In each installment of our educational blog series, Anatomy of a Photograph, we’ll break down one of our trickiest wedding photos. From conception to composition, equipment to settings, subject to lighting, you’ll find out exactly what went into creating the image.
For this first installment, I’d like to take a look at a photo that I had wanted to capture for nearly seven years before actually making it happen.
Exposure Program: Manual
Shutter Speed: 1/125
White Balance: Flash
Focal Length: 70mm
Here’s the story
Ever since I drove up into the mountains on I-70 for the first time in 2008, I’ve been enamored by the view at the Genesee Park Bridge. In the years since, I’ve traveled all over Colorado photographing weddings and, to this day, it remains one of my favorite views in all of the state (which is saying a lot).
I’ve always thought to myself, “It sure would be cool to bring a bride and groom up there for a photo shoot.” So when Kendra and Heath hired me for their wedding at The Pines at Genesee, I knew we had to make it happen.
A few days before the wedding, Moira and I took a drive up to the Pines (it’s only about 10 miles from the edge of the city) to scout the location and quickly realized that doing a photo on the bridge would present a few logistical hurdles. For one, it’s not a pedestrian bridge, so there was no sidewalk and not much of a shoulder to stand on. Two, there was a lot of traffic on the bridge itself. Finally, the guard rail only came up to my lower thigh, and with the plethora of ski traffic below, I knew this could be a potential liability issue (i.e. it seemed super dangerous).
Even so, Kendra and Heath were game, so just before they were due at the reception, we grabbed the newlyweds and drove them down to the location a few hundred yards away. We waited for a break in the traffic and hustled out the center of the bridge.
Here’s a quick snapshot of us hustling.
To my delight, the vehicles trying to cross the bridge were more than happy to wait the minute or two it took us to nail the shot (in my seven years as a wedding photographer, I’ve learned that a bride in a white dress gives you carte blanche to do just about anything).
Now for the technical stuff
I knew that my lighting had to be dramatic for this one, so I set Moira up with a remote strobe behind Kendra and Heath to create a “rim” light, separating the couple from the background. This goes a long way toward making a photo seem more three-dimensional. And when done at night (or in this case, at sunset) it will turn the subject into a sort of silhouette, which can be an interesting alternative to a more traditionally-lit portrait.
I exposed for the sunset, of course, and adjusted the strobe output accordingly. To pop a strobe in a situation like this, a set of remote triggers is the only option. A tethered approach would have been out of the question, since a cord running through the frame would ruin the photo (or present me with unwanted man hours in Photoshop) and since the couple is blocking the line of sight from camera to strobe, Nikon’s proprietary “CLS” (Creative Lighting System) would be fickle at best.
The white balance was set to flash to account for the light falling on the couple. Flash is just a bit cooler, Kelvin-wise, than sunlight, so this served to warm the background a tad. I had a 2.8 lens on my camera, but I shot this at f5 because I wanted greater depth of field to see the mountains. And at 70mm handheld, I generally don’t like to go slower than 1/125, so I had to bump my ISO up to 500 to get a good exposure.
After I got a handful of shots I liked, we hurried back off the bridge to a cacophony of congratulatory honks from the vehicles on the interstate below.
As we made our way back to the car and I reviewed the reel on my camera’s LCD, I immediately knew that I had a new portfolio image.
And only seven years in the making!