A Brief Reflection on 2015 - Documentary Moments

As a documentary photographer who photographs many weddings, I’ve had the opportunity to observe people through the emotional tides that arises from a wedding day and it’s such a privilege to be able to be with brides and grooms in this amazing time of their lives. From anticipation to the sense of relief of having completed the ceremony (without tripping or losing the ring!) to the sense of celebration and exuberance at the celebration in the end, a wedding day is full of moments that are easy to miss in the hustle and bustle of things but are there. I’ve always focused on getting those genuine moment and telling stories through them.

As I reflect back on 2015, I want to share some of my work that expressed my passion for documentary moments. More to come in 2016 but in the meanwhile, here's a brief overview of what 2015 looked like.

This was the CJF Event that occurred just after the election. Amidst the people was a microphone that would be later used to take questions for the panel (behind me) to address. My major was in Economics so a bit of the political talk was over my head... also, I was focusing on photographing so earnestly that I didn't hear much of what was being discussed

This was the CJF Event that occurred just after the election. Amidst the people was a microphone that would be later used to take questions for the panel (behind me) to address. My major was in Economics so a bit of the political talk was over my head... also, I was focusing on photographing so earnestly that I didn't hear much of what was being discussed

From one of my documentary photosessions this year, I photographed Danielle and Stephen (and their cat Misto). While we did have a more "directed" photoshoot later on, this photo and many others I took on this day were completely natural and I did no directing. Just observation. Here, I love how Misto the cat enjoys being both cradled and petted by her owners.

From one of my documentary photosessions this year, I photographed Danielle and Stephen (and their cat Misto). While we did have a more "directed" photoshoot later on, this photo and many others I took on this day were completely natural and I did no directing. Just observation.
Here, I love how Misto the cat enjoys being both cradled and petted by her owners.

I got a chance to work with the clothing store Dynamite for one of their Fall events (ponchos were in, by the way). 

I got a chance to work with the clothing store Dynamite for one of their Fall events (ponchos were in, by the way). 

A quick frame from the Dynamite event. Many bloggers, writers and youtubers were invited to try on the new Fall lineup and get a brief on the direction of where Dynamite was going (#iamdynamite ... if you're curious). 

A quick frame from the Dynamite event. Many bloggers, writers and youtubers were invited to try on the new Fall lineup and get a brief on the direction of where Dynamite was going (#iamdynamite ... if you're curious). 

After photographing the groomsmen at the Italian Cultural Center, I went over to the bride's house. This moment was the moment when the bridesmaids saw the dress for the first time. Their expression is priceless. A few second prior or a few seconds later and the moment would've been lost.

After photographing the groomsmen at the Italian Cultural Center, I went over to the bride's house. This moment was the moment when the bridesmaids saw the dress for the first time. Their expression is priceless. A few second prior or a few seconds later and the moment would've been lost.

As the bride was getting out of the limousine, I saw this moment come together very quickly. I took two quick frames and this was the better of the two compositionally and also the expression of the bride. She was looking just behind me to the bridesmaids.

As the bride was getting out of the limousine, I saw this moment come together very quickly. I took two quick frames and this was the better of the two compositionally and also the expression of the bride. She was looking just behind me to the bridesmaids.

I love how the sunglasses on the groomsmen contrasts with the sky blue dresses of the bridesmaid and the bride in the center of it all.

I love how the sunglasses on the groomsmen contrasts with the sky blue dresses of the bridesmaid and the bride in the center of it all.

This photograph came out of a group photograph that Josh Bowie was trying to do. We always think of group photos as being clean and polished but this honest moment has a life of it's own. Of course, after, we did get the group photograph :)

This photograph came out of a group photograph that Josh Bowie was trying to do. We always think of group photos as being clean and polished but this honest moment has a life of it's own. Of course, after, we did get the group photograph :)

We wedding photographers work in very difficult light situations. In this specific situation with the groom (on the right) and his groomsmen hugging him, this was a basement with very little lights other than a few ceiling spot lights and a door. I could have used flash to brighten things up but decided that staying true to the lighting of the scene would (a) not draw attention to myself (if I fired my flash, people would instantly know I was there) and (b) allow a truer representation of what it felt like to be there.

We wedding photographers work in very difficult light situations. In this specific situation with the groom (on the right) and his groomsmen hugging him, this was a basement with very little lights other than a few ceiling spot lights and a door. I could have used flash to brighten things up but decided that staying true to the lighting of the scene would (a) not draw attention to myself (if I fired my flash, people would instantly know I was there) and (b) allow a truer representation of what it felt like to be there.

I was actually holding the door with this gentleman while the bridesmaids were making their way down the aisle. One foot (or hand?) on the door and the other hands on my camera trying to get this moment composed properly. In the end, it worked out and the bride and bridesmaid were able to make their way up the aisle.

I was actually holding the door with this gentleman while the bridesmaids were making their way down the aisle. One foot (or hand?) on the door and the other hands on my camera trying to get this moment composed properly. In the end, it worked out and the bride and bridesmaid were able to make their way up the aisle.

One of my favorite moments of 2015 :) We had just finished a request for a family group photograph and I saw these two starting to light up a cigarette. As I was walking towards the door, I quickly aligned my camera settings, set focus and clicked the shutter JUST as they saw me taking their photograph. 

One of my favorite moments of 2015 :) We had just finished a request for a family group photograph and I saw these two starting to light up a cigarette. As I was walking towards the door, I quickly aligned my camera settings, set focus and clicked the shutter JUST as they saw me taking their photograph. 

Smiles and expressions really make for a great telling of moments. Here, the groom is smiling while in conversation with some of the other guests. The preliminary stress and nervousness can be daunting for a groom and a bride so I love finding moments like these to show the feelings of the day and hopefully allow the bride and groom to recall these moments.

Smiles and expressions really make for a great telling of moments. Here, the groom is smiling while in conversation with some of the other guests. The preliminary stress and nervousness can be daunting for a groom and a bride so I love finding moments like these to show the feelings of the day and hopefully allow the bride and groom to recall these moments.

While I was photographing the groom inside the ceremony/reception area, I was keeping an eye on the door down the hall to see if a limousine would pull up. Eventually, it did and I was able to head out to the front door and document this moment of the bride making her way out of the limousine.

While I was photographing the groom inside the ceremony/reception area, I was keeping an eye on the door down the hall to see if a limousine would pull up. Eventually, it did and I was able to head out to the front door and document this moment of the bride making her way out of the limousine.

In some scenes I photograph, there can be a few things going on. I intentionally keep all these elements in the photograph to give a broader view of what happened on a particular wedding day. I see the mother of the bride holding the bride's hand while the flower girl is led by her mother (?).

In some scenes I photograph, there can be a few things going on. I intentionally keep all these elements in the photograph to give a broader view of what happened on a particular wedding day. I see the mother of the bride holding the bride's hand while the flower girl is led by her mother (?).

I saw the groom crack this smile as he was signing the wedding papers and quickly grabbed the moment. Just a millisecond prior he was not smiling. The smile really made this photograph. 

I saw the groom crack this smile as he was signing the wedding papers and quickly grabbed the moment. Just a millisecond prior he was not smiling. The smile really made this photograph. 

I do keep some time for more "formal" photographs of the bride and groom but it's usually very short. Bride and grooms hire me to capture honesty documentary photographs of their day and that is what I focus on. That being said, for those more formal times, I just encourage and direct the bride and groom in a certain way so that even though they are being "posed" they're still having natural moments between themselves. 

I do keep some time for more "formal" photographs of the bride and groom but it's usually very short. Bride and grooms hire me to capture honesty documentary photographs of their day and that is what I focus on. That being said, for those more formal times, I just encourage and direct the bride and groom in a certain way so that even though they are being "posed" they're still having natural moments between themselves. 

I very rarely use ultra-wide lenses as I think it's easy to misuse it and make things all distorted but in this case I felt this really worked and gave a wider view of the scene and the architecture of Hazelmere.

I very rarely use ultra-wide lenses as I think it's easy to misuse it and make things all distorted but in this case I felt this really worked and gave a wider view of the scene and the architecture of Hazelmere.

Wedding day moments are about the bride and groom but also about friends, family, children, the service people, etc. While I focus on the bride and the groom, I also keep a second eye on situations happening around the room and capture these moments as they happen.

Wedding day moments are about the bride and groom but also about friends, family, children, the service people, etc. While I focus on the bride and the groom, I also keep a second eye on situations happening around the room and capture these moments as they happen.

I'm including this image in order to show my love for not only prints but also for INSTANT FILM! There's a certain magical beauty in having a print develop right before your eyes (or in this case, in my jacket pocket) and then seeing the smiles and amazement of the bride and groom as they hold the print for the first time. 

I'm including this image in order to show my love for not only prints but also for INSTANT FILM! There's a certain magical beauty in having a print develop right before your eyes (or in this case, in my jacket pocket) and then seeing the smiles and amazement of the bride and groom as they hold the print for the first time. 

There were a lot of stories that I got to tell in 2015 and there's actually a number of personal projects that I have backlogged that I still need to share from 2014-2015 (continuing the Chinatown project, potential Downtown Vancouver Street Photography book, a book on Japan) but at this point I'm very happy for what happened in 2015. THANK YOU to all my clients, fellow photographers whom I worked with and all my friends and family for believing in me and supporting me and, in some cases, teaching me things. I am truly blessed to be able to do this and I look forward to doing more in 2016. 

Yes, it's a day or two late but whatever...
HAPPY NEW YEAR /  XIN NIAN KUAI LE / AKEMASHITE OMEDETOU GUZAIMASU!!