Blue Gown

The quiet time between the wedding breakfast and the evening reception is my favourite time of the day. I get to play.

On this particular occasion, the day had been overcast and light rain, meaning the groups were all shot indoors, and with that in mind, I had already earmarked a number of indoor locations for the portrait session. However, as luck would have it, the last of the drizzle had fallen at the start of the wedding breakfast, and the ground had soon dried by the time the speeches were over.

This was the last weekend in March before the clocks were to go forward, meaning the timing couldn’t have been better. The light was ebbing fairly quickly as I setup for the above shot. I wanted to catch the warmth and welcoming atmosphere of the hotel, but also wanted to give the image a punchy look too. Normally to get the punchy feel to your subject, you simply ramp up the output of the flash, in this case the Lencarta Safari, and under expose the ambient light.

Hmmmm, that would be like using a lump hammer to crack a rather small nut! If I followed tradition, we’d also vastly under expose the hotel, and it would appear dark and forboding, which wouldn’t be good for the hotel. The whole thing had to be guesstimated, as I wanted to expose for the lit side of the hotel, and also record the warm glow from the windows. I basically needed a slow enough shutter speed to capture the lit areas of the hotel, but fast enough to underexpose the sky and bring out the detail in the clouds. The bride and groom are then lit for the set aperture and provide the pop I was looking for. It also meant the under exposed clouds darkened to a blue colour, not too far from Gemma’s gown.

After a few test shots, I settled on ISO400, f5 and a shutter speed of 1/10th sec. I used a monopod for stability. Still think I was likely to get some blurring from camera shake? I mitigated the chances of shake with a couple of things. First, the flash duration is brief enough to freeze any movement of the camera being registered on the bride and groom. Secondly, I chose a wide angle lens to greatly reduce any evidence of movement. The Safari was set to half power and shot through a 120cm folding Octabox and a 70x100cm folding softbox (my two favourite location light modifiers).

Similar technique was used for the tree shot, although less aggressively. The tree branches were already shrouding the couple and providing a nice “frame” to the subject. Whilst I still wanted the hotel to appear warm and welcoming, I didn’t need to under expose to the same degree, as the “behind the scenes” shot below indicates. [ISO400, f5.6 and 1/25th sec hand held]

As I indicated previously, the light was fading rapidly, and changing almost by the minute. My next idea was to utilise the stone bench in front of a large flower and bush arrangement. I wanted to darken the sky right down, and basically throw the further trees and bushes into silhouettes.

This was much easier and quicker to set up, as the ambient light had become so low, and I had to turn the Safari unit down to around a quarter output. Still at ISO400, but with the aperture now at f4 and a shutter speed of 1/40th sec hand held. I have to say, I love this shot. Nothing to do with the lighting or composition. It’s just down to the look on Gemma’s face.

The behind the scenes shot shows the pool of light from the safari quite clearly. The bright splash to the left is one of the hotel garden lights.

My final image was a bit of a rush, as the ambient light had all but gone, with only a faint glow from behind the hotel.

Again, I wanted to catch the warmth of the hotel, but to be honest, I really didn’t think I would be able to catch much of the ambient light. The Safari was still at a quarter output, due to the fact the distance was greater from the subject to the lights than in the previous images. ISO400, f4 and 1/5th sec, but this time, even though I utilised a monopod, I was shooting at 38mm on a full frame and you may be able to see a slight blurring on the hotel lights. It may not show at the reduced resolution of the web image, but it ‘s there. Oddly enough, not enough to stop the hotel using the image for marketing and publicity.

The behind the scenes shot shows the lighting setup and the distances involved.