Beach wedding at high noon

On April 11, 2013 by Simon Fleming

I recently had the privilege and honour of shooting a wedding for a friend of mine, and fellow photographer Glenn Alderson. I always find that I have a few extra butterflies going when preparing to start a wedding shoot, more so than for other types of shoots, but these butterflies often feel different when you are shooting for another accomplished photographer. I can’t quite explain what I mean by different but I think you are more conscious of them possibly taking note of what you are doing from a photographers point of view, more so than a regular subject might. Best thing to do is throw all of those thoughts and butterflies into a compartment where they aren’t going to get in the way of the job at hand…

Glenn and his wife Kerri’s wedding ceremony took place on the top of the cliffs at Sellicks Beach along the Fleurieu Coast in South Australia. It is a beautiful location, and one that I wasn’t aware of prior to this despite having spent a good amount of time exploring this part of the coastline. We had been having some pretty hot weather leading up to the their day, and a lot of large bush fires in Victoria had sent a huge amount of smoke our way. The evening before the wedding, the Willunga hill line, so beautiful and prominent at this location, had been completely obscured by the smoke. At that point I really wasn’t sure what we were going to get the next day…

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Well, the smoke had mostly gone, just a hint of it remained lingering  in the skyline. When I first arrived on location mid morning we had some really interesting cloud, which I hoped would hang around to help diffuse the inevitable hard sunlight just waiting to bust through. The mercury was slowly on the rise too, heading towards another hot day. The wedding was at midday, at which point the cloud cover had started to disappear – much to my disappointment. From a photography point of view, with strong hard overhead sunlight, I knew I was going to have to provide some form of fill light to deal with the inevitable eye-socket shadows, and to help open up the shadows from hats & umbrellas etc. Diffusion wasn’t really an option – I didn’t have anything big enough to deal with the coverage size I would need, plus it would be pretty intrusive in the small area the ceremony was in. So fill flash in various forms was my plan of attack. The problem (sometimes) with using flash on many cameras can be the sync speed you are limited to – not a problem in low light or indoors but a real pain in the ass in bright conditions where you want to climb higher into your shutter speeds to control your ambient light exposure. At 1/250 of a second I was losing the colour in the sky, and the beautiful tones in the water . What to do…  leave flash out and run with heavy shadows on peoples faces or add hard flash and kill the mood of the beautiful scene? Solution: add some neutral density filtering to my lens to bring the ambient exposure down. This was in the form of a 3 stop ND filter plus a polariser which effectively added another 2 stops of ND as well. The result was right in the exposure zone I was aiming/hoping for. Essentially, I didn’t want these to look like they were shot at midday in harsh sunlight. I was trying to reproduce a look that represented more of an overcast day but still retained some ‘zing’ in the backgrounds & environment – without looking like flash was (over)used.

These were all shot with a 70-200 lens, at 200mm, and lit with a couple of Nikon SB-910 speedlights with dome diffusers on – these are on a pole held by my assistant off camera but as close to my subjects without getting in frame.

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After the ceremony we headed down onto Sellicks Beach for some more photography of family groups, and some more intimate portraits of Glenn & Kerri. In all of these shots I have now switched to using an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra as the flash to subject distances were going generally be a lot greater now – the Quadra gives me about four times more power than my Nikon speedlight setup.

These were all shot firing the Quadra through a 60 inch umbrella – thank God it wasn’t a windy day… The Quadra was gelled with a 1/4 cut of CTO and I still had the ND and polarising filter combination on as well.

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We finished up by taking a leisurely stroll up the beach, and then getting in the water to finish things up (which was just the ticket at that point with the temperature starting to really climb). A couple of these were shot without any extra lighting (the more distant shots) but otherwise the closer portraits were still incorporating the Quadra & umbrella combo.

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It was a great day, spent with a great couple. Thank you for letting me be a part of your special day guys.

The story wouldn’t be quite complete without a behind the scenes shot of my assistant – on this particular day my wife Emma – & lighting setup.

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