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Working Around Challenges

St Barbara renovation 2010

Most of the challenges I faced as a photographer were weather related or just normal human dynamics. Someone forgetting to pick up the flowers, shy ring bearers, or the tuxedos for the groomsmen did not include the shoes. Occasionally there were delays because of broken wedding dress zippers, late flights, or the DJ went to the wrong venue. I thought I had seen and experienced it all.

There was one wedding that presented a challenge that was not under anyone’s control. The church that the bride and groom selected was undergoing a major renovation. The church was a beautiful and famous venue that was a photographer’s dream. When the couple informed me of the location, I was very excited as I never had the opportunity to photograph a wedding there before. My excitement was quickly tempered when they informed me that there was a major renovation underway that may not be finished in time for the ceremony.

St Barbara renovation 2010

I did not become worried, but the couple suggested I take a look for myself so I could plan the workarounds. Even the most perfect settings had visual challenges, exit signs, trash cans, lighting issues, etc. After hundreds of weddings, I felt I could handle anything.

When I visited the church, the outside looked perfect. beautiful grounds and archways with flowers and character. Plenty of photo opportunities with no visible work going on outside. I asked myself, “how bad could it be?” When I entered the sanctuary however, I was met with more scaffolding than I had ever seen on the inside of a building. After the church staff confirmed that it would still be there for the wedding, I became concerned.

The alter would be clear, and the first two rows, but the rest of the church was visually obliterated by metal pipes and wood planks from floor to ceiling. Photos of the ceremony at the alter would be achievable, but from very limited angles. There was no way to get an entire perspective from the balcony, or the back of the church, which were some of my favorite shots to deliver.

One of the most important and required shots at a wedding is the traditional bride being walked down the aisle. Even with the casual, photojournalistic style that I did, it was an expected photograph. Normally an easy shot from the front looking back up the aisle, but the scaffolding made it nearly impossible to get a clear shot. There was a small space from the doors entering the church to where the scaffolding began. My window to get the shot was extremely tight before the scaffolding came into view. In order to ensure that all subjects have their eyes open, multiple photos are required. Many great shots are ruined by the shutter catching the blink reflex inopportunely. The other challenge was using the right lens. The distance and tight perspective required a longer zoom than usual. Longer zooms also require a steadier hold, and there is less depth of field for focusing. I had about 3 seconds to get it right. This was definitely the highest pressure shot of my 300 plus wedding career.

My suggestion to aspiring photographers is to carry enough equipment to handle any situation. More than one camera body and flash, and many lenses with varied and overlapping focal lengths. I have experienced the best and newest equipment malfunction, and was alway glad I carried back ups. With some experience and luck, I pulled off the shot that you see above.