A Little Bit of Wedding Photography

Sometimes my photography journey lands me in a position to photograph a wedding. I don’t really advertise it, but weddings are something I enjoy doing from time to time. This bride and groom met with me to potentially do their wedding video, then somehow I ended up as their photographer. Also, because of my ignorance of the governance of the State of Kansas, I didn’t know until the week before that the wedding was at the Governors Mansion.

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The day started with Nicole (my wife) returning to the photography game and photographing the groom getting ready at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence. This image looks like one of those debates all weddings have between the suit wearing people. Which buttons do you button?

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Like all good weddings, this one had a lot of people in it that were close friends to the bride and groom. The officiant being one of those friends, got ready with the groomsmen but really just spent most of his time practicing for the ceremony.

While Nicole captured the groom, I traveled to Topeka to witness the bride and her attendants getting ready. Here is one of the brides mother peaking at her daughter while someone helps her with a bracelet.

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Flower girl antics, dress hanging dilemmas, jokes with friends and a mad dash to get the vows written were all part of the morning. The vows were revised by both the bride, maid of honor and mother of the bride. Team effort always wins.

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That’s about the time that Nicole joined me in Topeka. The rest of these images are mix of ours.

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I like to think that this look is the look of every bride who is having a staged just for photos moment with her mother. I’d also like to point out that this staged moment was not instigated by the photographers. I have some ethics left in my heart.

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The waiting before a ceremony is one of my favorite parts of the day. As a videographer, I’m often rushing around trying to figure out how to deal with all the tech needed to capture the ceremony during this time. As a photographer I get to relax into it and cover two people holding flowers, brides practicing their vows, adjusting dads tie and waiting to walk down the stairs.

Also, no you are not going crazy. Every woman in the bridal party is wearing white.

It rained the day of the wedding. What was supposed to be an outdoor yard party moved inside. The inside space didn’t have room for all the guests to sit, so they stood where they could. The cramped space made it hard to get a multiple of approaches to the ceremony, but it didn’t really matter.

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Probably my most favorite part of the wedding day is the moment right after the recessional. Emotion and hugs. What could be better?

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Obligatory Creative Portrait

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Then what better way to tell your guests that the ceremony is over and the fun is going to begin than by having a marching band entertain them. This band from Topeka High rocked it out. A lot of the wedding guests had attended that high school, which made it a bit more touching.

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Then the level was brought down a notch for speeches and dinner.

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Too be honest, once I get to the reception it all becomes just a photographic blur. I imagine this is much like the memories of everyone who attends a wedding. Receptions are fast and furious physical poetry. A mass of awesome that can’t be contained by words or even images. Although we try.

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Then the end comes and you try to not be burned by the sparklers.

and you savor the moment before you have to get on the bus or in your car and return to the real world the next day. Thank you Kathleen and Mathias for the opportunity to document your nuptial celebration.

Paradise

Paradise

A fictional narrative photo essay.

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We used to work at the Paradise. She ran the projector and I worked the tickets. On my break I would sneak up to the booth with her. Most the time we would just share a headphone and listen to music. We would talk a lot about our personal lives. Things we didn't share with others.

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Sometimes we would look out the windows into the theater. We hardly watched the movies, we watched the humanity. We would lean against the glass and dream up futures for the people below. Our favorites were the young lovers. So enraptured with each other that what movie they went to didn't matter. We would make bets on how long they would last as couples. Bets that we could never collect on.

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One night after witnessing a couple not come up for air for five minutes, she sat back onto the floor of the projection booth and asked, "Do you ever feel that it would be possible to die from love? As in.. you love something so much that the idea of living with that love is too much to take?"

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I don't remember why I smiled. I like to pretend I didn't see how serious she was being, but I know deep inside I was just not ready to face the look in her eyes. My smile turned into a laugh and I blurted out, "I wish I had that problem". 

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I wish I wouldn't have said it.  She went back to listening to music and I went back to the ticket booth.

She went away soon after that. I like to imagine her in the movies out in California, living the dream life, but I know that isn't true.

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The Paradise shut down a few years later. Ticket sales dropped after she left and the theater couldn't keep up with the cost to go all digital. It's just a husk now. Every once in awhile I find myself slipping in through a busted window. Walking the rotted carpets and up the twisted stairs to the empty projection booth. 

I look out the windows into the theater and a weight settles into my heart.

It's the weight of remembering her.

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The weight of missing.

The weight of regret.

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We used to work at the Paradise.  Now I think we live there.



Created with a Fujifilm XT20 and a 7artisans 25mm 1.8 lens. All images in the original series:

Canon EOS R

The Canon EOS R traveled with me over my lunch today for a long walk around campus. I wasn’t out to actually make usable images, but rather to just see with the camera. I love my Fujifilm XT20 and have had my reservations about getting a Canon mirrorless over a Fuji system. I needed some camera and me time to figure it all out.

Before setting out I had no problems figuring out where the buttons were and what my dials did. Since I’m familiar with Canon cameras, it took me all of two minutes to do the two things everyone should do when they first get a camera:

Turn off all beeping. I’m looking at you focus beeping

Set focus to back button

My only irritation was that I kept forgetting how to switch ISO quickly, but that worked itself out as I used it.

What amazed me the most when I started making images, is that the image in my viewfinder is exactly the image that I captured. I started to keep the flip screen shut unless I needed it to help compose. About half way through my walk I found that I wasn’t even reviewing images in the view finder. I was just trusting the camera to be doing what it showed me. This is something I didn’t experience with my XT20., which I find weird because the image I see in my Fuji is also the one I’m capturing. This might be due to a size difference, as the the Canon viewfinder is big and bright, while the Fuji is tiny in comparison.

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All of these images were created with the Canon EOS R, the EF to R lens Adapter and the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens. The adapter makes the camera slightly bigger than I want, but not having to purchase lenses is going to be completely worth it. The 35 has a vignette at f2 but I don’t mind it. It’s a great light weight alternative to the bigger Canon lenses.

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The biggest issue I had was not being able to actually edit these images at my main work station. I had to wait until I got home to edit them on my personal Adobe accounts. Institutions often don’t have the latest versions of software, and are under different contracts than individual or smaller companies might be. Upgrading can be a long process. I’m not a fan of having to upgrade software every time a new camera comes out.

All of these images were edited in Adobe Lightroom.

On the bright side, I really love this hallway in the UMKC Fine Arts building that houses the UMKC Gallery of Art.

I haven’t used the video functions on it in detail yet, but I do love the quickness at which I can switch to video and back into stills. The video record button is right next to the shutter release. I can switch back and forth without taking the camera from my eye. I’ll most likely dig it, provided I can program what the record button triggers in the terms of video format. That speed is 100% what I need as a multimedia photographer, even if the 4k crops in. I can deal with all things as long as I know about them and am prepared.

So far, I’m impressed with this camera. I’m not in love with it like I was when I first took out the Fujifilm xt20 but I think the Canon EOS R and me can be friends. I hope the friendship lasts awhile.

Multimedia Obsession | Workshops

Workshops are… well, they are everywhere. It seems everyone has a workshop or a class or an online course nowdays. They are all competing to educate a base of photographers and media creators that didn’t go to school for their craft. They compete with each other as well as with free or cheap online educational solutions. I use YouTube almost every week to learn or relearn something. The overwhelming number of workshops makes me question the fundamentals of being inspired to teach. Why do I feel like I need to teach? Why have a workshop or class when there are a billion on the market? Why do I teach multimedia skills to people who may never use the skills I taught after leaving my workshop?

Teaching to me is a collaborative exploration where the teacher is part guide and part student, and the student is part muse and part student. Learning is often symbiotic. The teacher, if engaged, will learn more about themselves and their art while teaching and that deeper understanding will fuel the creative learning process of the student. It is that process that makes me want to teach.

During my most successful multimedia workshop the students decided to shoot all video instead of photography, which made it more of a video workshop for photographers. That’s how I prefer to teach, where I listen to the needs of my students and adjust the curriculum accordingly. In that instance, I wanted to see the spark in my students eyes when they realized that a lot of disconnected footage could snap into an actual film. It’s hard to see that spark when teaching online, so I prefer in person workshops at this time.

But why teach multimedia?

The answer is simple. It is good practice.

Learning multimedia breaks a photographer out of their shell and makes them think of things outside of the frame. It helps them visualize how an image fits inside a larger story, how the image can impact the persons story when viewed, and gives them the tools to help tell that larger story. If they never use Multimedia in their day job, the practice of learning and keeping it front of mind will cause them to listen more while they are photographing (making them more aware of potential images), make sure the images they do make have the right context when deciding on what goes in the frame, and understanding how those images can fit into print and video materials.

It is with that in mind that Tyler and I started working on Camp Wirkshop. Camp Wirkshop is a week long multimedia workshop that documents a camp for kids on the autism spectrum called Camp Encourage. I had been working with Camp Encourage for years, originally making documentaries for their fundraisers, and then working on a fundraiser called An Evening with the ‘Rents. When thinking of where to host our workshop Camp Encourage was the perfect place. By partnering with them we made sure that the images would not be ignored and the work we do has an impact.

Shown below is a multimedia piece I created about the ‘Rents performance. Most my work with Camp Encourage has not been multimedia but I’m including a less played film I made for them into this post just to show it some love.

Tyler had been doing a lot of work with Foundation Workshops over the years, and we wanted to offer people something different than that. Something other workshops were not offering. Camp Wirkshop came about because of Tyler’s desire to teach great photography and my desire to teach multimedia. There were a few other multimedia workshops on the market, but we wanted something that was intimate, hands on and so intense that by the time it was over you felt like you accomplished something by making it through to the other side.

We wanted it simple all inclusive, where students didn’t have to worry about paying additional for hotels or travel to and from the site. Camp Wirkshop makes that possible with everything wrapped up in a nice little package. Concentrate on story all week long, not the little details.

We are about to start our third Camp Wirkshop. Students come from all over the world to spend a week camping and documenting Camp Encourage. At the end of the week, we give Camp Encourage the images and multimedia films that are used to help raise funds for next years camp during their annual fundraising event in October. Here is one of the films they used at their fund raiser from Kelly Virden Koller:

*this is the advertisement sales part of this post.

If you are a photographer looking to expand your toolbelt, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as an exclusive tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell stories for you clients better in any single media. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage while you’re at it.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!


This is the conclusion of my five part series examining my love of the multimedia format, and why I keep pushing to educate photographers about it. Thanks for reading. Camp Wirkshop is not the end of my multimedia journey. Just the most current incarnation of that obsession! Keep in touch to find out more in the future!

Multimedia Obsession | Marketing

In 2016, I gave up on being fully self employed. Ten years was a good run but the need for stable income and cheaper health insurance outweighed my desire to be free in all my creative choices. Turns out I thrive in a controlled work situation, especially one that lets me slowly push things in directions I want to go.

On one of my first assignments I was already thinking of how to create multimedia for the university. For my personal work, I had been recording audio with a bracket and microphone attached to my camera, so I brought that along while I went with our PR people to cover move in day. They asked questions and I photographed like I normally do. I made a couple of quick vignettes that I thought were interesting and presented these rough versions to see if we wanted to start working on more polished versions in the future.

Here are a couple of my rough sketch ideas:

Although the university didn’t think these quick vignettes were strategically worth pursuing, I got a chance pretty quickly after my first week on the job to attempt multimedia again. This time on their student storytelling project. The project had consisted of sit down interviews with students and portraits of them against a white background. Those two things were combined onto a news page. I asked if the people doing the interviews could mic up the students during the interview, and that I would be allowed to go photograph the student for thirty or so minutes doing something besides being on a white background. They agreed, and I produced a handful of Student Storytelling multimedia pieces with even more tight constraints than I produced my personal pieces, since this was above and beyond my actual job as staff photographer.

I enjoyed making these pieces and students seemed to enjoy being in them. I received a lot of positive feedback on them and was excited to keep making them. Unfortunately they seemed to not fit the marketing direction that the university wanted to pursue.

In hindsight, they were right when you look at the message they wanted to project. Pure honesty and students admitting that the university wasn’t their first choice, or students on campus struggling with addiction, might not be the best way to introduce potential students to the university. The next year we decided to move storytelling to a full video base instead of multimedia and to make the films a bit more upbeat. This year we decided to skip films in general. Not because they were not performing well (both the multimedia and the straight video films were a hit), but because I’m a one man shop at the university and there wasn’t enough time in the day.

It was at this time that the idea of using my films for marketing instead of for personal or documentary storytelling actually sunk in. I had seen it used before for marketing, but never thought my own work would be used that way, even after I started working for a marketing department, even after I had created a series of promo multimedia films for photographers just the year before. I hadn’t even considered those ‘my films’, but instead the films of the clients that I was just editing together. The Student Storytelling project and my staff photographer position reset how I thought about my work.

Multimedia not just a documentary but a viable marketing solution.

Here is an example of a commercial built with just still images and audio (not my work obviously but a great example):

As I mentioned, I had created a series of marketing multimedia videos for photographers in late 2015 and 2016, before student storytelling opened my eyes to the implication of what I had started to do with these films. Here are examples of those films:

I interviewed the photographers and then used their images to put together the films. These photographers used the films on their websites, most under their “about us” page, which in my head raised two main questions.

  1. How do you make films that are easy to share and usable more than once?

  2. How do you make them at a rate that won’t break your bank?

The answer to number 2 is simple when I look at photographers. You make them yourself with simple tools and the images you are already using. All the videos above could have been made by the photographer with just a bit of training.

The answer to number 1 is a bit harder but essentially, you make them shorter and more direct so that they don’t require peoples attention to be held for multiple minutes. When my last two clients asked me to create a big video for them, I sold them on creating a bunch of smaller videos for the same price.

Here is a multimedia piece I created, one in a series of seven. The photographer was then able to keep sharing over a greater length of time on social media than if she would have only had one video to share.

I believe in multimedia as a marketing tool that can be used by photographers to promote themselves, but I also believe that photographers can use it to make films for their clients.

When making website images for a local law firm, I was able to charge a bit more and make them an about us film with only a few extra steps on a day that I was set to be there for hours anyway.

Most recently, my colleague Tyler Wirken has also taken up the idea of making his own multimedia films for commercial clients. His piece he created for a local car dealership really sums up what it feels like to work for and shop at that company.

I mention Tyler’s film because Tyler has been on this multimedia journey with me for many years. He has been one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to it. Seeing him produce a piece on his own with only mentorship from myself makes me proud.

I also mention him because my next and last multimedia obsession post is about our work together at Camp Wirkshop, a camp-based workshop where I help train people about how adding a multimedia aspect to their photography can be beneficial in many ways.


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Four. Next week I’ll talk about my continued obsession with training and how that manifests at Camp Wirkshop.


Speaking of Camp Wirkshop, if you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell better stories for your clients in any field. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!

Multimedia Obsession | Storytelling

In 2012, I received a phone call from an old friend of mine. He had seen some of my video documentary work and wanted to know if I was interested in making a documentary about a man transitioning to be a woman. I was curious about this documentary adventure, so I said “sure, who”, and he said “me”.

I had known him since middle school and although I didn’t object to the news, I had trouble processing it, so I decided I was too close to the subject to make a documentary myself. A few days later, I was talking to Tyler about It and he said he would be interested in taking up the work as a photo essay. After a few sessions with Maddy(formerly Matt), Tyler and I decided to interview her and make a multimedia piece about her. That is how my first successful photo dominant multimedia documentary came to be.

The following film was photographed by Tyler Wirken. I produced and edited the piece, with both of us conducting the interview.

Madelyn’s piece is about wanting to live as your fully realized self. By making the film and forcing myself to listen to my long time friend as Madelyn instead of Matt, I realized that they have always been the same person. Our societal gender norms had forced her to not be honest to herself, which nearly drove her to suicide. It solidified my commitment to creating a safe space around myself and supporting truth and love above all things.

This film also solidified my belief that the still imagery is a very powerful tool. The still image forces you to linger on the subject while listening to their story. It forces you to confront them, and see them more fully than motion does. It also forces the photographer and multimedia artist to understand their intention and be purposeful in all the things they are doing.

Another source of inspiration for me at that time was the New York Times series One in 8 million. It really hammered home my love of stories about everyday people being unique in every way.

It was with the understanding from Maddy and from the One in 8 Million series that my short lived personal project A Kansas City Story was born. I already wrote about my first subject, Keenan. You can read about it and watch the video here. Here is another one from the project: Mikey.

A Kansas City Story had personally set limitations. I called it in my head the 5x5 challenge. Five hours to photograph and five hours to edit. I admit I cheated a bit on some of them but mostly I stuck to that challenge. I loved this project. If time allowed I’d make one every week. The formula is simple. I find someone, anyone, document their lives, do a quick interview and edit it together.

My love for it and how quickly I could put them together made me want to show others how to do it. I felt strongly pulled to teaching. Thus my first multimedia workshop was born. I called it the Untold Multimedia Workshop because we were doing a bit of work under that branding at the time. Here is a film from that workshop by Katrina Hannemann. It ended up being included in my KC story collection.

The struggle that happens within the confines of a workshop puts a spotlight not only on what the student needs to learn, but also highlights what the instructor needs to learn. In the case of this workshop and the workshops I’ve taught since, it has further solidified my belief in celebrating everyone in my work. That celebratory attitude continues, even after I had to get a full time job. Which is the subject of my next post!


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Three. Next week I’ll talk about getting a full time photography job and how that has informed and inspired more multimedia work.


If you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell better stories for your clients in any field. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!