A 2nd Shooter Wedding Reportage

Hi and welcome to another Blog post!

This time it is about being a 2nd Shooter at a wedding reportage.

This was my first wedding reportage as a 2nd Shooter and it was absolutely exciting. Maybe you are asking yourself what the advantages of being a 2nd Shooter are. Well, there are lots: You gain experience of how you have to organize your reportage, how to handle time and communication with those who are involved or just to get an imagination of a wedding procedure, you also can assist and learn how to take portraits and group photos and you can give it a try to shoot a wedding without any stress and obligation – just shoot for yourself and get a feeling of shooting weddings and learn from the 1st Shooter. That is the sense of being a 2nd Shooter: Learn from the best.

In my case, I was an assistant of Kae Hall. Kae is a professional wedding photographer and she has a modern bright, clean and timeless shooting style. To me it was a pleasure to spent one day with her as a 2nd Shooter. Thanks Kae, I learned a lot about shooting weddings on that day!


Preparing the reportage

It was a 6 hour reportage that covered four parts:

#1: The preparation of the bride and the groom
#2: The ceremony
#3: The celebration location
#4: Bridal couple and group photos
The day before I packed my camera bag with the following gear:

–          Nikon D3
–          Nikon D200 (Backup, Remote)
–          11-16/2.8
–          24-70/2.8
–          70-200/2.8
–          2x TC
–          Nikon SB-800 Speedlights
–          Gels
–          ND-Grad-Filter

I would say that this is the standard equipment for any reportage I do.
The Speedlights help me to get a clean and professional looking image quality. I always like to interconnect two Speedlights for better light quality and also half the recycle time.  The ND-Grad-Filter helps me to get rich in contrast when it is impossible to use Speedlights. Finally, gels give me the opportunity to stylize an image in terms of color. For example, a CTO helps me to create a warm light instead of a typical cool flashlight of 5000K.

On the next day I drove to Kae’s studio which is located in Alsfeld. Before we hit the road we get over the arrangement table that shows all stations that we would have to pass on that day.

#1: The preparation of the bride and the groom

At first we arrived at the bride to shoot the preparations.
As a male shooter you have to be very sensible here because there are moments where you should better leave the room – for example when the bride gets dressed. I tell you that because maybe you are pore over your shooting so you would not recognize such moments. This would reflect discredit on you as a great photographer.

So, here are some shots from the bridal preparations. For every station there is set a certain time that is available to get all images that are needed. If there is time left you can use it for some more experimental stuff.

(Notice that every image I took is from the 2nd Shooter view! This perspective is very passive. The 1st Shooter perspective would be much more “active”.)

Preparing the bride

In the image above I tried to give an overview of the preparation and to capture some emotions. You can see the bride’s dress in the background on the far left. In the foreground the make-up artist who concentrates on making up the bride well and the bride herself who seems to be engrossed in thought.

The bride’s dress in detail

Always use the natural available light. If there is a curtain in front of the window like here, it is your lucky day! Use it as a diffuser to create a very soft light. Here it creates a dreamy atmosphere in combination with the transparent and milky cloth of the dress.

The bride surrounded by her bridesmates

Preparing the bride

These are nice shots of the bridesmates that help the bride with her dress. For those I used a 11-16/2.8 to get an overview of the scenery in this small room. To push the light quality I used a Speedlight with a dome diffuser and a WB of 5000K to create a daylight quality. I bounced the light off the ceiling.

After shooting the preparation of the bride we drove to the next station the preparation of the groom.

Preparing the groom

Finally, it is important to give an overview of the location in the beginning and than go into detail. Take images of the preparation and always look out for some interesting details and if there is some time left try some experimental stuff. You can also arrange some of your photos – just ask for permission to put the scenery in proper light.

#2: The ceremony

After the preparations we went to the church in a village nearby. It is important to arrive there before the bridal couple does. When you arrive, also take an overview image of the location/church. Maybe you can shoot the arrival of the bride in a special car or something like that.

The arrival of the bridal couple

I made this image before the bridal couple entered the church. Here you can easily capture great emotions of both.
For this image I used the ND-Grad-Filter to darken the sky to accentuate the drama of the moment – “The big step”.

The ceremony

During the ceremony it maybe not allowed to take pictures all the time, but only at special moments. Sometimes you also may not have the go to shoot in front of the altar. For these situations I like to rig up a remote camera. Here it was not possible to install one so we had to shoot from the far end of the church. To get closer I used the 70-200/2.8 plus a 2x TC. That extended the focal length to a maximum of 400/5.6. I activated the VR and set an ISO of 5000 for this image.

Potential remote camera view in front of the altar

This is an example for a potential remote camera view in front of the altar when it is impossible to get there on yourself because of disturbing the ceremony too much.

After the ceremony

After the ceremony the tension falls off the bridal couple and it is time to celebrate. Right after the marriage there will be also the congratulation which is very hard to capture because of the hubbub. It is impossible to capture every congratulation to the bridal couple so concentrate on the most important persons only.

#3: The celebration location

After the church marriage the next station was the ceremony location.
Capture the arrival of the bridal couple and take an overview image of the location. Important happenings here are the oration(s), the first cut of the cake and so on. Just watch out for great moments and details.

The ceremony location

Cutting the cake

#4: Bridal couple and group photos

Finally, we proceeded to the couple and group shots.
Here it is important to find an interesting and easy positioning. You should prepare this before the shot so you surely know how the image should look in the end.

The bridal couple

It is also good to make a final shot that closes the reportage in a nice way. Therefor I used the following shot where everyone flew heart-shaped balloons and attached the best wishes to them.

Best wishes

Well, that is it. My first wedding reportage as a 2nd Shooter. It was a lot of fun and I am very excited of my own upcoming wedding reportage as a 1st shooter in July. 🙂

Hope this was fun to read and you got an impression of shooting a wedding. I really hope so.

Bye!
Chris


Shooting Motocross

Hi and welcome to this post about shooting Motocross in a professional way.

As you know, I’m working on a sports project this year. I started with swimming in March and proceeded to motocross in April, then to track and field in May and in fall/winter I will shoot volleyball and other indoor sports.

Today I want to show you a professional way to shoot motocross scenes.

Mostly the problem of shooting motocross is a blown out sky and black faces caused by long shutter speeds to reveal the rider from shadow caused by backlight. Also if you shoot with the light you have often these problems.

Available light shots often don’t offer the possibility to shoot with high shutter speeds to freeze the action so that especially the wheels of the motorcycle show motion blur. You will need at least a shutter speed around 1/2500s to freeze the motion. But when there is not enough available light you have to reduce the shutter speed and that results in a blown out sky and motion blur.
Finally, the typical available motocross image looks like the following.

Image 1: (Photo: GOGO Visual (Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)))

As a perfectionist I have a professional approach. That means that I want great images that contrast from competitors. So, I have to think about a solution to get better images than the other photographers. In the case of motocross images I have to solve the blown out sky problem, the contrast problem and the dark face problem plus the motion blur problem.
All these problems have one basis: LIGHT. If light causes these problems, it will also solve them. The point is that I just have to use it for my purposes.
I cannot adjust the sun and I cannot blind the riders by using a reflector – so, I need my own adjustable light – FLASHLIGHT.

I know that there are photographers out there who are using flash for sports coverage  no more because they got more kicks than half-pence when they used flash. Just because they weren’t able to use it in the right way. Maybe they shot straight away with an on camera flash at full power, disturbing and blinding athletes don’t knowing that there is the ability to use iTTL and off-camera flash. What a pity! Maybe they blew down athletes and therefore got beef. Finally, it’s no surprise that indoor sports are shot with ultra high ISO that causes grainy sports images and bad contrast and color. So, it’s also important to know technical details about photography.
But using flash at daytime – outdoors?! Is that possible? It is, indeed. You just need a vision, knowledge about current solutions and technology. 😉

As a “Nikonian” I’m using the NIKON SB-800 flashgun. Here I can use FP-Sync to get shutter speeds up to 1/8000s. That enables me to blend available light and flash light also at daytime. A fast sync speed takes more power so I need much more flashes. I tried four NIKON SB-800 Speedlights. Another advantage is that because I can effectively blend available light and flash light I don’t disturb or blind the athletes. That’s because I don’t need that giant flash that makes the flash light the primary light. Typical flash solutions have a maximum sync speed of 1/250s so they must be brighter than the ambient light to prevent blurring. But with FP-Sync I don’t have that requirement. Of course, it’s that easy!

Because motocross is not static I need a portable solution. So, let’s see what’s possible.
Building a portable flash solution that offers enough flash power isn’t a problem. There are already solutions on the market.
As I already said, I’m using the NIKON SB-800 Speedlight. The great thing about it is that they have plenty of power plus the NIKON Creative Lighting System (CLS). It allows you to combine as many flashes as you want and adjust their power output separately and control and trigger them wirelessly.
I trigger the Speedlights via the NIKON SU-800 Commander wirelessly over a distance of 20 meters. To get a greater distance I’m using the RadioPopper PX System. With this solution I can trigger the Speedlights from more than 400 meters away. The RadioPopper transmitter converts the infrared signal from the SU-800 to a radio signal and the RadioPopper receiver converts this radio signal back to an infrared signal for the SB-800.
For my portable flash solution I’m using  four Speedlights and put them on SuperClamps which I mounted on a Monopod. To trigger all SB-800s I’m using one RadioPopper receiver. It’s connectet with the Speedlights via a black box and optic fibre cable.

Image 3: DIY Quadlight with RadioPopper solution

On location my assistant controls the light by adjusting the DIY Quadlight into the right direction and following the motorcycle.

Image 4: DIY Quadlight in action

Using flash solves all the problems named above. Thanks to FP-Sync I can use 1/2500s to freeze the action. I also have enough light to reveal the rider from backlight and shadow. And my images are rich in contrast without post processing.

Image 5: The high-quality result

Finally, I can create high-quality images without time-consuming post processing, plus: I contrast from my competitors that just have the typical motocross images that maybe need some time-consuming post processing. While they are sitting in front of the computer editing their images, I have already sent my images of the motocross race to the newspapers and sold some images to the riders and fans on location. The early bird gets the worm. 😉

Bye!
Chris