This blog posting has been a long time coming and I’m very proud to present to you the pictures of the wedding of my good friends Kelsie and (the recently appointed) Sarah Carpenter. But first a little history…

I met Kelsie just over a year ago during one of my first days on the job. I was fresh out of the military and he was fresh out of college, and we both had great jobs lined up for us. Unfortunately, these jobs required some advanced clearances that took almost 8 months to process and during that time we were left completely unattended! Kelsie and I spent a good bit of time together and found some “creative” ways to burn the day.

One day, seemingly out of nowhere Kelsie tells me, “Sarah and I are engaged,” and I think that I immediately offered my (at the time) fledgling services if they were on a budget. Kelsie tentatively said yes, and it was at that point I realized just what I had gotten myself into. I felt confident when I told Kelsie I’d be ready to shoot his wedding by August, but at the time I had no clue how to go about breaking down this huge elephant into smaller bites. Like every other photography venture I stumble upon, I picked up a book and started to read.

Fortunately, at some point I figured out by rifling through books, magazines, and various sites that shooting weddings is a lot like event photography. The caveat is you MUST get the shot at several critical junctures and be able to perform a bunch of other tricks, which is why shooting weddings is perceivablyso difficult. What makes it easier is being cool under fire, knowing your gear, being able to predict what’s going to happen, and plenty of mission planning (preparation, sorry, mil jargon). So about a month before the wedding I mapped out a plan of attack and got a good handle on how I was going to go about this shoot.

Prior to the big day I went out and bought a big 48″ Lastolite TriGrip reflector so that I wouldn’t have to lug around ancillary lighting and more importantly, utilize the natural warm summer light. I also recently obtained two PocketWizard IIs for my birthday and I wanted to implement them into flow, but as it turned out I only used them for the group shots.

The day of, Amy and I woke up at 6am to be at Wrexham Hall in Cheserfield, VA by 9am. Showing up early NEVER HURTS, and I’m really glad I did for my first wedding since I had ample time to walk the grounds, find shooting spots, and set up my equipment. I spent about a half an hour taking captures of the setup and macro shots of whatever caught my eye.Before I knew it, Sarah and her party were arriving and Kelsie and his groomsmen were right behind them. There was a bit of disorganization on my part since Amy and I wanted to devote a good bit of attention to the bride getting ready, but eventually I had to cut out to hit the rest of the wedding while Amy stuck with the bridal party. From there everything fell into place quite nicely. The event was somewhat informal (as far as weddings go) and I was free to shoot where ever I wanted to. I stuck with my beercan and tried to remain “smooth and small” as possible so as not to distract the guests, and all the pictures came out great!

I am generally afforded flexibility with event photography since a majority of the events I’ve shot don’t move very fast, but weddings are one sprint after another! After the ceremony let out everything was pretty tame and paced. When we got to the group shots there was a bit of confusion getting the families together, but after a couple calls all the players fell into place nicely. For the group shots I set up one 43″ umbrella high with my Sigma EF-500 (close to this model) set to 1/2 power and connected to a PW. I also left my Sony F56AM on my rig with a Gary Fong frost Lightsphere II set at 1/4 power. The setup worked great in the decently lit room since the tungsten bulbs in place weren’t too strong and there was plenty of fill coming in from the windows. We then said goodbye to the group and I set off along the property with Kelsie and Sarah to get some captures of just the two of them.

The party at Pocahontas State Park was our last stop and it too presented some interesting elements to overcome. The facilities they used were awesome, but for the sake of photography, logs don’t bounce flash very well…or at all! I tried to set up another flash in the corner tied to my PWs, but it didn’t work out so well since it was entirely too bright, even when dialed down. Instead of trying to get the flash to bounce I opted to get as close as I could and dial down the flash and slow my shutter speed. This worked out real well and the warm colors from the logs came out along with the string lighting that adorned the place.

We eventually had to part from the group at the end of a long day since we had close to 2,500 RAW pictures and a drive back to DC. When we got in the car I was still buzzing, but Amy was ready to crash out, and I felt the same about halfway home. For those of you who took the time to read this whole entry, I hopeyou aren’t falling asleep by now!

It was a great experience and I can’t wait to shoot my next wedding when the season rolls around. A LOT of work, but well worth it in retrospect and I’ve never been one to shy away from a big project. I am looking forward to applying the many lessons learned from Kelsie and Sarah’s wedding to the next couple brave enough to hire me!

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