The Reluctant Bride, Groom & Photographer

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Back in June of 2008 I shot the wedding of a long time client. He and his bride were both in their eighties. It was a lot of hard work. Between the shoot itself, the post processing and putting together a wedding album,  I spent over twenty-five hours on the project.

While I enjoyed much of the experience, I vowed to never do another wedding. The requirement of shooting on a fixed schedule (which I could not control), and the necessity of taking the typical classic photos which held little artistic potential (cake cutting, groups shots, etc.) left me feeling the reward was not worth the effort. So, never again…

Last weekend we travelled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to attend my nephew David’s wedding. Well, it wasn’t really a wedding. He and his bride Mary had eloped several months ago. When the bride’s family found out they went ballistic and insisted David and Mary have a properl wedding ceremony. For the sake of family tranquility, the couple reluctantly agreed (the groom’s mother, while less insistent than the bride’s, welcomed the chance to arrange the wedding).

“David and Mary would really like you to be their wedding photographer,” my brother Pat told me a couple of weeks ago. “they really can’t afford to pay anyone.” I knew that was true; the bridal couple had little money to spare. “They saw the book you did for me of photos of David playing water polo and thought it was really great.” Several years ago David’s Michigan State club team had come to Knoxville for a meet and I’d used it as an opportunity to play with my new 300mm lens. As a gift for Pat I’d created a Blurb book of the best photos.

What could I say?  While doubting his sincerity, I was swayed by my brother’s flattery and I agreed. I arrived in Michigan with two camera bags crammed with stuff, including my Nikon d50 and the newer d5000, but with only the vaguest plan of what I was going to do.

The d50 was in my bag because my only fast lens, the f/1.8 50mm, has no focus motor and on the d5000 it must be manually focused since the camera has no focus motor either. The d50 does. The same was true for my cheap 300mm (although I doubted there’d be much call for that long a lens).

The wedding was held in a lakeside park about twenty-five or so miles outside Grand Rapids. We got horribly lost. Both our Garmin GPS and Map Quest directions turned out to be wrong and took us to the wrong side of the lake (what does it say about us that we believed the computer rather than my brother who has lived in Michigan for thirty years?) We didn’t arrive till ten fifteen; the wedding was scheduled for eleven. Everyone of consequence was already present and the bride and groom were too involved in preparation and there was no chance to shoot any candid shots.

Of course the building was dimly lit inside, with dark, wood paneled walls and glaring large window. This left me with the choice of using flash during the ceremony or using the 50mm on the d50. My attempts to use the relatively slow kit 18-55mm lens on the d5000 with a tripod proved comically inept when my flimsy and cheap Walmart tripod suddenly collapsed without warning a few minutes into the proceedings. I shot everything after that with the d50.

After the ceremony I had planned to switch back to the D5000. I didn’t. The 50mm lens is so incredibly sharp I stuck with it – and the six megapixel d50 – for all of the family and group shots. I did switch back to the d5000, with a Nikon slow 55-200mm zoom for the relatively handful of candids I shot outdoors of the bride and groom (in hideous high noon sun).

In any event, I guess I can now claim to be an experienced wedding photographer with two weddings to my credit. You can be the judge of my most recent efforts.

The most delightful part of the experience was shooting the bride. As you can tell from the set, I was more than captivated by her athletic beauty. Here’s my (so far) favorite photo of her…

Read all of VISIONS

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