This was a great, fun wedding day in West Michigan. It was also my first wedding where the groom wore a kilt, but hopefully not my last! For their ceremony, Samantha and Brandon chose the Weaver House at Pine Bend Park, a very cool venue located in West Olive, MI. The house itself was built in 1901 and features tons of beautiful vintage furniture and gorgeous window light. There’s a veranda surrounding the house and a lovely ceremony space featuring a white arbor atop raised semicircular steps. The reception was held at Brew Merchant in Holland, in their Merchant Hall event space.
Sam’s bouquet held both a photo of her father holding her as a baby and her grandfather’s dog tags.The Weaver House has multiple rooms on the second story that are perfect for brides and grooms getting ready. Elegant surroundings and great window light!Brandon wore traditional Scottish Highland attire, which includes a small knife worn on the calf, called a sgian-dubh, and a sporran, or pouch.
Brandon’s reaction seeing Samantha for the first time was priceless. I love it when I can capture the groom showing genuine emotion!After the ceremony the guests lined up for a bubble exit.Of course, we had to go back to the beautiful setting of the Weaver House for some more portraits before leaving to the reception. The veranda surrounding the house is a nice spot for photos because the roof blocks light from overhead while allowing it to come in from the sides, creating a pleasing pattern of illumination on a person’s face.
When I was inside the house earlier, I noticed the interesting lines of the staircase and decided I wanted to use them in a portrait of the Sam and Brandon. However, as you can see from the following test shot, there was no light on the bride and groom:
By using my off-camera flash from the right side of the frame, I was able to add a very tightly controlled spotlight on the couple, highlighting them in the scene without overpowering the the moody, mysterious lighting on the staircase itself.
After playing with window light and mirrors in the photos above, I gathered everyone in the living room of the Weaver House. I knew the room had great potential for an elegant, dramatic portrait of the wedding party, but the natural light in the space just wasn’t going to get us there. The shots below show what it looked like.
Above on the left, you can see what it would have looked like if I had exposed for my subjects with no added light sources. You can see that it’s a great room with ornate furnishings, and everyone is posed nicely, but the light is quite flat and boring with no real direction to it. Furthermore, the light on the wedding party is the same intensity as the light on the rest of the room, so they don’t stand out visually. The solution was to bring my exposure down to the level shown on in the image on the right. From that starting point, I could add light exactly where I wanted it, and nowhere else.
When I need to photograph a group of people and I want to have complete control over the lighting, I do a “flash composite”. I put my camera on a tripod, and take a series of shots with different lighting in each one, and then blend those photos together in Photoshop afterward. Below you can see the six individual photos that took, one for each person, each with a perfect spotlight on the subject.
By blending those six images seamlessly into one frame, I was able to create a photo with enough detail on the room furnishings to show the elegance of the setting, while keeping the focus of attention on the people in the photo. The final image has a dramatic, slightly surreal quality, almost like a Renaissance painting:After driving to Holland for the reception at Brew Merchant, we took some more photos around the neighborhood before going inside.
The reception featured a game where guests would model a certain type of kiss and the bride and groom had to recreate it, which generated a lot of laughs.
A heavy downpour started during dinner, so I grabbed my umbrellas and asked Brandon and Sam if they were up for doing some quick rain photos. They loved the idea so I ran out side and placed a flash on the sidewalk, right outside the door to the reception so the bride and groom would not have to go more than a few feet. Below you can see the area we were working with.We were outside for less than a minute and the results were well worth the effort! The rain didn’t last long, so it’s a good thing we took advantage of it while it was there.Back inside Merchant Hall, it was time for the formal dances.After the cake cutting, the bride and groom kicked off the open dancing and were soon joined by the guests.Around dusk we stepped out again for a few more portraits.This wedding took place in the midst of Tulip Time in Holland, so I wanted to do a portrait to tell that part of the story. I used one flash to light the bride and groom, and another to illuminate the tulips in the foreground, while balancing both with the light from the sky to show the texture of the clouds.Back inside Brew Merchant, the party continued.
Finally, we closed the night with this romantic night portrait of Sam and Brandon cuddling up next to the candle-lit, exposed brick walls.