James & Stephanie : : Gail's of Tamahere : : Hamilton, New Zealand

James and I first met in Spain in 2014. Kiwis are ever an easygoing lot, at least in my experience, but James is a man apart even by the standard set by his countrymen. I couldn't even say what drew us together initially: the English language, the English breakfast, cycling, movies, Jesus, gravity. Could've been any or all of those things. But I always felt welcome in his company, the conversation came easy, and he was always up for something.

So in 2015, after he'd left Denia for a teaching opportunity in Turkey, we managed to meet again for a weekend in Eskisehir while I was in country visiting family.

Then in 2016 we got together in Paris for a month-long biking trip across Europe.

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So when 2017 rolled around, I was due for a bit of adventure with my friend James. Except it turns out that he and I were in store for an adventure of a different sort. An adventure unlike anything either of us had ever experienced before -

This was of course to visit the set of The Lord of The Rings, a 20 minute drive from James' home in New Zealand.

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The answers to your questions are yes, that was too many cameras and really, James had never been to Hobbiton before I came to visit. 

But this year was different too because both of us were about to get married:

James, to his very first girlfriend, the one who (almost) got away, the girl he couldn't get out of his mind for the last 10 years.

and me, to some chick I met the day before. (I'mjustkiddingbabeyou'retheloveofmylifeIdon'tknowwhereI'dbewithoutyoumwahmwahMWAH!)

Back in August of 2016, James left me in Denia so excited to get back to New Zealand for his best friend Lucas' wedding. It was going to be really special because 1. Lucas wasn't expecting him to be there, because 2. James hadn't been home in several years. But this time he found a good reason to stick around for awhile because who should he run into at this wedding but Stephanie Gardiner.

And after all these years, it was finally time.

I basically begged James to let me come out and shoot their wedding last July, and he was gracious enough to fly me out for it. Sure, it was a chance to shoot in an exotic location with some handsome people (if you think James is handsome believe me, he married way way WAY up), but more than that I was just excited to shoot a hometown wedding - to barbecue with James and his groomsmen the night before, to meet Stephanie's parents and get the dirt on teenage James from them, to witness their community and church gather around them to witness their marriage, to listen to the best best man and maid of honor toasts EVER, and finally to see their friends' band bring down the house at the end. It was a night to remember.

And James, it was a privilege to be there with you for it.

Thank you for letting me be a part of that day, thank you for always being up for an adventure, and thank you for being my friend. You and I both know how easy it is to lose track of your international pals, but I'm glad that you and I always seem to find our way back to each other.

So what are we thinking for 2018?