This week’s theme, ‘Under a watchful eye’ focuses upon those photographs that capture the moment where eyes meet. Not with me, but with a loved one, at a wedding. I spend what seems, an inordinate amount of time of a Saturday photographing people during moments where otherwise they would quite easily and legally be able to request what exactly I was doing making images during these super intimate times. And thereby rests my case for photographing within the genre of documentary wedding photography. If you were to chart an emotional bar graph during a wedding day, it would surely host irrational peaks and troughs that are simply impossible to predict. That, is the reason I think, no, I know, I keep coming back for more. Weddings hand a photographer the opportunity to record important historical moments. These are family moments and they may not bless the pages of the world’s Sunday periodicals, but they are, never the less, precious pictorial trinkets for families across an increasingly shrinking world. This is an American mother of an American bride, wedding her English groom in the home counties. What her daughter won’t have seen, until this picture is presented, is the absolute and unswerving delight and love this mother has for her on this considerably important day.
Shot data: focal length 24mm, f1.4, 1/125, ISO 800
Our two young sons are but wee bairns, so it will be a while until, Whomever Willing, I get to witness one of our boys repeating vows. I’m not sure whether it’s a product of my fatherly state, but I do have an empathetic focus for fathers. This week’s 365 theme following the topic of a watchful eye, I’d like to share this, from a wedding shot earlier this month. We’re within five minutes of ‘the off’ and the groom’s father casts an approving pleased eye in the direction of his son. It’s a photograph that says; “All’s well. We did good, didn’t we?” Well, that’s what I see at any rate.
Shot data: focal length 29mm, f2.8, 1/125, ISO 3200
I haven’t had a themed week for a little while, so a return for the next seven days. This week, under a watchful eye; a reveal of eye contact compositions. I’ll start with this from Wasing Park’s St Nicholas Church. Mother is looking on just prior to the start of the wedding ceremony. It’s a quiet thinking picture and a further example of how what’s beyond the foreground can be a strong window to how people and in this case family, think.
Before I ventured forth into this genre of photography, I’d been only to a handful of weddings in my life. Four, perhaps five. Maybe more, but equally perhaps less. This year sees my eight hundredth photographic witnessing of a wedding. And, as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, one of the most rewarding facets of covering weddings is life experience in terms of cultural adventure. Whilst travelling abroad to shoot weddings as a destination photographer can be the icing on a five tiered traditional stack cake, I never forget that living in a multi cultural society gifts me the opportunity to experience breadth of diversity in terms of wedding photography without having to search for my passport. It’s also interesting how close you’re allowed to get to the action when venturing beyond the walls of a reasonably conservative CofE attitude when it comes to cameras. This is an image from London’s Russian Orthodox Church of the Dormition. Close, respectfully so, but equally able to story tell from an angle that doesn’t see me banished to the back.
Shot data: focal length 50mm, f1.2, 1/125, ISO 250
I’ve talked before about the concept of finding the gap. Often it’s what’s beyond your composition that’s as, if not more compelling, than what’s immediately before your lens. Finding gaps, finding avenues through which to photograph can help you make more engaging pictures. At face value, this could be a pedestrian record shot. I think retreating and opening up the image, finding a channel through which to shoot, which in this case is a corridor, has made the picture that mite more intriguing.
Shot data: focal length 35mm, f2, 1/125, ISO 640, under-exposed by a stop and a third
You know that phrase; “Blink and you’ll miss?” Well, I have a feeling this qualifies for that category. Tenuous could be another description. Whilst this picture is a simple fun record photograph from the morning’s bridal preparations, the blink reference is really applicable to the television picture slightly stage right. Often when I photograph the morning festivities, a TV transmits the mood music. I usually try to mirror that pictorial mood with what’s happening within the room. Okay, so perhaps you need to squint slightly, but there is a mirror to the dress pattern within the preps room. As I say, small things.
Shot data: focal length 24mm, f1.4, 1/1600, ISO 100
I feel a bit disingenuous here, because the two chaps in the foreground were happily posing for a picture, or so they thought. We’d been chatting together, the three of us, when I spied this moment of motherly intimacy beyond. For me, often, it’s a case of that ‘what’s beyond’ that intrigues my photographic fervor. It’s such a serenity that is simply too palpable to resist. I’ve mooted this idea of vignetting your compositions with people before and I think it works particularly well here. In terms of the digital darkroom, yes I’ve burned in the foreground figures, drawing the eyes through the composition to a central focal point.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f3.2, 1/160, ISO 800, under-exposed by a stop
If you can somehow ‘house’ your focus and composition within shapes and form, then your overall picture can take on a more engaging concept. This image is more interesting for the diagonal lines that frame the guests who are photographically taking an interest in the ceremony. The inclusion of a registrar’s arms and ‘script’ equally introduce depth and give the viewer a sense of scale and context.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f2.5, 1/125, ISO 1250, under-exposed by two thirds of a stop
A good friend of mine, Kevin, who’s also a wedding photographer recently posted a short film about emotion. He mooted this subject of the post ceremony wedding hug. He’d felt comfortable and frankly brave enough to share some of the negative feedback he receives from peers in the business about this simple, yet strikingly important style of record shot. Watch the film for the full story, but to paraphrase a mail he’d received from A.N.onymous, it had been proffered that the hug shot is somewhat bland. That brides and grooms perhaps don’t want to see this kind of shtick. They want groups and posing and, well, yes, some of them do. But they probably need the hug stuff too. It’s as Kev points out, not clever. But does it really need to be? Often it’s the simple stuff in life you experience, that has you tugging at your forelock wondering why you hadn’t thought of that idea yourself. Here’s something for the reading list; Edward de Bono’s ‘Simplicity.’ I see the hug picture as simplicity underlined. It’s powerful beyond anything you can set up, because it’s raw and best up, authentic. De Bono’s book is about promoting simplicity in your business practises, but the messages contained in the read are applicable to almost anything. In my case, I’m often proudest of images I’ve made that are simple, uncluttered and authentic, above the ones that took far more thought and involved a higher level of technical thinking. So yes, hug shots. Maybe they’re not all clever, but they’re all certainly big. A quick thought for photographers entering the business. When you photograph that ‘hugathon’ concentrate primarily on the faces of guests. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being bride facing side during an informal receiving line. You want to get behind too. Reveal the faces and joy of the guests congratulating the couple. And whilst I’m on the topic of simplicity, I think this piece of remarkable television from the weekend in this link is worth a view too. Even if you’re not particularly into BGT, this is nine minutes of your life I thoroughly recommend you immerse yourself into.
Shot data: focal length 31mm, f2.8, 1/125, ISO 160, over-exposed by a third of a stop
I am constantly reminded by what I photograph before me, how precious the genre of wedding photography can be. It may not have the allure of fashion shooting, to some. It may not exude the excitement of high octane sports photography, to some. It may not be considered life changing photojournalism, to some. But to me, documentary wedding photography as a genre is particularly precious. I heard an expression on the radio over the weekend and I’m sorry I can’t credit or remember the purveyor of this particular life gem, but I was driving at the time. The voice on the wireless suggested that he was a; “Great consumer of life.” And I think wedding photography works along these lines. I too, am a great consumer of life and by that I don’t mean ‘saggy around the waist,’ though I could probably run far more often than I do currently. I mean that I watch vigorously those around me. I consume what people say and do. I’m fascinated by life’s narrative and wedding imagery gifts me a licence to photograph people during intimate and important times of their lives. I am reminded every time I watch a couple exchange vows that often I am the only one in the room that can see the whites of their eyes and meaning in their expression. Their backs often turned to guests, it’s my job to show them and their loved ones, and loved ones to be of course, what this day meant. I am reminded that that’s a pretty big deal.
Shot data: focal length 85mm, f1.4, 1/250, ISO 100, over-exposed by a third of a stop
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