Ditch The Extra Gear: Less Is More

We took turns loading up his film and strolling the Think Tank around the bumpy grass. We watched from a distance, waiting for the obvious sound of the roll signaling a fresh batch was needed. We hustled, we took turns fetching water and we cooed "ooooh, that's sooooo his style!",  from behind-the-scenes. As much as I love photographing weddings I find that when time permits, it's just as important to me to assist other photographers when I can. I try to never pass up the opportunity to help a fellow industry peer and moreso  find it's in the in between moments where you yourself grow. As I inspected his wedding gear set-up: two medium format camera bodies, three lenses, a fun rolleicord camera, one video light, a tripod, a flash and a few extra film inserts, I gawked at the simplicity of it all. I'd go so far as to say I even felt a wave of panic rush over as if I was given these pieces and asked to shoot in a myriad of conditions for 8 hours. But watching him roam the reception lawn, conversing with guests about his cool old camera and getting in close to the action all while hardly being noticed I accepted the freedom in traveling lightly. To show up with what you need to get the job done, nothing more, and let creativity lead the way. Less swapping of lenses and frantic camera changes and more being in the present moment on a wedding day. Most of all, getting creative with what you've got! In the digital (well and film!) world it's easy to get caught up in having every.single.piece of new gear for every potential photo opt, but if you can get it done with one camera and one lens, why the hell not? Why in the world spend thousands on a 10 pound lens you only use for 3 minutes of the day, or have multiple flash accessories that restrict rather than excite you? (Yes, beautiful light can be EXCITING! ahaha). As as propped his camera onto the tripod for an "experimental long exposure" that I was 100% sure would turn out incredible, I left my job as an assistant feeling lighter. Freed up to the notion that you've got to have it all to be a professional, simply master what you've got. Ignore the 'standards', find your own way, try new things and make your own route. Sure, I like to come prepared (you never know when you'll need extra slippers or an umbrella!), but you don't need every lens, filter, flash, remote, lens hood and tripod stand to take beautiful photos that are completely you, it's just more to think about. Plus, he said his back hardly hurt at all! Say whatttttt? Never heard sucha thing.

The next weekend, forced to travel with a carryon (that still managed to weigh 40 lbs), I welcomed the idea and downsized my ginormous suitcase into a compact and efficient bag of tricks, picking up my toy Diana camera here and there, leaving the rest on O'ahu. And you know what? I didn't miss a single piece. 

Using Artificial Light to Shoot Film

Ohhh, film. You know how much I love it. It has the potential to be so soft and airy and if shot in natural light super bright and crisp. But as we all know not all weddings are outside during the coveted golden hour and as photographers we don't always have the pleasure of photographing in perfect lighting conditions. I used to consider film restrictive, only able to be used in the best of the prettiest light but with some testing, trial and error have found that with a touch of extra planning film can still be beautiful in even the seemingly darkest of scenarios. If in low light some may instinctively think "increase your ISO and shoot Portra 800 instead of 400!". Unlike this digital way of thinking, that can be useful but quite frankly isn't always the best solution as different film ISOs have colors that don't react the same in different light and, in my opinion, Portra 800 isn't the best for low light....at all. The colors get kind of wonky. So unless you are going black and white picking up a faster ISO won't always do the trick. This is where you can either decide to 1: shoot the film you have a faster ISO and have it "pushed" later in developing (which gives a totally different look) 2. Go digital or 3: light the joint up. I do whatever I can to continue to shoot film well into the evening, so here's How I Use Artificial Light to Shoot Film:  (best part is, you need very little gear to get great results!) **Note: ALL examples below are unedited film scans and Fuhi400h

 

SCENARIO 1: The room without windows

Recipe: 1 Lowel light on a stand + natural reflectors + 1 video light (when needed)

Shilhi of Passion Roots asked me to photograph her beautiful Christmas inspired tablescape in her home. I brought along both digital and film, hoping to shoot all film and just before I left grabbed my giant Lowel pro light and stand just in case. When I arrived I immediately knew I would be needing it, as there wasn't a window in sight in her dining room. I opened the front door in hopes of brightening the place up but knew we'd need a lot more than that. So I got to work putting up my one light and praying for the best. Thankfully the walls surrounding the table were bright white and the mirror that lined the opposing wall from my light held a very large mirror. These natural reflectors mixed with ambient light from the chandelier and tree added all the brightness and pretty that I needed. I made sure to keep the very bright (but somewhat "spotlight") light on a stand off to my side, as a "key light" of sorts, keeping it pointed toward the white walls and mirror so it could reflect and bounce around the room.

When I changed positions and photographed the florals in the opposite direction (photo below)  you can see my light source (the light stand set up to be about 6 feet high) behind the arrangement. I then used it to back-light the tablescape, again with the white walls and mirror now behind me as a natural reflector. During this shoot I rarely moved the one light on the stand and, if needed, used an assistant holding a video light for filler light on darker corners of the table.

 

Scenario 2: Mixed Lighting (+ no reflectors)

Recipe: 1 Lowel pro light + 1 window

To highlight the sparkle and shimmer of the Christmas gifts in our own living room (that has windows but not a lot of natural reflectors close by) an additional light source was needed to fill in the darkness between the falling window light and the space in front of the Christmas tree. I set my one, again bright and hot as hell Lowel pro light up about 12 feet away from the scene, shining directly onto the tree and the packages, with the window light coming in from behind the presents. This time, instead of keeping my main light source (the lowel light) to the side of me reflecting off white walls (like I did in scenario 1) I kept the lowel light behind me (over my shoulder). In doing this I had to be careful not to cast shadows with my big head, and being limited on my light sources I could not shoot from all directions unless I incorporated an extra video light into the mix to fill in shadows. In the photo below of the box with the pink bow I shot with the window to my right side and the light stand to my left. Shooting the light directly falling onto the subject with no other reflectors to soften it up as I did can be tricky, you don't want it to look TOO artificially lit, so where you stand in relation to your subject matters. Also, you can see that the light I have doesn't have barn doors on it, so it acts like a spot light. This is helpful if I am showcasing cropped scenes but when shooting the entire scene from a distance this type of light can create fall-off, like in the photo below of all the packages under the stocking. See where the blue chair and teepee aren't as well lit? Barn doors on a bright light could help that.

In the photo below I cropped in tighter to eliminate parts of the scene that weren't well lit and create some great bokeh with the ambient christmas tree lights.

Scenario 3: Ballroom Reception Details

Recipe: 2 video lights

Truth be told, large, dark ballrooms are typically where I bust out my digital camera and continue to document the day. However, there are some things I just can't NOT shoot in film, so when I have a way to effectively light it, I will. It's hard to photograph very large, dark scenes in color so instead I focus on capturing the details in my favorite medium by using an assistant holding two video lights. I love love LOVE food photographed in film, so whenever dinner is served I walk around and take shots of the plates and desserts, shooting onto a bright tablecloth (at a wide aperture) and getting my assistant to hold the two small but powerful lights on either side of the subject. Usually they are standing slighly to the left of me, getting an arm workout as they hold each video light above their heads in a "v" shape, kind of like a cheerleader with pom poms (omg don't tell them I said that), with one arm slightly lower than the other, at an angle directly light onto the subject. I always look for shadows and ask them to adjust accordingly. Lots of light holding around here, they probably hate me for this. Sometimes I also directly mount the device onto the hot shoe of my camera and ask them to hold the other slightly off to one side.

Scenario 4: Sunset

Recipe: 2 video lights + a natural reflector

I find myself super excited during a shoot and as the sun is dipping below the horizon and dusk is quickly approaching I yell "just one more shot!" at least 12 times. You can't just increase your ISO to accommodate low light when shooting film, and the look of sunset with a flash just ain't my thang so when I am capitalizing on a couple having a great time well into the evening I've gotta find ways to make it work. This is when I bust out my cheap-o video lights again. Using any natural reflectors around me (usually sand) mixed with the last bits of sun I ask my clients to turn where the lighting is best and I use video lights to fill in the rest. The results can be beautiful, natural looking and super easy! Plus, it allows me to keep shooting justttttt a little bit longer. In the photo the awesome photographer helping me for the day on Maui stood off to my left, holding the video lights above her head, again, in a slight V with one arm somewhat lower than the other directly shining onto the couple. I love the shimmer and warmth it added with the last few drops of peachy sunset reflecting behind.

 GEAR 

-Lowel Pro Light + Stand (these babies get HOT + are BRIGHT! Best for small, controlled shoots)

-Two Video lights (I use cheapos from NEWEER but Ikan makes awesome super bright, clean ones. Great for mounting on top of your camera in the hotshoe or having assistants hold them, or even on a stand if you don't have extra help)

-Reflector: Whether it be natural (sand on the beach, a white wall), one you brought with you or a DIY one using a hotel bed sheet, these tend to come in handle to bounce artificial light and make it appear more natural.

Either beach engagement shoot or a ballroom wedding I always keep these lights on hand and have more often than not pulled out my inexpensive video lights for added oomph.

Some people opt for flash but when it comes to shooting both film and digital I prefer a constant light source that I can move and adjust as I see fit. 

5 Tips for Styling Detail Photos

If you couldn't tell by the looks of my instagram, bright and lively details are my jam. The love for styling up small vignettes has always been in my blood ever since days as an interior designer/freelance photographer taking shots of beautifully styled food. So when it comes to pretty wedding details the girlie girl in me loves to let her imagination run wild. I adore them so much so that photographing them has become a trademark of mine and has remained one of my favorite parts of a wedding day. I truly enjoy piecing together the baubles and bits that curate a wedding and take great pride in producing bright, eclectic images of celebratory trinkets for couples to treasure. Typically tucked away into a small, well-lit corner of a hotel room, Brides often peek over to take a look at the behind-the-scenes, declaring they had to see the set-up in action. Below are my Five Tips for Styling Detail Photos:

Educate Your Client

Setting up fabulously coiffed images takes time, and for a detail oriented perfectionist such as myself, lots of it. Getting a ring to balance inside a flower petal is no easy feat, and the smallest breeze of wind can send your entire invitation set-up scattering across the room. Well before the timeline planning stages of their wedding day inform your Bride or their coordinator exactly how much time you need for detail shots. When I arrive on a wedding day I immediately get to work photographing these meaningful elements: rings, shoes, jewelry, flowers, etc. and require a minimum of an hour; totally uninterrupted (as my client's have fabulous taste to document, an hour and a half is preferred). I explain to them while they are getting their hair and make-up done I will be close by photographing their details, emerging for "getting ready" shots when their make-up is nearly complete. Prior to the wedding day I also request these special elements be gathered and ready to be styled upon my arrival and suggest they bring along any extras they'd like to include (i.e. Invitation suite, any ribbon used in arrangements, guest favors, wedding day stamps, etc.). Having those additional accoutrement makes sure the pieces of their well-thought out day are fully documented. Plus, all those tidbits add some extra styling umph.

Set Up in Good Light

The key to visually appealing images is the right light. Before getting started I find a well-lit area to "set-up shop", typically in front of a sliding glass door or large hotel window. In this small 4x4 space is where I curate most of my detail shots in even, diffused light. Bonus points if it's on a white bed or neutral ottoman! If lighting is scarce this is where an assistant holding a video light (still by a window if possible) is clutch. I've been known a time or 10 to fling open every curtain in a room like Cinderella to her stepssters. Let in the light, baby! In the photo below (shot in film) the room was very dark with one small window. I placed the shoes on a white bedspread and asked my assistant to hold a small but mighty video light to my left side. bonus tip: Having a piece of white foam core board on hand is versatile, great for a simple background or in a pinch as a reflector.

Be Resourceful

Knowing the couple's style I look around my location for colors, textures or elements that compliment the feel of the day. For a vintage farm wedding I'll head into the kitchen to use a wooden table to photograph a boutonnière on, snag a Bridesmaid's glitter gold clutch as a backdrop for rings, or even add touches of "partly in the frame" styling extras. My assistants are forever out picking leaves and foraging for berries (literally!) that I can incorporate (don't worry, they don't mind...) or borrowing decor from the reception site (that we put back, of course). In the ring photo below the hula dancer print is actually a photo I took off the wall at the Billabong House. Open your eyes, get creative, and see the possibilities! bonus tip: If you have a good relationship with the florist, email ahead of time and ask to include a few loose flowers when they deliver the bouquets to the room. This way you have some on hand for styling!

Study What's Around You.

I know it sounds ridiculous but details have always come naturally to me, it just takes time and practice to hone your eye and continue to define a signature look. I credit my passion for curating to my affinity for eye candy, I am always ooh-ing and ahh-ing over perfectly placed things. If you don't know where to begin, start absorbing the way things are around you (not just photographs). When thinking of a scene I consider a lot of things: colors, composition, textures and elements that add an extra thoughtful touch and dimension in framing (I love to have pieces on the edges of a photo), but most of all how items would lay naturally. As a girl I pay close attention to how my shoes drop onto the floor, how my bangles stack up when I strip them off onto the counter, and how artfully my laundry draps over my chair (truly!). Then I try to recreate those realistic settings and often times take pictures of details at events simply as they lay instead of putting one grubby finger on it. As much as crafting to perfection can be an art, so can shooting something just as it is. bonus tip: Anthropologie is a GREAT store for styling inspiration and their catalogs are always impeccably done.

Practice at Home

Walk around your house and collect things to pair together. Dig into your  jewelry box and find some bling to photograph. Take your time and test what works and what doesn't on your own time so when you arrive on a wedding day you are comfortable, confident, and ready to make it fabulous. Bonus tip: You'll wind up with some fun "stock" instagram + blog post photos. I mean, really, you don' t think I get boxes of donuts THIS often do you?!?!  Okay, maybe I do, I'll never tell. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How different lighting effects the look of film.

Sometimes I see other film shooters get frustrated when their final images aren't turning out exactly how they had dreamed, myself included. There can usually be a plethora of reasons the shots you dream of in the middle of the night aren't being realized, one of them often being the lighting. Well, "doesn't take a genius to figure that out" I'm sure you're thinking but especially when it comes to film even the smallest shift in sunlight can change the look, feel and even color of your final image. When studying the works of wildly popular shooters it's easy to notice a consistency within their style that others desire to emulate, the biggest constant being the lighting conditions they shoot in. It is something that strongly defines the vibe in an image. However as a wedding photographer fully dictating lighting of the day just isn't realistic...unless you're God. Me and the Lord (not Disick) are close, but we ain't that close. In the fast-paced events of a wedding day there's often going to be a part of the event that doesn't have even, perfect light and you're forced to be resourceful and straight up make it work...or at least shot through it leaving you wondering what went wrong when you get your film scans back. And I can tell you why your photos look different...it's differences in lighting.

With the wedding I am currently working on  I had a stunning reception area to photograph before guests were seated and, not unusually, a limited amount of time to get it done. In addition, the florist Avery of Green Honolulu makes table scapes so lush and fantastically detailed that they are gorgeous (and different!) from every angle, needing to be shot at 360 degrees. No big deal! This is the part I love! However for the outdoor reception the setting sun was low in the sky and impossible to shield behind trees, creating harsh light if not kept to the side or back of the arrangements. This resulted in direct, sharp light and strong shadows in the photos where arrangements facing directly towards the sun.

In order to make sure I got images of all the arrangements in their curated glory I first photographed all the tables from every angle, changing my exposure when shooting in direct sunlight. My priority was to make sure I documented everything before the guests entered. After I shot all the tables several different ways guests were allowed to be seated and a few clouds passed over the sun. I quickly took advantage of the change in light and reshot details in a more subdued, even light.

In these images you can see how the sunlight (directly behind me, shining onto the image) isn't horrible, however it does sharpen the highlights, resulting in shadows and adds an additional warmth to the scene. In the photos I reshot the details of the flowers are a lot softer and the colors more true-to-life with pleasing, even light.

I'm not one to travel with a production type set-up, I like to work creatively with what I have but in the future keeping a diffuser on hand for harsh lighting scenarios such as this would be super helpful. Having a scrim (on a stand or an assistant to hold it) may be more time consuming but would eliminate the need to shoot and then reshoot in better lighting. 

 

What are some of your favorite tricks to ensure fab lighting throughout a wedding day?

Canon vs. Contax 645 | Ashley Goodwin Blog

Nearly every time that I pop the back of my Contax 645 open and unhinge a roll of film in front of people who've never seen me shooting before I'm almost always met with wonderment "WOW. Real film...like, legit"  sometimes proceeded with "haven't seen that in a while...". It makes me giggle and often times has me answering a slew of questions like "now tell me why FILM?". Trust me, this girl could go on for hours (and sometimes have!) about how beautiful it is, how it may be significantly more expensive but ultimately saves me time, how the end result of colors just can't be touched, how the bokeh (a.k.a background bubbles of blur) are just out of this world, how the framing and crop of a medium format camera is how my eyeballs see the world, and mainly how it slows me down -- keeps me from shootingshootingshooting -- resulting in getting THE shot not just a shot. But truthfully, it's just simply beautiful, you can't deny it. I'd never hate on digital because it does incredible things and in low-lit ceremonies it has saved my behind once or twice, but man, when it comes to film it has utterly stolen my heart. Sure, I still loop my Canon Mark3 (yes, I begrudging added it to my collection) around my neck for the in-between moments and darker times in the evening when digital is beneficial, snapping away in film but taking one or two in digital for good measure but I always always get my film scans back and swoon. I'm so happy that after years of watching from the sidelines I finally made the leap, not so much for my business or the defining factors, but really for my all things pretty loving soul. For a better visual of film vs. digital, here are a few comparisons. I always give clients all the great shots from their wedding day, both film and digital (after all I've found an artist's favorite is rarely the same as the couple's!) but if I have an exact or nearly exact image in both digital and film I usually give preference to the film. Bonus points for hardly having to edit them. ;) All photos straight out of the camera with no (or very very little, like cropping) edits. Yes, the digital versions seen below could be edited to look more like their film counterparts (and some were in the client's final gallery) but I wanted to showcase how the digital WOULD need to be edited (which takes for-ever) and frankly can never compare to the film shot, which takes very little edits, if any at all.

Wonder why I adore it so much? See for yourself!

Left: Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens |  Right:  Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens

Left: Canon 6D  SOOC w/ 100mm macro lens |  Right:  Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens + Hoya +4 macro filter

Left:   Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens, trying to not fall into the fountain behind me |  Right: Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens.

In this scene there was pink almost everywhere, resulting in a really muted but more magenta digital image. I edited the digital to closely match the film for the client, but much prefer the warmth of the film shot here .

Left: Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens |  Right:  Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens 

Left: Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens |  Right:  Contax 645 +Portra 800 w/ 80mm lens

With the digital it's tough to expose properly for their skin without "blowing out" or not getting the detail of the ocean. Typically you have to make a choice, but not with the film shot! Bright, pretty skin AND details in the waves. WIN.

  Left:  Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens | Right:  Canon 6D SOOC w/ 35mm lens

Shooting ceremonies in bright sun are what photographers wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night over. Good news is, film rocks out in harsh light.

Left: Canon 5D Mark 3 SOOC w/ sigma 70-200mm lens |  Right:  Contax 645 + Fuji 400h w/ 80mm lens

My digital image could have stood an additional stop of exposure, something in the emotion of the moment I had to leave to post processing. But then when I saw the film? No need!  Plus, I like how the format of the Contax adds that little bit extra in the blanket + additional viewpoint.

 

 

Ff | How to carry film during a shoot

This morning I slept in late, gently and slowly rolled out and bed, stiffly walked downstairs, feet groaning in pain and am in taking copious amounts of dark roasted coffee to nurse my mini wedding photographer hangover. I had a Thursday wedding at the Halekulani (yayyyy for weekdays!) and would be lying if I said I didn't consider just skipping blogging in lieu of lounging. But #FilmFridays are my favorite, and yesterday I tried out a new style that pretty much may be a lifesaver so I'd be straight up selfish not to share. Always on the lookout for handy items to make life easier (I'm the queen of trying to find the perfectly functioning bag for every occasion) I stumbled upon a conversation thread on Facebook that sparked my curiosity: talks about using an apron on a wedding day. Yes...you're probably thinking what I'm thinking, "an APRON?!??!", I know. I like to keep things stylish and chic, my hair is already enough of a mess at the end of the day the rest of my body needs to be as polished as it can be. But when I remembered I had a thin, simple black one from my serving days hidden away, I figured "what the heck...I'll take it along..." And now, my life may never be the same. Tied tightly around my waist against my black dress, the apron was practically camouflaged. I had planned to use it for only the quick moving parts of the day but when I put that baby on it was too good to take off. There is a pocket for film, a place for exposed film, and a pocket for my light meter/tissues/bride's lipgloss, etc. I could even stash a lens in there if I wanted! (Which helped during the ceremony but didn't stay all day). B humorously noted out I can't call it 'my apron', and I suppose I agree, it needs a more stylish mention, but when I pointed it out to guests they laughed and said they hadn't even noticed it (maybe they were just being nice? Yeah...probably). Towards the end of the night I did think "I should take a photo of me wearing this" but my hair was already long gone--absolutely not a good moment for photos of Ashley Goodwin. If you're looking for something helpful to keep film on you during shoots, manage your little bits of gear, or just give extra pocket space without the expense of sore shoulders the next morning, a task apron is seriously a great option (opposed to those lens waist belts that look like bongo drums. Have you seen those?!?) Wedding vendors have the never-ending struggle balancing the sacrifice of style for comfort and function but it doesn't have to be that way -- I'm determined! You can look polished while still easily getting the job done. I doubt I will be wearing my apron with dresses that aren't black (I will keep my small studded + snake skin shoulder bag that I carry for those days), but these things are the bomb--kinda like a shoot-sac but lighter, easier to access, and without the painful always in your way strap that comes from a bag! And luckily fairly easy to find in tons of different looks. Here are some stylish photography options: (sorry gentlemen, if you don't wanna sport the apron guess you gotta stick to the bongos...)

Anthropologie Task Apron  |  Custom Aprons  | Cafe Apron | Simple black apron 

 

Film Friday: Lighting dimly lit details.

We've most likely all been there. So amped + ready to shoot some pretty details in film but when we walked into the Bride's getting ready suite: bam! It's darker than...well...hell. You take a meter reading and your worst nightmare is expected: it's slightly too dark to shoot your favorite film stock in this cave of a room. You scramble, opening every blind, scooting the bed closer to the window and praying for more direct sun, utilizing every once of natural lighting you can. You practically beg your assistant to follow you around holding up the white bed sheet and hope you can leverage just enough bright light. Oh, so I'm the only one?

Thankfully with the help of an inexpensive and totally portable piece of equipment you can add an ummph of 'daylight' without all the hassle or heartache. I sound like an infomercial. A small LED light (like this one I own from NEEWER) is  a badass little contraption that, if held correctly, can take images from shadowy to fab! And for only $25, you can't go wrong. It takes AA batteries, which I usually always have along with my gear, and can be held by an assistant OR fits snugly onto your flash's hot shoe (which makes it great for using on top of your film camera during first dances!).

I always use every bit of natural daylight that I can, working with everything white and reflective in a room but sometimes you just need more clean light, especially when shooting film. During Raquel + Tony's event the bedroom had one window with the bed somewhat far from the light source and the craziest colored walls (com'mon hotels! Help a sistah OUT!). Below are some examples + how we made it work.

All shot on a Contax 645 with Fuji 400h film using natural light and the NEEWER LED.

As you can see, the bedroom walls were...I don't know what color that is, and the headboard was red. Luckily the bedding was all white, which totally jives with my style and helps keep color balanced correctly, so the trick was leveraging the little bit of window light coming in from the left and adding a hint more sparkle of clear light from my LED. So you know what was up:

With the window behind me, my super helpful assistant Chelsea got an arm workout as she held the LED at an angle over the bed (and rather high, so the light dispersed more evenly). I took the photo below at a f/2.8 and most likely 1/60th, as slow of a shutter speed as I could (to help overexpose to get rid of any shadows) but at an aperture that would still capture the details in front of me. Raquel's wedding dress and shoes had incredible beading detail, and the added light helped showcase all the shimmer.

For Raquel's stunner of a ring, Chelsea held the LED light over my shoulder and to the right (looking at the direction of the shadow, I most likely should have gotten her to hold it to the left a weeeee bit more to help minimize it, however I don't mind too much). The light's power was turned up more so that I had more light--allowing me to shoot at a more narrow aperture (f/5.6) paired with a hoya close-up filter -- and capture the details of her diamond.

For their wedding ring close-up, I kept the invitation and rings on the white bedding (as a natural reflector) and had Chelsea get in somewhat close with the LED light powered up. Again, in order to get sharp detail in the diamond I used a close-up filter at an aperture of f/5.6. The added light allowed me to shoot at a narrower aperture to secure detail, added shine to the faucets in her ring and left room for a slower shutter speed--which helps to eliminate unwanted shadows.

 To see the NEEWER LED light in action, check out the quickie video on my instagram.  

Any questions or lights you love? Add them in the comments below.  xo

Resources for Timing Photography Sessions

Just like getting ready for award season, there is a lot of planning and behind-the-scenes production that goes into orchestrating a photography shoot. There are a multitude of factors that need to be taken into to consideration well in advance of a session and of the list lighting and time of day (for said fab lighting) are by far the most important, especially in Hawai'i. I always encourage couples to choose incredible and meaningful locations for their sessions, and as they do a fabulous job picking some ridic spots, it's my job to make sure the light is just right. Being a part of an island chain with magnificent and vast mountains smack dab in the middle sure is spectacular for scenic vistas but a pain in the ass for optimal lighting. Considerations need to be taken well in advance for where on the island you plan to shoot in relation to sun positioning.  Consider this: the sun sets on the west side of O'ahu leaving less light on the east side later in the day. Combine THAT with a giant mountain range the sun dips behind at least 2 hours prior to sunset, and you're left with a small window of shoot time options at your favorite spots. And here's hoping you didn't plan on waking up for sunrise on Maui because there is a GIANT VOLCANO BLOCKING YOUR VIEW over there. Who would have thought?  Well, not me until I did it. Not being familiar with your location ahead of time anywhere can leave you feeling in the dark and for photographers who have the pleasure of traveling to the Hawaiian Islands are left with many questions on the best time of day to shoot certain places. Being on O'ahu has given me the advantage of taking note of lighting conditions at different parts of town throughout the day as I am always jotting down reminders like "pretty golden light at 4pm in chinatown", however planning for unseen locations on other islands or the mainland need a bit more research.

Scheduling this session with Diana + James (shot in film!) we knew if we wanted to shoot close to Makapuu light house on the south-ish side of the island, that sunrise would be the best for golden light. Since we used the shoreline as our backdrop, we didn't have to worry too much about mountain ranges and were thankful for the slight rocky valley we were situated in--the boulders gave a good source for blocking out the sun's direct light as it rose from horizon, allowing us to shoot longer into the morning.

There are these handy resources to help perfectly time a shoot:

Rise: A beautiful iPhone App, Rise gives you the sunrise, sunset, first light and light last times of desired dates and locations, as well as the weather...if you weren't already thinking enough. This is the first app I open when orchestrating a session time. Once I get a general idea of sunrise or sunset times, I hone times based on location using SunCalc.

SunCalc is "a little app that shows sun movement and sunlight phases during the given day at the given location". Genius for helping figure out the best time of day to shoot at desired spots and gives you a little geographic insight on surrounding areas.

 

+ if you're ever on island and completely at a loss of where to schedule a shoot--holler. I will be more than happy to help out.

 

Introducing: Share sessions

When I first began shooting I was absolutely, positively convinced that there was a key to taking amazing photos that everyone else knew and wasn't telling me.  I found myself obsessed with figuring out where the magic button was, revealing other's 'secret sauce'.  It was sitting through a streaming online business course completely stumped over what 'synching your cameras' meant that I realized I still had a lot to learn behind the lens.  In efforts to step up my game I turned to the internet and forums, kept the night watch Googling, spending hundreds on photography How To books and scoured my manual in search of whatever it was I was missing.  Overwhelmed and feeling hopeless, I dialed my shutter clicking girlfriends for support. Together we'd spend hours over the phone openly critiquing each other's latest Flickr posts.  Setting up weekends to practice shooting one another and sharing editing techniques into the wee hours of the night.  These women with cameras happened to be friends and family I had grown up with and ladies I trusted.  All in the same boat, we learned from one another, discussed ideals and business techniques, and excitedly texted with new-found know-how.  It was through offering up knowledge in the early days with other honest photographers that I flourished the most.  Some of my closest friends also happen to be Wedding Photographers, and I am forever grateful for their open hearts and kindness to share, encourage, and enlighten those around them.  Because of my freaking burning desire to see those around me find the seed of purpose that was planted in them and wildly succeed, I too, am always willing to share.
I am excited to publicly offer Share Sessions.
If you're in need of putting together basic photography knowledge, could use help tailoring your wedding experience, are about to move your business and are panicked on how to do it or just need someone to show you how to load film into your camera, holler.
Sessions are tailored to answer your photography questions and designed to create solid 'ah-ha' moments.
Interested?  Shoot me an email for details:  Ashley@AshleyGoodwinPhotography.com
[October 2013 Share Session]
Hey Ashley, thanks so much for your Share Shesh, I learned soooo much more than I anticipated.  Your genuine happiness in helping me with just about any random question I had was refreshing and delightful.  I can read manuals and books over and over again, but to have a hands-on approach to learning new things and techniques is definitely more beneficial to me.  I think I found more than just a mentor, I found a friend that shares my love of photography.  So again, thank you and until next time!  
 Hugs, 
Bora  

How to shoot backlight in film (+ digital)

More than anything, the perfect lighting scenario for a shoot makes all the difference in the world. Before a setting up locations I've always got my eye on the sun, thinking about where it rises and sets on island and planning out my shooting spots before the couple even gets there so that I can comfortably and easily guide them into the good light--that is soft, warm sources that are evenly dispersed--without missing a beat or interupting their experience. My favorite kind of light is luminous, vibrant lighting that streams through the trees and casts an angelic glow on everything it softly wraps around. The best time of day for this magic unicorn ambiance is about an hour before sunset and has been dubbed by photographers as 'the Golden Hour'. We're so clever, right? At this time is where you will find me oohing and ahhhing all over the place as I drive down Kamehameha highway hollering out my window "Look at that LIGHTTTTTTT!". So what? I get excited.

[Contax 645 + Fuji 400h, rated at 400]

Shooting in this type of scenario can be tricky, especially if shooting digitally as lenses with autofocus have the hardest dern time clicking into focus when flooded with large amounts of light. This is because lenses were not designed to take in a lot of light (especially if you are trying to get sun flare). Shooting into light is technically considered wrong by all those old fougies and photographer nerds. But we are arteeeests, so if that's being wrong, we don't wanna be right! Right? Right.

[Contax 645 + Fuji 400h]

If shooting in direct sunlight or just before the sun dips below the horizon, I typically backlight or sidelight my couples (having the sun to their backs or slight sides--like this tiki umbrella above). This prevents any squinting and shifts in color/odd shadows that direct sun light on them may produce. The color of their skin is always my utmost concern so when shooting digital I check my LCD back to make sure their skin tones look fab. When shooting film it's honestly a wee bit easier, as film tends to handle lots of light beautifully and looks best if overexposed. Since I am always aiming for true-to-life skin rendering, I 'meter for the shadows', holding my hand-held light meter parallel to the subject and in the most shadowed part of the frame (i.e. under their chin or between the two of them where there is the least amount of light). When shooting both digital and film I always aim to have filtered light enter my lens as opposed to direct light--keeping the subject's head, trees, or other objects slighting covering the light source softening it's harsh effects. This creates a beautiful enveloping of light and avoids full-on light direct light from completing entering or 'flooding' your lens, which can create some serious flare in digital or a grainy, hazy mess in film.

[Contax 645, Fuji 400h]

Back or side lighting takes some harshness out of the direct light but still allows lots of trickling magical bokeh to filter through. If the couple pictured above weren’t blocking the bright sun setting through the trees the abundance of golden light would have flooded my lens and not have been ideal. But instead it casts a beautiful warm glow, illuminating the two of them working well with the white sand acting as a natural reflector in front of them (bouncing brightness back up to their bodies). The image above was photographed in film. Notice the ability (referred to as latitude) the medium has to retain details in light without being too bright and "blown out". See the streams of sunlight dancing across the left of the image? Ahhhh. My fav. Thanks, Fuji 400h!

 

[Contax 645 + Portra 400]

Vanessa + Vincent eloped on a beach in Hawai'i in the middle of the afternoon. Typically, this lighting scenario would make any photographer go into full-on panic mode. However, by just turning a few degrees away from the sun, keeping it to our right side and slightly out of the frame, we were able to turn a bright hawaiian day into a dreamy afternoon. The image above was shot in film, which allowed the bright haze to cover the landscape while still retaining detail in the cliffs, woot woot!

 

[Canon 7D]

Shot digitally (and after Vanessa changed into this cute red number!), I needed to reposition myself so even less light was outside of the scene's frame. There is more haze and apparent grain along with a slightly cooler haze color shift in comparison to it's film counterpart, but keeping the sun to their side (and behind the rocks as much as I could) did the trick!