Its a joke between us now, but its still a great story. Before Rachel and Chris decided on getting married in Sedona, they knew they wanted me as their wedding photographer. Humbling, for sure. I had nearly 100 emails back and forth with Rachel discussing 2 or 3 different regions and 4 or 5 different venues. Every time a place was decided on, I'd get an email from Rachel saying it was changed. I remember laughing out loud a few times. After much discussion, Arizona was chosen as the backdrop for what they had in mind. I admired their determination to find a place that suited them the best, not everyone would do that. Their wedding started off as a 100 person affair in Baltimore and ended up a 4-5 person elopement style wedding in the red rocks of Arizona. That's quite the shift but it paralleled their personalities and lives wonderfully. They chose wisely and ended up with some wicked images to remember it by. We laughed together, about all the emails, the night before their wedding over beers and burgers in an old, haunted, mining town. Those moments are the best, the unplanned ones that happen surrounding being invited to take pictures. I hope it never gets old.
I watched them through the branches of the autumn toned tree as they renewed their vows, just yards from me. I watched through my camera how she looked at him, and him at her, as they reread those words they each spoke aloud exactly one year prior.
I get to see a lot of things in regards to love, and you'd think I'd be an expert on it. Alas, I am not, haha. But what I have gotten good at over the years, is recognizing a deep connection where love is able to blossom and grow.
I watched Jesse and Elizabeth recite those vows they wrote as a stream trickled below their feet and down through rocks, carving a path into the land. That water, like their love, can only navigate through the obstacles directly in front of it. It can't possibly fathom what looms in the distance. But just like the water that does whatever it possibly can to push forward, these two will do the same. They will navigate life and around the obstacles in the best way they can. Together, through rapids, rocks, small and large crevasses they will hopefully settle into a lazy river that meets with the vast expanse of the ocean.
If any couple can make that trip, these two are it.
It was decided early on in the discussions between myself and Nirav that we'd offer something refreshing to the photography world. We have both been in this industry for quite some time and have worked through growing pains and have been through many highs and low points. I see posts online, seemingly daily, from photographers offering workshops, trips around the world, forums, conferences, and conventions. We immediately knew we wanted to offer something different to represent change and progress. Openness and transparency in any industry isn't always at the forefront and we both were determined to counteract that.
More mental, less technical. More inspiring, less showing.
Photography is an intimate medium. It’s the relationship between the subject and the person behind the camera. It’s extremely personal as the final image portrays the personality and atmosphere of not only the subject, but the photographer as well. If you photograph people you can often feel that connection happening in real time, and its extremely enjoyable. Because of this, it should be treated as a more valuable commodity. The focus shouldn’t be the photographer/s that are teaching, but the attendees present. It currently feels as though many workshops are mostly geared towards duplicating the style of a teacher. We had something different in mind where the focus was shifted from the leader and towards every person included.
And so we settled on a retreat ...
We decided to offer up our wisdom, advice, thoughts, and problems as lessons rather than what we use to edit, how we cull, or how we photograph people using models. We stripped the idea of a workshop down to its core, and realized it was no longer a workshop but a getaway with colleagues, like-minded individuals, and friends. It was more like a retreat. We didn’t want to have a special branded name for it, or sponsors. We only wanted to bring artists together in one place. We wanted to talk, bond, feel, inspire, and learn.
We recently concluded this event (which was held in Elk, California) and to say it was “amazing” seems a bit lackluster. It ended up being something more than what we had planned (just a day after the election). It was a gathering of a wonderful group of people, most of which didn’t know each other prior, at an amazing house in northern California. We spent nearly 48hrs together, well, just being together. I believe there is a place for workshops, especially instructional ones that teach you something hands on but I also think the concept of them has been taken too far. There’s no value in creating exact clones of oneself, it only feeds into the vanity of our current ‘like-happy” society. The value of any get-together should be to bring out the core potential of the artist. That should be the goal of any teacher regardless of the subject. Retreats are not something new. This idea we had is not something new, but it is something refreshing. It represents change and progress and personally, I think it's needed in this industry.
This retreat was led by myself and Nirav Patel. Nirav and I are planning to hold another retreat, most likely in the same region, in November 2017. Our goal is to release the details this coming spring of 2017, so if you what I just wrote sounds wonderful please be on the lookout for a release in a few months. Until then, feel free to email me with any questions about it. - Michael
At 1,500 ft above sea level, I got in the car with Kyli and we began the drive up to the summit of Whiteface Mountain in the Lake Placid area of the Adirondacks.
At 2,500ft Kyli's phone rang (it was Corey calling) but since we were in Corey's car, she couldn't figure out how to answer it. His call was missed.
At 3,000ft I loaded film into my cameras.
At 4,550ft we parked the car and got out only to be struck by high winds and fairly cold temperatures. Not too bad though, manageable.
At 4,610ft Corey and Kyli had their first look overlooking the entire Lake Placid region.
At 4,750ft Kyli regretted having a "bit of a train" on her dress. But she pushed on knowing the end result was going to be amazing.
At 4,867ft we summited Whiteface Mountain, admiring the view. I spent a few minutes picking out a ceremony location.
At 4,800ft Kyli and Corey were officially married by their friend. It was at that point, right before their first kiss, the clouds began to roll in and I "lost my shit."
At 4,800ft Kyli and Corey were married in the freakin' clouds. WE TOUCHED THE CLOUDS!
Between 4,800ft and 4,867ft we had an incredible little portrait session.
At 4,867ft after "losing our shit for about 20-30 minutes, we began the trek back down to the cars.
At 4,600ft I snapped the final image of them walking off towards their car.
At 4,550ft I signed the witness section of the marriage certificate officially recognizing them as husband and wife.
At 1,500ft above sea level I was dropped off. We said our goodbyes and I, for probably the 10th time in a 2hr period, "lost my shit" again. It was an experience I'll never forget.