Montana.

The magic of my trip to Montana started on the plane via Denver to Missoula. I’d invited my best friend since preschool, Cat, to come along with me, but our seats were separated on this part of the journey; our flight started late and it was already dark when we pushed off. I saw her head bobbing down into her sweatshirt a few rows away, and I settled into my window seat to look out into the blue-black sky as we flew. My seat-mates napped; people across the aisle were playing with their iPads, watching movies. I pressed my face up against the window with my sweatshirt over my head to look out at the stars.

It was the end of the Perseid meteor shower. I caught a streak of light in the distance and thought it was a trick of my tired eyes. But then I saw another and I gasped.

And in Montana, Cat and I saw so much sky. Everything seemed so… wide. The sky was enormous; the lakes, edged in trees, looked cold. We drove to Glacier National Park and ended up navigating around the side of a mountain, as the temperature dropped 20 degrees and rain lashed at the windshield.

We saw a glacier, we saw a buffalo. We had cherries plucked from an orchard on their ripest day. On top of the mountain: “We’re in the clouds,” Cat said in amazement.

The trip was made even more beautiful by the amazing Indian-fusion wedding I was lucky enough to photograph, though those images will be shared later. Right now, here are just some of the photos from our trip to the Big Sky Country.

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Natalie & Michael | a Japanese-Jewish Wedding

austin wedding photographer

A bride in full Japanese wedding regalia; a Jewish groom with brass knuckles spelling out his name. A celebration complete with glass-stomping, the hora, and a chorus of mazel tovs. 3D-printed shoes, a reception dress made out of SCUBA material, and succulents everywhere. This was one of the most unique weddings I’d ever seen, and it helped that Michael and Natalie are both design-centric and crafty people — their wedding was bursting with geocentric creativity, from the custom theme they’d envisioned down to the geometric flower vases.

It was such a pleasure to photograph this wedding! Here are some of my favorite photos from Natalie and Michael’s day :)

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Credits: Temple Israel Long Beach; Tolain Bridal (kimono); United Nude (3D shoes); Taste of Pace; Sweet & Saucy Shop; Primary Petals; Hollienea (harpist). DJ Tessa

An Easy Way to Make Your Reception Photos Prettier

A simple item (that is probably wadded up in a box in your garage) could make your wedding reception photos look fantastic.

A string of twinkle lights. Well, the more, the better.

Palm Door event space // Elissa R Photography

Your wedding venue (be it a backyard, or a rustic barn, or a warehouse, or a hotel) could always use some mood enhancement. And while hiring a bonafide lighting pro is a great idea, if you’re more interested in DIY-ing it yourself, adding strings of Christmas lights or globe lights can really make your reception photos look prettier. They add a warm light, they are so versatile to use as background in photos, and (bonus) if your wedding is in a really dark space it can help your guests see where they’re dancing!

I like to shoot with a pretty shallow depth-of-field most of the day. This means that the plane of focus on your reception photos is going to be thin — that’s why stuff is blurred out in the background. Notice how you can see the pointy tips of the Christmas lights close to David and Nola, but they turn into fuzzy blobs in the distance? It’s called bokeh and I love the effect.

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Another example. The centerpiece arrangement here is offset nicely by these pretty lights in the back:

reception setup in kali kate pavilion texas

And these cupcakes look amazing, but they look even better with a little bit of texture behind them (rather than just the blurry roof of the venue).

outdoor wedding at kali kate in buda

I like using the strings of lights as compositional elements. Such as in this mother-son dance — the string of light cutting diagonally across the image separates the negative space and makes it more pleasing to the eye:

http://elissarphotography.com

And I framed Hollye and Carter with lights in this shot:

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But mostly, it’s a nice way to make your wedding a little brighter, a little happier. This canopy of lights over Michelle and Rocky’s first dance is so lovely.

twinkle lights and big trees

Globe lights (installed by Intelligent Lighting Design) illuminate the cigar-smoking guests in this shot…

bobalu cigar company wedding photos

Out in a field of wildflowers, this tent looks like something out of a magical world with its edges lined in tiny lights…

beautiful texas skies

And used in the foreground and background of photos, twinkle lights wrapped around trees can make for some more unique and pretty photos.

allan house wedding dance

I hope that this inspires some of you out there to include some twinkle lights in your wedding!

xoelissa