I just returned home after a 2 week vacation in Europe and I am so relaxed! Of course I took a ton of pictures that I want to share with you. Don’t worry, unlike your uncle I will not bore you to death with 10,000 pictures of the same thing over and over. I’ve carefully selected just 34 to show you from the entire 15 day trip. Narrowing down images to the very best is a lost art but one that I feel is important. This process of narrowing down, or “culling” as its referred to professionally, is time consuming but lets the viewer see only the very best. It’s like when you go to an expensive restaurant and they give you small portions of carefully decorated and arranged food that looks like art versus going to Golden Corral and having lots of food slopped together in a messy plate. When your uncle shows you 10,000 vacation pictures its like the Golden Corral of photography. No one wants to look at that. I want to show you just enough to give you a glimpse of the sights we saw.
As I took these images I couldn’t help to reflect on the parallels of vacation photography and wedding photography. Both are once in a lifetime experiences. I will probably never, or at least not for a very long time, be able to return to Scotland or Spain just like a bride cannot recreate her wedding experience. The whole thing is priceless. Another thing I noticed is that although photography is obviously really important to me it was not the most important thing. This vacation was primarily about getting away to new places. It was about spending time with my wife, Shaleen, and with my parents who joined us. The time I spent with my wife and the experience of exploring new places trumped photography. Photography only has meaning if it reminds you of beautiful times so therefore the experience itself is the ultimate prize and photography only has meaning as it relates to that. The parallel with wedding photography became crystal clear in my mind.
Many brides have told me over the years how important photography was to them and that it was their highest priority, yet with this new found revelation in my mind being crystal clear I must think that the brides must have meant that photography was the most important thing only after the wedding experience itself. The celebration of marriage surrounded by family and friends must be the priority above all things. Only by having that perspective in place does photography have its proper meaning and value. If photography becomes more important than the people and experience then the whole thing is distorted and looses meaning. Photography as the number one priority above the experience becomes a warped, narcissistic thing where it’s all about looking like Vogue models at the expense of enjoying a once in a lifetime occasion with loved ones. It would be like me going on vacation and camping out in one spot for 8 hours without exploring the city so that I can get that one perfect sunset. If I did that I would loose all the joy in vacationing with my wife. As obvious as this sounds I see that this is a really important distinction between me and some other photographers and between my clients and other clients. I want clients who value photography as a priority but not that they would value photography over the wedding experience. The best images I’ve ever taken, the best clients I’ve ever had have all valued photography but they have valued the priceless time with their family and friends more. They’ve wanted amazing images but they’ve wanted to have an unforgettable day even more. That is precisely why the images of those events have been so amazing, because there are moments captured of people who are genuinely happy and in love with life. The right perspective was there from the beginning allowing me to capture amazing images. Photography in those cases was in the proper priority as second to the people and the experience. There are other clients, however, who really want a Vogue fashion shoot more than they want a celebration of life and love. I’m not afraid to write this because I’m really not interested in those clients. There are other photographers who service that clientele really well. They have gorgeous Vogue-like portraits yet the candid images of love and laughter are either nonexistent or terribly captured because the priorities have been inverted. Don’t get me wrong, I love to capture beautiful portraits of my clients that make them look like rock stars but to me that should never be the priority above the celebration itself, just like in my vacation capturing images should not be a priority above having the time of my life with my wife and family.
I did not sit in one spot for 8 hours waiting for clouds to form or suns to rise or whatever. I took these images at the time and the places that were in our itinerary. We went where we wanted to go and had fun wherever we went and these images were captured at the time and places where we happened to be. Because of this, these are not and will not be the very best images of Scotland or Spain that anyone has ever seen but they are beautiful and priceless to me. They are the best images that could have been taken at those times and places in our vacation without interfering with the fun or joy that we had. It wasn’t a photo shoot, it was a vacation. Anything else would have been a distortion to what a vacation is. I thank God that we didn’t loose that perspective and instead focused on whats important. I thank God for all the amazing clients who have done the same and allow me to be the second most important thing in their wedding.
On to the pictures…
The trip started in Edinburgh, Scotland. I found out the hard way its pronounced, ed’n-burough. Edinburgh has a modern spirit trapped inside a gothic skyline from the 16th century. Very cool city. As in most of Scotland, the weather is unpredictable, often gloomy yet beautiful. The air was brisk but not too cold.
A portrait of my wife on a tall hill in Edinburgh. One of my favorite memories, seeing my wife in the land of her ancestors.
Scotland is divided into two geographies and lifestyles, if you will, the lowlands and the highlands. The lowlands are the lands of architecture, gothic rooftops, business people, city life. The lowlands are the land of Mary Queen of Scots and royalty. The highlands are lush, green pastures, wild herd of sheep, dramatic skies, lakes (lochs), ancient rocks breaking through neon green, moss-like grass. The highlands are the lands of William Wallace and family clans tracing back their ancestry for centuries.
The Isle of Skye in all its beauty.
We borderline risked our lives to get to see this waterfall. It was at the bottom of a steep cliff and hiking down muddy, narrow trails on the side of this mountain was really dangerous but it was so worth it!
This is probably my favorite vacation shot just because it was so difficult. My wife kept laughing at me for being obsessed with taking sheep pictures. I’m known for my ninja photography skills but sneaking up on a sheep is not easy. It definitely put my sneaky photography skills to the test. Can you imagine a better sheep life than this? Waking up to this paradise everyday!
This is the Eileen Donan Castle. After being destroyed in battle, this castle, the version you see here, was rebuilt by the McRae clan which is my wife’s bloodline. I tried explaining that to the visitor ticket center for the castle but they still wouldn’t let us in for free.
After 5 days exploring Scotland we arrived in Madrid, Spain. Madrid is a city of kings and cathedrals, a city of history and culture, a city of heavy traffic on foot and cars. It’s a fast moving city that hurries to then stop to take it easy. It’s like New York except more relaxed and all the architecture is from the 1500′s.
The royal palace of Madrid.
How would you like to have your wedding reception here?
The cathedral of Madrid. How about this for a church ceremony site?
Night time in Madrid.
We then went to Toledo for a day trip. Toledo is an old city with a lot of history. It’s architecture is heavily influenced from the days of the Moors conquering Spain more than a thousand years ago.
The wine cellar under the restaurant where we ate lunch. Amazing!
We then spent 2 days in Sevilla towards the South of Spain. Sevilla is another old city with Moor influence and a lot of beauty.
In Sevilla’s cathedral, the 3rd largest in the world, I saw a bride getting out of her limo and walking in. I couldn’t help but get emotional and transported to my “wedding mode”. I had to take a picture of this beautiful girl about to get married. I couldn’t get closer because of security ropes but still love the bride framed by the giant doors of this massive cathedral.
The underground baths of the real Alcazar.
Back in Madrid for the last night…
My vacation was an amazing time of reflection, peace, beautiful photography but above all time well spent enjoying life with my wife!