As I creep up to the 6 year mark since photographing my first wedding, which I charged $500 for, a lot has changed. I can honestly say that even though so much has changed in my life and career since that point, it feels like I blinked and here I am.
I’m the owner of Twisted Oaks Studio, a multi-photographer studio based out of New Jersey that I run with my wife Sandi. We made the change shortly after my first Shotkit profile went up and haven’t looked back. We now shoot over 120 weddings per year and show no signs of slowing down.
After my first Shotkit profile went up, I quickly became known as one of the photographers who needed a ton of gear, to be honest, at the time I did. I could never find a system that simply felt like it could do everything I needed.
I shot Nikon for their strengths, Canon for their strengths, and I had purchased my first Leica digital rangefinder. That single purchase, which started as a loaner from a rental company to review changed all of that.
I bought the Leica M9 and 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH and while it was far from perfect, it changed me as a photographer. It taught me to see differently, shoot differently, and ultimately how to slow down and really focus on more than just what I would see through the viewfinder of a DSLR.
I fell in love with the M9, but it wasn’t a camera I could use for much more than portraits during the wedding day. I upgraded to the M(type240) not long after and that was a little more advanced in tech with live view and much better DR/ISO.
I began using it more and more which eventually led to Leica Camera USA noticing my work. I spent a couple years working with them on different small projects and even pre-testing new cameras. One of which was the Leica SL, the mirrorless camera body that couldn’t have come at a better time.
The only other full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market were made by Sony. I had shot with a Sony for a few months and while they’re all nice cameras they simply never did it for me. They felt like mini-computers that only made me regret not shooting my M240 instead.
Fast forward to about 2 years ago and with new lenses and impressive firmware updates, I found myself trying the SL again. A few months later I made the move to a full Leica setup with dual SL’s and the M10 with a mix of lenses for both.
With a lack of presence in the wedding industry, I was presented with the opportunity to come on board with Leica as a Brand Ambassador. I’ve been working with them ever since, and it’s been nothing short of what you would expect when the camera company you finally decide to settle on after 6 years, asks you to represent them.
I mostly use drones for personal projects and capturing BTS videos for workshops. I bring them on the occasional wedding strictly for Bride and Groom portraits or engagement shoots. I mostly only do it if I know it’s something the clients are into.
While I prefer the Pro over the Air it’s mostly because of the size. I don’t like losing sight of it so quickly which is why I prefer the larger Pro. I’ve thought of trading them both in for the newer Pro 2 with the better camera, but I simply don’t use them enough to justify it.
Every single piece of gear I own gets used, but it would be my drones that get used the least. In saying that, I do like having them for when the opportunity comes up.
Twisted Oaks is still my priority, and I easily put in 40-50 hours a week even during the off-season handling the marketing side of the company among many things. Along with running the studio, I work with Leica on a number of projects per year teaching for their Akadamie, and trying to spend as much time with my family as possible.
Compared to the amount of gear I used to shoot with I would say that my bag has gotten a lot lighter. I typically shoot with dual SL bodies, the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-SL on one and either the 24-90mm or 75mm f/2 Summicron-SL on the other. The only other body I bring is my M10-P which typically has the 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH attached to it.
Another change worth noting, to close this out, is that I started reading more. I’m on my 2nd time through one of my favourite books I’ve read to date, The War of Art. Highly recommend.
Inside Jay’s camera bag:
My name is Jay Cassario, a portrait and wedding photographer from Southern New Jersey. I’m one half of the husband and wife team called Cass Imaging, the half that’s not as pleasing to look at. We’re soon to be Twisted Oaks Studios once a merger is complete with another awesome photographer JD Land. I have an obsession with Skittles, Pinetree scented candles, and my 4 month old mini-me named Luke.
Here is a little peak into the gear I own and choose to shoot with. I have a unique opportunity as a writer for both SLR Lounge and Shotkit to get my hands on pretty much any gear I want, to review and write about, so my bag usually has a nice variety to choose from.
Besides shooting both Nikon and Canon gear for the last few years, which is a little unorthodox, the other thing that often stands out about my gear choices is that little red logo you see. The Leica logo. I was asked to review the Leica M9 and a couple lenses last year, a camera I had never held before, let alone shoot.
At the same time, I was reviewing the Nikon D4S, a camera I had planned on purchasing. Long story short, I ended up sending the D4S back without a 2nd thought, and bought the Leica M9 and haven’t looked back. Shooting with the Leica rangefinder not only made photography fun again for me, but it ultimately made me a better photographer. It gave my work a different look and now a year later I have a good relationship with the company that I have come to love.
To give you a little background, my mother was a wedding photographer who shot all Canon 35mm SLRs and then stayed with them through her transition into digital. My first camera was her hand-me down, which was a Rebel XT. Surprisingly though, my first DSLR purchase was the Nikon D90, and then the Nikon D700.
In 2012, my mother passed and I started my portrait and wedding photography business with one camera and a couple lenses with my wife. As my business took off, I wanted the best equipment for the job, and I found that it wasn’t always Nikon that had the answer. I found that having a few different options, while keeping my gear to a minimum seemed to work best. I don’t like switching lenses all the time, so I prefer to have a couple bodies with a prime lens attached, with one or 2 more primes in my bag for when the situation calls for it.
I love the Nikon Df and the Nikon D750 for their low-light capabilities, the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark II for the awesome Canon colors and skin tones, and the Leica M9 for when I want something a little more unique.
Bottom line, I’ve yet to find a system that is perfect and fits all my needs. Nikon’s colors aren’t quite there for me, and while I love the look of the images my Canon bodies put out, they struggle in low light and are horrible with dynamic range. Leica is simply a joy to shoot, and with my Leica lenses, the images have more character and unique looking lens flare when I want to add something a little more creative to my shots.
I’m looking forward to see what Canon brings us in 2015 with their 5DS and 5DMarkIV, hopefully they make up some ground in the low-light department.
I also have a love for Medium Format film which I satisfy with the Mamiya RZ67. It’s a big brick of a camera, but still produces amazing film images and polaroids that I absolutely love. Here is a breakdown of what is shown in my gear shot…
I also have a slew of lighting equipment, which is also both Nikon and Canon, as well as a bunch of Wescott umbrellas, softboxes, and stands. I love to shoot in natural light, but I also know my way around a good off camera light setup. I have managed to build a system that works for me over the past couple years, which is the most important thing. It’s not the name of the manufacturer that’s important, its what fits your style and gets the job done.
Check out a video interview with Jay here.