Spring in New York City has been extremely delayed this year. This engagement session took place on the first really warm and really windy April weekend. Des and Rob hail from upstate New York and wanted their engagement to capture a bit of the Big Apple. In contrast, their wedding ceremony will take place at the top of Hunter Mountain ski resort. We met up in Williamsburg and hit up Brooklyn Brewery. However, this plan was quickly abandoned as the entrance line stretched for half a block. It seemed like every New Yorker of drinking age was out and about on this warm day. After a stroll in the neighborhood we headed for Coney Island, our main and final destination. Our only obstacle that day was the cold wind coming from the ocean. Luckily, Rob and Des are two tough cookies and they did not mind it nor complained about it. They really enjoyed each other in front of camera and had a good time throughout the afternoon. I had a few ideas I wanted to implement using Canon’s latest 600EX-RT wireless flashes and we really had to rush things around the sunset time. The first concept was to use the flash and combine it with the bright background of the sunset. The flash was hidden under the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog umbrella. This allowed me to highlight the couple and keep the bright sunset exposed while making the busy surroundings disappear in the shadows. The next shot was taken in a grungy back alley with an elongated puddle in the middle. Des and Rob were skeptical when they saw me working this area but the photo in the end convinced them to trust me :) The famous wooden Cyclone roller coaster is right behind them. The final dusk shots were taken after the sun was already gone. I love creating silhouettes, but I like selective lighting techniques even more. Here I was able to do a bit of both. Rob and Des were really cold by the end of the shoot and I am grateful for their patience and positivity. I can’t wait for the wedding day and to capture them exchanging vows on the top of a mountain! Cross my fingers for no wind.

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Pro bono work may come your way in various ways: sometimes you plan for it in advance, donating your time and effort toward a cause you believe in; sometimes you are asked to collaborate on an existing project; and some (lucky) times, it falls in your lap by being at the right place at the right time. In the last scenario, when the opportunity presents itself, all of a sudden you are working without realizing it. At these times, I feel like I’m a part of people’s happiness, another cog in the wheel of their joy, photographing pro bono, out of love for what I do and out of passion that I have for life and people.

This brings us to Mexico. This past May I was there for a weekend to attend my wife’s dental school reunion and it was a pleasure meeting a lot of her wonderful friends. Also, I tell you, one gets conscious smiling around 20+ dentists! We had lots of fun and celebrated new and old friendships. On one of these warm nights I challenged my friend Chaeho to stay up way past bedtime and see the sunrise. I love sunsets and sunrises but have a big problem with the latter as they happen way too early. I think it’s easier to stay up all night and just wait for one. Good wine and company sure helps pass the time :)  As we were waiting for the sun to rise, we met and started talking to a couple from Scotland, Heather and Abraham. Guess what Abraham does for a living in Scotland? He’s a dentist! Very fitting for our weekend’s get together theme. It turned out Heather and Abraham were up all night too and as we were chatting, Abraham pulls me over to the side and tells me “I’m about to propose to Heather! Would you take a few pictures?” Ummm, hell yes! So they walk away and I fill my friend in on the plan and we follow them down the beach, as inconspicuously as possible. Adding further pressure to my role as an incognito photographer was my 50mm lens; earlier in the day my trusty fifty broke down after years of use and abuse and stopped focusing… so now I need to be a sneaky photographer in manual focus mode while my eyes are definitely tired from waiting for the sun to rise! Needless to say, everything came together as it always does in these moments of  morning bliss and Abraham’s proposal went without a hitch. Heather said yes, they embraced, kissed, and were madly in love as the sun rose for all of us that morning.

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A photographer friend of mine put me in touch with a young man who was looking to have a surprise engagement session in NYC. Turns out the guy is a son of a famous photoshop guru whose name we should not put here. I got to talk to Mike a few days later and he told me his girlfriend was flying in to NYC to visit her brother around Christmas time. What she didn’t know was that Mike was scheming with her brother to surprise her in NYC and was flying in a day after to propose to her. In addition, both of their families were in on the plan. The only one who didn’t know about any of it was Mike’s girlfriend Alexis. It was his first time in NYC and he knew where he wanted it to happen but needed help with details as he really didn’t know the area. So we hitched a plan to meet at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and walk over to Rockefeller Center and find a good place where Mike can propose under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. We came early as the crowds in the area are crazy this time of the year and it takes a good ten minutes to walk each city block. It’s like being at a concert but the crowds are packed along the sidewalk. Alexis was on the way walking from Grand Central with her brother. The guys kept in touch by text message to keep each other informed. Additionally, Mike used a tracking app to see Alexis’ position by having the app preinstalled on her iPad and watching her move on the iphone. I thought this was really cool and sneaky. We waited around a long time for them and when we finally spotted them among the crowd the time seemed to stop. Mike came up to Alexis and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around and was completely confused, then happy, then even more confused. When it finally sank in she was just ecstatic to see him there, and that’s when he got in on one knee and made it all unreal all over again. She was shocked and could not believe that it was happening. The crowd suddenly dispersed and there was room to breathe. They were given space to have this moment to each other and a whole New York minute later everyone surrounding them went into applause! And they were engaged.

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Last week Peter married Judy and this week she is returning the favor. At least here on the blog. In reality, their second wedding celebration took place in Brooklyn in early January. However, if you look at the pictures you would think that they got married in the spring or summer. This past winter season was one of the warmest winters in New York’s history and everyone made the most of it. It’s almost as if Peter and Judy brought weather with them from Aruba; and with the weather, they brought their good humor and infectious appetite for fun. In order for Peter to pick up Judy from her parents’ house, he and his groomsmen must pass the Chinese tradition of door games. This is a custom that tests the extent of the grooms love for the bride. The bridesmaids come up with challenges and the groomsmen proudly, but not willingly, complete them. These challenges included; fishing out grapes and pennies from an ice cold bucket with their toes, drinking very strange looking shots of even stranger flavors, doing a bunch of pushups and singing love songs at the top of their voices! As if all of this wasn’t enough, the groomsmen also had to give bridesmaids money! (preferably in multiples of 9 as it is a lucky number that sounds like ‘forever’ in Chinese) There was some heavy bargaining going on and after successfully satisfying every girls’ pocketbook Peter finally got his prize and he carried Judy out in his arms! There was a great deal of dancing and socializing that night and this time around they were joined on the dance floor by 300 of their New York friends and relatives. More love songs were sang and great memories were made. Congrats to you guys on pulling off two weddings in a span of a month and doing a really great job. Have a blast being married!

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This was a destination wedding I will never forget. Peter and Judy flew me out to Aruba for their dream wedding, taking place in front of 50 of their closest friends and family members. December is not the ideal season in Aruba and there were daily showers the entire week of our stay. Except for that one bright sunny and clear day… when they got married! I knew the wedding was going to be a lot of fun since the family and friends are a really close group of people. I clearly undermined everyone. Fun just does not explain it, having a blast is what this wedding felt like! Everyone present put effort and energy into making it a very successful, pleasant, and emotional day. The ceremony on the beach took place just before the sunset and it was stunning. Since there was no rain, the reception was held outside and everyone enjoyed eating and dancing under the stars. Speeches were written from the heart and everyone cried. Peter’s dance with his mom made everyone cry a second time, myself included. There was some serious dancing happening and by the end of the night, shirts were loosened, pants were torn, and lots of shoes were thrown aside. I had the pleasure of photographing the whole reception barefoot and loved it. I wish I got to do that more often. Judy almost got killed by the groomsmen, as evidenced by the photo of her flying when they toss her up in the air. Lastly, at the end of the night Peter had to take a mandatory dip in the ocean. After many yummy shots, the groomsmen felt strong and generous and “offered” to carry him all the way there. It certainly was a great ending to a perfect wedding and everyone got to feel the sand under their feet. Aruba was a good host. Stay tuned for more news from these two as “Judy Marries Peter” hits the blog next week!

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