Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Casual Observer

I very rarely take a day off. Day in and out I am usually either on client shoots or editing them, ordering prints, running concepts, meeting potential clients or heck, even cleaning the office. I eat, sleep and breathe photography- I dream about it at night and think about it all day. I measure light and angles, even when I do not have the camera in my hand.

Lets be honest, professional photographers in this day and age wear many hats. There are a lot of things we have to do to make it work. We are not just photographers anymore- we are our own business managers, sales staff, marketing department, order fulfillment team, receptionists and editors. We are just most passionate about the photography part...thats where our hearts lie and thats why we do it all. Thats the part we love. So, as you can imagine, when I take a day off of studio stuff, ripping the camera from my hand is very much akin to ripping the heart from my chest.

Much as rarely take a day off, I even more rarely am a guest at a wedding rather than a vendor... so I was absolutely overjoyed to spend the evening in Tucson Sunday at the wedding of Jake and Jamie- Kirk's cousin and his very long time better half. Just don't ask me to put down the camera.

I took this as an opportunity to shoot from a 100% photo journalistic standpoint, much as a newspaper photographer would- a casual and silent observer. No major editing (just a little color correction or a conversion into standard black and white here and there) , no pressure, no direction, no responsibility....just an evening of photography, fun and family. This is harder for me than one might think, since I tend to naturally go into work mode at weddings.

I admit it...I had been looking forward to this since we got news of their engagement. There was a great story around the proposal, and something about showing off the ring at a formal dance called the "Eye Ball" (optometry school comes up with original names for their events don't they? Jake just graduated...he is now Dr. Jake and has the ability to put crazy eye drops in peoples eyes that will make them wish they were dead the second they hit sunlight again...). We were thrilled for Jake and Jamie.

Months passed, and we did not hear much... until one day a cute little pink card arrived with their save the date info. On the calendar it went (thank goodness they sent out save the date cards...if you are debating, seriously, do this - it was the only reason I was able to go!) and viola! I had a date with a handsome Kirk in a tie and a day off.

Slinging my loaded shoot sac over my back, I was ready to have a little fun. Kirk left his camera in the car.

Jake and Jamie selected a lovely venue for their wedding, just a few miles up the road from Kirk's aunt's home in Tucson. The drive down was pleasant in the miata and while slightly warm, its was nice out and not unbearably hot like it sometimes tends to be this time of year. Traffic was lighter than expected given the current state of things construction wise on I-10 there, so we were a smidge early and dawdled a bit in an effort not to be too early.

When we arrived at the oasis at wild horse ranch we quickly found Kirk's dad, step mother and youngest brother relaxing at a patio table in the shade. Across the yard next to a lily pond, black chairs had been laid out for the ceremony, adorned with little pink fans.

Bridal party members bustled about and we eventually ran into Kirk's aunt Stacy and Jake's sister, Chelsea. They both looked beautiful! Stacy was wearing a gorgeous pink gown that reminded me very much of one of Jackie O's dresses that I had seen at the Phoenix Art Museum earlier this year and the bridesmaid gown Chelsea was wearing matched her eyes exactly.

I forget how much I miss those girls when I do not see them for so long. The Lane side of Kirk's family have the distinct fortune of being in possession of contagious smiles and amazingly sweet personalities. From what I am told, its a personality trait passed down from his grandmother, Lee. If everyone in the world were fortunate enough to know someone like these ladies, I think the general demeanor of the human race might change for the better! I remember feeling like family the first moment I met them... and I believe they have that effect on everyone they meet.

Jamie is no different, and so Jake is blessed with loving, sweet women surrounding him in his life. He knows he is a lucky man.

The ceremony began as we took a spot in the back of the field of guest chairs. Jake and Jamie's ceremony was beautiful. They were surrounded by family and friends from across the country. Beautiful cello music lead the bridal party to their positions and the officiant was gentle and kind to those there to support Jake and Jamie. The cacophony of shutters tripping was astounding, as point and shoot cameras were whipped out of pockets and purses, and held into the air hoping to catch a glimpse of true love and the beauty that surrounds it.

Witnessing as many weddings as I have, I have noticed that each groom has a "look" when they see their bride for the first time. Its amazing to watch- a very honest and candid expression few seem to notice. Jake was no exception. As Jamie's father escorted his daughter towards the aisle, the look on Jakes face was priceless. Pure adoration. Rightfully so...she was stunning. The dress she selected was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and suited her perfectly.

The ceremony was beautifully put together. Chelsea did the reading... and she was definitely just the person to do it. Chelsea is incredibly musical and theatrical, and though wedding readings are generally pretty predictable, she made it beautiful and memorable through her artful inflection and obvious genuine love for the her brother and his bride.

Vows were said, rings were exchanged. I think Jake had a little trouble, because it took him a little while to finish putting it on Jamie's finger. Kirk snickered and poked me because when we got married two years ago I tried to put his ring on the wrong hand. Hey, what can I say, its a nerve wracking thing to be up there in front of those you love. Remembering right from left is not always easy- nor is slipping a ring onto someone else's hand.

The officiant pronounced Jake and Jamie husband and wife. On review of the images I shot later, it played out like a perfect movie scene (in fact, I may have to throw them all together in a little animation tonight...) . Jake gently lifted Jamie's veil, gazed lovingly into her eyes, embraced her and kissed her. I admit this is probably one of my favorite wedding traditions. Every time, I hear in my head that classic line that ended "The Princess Bride":

"Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that have been rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind."

The joy was obvious as they turned and made their way back up the aisle, now husband and wife.

After the recessional everyone filed into an adjacent courtyard for cocktail hour while formal portraits were being taken. I admit to sniping a few shots while casually chatting with family and friends. It was fun to watch the bridal party laugh and play and dance to Jimmy Buffett songs while waiting for the next formal. It was the perfect time of day for the photographer to do portraits, and as the sun set the clouds lit up in shades of pink and blue, mimicking the bridal party's flowers.

Laughter and chatter was heard throughout the courtyard as people visited, some with family and friends they had not seen in quite a long time. The bridal party happily hung out on the lower terrace having joyful conversation between formals.

Portraits were taken, lives were gladly signed away into one collective life, and as the sun finally dipped below the horizon, everyone was ushered into the reception hall for dinner.

The bridal party was introduced and the couple made their grand entrance.

After the meal, a champagne toast was given. Many members of the bridal party had lovely things to say, but it was Jake's father Noah who took the cake. In an elaborate story style toast, he seemed nearly moved to tears as he spoke about how proud he was of his gentle and intelligent son, and how joyful he was to have a sweet and beautiful new daughter in law. He was beaming.

I am not sure where they got the wedding cake, but it was lovely. After a long set of photos mock cutting the cake, the cake was cut and served. There was no face smashing to report. It tasted as lovely as it looked, which is saying something. Jamie's cousin, a gifted musician, serenaded the couple and played guitar while cake was served.

Kirk and I had intended to leave by 9pm to make the drive back to Phoenix before we were too tired, but we were having too much fun. Following the cake, everyone walked into the dance hall to watch Jake and Jamie take their first spin on the dance floor as husband and wife. No instruction needed, and no penguin shuffle dancing for these two...they stepped out with grace and style to a selection by Norah Jones.

Parent dances were next and Jamie and her father shared a dance together. We could not wipe the smiles from our faces watching Stacy and Jake dance- and I don't think they could either!

After that, all the fun broke loose! Chelsea has quite a knack for swing dancing and looking good while doing it- and the whole bridal party followed suit! It was a riot to watch them all dance together. After watching Noah dance with Chelsea, I see where she gets it from.

Eventually we did have to sneak away, or risk not making the drive home. For the first time ever, I wished we still lived in Tucson so we could have stayed a little longer. It was so much fun to be a fly on the wall just watching everyone have a blast!

Kirk and I were so happy to see Jake and Jamie finally tie the knot. Jamie has another year of school (she's going to be an optometrist too- is that cool or what?) and then they will be moving back to Tucson from California! We can't wait! It was so nice to see everybody again...we really don't make it down to Tucson enough to visit.

It was fantastic to spend a wedding as a casual observer. While it was a little different than what I am used to, it was an entertaining challenge for me. We had a great time! I am sure the hired photographer captured some incredible images (hopefully many many more than I did-I was simply shooting candids...) too and I can't wait to see them.

Family and friends, leave a note or shoot me an email and I will get you guys a disc if you want one...the images in this blog are just a few of the ones I captured for the day. Had I included all the images I would have liked to share, this post would have never ended.


Brittany K Lane said...

MY WORD those are beautiful photos! I love the colors... that blue on the bridesmaid dresses is fabulous!

OK I AM DOING THE FANS. I have seen them (this is the 2nd wedding), loved them, and keep thinking of not doing them... but I think I am going to do them... AH

RedFeather said...

You totally should. Your guests might thank you later...it can easily hit 110 degrees and record highs that weekend top out at 120! That and they are just plain pretty!