A few months ago, I was asked to shoot a wedding for a coworker. Even though I never had shot a wedding before, I was up for the challenge. I had decided around the same time that I might make a go with shooting some weddings, along with other photography related ventures. It was time to start making my little hobby pay off, but if a photographer has no material showing their work in a certain arena, that photographer doesn’t pick up paying jobs.
I had studied some wedding photography at that point, bought some books and spent some time on the Internet, trying to formulate a plan. I had also started to do some portraits here and there, so I had a good idea of where I was going to go with my work and how I was going to get there, I just needed to start acquiring the images to help me start making my move.
As time went by, things changed with the wedding and it was looking like the entire plan might fall to pieces. Now if there is one trait of mine that helps me out from time to time is I like being outside the box. Throw away conventional thinking, I’m going to be outside those four little lines. I spent some hours dwelling on the idea that the bride was not going to get a collection of images from her wedding and I spent time dwelling on the idea that I might be treading water longer when it came to the ideas I had for my creative vision colliding with weddings.
Cue the quaint, little Oklahoma Panhandle town of Kenton. Kenton is situated about 3 miles east of the New Mexico state line and is in the Mountain Time Zone. In the last two years, I have been to Kenton and the surrounding area at least four times to shoot photos, so I already had a few ideas on places where we could go. Also, the Kenton area also possesses the one thing I really, really wanted as a backdrop, a body of water. The terms “body of water” and “in the Oklahoma Panhandle” usually do not go together, and up until last fall, Lake Etling, was almost dry. Last fall, I shot around Lake Etling and already knew it would be the perfect backdrop at sunset.
The bride was all for the idea and last Saturday, we showed up several hours before sunset. I had picked out three locations between Kenton and Lake Etling that I wanted to shoot at, with the last spot being at the lake at sunset. The first place we started was just on the west edge of Kenton. Several days earlier, I had picked up a small chalkboard to use as a prop, but then I came across some fancy cut signs in WalMart and picked up a couple. I was having some issues with using real chalk on the boards, so I ended up firing up the vinyl cutter that I own and ended up creating a couple of signs that would work great.
This first shot was a shot that I had come up with just a couple of days earlier. I had already had a meeting with the bride and created a shot sheet, but I added this one at the last-minute after creating the signs. My intention was simple, have the couple on the highway, far enough back from the sign to blur them while the sign was in focus. The day after the shoot, I posted this image on Google Plus and got a wise crack about traffic. Believe you me, traffic is one thing that does not need to be worried about. In the hour and a half I was in Kenton, a grand total of about four vehicles passed through.
This second image was a shot from the shot sheet. My intentions were simple with this shot, bride in the middle of the road. Over the last few years, I have kind of made it a photography trait of mine to create images using a road. Usually, I’ll drop the camera down low as I will be shooting star trails, lightning or the Milky Way. For this shot, just like the previous image, I just bent down and looked up at the bride. Because of the lack of contrasting colors, I went black and white with this shot.
After running through the list of images to create in Kenton, we moved off southwest towards the lake, in the area of the old Ellard Ranch. Just a few hours before the shoot started, thunderstorms rolled through the area and the clouds broke up enough to where some sun was still coming through and this image has the start of what was one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever had the pleasure to use in my images.
Shortly after capturing this image, I realized that we were getting ready to run into a major problem. I had looked up the sunset time and had annotated it on the shot sheet. But I noticed that we were getting ready to lose the light and we needed to move since our last location was a few miles away and the drive to get there can be slow in places, so off we went. When we got to the last site, another obstacle was presented to us as some people were occupying the space where I wanted to shoot. Normally I would have just talked to the people and more than likely not, would not have had any issues with them cooperating, but non-photographers usually don’t get “chasing the light” and I didn’t want to waste time while losing the light. My “outside the box” mentality rang the mental doorbell and I spotted a perfect alternate site. Actually, it was not totally perfect but I was willing to deal with the slight imperfection with the site to get the couple into the sunset and get to shooting.
After capturing a few shots at this spot, the people left my “preferred” spot and I had enough light to capture one more “must have” image from the shoot, so we move down. I had a mental note of an idea on how I wanted this image, but due to the time constraints we ran into, I was willing to settle and in reality, even if I had created what I had on the top of the list, I think it would only score just a point or two more than what I was able to walk away with.
We created a couple of more images before we departed Lake Etling. The next day at 4 P.M. sharp, the nuptials were scheduled to be exchanged. I only had one approach to the wedding and that was what I had done when it came to my race photography and just go with the flow. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding held at The Willows Inn in Guymon. The ceremony was short, but I arrived a couple of hours before hand and just captured images that I felt would tell the story of Benji’s and Andrea’s special day. It took me several days to cull the images down to the best collection and create what I believe was the best images possible for the bride and groom.
A year ago, I would never had thought about shooting a wedding, much less a staged shoot with the bride and groom. When I began knocking down the barriers a few months ago, my confidence began to rise. In the last couple of years, I have gone from “I hope I can do that” to “easy peasy.” I still have work to do in this arena, but I can sit here and realize the only limitation I have is my gear as my mind is firing on all cylinders.