Dancing On An Island (…“it is about decisive moments and interactions” )

These are the moments in life that really turn me on as a photographer. When you look in on a wedding reception and there is all of this chaotic interaction. People are eating, talking, some are outside smoking, there are people drinking and then… you see two people lost in their selves on a dance floor. Nobody else is dancing but just them and nobody is even paying any attention. These are the special moments that some wedding photographers will overlook because they want to stay pinned to the bride and groom for the whole day/night.

Wedding photography in my opinion is so much more than just capturing the beautiful images of a bride and groom on their special day. I once heard New Jersey based photographer Cliff Mautner  say “it is about decisive moments and interactions” and not all about getting technically accurate photos. Essentially at the end of the day you (the photographer) should have all the classic images of things like the bride walking down the aisle, ring exchange, the first kiss ect… Then of course you will have your formals of the family, the wedding party ect… Quite honestly these are very easy images to capture because most wedding flow the same. I say “most”, but not all. Think about it; you’re at a venue the guests are seated, the groom is waiting, the bride is entering and so on. Sure dealing with the iPhone people can be a challenge; weather (if it is outdoors) can be challenging, but after you do enough wedding these challenges become easier to deal with and overcome. This then of course make your job a lot easier and you can go slam out a wedding. But are you capturing the moments?

When we look at some wedding photographers portfolios or look at the couple’s photo books or albums we sometimes see all these great images, but are we seeing the special interactions or those special moments? Seeing the classic shots are nice, however like I said they are relatively easy to obtain. As long as you know and I do mean “know” your entire camera technical you should be looking for the special moments. Think about it; how much more you can do when you never really have to think about camera technical. You walk into a scene and you are the “auto mode” for the camera. You know what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, hell you even know if you should “spot weight metering” for a special shot. I mostly work with two bodies; one will have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and the other a 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ll have an 85mm prime for some special work that I can throw on real quick. And that is it for cameras & lenses, then there is a speedlight on a stick or a continuous light such as a wand light either hand-held or on a stick.

Some special moments take time to evolve and what I mean by this is; the image you captured today might not mean a whole lot today. However we all know time changes everything and what looks like an ordinary image today could mean the world to someone tomorrow. Weddings are the most likely place to find these kinds of shots. But if you’re just there to get photos of a bride coming down the aisle, rings, kissing and hugs you may not be living up to the potential of your job.

 

 

Sometimes Something Special Happens (I would imagine I was an arctic explorer)

Winter Morning Sun

Winter Morning Sun

Sometimes one will happen upon a special scene. How do we know it is special? We see it of course, but I would say for me it is more of a feeling. Yes there is the visual presence of what we are seeing with our eyes. But more so I think what makes for the special scene is when it triggers a memory from long ago or it reminds us of a special place we have once visited or maybe a person in our life that is at the moment far away or has moved on from this world. So that is what this blog post is about. It is about this photo you see above and how this photo gave me that special feeling. I know this photo is not a work of art by any means and if it stirs a reaction from you I am very happy. Who knows it may give you a different feeling than it does me. After all I was the one standing there and got to actually see the beauty and feel it. So let me set the stage and how I came upon this scene.

As some know I am a school bus driver and I drive a small van size bus. The bus is not small because I have “special” students but rather I travel into a very rural area and on very narrow back roads of Hunterdon, Mercer & Somerset Counties here in New Jersey USA. This place you see in the photo is a place I stop every morning prior to picking up my first student of the day. I stop here to collect my thoughts and wait until the exact second on the clock to continue on and I like to be on time. On time, to the very second (a little OCD there). Because I arrive at this spot daily at 6:10am, in January it is dark, I just pull the bus to stop on the side of this back road and wait my time sitting in the seat. But on this day I was starting the day late because the school had a delayed opening due to a bad winter storm that had arrived the day before.

So upon driving up the road I noticed the sun rising to my right and as I approached my usual spot to stop I opened the door and stepped out. When I did this is the scene that was presented to me and it happened, that special feeling of “wow” look at this. For me it instantly took me back to when I was young and I would see the virgin snow across a meadow on the farm where I lived as a small child. I stood there as the memories swept through my mind. I can remember coming out of the house after the snow had stopped and finding a scene like this that had no foot prints at all and then trudging across the meadow leaving just “my” foot prints. As a child I would imagine I was an artic explorer and go off having fun as young children do. Like most memories, one is tied to another and they start to unravel like a string.

I quickly reached for my phone and I captured about 4-5 shots of this scene and then I went back to my memories. I thought about riding my Flexible Flyer sled, I thought about how we would come in from a day of winter fun, all sopping wet and hungry. As the memories just kept unraveling all of the sudden I was startled by a strong vibration in my right hand. My alarm clock in my phone was going off telling me it is time to start the bus run and in an instant the young boy playing in the snow evaporated from my mind. Although I seen him in idle moments throughout the rest of the day. Also I couldn’t wait to see how bad my photos were, thinking “what I seen vs. what the mobile phone camera captured.” To my surprise I had a good photo or at least good enough to do a minor edit and post to Facebook & Twitter. So the Twitter feedback lit up and I couldn’t wait to return home to see it on a monitor.

Most of us would give anything to go back in time to all the fun we had, snow included. But as we age we take that small child with us in our memories and every once in a while something unlocks the door and we can peer in and see they are still there playing away. Thank god for those “every once in a while” scenes.