Lauren & Ryan

I have yet to meet a person who has ever hear of Lowndesboro, AL, but it may be the smallest, most idyllic little southern town I’ve ever been visited. The last census says the population is 140, which means there is 1 gorgeous little white church for every 14 people:)

At any rate, this was my sort of place. I love old buildings, outdoor settings with great light, perfect light for pictures of a beautiful couple, live music, tractors, boiled shrimp. . .it was a great day!

It’s so funny writing about a 97 degree June day in the middle of winter – it almost seems like a dream now, but at the time it was very hot. Lauren and Ryan were amazing though – they were committed to having a fantastic day and taking awesome pictures. They gave us permission to do our best work, and it made all the difference in the world (like when we walked across the street to find the perfect light right after the ceremony).

I also to have to tip my hat to Lauren & her stepmother – they did a fantastic job with all the details. They put so much thought into everything and it was all executed to perfection.

One last thought. . .Ryan is a fairly shy, reserved person, but you would never know it from his huge smile in all of these pictures – I love that he was so happy about getting married!

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Night Photos

I was asked yesterday if I were able to take good night pictures. . .it’s something that I’ve been doing so long, that I almost forget that it is not normal to enjoy shooting in “dungeons” (dark places with black ceilings, or outdoor night receptions). I was at a photography conference a couple of years ago, and the speaker (Jose Villa) asked to see hands for anyone who enjoyed shooting wedding receptions. Mine was the ONLY hand to raise in a room full of photographers.

Night/dark shooting can get expensive and lighting a reception well often requires several thousand dollars of equipment. I have 4 canon flashes, an Alien Bees flashhead, a kazillion sets of Elinchrom skyports (radio triggers for flashes), and a bunch of light stands. Then there are the fast lenses. . .those are even more expensive. It is a pain to set up and tear things down in a hurry when you’re trying to get between locations. But it is worth it for great pictures.

I will say that I am not by any means perfect when it comes to shooting at night. Pre-visualizing a scene is really tough, and sometimes something I think will work totally bombs. Photoshop, great lenses, and practice help, but sometimes we are saved by a bit of good luck!

My ideal light set-up for a reception is double back-lit, with a flash to the left and right side of the dance floor, raised up high. Then another flash to the front/side and another one if needbe on my camera (or more often, in my hand).

For general night pictures, it’s more of a free-for-all – if it works, then great. Sometimes one backlight, sometimes two side-lights, sometimes nothing but streetlight. . .the picture above is my friend John Deaver’s video light.

I’ll explain the light set-up and my thought process in a few of the pictures below that may be helpful to figure out how they were taken.

Amazing natural light is sometimes your best friend. Night is fun because it can change a location that is boring in the day into something magic in the dark. This is the reflecting pool at the Birmingham botanical gardens. The two backlights illuminate the lanterns, cake and Alona singing Etta James!
This is at the far range of the radio triggers. Balancing flash with a little bit of twilight is ideal for a killer picture. . .if you can get the flash to fire!Full moon + video light“Dino-lite” – one of the flashes was aimed at the dinosaur skeletonBalancing the flash with ambient light is important to showcase a great venueMultiple flashes help light the entire room No flash at all, just a 1/4 second exposureGood example of double back-light that makes the car and bubbles stand out in the pictureSilhouettes at twilight are some of my very favorite pictures to take. We did flash a couple of those, but it worked so much better with natural light.People don’t go blind from all of our flashes!! They’re all set at very low power (usually 1/32-1/64) so that ambient light, like the string-lights, will show up in pictures. Multiple flashes are key to illuminating people at different distances from the camera. One light is hitting Lisa on the stairs and another the girls waiting to catch the bouquet. The pictures above are typical dance set-ups. Direct flash kills the detail on a dress (it will turn completely white), but side-lights will make detail stand out. The goal is to get the light perfect so that you can focus on capturing moments and emotionLighting the entire room is important for things like the garter toss or if there is a live bandNo flashes here, the ambient light worked greatRemote flash to make Bethany & Nick visible, the car is light by streetlightsBlack cars are crazy tricky, and I’m still not great at shooting them. This picture had a light directly in front of the car and another near the back end of the car to skim along the side and give it some definition. The wide beam of a flash can light up both the couple and the area around them, so the backlight lights both Jennifer & John and the leaves.Silhouettes with ambient light to show the locationBalancing multiple flashes and ambient is idealSometimes very simple pictures are quite complicated. This is shot with a telephoto from the other side of the dance floor (the alternative location was at the bottom of the stage where I’d be looking up their noses) – the remote flashes light Jeff and Carmen’s dadCross light is great for bubbles. One flash is visible (I’m actually holding it while taking a picture), and the other is behind the camera to the left. A very slow exposure at a a high aperture will give the starburst effect (like f/22) – the challenge is getting the couple to stand still for such a long time.
Shooting in the dark with a flash can make colors crazy-vibrant.Shooting through candles at a reception – lights in the foreground and background are rendered as the foreground and background as circles of light. This works with the 85 1.8 or really well with the 85 1.2. flashlight in front, flash behind them, and the ambient light from Ross BridgeBacklight is awesome for creating lines and texture. This is with a 17mm lens and a super-awesome couple who were willing to take a few more pictures after their reception! Ambient light and the rainy streets, and a 35 1.4

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Holly & Scott Paris Wedding

Paris = Epic

It is a bit daunting shooting in such an iconic city. To be totally honest, the pictures in front of/under the Eiffel tower are some of the trickiest I’ve ever taken. The challenge is to see something iconic with new eyes, and to give the impression that Holly & Scott are the only people in the world (even though it’s Paris and there are people and cars everywhere!)

The wedding came about, as do so many adventures in my life, through my friend Ginny from bitsandbobs, who helped Holly and Scott plan the details of their elopement. We traveled with Ginny & David to photograph their wedding in Montana last fall, and she obviously is a huge believer in developing a relationship with a photographer that can continue before and after the wedding, even if it’s a destination wedding. So though it seems a bit crazy, it actually worked out to be much easier to have me travel with them than to hire a photographer from Paris. I’m so grateful that they trusted me to come along, and it really did turn out to be amazing!

The hotel pictures are at the Ritz Carlton, which is simply amazing. Then we had a driver take us to meet the minister from the American Church in Paris, who performed the ceremony. Then we hopped back in the car to hunt for champagne and to take some pictures at the Jardin de Tuileries, the tour d’Eiffel, and Ponte Neuf, where the tradition is to attach a lock to the bridge and throw the key into the Seine.

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Anna & Aaron

I love people who are “different,” and Anna & Aaron would definitely fit that description. They are both super-creative, deliberate, kind people with an awesome vintage sense of style that they incorporated into their wedding.

The wedding was as my home church, Vestavia Hills Lutheran, the reception at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and we went to the Redmont Hotel for just a few more pictures after the reception.

My favorite moment: if you live in Alabama, you know that weddings are a not-so-subtle opportunity to declare your love both as husband and wife and to offer your vows to the SEC football team of your choice! So of course when the DJ played Sweet Home Alabama, Anna’s dad screamed the obligatory “Roll Tide, Roll.” Anna, an Auburn grad, stuck her fingers in her ears:)

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Meghan & Lance

“I feel that this picture encompasses the entire day. We are both smiling and gripping each other’s hands, so excited about being married. I remember us laughing about the fact that our wedding day was finally here, we had been engaged for almost a year and it seemed like it would never happen.” – Meghan

I love happy people! Meghan and Lance were absolutely thrilled to be getting married, and I love that there is so much joy in all of their pictures.

The wedding was at 1st Methodist in Huntsville and the reception at the Early Works Museum. One of the most important things to Meghan was to have a killer party, and that definitely happened. The had DJ Coco come up from Birmingham, and I have to say, that guy is a genius.

Maybe the most tactful groomsmen’s prank I’ve ever seen occurred at this wedding. They picked Lance up (literally), locked a ball & chain to his ankle, and gave Meghan the key. They danced a bit, which is hilarious considering Lance is chained up, but Meghan was free to unlock him when she was ready. Well done guys, well done – funny, endearing, and still awesome.

One other thing that I totally loved. . .Meghan’s dress. . .good grief, definitely one of the prettiest dresses I’ve ever seen (it came from Ivory & White in Birmingham if you’re dress hunting!).

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