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Erik & Alex’s Wedding

Baltimore. Beer. Dogs. In the following, we’re going to get into the behind the scenes story that brought Erik & Alex’s wedding photos to life, from my perspective as an old friend of Erik and their photographer for the day. I’ll walk you through the memorable moments that unexpectedly started at Union Craft Brewing and ended the historic Mt Washington Mill Dye House in Baltimore. I’ll talk about the challenges wrought by rain, wind and technical peculiarities around the light. We’ll look at how we used the various venue spaces, how our associate vendors, Copper Kitchen, Thurman & Fig, and the Bachelor Boys Band made things fun, memorable and delicious. And, I’ll introduce you to the unsung star of the day, Poppy, the fuzzy white ball of energy I didn’t get nearly enough time to play with. The blog post is filled with dozens of images and the stories behind them, and the gallery at the end showcases more than 230 of my favorites from the day.

Want to skip the story and jump straight into the photos? Go for it.

I’ve known Erik for a long time. Probably 20 years now, in some capacity or another. He is a photographer himself and used to shoot with me before the restrictions brought by COVID and other life pursuits carried him elsewhere. Even before we worked together, I knew Erik from several different overlapping friend circles, so we go way back through more than a couple phases of life. I was thrilled when I heard he and Alex would be getting married. When he told me he wanted us to shoot his wedding, I couldn’t have said yes any faster.

Erik & Alex

Erik is an interesting guy—soft-spoken, creative, analytical, loves to tell stories and laugh, loves to bury his nose in a project and learn something, and just all-around the kind of person you want to know. Anyone Erik would fall in love with must be a catch, in my book. Alex, as it turns out, is very much that catch.

It’s not altogether unusual for one member of a couple to basically do all of the communication about photography and not to meet their partner until a little later down the line. In this case, that person was Erik. Thanks to the aforementioned complexities and restrictions of a pandemic world, when they signed on for us to cover their wedding, I hadn’t met Alex yet and I met her for the first time on a video call while we were designing the timeline for their wedding. She is like a puzzle piece that fits onto Erik’s uncanny edges with machined precision. It’s often trite to say two people seem made for each other, but these two really kind of do. It’s easy to see how these two halves really make a whole.

Where Erik seems pensive and reserved, Alex is speaking her mind. Where Alex is boisterous, Erik is cheering her on. The two share a penchant for beer and breweries and dogs—part of what brought them together in the first place. As a couple with a bit of Baltimore flavor woven into their identity, it was fitting that we decided to have their wedding day at the Mt Washington Mill Dye House, a historic venue that carries Baltimore’s quintessential industrial aesthetic.

A First Look at the Brewery

Our day would start with a first look in order to minimize the disruption portraits would bring later in the day.

Our original plan was to hold the first look at the Dye House where they would be getting married, and everything seemed like it was going to go our way with the weather. But within hours of getting things kicked off, it became clear that we were going to lose our first 45 minutes or so to the tail end of a rainstorm just barely wet enough to cause problems. Bummer, or so I thought.

The rain would be a problem because the interior of the Dye House is strictly off-limits for photography prior to the start of the event. Inconvenient as this restriction may be, it’s a necessary one. The interior of the Dye House involves some narrow corridors which connect larger open event spaces, and lots of event material moves through those corridors while getting things set up. So we needed an alternative plan, and we needed one quick.

In a call with Erik the night before the wedding, I suggested the idea of visiting a brewery for their first look. This would, hopefully, not only provide us with an indoor space we could use while it was raining but also double up as an opportunity to tie one of their foundational interests into the images. Erik and Alex liked the idea, and it just so happened that one of their favorite spots was just down the road: Union Craft Brewing at the Union Collective on W Street. Erik called up the brewery, explained their situation, and they gave them the enthusiastic go-ahead to not only shoot inside the brewery but to shoot in the brewhouse itself.

Awesome. I’m still a little boy inside and I get stars in my eyes when I’m near big metal machines.

Our last-minute alternative plan was set and it was all coming together in a more interesting and thematically multidimensional way than we had originally hoped for. We arrived in the parking lot met with the inconsistent spitting rain we expected, and a sky teasing us, unsure if it wanted to let loose or move along. Luckily, none of that really mattered anymore. Just Erik and his brother, also best man and only wedding party member, Matt, had arrived. We chatted in the parking lot under an awning, then when we got word that Alex and her Maid of Honor, Preethi, were on the way, we swiftly moved indoors.

The brewhouse was more or less exactly as cool as I hoped it would be. From my first appraisal of the space for photos, I was calculating in my head how to counteract the muddy light from the industrial overhead fixtures and what kind of trade-offs that was going to come with. But the staff at Union Craft Brewing proved to be incredibly accommodating and seemed genuinely excited to be a part of this moment for the couple, volunteering to open up the huge bay door to give us a big wash of natural light that completely nullified my calculus, and the trade-offs in raw image quality I was attempting to come to terms with.

We had a few more minutes before Alex arrived, so we used the time to capture some portraits with Erik and Matt among the specularity of the Brewery’s well-polished fermentation tanks.

To pass the time, the Brewery brought some beers for Erik and Matt, and one for Alex when she arrived, and then we got the call that Alex was out front. I quickly gave Erik the first-look spiel he’d heard many times on the other side of the camera.

“Stand here, face this way, don’t turn around for any reason until Alex comes and taps your shoulder.”

Then I ran out front to greet Alex. She looked amazing in her strapless dress. I gave Alex the other half of the spiel, and with the clock seemingly ticking faster and faster, Preethi and I ushered Alex through the brewery, past table after table of guests giving her their congratulations.

I brought Alex around the corner, double-checked to make sure Erik was still following his instructions, and then told her to count to ten and then walk up and turn him around.

The moment was adorable. The setting was interesting and unconventional. These two had finally seen each other for the first time on their wedding day and they took a moment to catch up on their day so far and sip the beers Union Craft Brewing had brought them. Having had a moment to breathe and the tension having broken, I shifted us into a more goal-oriented, time-sensitive gear. We had access to a very interesting space, so we captured a few couple’s portraits, followed by a couple of shots of the whole four-person wedding party and the rows of fermentation tanks as a backdrop.

Just outside the brewhouse, on the other side of the big bay door, there is a very colorful, very Baltimore abstract mural that lines the courtyard. By this time, the rain had firmly decided to move on, so we reoriented ourselves outside. One of our best angles was straight on against the bay door, which would give us a cool contrast with pops of color and a view of the fermentation tanks. The industrial light inside the brewhouse was no match for the bright and diffuse outdoor sun, so I had Felipe quickly take a flash unit inside so that we could pull detail out of the interior.

Next, we moved out into the courtyard where we got a few great shots of the couple under the Union Craft Brewing sign. We also used the moment to capture some details of the flower arrangements and boutonnieres that Thurman & Fig put together. Felipe also caught a nice angle of the couple that emphasized the mural more strongly, and he took over the lead photographer role for a few minutes to execute his vision.

At this point, somewhat miraculously given the last-minute shakeup to the plan we had originally made weeks ago, we were on time. Felipe caught one more shot of Erik and Alex as they downed what was left of their beers, and we high-tailed it back to our cars and over to the Dye House where we would take the rest of our portraits together.

Wedding Party Portraits at the Dye House

We lost just a few minutes in transit thanks to some sudden traffic, but we were still mostly on schedule. After a quick stop in the bridal suite, we headed outside to meet, arguably, the real star of the show: Poppy, Erik and Alex’s very cute fuzzy white dog.

Poppy is a distractible, high-energy dog, so for the sake of efficiency and keeping things easy for Poppy’s handler, we started with a set of photos of the whole party and Poppy with the Mt. Washington Mill Dye House sign and the industrial cog sculpture in the background. From there we broke it down into just the couple and their canine child before letting Poppy and her handler wander off with Felipe for some portraits of the pup.

While Felipe worked with Poppy, I took Erik and Alex around to a few spots we’d identified when we visited the venue earlier in the day. We got some nice shots near the breezeway that leads to the venue, and one particularly nice shot through a hole in one of the Dye House’s big historic doors, with Alex’s dress getting caught by the wind. As we were finishing up a first round of couple’s shots, the couple’s officiant was arriving, and we capitalized on the opportunity to slide her into a photo of the whole party together. Right on schedule, Felipe finished up with Poppy, and we broke out into separate groups.

First, I took Alex and Preethi around to the front of the Dye House while Felipe worked with Erik and Matt in the courtyard. After about fifteen minutes we swapped, and I took Erik and Matt to the front, while Felipe worked with Alex and Preethi in the courtyard. The courtyard was windy, which is less than ideal but provided for some cool shots of the girls’ flow dresses getting caught in the wind.

By this time the lighting conditions had started to shift in a way that can cause a real headache for photographers—in and out of the clouds, changing the temperature of the light and casting shadows where there were none mere moments ago. We made the most of it, and Felipe seized the opportunity the light provided to really bring out the detail in Alex’s eyes.

As we started to round the bend toward the end of our portraits, I captured a couple of cool shots of the wedding party behind the tall un-paned windows of the Dye House breezeway, and then since they were already inside, we reoriented them around for a cool black and white shot among the brick walls. Before we finished up, Felipe caught one more shot of Poppy—quite possibly one of my favorite shots of the whole day—popping her head through the window. The wedding party portraits were finished, and we were finally able to move inside.

We went to the bridal suite where Alex wanted to do a first look with her father. His face kind of said it all—he literally gasped. The two shared a drink, and Felipe and I wandered off into the venue to hunt down some of the details for the day.

The guests had taken their seats, and we were preparing ourselves for the ceremony. I caught a cute photo of the ring bearer and flower girl, and one particularly cute photo of the ring bearer in black and white, looking dapper and illuminated by one of the Dye House’s big mullioned windows.

The Ceremony in the Dye House Room

The officiant made some introductions to the guests, asking them to stay off their phones, and then the processional started.

The Dye House Room, the space where ceremonies usually happen at the venue, is actually deceptively tricky to photograph. It’s a bit darker than it seems to the eye, and the modern LED lighting creates some technical restrictions on what camera settings can be used—specifically a slower shutter speed than we might have otherwise preferred. On top of that, the light from the room would be warm from the angles facing the windows, and much cooler from the angles facing away from them. In order to help even out these differences, the images were edited to mute the orange a little bit, and color shift the blues just a little bit and the results turned out cohesive and more even than they were straight out of the camera.

But, I digress.

Parents, grandparents, siblings. Poppy, confused, excited, and nervous. Then Preethi, the flower girl, and the ring bearer. Finally, Alex, escorted by her father. I shot the whole ceremony using my long 70-200mm lens, and Felipe covered the unfolding with his 24-70mm for wider shots as people got closer. He got a great shot of Alex’s dad handing her off to Erik. The ceremony, taking place in front of Thurman & Fig’s gorgeous display in the background, was brief as most modern wedding ceremonies are. Tearful and honest, but still lighthearted and very much Erik and Alex.

You could feel a real sense of celebration in the room as these two had their first kiss and started their way back down the aisle. As they were leaving the room, now a married couple, I caught a cool black and white with the dragged shutter that, to me, seems to usher in the coming party.

Family Portraits & Venue Details

With Erik and Alex officially a married couple now, and the pressure thoroughly relieved, Felipe headed off to capture images of the room that Tawney from Copper Kitchen had so masterfully orchestrated. Meanwhile, I took the family outside for a carefully pre-selected series of portraits in the courtyard.

It was cold, so we kept it quick out there, but it didn’t take long for the cute and funny good-natured antagonism of family dynamics to emerge. I took the penultimate family portrait—everyone from both families together—in front of one of the Dye House’s big, heavy doors on a small patio that sat atop the little moat that ran through the courtyard.

We finished up with family portraits just as the sun was giving us its last gasp for the day, and then it was time to head inside for a party. We took a moment to capture a photo of Erik and Alex together in the dining room, having just seen the space for the first time, all perfectly refined according to their plan.

Dinner & Dancing

The Bachelor Boys Band, a live music group that plays, apparently, just about everything, introduced Erik and Alex to the room full of their expectant guests. They went straight into a first dance which we lit with a combination of on and off-camera flash units.

We immediately moved into the other half of the Dye House Room where dinner was served and heard touching toasts from Alex’s parents, and from Preethi and Matt.

Dinner was an absolutely beautiful plated meal of spring salad with a creamy vinaigrette dressing, roasted Brussel sprouts, salmon with a cream sauce, beef cooked perfectly rare, and a dollop of the creamiest, almost sweet, mashed potatoes. The whole meal was somehow simultaneously filling and light.

With dinner eaten and enjoyed, it was time for Erik and Alex to cut their cake, also provided by Copper Kitchen.

We moved immediately into a dance with Alex and her dad, and then the dance floor opened up and things quickly got lively.

After a little while, Copper Kitchen opened up the coffee bar and started bringing out what seemed like a never-ending string of some seriously delectable treats. Brownies, mini-cheesecake triangles with caramel, raspberry tarts. I might have eaten… a lot of them. They were amazing.

While giving the room a break from the camera for a few minutes, I fetched the wedding rings to capture a few close-ups and got some really cool ones. I am especially fond of one which casts the warm candlelight colors of the reception in a creamy, almost abstract bokeh background.

The Bachelor Boys entertained guests for hours, and dancing hit a fever pitch as things came to an end around 11:00 pm. As Felipe and I were packing up to leave, we made a point to say goodbye to old friends and new.

Climbing into the car and heading to 7-11 for our traditional post-event Slurpee, we spent some time reflecting on how cool it is to be a part of people’s lives in this way, and especially when it’s someone we’ve had the privilege of knowing and growing with over such a long time.

I almost always leave weddings with the same thought, “God, how cool is it that this is what I get to do with my life?”. This wedding, especially.

Please enjoy exploring the images!