[ B L O G ! ]

Jim & Lela – 2014 is already awesome

Welcome to 2014: in January I was swept out of Illinois and brought to the 2 costs of America. No kidding! My first wedding of 2014, while Chicago sat in one of it’s coldest winters in history, was in Miami. Miami!

Not only was I in Miami, but I was there with some downright awesome people: meet Jim and Lela. They’re your spittin’ image of high school love, except better. She held on for dear life as Jim traveled the world exploring the sparkle in his soul. The man is like a Dos Equis commercial throwing up all over a Banana Republic shopping experience. No stains, either. Can’t visualize that? No worries: he’s awesome, and he knows how to wear his clothes.

Lela is a little sweetheart herself. She’s got a heart of gold. She’s also witty. Like: just when you think Jim is the adventurous one, she’ll throw down and have you convinced that she’s the one who really know’s how to party/adventure/rock-on.

It doesn’t end there. I was also blessed to have the incredible crew of Isle Media Hawaii (with Alan Sangpan and Lester Tabucbuc) bring it all together with their visual storytelling skills via video.

Special thanks to my incredible all-star assistant and photographer Mike Talladen for not dying. He was on the verge of throwing up the entire trip, but I couldn’t’ have asked for a better assistant. We know how to finish our jobs.

Anyway. Welcome to 2014. This year is already awesome.

(Jim and Lela’s rehearsal the night before their wedding at Miami’s Temple House: http://thetemplehouse.com )

Ben

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The Storybook

This year I began offering a custom designed, hand-bound leather Storybook album. Here’s Alice and David’s 10″ album from their wedding this June at Armour House in Lake Forest, IL. They chose Aquamarine Leather for their color.

These are a family heirloom that will last for generations in their future homes. They’re designed to read easily, with plenty of white negative space to reflect the motion of the day. This way they’ll be easy to look through for years and years.

Alice and David wanted to gift their parents for helping them with the wedding, so they decided to add-on two additional 8″ Linen Parent Albums created with Spade Linen as the color.

Ben

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Introduction to Summer

It is August, and summer is breathing its final gentle breath of coolness – that is not a temperature of cool, but the overwhelming feeling of attraction. We forget that just a few months ago we were stirring in the late winds of a winter that gripped the Chicago landscape, it wanted us to remember every moment of cold we felt this winter.

This has been an exciting season for me – my clients have brought me from Manhattan to Los Angles. I’ve discovered the incredible sensation of North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX!) and why people freak out about the doughnuts there. I saw what happens when the power goes out during the dinner of a summer camp wedding in the deep woods of Woodruff, WI., and how incredibly nasty a Quality Inn hotel can really be (I would have rather just brought my tent and sleeping bag to that wedding!) I’ve felt a barn floor rumble and shake as an entire wedding danced away above live chickens and goats. I’ve watched a bride get ready at Madison’s Hilton on a day when 7 other brides got ready at the same hotel, then walked through the Madison streets with her, loaded with tourists flocking the annual Art and Craft fest.

Just a few quick images from these adventures. Enjoy!

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Kelly & Mark // Forever Session

This is Kelly & Mark. She grooms pets, he’s a musician. They love Chicago. This session was taken near a Jimmy John’s that Mark used to work at in Chicago. It’s a rooftop that they both love the view from. The sun was perfect, the night incredible. Thanks for a great evening Kelly & Mark!

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Reception Lighting Workshop

One of my favorite parts of the wedding day is the reception – just an incredible celebration of people who matter to the bride and groom on their wedding day. And it’s usually without stress – no more schedule to think about.

But we have it rough out here in the midwest: a lot of our reception halls are super dark. And if it’s not here in Chicago, it’s the same when I’m in California under the dark night of an outdoor reception or out on the east coast under a reception tent late at night. Often the “fancy” lighting that a reception hall sets up is generally poor for a digital camera to focus and capture. Add DJ up-lighting on top of that and you have a total mess of photography challenges.

A few years back I found myself disappointed at my end of night images during weddings. And if anyone knows me, they know that I’m not one to cave into my disappointments. I will tackle them straight on.

It’s been a fruitful adventure. Reception lighting is now one of my favorite parts of the wedding because it’s no longer scary to me. And it shouldn’t be for any photographer!

Just a few nights ago I got to speak to a group of 50 Chicago wedding photographers at a Reception Lighting mini-Workshop. I joined wedding photographer Wes Craft (http://www.wescraftweddings.com) and photojournalist Brian Powers (http://bpowersphotography.com) in a 2 hour discussion about helpful lighting systems to use at receptions.

The feedback has been super positive, and my hope is to continue spreading the good word out to photographers all over! Better lighting opens up inspiration! And challenges are an invitation to new opportunities!

Thanks all!

Ben

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These blistery days are over – and some beautiful images!

Last week I went over to Lincoln Park with Ginny & Adam. They’re getting married this summer. They were in town all the way from Detroit, MI. What I didn’t expect was for Lake Michigan to blow some of the moodiest weather over Chicago I’ve seen all winter. It wasn’t snowing, or raining – nothing was really falling. But WOW was it windy! I think Spring was seriously fighting with old man Winter to move on over. And I agree! Who is ready for some color around here?!

But this kind of weather really begs for some a kind of image you can’t get on a sunny summer day.

I’m super excited to spend some more time with these two. And thanks for not flying away with the wind!

Enjoy 😉

Ben

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The raw emotionality of it

In one day so much happened. Browsing around Facebook I saw a wonderful person, and photographer, Samm Blake post a quote by Christopher Anderson:

My generation and generations after me, young generations, are less and less interested in fact of perfect compositions and action of making a perfect image; they are more interested in just a raw emotionality of it.

Yup – that was it. Those words, the “raw emotionality,” are exactly the kind of thing I appreciate when I’m photographing a wedding.

Portraits are nice. They’re meant to capture a bit of who you are during a very special time in your life. But I’ve never been keen on advertising anything perfect. I’ve never asked my clients to change who they are when they work for me. I don’t want them to act. Most of the time I’m showing them how to un-act in front of the camera. That’s where the beauty is.

Recently I reached out to all of my 2012 clients and asked them to send me their favorite wedding image along with a few lines describing why that image. I wanted to setup a contest on Facebook to bring in other like-minded people who felt strongly about these kind of personal images created during wedding days.

One particular email stood out. It was from a guy (which is fresh in an industry where so much pressure is put on the girl to perform), and it was in response to me reaching out with the Facebook contest:

Feb. 20, 2013
Ben,

Apologies if this e-mail is a bit long. In the first place, I hope all is well with you. It’s exciting to see that your business is growing so well, you deserve it.

I must admit, I’m not a fan of “contests” like this. I understand it from the photographer’s perspective to gain exposure, certainly. But they end up becoming contests of who has the most friends willing to click, and little about photography, etc. But such is life, and I’m certainly not such a curmudgeon that I’d complain too strongly.

In fact, as far as spreading the word about you, [we] could not recommend you more highly. You did everything we wanted in terms of photography and more and your personality made it feel as though we had another friend joining us at our celebration as opposed to an intrusive photographer. We don’t have a lot of friends who are currently in the market for wedding photographers, but if you’d ever like someone to provide general testimonial, I’d be more than happy to do so.

And despite my skepticism about contests, I do wish to share a picture with you, along with it’s story, regardless of whether or not it is included. I don’t know that the photo below is the “best”. Certainly [we] look better in other photos. In fact, I’m sure that you and I could look through the photos you shot that day and pick 4 or 5 that are absolutely great examples of photography worthy of display on a website. But the photo below….it was taken mere seconds after we’d walked down the aisle after being declared husband and bride. We were in in the vestibule of the church, out of eyeshot of our friends and family…in fact, I didn’t even realize that you were back there. I grabbed [her] and kissed her on the cheek and in that moment, my heart was about to explode with happiness. Before the wedding, I knew in the abstract that I’d be happy to be married, but at that very moment it hit me how truly amazing marriage to [her] was going to be and I can honestly say that it is the happiest moment of my life. And you just happened to be there to catch it on film and that makes me so very happy.

So…that’s a story about a photo you took…We may also to use one of those 4 or 5 pictures that are more visually stunning (in fact, I’d love to hear which of the photos you took is your favorite). But I thought I’d give you a picture, a story, and the compliments that you deserve for doing such a wonderful job for us.

Thanks, Ben, and best of luck!!!!

It’s emails like this that keep me behind the camera on wedding days. What really hit me with this response was how little I actually thought about what these images meant to my clients. I’m so close to that pre-wedding excitement when couples are literally creating an event to celebrate their life-long love, but I hardly hear back from all of them about how the images actually captured something real and honest about not only the architecture of their wedding day, but also of something that cameras are so good at: capturing moments.

So here you go – here’s that black & white moment he spoke of. And at his request, a few of my favorites from the day 😉

Ben

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Winter is here, so are engagements

I’m okay with the hibernation state of the winter season here in Chicago. I’m no okay with the lack of snow this year. I feel for all the kids this winter who are still waiting for that total collapse of the sky in hopes of a winter wonderland. If even for a day.

With the winters, even the tan and dry and shrubby and snow-less ones, come engagements. Lots of engagements! I appreciate the break from a heavy shooting schedule. It allows me to focus on other work, like going to Haiti with Mission 29.2, and incredible non-profit I work with.

But there are also a few precarious souls who actually want a portrait session during the winter. Felicia and Ross are one of those couples. We met at the Panera Bread right on Michigan Ave. in downtown Chicago on snow-less but cold winter day a few days after Christmas. She was nervous, he was cheeky red with happiness to be with his fiance.

And this is why I love these sessions. They break the ice and we get to spend some time getting to know each other before the wedding.

Thanks for the great afternoon at Millennium Park you two!

Ben

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The other first kiss…

There are two primary components to what I photograph on a wedding day: moments and portraits.

90% of the day are just moments happening right in front of me, and I just wait wait wait and watch throughout the day for these things to pop up. Although easily confused for being a creep, I’m clearly getting paid to do a professional job that simply involves a lot of looking at people. I only have control of about 10% of the moments that happen in front of me, so there’s some pride associated with being able to hunt down and capture something special during the other 90%.

At Tricia & Andrew’s beautiful October wedding in Galena, lots of moments were happening. The morning was a bit slow (everyone needs time to wake up, even on wedding days…), but later in the afternoon that church had some energy in it!

Just after Tricia and Andrew’s ceremony this tiny little ring-bearer just kept posting this sense of adolescent joy all over his face. It was addictive to look at, so I had to keep reminding myself that there were a bride and groom to be photographed, too.

And that’s when this moment happened. I’m not sure if Tricia or the kid started it, but something happened between them – and RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE GROOM!!! OK, which of them started it doesn’t really matter. But you have to admit – this is an adorable moment.

Happy holidays everyone! More posts to come before 2012 ends…

And if you’ve not read it yet, another great post on moments right here (if you love your father, you’re gonna love this one).

Ben

Wedding location: Galena, IL.
Church: St. Michael Church on South Bench Street
Reception: Chestnut Mountain Resort & Lodge

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2012 – and that’s a wrap! (Katie & Bill got married, too!)

I’m so glad to be back on this blog. Since June of this year when I opened the season with a triple wedding weekend on June 8, 9 and 10 – spread between the west Chicago burbs, Detroit and downtown Chicago, I’ve been non-stop.

I’ve had exactly 2 free Saturdays between June 1st and November 3rd. I’ve had only 1 weekend completely free of work (sadly, it’s because a bride had to change her wedding date).

But this year has ended so sweetly. Let me introduce to you Katie & Bill.

I won’t go to much into who they are, but I will tell you the most precious moment of their entire wedding (to me). At the end of the night I got a few moments to speak with Katie’s father. I expressed to him how clearly I could see the love he had for his daughter. Rather than replying, his face just got all blushed up and red. It was beyond cute. It was precious.

What I have learned about myself in the past year of photographing weddings is this: beyond a perfect photo session, incredible weather, a wonderful relationship obviously formed by God or something profoundly loving – what I simply adore the most about a wedding day is an honest, heart-pounding father-daughter first dance.

There are few times I cry in public, but each time a father holds his daughter on the dance floor on the day he’s meant to let go responsibility of her once and for all, and you can see that each and every step counts in these final minutes, and that he holds her like he did when she was only 3 months old, I cry. I sob straight through the entire dance with my camera up to my face clicking, clicking, capturing.

I’m not embarrassed of this one bit.

I think at the core of what I do as a wedding photographer, besides all the ridiculous people I meet, the close encounters of selfishness and ignorance within the wedding industry, I really do learn how to become a better husband, a future father, a lover, each time I witness it honestly happening on the other side of the lens…

And this is what I’m most grateful for today.

Ben

Wedding location: Milwaukee
Church: Gesu Church, Marquette University
Reception: Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

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