Oct 3, 2012

Red, Gold, and Green

You know that song, right? It's a bit kookie, but it really sticks in your mind...and if you haven't seen the video--well, it's an early 80's British band, so be warned, but here you go.

What has it got to do with these colorless images I'm sharing with you here? You see, T.'s hair is hot red, and K.'s hair is blonde (gold?) and we were shooting on a beach in Oregon surrounded by the greenest greens on planet earth. "Karma Karma Karma Karma, Karma Chameleon..." See what I mean?

It was really a pleasure and an honor making pictures for these newlyweds. My wife and I were guests and photographers, so we were busy. We started by arriving early and scouting the beach to find the best place to have the ceremony; someplace with beautiful scenes and not too much noise from the surf. We built a walkway from heaps of drift wood for the bride to walk down on the way to the beach. This first image is shot on the same spot where the ceremony was performed.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 98mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
 A serene vista for the ceremony wasn't our only goal. We also need to find the perfect places to make portraits of the bride and groom. It's true that we're on the beach, and it's early September, but this is Oregon, not Florida: it was about 60 degrees in the sun...but there was no sun. So we needed to be ready to quickly make portraits of the bride and groom before she turned into a popsicle. Plus, there was the seafood dinner awaiting us, so we needed to shoot, you know, pronto.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 135mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
The bride loved this location for the lighthouse on the cliff (I think she's a Pete's Dragon fan), but she didn't know the lighthouse was closed for restoration. And in Oregon that means that it's covered top to bottom in a black tarp. Not exactly the picturesque backdrop we had imagined. Fortunately, the caretaker's house was in perfect shape and gave balance and interest to the background.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 180mm, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 800, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Still, it's just a background, and I'm always telling my students that backgrounds don't make good pictures: good light makes good pictures. And the thing about that house back there is that it's white, and surrounded by dark green, which really makes it pop. Add to that the sun setting behind dense diffusing fog, and it was pretty dark on that beach, and the light was totally flat. Looking at people there were no harsh shadows, but there was also no direction to the light on their faces and little light in the eyes--especially K.'s eyes which are rather deeply set. Without intervention we were doomed to pose people facing the beach to try and get a little light in their eyes, which left the highway dissecting the images in the back. 

This is where off camera flash saved my bacon. For all of these images I used a Nikon SB-900 in a 24" softbox to bring definition and contrast. It was controlled using the popup flash on the D800. The great thing about the Nikon CLS is that the brightness of that SB-900 can be controlled wirelessly from a long distance (Joe McNally recently tested it to 85 ft. is full sunlight). That means my wife can be anywhere on that beach and I can make the light brighter or darker by simply pushing some buttons on the camera. It's really a powerful tool and makes the images I have in my mind's eye possible. That first image above is totally lifeless without that flash, and the one below lacks definition without the light from behind separating K. from the trees.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 90mm, f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 1600, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
This image was the one I was most excited about making. While we were scouting I saw the road coming out of the trees and the tunnel like nature of the branches overhead. I knew that right at the edge of that tunnel there would be great light, like a porch that shields the light from overhead leaving a directional brightness. I balanced the flash to add a little kick from behind and positioned the couple with cheesy thoughts about roads to the future running through my mind. Anyway, it's the picture I envisioned while scouting and it's a real pleasure to be able to make something in your mind into something shareable.

The dinner was wonderful, and we had a lovely evening--even the cop who pulled me over was kind enough to let me go with a warning. I do love Oregon, and being there with loved ones, doing some picture making for loved ones, makes it more memorable even than those Culture Club lyrics.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 180mm, 1/110s, ISO 1600.


  1. Nice light on the last one, very well done.

  2. WOW!!!! So wonderful. Just perfect. Bravo.

  3. Beautiful couple and stunning images. Thanks for sharing!

  4. great post. Loved the story you told with your pictures...wonderful. Thanks for sharing

  5. very cute couple. Happy for them and their beautiful pictures :)

  6. These photos and accompanying narrative are BEAUTIFUL, Levi!!! Thanks to your ability to envision possibilities, they turned-out better than we thought possible!

  7. You always amaze me, Levi, in so many ways...but always your photos are breathtaking!