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A Few Moments from 2013

Here we are again, late February, and I’ve not even blogged half of the weddings that I shot in the previous year. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be the type of business guru who could keep up with that type of stuff (or ideally have my eager interns keep up with it for me), but 1. I don’t have any interns, and 2. Nope, there’s no two. That being said, I’ve recently been forced to reflect on the previous year by way of the WPJA’s Q4 competition deadline. I don’t always submit to the quarterly contests throughout the year, but I do make sure to enter images into the final as a sort of personal retrospective. It’s a good way to go through my own work with a critical eye, and think about how one of my esteemed colleagues would view my photography.

Win, lose, or draw with the WPJA, I am proud to say that 2013 was one of my best years as a wedding photographer yet (for those of you counting, 2014 is year 8 as a professional wedding photographer), and I’d love to share a few of the images I selected with you, as well as some of the stories behind the images. Before I do, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all the wonderful couples who have and continue to trust my vision and craft by inviting me to document their lives. Thank you!

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My friend Megan asked me once if I remember every photograph that I take. The answer is a resounding no, but I often surprise myself by how many I do keep stored in the old vault. This image of Wesley and his grandmother will be one that sticks with me for as long as I’m a photographer. Wesley and Sarah were married in August of last year. They threw one hell of a party at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center in Fredericksburg, VA. Behind me, the dance floor was so packed that the action had spilled into the adjacent dining areas. During the reception, I always have one eye on the guests, and one eye on the bride and groom. So when I saw Wesley leave the dance floor to visit with his grandmother, I knew that I wanted to capture them interacting together. During intimate times such as these (of which there are a few at a wedding), I have to toe the line between fearless photojournalist, and compassionate guest. What I mean by that is, if Wesley and his grandmother had become aware of the fact that they were being watched, this photograph might not exist. Perhaps that sounds a bit overly dramatic, but it’s that thought that I keep in the back of my head every single time I set out to document a wedding. In the end, I know that this photograph is one that Wesley’s family will cherish, perhaps for many generations to come.

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The “Getting Ready” phase of a wedding is always tense. Some more than others. Add children to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for waterworks. What I love about these two images is how similar they are. The caring groom and groomsman. The reluctant boy being asked to be a man, if only for a few minutes. The illogical fear of formal wear that so many men seem to develop (I encountered a 40yr old man throwing a tantrum similar to the ones you see above in the Men’s dept of Kohl’s just this afternoon). It’s as if it’s an unspoken ritual that we all have to go through at some point in our lives. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom about the first time she tried to make you wear a shirt and tie. She’s probably got a picture of you looking exactly like this.

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But kids aren’t the only ones who get emotional during the getting ready phase. Sometimes it’s the moments you expect. Like when Meredith gave her mother a hand-stitched handkerchief to carry with her during the ceremony….

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Other times, it’s less than expected. Like when Jamie’s brother saw her all made up for the first time and couldn’t keep from getting emotional.

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A lot of the time, emotional moments are quiet, such as Max helping Meredith’s brother pin his boutonniere to his lapel. Wiseman0037

And then there’s the hilarity that comes from the classic “dress-zipping-train.” What…you didn’t know that was a thing? It’s totally a thing.

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And then, once the tears have been shed, and the preparations have been made, there’s elation. Like this moment when Pat saw herself for the first time, and turned in glee to her friends and family who had all been a part of the process.

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Speaking of getting ready, it’s not just for brides and grooms. There’s a ton of work that goes into the wedding day preparations for the vendors, too. Jamie and Justin had their wedding on their property in Stafford, VA. When the BBQ catering started pulling pork out back, Justin and Jamie’s dogs assumed the position. No dogs were bribed in the making of this photo. I promise.

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Binta and Lloyd chose to have a private “first look” before their wedding ceremony at the Josephine Butler Parks Center in Washington D.C. When Lloyd saw Binta for the first time, he literally melted into her arms.

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One of my favorite quiet moments of the year comes from Sarah and her father. Lined up behind the rest of her bridesmaids, and waiting to process, Sarah’s dad leaned in to whisper something to her. Was it sage fatherly advice? A timely joke? An offer to make a run for it? Whatever it was, it calmed Sarah’s nervous face, and made her smile the way only her father could.

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John and Kate were married over a year ago now! That’s amazing to me. It seems like just yesterday. They were married in Fredericksburg’s Greek Orthodox church. I love this crowning moment for a number of reasons. It’s obvious how over the moon happy Kate is, but if you look closer, you can see John’s cheeks and eyes turned up. You don’t always have to see someone’s face to know how they’re feeling. I also love how the light hits their crowns, and the reflected symbolism in the halos behind them.

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If I can, I always prefer to photograph wedding details with a subtle hint of human interaction, rather than as static objects. The WPJA calls them “found details,” as opposed to details that have been carefully arranged by a photographer or stylist.

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Remember our reluctant ring bearer? Here he is again moments from being bopped in the face with a pillow.  He’s in a much happier place now that he has a firetruck.  Rain brought Amie and Jeff’s ceremony indoors at the Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast.

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And how precious is this flower girl signaling back to her parents after she’s been told to “zip it?” during the ceremony?

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Sometimes the anticipation of a kiss is every bit as powerful as the kiss itself. And after seeing this moment, I’m sure you can imagine just how passionate Maggie and Andrew’s first kiss was (don’t worry, I have that picture too).

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The processional is one of my favorite parts of a wedding ceremony. People’s faces are always filled with so much joy and excitement. This spontaneous kiss between Richard and Kelly was such a sweet moment, and felt absolutely magical in the waning December light out in Delaplane, VA.

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When you’re shooting wedding portraits in public, you’re bound to get photobombed sooner or later. Meridian Hill Park is one of my favorite places to shoot portraits in Washington D.C. It’s picturesque, and usually pretty quiet. However, while creating portraits with Jasmine and Sylvano, these lovely children were taking a stroll through the park, and wanted in on the fun. We gave them their moment in the sun, and they kindly went on their way.

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Maggie and Andrew’s first dance was every bit as sweet as their first kiss was passionate. Their wedding and reception were both held at the gorgeous Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, VA. I love the striking contrast in this photo.

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George and Nicole had a gorgeous affair at the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, VA, and their toasts where particularly hilarious. I love Nicole’s body language. It speaks volumes about her tenderness and affection towards George.

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John’s dance with his mom was filled with emotion. Friends and family alike were all around the dance floor, wiping tears from their eyes. Perhaps it’s that I’m a momma’s boy myself, but I have a special affinity for the mother-son dance.

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I don’t know what it is about The Atrium at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, but every wedding I’ve shot there has been packed with dancing from the moment the floor opens until they kick us out. When the dancing action carries on for hours, I always try to look for the alternative shots that add depth to a story. For this shot I was laying down outside on the patio, trying to steady my camera without a tripod in the complete dark.

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When it comes to the cake, anything goes. In this instance, Jeff knew better than to smash the cake in Amie’s face, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have his cake and eat it too.

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If you couldn’t tell, Justin is a bit taller than Jamie. Just a bit. Nothing a good flick of the wrist can’t handle. I still marvel at her aim to this day. Look at that extension!

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Somehow, Caitlin and Brandon and I convinced their Best Man and Maid of Honor to stand right next to them for the cake cutting without raising any suspicion. Caitlin had been planning this moment for months…..however…

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Brandon had no idea what was coming next. Judging by the looks on their faces, neither did the guests.

Martin0654After the cake cutting, it’s time to really get the party started. More often than not, the ladies have to show the men how it’s done. Jen and her bridesmaids were no exception. They were on the dance floor at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford all night.

Levin0752Greg, seen in the foreground, is in the middle of hoisting his dad up during the Hora. What I love about this photo, aside from the obvious, is that Greg would have never seen the look on his dad’s face if it weren’t for the is photo. If you look closely, you’ll see Greg’s mom in the background cheering them on! Greg and Priya were married at Khimaira Farm in Luray, VA. One of the only venues out there, and one that I have been visiting ever since they started hosting weddings!

Martin0596 I don’t think this flower girl should have been put in charge of the takings for the dollar dance. Who could have the heart to take it away from her when all’s said and done?

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And speaking of dollar dances, John and Kate had the wildest Dollar Dance I have ever seen during their reception at  The Inn at Fredericksburg Square. One of my favorite parts of being a wedding photographer is getting to witness how different cultures approach tradition and share experiences with one another.

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At the end of the night, Jen and Jared shared a romantic kiss during their last dance.

Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me! Just a handful of images from last year, but its images like these, and the stories behind them that make me fall in love with my job over and over again! Here’s to a great 2014!

Donna - Aaron, Your 2013 best of pictures are sincere and engaging. These pictures represent the very essence of what everyone seeks in a photo – that sense of presence, emotion, and heart. You have given these families a gift – moments so still as to form memories to be treasured and shared.

Cyclocross Nationals in Boulder, Colorado

I spent this past weekend with my good friend, Jon, covering the 2014 Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder, Colorado. It’s no secret that I’m a huge cycling fan, so photographing a bike race is the next best thing to actually being on my bike. After three straight days of photographing races, I have to say that the thing that impressed me the most were the juniors racing up the steps, lugging bikes half their body weight or more up three flights of brutal steps. There’s a real beauty to cycling in general, but cyclocross is in a league of its own. Take all the pain and determination of road racing, add beer, cold, mud, and thousands of heckling fans, and you’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the beauty of cyclocross. Part competition, part circus: There’s really nothing like it in the world of sport. If you ever get a chance to watch a local race, you won’t be sorry! One of the real treats of the weekend was getting to cover a handful of Virginia natives who were competing in the races. Congratulations to Jared Nieters and Sam Lear, racing for SEAVS/Haymarket, and to Julie Hunter out of Richmond, VA racing for Phaup St. Journal. Next year’s championship is in Austin, TX, and I can’t wait!

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Mel and Kory’s Alexandria Engagement

Mel and Kory and I hit it off right away. They’re getting married at Woodend next year, and I can’t wait for the wedding! For their engagement, we strolled around Old Town Alexandria on a gorgeous fall afternoon. Check out their pictures below. Aren’t those some of the most infectious smiles you’ve ever seen, or what? If you’re just here for the pictures, scroll on down. But if you’re interested in the process, read on!

One of the hardest lessons that I have learned over the last eight years of documenting couples in love, is that the most successful portraits (in my mind) come about when I don’t relieve my subjects of the tension that they experience during a portrait session; Which is antithetical to everything that you’re taught as a portrait photographer, and everything that you would instinctually try to do as a compassionate human being. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, but early on in my career I noticed something. Oftentimes, the most genuine, sincere moments occurred between a couple right after I had taken the camera away from my eye. The photos I captured were good, but the photos that could have happened one second later would have been magic!

It took me a while to figure out that all it really took for me to capture those magical moments on a more regular basis was patience. The thing is that a lot of what we do in wedding and engagement photography feels artificial or contrived. It’s become this bizarre world where no one questions the reality of the scenario, because in a lot of ways, we’re all like raccoons. SHINY! “Oh Hey, just walking around this empty field together like we always do.” “Look at us kissing on the hood of a taxi, no big deal, we’re passionate like that.” You get the idea. I’m not making fun…those are all things I’ve done. And done well. Because the secret really isn’t that the scenario is believable. The secret is that the interaction between the couple is so genuine, that the scenario becomes believable. And for me, that took learning how to be patient. Because when I put a couple in one of those less-than-believable scenarios, I want more than anything to make them feel comfortable. But what I finally realized was that that wasn’t my job. My job, in these instances, is to remove myself from the equation, and wait for the couple to turn to each other and make themselves comfortable.  And the beauty of this is that every couple does this in a different way. Sometimes its laughter. Sometimes it’s by hugging, or kissing, or resting their heads on each other’s shoulders. It could be the subtle way that they place their hands, one on top of the other. I don’t always know how it’s going to happen, but when it does, it’s unmistakable, and I know right away that I’ve helped create something magical, and in the end, it’s what makes me fall in love with the job over and over again. That was a really wordy way of saying, I really like these photos of Mel and Kory, so thanks for indulging me!

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Amie and Jeff’s Briar Patch Wedding!

 

After a late night of hanging out by the pool for Amie and Jeff’s rehearsal, we all rolled out of bed casually at the Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast, where there were delicious pancakes and fruit and quiche waiting for us. After a long breakfast, Amie and Chloe and I headed into town to First Impressions Salon for the girls’ hair appointments. After that it was back to the Briar Patch to join the boys to get ready, and pre-ceremony portraits. It was raining off and on all morning, so we had to move the ceremony inside. However, we were fortunate enough to get a break from the rain to get some gorgeous portraits of Amie and Jeff, and the family. Amie and Jeff took a lot of care to make their wedding personal and family friendly. Awesome catering by Pizzeria Moto, flowers by Katie Martin, a bounce-pumpkin-thing, and a caricature artist were the hits of the party. Congrats Jeff and Amie!

M o r e   i n f o