The (beautiful) impermanence of summer gardens

Although the first weeks of October are giving us warm gorgeous days, the chill in the air at night reminds me to savor the beauty of my garden, along with acknowledging its impermanence. Saturated summer colors will eventually fade into the white of a restful winter. I try to sit, and look, a little longer.

Photo tips for taking wedding day family formals

One question that I’m always asked by brides-to-be, is addressing the amount of time needed to take their formal family pictures, and how I go about it.

Regardless of the “style” of photography you prefer for your wedding day, family formals, whether making just a few or many, are a traditional, time-honored element of most weddings. Of course, the amount of time it will take is always relative to the size of families to be photographed, and each wedding will be unique.

The first thing I ask is “will you and your fiance be seeing each other prior to your ceremony”?

Since most wedding itineraries are on a pretty tight time schedule, the most efficient way for your photographer to take the formal family pictures is all at one time. Those who choose not to see each other prior to their ceremony will often want to do some formal shots before, and then additional, yet more all-inclusive pictures after the ceremony. Although this is fine, it will add some time to the formal picture-taking process, since we are doing basically the same thing, but more than once. Whether any lighting equipment needs to be re-set up or not, as is the case in many church weddings, gathering (or re-gathering) your family members and anyone else you wish to see in formal types of pictures always will take longer if done in multiple segments. A good point to consider, especially if you can only be at a church, or any venue let’s say, for a certain amount of time. Plan accordingly.

 

So then, “how much time should I allow”?

On the average, I spend around a half-hour to an hour doing the formal pictures. but again, each wedding will be unique. If at all possible, I attempt to arrange and photograph the largest groups first. This allows those who are not involved in any other formal picture to be dismissed. The less people gathered around at any one time during the “formals” means less distraction.

You might also want to ask yourself some of the following questions, such as…

“Do I want all of the formal pictures done indoors”?
Let your photographer know before hand, and it will make things go quicker.


 
“Do I want all of the formal pictures done at the same place”?
Taking some formal shots at one place and finishing up at another, even if the only difference is moving your groups from indoor to outdoors, can add a welcome sense of variety to your wedding day pics. Here’s a tip… remember that moving groups of people around (for any reason) adds some time, not only by having them change their location, but mentally getting them back into what they will be doing again, such as posing for a formal-type of picture. Just figure you’ll be needing to allow a bit more time for this move into your schedule.

 

         
Is it up to the photographer to find “just the right place” for these shots, if not being taken right at the altar”?
This is something that you should discuss with your photographer well before your wedding day if it is of importance to you. Of course, your input on any places that you like is always welcome! Your photographer will always try to put you in your “best light”, and in a nice place. However, even planned situations can change. Outdoor weather conditions and lighting can change. Some venues aren’t even particularly “pretty”, inside or out. Regardless of any pre-determined plans, there can always come a situation where you’ll need to be somewhat flexible. Remember, your professional has been in a lot of “less than perfect” situations during their career, and will always do the best they can within the schedule given. Make sure to let your preferences be known!

“Do I want a lot of “variations”, for example, let’s say adding or subtracting certain individuals from a series of shots with the bride or groom”?
If so, it will, of course, add some overall time. Under certain conditions, we then could spend up to, or even longer than an hour.

One way to keep formal picture session moving smoothly and efficiently, is to make sure that everyone you want to have in these pictures is PRESENT, and doesn’t wander off. Waiting for someone to show up or return causes a bit of either stress or distraction, both of which are emotional qualities that can seem to show up visually in the pictures that then will be made!

A word about “distractions”. One aspect of any “formal” wedding photograph that is appreciated by most viewers is that of each person’s “eye-contact” with the camera. Okay, with young children, this can sometimes be a challenge, and often their distracted expressions even make the picture seem more real-to-life. But as far as the other participants go, this isn’t ideal. The way most distracted expressions are caused is if family members or guests are also trying to take their own pictures of your group at the same time the photographer is. If really great formals are important to you, it’s a time that you need to allow your professional to be the “only photographer”.

       

 

Photo tips for shooting colorful fall foliage & landscapes

As the last hot days of summer turn toward the welcoming cool of autumn, the landscape becomes quite colorful, as well as being far more inviting to being outdoors. For those of you who enjoy making photographs of autumn’s beauty, here are a few tips on how to get the most out of shooting the colorful fall foliage and landscape, regardless of the type of camera you are using.

Try taking your shots during the first or last few hours of daylight. Light during those hours has a warmer “sweeter” color, along with being less contrasty or harsh. Being outside at those times makes practically everything you see appear more attractive, people included, along with simply being a wonderful time to be outside enjoying some beautiful fall weather. Remember, it’s not just about making pictures!

It’s great to shoot on cloudy or overcast days. Although fall color seems to appear more vivid on sunny days, the increased contrast of bright sunlight can produce a harsh look on some subjects. Pictures made in overcast conditions will have far more saturated colors. If you’re shooting foliage details, and it’s sunny, try looking for subject matter in the shade.

           

If you want to use sunny conditions to your benefit, especially during the “sweeter” hours of light described above, try positioning yourself so that the sun is about 3/4 of the way behind, and a bit above your subject. This will produce nice highlights around the back of your subject. Shots that show a bigger landscape view will then often contain interesting graphic elements caused by shadows and highlights, as in the shot below. In order to have your subject not be very silhouetted, just manually increase your camera’s exposure a bit, about one stop.

Another method that works well when the sun is lower in the sky is shooting so that the light is somewhat at your side, helping to provide highlights and long shadows that make your subject feel more three-dimensional.

If you are quite close to your subject matter, as in liking to shoot details, always wait for any wind to die down a bit to aid in getting a less blurry shot. Better yet, use a tripod, or at least try to steady your camera on some hard surface (like a rock, fence post or tree trunk, etc.) for best results. Your camera’s flash could also help correct the blurry shot problem, but since it is mounted right on the front of your camera, and pointed straight ahead, it will often give a washed-out, flat appearance to a beautiful 3-D subject. Best bet? Avoid using your camera’s flash if you can turn it off. If you can’t, see if you can set it to it’s dimmest setting and then back off a bit. Also, if you can, set your camera to its “manual” setting, and your camera’s “film” speed (its sensitivity to light) to a higher number. Again, avoid harsh light, especially on details.

     

Shooting in relatively wide open landscapes immediately after the sun has set can lend a very warm and soft look to even the most un-featured landscape – if you only turn your camera (and vision) 180 degrees away from where the sun has set. Sunsets can be beautiful, but notice what it’s like in the other direction, like it is in the photo below. Many times, there will remain an “after-glow” opposite the sunset, lighting the entire scene softly and beautifully. It doesn’t really take all that much light to create a wonderful mood. This is the first place in the sky that any remaining clouds will light up in shades of pink to lavender to salmon, reflecting the setting sun, while still providing some light to the land below.  Since there isn’t all that much light at this time, steadying the camera on anything solid is recommended to avoid a blurred shot.

If you’re a bit more serious about producing really nice images on a consistent basis, use a tripod, or again, at least try to steady your camera on some hard surface (like a rock, fence post, etc.) whenever possible. While this can seem to be a burden, it will help you in several ways. Technically, it will give you more camera control options, such as choices in shutter speed and aperture, due to your camera being secured. It will also help you get sharp pictures. Artistically, it will slow you down, which can be a good thing! You’ll tend to “look more” at the light and compose your shots better before shooting, opposed to taking the easier, yet often more generic-looking type of pictures.

Finally, remember that the type of camera you have is of far less importance to making good pictures than we’re led to believe. The word photography simply means “light writing”, or using light, along with the lack of it, to create an image. The camera is only going to be as good as what you choose to point it at, and how you choose to “see” what you’re aiming it at. Most of all, have fun, take a chance, watch the light, be creative, and just enjoy being outdoors at such a beautiful time of year!

 

 

A journey to North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island

While on a trip through the Smokies in western North Carolina, I thought that I’d see what the eastern barrier islands were like. A little south of Cape Hatteras, I noticed a sign for a ferry to Ocracoke Island, so I got on. Although geographically a part of North Carolina’s barrier island chain, the slow paced, unpretentious lifestyle and insular traditional culture set it a world apart from the more cosmopolitan Outer Banks to the north. Appreciating this special island is much like valuing the beauty of a well-worn pocket watch in a digital age. It is a place that quickly made me feel, even as a photographer, at ease with the residents, the land, and myself; where I could sit in on a conversation with strangers and not feel like one.

Engagement sesion – Rachel & Josh in Omaha’s Old Market


It’s always fun having a session in Omaha’s Old Market district, and having a couple like Rachel & Josh make it all seem even better. The best part of these sessions is to have us both get to know each other better in the presence of a camera. It’s a great way to “break the ice” before showing up on wedding day, and helps insure a far better sense of being able to work together well, reducing some wedding-day stress for us both!