Nisha & Ricky are getting married this weekend & so I thought it only fitting to look back at their engagement session - one of my all-time favourites! Aside from PEI's distinct backdrop, these two have such an effortless connection routed in joy, calm & gratitude. We hit it off from our first meeting & it didn't take long for us to build a friendship as we explored various parts of Canada's smallest province at sunset & the next morning's magical sunrise. Enough from me, I'll let these images tell their story!
Old Opponent, New Friend:
Looking back, Jason (or Dale & Daler as he's known to his buddies) & I played against each other growing up in minor hockey but it wasn't until we played together for a brief stint in Bakersfield, California that we became good friends. He showed me the ropes & we hung out during the many hours that practice & games failed/neglected to fill.
Following my retirement from pro hockey, he kept playing, and started dating April which is when I eventually met her while giving them a tour of Gary Roberts High Performance Centre as a place for him to train in the off-season. At the time, I remember giving them the full tourwhile being mindful to take breaks & ask April about herself as I could tell Jason really loved her. She was always smiling, super on the ball & I could tell she was a perfect match for my man J!
April on How They Met:
April Books Jeremie Before He Even Starts Photographing People:
Fast forward a few years, April started seeing some of my landscape work and without even knowing that I was eventually going to photograph weddings OR when Jason was going to propose she told me:
At the time, I loved her confidence, soaked in her compliments about my work & knew eventually I'd be honored to capture their special day.. it excited me but seemed far off as I hadn't shot anything serious involving humans yet.
Fast forward to a few more months... Jason was down on his knee & I had quit my day job to dive head first into shooting portraits, engagements & weddings. Things were coming together nicely for April...
Jason's romantic proposal took place at the Distillery District & despite all the hints previously dropped by April..she had no idea..
As so many of their friends, I was extremely happy for April & J!
Weathering Long Distance:
With J away for hockey & them dating long distance for many years, it had been a long time coming despite what a great match & deep friendship they shared.
4th Times A Charm:
Things were coming together nicely for April until it came time to plan + execute the engagement shoot. We were going for winter vibes (as their wedding is during the summer of 2017) & each time we went to shoot it was either freezing rain the entire day or 15 degrees and sunny. It was a bit (very at times) discouraging for her as she had her hair & makeup appointments planned & really wanted to get the photos done by March 26th for her shower. I felt for them, I was excited but really wanted to wait & be patient for those perfect conditions to really get those special photos & tell their story the most beautiful way possible.
With a lot of faith, optimism & trust on all our parts we waited patiently for the right day. A few days before our final shoot I sent this text:
As I wished & truly believed it would, it snowed a ton the day before & we got sunny (yet cold) weather the day of the shoot. I was giddy with excitement, things were visually perfect & we could manage the cold with lots of breaks.
We met in the parking lot where Jason & April were finishing off some warm tea from Tim Horton's (how Canadian) before we set off onto a trail I had previously scouted while walking my dog a few days prior. April traded in her Tim's cups for a pair of Steve Madden pumps to really add some awesome contrast should we decide to do some full body shots throughout. There was way too much snow to wear anything but shoes or boots so they were carried.
Coats off for the pics was a must & soon after we all stopped to laugh at how cold it was. They were already looking so natural & at ease.
Coats back on, we continued walking deeper into the wild winter wilderness before finding some beautiful sunshine to backlit my wonderful subjects. Coats off.
Further down the trail, a bridge overlooking a mostly frozen stream. We admired the view & feeling of tranquility as the water trickled by as our only soundtrack.
By this point things were cold, Jason's feet were already frozen, my hands were numb but no one was complaining. I was already so impressed by these two troopers. I reminded them smiling:
I wanted to move on but I just kept seeing such nice pockets of light and fresh snow which framed Japril (yes I just gave them a combined celeb name). I said already for the 3rd time in this location:
Coats back on, we trudged through the snow for another 15 mins before finding another great spot where I could have envisioned them sitting enjoying each others company.
Coats didn't come off this time. Smiles Remained.
My famous words again:
They played along...
Our wishes were materializing in front of our very eyes with beyond imaginable conditions. The sun was shining, golden snow flakes were flying. This time I said something slighlty different:
As we looped back towards the parking lot to hit up the sugar shack (Syrup Evaporator Sheds), a large hill needed to be conquered. No one complained, we battled, breathing deeply & April led the charge.
After being out for an hour in the cold, we had got it all, time to run back to the car, pump the heat before heading to our next destination to change & get some different feeling shots at sunset.
It's All About You - The Centre for Complimentary Health in King City:
This was the original location I had suggested due to it's beautiful pond (which wasn't frozen due to all the warm weather), west facing field, barn & variety of rustic spots. The founder, Annette Nolan, is a good friend of mine & my fiancée's. Jessica, is lucky to call this beautiful place home as one of her two clinics. Annette has always been the most gracious and kind of women to both of us and she was happy to let us use the property + change in the warmth.
While they were changing, I took some time to capture THE ring of April's dreams. The symbol of commitment Jason had saved up for so secretly.
The sun was quickly setting and with that the temperature really dropping. The field was windy making for good dress pictures but freezing hands. They brought their A game, Jason in a nice classy sweater, April a flowing elegant red dress. Before they had time to think I had already asked them to scale a nearby ridge as the last rays of light illuminated the snow being kicked up by April.
Yelling, I asked them to give me their best "I love you body language" as I played with different crops and silhouettes before we all agreed we were nearing frost bite & needed a moment to thaw.
BUT before we headed back to the cars I said...
Cryogenic Thawing nearly complete it was show time but they didn't know that. The clouds in the sky earlier gave me an indication we might be in for a special show that night.
I knocked on their window & leaned in to talk over the blasting heat.
When April saw the sky she read my mind in saying, the boots need to come off for this, I don't want them in the shot. I would never have asked her to do that as we were all already frozen BUT like I said before.
I quick exposure test, we were good to go this was a one time shot as I knew her feet wouldn't be able to handle another run. She kicked them off carefully outside of my frame and ran towards Jason as if in a legendary no boot winterized dirty dancing scene. Jason lifted her up effortlessly, she pointed her toes with grace & heavens soft light shone upon them.
One more thaw session while I set up an off-camera light for what I hoped would be more than a typical barn shot. This was really really the last shots here as daylight turned to dusk.
Rink - Downtown Newmarket:
Two of the last shots we wanted to get to pull the whole story together were April & Jason on a rink & a sparkler shot which April had fallen in love with months and months before. Both required it being really dark & we were all starved so I suggested we grab a quick bite together at Ground Burger Bar a highly rated spot right in downtown Newmarket by Ferry Lake.
We were well fed, warm (except for our toes) & happy, the only problem was that despite keeping my batteries and gear as warm as possible in my car & in my inside coat pocket, the cold had finally drained my flash batteries & I wasn't able to get as creative as I would have wanted at the rink with off-camera flash. Nonetheless, we got the original shot we had envisioned. I love the contrast of the ice, the blue toned lights, the dark long shadow & Jason's wheels next to April's heels. Thanks to it being shallower than the pond, we were happy to discover the rink was frozen.
The Sparkler Shot:
Forever ago when she made her revelation about me going to shoot her wedding, April had shared a really cool long exposure sparkler shot which I had figured out how to do & assured her we could get. When it came time to making it happen it took a few tries but I really like the way it turned out despite how silly I looked spinning around them at the time.
Overall it was a really fun, relaxed and comfortable shoot despite the bitter cold. We rocked it together & I'm so grateful for people as open & easy going as me. It makes it so fun to experiment & tell their story in the most natural way possible.
In the planning stages, I found it a bit hard to wait out the not so ideal conditions. I obviously love to shoot, was excited to work with them & wanted deeply to get them their shots but am glad that in the end I payed attention to my inner voice telling me to wait each time conditions weren't perfect. Like they always do, my ever present optimism & gratitude came through in the end.
After the shoot April & Jason expressed the following gratitude which had me feeling out of this world:
Just like the patience & trust required for April & Jason's relationship to overcome distance, we waited it out, understood each other & ended up going through the most amazing experience together. I'm so happy to share these photos with them, their friends & their family in hopes of doing chapter one of their love story justice. I can't wait to experience & capture their wedding next year!
I hope that anyone else reading this who doesn't know them personally is inspired by the imagery & timeless lessons of hard work, persistence, patience, trust, all-while being open/welcoming of change or events not exactly how or when we imagine them unfolding. They rarely do & depending on our attitude towards adversity, detours or delays along the way, things often end up better than we could ever imagined when we just surrender & let go.
All Is Well,
As I write this, I can't help but notice how much gratitude I feel to be at this very exciting time in my young photography career.
In short, the last few months have been a whirlwind of deep learning (through practice, experimentation, being a 2nd shooter/assistant at weddings, lots of questions, reading, course watching, observing other pros etc.), lots of equipment research/final purchases, engagement shoots & meeting with couple's about their big day. All this would be fine & dandy but even more thankfully, every client couple I've met has been incredible! We've had amazing connections from first contact, shared stories, smiles & in the end made a deep & meaningful commitment to each other. I get to capture & tell their remarkable stories in the coming year(s)!
Things are growing really organically through friends, referrals & social media!
Lisa & Aron, My Firsts:
Lisa & Aron are two of those wonderful people I've had the pleasure of truly getting to know in depth through lots of e-mails, texts, Facebook messages etc. Most recently we had a blast shooting their engagement shoot & in February they shall be my first wedding couple!
As I hope you can see, from the moment Lisa was referred to me, there was a tangible openness about our exchanges and we really hit it off. It wasn't long before we were discussing all sorts of engagement shoot ideas and although it took us a bit of time to settle on exactly what would tell her & Aron's unique love story without the snow we hoped for, the end result was so gratifying.
For this Christmas themed shoot, we got to spend 3 hours together in their childhood neighborhood & home of The Beaches in Toronto.
They are legit!
Where It All Began:
It was only fitting to start the shoot at the bench where they had their first date, the place they sat & talked for hours overlooking Lake Ontario.
Next we headed down to the water, where these two enjoy walking together in the warmer months when the weather is nice.
Next they grabbed a seat on the pier, finding warmth in eachother's arms as they watched the waves crash into shore & Toronto's skyline in the distance.
The Proposal Caught on Video:
Being December by the water, it was below freezing & windy so we decided to go thaw nearby at their favorite spot: The Flying Elephant Cafe. As we drove there, Aron shared how he executed his perfectly planned proposal at the CNE on August 22.
The Flying Elephant Cafe:
The place was cozy, the owner's present & incredibly friendly, drinks delicious. Venezuelan Eggnog (called Ponche Crema) for Aron & a Latte for Lisa.
While they chatted, I wanted to get a few themed shots of the lovely ring. Pine cones for the wedding, ornaments for Christmas & YES Aron's Christmas Themed Nike shoes.
A few more before heading back into the cold...
The Iconic R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant:
Just down Queen St E, they told me of this beautiful yellow building, extremely iconic of the neighborhood they love so much. We headed there for some golden hour portraits which is when they really started forgetting about the camera and letting their souls shine through.
Christmas Tree Decoration at the Library:
Just West down Queen Street is the equally iconic Beaches Library where we decided it would be fun to have them decorate some trees together.
They brought their own decorations & the lights were kindly provided by the city.
Toronto Skyline from Polson Pier:
Besides being big Toronto FC fans & loving Christmas a lot, Lisa & Aron adore the city of Toronto. Before coming, I had suggested that we would end the night with Toronto's beautiful lights as a backdrop using off-camera lighting and playing around with sparklers for potentially epic shots. I was upfront in saying we've gotten the safe shots and you'll be really happy with what we have so far, but for these there are no guarantees.
We started with off-camera lighting from behind for this:
I staggered them just a bit so the light would bounce off Aron's jacket to illuminate Lisa's face. SO COOL.
Next it was time to whip out the tripod for some long exposure sparkler shots. In order to get the sparklers to light in the windy conditions I had to run into the soccer dome nearby and I can only imagine what people were thinking when I ran out screaming:
Click! The shutter opened and stayed open for 10 seconds as I ran around like a mad-man using my imagination as to what would look good when it came to light circling them. Although cool, the first few didn't work out because I ran around too much....
After a few tries, we were poised to make it perfect. I knew my pattern & they were either frozen cold or really good at being still for 10 second increments as I swirled around them.
That's a Wrap (Literally):
After all our adventures, I feel like I know Lisa & Aron really well, we are true friends and I am now even more excited to shoot their wedding next month at The Chelsea Hotel.
Just as I dropped them off at their place we tried one more pic where I wrapped them in lights to really put an exclamation point on our Christmas Themed Shoot. So cute.
Lisa & Aron, you're such good sports. It was cold & we battled together to create some beautiful images unique to you. I'm most proud of how we worked together to really tell YOUR special story.
Sending all you wonderful readers lots of love & hugs!