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Sayulita Mexico Wedding-Doug and Mara

Doug and Mara’s destination wedding in Sayulita, Mexico was the perfect way to end 2016. Sunshine and beaches, friends and family, sparklers on the beach, rooftop dinners and wedding attire bathing suits made this wedding unforgettable for Lauren and I.

Sayulita sits about 25 miles North of Puerto Vallarta (PVR airport code) and is home to roughly 4000 people. (PVR is an exceptionally easy airport to get to, especially on our favorite airline, Alaska Air.)

We’re always honored when couples choose to fly us somewhere on the planet, especially when that place has amazing tacos.

While Sayulita’s street food is off the charts, it’s really the amazing locals that make it such a joy to visit. The people are so rad you just want to hang out with them endlessly, which is why Doug and Mara fit in so wonderfully there, you could chat with them for hours and it goes by in an instant. I’ve been doing this long enough to know, after chatting with a couple for a bit, if they’re the right fit for us-and for myself anyway-it was love at first Skype with these two.

With a major snowstorm predicted for our home base of Bend, Oregon, I received a text that Alaska Air had preemptively canceled our flight, but already re-booked us for two days later. That was awesome service, however the day we were re-booked was the wedding day. No bueno. After a call to a very helpful Alaska Air representative, they were able to book us out a day early but with such short notice and late flights, we ended up sleeping in the PDX airport for a night. Did you know that PDX turns the heat off at night? I guess I can’t say that definitively, but I would nearly swear it was true.

Upon arrival in PVR, it didn’t take but two steps off the plane for our bodies to realize that they would soon feel relief from the extremely dry Central Oregon air. It was nice to be warm too.

After a quick shuttle service Mara set up for us, we arrived at our apartment that we found on Airbnb. Apartment Tau was perfectly located on the North end of Sayulita and just a block from the beach. It even came equipped with back-pack beach chairs, body boards and an umbrella. Epic.

Lauren and I didn’t receive one of our main clothing bags when we arrived, but luckily had our wedding clothes and a pair of shorts in our carry-on (#planning.)

We walked through town, breathed the ocean air, wished our kids could see the beautiful landscape, ate some tacos and walked down to the rehearsal dinner site to meet Doug and Mara’s family and a few friends. We instantly felt like part of the group. Then we ate Tacos, again.

Our luggage arrived the next day and we had everything we needed.

The wedding day was laid back, starting with surfing for most of the boys and some Yoga for Mara and others.

Yazmin with Sea of Dreams Weddings was the planner for the wedding and she did an amazing job. If you’re thinking of getting married or having an event in Sayulita, she’s an indispensable resource and simply brilliant to be around.

As Mara walked down the path to the palm canopy alter, David Ruiz was playing beautifully on his guitar amplified with the help of DJ Jess.

After the beautiful ceremony we walked back up to Doug and Mara’s casa for a cocktail hour. After cocktails and food, it was time for the group to head toward Tierra Viva Restaurant for the reception. Some of the group took golf carts while a large portion decided to walk on the beach. After transporting some gear, we met up with the beach crowd for some sparkler fun, then headed over to the reception for dinner, toasts and dancing.

Two days post wedding we met up with Doug and Mara for a fun sunset session on the North end toward Lover’s Beach. There to greet us as he watched the waining sun and pounding surf from a top the rocks, was a chihuahua–of course. We think he belonged to a near by fisherman, but perhaps he was just a romantic?

It was such an honor to be there for Doug and Mara, to tell the story of their day so they can relive it over and over. Every time I eat a really good taco, I will think of them and raise my glass.

Mara thought it would be fun to share some of their favorite vendors with you:

  • Tacos El Ivan (al pastor and volcan tacos)
  • Sayulita Cafe (the molcajete seafood combo was amazing!)
  • Northside Cafe (best breakfast and fruit juices. Omar is the man)
  • Itakate – carrot tacos (tinga zanahoria) 
  • Mexican Surf Mafia (best surf rentals)
  • Captain Regis (best impromptu boat trip) – www.fishingsayulita.com.mx
  • Tamale lady with the blue cooler
  • Estela bar (best cocktails EVER – everyone loved smokey mezcal cocktails)

Lauren and I would concur and also throw in:

  • Cafe Arte (yummy juices, great breakfast, cute)
  • Coffee On The Corner (rad people, great coffee)

Some funny thoughts/quotes Mara remembers from the wedding:

  • “Doug, where’s the dress?” – Mara  (uh-oh) 
  • “Teach me how to Dougie!” (Doug’s a great dancer…)
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  • “what do you want for dinner? – tacos OR tacos”
  • “How many volcan tacos can you eat in a night?”
  • “What – you need a passport for Mexico?!” – friend Hannah Strauss who didn’t realize until she got to the Jackson Hole airport that she needed a passport, of which she didn’t have on her AND had expired 3 years prior. Yet she still managed to get to an embassy within 24 hours of this realization and still make it to Sayulita, teaching yoga to Mara and friends at 8am on the morning of the wedding
  • [when driving golf carts] Watch out for speed bumps! (also when walking, strange but true)
  • “Your mom jumped in the pool with all of her clothes on last night” 
  • Nice lucha libre mask, Clary!
  • [on Thursday Mara to Doug and Doug to Mara] “Have you written your vows yet? Me neither.”
  • 5 month old baby Owen Cox’s impeccable ability to sleep in his pack and play on the dance floor throughout the wedding reception
  • “Ice cream babies! Ice cream horsies! Ice cream undies!” 3 year old Maverick Tolsma as she’s handing out presents to everyone at a dinner
  • “Get ready!!” random guy across from North Street Cafe that said that to us and friends every morning on walk to beach

We hope you enjoy a few of our favorite moments with these amazing people…

 

Sayulita Wedding Photographer

So many views to be had in the stunning village of Sayulita.

Sayulita Wedding Photographer

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Humanitarian Photography Travel Gear :: Photoflex

**It’s my plan to update this post once I return from Thailand (storytelling for an amazing non-profit, check out The Sold Project!) to talk more about our humanitarian workshop we produced in Rwanda this past August. Amongst other things, I’d like to add our attendees favorite images and some thoughts from their point of view. For now, here’s a bit of backstory on the trip and info on my favorite go-to lighting rig for travel and humanitarian photography.

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I’m a firm believer in using the skills you have to give back to the local and global community. Some have concluded either they haven’t any skills that are useful or that they aren’t useful enough to benefit those around them. I don’t buy it.

In my travels I’ve seen doctors perform major surgeries, those gifted in finance helping rural farmers with micro-finance programs and those trained in international development running critical programs in impoverished areas.

While all of those are beautiful skills to share, I’ve also witnessed the simplicity of someone holding a special needs child in Ukraine, a child who perhaps hadn’t before known the power of positive physical touch, a child who never leaves his crib in the darkened back room of the orphanage.  I’ve seen change happen in the arms of  someone who simply just cared. We all have gifts that can be used to better the lives of others, despite what we do for a living.

As a photographer and storyteller, I understand the power of the story told, the power to engage others to get involved –to make others think. This can be as simple as taking photographs of local families in need before the holidays (something my friend Kevin Kubota has been doing for 10+ years and has also been made popular with Help Portrait) or something more complex like partnering with a relief organization to tell the stories of their programs and communities (Here’s some work we did in the Congo a few years back.)

After taking a few trips to Africa, it was surprising to me the number of people that asked how they might be able to do the same kind of work. They weren’t all photographers, but many were. Fellow story telling friends Andrew and Marianne Nicodem and Kevin Kubota has similar experiences. We saw a need to use our overseas experience to teach storytellers how to work responsibly in other countries by partnering with NGO’s. We founded Workshops With Purpose as a vehicle to teach and empower creatives to work along side NGO’s who are changing the world. We’ve lead two workshops so far (Kenya and Bolivia) and are working on our third, slated for the Fall of 2017.

Lauren and I decided it was time for us to begin teaching our own smaller workshops as well. This past August we launched the first “Heart And The Hand,” a humanitarian / experiential workshop. Our hearts reside with many of our friends in Kigali and Eastern Rwanda, specifically an amazing woman named Naome who is working hard to help transform her local community. Naome cares for widows and orphans and is very active in her local churches. Her dream of a school a top the hill in Ntoma in the Eastern Provence is slowly coming to fruition (if you want to help, let us know!)

With five students from around the US and two international students we set out to tell the story of Mama, her family, community, the school house and Mama’s new motorcycle. Just weeks before the trip, we set up a GoFundMe account to raise funds for Mama to have a motorcycle. This moto enables her to visit people in the community as well as deliver baked goods from the bakery she runs out of her house, this will also help pay for the cost of maintaining the moto. In the coming weeks, I hope to expand on all of the work Mama is doing, stay tuned!

The core of our smaller workshop is having an intimate, experiential atmosphere where students are not only taught photography technique, but what it’s like to spend the day in the culture of the people. This may mean that something scheduled for 2pm may not start until 5pm. Something schedule for 4pm may not even happen. It’s important for students to realize the world is predominately polychromatic (able to do multiple things at once socially, and not concerned as much with the clock) while those from the US and some European countries are more Monochromatic (in basic terms, deeply concerned with the clock.) All of our attendees did an incredible job of going with the flow as they began to realize the importance of relationship in other cultures. Good lesson and one we all wanted to adopt more of back home.

One of my favorite technical things to teach is “off camera flash,” or OCF. Many photographers state they’re “natural light” photographers. While there’s nothing wrong with natural light (in fact, it can be some of the most beautiful light to work with) a photographer should have command and understanding of light, how to shape it and how to manufacture it if the image or situation calls for it. Not only do clients deserve for us to have this knowledge on hand, but it opens up numerous avenues for the creative to explore image making for personal projects. I like to encourage photographers who haven’t played with OCF to start experimenting and I become overjoyed when I see the lightbulb moments from those photographers when it all starts working for them.

My go to wedding and travel rig for off camera flash is from our friends at Photoflex, with whom I’m honored to be listed with as a “Light Leader.” The rig consists of two shoe mount brackets, a grip swivel, Octo Connector, and a small Octodome. On occasion I use the Extra Small Octodome as it’s slightly more portable for travel but still has a beautiful quality of light. My friend Kevin came up with a hack on the connector/speedring to enable it to fit two speedlights (I use the Nikon SB900 and Nikon SB800) with enough room to have receivers under the flash, such as the Pocket Wizard TT5. While the Octodome and speedlights give me my main light, I usually use a disk reflector or Litepanel (with white or silver fabric) for fill light, usually bouncing back the light from the Octodome.

We knew when we arrived that we wanted to photograph Mama with her new moto, a keepsake for her but also a fun image to show those who donated to her cause. Below, a couple of BTS images of the short session, and the final image below them.

Humanitarian Photographer

Here, you can see how the speedlights are arranged on the Photoflex Octo Connector. Two speedlights, more power.

Humanitarian Photographer

Josh, a workshop attendee is buff, so he’s holding the Octodome on a stand for me. Many times I’ll use a reflector to bounce light back from the softbox. In this case, the sunset was so yummy, we used two silver disks to bounce the sunset back on to the moto. In the final image below, the light coming from camera left is sunlight.

Humanitarian Photographer Benjamin Edwards

One of a few final images of Naome and her new moto. Thanks to all who helped make this happen!

Typically, the closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light. By using a technique in Photoshop to blend two images/frames together, we can have the main light source as close as we want without seeing it in the final image. We take one photo with the softbox doing it’s job, then another photo without it being in the frame. A little Photoshop masking and boom, it was never there. But it was.

Here are a couple other examples of the frame blending technique. We photographed one of Mama’s friends near the Tanzanian border. This is Mama Baby…

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Ruth is Mama’s Daughter In Law. We love Ruth and her Husband, Pascal. No retouching here, just a great way to show you placement. The large Litepanel on the right of frame was used to diffuse the sunlight that was a bit harsh.

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This set-up can work great for tighter portraits as well. Here’s a quick one we worked on for our friend Jabo–who was instrumental in helping produce the workshop. No retouching, just a nice BW preset I made in Lightroom.

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Here’s an example of the softbox being off camera left. No retouching just a quick favorite Lightroom preset I made.

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My Photoflex rig will be going to Thailand with me and I can’t wait to share the results.

I look forward to having some time to talk more about Workshops With Purpose as well as The Heart and The Hand. Please remember, you don’t need to go to another continent to use your skills to give back to the community. Sometimes it’s a smile, sometimes it’s a hug, it may involve photography, but it’s always done out of love. Blessings.

 

Wedding Photo Shoot Oregon

An Oregon Wedding at Barn Kestrel

Joshua and Johanna wanted a Fall Oregon wedding, “Where the leaves are turning yellow and orange and everything looks like gold.” J+J received their wish this October 1st at Barn Kestrel in West Linn, Oregon. Although the rains were called to be heavy at times, the fall color was visible through rays of sunshine (and sprinkles of a cool, Fall rain.)

Joshua and Johanna saw our work from a previous Oregon wedding and selected us based on “the style and lighting” of our images. We love hearing this for a few reasons, especially because we put so much effort in to finding or creating quality light when possible. This stood out to J+J and we were honored to be there for them on their wedding day.

Joshua and Johanna wanted to have their Oregon wedding held in a rustic barn somewhere in the Willamette Valley. Eventually they settled on the Barn Kestrel, formerly Long Farm Barn. This property, with ties to the Daniel Boone family, has a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian home which is open to the bride and bridal party to get ready in. Also on the property, a stunning 19th century horse barn which often serves as a reception hall, or in inclement weather, a safe place for a ceremony. The cherry on top for visitors is viewing the third largest tree in Oregon,  a Sequoia, which sits near the barn and house. When I first saw it, all I could think about is how much fun my boys would have scurrying up and up, and up, and up….

A week or so before their wedding, Johanna asked about the potential for video services. A full scale wedding film wasn’t a possibility at that point, however we offered a service that works well in many cases, a Fusion film. Fusion is the combination of still photography and video clips to tell a story. In this particular case, we created something closely styled to a music video. Still photography by itself is very powerful, however, taking moving imagery and coupling it with music is extremely emotive. You can see J+J’s fusion piece at the end of this blog.

Cake provided by: Dream Cakes

Floral provided by: Zest Floral 

Please enjoy a few moments from Joshua and Johanna’s Oregon wedding…

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** Please make sure to hit the “HD” button for higher quality

**Music licensed through www.songfreedom.com

Cobb Wedding Fusion Film from Benjamin Edwards on Vimeo.