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My Favorite Ten Documentary Wedding Photos of 2011!

The end of the year is a great time for me to look back on the body of work I was blessed to photograph from the past wedding season and really reflect on the great weddings and clients I was honored to photograph. 2011 was the twentieth year of my wedding photography career, and the tenth year since I made a transition in my shooting style. I fell in love with “wedding photojournalism” in 2001, a documentary or photo essay approach to capturing the wedding day, and have pursued it with my entire being ever since! Every year, I push myself in a certain direction to improve as a documentary wedding photographer and fine tune my skills. This year, I challenged myself to find interesting and out of the ordinary moments, juxtapositions, unexpected reactions, and finding heart-felt expressions that reveal the soul.

The following are my favorite documentary captures of 2011! They are listed in David Letterman style, going from number ten to number one, so that you can see which photo is my top pick. There is also a paragraph about each to share with you my thoughts about the image. Please share your thoughts with me at the bottom of the post in the comments section. Which is your favorite? Did I succeed in acheiving my goal this year? One other note: thank you, thank you, thank you to every one of my bride and grooms this year for inviting me into your world and trusting me to photograph the most import day of your lives!

Number TEN:

This was captured during the mother and groom dance.  What I love about this photo is the absolute adoration this mother has for her son as she dances with him for the first time as a married man.  The light off the wall sconce above her head adds a heavenly glow, like the old paintings of the mother of Jesus. The groom’s expression is priceless as well and you sense the connection of love that he shares with his mother.  I also love that the bride and other guests are doing there own thing, accentuating that there exists a special bond of love known only between mother and son.

Number NINE:

This is the second mother and groom dance photo.  Emotionally, I love it for a lot of the same reasons as the above photo.  The special love between mother and son is especially accentuated here by the moon like spotlight, contrasted by the dark shadows.  With the two framed with so much dark space around them, it gives the appearance that the two are dancing on the moon.  I love the bigger-than-life shadow on the dance floor which leads your eye toward the mother and son.  The shadow also accentuates the connection between them. I also love the posture of the mother holding her arm out as if she is balancing her self, and her, now, grown son holding her with his one strong arm.  For one dance in this newly married man’s life, his mother is the center of his attention!

Number EIGHT:

This photo was captured looking over the shoulder of the Maid of Honor giving a toast to the bride.  I love the bride’s expression and hands on her cheeks as she is listening to her Maid of Honor sharing a story with the guests.  The connection between the two friends is obvious because only people who have a shared history would know enough about the other to poke fun, or share a memory of some past mischief, or an embarrassing moment.  The groom’s smile and his hand on her knee lets his bride know of his loving approval.  I love how the lines work in this photo as well.  The Maid of Honor’s right arm is parallel to the arm of the groom, which is reaching down toward the bride’s dress  These lines direct your eye toward the contrasted angle of the bride’s arms leading you toward her wonderful expression on her face.

Number SEVEN:

There is something about this photo that goes beyond the typical happy bride and groom capture.  I can assure you, they are an awesomely happy couple.  But what draws me to this image as one of my favorites of the year is the feeling it gives me. First, I love the textures in the image: the rain on the window and the ruffles in the bride’s dress and her hair piece.  I love the soft light and soft expressions on their faces.  The couple seem so peaceful and content, despite the less than perfect weather.  The groom is calmly clasping his hands together and does not seem to be bothered by the sight.  His bride, with bouquet at her side, is quietly adjusting her hair piece.  The black limo interior wrapping them together in this scene adds to the image a sense that all that matters in the world at this very moment is that the two of them are now husband and wife.

Number SIX:

What is not to love about this photo? It’s a guy photo for sure.  It reminds me of my youth when nothing mattered other than winning or losing.  Boys will be boys and winning the prize whether it be a trophy, a football or a wedding garter means risking broken bones, a bloody nose, or torn clothes!  I love that it was captured the instant the boy on his knees has the garter clasped in his hands.  I also love the triangular shape of mayhem formed by the sprawling bodies above the winner. The guy to the left with his elbow on the winner’s back, nose down, tie forward makes this photo great.  If you put jerseys and pads on these guys you would see the same scene in a football game going after a fumble!

Number FIVE:

I never met a bride as happy and giddy as this one.  She was a joy to be around and she provided me with unlimited opportunities to photograph.  This one image sums up in my mind how excited she was that day! She literally danced down the steps leaving her parents’ home on her way to the church.  With her toes pointed, she looks like a ballerina stepping down to the Broadway stage!

Number FOUR:

This was a hilarious couple from Australia.  The wedding took place at the Wynn in Las Vegas in the hotel chapel. The bride is making her vows to her groom and the list is beyond any list of vows you would hear on the alter!  Typically you might hear the standard: “I vow to respect you in your successes and in your failures, care for you in sickness and in health, etc, etc.”  I can’t remember what exactly she said, but the bride here is promising to share with her groom, something like her treasured barbie doll collection, occasionally relieve him of his duty to take out the trash, and on and on!  The expression on the minister’s face says it all!  He makes this photo go from ordinary to out-the-ordinary.  The capture is the precise moment that the bride begins going off the standard script!

Number THREE:

This is a very meaningful photo to me.  I had photographed the sister of the bride a few years before and was familiar with the closeness shared between three sisters and their mother.  This photo was captured at the end of the night, the bride (on the right) is the last of the girls to be married and this was a very touching moment between this loving family.  I love that their faces are all buried beneath their beautiful hair, and that their embraced arms tie each other tightly together.  No expressions needed here one bit to convey a very special union.

Number TWO:

This image was captured at the entry of the church, just prior to the father and bride walking down the aisle.  You can see how nervous the bride is by her eyes and that she is taking in a deep breath.  What I love about this photo is not only her expression, but her father’s as well!  You can see that he, too, is taking in a deep breath and he is doing it in-sync with his beloved daughter.  What love this is!  Dad is coaching his about-to-be married daughter with breathing techniques to help her relax!  This, indeed, is a priceless moment!  It reminds me that even though my own daughters will become the wives of other men, they will always be my daughters!

Number ONE:

Here it is: my favorite moment of the year!  This photo was captured inside the hotel room where the groom was getting ready. I walked in the room, set down my equipment bag, and turned around to see this very moment.  There was a full size mirror on the wall on the right.  I simply leaned against it until the double image was split down the middle of the photo.  I love this image because it is simple and yet complex. The groom’s clasped hands are the focus, but with his head slumped down, a tattoo on his shoulder, wearing a tank top and tennis shoes side by side on the floor, we are left with very little to determine who this man is.  Is he praying?  Is he nervous or having doubts?  The double image of him only adds to this mystery.