I don’t do many kids’ photos professionally … though as more and more of my wedding clients start having children, that may change. I have always loved babies, but they certainly do present an interesting challenge. Usually a couple will not cry through 95 percent of a shoot.
It’s my last full day in Puerto Rico, ending the first dedicated-to-relaxation vacatiom I’ve ever taken. That definitely has to change, since now I feel ready to shoot a billion or so weddings back to back with energy, vigor, and a bit more of normal-human flesh tone.
Thanks again to my assistant Thomas for taking care of the shop even while I’m away. I know the first week of January is slow in the Northern US, but it’s important to me to have my clients be able to be connected to us at all times.
As those who follow my Twitter or Facebook know, the trip has not been without mishap. Like Odysseus, I clearly got on the wrong side of the god of the sea, and he sent a freakishly large wave to swamp all of my shorebound equipment with a destructive mix of water, salt, and mud, so my friends at Adorama can expect a visit when I get back!
On the plus side, I spent the day taking some of my favorite fashion images I’ve ever taken, including one that may be my favorite I’ve ever seen! That one to come as soon as I get real Internet service.
(Since I’m generally my harshest critic, you can probably guess it’s a little … off.)
For quick snaps, I’ve been loving the TrueHDR and ProHDR apps for the iPhone. HDR is so often gaudy in photography, but it’s perfect to counteract the limited dynamic range of a camera phone to take pictures more like what you actually see. ProHDR has more features, but I like the simple functionality of TrueHDR better for snapshots. Here’s one of where I’m sitting now.
This is why I’ve been getting increasingly angry texts from all my frozen New York friends. Well, I’ll be sharing your misery soon!
I had such a fantastic New Year’s Eve, thanks to being around some great people. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico with some new friends. One of them was originally from the area, and had an invitation to a party for friends and family at one of his mother’s friends’ houses. It sounded like such a change from the normal club scene that we had to take up the offer.
I’m glad we did. Everyone was so warm and inviting, celebrating first the San Juan-time New Year’s and then the New York-time New Year’s with dancing and an amount of fireworks that would get you thrown into a federal penitentiary in New York. Since I decided against bringing my expensive Nikon D3s out on New Year’s, I captured the scene with my friend’s automatic point and shoot, the Canon 780. I embraced the limitations, switching to black and white mode, pushing it to ISO 1600, and pre-focusing and metering so I could get the shutter speeds and exposures I wanted. Whereas the D3s can capture pretty much any scene with more literalism and detail than your eyes can, here I embraced the expressionistic quality of a limited camera. And I had a great time — as my friend said, “These look like you spent New Year’s in Beiruit!”
A few more:
Through the magic of technology, I am posting all of these photos even though I am currently on a short vacation in Puerto Rico with some friends, including Mae, pictured above. She’s more entrepreneur than model, though, and we’re spending most of today shooting other models for a great new project has going, so watch this space!
I’m going against the grain and starting with something old. In the nearly 4 and a half years since I took this, about 1,400 Flickr users have marked this as a favorite. It’s not my most popular image there anymore, but before I fell in love with wedding photography this picture was in some ways a symbol of my work and sensibility.
But I’ve never said anything more about it. I had just gotten a new lens (the old version of the 70-200 VR), and wanted to take it out for a test — where better than the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I saw this girl sitting there, mesmerized by this painting, from the side, and I immediately knew how it would look from behind.
But, of course, the 70-200 isn’t a short lens, particularly given the 1.5x crop of the D70s I was using. So I had to get back … WAY back. Luckily the Met has room for that sort of thing. Luckier still, she was still mesmerized by the time I lined up the photo. As I clicked the shutter, two tourists came beside me and looked at what I was shooting.
“Oh man! That’s a great shot!” They fumbled with their cameras, but she was gone.
There are a lot of issues with photographing children — this is a country where people can have the police called on them for photographing their OWN kids — but at the time I was a photographer for Columbia University Teachers College, and I got very used to taking photos of the backs of kids’ heads as compositional elements if their parents hadn’t signed the model releases. Luckily no security guards decided to tackle me.
Anna and Thomas were kind enough to plan their wedding at the All Souls Unitarian Church on the Upper East Side, about 500 feet from my studio, and they had the foresight to plan it long before I moved there! Actually, we met way back when I was still working as a photographer for Columbia University, where Thomas researches. Anna is a Harvard alum, and the erudition showed — this was the first and only time I have ever seen a couple’s shared love of yeast research mentioned in several speeches. (Anna’s father perhaps said it best, noting his personal love of yeast and the wonderful things it gives us, including bread and beer.)
The reception was at the gorgeous Metropolitain Building at Long Island City — a location so fantastic and wonderful that we came back there again a few days later for another shoot! (You can see samples from that shoot on my Facebook page). Clearly, I couldn’t get enough of either the space or these two.
Lauren and Jeff had a Halloween wedding, but not because of any special desire for a Frankenstein-themed wedding; they met on Halloween night years before, at a bar that neither of them normally went to. So there were no tricks but plenty of treats — and not just the giant table of candy, making sure the kids (and adults) at the wedding didn’t miss out on an annual opportunity to sate their sweet tooth. The reception was at the stately Round Hill House in Washingtonville, NY, and featured not just a live band, but Lauren’s dad stepping in on electric guitar for a number or two. (Not, for obvious reasons, “Your Mama Don’t Dance (And Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll)”
Again, as is contractually obligated in 2009, it rained just in time for the ceremony, but with a gorgeous church, great couple, and extremely personable minister, it was hard to notice the trivial details, and it was a great night throughout, as you can see:
To say that Katty and William’s wedding was an intricate affair would be gross understatement. The couple’s day was more than 20 hours long, and I was there for 16 of them. It was crazy from the start, when William and his friends had to play a traditional Chinese wedding game of convincing the bridesmaids to let the groom’s men (and woman) inside the house. The bridemaids decided that if William couldn’t answer obscure questions about Katty (such as who her 3rd grade teacher was), they would have to eat tomatoes filled with wasabi. Real wasabi.
There were multiple tea ceremonies at the bride’s and groom’s parents’ houses, with a beautiful Western ceremony at the groom’s parents’ house. From there, it was a battle against Long Island traffic to a huge Chinese banquet in Flushing, with 480 guests. Do you know how many suckling pigs it takes to feed 480 people? Well now I do, since they all came out in an endless stream, LED lights glowing over their eyes.
And that’s just the most cursory breakdown. You’ll probably want to watch the slideshow to get the whole feel of the day. But for now, pictures:
Who said that we don’t get into the holiday spirit?
The only Photoshop on this was high-pass sharpening for that contrasty look — that glowing door doesn’t lead anywhere, it was closed and only about four inches deep. The light was entirely accomplished by two SB-900s parked behind Brendan.
This has been the wildest year of my life by a very, very wide margin, and I have been blessed by being able to see and photograph so many great things. I’m already excited about the places 2010 is going to take me. Hope to see you along for the ride!
William and Katy — two image flash composite, so I could make a single SB-900 through an umbrella powerful enough to light f/18. You can learn this stuff too at my workshop!
Wedding photographers live irregular lives, and it can get in the way of blogging. But I’m going to try something new and see how it goes. Starting on 1/1/10, I will post an image every workday at exactly 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
As you have probably guessed, these will be posted by robotic schedules, as I will be asleep somewhere in Puerto Rico at 9 a.m. on January 1st. Some will be old stuff that hasn’t been here, and some will be brand-new stuff, but it should give you something new to look at whenever you come by!
(Candid from recent wedding, bounced off close ceiling to far left)
I loves me some Strobist. David Hobby has completely changed the popular conception of what your average photographer can do with flash light because of his dedication, creativity, and clear writing. But he said something once that made me gasp in horror, and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since — that the light you get when you bounce an on-camera flash off something all looks pretty much the same.
OK, I get what he’s saying. I love bounce flash because it’s convenient and allows me to provide decent light pretty much everywhere, but simple physics tells us that if your light source is large and far away (like, say, an entire illuminated patch of ceiling), then everything is going to be illuminated pretty much evenly. And, as Joe McNally keeps hammering home, if you want a scene to be as interesting as possible, don’t light all of it.
But the truth is that there are as many different flavors of bounced light as there are things to bounce off of. Want to control the light? Simple — get closer to your source (narrowing the spread). Kind of hard with ceilings, but pretty easy with walls. Want an instant tungsten gel on your light? Bounce your flash off of some wood. And, of course, there can be value in mixing a total, even fill of ceiling bounce with some more direct, Strobist-style light — evening out tones and lightening shadows. Heck, you can even get hard directional light if you’re near mirror-like surfaces.
It’s worth experimenting with. Try bouncing off of a really low ceiling and see what the challenges are — low-enough ceilings can give light almost as hard as direct flash. Then try bouncing off something really far away and see what settings work for you (try high ISO, low aperture, high shutter speed to start). See what the differences in light quality give you. Try walls, ceilings, even floors. Heck, I made do for an entire outdoor wedding by bouncing off of the trunks of palm trees. Go nuts.
Someone asked me recently, “Why are some people focused on creating ‘timeless images?’ Everything has a time and place. Weddings dresses get dated, hairstyles place you, so what is timelessness?”
It’s a fair question. Why avoid the major fads in wedding photography just because someone could look back at it and say “Oh, that was taken in 2009?” After all, you already know when the couple got married.
I guess the real question is: Will your images age well? Wedding photography is one of the few forms where it really, really matters what you’ll think of the photos in 30 years. No matter what changes technology makes, no matter what is hard now that will be easy then, people should feel good about their photos. And there are plenty of fads that make perfectly great photos — tilt-shift lenses come to mind.
But who can know the future? Why do we still love the classic tux after so many years but cringe when we see bell-bottoms? What the heck were wedding photographers thinking in the 80′s when they put couples heads in brandy glasses and floated parents’ heads over the ceremony? Well, it was hard to do then, so it was cool, and Uncle Bob couldn’t do it. But that, suffice to say, has aged poorly, while much older photography is still admired today. Try not to admire the work W. Eugene Smith did more than 60 years ago, among thousands of others of old masters.
We know exactly when the V-J Day kiss took place, but it still resonates strongly. So what’s the difference? I came up with an answer that seems as good to me as any:
“Moments are timeless; tricks may not be. And this comes from someone who knows a lot of tricks.”
Technology changes, cultural norms change, but emotions are emotions and images that convey real feeling may not be truly timeless, but they’ll age well.
(Photo at top: Remember Dana and Wes? That was an unposed moment. I was thinking about them today when I was listing clients who now have beautiful children).
I had a great time last night seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Highline Ballroom with my friend and fellow photographer Rachel Kemble. I’ve always loved swing music — especially since, while having absolutely no talent for musical performance, I love to dance. We picked up some press passes from the staff, and I had fun shooting a lot of video with the Nikon D3s. I’ll cut it together properly after Christmas, but here’s a quick clip. I’m pretty impressed by the sound on the D3, since this was all with the built-in mic.
While I shot mostly video, of course I took a few photos. After the show the band had me set up a quick group shot. I had no flash and the stage was being broken down so I couldn’t use the stage lights as a backdrop, but figured the festive lights were a good accent for the end of their holiday tour.
Rachel, shooting away
If you’re on the Eastern seaboard, you’re probably having an interesting night. I decided to take the D3s out for a little walk, before common sense got the better of me. But here’s a snippet of what the blizzard is doing in NYC now. How is it where you are?
Click on the photo for the HD video.