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!!!)


“Documentary wedding photography” 7 reasons why this is what you really want.

An emotional first look at a wedding. The groom wipes a tear away. Documentary wedding photography.
  1. You care deeply what it actually felt like to be at your wedding, and so you want wedding photos that convey that feeling. The goal in “documentary wedding photography” is to make images that make you feel what it was like to be at your wedding years after the fact.
Boy in suit and suspenders hugging his daddy's leg at a wedding. Documentary Wedding Photography

2. You want a photo of your best friend doing the worm, of your mom teasing her sister, of your dad hugging you with tears in his eyes, of your niece with that look like she’s plotting world takeover. These are the moments a documentary wedding photographer sees, and immortalizes.

A groom held aloft his cousins' shoulders during a baraat. Documentary Wedding Photography Hazel Photo

3. You want a photographer who has a keen eye for the meaningful gestures, expressions, and details that tell the larger story. A documentary wedding photographer spends years honing the ability to see the unexpected, to frame things just right, so the viewer is compelled by the photograph, and understands the scene.

a little girl in a white dress with a white basket and a bright pink troll, sticking her tongue out and observing it all on a wedding day. Documentary wedding photography.

4. You don’t want your photographer to tell you to have a second first look. One is overwhelmingly wonderful. Also, hold on a sec, how in the world can you have a second first look? This speaks to the authentic manner in which documentary wedding photographers work.

a groom and his father share a hug at the hotel before heading over to the church for the wedding. Documentary wedding photography

5. You want pictures that make you feel seen. A documentary wedding photographer can make photographs that compliment the principles that guided you when you were planning your wedding. (whether you sat down and wrote out official guidelines with your fiancé, or you just have a general sense of what you were about during the planning.) Unfortunately some wedding photography doesn’t see you for who you are, and ends up being more a photographer’s idea of what a “romantic wedding” should look like.

a Bride reading a letter from her groom before the wedding surrounded by bridesmaids and mom. Documentary wedding photography

6. You don’t want a photography company that takes over with multiple cameras, and blocks your guests’ view, and makes it feel like a photoshoot, not like an authentic event. In “documentary wedding photography” the goal is to let the wedding be what it is, rather than to step in and change it.

7. You like the color of your dress and the florals you chose, and you want them to be true to life in the pictures. The style of a documentary wedding photographer can be carried into processing images after the wedding day with the goal of reproducing beautiful faithful color. Some wedding photography is significantly altered in processing, whether that be desaturation, color grading, or excessive retouching. 


Marin Headlands Engagement Photos

Marin Headlands Engagement Photos – Cat & Ross

Cat & Ross met me in the Marin Headlands for their engagement session on a sunny and windy day. We began in the area close to the fabulous Headlands Center For the Arts (if you’ve never been, it is an absolute gem of an artists’ residency and gallery space tucked into the Marin Headlands.) The sun was still a bit high in the sky when we began, so we primarily stuck to the shade. This worked out well, as we were able to make some photos sheltered from the wind before we gave in to the messy magic. But, that is what the Marin Headlands are all about, spectacular windy messy magic. The hills are often windy, and always gorgeous. Tucked away behind the Headlands Center for the Arts we found a field with a row of towering cypress trees, and a eucalyptus grove full of deer hidden away munching an afternoon snack. See if you can spot her. As the sun grew lower, we took off for Point Bonita Lighthouse, but when we saw the Golden Gate Bridge and the beauty of the San Francisco Bay below, we had to pull over to make a few more photographs. The Point Bonita Lighthouse is only open on Sundays and Mondays 3 hours at a time, but the approach is stunning as well. As the sun set further, we enjoyed a few last moments watching the golden hour curl into the blue hour with the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge beyond.


East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden Wedding Berkeley CA

East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden Wedding Berkeley, CA

Eli and Tobie were married in a shady grove of towering redwood trees in the East Bay Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley, California. They are both super charismatic, and they were great in front of the camera. When the connection between a couple is electric, like it is between Eli and Tobie, my job is easy.

Yes, Eli and Tobie’s wedding was overflowing with glorious colorful outfits, but Tobie’s pants — come on! They brought a burst of color to every image he was in. Tobie’s parents constructed a freestanding chuppah that looked like an erector set in the best possible way. There is one image of Tobie’s dad seeming to summon the chuppah from the earth. Poems were read, songs were sung, Eli’s family staged a production of the Owl and the Pussycat, replete with costumes and props. Eli is a talented musician, namely a singer songwriter. Throughout the ceremony and toasts, there were references to songs Eli had written, including a love song he wrote when he was first falling in love with Tobie. At the reception, guests were served the fanciest, most delicious, vegan barbecue you might ever encounter, especially that chimichurri sauce, yum! It was a typical Bay Area day, sunny and hot in the middle, cloudy and windy in the afternoon. I loved how one couple grabbed their travel quilt and got cozy.

Vegan Catering by It’s From the Garden


Ashokan Dreams Wedding – Rachael & Alex

Ashokan Dreams Wedding – Rachael & Alex

What a stunning day Rachael & Alex had for their Ashokan Dreams wedding. The venue is perched on a hill overlooking the majestic Ashokan Reservoir and Catskill Mountains. Each time I glanced over at the Mountains, they had shifted into a slightly different gorgeous color. As the sun fell further into the horizon, the entire landscape lit up orange, green, and blue. Rachael, a talented printmaker, made prints of the Mountains for each reception table, so there was a delightful doubling of the landscape. Intelligent details like that were everywhere. I loved the groomsmen’s bolo ties, the delicate latticework of leaves on Rachel’s dress, the horns the two drank out of during the reception, and the inscription on Alex’s ring! Alex’s family from the midwest has a tradition of forming an adhoc band for big celebrations. Their serenade was particularly lively and joyous. The day kept unfolding and unfolding, and it went further than I ever could have imagined. Near the end of the night there was a surprise performance by a mysterious man in a white fur vest and a dolphin…

Chairs for Ashokan Dreams Wedding

Vendors

Venue: Ashokan Dreams

Catering: Good’s

Wedding dress: Amanda Garrett

Bolo ties: Rocky Mountain Western

Invitations & Centerpieces: www.rachaelabrams.com


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