Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jon and Amanda: When love makes you crazy

"My heart was closed for a long time, and she reopened it."

The story of Jon and Amanda's love, which culminated in their Sept. 19 wedding in Wilmette, IL, is one of unexpected stops and starts. As they told me in our pre-wedding interview, they met, dated, broke up, tried to find something right with someone else, couldn't, and spent some time apart and alone.

After breaking up in 2007, they remained friends and always texted each other. It gets interesting in late August 2008.

"The second time around, Jon swept me off my feet."

But he had to do it with a little caution, since he had an ankle brace at the time.

Both bride and groom are competitors, and in the summer of '08, Amanda asked him about running with her in The Human Race in Chicago. Jon agreed, but on a training jog, he sprained his ankle.

The injury was severe enough to require a brace. Jon did not tell her about it until the met the morning of the event, after she asked what that thing around his ankle was. As he told me, he knew that if he backed out on her, for any reason, she would call him a wuss. If you doubt that, read on.

(Logan, the uber-photogenic flower girl)

Jon made it through the entire course, though he did have to walk a few spells. Both found the slower pace surprisingly enjoyable, as they spent the entire time talking like they had been seeing each other every day.

They reached the finish line — and Jon was feeling something he had not expected at the start line. He wanted to kiss her.

He didn't. That was Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008.

(Immediately following the first kiss: the first high-five)

The next day, Jon sent her a text: "I told her I wished I would have kissed her."

She texted back: "I said 'What are you, chicken?'"

By Tuesday, Jon was going insane. He called the Starbucks where Amanda works and asked what time she would start the next day. Amanda was opening the Starbucks in Skokie at 5 a.m.

Jon lives in Hoffman Estates. He left at 4 a.m.

"You're so stupid," she declared as he walked through her shop's door, "what are you doing here at 5 a.m.?"

He had come to collect that kiss.

"Who's chicken now?" he said before leaving his once-again girlfriend.

During our interview, Amanda confessed to being a little tough at times. She needs it: She coaches the Evanston Wildkits softball team.

"I'm on overdrive 24-7. Jon's the laid back, observant one."

(Jon and Amanda walked into their reception to the Notre Dame fight song, then did a victory lap around the head table)

And she made clear her gratitude for his patience.

"Nobody has ever treated me the way Jon has treated me," she began. "It's an unselfish love. I'm not always easy."

(Toward the end of one of the liveliest dances I've ever photographed, Paul the DJ played "Friends In Low Places")

But, as Jon made clear, she will now always be his, regardless of whether she makes it tough or easy.

"I told myself if I got another chance, I would just go all out," he said. "That's what I did."

"Everything has fallen into place.

"Every time that I see her, I smile. I wish it had happened a lot sooner."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tony and Rachelle: nothing could go wrong

(This is how I got 12 pictures of the first kiss, and 22 of the second...)

The moment has arrived: Tony and Rachelle have made their vows in front of a garden full of witnesses, the minister has declared them husband and wife, and it is time for him to give his bride their first kiss. And, like every other non-incompetent photographer, I start with a few zoomed-in shots, then pull back and get some wider shots of the crowd standing and cheering.

Seconds go by, I'm clicking away...Tony and Rachelle keep kissing. They spin 180 degrees, still in each others' arms. I get a few more shots. They keep kissing.

I get bored. They keep kissing. I switch from my long lens back to the short...they're still kissing. I move to a different location, and they're still kissing. I pull out my phone, check my e-mail, check the Cubs score (they lost), update my Facebook status ("OMG, this is the longest first kiss ever! Go Tony go!"), pick the camera up and get some shots of them FINALLY coming up for air.

And that was not even the coolest moment of the ceremony.

The coolest moment came two seconds before Rachelle's entrance. The sun was going down, and the garden's entrance was west of the seating, meaning all the guests were looking straight into the sun as the wedding party walked in. Everyone not wearing sunglasses was covering their eyes and squinting.

I loved it — I was set up behind the entrance, getting pictures of the party's shadows as they walked through the gable, which I thought looked really cool.

But, when Rachelle and her father were about to walk in, I put my camera back up to my eye, and everything was dark, and they were casting no shadows.

Two seconds before the bride walked in, a giant cloud floated in front of the sun. All the guests had a perfect view as the radiant beauty entered.

And that's all you really need to know about this wedding — the difficulties are just funny memories now. Sure, it was 92 degrees and near-100 humidity all day...big deal.

Yeah, so the skies opened and the flash flood forced the outdoor ceremony indoors. Then the rain disappeared as suddenly as it showed up, and the crew rushed out to dry off the seats and move the ceremony back outside. So the band had to play unplugged — they still sounded great.

None of that mattered when these two started to kiss.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rick Biordi Band and The Game

The Rick Biordi Band chose the Park West Theater as the venue for their CD release party. The group introduced fans to their 3-song E.P., "Blink Of An Eye," which Rick said was inspired by the far-too-soon death of a close friend to cancer.

Rock outfit The Game opened up for them...

Then Rick took the stage...

...followed by lead singer Jay Johnson and the crew.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A tribute to the fallen king

I am friends with the owners of Local-Motions Performing Arts Organization, and in August their students put on a show to pay tribute to the late Michael Jackson. I had never covered dance as an artistic performance, and I regret to report that the students actually looked much better than what you see here — because they were too quick, and I kept missing the best moments!

This was a tough assignment, though, as the performers wore mainly black costumes, in front of a primarily black backdrop.

All ages, multiple styles of dance...

The finale: the Thriller dance!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Harlequins CD release party at Southgate House

The Harlequins brought me back to Cincinnati for the release of their debut CD, Baron Von Headless, on Grasshopper Juice.

And man am I glad...look at this place!!

And the inside was even better — the wrap-around balcony offered angles from above and below the stage in almost 360 degrees.

There were four bands playing that night, starting with Wonky Tonk:

The Flux Capacitors (coolest band name I've heard in a while):

The Harlequins:

And The Happy Maladies ("Mal-a-deez," not "My-ladies"):