Through the Lens :: Angles

October 7th, 2010  |  Posted in Through the Lens, weddings

Ok.  So I’m that photographer — the one that takes a lot of photos.  Some might suggest that I should be a bit more concise, but what can I say?  I ramble when I talk.  I ramble when I write and I guess some would argue I ramble when I shoot.  But, I always have a point.  I’m working the situation for the perfect way to portray the story of the moment.  Sometimes that involves exposure or lens choice and other times it’s about my shooting position or my shooting angle.  For this Through the Lens installment we’ll explore my thought process with regards to angles.

I’m not afraid to put myself  into an odd position for the best shot which is why I always wear pants when I’m working.  In a dress or skirt I’d be guaranteed to flash someone as I crawl, climb and squeeze myself into the best place to get the best angle for the image.

How do I know the best angle?  Sometime I see it immediately – that gut feeling that comes with experience.  At other times I’ve done some pre-planning like checking out ceremony locations before the start of the wedding so I know the best angles, obstacles, etc.  Seeing a space ahead of time isn’t a necessity, but it gives me some extra peace of mind knowing I’m fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever comes my way during the wedding.

Let’s look at some examples.

So this is my first photo angle as Jessica prays with her bridesmaids before they begin dressing for the wedding.  It’s ok but I don’t see the others involved and Jessica gets a little lost because of the position of the bridesmaid behind her.  The light on the hands is nice.

Second angle and a much better shot. Jessica is separated from the background and is definitely the focus of the image. The only change I made to achieve this shot is to squat down. But, it’s still not perfect. The out of focus arm coming into the shot from the right is distracting to me. I think if I could see the hands I might not have as much of an issue with it. I also wish that I could see some of the bridesmaids in the photo as well to give it context and depth. Good overall, but still not quite right.

Third time’s the charm. I think this is the best all around angle. You see Jessica and some of the bridesmaids. You also see the hands and the connection they are making with each other. I like that the hands are out of focus; you can still tell what they are but they aren’t competing with the subject for your attention. I achieved this by squeezing myself between the girls and lying on my back looking up.

There you go. One moment. Three angles. All captured in a matter of seconds. Worth the extra effort. Definitely!

Through the Lens :: Planning for the end

June 17th, 2010  |  Posted in Through the Lens, weddings

Today we’re continuing our Through the Lens series where we explore Wendi’s approach to photography and how her background in photojournalism translates to weddings. My first challenge to Wendi was to help me understand what’s going on in her head when she looks through the camera. This time around Wendi chose the subject — planning for the end — and when her notes hit my inbox I had to chuckle because I’m the Type A one and she’s the artistic one so I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say about planning! I love that she continues to surprise me and as I learn more about how she does “her thing” I have a deeper appreciation for the thoughtful preparation that goes into each and every shoot.

And now, in the words of Wendi…

San Antonio wedding photography

Planning for the end. When I’m shooting I always keep the final product in mind. For magazine assignments I shoot more verticals because I know how the magazine is oriented and verticals play nicely on the page. With weddings there are a lot of final products – albums, prints, slideshow, web, etc. The one thing common to all these is a good story and every story needs a good opening, something that draws in the viewer.

For albums I like to start with a hook to immediately grab the viewer’s attention, but I also want to introduce the key characters. When I can achieve both in the same photo, like in the image above, I’m a happy photographer! Let’s see if I can deconstruct this process for you.

I was looking for a cool, tight shot of our bride, Ashley, to lead the story, but I wanted more than just a tight portrait. (Before going on, you need to know that I love white space/negative space. I think it is its own character and plays a definite role in storytelling.) When I saw the clean wall behind Ashley as she was having her hair done I wanted to use it to my advantage. After just a couple shots I quickly knew I had what I wanted and I knew exactly how I wanted to use it in the album.

It would be the opening image, placed alone on the right hand side of the layout. The white space in the image catches your eye and leads you to read the image like a book, left to right. You’re instantly connected with one of our main characters, Ashley and you’re eager to turn the page to learn more.

With all that being said I want to be very clear that I’m not a “stager” and I don’t plan everything. On the wedding day I am an observer and I capture the wedding story truthfully as it unfolds before me.

I didn’t pose Ashley for this image. It was a moment captured. It was a moment where my preparation of considering the final product + keenly observing my surroundings came together to create a unique introductory image.

Through the Lens :: Listening

April 28th, 2010  |  Posted in Through the Lens

As promised, today is the first installment of our new blog series, Through the Lens.  The series will explore Wendi’s approach to photography and how her background in photojournalism translates to weddings.

My first challenge to Wendi was to help me understand her perspective when she’s taking a photograph.  I asked her to pick an image and answer the question, “What did you see?” The image she chose and her response is below.

Florida wedding photography

Denise asked me a seemingly simple question, but there’s no easy answer. This is part one of what I imagine to be a very long answer.

I shoot photographs the way I see the world so everything I shoot seems just like what I see. Simple, right? Yes, except, we all see the world differently. Try walking around with one eye closed and vary between walking upright and crawling and you might get a glimpse of what I see. I attribute this to years of experience behind the camera, too many hours in a darkroom and the quirky brain God gave me.

I think it’s more about what I’m thinking than what I see. I approach every photograph as a story and one of the most important aspects of visual storytelling is listening. It’s the hardest skill to learn and the easiest to do.

I could have easily missed the photograph above had I not listened and learned about the bride. By listening I knew Kelly was very spiritual, that prayer played a big part in her life and the lives of her friends and that while getting ready for her wedding she wanted to be surrounded by her bridesmaids — all of whom were there because they truly loved Kelly and supported her in prayer and friendship.

I wanted to visually show this commitment to God, prayer and friendship and I knew the moment would organically present itself. So, I waited and waited and waited. I shot lots of getting ready photos and could have easily left the room satisfied that I had covered the events, but I wanted the “rest of the story” so I lingered for a bit more. As Kelly sat and her friends gathered around her I knew it was time.

I considered standing on a chair to get an overhead view, but decided I wanted a shot that was as intimate as the moment. I chose a wide angle lens and sat at Kelly’s feet while the bridesmaids gathered around. I love this photo because I feel it captures the emotion and feeling of the moment. My hope is that you, as the viewer, feel like you are reaching a virtual hand out in prayer along with Kelly and her friends.

Through the Lens :: An Introduction

April 27th, 2010  |  Posted in Through the Lens

As an adolescent I spent hours pouring over my grandparents old photo albums. There was one photograph in particular that I would return to time and time again — a snapshot of my grandmother, probably in her early 20s, sitting on a seawall in New Orleans with several friends. It was simply labeled, “Helen and gang in N.O.” That photograph told a story I had never before imagined — that of Helen Fendlason Bottolfs as a young woman enjoying a trip to New Orleans with her friends — and instantly she became a woman with a lifetime of stories and adventures, not just my Maw-Maw.

I haven’t seen that photo since I was 16 ( a very long time ago!), but I can tell you every detail of the image, where I was sitting when I first discovered it and how it made me feel. So when Wendi describes her photography as . . .storytelling. . .documenting real moments as they happen. . .capturing family history, I get it! But, as the non-photographer half of Thompson Poole I often wonder what it’s like to be behind the camera. What does she see through the lens?

I thought you might be interested too so I’m happy to introduce a new blog series, Through the Lens. The series will explore Wendi’s approach to photography and how her photojournalism career translates to weddings.

Tune back-in tomorrow as Wendi answers the question: What do you see when you look through the lens?”