Ping Wu Studios

Ping Wu’s Sister Bay photography shop is elegant yet cheerful with silver grey walls and a simple conference table. Curtains with a colorful, yellow, vintage print make the windows pop. But when you enter, your eye is immediately drawn to the wall of vibrant color wedding photographs, quintessential Door County scenes with textured backdrops of old barns, sunset beaches, and even the road across Kangaroo Lake.

Katie Sikora, Ping Wu, Soirsce Kastner

Ping Wu and wife Soirsce Kastner.

Although Wu emigrated to the United States just three years ago, his command of the modern American wedding vibe is obvious, and his images feature technical command coupled with a sense of fun and fine composition. He credits his wife and business partner Soirsce Kastner with helping him develop his sense of composition. “I’ve learned a lot from her about composition,” he says of Kastner who is an accomplished still life and portrait oil painter.

Wu and Kastner met online, as language partners through Skype. “I wanted to go and study in Australia,” says Wu, “and one of the requirements was that I pass an English exam.” Kastner, a Door County native, was studying Chinese here in the United States, and the two began a long distance friendship. “We spoke via Skype every day for two years,” says Kastner, who traveled to China in 2008, intending to stay for four months. The two fell in love and four months turned into one and a half years. The couple was married in January of 2009, then decided to move back to the United States.

At 31, Wu has an impressive résuKatie Sikora, photosmé. He holds two Chinese degrees, one in business English and the other a highly specific film and photo degree that prepared him to be a director for commercial advertisements. He and a friend started their own photography business in Shanghai which specialized in wedding photography. He skipped the traditional apprenticeship of “second shooter” in which young photographers assist an accomplished professional.

“The style in Shanghai is crazy,” says Wu. “It’s a full day shoot, with multiple changes of outfits – very posed and extravagant.” Affluent couples choose their “style,” be it Old Shanghai of the ‘30s, movie set, or traditional. “Sometimes we even traveled to an old movie set outside Shangai for the shoots.”

Wu prefers the American style of wedding photography which he describes as “photojournalistic.” “You are capturing the wedding day as it happens. I really enjoy it,” he says. “I like real weddings because you actually see the emotion in the bride and groom, and everyone around them…We shot our first wedding in the chapel at Björklunden,” he says, glancing at Kastner, “and we both cried.”

Ping Wu, wedding

Photo by Ping Wu.

Kastner acts as second shooter at weddings and also handles the communications aspect of the business. She studied painting under Craig Blietz at the Kewaunee Academy of Fine Art and dabbled in photography before meeting Wu. While in China, she began taking more pictures. “It was difficult to paint in Shanghai without drawing attention to myself,” she says. She credits her husband with teaching her the technical aspects of photography. “There’s a lot to learn,” she says, “how to control the light and which lenses and apertures to use.”

“Plus,” she smiles, “he has all this awesome gear!”

Wu recently photographed the wedding of Abigail and Sern Olson of Ellison Bay. “I just really like his sense of style. He definitely has a unique eye for capturing the moment,” says Abigail. Thinking of a photo where she and her husband were both covered with her veil, she agrees that Wu has a playful side, too. “But he was never intrusive…most of the time we didn’t even know he was there,” she says.

Wu also does a brisk business in senior portraits, which are set in gorgeous outdoor settings across the peninsula, including the iconic Anderson Dock. “I did Gibraltar’s prom a year ago last spring. They were short on funds, so I shot it for free.” Wu’s generosity brought him many new clients, and word continues to spread.

Ping Photography, table

Photo by Ping Wu.

The vibe between the young couple is mutually supportive and easy, but it’s obvious they’re both dead serious about their careers. In the winter, Kastner turns her focus to her painting while Wu focuses on the other half of his business, website design.

Clients include flagship Door County businesses such as Al Johnson’s, Ecology Sports, and Leathem Smith Lodge. The two sides of his business inform each other, says Wu. “Thinking in terms of design really helps me as I’m shooting a wedding. I’m capturing the day but also thinking ahead to what will work and look great in a wedding album,” he says.

When Wu and Kastner aren’t working, they spend time outdoors, kayaking. “This summer we tried to get to the beach a lot,” says Kastner looking around the studio. “But we really don’t have that much free time.”

The two young partners hope that will continue. “Our business is growing every day. It’s a challenge, but we love it,” says Wu.

Photography by Katie Sikora.