The first twenty minutes that I stared at this empty photo album, it stared back at me, laughing. I had perused many wedding albums, watched countless Youtube behind the scenes videos, and even consulted some friends who have shot weddings before, but like most things it’s completely different when you are in the driver’s seat. I tried positioning the rings on a table. Nope, that’s not it. Went and tried on a railing outside. Nope, that’s not it either. So I moved on. Maybe the dress! So, we hung it up from the cross beams. I tried something up close. Nope. Far away. Nope. If you had seen some of the images that were being captured, well let’s just say, these would have not made the final album. I kept trying shot after shot but each click was another little voice saying that maybe I couldn’t do this.
Eventually, I stopped banging my head against the details and decided that I should focus on the people. After all, that’s what I love capturing in photography. So, I stopped by where Emily was having her hair done and lined up a shot.
I made a quick glance down at the playback on my camera screen and felt a great surge of relief. I had captured the first image. Funny, the less I tried to control the better.
It’s not often that you get invited to photograph a friend’s wedding. More often than not, a friend of the bride and groom finds themselves in attendance at the wedding. Maybe as a bridesmaid, a groomsmen, or just a normal attendee, friends are there to take part and enjoy the festivities. A photographer on the other hand has a mission to accomplish: capture the day in all its beauty that through images the moment can be relived for generations to come. Now, maybe I’m wrong, but I would think it is rare that a friend would also be the photographer. It’s difficult to enjoy the ceremony when you are constantly worrying about “missing the shot”. Yet, that’s where I found myself. I wasn’t just in attendance, I was documenting this moment in a world where I was one of two guests that were not immediate family members. The nerves were real, but as Karl was able to tell me as we were driving out to the venue, “You’re nervous because you care.”
It’s true. I did care. A lot! This wasn’t just any friend, it was Emily! The first friend I met in college. A friend who I grew alongside over the past four years. A friend who I was also blessed enough to capture their proposal, and engagement session. Both of which I was equally as nervous. I remember being perched out in the bush waiting for her and Luke, her now husband, to walk up and then shaking as he dropped to one knee. And I wasn’t even proposing!
So as Karl and I left Luke’s childhood home where we greeted his mother and a few siblings, I was trying to showcase my nerves as excitement, can’t let the wedding party see the nerves… right…? I don’t know how it looked to them, but as we left Luke’s house and headed into the beautiful countryside of east Texas nerves and doubt were cycling through the back of my head like a cassette tape on loop.
Arriving at the quaint bed and breakfast that would be our venue for the day, the first people I met were Emily’s parents. The Frederickson’s have been ever supportive of me in my photographic journey. From kind words, to small donations, to even housing me the first time I had an event to shoot at in Austin, they have been a beam of support. So when I got to talk with Emily’s Dad, George, I was relieved of a bit of nerves when I saw how nervous he was. This was his first daughter to be married and as he mentioned to Karl “between drum corps and school, she’s been gone and grown up so fast, it’s hard to let go.”
It was comforting to see that we were all in our own little bubbles of nerves about this wedding. We all had our own experiences leading into this day, and we all were in a sense “rookies”. While my nerves existed in the thought of failure, it is very different from the feeling of marrying away a daughter. It’s something I hope to know one day, but for now I just have to think about what it’s like to release someone that you have poured every last little ounce of love you could have into since the onset of life.
After this short chat, I entered into the warm home where Emily was getting ready. Beautifully decorated with a cool light gleaming in from the windows, a feeling of beauty, peace, and love was found.
A hug and smile greeted me when I first saw Emily, and yet beneath it I could feel the significance of a day which she was planning for years. Seeing her as she sat in a chair having make-up done brought me back to three years ago when in a chaotic dorm room she was placing the finishing touches on her make-up as she prepared to go out for her first date with Luke. Time sure has flashed by, but the love the two of them have shared has only been exposed in greater detail. A love that I believed I can capture, but until I clicked that shutter for the first time, it was still an empty photo album staring at me.
As we got closer to the ceremony starting time, the families started to show up, and with them the children began to roam. Children’s experience with these big events is something that is joyous to watch as I wonder if they fully understand the significance of the day. As far as I could tell, they were happy to be outside, inside, and all around. Playing with toys, hair, and anything that could gather their attention.
The innocence that came within their experience was one that I hope many people can bring into these monumental days. A chance to experience the day as it is.
Outside, I could find Luke helping with the finishing touches of balancing the music that would be playing as his bride-to-be walked down the aisle. He was already suited up only needing the garter to finalize his simple but groomed look.
It’s interesting the difference in the way the bride and groom vary in how they get ready. One was lots of people and mini details, the other a solo act with larger strokes. Yet, mentally I think you could sense the same feeling being shared among them. Joy of the unknown that awaits them as they enter into this new life together. A future that the men took a moment to pause and pray over.
It’s here where I finally saw Emily, aisle ready. We talked very little as she began to wait for the ceremony to have it’s starting cue. Taking a moment to peek around the corner seeing the huddle of men in prayer.
As her mom began to fix up final touches on the dress’ train I photographed a portrait. I could see how she wanted to smile, but yet there was a different emotion that was showing itself. An honest form of grace.
Meanwhile, Dad seemed to be at peak nerves.
But as the music begins and the walk down the aisle proceeds, a dad once overcome by nerves now has a sense of peace over him as he walks with his daughter. It’s no more than a few feet into the walk when the love starts to overflow. Luke, overcome as he sees his bride. Emily, beaming as she sees her husband.
A embrace and kiss from dad and the two find themselves underneath the arbor in front of their families ready to join together.
Throughout the ceremony, there is so much to treasure. The weather is gorgeous, the people are smiling, and the children add a little bit to the spontaneity and beautiful chaos.
Among all the images I took a brief moment behind the setting to put the camera down and breathe just a moment deeper. Appreciate all that the day had brought. In a world where many weddings were cancelled due to Covid-19, I was one of two non immediate family members here to witness and partake in this moment in person, not through a screen.
It’s now that I began to feel again how important friends and family are in our lives. They are here to celebrate and love us on this glorious day, even if it is through comments on a live stream, and they will be here to support us as we take the next steps into the world.
Then the moment came, “You may kiss the bride”. Ready to capture I let my eye do the work and let the photo burst fly. A moment enshrined in time.
Another great relief waved over me as without looking at the screen I knew I had captured it; only to have the battery in my camera die moments later and the plastic battery holder break off my camera as they began to walk out the aisle. Luckily, I had earlier placed another fully charged battery in my pocket just by chance. A quick change and desperation fixing of the battery flap and not a moment was missed as we went into the newly wed’s portrait session.
It’s always fun to do these portraits because while I have an idea, most of the time we are just going and seeing what the moment brings. Happily, I found a perfectly placed sign and some beautiful light that made capturing the love all the easier.
As the sun set, the serene woods provided a pleasant backdrop for the reception. Laughs were all around the table as we failed to answer the trivia about the newlyweds we all thought we ought to know, cake was cut larger than a bite can manage leaving icing across faces, and shoes were raised at opposite times indicating maybe the newlyweds still have things to learn about each other, but hey that’s why this is just another step in the long journey of their lives.
As the tables were wiped and the camera was packed, I couldn’t help but appreciate the whole day. From the nerves and the moments captured, to the joys and moments not captured, I can feel nothing but gratitude to chronicle the love between two friends.
I don’t know when I will, if ever, have the opportunity to photograph and witness a love from start to wedding day again. But for now, that’s ok. I will enjoy being a witness from afar to all that these two will document and experience in their life together. And one day, when they find themselves with the nervous excitement at the wedding of their child, I hope they will reach back and pull out this, now full photo album and remember what it was like on May 1st, 2020.
Hey! Thanks for taking the time to check out this weeks top 10 photos!
This week I never felt like I was capturing the images that I wanted to. Each moment seemed to be captured slightly off from how I had envisioned them.
Starting with the Blue Angels fly by where I missed the shot I had in mind since i mistrusted my gut on lens choice, to even the small moments of street photography, it never felt that the story i was thinking of was the way i was getting the camera to portray it. There were many times where i thought, “am i even gonna have a top 10 to be proud of?”
Looking back on the week though I’m happy with them. Not because in the moment I had the feeling of “WOW! I got the frame.” but because now I see some innocence and struggle in my photography journey. A struggle that has high’s and low’s of inspiration and creativity boosts, but was always taken out to document something everyday.
I hope you enjoy this weeks top 10! As always comments and questions are always welcome!
Today is graduation day!!! But there’s no stage, no celebration, and no final hoorah. Which, at least for me, creates the perfect opportunity to look back at the four years of nonstop action. I find the first question I ask myself is where did all the time go. Sure, say it’s cliche, but these four years have sped by in a way that I didn’t anticipate.
No, it wasn’t yesterday that I attended orientation and met one of my best friends of this time, Emily Frederickson. From our adventures in hiking, to studio, to hanging around in your room, she has supported, laughed, and cried with me but ultimately showed me how one’s love and faith can carry them through hard times to come out the other side stronger than ever. and oh yeah, she is no longer Emily Fred, I had the honor to photograph her wedding the first of this month making her Mrs. Emily Hahn.
Nor was it yesterday when on our way out the door for a hike, Emily would stop and invite one of the most determined, challenging, and band loving (not that this takes away from his people loving) men to join us. Where I would be without the companionship and brotherhood of Jay Lopez, I don’t know. I will forever be thankful for the spagehtu, 2 am trips to whataburger to just sit and chat until the employees walk over and say “You’re still here?!?!”, and our various spring break adventures. There’s too many images to tell our story, maybe it’ll make a good photobook to replace the airplane book… but for now ill take the earliest i can find with some more recent adventures. I can not wait to see how much great influence and love he will share with his students.
So yeah, there are many people who have been in and around for my time at UNT some have come in and some have left, but through it all these two have been a solid stream of friendship. Did we have rough patches… MOST definetely, but the amount of impact from these two alone can’t be measured, only appreciated. So first thing I learned, life is communal and people are the root of it all. They will be the things you remember from this experience. Sure some of the accolades and performances were nice, but it’s the little memories that were made in day to day living that I will carry with me. Really, because if I met different people, well, I’d probably be a different person.
Inside the classroom walls I owe a great thank you to Dr.Emmanuel for opening my eyes to how one’s philosophy of self will influence their teaching. Also, for giving the assignment to utilize a camera to discover more about ourselves in a music ed class. Look where i am now :) The experiences that I have had in the classrooms outside of UNT’s wall’s vary heavily from that of my peers. But, each of them has taught me how much the context of the situation is important to fully know and understand. Some students I taught came to class hungry, others it was an escape, and others it was just another boring class. Not one teaching strategy could work in each situation, but when I fell back on my philosophy of loving people, and not things, that was clarified in that MUED 3100 class, I found that I was able to relate to my students regardless of the situation. I hope a difference was made for them because what they accomplished may not show on the score sheets, but it shows in how they carry themselves. So lesson number 2: Education and learning is taking place everywhere and it is all contextual, lead with love for those you are teaching. People first, content second.
When it comes to your craft there is a certain battle we fight each day. I think the best way to describe is “The resistance” as coined by Stephen Pressfield in his book, The War with Art (italics, haha maybe i did learn something in English class). This battle is always raging and we find it in procrastination of our homework/practicing, rationalization of our choices, and overall inability to just sit down and get to work. For me this showcased itself a lot in practicing. Sorry Ruben, but there are times as you probably know where i was not prepared for my lesson. I appreciate though your kindness and guidance in helping me progress not only my playing but who I was as a person. You led with with a people first approach that I am thankful for.
The great joy though about this time in college is that I got to explore many different avenues of art. Obviously, one of the biggest now is my passion for photography, but prevailing through these last four years has been my battle with the the Art of Education. I have developed differentiating views from my peers and with a lot of the system at large.I still battle each day with whether or not this new path I’ve set out on, which i will talk about in greater depth another time, is actually worth it. Is it actually going to come to anything or should I just stick with the traditional path for which I have been trained of band directing? As of now, the idea of pursuing what I envision scares the hell out of me, but that’s the excitement in it. It’s what gives me the energy needed to get up and rage my battle with the Art. So third: Put in the work towards the projects you love, and be willing to get up time and time again to fight in the battle with your personal art.
The thing though about all of this that I keep circling back around to is you can’t do it alone. There are many times when I have been lost. From going into Dr. Emmanuels office talking about the prospect of changing majors, to crying outside Dr. Micken’s office until she happened to open the door as I was leaving, I was too scared to knock and admit my feeling of inadequacies, or the time I went to the counselors on campus because I overslept a concert I was supposed to perform in when I was at one of my lowest points of mental health in my four years here and Mr. Vu comforted me letting me know that choir wasn’t the end of the world and he was here to help, (also thank you to the other college of music student who also just happened to be in there signing up for counseling at the same time as me giving me the courage to do the same.) It may hurt but it’s important to ask for help when you need it. There are many people who have helped me in this journey including my family, Karl, Evan, The Box7 Community, my various mentor teachers and professors, and well almost everybody I met had a small impact.
The flip-side to this is that when you see a place that you can offer help, extend your hand and pull the others up around you. As an upper clansmen, one of the greatest things you can do is to invest in some of the students that are coming up in the years after you. Even in just one year, we have learned the tricks to college that we can save someone the growing pains by sharing our experience with them. There are a few people out there who I, even be it for a short time, invested a great part of myself in. To see what they are accomplishing now is amazing. I’m happy to be a small blip in their story. Besides, thanks to my investment, I was likewise invested in by them and a few of the greatest thing’s I take away from that time is, you have to be you, seriously you, unconditional love is made up of forgiveness, and lastly how to be a person.
Lastly, document, “almost” everything. Whether this be in a journal, with a camera, or in a song that you write, document your life. When you have the ability to look back on where you came from, there is a great humbling that comes with it. All of us once started out as that kid that was making fart noises on the trumpet, making scribbles on a piece of paper, or just dreaming so far and wide that sometimes this world cannot hold you down. (I’m looking at you Calvin and Hobbes). I wish I was able to go back and see what I was thinking and worrying about my freshman year of college, better yet my 2nd grade self. Time is a fleeting resource and maybe that’s part of my joy for music, as it is a fleeting performance medium in contrast with photography, another great joy, which freezes a moment to live on forever.
However, you need to know this outright. Some things are not documentable. Worse, some things are ruined by an attempt to document it. Some things just need to be experienced fully with all of our senses in community with people that we love. It’s hard for me to honestly remember what it feels like to be at a campfire behind the bungalow surrounded by all of the friends that I have made in these past four years. This is a feeling that I wish I could recall, but alas it is lost to the winds of time. And well, now we are all venturing into our various paths of life so, it may not be salvageable. So let your documentation be as organic as it can be. I don’t know how to tell others how that works, but when you do it and reflect, you will know.
Surely, there is a lot more learned from these last 4 years, turns out they won’t hand me my diploma unless i sat through hours of aural skills, theory, and the great dreaded music history. But at least from my experience these are the greatest things senior Dan would tell freshman Dan.
1) Community is everything. Find your people and love them well.
2) Education is contextual, lead with love and a people first approach.
3) There is a war with art each day. Find yours and put in the work.
4) Ask for help and give help where you can. This is how our communities will connect and thrive.
5) Document “Almost” Everything. Some things just leave them to be experienced.
Jay asked me if I could do it over again would I with a focus on photography? The answer, I wouldn’t. The community I have found and journey I have been on helped me dissect that the true passion for me in music education is ”Community Service through Human Centered Arts Education.” While I may not be going into the formal teaching profession right away, it doesn’t mean I wont be teaching. Besides, there is still lots to learn to bettering myself as a teacher.