Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Photography Is Important

The following is something I shared with a group of friends, fellow wedding photographers, on a wedding photography forum yesterday. It was so well received that I decided to post it here as well.

I was shooting an e-session this past weekend at the Mesa Arts Center with my pastor's daughter, Christine and her fiance, Christian. The place has this fabulous blue wall that I love to use as a background element and all kinds of nifty water features.

We were taking these shots at one of the water features when I glimpse some movement coming into frame right (albeit out of focus).

Christine and Christian: E-Session

The movement was this little guy. He dropped in with lunch and just wanted a drink, so I snap a shot with him as the center of attention.

Christine and Christian: E-Session

...and then the bird flies away.

Christine and Christian: E-Session

It's at this point that I think, "That's why I do this...... To catch fleeting moments that will never be just so again. These two people; this place and time of day; this little bird......"

How often you hear stories about loved ones who've died and what comfort the photos bring to the family, or sadder still when they pass on and the thought is, "We were going to get some photos done....." I'd been talking with someone about getting a shot of the various members of their family for some time and one day one of them was, like this bird, no longer there. Gone......

Have you ever seen a movie where someone suffers the loss of a loved one and they interact with a photo on the nightstand, drawing it close and examining the features, tracing them with a finger and then embracing it? Sure you have. Maybe some of you have actually interacted with photos in that way.

It's not just the passing of loved ones that may trigger this emotional connection to our art. Moms might sit on the side of the bed holding a photo of a son or daughter who's left home for college or a job in a distant place. Parents look back at photos of their children when they were younger and you see a trace of a smile at the corners of their mouth and a faint twinkle in the eye.

There's a reason why we hear about people dragging the family photos out of a burning or flooding home - sometimes even risking their lives. I can't picture someone racing back into a burning house to rescue the frozen wedding cake or tearfully tracing the edges of the caterer's menu.

This may sound maudlin or sappy or even self-serving, but as important as they may be to the whole experience, I just don't see the other things folks spend money on to make their wedding day "special" being able to have the same impact over time as our images and albums.

That's why I think that what we do as photographers is important.

I don't mean to take away from Christian and Christine, but this was just something I've been mulling over since the shoot. I'll put up some more photos in a blog post that's actually about the couple in a few days.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sue Ellen And Todd

Sunday I met up with Sue Ellen and Todd for some engagement photos. Their wedding is just two weeks away and I'm on a time crunch to get their e-session photos edited and create a guest book before the wedding. I'm a bit ahead on time so I thought I'd share some of the photos from the session.

We started out at an old cattle chute (for a new photo shoot) just outside of Prescott, AZ. Well, actually we started in a park in Chino Valley, but it was way too windy and Sue Ellen would have had to fight her hair the whole time. The chute and corral was in a little valley, so the wind wasn't nearly as bad, and the structure added a little more wind-break. Todd was the one who knew about this chute and he liked the weathered wood. I must say the look of the wood was pretty nice (although not too sturdy to stand on, which is what I was doing to get this angle). But that was only the beginning of our adventures.

From there we headed over toward the Granite Dells. There's a riparian habitat and hiking trails nearby and we headed down to a felled cottonwood tree. This thing was wider than I was tall. We took shots of the two of them standing next to the trunk and even though they were standing on the stump the trunk was taller than they were. This shot peeks through a cut section of the trunk and you can see the water way behind them.

I won't tell you what happened at the end of that portion of the shoot, but I will say that logs aren't much of a cushion for your head when you fall in the woods. Todd and Sue Ellen had to kind of ignore my persistent bleeding while we went up into the Dells above Watson Lake for the remainder of the shoot. I don't want you to think that they weren't concerned, because I had to keep assuring them that I was perfectly alright. They felt really bad about it.

Once we were in position above the lake, I set up one of my flashes with a CTO gel. This gives the light a warm appearance (like a sunset) and when I use my white balance settings it makes the water go really blue. I love this look.

I think Sue Ellen and Todd were a little concerned because I was climbing all these boulders and jumping around like a mountain goat...... or maybe just an old goat. I was OK though. I told them we don't have trees in Phoenix and I'm used to jumping around on boulders. It's the darn trees that trip me up....... literally!

This spot at the Dells is beautiful and with the sun just kissing the tops of the boulders across the lake and with the additional boulders sticking up from the water the scene was perfect. Just add cute couple and you're good to go.

While we were at the lake I realized that I'd lost my glasses and my pen when I fell. After we finished shooting these shots we went back to the previous spot and Todd went to look for my things while I showed a sample Graphi Studio wedding album to Sue Ellen. It was starting to get dark and with all the debris scattered on the ground around the big cottonwood I really didn't think Todd would find anything. I was pretty happy when he showed back up with both items.

So, thanks guys for the fun (if a bit too exciting) day, and a special thanks to Todd for finding my specs and my pen! I'm really looking forward to the wedding in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I won't need a helmet..........