Pittsburgh

Summer Schenley Park Engagement | Leah & Glenn

Leah and Glenn are getting married this weekend and it’s time to look back and celebrate their engagement one last time before they tie the knot!  One of their favorite activities is going for a run together or taking a long walk with their dog, Kaia.  Last summer they were living in Pittsburgh and Schenley Park was one of their frequent evening hang outs.  We met up and walked the trail near Panther Hollow at sunset and caught the last vibrant colors of the evening on top of the overlook.  They even used the first photo below as their save the date they sent out to their wedding guests!

 

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Kaia frequently stole the show till their friends came by to pick her up so they could continue with photos dog-free.  Kaia happily trotted off to their car leaving us to feel like the parents whose kindergartner runs off with a smile and zero separation anxiety.

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That moment when you’re trying to smile and look casual and take some photos and your dog suddenly starts digging a giant hole to China in the middle of a public park!  I love outtakes!

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This might be my favorite photo of the three of them as a family.  No faces, but a great moment celebrating how they love to spend their time together.

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The best view of the city from Schenley Park is on the hill dubbed the overlook.  We made it there just as the last rays of sunlight were fading and the sunset colors lit up the clouds.  The city skyline in the distance begged for a silhouette shot.  I love how it turned out and will always be symbolic of the time they spent living together in Pittsburgh.  Since last year, Glenn has taken a position at Penn State and the three of them moved across PA and are now exploring trails and park together near State College!

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They’ll be back this week though for their wedding ceremony and reception at the Pittsburgh Aviary!  I can’t wait to hang out again 🙂

Point State Park Engagement Photos | Christina & Corey

Christina and Corey are getting married in just two days!  Today, we flash back to their engagement session last July in Pittsburgh.  We started out shooting with the skyline and dodging the geese along the north shore and then finished out the day with a spectacular sunset at Point State Park!  By the time we were done, we had crossed two bridges two times, walked from the science center to allegheny landing twice, highlighted their love of baseball at PNC park, and put in a total of four miles on the fitbit!

 

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We loved shooting through sunset because we could play with the light.  A good sunset yields soft natural light photos, colorful silhouettes, and the opportunity to use some off camera flash for special effects.  It’s a great reason to schedule your engagement session and your wedding photos to shoot through the golden hour in the evening!  (Bring snacks though, shooting hungry and walking four miles is not for the faint of heart!)

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Christina and Corey are tying the knot on friday at Succop Conservancy in Butler, PA!  We can’t wait to share their wedding!

Schenley Park Engagement Session | Becky & Matt

Two great people are getting married this week and they are sporting possibly the greatest wedding hashtag I’ve ever seen!  Meet the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. Matt Slippy who rolled onto facebook this week with their social media moniker #Slippywhenwed – BOOM!  Not only is it fabulous, but it’s Pittsburgh fabulous because when it’s icy out – other cities become slipp-er-y but here in Pittsburgh – roads and sidewalks get “slippy”.   Enough about our western Pennsylvania verbiage, let’s flash it all the way back to last fall when we met up in Pittsburgh for their Schenley Park engagement photos!

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There’s a hilarious story behind this photo.  As we’re standing there, (having scaled a small stone wall in order to position Becky and Matt with a bright orange tree behind them) wearing two cameras and with an assistant holding a flash and umbrella set up, a strange woman approaches us and proceeds to tell us how we can really improve the photo that we are taking.  She goes on for 5 minutes explaining that she just took her daughter’s engagement photos herself and that if you have the couple really stare into each others eyes and just make the best expression while they hold the ring out towards the camera, that it’s the best photo you can take.  Once she stood there and waited for us to follow her directions she approved the shot and then continued down the sidewalk.  Nothing like a Pittsburgh mom to want to help EVERYONE.  I didn’t mind, I just felt a little perplexed that even with all that gear that we didn’t look like we knew what we were doing?  Oh well, a little unsolicited advice never hurt, right?  Plus, the shot did come out pretty cute 😉

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A stop at Phipp’s conservatory’s hall of botany is a must as part of any schenley park engagement.  I told Matt to whisper something romantic in Becky’s ear.  Not sure how romantic whatever he said was, but it was definitely entertaining!  phipps-conservatory-photo-session

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We ended the night at Flagstaff Hill overlooking Oakland.  It was a great night and I can’t wait to celebrate with you all this weekend!

Surprise proposal revealed!

This story starts with a ring under the Christmas tree in station square on New Years Eve 2015.  Megan had been working as a wedding coordinator for Lingrow Farm, that’s how she and I met, but she met Johnny in Station Square years before that.  They were both attending St. Vincent University and working for the Event and Conference Services Department.  If I remember the story right, Megan was driving the shuttle and saw Johnny waiting to be picked up on the curb.  It wasn’t long before they were back at Station Square on their first date, and three years later I got an email from Johnny that he had a plan.  These two St. Vincent alumni were getting married, Megan just didn’t know it yet.  Johnny explained that he would be home from DC for New Years and was going to take Megan out to dinner in Station Square and pop the question under the big Christmas tree outside the Hard Rock Cafe.  When he asked if I was up for secretly photographing the surprise proposal ninja-style and keeping it a total secret for over a year, I said ABSOLUTELY!

His plan was to surprise Megan on the morning of their wedding with a framed photo from their secretly photographed surprise proposal!

So I had to invent a secret email account so that I could communicate with Johnny in the days leading up to New Years.  Pittsburgh weather was abnormal as usual.  The temperature was about 20 degrees with a windchill near zero and there was no snow on the ground.  In keeping with wedding off season tradition, I had come down with pneumonia a few days prior and felt like I was slowly dying of the plague.  Like all fabulous productions though, the show must go on.  My normal plan of attack when it comes to a surprise proposal is to blend into the crowd of strangers until just the right moment then jump out and start shooting.  It worked great for Chad & Leslie’s proposal at the fountain at the point!  Of course Leslie had never met me before and had no idea what I looked like anyways.  Then there was the time I shot Brad & Kylie’s proposal after dark at the Christmas tree in Saxonburg, but again – Kylie had never met me , it was dark, and the town Christmas parade was going on so I had some cover.  This time would be different because Megan knew my face and there would be no jumping out and yelling surprise – we would have to stay out of sight the whole time and be completely under the radar for a whole year.  We were going to need disguises.

Remember that scene from Jim Carrey’s Fun with Dick and Jane when he goes out to rob the convenience store?  That’s the look I was going for.  I got pretty close, right?

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So the day arrives and it was colder than frigid.  Sean offered to drive me to Pittsburgh and sit with me on the stake out since I was so sick.  We parked in the garage, snuck around the side of the building 45 minutes early hoping to scope out the perfect spot to blend into the crowd of holiday shoppers and party-goers.  We rounded the corner and this is what we saw:  AB-SO-LUTELY nothing.  The crowd of people I was supposed to hide in obviously hadn’t gotten the memo or all had better things to do on a -3 degree windchill afternoon than stand in the wind by a freezing river.

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Our disguises were good, but they weren’t THAT good.  It was going to be hard not to be recognized when we were the only other human beings in the entire plaza when Megan and johnny showed up.  We needed to take cover.  Luckily, irony provided us with the perfect location – the abandoned photo booth outside of Bar Louie.  It was the only thing to hide behind other than a trash can so that had to be it.  So there we were, squatting inside a run down photo booth in the cold like a homeless James Bond waiting for our targets to show up.

Meanwhile, Johnny had received my text that we were on location ready to go and was trying to nonchalantly convince Megan to go stand around in the cold by the Christmas tree without giving away the fact that he was about to ask her something VERY important.  We saw them enter the plaza from our hiding place.  I was so afraid Megan would spot us and ruin the surprise.  They stood there and talked a minute, took a few selfies, then Johnny took Megan’s hands and I knew he was going for it.  In this moment he was totally running on faith that we were in the right spot and ready and were going to get all of this since he hadn’t seen us and had no idea where we were.  Megan’s eyes widened a little even before he reached into his pocket.  When he dropped down to one knee, her hands covered her face in disbelief.

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At this point, I wish we had the go pro with us because there was only enough room for me to poke one eye and my camera lens through the opening to shoot, so Sean couldn’t see a thing and didn’t get to watch any of it unfold.  Luckily, I can read lips and was narrating for him under my breath.  “Ok he’s going for it, he’s on the knee, she’s covering face, *lip reading* “Is this for real? o my god, o my god, is this really happening?” Ok the ring is on her hand, he’s up, they’re hugging, there’s a lot of crying.”  You have to keep it together when you’re shooting a surprise proposal even though you feel like every hair on your head is standing on end willing you to get the shot.  Did I mention it was -3 degrees out?

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Once he had asked and she had enthusiastically said yes, they hung around for quite a while enjoying the moment.  Johnny’s sister, Kathleen, had been standing by to capture the proposal by phone for instant photos and was hiding out inside the hard rock.  She stepped out got some photos of them together and they talked for a while.  By this point I think I had lost feeling in both of my hands and was just gripping my camera with a frozen claw.

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We knew they were headed to dinner afterwards nearby and was afraid of running in to them on the way to the car so we skittered into Bar Louie to warm up a minute.  When we had thawed out, we left and Sean drove me directly to Med Express for antibiotics.  Later that night, Megan called to tell me Johnny had proposed and I had to pretend I had no idea and asked a ton of questions about how it happened.  Megan had no idea we had been there the whole time.

Fast forward now through a whole year – we celebrated their engagement with photos in all four seasons.  We traveled to Washington D.C. where Johnny works and would turn out to be their future home for a sunrise engagement session at the cherry blossom festival.  In summer, we honored Pittsburgh tradition with a night time photos under the lights at Kennywood (they actually got featured around valentine’s day this year for Kennywood love stories!).  When the leaves changed, Johnny was home for the weekend and we all got up early the morning after a wedding double header and hiked a mile into the woods for photos inside a waterfall along the Allegheny river.  The winter photo session was the hardest.  Megan’s plan was to go back to station square in the snow under the Christmas tree, but Mother Nature was uncooperative.  Wedding planning was kicking up a notch, work was busy for Johnny, and it just wouldn’t snow.  Then we postponed because the high temperature for the day was zero degrees. Then postponed again, no snow.  By the time we shot their winter Pittsburgh engagement session at Station Square, the Christmas tree where they had gotten engaged had been taken down for the year.  I knew Megan was a little disappointed, but I also knew she was just a few months away from a great surprise!

So what happened when the surprise was finally revealed?

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Megan’s reaction when the surprise proposal photos were finally revealed,  “are you SERIOUS?” followed by joy, followed by happy tears.  It was fantastically rewarding to see a year worth of planning and secret keeping come to fruition.

If you or someone you know is planning a surprise proposal, you don’t have to trust your memories to a dark blurry cell phone photo that can never be blown up.  I’ll hide out in the bushes and capture it all in crystal clear detail so that you can frame it and always look at it and remember 🙂

Pittsburgh Winter Engagement Session | Megan & John

We waited three months for snow this winter to shoot  Megan and John’s pittsburgh winter engagement session.  It was the fourth and final installment of their four season engagement series that began last spring in Washington DC at the Cherry Blossom Festival.  After rescheduling many times, either because there was no snow, or because the windchill was below zero, we decided to take the last week of winter and make it work!  Our plan was to revisit the site where Johnny proposed in front of the Hard Rock Cafe Christmas tree in Station Square.  Since the trees were already down, we explored the nearby Smithfield Street bridge.  I loved the way Megan’s red peacoat looked with the blue bridge supports!  Don’t let their comfortable smiles fool you, it was FREEZING!

 

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Just when we thought we were going to succumb to hypothermia, we discovered a campfire burning outside of Bar Louie and stopped to warm up!

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After a dash across town to pittsburgh’s north side, (and two failed parallel parking attempts later), we made it to Allegheny Landing for some shots with the city’s night lights.  The frostbite was worth it!

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Just a few months now and we will hopefully be enjoying warm spring weather and lots of flowers at their wedding in May!

Tips for being photographed in cold weather (and surviving a Pittsburgh winter engagement session!):

  • Dress to be outside! That means coats, scarves, boots, gloves – not only will you be more comfortable (which makes you good looking), you’ll also look like you fit into the environment better!  Coat-less outfits look awkward in the snow.
  • Plan to stay close to the car or near buildings where you can duck in and out for quick breaks to warm up. No one wants to look like rudolph in their photos!
  • Limit your locations and outfits.  Let’s face it, it’s just more challenging to get things done when you’re fighting the elements!  Instead of three pairs of pants or skirts, plan to keep the same base layers on and just change things up with accessories or swapping for a different coat.
  • Hot chocolate. Or a Starbucks run!
  • If you can’t get indoors to warm up, carry hand warmers in your pockets to keep your fingers from going numb AND you can cup your hands around your face with the hand warmer to blow warmed air onto your cheeks and nose to fight off redness!

Pittsburgh winter wedding | Courtney + Matt

I’m going to warn you right at the beginning of this post, I am sharing a TON of photos from Courtney and Matt’s Pittsburgh winter wedding ! Though Mother Nature didn’t give us any snow, she did bless us with a beautiful 50 degree day at the end of January!  It was a real treat to have sunshine, clear roads, and blue skies over the city!

The day started off with a brunch at Courtney’s parents’ house for the girls while everyone got their hair and make up done.

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Courtney’s mom and her sister, Lindsey, helped her into her dress.

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The photos during this ‘getting ready’ portion of every wedding day are always some of my favorite.

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We always make time for a few family portraits before the excitement of the day takes over.

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The ceremony was held at Calvary United Methodist Church on Pittsburgh’s north side.  We met up with Matt and the guys before the guests arrived for some photos.

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Lately we’ve started saving the funny shots that don’t make the final cut into an “outtakes” folder.  Great for laughs and to remind us that things don’t always go according to plan.  It’s all fun and games till someone spills the Altoids!

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Courtney arrived with the girls on the limo bus and they waited in the back hallway for the guests to be seated before starting down the aisle.  I love this shot Ashley got of Courtney stepping through the doors into the sanctuary.

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I don’t usually post a ton of photos from indoor church formals, but the light coming through the stained glass windows at Calvary United was beautiful the way it fell on the altar.

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It was wonderful to have such a beautiful sanctuary to shoot in after the wedding, especially since it was winter and it could have been below zero outside!  We actually changed the game plan for photos after the ceremony.  Originally we were going to a park hoping for snow on the ground, but since it was so warm that snow was mostly mud.  (Pittsburgh after the snow melts is not so pretty till the grass grows back.)  We decided since the church had so many great spots for photos both inside and out that we’d just stay there longer and skip the park all together!  It worked out perfectly 🙂

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Who would have thought we could have been outside, sleeveless in January!?

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One of the most special moments of the day was when a friend of Courtney’s was kind enough to wrangle all three of their dogs into the car and bring them down to the church so that we could get some true family photos with all of their fur kids!   Tootsie was so happy to see Courtney and Matt, she gave out kisses!

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Since Courtney and Matt planned plenty of time for photos into their wedding day, we were able to take our time at the church and still get down by the water along the north shore.  The river had big chunks of ice floating by.

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Photobombing!  We even got buzzed by the river police in a scene straight out of the movie Striking Distance.

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We finished up photos and headed to the reception just a few blocks away at Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory.  They offer a beautiful winter wonderland package with lighted trees in the off-peak season.  Courtney  put a lot of thought into the details of their reception and it looked amazing!  It may have been 50 degrees outside, but it was a Frozen castle inside the great hall!

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Matt and his Mom sharing a dance together.

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Let’s talk about this outstanding traditional pittsburgh cookie table.  Pizzelles, chocolate covered oreos, and iced snowflakes; it was a fabulous spread with a giant ice sculpture as its centerpiece.  Working in the wedding industry, you become something of a cookie table connoisseur.   These families have really set the bar high for all the cookie tables to live up to this year!

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Courtney had a gorgeous fur cape that we wanted to photograph as our last shot of the night 🙂  It was a perfect send off for a Pittsburgh winter wedding !

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To see more of Courtney and Matt’s story, check out their Hartwood Acres engagement session.

 

Ceremony: Calvary United Methodist Church, Pittsburgh

Reception:  Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory

Entertainment:  PJ the DJ of Entertainment Unlimited

Sara & Josh | Magical Harry Potter Themed Engagement Session

When Josh and Sara contacted me to shoot their wedding, they said they wanted to do something a little different for their engagement photos.  They are both devoted Harry Potter fans.  Josh even proposed in Orlando at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by leading Sara on what she thought was an official tourist scavenger hunt contest put on by AAA travel.  Actually, it was a clever document Josh put together with a graphic designer friend.  They scoured the park trying to locate all of the Horcruxes, the last of which was a ring.  Sara approached the cart and asked the worker if she had the ring, to which the lady replied “I don’t have the ring, but he might.”  When Sara turned around, Josh was holding a wand box, and when she opened it there was a diamond ring on the wand inside with a note that read “Always.”  He got down on one knee and proposed and afterwards Sara learned that EVERYONE had been in on it all day!  We decided that a magical Harry Potter themed engagement session was the only way to celebrate.  They had their wands from Universal Studios, all we needed was a castle.  Luckily, I knew just where to find one 🙂

 

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The Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus was the perfect backdrop with lots of dark stairwells, gargoyles, and even a great hall.  With a little bit of magic lighting it made for a great Hogwarts castle.

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What’s a magical harry potter themed engagement session without a little wand play?  Big thanks to Christina Montemurro for her assistance with magical lighting that day.  Recreating the glow of torches and candlelight combined with all the colors and spells one would expect from a magic castle was no easy feat!  Especially in a space that photographer’s will tell you is lit by pretty much nothing.  (I do love a challenge 😉

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Magical practical jokes.

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If someone cast a love spell on these two, it certainly worked.

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We were trying for killing curse, but may have ended up with a sneezing curse instead…LOL.

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It was a ton of fun planning out and shooting this session.  As Professor McGonagall would say, a little light-hearted frivolity never hurt anybody 😉

Besides, what is love but believing in magic?

Happy Wedding Week to Josh and Sara, can’t for those Unbreakable Vows on saturday 🙂