Friday, November 28, 2008

Angel and Terrence Thompson - Wedding, Family Style

Angel and Terrence took their marriage vows in their home church that was filled with family and friends. For such a young couple, their ceremony was typical of what was done years ago. The guest list for the ceremony included the entire membership of the church. Following the ceremony, there was an open reception in the church’s dining hall. Like the ceremony, this reception was open to the entire church.

Back in the day, the members of the church would host a reception following the wedding ceremony to allow everyone the chance to congratulate the newly wedded couple. They weren’t elaborate affairs, a few decorations, a cake and some punch. These were the days of the “receiving line”. The entire wedding party would line up at the entrance of the hall, with the bride and groom at the end of the line. The guests would pass down the line, meeting the members of the wedding party. The bride and groom would get to personally greet and thank everyone for coming. The high point was the cutting of the cake. The more fancy weddings included a meal, but this was not common.

Angel and Terrence’s day reflected this long lost tradition while keeping up with the present. They followed the reception at the church with the currently customary private reception at the Wedgewood Banquet Center. This is a wonderfully traditional young couple with deep spiritual and family roots. I have to also say it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a couple so relaxed from the rehearsal, all the way through the reception. They had a lot of help putting it all together. Not only were Angel and Terrence having a wedding, the whole church was having a wedding. That’s how it used to be. A sign of how traditions run deep at Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, neither Cassandra or I are accustomed to being referred to by Mr. and Mrs. Not just by the youth of the church, but my many of the members. We refuse to believe it’s because we’re getting that old.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My favorite photo weekend is coming

The third weekend in September is always blocked on our calendar. That's when we make the second of our two annual Jazz pilgrimages. This one is to the longest continuously running jazz festival in the world, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Presented by Verizon. This is truly a destination for serious jazz fans. As Branford Marsalis put it, "this is one of the few festivals left in this country where there is more real jazz, than non-jazz".

As I frequently do throughout the year, I perform double-duty as photographer and writer, as I cover the festival for This is my 14th year as a jazz photojournalist, and the 12th time I've covered the festival. Cassandra and I are devoted fans of this music, and being able to cover it in this fashion is a dream as
signment. Cassandra gets to enjoy the music in the main arena, while I juggle a stiff shooting schedule that has me trying to cover the 6 main venues on the fairgrounds. It takes a little planning, but more than that, it takes discipline to not stay too long enjoying one artist, while another one is starting to hit on another stage. Yes, I do get to enjoy the music, and over the years, we've heard some truly remarkable performances, and I've gotten some tremendous shots. If you've wandered through the gallery, you may have seen some of them. If not, please take a look in the Live Performance section.

This year, I plan to update my Jazzology blog daily from the festival. The main piece at Cifyflight will be there a week or two after I get back. You notice I said plan. With nonstop shooting days that run from 4:30pm - midnight on Friday, and 11:00am until midnight Saturday and Sunday, that's gonna be a stretch. Let's see how I do.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New generations inspire change in older ones

Portrait photography of children and infants has never been something I've focused on professionally. No particular reason why, I just never really sought out those clients. Thanks to one very special young man, I think that's about to change. That young man's name is Jaiden (pronounced JAY-den).

Jaiden is a very energetic young man, with a lot of high expectations, and limitless opportunities. I met him very early on the morning of August 30th. It was 1:18am, to be exact. That was the time that Jaiden Elijah Kidd, my first grandchild, said hello to the world. Both Jaiden and his mother are just now going to sleep, spending their first night at home. Us grandparents are trying to get our sleep back to normal cycles while figuring out what we want to be called. Neither of us is thrilled with "Grandma and Grandpa". No matter, we figure we have some time before he starts talking.

I managed to maintain enough composure to photograph most of the adventure. I couldn't have it be said that out of two photographers, neither was able to pull it together and get some meaningful photos. Besides, my gift to my daughter and Jaiden will be a book of those moments leading up to, and following, that first shared experience for the two of them. For me, it was thrilling to capture it all, and even more thrilling, seeing what I had captured. The experience has given me a perspective I feel very eager to develop further; not just with Jaiden, but with other families with infant children as well.

Where this will lead, I honestly don't know. It could become a part of our general practice and service offering, or it could be a service provided to only one client; Jaiden. Only time will tell. I know this much, capturing those priceless moments, and raw emotions, is as important and exciting as any wedding we've ever shot.

As far as the book goes, it will no doubt be the first of many. as Cassandra and I plan to take an "old school" approach to the capture of these memories, and put them in a medium that is not subject to disc failures, viruses, hard drive crashes, or obsolete technology. With a book, all you need to enjoy it is decent eyesight, a lap, and some time. Jaiden's photos online

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Michelle and Jourdan Chauss

For many couples, the “big wedding” isn’t something they start out with. They make the conscious decision to forego the formal ceremony and reception and decide to do something on a much smaller scale. Other times, the actual act of getting married is a spontaneous event. Some of these couples later decide to go ahead and have the big event with a formal renewal of their vows.

Such was the case for Michelle and Jourdan. These two surprised their friends during a trip to Lake Tahoe, and slipped away to one of the convenient wedding chapels in the area. Neither had really wanted to have the full-blown ceremony and reception. They later changed their minds and opted to do it all over again; this time, with family and friends in attendance.

They found a small chapel that’s attached to the larger sanctuary or St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Concord. This was just the perfect size for the 60-80 guests they expected. Behind the church has an incredible rose garden that we used for the bridal portraits and most of the family pictures. The skylights and high windows of the chapel offered a very soft, natural light environment. The tight booking schedule for the chapel imposed some time constraints, but we were able to gets a number of great shots in the gardens. (Wedding Album Design Link)

We shot the bridal party and pre-ceremony shots of the family in the gardens before the ceremony. Another one of those times when wished I had brought walkie-talkies to coordinate moving the bride/bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen around without the bride and groom seeing each other. Logistics aside, this was a fantastic location to shoot in.

The reception location was in a small park in Danville. A part of the facilities is a ranch-style house that is available to rent. Behind the house is a large open area, ringed by trees. The shade from those trees turned a 95-degree day into a nice 80-degree setting that was warm, but very comfortable. A gazebo standing in the middle of a grassy field was one of two portrait locations we used. The other was an iron and wood bridge that spanned the creek bed that flowed behind the open yard. The bright, midday, open sun around the gazebo was particularly challenging to work with, but the near-sunset lighting for the second location was fantastic. The complete album pre-design is located here.

Jourdan, a former chef, prepared the food for the wedding banquet. Without exaggeration, I have to admit that was the best wedding dinner I’ve had in my 30+ years of covering weddings. We came away with more than a couple recipes.

With all this, you wouldn’t think of this as anything but a wedding and reception. This had all the nervousness, excitement, emotions, and tears you would expect. The families, some from as far away as Florida, had a wonderful time together, and celebrated the day like it was the first day of Michelle and Jourdan’s married life. In some ways, it was.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Emily and Eric, May 17, 2008

We're just back from covering Emily and Eric's wedding. I love weddings on the beach. There's something very special about a marriage ceremony in that setting. It doesn't matter if it's a large, formal affair, or just the bride, the groom, a minister or officiant, and two witnesses; it's still a wonderful moment. Although they can be a challenge to photograph, after adjusting for the elements and the harsh lighting angles, there are some great photos to be made. (Collage link)

Emily and Eric chose the Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz to be the backdrop for their ceremony. If you've never been there, this is a great alternative way to spend a relaxing day at the beach, without the craziness of the Boardwalk. The beach is located about 2 miles north of the Boardwalk. The park even arranges to hold an area for couples wanting to have ceremonies there.

The couple had about 100 or so family and guests on hand to share the surroundings, and these special moments. This was a rare opportunity for the Emily and her siblings to get photos with their Grandmother, who was on hand for the festivities. For May, the weather was especially cooperative. It was a crystal clear day, with the temperature around 85 degrees. Needless to say, it was much hotter elsewhere in the Bay Area, so the beach was an especially popular destination.

The couple chose to take their portraits before the ceremony. With such an open setting, preventing Eric from seeing Emily before the ceremony was a particular challenge. However, this was a moment Emily definitely wanted captured. We managed pulled it off by having Eric on the beach looking out at the ocean, while Emily came down the pathway leading from the picnic area. On cue, we had Eric turn around to get his first look at his bride-to-be in her wedding gown. That evolved into the first of many emotional moments throughout the day.

From the beach, we moved to David's Restaurant and Banquet Center in Santa Clara. This is a great facility, located at the golf course, right across the street from Great America. The staff is great, as is the food. Gene and her crew did an excellent job. The DJ, Rob from Elite Entertainment, invited all the married couples to the dance floor for a special dance. We all knew who the most recent married couple was, but Rob started weeding out the couples to find the one married the longest. Turns out the marriage longevity prize went to a couple that has been married an astonishing 57 years!

For Eric and Emily, it's off to a honeymoon in Cozumel. For Cassandra and I, it's digging in and editing the images. come back Thursday for the link to their Wedding Album Preview.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pacific Orchid Exposition - A still-life fiesta

Like most photographers, there is almost no end to the types of things or events I photograph. When I’m not working with people, I like to experiment with macro, or extreme close-up photography. Flowers happen to be a particular favorite of both Cassandra and I, but we rarely have an opportunity where we do it together.
A few weeks ago we had one of those rare opportunities as we took in the Pacific Orchid Exposition in San Francisco.

This was the first time either of us had attended the three-day event. The variety of orchids on display was incredible. The colors and types ran from the ordinary to the exotic. Hybrids and crossbreeds were featured alongside traditional orchid strains from orchid growers from all over the state. The massive Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason was filled with the delicate flowers, all in bloom. Those that were so inclined could also take the experience home with them as 2/3rds of the space was dedicated to orchid sales.

Of course, we took lots of pictures. We weren’t alone as local photogs maneuvered their tripods around the hundreds of attendees to get shots they weren’t likely to set up on their own. In fact, everyone with a digital camera brought them out to take home souvenir images from the event. Even with automated flash on a point-and-shoot digital, excellent images were just the click of a shutter away.

Of course, the preferred method is to use ambient light. Fortunately, we were there on a sunny afternoon and the high windows let in plenty of light. Some of the exhibitors enhanced their displays with a variety of different types of floodlights. Without going into a lot of technical details, some of the lights enhanced images; some did not. In any case, I’m sure everyone came away with some good pictures.

We shot mostly natural light close-ups. I brought along a small “sun gun” light to fill in some of the shadow details, and in some cases, create some special effects. Most of the exhibits placed the flowers at leas a couple feet away from each other, and mostly against a black background. In almost no time at all, we came away with over 300 images. You can check out some of them at our online gallery: Some will show up in our Fine Art Greeting Card line, Polyrhythmic Expressions. Perhaps I’ll make a book from these and some of the other flower images I’ve taken over the years.

Looking for a great subject to practice your own photographic skills? You can’t beat flowers for still life images. You can try a lot of different ideas and techniques, and will very likely have some great results.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New year, new site, new gallery, new stuff.

Wow. I never meant to take so long to update this page. The blog debuted just before the holidays. Right after that, I went to work on preparing for this year's wedding season. Somewhere in the middle of that exercise, I started remodeling the website to provide more detail and pricing on my service offering, and to make some improvements to the gallery.

Fast forward two months and now all that work is done. I'm really excited about my new logo, printed advertising, the website changes, and the new gallery layout. For wedding services, it's now easy to find complete information on our wedding offering, directly from the website. Individual images, and samples of two-page album spreads can be viewed in the gallery section. The booking tools allow a prospective client to check what days we have available, and to contact me directly to set up a consultation. I want to provide as much information as I can, to help couples understand, completely, what we have to offer. The images galleries will be updated periodically to reflect our latest events. Of course, this is the place you can read about it first. I'll also be adding a FAQ based on real questions I receive from clients.

The wedding images is just one of two galleries. The other (see the link in the sidebar) is a much larger gallery that covers a variety of subjects. What's posted there now is just the beginning. I have a large collection of photos of legendary jazz musicians in action on stage. Over the coming weeks, these images will make their way to the gallery. This is also my stock photo gallery. Most of the images are available for purchase as fine art prints. They can also be licensed for personal or commercial use (most musician images excluded). I couldn't be more excited about building up this portion of the gallery.

I can also get back to providing you with updates on the latest techniques, tools, and trends in this rapidly evolving world of photography. Some of them are already on display in the new gallery. Check it out when you get a chance. I'd love to get your feedback.