Happy New Year! 40 some weddings, dozens of engagement sessions, a slew of performances, special events and corporate work kept me on my toes! My clients and fellow colleagues who work with me at many events made 2011 a tremendous year.
In an effort to look back and reflect on 2011, I'll be presenting a series of images captured at various weddings and sessions throughout the year. Each image will be accompanied with some background behind the photographic approach and other elements of the day that contributed to its mood or sense of moment.
This first image was shot at Inez & Paul's wedding at Columbia University last January in 2011. My very first shoot of the year, I was excited to work at this venue which is relatively new to me despite being in my backyard for a decade! Located on the Eastern edge of Columbia's stunning campus overlooking Morningside Park, the Faculty House is an exceptional space on a beautiful tree and stone lined block in Morningside Heights.
Inez really wanted Paul to see her for the first time as she came down the aisle so we made time to take pictures after the ceremony. During the winter time, this generally means we'll be making those portraits after the sun has set. So, even though the setting outside was beautiful I knew I'd have to find an interesting location on the interior because it would be dark and cold. The stairwell hadn't struck me initially but as Inez descended the steps to walk down the aisle, I noticed that there was soft, pleasing light and made a mental note.
The ceremony went quite a bit over so we had just a short while to take care of all our pictures including a lot of family. My second photographer captured the main room and decorations as I shot the posed family pictures throughout the remaining cocktail hour. The guests were excited and anxious to see Inez and Paul make their entrance to the reception so we took just a handful of photos of them and then went off to prepare for shooting their arrival to the ballroom.
As it turned out, there weren't any quiet moments during dinner! This was a serious party. I knew I'd have just a brief opportunity to get an interesting picture of the two of them so I went back out to scout the location while the other photographer continued covering the reception. I decided that a bird's eye view inside the staircase would be nice and that there was sufficient enough light that I didn't need to add any flash... distracting from the mood of the space.
With some encouragement we pulled Inez and Paul from the dance floor and onto the steps. My initial plan was to shoot wide, showing the steps descending all around them. Once in to place, the railing looked more interesting to me so I pulled out my 85mm, a relatively tight lens. There was light, but not a ton of it so I boosted my Nikon D3s low light sensitivity to a relatively high 3200iso, set a wide aperture of 1.6 and a slow-ish shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. This D3s camera has really revolutionized the way I work. In years past this image would be impossible to shoot with available light due to the graininess of previous models in low light.
I placed them near an overhead light but somewhat to the side so as to create some shape. As I was tweaking my settings, Inez and Paul settled naturally into this position, enjoying their first moment "alone" since the ceremony. Acting quickly so as not to miss this... I chose a bottom left composition that allowed the railing to gently lead to them as well as frame in a triangle. This is exaggerated by the shallow depth of field which really draws the focus to them. After grabbing a view variations, we set them free to enjoy the rest of the party.
Nikon D3s @ 1/80th, f/1.6, 3200ISO
Sigma 85mm 1.4
Available from overhead fixture.
Night, mid reception.