To Begin Again

by Alfred Lopez

As I started this post, and thinking about the what I’m planning to write, Nelson Rangell’s rendition of “To Begin Again”, started playing in my head. It’s a fitting piece for the images I’m about to share, so I titled this post the same.

I don’t usually post about the weddings I photograph, but something about this last wedding merits mentioning. Perhaps it’s the images that are hitting a nerve in me. Waking some emotion that I cannot identify. Perhaps it’s the fact that I haven’t written a blog post in so long that I’m itching to do so, and I found an excuse for one.

A former client of mine, Sonya, asked me to shoot her wedding. Again. <smile> This was via her sister, who’s a good friend of mine, and a former collegue. I was a bit surprised, but happy at the prospect of working with her again, especially after I had decided not to shoot more weddings, a few weeks earlier. What changed my mind was a movie I watched before the call. It spoke about “not giving up the dream”, so I gave the idea of shooting more weddings another go..

I enjoyed shooting her previous wedding: her photos were very dynamic, and they conveyed the raw emotion of the day. They remind me classic celebrity party photos from the “golden age of photography” (circa 1950 – 1970). Though, looking back at those photos from a decade ago, I can see how hard I tried to maintain some sort of cohesive style. I don’t like posing brides, unless I’m purposely creating some sort of artistic image, otherwise, I just let them be. My wife, Carline, assists in shooting, though I take care of the bride and groom, during “getting ready”, and Carline takes the detail shots and the guests during the reception.

Usually.

Twelve years ago, we were using three DSLRs: two for me, and one for my wife. With a fully automatic camera, you’re tempted to shoot sporatically to capture the moment without a lot of thinking or planning. You have to be disciplined in order to slow down and take more “decisive” shots, but shooting with a manual focus lens forces you to do so, which is what happened when I switched to a Leica M and a backup Fujifilm X-T/X-E mirrorless series, but I mostly shoot with the Leica. Since my last shoot with Sonya, I’ve shot several weddings and events with the Leica, so I thought it was going to be a piece of cake this time around with her. Remember when I said she’s very dynamic? Well, it was a good thing that I rented a Leica Q2! I needed a wide angle lens and another Leica to have similar color profiles, etc., as much as possible, because editing Fujifilm RAW files is quite different than editing Leica M DNG files. I just wanted to simplify my workflow.

Sonya checking details / Leica M240 / Summilux 50

Shooting with the Leica Q2 was a bit weird at times. even though I’ve shot with wide angle lenses on my M. The Q2 looks like an M, but it’s fully automatic. I got confused at times when looking through the Q2’s EVF, thinking I was looking through the rangefinder of the M, so my muscle memory had me reaching for the focus ring on the lens.

Bride’s gown / Leica Q2 / Summilux 28

Both Leica’s were set to preview in black and white, which seem to have the same dynamic range, when looking at their respective LCDs. The images looked very close. On the other hand, I set the Fuji X-E4 to preview in color. I really like the Fuji colors, but post-processing was done using Capture One Pro, with tweaked Digistock Kodak Tri-X (it is the closest I’ve gotten to the BW JPEGS from the Leica), and Really Nice Images’ Fuji Velvia 50 color film styles.

Detailed shot / Fujifilm X-E4 / Fujinon XF-16mm f1.4 (24mm eq)

The entire day was shot at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, FL. During the rehearsal, I noticed that the lighting in the ceremony salon was quite low and worried that I would have to shoot with a high ISO, or augment with my own lighting (not a fan of that, though I’ve done it in the past), but the next day, the ceremony and reception salons were decorated quite nicely and the additional lighting brought in by the staff was enough. Some of the lights were colored (mostly purple, which was the theme color) so it was a bit hard to white balanced. So I decided to leave the shot as is to reflect what I and the guests actually saw. Trying to keep it genuine.

Bride and Groom. Notice the reflection from purple lights in front of them / Leica M240 / Summilux 50

Speaking of which, most brides, at least the ones I’ve worked with, are too poised throughout the day which infringes on my attempt to create “genuine images” (though, I guess you can argue that being very poised is genuine, given the day), but Sonya is the exception! I say “is” and not “was” because, well — she is! Sonya is always fun to shoot; she’s poised AND fun, at the same time. She’s genuine, and that made my job a bit easier getting authenticity, but harder to focus on! <smile> I guess this is one of the reasons why photographers who used to shoot weddings with Leicas, switched over to more “mainstream” brands. Or, perhaps, the reason is “old age” [side-glancing at my Leica].

A contemplative moment / Leica Q2 / Summilux 28

The ceremony was being video recorded which presented a moral problem to me: should I be respectful to the videographers, or be intrusive and get the shot that I want? This wouldn’t be a problem if I had some telephoto lenses, but I always like to get fairly close to my subjects to prevent something else moving into my frame. So I did a bit of sacrificing and tried to stay away from the videographers’ shot, as much as possible. Even though Carline was using the XF 56mm (85mm equiv) on the Fuji X-E4, she was having problems getting “close enough”. Will this influence a decision to buy telelenses for weddings? Nope. Maybe for bird-watching or for a safari, but not for weddings.

Bride and Groom / Leica Q2 / Summilux 28

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the groom, Milton. A fine gentleman. He seemed to match Sonya’s energy and attitude. This made for an interesting dynamic, as portrayed by the picture above.

Milton getting ready / Leica M240 / Summilux 50

I wish the venue allowed for more time. This would have allowed us more time for portraits. Both during getting ready and after the ceremony.

One thing that I need to upgrade is my camera bag, or have a better system of camera straps. Not sure how Jeff Ascough did it with four Leicas! He had neck and shoulder straps. Straps have a tendency of slipping off my shoulders, which is why I wear them cross-body, but two cross-body straps is very uncomfortable and awkward. So I usually have a small bag, like the ONA Bowery that will hold one camera while I’m shooting with the other one.

Anyway, that’s MY problem.

This was a fun wedding and one that we are very glad we got to shoot. We wish Sonya and Milton all the best.

Final shot / Leica Q2 / Summilux 28