Friday, July 27, 2012

Wedding Photography...The Early Years

This probably won't interest anyone but photographers, but since there are more of them than bartenders in Key West, here we go....

I had 2 hobbies in high school...magic and photography. I gave magic shows around my hometown of McKeesport, Pa...usually at church events, or the Moose or Elks, the Y.M.C.A., etc. But in my senior year, a local newspaper man sold me my first professional camera...a 4x5 Speed Graphic press camera.

And he recommended me to his friends to photograph their wedding. It was a Mr. Buck, and a Miss Berry , both in their forties...and it was their first marriage. I remember that they didn't have a car, and asked me to drive them to the church. That's about all that I can remember about the event, but it apparently went well, because I shot a few more in my hometown before going off to college.

    But what I want to talk about is how it's much easier to photograph a wedding (or anything) today, thanks to the digital revolution. When I shoot a wedding today, I put the memory card into my Nikon, attach the strobe to the top of the camera, turn the camera on, and away I go. The computers in the camera and the strobe talk to each other, and when I push the button, the camera automatically focuses, determines the shutter speed and aperture, and bang! have a sharp well exposed  picture. 

But way back then it was a different story.....

    I shot the Buck 'n' Berry wedding with my Speed Graphic. That camera took film holders...there were 2 sheets of 4" x 5" black and white film in each holder, one on each side.

 Here's what I'd do ...
1. I would put the film holder in the back of the camera, pull out the slide that had protected the film from light, and find a place to put it for a moment.
2. I'd set the shutter speed, usually 1/100 of a second.
3. Unlock the focusing scale on the camera bed, then focus on the subject through the Kalart rangefinder that was built on the side of the camera.
4. Lock the focusing scale so it wouldn't move.
5. Look down at the indicator on the scale and see what the distance was to the subject.
6. Since I had done it before, I knew that if it said 12 feet, then the exposure would be best at an aperture setting of F16...(depending which flashbulb I was using, and the film speed)
7. After I set the aperture, I'd put a new flashbulb in the flashgun.
8. Compose the subject through the optical viewer on top of the camera, and say what every photographer says since Louis Daguerre ...1..2..3....
9. Push the button!

    Now to do the next shot, I'd put the slide back in the film  holder...pull out the holder, flip it over, put it back in the camera,pull out the slide, put it somewhere, cock the shutter again, remove the flashbulb, put a new one in, refocus, possibly set the aperture to a new setting, look through the viewer, and fire again. After a bit of practice, I had it down to 30 seconds.

    Now lets say I was shooting 6 bridesmaids and the bride and father coming down the aisle. They usually come racing down, because they're  a little embarrassed by being the center of attention....and often they bunch up, with almost no space between them. How many shots can I  get with it taking  30 seconds to get ready for each picture? Not many...and that's why in those days , after the ceremony,  I would recreate a lot of the event...bridesmaids coming down the aisle one at a time...shooting the exchange of the rings again (no telephotos or zoom lenses on the Speed Graphic in those days), and so on.  

The only thing I miss about those days is the fact that I used to be the only person there with a camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment