My first wedding

I had the pleasure to be asked to shoot my first wedding not too long ago. I have been studying wedding photography ever since I got my degree almost 5 years ago but never got the opportunity to shoot one. I don’t even attend weddings actually, so…

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One month in advance, I first asked my friends to go through my work, go through Pinterest as well, and create a board with anything that looked good to them, anything that they’d want me to follow as style, example, “must-have” shots, etc. We then sat down and discussed their ideas, expectations, needs, my ideas, my expectations, my needs. We drank coffee, ate cake, had a great time. And I think this is how any kind of photoshoot should begin, with a nice long and relaxed talk. The relaxation part comes in handy especially for weddings I think. This is a big day for everyone and a good photographer should always be calm and give some kind of assurance that everything will be as alright as possible. Always under-promise, overachieve. Well, if you can.

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I prepared myself for every situation I could think of. We all went to the place where the wedding would be taking place and discussed exactly what their expectations were. I have worked alongside a lot of wedding photographers and knew pretty much what the whole package should look like (rehearsals, portraits before the wedding in a nice location, wedding preparations, wedding venue details, bride prep, groom prep, ceremony, individual portraits, group shots, party, lunch/dinner, etc.). We settled on bride prep, venue, ceremony, party, and a few lunch shots (before everyone would start eating – never shoot eating people, never).

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Based on all this, I started planning. The bride and groom “must have” list, my own “must have” list based on my expectations, the gear, the lights, the bags, the clothes, everything. So I decided to bring my Sony a77 as main body, the a450 was the backup. I brought along almost all my lenses:

  • Rokinon 8mm f/3.5,
  • Sony SAM 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6,
  • Sony SAL 28mm f/2.8,
  • Sony SAL 50mm f/1.4,
  • Sony SAL 70-300G SSM f/4.5-5.6,
  • Sony SAM 85mm f/2.8

I did not bring my Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset (the “Bokeh Monster”) and the Minolta 500mm f/8. The latter for obvious reasons, the first because it’s a full manual lens and you don’t have time for stuff like that while running around and making each shot count.

On the other hand, I wanted to have the time, especially for the individual portraits, to shoot film. My friends loved my analog work as well so we decided to shoot some Medium Format film portraits. For those, I brought the Bronica GS-1 with the 100mm f/3.5, some Kodak Portra 400 rolls and some Ilford HP5 400.

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On the wedding day, I arrived early. The weather was surprisingly perfect (expected rain): bright sun and quite warm. Part of the wedding took place outside (drinks and hors-d’oeuvres), part inside (ceremony and lunch). As I arrived before the bride, I settled my gear in one (secured) room and started walking around with the a77 and GS-1 to shoot some environmental shots (flowers, tables, decorations, arrangements in general). I wanted to be as comfortable with the place as possible, know my way around well enough in case I needed different routes, detours, locations I had not thought of before…

Once the bride arrived, she got ready and the relatives and friends started arriving. While she was getting ready, I shot the wedding dress then got back to her and did some portraits with her relatives and friends. Then, as more people started gathering at the venue (groom included), I began shooting situational portraits. The ceremony room was now all set-up, everyone was getting ready, the bride and her father were almost good to go. We discussed a little (“walk slowly”, “you’ll have to stop here and here”, “I’ll be shooting this and this”) and then, the show was on.

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What I found very easy was the mingling. I’ve always been comfortable in a crowd and never had trouble chitchatting when needed, a nice smile here, a polite nod there, always be tactful and thoughtful. Mind your surroundings and anticipate movement. It’s a bit like driving a car really, learn how to read and anticipate people and everything will be easier.

It was a very nice wedding, people were happy and relaxed, a photographer’s dream.

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The hardest part, and newest one for me as well, was the “constant vigilance” (yep). Always be focused, always be aware, always anticipate, always walk around, crouch, run, go upstairs, go downstairs, be a contortionist, don’t mind your clothes (too much, you still have to look decent).

Overall, I mostly used the 28mm (48%), the 70-300G (24%), and the 85mm (15%). The remaining pictures were shot with anything I thought would help and with the Bronica.

I only shot two rolls with the GS-1 and kept around 15 shots. Not a bad rate I might say.

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Everyone was extremely happy and pleased about the results (including me) and I have to say that I had a lot of fun. And if there should be a take away from all this, I think this is it: Have fun! Enjoy yourself! Otherwise it will show. You might be the most seasoned wedding photographer, if you’re not enjoying this, you’ll end up with the same shots, over and over again, wedding after wedding again. And to me, that’s a desk job. So, no thanks. That’s what I’ve learnt over the years around my friends, and also based on what I shoot the most. If I take a look at my results, and always see the same kind of shot, I will hate it and be disappointed in myself.

Oh, one bit of advice. Always bring headache pills. I use nurofen. It’s strong and fast. Use it.

Here’s a gallery.

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Staring at the Moon

Stabilized Moon Shot

Stabilized Moon Shot

I have been working a lot lately, both on my “day job”, as well as on my photography. Things are starting to shape up, especially in my head, which is already a lot to say. We’ll wait and see how things turn out.

This has been shot with the Minolta 500mm f/8 stabilized with a Manfrotto 293 telephoto lens support. It is pure awesomeness. I have never been able to take such a sharp shot of the moon before and this, right here, is making me very happy. What do you think? I’ll show you the setup soon.

500mm Winter Sunrise

#1500mm Winter sunrise 1

#2500mm Winter sunrise 2

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Moonstruck

Moonstruck.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset

I have just bought the Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset on ebay and received it a couple of days ago. I was thoroughly impressed by its reputation and had to have one. I was also looking at the Tair 11A but I didn’t want to explode the budget I had in mind.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset.

I managed to get the Preset version, not the auto one, the difference being that the first one has 15 aperture blades while the latter only 6. When reading through reviews about this lens, I realized the preset one seemed to have a better IQ and a more pleasing bokeh. After all, why buy a “Bokeh Monster” and not go for the lens with the best one between the two.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset and its 15 aperture blades.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset wide open.

Granted the Tair 11A is a little sharper wide open from what I see, but still, the Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset isn’t loosing by a lot.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset and its sharpness wide open.

I haven’t had the time to really extensively test the lens yet, I did on the other hand played around with it just to make sure the merchandise was in proper condition. And it is.

Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset and its bokeh wide open.

I will definitely have a go at it this weekend, especially if it gets sunnier, I’m not comfortable walking around with an M42 lens attached to a body (no matter how weather sealed it is) only with a lens adapter.

One thing I have instantly noticed is the rather low contrast this lens procures. On the two example shots I posted above, I shot both at ISO 50, and only boosted the contrast a little. Not a lot, but still. Maybe the same thing that applied to the Minolta 500mm f/8 will work here as well, change the original lens hood with a longer one. It worked on the Minolta.

Stay tuned for more shots with the Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset, it will eventually come 🙂

Out in the Cold

Yesterday was my weekly “going out with the camera” day, and despite the cold and snow, I spent three hours alone in my photographic bubble. It was also a pretty intense walk as I went through fields, forests, climbing up steep hills with all my gear, resisting to negative temperatures… I loved it.

As usual, I brought the Minolta 500mm f/8, the Sony 70-300 G, the Sony 50mm /1.4 and the Sony 18-55 (because I still don’t have a better alternative for a wide angle lens for the moment. I ended up mostly shooting with the G, sometimes the 18-55 for wider frames, I didn’t use the 50mm because I had something in mind but didn’t find the opportunity, and the 500mm got out of the bag a couple of times.

I was mainly trying to find inspiration for a tiny contest I’d like to submit a shot for, but the walk in itself was perfect. I really start discovering everything that we have around our place, pretty much forests everywhere, beautiful wide fields, ponds and rivers… I doesn’t provide for a lot of variety when it comes to photography but it’s still a nice way of keeping my eyes trained. And my skills. Which brings me to something frustrating.

I just had my vision checked a few days ago. And I had a perfect score, which I was very pleased with. And yesterday, it didn’t help. At all. I spotted a deer at some point, it just started jumping away as I entered the forest, working my way through branches and what not. So of course the noise alerted anything breathing in a 10 mile radius. Anyway, later on, I was doing my best to be quiet, slowly advancing through the forest, carefully looking around, trying to spot anything interesting. I stepped on a tiny little branch, made that cracking sound you see in horror movies, you know when you try being silent and then you just step on a branch and hell unleashes upon you. Well, I made that cracking sound and all of a sudden, three deer just bolted. They were literally a few steps away from me and I didn’t see a thing. Maybe they were laying down, or just standing really still because they knew I was there, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, but the point is, they bolted before I could even think about shooting their shadows. Frustrating.

I know I’m supposed to be patient, still, quiet. Find a good spot and wait, etc. I know. I know that the point of these weekly walks aren’t wildlife photography, so I shouldn’t complain about not shooting anything by the time I get home. But I felt stupid not seeing those animals right in front of me. When the weather will be more comfortable-ish, I will choose a hunting spot (there are dozens around), bring food, water, a blanket, my gear, and spend a few hours just waiting. Right now I need the 3 hours walk, it helps me go through the busy in a good and relaxed mood. We’ll talk wildlife photography in April I think. By that time, my a77 will be here, I’ll be comfortable enough with it to be shooting more delicate subjects I hope, so we’ll hopefully have some great wildlife shots to look at.

Speaking of which, my a77 will be in my hands in 6 days, I can’t wait. There are so many things I want to try, so many good things I heard about. I can’t even begin to imagine how the 500mm will look like on that body, if well used, it could bring amazing results. And the 70-300 G? Can’t wait.

I have already started working on yesterday’s shots, it’s tricky because it was snowing and it’s not that easy to PP when snow is producing tiny spots everywhere in the darker areas. But still, there are some shots I am eager to get to, I loved the idea of these shots right when I was taking them and I want to see the final result.

It feels good to have such a 3 hours bubble, you should try it sometime 🙂

Winter birds

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Starting afresh

snowy bridge.

It’s been a while. A while since I had something to say, photographs to posts. It’s been a while since I had the time to think about it and actually do something about it. I haven not been around due to some lack of thinking about photography, on the contrary, I’ve kept reading blogs or forums, kept looking for photographs I like or love, kept thinking about DIYs and gear acquisition. I’ve kept my photographic self busy, but not busy enough. For the first time in months, yesterday, I prepared my bag, got equipped for winter, and got out. I spent nearly three hours walking around in the snow, through fields and forest, switching from the 70-300 G to the 500mm, with some 50mm breaks here and there, I patiently waited to see, hear something. I followed paths, walked through dense forest, got lost, found my way again, and eventually got back home with 400+ shots. This alone hasn’t happen in months either. And I took the time, today, to go through all these shots, select, postprocess, and schedule their blog spot over the next few days. And I feel great.

Things are going great in my life, personally and professionally, and now that I got back up from the photographic apathy I was in, things are even greater. I have around seven posts only with what I shot lately, plus at least two posts from guest contributions, and finally some of the latest rambling going through my mind these days.

That should get things going 🙂

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Sunset Photography, Large Panorama #2

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Sunset Photography, Large Panorama #1