Hilton Head has natives?

Today, my assistant Jared ejected 15 rolls of medium format film from my toy cameras and shipped them to my lab in NYC (www.LTI-LIGHTSIDE.com) from a wedding I photographed this weekend in Hilton Head, SC for a family who has lived on the island since the children were toddling.  In the meantime,  I thought i'd post some images from my digital cameras (Leica M9 and Nikon D3). I mixed a small bit of narrative with technical stuff in the post. Thanks for reading.

It's somewhat unnatural to connect with someone for months over text, email and phone for almost a year before you actually meet (esp. considering the last person I heard who did this, married the guy a few months after finally meeting). This however, was not a love match, this is how I met and corresponded with the bride and her family.  Cooper and her entire family are perhaps the most delightful and laid-back clients I have worked for. When God was handing out cards in the poker hand of her life, she took the pot. Beautiful, kind, wondrous and smart she defined the classic bride with an air of modernity. Think young Jackie O crossed with Zooey Daschanel. And her groom, how freakin cute is he! He has nodes of Peter Parker and the depth and wit of James Franco (and yes, he works in the wine industry...please send your complaints to Maggie for my lame references, remember I'm a photographer: [email protected]). 

I'm from the "Zen and the Art of Wedding Photography" tribe (my apologies Mr. Pirsig) and while I plan, prepare and create a plan B (and C & D), once I'm documenting the day I prefer to only think about what's happening around me. But when the gospel choir processed behind  Cooper and Marc (FOB) singing "Oh, Happy Day," I almost became an observer and not a photographer. The goose bumps on my arms had taken over. I did grab some with my twin-lens Rollei and those images should be souping in the lab by this time tomorrow, can't wait. Cinematographer Beth Ely captured the wedding, and the choir on digital video with a wireless mic.

I've pretty much decided and do hereby request this choir sing at my funeral. I'll send over the sheet music to "You can't always get what you want," by the Rolling Stones (Beth, will you please record it and FTP it to me in... er um, i'll get back to you....later.....much....later).

Women and wedding photographers love man who can dance. In 15 years as a wedding photographer, I have seen some very earnest, hysterical and memorable first dances. But when the man who possesses the gift of rhythm and allows his soul to escape through his feet, I am entertained.  All at once, Marc, Cooper's father, deftly held and briskly spun his daughter while her dress churned and whirled like a decadent souffle. Equally impressive, Cooper held tight and mirrored his steps with size 7 Manolo Blahnik's strapped to her feet (& no straps on the dress).
I'm guessing the University of Virginia decided to move the date of graduation when they discovered a bevy of alumni who would be feting in Hilton Head. 

Circus flags crown the tent. Charming, whimsical and had the effect of adding about 25 feet to the height of the tent. Sort of like how the Empire State building is much bigger with it's spire and lights.

Oye, the sendoff.... on a boat. No sweat. I've been impailed with birdseed, yanked flaming toilet paper from the getaway car  and withstood noismakers all the while running backwards in heels with a 12Mexapixel 11fps camera to my face. So a boat sendoff easy. Until I realized the boat really had sailed (ok, only a foot from the dock) and I had to get off and jump on the dock unless I wanted to spend the next week in Costa Rica with my newly betrothed clients. It was no Jason Bourne moment, but I did enjoy the adreneline rush of seeing water underneath as I jumped ship.

If you'd like to see some of the photographs from my toy cameras (and you've read this whole post, you are probablly entitled to so much more) let me know and I will post when Justin at my lab sends them via the interwebs.

Below is my oh so meta technical specs for how I photographed the day (AKA: the geeky stuff) Most of these images were captured with a Leica M9 with a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 lens or a NIKON D3 and my beloved NIKON 50mm manaul f1.2 lens. I am a huge fan of prime lenses with wide apertures. And I shoot exclusively with manual focus lenses, not becuase I feel my PRO status requires me to do so, but I like the full control and happy accidents with manual lenses (theyre also made of metal, not plastic and glide much smoother. ***TIP be careful when shooting posed portraits at a wide aperture with a normal to long lens...if everyone is not on the same plane they won't all be sharp, which is fine, and often preferred to soften skin, but consider yourself warned. Stepping back a few feet does help since depth of field is partially determined by how far your subjects are from the lens. Lastly, prayer beads are handy when the rain clouds loom large just as the ceremony ends...wedding photographers know of which I speak... don't the clouds love to tease us just as the ceremony ends, forcing us to make a game-time decision on the location. Call it right and you have majestic light, guess wrong and you'll have lots of umbrella pictures of firing-squad portraits at the altar of a dimly-lit church. The Leica was definitely not intended for a Sports Illustrated photographer. The rangefinder focus is slow at first, but it definitely gets easier (fortunatley at weddings there's a lot of black jackets against white shirts so focus can be a snap-then again remember the shallow depth of field situation -see above). Also, I tend to keep my Nikon on single-servo mode (again, it's the "no, you are not shooting for the sports section" mode since you could hold down the shuter till tomorrow and it would still on take one frame. But it keeps me thinking. By the end of the night, however, when my ISO is cranked to 5000 (yes, the D3 can do this, and do this quite well) and shutter is below 1/15th of a second I'll often switch to contious shooting mode and fire away. I'm also a big fan of pulling out my hexar, throwing in some Ilford and it's tiny on-camera flash (it's tiny, pre iphone/ post brick phone days) so I recommend only using this tecnique when the subjects have angular faces and strong features that can "absorb" the burst of skinny, flat light. It will make the difference between a hip, sharp professional "snapshot" and a "yikes, he looks quite drunk," photograph.