[FRAMED] Dancing in the Dark

Good morning everyone! It's a foggy Friday morning here in Des Moines and it just so happens that I've got another installment of my [FRAMED] series queued up. This shot is one of my all-time favorite dancing shots from Alli + Cody's Tournament Club wedding, but rather than focus on the moment, I'm focusing on the lighting challenge it presented. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, this is one of my all-time favorite dancing shots. I like it because the moment is so beautiful and because of the lighting challenge I had to overcome to get the shot because, up until this point, I had never shot a first dance outside. Here's what happened:

It was a beautiful, hot July day and we were at the beautiful Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City witnessing love in its purest form. Alli and Cody had just finished with the beautiful ceremony on the back patio that overlooks a beautiful green valley. Guests were beginning to take their place in the dining area while we snuck out on to the course for some last minute portraits while the sun was going down. In just 20 minutes, we had a blast, got some great portraits, and eventually heeded the call from our stomachs to go get some dinner at the reception. Alli and Cody made a grand entrance with a thunderous applause and took their seats at the head table. Dinner came and went, as did the toasts which were both hilarious and heart-warming to say the least.

I started making preparations for the first dance when I was informed that since it was a beautiful Iowa night, they wanted to do the first dance outside. This was a first for me as all my dances up until that point had been inside with lighting supplied by the venues. I gazed out the window and it was dark. Very dark. With the first dance starting in 5 minutes, I had to think of something...and fast. I stepped outside to analyze the situation, but it was hard to focus because there were several small children running around me and screaming wildly. In watching them, I came to a realization — there was a surprising amount of light flooding through the windows from the venue and lighting the children. I knew that it wasn't enough to solely light the dance, but I knew that if I could throw an off-camera flash up that maybe...just maybe...I could pull it off. So, I quickly put the flash on a light stand, wired up the remote and transmitter and fired a few test shots using the children as my surrogate dance couple. My hope was the flash would create a rimlight behind the subjects while the venue's lights filled them in from the front. The flash did its job and created a beautiful halo of light that separated my subjects from the night sky, but the front was still a little dark. I made a few more adjustments and fired another test shot....perfect.

No sooner had I dialed in my settings when my couple took the dance floor. Music began to play and I started shooting. Immediately there was a problem. Because I couldn't see the flash against the night sky, it would occasionally fire directly at the camera and flare horribly. After a little trial and error, I learned exactly where the flash was and with some careful bobbing and weaving, I was able to keep it behind my couple while still getting a good exposure on the front of them. I kept on shooting and eventually struck gold. I managed to capture this beautiful moment between Alli and Cody as the first dance was drawing to a close. I was pleased.

As I said in the beginning, I like this shot because of what it represents. Not only does it represent a beautiful moment between a newly married couple, but also it represents a challenge that I had to overcome in order to succeed. In a way, it summarizes why I love photography and why I got into weddings — the fact that you can always learn something new and do so while photographing priceless moments. Even though it's a few years later, I still push myself to experiment and learn something new with each shoot I do. That's why photography is so beautiful to me — it connects and resonates with us, but is constantly evolving.

Thanks for reading and be sure to visit the site next week as I've got some great content coming. Cheers!

Alli and Cody share a first dance in the dark

Alli and Cody share a first dance in the dark