Beth & Alex: A Sunny Engagement Shoot at their Georgian Bay Island Cottage

We spent an afternoon enjoying the warm summer breeze at Beth and Alex’s private family cottage on an island in Honey Harbour.

I first met Beth and Alex after work at Rooster Coffee in downtown Toronto, and instantly knew I wanted to work with them as soon as we started chatting dogs and cottages.  They have a friendly, laid back, Canadian-cottager vibe that carried through to all aspects of their relaxed and fun-loving engagement and wedding.   Alex is an avid outdoorsman, and Beth nurtures a secret talent for woodworking, learned from her grandfather and honed during summers at the cottage.  I could talk camping trips for hours, and am instantly awed by anyone with creative talent, so I couldn’t wait to spend time with these two over the course of our working together!

They invited me up to their family cottage to take their engagement photographs, tucked away in the islands of Honey Harbour. On a hot and sunny summer day, I was picked up in a little tin fishing boat at the nearby marina to start the afternoon. We cruised through sparkling waterways, past classic Canadian shield islands dotting the waters of Georgian Bay to reach their cottage. The family home was perched on top of a rocky island, and came complete with a welcoming crew of family and dogs.  These two clearly come by their friendly, happy natures honestly, how could you not when coming home to the cottage means being greeted on the dock by dogs, beer, and cookies!

I always ask couples to incorporate activities they love or places that are important to them into the engagement session, and Beth and Alex knocked it out of the park planning this shoot!  We started off across the island, fishing rods and beer in hand, heading to their favourite watering hole overlooking Giants Tomb across the bay.  The fish weren’t biting, but their pup, Brodie was happily occupied swimming after each cast, trying to catch the bait himself.  They enjoyed beers on the rocks, toes splashing in the warm water, took the tin boat out for a cruise, and finished by hiking through the island to a small wooden platform in the woods, furnished with Muskoka chairs, with a view over the bay.  This is where Alex proposed to Beth, surrounded by tea lights in wooden candle holders she had made that summer, smelling like pine trees, and with a view over the most meaningful place in the world to them. It’s so much fun to visit the spot where a couple got engaged and spend some time reminiscing together!

We had the best time taking their engagement photographs together, and I can’t wait to show you details from their relaxed and heartfelt wedding I photographed in Toronto this summer!l

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Helping your Photographer Capture Beautiful Getting Ready Photographs

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 The getting ready portion of your wedding day is often when some of the most intimate moments occur between you and your best friends and family who are there with you.  Your photographer can capture these beautiful moments no matter where you are, but it helps to put a little bit of time and effort into making sure that your ‘getting ready’ spaces will look just as good as the rest of your wedding photographs.

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Clean Up

Cleaning up the rooms you’re getting ready in will go a long way in helping your photographer create gorgeous photographs of the morning leading up to your wedding.  It helps to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to keep their bags and clothing stored in a separate room where you won’t be taking photographs,  request that your hair and makeup team keep a tidy workspace, and generally remove any clutter that’s housed in the room you’ll be getting ready in.   As a photographer I absolutely don’t mind doing a bit of tidying and re-organizing, but the more time we spend doing this the less time we’ll spend capturing candid moments.  A clean background brings an emotional photograph from touching to visually stunning. 

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Choose a Bright Location

People often spend so much time selecting a beautiful ceremony and reception space, but don’t think about where they will be getting ready.  I often spend several hours photographing the getting ready portion of the day with couples, and usually shoot important photographs during this time such as bridal and bridesmaid portraits, detail shots, and father/daughter reveals.  Make sure to do these photographs justice by choosing a location that has as much natural light as possible.  The brighter and airier the better!  Don’t count artificial lighting such as floor lamps and pot lights when considering how bright a location is.  These lighting options create a yellow/green skin tone and cast awkward shadows, so your photographer will likely turn them off to shoot anyways.

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Set Up Close to a Window

No matter where you choose to get ready, the best light for your photographer to work with will almost always be next to a window.  See if your hair and makeup team can set up close to a window with the natural light falling across your getting ready scene.  Try to clear a space close to a window or in a well-lit room for photographs such as putting your dress on, and spending some time with your wedding party and family members. 

Create Time and Space for Moments to Unfold

The best way to create great photographs from your wedding morning is to allow yourself to enjoy the time without feeling rushed.  You’ve picked a beautiful space to get ready in and cleaned it up; now make sure you create time to spend there with your favourite people.  If it’s important to capture some meaningful portraits with your grandmother, invite her to sit and chat with you for a while.  If you want to capture images with your mother, ask her to get dressed early so she has time to help your into your dress.  Don’t worry about the camera being there, don’t hold back on hugs, and make sure everybody there knows how important they are to you.  

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Stefanie & Dave's Colourful Backyard Wedding

Stefanie & Dave created a colorful and creative backyard wedding behind their parents house, overlooking a lake on a gorgeous summer day.  The weather was endlessly sunny and clear from dawn until dusk, and the entire wedding took place outdoors, moving under an open tent for dinner, and back onto the lawn for their lively dance under string lights and stars.  

Stefanie is an artist and entrepreneur at heart.  With a budding floral business, and hand dyeing fabrics with natural dyes, she created the most spectacular, wild and colorful bridal bouquet.  Her dress was a beautiful flow-y number from Blush by Hayley Paige, and she wore a comfortable and stylish pair of brown leather ankle boots.  It was an outfit that allowed the bride to be herself, dance in the grass until the bottom of her dress had changed color, and climb all over the family sailboat to get her twinkle lights working.  I loved the free spirit and creativity of this wedding!

The part of the evening that topped everything off however was when the groom's family hired a surprise mariachi band.  The band approached the wedding by boat, and surprised the bride and groom out on their dock, playing their first set across the water before kicking up one of the best wedding dance parties I've seen in a long time.  Complete with the fathers of the bride and groom dancing together, and a lively game of limbo played with a canoe paddle that almost everyone at the wedding, the bride and groom included, took part in. 

What I loved about this wedding is how perfectly 'them' it was.  Every part of the day was relaxed, easygoing, and creative.  Their color and joy was contagious to all the guests present, families came together beautifully in happiness, and everyone sported retro white wayfarer sunglasses during the sunny ceremony.  Take a look through for a wedding that blended different families, cultures, and styles into a beautiful and joyous mix that will bring a smile to your face.

How to Create a Rain Plan for your Wedding Day

The question of ‘what do we do if it rains?’ is always important when planning an outdoor summer wedding.   Many couples make backup plans for their ceremony to move indoors, or the reception and dance floor to be under a tent, but don’t quite get around to creating a fail-safe photography plan in case of rain.  Light is the most important tool for your photographer to create beautiful images, so it’s important to consider your options in advance to make sure the backup rain option isn’t the windowless bridal suite in the basement, or spare room in the event hall with overhead pot lights that can’t be turned off.  If you’re at all unsure, make time to chat with your photographer.  Ask about what they need to create the photographs you’re looking for, and maybe arrange a time to go look at the space together or send them photographs of different areas available to you. 

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Look at The Available Indoor Space

Most venues have indoor space available to use for photographs.  It’s important to take a look at these spaces in advance however to make sure they have enough light for the photographer to work with, are big enough to fit the largest family photo you want captured, and have enough ‘clean’ floor and wall space available for your photographer to work with.

It’s also important to consider what else the indoor spaces will be used for in the event of a rainy day.  Make sure the spaces you’re considering won’t be used for the cocktail hour, ceremony, or reception, as it’s hard to take photographs surrounded by guests, chairs, or venue staff setting up for dinner.

Look at Other Indoor or Covered Space at Your Venue

If you’ve rented a large venue, there may be other spaces available on the property that will work for photographs if it’s raining.  If it’s just lightly raining, a section of trees with thick foliage will do the trick, or look for other buildings, covered porches, overhanging roofs, barns, greenhouses etc.  Sometime the best photographs come out of a rainy day when you have to shoot in locations that aren’t ‘typical’ for your venue.  Just make sure to run it by your photographer so they can plan accordingly in advance.

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Look for Indoor Space Close to Your Venue

Finally, if there aren’t many good options for indoor space available at your venue, consider planning in some extra time and traveling to a different location for some of your photographs.  This can be anywhere, from the air B&B you’ve used earlier in the day to get ready, to a store or restaurant open to having your take photographs there, to a rented space such as another venue or photo studio. 

If this seems like the best option, make sure to discuss with your photographer, and plan this in advance so you have plenty of time to contact the location and make sure you’re allowed to take photographs there, or to purchase the appropriate permits or rental time.

In the past I’ve photographed in the parents’ house, a plant shop and coffee shop across the street, a library, a separate venue and a nearby restaurant.  Almost any location can be used to create fun photographs, and as long as you plan in advance there’s no reason to worry about what to do if it rains on your wedding day! 

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Sneak Peek: Kristen & Matt's Elegant Collingwood Wedding

Kristen and Matt traveled all the way from the east coast of Canada to be married in Collingwood, Ontario with their friends and family.  They chose the beautiful Alpine Ski Club with it's brand new James Bond-esque club house as their venue, and took a limo to the gorgeous Tremont Cafe in Collingwood to capture their wedding photographs and avoid the stormy weather that we've had this summer.  These two looked so absolutely elegant together I couldn't resist firing off a couple extra rolls of film that day, so this sneak peek is composed almost entirely of film photographs because those ones always end up being my favorite!  Highlights include a sweet happy couple running from the rain and still enjoying every moment of it, a father of the groom looking SO unbelievably happy and proud, the bride looking adoringly at her groom, and both of them absolutely cracking up during their couples portraits (always my favorite!)

I hope you enjoy this quick sneak peek, more photographs from this elegant Collingwood wedding to come later this season!

Also, shout-out to the Tremont Cafe and their awesome staff for welcoming us into the restaurant to take wedding photos, and making a fun spontaneous champagne toast happen.  They rocked it.

xo
-c

Thera & Barry's Georgian Hills Vineyard Wedding

Thera & Barry are adventurers, free spirits, fellow entrepreneurs, creatives, and two of the happiest, most loving people I have ever met.  They had the most beautiful wedding at an intimate vineyard in Collingwood, surrounded by their closest family and friends from all over the globe.  Thera's creativity shone through all the beautiful little details she created herself, from a stunning mirrored welcome sign, to the sweetest ceremony backdrop strung between two apple trees overlooking a bright yellow canola field.  Their wedding had an exciting international flare, while also feeling like the most 'Ontario' summer wedding imaginable when a massive purple storm cloud rolled over the fields and the skies opened up on us.  Thera and Barry are the type of people who then continued to dance in the rain, jumping in puddles with the kids at the wedding, and enjoying themselves immensely even when the storm took the power out for a little while.  The night ended with the rain clearing, cake being eaten, and the sun once more casting out over the beautiful yellow fields and guests, with that misty post thunderstorm light as the sun began to set.

A wonderful team of vendors helped pull this wedding together including:
Venue: Georgian Hills Vineyard
Planner:  Amanda from It'z Your Day
Florals: Laurie & Nemo from Art in Bloem
Catering: Oliver and Bonacini
Hair and Makeup: Capelli Hair Studio
 

Toronto Island Waterfront Wedding

Kyla and Skylar were married on the beautiful waterfront of the Toronto Islands.  Their ceremony combined both their New Brunswick and Toronto roots perfectly.  It had a small and relaxed east coast vibe, with the CN tower and Toronto skyline stretching up in the background behind a beautiful arch of summer greenery.  Kyla is co-owner of a sustainably sourced vintage fashion company, and her amazing sense of style shone through every detail of their wedding.  From her stylish two piece wedding dress and gold gladiator sandals, to the suspenders worn by the groomsmen (who doesn't love suspenders???), to the simple crowns of greenery worn by the bridesmaids, every detail was perfect together!

The flower crowns, ceremony archway, bouquet, and boutonniers were all made by Wildernis Florals, a Collingwood based wedding florist and co-owner of Kyla's fashion company Copper Collective .

Boardwalks and Bikes: Katie & Cam's Engagement Session

I met up with Katie and Cam early one morning in Collingwood for a sunrise engagement session.  After spending some time chatting over home-brewed espresso in their little sunlit kitchen, we headed out on bikes to tour around the Collingwood waterfront and boardwalks as the sun was rising over Georgian Bay.  This shoot re-created the first bike tour that Cam led Katie on when she moved to the area, and felt like the perfect fit for an active and adventurous couple like these two!  I get to see them again to photograph their wedding this weekend, and I could not be more excited to see what wedding-day activities they've dreamed up!

Away in Awenda Park

Although it may not be the prime season to share photos from a fall styled bridal shoot, I just couldn't wait any longer to post some shots from this creative collaboration with Tara from Exchanging Vows Bridal Shop.  I'm also SO excited to see this editorial featured in the 'It'z Your Day' Bridal Guide for the Georgian Bay area, thank you It'z Your Day Event Planning!

We put this shoot together to create a whimsical forest look, while accentuating how simple and classic a fall wedding can be.  Keeping the details simple and letting the scenery and stunning Ontario fall colours do the talking is a fabulous way to achieve a striking wedding look with minimal fuss.  I'm completely smitten with the little details that pull together a wedding in the cooler seasons.  The fur shawl pictured below kept our bride warm though the shoot, and she stayed comfortable into the evening as the sun went down over the water by changing into a thick knit sweater and fur hat.  A beautifully simple bouquet and classic dress make the perfect pairing for what really must be the best venue available, an Ontario fall forest.

The amazing vendors who contributed to this shoot really did an amazing job, checkout their work if you're getting married in the Georgian Bay area, or love the idea of a fall wedding!

Dress and Styling:  Tara from Exchanging Vows Bridal Boutique
Flowers: Leuk
Fur Headpiece: Appeal Boutique
Calligraphy: TypeGrace
Venue: Awenda Park

Shooting Film: An Introduction

Last year I decided that I was going to begin incorporating some good old fashioned film photography into my professional wedding work.  I love everything about film.  The colours, the textures, the way film reads light differently from my digital sensor, the thought and time that goes into planning each film shot, I was (and still am) absolutely infatuated with every aspect of being a fine-art wedding photographer.   So, in the fall I started getting the ball in motion to move my business in this direction.  So far, it hasn't been an entirely easy process, so for the sake of both my own reflection and helping anyone else who is interested in moving towards film, I've decided to write about what I'm learning along the way.

I'm a meticulous planner, organizer, and maker of 'Pro's and Con's' lists.  I spent countless hours researching and agonizing over minute details between camera bodies and film stocks, lens coatings and light meters.  I finally went out and bought my first medium format film camera, a gorgeously restored old Hasselblad 500CM with a zeiss lens; and 50 rolls of film, fuji 400 colour in 120 format.   This used up a significant portion of my savings, so my camera then sat in a heavily padded bag for several months, emerging only to be photographed by my digital camera.  Ironically.  I was too scared to start shooting with it and risk 'wasting' money on developing rolls that didn't work out.

Eventually, I realized that I would have to start shooting with my new investment in order to actually learn how to use medium format film, so I started researching how to shoot properly.  Somehow, in all my hours of camera body research, I had neglected to look up how to actually USE my camera.  I found out that colour film can create all kinds of different 'looks' based on how it's shot and processed, so I turned to the pro's at Richard Photo Lab to teach me all about pushing and pulling film, light conditions, and how I can create my own personal film aesthetic through working with them. 

To start with, the Richard Photo Lab blog is fantastic and I learned so much just by spending an afternoon scrolling through their posts.  I definitely recommend checking out their blog next if you're interested in using film.  On top of that, they've been fabulously helpful chatting with me by email about learning to shoot film.  They're based in California, so with foreign exchange and shipping it's been a bit pricey to develop my rolls with them, but to work with a lab whose work I consistently like, and who have been endlessly helpful to me as a learning resource, it's been well worth it!

Below are some of my first rolls of 120 film I shot.  I created these images at a styled shoot, which was the perfect place to get started.  I could work at my own pace without any of the external pressures of a wedding day, but I also HAD to shoot some rolls because the other vendors involved were keen to see it in action.  I'm happy with some of the results, and not so happy with others.  I still have a lot to learn about using my camera smoothly, and a long way to go to know how my film with react to different light, (to be honest I'm even still learning how to use my light meter properly), BUT I can't wait to shoot my next rolls of film and keep working towards shooting professionally with my Hasselblad (aka learning how to keep track of my dark slide).

xo
C

Vintage Inspired Bridal Shoot Featuring the Copper Collective

I worked on this amazing bridal editorial shoot in collaboration with the talented girls who own The Copper Collective, a curated online vintage clothing company based out of Collingwood, Ontario.  After finding a gorgeous second hand wedding dress on one of their shopping trips, we started pulling together plans for a clean and rustic styled shoot focused on their amazing vintage find. As with all inspired creative projects, the pieces for this shoot fell into place beautifully, and I had the most fabulous time working with such a talented group of people to pull off our first styled bridal shoot!

Vintage wedding dress:  The Copper Collective
Florals:  Janna Dekker of Wildernis Florals
Calligraphy:  Alex Ruston of Honour Bright
Hair: Pure Organic Hair
Venue:  Tremont Cafe
Jewelry: Jessica Wolfe Design
Model: Claire Woodhouse

Thank you all so much!

xo
- c