Category Archives: Inspiration

Jess’s Fine Art Bridal Portrait Session

08 | 03 | 2011

The great thing about bridal portrait sessions, as opposed to weddings, is that you have the real luxury of having time to make portraits, slowly.  I mean: I love the challenge and the rush of making portraits happen in the swirl of the events and obligations of a wedding day (what wedding photographer doesn’t?!).  And Jess’s session was slower than most because we intentionally sought to make images on our slowest, most deliberate cameras.

Bridal sessions are about the bride and certainly also about her exquisite refinery.  Jess’s dress was designed and lovingly crafted by Suzanne Hanley of Atelier des Modistes.  Sue is a genius designer and I feel lucky to count her among my friends.   I particularly love the lace chevrons (though, seriously, I can’t fathom how much time it took her and her team to make those) and the bustle, which reminds me so much of the wild, wild west.  Jess’s bridal session is also featured {here} on 100 Layer Cake today, with an interview from Jess about the custom dressmaking process.

Neither one of us could have known that Jess’s wedding day would bring rain (or rainbows) and mud or that the slow moments in the day could be counted on the fingers of two hands, so I am extra grateful we made time early in the summer before her wedding to make these portraits.

Jess found other value in making these images.  This is what she wrote:

“I thought it was really helpful to do the portrait session before, because it was an excellent introduction to you and Matt, and how you like to work. It was also great for me to hear some tips from you on posture, how to stand, how to act, etc., before the “main event,” so to speak. It was certainly a little more challenging to take photos alone, as opposed to how much more natural and easy it felt when I was with TJ.  But I think for people who haven’t been photographed much before [their weddings], it’s a great introduction. Plus seeing these initial proofs, I could then say to myself—well, I like it when I smile like this or that, and I love how my hair and makeup looks in these photos, and so onso it was a great dry run overall.”

photographs: Gia Canali

gown: Sue Hanley, Atelier des Modistes, whose little shop in San Francisco I featured awhile back; hair and makeup: Sharon Tabb.

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J + TJ’s Rustic Handmade Colorado Ranch Wedding (With Rainbows and a Rodeo Arena Reception)!

08 | 03 | 2011

Now, finally on to Jess and TJ’s actual wedding day!  By the morning of the wedding, it really did feel—as Jess and TJ had so hoped and schemed—like everyone there was one big family.   We woke before dawn to take in the “jingle” with some of TJ’s cousins.  Then, everybody else began readying themselves for the day.  I’m not sure what I could really say to do this wedding justice, so I’m keeping my notes uncharacteristically brief.

Jess and TJ saw each other for the first time in a wide open field, a couple of hours before the ceremony was scheduled to start.  We had planned to make a bunch of portraits during that time … but it started to rain just as they finished with that first quiet moment, so we retreated to stay dry.  Wedding party and immediate family portraits were made in the little sliver of shelter under the eaves of the barn.

Jess’s grandfather was quite the photographer in his day, and he even used to make carbro prints (the vintage photographic process on which I have the second biggest crush).  So when he asked me to make a portrait of him (with his bow tie!), I obliged using one of my favorite vintage cameras.

Jess and TJ’s wedding ceremony was perhaps my favorite part of the whole weekend.  It took place atop a cliff overlooking an incredible valley.  We loved how they made the ceremony so, so personal … and got everybody involved!  One friend officiated, others did readings, or sang songs.  Their dog, Midas, was the ring bearer (bearing the real rings). And Jess and TJ’s guests had sent them pieces of fabric with their reply cards to make a quilt that was incorporated into the ceremony.  Here’s what Jess says:

“I wrote the ceremony (which I would also recommend since it made it sooo personal for us) and as part of that, we did a “community blessing” where everyone in the audience held hands and connected all the way to us—as we were wrapped in the quilt with pieces of them all around us. It was one of my favorite moments of the ceremony, and maybe one of my favorite pics from the entire wedding (maybe also because this was when it started to pour rain!). We then used the quilt as a backdrop for our photo booth which was fun because people got to go up and pick out where their piece was on the quilt. TJ and I now have the quilt on our bed and it’s an awesome reminder of that amazing moment.”

I did my best to hide under an umbrella while the rain pour downed and keep my cameras (more or less) dryish while I was shooting (although I was more conspicuous than I would have wanted to be for sure).  But I love the photos from the recessional, with light reflecting through raindrops on my lens glass.  By then, I think I’d dashed out from under the umbrella!

Guests moved to the indoor rodeo arena for dinner, dancing, and bull-riding.  Despite the enormity of the space or the fact that it was really (really!) just a barn, Jess and TJ made it feel cozy, welcoming and even (kind of, but not too) fancy.  The warm happy color palette seemed especially appropriate after a day that had gone from clear and beautiful, to dark and stormy, to rainbows …

Below: Jess and TJ’s first dance and the beginnings of a long, happy night of dancing.

The photo booth was so fun!  You might recognize the quilt, re-purposed …

Maybe the best thing, though, was the mechanical bull!  I loved seeing everybody’s best wild west moves!  Jess made the operator buck her off (although she really, really didn’t want to buck the bride).  It was so funny!

The wedding is featured {here} today on 100 Layer Cake (hooray!).  Be sure to stop back tomorrow and Friday for photographs from Jess’s bridal session and Jess and TJ’s post-wedding love shoot, plus a peek at some of their paper goods …

photographs: Gia Canali

wedding planning: Stacy McCain; wedding design, Duet Events (the bride and her friend’s design company); florals, Sweet Pea Flowers, Denver; lighting & other magic tricks, Pink Monkey Solutions; dj: DJ Smiles Davis; dessert buffet, Tee and Cakes; venue and catering: C Lazy U Ranch

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J+TJ Hoedown!

08 | 01 | 2011

Those of you who have been reading the blog a long time know that it’s pretty rare for me to feature a whole wedding (that’s not what my blog is about!), but this wedding is going to be an exception, multiple times over to go with the myriad events that made up Jess and TJ’s celebration.  When Jess first called me about photographing her wedding at a guest ranch in Granby, Colorado, I was excited to return to the landscape of my youth.  My parents had a tiny horse ranch in the mountains nearby when I was a little girl, and I’ve always thought Colorado possesses some kind of real magic.  I thought the events of the weekend, even the ones I wasn’t slated to photograph, sounded so fun—a hoedown, a poker tournament, field day, a tented dinner party, a wedding reception in a rodeo arena—but I had no idea how exhilarating it would be to show up to an event where I would end up shooting in my mom’s old cowgirl boots and it actually made sense (really, was practically required). Nor did I realize the kind of camaraderie Jess and TJ would be cultivating amongst their friends and family before the wedding.  So often two families can’t really get to know each other before a wedding and, at least when you think of a wedding as a big send off into married life—a show of support from a couple’s community—there’s no better way to get everybody really “in” on the send off than to get folks together for days of fun together.

The hoedown was the welcome party.  And it was a real hoedown, complete with bluegrass music, bbq, lots of dancin’, a big bonfire, and cowboys “branding” guests’ boots and belts with the C Lazy U brand.   I have to think that this is one of the best weddings to be a guest at that I’ve ever been a part of.   100 Layer Cake is featuring the wedding all this week, too, and their post for the hoedown can be found {here}.

photographs: Gia Canali

event coordination / production: Stacy McCain Events, SF; event design: Duet Events (Jess’s wedding design company!); location: C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, CO; florals: Lisa Anderson, Sweet Pea Flowers, Denver; delish silverware sleeves, Miss Pickles Press.

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Things I Like: An Heirloom Lace Veil (& a Good Story)

05 | 17 | 2011

{click to enlarge}

I consider myself a collector of stories (sometimes a creator of them, but not in this case).  In this case, the story is even better than I’d imagined when I first came across this veil of exquisite beauty in the tiny bridal room at Stanford Chapel the morning of Louise’s wedding.  As she and I conversed (both there and since), and I learned more about the veil, I thought you folks might love this story as much as I do.

Connecting with the things our forebears have done for centuries is a powerful reason people get married and have weddings (and why it is an institution in all our human culture).  But getting to so tangibly, so physically connect to that past is one the rarest and most extraordinary privileges.

Plus: don’t you kind of love to imagine ladies with excruciatingly delicate fingers embroidering this lace by hand … over 150 years ago?!

From the bride:

“My grandmother grew up in San Francisco, and lived in an apartment building with her mother. They became close with Mrs. Kane, a woman down the hall who had no children of her own. When my grandmother was engaged, the neighbor loaned her a lace veil that had been handmade for *her* grandmother on her wedding day, but the neighbor never wore since she eloped.  The veil is well over a hundred years old! My grandma wore the veil when she married my grandfather in San Francisco in 1949. When they had three daughters of their own—Katie, Nyna and Mary Lou—Mrs. Kane decided the lace veil should be passed into our family permanently. Katie wore the veil when she was married in 1975; Nyna, who is my mother, wore the veil when she married my father in 1977; and Mary Lou wore the very same lace veil on her wedding day in 1980. From generation to generation, the antique lace will continue to be passed down to brides in the family, and I wore this same veil on my wedding day in March 2011.  My cousin Carrie will wear the lace next for her wedding on July 4, 2011.”
Lace worn:
Veil and collar:  Carolyn Tilton married to George Magee Cunningham, Jr.  July 30, 1949
veil and collar:  Nyna Lynn Cunningham married to William Dana Dolby, July 9, 1977
Veil and collar:  Mary Louise Cunningham married to Rex Douglas White, July 26, 1980
Collar and handkerchief lace on veil cap:  Kathleen Ann Cunningham married to Scott Norman Lamb, August 1975
Veil:  Louise Gabrielle Dolby married to Brian Everett Schultze, March 19, 2011
Collar:  Carolyn Elizabeth Judson to be married to Justin Urso, July 4, 2011
The veil was also borrowed and worn by the daughter of a good friend of my mom’s for her wedding in 2009.
photo: Gia Canali
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Honoring Mothers

05 | 05 | 2011

{click for a closer look!}

With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I thought I’d share a tear from Brides magazine, which just came in the mail. It offers some great ideas for honoring your mother on your wedding day.  I, for one, certainly wish that I’d walked down the aisle with both my father and my mother.  (Honestly, my husband and I agree that if we had one thing to do over, we would have honored all of our parents more at our wedding.  It seems sometimes like the father of the bride is the only one who comes with “built in” moments in the spotlight.)  And I love this mother-daughter dance tradition (suggestion #15), though I’ve seen it only once … at the wedding pictured above.

If you’d like to see more photos from this wedding, we featured it awhile back {here}.

photo: Gia Canali

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Things I Like: Two Looks For The Bride

02 | 20 | 2011

{click any image to enlarge}

Two looks are better than one!  This bride had her hair redone during the cocktail hour.  I love how something so simple as letting one’s hair down really makes for an entirely different look (and a relatively budget-friendly one, compared with buying two frocks, for instance).

photos: Gia Canali; hair, Dano Abriol

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Getting Great Wedding Photos, Tip #17: Be Enthralled!

10 | 13 | 2010

I’m wading through the ever-increasing volume of images we’re making this wedding season, and certain things do stand out: like the rapture of a couple completely enthralled with one another.  They forget about me and the veil (between the presentation of themselves to the world and how they actually are when the rest of the world isn’t watching) disappears, if only for a second.

photo: Gia Canali

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