Whew! I’ve finally started to decompress from my fun, but busy 2011 wedding season. In my new found free time, I’ve been able to go back through my back log of vacation images and a few wedding assistant gigs that I have been meaning to process. Despite my busy wedding schedule this past summer in Sacramento,  I did actually get to attend one wedding as a guest. In between my Montana wedding and trip to Colorado for a Geekfest photojournalism summit back in early September, I hopped a flight to Chicago O’Hare Airport to return to my old stomping ground of Crystal Lake, Illinois for the wedding of my good ol’ high school buddy Karisa. I’m at that age now where more and more of my close friends are tying the knot especially all of my friends from high school living in the Midwest. It’s one thing to witness and photograph the wedding of my clients and another to witness the union of someone you’ve known since adolescence. Karisa is one of the few people I’ve managed to stay in touch with since graduating from high school. When I sought out the outdoor recreation bliss in the Rocky Mountains of Montana for college, she headed east to attend Dartmouth College to pursue her love of acting on stage. As the years have progressed, I’ve watched with excitement and pride as she has climbed that ladder of success in her craft. She is a Renaissance woman whose acting pursuits have branched into small movie roles, commercial shoots, on stage plays and comedy improv troops in the Chicago scene. So it’s only natural that the man she would fall in love with would be from that creative environment. Karisa met Scott when they were cast together four years ago on an Chicago improv group together called Counterproductive Lover. “We make each other laugh, so that’s absolutely a cornerstone in our relationship,” said Karisa. The group continues to regularly rehearse and perform long-form improv together and I even managed to catch a show of theirs a few years back. These days the two stay pretty busy working full time as actors. Scott is coming of his recent success with a show he was in at the famous Second City comedy club and Karisa recently finished up a commercial shoot for US Bank. From what I can tell, acting is not an easy road to venture so it give me a lot of joy to see these two making waves.

I was looking forward to their wedding day. It would be a good opportunity to visit with past friends and also because it would be the first time in a while that I could actually celebrate a wedding properly without having the obligations of producing wedding photos for a client. Karisa wanted to make sure I would enjoy the party properly and not be working it. Alas, you can’t take the photographer out of the boy. I couldn’t resist bringing along a camera and lens just in case I came across a scene worth documenting. And I found many scenes. In between socializing, dancing and drinking in celebration, I made a few wedding photographs that stood out to me during my editing session. I used the occasion to experiment a little but mostly I used it as more of a snapshot approach. Some things worked others not so much. But that was okay. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Karisa and Scott decided to have their ceremony and reception in the beautiful backyard of her parents home in Cary, Illinois. When planning their big day, the emphasis was to have it feel very personable and reflect their style. Much of it was put together with the help of family and friends. Karisa designed the wedding invites and all other paper stuff which were then assembled and printed at home. The bouquets were made by family members. Instead of a DJ, they opted for the do it yourself iTunes playlist where they picked their favorite songs. This worked for a while until their computer crashed. (Something to think about for your own wedding entertainment). Luckily, there were no shortages of personel iPods around and her friends took turns spending the rest of the evening choosing songs to play and dance to. For other items at their wedding, they went for the professional approach. They had their wedding photography shot by Chicago based photographer and fellow WPJA member Allison Williams and their photo booth set up by their friend Rob Strong. Karisa and her bridesmaids had her hair and make up done by Jennifer at Jen J Style. The wedding was catered by a great Mediterranean buffet-styled grill called Roti. They also had the great idea for having a local food truck which allowed guests to make after dinner smoothies, wild game sausages, and coffee drinks. You could not have asked for a nicer day. I am so glad I was able to see it. Here are a couple photos that I made from their wedding day. I wish these two all the best! -M

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to return to Montana, my favorite place on earth, to photograph the wedding of an old college friend Christina and her new husband Ryan. I got to know Christina during my time tromping around the Big Sky state while attending The University of Montana in my pursuit of my degree in Photojournalism. In between my time fly fishing mountain streams and trying to make it to class on time, I came to know her through mutual friends and her involvement in the Missoula art scene. Christina, a Montana native, is a very talented painter and ended up getting her degree in the Fine Arts. From there, it was off to New York City for her where she eventually met her fiancée Ryan randomly at a friend’s apartment. Oddly enough it turns out that they both were from the same western Montana town of Whitefish located up close to the entrance of Glacier National Park. I’m always amazed at the curveballs of coincidence life can through at people sometimes. Two years apart in age, Christina and Ryan never new one another growing up but found each other in one of the biggest cities on earth. Go figure. As they grew closer in their relationship, the two parted ways with the “Big Apple” and have since made a life together living and working in Portland, Oregon. When it came to plan their summer wedding the location was an obvious choice.

On their wedding day, I awoke early to drive north of Missoula (where I had been visiting my parents) past the cherry orchards along Flathead Lake and eventually made my way northeast towards the entrance of Glacier National Park. Christina and Ryan chose a cute little 40-acre ranch just outside of Coram, Montana called Glacier River Ranch that was bordered by the gin clear blue waters of the Flathead River. There are few things in life more picturesque than a Montana backdrop and that day I couldn’t think of any. I arrived early so I could scout around the area and get a feel for the place. As family members were helping to set up, I decided to walk around the grounds for possible portrait locations. As I came around the side of a big ponderosa pine tree I startled a young black bear (about 30 yards away from me) and he quickly stood up on his hind legs to get a better view of the blond haired photographer that had interrupted his mid morning berry feast. Soon uninterested, it sauntered off until the delicious smells of a wedding reception food brought it closer to the wedding location so much so that the ranch owner had to scare it off with some warning shots of her deer rifle. Only in Montana. Love it. The rest of the day mimicked the visions of a good Norman MacLean novel. The late August weather was perfect and their afternoon streamside reception was stunning as the golden Montana light lit up the trees as it slowly made its decent behind Teakettle Mountain. Like any proper Montana wedding the rest of the evening was spent eating roasted pig, drinking fine wine and Montana microbrews and dancing to live music from a local string band. It was so great to spend the day photographing such a fun couple and an honor to be asked to photograph the wedding of a old friend. I wish them all the best. -M

You can view the very best images from Ryan and Christina’s wedding under my portfolio wedding stories section here.     Or…

To see the entire wedding take you can see them all on my Photo Archive here.

The California wedding season has begun! A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing two of my oldest friends tie the knot at a small vineyard-surrounded property outside of Hopland, California. I met Ashley and Trevor back back in 1994 when I was in sixth grader at North Junior High School in my hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois. It was a big time of transition at that point in my young life. Junior High meant attending a new bigger school with new kids and multiple teachers, all of a sudden girls started being topics of interests for me and the other boys, we no longer had recess at school (a huge disappointment) and instead, we got our daily fun through games in gym class. It was gym class where I first met Ashley. She was this pretty, firecracker red head who had grown up playing softball and now was a lethal force against anyone playing gym class dodge ball. For all the other pubescent boys and myself it was an immediate infatuation. This girl could throw a ball better than most of us. I’ve been luckily to call her a friend ever since that day.

Now all grown up, I have long since left my Illinois roots and I’ve found that there are not many people from my hometown that have ventured out west of the Mississippi. Ashley and Trevor were some of the few who did. It’s funny to me how as you grow older in your life you never really know what friends will continue to be apart of your journey. Thankfully somehow, some way Ashley and I have remained in contact and have stayed friends throughout. I have had numerous opportunities to meet up her and Trevor (once they started dating) over the years. Their wedding day was a long time coming. These two are perfect for each other and I’ve always been impressed with their shared passion for the flavor of life both in cuisine and culture. Fast forward 16 years since the 6th grade, the two have made a life together working in the fine dining industry of San Francisco and many times they have offered up their apartment couch to me during weekend visits to the city by the bay. Trevor has quickly turned into one of the top up and coming chefs in the San Francisco bay area. I had the opportunity to photograph (and sample) some of his first restaurant dishes as he was starting out. I still dream about them. He graduated from California Culinary Academy in 2005 and quickly became the executive sous chef at Umami Restaurant and has since moved on to become the executive chef at Mission Beach Cafe over the last year. Trevor’s big news is that he just recently signed on to this new project, which will be called Chambers located in the Phoenix Hotel, a notorious destination for famous “rock n’ roll” musicians staying in the city. The restaurant is slated to open the first week of May and the food will be California cuisine with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. If it’s anything like his previous restaurants gigs that I have dined in, I have no doubts it will be a huge success. Ashley is balancing her time between being a head server and wine guru at the Betelnut Restaurant in Marina District of San Francisco while finishing up a major in Business Management with a minor in Economics at the San Francisco City College. I would not be surprised at all if these two opened their own fancy restaurant down the road. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

When I got their wedding invitation in the mail, I knew it would be a mini Crystal Lake reunion. They had their intimately small wedding outside of Hopland, California at the Mendocino Hill Event Center. It was really a beautiful ceremony filled with great friends and warm familiar faces. I attended this wedding as a guest but I decided to bring along my camera for fun. It provided a good opportunity for me to experiment and try out different approaches to shooting. Between catching up with old friends, laughing and telling stories over local wine and eating an assortment of fine cheeses and roasted duck, I managed to snap a couple pictures. Here are some of my favorite images I made of their wedding day. You can find more photos from Ashley and Trevor’s wedding here. It was so great to be apart of their special day. I wish them all the best. -M

Yay for weddings! Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel back to sweet home Chicago for an old friend’s wedding. Adam and his new bride April called me a couple months ago and asked if I would help document their wedding day. I always feel very lucky to be apart of the wedding day of old friends. This one was no exception. From the moment I arrived, it was literally a blast from the past and quickly turned into a high school reunion. After so many years away, living out in Montana and now California, I don’t get as many chances to make it back to home to visit. Adam and I played football together at Prairie Ridge High School and April attended school with my younger brother Eric. Despite a threatening Midwest thunderstorm, the wedding went off without a hitch. It was so great to see so many familiar faces all grown up. I had an absolute great time documenting these guys. Crazy, summer humidity and all.

Here are some of my favorite images from the day. I’m anxious to hear what you all think. This is a mere small sampling of the 4000 images I made that day. I suppose that is to be expected when you have so many old friends around dancing the night away. There are too many good people to take photos of. To see all of the photos from their wedding day go here. I wish these guys all the best. -M

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You know you’ve done something right when one of your past wedding couples refer you to their friends. I consider those gestures one of the highest complements a photographer can receive. It lets me know that I am doing my job well. Back in 2006, Abby and Johnny asked me to photograph their wedding in western Montana after hearing about my photojournalistic style through their friends and my former clients. It was the ultimate picturesque Montana cowboy wedding. Their outdoor wedding was held at this cute little ranch where the men were decked out in their cowboy boots and hats twirled the women in their summer dresses as they danced to the upbeat rhythms of bluegrass music. Summer was ending and with it the days grew longer. Because of it we were blessed with beautiful afternoon sunlight that made the dried wheat fields glow with a golden hue as the sun set over the Bitterroot Mountains. What more could a photographer ask for.