It was really nice to get out of the house and feel brave enough to bring our new baby to a public place. It seems that walking with Maeve in a baby carrier or pushing her in the stroller, makes her really really happy. And to top it off, it also makes her tired enough to sleep at night. A perfect combo.
This is the one time of the year that I’m not jetting about or shooting wedding photos in Seattle. I’m so happy that Maeve was born at THIS time of the year so that we can take her to places like the Frye Art Museum (with its amazing ‘Tete-a-Tete’ Frye personal painting collection as seen above) without feeling stressed by work yet to be finished at the studio.
Wedding photography season is just around the corner, but for now Robin and I are having a great time in our new life together as parents.
I get questions nearly everyday in my inbox asking for photography advice. The questions range from how to use a tilt-shift lens, to how to approach and work with people to get genuine and emotional photographs. For the most part, I am able to respond to each email and help in any way I can. I believe that sharing my knowledge is the best way for me to grow as a photographer.
The only problem is when I am asked to give feedback on the portfolio and vision of a fellow photographer. There is no efficient and organized way to do so. Until now that is. That’s why I’m happy to announce my partnership with Photosynesi.
Photosynesi is a website devoted to connecting mentors with photographers of all levels looking for honest-to-goodness real feedback. Not the kind of feedback you see on Flickr (always positive and never constructive nor thoughtful), but more of the kind of the feedback that will transform the way you shoot and help propel you to the next stage of your photography, whether it be as a professional or an enthusiast.
I hope you enjoy it. I’m excited to be a pioneer with this new platform.
Congratulations to Tara and Bret! Your wedding is featured in Eco-Beautiful Weddings Magazine.
It was so cool to see the story and layout. Again an honor.
Click here to see Tara and Bret’s Mt. Rainier wedding on this blog.
In the second part of Behind the Scenes: Row Boat Engagement, I want to talk about the power of shooting with film and directing.
Why film? Why is it special?
Film is the opposite of digital. It is grainy, often imperfect, and organic in feel. It is the equivalent of a vinyl record (as opposed to an MP3.)
Over the last few years, many photographers have turned towards ever more megapixels, sharper and sharper images (unnaturally sharp if you ask me) and crazy over-saturation and contrast. Digital photography made people excited because you could tweak the image SO MUCH in Photoshop.
Eventually, images were being tweaked with unnatural textures, crazy toning, and more. I have nothing against it, but it is not something that I like to do. I want my images to have an emotional impact as a result of the natural chemistry of the subjects, the lighting, and the imperfection of the natural image itself when captured. I don’t want to manufacture that emotion.
So how can you get something to naturally look ‘vintage’? Well, try shooting film.
Each type of film has its own look built into it. You don’t even have to spend hours behind the computer trying to make a digital image look like it was pulled from an old shoebox.
In this case, I shot Fuji 400H, underexposed 2 stops and pushed 1 stop in developing. Why? Because I knew that this combination of intentional under-exposure and then pushing the development, would produce a very moody, grainy look.
Like something from a French film (at least that was the thought going through my head when I shot this).
If I expose the same film correctly for the exposure, the mood changes and you get a nice airy and clean photo with muted colors:
Now that I had the look I wanted, I had to create the right mood. It is all about directing, which is the real reason a professional photographer should shoot your wedding photos.
What is directing?
Think of it as directing a film. You have your subjects, you have the light, and you have a great setting. The last thing that will make or break a great photo is how you direct your subjects.
I’ve never had professional models as clients. With most wedding or engagements, I’m working with people who are camera-shy. By carefully directing people and making them feel comfortable, you can achieve amazing things. Through directing, you can amplify the emotion of an image, making something uniquely beautiful for a couple.
For this particular picture, I waded into the water with my Contax 645 and a 80mm f2 lens (equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera.) Shooting wide open at f2, I directed the couple into position, and then talked to them about this moment and their upcoming wedding to get them to relax, open up to each other, and create a beautifully moody photo.
Almost anyone can learn how to operate a camera. And, anyone with enough patience and money can learn to confidently shoot film.
‘Directing’ on the other hand, is something that takes a lifetime to master. I feel like a beginner with directing, but I understand the importance of it. I think it is ultimately the vision and the ability of a photographer to direct people that justifies hiring a wedding photographer at all. As digital cameras continue to improve and it gets harder to ‘take a bad picture,’ personal vision and directing will become the most important factor in choosing a photographer.
This was one of my favorite engagement shoots of the year.
Adrienne and Mark met at Berkeley while in graduate school. When they came out to Washington for the Summer, we set up an engagement shoot at one of my favorite places, the Washington Park Arboretum.
We rented an aluminum rowboat and rowed across lake Washington into the arboretum at the golden hour. I think it was about 2 hours from sunset.
My idea for this shoot was to capture the magic of a warm summer day, with the classic romanticism associated with riverboats, rowboats, and old French movies. Climbing to the very end of the bow, I was far enough away to create environmental portraits of Adrienne and Mark, while not being so far away that the portrait would lack intimacy (like standing on the river bank and shooting with a long lens.)
As we maneuvered the boat to a specific area of the arboretum, I made sure to keep the setting sun behind Adrienne and Mark allowing for a golden rim-light. I exposed for the shadows and the result was exactly what I was hoping for: Beautiful skin tones, great rim-light, gorgeous background colors, and most importantly a directed but natural moment of real romance.
For the pixel peepers out there:
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.4 lens, shot at f2
No flash or reflectors. I prefer natural light.
In the next part I will show a different photo from the engagement shot on medium format film with my Contax 645. It has a completely different feel.
To see the rest of the photos from this set click here.
How do I explain how it feels? I guess nothing can really prepare you for being a parent, much less the feelings you will have for your baby.
When I look at baby Maeve, I’m hypnotized.
I look at her eyelashes, the little wrinkles on her arms and legs, her soft red hair, and her perfect smooth skin. I can’t believe it is possible that Robin and I created such a beautiful and perfect being.
I am totally in love with her, think about her to the exclusion of everything else, and have a constant warm calming joy in my heart.
Born at 10:30pm on December 26th, 2010, Maeve narrowly escaped the fate of those born on Christmas day: having your birthday the same day as Jesus. I know. Tough act to follow.
Of course it won’t be entirely easy to round up all of Maeve’s friends the day after Christmas for her birthday party, but I can tell you for sure – it would be IMPOSSIBLE if she had been born on Christmas.
Robin and I spent two days at the hospital where I quickly learned some basics of being a father: how to swaddle and soothe my baby, how to take care of my lovely wife after almost 24 hours of labor, and how to hold a new being, my own baby girl, through the night, trying to help her sleep as she experienced her first few hours in the real world. It must have been terrifying for her.
Now we are at home and adjusting to an entirely new life. Robin and I spend each day revolving around baby Maeve’s needs. It’s almost as if the outside world did not exist at all. I will try to sneak out a blog post soon, but don’t expect much until the pieces of my new life have settled into a more regular pattern.
My advice to new parents? Watch the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and do EXACTLY what it tells you to do. It’s like magic. I feel like a ‘baby whisperer’ already.
Second thing – get an Ergo Baby Carrier so you can put your newborn to sleep and keep her asleep with the movement of your body. It will allow you to do basic things such as use a remote control, pour a glass of orange juice, and yes, even write a blog entry.
Without a baby carrier it is impossible. Trust me.
As my friend Frank Huster wrote to me recently: ‘Welcome to fatherhood and the beginning of the second part of your life.’
It is so true. And completely wonderful.
It’s been a really good year. Robin and I have both done what we love and continue to pursue careers that fulfill us. Robin’s food blog is taking off and she is having a great time making friends in the food world and getting her writing recognized for how great it is. I’m very very proud of her.
This year, I celebrated the first year of my new beautiful studio loft in Seattle where I can look out over the city and work on photos all day long. It’s my favorite thing to do (besides shooting of course.)
I’ve pushed myself hard and found new ways to express myself in my photography. I’ve starting shooting completely with my own vision, applying this advice a great teacher told me:
“Shoot with your heart, not with your head.”
Thanks Peter Schwepker for that wisdom. Over time, I realize it is the only truly important lesson to learn about photography.
The biggest and best part of the year though, is this week. This is the week (fingers crossed) that Robin and I will have our first baby.
For months now we’ve been getting ready. We’ve painted and stocked a cute little nursery. We’ve had a baby shower and received almost everything we could need from our wonderful friends. We are as physically and materially prepared as we can be.
But it has also been a roller coaster of emotion. What will it be like to have a baby? Will I be a good father? Will I be able to balance my work with my family? Will I teach her what she needs to know to have a good life?
One of the reasons I chose to focus on wedding photography (out of all the ways I could express myself through photography) is for the lifestyle it allows me. I can be both creative and be there for my family. I look forward to being able to play with my little girl on weekdays and rock her to sleep in her rocker at my studio as I work on the computer, editing weddings and portraits.
Yesterday was the ‘official’ due date for us to have our baby girl. Today is the first day of being overdue. I know the baby will come when she is ready, but now, all of the sudden, I just can’t wait to meet her. I feel like life and everything else is on hold as we wait for this special perfect being to enter our lives. I want to hold her, teach her, and give her my love. All of it.
As I type this, I realize tonight could be the night. If it is, or if it is a few days from now, I will be sure to share my experience with my family, friends and you, the reader.
Wish us luck!
Last Sunday, I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of Shawn and Dyan. They’re an amazingly sweet couple whose first date was on Shawn’s birthday. Little did he know the true gift he was receiving.
The wedding, which began in Magnolia at the Magnolia United Church of Christ, was a refreshingly intimate affair. The couple did their absolute best to make the ceremony and events surrounding the wedding inclusive. It was clear this was the forming of a family and not just a marriage between two people. Declan, who is Shawn’s son, was included in all the special moments. He wore a Superman cape and charmed everyone. At the end of the ceremony, Shawn and Dyan called out to Declan as they walked down the aisle. Declan ran and jumped into their arms. It was so sweet.
Arctic Club Hotel
700 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
The Arctic Club Hotel is famous for the unique architecture on the exterior of the building, which is adorned with gold paint and sculpted walruses. This theme is also carried throughout the new hotel.
From the Arctic Club, we drove to a small park in Magnolia, Magnolia Park, where we stopped for a few minutes to take photos. Even though it was a winter day, the sky was beautiful and the air was still. It was really a nice quiet moment before the beginning of the ceremony.
I love how happy everyone was at the Magnolia Church of Christ before, during and after the ceremony.
3555 West McGraw Street
Seattle, WA 98199-3213
Phone: (206) 283-1788
Fax: (206) 283-1534
Shawn and Dyan are lucky to have so many people that love them. It’s really one of my favorites parts of any wedding: seeing friends and family come together to support a newly wedded couple!
The details at the Arctic Club Hotel are really interesting. I felt like I was in the home of a world explorer.
The most stunning part of the hotel, however, is the Northern Lights Dome Room where the couple’s reception took place. The ceiling of the room is a spectacular dome, which gives off an ethereal quality and atmosphere. It’s probably one of the most picturesque venues in Seattle.
Seeing Shawn and Dyan dance together under the dome was really moving. They have a strong love and I am proud to have been chosen to document their special day.
WEDDING PLANNER: Wedding Planning by Stephanie Solomon, Solomon Events
Sunday was amazing. Shawn and Dyan are amazing.
Whether we were up in a tree, running through the rain, cruising around town in a 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II (only 75 left in the world), or taking in the beauty of the Seattle’s Arctic Club Hotel ballroom - Shawn and Dyan’s wedding was an adventure!
I’m still working on the photos from their lovely wedding at the Arctic Club Hotel in Seattle but I can’t resist posting this sneak peek. More to come soon!
Arctic Club Hotel
700 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104