“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the
way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” ― Robert Frank
Something odd hit me just the other day. I had just finished up editing another beautiful wedding, was about to sit and crank out a few engagements shoots and a bridal session before I got started on the next wedding and I realized something. I’ve been doing this for quite awhile. I know that probably doesn’t seem like that radical of an epiphany but what it brought with it was a lot. If you’ve kept up with me this year you know that I just turned 30 in May. I’m not one to linger too much on that but I am learning that for all the years of wisdom of my parents and the other people who are obviously a generation older than me in my life I’ve never really put much thought in to how old they do not feel. I have to constantly remind myself I’m not 23 or 24 as if my mind get’s stuck in a time where I most identify with myself. I know that’s super deep but it was an odd thing that hit me and just as I finished up the edits on this amazing wedding I had a bit of a moment of clarity about what I do. I know that I tend to shout at times and whisper at others about how important living in a moment is to us. I wish I had more time to adventure, more time to learn and soak up life. More time to breathe in a sunset in a new time zone and race up a hillside just to run down the other side. For the years I’ve put into this company I’m learning that I am very much still a kid when it comes to the way I see my life and that’s partly do to the fact that my day to day is so full of happiness. It’s never lost on me how blessed we are to call this work. To get paid to not only witness but record these moments teaches me more about myself every single day and to not spend my life behind a desk but free to experience the summer heat and the winter wind is an amazing treat.
I’m not sure what it’s called when you digress before you even start - but I’m notorious for chasing rabbits. Stick with me though because there’s a point to this monolog. I have always been most interested in the relationships this job opens up. I talk so much about the clients and their love for each other but often forget to mention how much work goes into being in the inner most circle of a family on a very important day. What I give even less air time for is the friends that I’ve made in this industry who don’t just make my job better but affect my life outside of work. I have a few friends these days that really do just add to my life and as I dig into the story of this amazing wedding it’s important to point out before I even knew Sarah + Josh how much working with these friends means to me. Brock Short (or DJ Brock, or the “get it at Sam’s guy”, or the voice of Walmart) or any of the other many hats this guy wears has been one of my very closest friends for years now. This guy is one of the few people in my life who totally understands the demands of my schedule and he hangs in there with me. He’s the kind of friend who can go for a month without hearing from me and not worry one bit that when we see each other the next time we’ll pick up where we left off. He also owns and runs the very best DJ company anywhere around here and whether he is behind the microphone or one of his guys is you can be assured that there will be a party. I was so excited to work with Brock on this wedding (actually his number 1 guy Jason) simply because I knew once the music started the dancing wouldn’t be far behind and wouldn’t slow down all night. So proud of this guy and the way he’s captivated this market all with the integrity and heart for God that he so openly shares. Tanarah is one of a few florists that I really love to work with. What makes her special isn’t just the fact that she manages somehow to turn any flower into a complete work of art, but that her smile is always waiting for you when you walk into the room. This sweet friend and I kind of bonded during a slightly difficult wedding last year and I can honestly say that though I don’t get to work with her near enough her designs are some of the most inspired I have ever seen. Truth be told at times I feel a lot of pressure just to do them justice in photos. The 21c hotel and more specifically Emily (the head of events at the hotel) has become a second home for us in the last few years. After shooting the first large wedding the hotel had we were blown away by how closely this amazing place represented our brand. It was an odd love at first visit and getting to know Emily and James and Sarah and all of our friends at 21C has been a huge treat. Bo has been hugging me for years. This dude is a magician at hair and makeup but more than that he’s just a positive place in the room. His stories and his life are big and loud and I can’t say enough about what it means to have a friend like this guy. I don’t know anybody even remotely like Bo and I’m not sure there’d be room in my life if I did. Finally there’s Amanda. Amanda and I work together a lot. These day’s a whole lot. I was so blessed to be connected pretty early in my career with Amy Bates and the Bates’ Events team. Amy is a beautiful, Godly woman and amazing mom who just swells with talent and beauty so when she and Amanda formed Bates-Reed Brides I was so excited to have a first row seat for that transition. I work with wedding planners all over the country and this team is top notch. We have a slew of planners we love to work with but of all of them we work along side this team the most often and the creativity and inspiration of this team blows me away. That along side the fact that Amanda and I just love hanging out and I'm always happy when they're in charge. So if you’re wondering why I’m bragging so much this evening here is where the story really starts.
I walked into this wedding so anxious for a chance to see all the stars align. Delyn + Max were off at another pretty high profile wedding this weekend and my close friend and amazing photographer Justin jumped into my passenger seat to shoot as my second lead along with every single one of these amazing friends. When we walked into the hotel that morning I was not only prepared with the perfect schedule, amazing decor, and beautiful bride ahead of me I also thought I knew exactly what I was getting into. And then all expectations were instantly set aside as I remembered that the very best part of this job is the people and not the planning. Sarah is stunning. When I say beautiful it’s perhaps not a big enough word. Gorgeous doesn’t seem like it would include enough personality. Striking might do but even that falls short. This girl’s smile is so big and confident and the morning with her, her best friend, and her sister was the perfect mix of smiles and laughter. There’s a pretty intense strength that lies just under the surface in Sarah’s personality and even though she was just a touch nervous on such a huge day you’d never see anything short of poise at any given second. That is until she saw Josh for the first time. Josh is a complete stud. I clicked with this guy from the very first few minutes of our engagement shoot when I realized just how laid back and happy this guy was. Super stylish, super sarcastic, and super willing to be in a moment Josh is the type of guy I’d hang out with on any random Tuesday let alone have the chance to see on one of the biggest days of his life. True story, Josh grabbed me on his way out the door with his wife at about 11:00 at night after a long beautiful reception and said “Miles, we want you to come over and I’ll cook you ribs when we get back from the honeymoon.” If that doesn’t perfectly sum up his kind heart and slight randomness nothing will but back up about 8 hours and the story of these two together really starts. Josh didn’t want to see Sarah until she made her way down the aisle to him. I’m not sure he knew how hard those tears would be to choke back in that moment but he did know that he wanted to share the awe for Sarah with the whole room and we always respect that. In fact in this situation I’m so glad they did wait because Sarah’s aisle might as well have been a mile long with the way time stopped when he saw her and to have been right beside him in that moment oddly meant a lot to me as well. Before the ceremony we decided to do a “no look” session with these two so that we could give them a few moments to just be intimate and quiet with each other and let the gravity of the day sink in. Both were nervous about how this would work. But both also heard me perfectly when I said “trust me - you’ll never experience something quite like this again.” So after a pep-talk with how they would spend about 30 minutes together and never actually see or talk to each other Sarah walked up behind Josh and wrapped her arms around him.
There’s actually no words for this exact moment. The groom always breaths in just as the bride breaths out. Just picture that for a second. There’s this moment where two people, who are about to become one, do so in a way they’ve likely never done before. And as she finally relaxes into his back and takes a long breath out, he is suddenly supported by the one person in the world who sees him exactly for who he is, loves his faults, and is still there all dolled up just so he think’s she’s beautiful and he gasps for a breath. It’s an amazing few moments to give a couple and though I’m about to totally call out Sarah for cheating a bit here the most incredible moment of the whole day for me was as Sarah covered up Josh’s eyes with her own eyes down into his back I watched her sneak a quick peak at his face. Instant. Love. That moment was like she took flight. She blushed, looked away, smiled, squeezed him. A million emotions and a millions things happened in that tenth of a second and regardless of the photo a memory was made. That right there is why we push so hard for our couples to focus on the moments not the photos. Photographers are inherently manipulative people. We want things a certain way - the problem is most of us won’t admit that or be humble enough to not get our way. But for me, seeing a bride flush with excitement at the slightest glance of her groom beats an hour of first look photos any day. They just had to trust me - and they did. After an amazing ceremony Sarah walked out Mrs. Cushman and the cheers were not only loud they were long. As we climbed in Justin’s Truck, AC on full and headed out for a few very special moments of couples photos none of the four of us new just how beautiful the light would be for the next 30 minutes. If you keep up with me much you know I’m a huge proponent of being able to shoot in any light. 10am or 10pm I want to be able to capture a moment and do it justice but there’s this special time (no photographers no golden hour) right about 3 hours before sunset that for some reason I just understand. The sun is just low enough that I can get it to wrap around a couple but just high enough that I have a little haze and a little harsh pretty afternoon to play with. We just happened to have the most perfect example of this light during the session and I’m not sure I said a word. I just let them be. If I could teach any photographer anything it wouldn’t have anything to do with light. It would all be about when to speak up and when to shut up. This was one of those moments when time stood still and all I needed to do was watch for the right smile, the right kiss, the right breeze.
This reception was a blast but if you’ve been to one - you’ve been to a lot. We all ate (incredible food I’ll add). We all danced (to great music) We watched a bouquet fly and a group of girls do the wobble (I may have joined in for a minute) We all did the things you’re supposed to do, but what made this reception unique aside from all the happy amazing people inside it really was the design. I can’t say enough about how beautiful the vision behind this room was. The black and white striped runners with the gold vases. The amazing towering florals that cascaded down above the food. Even the mirrored cake table at the front of the dance floor lit and highlighted on the back wall by Sarah + Josh in a scripted projection by our buddy Steve. Every element was unique and amazing and for as amazing as Sarah’s taste is I have no doubt that the artisty was a complete collaboration of some of the best vendors around. All in all I could clearly go on forever. Sarah + Josh became overnight friends for me and I sincerely hope that we have the chance to have those Ribs soon. In the mean time, thank you for listening to me rant and looking through the photos from one of the most beautifully designed and executed weddings of the year so far! Also a huge thank you to Justin for joining my team and helping me be in two places at once. It’s an amazing thing being surrounded by this much talent and I’m humbled to call all of these people friends.