Written for KWP by Associate Photographer Rick Birt of romeobravophoto.com
I recently had the honor of documenting the union of Anna and Hayden Taylor. They are a cute and fun couple, and I thoroughly enjoyed shooting them. I should also mention that Anna’s mother, Charla, was kind enough to provide me with a shot list, and kept everything running smoothly that day. It was arranged to be an intimate ceremony with close family in the living room of the Groom’s parents’ home. It all sounded like the perfect scenario for photographing my first wedding.
So was it all rainbows and unicorns? Not quite…
I had just switched from a Sony a7R II camera to a Fuji X-Pro2 the month before. I absolutely love the Fuji, but I still haven’t mastered it like the Sony. Moreover, I got a bad copy of the zoom-lens and was in the middle of an exchange – so I didn’t have it for the ceremony. Therefore, I went looking for a second body. I almost bought another X-Pro2, but I got a great deal on an Olympus Pen-F and two prime lenses the night before the big day. Suffice it to say, I had not mastered the Olympus either.
As for lighting, I purchased an on-camera speedlight, a Diva ring-light, and a small LED continuous light array. My wife also suggested I bring her light-gun, so I stopped by her studio on the way to meeting the bride, and her mother, at the salon. When I got to my wife’s studio she told me her light gun was “in the attic.” So I proceeded up the stairs to a little loft area where she keeps some of her equipment.
She then asked, “What are you doing?”
I explained, “I’m looking for the light-gun.”
She then said, “It’s in the attic – at home.”
So, I grabbed a couple of her Westcott Ice lights and off I went.
The salon was very nice, but was pretty crowded (which I’m sure is normal for a Saturday), so it was hard to find a good shooting position, but I managed to get a few nice portraits.
Soon we were off to the main venue.
As soon as I got there, I surveyed the area, and started to set up and position my lights. While setting up the Diva ring-light, the actual light would not turn on. I then got called to take some pictures of the bride’s dress before she put it on. When I got back, I changed out the bulb on the Diva light, but it didn’t work either. I was then summoned to take shots of the Groom and his father as they pinned on eachother’s boutineers. While using the attached speedlight, my shots were tremendously over-exposed. I turned the speedlight down as low as it would go, and looked at the camera settings, but I couldn’t get the exposure right. So I turned the Speedlight off. I was immediately called to take shots of the bride as her mother buttoned up the back of her dress. I grabbed the Ice lights, and ran upstairs. I enlisted Anna’s sister, and sister-in-law (to be) to hold my “Lightsabers.” They worked perfectly.
As the Bride pinned on her father’s boutineer, I tried the speedlight one more time with different settings – same result…grrr
The vow exchange was to be done in front of a large window creating a strong back-light. So, I ran down stairs and finished setting up the small LED light array. I took some shots of the groom to get the exposure right for the ceremony, and planned to use my other camera for when the bride came down the stairs. As I dialed in the exposure, the bride emerged. I didn’t have time to pick up my other camera, so I quickly changed exposure settings and started popping off shots. In the fray, roughly half of those shots ended up in focus, and in half of those – the bride was looking down or blinking 🙁
As I photographed the ceremony, I noticed the exposure would change dramatically at times, but I couldn’t figure out why. Later, while I was taking family portraits, I learned that the LED array would blink off and on randomly.
So I was down to my “Lightsabers” as the only reliable light source…and in true Star Wars fashion – they saved the day!
All in all the experience was immensely stressful…but I LOVED IT!
The pressure of overcoming obstacles to create memories that would last this family a lifetime was intoxicating. In a way, it reminded my of my times as a Marine Pilot. In the Marines, our gear was often old, and unreliable so we were often forced to ‘Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.’ So, as funny as it sounds, my Marine training helped me become a better photographer 😉
Did I succeed in the face of adversity? I think so, but I’ll let you be the judge…
Comment from the mother of the bride:
“Love it! I would have never known you were experiencing so many obstacles – your calm demeanor and great attitude outshined anything going wrong. The pictures are absolutely beautiful and you were amazing to work with – I had to laugh a little as I read how you were being summoned up and down the stairs ??? I was truly ignorant to things going on in other areas of the house. Thank goodness for that Marine training!”
Thanks to the Chapin and Taylor families for allowing me to capture these memories.
Gear Used (and in some case – not used):
WWII Era Zeiss Contax 50/1.5