Saturday, July 23, 2011
WHY IS IT SECOND NATURE FOR A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER TO PHOTOGRAPH NATURE!
Are we wedding photographers who photograph nature or nature photographers who photograph weddings?? I am always being asked that question in one form or another. My answer is always the same, I am a photographer! I mean why do I need to put more of label on myself than that? Hell, I was proudly called a "writetographer" by a wonderful writer, Sulekha Rawat.
I also photograph landscapes, portraits, pets and children. Quite simply, I am a photographer, I think photography everyday, hell I think of it pretty much every hour. You go to a movie or watch TV and hopefully you enjoy the film. I'm seeing scenes and thinking, "That would make a great image". I am photographing something or do post production every day!
I have photographed many things: the immense happiness of a wedding day, the absolute wonder of the Grand Canyon, some of the great cities of Italy, the innocence of a child, the love in the eyes of a newly engaged couple and the hell on earth of the 9/11 rubble a short ten days after the attacks. I think photographing all these types of images improves me as a photographer.
As a wedding/event photographer, I lean on many of the skills that I have honed while shooting in nature. Let me give you three examples:
1) Stamina - Our average wedding day is eleven hours. We start with the bride photographing her preparation about two hours before the ceremony and end our day after the last dance. You need plenty of stamina to stay on your feet carrying a camera, flash and two or three lenses (14 lbs) around all day. On the other hand, if you're out in nature shooting wildlife or landscape, you're also carrying a tripod and a camera bag with all kinds of equipment (average 24 lbs). You're walking, hiking and climbing great distances over uneven terrain for anywhere from four to eight hours. Believe me, stamina is important in either area.
2) Creativity - Do you know who wants to see new creative images the most? It should be the photographer. When I am shooting a wedding or a landscape, I do not want to cookie cut the images. Now, it is inevitable that some wedding images will be like other wedding images and that a mountain scene might look like other mountain scenes. But a good photographer will look for ways to juice it up, make the images either completely unique or at least have a unique quality to them. They will have a vision that shines through no matter what they are photographing.
3) Ability to think on their feet - Photography is challenging if done right! In the middle of a wedding or in the middle of a landscape, something can change in a second. The bride's daughter (about three years old) leaves her pew to run up to her mother and she isn't leaving. You're in Alaska photographing a grizzly across a river from where you are and he suddenly charges in your direction. Believe me, you do not have the ability to call a time out in either example. You better be prepared and know what to do and what to look for in each situation.
What is the most important skill a photographer needs for any type photography?? Vision, the ability to see the important part of what is in front of him in his own unique style.
It seems people have really liked the series of images from Arizona and what was going to be a single post has evolved into a series.
Today, I thought I would you show you a series of images taken in Sedona, Arizona. These were taken in 2010 on and around a mesa (a large flattop mountain) Below is an example of one.
Ten years previous to this trip, we had climbed a mesa, a little over a mile up on a trail of switchbacks with some hand over hand climbing. We had made it to the top and walked around looking at the views on a beautiful Sedona morning. The top was also a little over a mile around. I thought it would be a great idea to try it again ten years later. We were awake and on the road by 6 AM searching for our Mesa (Bear Mountain). We found the road and after a short while, I saw it right in front of us.
When we reached it, we parked and looked up to where we were planning on climbing: to the very top!!!
As I looked at it, three questions came to my mind:
1) Can a mountain grow taller in ten years?????
2) Am I crazy??
3) What the hell is Phyllis doing here with me, after all she is the college educated one of the two of us???
But I'm a guy, so naturally I do not share any of these thoughts with Phyllis. Instead I ask in a confident, strong voice (OK, I'm writing this, that's how I remember it) "Okay, lets go, before we loose the light." We started out not seeing anyone on the mountain. We would seemingly be the first ones on it today.
The climb can be dangerous and there are some areas where you need to be careful. One misstep and you could have a pretty nasty fall. We would stop and rest every so often. You need to focus on each step. There were areas when I would put my equipment down, (camera, vest with extra lenses, assorted equipment and a tripod) weighing about fifteen pounds and climb a five ft trail going pretty much straight up. When I was up and had a steady foothold, Phyllis would hand me all of our equipment and I would then be ready for Phyllis, when she reached a point that I could help her up. We stopped right before the very top and rested. We were tired but pretty happy that we did it; ten years later we climbed the same mesa and made it to the top!!
You can see Phyllis is happy to be able to rest after we made it to the top. You can also ee all the equipment we were carrying. That vest has many pockets and it is packed with lenses and other equipment. You can see Phyllis' tripod tucked in her vest.
This was the view we saw when we reached the very top and looked out.
From the top, you can see where we started. We then started walking around on top of the mesa, seeing the view from different areas, and seeing the valley below us and the mountains in the distance. In the upper right hand corner you can see a little bit of the roads we drove to reach here.
The actual top looks like any other area of the desert in Sedona. Trees and other plants are growing out of the red rock.
In the background you can see another mesa, an even taller one.
It amazes me that there is so much growth on the top of this giant rock mountain.
We spent about an hour walking around enjoying the view, solitude and the wonderful clean air, always being aware of where we were and the danger that not being careful could bring! You must be very careful in an environment like this. No matter how beautiful it is, you cannot be lulled into a false sense of security. You could easily fall to your death.
We decided to start our trek back down the mesa before it became late morning, remember this is Sedona, Arizona in July, the air heats up pretty fast.
We took a last look around at nature's majesty, soaking in all the beauty. Truth be told, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We had climbed this mesa as a challenge and we made it. Just before we started our climb down, I looked and saw where our car was parked. That white SUV is our rental!
Again, I asked myself those same three questions????????