Pete and Nicole’s engagement session was exactly what it needed to be: a practice run through of what could be expected on their wedding day. I’ve written about engagement sessions before (see here) and why you should have one before your wedding day, even if you don’t “need” the photos. Pete and Nicole didn’t need their engagement session; they actually didn’t book with me until May of 2018 and their wedding is this upcoming September. By the time they had booked me for their wedding day, they already sent out their save the dates. Most couples use their engagement photos for their save the dates, but I still offered it to them as a practice session for their wedding day photos. It also gives me the opportunity to know what they know: are they familiar with any poses, have they ever been photographed before, or is this going to be a completely new experience? I’m glad that we got through a couple of hiccups during this engagement session that will be avoided on their wedding day. I was also able to have come conversations with Nicole and Pete about certain poses and styles that they wanted on their wedding day.

The first time we had scheduled this engagement session, there was a torrential downpour. We rescheduled for a couple of weeks later, and we got some pretty humid weather, but Pete and Nicole were great sports and took me up on my offer of a new location that would include a lot of walking. I’ve had my eye on Waubonsie Lake for a while; it’s a path that I’m very familiar with since it’s one of my running haunts during marathon training season. I knew that I wanted to take photos by the bridges, by the dam, and in the more heavily wooded area of the lake. I’ve always noticed spots that I’ve thought would be great photo spots, but I was surprised at so many new places that caught my attention during the session.

One spot in particular that caught me by surprise was this massive Weeping Willow. Weeping Willows should catch my attention; after all, they are my wife’s favorite tree. I love the depths that the leaves provide for these images and just the size of this tree. This is definitely a spot that I will be back to with other couples.

Here are a couple of other favorites from Nicole and Pete’s engagement session. I’m excited to photograph their wedding at The City Gate Grille and Hotel Arista in Naperville, IL this upcoming September.

When I first met with the couple, Sal and Miriam, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when they told me that their wedding and reception was going to be in a photography studio. I even looked at Trigger Chicago’s website to see how other people have photographed weddings there, but it isn’t necessarily a wedding space, so understandably, there aren’t a ton of wedding photos on their website.

What I did see upon arriving at the space was that this was going to be an intimate wedding. There were maybe 7 rows of chairs available with about 10 chairs in each row. Every chair was filled, and the space was even filled to standing room only. It is such a joy to see so many people attending the ceremony and not just the reception. It shows the impact and care that the couple has on so many people. The ceremony was special too. The bride was walked down the aisle by her two sons, and her daughter was one of the flower girls. There was a beautiful moment shared with all attending where the family showed their union through the pouring of sands. This is usually something that I’ve seen couples do to show their union, but when children are involved, it is even more momentous.

One of my worries was where to take photos outside during the cocktail hour. Trigger is on the north side of Chicago, and since it is street level, there aren’t any great ways to get the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. There is a park that is just down the street, but parking isn’t ideal since it is mostly neighborhood parking. I always scout locations before a wedding, but due to the unpredictable Chicago weather, I wasn’t sure if it was going to snow on a March 3rd wedding date, or if we were going to have 60 degree days like we did in late February. I got lucky with a beautiful clear sky, so lighting during the golden hour was perfect. We didn’t even need a special location for photos. I used my 70-200mm (which has become my favorite new purchase) to focus in on the couple and play with the lighting. We ending up doing photos right outside of the front door and in the back alley. I don’t think I have ever been able to say that in the past and be totally proud of the way the photos turned out, but I think these are beautiful. Of course a beautiful bride with a gorgeous veil and an extremely stylish groom with a plaid burgundy/mauve jacket would make anyone’s portraits spectacular.

During the ceremony, someone had referenced that Sal and Miriam wanted it to feel like a good old house party, accompanied by house music of course. That is exactly what happened during the reception. After the traditional dances, again which were beautiful because Miriam danced with her boys, the DJ started spinning house music that brought all attendees out in droves. With each new song that was blended in, the crowd cheered as they danced the night away to the nostalgia of a Chicago music staple. This was definitely a wedding to remember.

Congratulations to Miriam and Sal!

 

I’ve done a handful of photo shoots in Chicago, and one of the best things about this city is that not one of them looks them same. There are so many different spots to take photos and so many incredible backdrops that each photo shoot in the city is really incredibly unique.

Tyler came my way through one of my teaching colleagues and friends. After several years of dating, Tyler had decided that 2018 was the year when him and his girlfriend were finally getting engaged. He had shared this with my colleague, and she connected us on capturing this special day.

I met up with Tyler on that cold Chicago morning, and we scouted out the best spot at the very end of the pier by the Adler Planetarium. The cafe that they have there was a lifesaver because Tyler had a scavenger hunt for Katrina to complete before her final destination was the planetarium. After the location had been set, we waited. I gave Tyler a couple of pointers, I shared some of the mistakes when I proposed to my wife (make sure you place the ring on her left hand, your right), told him how to position her and where I would be taking photos from, and we waited.

Thank God for Snapchat. It helped keep Tyler’s anxiety in check about the whole situation. He was supposed to receive text updates, but he was able to keep up through a Snapchat story instead. Once they were at the final stop, we waited outside for the moment of the day.To say the least, it was a success! She said “Yes!” Take at look at their special moment. This is an engagement I will never forget. 

Christmas season means Christmas photos for Christmas cards. Here are a few highlights from a photo shoot this past Sunday.

This was such a fun photo shoot. The lights were set up for me when I got there, and the twins had these fun ornaments to play with. If you try to emulate this look/style, make sure they are shatterproof ornaments. These ornaments were, thankfully, since the twins loves smashing them together. It was such an easy set up, and part the part that I loved the most is that it is so easy to recreate in anyone’s home. I brought my off camera flashes with some light diffusers, set one up on a tripod and the other on the floor, and I was able to create this nice soft light in their home.

Now that my wife and I have Logan, we’ll have to send out a Christmas card to our family. Here was our trial run with Christmas light photos.  He was more intrigued by what they would taste like than smiling at us. More photos to come later.

It’s my favorite time of the year. Now the weather just needs to check itself and remember that it is supposed to snow during the holiday season instead of being warm and having shorts weather. I can’t wait to take some more holiday photos for Christmas cards. These holiday photos can be done as mini sessions in your home. Let me know if you want to set something up.

 

At the request of the couple, I’ve been holding on to these gems for quite some time. Finally, their wedding day came, and they gave me the okay to post these once they were married. This was such a fun day in Chicago. Both the couple and I had done our research on locations that we wanted to photograph, and we were off to start photographing. We started at the courthouse where they obtained their marriage licence, and we walked down Clark to the Chicago Board of Trade building. We knew that we wanted that as the background for some of the photos, and we were in for some fun with cars driving by honking their horns and congratulating the couple.

From there, we hopped in a taxi and requested to go the Kinzie bridge. Our taxi driver, possibly feeling somewhat creative himself, took us to the array of bridges on Wacker. We spent most of our time on those bridges capturing the beauty of couple and the architecture of the city. We started on the N Orleans bridge and walked walked underneath the bridges along the river as well to get a different perspective of the city eventually making our way to the Lake Street bridge. There are so many hidden gems in Chicago that I love discovering every time I photograph down there. 

One of my favorite shots came on the Lake street bridge. In a quick traffic break, we ran out there and captured this moment. The construction crews were holding up traffic, so we had some extra time on there. I just love how the L frames this picture.  After the bridges, we made our way to Millennium Park to capture some of the new, cool architecture in Chicago. I felt a bit like a tourist with my camera in hand capturing all of the architecture in the city, but it is such a beautiful city that continues to amaze me.
Finally we ended up at the iconic Chicago Theater marquee. There’s nothing that says Chicago like a literal marquee that says Chicago.

There is something about the fall that is just enamoring. The crisp air. The mild weather. Sweaters. Apple cider. Spiced candles. Beautiful colors. When you combine all of these, you get the perfect ingredients for fall family photo shoots. These photo shoots are fun, especially when the weather works out and the sun provides the best colors. Here are some recent portraits from this fall’s family sessions.

I will always ask clients before the session is over if they have any requests for pictures. The last two pictures were a request, and I was more than happy to capture it. I never want to force clients to take photos that they are uncomfortable with, and with the power of Pinterest, many clients have seen photos that they want to take. It’s always fun when you replicate something that you see online, especially when kids do something all on their own. 

When I’m not photographing, I’m teaching high school English. Recently, I wrote this post simply as a class example for Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story.” In his short story, O’Brien gives several elements of what factors go into a true war story. Students had to select at least two elements of a war story and write one as an example. My example utilizes that a true war story is never moral, and a true war story has no end. I have the pictures to accompany the story, so I figured why not just share the story online? This will probably be a work in progress as I continually reflect on this day. It took me this long to share the story for the first time, so I’ll continue to revise it in the future. 

The day he was born, I spent a portion of the first 24 hours of his life with another couple. I will never forget the day that he was born. I hadn’t gone to sleep since Wednesday night, and that night was spent asleep on a hospital sofa. Those are not made for comfort. He decided not to make his grand entrance into the world until Friday morning. The day started off pretty casual with regular conversation and visits from family and friends. As the day progressed, the contractions became more powerful and his mother had to pause from a regular conversation because of what was happening. The in betweens and tantalizing minutes of every contraction that my wife had seemed like they would never be ending, and he was never going to come out. As the day got closer to evening, we thought that he was never going to come out and that our biggest fear was starting to become true. We tried avoiding drugs and surgery at all possible cost, but it seems like he had different plans in mind about how he decided to make his homecoming.

Finally at 11 PM on Thursday night, close to 24 hours since his mother felt her first contraction, we had decided enough is enough, or really the doctor had said that for his mother. He finally suggested an epidural even though he knew that his mother did not want one, but it seems like it was the best choice in order to avoid the biggest intervention that we did not want. The epidural was a godsend. It finally allowed his mother and myself the ability to fall asleep. Her body kept working, but it was all behind the scenes work as we caught up on sleep, or so we thought. At about 4 AM, the nurse came in and woke us up and said, “It’s about time to start pushing.” The next two hours were the most primal, mesmerizing hours of my life. There was so much power in that room behind his mother, and with each push, more and more of my life was being delivered. Finally at 6:08 AM, my true dad story began.

I remember being so tired yet so full of bliss that this had finally happened. Ten hours later, I had already left him to go attend a wedding ceremony that I had already committed to photographing. Some of you might know the bride, and although I was torn that I wasn’t spending time with my newborn son, I was exuberant to see two of my great friends get married and capture their moments together knowing that one day they would be experiencing the same emotions that I did that morning. 15 hours after he was born, we were reunited again as a family for a little amount of time. That first night, we had actually asked the nurse to take him because we needed a break.

My true dad story had just started, I would have literally a lifetime of memories to fill. One more night without a baby wouldn’t hurt him.