Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weddings Don't Suck After All

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When Robert first asked to shoot Matt & Aimee's wedding in Ohio, the reaction in my head was, "Are you nuts?"  1. I don't shoot weddings 2. It's in Ohio in July.

It turns out I was right about the Ohio in July bit, but my misgivings about weddings, at least in this case, appear to be wrong.  I know that's a terribly small sample size, but my stance in regards to shooting weddings has shifted towards the positive.

I told Robert I would think about it before giving him an answer, but re-iterated the fact that I had never shot a wedding and he should make that clear to Aimee.  After several days of reflecting on the idea, I came to the conclusion that I would do it.  After all, if you're not willing to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone, what's the point of doing something in the creative field?  I was a bit nervous about the whole idea, but intrigued to know if I could handle the pressure and produce quality work.

Soon enough, I was contacted by Aimee about shooting the wedding.  After several e-mails we engaged in conversation over the phone, where I made it clear to her that I had never shot a wedding (just in case Robert fudged on this small detail), and she could back out with no hard feelings on my part.   I mentioned that I was up for a challenge if she was.  We hung up the phone agreeing that she should think it over and get back to me.  After several days of not hearing from her, I figured the choice had been made and I wouldn't have to travel to Ohio and I would remain a non-wedding shooter.  I was actually relieved about the whole thing.  But then, she wrote me.

A bit to my dismay, Aimee said that if I was up to a challenge, then she was willing to have me come and shoot the weeding.  Damn, I was trapped now.  I began to think of any scenario that would allow me to wriggle out of the wedding without looking like a total jerk.  Of course, there were none.  I had told both Robert and Aimee that I would do it, and they had called my bluff.  I was all in with an unsuited 7&2.

Robert handled the travel arrangements and booked my room at Memaw's house, his wonderfully delightful grandma who addresses two or more people as "You'uns", as in "Where are you'uns going tonight?"  By the end of my weekend there, I demanded she use that term before I would leave the house.   She's 91 now and moves slowly, but I could still see her personality burning below the surface and her eyes lit up when engaged in verbal tet-a-tet with me.  I was honored when she remarked that I was ornery.

It was pouring rain as Robert and I were driving to the wedding, confirming my reservations about doing a wedding in the first place.  If the wedding moved indoors, I would most likely be shooting nothing but flash shots that would be decent at best.  The bride certainly would not be willing to take outdoor shots after having her hair and makeup done, so now I'm thinking of finding a neutral colored wall and hoping for the best.  Or, I might be carrying an umbrella in my left hand while trying to handle the camera with my right.  It's possible, but precarious at best.   No doubt the gear would have gotten wet and ceased working in this scenario.  As it turns out, I didn't need the rain to have soaking wet pants (khaki, thus ensuring every single guest would know the extent of my distress) or a malfunctioning camera. Blessedly the rain stopped shortly before we arrived, not to be seen the rest of the day.  Bad news, of course, is that the saturated ground would ensure that the humidity level would reach a full 100% when coupled with the 95 degree heat.

 I quickly began gathering detail shots of flowers, cake,settings, and various other wedding items as Aimee ran down the itenerary.  This wasn't the quiet flower I had spoken with on the phone, she was in total control now and the wedding was going to go exactly as she had planned.   Her demeanor wasn't obnoxious, it was determined, and she couldn't have been nicer.  She handed me a folder with 4 typed pages of print, which I quickly perused and thought, "crap, are you serious", but simply said, "Yes, looks good, we'll get everything you want".   The folder was too big to transport all day, so I folded up the sheets and put them in my back pocket to reference periodically.   When I pulled them out 5 minutes later they were soaking wet and virtually unusable.  I'm not exaggerating here, it was really that hot and humid.

The groomsmen showed up (a touch late) and we got their shots taken care of.  I was thankful Aimee didn't flip out, I'm not sure if she knew they were late or not.  Throughout the day, I kept waiting for the stereotypical bridezilla eruption to happen, but it never did.  Certainly the use of cell phones has helped alleviate that stress as Aimee was constantly directing, even while having her hair and makeup done.

Next we got the "getting ready" photos and then the bridesmaids photos done.  Everything was moving along comfortably (except for that rash now developing under the camera strap) and the ceremony was minutes away.  I began final checks:  lenses (check),memory cards (check),batteries (check),  cameras turned on......... ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!

One of my cameras would not power on.  I exchanged the batteries, turned it on and off, where's the control-alt-delete buttons?..oh yeah it's a camera, doesn't have those, and nothing happened.  If ever there was a perfect occurrence for Murhpy's Law, this would be it.  I'm doing my first wedding ever and I've obsessed about my gear for weeks, and literally 5-7 minutes before the wedding starts, I'm down a camera.  This is truly the only time of the day when I need two cameras, one with  a zoom and the other with a wide angle.  Everything up until now could have been done with one camera and switching lenses as needed.

I assess the situation and determine I'll have to use the 24-70 and get physically closer as needed as this will give me the best opportunity to capture the things I need to capture.  I quickly walk down behind the  small gazebo to see what the 24-70 will give me from behind this area.  I look to my left to make sure I'm not going to block the music folks, and there it is.   Like a sweet little blessing of hope, I see a black camera body.  I look closer and see "Canon" (hallelujah!).  Please god, don't let it be one of the rebel series, I don't know how to manipulate the settings on those.  A closer look let's me see it's a 7D (Praises!!).  I ask the guy at the keyboard (it turns out it's  her brother Aaron) if it's his and if I can use it?  Yes and yes.  Before he can change his mind I slip my memory card in, put my lens on, comes the bride.......

I move into position and begin shooting.  She doesn't know we were seconds away from possibly missing some really nice shots, such is the case of the wedding shooter, apparently.  I get what I need, the ceremony goes smoothly, and the day ends without further complications, from my viewpoint.  I'm guessing Aimee felt a million more little stressors the rest of the day, but such is the day for the bride.

That night Robert and I went out for a quiet dinner and a few pints of Guinness to reflect on the day.   I told Robert I was blown away by the friendliness of the people in Ohio.   It's now always like that where we live, so it was really nice to experience the midwest hospitality.  I was glad I had decided to take a chance and do something that was uncomfortable because I learned a lot about people and about myself as a photographer. Despite the new circumstances, I was able to produce work that both I and the married couple were proud of.  I always tell people that my strength in this field is the ability to establish a rapport and make others feel comfortable on the other side of the camera.   It turns out, that skill is applicable in all photographic scenarios.

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