Cukini Studio: Blog en-us (C) Cukini Studio (Cukini Studio) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:22:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:22:00 GMT When a Wedding Goes Viral In October of 2012, I met a fire performer. Fire and photography. I was hooked. Before she even proposed to her girlfriend, I called "dibs" as their wedding photographer. For a while in 2013-2015, there was a trend of using fire in "trash-the-dress" sessions. Based on the various behind-the-scene videos, we mocked at how careless most of those sessions were. One day, one of us suggested that we should try to burn the wedding dresses at the ceremony. The idea took off and we ran with it. October of 2018. Wedding weekend came.

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Their names are April and Bethany. They are professional performers specializing in fire, whips, and pretty much anything that grabs their fancy. You may have seen them on TV. The Gong Show. Guinness World Records. Today Show. The Late Late Show. They are also very big on fire safety and provide safety lessons to others in the fire performance community. 

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The brides bought their wedding dresses from Goodwill. The gowns were used in previous performances and trial runs. Slightly stained and worn along the edges, it was time to do one last big thing and send these wedding dresses off in a spectacular fashion.

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With a wedding party consisted of mostly fire performers and medics, the brides proceeded with the wedding ceremony. As the sun set, guests were treated to awesome entertainment by other performing artists. I had asked Sherry (Facebook, Instagram) to join me in shooting, as I knew I wouldn't have time to take all these photos. My focus was on the finale. 

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Near the end of the ceremony, the brides put on their wedding gowns. The dresses were altered earlier after the formal portraits were taken. With the fire safety procedures in place, the brides stepped up to the altar, in front of 200+ friends and families, and lit into viral history. 

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Wedding was on a Saturday. By Wednesday, the behind-the-scene video went viral. Needless to say, it was an interesting experience to see a wedding you attended, plus the photos you took, being shared around the world. The story was on broadcast and cable television stations, radio stations, newspapers, and numerous online sites. I didn't have a line item of "going viral" on my bucket list. But, that line item is there now. And it is checked!

Here are some of the sites that picked up April and Bethany's story:

Daily Mail
ETtoday (Facebook)
George Takei
Huff Post News
Indian Express
Inside Edition
Kansas City Star
New York Post
Offbeat Bride
Pink News
The Storm Media
WDIJW (Facebook)
Wedding Chicks

And, finally, April and Bethany's engagement + wedding slideshow.

]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Corridor creative engagement Iowa Iowa wedding photographer trash the dress wedding wedding photographer Sun, 11 Nov 2018 03:57:25 GMT
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Solar Eclipse 2017

August 21, 2017 @ Aurora, Nebraska

As a photographer, my preferred way of people enjoying an experience is through the photos I take. The less time you spend travelling means that it is easier for me to get to places and enjoy those locations by myself. The more you stay at home and live through my photos, the happier I am. Photographers like me love for everyone to stay where they are at and leave the world to us. Let us bring the world to you. Let us show you the world.

Except for one event.

For most situations we encounter in our daily lives, the difference between 99% and 100% may not be that significant. But, the difference between a 99% solar eclipse coverage and a total solar eclipse is, literally, day and night. I used to think that 80% coverage is pretty good. 90% is superb. 99%. Why even bother to leave the backyard.  Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong. When that last thin sliver of the sun finally slips behind the moon, it will be as though someone flipped a heavenly switch. The sky above will turn dark, dark blue, and in all directions, the horizon will be painted to gorgeous sunset colors. The sun, which just one second ago was too bright to see without eclipse glasses, will instantly change to a ring of gorgeous corona surrounding a dark circle, our moon. Left image: solar eclipse at 99.x% coverage. Right image: solar eclipse at 100% coverage.

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If you have a bucket list, add total solar eclipse to that list. 

I may start to sound like a fanatic by now. But, if you talk to anyone who just saw their first total solar eclipse this last Monday, most likely you will get the same vibe from them. Everyone I have spoken to, those of us lucky enough to witness the magic this week, all said they will definitely go see the total solar eclipse again when it sweeps into United States in 2024. I have yet to meet someone who has seen a total solar eclipse and doesn't want to see it again. Even our 14 years old daughter, who did not really cared for the partial eclipse leading up to the big event, was mesmerized during the two and half minutes of totality. Afterwards, she said that in 2024 she will gather up her college friends she has at the time and go see the total solar eclipse together.

If you don't have a bucket list, make one and put the total solar eclipse as your first entry.

Even though I am not a religious person, I can envision this is what an intense spiritual experience would be like. I remember the details leading up to the event and I remember the details after the event. But, I cannot remember much of the details other than pure awe during the two and half minutes of the totality. World seemed to have stopped. All eyes were looking up into the sky, at this black circle, our moon, surrounded by a ring of the glow from the sun behind. Temperature dropped. Birds, insects, and farm animals were confused. Wind grew still. 

Next total solar eclipse in the United States will happen on April 8, 2024.

Other than the birth of my daughters, this is the next most wondrous event I have had ever witnessed. I am a photographer. I want my photos to tell the story. But, there is no photo, no video, no blog, that can adequately describe the total solar eclipse. This is something that you need to experience in person. Don't be fooled into thinking that a partial solar eclipse is good enough. Don't think that seeing an annular solar eclipse is same as a total solar eclipse. Don't get lazy and settle with 99% coverage. Get your vacation day in. Take a day off from classes. Bring your family. Grab your friends. Go out into a wide open field. Look up. And marvel at the sight when the sun, moon, and you are lined up as one.

See you under the moon's shadow in 2024.


]]> (Cukini Studio) eclipse solar eclipse total solar eclipse totality Sat, 26 Aug 2017 01:00:00 GMT
Last Minute Wedding, Cedar Rapids, Iowa  

"Last Minute" Wedding

Cedar Rapids + Iowa City + Tiffin, Iowa


It was a rare free Saturday in the middle of the wedding season.
I slept in late. I went out to get a haircut.
Came home. Took a shower. Put the PJ back on.
Sat down and got ready to do some editing.


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Then, the notifications started to pop up.
My studio partner was messaging me.
The local camera store left me voicemail.
The father of the groom called the store.


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The photographer they booked did not show up.
And the ceremony was at 2 pm.
I looked at the clock. 
It was 11:30 am.


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I quickly got dressed and jumped into the car.
Luckily, the studio was on the way to the church.
I stopped at the studio and grabbed everything I could.
I made it to the church by 12:30 pm.


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The wedding party and the family were in the middle of taking formal portraits.
I assumed the photographer role and got all the formals out of the way.
We focused on the families, since we could get the wedding party later.
The beautiful ceremony came and went.




After the ceremony, we drove to Iowa City.
A few photos around the stadium.
A few photos around the Old Capitol.
Then, we were off to Tiffin for the reception.



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Reception was lovely too.
Beautiful couple with wonderful families and friends.
I even got a shout out during bride and groom's toast.
That was a first. I was caught off guard. I kept on shooting.


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But, we were still missing the fun portraits of just the bride and the groom.
So, we set a date to meet up after their honeymoon.




The bride went back to her florist and remade the bouquet.
She went back to her hair stylist and make-up artist.
Without the typical stress of the wedding day,
We spent a few hours taking wedding portraits.




We did not have to worry about other wedding day activities.
We had time for multiple locations.
We spent the evening by the river.
Enjoyed the sunset, the fire, and the Milky Way.




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]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Coralville Corridor Iowa Iowa City Iowa wedding photographer Tiffin creative engagement photographer wedding wedding photographer Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:00:00 GMT
Wedding at the Park, Marion, Iowa  

Wedding at the Park

Marion Iowa


A beautiful outdoor ceremony,
where the first look was for the Bride's father.

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Congratulations! Jenna and Aaron!


]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Corridor Iowa Iowa wedding photographer photographer wedding wedding photographer Thu, 16 Mar 2017 17:00:00 GMT
Garden Wedding, Ausadie, Cedar Rapids, Iowa  

Garden Wedding at Ausadie

Cedar Rapids, Iowa


A lovely June wedding in a secluded garden hidden within downtown Cedar Rapids.


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Congratulations! Bex and Drew!


]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Corridor Iowa Iowa wedding photographer creative engagement photographer wedding wedding photographer Thu, 16 Feb 2017 18:00:00 GMT
Autumn Engagement, Palisades, Cedar Rapids, Iowa  

Autumn Engagement at Palisades

Cedar Rapids, Iowa


It was late in the autumn, and the colors were mostly gone.
Indian summer was fleeing, and the cold was starting to settle in.
All in all, it was a perfect excuse to get close, cuddle up, and enjoy each other’s company.


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B+A brought their puppy. Okay. A BIG puppy. He photo bombed B+A a few times. 

We hiked to the end of the trail where there was an overhang and a gazebo. The images above were captured using off camera strobe placed somewhat in the distance in order to balance B+A out with the ambient lighting. For the images below, I moved the strobe closer to B+A to give the overall scene a more color pop and dramatic feeling, well, until the puppy playfully photo bombed some of the engagement images.


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But, finally, he got his chance to properly sit + pose with B+A.

We moved into the gazebo next to the trail and took some "family shots". The sunset was approaching the top of the hills and it was granting us some glorious back lighting. I used off camera strobe for a few shots, but decided that the ones from natural lighting looked the best. From here on out until nightfall, I continued the session using only the sunlight.


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The puppy wanted to go fast, but B+A wanted to take it slow. There was a steep drop to one side.

Here was the trail to the Cedar River. It went down to a lower elevation and nearby hills blocked the setting sun. We were blessed with some great filtered light from the sky above. The trail was very narrow though. A's left foot was pretty much at the trail's edge. I am glad I did not lose a groom on my watch.


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Down by the Cedar River, the puppy went sprinting while B+A strolled along the river bank.
There was a million dollar cottage on the cliff. Some day.

On the sandy bank of Cedar River, we could see the setting sun's light spilling over the hilltops. I stayed back from B+A to give them some privacy and used the 70-200 mm to pull in their story. I don't know what they said to each other during that time, but from the looks on their faces, we can imagine.


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The last rays of the setting sun were hitting the hilltops.
The wind was chilly, but there were warm hugs.


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At the old dam, B+A hugged, kissed, and dipped.

We finally got to the old, abandoned dam across the Cedar River. On top of the dam, B+A goofed around with hugs, kisses, and dips. With the bright sunset lighting from behind, I pushed the ISO up to give it a more old time film feel to the images. There was no need to bring out the strobe. It was time to break the rules and blow out the background.



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It was getting darker, and the wind had calmed down. The choppy river transformed into a mirror.

At the river's edge, there was a small inlet. B+A went to the right side and I took the left. I adore moments like this, when the love story just pretty much unfolds by itself. There was really nothing for me to do except to melt into the background, observe, and capture the light.


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The sun set, and the starry night sky covered the park, at which point B+A let the sparks fly.

B+A saw a canvas print of fire spin and asked to incorporate it into the engagement session. I readily agreed. We set up the equipment under the full quarter moon and couple powerful LED flashlights, and then went to work. We had to run several test shots to make sure the fire spin's circles were near the right place, framing the couple. B+A were good sports and were asked to hold each pose for 10-15 seconds. They did not complain that they had to kiss for that long.




]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Corridor Iowa Iowa wedding photographer creative engagement photographer wedding wedding photographer Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:00:00 GMT
Paint by Fire  

Paint by Fire

Various Locations


In the spring of 2014, I stumbled across fire.




And I was hooked.












Soon, I brought in people into the pictures.




Here, we have a "behind the scene" view from the front.




This is a "behind the scene" view, from the back.






The sessions got crazier.




And crazier still.




I started incorporating fire into couple sessions.






And engagement sessions.




If you want sessions like these, look us up.




Do not attempt without prior fire safety and operational training.


]]> (Cukini Studio) Cedar Rapids Corridor Iowa Iowa wedding photographer fire light painting long exposure photographer steel wool wedding wedding photographer Sun, 01 Jan 2017 18:00:00 GMT