I’ve decided to add a series on my blog with some of the “how I shot it” stuff. I decide that I would kick it off with this image, one of my better known wedding photos. One of a handful I entered in my only ever tilt at the Tasmanian AIPP awards (but I’m not going to bother to talk about that other than say it went ok).
So this is the stuff may photographer love.. the techy stuff… settings and all that jazz. I am afraid that this image is probably going to be a huge let down in that regard. It is one of the most basic set ups I have ever shot.
Firstly I want to make one thing clear to the photographers reading this. EVERY image I shoot like this for a couple has a story. I am not out to create “cool” images, to produce stuff to show how clever I am, or to create an image just so I have some entries for awards (which I rarely bother with). My client is the most important thing to me, not awards, not likes, not shares. I use these images to try and create something that will immediately evoke certain key memories of their day. The location, the weather etc. So the first thing that enters my mind when I am looking to produce these images is “what is the story?” This determines everything else. The time I will shoot it (not always in the dark), the angle, the framing and composition. The distance and scale. The lens, the aperture, the lights used. I want to make this clear- None of it is just for the sake of throwing a speed light in there. In fact, if used, I want the speed light to be secondary.. if even something the viewer thinks about.. Any light useage should with be relevant to the story, hopeful invisible, cohesive and indistinguishable from the ambient, or should be used to highlight a feature, and not the existence of the flash…
Right now that I have that off my chest, I will talk about this image in particular. For Shelley and Chris, the trees at Quamby Estate were a big part of their decision to choose to have their wedding there, and they wanted photos to include the trees. The weather stopped them from having their ceremony under the iconic Hornbeam, so it was my quest to bring trees into their wedding story another way.
I pretty quickly decided to do something with this tree, and after a quick recce in daylight had the seed of an idea in my head, but I would need to check it out after it got dark. I knew one thing, I wanted it minamalist. almost like a pice of graphic design and not a photo.
So, after nighttime hit, I slipped outside with my one speed light, and did a quick test.
I wanted to frame them against the tree, and thanks to some people wandering around earlier, I had worked out some rough distances to get that to scale. It was going to be tight, but it would be doable.
I put the flash about halfway between the couple and the tree, slightly downslope over a little ridge from them, with the hope that I would pick up a nice hard line of highlight on the ground. I angled it about 45 up and put the wide angle diffuser down.
I then went back to the very edge of the paved driveway outside the pavilion and lay down with the camera a few inches above the ground and did my first test shot.
Gear was - Nikon D810, Sigma 85 Art, Cactus RF60x flash, Cactus V6ii trigger
I had the flash at full power, because it was a small flash with a big job to do, and was already running 1600 ISO with my aperture wide open and the shutter at 1/160 to avoid any shake. I really didn’t want to drop shutter speed as I was also just wanting them slightly lit by the ambient spill from the pavilion behind me so you could just see Chris’s arms around Shelleys waist, and didn’t want to go so low as to get any movement from them, so I just went straight to ISO 6400. With the d810 and d850 etc, this is still pretty darn clean, so I had no qualms about it.
The next shot was right where I wanted it. Job done? I had a quick chimp at the LCD and zoomed in.. at that distance, in the dark, with just the faintest spill for the AF system to work from, it was perfect, so yep, job done.
I popped off another 5-10 frames in portrait and landscape for options later, and was finished.
One small flash to light up the huge tree. I often have photographers that know me ask if I used my elinchrom quadras for this, or if I used more than one light, but the answer is no. One small speed light was all it needed. So that is how this one was done. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.