Oheka Castle has such marvelous locations for wedding pictures. One of those locations is the stairwell in their main lobby. Featured in such places as Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” video, the TV show Royal Pains, and movies such as Citizen Kane, Oheka’s ornate lobby is a site to behold. Build nearly one hundred years ago by Otto Hermann Kahn, Oheka still remains the second biggest private home ever constructed in the United States. It boasts one hundred and twenty-seven rooms, over a hundred thousand square feet of space, and is one of my favorite locations to shoot wedding photographs! After being abandoned for years in the 1980’s, Oheka was eventually purchased by Gary Melius, a developer. Under the careful instruction of historians and architects, every detail was meticulously rebuilt. It took two years. Oheka Castle can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also one of the Historic Hotels of America. Many wedding clients love having their wedding pictures taken on the Grand Staircase at Oheka Castle. I can totally understand why! The ornate metal railings are truly beautiful. The split staircase is elegant in its’ symmetry. The light that pours into the lobby from the two tall front doors is really gorgeous. Oheka’s lobby has a quiet grace about it, and it’s a great site for wedding portraits and photographs. We often create family portraits in this location. The middle landing is a great place to pose your bridal party, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family formal portraits. This location makes for a great, iconic Oheka look to your formal wedding day portraits. At this particular wedding, we found ourselves in the lobby at exactly the right time! The light was streaming through the window to the left of the staircase in a way that I had never seen it do before. It was such a fleeting experience, as it was gone not ten minutes later! Everything that makes Oheka Castle so charming came together into one amazing bridal portrait, all at once. The sun streamed through the window. The sconces and overhead chandelier glowed perfectly, adding a deep warmth to the atmosphere of the space. The pose of the bride was natural and graceful. Her Vera Wang dress was perfectly illuminated by the light coming through the windows. It was a wonderful honor to be in that place, at that time, seeing the image come together so flawlessly.
Clients often ask how I pose images like this. How does the bride know where to stand? Where to place her hands, her arms? Where to look? In this instance, I requested that the bride stand directly in the light coming through the window. That lit her face to perfection. From there, I just asked her to play with the skirt of her dress with her left hand. That gave a natural grace and movement to the pose, so that it didn’t look stiff or overly manufactured. The bride is a gorgeous woman inside and out, and I truly loved capturing this portrait for her and her family. TWO There are so many Oheka Castle locations for great wedding pics. I love the back lawn, and how the manicured gardens stretch away from the grandeur of the castle. I love the ornate gazebo at the back of the gardens, covered in ivy and trailing vines. The multiple reflecting pools in the back gardens provide incredible backdrops, as does the huge fountain in the middle of the back lawn. Also on the back lawn are the two small side paths, lined with tall trees and arching branches. In the front of Oheka Castle there are a multitude of great picture locations. I love the long path up the driveway to the castle, and how the manicured trees perfectly flank the long gravel drive. I love the small arched building you drive through just before reaching the front of the castle. Taylor Swift fans might remember that long path and beautiful courtyard from her “Blank Space” music video, which was shot at Oheka Castle! Once inside, wedding photographers have a variety of incredible locations to take wedding pictures, starting in the bridal suite. The arched fabric by the huge double doors provides an amazing backdrop for getting ready pictures and bridal portraits. The balcony outside the bridal suite provides a sweeping view of the back lawn. The library has incredible light, even in the winter. Each of the ballrooms have unique locations for wedding pictures. My favorite location for wedding pictures at Oheka Castle, by far, is the front foyer. You might just think of it as a lobby area, but I see a multitude of amazing picture locations! I’ve taken family portraits, bridal party portraits, and images of the bridesmaids and groomsmen on the ornate symmetrical staircase in the foyer. I’ve shot many bridal portraits on the stairs there as well. One thing that I feel sets me apart from other New York, New Jersey, and Brooklyn-based wedding photographers is my use of light. I excel at finding beautiful light in unconventional places. I am also quite good at choosing unusual locations for portraits that other wedding photographers might not see, or think to use. This portrait perfectly exemplifies what I mean by that! I love creating portraits that make the viewer think, “Where was that taken?” Where was this taken in Oheka Castle? I’ll never tell. It could be in that lobby that I love so much. It could be somewhere else. My point is that it’s important that your wedding photographer be able to make beautiful images no matter where the location is, no matter what the conditions of the wedding day. Whether it’s raining or sunny, snowing or one hundred degrees outside, wedding photographers have to learn to excel in all situations. That includes finding light in unconventional places! It also includes turning an ordinary background into an extraordinary portrait location. I also feel that one of my strengths as a wedding photographer is my ability to create scenarios for my clients wherein they can feel free to be themselves. I’m not the photographer that will pose their client to excess. I don’t want my clients to look back on their wedding images and remember me guiding them from pose to pose. I want them to remember how they felt, how they looked at each other, and what the moment was like. You can’t pose a moment! It’s my job to set the scene for the moment to happen, and then watch it unfold. While I might direct my clients to stand in good light, to be in front of a wonderful background, and to be in a specific location, I’m never going to tell them how to behave or act. This image exemplifies that as well. This is a natural moment between a bride and groom! The story behind this image is actually quite simple. The bride had been posing for bridal portraits in front of this dark background, in this marvelous light. She realized that she had left her Pnina Tornai wedding gloves up in her room. People were dispatched to fetch the gloves. When the gloves arrived to the bride, her groom stepped up to help her put them on. This resulted in a series of beautiful moments between bride and groom. This one was my favorite. It was the moment her gloves were all the way on, when they stopped and took a few seconds alone together. These are the moments that cannot be scripted. This is life as it happens. The scene had been set, but the bride and groom provided the moment. If you retain my services for your Oheka Castle wedding, you will receive the same loving care that I put into creating this portrait. I will always be striving to find new and interesting portrait locations in Oheka Castle, and I know there are so many more to discover. It’s an excellent place for a Long Island wedding, and I look forward to many, many more weddings there. Entered into WPPI’s prestigious print competition, this image received a gold award and a score of 90. I could not be more proud of that score, as it helped me reach my triple master status with WPPI. This is something that not many photographers have achieved, and I am so very proud to call myself a Triple Master at WPPI. This image then went on to win First Place in the Weddings : Bride and Groom Together category. As if that wasn’t humbling enough, it then went on to win the Grand Award. The Grand Award occurs when all of the first place images are judged together. The Wedding category includes Bride and Groom Together, Bride or Groom Alone, Bridal Party, and Wedding Details. I am utterly stunned and honored to have received that award for this print. It’s an honor above all other honors, and for that I am deeply grateful.