Whirlwind Week in April
The past week was pure insanity for my schedule. I had 5 shoots in the span of 9 days, and a number of other commitments that allowed me about 1 hour per night to be awake and do extracurricular work. It was unreal, exhausting, and I loved every moment of it! I recently realized that my forced habit of working 12 hour days as a student at Georgia Tech became so ingrained in my psyche that I'm not happy unless I'm working around the clock. A whole week of a full time job, photography, and photo editing? Yes, please! I may be a bit of a masochist....
The weekend started on a Saturday with my first wedding. I was invited by Jamie Howell to join him as a second shooter and am still blown away by the offer. I quickly jumped at the chance to join for the potential growth and experience were unmeasurable. The wedding would be a full day ordeal; get there at noon and shoot ‘til the reception ended at midnight. It was a wonderful experience. The venue was Piedmont Estates & Garden, and is it gorgeous! One of the few pre-Civil War buildings that still stand in Atlanta, the owner at the time was wealthy enough to pay off the Union soldiers, keeping them from burning the building down during Sherman's March.
Jamie is a fantastic photographer and working with him was really easy. I really appreciated that he kept giving me small tips throughout the day. When we arrived at the location, we were like kids in a candy store. Our immediate consensus was that if we couldn't get good photographs there, then we didn't deserve to be photographers. The family and wedding party were great as well. I was mostly in charge of getting images of the guys, and had a blast hanging out with them. They were located downstairs in the wine cellar, and boy was the light awful! Thankfully, my new 5D Mark III was on hand with my Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and the combination simply laughed at the idea of bad lighting. Shooting at f/1.4 and at ISO 6400 was scary at first, but I had to do it just to get a shutter speed of 1/100, the minimum to get sharp photos of moving people. My fears were tossed aside when I reviewed the images the next day, because the noise was surprisingly minimal and nearly every shot was in perfect focus. Bank account, I'm sorry but it was worth the pain.
I was much happier when shooting upstairs with the ladies. My ISO peaked at 800, which is nothing for a modern full frame camera. The lighting was gorgeous on the upper terrace and I made sure to take full advantage of it. Most of my favorite images came from that portion of the building. The rest of the wedding went rather quickly, with a wonderful ceremony and a fun reception. Whoever the DJ was at that wedding should teach lessons to all other event DJs, because he was that awesome. The evening ended around midnight, and after 12 hours of shooting and only 40 minutes to sit the entire time, I was incredibly sore the next day. That had to abade quickly though as I had a portrait shoot Sunday evening with Logan and Courtney!
I had taken pictures a few years before of Logan's brother, Gil, for his senior portraits. They're the dramatically lit baseball shots that populate my homepage. Logan wanted the same look but as a soccer player. She invited her teammate, Courtney, to get some shots of herself too and help with passing a ball for some action shots I had planned. Well, planning and imagination came together to produce some stellar images. We shot as the sun was fading, and again when it was officially night time. The shots during twilight were really nice because I was able to pull in the background for a number of the images. The only downside was that I had to put two speedlites on a single light stand, blasting away at full power to try and balance out the ambient light and reduce shadows. This meant slow flash recharge and serious battery consumption. The action shots were a bit blurry because I didn't have enough juice to use High-speed Sync, therefore slow shutter speeds that couldn't freeze motion. If I do more of these in the future, I may have to invest in an actual strobe because they are much more powerful than traditional speedlites. It's okay Bank account, I'll rent for a while. I swear! The evening shots were when the magic happened though.
Because it was so dark, I didn't have to worry about ambient light. Max sync speed, Check. I also didn't have to use my flashes at very high power, which meant that the actual flash pulses would be quicker. Translation: Fast flash pulse = frozen motion. For my set up, I used two bare flashes placed on either side of my subjects as hard rim lights, and then had another flash placed in a 60" umbrella over my shoulder, producing the main light. The effect is a dramatic, and gritty look that athletes (and myself) love.
We had a blast with the action shots, though it was quite a chore because I had to manually focus to where I believed the action would end up when I pressed my shutter button. For the static shots, I had Logan's mom use the flashlight on my iPhone to light Logan or Courtney so I could focus. She would step out of the frame and then I'd snap the picture. The action shots took a little more planning. For Logan, I had her place the ball on the ground so I could focus on that, use the iPhone to help me focus on it, and then build my composition around it. I also closed down my aperture to f/8 so that I could get everything in focus. Courtney's shots were crazy because she had to peak her action where we preset the focus. For the most part, Logan put the ball in the right spot every time and we came away with fantastic images.
Wednesday came around and I drove back to the soccer field to get pictures of Logan's game. Instead of using my 7D for the match, I decided to use the 5D3 to see just how good the auto focus system performed, and because we were shooting close to twilight. I was totally ecstatic with the results. The new AF system is mind-blowing in its accuracy. There's much more to customize and the system itself is vastly improved. I could maintain focus on a player even as she was blocked from my view or in total traffic with other players, so long as I was focused on her before the mess started. Absolutely incredible. I used my 70-200 f/2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter for a max focal length of 280mm. This proved just enough reach to get the majority of the shots I needed. The resolution of the images was outstanding. The game itself was excellent, very hard fought and a joy to watch. Logan had two great shots on the goal that missed by mere inches. Had she sunk those shots, the team would have won 3-2 instead of falling 1-2. It took until Friday for me to finally edit and get all the images to Logan's and Courtney's moms. And so far, they've been thoroughly impressed with the results.
I know I said I had 5 shoots, but per the client's request, I'm not allowed to share any information about that Saturday shoot. All I can say is that it went incredibly well and I got some solid images. It was a blast to work with them and I wish them good luck in their future travels!
The final shoot of the weekend came on Sunday morning with my friends Alex and John. They had been dating for right around a year at the time of the shoot, and I offered to take "anniversary shots" of them. I figured it would serve as great practice for future engagement shoots. Well, it could not have gone better. Holy cow! Possibly my favorite shoot of the weekend, I think they were my best images of the week across the board. We shot at Roswell Mill, the same location where I did the proposal shoot of Chase and Sabrina. We didn’t shoot on the rocks of the waterfall, but we did use the gorgeous bridge, old brick buildings, and nature pathways that overlooked the waterfall. Everything was just amazing. Lighting was fantastic, and again my 5D3 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 combo produced stellar results. It is the most fun and well performing camera/lens combination I’ve ever used. Alex and John required minimal instruction as they were naturally photogenic (apparently they had practiced poses the entire week leading up to the shoot), and it made the whole morning incredibly easy and fun. And to top it all off, I finally figured out how to achieve that damned particular post-processed look I’ve been working on for months. Finally! I could not be prouder of those images. Apparently, over 30 people have asked Alex since I posted those images if they were engagement photos. Sadly, they weren’t, but at least I’m getting plenty of recognition for them!
I am so happy and proud of this past week. It was utter insanity; driving 40 minutes to and from almost every single shoot, coping with a full time job, editing photos with fast-approaching deadlines, and other obligations that made this week filled to the brim. I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I’ve gotten so many compliments on my images from this week; it’s really incredible and flattering. To recount, I shot my first wedding (and subsequently got more opportunities to work with Jamie as his second shooter), I nailed a series of senior sport portraits that are going to be presented to the entire school soccer team (which will hopefully pay serious dividends), I was able to justify the purchase of my 5D3 with all the incredible situations it handled throughout the week, I rocked a non-descript portrait shoot, and I got stellar couple shots. Fan-freaking-tastic. I have nothing else to add other than that I can’t wait for my next insane week of shooting!