Monday, June 06, 2011

Quick Hit Monday: A Wondrous Wedding Weekend

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Entrance Backlit1501_SchulerW11Wow!  What a great wedding we had this past weekend - perfect weather, great locations, and a wonderful bride and groom to work with.  I believe I mentioned that I had photographed Jonathan and his two sisters many times as they were growing up.  We had lost touch over the last several years, the college years, till I received a call from Jonathan's mom about 3 months ago mentioning to me that Jonathan was getting married and would I be available to photograph the wedding.  I was honored receiving the request and gladly obliged.

What I'd like to do this morning instead of posting my normal Quick Hit Monday column is to recap the wedding festivities with you and share a few images from the wedding.  It will also give you a peek at how I photograph a wedding and the photographs I try to capture for my wedding couples.

Here we go...

A Wondrous Wedding Weekend

We arrived last Wednesday mid-day and checked into the the absolutely amazing Royal Palms Resort and Spa.  I can say, hands down, that I have never stayed in a hotel or resort that offered such astonishing service!  Their attention to detail was impeccable.

About 5:30 p.m. we caught up with the families and wedding party for the rehearsal at the Alegria Gardens where the wedding ceremony would to be held the next day.  We were also there about the same time of the day as when the actual ceremony was to take place which gave me a good idea what the lighting was going to look like for photographs.

Trouble In River City

Trouble In river city0101_SchulerW11Right away I was alarmed to see how the sunlight was hitting the front part of the garden where the bride and groom were to exchange their vows. The bride and groom would be in direct sunlight from the neck down and their faces would be is deep shadows!!! Yikes!!!  You get the idea from the image posted above what I was going to be up against the following day.

OK, what do you do?  You quickly develop a strategy that will save the day photographically speaking.  That evening I downloaded the images and brought them up in Lightroom to see what they would look like after some major postproduction work.  I was relieved to see that I could obtain a close result to what I wanted.  It still wasn't perfect but I was still relieved to see that I could save the images under the severe/horrible lighting conditions.

I wanted a better result though and began working on my HDR shooting strategy that I knew would solve my problem, at least for these major shots.  The plan was to place my Canon 7D's motor drive to it's maximum firing rate of 8 frames per second. 

AEB CanonI then set the AEB - auto exposure bracketing feature of the camera to bracket my exposures by 1 1/3 stops. I figured that with the 3 stops of latitude in my AEB exposure and the 2 additional stops of latitude from shooting RAW, I would have a full 7 stops of exposure latitude.  Using NIK Software's new HDR Efex Pro I figured I could get just the result I needed.  The plan was in place.

Let The Festivities Begin

Rehearsal10473_SchulerW11We headed over to the groom's parents beautiful home in Phoenix for an evening celebration of fellowship, memorable toasts, and delicious cuisine.  We were there to capture every moment.  I'll tell ya' - an outdoor celebration is no place for a single on-camera flash.  The background just goes ink black later in the evening making dark hair and dark clothes dissolve into the blackness as well. 

LaDawn was my assistant for the weekend and had the flash in the perfect position for just about every shot.  What a nice surprise….just kidding Sweetie ;~) The position for your assistant to be is at the 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock position with me at the 6o'clock position with the activities in the center of the clock face.  The resulting images look great under those exact conditions.

Band G Rehearsal0634_SchulerW11This was the special evening for the slide show presentation I had put together for the wedding couple too.  The bride's section of the show had a few less photos than the groom's section but we solved the problem by re-cropping several of her images and adding them to her section.  It actually gave the show a  "Ken Burns" effect  and looked great.  All the guests loved revisiting the growing-up images of Bev and Jon.

The evening wrapped with everyone exchanging goodbye hugs and kisses and looking forward to the wedding day.

Wedding Day Miracles

The flash cards were formatted, the batteries were charged, and we on our way to catch up with the wedding party and families for beginning of the photographs.  The wedding was scheduled for 6 p.m. We began the photographs at 3:00 p.m. with the groom and his guys just adding their finishing touches to their wedding attire. We then headed over the the Presidential Suite where the bride was getting ready with all the girls.  The bride looked absolutely fabulous that day. and, I have to tell you - what a fabulous suite for photographs.

I worked many angles of the room and got some of my best bridal portraits.  I featured one of the images in the "Image of the Day" post above.  Everyone looked beautiful and handsome and we captured some awesome images of the bride, groom, wedding party and families even as the temperatures were topping out at 104 degrees.

Bathtub0220_SchulerW11The bride wanted a few fun photographs too, hence the bride in the bath tub photo and the Toyota jump photo.  We wrapped the photo session about 5:15 to allow the bride and girls a chance to stay cool, replenish drinks and relax. 

Toyota Jump0754_SchulerW11LaDawn and I then headed off to the Alegria Gardens to prepare for the the wedding ceremony.  Clouds1170_SchulerW11My first thought - where was that horrendously bright sun I had seen the day before???   The light was bright but surprisingly kind of soft.  You guessed it, some clouds had begun to drift in and soften the direct rays of the sun.  Call it luck, call it fate,  hey - I'm calling it a miracle because now all my lighting issues disappeared.  The lighting was now perfect for the photographs of the ceremony.

Ring Exchange1153_SchulerW11I had completed all the main photographs when the final words were spoken by the minister.  They went something like this, "...and then the light of the Lord shone upon them...." I couldn't believe it- the clouds lifted and that bright beam of light landed directly on the couple.  LaDawn and I looked at each other and we may have been the only ones to notice because I was so pre-occupied with the lighting situation from the day before, but that was definitely a "goose bumps moment" when we saw the sun come blazing through just at the moment the minister uttered the words.

Sun Miracle1189_SchulerW11The bride and groom kissed, turned, and made their happy dash back down the aisle.  We got a few photos of them signing the marriage license and finished up a few more family photographs and proceeded to the cocktail hour over at the very beautiful Palmera ballroom. The bride and groom also requested that I take a few photographs of them in front of the resort entrance – we got some great images!Kiss Of Love1486_SchulerW11

Couldn’t Lose Any Time Now!

I knew I needed to get photographs of the ballroom set up before everyone entered in now less than 20 minutes.  But before I could take those photographs, I was requested to take a few more photographs of the extended families and grandparents. Lighting was perfect with my off-camera flash augmenting the soft naturally occurring light and the group photographs were a special request that I couldn’t neglect. Time was ticking away.

A quick check of my watch showed that the doors to the ballroom were going to opening shortly.  I still needed to photograph that room and time was running short!  The families requested one more large group photo and I figured that was my opportunity to get the photographs of the room I needed.  I knew it was going to take 2-4 minutes to get the group arranged.  I let LaDawn handle that chore while I excused myself for a few minutes. With my room light previously set, I headed into the ballroom and clicked off 6-8 images, and then dashed back to the large group that LaDawn had just finished arranging. Perfect timing - I arrived in the nick of time and captured the large group photograph.

The sun was just setting over Camelback Mountain and I suggested a quick photograph of the bride and groom against the sunset.  They graciously obliged and I got the shot.  The bridal coordinator then asked the couple to join her in surveying the room before all the guests entered - it looked amazing.  After they have several minutes to soak it all in And just two minutes before the guests entered I once again made a quick request of the bride and groom to photograph them against the backdrop of the gorgeous surrounds.

BG in Ballroom1594_SchulerW11One again they graciously obliged and I was able to get some fabulous images of Bev and Jon just before the guests began to enter.

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch with LaDawn and I capturing all the fun and excitement of the evening - fast dancing to slow couple dancing - I have hundreds of images showing everyone having a great time.

One Last Great Photograph

At about 11:20 as the party was coming to an end, the guests were asked to line the steps with sparklers.  Bev and Jon were going to make their exit through the sparklers, jump into their car and speed off.  Of course the challenge for me was to capture the exuberance of that moment.  I knew I needed a high ISO to capture the burning sparklers.  I also wanted to add a sense of the dramatic to the image with a little backlighting - that was going to be LaDawn's job - and I needed to capture the bride and groom's best expressions as they made their dash through the crowd.  It all happened very, very quickly and we got the shot! 

Sparklers Shot2441_SchulerW11-Edit-Edit-Edit

That pretty much wrapped the day for us.   We offered our thank you’s for being invited to be a part of the weekend’s festivities, packed our gear, said our goodbyes and headed back to our room.  I couldn't wait to see the images and started downloading them right away. 2500+ images later I got a chance to review them and was thrilled with the results.  I've shared a few of the highlights with you today - I hope you enjoy them, as well.

In Conclusion – It’s More Than “P” For Professional

More importantly I hope you see these photographs represent an effort of planning, fast thinking, and an intimate knowledge of the camera/flash gear to pull off these images in the super fast pace of a wedding day.  "P" for professional and Uncle Harry's on-camera blast flash just doesn't cut it for the best job you can do for your clients.  It takes constant effort, energy, and training to continually hone your talent and creativity to give your clients your best.  It is the Difference, that truly makes the Difference. And, as a true professional, that's exactly what you need to do every single wedding weekend.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. Later this evening we begin our Sedona Experience Private Workshop.  Yesterday we met with our good friend and local resident Vicki, who helped us scope out all the best locations around the Sedona, AZ area.  We have some fabulous locations selected.  I can't wait to go to work tomorrow.

We are hosting our six photographer attendees this evening for a few hours and kicking going off right away with programming.  I'm starting the presentation tonight giving them the "keys to the kingdom",  photographically speaking, of course, showing everything I know about lighting and composition  then tomorrow morning we continue practicing and reviewing. Then it’s off for shooting the next two days.  We  wrap Thursday morning with image review, discussion, questions and answers.  It's going to be very busy these next 2 1/2 days with early start times and late evenings but it should be fun.

I'm hoping with an even earlier wake up call for me to be able to keep you posted as the the next few days activities, some great images, and maybe even a Technique Tuesday tomorrow, time permitting.

I hope to see you then,  David ;~)


  1. Robin from the UK. Thanks for that insight David, great lesson on how to use time wisely. With regard to sparkler shots, I take 40 sparklers to my weddings and a small gas stove for the guests to light them, stand the guests in two lines and I get the couple to run through a few times and on the final go the groom carries the bride, always get some great fun shots and the guests always make comments on how much fun it was.

  2. David, I was at this wedding, and you did a phenomenal job of capturing the moments with limited resources (too much or too little light). I think it is also fascinating how you prevented the spectacular surroundings/backdrops from taking attention away from the subjects. I must say that watching you work was amazing, too. You make me want to pick up my camera and experiment! Great work by you and your assistant.