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April & Jake's Epic Desert Wedding


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to work at Starbucks. Following a management gig with the company's one of five amazing Hear Music Coffeehouse stores (the one in Santa Monica); I stepped down to a barista position to follow my passion for photography professionally and transferred to a store in Hollywood, a mere 5-minute walk from where I used to live. I remember my very first day, I was the fourth partner to join an assistant manager, a shift supervisor and a seasoned barista on the floor that day. Within 5 minutes I walked in, all three of them commanded me to do something. I obliged as I did know that they did not only not know me, they also had no idea that I had a management experience and I was myself a seasoned barista, but I did think to myself "Great! I have three new bosses!". The legendary crew of that Hollywood & Highland store was under the incredibly efficient management of an awesome individual and most, if not all of the partners working there during that time were absolutely fantastic human beings. Many of these wonderful souls are still present in my life and I am happy and proud to call them friends. This seemingly unrelated anecdote brings us to Jake, the experienced barista who gave me the third command on that first morning I worked at the Starbucks store in Hollywood & Highland...

...who got married to April in the beginning of this month...

The wedding was in Pioneertown, CA; a unique desert city near Yucca Valley. My wife Jennifer and I headed to this lovely small town in the middle of nowhere a day early, leaving our daughter in the capable hands of her grandma, and joined the engaged couple and their families for a BBQ on the eve of their wedding day.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and a soul nourishing conversation at Frontier Café with a couple of the groom's relatives. Then we headed back up to our hotel room to get ready for the shoot. We made sure to stop by on the road to scout a location where we could do quick portraits of the couple after the ceremony.

We first went to see April to capture the beautiful bride's preparations and the usual wedding detail shots in a highly unusual environment.

She was getting ready with the bridesmaids, enjoying champagne in the lovely cottage they rented for their wedding.

When we got word Jake and his groomsmen were also getting ready in their room and we were sure that Jake was tucked away (the couple decided to see each other at the altar for the first time that day), we took the ladies out in front of the iconic Pioneertown Motel to pay homage to an iconic album cover of an iconic band. Jen and I love to shoot together. While one of us direct the people we are photographing, the other one grabs the candids. The results are always fun.

And here is the beautiful bride right before the ceremony.

Another fun fact about this wedding is that I already knew 3 of the groomsmen... Before I give you the story how I got to know them, let me tell you this: I used to try to keep a chronological order to wedding blogs I was doing, but I stopped that this year for practical reasons and therefore, I have not yet published a blog for Alexis and Jeremy's wedding (which will totally happen this summer and I'll make sure to link it up here). Well, Jeremy was Jake's best man. Jake officiated Jeremy and Alexis' ceremony. Two of the other groomsmen, Anthony and Eric, were also among Jeremy's groomsmen, so it was great to shoot these guys again in a different setting. Eric also created an epic video highlight, which you can find at the end of this page.

Speaking of the wedding party, let's meet them, shall we?

The ceremony was held behind the Pioneertown Motel, by a joshua tree. Right before the guests filled up the seats, I decided to shoot the details of the ceremony with a wide open aperture in order to achieve the signature 3D look with that creamy shallowness.

And here are some lovely moments from the ceremony.

Jennifer and I had so much fun with this wedding, I did not want to stop after it was over. So, while I was getting all the photos ready to deliver to April and Jake, I prepared the following photos as social media teasers.

And I must say: contrary to the belief of a Facebook commentator, Jake's left leg was not lost during the edit process, it is behind April's dress.

Then we had some fun with the entire wedding party at the Pioneertown's unique setting.

When it was time to focus on the couple, we did take a few quick shots at this desert town before we took the newlyweds to the location Jennifer and I scouted in the morning. Jen drove the car, dropped us all off on the highway and we took these shots.

When we got back to Pioneertown, it was time for April & Jake's Grand Entrance, which would lead to their first dance. These love birds had a surprise for their guests: a professionally choreographed dance number. So, they felt the urge to practice those moves on their walk from where we parked the car to the barn where the reception took place.

Following an abundance of dancing, and the formalities of the reception, we made sure to take the couple out for a quick ghostly night time photo.

As I promised, here is the amazing video Eric made. You can see Eric's work and contact him on his website.

Now, going back to the little story about that first morning at the Hollywood & Highland Starbucks store... The assistant manager I talked about is tying the knot next week in Hawaii. I'll let you guess who will be shooting her wedding.

#DesertWedding #JoshuaTree #WeddingPhotography #Pioneertown #Starbucks #HearMusic

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