February 24, 2012

romantic wedding portraits – working with an idea

I was down in Baltimore last weekend, photographing a wedding there. The groom, Chris, follows the Tangents blog, and he and Lindsay sought me out as their wedding photographer. While this is hugely flattering, there is now a little extra pressure to live up to and even exceed expectations!

We snuck outside during dinner time, and walked around the Lord Baltimore hotel, to get a few urban portraits. During dinner there is a bit of a lull in the reception while the guests enjoy their meals. A good time to get additional romantic portraits without taking the bride and groom away from the party. Outside the hotel, we worked in the subway station’s entrance, and a few spots on the streets of downtown Baltimore. Then in the distance on a street intersection, I saw a wisp of steam rise up. A familiar sight in New York, and I had always hoped to photograph a couple through the rising steam, but never had the opportunity.

But this was a bit of a gamble for me. There is the idea … but it depended on the steam rising up in a way that augmented the photograph. The steam was very erratic in how it rose – the wind would waft it around, and the passing traffic would just blow it away entirely. So the idea would need a bit of good luck to work.

There was also very little light in the middle of the intersection, and I couldn’t risk my second shooter’s life there to hold up a video light. It would have to be just the available light in the middle of the pedestrian walkway across the intersection.

I took a quick test shot to see if it could work …

Sure enough, 1/80 @ f2.8 @ 2500 ISO

The low-light abilities of the Nikon D3S  (B&H) would save me again. And of course, an f2.8 telephoto zoom with aggressive stabilization.  The Nikon 70-200mm f2.8G VR II (B&H) is my lens. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (B&H) is a wonderful choice as well. Super-sharp with incredible stabilization.

I then told Lindsay and Chris to go to the opposite side of the street, and as soon as the light turned green for them, go to the middle and stop there. The pose would have to be a straight-foward half-hug while looking at each other.

Here is a shot of Lindsay and Chris, waiting to cross the street. There was a fair amount of traffic!

The telephoto zoom at 200mm, would help isolate them against the out-of-focus urban scene … but would also help me *reach* across the intersection to frame them in a sensible composition.

I took about 40 frames in short bursts, of which about 6 are successfully sharp with no cars in the frame. Quite a few images were lost like this …

With the distance and city noise, Lindsay and Chris couldn’t always hear me properly as I shouted instructions, so there were a few odd expressions that didn’t make the final edit either.

I was very happy with that success rate – 6 images – since the light was low, and conditions were unpredictable. It all came together based on an idea; a little bit of luck; photography equipment that was up to the challenge … and a couple that trusted me as their wedding photographer.

 

 

Recommended telephoto zooms:

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

Nikon 70-200mm f2.8G VR II

 

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephen February 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

That steam effect has a “detective film” look to it. Nice job, Neil.

I don’t think I even have the courage to ask someone to go in to the middle of a street for photos. You do it so effortlessly.

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2 Jason February 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm

What an awesome shot Neil! Gotta love the power of VR!

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3 Carole Ingram February 24, 2012 at 11:37 pm

:) They trust Neil, he can make anybody do anything for a kick ass photo! :) Seriously, as many times as I’ve said it and I’m sure I sound like a broken old record, YOU ROCK!!!!

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4 Bob Rossi February 25, 2012 at 9:03 am

Neil what I really enjoy about your posts is the ease in which you describe the process. You put all the elements together, the idea, the right equipment and the ability to have your subjects trust you and then be able to guide them into the right pose.

I keep reading your posts and book and have definitely improved as a photographer because of you.

Thanks
Bob

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5 Maui Wedding Photographers February 25, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Hey Neil,
Great idea…personally I think the shot with the car in the lower part of the frame is a winner! Very unusual and unique perspective. My eye is drawn to the attention of the bride and groom. I realize this type of image may not work for everybody, but I find the unique aspect appealing. Thanks as always for sharing.
BF

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6 Jason February 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I love the dedication Neil. I just recently did something very similar. The weekend before WPPI, a friend of mine came in from the northeast. I had them run out into the median on a VERY busy Las Vegas Blvd / Fremont street to get an awesome wide angle shot of them at the bottom of the frame and a very cool textured building in the background. I was nervous, but asking him to risk his life was ok with me since we are such good friends. Not to mention the shots looked great. Love the shot Neil!

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7 Anthony February 27, 2012 at 2:16 am

stop posting good things about that lens Neil! ha haa, youve already made me put a hole in my wallet. :)

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8 Jason February 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Neil, how soon before you get a hold of a D4 or D800?! Or both?

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9 Neil vN February 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Jason .. I’ll just have to wait my turn to get hold of a Nikon D800 and D4. (Nikon USA doesn’t know that I even exist.)

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10 Trina Cheney February 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Hi Neil,

Question: I purchased a 70-200mm VR lens, but it’s not the VRII version. I saved about $800. Do you think there is a difference in that I should return it and spend the additional $800 for the newer version”?

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11 Neil vN February 29, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Trina, for me the version II of the lens was an immediate upgrade. The improvement in edge-to-edge sharpness is useful, even though most of my shots with the 70-200 is more portrait-y than anything else.

Here is my initial impression of the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR II, and my opinion of the lens is even higher now that I have regularly used it.

But, $800 is a substantial part of a photo gear budget.

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12 Leonard Cardinale February 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Hi Neil,
Again, as always, spectacular imagery. What are your thoughts on the 70-200 f2.8 VR II have an approximate 35 foot distance to capture a tight headshot. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.
Len

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13 Neil vN March 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Leonard, I’m not sure what that means?

The Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR II does shorten its focal length if you focus close. In other words, the 200mm setting is closer to 135mm (or thereabouts) when you work at close range. Perhaps you’re thinking of that?

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14 Keith infokus March 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Please come back to Ireland Neil!! Really enjoyed your course and love checking out your blog. Thanks for sharing :)

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15 Len March 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Hey Neil,
You are correct about the close focusing issue. Does that mean that in order to capture a tight heat shot that I’ll need to be 35 feet from the subject? If so, isn’t that a bit excessive?
Thanks,
Len

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16 Neil vN March 3, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Len, I have no idea why you’ve latched onto the idea of 35 ft. What is that all about?

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17 ccting March 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Dear Neil,

Question: Do you recommend Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 Lens?

Thanks.

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18 Neil vN March 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Is it stabilized?

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