Stylish Story Telling with Raw Emotion
When you think 4th of July, you probably conjure up images of sunshine, barbecues, cheap beer, fireworks, and crowds of people soaking it all in to the sounds of Roy Ayers Jr… This 4th of July would be a bit different, and we were looking forward to spending this truly independent and mellow and monochromatic afternoon with a crew of people more colorful than anything the above description could’ve ever hoped to deliver.
Finding the perfect venue was the single most important consideration in the planning of Sandy and Scott’s intimate wedding. The reason they got in contact with us well over a year ago was through a connection they made with Goldie and Dan’s Big Sur Elopement, and they wanted something that felt similar for their day. The Sea Ranch Lodge provided just what they were looking for, a contrast of drama and lucidity, there, they were able to feel connected to each other, their friends, and the larger natural world around them; far from the commotion of every day life. When I spoke to Scott so many months ago – learning about them both individually and as a couple – we talked about lots of things from music, to movies, to wedding locations we’ve loved, and onto what being an editor entails; our talk was great and always rambled in all the right direction. Convincing friends and family to make the long drive up from Los Angeles wasn’t without it’s difficulties. But, the theme would always return to one constant, and that was making sure that Sandy was happy and had the best day ever; I liked these guys a lot.
The ceremony was short and sweet, and for as silly as these two are…there were all of a sudden some seriously poignant moments amidst the exuberance. Cocktail hour was held cliff side and the guests enjoyed signature cocktails and a selection of local cheeses and other delights while we took some very sweet family photos. The evening finished (for us) with dinner and a boatload of incredibly heartfelt speeches in the Lodge’s Fireside Room. The day seemed to go by too quickly, but that’s always how we feel after a great day, thanks so much Sandy and Scott for giving us a most memorable Independence Day.
Brenda and Phoenix were married three years ago and, in keeping with their anniversary tradition, decided once again to head down to wine country for an epicurean adventure. This year was a bit different in that they decided to put the past behind them and redo their wedding day photos once and for all. It was Phoenix’s idea to surprise Brenda as their actual wedding day photos were so disappointing that she never wanted to look at them. It’s always a bummer for us to hear stories like this but we’re happy to be able to help, and in the process we meet some really great people.
Phoenix and Brenda are very compassionate, both working in healthcare making sure sick folks recover in time to make it to their own weddings. They work hours apart from each other though so when they do find time together, they make the most of it; enjoying each other’s company, eating well, and collecting fine wines. Working hard and playing hard is a solid recipe for a good life!
We met them at the incredible Chateau Montelena where we started things off and later headed back into the main center of Calistoga to a place we’ve driven by a hundred times but never actually gone inside, Tank Garage Winery. Although it was a super hot afternoon and somewhat smoky from wildfires burning to our north, we found some great spots to make good on the images they’d been missing all this time and enjoyed every minute shooting and talking their ears off.
It was a great bonus to do a tasting with them at the end of the day at Tank Garage winery and we were blown away at the level of their “one-off” wines. They make very interesting blends of varieties and ratios that are outside the norm, especially for Napa and we ended up taking home a bottle of their Tempranillo and a massive blend called The Heavy. Next time you’re in Napa, you have to pop in for a tasting.
Such a fun afternoon!
I considered Kyle’s father Keith a friend about midway through our very first conversation. He spoke with such affection about his son and future daughter-in-law and wanted to make sure he did everything he could to give them a perfect wedding. Busy finishing up their medical degrees on the east coast, Jenna and Kyle had to rely upon family and their planning team (the always awesome, Quintana Events) to keep things on track for their summertime wine-country wedding. We typically enjoy speaking with a couple first so we can get a feel for each other and make sure it’s the right for everyone, but after several calls with Keith, I knew the “kids” were gonna’ be alright.
Tucked up against the hills of Alexander Valley, the Robert Young Estate Winery stretches over a picturesque 500 acres, with 317 of those acres planted in wine grapes. Greeting us as we entered the property were their two, free-ranging Llamas (who’s names I can’t recall) which was different and cool, and made us feel right at home! While the estate hosts private events throughout the year, up to this point there had never been a wedding up on the hill, so we were over the moon being able to experience this “first” with such a lovely couple. When Jenna and Kyle arrived, we knew straight-away that these were two genuine people and we were going to really enjoy our day. In our initial questionnaire we send out when someone inquires with us, we ask for three words that best describe them as a couple, to which they replied: Interdependent.
Disregarding the fact that that’s only one word and five syllables, the response was classic and perfectly summed up their connectedness. They were always by each other’s side, always smiling, and more often than not, borderline giddy. I can’t recall even a moment of stress from either of them; they just seemed to be completely awash in the love surrounding them and with each other.
The afternoon kicked off very summery indeed, with an azure blue sky and intense heat, so we gravitated towards the tranquil shade of a stand of Sequoia trees for the first look and family photos. It was later brought to our attention that these trees had been planted several generations back on the day of a family wedding that took place in that exact same spot. The property has a gorgeous hilltop clearing with unobstructed south and west facing views across Alexander Valley and over to the Mayacamas Mountains which form the border with Napa County; this served as both the ceremony and reception site. As the wedding ceremony led into speeches, and speeches segued into dinner and dancing, the ever warming light on the hills provided a nice counterpoint to the developing chill in the air. We stole them away for what had to have been the most sun-drenched evening light imaginable and had them back just in time to cut their cake and feed it to each other’s noses.
Such a cute couple – it’s days like this that we live for.
It was so great welcoming Simon and Anna to Northern California for their Napa Valley wedding this summer for what is sure to become a longstanding Ang family tradition. Originally from Australia, the couple now live and work in New York City in one of our favorite places, Brooklyn.
Their destination wedding took place between the towns of St. Helena and Yountville, in the heart of the Napa Valley. The ceremony took place at the cute little St. Helena Catholic Church with the tea ceremony and reception following, just down the road at the Vintage Inn. After their ceremony, Anna and Simon hopped into their ride for the day, an elegantly appointed vintage Packard convertible, and we headed off to explore the backroads and take some photos with their bridal party. Summertime in Napa can be a hot and sunny affair but in addition to the estimated 43,000 acres planted in vineyards, there are also a lot of quite beautiful shade trees. And that’s where we headed! Napa’s picture-postcard scenery is a big draw to the region but Anna and Simon were feeling a little homesick and wanted something a bit more raw that felt like home. We connected straight-away and had the perfect spot – a weathered old warehouse with a lovely faded red-orange facade in beautifully soft late afternoon light.
As much as we’d like it to be the case, we didn’t have all day for photos and there were some delicious wines and incredible food waiting for the couple back at the reception site but first, the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony serves an important ritual in Chinese culture. Whereas the ceremony redefines the relationships between Anna and Simon, the tea ceremony formally redefines the relationships between the children and the sets of parents and siblings. They serve each other tea, give and receive a gift, but the best exchange is the love and laughter that happens during the ritual.
As guests sat for the dinner service, delicious local wines were poured as several rounds of incredibly spirited speeches unfolded. Simon’s youthful shenanigans were recalled by his family, and at one point I though he might get up and try to run away. He did not. The couple exchanged assured glances letting each other know they were in this together and that confidence was even more apparent soon thereafter, as they performed a spirited first dance for guests in the Inn’s original, restored barrel room.
Perfect end to a perfect day!
The thing about photographing in and around San Francisco is that no matter how much you’ve scouted or what you think you’ll come away from the shoot with, you’ll always be surprised…if you leave yourself open to it.
Chris and I met Carah and Michael at Java Beach in the city’s Sunset/Parkside neighborhood – which I love for it’s welcoming, neighborly feel and afternoon light. Just behind the cafe, I saw this interesting car parked on the sidewalk in front of this home so we decided to start the shoot there. On our way to the car, we got sidetracked (which is pretty standard) by this great wall/door, so we moved in a bit closer when – from inside the building – came a chorus of bagpipes. That’s the kind of thing you can’t really plan for, but puts a smile on your face when it happens.
Carah and Michael had traveled to San Francisco from Maine to get the final details sorted before their wedding this fall. We thought it’d be a nice change for them to see the sun setting rather than rising over the ocean so we brought them down to China Beach, a beautiful little cove I’ve always wanted to shoot at. As the light grew warmer and eventually sank behind a distant fog bank, we explored around the beach and the weathered structure that serves as sunbathing deck and equipment station for the lifeguards. It was a mild and mellow afternoon with such a perfect ratio of all the elements you’d expect to find in a San Francisco beach scene, it’s as if we’d cast them as extras: a bodysurfer battling the surf, a couple of kids making out, a stoner tripping out on the scenery, a fisherman on the rocks, a girl and her dog checking in on Facebook, a squadron of Pelican’s investigating dinner options… and us fulfilling our role as photographers making the most of the day’s best light.
Mike and Carah are incredibly good people and we can’t wait to shoot their wedding this fall at the Asian Art Museum!