California Palm Trees, Orchards & Unappealing Water

When I met up with Deja for her senior portrait, it was my typical routine. Deja’s mom Janelle, a good friend from my high school days, was getting ready for work, and it was the first time I had met Deja.

A couple of hugs, Janelle reminding me I had her only child so I had to drive carefully (she remembers my driving habits from high school), and we were off for a few hours of great Central California sunshine.

Both Deja and her mom had followed my work over the years and appreciated my way of going about things. But what Deja wasn’t prepared for was how easy it was going to be.

At the start of any portrait session, it can be a little awkward. I don’t like to do a ton of posing because I want people to feel comfortable and look natural. Deja said she wasn’t sure what to do. I could tell she was a bit nervous about the results. Especially because we pulled into an orchard with what she described as, “those old, sick-looking palm trees.” After a few shots in front of those old, sick-looking palm trees, I showed her the results. Immediately I could see her relax a bit and the trust and comfortability factors went up a bunch of notches.

Once we were finished with our first location, we basically made a road trip out of it. Our goal was to end up at a small lake outside of the city. But there were a few good spots along the way that most high school seniors in Fresno, if any, ever utilize for their portrait sessions.

“Most of the people I know all go to Woodward Park,” Deja explained about where high school seniors end up for their portrait sessions. “They all look the same.”

Deja won’t be having that problem. With her confidence high, and her adventurous side helping me out with some shots, we were rocking her session.

“I think the best and most unexpected part of our session was when you wanted me to get into the bug covered tree that was hanging over the river!” Deja said about her session. “I had to take my heels off, get my hair out of the way, and pretend I wasn’t terrified from the thought of falling in haha. I thought I was pretty high up, but you climbed up even further! Carefully maneuvering so that you didn’t drop your very, very nice camera on my face or into the very unappealing looking water with a purple kool-aid box right below the both of us. Supa cool.”

After a few hours of chasing the sunset, climbing through trees, and navigating through fields, we were ready for a blast back down the highway into Fresno, a burger, and back to our houses to relax.

 

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One Big California Wedding

When Nicole’s father contacted me about documenting his daughter’s wedding, two things became clear fairly quick:

  1. He didn’t realize I lived in Coeur d’Alene and thought I was in California
  2. His daughter was going to have a huge wedding

Nicole had received my name from a coworker who was friends with my wife – word-of-mouth advertising in full-effect. When Larry called, he liked what I had to offer and decided we should meet up. That’s when the geographic realization came into play for him. It was no biggie though since a majority of my clients are from out of the area and Skype sessions are a regular thing for my consultations.

When the consultation happened, that’s when I realized the full scope of this wedding. They were planning on 400 guests, a lot of participants in the wedding party (37 people not including the bride and groom), and it was to all go down in my hometown of Fresno, California.

Fast forward to the rehearsal to get a idea of how the day will unfold, and my buddy, fellow photojournalist, and second shooter Matt Mills McKnight can introduce ourselves and meet all the key players. Remember that 400-guest quote? Well now it’s at 690!

What immediately became apparent was Nicole, Darren and all their guests are extremely spiritual, faithful to their church, and have a great support system to not only help them with this large wedding, but also with getting off on the right foot for their marriage.

And that support system came into play for the wedding day in a big way. Between the hundreds of guests, coordination of the catering and seating, transportation, and figuring out who needed to be where at any given moment was a huge undertaking.

The timeline put the bride and groom portraits at a time that followed the reception, which was a first for me. But this allowed Nicole and Darren to not see each other until the ceremony, we could get all the family photos and combined wedding party portraits done between the ceremony and reception, and then have a solid hour venturing through the Shinzen Japanese Gardens at Woodward Park in Fresno.

This was by far the largest wedding I’ve had the privilege of documenting. And had it not been for the great planning, communication, and awesome personalities of Nicole, Darren and all those who helped coordinate with me, it wouldn’t have been the success it was.

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An Idaho Wedding Retreat

Carol and Erik have a deep respect for nature and know how to find balance in their life by escaping to the outdoors whenever possible.

When we sat down for our consultation, we immediately connected through our love for backpacking, mountain biking, and enjoying getting off the grid. When these two told me how their wedding plans followed this idea, I was hooked.

These two chose Camp Four Echoes (near Worley, Idaho) for the following reasons:

  1. They were able to make our wedding a full weekend at one place which helped allow their family and friends to get to know each other more and start to become one connected community through their marriage.
  2. They were searching for a setting that would help lend to people relaxing and having fun. Camp Four Echoes being on a lake and in the woods gave people perspective of living in the Inland Northwest with the trail and boat access to get out and paddle around the water or hike nearby. Plus, their guests could also sleep on site (which was a must) and make a retreat weekend out of it.
  3. They could have bonfires and there was no curfew on noise.
  4. The ceremony site above the lake suited their vision and the lodge was a perfect place to hold our dinner and reception with dancing outside on the deck.

With so many areas to take on in the wedding planning, this couple focused a lot on the dinner & reception.

“There are just so many details to think of and consider during that time (i.e. how the room will be set up, table settings, type of dinner, bar, lighting, decorations, music, seating chart, gifts, desserts, toasts),” Carol shared.

But with all those details, there was only one area that caused stress — the reception seating.

“I stressed over the way the tables were going to be set up for dinner. I grouped people for dinner based on who they knew so some tables were 5 people and others were up to 13. There were barely any even numbered tables, we were working with the chairs and tables the venue had and I actually wasn’t even sure if there were going to be enough, or that the table cloths would fit, or that it would all work out since I didn’t draw this up before setting it up on the evening before.

“I didn’t stress on the other things because in the grand scheme of it all they really didn’t matter. They remember if they had a good time, if the company was good, the ceremony was meaningful and if the food and dancing were fun. So, that’s what we focused on. We also had many friends and family that began to help out in the last 24 hours to pull all of the details together. It was quite amazing. Just asking certain people to do things that we knew they’d enjoy worked so well! Friends set up and decorated the ceremony site (however they wanted), another friend made us chalkboard signs, my godmother made the place settings with wildflowers, someone else took charge of the seating details and ironing the guys clothes, another friend made the guestbook station, my mom drove me to get ready, a bridesmaid ended up doing my hair. We trusted the loved ones in our life to follow though and help make the day special, and they came through more than we could have even imagined. It made our celebration even more meaningful to us because of this special collaboration!”

With a solid team of helpers, a great venue, and perfect weather, it all seemed to fly by once the reception started. Carol and Erik weren’t able to visit with everyone and that’s one thing they would’ve done differently. The other would’ve been to start dancing earlier since they felt too many people left before the dancing really got going.

Throughout the day we had time to take a moment or two and enjoy the scenery, and find those amazing landscapes that would provide for great backdrops with the portrait images. And with the planning we had in place beforehand, it was easy to maintain that laid-back feel.

“You helped us stay present and we knew you had everything under control — or at least you gave off that vibe. You helped us set our timeline and stay on task for the entire timing of the day,” Carol explained. “You’re direct and confident and easy going. You put us (and others) at ease and you felt like one of our friends at our wedding. We liked being around you, but also at times didn’t even notice you were there. You know when to sit back and knew when to get involved. We feel like we made a new friend. :)”

Carol & Erik’s wedding planning tips:

  • Divide up the tasks of who will do what
  • Think about what your goal is, not what your theme is
  • Wear clothes (dress/suit) that make you feel comfortable
  • The photographer is quite an important investment because the day goes so quickly. It’s going to be great to have the journalistic images Jerome took to capture the feeling and vibe of our day for the rest of our lives.

VENDORS

Venue — Camp Four Echoes
Hair & Make-up — Done by the bride
Flowers — Beau K
Catering — Feast Catering
Pies — Batch Bakeshop
Rings — Ron Holtz for the wedding bands and Pounders for the engagement ring
DJ — David Skaggs with Audio Affiliated

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