Expressing My Personal Perspective through Wedding Photographs

Summer is the season for weddings. They start in May and for every weekend through the end of September, caterers, photographers, florists, musicians, DJs, and planners are booked solid. Two weekends ago, I attended, for instance, to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding and two weekends before that I went to the wedding of the daughter of a close friend.

Sometimes it’s hard to get an image of the wedding couple sharing what seems to be an intimate and private moment. They were between photos with the ‘official’ photographer, when I saw them caught up in laughter and snapped this image.

As a the daughter of a professional photographer, I spent countless weekends at weddings assisting my Dad behind the camera. (This was a big help when it came to planning my own wedding years later because by that time, I had been to and seen so many weddings that I knew exactly what I wanted to do for our own.) The routine was a bit different then. We could shoot three weddings in one day–morning, afternoon and evening– with either myself or one of my brothers finishing up at one wedding while my Dad went to start the next.

My cousin beamed with pride when he had his Father-Daughter dance at his daughter’s wedding. I had my Nikon pro camera with me that evening and good lens so I managed to snag this image of him when he turned on the dance floor with his daughter, the bride. Sometimes, it’s not all about the bride.

That era ended with photographer Dennis Reggie in 1980, who Ethel Kennedy had hired to ‘cover’ her daughter’s wedding. Reggie, a photojournalist, took the assignment and then hit the professional photography speaking circuit to show and tell professional photographers all over the country how he did it.  I attended one of these sessions and knew then that the art of wedding photography, as I had learned it from my Dad, was changing.

The mother of the groom is usually much more relaxed and available during any wedding but is sometimes overlooked n the ‘official’ documentation. I caught Sheila at a moment when no one else did.

When digital cameras were introduced, it changed yet again because photographers could capture literally thousands of images at the ceremony. They soon discovered that this wasn’t such a great idea because clients were overwhelmed by that many images. Too much of a good thing, you might say.

Wedding photographers have since trimmed it back to a more reasonable delivery but some still present as many as 1,500 images. Think of the editing process entailed in cropping, adjusting color, retouching, adding special effects and eliminating  all those images. The post-production often takes longer than the 12 hours wedding photographers now typically spend photographing the event. I’m not sure even National Geographic magazine photographers turn in that many images to their editors.

Toasting the Bride and Groom
Taken with my pocket point and shoot, I raised a glass to toast Yuliya and Yama at their wedding and took this image while I did,

While I rarely accept wedding assignments these days as a professional photographer (except for special clients and smaller ceremonies), I almost always take one of my cameras with me whenever I go to a wedding because I, like you, enjoy having a visual memory of that day, particularly when family is involved.  Usually I take my pocket point and shoot, or my bigger but compact trusty Canon (yes, I do own one Canon), instead of one of my professional Nikons. I seldom use my mobile phone to take the pictures even though some phones images are terrific. But when it comes to preserving those images in the form of prints (which I still make and encourage you to do) or printed albums or books, cameras produce the higher quality high-resolution images you need.

My friend the mother of the bride, was way to busy the day of her daughter’s wedding to stop for many photos, but I managed to get her beside the ‘cookie instead of cake’ table during the reception.

For me, the images I capture on that day are personal and often are not the same as those the ‘official’ photographer is shooting.  That’s because while the hired gun is busily photographing every moment of the bride and groom and the wedding party, I’m focusing on my family and friends who are there, and the moments that capture my eye from my point of view as a guest. It’s something you can do too but you must be mindful to respect the working pro so as not to get their way as they attempt to capture the ‘perfect’ photo of ceremonial kiss,  the cake cutting, send off or formal portrait of the bride and groom.

From my seat. I was able to get the groom, Matt, and one of the bridesmaids boogeying during the processional. Note the photographer in the background, Matt s brother, the officiant, and the mother of the bride enjoying the moment on the left. I love this scene because of its spontaneity.

There are ways to get those same images, from your own vantage point. I like to find a seat on the end of a row where, if I want to stand during the ceremony to grab a quick shot, I won’t block anyone’s view. And while the official photographer is off shooting the bride and groom immediately after the ceremony, you can zero in on the family, the cake table, the altar decorations, whatever it is that attracts your eye and you want to remember.

Ringbearer Brody stands beside the table bearing the Bible and center candle that belonged to my aunt. The table, also my late aunt’s, served as the altar at my cousin Anna’s recent wedding.

Sometimes, it turns out that the images I’ve captured are ones that my family or friends also want because unless the bride and her mother (or whoever plans and directs that day) specifically point out the family member who’s never around, the best friend who traveled across country, the arrangement or setting that has special significance, the official photographer will never know to include it in their shooting list.

My aunt and uncle with my cousin Barry at his wedding reception is a special image. Only 18 months later, my aunt passed away from complications of dementia.

As a guest and/or family member, I have a history and relationship with the people gathered for this memory-making day so I know things others won’t and that is  reflected in my photographs.

I took this of Yuliya and Yama with my compact Canon while the ‘official’ photographer was shooting on the other side. Later, I used Photoshop to improve the exposure, give it a painted appearance and heighten the romantic feel of the image.

I love today’s style of photojour-nalistic wedding photography. I also love being artistically creative with the images I take at these ceremonies. But what I really love is the memories they bring to mind of the people, places and times that are unique and meaningful to me and my family.  And that’s essentially what wedding photography, whether from a hired pro or personal photographer such as myself, should be.

Love is in the Air

‘Spring, as the poet Alfred Tennyson wrote, “is a time when a young man’s” (or woman’s) “fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”  Judging from the number of wedding photos posted by friends on their Facebook pages the past couple of weeks, nothing has changed since Tennyson penned those words in 1842.  In fact, I shared a few pictures with my family members of my own parents’ wedding who were married on April 9, 1946.

My father, who passed away a year ago only three days after what would have been their 68th wedding anniversary, said that the day they were married was ‘the happiest day of my life.” They celebrated 66 anniversaries together. It’s become rare to find couples of subsequent generations who have stayed together that long and who are still so deeply in love.

On their wedding day in Phoenix, my parents were pictured here, so in in love, in Phoenix' beautiful Encanto Park.
On their wedding day in Phoenix, my parents were pictured here, so in in love, in Phoenix’ beautiful Encanto Park.

I have on the mantel of my living room fireplace a framed photo of my parents on their wedding day. They were married in Phoenix, Az., when the city had not quite reached the population of 100,000.  My father had recently returned from serving in Europe in World War II. (His unit, the 2nd Chemical Warfare Battalion saw more days in combat than any other in Europe except for one.)  Upon his discharge, he headed home for Kansas.  No sooner had he arrived than one of his older sisters introduced him to a young woman with whom she worked at the local savings and loan bank.  I think it must have been love at first sight although my Dad never put it quite that way.

My Mom poses as a USO girl where she was chosen USO queen.
My Mom poses as a USO girl where she was chosen USO queen.

My mother was a beautiful young woman who had volunteered at the local USO. She loved to dress stylishly and somehow managed to do it on her small salary as executive secretary to a bank president. She had moved after high school from her tiny hometown of Aurora, Missouri to the then prosperous railroad town of Parsons  when she received a scholarship to attend the Parsons Business College. She had excelled in the courses of shorthand (a vanishing, if not gone, art of note taking), bookkeeping and typing. After graduation, she quickly landed the job at the bank where my father’s sister also worked. His sister was convinced that my Mom was the ideal girl for her handsome, younger brother.

"She must have really loved me," my Father would recall years later.
“She must have really loved me,” my Father would recall years later.

They were introduced and two short weeks later, my Dad told her that he wanted to marry her.  As he put it, “I told her that if she didn’t marry me, I was going to re-enlist in the Army.” Now that was determination. Shortly after his proposal, he left town to travel with his older sister and her husband and race greyhounds.  My uncle owned a large kennel of dogs (another story for another blog post) and needed someone like my Dad to help out.  My Dad said that his sister convinced him to come with them because, in his own words, “I was a mess after the War and that helped to straighten me out.”

He wound up in Phoenix where there was (and still is) a greyhound race track.  I think he wired–rather than mailed–his beloved to come join him so that they could be married.  My mother had, by then, a little time to think over his proposal and must have loved him as much as he loved her because she accepted.  But when she asked her boss permission to take a week off to go to Phoenix for the wedding, he declined and told her that if she went she would lose her job.  She went anyway. Later, my father would tell me; “She must have really loved me to take such a chance, quit her job and go to Phoenix to marry a guy who didn’t have anything at the time.”

My mother and father oustide the church in Phoenix after their wedding.
My mother and father oustide the church in Phoenix after their wedding.

She and her oldest sister traveled down to Arizona. I don’t know if they went by car or train but they went together. It must have been quite an adventure for neither of them had ever been out of the Midwest.  I never heard the details of that trip from my mother but I’ll bet it was exciting for them both. My mother packed a gorgeous, tailored suit as her wedding dress. My aunt chose her best suit to wear as the ‘matron of honor.’

My Dad dressed in a sharp, light-colored double-breasted suit. (They don’t make those kind anymore). Whether he had brought it with him or bought it with his earnings from the dog track I don’t know. But the two of them together looked stunning and very much in love.

They were married in the chapel of the majestic First Baptist Church built in 1929 of Italian Gothic design. The church, abandoned 40 years later by the congregation, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has fallen into decline after fire there in 1980 but just last year, historic preservationists and architects in Phoenix launched an effort to restore it to its former glory and re-purpose it for new use.  When my own husband and I were to be married in Phoenix, where we were both working at the time as journalists for the local newspaper, I chose to have our own wedding in that very same church.  The building was owned by the city at the time and was being used for city offices. We had to obtain permission from the city then go in and clean up the sanctuary–the chapel was closed–in order to have our ceremony there. But we did it and I’m very grateful we did.

Showered with rice, my husband and I emerge from the church in  Phoenix where we and my parents were both married.
Showered with rice, my husband and I emerge from the church in Phoenix where we and my parents were both married.

My parents were unable to pay a professional Phoenix photographer to record their wedding day. Instead I have snapshots, probably taken by my aunt with some instruction by my Dad who was leaning towards a career in photography but hadn’t yet begun it.  None exists of the ceremony itself. The few photos I have were taken outside the church entrance and at Encanto Park, a beautiful old park with a large lagoon in Central Phoenix’s still-posh Encanto neighborhood. They tell the story in themselves of a young couple, so in love, on their wedding day.

 

The Last Supper

Everyone who celebrates Easter has their own holiday memories. It may be waking up early to attend a sunrise service at their church. Or hopping out of bed to find the multi-colored candy eggs that the Easter bunny has hidden. Or smelling the sweet fragrance of an Easter lily and winding up with a bright yellow nose from the plant’s powdery stamens. (Studies tell us that smells are our strongest memory associations).  As a child, my family did all of these things to celebrate Easter. But for me, some of my happiest and most vivid memories of the holiday were the family ‘suppers’ that we all sat down to after the morning church service.

Still in our pajamas, my brothers and I look through the goodies in our baskets on Easter morning.
Still in our pajamas, my brothers and I look through the goodies in our baskets on Easter morning.

For my mother, or my aunt, who took generally took turns preparing the big noon-time holiday meal, Easter started early. Before heading off to church, which began at 9 a.m., they would be in the kitchen, putting the ham into the oven so that it would be cooked by the time we returned.  The new potatoes that would be stirred into the pot with the creamy white sauce and added to the early spring peas, would be boiled.

My father shows off the new potatoes he just dug up  in his garden.
My father shows off the new potatoes he just dug up in his garden.

The packaged ‘brown and serve’ dinner rolls would be placed into a shallow baking dish and covered so that they could be popped into the oven for  a few minutes just before supper.  Some of the eggs that we had dyed a day or two before would be peeled, sliced in half and made into the deliciously simple deviled eggs that always seemed to vanish almost before we sat down at the table. And the table, that had been covered with the soft green-colored damask tablecloth with the protective pads beneath, would be set with my mother’s best china, sterling silver and often the dark green water goblets.  Sometime the entire setting would be accented with a centerpiece of whatever was flowering in the garden, usually daffodils. I would contribute by decorating white paper napkins with Easter bunnies and eggs drawn in crayons.

There were usually eight of us at the table, including my parents, my brothers, and my two aunts and uncles.  I later learned from one of other aunts that this coming together for a meal after church had long been a tradition carried out by my mother’s family.  

My mother, holding guitar, with her parents and sisters and brothers pose for photo on their porch.
My mother, holding guitar, with her parents and sisters and brothers pose for photo on their porch.

My mother came from a large family, as did my father, and, like my father, grew up on a farm during the Depression. I had always imagined her family as struggling to survive, like so many during the era. I later learned from my aunt that despite the hard times, there was always plenty of food on Sundays.  I was surprised to hear that my Grandmother, who lived with her husband and, at the time, with her seven children and her mother- and father-in-law, would often invite people from their church to supper afterwards. Indeed, they had difficulties, but they had chickens and cows and fruit and nut trees, vegetables in the garden and wild plants from the woods that they could eat. I guess that my Grandmother thought they were more fortunate than other families so on Sundays, she would set as many as 12 extra places at the table for supper. I think they must have had a very large table, or perhaps the children ate elsewhere.  But according to my aunt, there was plenty of food to go share.  It was a happy memory that my aunt carried with her all the 90 years of her life and fortunately, passed along to me.

With my aunts and uncles, my family sit down together for a Sunday dinner.
With my aunts and uncles, my family sit down together for a Sunday dinner.

I don’t know whether my mother enjoyed making those large Easter dinners, or getting up early so that the meal would be ready by the time everyone assembled around the table, but I know that she enjoyed our sitting down together to share the holiday meal. The meal wouldn’t begin until someone had said the blessing, usually my father or my Uncle Joe who was particularly eloquent. I remember the first thing that I would reach for was one of those deviled eggs. Our plates would be carefully handed to whomever sat closest to the sliced ham, now steaming warm,  so that it could be lifted off the platter with the big sterling silver fork. I smeared my hot roll (the second thing that I reached for) with butter and grape jelly before biting into the soft, white bread.

The conversation would be grown-up and continuous. My younger brother (I only had one at the time)and I could contribute but we were too busy eating. I can’t remember what they talked about, but the symphony of their loving voices–my uncle’s deep bass, my aunt’s Swedish lilt, my other uncle’s mumble and my other aunt’s melodic alto–was music to me. I forgot that my new frilly, fancy dress or black patent leather shoes that my mother insisted I wear to church scratched my legs or pinched my feet. I was surrounded by those I loved and who loved me all partaking together a simple, but sumptuous meal, that would finish with the wonderful pineapple upside down cake made from scratch by one of my two aunts.  Ah, what could be better.

Last Easter, my family gathered once more for a final holiday meal at my parents' home.
Last Easter, my family gathered once more for a final holiday meal at my parents’ home.

Last Easter we repeated this tradition at my father’s home one last time. My father had passed away the week prior.  His funeral took place on Good Friday. I was staying, with my sons and my husband, in his home still surrounded by his things he and my mother had so lovingly collected together over the years. Our family portraits still hung on the wall, including the one of me taken in the studio many Easters ago when I was child. (You can read about that in my Easter post from March 2013: https://cherylcrooksphotography.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/in-my-easter-bonnet/) Despite the sad events of the previous few days, I felt we must have one last supper to celebrate Easter in my father’s house, if nothing else but to honor the memory of both my parents and the families from which they came. Not everyone from the family who attended my Dad’s service was still in town. Two of my sons had to leave shortly after his funeral and my brothers couldn’t be there. But my husband, my cousins, nephews and nieces that were present was enough for me.  It was family, gathered once more around the table. I had set it for one final time, with my mother’s good china on top of one of her beautiful tablecloths and placed flowers and candles in the center.

We didn’t have the ham, nor the creamed peas or even the pineapple upside down cake. In fact, the menu leaned more towards the brunch. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we were surrounded once again by family who shared a common history and love for those who had come before us and whose memory would live on long after us. While it was an Easter saddened by the recent passing of my father–the last of his generation– it was also a beautiful Easter.

 

 

Picturing Dad

This Father’s Day will be very different for me. It will be the first year without my father who died at age 94 just two months ago after a long, happy and fruitful life.  I read what I had written for this blog last year at this time.  I’m now very glad I wrote what I did, when I did so that he could read it too.  We sometimes forget, or just don’t take time, to tell those who matter most to us in our lives exactly how we feel about them.  You can read or re-read what I wrote about my Dad last year by clicking on this link:https://cherylcrooksphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/celebrating-dad/ . It will take you there.

This Father’s Day I have a room full of boxes of albums, loose and framed photos, home movies and slides that one of my brother’s hauled out from Kansas to me just this past week.  My father, in written instructions, appointed me in charge of sorting through and dividing up the family’s photo archives. And when you’re a photographer’s daughter, that’s a huge responsibility. Fortunately, my mother, also now deceased, had gone through many of their personal photographs years ago. She thoughtfully separated many of them into boxes, each carefully labeled with my and my brothers’ names.  She placed many into photo albums according to date. When,due to her dementia, she became too disabled to do more, I took over the job.

Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs.  This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home.  He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I'm so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.
Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs. This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home. He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I’m so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.

During my trips to visit my parents in recent years, I spent many late nights, after they had both gone to bed, sitting in front of the television, organizing and sliding photos into albums. Instead of putting them into chronological order, I categorized the albums into subject matter. This is something I had done with my own family’s photos.  I often can’t remember exactly what year I took the trip or when a particular event, other than a life milestone, may have happened.  I have divided and placed my photos into an album of the same subject. I can more easily find or reference it without having to go through several albums or yes, even those shoebox-size storage cartons.

I did the same for my parents.  There’s an album devoted to my mother’s family reunions, another of my Dad’s Army reunions and some with just photos from their more recent vacations.  I made a couple containing photos of just my own family taken during visits with each other and of other photos I had sent to them to keep them updated on my family’s activities and growth.  Still another album is of my Dad’s photography career and includes clippings from the newspaper as well as other mementos from his portrait studio.  We took that album, as well as the one I had assembled about his military service, to the funeral home so that those who came could look through it.  Many did.

From my parents' vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.
From my parents’ vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.

It’s now a popular choice to make printed books of one’s digital photos. I’ve done it myself.  In fact, I offer “Memory Books” and “Signature Albums” to both my high school senior and family clients.  It’s been a very well received product among my studio clients.  But I still make individual prints of my personal family ‘snapshots’ and I encourage others to do the same. I don’t sell digital images to my professional clients, except for business purposes.  I know many professional photographers do, but I personally regard it as a disservice to my clients.  Computer manufacturers are turning out both desk and laptop machines today that have no CD drives.

I have stored away three and five-inch floppy drives of articles, written during my career as a journalist, on a word processing program that no longer exists, on a computer operating system that no longer exists, on a computer that no longer exists.  If I hadn’t had the foresight to print out ‘hard’ copies of all those articles, I’d have no record, (other than the on-line versions) of my many contributions to the world of journalism.

Another photo from one of my parents' albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn't anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home's rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.
Another photo from one of my parents’ albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn’t anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home’s rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.

It’s the same with my own photographs, for both my professional and personal work.   I advise making prints of any photo that has any significant personal value to you, another reason my studio sells prints instead of digital images. I know, there’s always the ‘Cloud’.  But it wasn’t always there, nor is there any guarantee that it will always be there or in its present day form. Or that the access you have now will be same. Think of  how many times people have told you that  their computers ‘crashed’ and that they lost all their photos stored on it. (You must back-up your digital photos onto an external drive, on-line storage or even CD.)

This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.
This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.

To have an album full of  photos  is a treasure. I realize how much of a treasure it truly is since my father’s passing. I don’t have him this Father’s Day to wish him a happy day, or to tell him how much I love him and how much I appreciate all that he has done for me through the years.  But I can look back, turn through the pages of those albums that I now must sort through and remember the times growing up, doing things together, celebrating holidays, taking vacations, visiting relatives, sharing meals or just living everyday life.  All those priceless memories captured forever in a photo.  Thanks, Dad.

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer You’ll Love

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! With love in the air, what better time to talk about weddings and photography?

A short time ago, a friend of mine who lives in the Midwest, asked my advice in selecting a photographer for her daughter’s wedding next autumn. We sat down together viewed the on-line portfolios of photographers her daughter was considering.  

My own studio now accepts only a limited number of intimate, family weddings each year. Based on my years of experience and current working knowledge, I offered my friend some tips, which I’ll share here, to help in making their decision on a wedding photographer.

Your wedding is one of the most romantic days of your life.  Careful selection of your photographer will result in visual memories that you will enjoy for years to come.
Your wedding is one of the most romantic days of your life. Careful selection of your photographer will result in visual memories that you will enjoy for years to come.

Not surprisingly, foremost in the minds of most engaged couples and their parent is the price. Prices vary, depending on where you live, whether the photographer is a true professional or a hobbyist, how much experience they have, how much in demand they are and what’s included. Keep in mind that as with everything else, you usually get what you pay for. There are professional photographers out there that will fit your budget and many will work with you to come up with a plan that will satisfy your budget and your expectations.

Most of the time involved in the professional’s wedding work, and the cost, is not in the actual photographing the event.  About 7580% of a wedding photographer’s work, and thus their costs, occurs in the post-production end, in the editing, design,art and finishing process. The more photos the photographer takes, the more time that must be devoted afterwards to their preparation.

The bride and groom married on a boat in a beautiful ceremony but which also presented a challenges in controlling the light and exposure.
The bride and groom married on a boat in a ceremony that was beautiful but which also presented challenges in controlling the light and exposure.

I explained this the other day to a father of a groom who wondered why the photographer of his son’s wedding didn’t just download everything the next day and hand it over to them to see. To be sure, some photographers may actually do this.  If they do, they either have a very large production staff or they don’t care much about their work. RAW digital images from the camera, which is what most professionals shoot, are rarely perfect. They need color correction, exposure adjustment to bring out details in the shadows or the brighter parts of the image, called highlights. Most professionals also use a variety of ‘actions’ in their photo editing programs to punch up the color, correct complexions, brighten eyes, soften the light, or other special effects that will result in images that convey a romantic or exciting emotion.  This takes time, probably much more time than many non-pros are aware of or, perhaps, simply not willing to spend.

Following the ceremony, the wedding couple led guests in promenade preserved in this image.
Following the ceremony, the wedding couple led guests through a sculpture park in a promenade preserved in this image. Finding different points of view to create dramatic images is part of a wedding photographer’s job and talents.

Another consideration in a photographer’s price is the product. What, exactly are you getting when you contract with a photographer? And how good will the product be? By that I mean, if the photographer plans just to hand you a CD with the finished images (and be sure they are finished), will it be an archival CD? I personally discourage purchasing CDs only. The reason for this is quite simple. Technology. It changes so quickly. Prints or an album whether a book or an actual album, offer you a more permanent record of your big day. There’s no guarantee that you will be able to view or download from the CD in years to come. CD drives are already vanishing from some computers. Storing your priceless wedding images on an external hard drive or on the cloud isn’t foolproof either. For these reasons, I advise everyone to make prints or at least a printed book or album, of any event or subject that you’d like to have in years to come.

As for the albums, there are many fine products available today to couples. Professional photographers have a range of album styles that can be customized to fit you. Professional products differ from those generally available to consumers in that the quality control is much higher. The papers used in the final product are finer and often archival. The binding used is tougher. The selection of covers and designs wider and often sturdier. Reproductions of the image are held to higher standards. Quite likely, the album’s inside pages are custom designed especially for you. Yet another reason why it takes time to produce and why a professional’s cost is greater.

Compatibility is a huge factor in finding a photographer for your wedding. If you like photographer, you're going to be more relaxed and enjoy the wedding festivities.
Compatibility is a huge factor in finding a photographer for your wedding. If you like photographer, you’re going to be more relaxed and enjoy the wedding festivities.

A key factor in choosing your photographer is compatibility. How well do you communicate with the photographer and how well do they listen to you? Do they offer you advice about how to make your wedding photography go smoothly? Are they knowledgeable about the location of the wedding? Do they provide you with options for the images important to you? Do you the two of you click? Weddings can be as stressful as they are fun. The last thing you want is a photographer who’s disruptive, distracting to your guests, inappropriately dressed or imposing.

Today’s popular photojouralistic style of wedding photography means that photographers are less involved in “setting up the shots,” except perhaps for the wedding party groups. Still, your photographer should have a good working knowledge of how to make you look your best. There are little tricks and tips to how to stand, hold your hands, kiss, and cut the cake, for example, that can make a huge difference between a great image and an awkward-looking snapshot.

As a wedding photographer, you must be ready for anything, including a pair of doves about to take flight.
As a wedding photographer, you must be ready for anything, including a pair of doves about to take flight because there are no ‘do-overs’ for missed shots.

You may have friends or receive names of those who “do photography” on the side or as a weekend hobby and who are happy to photograph your wedding. They may be great but a word of caution. There are no “do-overs” when you shoot a wedding. Everything must work on command. Equipment can fail,weather can change and people can be difficult (or unfortunately sometimes drunk). Your photographer must be able to adjust to a situation quickly and still capture for you the images of your wedding day. Not all amateurs are as adept. You also don’t want to risk ruining a wonderful friendship should the photos not turn out as you had hoped.

Review the photographer’s portfolio, get together for a consult to meet and talk, study the plans available, revisit your budget, ask for referrals and then relax. If you’ve done your homework, you’re likely to end up with a photographer and wedding photographs that you’ll love.

Not your typcial wedding photograph, but this candid image of the bride seen through the beautiful hanging moss remains on my personal favorites.
Not your typical wedding photograph, but this candid image of the bride seen through the beautiful hanging moss remains on my personal favorites.

In My Easter Bonnet

When I was a kid, one of the yellow-vinyl Golden Records that I loved to play on my portable record player was Irving Berlin’s  “Easter Parade.”  I knew all the lyrics. It described, as only Berlin could, the tradition of New York’s high society promenading up and down Fifth Avenue on Easter Day dressed in their new spring fashion. I loved that song’s word, ‘rotogravure’, even though I hadn’t a clue what it meant. (I know now, of course, that it referred to the magazine section of the newspaper.) I especially loved Berlin’s poetic reference to “the Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it.”

The Easter bonnet was part of my own traditional Easter outfit. My mother, who had marvelous fashion sense,  delighted in carefully selecting an adorable new spring dress trimmed in lace or eyelet or tiny flowers and black patent leather shoes for her little girl to wear to church services that day. And always, atop my head of soft curls would be placed my Easter bonnet.    Unfortunately for my mother, I was not as thrilled with this endearing attire and would have much preferred my cowboy hat to the delicate straw or linen bonnet embellished with flowers.

Dressed in my Easter Sunday dress and bonnet, I was a happy toddler in this portrait taken by my father.
Dressed in my Easter Sunday dress and bonnet, I was a happy toddler in this portrait taken by my father unlike the one taken a couple years later when I was five.

In my Easter Sunday best, I looked as pretty as a picture.  Or so my father must have thought. Being the photographer he is, he saw it as an opportunity to capture on film this rare occasion of his little girl thusly dressed.  But one year, in particular, I was not a willing model.

I was about five or six-years-old. I undoubtedly was anxious to head home after church that Easter so that I could eat some of those marshmallow peeps or the chocolate bunny that I found in my cellophane grass-filled Easter basket earlier that morning. My father, however, had another plan. He wanted to stop at his studio first so that he could make a portrait of me while still wearing my lovely baby blue dress and crescent-shaped white bonnet with blue flowers across the top.  My mother and aunt had styled my hair so that I had a fringe of soft curls circling around the nape of my neck.  I must have looked like a little angel.  At least to them. At least until we arrived at the studio.

Once in the camera room, my father slid the film into the holder on his 8×10 back portrait camera and set the modeling lights to perfectly fall on the little subject standing on the box centered in front of the camera. But I had no intention of modeling for him that day. I stubbornly refused to cooperate. It became a contest of wills–mine against  theirs. Finally, my parents’ patience wore out or they must have been hungry for dinner as well. One of them picked up the little plastic toy hand crank guitar that my father kept on hand in to use as a prop for children and gave me a little swat on my backside.  I honestly doubt it was a very hard swat but tears swelled in my eyes.

This portrait of me was taken by my father one Easter and titled "Easter Best".  It is a light oil and was selected for exhibit at the state's professional photography association's salon.
This portrait of me was taken by my father one Easter and titled “Easter Best”. It is a light oil and was selected for exhibit at the state’s professional photography association’s salon.

Resigned to defeat, I stood before the camera just as I had been kindly asked to do beforehand while my father got the picture of what appears to be a very prayerful, solemn little girl in her blue-flowered Easter bonnet and matching blue dress.  He made a ‘light oil’ print made of it–a technique used to hand-colored images in the days of black-and-white only photography.  The finished print was entered in the state’s Professional Photographer Association’s salon that year and received high marks and a ribbon for my father.  He was proud of the portrait, but not so proud of the method he and my mother employed in order to get his model’s cooperation and my reverential expression that day.

I was the joy of my parents on this Easter Sunday.  Note the black patent leather shoes on my feet.
I was the joy of my parents on this Easter Sunday. Note the black patent leather shoes on my feet.

I’ve long forgiven them of course, and admittedly probably deserved the swat. The portrait still hangs in my parents’ home, a bittersweet reminder of one Easter long ago.

A Model Mother

This is the first post I’ve written since my Mother died in November after several years struggle with dementia (see my blog post May, 15, 2012 “Do You Remember Mother’s Day?”  http://bit.ly/12o0OBx ).  While her passing wasn’t totally unexpected, the loss has been tremendous. She would have been 91 on Wednesday, February 6.

It’s been said that the current Queen Elizabeth of England is the most photographed woman in the world.  I think she’s second; my mother had to have been the most photographed.  During a 65-year marriage to my father, a portrait photographer who owned a studio for 40 years until he finally retired at age 70, my Mother patiently and graciously posed before his camera whenever my Dad asked.

This is one of my father’s favorite portraits of my mother, made in the early 1960s. It is a ‘brush oil’ which gives it the “painted” appearance.

All artists tend to have favorite models; my mother was undoubtedly my father’s.  She was a classic beauty of the 1940s, when in her twenties.  They met after my father returned from the Army in World War II. She was 23 and working as an executive assistant to the president of a savings and loan in my father’s hometown of Parsons, Ks.  My mother had moved to Parsons from Missouri after high school to attend the business college in town.  My father fell in love with her upon first sight.  ‘She was so beautiful,’ he says.  After dating two weeks, he told my mother if she didn’t marry him he would rejoin the Army.

Apparently, she was as much in love with him as he was with her because she agreed. When her boss wouldn’t give her the two months off to join my father and marry him in Phoenix, Az., where he had gone to race greyhound dogs for his brother-in-law and sister, she quit and went anyway.  Thus began a long and devoted marriage.

My parents were married in Phoenix, and, as is obvious in this photograph, were very much in love.
My parents were married in Phoenix, and, as is obvious in this photograph, were very much in love.

Their wedding photos are charming and demonstrated my father’s growing interest in photography.  Upon returning to Kansas, my father decided to study photography for a career.  He had picked up a camera while in Europe during the War and took pictures of the places and events he was seeing whenever he could, developing his film in creeks and his pup tent and storing his rolls of negatives that needed to still be washed in jars.  He made it home with the pictures that he taken, pictures that now offer testament to the perils of war  as seen through the eyes of a young farm boy turned soldier on the front.

I suppose he had seen enough ugliness to last a lifetime during the 2 ½ years that he was overseas as when he finally decided to make photography his career, he chose to make beautiful portraits of people.  My mother proved to be a perfect subject for many of them.

This portrait was made for one of my father’s early photography classes. He tried his hand at the ‘light oil’ technique to colorize it.

As a young apprentice learning the art of portraiture, he studied the Old Masters of art—Rembrandt being his favorite—along with mastering the technical skills a photographer must know.  Whenever he needed practice perfecting a lighting set up, posing techniques or trying out a new idea or new equipment, he asked my mother to serve as his subject.  Consequently, her life was well documented through his portraits.

You can see the changes of fashion in clothing and hair and make up through the years as my mother changed along with them.  She was always interested in keeping up with the latest styles, although the ‘mod-ish’ looks of the 60s era wasn’t to her liking.  Hers was a much more ‘classic’, almost Grace Kelly look, with soft, feminine haircuts and clothing that always flattered her.You can also see in these many portraits the love that existed between my parents as the years continued to pass.  Certainly, there were times when my mother wasn’t thrilled with sitting still before the camera when there were accounts to balance, a dinner to cook, or because she was just tired from a day’s work.  But more often than not, she granted my father’s request.

She became a pro at posing, knowing just how to place her feet, hold her hand, or tip her head. And, of course, she always had the most lovely sweet smile.

My father made this portrait in his studio and it's one of my personal favorites. As you can see, he became a master of dramatic lighting and knowing just how to have my mother pose for him.
My father made this portrait in his studio and it’s one of my personal favorites. As you can see, he became a master of dramatic lighting and how to pose my mother. The print itself is a ‘gold-tone” print, a rich toning techniique no longer in use.

All those portraits are now cherished family treasures; beautiful, visual memories of my mother who died this past November after years of struggling with dementia.  I see her everyday in the framed portraits I’ve placed around my home, the wallet-sized prints I carry with me and on the digitized images that I uploaded to my computer.

I know my father, now 93, misses her terribly as their lives were intertwined for 65 years in an enduring love story of a photographer and his favorite model.

Love Connects Us

Part of the work of the Interfaith Coalition of Bellingham is keeping together families who are experiencing economic hardships with counseling, temporary housing and support services to help them get back on their own feet.

The Interfaith Coalition of Bellingham launched its capital campaign to build more temporary housing for Whatcom County families in economic crisis with a special presentation this evening
I was asked to make photographs for the campaign’s posters, brochures and presentation and was delighted and honored to do so.
The Coalition, which began in 1981, now has 47 congregations, of diverse faiths, represented in its partnerships.  You can learn more about the work of this coalition and its upcoming capital campaign here:  http://www.interfaith-coalition.org/index.php