Camp Navarro Wedding Mendocino

I was overwhelmed by the beauty of Johanna & Phil’s wedding at Camp Navarro in Mendocino, California. There were meaningful flourishes sewn into every aspect of the day. So I’m going to split this wedding up into two posts. It’s just entirely too epic for one. 

The delights started before I arrived at Camp Navarro. As I drove up to Mendocino from the Bay Area, I was treated to a wedding podcast hosted by the bride and groom. There was an interview with the flower girl, an analysis of the distinction between genres of brokenbeat music, interviews with the parents, and advertisements for camp style activities all set to the theme music from This American Life, Serial, et al. I laughed and laughed as I drove North.

Camp Navarro is nestled in a remote redwood forest, a few hours North of San Francisco. When you arrive, the smell, the light, the feeling of the air in your lungs, makes the rest of the workaday world fall away.

I started with Johanna and her bridesmaids where I was treated to a sneak peek of her fabulous dress: a marigold to white ombre theme by Leanne Marshall. Once she had slipped the dress on, she looked as if she had walked out of a Helen Frankenthaler painting.

One of my favorite frames from the day came as we were readying to head over to the first look. The ring bearer hopped on the back of a bicycle, and was pedaled across camp. After the first look, we had a ketubah signing before heading over to chuppah. One of Johanna’s friends did all of the florals. I particularly loved the sunflowers on the chuppah that matched Johanna’s dress.

The officiant, a close friend of the couple, wore an exuberant, rainbow, shawl that tied together the colorful bridesmaids dresses.

During the ceremony, when the officiant asked the assembled guests if there were any objections to the marriage, an objector jumped up and spoke about some of the limits of marriage as we now, and have historically practiced the convention. Johanna and Phil both addressed their vows to the objector. It was an emotional rollercoaster to say the least.

Click here for part 2

Click here for part 2

Venue : Camp Navarro
Photographer : Paul Gargagliano – Hazelphoto
Wedding dress : Leanne Marshall
Suit : Knot Standard
Florist : Morgan Johnson
Wedding planner : Sonya Houston – Mendocino Wedding
Hair and makeup : Jordyn Condit- Mendo Bridal Beauty
DJ and/or band : Ashleyanne
Cake : Shani’s Sweet Creations
Catering : Camp Navarro
Invitations: Minted
Officiant : Ilyse Magy

Venue : Camp Navarro
Photographer : Paul Gargagliano – Hazelphoto
Wedding dress : Leanne Marshall
Suit : Knot Standard
Florist : Morgan Johnson
Wedding planner : Sonya Houston – Mendocino Wedding
Hair and makeup : Jordyn Condit- Mendo Bridal Beauty
DJ and/or band : Ashleyanne
Cake : Shani’s Sweet Creations
Catering : Camp Navarro
Invitations: Minted
Officiant : Ilyse Magy


Burning Man Meets Jewish Summer Camp Wedding – Johanna & Phil

Part 2:
(to start with part 1 click here.)

Yes, “Burning man meets Jewish summer camp,” as succinctly described in the wedding podcast.

After the kiss, wedding guests were lead from the chuppah to the camp mess hall by a pair of musicians. On arrival at cocktail hour, they were greeted by groomsmen in chippendales vests serving cocktails. Glittery face paint was generously distributed. See… definitely “Burning Man!”

After a candlelit dinner at long banquet tables, and a host of memorable toasts, there was a surprise birthday celebration for Johanna’s dad’s 70th.

Photographing a hora under the stars comes with it’s challenges, but I had a bevy of off-camera-flashes set up, and I’m thrilled with the result. See… “Jewish Summer Camp!”

The action was nonstop, a choreographed flash mob was led by the groom’s niece, and the groomsmen led a second choreographed dance.

A spontaneous limbo formed on the dance floor.

As the night drew long, Phil was treated to an epic chair dance

Johanna forced a unicorn piñata into submission, showering the dancefloor with candy.

There was a party bus parked next to the mess hall as an alternate lounge area.

Unbelievably there were another 2 DJ sets still to come after I finished up my coverage.

Venue : Camp Navarro
Photographer : Paul Gargagliano – Hazelphoto
Wedding dress : Leanne Marshall
Suit : Knot Standard
Florist : Morgan Johnson
Wedding planner : Sonya Houston – Mendocino Wedding
Hair and makeup : Jordyn Condit- Mendo Bridal Beauty
DJ and/or band : Ashleyanne
Cake : Shani’s Sweet Creations
Catering : Camp Navarro
Invitations: Minted
Officiant : Ilyse Magy


2019 a year in wedding moments

2019 was a big year over here. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in June of 2017, and flying to NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia countless times to photograph weddings in 2017 & 2018, my 2019 wedding season was 95% California weddings. I feel grateful for the shift and the growth, which has allowed me to spend more time close to home running to the beach and eating breakfast tacos in the backyard with my wife on Sunday mornings.

This year I witnessed great beauty and connection up and down the coast, and I was introduced to new traditions: From redwood cathedrals dusted with rose petals in Mendocino, to dusty ranches lit up with colorful saris down in San Benito County. From Greek feasts in hidden urban gardens, to foggy hilltop wedding brunches. From pretzel dances in Silicon Valley, to rooftop ragers in Soma. From boxer dogs in tailored tuxes, to gold sequin party dresses just for dancing.

There were lots of saxophones at weddings this year. I certainly hope that trend endures. One of the saxophonists wore a cow suit. I had the distinct pleasure of listening to my first wedding podcast, including a hilarious interview with the flower girl. One couple drove into their wedding at Fort Mason on their tandem bicycle right up to the altar, another drove away from their City Hall wedding on a getaway motorcycle with a veil flying behind the bride’s helmet. I learned about 2nd lines, the Gujarati Garba Dance, Hula, and Cosplay. This was also a year of micro-weddings. Such intimate affairs. 10 souls at a gorgeous farmhouse on a Vineyard in Sonoma, 18 in a backyard in Napa, 10 on Synagogue grounds in Santa Clara County. But, there were large affairs as well in clubhouses with fantastic views of the majestic San Francisco skyline, elegant white gowns with long trains, 10-piece bands. There was a wedding newspaper, a bouquet of paper airplanes, and a custom-printed Shehecheyanu shawl draped over a pair of embracing brides just-married on a foggy Marin mountaintop.

I want to take this moment to thank every last person who invited me in to witness their weddings, to witness their families,, and their communities breaking bread, singing, laughing, dancing, crying, etc. etc. I loved all of it. I feel immensely grateful, and I look forward to next year, which should prove to be another glorious year full of ritual and awe.

(2020 is already 75% booked…eeeep!!!)


San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers Marriage Proposal Kyle & Dani

Kyle proposed to Dani at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers on a sunny Saturday morning in July. I made a visit to the Conservatory of Flowers a week beforehand to scout, and come up with a plan. From the moment Kyle hopped down on his knee, it was clear that these two were entirely on the same page about their love and the proposal. Dani jumped into the engagement without hesitation. There was some sweet debate as to whether Kyle actually asked the question, but he was undeniably down on a knee with a gorgeous ring gripped in his fingers, so anybody could tell exactly what he meant. After the marriage proposal, we headed over to a redwood grove and a tunnel with lovely light in Golden Gate Park for an engagement session. Dani has studied dance over the years, so she was an absolute natural in front of the camera. Both of them brought their giddy excitement about the proposal to the photos.


How much does wedding photography cost in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Here are some of the things that helped me to think through hiring my own wedding photographer…

Wedding photography is a luxury, but so is almost everything about a wedding. The weird thing about the photography is that it lasts longer than the dress, steak, wine, cake, music, etc. etc. Eventually, what the photographer saw can overtake other memories. So weird! Anyway. It is important! 

One way to think about it is that you are commissioning an artist to make a body of work about you, your love, your family, and your friends. For many people this is one of the only times in their lives they will commission an artist to make work for them.

Wedding photography cost varies by market. I might have expensive taste, but one woman I talked to quoted me 10k for her bare bones package. WTF?! That is over the top. Up to 6k seems within reason in more expensive cities. Anything under 3k, you are working with someone who is either, in a market with very very cheap living expenses, is an unrealistic business person, is a bad photographer, is just starting out, or some combination of these things. 

Important questions to consider when hiring a photographer:

Do we trust this person? Is this person actually the photographer who will come on our wedding day? Are they easy to be around? Will they take their commitment to the work seriously? Will they understand what is important to us about our wedding, or do they have their own ideas that they will try to impose? Will this person get along with our guests? What final product are we getting? Do we get all of the high resolution files or do we have to pay for each and every print? Do we want to order prints ourselves? Do we want a professionally produced album? Would we ever get around to making an album ourselves?  

What sort of style does this photographer have? Will they capture us in natural joyful expressions? Are they too focused on making an interesting picture? Are they creative enough with their compositions? Do they take too many pictures of the cake, dress, jewelry, centerpieces? (There is a whole genre that is beholden to blogs like Style Me Pretty. This genre includes a strange amount of product photography along with the traditional coverage.)

So, there’s my two cents.

Also, my cheeky article on why you don’t need a wedding photographer: https://hazelphoto.com/why-you-dont-need-wedding-photographer/


Ashokan Center Wedding – Zoe & David

Not everyone is quite as lucky as Zoe & David, nonetheless we can still bask in the glory that is their love and their wedding. These two were married on a bright and beautiful day in early July at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York. The Ashokan Center is an environmental education and retreat center tucked into the backroads near the Ashokan Reservoir. 


(Sidenote: Back in Brooklyn, David an Zoe, and their neighbors throughout New York City, drink water from the Ashokan Reservoir. NYC’s water is supposedly the reason for the burg’s incomparable bagels.)


Sometimes the choice of a wedding venue couldn’t be more obvious. Of course Zoe & David’s would host their wedding at the Ashokan Center, where they fell in love under the stars, over banjos and fiddles. 


This was my favorite variety of wedding where you say yes to the traditions that make you feel good, and the traditions you’re less fond of? they disappear.


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