Bay Area Wedding Photographer Gabriel Harber » Fun, Artistic, Joyful Photography that is Real and Full of Stories

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When Ella and Chris told me about their vintage inspired Mad Hatter, Alice in Wonderland themed wedding that was to be held at Ella’s grandparent’s house near Stanford University… I did the happy dance (I’m not proud).  As someone with a flair for theatrics, a love for dressing up, and an appreciation things done differently, I was so stoked to be invited to tell the story of their wedding.

And their wedding was pretty extraordinary.  Ella’s mother insisted on bee’s wax candles, which perfumed the dining area with their aroma.  Ella and her mom scoured yard sales, estate sales, and thrift stores for months before their wedding and collected a miss matched and gorgeous selection of vintage plates and saucers.  The instruction to their florist from Flora Grubb, was to make the flower arrangements fun, weird, and a little creepy.  The flowers were amazing.  The appetizers, from Le Papillon, were like little pieces of art.  Lowe House Creative rocked the event coordination and made sure that everything ran smoothly.  My buddy Hardy Wilson shot the extravaganza with me and we couldn’t help but dust off some fancy pants and dashing duds for the big event.

At one point in the evening, I found myself chatting with one of the guests, and I asked him what kind of work he did.  He said he said his father was a clown (one of my secret dream jobs) and that he was training to be a clown himself.  Of course… a clown.

Once the dancing began, the energy and joy that Ella and Chris shared with their guests flowed onto the dance floor, and the celebration rolled into the night.

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My buddy, Hector, offered to reproduce Victorian corner blocks for my house after it caught fire.

The other day I called in the favor.  We started out with a trip to the fancy wood store, where we sorted through lumber and picked pieces that were the approximate thickness and width that we needed. From there we returned to his little shop in the garage of his house. A little planing and cutting transformed the boards into squares to be turned on a wood lathe from the 1800’s. Then Hector sharpened his tools, made a template, and began his magic.

From boards of wood to detailed corner blocks took a surprisingly short amount of time. It was so nice to smell the wood shavings and saw dust.  The smells reminded me of the winter I took a wood working class on a little farm in Massachusetts when I was a kid.

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June 29th, 2007, my house caught fire. I was out of town shooting a wedding.  I had turned off my phone on Friday afternoon when I arrived to the wedding location in Chico.  I threw a hammock in a tree, and began my leisurely weekend of shooting.  On sunday morning I decided to check my phone to see if anyone had called.  I had 13 messages.  I am really not that popular.  My stomach dropped.  Not one of the messages relayed the direct information that my house had burned, but they all alluded to it.  I was so thankful that I hadn’t turned on my phone earlier.  Shock, panic, sadness, and confusion set in pretty quickly.  The bride gave me sage advice.  She told me to take a breath, take a moment, and try to face the chaos with a sense of calm.  That advice has stuck with me.  Through dealing with the insurance company, and contractors, and City officials, and all the rest, a good sense of humor and calm has done me well.  My house was fairly severely burned.  There was extensive fire, smoke, water, and damage from the fire crews cutting holes in my roof.  My neighbor’s house also caught on fire.  Firemen who came through in the days after the fire told me that they could see flames from several miles away.  I actually feel pretty lucky that I was out of town with my dog and most of my camera gear.

At the beginning of this week, the insulation guys came in a started installing “fancy” insulation. Not a particularly sexy subject, but the type of insulation I have had installed is actually pretty cool. Supposedly a “green” product made from polyurethane and corn or soybean and propelled by water. This fast expanding foam is shot into the wall cavities and expands something like 120 times in size and hardens within seconds. The foam seals and fills any gaps and holes that you might have in your house. Since my house was built in 1889, it needs quite a few gaps to be filled.

From framing, electrical, plumbing, floors, and finishes, it takes a lot to put a house back together.  Doesn’t take much to tear it down.  A good reminder of how fragile the balance of life can be.

Here a few pictures from over the last couple of years. I hope you enjoy them.

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The pile of debris with stacks of photos, developing equipment, my kitchen table, camping gear, and 9,000 pounds of various other things that were thrown into the back yard and hosed down.

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An old camera. Melted.

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A kitchen defiled.

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Before the fire.

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Clearing and demo begins.

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Clearing and demo continues.

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Out of the ashes, comes something new.

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The rebuild continues.

Spray foam insulation by SDI Insulation.

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Sheetrock is installed. So nice not being the one doing the installation.

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New flooring patched in with the old.

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Bathroom in waiting.

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Bathroom completed.