Joey and Kaitlin Kalan
In college, you often lose contact with people from home. It’s not willful or intentional – it just happens. Distance leads to separation, and when you’re laden with responsibilities it becomes difficult to upkeep those relationships. When Torrey and I met with Joey and Kaitlin to take their engagement photographs, I let Torrey do most of the talking. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say, but I was curious to see how they had changed. Most of what I knew revolved around the knowledge that they attended different schools – Kaitlin in Wisconsin, and Joey in Missouri – or as the pastor of their ceremony said, four years and four hundred miles… After a few minutes, we fell into a groove and I recognized that both of them had grown extensively, but never lost the honesty and kindness I remembered. If anything, those qualities had become more prominent as their relationship evolved. The shoot went smooth, and later I was asked to photograph at their wedding.
It was gonna’ be my first wedding: the photographic gauntlet that culls the weak image-makers from the herd, but they asked for a journalistic approach from me, which I’m familiar with. I worked in tandem with the wondrous team of Megan and Gabe Eckers from Wildlove Photography. They shot the more formal stuff, so head on over there to check that out when it’s up. Having two good hearts to talk shop and f-stops with certainly eased my early nerves.
On top of general butterflies, I was working with a new camera – the Canon 7D. It’s faster than my 30D and eats memory storage like a starving hippo. I bought a new CF (compact flash) card on the fly at Wal-mart, which started to cry foul and spout errors in the middle of shooting. I panicked briefly, but only lost two or three pictures before I realized the camera was overpowering the card. Proudly, I shook my head and stuck my eye back in the viewfinder, rather than moan (ok, I moaned a little, but quietly). I kept shooting. Image was dark. Drag the shutter. Camera was beeping. Off. Issues with the focus. Adjust. I quickly was in the ballpark and started to look, really look – and with the 7D’s 100% viewfinder I was able to see a lot more than I was used to.
I saw Kaitlin lean against her husband-to-be, a gentle touch amidst all the hectic preparation. You see, weddings aren’t built in a day. They take long months of planning and second-guessing. Many situations to balance, and only so many minutes in the day. Now, couple that with a job and college classes. Yikes. Good thing they’ve been chillin’ in Colorado for the last week. And, although weddings are buckets of stress, they create heartfelt moments by the boatload. They bring families together, and both families kept a good sense of humor; everyone laughed when Mark stared down his future son-in-law during the rehearsal.
At each passing glance, I saw Noah, Kaitlin’s new nephew, in the hands of a different family member, handed from his mother and grandpa to uncle Eric. He was a bright second star of the day, only outshone by the dashing couple. And from what I could see, he behaved wonderfully – plenty of smiles to share.
Joey’s parents sat in the second row, watching their son with quiet pride. I didn’t get to speak with them as much as I did the Arjes family, but I never saw them sans smile. During the worship portion of the ceremony they stood behind the new couple, and I have to say it was a remarkable sight. The level of joy that I saw in each and every Kalan… It was a struggle to not simply watch it unfold and forget I had a camera to work. I saw a strength in their eyes that day.
I ended up in the center aisle most of the ceremony, crouched: I wasn’t sure when they would exchange rings, or have their first kiss, but I knew where I wanted to be when it happened. Oh, and I learned that crouching for that long is painful. My legs were sore for the next four days (and stairs became my mortal nemesis). At that distance, I stuck with the 50mm, f1.8 lens due to the darkness of the church. It gave me enough zoom to stay off the stage, but I had to hover around the first few rows. I think I ripped a piece of the aisle cloth during my fussing (sorry, Kaitlin!). My ISO stayed around 1600-2000, in order to make sure I could see. Grainy > black frame.
And see I did. The kiss on stage was only the beginning. Throughout the reception, people clinked their glasses, urging the two to kiss. And kiss. Joey’s little sister, Amy, I’m pretty sure she started it more than once. They way I saw her look up at Kaitlin as the two held hands, I could see she was overjoyed to be gaining a sister.
What struck me the greatest was how the light interacted with Kaitlin throughout her wedding day. The church was dim and the reception hall was dark to the camera’s eye, but Kaitlin radiated in some manner of ethereal, graceful light. It wasn’t a high glamour light, but she physically took hold and shaped it. It continuously fell on her in gentle fashion, daring me to make a bad frame, which I failed to do. Anything she touched was golden. Including Joey.
The reception was held at the Holiday Inn out near Cabela’s, and their ballroom was packed wall-to-wall. A small dance floor was set-up on one end, but hidden. They later shuffled tables to make room as people got their groove on. The main table was elevated, so everyone could view the newlyweds after they made their grand entrance. I would talk about the food, but to be honest, I never sat down. It was mostly sweets scattered about, but I did get a piece of ice-cream cake the following day, and was told that Joey isn’t big on typical cake. Fun Joey fact.
I enjoyed watching Joey and Kaitlin react to the toasts. I attempted to take subtle, sneaky pictures by casually walking behind them (caught) and popping up in front of the table while they were distracted. They humored me very well. After the toasts and the slideshow, people’s feet started to wiggle, and the dance was one of the best I’ve been a part of. The crowd stayed until the very deep of the night, with DJ Johnny B. Good settin’ the beat.
I’m very grateful to have been a part of Kaitlin and Joey’s wedding. To see two friends overcome the odds of long-distance and flourish… I wish them the best. And in the words of Mr. Feeny, “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”