a wedding

posted: Mon, Jul 24, 2023 | tagged: | photo
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And here I thought I was going to have a lazy, casual weekend...

wedding bliss

Catholic Wedding Ceremony

I, uh, photographed a wedding. I've never done that before, and when I had thought on Tuesday of the week that I'd have a lazy weekend and just relax a bit, I couldn't have been more off with my aim.

Come Thursday morning, I get a call from a friend anxiously looking for advice and assistance regarding a proposed job. The friend has done this before, and had photographed 5 other weddings before. But it had been a minute. I told him I was there for him, and would happily assist as I have been anxious to get into a more professional photography project for some time now.

but wait, taking a project on a Thursday for a Saturday wedding?

You might be wondering what happened. So were we. Turns out the couple had their primary photographer back out at very much the last minute. And we took the job on ~48 hour notice without a lot of information about the couple, what they wanted and no opportunity to scout any of the 4 venues ahead of time. Yes, 4 venues.

so what did I need?

Well, given that I had relatively recently switched from my Nikon DSLR to a Sony Mirrorless camera, I had to take quick stock of invenetory. After thinking through the dynamics of the shoot, and reading a few blog posts and looking at some wedding images online, I was fairly confident that my Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens would be up for the challenge coupled to the full frame mirrorless camera.

Sony A7RIII with Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens

The lens provides for fairly wide photos at 24mm, features enough reach for not large spaces at 70mm, and will perform fairly well in low light situations.

I brought along a "nifty 50" f/1.8 prime Sony lens and a Sony G Master 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 with OSS for any long shots. I figured this would cover most situations.

But what was I missing? A flash.

Turns out my old Nikon flash was essentially dead. And having recently made the conversion to mirrorless, I hadn't replaced my flash head. Futher, I hadn't shot with a flash in a few years. I was seriously rusty.

Amazon Prime to the rescue, I had a new flash in-hand on Friday afternoon and started practicing.

Throw in a handful of SanDisk Extreme Pro 256 GB SD cards, 4 camera bats and I'm ready to go.

an approach

We met Thursday night to plan out what we could without having access to the bride and groom. We pulled up images and maps of the 4 venues, and figured out how we'd attack the day.

The church

I knew I'd try to find an elevated choir alcove from which to catch some wide shots of the venue from a unique perspective, and I'd throw on the 70-300 for a few close ups from the elevated position. Then I'd roam around the church on one wing while the primary photographer would handle the center aisle during the procession and then roam the other wing. We had partial access to the altar, and floated around capturing the envet.

Lots of burst shooting here, trying to avoid the blinks while grabbing the smiles.

The bridal party photos

We ventured to the Pasadena Courthouse following the ceremony for pictures of the bridal party. With a oh-so comfy temp of 90-95 degrees, it made for a toasty affair at mid day with really harsh lighting conditions. And while the courthouse primary building is beautiful and very mission inspired, the harsh light made for some real opportunities for blown out highlights. Some fill flash was certainly in order, and we made the most of it.

The reception

Now on to the reception. Wow, we had some lighting challenges in the reception hall. Dark walls with bright windows (until sunset), and very dim lights in the venue. Time to light up the strobes, and start leveraging depth of field rules for focal lengths. Most of the night was shot at 24mm with an aperature of f/4 to allow the lens to drink in as much of the ambient light as possible coupled with the flash with a slight drop in flash compensation of one stop.

The reception was a rather long affair, and by the end of the day we had been on our feet for over 12 hours and had each snapped around 1,300 exposures.

what did I learn?

My instincts weren't far off, and I had managed to anticipate a decent amount of what I'd be up against based on the homework I had done in research and in discussion with the lead photographer.

I was shooting in aperture priority for most of the day, with occasions drifing into full manual for some more artistic images. Most of the time I left the camera in autofocus with a flexible spot (thank you Sony), and as the night got darker locked in manual focus leveraging the aforementioned depth of field rules.

I found that I primarily stuck to my Zeiss 24-70 f/4 lens as it was versatile and handled most everything I needed. I never touched my "nifty 50" prime, and it stayed in the bag all day. I had read that a 24-70 would be enough if you only had one lens with which to shoot a wedding, and the author was right.

I found there to be an interesting juxtaposition between the creative elements of photography that I am used to in my typical photographic pursuits versus the ability to document and capture the moment. And while there were moments of being able to be artistic to capture things like the place settings, bridal table and various atmospheric shots, most of the time I was trying to react and document moments while trying to keep an eye on composition, backgrounds, framing, light conditions, etc.

This was the most challenging thing I've ever done photographically. And frankly, I'm anxious to do this again. Maybe minus the heat. Nothing like a July wedding in Los Angeles.

And after a very long and hot day, I crashed out - hard.

what's next?

Well, I think it is time for me to actually start coding the photo gallery portion of this website. Especially if I am going to do this more, I think having a small showcase is probably a good idea.

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