved ones, an expression of years of fun and play and connection? Nope — whenever these shots came up on the same-day edit screen, people kept yelling “Guys, you have to see this!”

Yes, I’m a very technical photographer, and teach technique. Photography is both an art and a craft, and we do our best with both. But the moment always wins.

Camera: Nikon D4
Lens: Nikon 28mm f/1.8G

Worth the wait

Storyboard004

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

Storyboard001

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!

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.