I shot a wedding recently for my friends Nick and Lauren. You may remember them from their engagement photos a couple posts back. Their day finally came and it was a good one.
Wedding was on a Saturday. I rolled in Thursday evening. Night out with the fellas, no camera needed. Let’s just say a scorpion bowl was ordered, or some variation of it, and the rest gets fuzzy after that. I’m exaggerating, but those damn things do sneak up on you. (Imagine a large potently spiked punch bowl with a bunch of straws, and add the fact you’re usually inebriated already by the time you order it. None of this is good.) But all ended well and we had the good fortune to come home under a blue moon that we could see through the top of this thing. Pretty cool.
The tepee police eventually stopped by to see if occupants were at an acceptable level of weirdness. They were. Bottles were passed, stories were told, Raj made us laugh by being as serious as he could, and we went to bed. Good clean fun, officers.
There was a big party at the house Friday after the rehearsal. Everybody ate some good food and had a great time. And I didn’t come across any kale all evening, yes! Or maybe it’s to the point where it’s invisible to me now. Hopefully, the latter is true. Anyway, a few budding comics hijacked the mic late in the evening, and that’s really when the tepee police would’ve come in handy, particularly with that one windy joke about JJR (Jean-Jacques Rousseau). Yeah, good weird times. Sorry, you probably had to be there 😉
Saturday morning I woke up nervous like I always do on the day of a shoot. A wedding is a little worse though. I made it a point not to drink too much the previous two nights, especially since I was camping, so I could get some decent sleep for what’s usually a pretty long day. I felt good though. And it was going to be a beautiful day weather-wise, if not a little bit on the warm side. I showered and waited for Lauren to start getting ready. This is how it began.
Hair trouble. Lauren has this beautifully curly hair that wasn’t quite getting with the program and things got a little heavy. (I didn’t tell her at the time, but I pretty much went through the same thing that morning. Unfortunately, my recovery wasn’t as graceful, i.e., my mullet didn’t get any prettier that day. Oh well. It’s hard cutting your hair when you barely have any left!)
But I wasn’t sure whether to keep shooting or not. It was one of those times that could go either way. You want to respect the moment and be sensitive to somebody going through some heavy emotions on one of the biggest days of their life, but you also know this is an important part of the whole story you want to tell. It’s so real! And ultimately, it’s why I kept shooting.
At some point, though, I had to go see what Nick was up to at the venue. Ceremony was scheduled to start at 3pm and I think it was around 2 when I left the house. (I should mention they weren’t going to see each other before the ceremony. I thought this was pretty cool considering their non-traditional approach to the whole thing. But it brought up the need to make a big decision for how I shot the procession. I’ll get to that in a little bit.)
I arrived at the venue and everybody was busy with the last minute details- flowers, refreshments, seats, music, sound system, rock cairn, etc. Nick took off to get ready, hoping I didn’t notice I’m sure. I didn’t, and then had to ask around where he went. I finally tracked him down in the grange hall across the field all by his lonesome getting ready.
Probably a good time to talk a little about expectations and details. Basically, there weren’t any. Nick and Lauren have been familiar with my photography for a few years now. As far as style, they knew what they were getting. One of the things that was most important to them when they asked if I’d shoot their wedding was if I could do it and still have a good time. I assured them I could and promised I would.
And details. We had talked about a schedule at one point, but I never got my eyes on one, if it in fact did materialize. But I have to say, this wasn’t a wedding about the details. The whole thing was intentionally fast-tracked, casual, low-key, no bridesmaids or groomsmen, a nacho cheese fountain (j/k), overall pretty simple and practical. And really, isn’t that the way all weddings should be?
So Nick slipping away to get ready wasn’t really a surprise. He didn’t care if it was documented or not, though I suspected Lauren did, and so I did my noble duty to the bride…you know, the one who really matters on a wedding day. Turns out he was looking pretty dapper already.
We were coming up on 3pm fast and there was no sign of Lauren. The plan was for her to put her dress on at the venue. My phone wasn’t getting reception and no one seemed to know what was going on or where she was. I was afraid the situation I left earlier had gotten worse….or maybe she was going to be a runaway bride?!? Haha, Nick was sweating it…not. Cool as a cucumber.
But 3 came around and she finally pulled up with a big smile on her face. All was good. She changed quickly, I got some shots, and it was show time.
I feel like I blew this next one. I actually didn’t notice at the time, but the shoe model was called “lolita”. I should’ve gotten some focus on that…it’s so classic!
Alright, bear with me. Time to get a little nerdy photog on you. Typically, a second shooter at a wedding would make things a whole lot easier as far as the photography goes. Due to the casual nature of this one, it was never even a thought. But it did bring up a decision that was difficult for me to make. From where do I shoot the procession? The layout of the venue was interesting. First, it was outdoors. (Again, 3pm, sunny cloudless day, a little windy…not ideal for a photographer.) The ceremony took place here.
You might be able to tell the seating area wasn’t very deep, and it was kind of like a mini-amphitheater with a slight bowl shape and hill. So normally I would be positioned near the stump (might be called the pulpit in more traditional circumstances) for the procession. Here, with the lack of a real aisle of any length and that small hill with people standing on it blocking clean shots of the approaching procession, I decided it would be best just to photograph them while they were walking up to the location instead. It would be nice and wide open. And I love the subtleties of the shots where you can see both Nick in the foreground and Lauren hiding behind the bushes in the background, knowing neither of them could have that same vantage point.
The more important reason, though, was my desire to get Nick’s reaction to Lauren walking down to the stump. I don’t know, some might argue getting the bride walking down is the perspective to get if you’re shooting by yourself. It’s a decision that really affects the look of the photos of the procession. I may have sacrificed some tighter shots of moms and dads and son and daughter but like I said before, the bride always has priority and I think the shots of Nick were the right ones to get for her. And seriously, that volcano in the background looks pretty damn cool. Had to milk it.
The ceremony was short and sweet, and featured hilarious and heartfelt vows recited by the couple. It ended with the audience forming a large circle around them for the big pronouncement. And at that point I was in uncharted territory.
Obviously, without the audience, it wasn’t something we rehearsed the day before so it was a matter of take it as it comes. Things are happening pretty fast at this point and I had the urge to jump out and get a shot of them from the front. But then again, I knew the kiss was coming and I didn’t want to be switching positions, having to scramble, and not getting a decent angle for it. I already told Nick a story about a past experience I didn’t want to repeat. Decisions people, decisions!
But with the chaos come the keepers. This is one of those shots, one of my favorites, that can only be made in these situations.
After all the congratulations were exchanged it was time for the formals…always a fun time family wrangling with those in-between moments being some of the best.
Nick really didn’t care about getting more shots of just him and Lauren. Typical dude, right? Lauren said she wanted a couple, so we went off to the side for a few minutes to see what we could do. In the spirit of the engagement session, they did a little Adam and Eve action…with a pear. (And a side note for any photographers reading- check out that fill light from the dress on Nick. Yeah, she’s a little blown out, but that’s pretty much expected in this situation, i.e., white dress in high direct sunlight. I just like the way the light really shapes him on both sides.)
Strobed one for good measure. Hard light with a standard reflector, just like the sun. They’re good looking enough to pull it off without a problem.
I knew I was pushing it when I asked them to walk over for a final shot behind a barn. Little did I realize it also had a direct view of the pub just across the field where wedding attendees grabbed a cold one while they waited for the bus to take them to the reception venue. The “Rolling Roots” bus was pretty awesome by the way, completely lounged out.
You can’t blame him, but Nick really wanted to join the party, so I scrapped the last photo…or maybe it was when he said “the bus is waiting for us” and started walking before I could dial it in, which to me meant ‘we’re done’ and off they went. I caught a couple shots of the bus pulling away, loaded up my gear, saw some little girls across the street selling lemonade, and decided I needed a break.
Unfortunately, while I was taking my break (and wouldn’t you know it) I missed one of the funniest scenes of the day…I can only imagine after having it described to me. At one point Lauren’s veil flew out of a window of the bus. The driver had to turn it around, stopping traffic and all, so they could retrieve it. Damn. I think the worst part was that the lemonade wasn’t even cold. Maybe some memories are best left undocumented, though.
I thought it was a little strange I caught up with them after enjoying my warm lemonade and cookies, but I’m glad I did. And I’m glad my dangerous but well-honed habit of one-handed photography while I’m driving again paid off handsomely with this image of the bus pulling up to the reception venue.
The rest was pretty typical reception stuff. Dinner, toasts, speeches, slideshow, pie cutting, garter flipping, flower tossing, music playing, dirty dancing, all balanced with Nick’s orders for me to enjoy myself. There were friends there I hadn’t seen in awhile and so often it ended up being the case where mid-conversation I’d stop and shoot because I had no idea what was happening next, like the introduction of the newlyweds.
Killer view of Mt. Hood and the surrounding orchards and vineyards from the Crag Rat Hut.
I mentioned the dirty dancing…at least one person got a few practice moves in when he had the chance. (You’ll get’em next time Brandon.)
First dance and oh, that look!
Finally, it got to the point when Nick was pretty much insisting I put the camera down to enjoy the rest of the evening. I told him I was obligated to get the bouquet toss and that was it. And it pretty much was. When I was walking out to my car, though, I ran into the glitter crew, got a few shots, and finally put the camera away…only to miss Mr. Batty drop his pants on the dance floor. Another classic that could’ve been.
On a more serious note, I want to talk briefly about something I have very strong feelings about when it comes to shooting a wedding. It’s important to note no one was waiting around for me before something was done. I like it that way. It can be risky, and you can miss some shots, but it’s when you capture the rawest emotional content in the ones you do get. Because I’m reacting at the same time everyone else is. When I look through the blogs of a lot of wedding photographers, and based on my observations at weddings I’ve attended, the whole event can revolve around the photographer. All those “moments” they capture so beautifully are staged to the point where it becomes more about them than the couple enjoying the day. A lot of wedding photographers talk about the “experience” they “give” the client, which to me sounds like an ass backwards sales pitch, and that’s really what it is. I come more from the angle that a wedding, no different than life, is for everyone to experience their own way, not for the way it looks to me and my camera. I’ll deal with that on my own, thanks.
I didn’t have any limitations for where to shoot during the ceremony or anywhere else, but I still feel like I don’t need to be getting up in anyone’s grill for a shot, especially during the ceremony. I want to be as non-intrusive as possible for pretty much the whole day. Some photographers will make the argument that part of the whole experience is looking and feeling good for the photos, but that’s crazy photographer bullshit talk. That’s essentially revoking the couple’s option to do it their own way, even if they don’t know what that way is. (And this is after seeing firsthand how some brides and grooms really do go into a wedding day daze.) Nothing about the day is normal, but nobody needs to be told what to do or how to act for a photo. I tried a couple times. It rarely works. And I’m glad it doesn’t, because if it did, it would become more about me than them. This is probably the biggest problem I have with the current state of the wedding photography industry, and it’s the primary reason I haven’t made a huge effort in marketing myself as a wedding photographer. People may not be lining up for me to shoot their weddings now, but I’m sticking to my style and the industry trends (because that’s what they are) will eventually catch up again.
Alright, I got it out of my system, thanks for indulging me.
All said and done, it was a great day. I told myself I’d let loose that night after having been so good the few nights before and working pretty hard throughout the day, but when it came down to it, I was beat. Things finally wrapped up at the reception and a group of us ended back up in the tepee. I tried to hang…there were 3 bottles of whiskey being passed, I think…but there was no way around the fact I just needed to go to bed with the satisfaction of knowing I did the best I could. To me, that also means I had a really great time.
Probably the highlight of my weekend was Lauren telling me how happy she was I was there photographing them. You have to know her a little bit to understand. I’ve known her for 6 years and I’ve found she’s one of those people, a little on the mysterious side, who you don’t always know what they’re thinking. They’re usually polite, a little on the quiet side, never say things they don’t mean, but can be really spontaneous when they want to be. Anyway, we talked about the mini-crisis earlier in the day and she said me being there really helped her get through it all without completely falling apart, and I’m pretty sure it’s not just because she knew I would’ve captured it for all eternity had she done so.
But seriously, there are no better words a photographer, or more importantly, a friend can hear and I thank them both again for giving me the opportunity to play a small part in their special day.