For the second year in a row, we decided to do a vote to help decide the best image of the year. We chose one image from each of our full weddings, and we have people choose their favorite. It was so much fun watching which ones people liked the most (and which of our brides tried the hardest to get the most votes), and I am sure we will do it again next year. And, here is the winner!
I wanted to tell a bit about how this image came to happen. We occasionally have people we have worked with say, “I am not sure you remember us since you shoot so many weddings, but we were…”. I usually chuckle to myself a bit, because not only do I remember you both, but I could walk you through your entire day from 3 years ago and tell you my thought process behind most of the photos from your day. I cannot remember where I put my shoes or which coat had the car keys in it, but I can remember this stuff as easily as I can my name.
Shannon told me a few days before the wedding that Leslie and Adam were bringing sparklers to the reception and wanted to do a sparkler photo. I am sure most of you have seen the photos that float around on the internet….the bride and groom kissing with the sparklers around them…maybe they are writing “love” or something with them. The gist of it is, 95% of what you see with sparklers has been done a thousand times before. That’s not the end of the world because, obviously, people like it. But, we never want to settle for what everyone else is doing. We want to do something different and new.
Typically, my thought would be to light the couple with a flash to make them look cool, and then do something neat with the sparklers. Still cool and different than most, but not enough. I was brainstorming, and I thought about doing something on a larger scale that involved a lot of sparklers. I started to use the description “wall of light” to myself to describe what I was thinking. If I did it right, and if I could get them to be still enough, I could get a pretty cool silhouette. I had the image in my mind of what I wanted to do. The wedding day came and was going very nicely. When we got the reception, we were loading in and I saw the pond down at the bottom of the hill by the reception sight (the barn at the wonderful Chaumette Winery). I suddenly wondered if I should change my plan. What I was pre-visualizing earlier was something much more of a close up where the couple’s heads were off on the side of the image. You probably would just have seen their shoulders and up. But I started to think that I could get a lot more people out there and spread the thing out. Especially since I am sucker for reflections and the pond would make this possible, this idea started to sound even better.
There was one major drawback, though…I knew it would take some time. When a couple gets to their reception, I do not like to steal them away for more then 5-10 minutes at a time; I want them to enjoy their party. This would take 10 minutes at the very least…probably 15 with walking, giving directions, and actually shooting. Plus in this case, I would have to get the whole bridal party to help. Photographers will know this next fact: Trying to wrangle in a bridal party once the party starts is virtually impossible. I thought about it, though, and I really believed it was worth it. Leslie and Adam are an awesome couple, and they trusted me without any hesitation. Game on.
They spread the word, and about 10 minutes later everyone was walking down a hill in almost complete darkness with Shannon at the head of the line. Thankfully, no one fell! They all arrived safely to the little road that ran right along the edge of the water, and I was 75 yards away on the other side of the lake on a tripod with my 200mm lens on my camera (which is a lens you typically use to get very close to things…not something you would typically use for a wider shot like this). I had already taken the time to test my settings with just Shannon, so when they got there, we were ready to go. We had to communicate through our walkie-talkies because of the distance, but we got the sparklers handed out…two to each person. Shannon explained what to do, and we did a test run. Not good. People were not moving enough behind, and I quickly realized that Leslie and Adam would not be able to stay as still as I needed them to be for such a long time. Even though the exposure was only 5 seconds long, it is extremely difficult to not move at all in that time. So, I had to adjust my plan. In stead of doing one long 5-second exposure, I would do several shorter 1-second ones and do a “multiple exposure” shot.
I made my changes, and everyone got ready to go. Counted down…yelled “GO!” over the radio. We nailed it.
I get really excited when we pull off things like this…it really gets me going and makes me want to push even harder. It took a familiar concept, but it expanded it and made a new image that is unique to itself. I had never seen another photo like it before. I even had a photographer friend who told me I need to be ready for people to copy the concept. I laughed about it, but a few weeks ago I received an email from a photographer in Russia. He saw our photo, thought it was awesome, and tried to do it himself. He wanted to let me know how much it inspired him to try new things. I am not going to lie, that made my day.
So, a special thanks to Adam and Leslie, their awesome wedding party, and everyone else who trusts us when we say the words to them “I have an idea.” Thanks for trusting us. We do our best creating when our couples trust us. This whole process is something we all do together. We would never be able to do it without all of you. Here’s to an amazing 2014, and an even better 2015.