The Edge Of The Envelope

Sunday, May 18th, 2008, 12:59 pm

When I was little I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. To reach that goal I planned on becoming a fighter pilot first. flying F-15’s in aerial combat against any and all who dared take the skies against me and my Eagle. Reality soon set in–my vision went to crap and I developed a fear of heights–and flying. So much for that.

But what job could match the adrenaline rush, excitement, and occasional terror of flying jets? Well, so far as the terror part goes I discovered a job that makes dogfighting seem a stroll in the park. Last night I tried photographing a friends’ wedding.

Have no fear, I wasn’t the offical photographer. No, they had someone there who, like, knew what he was doing. But I brought my camera along and as the photographer would mostly be shooting video at the reception it was hoped that I could fill in the blanks at the party. Hey, more than happy to. No problem.

So we get to the chapel and it’s very nice. It also has floor-to-ceiling windows along three walls. And, naturally, lights suspended from the ceiling. Candles, too, up at the altar. So what the hell white balance do I use? It was grey and raining outside–does that count as "Shade" or "Cloudy". And I know what you’re going to say–do a custom white balance! I’ve actually done that before…but I didn’t trust myself not to screw it up. I did my best and took some test shots and fiddled around till things looked OK.

I tried to get shots of the bridesmaids coming down the aisle–they were walking too fast (faster than a statue) and they all came out blurry. I didn’t use my flash because I didn’t want to mess up the REAL photographers shots, so I was relying on my lens to gulp down enough light to make the shot. Didn’t work.

OK, no problem, it’s the bride’s big day, focus on her. I waited for Jody to appear at the back of the chapel, I locked on the door…and that’s when the pastor said, "Please rise, as…" and everyone stood up as the bride entered. I know this happens at Every Single Wedding in the World, but I was along the right wall and so there were about 40 people blocking my line of sight. "SIDDOWN GODDAMMIT!!!" I wanted to shout, but I think in those circumstances it’s the groomsmen’s job to bodily throw the loudmouth out of the joint. And they might’ve enjoyed that too much. So I clammed up and seethed.

I took some shots of the ceremony, which was very nice, and I think a handful might turn out to be keepers. I don’t know if there’s a Mendoza line for photographers, but whatever it is, I hit beneath it. I managed to miss getting pics the bride and groom coming out of the chapel and getting pelted with fully biodegradable psuedo-rice before getting a few decent shots of them standing around in the parking lot. That’s a backdrop many newlyweds forget to include in their list and I’m glad I was able to capture that moment.

On to the reception! Which only took us about an hour and ten minutes, about half as long as I thought it would. Here I loaded up my external flash and started taking test shots of poor Mike and Martha, sitting at our table. After blinding them I took some shots of the…thing you put the wedding envelopes in (I don’t know what it’s called…a box, maybe?) and a few general shots of the room. Fine and dandy, the kinds of pictures that, in any wedding album, are passed over without a second (or even a first) look. The wedding party arrived and a I got a few borderline-horrible pictures of them walking into the room. I was using regular batteries in my flash because I didn’t trust that my rechargables were fully charged. Why didn’t I charge them? Because I forgot that I fried my recharger in Vietnam (the plug went POOF and this slimy yellow liquid started leaking out) and that morning I couldn’t find my other recharging thing. So the flash didn’t recycle as fast as it might’ve and I got some crisp shots followed by some extremely yellow and blurry second shots. I did get a nice pic of the bride and groom standing at the top of the stair waiting to come down…with a giant red EXIT sign in between them.

By this point my blood pressure plateaued at a dangerous level. "C’mon jackass, point the camera and push the button. It ain’t that hard." This is what I said to myself, but as I kept snapping pictures and looking at the results in the viewfinder I found it WAS that hard. The couple cut the cake and I know that when I show it to Jody she’s gonna say, "Oh my God, it looks like I’m gonna barf!". In another good shot Kirk is doubled over, as if in the middle of a sneeze. Again, shouting at the happy couple to "STAND STILL AND SMILE, DAMMIT!!" doesn’t fly–amazingly, you are there for THEM, they are not there for YOU. This lesson I had to learn the hard way.

The less said of the photos I took during the bridal dance the better. I took maybe 30, and of those, oh, 5 might be OK. The dancing began in earnest at this point and the floor was pretty much packed the whole night, which meant taking pictures of the bride and groom boogying down was well-nigh impossible. I think that in addition to cameras, lenses, filters, memory cards, and other gizmos all wedding photographers should come with a cattle prod in their bag, so they can quickly establish a clear line of sight when the happy couple is dancing to YMCA. I won’t even talk about trying to shoot in the dark with bright, multicolored strobes flashing every second.

But looking through the pictures now I see a few keepers among the countless disasters. I took about 600 pictures yesterday and if I connected on just 50 of them, well, that’s 50 good pictures. Not too bad, right? And it isn’t like I need to TELL them that the vast majority of the photos look like they were shot from the lead car on a roller coaster. To them it’ll seem like I’m sort of photographic savant, I point, shoot, and that’s when the magic happens. My secret shame will remain mine and mine along. Unless I write about it, of course.

You’ll notice that in a post bitching about photography I’ve posted no pictures. Got that right. I’m gonna go through them, cull the herd, do what little Photoshopping I know how to do on them. I’ll stick a few of them up here and on Flickr, so if anyone who was at the wedding is looking for them, give me a little time. Plus my copy of Photoshop ain’t working right now. The Edit part is, but not the Organizer. It freezes every time I load it now, don’t know why. I think when I moved some folders from my laptop to my external drive something happened and now it’s stuck. I removed it and reloaded the whole program–no good. Actually, if anyone has any advice on how to fix the doggone thing, I’d be all ears. Because I have 600 pictures to sort through.

It was a very, very nice wedding. Fun reception, good crowd. Good food. Everyone had a good time. Even me, despite all my bitching. I enjoy taking pictures. I’d just enjoy it more if I was better at it. If you see me at the World Series staring at my camera and muttering, you’ll know I still have a ways to go.

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