Olbrich Botanical Gardens Commons Room

The following are a few of the pictures taken of a large family gathering at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in the Commons Room. 

 Olbrich Family Memorial

I shot several families, including this one. 

There was lots of goofing around. 

Olbrich Family Memorial

The following lady wanted a picture with just her and her brothers. 

There were cute couples there too like this one. 

Some pictures were formal. 

Some pictures were more crazyish. 

I told this couple that they seem very comfortable with each other.  She said, “yes, that is because we like each other.”

I love this picture with the barn wood frame and box. 

barnwood frame

These items were removed from a special blanket and made into a hanging art piece.

Under the card is a copy of a baby book that provides a fasinating story of the early years of the mother whose life was celebrated at this event.


Another generation is born.

another generation is born

Memorial flowers

Memorial flowers

Contact James Studio if you are having a large family event.

Bride & Groom Shoot — Olbrich Gardens

What is a bride-and-groom shoot?   Well, instead of an engagement shoot or a bridal shoot, we did a bride-and-groom shoot at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.  Christina & David were married on July 2, 2011; you can see the post for their wedding pictures HERE.   These pictures were taken after their honeymoon when they were relaxed and in perfect peace.   The following are some samples of the pictures I took. 

This first picture was taken at the reflecting pond on a bright, sunny day.  We got some great reflection in the water. 

Christina & David at Olbrich Botanical Gardens

I joked with them about taking a swim in the pond.  Nevertheless, they did take a “dip,” as shown in the picture below. 

The dip

I like to shoot in shady areas.  With all that sun the bride & groom need the shade to show their expressions. 

With this shot I asked them to act naturally as they walk toward me.  I think they did a great job of “acting”.   That is not so easy to do with all kinds of people watching you, including Christina’s parents (who also attended the shoot).

Grove of trees

The sprinkler fountain is one of several water scenes at Olbrich.  This is a favorite for many people, as it has gorgeous colors in the background. 

Christina and David are celebrating their new marriage. 

Sprinkler fountain

This is one of my favorite pictures.  Christina looks so angelic with the veil and beautiful smile.

In the background is one of several waterfalls in the park.   Christina is standing beneath a footbridge, which provides some nice shade.  I use a studio strobe to bring in soft light.  The background is lit by the sun, while Christina is lit by my strobe.


Below is a thinly veiled kiss and an awful pun.   But it is a beautiful picture. 

Veiled kiss

I love to focus on flowers and have the bridal party–or in this case the bride and groom–out of focus in the background. 

Focus on flowers

Another one of my favorite shots is to focus on the couple’s rings. 

Focus on rings

I took lots of shots while they were sitting on a bench.  The flowers and other foliage are so beautiful that they can be distracting and become the focus instead of the couple. 

Christina on the bench with David

This is an example of what you can get with great natural-looking light and close-up shots.   Christina and David have great smiles.

another bench shot

I like how Christina has her elbow on David.  She looks comfortable, and the image reflects how they are best friends and that they enjoy each other.

 Bench from a high view

I was told that they wanted this picture because Christina’s grandmother and mother wore this veil (different from the veil in the other pictures).  The picture is of Christina’s grandparents.  

 Generational veil

Ashley & Brad — Stoughton Country Club

Brad Schuchardt and Ashley Harris were married July 16, 2011 at West Middleton Lutheran Church.  Though the West Middleton Lutheran Church  has a very beautiful sanctuary very few formal pictures taken there.  Instead the majority of the family formal pictures were outdoor pictures at the Stoughton Country Club.  It was Ashley’s plan and it worked because it resulted in natural light with a beautiful background for their formal pictures.  This first photo was taken outside the church.  The dress is hanging in a tree to provide a more interesting background for photographing her dress.


Ashley is looking radiant in this shot. 


As a photographer I really enjoy the opportunity to be creative and shooting weddings provides a great deal of creative latitude.  Before the wedding I go over the plan with the bride for what is important regarding the day.  Then with a general outline for how the day will go and I have a plan for what shots I want to get.  Sometimes things don’t go as planned and we have to improvise.  For Brad and Ashley’s outdoor pictures at Olbrich Gardens we were running late so we had to do some hustling on a very hot day but we still got some great shots.

The wedding party was hot from the bus ride and now walking to this location from the visitor center.  I had everyone under this bridge which provided shade.  I was able to capture the shot with even lighting by using a studio strobe.  I love the result of using a full studio strobe for outdoor pictures. 

Olbrich Botanical Gardens is the most feature-rich location in Madison for photographic backgrounds.  It obviously is known for its gardens of flowers but it also has multiple waterfalls like this one.

I love the rustic benches throughout the area. 

Ashley had a beautiful bouquet as shown below.  Ashley arranged the bouquets herself.  In the background is her dress and foot. 

Here is another Olbrich fountain with a little PDA in the background. 


Ashley and Brad arrived at the Stoughton Country Club in the family hot 1965 Shelby Cobra replica sports car.   The mufflers on each side are especially hot, literally.   Clothing or skin that touches the muffler will burn and a few people found this out by personal experience.   You will be glad to know that Ashley carefully got out of the car without injury. 


When getting formals of the groom with each of his groomsman and the bride with each of her bridesmaids, I get the standard shot and then ask for something fun.  I provide a few suggestions but Brad and the guys were over the top.  It was so much fun I could hardly shoot straight.  This is Brad sitting on his brother, the best man.   Also, you might be interested to know that the picture below is a composite of two images.  Can you tell?  I don’t think so.  The bottom half of the best man came from another image. 

This shot below belongs in Vogue magazine.   Maybe they will give me a call. 


 Below is a couple of nice looking young ladies. 

Which is prettier, the ladies or the background?

The photo below includes Ashley with her brother and his wife who told him to put a knee down for Ashley to sit on.  Wow.   Great idea!   I love the diagonal line their heads create.   Great pose. 

Here was Ashley’s chance to look like a super model.  She did great.  But Brad is thinking, “ya, wait till its my turn.” 

So Brad, show us what you can do.  Unbelievable.  It was like watching a comedy routine.  He was so funny.  I will call this one, “Behold, my bride”. 

For those interested in the technical aspect of the photo, it is another composite of two pictures.  Can you see the dividing line?  I doubt it.  Let me know if you think you know where it is.  

In fact I will make it a contest.  If there are at least 15 people who will reply I will give away a free 1-hour family shoot, including 6 fully-edited pictures on a disk with rights to print to the family with the closest correct answer.  Entries are limited to one per immediate family.  The family shoot must take place within 45 days of the contest ending and within 15 minutes drive from James Studio at 2611 University Ave.   If there are 15 or more responses I will make the decision Friday, August 12 at 8 pm and will notify the winner through Ashley and Brad (leave enough informtion so they know who you are).   The responses must be posted here on this site to be eligible.   Be as detailed as possible, there will only be one winner.  The person/family who is most correct with the most detail will win.  Be aware that all answers must be approved before they are posted.   You can write your answer in the “Speak Your Mind” box at the end of this post.  If there are enough responses for the contest I will post the two images after the contest is over and reveal the winner with the winning answer.

 The following picture is also a composite.   Sorry, no contest for where it was composited together. 

The contest is completed!   There was a lot of activity checking out the pictures and we got some good guesses for solving the puzzle.  The following is what happened.

I saw the first image and loved it except that Ashley’s head was cut off.  I thought it would be a classic if it wasn’t for that.  I decided to create a composite from two images.  To do that, in Photoshop I had to make the canvas bigger as shown in the picture below. 

 Single image

I also saw the image below which I like a lot too.  It showed all of Ashley but this time Brad was cut off.  The other issue is I really liked Brad’s expression and the use of his arm more in the first image.  So I wanted to keep that look while putting together more of Ashley. 

The trick was how to get the two pictures to work together.  It turns out that the key was matching up the tree in both images. 

After the contest was announced I noticed a problem.  There was a big gash in the tree that I forgot to fix (see the arrow).  I am surprised that no one mentioned it in their answer.   It could have been the key to being closest to solving the dividing line puzzle. 

composite 3

 The picture below shows the dividing line.  The red portion was kept from the good picture of Ashley and the natural color was kept from the good picture of Brad.  So you can see the line is not simply around Brad or around Ashley. 

Composite 4

 The following picture is one of my final versions.  I added an artistic affect that makes the background have specks all over it.  I also have a version without the artistic affect.  Notice that the gash in the tree is now fixed. 

Concerning the contest there is no winner since we did not get 15 responses.  However, I would like to make you an offer.  For those who participated I will give you an additional $50 off the one and two-hour portrait specials for August.  Go HERE to see the special.   If you participated in the contest I will give you an additional $50 off the August special price. 

Thank you for playing.  It was a lot of fun to see what you all came up with.  I hope you will take advantage of my offer.  The family shoot does not have to be completed in August but it does need to be booked in August with a 50% deposit. 

Thank you!


Olbrich Botanical Gardens

I remember praying intently for a nice day to shoot the outdoor pictures after the wedding.  It was October 10, 2009 and the forecast was for cold and rainy weather.  We got snow instead.  Brett, the groom, loved the fact that it snowed, and said he was disappointed that it stopped so soon.  Fortunately for the rest of us, it was just a dusting and just in the morning.   During the rest of the day there were blue skies and the sun shone brightly.

Brett and Alyssa were married at  Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie.   Everything seemed to be going as planned, as far as I could tell.  Alyssa was starting to get worried, though, because the procession had begun but she had not yet seen her father.  As the organist played a second or third introduction to the wedding march, Dad found Alyssa and they scurried to their place to begin the walk down the aisle.  I got this shot of Dad quickly arranging Alyssa’s dress before they proceeded down the aisle.   I think it tells the story.

Brett & Alyssa-2

Once the bride was down the aisle, everything was fine.  I think this sanctuary is beautiful.   I love the color tones, and the candelabra and flowers add a nice touch to the whole scene.

Brett & Alyssa-3

As can be seen in this photo, it is a beautiful fall day in the gorgeous Olbrich Gardens.  What you don’t see is everyone shivering because just a few minutes ago they were wearing  jackets.  It looks like it could be a 75-degree day, but it is more like 39.

Brett & Alyssa-4

I changed things up by first taking pictures of each of them on iPhones and then getting shots of them holding the iPhones with the other’s photo.  Here is one of my favorite pictures–it made it into Alyssa and Brett’s album.

Brett & Alyssa-6

Though the day was cold, the wedding party kept up the enthusiasm.  They showed their love and support for the bride and groom by having fun throughout the day even though it was uncomfortably cold.   Some of the other photos show more overt enthusiasm, but I think this one is more balanced with an overall better look.


Brett & Alyssa-7

One of the special places in Olbrich Gardens is the oriental building in the background.   It is a wonderful structure with a stream on one side, a small fountain, interesting stairs, and a reflecting pond.  This shot just over the fountain shows some of the vivid background.   If you go to Olbrich Botanical Gardens, take the time to visit this site.  For a full view of the structure see the next photo.



A wide angle view of the Olbrich Gardens Japanese pagoda.


Brett and Alyssa had their reception at the Crowne Plaze on the east side of Madison.  Here we can see them enjoying their wedding cake while guests are looking on.

Brett & Alyssa-9

At the end of the evening I was able to capture several shots of the bride and groom under this arch.  I love the various levels of depth in this photograph.  In addition to the great overall look is the feeling of authentic romance in the couple.  It is my favorite shot from the day.

Brett & Alyssa-10

Are you dating?