Portrait of a Friend

So for those of you out there keeping up with my life through my blog, it’s been a little while.  But I think it’s time to get this thing moving for real now.  So in the way of updates, I’m adding a new category of blog posts called “NMPJ”.  NMPJ stands for New Media Photojournalism.  This is the name of the Masters degree program in which I cam currently enrolled.  Yes, you got it, I’m going back to school.  Crazy times, but, so far, pretty awesome.  And, because of my intense devotion to readers (assuming I have any readers), I’ve decided to start posting assignments and things of interest from my program on my blog.  Why?  Because it’s my blog, I can do whatever I want to do.

So our very first photographic assignment in this program was to go and make a portrait of a friend – with bonus points awarded for portraits of “friend with dog”.  You don’t have to tell me twice.  🙂

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We had to select three to turn in.  These are my three.  Thanks, Mike (& Zoey) for sharing a morning with me.  Always a good start to my day.

Cuban Embassy Raises Its Flag in USA Again

For the first time since since 1961, the United States and Cuba have diplomatic ties and host embassies for each other.  Today was the official reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and I felt I could not live in DC and pass up on the opportunity to witness this historic moment.  The brutal heat and poor air quality today in DC made the experience that much more challenging, but seeing the Cuban flag flying in the US for the first time in my lifetime was worth the discomfort.  Here are some of the images from this morning.

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A Little Wedding Americana

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a wedding on my blog.  Too long no doubt.  And while this wedding isn’t recent, it is lovely and was such a pleasure to revisit.  I had occasion to use this wedding recently for purposes which I will reveal in later posts and I was struck by the beauty and steady theme in the images.  America is not a perfect country, but it’s a pretty good one.  And this wedding just seemed to embody so many bits of America that it stands out as the kind of picture story that really needs no explanation.  (“So why am I still talking,” you ask?)  Fair enough.

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This photo is included in this post for my dear friend Nick and his lovely wife Kim.  In fact, I’ll even say this photo is dedicated to you two.  A little blessing on your marriage and your family.  The portfolio for which I had occasion to use this wedding included all of these images and without any discussion or collaboration, both Nick and Kim (both graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Art and amazingly talented artists) immediately said “take it out”.  There are many reasons I did not take it out, but none of them matter here.  This one’s for you guys.

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Marines, cigars, old American cars, flags, and dancing in a backyard tent.  These are the trappings of a perfect American wedding.  Actually I really loved all the images from this wedding, but the first tough part about making a portfolio is taking great pictures and the second tough part is paring down to a presentable number.  Often the editing is the most time-consuming part.

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Food Photography

I often get the question, “do you only shoot weddings?” from clients and colleagues.  I love weddings and I am happy to have them as such a big part of my business.  But one thing I love about running my own business is that I get to do whatever I want.  And whatever I want is a little bit of everything.  I love photography, I love food, and so it seems only natural to love photographing food.

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Duck is a classic Wolfgang Puck dish and chef Scott at The Source made this lovely image possible.

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Just thought I’d get back in the saddle with blog posts and make us both hungry in the process.  Now time to figure out what’s for dinner…

Shout Out – The Plannery

Just a quick shout out to Katie from The Plannery.  If you’re looking for an event planner for your wedding or event, I recently worked with Katie and she was awesome.  She just featured Ilona & Evan’s wedding on her blog which you can check out here.  Great working with you, Katie, and all the great folks who teamed up to make Ilona & Evan’s wedding awesome.

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More Than Just a Photographer

A blog is a place where I can tell you more about me.  Presumably you care.  And so it is with both of those assumptions that I write this little blog post.  If all I did was post wedding photos on this blog, I suspect some of you might not stick around.  But I am more than just a collection of (lovely, brilliant, amazing, moving) wedding photographs.  I actually have other interests too.

When I was younger (possibly much younger…) I used to fundraise and do an annual cycling event called the MS-150, a 150-mile, two-day cycling event to raise money for multiple sclerosis.  The one I did was in my home region of Northeast Ohio.  After doing this ride for years, I eventually became one of the top fundraisers in the event.  And that was back in the days before people had websites to collect donations online.  Yes, I knew those days.  I used to ride my bicycle (before I had my driver’s license) door to door all around my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods asking for and collecting donations for this ride and cause.  Fast-forward to present day (we’ll skip the admission of how many years we’re fast-forwarding through) – I’m doing it again.

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This time I’m doing a ride that is a little more grueling than two consecutive days of 75 miles.  I’m doing a “century” ride – 100 miles in one day.  Actually the ride is 104 miles in total, but after 100, nobody is counting.  The ride, Bike to the Beach, is this Friday, August 1st and is a ride to raise money for Autism.  I’ve been doing some training rides in anticipation of having a very sore butt and some very sore legs, but I’m optimistic about surviving this thing.  It’s been a while, but I’m not dead yet.

I’d love to have you join me on my journey to survive cycling 104 miles and raising money for autism.  If you’re so inclined to make a tax-deductable donation to this worthy cause, I’ve attached a link for your (and my) convenience.  But if you prefer to have me show up at your doorstop on my bicycle and collect in person, simply send me your address and I’ll show up.  If you do make a donation, I (and about 1.5 million Americans affected by autism) thank you wholeheartedly.  If not, that’s ok, there will be another bike ride to raise money and another chance for you to help out.  Here’s the link for this one.


There you can even find another lovely bike selfie and chart my progress toward a fundraising goal of $2000 (slightly higher than the required $500 per rider).  Help me decimate this goal and my thanks are yours.  Perhaps next year you can ride with me?  Here’s a little video to show you how excited I’ll be if you donate…  Ride safe!!!


Weddings Afloat

So the weather is finally changing and the hot days of summer seem to be upon us.  One thing that has always amused me about this area is the brevity of Spring and Fall.  I’m originally from NE Ohio.  There we have four seasons every year.  The winters are cold and snowy, the summers are hot and sticky, and the spring and fall are mild and lovely.  DC, however, moves much more rapidly from cold to hot without pausing very long in the mild and lovely period.

But with the turn of seasons and the setting in of the heat, another thing sets in.  Wedding season.  And boating season.  Here’s a nice wedding on a boat to start off the hot season.  Hopefully I’ll end up on a boat this weekend…

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This lovely little Spring wedding took place on the Cherry Blossom out of Old Town Alexandria, VA.  The Cherry Blossom is a beautiful paddle boat that is perfectly restored and functions as a venue for events on the Potomac River.  It has great outdoor space as well as some cozy indoor areas.  Jodie and Tim had their ceremony in a church before boarding the boat.

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Then off to the boat!

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The sunlight and blue skies were certainly the inspiration for the post.  I’m looking forward to some nice evenings out on boats this summer (working evenings and socializing evenings).

The the evening moved inside for some dinner and dancing.  These two are both cigar smokers and eventually found their way to the upper deck to enjoy the sunset.  A perfect evening.  Hopefully your weekend will have such a sunset.  Enjoy!

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It’s a Small World

Oh please don’t start singing the song.  There’s no need for that – really.  I’m even sorry already for making that the title of this blog post.  But I couldn’t resist.  It is, afterall, a small world.  Sometimes it is such a small world that it’s actually amazing.  I just finished editing the last wedding I shot in 2013 and am preparing to post it online and share it with my clients.  Actually, if you’re reading my blog, Emily and David, here’s your first actual glimpse at any of your images (the rest will be online by tonight…).

But I couldn’t resist writing this blog post after shooting their wedding.  Emily and David’s wedding was absolutely lovely.  I’ll post it later – some other time (like after they’ve seen their images perhaps).  But I had this crazy experience at their wedding as I was walking down the aisle to get setup for the start of the ceremony and I began seeing couples whose weddings I’d also shot.  Now don’t get me wrong, I should have known this and been expecting it.  I mean, they all heard about me from each other and told me that they’d told each other about me.  But I had this surreal moment walking down the aisle of the church waving and smiling like a big tool at all these people I knew in the pews of the church.  It was like an episode of Cheers.  In church.


Elaine & Bryan’s wedding was first.  I shot their engagement photos, met with them at length, loved them, and truly enjoyed being a part of their day.  They were the nicest people and surrounded themselves with the nicest people.  Sometimes I’m so lucky with my job.  Here are a few photos from their wedding.  Start keeping track of who is in which photos at which events.  Soon you’ll lose track.

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Ok, so next was Jessica & Michael’s wedding.  Another absolutely wonderful couple and a super-picturesque wedding.  Sadly Elaine & Bryan had a torrential downpour lasting long enough that we basically had to skip photos of the couple and go right to the indoor reception – not ideal, but her silk dress was not having it.  Jessica & Michael got luckier with weather.  Again, pay attention for familiar faces.

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And last but not least was Emily and David’s wedding.  We’ll call it Wedding Cheers.  While the other two were more classic DC weddings, Emily & David selected a location more rural and green.  Although they played the clutch move of having a cookie truck at their reception to serve up fresh-baked cookies which could be paired with your choice of ice cream flavor to make an ice cream cookie sandwich.  Wow.  Here are some photos of their wedding.  Seeing anyone you know in there?

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I can’t wait until the next friend from one of these weddings gets married.  What a fun group and what an awesome job I have.   Truly a small world sometimes.



Nicola & Taurus at the Newseum

I get calls from couples and corporate clients interested in my photography for their Newseum events fairly often.  I’m always happy to hear from anyone interested in using the Newseum for any kind of event.  I’m sure I won’t have to waste too much time explaining why that is with the photos posted below.  Suffice to say the view is unbeatable, the food is Wolfgang Puck Catering – goes without saying: superb, and the space allows for plenty of options for both couples and photographers.  Have a look.sanders_0011 sanders_0030 sanders_0112

Did I mention the view of the Capitol?  There are surely plenty of places in DC that offer views, but this view is truly unique.  And the 7th and 8th floors are reserved for private events so you don’t have to worry about Newseum visitors cramping your style.sanders_0140 sanders_0209 sanders_0240

You have options for the ceremony also.  Some couples chose the terrace for an outdoor ceremony.  Others, like Nicola & Taurus, elect a more air-conditioned, indoor option.  The Newseum makes a great venue option for weddings because if you try to have an outdoor ceremony and the weather is horrible, the indoor space is only a doorway away.sanders_0300 sanders_0358 sanders_0376 sanders_0394 sanders_0415 sanders_0421

Thankfully this summer hasn’t been as hot as many (ahem, last year) so an outdoor cocktail hour was just the ticket.  Beautiful sunset over the city, Capitol in the background, good friends, family, cocktails – what’s not to like?sanders_0463 sanders_0488 sanders_0496 sanders_0502 sanders_0513 sanders_0556

And as the sun sets and the crowd assembles inside for dinner, the views and the setting changes only slightly.  The folks at Wolfgang Puck Catering know about food and service and the tables, buffets, and bars were set expertly.  The the evening carried on with live music, dancing, and celebrating with the newlyweds.  Cheers!sanders_0674 sanders_0681 sanders_0683 sanders_0730 sanders_0753 sanders_0806 sanders_0809 sanders_0815

Lovely working with the fine folks at:

Wolfgang Puck Catering – visit them

Live Music by The Walker Redds Project – visit them

Creative Cakes by Randi Goldman – visit them

Flowers by Kathryn Carson of Designs Unlimited – visit them

Hope to see you all again soon!

Supreme Court Considers Equality

Ok, so perhaps not the most unbiased headline ever published.  Good thing this is a blog and not a newspaper.  Keeping my opinion out of my photography is not a particularly important goal of mine.  And why should it be, this is MY blog.  Besides, nobody told you you had to read it.  Or like it.

So yesterday and today at the Supreme Court, justices are hearing arguments pertaining to same-sex marriage and marriage rights on the Federal level.  And after an important election, the US has 9 states (plus the District of Columbia) who allow same-sex marriage.  The Supreme Court will consider whether there is legal standing to make same-sex marriage a federal law thereby allowing any same sex couple the right to marry legally in their state (as long as their state does not have a law expressly forbidding it).  Obviously this issue has some folks up at arms.  So I thought I’d take a little trip, thanks to the wise suggestion of my friend Jon, to make some images.  Here are some.

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Obviously there are a number of viewpoints represented here.  Some are more appealing than others…  This next photo comes with a little note.  While the ramifications of federal allowance and recognition of same-sex marriage may not be obvious to everyone, they are clear to me after having a conversation with a very near and dear gay couple.  One of this pair is a US citizen, the other is not.  And while they reside in the District of Columbia which allows them to be married, it’s not a federal law and therefore lacks federal benefits.  Among these benefits is the right for the non-citizen to become a citizen after marrying a citizen.  Heterosexual couples enjoy this right, naturally.  But perhaps that context will explain the sign if you didn’t get it already.  Choosing between country and spouse is not cool.

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Ever see those t-shirts or coffee mugs that say “how could you say no to this face?”?  I mean really, how could you say “no” to these faces?

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As a photographer who shoots a lot of weddings, I can’t help but love this sign.  Reminds me of a sign I saw at some other same-sex marriage event that read (basically), “let gay people be miserable too”.  LOL.  Not exactly the point, but I guess the idea that we all bleed the same blood does come across.  Just asking for equality, not special treatment.

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Classic DC.  Gotta love the “Guys, I said I hate figs” poster.  Just classic.

So while the Supreme Court weighs the issues before it, huge numbers of Americans wait with eager anticipation to hear what will become of them and their partnerships in the eyes of the law.

I love that I live in a country that allows me the right to say whatever I want to say.  But I do wish, sometimes, that some of these people wouldn’t feel the way they do.  It’s sad to see people so proud to say something they should be so ashamed to feel.  And that’s the show, don’t forget to take care of yourselves – and each other.

Beautiful Belvedere Wedding

So this wedding doesn’t fall into the new weddings category, but I sure to like this wedding.  The images from this wedding are ones I keep coming back to.  And I figured it was time to post some and share.  This wedding was at the beautiful Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore, MD.

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And then begins the lovely ceremony once the Ketubah is signed.  Normally a ceremony with windows in such proximity is not ideal, but this ceremony benefited so greatly from these windows as you can see in some of the photos.

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This last photo is one of my favorites.  I love the images and the people from this wedding, but for whatever reason, this photo just catches me the right way.  Below are some shots from a little evening stroll through Baltimore to catch the fleeting light left after the ceremony.

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Teresa & Jeff had an absolutely lovely wedding and reception.  The weather held nicely, we got out just in enough time to make some images before the light really left us, and the band rocked hard for the rest of the night.  If you’re looking for a wedding venue in Baltimore that has a lot of class and character and can hold a decent size crowd, you should absolutely check out the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore.  Lovely.  Here are a few reception images with which to part.  Enjoy.

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Roundin’ Up the Family

So 6 years ago I had the pleasure to shoot Jessica & Adam’s wedding.  They were wonderful to work with then and so you might imagine my delight to hear from Jess recently about doing another project for her.  She emailed me one day and said that she wanted to have me take some family photos for her.  Not an unusual request, she did get married 6 years ago afterall.  However, she was quick to assure me that there were no babies to worry about.  Just two dogs.  And two horses.  Of course of course (should I say that twice or is one “of course of course” sufficient for both horses?).

Needless to say, I accepted her challenge and spent a year (actually about 14 months) scheduling and rescheduling this shoot.  Horse having bad hair day.  Rain.  Unexpected trip out of town.  Rain.  Dog stubbed toe.  Rain.  You get the idea.  Finally, we made it happen in the not-too-hot moments of August and here are some of the results.

We started with the dogs.  Naturally, the white one went straight for a drink in the little duck pond and (probably from being a little top-heavy with that underbite) promptly fell right into the water.  Then freaked out that she can’t swim and looked terrified at us with that face that only momma (and I) could love.  Nice start…

And just in case you don’t think this “horse coming in for the hug” photo is cute enough, get a load of this one…

Yeah.  Nice going, dad.  But seriously, this horse is not only the largest animal I think I’ve ever been around, but maybe the most beautiful.  Immaculate!  And well behaved.  Well done, Jess!  Next horse up, however, not quite so well behaved.  Still beautiful though.

Ok, enter horse #2.  Naturally we thought we’d photograph the horses separated first and then try to get the whole family gathered for one last photo.  But one more horse first…

Dare we try both horses together?  Sure.  Did I mention that they got into a little altercation a little earlier?  Attention hungry much?  Yeah.  But I was not going to be dissuaded.  I did drive all the way out into horse country in VA to see some horses.

And when it was all said and done, I just got this funny look to say farewell to.  What are you lookin’ at, lady?  Be nice, or I’ll take you back to the pond.  😉

So adorable!  Thanks so much, Jess, for keeping in touch.  So nice to see you both after all these years.  And what beautiful kids you’ve got!

A Military Moment

So the elephant in the room first: it’s been way too long since I wrote a blog post. There, I said it. And by way too long I mean, whoa. Way. Too. Long.

Ok, now that that’s taken care of, on with it. So much has happened personally and professionally since I last posted that it’s officially reached the point where I haven’t a clue where to start. And for me, I’ve learned, this means – just start. So here we are. I’m sitting in McCarran International Airport in scenic (ok, not that scenic but really really hot) Las Vegas, NV. And I’m waiting for my flight back from a brief, exhausting, and phenomenal weekend throwing my brother’s bachelor party. And while some of you might want to hear about that, you’ll have to settle for a story about a wedding instead. Afterall, Vegas and sworn-secrecy go hand-in-hand…

So I’m flying out to Vegas on Friday and I’m waiting to board my flight. Finally it’s time to board and they do the usual boarding order for flights which seems comical to me every time. Anyone who’s really old? Anyone disabled? First class. Platinum customers. Then Platinum Reserve customers. The Platinum Elite. Then Platinum Elite Reserve. Then Select Reserve. Then Select Elite Reserve. And don’t forget Select Elite Reserve Plus. This goes on for 20 minutes naming every ridiculous group of customers imaginable. I think there are more special boarding groups than actual seats on the airplane. Eventually they get warmed up and consider starting to board the “Mere Paupers” group (you know, everyone on the plane except for First Class section and like one old guy with oxygen). And right before they do, they offered boarding to any military personnel in uniform. I’m no frequent flyer, but I’ve been on a few planes before. This is the first time I’ve ever heard this boarding group. Kinda cool. At least there is no question who is in that group. In my experience, however, any uniformed military personnel boarding a plane would rather wait in line and courteously allow the women, children, old ladies, platinum customers, and basically everyone else board before them anyway. But I like the gesture.

What does this have to do with my blog post? Not much. But it did help me decide which wedding I wanted to share with you. So we’re going with the military, afterall, they got to board before I did. Ok, there were no uniformed military on my flights, but theoretically, they could have.

Katie and Bill got married at the beautiful St. Patrick Catholic Church in DC. The church itself is fit for a photo shoot, but these two really made it look stellar. I do love a formal military wedding in an historic church like St. Patrick. Originally the church was founded in the late 1700s. Yeah, pretty awesome.

Like many of the interesting and historical churches in DC, I was not allowed a ton of time to hang out taking photos in the church after the ceremony concluded. But this is not news at this point and I still had time to make some images that mattered before we got the boot. There is something special about a couple in uniform walking out of a big, beautiful church with a crowd gathered. Something timeless, emotional, and perfect.

I love this image of this kid in the bus on the way to take some outdoor “couple photos” after the ceremony. A lot of times photographers should pass off the image selection process to someone less emotionally involved in the photos or someone more removed so that they can get images that are really stunning images online rather than ones that they have an emotional connection to. This image is probably one of those images to which I’m attached emotionally – regardless of whether it’s actually got any artistic merit whatsoever.

Then we were off to take some classic DC photos after the ceremony. The couple wanted to go somewhere that was classic DC with the whole bridal party and they mostly left the selection of location up to me. And this location is one of my favorites.

And then we moved on to the lovely (and also “classic DC”) reception venue at the Ronald Regan Building in NW DC. Katie & Bill’s reception was both beautiful and fun. Not sure if I’d say in equal measure, but certainly both present. Check out some of the reception.

Ok, so I broke the ice, now I’ll start posting regularly again. Promise.

Strathmore With Style

People always want to know what to ask their photographer when they meet with him or her.  Some people come with questions, lists of them even.  Others show up with magazine clippings of what questions The Knot thinks brides should ask.  And still others just show up with their mothers – who have both lists and The Knot’s suggestions.  But every once in a while, as a photographer, you get a couple like Amy & George.  A couple who just wanted to be guided through an experience rather than checking off boxes and asking the right questions.  Every once in a while you find a couple who wants to get a flavor of their photographer rather than know about his/her equipment or editing techniques.

I’m terrible with names.  Always have been.  I’m sorry about it, really, I am.  I try really hard.  But inexplicably the moment our hands touch to shake, your name has probably already fled my mind because of how hard I’m trying to not lose it.  It’s actually uncanny.  Faces, on the other hand, I’m impeccable when it comes to faces.  And images, moments, bits of light and color.  I’m great with that sort of memory.  But names are not my forte.  I guess admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?  My name is Chris Zarconi, and I have trouble remembering names.  Welcome, Chris (uh, that’s your name, right?).

So since I’m so bad with names, I’ve learned a few things about myself.  First, I write shit down.  Writing shit down works.  If you can’t remember things, you should write them down.  But the more important thing I’ve learned about myself is that my memory is based on a picture or idea I create about people.  I develop a very clear and well-rounded idea of who people are and what matters to them from listening to them and imbibing their essence in a way that allows me to construct a visual version of them.  And this visual version of them is ultimately way better than their names (which, by the way, I’ve written down).

When I met Amy & George, I very quickly developed an image of who they were and what they liked.  I knew right away that we clicked.  Amy’s sense of style and her taste were clear to me almost instantly once she got talking.  I wasn’t that surprised to find she is a scotch drinker when I arrived at the wedding to find a flask in the bridal sweet filled with a delicious, peaty, and (to a novice) somewhat unapproachable whisky.  Seemed to gel with the image I’d created of her.

$50 Tip: Don’t underestimate your photographer’s knowledge of wedding-related things besides photography.  When he offers (and by he, I mean when I offer) to help with some decision or piece of advice, don’t assume that the offer is made to be polite.  Call.  Ask.  And be surprised.  If you’re hiring a professional (and if you’re not, you really should), he or she will know lots of things that could help you.  Ask.

Amy called me to ask if I knew any florists who might fit with her taste and design for the wedding she was planning at Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda, MD in October.  Having already painted an imaginary picture of her wedding, style, and interests in my mind, I told her I knew just the right florist.  Philippa Tarrant is a lovely and talented florist to whom I would recommend to anyone looking for flowers for anything.  She’s great.  She is the florist I recommended to Amy & George (and the one they used).  And she was absolutely the right woman for the job.

And while I’m on the Love-For-All kick, if you’re looking for somewhere to get married where the catering director cares about you personally and wants your wedding to be a success, you should check out Strathmore Hall.  Also, if you want a totally versatile space where you can be inside or outside, contemporary or traditional, huge wedding or small, intimate gathering, Strathmore’s two event spaces can achieve this goal.

And don’t take my word for it, check out the photos…

And once you move inside to spend the rest of the evening with your guests, the intimacy of the Mansion at Strathmore, the elegance of the food from Restaurant Associates, and the service of the staff is sure to make your wedding wonderful.  All you need to do is figure out how to do these awesome dances.  And maybe remember the name of the dude sitting across from you at the table…

Photobooth Fantastic

So you might find yourself wondering what in the name of all that is holy are these photos.  I spent some time editing them wondering the same thing, I’ll admit.  While I’m happy to take credit, I have to pass credit on for the most part to these wonderful people who brought their spirits (pun most certainly intended) to these photos.  Truly these photos are a gift to the bride and groom and all who view the images from Becky & Jordan’s wedding.

So I bought a photobooth.  Duh.  And these images are from its debut at a wedding.  My photobooth made its inaugural appearance after an 11-hour drive with me to Maine for Becky & Jordan’s wedding (about which I promise to blog soon).  I called these two about a week before their wedding when it looked like the photobooth would arrive in time to give it the test run at their wedding and discussed the idea.  Not one of us knew what to expect.  So I got up to superamazinggorgeous Rockland, ME for their wedding and surveyed the site in preparation for setting up the booth for the first time and giving it a whirl.

The verdict?  OMG.  People loved this thing.  I got emails within days of the wedding asking when the photos would be online and how they could order them (before they even saw them).  The bride and groom raved about how much fun it was and the guests kept coming up to me at the wedding to ramble (in complete sobriety I’m sure) about the photos they’d just taken or to ask hilarious questions about what they could or could not do in the booth.  I just smiled and told them it was a photobooth, not a confessional.  Rock out, kids!

So if you’re looking for something fun to add to your wedding that you and your guests will love and from which you can get some more amusing/usable photos than putting disposable cameras on the tables, call me.  I’ve added this treasure to my a la carte packages and you too can have these sparkling little moments added to your wedding memories.  Cheers!

Eastern Shore Magic

When Lauren and Andrew initially contacted me about their wedding, I knew right away I liked them. Lauren had a vision of what she wanted that was beautiful, achievable, and flexible. She was open to new ideas, welcomed participation of her friends and family, and wanted to create a day that was theirs. Andrew had a comfortable lovability that drew me in and made me see right away why they were a good fit. And it didn’t hurt that the plans they had for their wedding sounded like my kind of event. Needless to say, I knew from the start I’d like these two.

Their wedding was at Lauren’s uncle’s house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Now I’m from Ohio originally, I’m no stranger to farms or the country. But when it was time to go to college, I knew about myself that I craved something a little more fast-paced and dynamic. So when I moved to DC for college, I was thrilled to be a city boy for the first time in my life. After living in DC for several years, I did my first wedding on the Eastern Shore. It seemed so far away from DC and so different. And it is. Well, it’s different – it’s really not that far away. But now that I’m no stranger to the Eastern Shore or to Eastern Shore Weddings, I can say that I love love love the Eastern Shore.

And water always helps everything. Helps pictures, helps me be happy (and let’s be honest, shooting weddings is all about me being happy, right?), just helps everything. Want a tip for where to plan to take photos at your wedding? Near the water. Find some water and go there. Trust me, I know things.

The hosts for the wedding, Bruce and Jeanne Bernard, are some of the most delightful people I know. They opened their beautiful home to all the mayhem and majesty of the wedding (and rehearsal dinner) without a moment’s hesitation and left no detail to chance. My guess is that this was Jeanne’s hand more than Bruce’s, but we all know what assumptions do. Not only are the Bernard’s wonderful people, but also they’re full of surprise talents. Jeanne was the florist for Lauren and Andrew’s wedding. She made all the flowers in her basement floral shop. If you’re looking for a florist on the Eastern Shore, you should call Jeanne. I’ve seen expensive, professional, respected floral shops turn out work that simply didn’t compare to the flowers that Jeanne made for their wedding. Stunning!

I think that stunning is probably the word of the wedding though. The weather, the location, the hosts, the couple, the tent, and beer trailer, the driftwood table decorations, the flowers, the food… Well you probably get the picture. Congrats, Lauren & Andrew! And nice job.

The Open Road

People always ask if I just shoot weddings or if I shoot other things as well.  I always have to stop for a moment before answering to decide whether to proceed with the “my parole officer has asked me to deny shooting anything or anyone” response or the “just weddings?  What’s the matter with shooting just weddings?” response.  In either case, the answer is no.  I shoot all kinds of things (sorry, officer).  It’s one of the things I love about shooting weddings – the diversity of shooting opportunities.  Weddings are like whole academic photography curricula condensed into a single day (or a couple days in some cases).  A little sports work, a little portrait work, a little studio lighting work, some posed group shots, candids, emotion, action, direction, observation.  So much goes into planning a wedding and I get the gift of being able to witness and document those things.  It’s not just shooting weddings like anybody could do it.  It’s a wedding!

What is not a wedding, however, is this post.  I warned you in the About Me section of my blog that my interests were more diverse than just weddings and that those topics would emerge eventually in my blog.  Among them, motorcycles!

So a client of mine called me and told me that he built a motorcycle.  Obviously this caught my attention because I like motorcycles and I have a sense of what it would take to actually build a motorcycle.  Also, I know this man is a manager at the Home Depot in NE DC so moonlighting as a motorcycle builder is pretty awesome.  He asked me, like usual, if I just shoot weddings or if I do other things as well.  I smiled to myself and told him I would shoot whatever he wanted to have shot.  So he told me about the motorcycle which sounded pretty spectacular and we set up a time to make some images.

So I was chatting with Mike while photographing his bike about the bike and the process.  Before it got cold last season, Mike decided to move the motorcycle, then a stock 2006 Harley-Davidson Road King, into his garage for a major face-lift.  He then described the process of hibernating in the garage for the winter working on the bike meticulously.  As the spring rolled around, it was time for Mike to get his bike rolled out of the garage and start riding again.  And the finished product was even more spectacular than he had hoped.

Mike is not one of those prissy motorcycle owners who has a motorcycle, works on it all the time, and never rides.  Mike prides himself on both having a beautiful bike that he rebuilt from the ground up and actually riding it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a good show bike like the best of them.  Wouldn’t even mind having one or two myself.  But, like Mike, I’d ride them.  That’s what they’re meant for anyway, right?  There are few things more glamorous, manly, or honest than polished chrome and the open road.

Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get gay married.

So writing a blog is primarily about sharing my images.  But knowing your photographer is really almost as important as liking his images or trusting his artistic judgement.  I don’t intend to have this blog solely serve as a showcase of my images – if you want to see those, you should go to my website.  Actually, since you mention it, why don’t you swing by my website?  (too shameless?)

So I had a marathon weekend of shooting this weekend.  I shot a rehearsal dinner Friday, an admissions piece for The George Washington University on Saturday morning, a wedding Saturday evening, and a wedding on Sunday.  And, in case that wasn’t enough images to bury myself in editing, I employed one of my assistants to cover a rehearsal dinner for me on Saturday too.  Phew.  No wonder I was looking for a 5-hour energy at the start of the reception on Sunday.  And no wonder I slept in on Monday.  And no wonder I still have studio lights, stands, and god knows what else still in my trunk today…

But what a spectacular weekend and pair of weddings I was able to be a part of!  Certainly each of these weddings will have its own blog post later (once the images are edited), but for now each of them warrants a story that doesn’t need images (and might help you to know me).  So if you’re looking for pretty images, scroll down farther (or go to my website).  These ones I stole from the googles. 😉

So the wedding I shot on Saturday was a gay wedding.  James and Bill contacted me through a fellow photographer who was unavailable to cover their wedding and discussed with me their plans for a “garden party” outdoors at the beautiful Woodrow Wilson House in NW DC.  They described their tastes, hopes, designs, and dreams about their wedding and talked to me about what they liked about my photography and about photography in general.  I could tell right away I like them.  Little did I know how much I’d like them – but you will read more about that when I share photos from their wedding.  Suffice to say they were wonderful.

Shooting gay weddings is always interesting as a straight man.  You don’t realize necessarily what it’s like to deal with vendors for your wedding (for example) as a gay couple planning a wedding.  Since DC legalized gay marriage, there has certainly been an influx, at least in my business, of gay weddings and gay couple contacting me about photography.  And of course I’m happy for the business, I mean at some point it has to be a business.  But it’s been a joy celebrating with these couples because their celebration is about more than just each other, their love, and their lives.  Their celebration is about something much harder for us to understand, something we all take for granted, and something that these couples have to work hard to find.  Their celebration is about things I’ve never had to fight for and about things I don’t claim to fully understand.  But what I do understand is that James and Bill are in love.  They’re not in love a little bit, or for appearances, or for their families to understand.  They’re not in love so they can file taxes together or join their bank accounts.  They are in love because James makes Bill so happy he can barely stand up for a 20 minute ceremony.  They are in love because Bill makes James so happy he can’t even close the lips around his smile for a 20 minute ceremony.  They are in love because they are in love.  Does it matter that they’re gay?

I was speaking with Sherri, their officiant, at the reception.  She and her partner were there together and while she was waiting for her partner to arrive, she chatted with me at dinner.  She is the one who mentioned the fantastic advertisement posted above.  I thought it was clever and it made me smile so I thought I’d share.  Then I started poking around a bit and found these other funny little quips.  There are a lot of funny images and sayings online about gay marriage.  But they’re only funny now that it’s legal.  And it’s not legal everywhere (yet – go ahead, doubt it, it’s coming).  I was telling Sherri about what it’s like getting calls from same-sex couples about photography.  There is always a moment in the conversation, after I’ve told them I’m available for their date but before we get too much farther, when they stammer a bit about making sure that I’m comfortable shooting same-sex weddings.  And to all of you couples out there who have learned through bad experience in your lives that this awkward part of the conversation is necessary, I am so sorry.  Let me assure you that there are people out there dying to celebrate with you.  And if you call my studio, I’ll celebrate with you.

Besides, it’s straight people’s fault anyway, right?  LOL.  That’s a good one.  I’m not sure where this sign was displayed, but I’m glad someone got a photo of it.  Pretty priceless.  This isn’t a political post (I mean, more than it has to be I guess).  I’m not looking to incite anything or stir the pot.  Sherri made several comments that made me think and I just felt like a little flag-waving for basic human rights never hurts.  When we forget that we are all humans and that our basic rights are rights and basic, then they go away.  And what a terrible shame it would be to see the means for such joyous celebration go away for anyone.  More happy and healthy relationships like James and Bill’s relationship is the solution, not the problem.  Congratulations, guys!  Can’t wait to share your photos.

Missing the Water

So I used to live on a boat.  I’ll start by just getting that one out there in the open so we can move on from there.  Boat life is pretty cool most of the time.  It’s pretty cold in the winter and pretty hot in the summer – I guess that sort of goes without saying.  AC doesn’t seem to ever make things cold enough when it’s really hot and heat fails to really ever warm things up when it’s really cold.  A curious lifestyle, boat life.  But all the weather that one tolerates to live on a boat is worth is right about this time of year.  Hence, missing the water.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty about the boat I don’t miss.  I sold it almost a year ago and am happy it’s gone.  When I bought the boat, a friend told me something that was, at the time, inexplicable.  He said, “The second happiest day of a man’s life is the day he buys a boat and the happiest is the day he sells it”.  I was so happy from buying the boat that I couldn’t comprehend being happy about selling it.  You don’t know what you don’t know…

Meet Jodie.  Jodie is a Coast Guard girl, a wicked singer, a motorcyclist, a cigar smoker, and generally a cool chick – just as sweet as beautiful.  When she asked me to shoot her wedding, I knew I’d be signing up for something special.  And special it was.

Jodie married Tim.  Tim is also in the Coast Guard (hence the awesome sword – keep reading).  Tim is one of those guys that people just keep saying how nice he is or how kind he is or how sweet he is.  Just a genuine, good old-fashioned gentleman.

After a short church ceremony, Jodie & Tim made their way to The Cherry Blossom for their cocktail hour and reception.  No strangers to boats, The Cherry Blossom was the perfect venue for these two (and me).  We wandered for a little while around Alexandria by the docks and through the streets a bit before boarding The Cherry Blossom.  The weather was perfect, great night for a boat ride.

Once aboard The Cherry Blossom, the party started.  The details of their wedding were very sweet.  Not as sweet as Tim’s sword of course, but the other kind of sweet.  But I do like candy in cute little glass jars.  I mean everyone does, right?  What’s not to like?

And then the partying really began.  As the sun set beautifully over the Potomac River, The Cherry Blossom cruised up the Washington Channel and past the marina I once called home.  The DJ turned up the volume and slid into music to get people out of their seats and shakin’ the boat.  Even one of the servers on the boat joined the guests dancing down the river.  Tim and Jodie brought cigars to share with their guests and as the sky saturated with the deep, evening blue that I love to paint pictures with, they adjourned to the roof deck to enjoy a cigar and watch the lights of the city float by.

The priest who married Tim & Jodie was quite a dancer.  Don’t let that collar fool you, that guy knew how to move.  And there were certainly a few characters at that wedding.  A few of the guests actually also lived on boats at Gangplank Marina where I lived and I knew them well.  All in all, it was a lovely night, a beautiful wedding, and a great opportunity to reflect on by former habitation.  While I’ve sold the boat now and am happily a “dirt dweller” as we boaters say, I know that I’ve not lived my last year on a boat.  One day down the road, I’ll live aboard again.  I’ll just know what I’m getting into a little better this time.  And next time I’m definitely going to have a sword.

Bridal Show Whoas

So after years of wedding photography and absolutely no marketing whatsoever, I made the decision this year that my visibility and brand identity wasn’t going to build itself.  I have attended bridal shows in my earlier years as a photographer with another studio for whom I worked.  I know how to do them, I know what to expect from them, and I know I’m supposed to dislike them.  Afterall, photographers aren’t nice people.  I mean, right?

Well some of them are.  Actually, the truth is, a lot of them are.  Probably higher than the percentage of nice vs not-nice people in really any profession in truth.  But I was raised in photography to hate thy neighbor for they will steal your cattle and burn your lands.  I’m not sure why this was the business model with which I was raised when it comes to photography and weddings.  The more time I spend in the wedding business, the more I realize that other wedding professionals, with obvious exceptions, want to know you and help you.  And I know about myself (and have for some time) that I love to help people.  So why the attitude?

First: I’m a snob.  I’ve admitted this about virtually every aspect of my life.  I like to think of it as a more honest assessment of what some diluted people might call “having a good sense of style” or “knowing what I like”.  While I do think I have good taste and sense of style, the zeal with which I have such views might be more accurately characterized as snobbery.  So like any good twelve-step program, I’ll stand and introduce myself.  My name is Chris Zarconi and I’m a snob.

Second: More people should be snobs.  I’m ok being alone – sometimes I rather like it.  I’ll be critical of things alone, in groups, on stage.  I’m pretty ok with that.  I don’t take being critical of things into the realm of gossip, everyone has to draw the line somewhere right?  But the degree to which people are snobs is an effective measure, I think, of the degree to which they pay attention to detail.  Detail of what?  Detail of everything.  Because the details are what matter.

So I do this bridal show twice a year at the DC Convention Center, The Washington Bridal Showcase.  It’s a show, in every sense of the word, like every bridal show.  Sometimes I feel that I’m paying for a booth to get prime people-watching real estate.  And if that were my only goal, it’d be so worth it.  Classic!  The required raffles at every booth are designed to draw people into each and every booth in the show to encourage dialogue with vendors.  Well, at least that’s how it’s designed.  Mostly it just makes sure people walk around the whole show first and enter all the raffles.  Whoa.

So you’re a bride – why should you go to a bridal show?  Or should you?  Sure, if you want to.  Here is some advice: figure out what you want to learn from the show and go with that as your focus.  A lot of brides show up and get swallowed up by the chaos of the shows and come back with enough bridal show swag to sink a cruise ship.  Then when they get home, there is way too much information to process.  Don’t get sucked in.  Stay the course.

So let’s imagine, since this field I know, that you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding.  You go to the show and there are 10-15 photographers.  Where do you start?  Talk to them!  The booth at the bridal show is exactly what the name suggests – it’s a show.  I’m hoping that every photographer there can come up with 10 or 15 images that will capture your attention, make you stop walking, trigger an emotion, or otherwise make you want to stop and talk to them.  This is good.  Cross off the list right away anyone who does not meet this basic criteria.  (brief math aside – say as a studio you shoot 30 weddings a year.  your average number of images from each wedding is 1500 images.  that’s 45,000 images per year.  you had damn well better be able to produce 15 images out of 45,000 that are pretty special images.  if not, you should be registering for classes at the community college in either photography to get your act together or in some other industry to get out before you’re totally out of business.)  So since there are always a few that don’t meet that basic criteria, say we’re down to 8-12 photographers now.  Go talk to those photographers.  What are you trying to figure out when talking to them?  You’re trying to figure out A) who they are and B) do they make you feel comfortable.  Your wedding day is not a day when you’ll be feeling remarkably normal or like yourself.  Having someone around who makes you feel comfortable will make a huge difference on your wedding day.  So now you’ve spoken to them and you’re down to 5-8 photographers who meet those two basic criteria.  Now what?

Take their materials and go look at their websites.  Anyone should be able to produce 15 images of value and a conversation of 5-10 minutes in length without making you feel awkward.  Not everyone has enough images to fill up a website and make you feel like those 15 images were not a fluke.  My guess is that you’ll be down to 2-3 photographers from this process (at the most).  Some of you might be ready to sign a contract at that point and some of you will schedule meetings to chat more personally and more indepth with those final photographers.  Either way is fine, but that’s my tip.  Don’t get sucked in, stay focused, and do your homework.

Here are some iphone photos of the bridal show so that you can pretend you were there.  Not, obviously, my standard level of images.  But lucky for you, I’ll be shooting your wedding with a camera, not an iphone.


And me!  Well if you didn’t go to the bridal show, now you can say you at least visited briefly.  If you did go, I’d love to hear your comments about the show.

Always Say Yes

Can it be that I’m posting TWO blog posts in one week?  While I’d point out that this is a record, I suppose that goes without saying on a blog with four total posts…  Just goes to show I have a long way to go.  Also, probably dangerous waters publishing a blog post with such a title.  Rest assured, I don’t mean about that.

I was hired to shoot some family portraits at a couple’s 50th anniversary party recently.  A nice gig where everyone is happy and the couple who was celebrating 50 years was just as cute as could be.  Actually, they were downright adorable.  They were each joking about what saints they were for putting up with the other for all these long years but it was pretty obvious that they were in a marriage that was improving each day – even after 50 years.  My hat off to you two!  May your next 50 make the last seem dull.

Now this blog post is not about saying yes to proposals for marriage or even about saying yes to photographing family portraits.  Although those people are so stinkin’ cute…

So after we spent some time in the park photographing family portraits, the couples’ children (who hired me for the shoot) invited me to join them at their home for a drink or some food.

$50 tip: Always say yes.  This tip is for you photographers out there who think that you’re shooting strict documentary photography and have to keep yourself at arms-length from the content of your shoot.  You don’t have to stage things in your work and interfere with documenting life, but get involved.  Go ahead, have a drink with your clients/subjects/whatever.  You never know what opportunities you will afford yourself in doing so.

So, as the post suggests, I said yes to their invitation and went back to their home for a drink.  While I was there, I took some photos of their unique cat and continued snapping a few photos of the family while hanging out.  Then, I decided that I needed a different lens for an image I was trying to make.  When I went out to my car, this is the scene I passed (and then photographed).

Obviously these photos are not what I was hired to shoot.  And clearly I’d not have taken these photos if I’d declined the offer for a drink after I “finished working”.  Luck plays a funny role in photography sometimes.  But you can’t get lucky if you don’t keep your mind open.  And say yes to whatever.

California on My Mind

It’s curious, as I begin this blogging adventure, that I find it hardest to start out for a reason totally different from what I might have thought.  It’s not what to say that I’m struggling with, it’s what to say first.  And when facing such a choice, the answer is always the first thing on you mind.  In this case, California.

I’ve been to California exactly one time in my life.  I shot a wedding in Santa Barbara three years ago and got my first taste of In-N-Out Burger and my first glance at the Pacific (from the continent anyway).  Truth be told, I flew out of Dulles and ate Five Guys for lunch and landed in Santa Barbara and take In-N-Out Burger for dinner.  The coast-to-coast burger challenge was an unexpected but delightful treat.  The real meat-clad treat, actually, was neither (they were both great, don’t get me wrong).  Freebirds World Burrito near the campus of USC.  Quesarito.  This will change you.

Well I’m a few days away from embarking on California trip number two (for California wedding number two).  And while I will not be visiting Freebirds or anything in Southern California, I’m so excited to see Sonoma and San Francisco.  The wedding I’m photographing is in Sonoma and I’ll be visiting with my (engaged) brother and his fiancee in San Francisco after I’m finished.  So there are obviously two blog posts coming from that.  But I suspect I have to go there and take the photos first.  So I’ll share some of the wedding I did last time I was in California to get us both warmed up.

The ceremony was at one of the old Santa Barbara Missions.  Very old and widely-known.  Obviously they did not allow flash photography inside the Mission – sort of surprised they allowed me in there in the first place.  Some places are pickier than others.

$50 Tip: Most ceremony sites have a list of rules/expectations for your photographer.  Ask for this or ask about the rules they might have early and often.  Surprises on wedding day are always best to avoid – for both our sakes.

California, I found, has this open-air, Pacific-breeze, tranquil beauty to it that permeates everything you do.  I was admittedly a bit struck by the places I saw while I was there.  We went from the Mission to take some photos of the couple.  We took some photos in the gardens behind the Mission and then we paraded over to the location for cocktail hour and the reception where we took the rest of the photos.  Probably this is a good time for me to stop talking and let you see some of what I got to see.  Lovely spot for cocktail hour, photos, and reception.  Nicely done, you two!

The bride at this wedding happened to have earned her MFA in Photography from the Brooks Institute – which if you know anything about photography education means you know she’s got talent.  Her work has always been appealing and motivating to me.  Truth is, when she called me and asked me to photograph her wedding, I told her “congratulations, but no thanks”.  I figured that I didn’t need the kind of pressure that would go along with photographing a photographer’s wedding (and a very good photographer nonetheless).  She was, thankfully, insistent.  Relentless even.  And I finally acquiesced to photographer her wedding for her.  The surprising thing about photographing her wedding was that she understood some of what I was trying to accomplish and as such was the most willing and wonderful subject for photos I’d had to date.  And her husband, well, they’re prefect for each other.  Never even hesitated to go off and take a photo or stop what he was doing to go entertain some artistic goal of my mind or his wife’s.  Thanks, guys!  Enjoy the photos.


And under the stars and hanging paper lanterns, the rest of the night passed with good music and much love.  The bar is set high for the next California wedding, but it’s fun to me to see these photos after a few years and see how far I’ve come.  The next set will raise the bar for sure.  Ok, California, see you in a week!

The Blog Begins…

So every good photographer has millions of photos on their computer, on their desk, on their shelves, in their basement, in storage, maybe home at mom’s house.  We are, as artists, surrounded by our work.  It never ceases to amuse me how hard it is, among these thousands upon thousands of images, to find a single decent photograph of myself.  Or even just a photo in which I appear.  Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the great blessings of taking pictures – avoiding being in them myself.  So to all you grooms out there who come to meetings with your fiancee (good for you, by the way, bonus points will help you later) and tell me that you “hate to be photographed”, trust me when I say I know the feeling.  I sympathize with you.  I will, however, still take your picture.

So it is with some anxiety and great excitement that I finally put pen to paper with my blog.  The idea, I admit, was conceived some time ago and has gone through varying phases of interest.  It was not until yesterday that the whole concept snapped into clear focus for me and suddenly I HAD to start immediately.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Amelie (and if you haven’t, stop reading this post and go immediately to the store to buy, not rent, this life-changing film), you’ll know the moment I’m describing.  Suddenly the secret of the man in the photographs is not a secret and all the over-exposed, shiny, sun-kissed moments of Amelie’s life flash before her to a melody that only the French could conceive.  It was like that – except I’m not as cute as she is.  Or as French.  Nevertheless, inspiration comes to us all in strange ways.  My inspiration you’ll have to wait for that blog post to read about.

So who am I?  Why do you care about my blog?  Why DO you care about my blog???  Well, I guess we’ll find out together.  I’ve been shooting weddings and events happily in Washington, DC and all around the country since 2003 and have finally decided to make a studio of my own.  I’ve had some absolutely wonderful experiences, met some absolutely wonderful people, and learned so many things.  Maybe I can share some of the things I’ve learned and I will do my best to share new experiences as they change me.  We can change together.  And if you’re looking for a photographer, look no farther.  I’m right here.

I have been known to climb things, stand on things, scale walls, hang off of whatever necessary.  I’m not your typical prim and proper photographer who is worried about getting something on his suit.  Quite the opposite in fact.  I’m here to work!

Not all of my weddings are in Cabo San Lucas, shockingly.  This brisk October wedding in Kentucky was cold, muddy, and outdoors.  Eventually I’ll post about this wedding, but for now, this whole post is a bunch of foreshadowing.  Besides, if I wrote everything in my head down here tonight, it wouldn’t be a blog, it’d be novel.

So with that, I’ve introduced myself and my blog.  The best, as they say, is yet to come.