Rangefinder Magazine’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography 2017

 

So something happened a few weeks ago… something so unreal that when I found out I literally screamed like an 11-year-old battling puberty; an 11-year-old who happened to be holding a scolding hot cup of coffee.  Said coffee found it’s way straight to my lap after my body suddenly convulsed upon reading that I had been chosen as one of Rangefinder Magazine’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography 2017!!

When you have moments like this it’s easy to forget your surroundings.  Mine consisted of one older Japanese gentleman and two bleach-headed surf groms, all three staring at me now. In the most Southern Californian voice you can imagine, the taller of the surf rats leans over to calmly state, “hey brah, that drink in your lap looks like you wet your pants.”

Ahhhh, it was just as I pictured it years ago… the moment I made this list of insanely talented wedding photographers from around the globe, I would be a 32-year-old guy, alone in a weird part of town, holding back grown-up tears, turning away from tweens trying to Snapchat my coffee soaked pants. Beautiful moment.

But I digress, it was a moment in my, up to this point, short career that will never be forgotten.  For those of you non-wedding industry people that have no clue what I am talking about, allow me to shed some light.  Rangefinder Magazine is a publication that I as a photographer equate to something like Dwell or Architectural Digest if I was a designer/architect/interior designer… or Rolling Stone writing a positive article about my indie band.  To be mentioned within their pages is something I always viewed as a holy experience.  On top of that, to be named to a short list of 30 Rising Stars in Wedding Photography is even more mind-melting.

Past years have included people that I have looked up to, that I have envied, that I have been mentored by.  So to now be in one of the 30 is more than I ever could have imagined.  The way it works is industry professionals have to nominate you to the Rangefinder Editors as well as a panel of industry titans to first be looked at and considered, if you make the first cut they reach out requesting thirty… THIRTY… of my favorite images I have ever taken.  Photos that I think translate my aesthetic, my visual approach and my personality.  Let me tell you this now, it was hands down the hardest thing I have ever undertaken in my career… sifting through 10,000+ images and driving my wife insane for a month was my life leading up to submitting my final selections as well as a good amount of written answers to deep diving questions provided by the RF team.

Now does this change my style, no.  Does this increase my pricing, no.  Does this set me apart from other photographers in the eyes of inquiring clients, probably not.  What this does instead do is light a fire under my ass to constantly be evolving for the better and to now live up to the expectations of the Rangefinder team and anyone reading this.

If you would like to check out the entire Rangefinder 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography 2017 article, click HERE

Scroll down to check out all 30 of my images… as well as a quick excerpt as to “why this photo?”

 


 

I love to steal the dress away to hang it in locations that would usually stress out onlooking brides… in trees, off the sides of buildings or in this case over a pool.  I try to not let the bride see the photo taking place, but in this instance Brandy happened to sneak into the frame right as I was taking my shot… she wasn’t upset by my choice of dress placement, instead she kept letting me know how “f*ucking awesome her dress was looking”!  Thank you Brandy.

 

Jordan was the epitome of calm, cool and collected on her wedding morning.  Sometimes when hair and makeup are nearing completion, the anticipation really begins to set in, mainly because the day is about to take a leap forward.  Not here however, Jordan was so serene in her appearance.  I wanted to get a quiet moment right before Jordan stepped into her dress… and it’s rare that I prefer a photo of my subject looking into the lens. I usually prefer the voyeur approach (the non-creep one) for the first half of the day.

 

I’ve always been little-kid fascinated by the effect two opposing mirrors create.  Chloe was always full of so much positive energy.  From the moment I arrived, it was instantaneously recognizable.  So why not capture an infinite amount of her glowing, smiling self?

 

99.9% of the time, when all of the girls are getting ready before the ceremony, I am the sole male figure in the room.  Sometimes I hear things that I cannot relate to… see things guys aren’t suppose to see… it’s easy to have a fleeting moment of misplacement.  I know this little dude right here (the bride’s nephew) shared my thoughts… I feel ya little man.

 

Let’s create photos that take a different perspective, make something grander.  The age old saying of “don’t shoot from below” is garbage… I shoot from where it makes the picture work.  I gathered the brides family right before the ceremony and laid down in the grass.  Told them to pose like complete badasses and quickly framed them between the palms.  I cannot stress enough how important quality compositions are in my work.  This is one of my favorite “family formals” I’ve shot… mainly because my OCD was well cared for.

 

Scouting you surrounds is paramount as a photographer. Take some time to look around, everywhere.  Beatriz was getting dressed in the apartment up and to the left.  As she was about to leave for the ceremony, but I stopped the girls from exiting out the front (the easier route) and suggested we leave through the back and down some steeper steps, knowing full well I wanted to frame her between the staircase.  The added surrounding of geometric shapes was an added bonus.

 

The backstory for this location is a wild one… leading up to Jenny and Alan’s destination wedding day in Barbados we had beautiful weather and perfect surf for three days.  Come the morning of the wedding, buckets of rain fell from the skies.  My epic first look location on a limestone cliff that I previously found was out of the question, good thing we had a Barbados local driving around with us in the shuttle vans, he then suggested this abandoned estate on the edge of town. The roof was Swiss cheese but hey it was our only option.  After running past a few unpleasant cows, trespassing into this location and a quick towel off, we had our first look moment about to unfold.  I’m not going to lie, the whole process was a bit crazier than I had hoped for, but the building anticipation in photos is something I always try to keep an eye out for, and here we had plenty.

 

Getting a bit deep here, not only in the mindfulness behind this photo but also in the bushes we were standing in… Zorik and John have a story stretched over more than a decade.  It includes escaping a persecuting country, meeting in the vastness of Manhattan and finally celebrating some kickass love in Palm Springs.  As I was scouting around the venue during the reception, looking for beams of afternoon light, I passed through this particular one and ran to grab the grooms.  Having them both only show a part of their faces makes me think about how two halves make a whole- two pasts creating one solid future.

 

You don’t always get to photograph on mountains or the desert or some epic forest. Sometimes the only outdoor open area is a side street in downtown LA.  It works so well here because not only are Mai and her girls seriously awesome with a little bit of attitude, but they’re all from the immediate area and I wanted a photo to try and encompass it all.  Needless to say we Vogue-walked the hell out of that alley.  The grit of the road, the leather jackets, the calm and cool don’t-mess-with-us vibes all fit so perfectly well.

 

Plain and simple… give me a pink backdrop and two genuinely happy people, and I’ll create a photo that you cannot look at without making your lips move.

 

So in this particular instance, I honestly just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Back up two minutes earlier, as I was drying off a groomsman dropped beer from my lens, I looked to my left and noticed this little mirror on the wall.  I immediately needed to find the groom for a quick shot inside the venue’s restroom… no joke, six seconds later he walks in to see me taking self-portraits.  We trade places for the photo you see here.  To this day, I will never know if the venue owners purposefully placed this mirror between the dog portraits in order to make funny photos… or if it was sheer happenstance.  I’m holing out for the first.

 

What draws me into this photo is how everything from the lights above, to the guests in the audience, to the bridal party, are all seemingly leaning straight into the center of the frame. Does it hurt that the ceremony space it absolutely awesome, not at all.

 

It was snowing outside during photo time with the guys, so we snuck inside the barn across the road… the groom’s head was cold.  Pick your buds wisely.  For the most part, my favorite group images happen before or after I give any direction. Be ready.

 

Unplugged weddings be damned.  I REALLY want to see grandpa’s photo here.  Another example watching the main players on wedding day and who they interact with.  The second his camera went up I sprinted over to join the scene, grandma was ready.

 

You might not believe me, but I 1000% intended (hoped) on this happening.  This donkey was the star of the show at Rosie and Geoff’s backyard wedding and was so friendly to anyone approaching the fence line.  After stalling for a minute or two, pretending to change a camera battery and memory card, I waiting for our four-legged friend to casually stroll over and whisper sweet nothings in Rosie’s ear.  A quick “hey everyone look at me” and the timing worked out perfectly.

 

Halfway through the ceremony, Chloe and Sean turned from the crowd to share a quiet moment and prayer.  They mentioned before the wedding, that at a point during the ceremony, this would be happening… I held onto that thought, I wanted a photo from this different perspective.  So as I tried my best to casually, but quickly, work my way through the super thorn-rose patch to the left, I crouched (now bloody) in the bushes and took this single photo before they turned back.  I like to think they’re sharing a super sweet moment or inside joke that only the pastor and I got to witness.

 

When I have an open weekend I really love second shooting with fellow photo friends… there’s this opportunity to make different images from when I’m photographing my own couples.  You are allowed to have a slightly more observant approach, a removed aspect from the relationship because you’re  just meeting the majority these people for the first time and an opportunity to shoot a “behind the scenes” body of work.  It was raining here during the family formals (happening behind me) as the crowds began to form in the weather protected amateur photographer’s corral.  If you’re a wedding photographer I hope you find this funny.

 

Jordan and I were walking to the photo spot I had originally picked out for some portraits… I try to remember to walk a distance away (at times) from the people I’m photographing in case they enter a scene I did not previously see.  She happened to walk perfectly into this light beam, I called out to her to hold up a second and look as majestic as humanly possible.  She nailed it.  Not everything can be premeditated, give chance credit when deserved.

 

This is actually Jordan’s (from the photo above) husband Joseph.  And during the ring exchange I overheard him laughing quietly about how surprisingly tight his ring now happened to feel. At the end of the recessional I asked “hey man, how’s that ring finger feeling?”.  Safe to say it was tight as hell.

 

I’m honestly just such a huge fan of these two and their story that this photo immediately strikes me as a favorite.  The slight juxtaposition of the attire and location was something they both wanted in photos, so we carved out some extra time to hop in my truck and drive just outside of Palm Springs to find wide-open, rougher land.  The reflection in his shades mixed with the desertscape is also a win-win in my book.

 

I rarely use my long telephoto lens on wedding days, but in this instance I knew the photo I wanted and needed to compress the light curtain, the kiss and the background guests tapping their wine glasses watching the lip action unfold.  I just sat a good distance away during dinnertime and patiently waited for a minute or two.

 

I picked this photo based solely on the fact that it makes me happy.

 

Think this is a neat photo.

 

I believe you need photos that show the environment in which the wedding took place, details of everything, to really set the mood of the day.  This particular celebration happened to be within the confines of the Palm Beach Zoo & Gardens.  The larger scene behind the couple shows a large body of water/swampy area, native to Florida.  And as we were grabbing some wider shots, I noticed this six foot “toothy log” pop up to the surface and I crept closer without addressing the dinosaur behind them for the photo you see here.  Part of me likes to think I have one of the very few wedding photos with a full grown American alligator in the same frame as a couple.

 

I had been trying all day to get a solo portrait of this dude ever since he ghosted me during family photos.  Right after the cake was cut, I turned and spotted him alone on the dance floor… like approaching a skittish deer, I very slowly turned and raised my camera to not raise suspicion.  Too slow on my part, his wedding date insisted she be included in every photo I take of him, no exceptions.  Later realizing that both their personalities came through spot on.

 

No hotels required for this wedding.  When you camp out with your friends and family, it’s only fitting to get a photo next to your impromptu tent village.  I really enjoy not using additional lighting when I can get away with it… I never want to alter the look and feel of your surroundings unless absolutely necessary.

 

Before the wedding I was perusing the interwebs and found a photo of a model illuminated from behind by car headlights… it stuck in my head.  During the walk from cocktail hour to dinner, we passed a lone tiki torch and the three of us stopped for a moment try out some similar shots.  I am a fan of this because, in my brain, it quickly and matter-of-factually shows an accurate depiction of these two lovers as they were on their wedding day… minimal distracting elements, with an almost sketch outline of their physical form for the record.

 

When you have your best friends in one place, celebrating together, beautiful moments are plentiful.  It’s my job to hunt them down and capture them.  Mai and Matthew had one heck of a dance party with this circling of guests cheering them on for the last song of the evening.  I climbed atop a bar stool to elevate my view point above outstretched arms and was lucky enough to nail focus on Mai’s perfect moment with her new husband.

 

More often than not, I find myself staying later than the contracted time when I can palpably sense the party hasn’t fully ended. This instance happened to occur once I saw the best man taking his pants off poolside.  The groomsmen had already entered the water for some cooling off in the Florida Keys heat and we got some shots of them swimming about.  As I saw the best man here backing way down the pool deck I yelled out, “show me sexy”.  He nailed it.  Weddings are fun.

 

This last image was taken about thirty seconds after the photo above.  The groom had been in the pool with is dudes (hence the soaked shirt) as his bride safe on the dry safety of the pool deck.  Before I departed I asked him to hop out and join her for a final make-out session as the guys in the pool threw and splashed as much water as they could in their direction.  The pool crew kindly obliged and we got this outer space looking final image as the last photo to end the evening.

  1. Qay

    December 14th, 2017 at 5:01 am

    👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 You def deserve it! Congrats

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