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Switching Gears: Goodbye Italy, Hello Weddings!

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Coming back home has been an adjustment. I’ve gone from shooting hundreds of photos every day in beautiful locations back to the usual routine. There’s so much that I miss about Italy. The food. The landscape. The architecture. The food. After all that, I wasn’t sure how I’d do switching gears back into weddings.

Once I started shooting though, I felt right at home. This one was a small affair with a relaxed couple at my favorite San Diego location, Rancho Valencia. The bride didn’t want any getting ready photos so I had a drink with Tom, the groom, at the bar and shot some portraits.

My wife doesn’t like this photo. I think there’s something unique and a little dramatic to it. What do you think?

The officiant was also the groom’s stepfather.

Mindy, the bride, was running late due to hair issues. I went over to her hotel suite to check on things. She was in her bra so she asked me not to come in. I told her, “It’s okay, I’m gay.” She was okay with that so in I went.

Later, the catering manager, a friend of mine, let me know that she asked her, “Did you know that John is gay?” She laughed and let her know that I wasn’t serious. Whatever it takes to get the shot! (Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay.)

Shot the wedding with three lenses. I used to bring ten or more with all kinds of gear in the biggest bag that Tamrac makes. Nowadays, I like just keeping it all simple when I can.

In Italy, I really worked the off-camera flash using my little Speedlite. I’m used to using my big power packs with a variety of modifiers so using an itty-bitty flash was a bit of a departure. Still, the practice paid off. I shot this wedding on my own so I corralled a guest and had him hold my light.

The other thing I did in Italy was get to know Lightroom. Love that program. Spent a month perfecting my presets. Lightroom is finicky with presets - they all react differently based on the photo. So I created presets for specific lighting and subject matter. Works great; haven’t opened Photoshop in weeks.

With no one to hold the flash, I stuck it on a table. You can see it on the right.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shot a wedding. This one helped me to remember how much fun they can be.


New Video - “How to Book Wedding Clients”

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Like a proud father, I’m happy to announce my first ever video for professional photographers. It’s a no-nonsense video on the process of booking clients - from initial inquiry to the final “yes.” You can check it on the Toolkit website. I’ve got an intro special of 20% off which will be good for the next couple of weeks.


Nicole & Chad - Grand Del Mar Hotel, San Diego

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Another awesome wedding this past weekend. I photographed Nicole getting ready at The Grand Del Mar Hotel in Del Mar just north of San Diego. The Grand is fairly new and this was the first wedding that I photographed there (although I did my bridal fashion shoot for Exquisite Weddings Magazine there a few months back)

Chad is as much a screwball as Nicole is beautiful. He’s always laughing and joking around. Today was no different.

The ceremony took place at St Therese Catholic Church in Del Mar. It’s a new church with lots of natural light. The folks there were very friendly and made it easy to get great shots during the ceremony. The design of St. Therese reminds me of St. Gregory’s in Scripps Ranch.

I have lots of hair-brained ideas for shots, however I can’t take credit for this one. Chad volunteered to jump in the fountain. Who am I to say no?

The reception took place in one of the ballrooms at the Grand Del Mar. The florals and decor were handled by Botanica in San Diego. Mary Noble handled the coordination and production. It’s always great working with her and her assistant Jammie. Everything is always perfectly planned and they make it easy for me to do my job.

You know what you did Chad. Don’t try and give us that innocent look!

Lots of dancing and partying. When the band is the Wayne Foster Orchestra, be prepared to do some dancing. There’s no one who puts together the mix of music, singing, dancers and production that they do.


Bridal Portraits - San Diego

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I photographed Galiya and Derek’s wedding at the Darlington House back in December. I guess she didn’t get enough of being in front of the camera so she asked me after the wedding if I’d be interested in doing a “trash the dress” shoot. I like to think of it as a just a plain ol’ bridal portrait, though definitely not your mother’s portrait session.

We started out in the industrial area just south of downtown. I liked the idea of contrasting the beautiful bride against the busy commercial background.

Somehow, I got the idea of having her smoke a cigar so Derek picked one up from the Cuban cigar factory in the Gaslamp. This shot’s one of my favorites. I guess it’s just so un-bridal.

Towards the end of the shoot, it started to drizzle. The evening air was cold enough so that the ocean water seemed warm by comparison. We were both pretty much soaked, but the water actually kept us warm. It was only once we got out that the cold and the water and the sand got to us.

In the photo, it looks like you can see light from the setting sun. That’s actually my flash. Without it, these shots would have looked looked as cold and dreary as the evening actually was.


Kelly & Raj at Aventura Spa Palace, Playa Del Carmen

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

About an hour south of Cancun, Mexico is Playa Del Carmen. Where Cancun is new and glitzy, Playa Del Carmen is a little more hippy and slow with lots of expats tending bar. We photographed the wedding of Kelly and Raj at the Aventura Spa Palace all-inclusive resort just north of town.

Kelly and Raj came down from Seattle - just the two of them. They were great fun and after the ceremony, we just kicked back at the bar and had a couple drinks waiting for the light to get all nice and pretty. There was no reception to run off to nor family members to line up and photograph. They were great sports and weren’t shy about working it for the camera.

Here’s our happy groom, Raj:

And Kelly…

Got this one as she was about to walk down the aisle. There was a golf cart behind her that I had the staff move. No sooner did they move it than she started to walk down the steps - but just before she did, the wind caught her dress as she lifted it. And I got my shot!

And there they were getting married, just the two of them and the officiant.

The amount of emotion in a ceremony isn’t necessarily related to how many people are in attendance.

Here’s The Lookbook in action:

Here’s a pose from the Lookbook…

And this is one we just sort of we came up with all by ourselves…

This is the part where they jump into marriage…

This is what the other side of jumping into marriage looks like…

And then the sun went down. Time enough for just one last shot.


Cancun Here We Come!

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Jen and I are in Cancun, Mexico this week to shoot not one but two weddings. We’re also going to be taking a little vacation while we’re down here. On the plane down, I was looking out the window and was just struck by the cool patterns down below. I snapped a few photons through the window - unfortunately, there was a lot of distortion so these aren’t quite the masterpieces I’d hoped they would be.

I’ll have more from the wedding and our travels later so stay tuned!


Jessica & Frank - Rancho Valencia, San Diego

Friday, March 28th, 2008

I remember meeting with Jessica and Frank for the first time at my studio. I felt like we really clicked and quickly looked forward to photographing their wedding. I knew it was gonna be fun. They got married at the Rancho Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe just north of San Diego. Jennifer Bueno of Beauty to Be did the hair and Claire Young of Clairestyle did the makeup. Jessica’s dress was made by Paloma Blanca which she got from Isis Bridal in San Diego.

Our blushing bride, Jessica.

Our gallant hero, Frank.

True love… never have I seen a groom so happy to see his bride. Since the wedding began after the sun went down, they saw each other before the ceremony.

A moment of zen before the ceremony.

He’s such a cute little fella, I wanted to pinch his cheeks too.

This is what a wedding ceremony looks like at night. By the way, San Diego Stage and Lighting provided all the lighting for the wedding. Proper lighting makes all the difference. Lighting is so inexpensive relative to everything else, but it can make the biggest impact if done well.

The reception took place in the Terrace Room. It’s gorgeous at night and very private.

My favorite part of the reception is the Hora. Everyone dances around and round in a circle and then they finally stick the bride and groom in a chair and dance them around. It’s a rush to photograph. I just wish we could have had one at my wedding.

And into the night they disappeared…


Exquisite Weddings Magazine - Bridal Fashion

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

This is a post that I’ve been waiting to do for a couple of months now. I did this shoot back in January but didn’t want to post until the Spring issue of Exquisite Weddings magazine came out.

Talk about a long day. We did 25 setups over 10 hours. That’s a lot no matter what, but everyone of those shots required setting up multiple studio lights to get the look that I wanted. My crew was running around with a truck load of gear, hustling to set up each shot. I do a seminar for photographers called Light and Fast… well, this was more like Heavy and Fast.

At the end of the day, we were all cooked. But we did it!

We did this wedding shoot at The Grand Del Mar resort which is located just north of San Diego. The recently opened resort was done in the style of an Italian villa. There’s really nothing like it in Southern California. The attention to detail is fantastic. Doug “Pappa Doug” Manchester is the developer - I photographed him at his home last summer. The Grand Del Mar is a lot like his home - just on a grander scale.

I did the men’s fashion shoot last fall. Photographing the guys is a lot easier. With women, there’s a lot more hair and makeup - which takes forever - and then there’s the dress. On my crew, I had two hair stylists, one woman for makeup and another just for the dress.

My concept for this shoot was to treat the women kind of like sculptures. Italian villas always have lots of female sculptures so I put the talent up high standing on chairs, sofas, walls, and even a wall sconce.

The jewelry was provided by Tiffany’s in San Diego. They not only supplied the diamonds and silver, but also had someone doing all the styling for the jewelry. Some of the rings that they brought sell for over $100,000 so they also supplied several rather stocky guards who never let the models out of their sight.

The staircase is fantastic. No doubt there will be more than a few wedding day shots taken here. I’m photographing a wedding at the Grand Del Mar in July so don’t be surprised if you see some shots from here.

Not your garden variety pergola…

The only thing better than one bride is two!

This was the last shot of the day. Actually, night. I had my assistant outside with a giant umbrella outside making sure the strobe would fire. It was cold outside and we were dead tired. It’s at times like this that I really rely on my crew to keep it together, stay focused and be committed to producing great work.

For the next issue of Exquisite Weddings, I’ll be shooting the cover. I’m looking forward to focusing on one shot. Should be fun!


A Wedding on Wednesday - Las Rocas, Baja Mexico

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

There’s a first for everything, last night I shot a Wednesday wedding down in Baja at the Las Rocas Spa & Resort just south of Rosarito Beach in Baja Mexico. Actually, I was the second shooter - my wife, the superlative Jennifer Dery, was the primary photographer. Second shooter duties usually include photographing the groom while the main photographer is off with the bride. Well, seeing as how I was the sidekick on this one, I got to hang with the guys.

For those of you who haven’t traveled down Baja’s Highway 1 down to Ensenada, Las Rocas is right on the ocean about 30 miles south of the San Diego border. If you drive down the toll road, you can’t help but see the giant statute of Jesus up on a hill.

Las Rocas sits right across the highway from Jesus.

Despite all of San Diego’s coastline, there’s no wedding venue that overlooks the water. The Lodge at Torrey Pines is close - but it’s got a golf course between it and the ocean. The Hotel Del sits on the beach, but it lacks the perspective of sitting high on a cliff with a view of the water. Las Rocas is unique in that it sits right above the water with a spectacular view of the ocean and bluffs.

Arturo with Artquest Flowers in San Diego provided the flowers for the wedding. I used to work with Arturo all the time, but I hadn’t seen him for a few years. It’s always nice to work with good people that you know.

One thing cool about working with the guys is that the pace is usually a little easier. There’s more time to look around and get the details.

Here’s Josh getting ready. (That’s me on the left!)

During the wedding, I got stuck in the back. Jen got to run around and get the all different angles. Still, I had fun with it.

April and Josh have cute little daughter, Hailey.

I wasn’t gonna drive all the way down to Baja and then wait forever at the border without a chance to photograph the bride and groom. There was almost no time for photography since the wedding ran late so I think I shot for all of one minute. But I like this one.

When we did our scout of the location before the wedding, I saw this steep gap between two buildings. I knew the shot that I wanted. When the time came, I had no time. I set this up in about 30 seconds and scrambled to get the shot while all the guests were waiting for the bride and groom to do their grand entrance. Still, I got the shot. That’s my job!


Kim & Chris - Destination Wedding in Maui

Monday, February 18th, 2008

This is was a tough wedding to blog. There were so many great shots that it was tough for me to try and it edit them down. We ended up shooting 6,222 images at the wedding and filling nearly 60 gigabytes of CF cards. I photographed the wedding of Lindsey, Kim’s sister, two years ago so there were a lot of familiar faces. It was also fun hearing from people how much they liked the photos. Everyone was so great to us and we had blast!

One of the bridesmaids brought a stunning Harry Winston diamond and saphire bracelet and diamond earings for Kim’s mom to wear.

I told this bridesmaid that I probably wouldn’t post this shot on my blog. And I probably wouldn’t have except it was too fun a shot to pass up.

Chris, the groom.

And his father.

The ceremony site was high on a bluff above the Wailea Golf Club and with a gorgeous view of the ocean.

This shot kinda sums up the wedding. There was emotion, smiles and outright goofiness all at the same time.

After the wedding, we headed down to Big Beach in Makena just down the road from Wailea. There’s no hotels or condos to muck up the pristine feeling of the long, soft-sand beach.

So we’re leaving the beach after shooting the photos. A cop comes up to me and starts lecturing me about how I need to pay for a permit. I play dumb - which wasn’t hard because I had no idea. I offer to leave but he says no go ahead and finish with your photos. I got this one last shot with him looking over my shoulder. I figured I’d probably be in trouble, but I’d rather be in trouble and get the shot than be in trouble and not.

Afterwards, he wanted to get my info. I tell him I’m from San Diego and so is everyone else. In the end, he let us off with a warning.

The reception was at the Seawatch Restaurant in Wailea. The coordinator was Beth Helmstetter who works in Hawaii and San Diego. Kim’s mom mentioned to me how great a job she did.

One of the groomsmen, Jeff, not only sang and played guitar for the first dance, he wrote the song that morning. It was amazing.

We set up our photo booth and mayhem ensued.

Move over Charlie’s Angels.