L.A.-based photographer Alex Richardson met newlyweds Matt and Amanda at Sandoval Ranch and Vineyard, where Richardson and his wife had tied the knot and the then-engaged couple were dining with their entire family. "We ended up having a huge family-style dinner together looking over some beautiful California wine vineyards," he says. "We really hit it off. I knew that night I would be their wedding photographer."
The couple decided to get married in the Santa Ynez Valley. "I am a California kid and have visited almost every corner of my state, and I have to say, if there is a heaven, it's probably in the beautiful central coast of California," Richardson says. "Words cannot describe its beauty. Something about that summer heat abruptly cooled for a satisfying moment by the coastal breeze, tall golden grass swaying back and forth, whistling in the wind, the way the sun dances on the bright green vineyards during sunset hours, or the milky way galaxy during the hours of the night."
Richardson may be familiar with his home state, but not so much with the lack of a first look, a preference that Matt and Amanda expressed. "I thought it was beautiful the way Matt looked at Amanda as she was walking down the wedding aisle," the photographer says. "He was trying so dang hard to hold his tears back. Moments before the ceremony I actually told him to let all the emotions be present and if he cries to just let it happen. He fought and fought. You can see it on his face in some of the images."
In fact, one of the most memorable moments of the day was when Matt read Amanda his vows, Richardson says. "It was really hard for him to start. He would say one, maybe two words and he would stop. He would look at Amanda, smile, fight a tear, take a deep breath and begin once again. He did this about three times. Amanda would watch, smile, fight a tear, and look at him some more. Such a beautiful moment between each other in front of their loved ones. I'll never forget it."
The photographer prefers to shoot alone in general, but if there was any challenge to this wedding, he concedes, it would be that he didn't have a second shooter with him. "The bride and groom were about 30 minutes apart during the getting-ready moments. I had to time everything perfectly to be able to document everything with the girls before I headed over to have a visit with the boys. To overcome obstacles like this, I breathe, communicate with all the planners/players of the day via text, breathe some more, make sure I have plenty of water, protein bars or trail mix and just plain hustle hard. No stopping allowed, not for a moment—it's why I love it! However, a second photog in this instance would have been a godsend."
At the end of the night, family and friends sent the couple off with a bubble tunnel, which was actually Plan B when the venue told the couple weeks before that sparklers were a fire hazard. "I thought it was a very unique idea and knew it would be awesome," Richardson says. "The second thought I had was, Uh-oh, how do I light this? I had to light the scene from behind the couple with a grid as they walked down the aisle with just enough power to not overexpose the bubbles. I just wanted a touch of highlight to make the bubbles separate from the background, couple and audience. Then just a soft on-camera fill flash using the Magmod Sphere pointed straight up. I had to get the lighting right without any excuses or do-overs. Just had to nail it the first time!"
IN THE BAG
Cameras: Nikon D750 (x2)
Lenses: Nikon 28mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8
Lighting: Yongnuo Yn-560 iv (x4), Manfrotto 5001 B light stands, Magmod modifiers
Miscellaneous: 32oz Hydroflask water bottle to stay hydrated, peanut butter Perfect Bars for energy and to stay focused