Laura and Jade | — Vesta Irene —

Laura and Jade

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On an early April day Vesta and I drove to North Dakota, braved a blizzard, braved a Motel 8 and braved a couple cowboy bars which were a lotta fun, but I knew to keep my mouth shut about certain subjects and to say the food was great when it wasn’t. Well, it only wasn’t great in one particular bar in Custer. It wasn’t awful, the food, but it wasn’t very good, however the bartender, slash cook was very proud of it and he looked like a guy you didn’t want to mess with, so we told him it couldn’t be beat.

North Dakota was just about the last place on Earth we thought we’d ever be going. Not that we have anything against the state, but we’d been under the mistaken impression that the only reason anyone would ever want to go there, was to the the presidents carved into a mountainside and that just didn’t seem like a good enough reason to drive a thousand miles or so and then to have to come back again.


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However, we were going for work. We’re wedding photographers and we travel, in fact one of our cards says, “Have Camera, Will Travel” on it, so when Jade and Laura asked us to shoot their wedding in Minot, we gassed up the car. Well, we didn’t gas it up for North Dakota straight away, because they hired us a year in advance, right after we did their engagement shoot up at sunny, bright and beautiful Sand Harbor on Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore.

We were going to fly, but we met with Jade and Laura at Java Jungle, a coffee shop in downtown Reno by the Truckee River, and they said they were driving, that it was a beautiful trip and that they’d done it several times.


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We asked about the weather, because we’d been reading that though it’s usually okay in April, it can sometimes be pretty treacherous. They said it shouldn’t be that bad and since we love the road, we decided to load up our iPod with a lot of the new music we’d been hearing in the local bars, along with some Beatles and Stones and make it sort of a musical learning and photographic experience, because it was another adventure and adventures need soundtracks to punch them up and cameras to record them.


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The wedding was going to be in Minot, which is in the Northern part of the state and we figured allowing for rest stops and photo ops, that we could easily do it in two, so we planned on doing it in six. We would have given it even a few more, but we had a wedding the weekend before Jade and Laura’s, so six was all we had. And it was good that we hit the road the day after that wedding, because we needed each and every one of those six days.

It snowed all the way through Utah. Not heavy, but sixty-five or seventy was out of the question. South Dakota was awful, weather wise. So awful that they’d closed Mt. Rushmore, something they’d apparently never done before. But they had good reason, because the radio said a blizzard was coming. Tourist season hadn’t started yet and only two motels were open, a Motel 8 and the one you didn’t want to stay at, according to the girl at the minimart, so picked the Motel 8 and we were stuck for three days.


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But that first day, before the blizzard hit in full force, the snow stopped and it got calm, so we went up to Mt. Rushmore. It was closed. We were the only people up on that mountain, talk about eerie, it was way cool.

When the blizzard moved on, we did too, taking it slow, but we got to Minot a day ahead a time, and there we met the greatest people, Jade and Laura, of course, a great minister and about two hundred or so guests, all of whom treated us like long lost and dearly loved relatives. I can’t remember when we’ve had so much fun.


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It almost seemed wrong to take any money for shooting the wedding, that’s how much fun we had. But we did take the money, we’re not stupid. This was a wonderful wedding. Weddings aren’t only about photography for us, they’re magical and this one was about as magical as it gets.



The photo above was taken at the rehearsal the day before the wedding. Whenever possible, we like to go the rehearsal, because it gives a change to see how things are going to play out on the wedding day and it gives us a chance to meet everybody important to the bride and groom.

Oftentimes the photos taken after the ceremony are the most important for a bride, because these are the photos of her in her wedding dress with her family and friends. When we do these kind of photos, we always try to include the guests with cameras who want to take wedding pictures as well.

After we take our shot, we ask the bride, groom and their party to look at Aunt Kathy or Uncle Harry as they take theirs. It takes a little longer, but the bride gets more photos and oftentimes Aunt Kathy and Uncle Harry wind up becoming our fast friends and you can never have too many of those.


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Laura wanted photos taken both in the church and at a park. It was a cold and overcast day and that made for some wonderful photos. It was like the day was made for wedding photography. The lightning was perfect, right up till it started to rain, but that was okay, because we’d just taken our last shot when the heavens opened up.


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Laura and Jade’s ceremony was in the First Presbyterian Church on 3rd Street in Minot and the park, where they had the first half of their formal photos taken, next to the Zoo, about five minutes away, even in the snowy, slushy streets.

The church, as you can see from the photos in the photo below, had a better than fantastic stained glass window and, of course, Laura wanted her formal photos with it in the background, with the evening’s sunlight streaming in

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The minister, a maned Mark Frueh (pronounced Free) had given us the run of the church before, during and after the ceremony. He even showed us a passageway to get from in front of the wedding couple to behind them and that was way cool. In fact, he got right out of the way when the couple kissed, so we could get the perfect shot of Laura and Jade kissing, with all the their family and friends in the background. He’s a great guy and if you’re getting married in Minot, North Dakota, we heartily recommend that you look him up.

He told us the day before the wedding, that most photographers struggle with the lighting setup in the church, because of that window, so he advised that we set up and practice to be sure we got the right settings, because, he said, "When the photos come out, they’re very good."


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We always do that anyway, because the lighting in every church is different. In this case, we set our cameras on manual and metered for the window and used our flashes to light up the wedding party and the photos came out great.

However, during the ceremony, because we move around, and because Pastor Frueh was very okay with us getting behind him and because we didn’t want to keep changing settings as we shot toward and away from that gorgeous stained glass window, we each used two cameras. After the wedding, we didn’t have that problem and we used that window as a backdrop in most of the formal photos taken in the church.


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As for the photos taken out by the zoo, in that misty overcast weather. They were a lot of fun to shoot, much more so than most large wedding parties and that’s because usually, when a wedding party is so large, it’s hard getting everyone’s attention, hard getting them to move or pose the way you want, however, Vesta came up with a great idea to make it a whole lot easier and a whole lotta fun. She went online and found photos like she wanted and Laura did too. Plus, she made copies of ones we’d done in the past. So when it came time to pose the people, she held up a photo, then passed it around.


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And after everyone had a look, she’d day, “Okay, now do it.” And they did. You know, a picture really is worth a thousand words and that idea of hers, one we probably should’ve come up with ages ago, has made our wedding photography, well our formal photos at least, go a lot more smoothly.


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This was a wedding we really enjoyed shooting. Laura and Jade are a beautiful couple and beautiful people to boot. In the gallery below, you can see more of our formal photos and you'll see why we love  doing what we do. Being a wedding photographer, it's a wonderful job. It really is.

We are from Reno, but we’ll go anywhere for a wedding. We’ll even drive though a North Dakota blizzard for one.


From Vesta's Point of View

Ken and I shot Jade and Laura’s engagement session up at Lake Tahoe’s beautiful Sand Harbor on an overcast day that wasn’t too cold. When we finished, they asked us if we’d shoot their wedding in Minot, North Dakota as well.

The wedding was in April and we were worried about the weather, so we thought we’d fly, but in end, because we like road trips so much, we decided to drive. We did run into some snow and got stuck for two days in Custer, South Dakota, because of a blizzard, but even so, we got to Minot a day before the wedding.


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Laura and Jade wanted their formal photos done in a park by the Zoo in Minot before they took their vows, because after the ceremony they wanted to get on with the festivities. Here they are with their wedding party and this party, sure knew how to party.


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Without a doubt Jade and Laura are a beautiful couple.


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This was the first wedding we did where I had a stack of the kind of photos I wanted to do. Before this, Ken and I would kind of direct everybody, telling them what we wanted.

Then I came up with a different way. I asked Laura to send me copies of the kind of photos she wanted, which she did. Plus, I surfed the internet for others I thought we might want to do.

Then, when it came time to take the photos, I just held up a photo for everyone to see and told them that this is what we wanted to do. You know, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, they’re right.


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Picture taking over, it’s time to head for the church.


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Laura and Jade decided to do what some people call a first look, which more and more brides are doing today. Some wedding photographers, us included, like to use the first look to capture the moment when the bride and groom see each other for the first time.

But Laura and Jade set aside a whole hour before their ceremony for photographs and we took a lot. First we went to a park by the Zoo in Minot and photographed them getting that first look, then we made portraits of the wedding party with a cloudy, drizzly day for the background and the photographs were gorgeous.

Then we went back to the church and did more shots, like the black and white one below and let me tell you, it’s a joy to work with a bride and groom when there is no pressure, time wise. Usually, the happy couple is in a bit of a hurry to get to the reception and greet their guests and to get on with the festivities. Not so with Laura and Jade.

When  you think about it there are a lotta benefits to a first look session before the ceremony, it removes a lotta pressure to move things along after the ceremony, because a lot of the formal photos have already been taken. The bride and groom and their bridesmaids and groomsmen can get to the reception faster. And the happy couple wind up with a lot more photographs of themselves, then they might not have gotten. Plus, it’s a lotta fun.


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The above photograph is what I’m talking about. It’s very hard to get a photo like this after the ceremony, because the bride and groom are usually pretty excited, plus the guests are generally hanging around, waiting to congratulate the couple.

And it’s very hard to coax an intimate moment out of a couple when dozens of people are watching and talking and taking pictures with their cellphones.

While we were making this photograph, all of the guests were seated in the church, waiting for the wedding to begin, so it was just me and Vesta and Laura and Jade. We couldn’t have asked for a better few moments to get this kind of portrait.


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When Vesta and I photograph a wedding ceremony, we try to get the emotional moments and we try to capture the images other wedding and portrait photographers might not think of, like the photograph above of Jade taking a private and personal moment before he goes into the main hall of the church to meet his guests as he awaits his groomsmen and his bride’s bridesmaids and his bride herself.

But to go back to emotional photograph for a moment. I’m not talking only about the kind of photographs were we see mom’s tears as her daughter says, “I do.” Or the proud smile on dad’s face as his daughter dances her first dance. I’m also talking about the emotion evoked when we see a photograph like Jade above, where he’s quietly and solemnly waiting, leaving the viewer to sense his anticipation.

These are the kind of photographs, the ones which show heartfelt emotion, that a couple will treasure for years to come. These are the ones they’ll think about and remember, the photographs that touch their hearts. 


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We’re are including this photo here with the few others we took out of the twenty-five hundred of so photographs and portraits we delivered to Jade and Laura even though it very similar to the one above, because it’s so similar. You see, Vesta and I took almost the same photograph. She was standing next to me and we both recognized the emotional aspect of the photo, we both wanted to record it, because we both knew it was important.


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When I see this photo and the photograph below, the first thing that comes to mind is Carly Simon’s song ‘Anticipation.’  You can see it on the bridesmaid’s faces and the groomsmen’s as well. And look at the flower girl, she’s obviously excited.


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And here is the moment Jade has been waiting for, to see his bride coming up the aisle in that fantastic wedding dress.

A lot of Jade and Laura’s guests came a long way for their weddings. Their photographers too. And getting there for this magic moment was almost hit and miss. We met with Jade and Laura a couple months before their date and told them we were going to fly, but they said it was a beautiful drive and that they’d never had a problem in April.

So, since we love road trips and since they were driving, we decided to drive too. But we were a bit worried, because when you’re a wedding photographer part of the deal is that you are there on the day. Period. Like a mailman, neither rain, sleet or snow, shall keep us way. Nor illness, one time Vesta and I were so sick with food poisoning that we felt like death warmed over, but we got out of our sick beds and photographed a wedding, because that’s what wedding photographers do, they show up, no matter what.


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And because we were worried and because we didn’t have weddings to photograph for the two weeks before Jade and Laura’s special day, we decided to take that extra week and leave two weeks early and it’s a good thing we did, because we got caught by a blizzard in Custer, South Dakota. So close, but we were stuck, hunkered down in a Motel 8 for three nail biting days.

But we made it to Minot a day before the magic day, which gave us more than enough time to rest up, get our bearings and to get shots like this one of Laura’s beautiful dress.


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Laura is poised, pretty and smiling as she arrives at the alter. Without a doubt, she’s a bride most beautiful.


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One of the photographs we always strive to get is when the father of the bride gives his daughter away. It’s a very memorable moment, one the bride will treasure forever. We also try to always capture the bride’s father as he sees his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress. Sometimes they smile or laugh and sometimes they tear up. The moment is always emotional.


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When I made the photograph above, I actually did it with black and white in mind. As a general rule, most of the photographs that I process in black and white, I plan that way when I shoot them. I don’t just shoot away willy nilly, then when I’m looking at the photographs afterward in Photoshop and Lightroom, say to myself, “this one would look good in black and white.”

No, no, no, I don’t do that. Well, I have on occasion processed a photograph that I’d planned on doing in color when I took it, because I saw the making of a good black and white photo.

And, if the bride and groom want it, and that’s happened more than once, I’ll process all of the photos in color and give them black and white files as well. I do that, because, well, because they’re paying me and the customer is always right, at least most of the time. So, when we get a bride who wants her wedding photos in black and white as well, she gets ‘em that way.

But I thought black and white for this photo, because I thought the sun lighting up the stained glass window with all those colors was taking something away from Jade and Laura, so I adjusted the exposure down a half a stop, thinking I’d get better contrast that way and more shadows, which I thought might make a more dramatic photograph.

Okay, okay, maybe those thoughts didn’t rush though my conscious mind, but I did adjust the exposure, because I wanted to process the photo in black and white, I just did it unconsciously, because I do it so often. I guess you could say, I’ve programmed myself.


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What I really like about black and white in both portrait and wedding photography is how sometimes the stark contrast between light and dark can really emphasize emotion, like in the photograph above.


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Laura and Jade got married in the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church and the pastor, a guy named Mark Frueh (pronounced “Free”) was very cool about photography. He showed as a passage that led around from the front of the alter, to behind it and he told us we were free to use it. So we were able to get photos from both sides of the ceremony.


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And because Pastor Frueh was so accommodating, we were able to get photographs from all three hundred and sixty degrees around wedding couple. I’m actually on the alter and behind the Laura and Jade here, but off to the side, so as not to be part of the ceremony. 

When you have two photographers, combined with a pastor and a couple who believe their photographs are the most important part of their day, you can get wonderful coverage and amazing photos. If every pastor, priest, minister, reverend and rabbi felt that way, wedding photography would be a whole lot easier.

I know, you might think the officiant would want wonderful photos and a lot do, but some have rules, like they don’t want us going behind them or to the side or they want us to stay in a certain spot. And I try not to break them, but if they’re confining and we can’t get the photos our bride wants, I often do and only once has a elderly priest given me a problem afterward.

“I’m sorry, Father,” I said, “but ten years from now, you’re most likely gonna be dead, but these young people will still be alive and they’ll have these photographs and they’ll see you in ‘em and they’ll remember you with a smile.” I smiled at him. “But if I’d’a been standing way over by the pillar, where you wanted me to be, the photos would’a been horrible and they’d’a blamed you and they’d’a remembered you with a frown.”

He looked at me, like no one had ever talked back to him before, then said, “Maybe I’ve been a bit restrictive.”

“You think?”

“Don’t push it.” Now he smiled and I like to think that he was a bit more like Pastor Frueh in his approach to wedding photography with the next wedding photographer who came before him.


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We drove to Minot to shoot Jade and Laura’s wedding, because we figured, what the heck, it’s only fifteen hundred miles. We were going to fly, but the chance for a road trip with rock and roll on the radio seemed too good to pass up. On reflection, maybe we should’ve taken a pass, because of the blizzard and all, but we didn’t.

After being stranded for three days in Custer, in that southern Dakota, we continued our road trip, making it to Minot before sundown. Some of the roads were slushy with snow, but our little Yaris handled them well.

Jade and Laura were staying at the Grand International Hotel on Broadway, so we figured we’d stay their too. However, they were full. Only an idiot drives halfway across the country, to a town bustling with oil people who are keeping the hotels full to the max, without a reservation.

We’re not idiots, but we messed up. I thought Vesta made the reservation and she thought I did. The desk clerk at the Grand said something like, “Good luck finding a place to stay in this town on such short notice.” I gave her a smile as we left, because she didn’t know that luck is our best friend.


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We walked right next door to the distinctly lower class, compared to the Grand anyway, Motel 8 and encountered the nicest guy from India you’d ever want to meet manning the desk. I told him we were like Mary and Joseph, stranded in a foreign land without a place to stay.

“You’re wife’s pregnant?” he said.

“Well no.”

“I have no manger.” He smiled. “But I just now got a cancelation.” He looked at the phone. “So this is your lucky day.”

We’re on the road a lot, Vesta and me, and we’re no strangers to Motel 8s. In fact, we’d just spent three days stranded in one back in Custer. And as far as motel 8s go, this one was top notch, plus the price was a third of what they wanted right next door at the Grand.

And being right next door meant that we didn’t even have to drive to the reception, which was why we wanted to stay at the Grand in the first place. Luck really is our best friend.

After we settled in, we walked back to the Grand and I exchanged smiles with the desk clerk, before telling her we were the wedding photographers for Jade and Laura’s wedding and could she tells us where it was being held, because we’d like to check the light.

“Did you find a room already?” She checked out our cameras.

“Yeah, next door.”

“You guys are pretty Lucky,” she said and we both just smiled, because we are. Then she told us how to get to the reception hall and there we met the guys who were setting it up and we spent a half hour or so with them, because they were really cool. I told them we wanted to check the lighting and they all wanted to be our models. They were really hams and there is nothing a photographer likes better than a ham.


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Vesta Irene Wedding and Portrait Photography, 1250 Ralston Street, Reno, NV 89503 
Phone: 775 393-9529