Diary of A wedding Photographer (it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains.)

1/125 f/3.5 ISO 250 80mm

I recently shot a wedding. I have never aspired to be a wedding photographer for several reasons that I have spoken about in other posts. With that said I never shy away from a wedding because it is a challenge. No one will ever say “wedding photography is fun” because it is not. If you are a full time wedding shooter it is your job and it is a very tough and saturated business. I will shoot weddings because they are a challenge and what I mean by that is; it is like when someone decides to go on a day long hike in the mountains. Sure you like the outdoors, you know how to hike and you like hiking, but a day long hike means you will certainly be doing a little bit of planning and you’ll be tired at the end of the day. Tired, yes, but you will have accomplished something you really like doing and that is capturing great images.

So let’s go over the gear I used and please know I try to keep it as simple as possible, but at the same time I want to do a great (not good but great) job.

Two full size DSLR camera bodies with full crop sensors. Full crop sensors are a must have for low light… and you will be in low light at some point.

Lenses must be good quality if you are doing a paid gig. If you do not own good lenses then go rent them. I am fortunate enough to have my own lenses, but there was a time when I had to rent one or two. For this wedding I used a 24-70mm f/2.8 on one body and a 70-200mm f/2.8 on the second body. I also had an 85mm f/1.4 prime for low light shots of the bride getting ready.

I had on hand one radio controlled speedlight on a stick that could be controlled from both cameras. So no matter which camera I was shooting with I could control the light. I use TTL mode for the light and increase or decrease as needed.

I also used a hand-held wand light for a few shots.

For formal portraits I used one light stand with a studio flash and a battery pack. Sounds expensive, but it was all Paul C Buff which is state of the art equipment that is affordable.

One Blackrapid double camera strap.

Sandisk two 32GB & two 16GB Extreme Pro SD cards with a water proof and crush proof SD card case. Note: I never used all the cards. Total images shot about 1800 for the day.

And yes one good strong assistant who I always work with.

So for the most part I like to shoot weddings in available light, I only use the speedlight when absolutely needed. I like to shoot in a journalistic timeline style, however I will do the formals and creative shots with bride and groom.

This wedding started with me arriving at the bride’s home in the morning to shoot the dress, shoes and some makeup shots. Then driving to the park where the wedding would take place. The actual location was along a walking trail in a wooded area. My assistant and myself quickly scoped out the area for the formals and we then checked the lighting in the wooded area.

The groom and the groomsmen arrived first and the shooting began. Doing creative shots as well as canids, myself I do not dwell and all the hokie creative shots, but more on the special moments. Moments like when two family members who have not seen each other in a long time are smiling and shaking hands or hugging. The image of two people interacting like that will mean so much more in years to come than the groom standing with his buddies in some overdone pose. Every photographer wants to create these awesome photos that have impact and will often overlook the value of the really special moments that don’t look that special at all… today. But as time passes the photos will grow in meaning.

Ok, so then the guests all showed up and headed to the wooded area. The bride had arrived, but was tucked away in the limo awaiting the big moment. So at this point it becomes non-stop shooting. Not spray and pray, but literally non-stop looking for special moments and interaction between her and her mother and the bride’s maids. Needless to say I must now stay with the bride until the ceremony is finished and I did.

I captured all the classic shots from ring exchange to first kiss, the laughing, the crying and everything in between. Turns out I never needed the speedlight at this point so I sent my assistant to a location on the other side of a ravine to be a second shooter for just one particular far away shot. It was a shot capturing the whole wedding ceremony as seen looking through the leaves on the trees. He used my trusty Canon EOS M3 and he did a great job for someone who is not a photographer.

Now shooting the crowd breaking up and departing, again a lot of little special moments. The bride & groom walking by themselves through the forest and making their way back to the parking area.

Now I must take a moment to say that I did not attend a rehearsal, however I had discussed the days’ timeline over breakfast with the couple about a month and half prior. But after the ceremony nothing was scripted, I just followed them and we would stop here and there and shoot. Sometimes I was shooting them without them knowing I was shooting. Use a long lens and put the shutter on silent, great trick.

Now I chose a big open spot in a field for formals with the forest in the background. This way I have no objects growing out of people’s heads and it looked good.

After formals it was the creative shots with the bride & groom. Again I did not get into the crazy over the top poses. I stuck to the images I knew they would like and that we had discussed. There was a very special shot the bride wanted to do with a clear umbrella and I had a brand new clear umbrella all waiting for her. With the help of my assistant the images were captured quickly.

Now a 45 minute ride to the reception venue, but it turned into over an hour-long ride due to an accident and traffic on the highway.

At the venue it was more shooting, but this time it was mostly shots of the whole bridal party. Something to kill time while we waited for all the guests to arrive.

And now the reception photos, the new couples arrival along with bridal party, first dance, mother son dance, father daughter dance and so on. The garter and bouquet toss and finally the cutting of the cake. Not to mention all the while capturing the little moments as I had mentioned earlier.

So my day started at 10:30am at the bride’s home and ended around 8:00pm at the reception. So I think you can see what I mean when I say it is a challenge and not just a “walk in the park.” I must also say that I give everything I have to make this day run as smooth as possible for everyone. And most important of all is I need (not want) to deliver good quality images. Why? Because that is what I do. I want the bride and groom to have nice photos, but at the same time I want nice photos for myself. I want to be able to look at the images I captured and say to myself “you did a great job here today.” I know that sounds crazy, but that is how serious I take what I do. Maybe everyone else likes the photos, but if I don’t like them I will beat myself up about it. I won’t say anything to anybody, but I will just feel I failed… got love that OCD lol.

All in all is was an amazing day the bride & groom are amazing people and their guests were just so easy to work with. I did not have any problems with cell phone shooters and everyone was respectful of the paid photographer.

Drifting Away (…the “joy” of autumn is drifting away.)

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

Autumn 2016 is starting to wane here in New Jersey. While out for my bicycle ride today the weather was nice, certainly sunny and not too chilly. I was testing my new camera and trying to enjoy what I know is inevitable… While autumn season is not truly over until December 21, I have always found that by mid to late November the “joy” of autumn is drifting away. Like a small boat that has come detached from its mooring and starts to ever so slowly drift with the current, drifting till it is further and further downstream. At some point you look away and when you gaze back the boat is gone.

We will have our nice days and we’ll have our rainy days. The rainy days are the times we look away and when the sun shines again… the days are colder, shorter and less color till soon we enter the “grey days” of late November early December. The only cheer at that time is to look forward to the Christmas  and New Year season.

I will leave for Thailand the day before Thanksgiving and miss the whole Thanksgiving holiday. 40 straight hours of hell as I travel from my home in Linvale, NJ to Ko Chang (Chang Island). That is 40 hours with no bed, just a plane seat and or an airport floor or bench to sleep on. Yes I will have fun in Thailand… I sure hope so after 40 hours of travel. But when I return back home to the USA autumn 2016 will be of just a memory.

Photo taken with the Canon EOS-M3 with the 18-55mm lens and I did apply my personal Photoshop recipe. Camera settings were 1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm.

Sights, Sounds & Smells of Autumn (leaves blowing and rustling as people walk on them, the corn stalks chattering as the wind…)

 

Pumpkins On A Wall 1/125 sec at f/9 ISO 800 115mm

Pumpkins On A Wall 1/125 sec at f/9 ISO 800 115mm

It is October 3rd and we are entering that blissful time of year here in the Western New Jersey USA. The days are getting shorter and Fall is in the air… literally. This morning as I stepped out of the house at 5:15am it was dark and foggy, but not too cool. Most of all I could smell the aroma of damp fallen leaves and that smell, although not very pleasant, is the smell that just gives me the vibe of autumn. There are other aromas as well, like corn fields as the dry and the smell fills the air as the sun warms the deadened corn stalks. Sounds too, leaves blowing and rustling as people walk on them, the corn stalks chattering as the wind gives them a voice. These are just a few of the sights, smells and sounds that brings the autumn season into my heart.

Below is a link to the “Backstory” of the image above. A few years back I had done a weekly series of backstory videos on some of my most favorite images.

As a side note or more of a personal story: Autumn is my most favorite season of the year. The colors are so beautiful and there is this feeling of bliss (at least for me) in the air, but there is also a feeling of urgency as I know it will not last. And when it is all gone… the colors the feeling, we are left with looking forward to the “The Holiday” season and winter. While the holiday season is filled with lights, parties, gifts, prayers and food, it is not visual. Yes I know there are lights and decorations, but it is all man-made, autumn is nature and nature is a wondrous beauty.  Nature can wreak havoc beyond one’s imagination too, with storms, earthquakes, Tsunamis and so much more. But Autumn is beauty. It was the Autumn of 1984 that I was recovering from a devastating car wreck. I would spend the days sitting in my grandmother’s lawn swing that was located in a small grove of dogwood trees to the side of the driveway. After my grandmother headed off to work, me with my casts, neck brace and crutches I would perform the epic task to move from the house to the swing by myself. I would drag my guitar case slowly behind me with a bathrobe belt as I made the trek. The pain and the danger of falling were the big obstacles, so once in the swing I would remain there most of the day. In my pocket a few small cigars and I would wait for my father’s cousin Carol to come by, she would bring me something from the house to snack on and a big glass of water. Then she would head off to check on my great-grandmother next door as she did everyday. Carol’s visit was the pinnacle of the time spent in the swing and on shopping day she would ask me what I wanted from the store. She said “I’ll get you anything you want, just no booze or cigarettes.” I usually asked for a bag of pretzels and a bottle of soda. Her and Bill came to see me in the hospital right after the accident, they sat and prayed with me. I had so few visitors, just a few family members and one friend, so when Carol & Bill came to see me… I knew it was heartfelt.

So sitting in that swing day after day during the autumn of 84, strumming my guitar, writing songs and a little poetry, smoking a Swisher Sweet cigar and taking in life was a feeling and a memory I’ll never forget. So when autumn arrives I think of all of that and I think of Carol… rest her soul.

Autumn Walkway ( just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it.)

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

I really like this image I captured this morning while traveling through Princeton New Jersey with my wife. I like the image, but it could be better. Truth be told I did tweak the yellow just a little in Photoshop and the photo is a “hand held” HDR. For those who are not photography geeks should know an HDR image is most times captured using a tripod and it is a combination of under exposure, normal exposure and over exposure images all merged in Photoshop.

So why not use a tripod? And why do I not love the image? Like most landscape images you never really capture the “wow” factor the first time out to the location and this time was no different. I want to capture the day when there is a carpet of yellow leave blanketing the ground. So because it was not at its peak moment I decided to take a quick photo by hand holding the camera.

I first saw this location posted on a photo site three years ago and the caption read “Princeton Sidewalk.” I am familiar with Princeton because I live not far from there and I knew at some point I had walked past this place, but I could never really remember where it was. I used Google Earth Street View to actually locate it. And believe me that was not easy. I spent three different sessions on Google street view just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it. And of course when I did find it, it was a big DUH!

So I will head back to the location in a few days for a second chance.

 

Foxtails Autumn 2015 (just another part of the beauty that is the autumn season)

1/500 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 150mm

1/500 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 150mm

Foxtail in the late day autumn sun. I love Foxtail when they’re fresh and green during the summer. But they really look their best in the fall when they dry and turn a straw color. On the farm where I live there are Foxtail along the borders of the fields and they are just another part of the beauty that is the autumn season, same as pumpkins, cornfields, apples and of course the flaming foliage.

What does Autumn mean to you? The first of a series of images that will be posted in the coming days/weeks titled “Autumn 2015” it will be a series of images that define what I see as the beauty of Autumn. This is a personal project that I have been wanting to do for several years and never really followed through. I’m hoping to create 10 to 20 images although weather and mother nature will dictate some of the ideas I have planned.

Autumn 2015 (Sure the colors are beautiful, but there is also a magic in the air.)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 100mm

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 100mm

Welcoming the first day of the 2015 Autumn season with an image from last year with model Kendall Strampel standing in the buttery yellow sunlight at Lockridge Park.

Autumn is such a magical time for outdoor photo shoots. Sure the colors are beautiful, but there is also a magic in the air. The weather is cooler and we can dress in layers… and with layers comes style. October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month and it gives us a reason to break away from the fall colors and do a shoot with pink as a theme… then of course we go back to the fiery colors of fall again. With pumpkins, cornfields, fall wildflowers… there are so many choices of themes and photo props. For sure we will see images of Kendall again this year and Danny Sturdivant will be stepping up and out for some autumn shoots. Hopefully others will join in the Autumn fun.