September 30/2014

It’s Saturday morning.

Your stomach churns, your guts twist up in knots, and thoughts of what’s ahead pour into your mind. You stammer out of bed and screw up your courage, ready to put it all on the line.


You’ve followed Accuweather all week, you’ve got Dark Sky loaded, and your bag pulls like a ton of bricks with more gear than Batman and more cards than Vegas, because you’re ready to roll if the shit hits the fan, and you know what’s coming down the pipes.

It’s hard, it’s bruising, it takes everything you’ve got.

And you surely do know what’s coming, because you’ve cut out swaths of your life just to think about every single thing that could go wrong each step of the way. So much so, it sifts into your dreams and drifts into your head in the middle your days like a bolt from the blue. From the focus that won’t hit to the camera that could die. From filling your card right as the bride steps into the aisle to a flash running out of juice as the first dance kicks into gear. And despite that, something new goes wrong. Every. Single. Time.

Aimee Mann said it right:

It’s not what you thought
When you first began it
You got what you want
Now you can hardly stand it, though
By now you know
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop

Your world spins in perpetual motion, steady and ready on the outside, at the edge of control within, and in every moment of the day and every second that passes by, you’re forced to make the call. The information is a torrent, hitting your senses without a break. When’s the kiss happening? Are the place cards in place? And how much darker can it possibly get? A mom tells you not to miss this, your gut tells you not to miss that, and no matter what you decide and where you point and shoot, there will always be more to think about, more to consider, and more you’ll miss than you can possibly get.

It’s true. It doesn’t stop. But if you’re in it and at it, you have to decide whether you’re really going to do it, because there are only two ways out. Either quit early and cut your losses, or you make your way through to the other side. Just don’t stand in the middle of the road, where traffic will plow you down.

And it’s not just the shot that’s on the line, but your reputation, your livelihood, and every ounce of integrity you have. And integrity is no exaggeration, because it can bleed out faster than you can ask a bridal party to jump in the air.

Who are you, what do you say, and where are going? There’s nothing but nothing that won’t define who you are, as you constantly search the depths of your soul. Are you going to play it safe? Are you going all out? There’s every reason not to do anything and no reason not to do everything. It’s all in your hands.

It’s the middle of the road where you sell yourself short. The middle of the road, where you can’t do more than fight to survive. And there’s nothing wrong with survival, but you’re built for more than taking the hits. When you find what you have to say, every moment is an opportunity, and every act is a chance for self-expression.

Every weekend you pit you against you against you in a match to the death, and only one person makes it out of the ring. It’s a high wire act with an empty stomach, a full head, and a once in a lifetime day every single week, where only one missed shot can send you into a tailspin.

This is a world where everything’s a pitch. Five tips for this. Ten ways to do that. A single secret to conquer them all. You’ll learn how to spend more time avoiding work than doing it, which is the surest way never to get anything done, because the more you run, the more you feel the hurt, and the more you feel the hurt, the more you run. You create a cycle of detachment that exchanges the brilliance and clarity of the possible for a duller, more lifeless version of the now. Temptation will tell you to check your vision at the door for the promise of heaps of cash and unending ease, but muting your voice so you can just suck up the pain is too much to give. 

And it only gets harder when the week comes along. After 8 hours of standing and ten miles of walking, your feet are a wreck, your body is in shambles, and you still have the rest of your business to run. A slave to little, red notifications and emails received, you have blogs to follow, people to read, and the unending keep of your manicured digital front.

It’s never what you thought. It’s never what you’d hoped. Like love, reality is at its best and fullest when you take it for all that it is. It’s at its worst, when you can only wish it were something else. It’s never what anyone thinks, and that’s the beauty of it all. Only when you feel the texture of your life for good and for bad do you see how far you can go.

You blow through a day and get nothing done. A week passes by, and you forget what took place. You clean out your gear and sync up your clocks. You sort, you tone, and Friday comes around. You sneak out for some drinks, but you know just what’s in store. You pull out your phone and take a peek at the weather, and you brace yourself, so you can do it again.

Do it different. Do it fully. Dive right into the heart of it all, living and breathing every part of your life. Don’t focus on making more and doing less. Don’t think about just making it through. Steer into the skid, learn to love, and learn to find. Take problems out, leaving them down for the count, and don’t look for the answers you need. Answers curtail your options and limit your channels. Ask better questions, instead. Questions explode the possible, making the static, alive. If you’re chasing the dragon, the true high is never going to hit, but when you see the unlimited, you touch your purpose and feel your worth. Fun and fulfillment are the byproducts of a life fully lived. Live it all wholly and fully, and your Saturdays will never be the same.


August 31/2011

Photo by Alison Conklin

It’s often thought that good photos are complex photos. And while there are any number of complex photos that are great, the two don’t go hand in hand. Good photos are good photos. Complex photos are complex photos. But, in the end, no photo should be about technique alone. This is a simple moment from a basic angle. But it is clean, well-timed, and nicely-framed. Without reference to the speaker, we understand the sentiment, we can image the moment unfolding as the groom kisses the bride, and, truly the thing that makes it all come together, we understand her body language. Her head in her arm, her bridesmaids looking at her from behind, that nice bit of blur in front to help frame it all and make it a little more intimate – this is what a picture should be. Effective, clear, and evocative.

July 25/2011

Photo by Ira Lippke Studios

Humor is a hard thing to convey in a picture. I’m not talking about showing a picture of something funny going on. I’m talking about making a picture funny. Seeing the world and recognizing how it conveys a very specific idea that others will get is anything but easy. Humor tasks you with razor sharp perception and quick wit. You need to know on the spot what not just how you see a situation, but how people will react to it, and there’s no way to resort to visual devices for security. You have go all in and make sure it’s really about the moment.

This shot from Ira Lippke Studios grabbed my attention. It’s nicely-timed and well-observed with just the right type of deadpan composition that gives you no choice but to pay attention the people. It’s a nice play on what it is to get ready, letting the actions live and breathe in a field of photography that tends to veer towards sentimentality.

June 14/2011

Photo by Becky Holladay

It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to name this “Periodic Inspiration” instead. But that would sound lame. Fortunately, I still have a nice archive of images I’m working my way through, so with some luck, I can kick things in gear and put these up a little more regularly. I wonder to myself so often “How can I be so busy that I can’t get around to posting one picture each day?” Is it just me?

At bat today is Becky’s wonderfully moody getting-ready image. Beautifully exposed and nicely metered, going with the silhouette was a smart move. The stark black outline brings attention to the form of the body. You can feel the tension from her shoulders to her arms – it is exactly what it is like as we mold our bodies to the clothing we enter. Paired with the softness of the light, the dark surroundings, and the window in front of her, the image is a wonderfully simple and reductive example of the way photography works.

May 17/2011

Photo by Brian Dorsey of Brian Dorsey Studios

Sometimes, you see one of those structural shots – you know the ones – the type with the small bride and groom, all that wonderful light and form – but there’s just that little something lacking. It’s got show, but not enough go. Not here, though. This was taken right before the bride was about to walk down the aisle, and Brian has done a beautiful job with the symmetry and balance. Enough to bring it well beyond the ordinary. But what really differentiates it is the combination of that ethereal, white light, and the bride’s very human glance downward as her feet peek out from under the dress. The image possesses a delicate softness – a quiet use of space and light that create a memorable and surprising counterpoint to the anticipation we associate with the moment.

May 05/2011

Photo by Tatiana Garanina

Haven’t been able to keep up lately – so many shoots going on over here! But I’m back to it, and trying to get some posts in. Here’s one I was waiting to post for awhile. Sometimes, you just need to dream. Not literal, not documenting. Just atmosphere, just light, pattern, and a beautiful glance at one another that just hangs.

April 21/2011

Photo by Rebecca Meissner

See, now what did I say, right? Just a couple posts earlier, I said put the hand on the neck, and here you have it. Beautiful. It’s the type of thing only a romantic interest would do, so that hand conveys a distinct sense of intimacy. Rebecca has done a nice job adding two things to the mix. Shooting with the groom’s back to the camera was a nice choice. Just a little less common, and, more importantly functional. It not only gives the picture a more natural feel, as if you were peeking at them, but what truly makes it all come together is her expression. It’s a lovely smile, and she feels like she’s in the middle of it all, as if time were suspended, just like it should be.

April 20/2011

Photo by Susan Nel

Oh, deserts. You’ve gotta love deserts. It makes all the difference in the world. Walking on concrete side by side, not bad. But on sound. That’s just cool. Of course, I’m not all too familiar with the Namibian wedding photography scene, so maybe deserts feel normal over there, but to my eyes, I love them. Still, desert or not, the picture has the fundamentals. Good light, great flow, and genuine expressions. This is two people engaged in what they’re doing.

Now, some of you might know that I just put balloons on my kill list, so funny enough, as I clicked through Susan’s blog, I couldn’t help but notice a picture of the couple with the balloons, which you can see below. But you know what? It works for me. The desert makes all of the difference, giving it a grace and grandeur that is tamed by the balloons, making them a nice compliment. Without a doubt, in some sense, everything has been done. But what really makes things work is just that slight twist to keep it different. Where everyone else has been going vintage and country with balloons, Susan has gone classic and bold. Nicely done. Now if I could just find a way to transplant the desert to NYC.

April 12/2011

Photo by Carissa Gallo of For You Love Me

In my mind, this is exactly how a night on a porch feels. Which is funny, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually pictured from above in my head, and, yet, it gets it just right. If I were to say that looking for different ways to see something is everything here, I wouldn’t be doing the picture justice, though. What it really does is honor the simple things. Not the dramatic, I-really-wish-I-had-that-in-my-portfolio moments, but the basic connections between people. The important stuff, not just on your wedding day, but always. What better in life than you and your closest friends just being together, relaxed, on a warm summer night? I love the way everyone is facing the bride, and the image uses the simplest of visual devices to bring clarity and meaning. Color. Her white dress. The image is elegant in its simplicity. Lovely.

April 11/2011

Photo by Nick Tucker

There’s that certain window in which you can hit a shot. A quarter second earlier, and there’s nothing there. A quarter second later, and it all falls apart. This is a close call – there’s just that little bit of ambiguity you have to guess about in the meaning of the body position and the movement. However, Nick not only saves this shot, he lets it flourish through context and conviction. The dress flared out, her head tucked in, and a great bit of motion blur do the trick, allowing that ambiguity to deepen the mystery. We might not know what she feels, but there is little doubt she’s right in the moment, and that keeps us in there. Framed with restraint, the balance of the doorway, the crowd, and the bride tells a wonderful story with great clarity.