Good Morning and Happy Friday to all of you. If you're here then you know it's time for another installment of my [FRAMED] series. This one is one I actually stumbled upon when I was compiling photos for my Year in Review: 2015 Engagements post [featured here]. It was one of my favorite shots from Erin and Scott's rustic engagement last year so I thought I'd go into a little more detail on what it took to get this shot. As I mentioned, this is one of my favorite shots from the past year. I love it not only because of the strong mood that comes out in it, but also for the look of love that these two share. To me it looks like they are standing in a spotlight, representing their love while everything outside just falls to darkness like they are the only two in the world. It's just beautiful.
However, there was a little work behind the scenes to create this shot — both in finding the right location and also a couple last minute hurdles. For one, I wasn't at all familiar with the area. In the weeks leading up to the shoot, I had spoken with Erin and she expressed interest in having me come to Victor, IA. I was more than happy to do so, but it meant that I would need to get there a few hours before the shoot so I could do a little location scouting and find some spots we could work in. Erin also said that they were looking for a rustic session, something that Victor would easily be able to offer as the area was littered with roads and fields.
When I arrived, I drove around finding little areas that I liked and made notes of their location so I could navigate back. While I found some nice rustic spots like barns, fields, and fences, they still left me wanting. I had an image in my head of these two tucked back in the woods amidst rows of trees — something dramatic. I looked for hours, but couldn't seem to locate anything that would fit the bill. So, I decided to play it smart and enlist some local help — Erin and Scott.
I drove to their house to pick them up for the shoot. I told them about a few of the areas I found and asked them if they new any places that were a bit off the beaten path. Scott and Erin had a few ideas so we went to check them out. We hit a few spots that were cool and used them for a portion of the shoot, but ultimately we were striking out on finding what I was looking for. Then, as we were driving down a highway, we noticed a road branching off that looked to be an old service or maintenance road. The road was solid dirt and shot out from the highway, cutting back through the trees. We let the spirit of adventure take over and turned to see where the road went.
We crept along the narrow road as it went from dirt to mud and then from mud to soup. The surface became thick and my SUV began to sink. The wheels were carving their way into the muck so much that the center portion of the road had risen up and was actually rubbing on the underside of the car. The conditions were definitely sketchy, but we soldiered on. We went up and down steep hills — each one was a roll of the dice on whether or not we'd get stuck. Eventually, the road surface dried and everything opened up. Ahead of us, I saw a perfect spot for the portrait I was looking for. There was a dry patch in the middle of the road and a thick tree canopy with just a little light pouring through from the overcast sky. It was moody and dramatic...I couldn't wait to photograph it.
I stopped the car and we all got out. I told Erin and Scott what I had in mind and where I wanted to put them. They were down for the idea, but then we noticed a glaring problem. Erin was actually wearing white pants with heels. The spot I was going to have them stand was solid, but had mud on either side meaning that she would be literally one step away from disaster. I felt bad and couldn't believe that I had gotten so excited about finding a great spot that I paid no attention to what she was wearing. Even though I loved the spot, I wasn't about to put her at risk to ruin her clothes or sprain an ankle. But Erin, who I love for this, was willing to throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to get a good picture. She held on to Scott for stability and the two of them strolled out to the illuminated spot on the dirt road.
I fired a test shot and got a great image, but it still wasn't quite right. I decided it was too bright. I wanted something dark and moody, so I dropped my exposure a bit more and fired another shot. I floored by what I saw. The funnel of light coming through the trees created the moody and surreal image that I had been searching for all day. I was elated and when I showed Erin and Scott, they shared my enthusiasm as our treacherous trek through the woods was totally worth it.
When I look at this photo, it serves as a reminder that great photo opportunities are everywhere — sometimes you just need to venture out a little farther. It also reminds me that great photos are not only about great locations, but also about amazing clients who are willing to go out of their comfort zone in pursuit of a single, beautiful shot.
Be sure to watch the blog as my Year in Review: 2015 Weddings post is coming soon!
Cheers and thanks for reading!