Archive for the ‘Weddings’ Category

Amanda and James

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Amanda and James

 How far ahead someone selects the photographer for their wedding really varies.  For some, it may be within just a few months of their wedding.  For others, like Amanda and James, it could be as much as a year and a half out.  That’s why, much to their surprise, when Amanda and James approached me in the winter of 2008-09 looking for a photographer for their May 2010 wedding, I was not surprised.

Then, out of the blue several months later, Amanda called me with some terrible news.  Her father, Grant, had been diagnosed with cancer, with a rather gloomy prognosis of only a few months to live.  There was discussion of moving the wedding up to December 2009, and would I be flexible and able to move the date.  Of course, I responded.  But, ultimately, her father convinced her to keep her original wedding date and have the wedding she had dreamed of.  That got me to thinking about my role as the photographer and what I could do to help.  I always include an engagement portrait session in all of my packages.  I called Amanda and suggested that, instead of an engagement portrait session, why don’t we do a father-daughter portrait session?  Amanda liked the idea, and she was able to get David’s Bridal to have her wedding dress available for the session; Grant was able to secure a tux.  I set up lighting in her parent’s living room, and we spent about twenty minutes taking pictures.  Then, Amanda and her father had the dance that would have been the father-bride dance at the wedding reception.  I was grateful that I suggested the photo session, and even more so that Amanda and James had planned so far ahead.

Grant passed away five days later. Fortunately, I was able to process the images and post them online so he had a chance to see them with his daughter before he went beyond the veil.

Six months later, Amanda and James were able to have the wedding that they had planned for all those months.  The ceremony took place in Club Room 2 of the Hotel Captain Cook, with a view to the west and north over the Cook Inlet.  The reception was just down the hall in the Quarterdeck.  They went with the best for cakes and entertainment: Superstar Pastry for the cake, and Martin James from APE for the music and emcee.

But what Amanda and James also had going for them was a desire to do lots of portrait photos, and wanting to have fun doing them.  That really is what can make or break a photo session: the desire of the couple to take the time to relax, have fun, experiment a little and go with the flow.  As a result, I had several firsts for wedding portraiture: my first couple-in-a-tree portrait and my first Infrared portrait.  The IR photo can be a little challenging because the couple needs to remain perfectly still for thirty seconds.  But, Amanda and James pulled it off nicely, and we had the foliage of Town Square Park to help.

And throughout the evening, well after I was gone, a framed portrait of Amanda and her father sat on the parents’ table, watching over the evening’s festivities.  In the over twenty years I have been taking photos, that session with Grant and Amanda turned out to be the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

Alaska Bride & Groom coverage

Monday, July 6th, 2009
Alaska Bride & Groom coverage

Congratulations to Andrea & Mike, whose weddding I photographed aboard the S/V Alaska Rover last July in Resurrection Bay, for being featured in the current issue of Alaska Bride & Groom in the Local Weddings section.  I was also pleased to see the magazine refer to me as one of “Alaska’s top photographers” in an article designed to dispell wedding photography myths.

Melissa & Brad

Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Melissa & Brad

Whoever knew that pet stores had singles mixers? I didn’t until I met Meslissa and Brad and heard their story.  He had a rather large Alaskan Malamute – I thought it was a new species of brown bear when I first saw it – and she had a cat.  Well, the cat didn’t make it to the mixer hosted by the Animal Food Warehouse / Pet Zoo, but the dog, Kleco, did, and he was a big hit.  Fast forward a few years and Kleco not only had a special role in their meeting, but as the ring bearer at their wedding.

The location: Brad’s gold mining claim in the Turnagain Pass near Canyon Creek … well, actually, a hundred or so feet above the creek at the top of a sheer cliff.  When they explained to me that Brad hauls his dredging equipment down to the creek for winter mining operations, I just shuddered.  I’ve never been afraid of heights, but the sheer determination it takes to haul all of that gear down there and scavenge some gold out of the earth was simply astonishing.

The weather was perfect in that it did not rain.  Fortunately, it was not a completely flat overcast, providing some texture to the clouds.  In order to balance out the exposures a bit, I used a Lee 3-stop graduated neutral density filter on the camera with the 12-24mm lens so that the sky would not be too overexposed.  I had never used one before for action shots during a wedding ceremony, but it worked like a charm.

The reception took place under a rather large canopy tent, just below the canvas tent cabin that Melissa and Brad use when they are on the property.  They showed me around the property, including the hand-made outdoor hot shower system that Brad installed, powered by a car battery and heated by a propane tank, capable of heating up enough water for a thirty-minute shower.  Sure beats the bathing-by-sauna method I used for two years as a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.  There was a Mardi Gras-style decorated tree with hats, sunglasses, and a variety of toys and activities for the kids.  Nearby stood a table full of cans of Off for the expected mosquitoes … fortunately, they did not really come out.   The cake was something I had never seen before.  The outer part of the cake was made to look like a weaved basket, with the inner part a regular cake covered with chocolate truffles.  I actually thought it was a real basket at first.

The property offered a variety of opportunities for portraits, and the couple provided the personality to make the portraits really shine.  For the most part, I simply let the couple be themselves, offering little direction, and they gave me just what I needed to capture portraits that I hope show who they are.  One of the challenges in doing good wedding portraits as a photographer is to remember to keep my ego in check and allow the couple to just BE.  We also included a “Shotgun Wedding” group portrait, complete with three rifles, two semi-automatics,  and a lone rifle with Bayonet.   Now there is a keeper for a true Alaskan wedding group portrait.

Kerri & Ryan

Saturday, June 6th, 2009
Kerri & Ryan

After years of photographing weddings, I had a new “first” with my photographing of Kerri and Ryan’s wedding today.  I had my first “eHarmony” wedding (of course, I did not know that until the reception).  So, it is not just people on TV, it is real and happening right here in southcentral Alaska.

It was a great wedding to work as a photographer.  There are three elements that must come together to make for a fun wedding as a photographer.  First, you have to start with a fun couple and a fun, relaxed, easy to work with set of family and friends.  Second, it really helps to have venues for the ceremony and reception that are aesthetically pleasing.  Finally, for those outdoor portraits – and I love to do outdoor portraits, this is Alaska after all – the weather must cooperate.  I was fortunate to have all three with this wedding.

The ceremony was held at the United Methodist Church in Chugiak, on the Old Glen Highway just south of the South Birchwood exit.  It is oriented north-south, with high walls of glass at the front and back of the church.  While it made for a spectacular view behind the alter area, it also presented an exposure challenge – how to expose the ceremony correctly while not blowing out the background.  The answer – my 600 watt Norman strobe, which I used not only for portraits but for the ceremony.  It’s a beautiful church and the ceremony was short and quite nice.  Kudos to the pastor, Carlo, who moved here from the Philippines a year ago to lead the church, for a really nice ceremony.

The reception was held at the Millenium Alaskan Hotel (formerly the Regal), on the shores of the Lake Hood Seaplane Base, in the Reddington Ballroom.  As is often the case, I took far more photos at the reception than I did the ceremony.  The math is rather easy, really.  Receptions simply last longer, hours rather than minutes, allowing me to expend a lot of pixels.  But receptions bring out all kinds of things in people, from their inner groove to their happy face, making for all sorts of photo ops.  Take the flower girl, for example.  Shy and reluctant to do everything from formal portraits to walking down the aisle with the ringbearer, she let loose and became a dance diva at the reception.  It also helps to have a DJ who does a great job in working the audience … in this case, Brian from Alaska Professional Entertainment (APE).

As is often the case, I continued the formal portrait session at the reception site after all of the formalities were done.  I took Kerri and Ryan along the shores of the lake, working with the low evening light, plane houses, docks, and the occasional overflying float plane.  They were a great couple to work with, and allowed me to think creatively with their portraits.  I have been told by other couples that one thing they regretted from working with their wedding photographer was not taking enough time to do portraits.  It is always a pleasure to work with couples who recognize that.

And the weather continued my trend of perfect weather for weddings held on the first Saturday in June.

Christa and Jerry

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
Christa and Jerry

Opportunity is always around the corner if you are open to it. Nothing fits that concept better than photography. I had a contract back out and a couple getting married had their planned photographer back out and, the next thing you know, I am photographing the lovely wedding between Christa and Jerry at St. Innocent Russian Orthodox Cathedral in east Anchorage. It was my first Russian Orthodox wedding, so there were a lot of new things going on. It was also, of course, an entirely new venue for me, and without the advantage of a rehearsal to previsualize. After spending time taking some getting ready photos at the home of the bride’s mother, I arrived early at the church to check out the space. If this is any example, the Russian Orthodox Church truly knows how to make a church look like a church. Replete with icons, statues, and many other indicia of the culture, the interior of the church is simply gorgeous. I made sure to incorporate as much detail as possible into the portraits and ceremony photos. For the reception, I had the pleasure of exploring another beautiful venue, the Aleutian-Pribilof Islands Association building on International Airport Road. Fully decked-out for the holidays, the APIA building was a photographer’s dream, both on the inside and the out. Add to that a couple and guests who were very accommodating for photos, and I was happy to have lost out on another opportunity so I could have this one.

Taking a break

Friday, September 26th, 2008
Taking a break

When I told people all this year that I was getting married, the one thing that people consistently asked was, “Who is taking the photos?” My response: “Not me.” While I had already planned to leave my camera home and not even take candid photos after the ceremony, my then-fiance, now-wife, Michelle often reminded me that a camera might meet a violent end if it came with me to the ceremony. So, I took a break from taking photos on September 20 so that I could get married to a wonderful woman who wandered into my gallery a little over two years ago. Although it was raining on the day of our ceremony, we took time off with our photographer, Amber, the Friday after our ceremony when the weather improved to take some photos. I imagine this will be the only time I post a photo in this blog that is not mine.

Having a little fun

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008
Having a little fun

There are many ways to capture a couple’s portrait on their wedding day. There are a variety of traditional poses and expectations for what the wedding portrait should be like. I make it a point to capture an image that is natural to the couple’s personality and style. A lot of times that means doing things a little differently, capturing a portrait that goes outside of the norm. For Elizabeth and Kyle, who were married at Chapel 2 on Elmendorf Air Force Base, we took a variety of portraits inside the church and outside. From what I saw with the formal portraits before the wedding, however, I knew we could have a little fun with their couple portrait after the ceremony. This was the first thing that came to mind. The gentleman acting as “referee” was the Air Force chaplain who performed the ceremony.

Come what may

Saturday, July 26th, 2008
Come what may

As I was finishing up with the bat mitzvah ceremony from the morning, I was disappointed to see that it was still raining. Laura and Chris were getting married over at the Alaska Botanical Gardens and, rain or not, the ceremony was still going to be outside. I hoped that at least it would subside a bit. On m way over to the gardens and walking in, the rain seemed to have let down a little. Guests and family were still huddled under umbrellas and parked under display tents, set up to provide some shelter.

It was a challenging ceremony to photograph, with the core of the ceremony taking place underneath a tent. By the time it was over, though, the rain had ceased and the remaining overcast provided a perfect soft box for photographing portraits in the Herb Garden. Inspired by the architecture of the wood framing and the popping colors in the garden, I worked mostly on inspiration rather than planned poses. One of my favorites, posted here, shows Laura standing where I placed her, but with me capturing what started out to be a natural moment of her reaching for a flower. So much of photography is luck and inspiration, you simply have to be there at the right time with the right gear to make sure you can catch it.

A capital ship

Friday, July 11th, 2008
A capital ship

I had the distinct pleasure to photograph the wedding of Andrea and Mike out in Resurrection Bay. The platform … a 60-foot schooner called the Sailing Vessel Alaska Rover that is a replica of a blockade runner , owned by Sailing, Inc. based out of Seward. The seas and winds were ideal for sailing, and the ceremony and celebrations were replete with sailing traditions. Using a sword engraved with the couple’s name and their wedding date, the groom lopped off the heads of champagne bottles with abandon. Except, some of the more expensive bottles were resistant to the technique. The party was out in the Bay for about three hours before returning to harbor for dinner at Ray’s. The celebrations continue with a reception tomorrow. Great day for a wedding, with a great and lucky time to be the photographer tasked to capture this special ceremony.

Megan and Jeff’s wedding

Saturday, June 28th, 2008
Megan and Jeff's wedding

There are few more beautiful places on the road system in Alaska than Homer.  Nestled along the shores of Kachemak Bay with the iconic “spit” reaching out into the Bay’s waters, Homer is a worthwhile four hour trek from Anchorage.  Great arts, good local breweries, including the amazing Ring of Fire meadery, it is also a great place to get married.  Megan and Jeff chose the scenic Driftwood Inn along Bishop’s Beach for their ceremony location, with reception at the aptly named Land’s End Inn.  At the end of the Homer spit, the Land’s End is one of the best and most comfortable places in Alaska for prime bald eagle viewing.  We even had one land on a post a mere ten feet away from the balcony outside the reception room.  Congratulations to Megan and Jeff!  I am sure glad the rain stopped just in time for the ceremony.